Stories from Martyrs' Mirror | 12. Hans Answers
12. Hans Answers
Two weeks later, Hans was summoned to be questioned by the Dean of Ronse, the inquisitor. This time the man was more subdued than he had been with Dirk:
"It seems to me that you people have searched the Scriptures well," he told Hans. "Where do you hold your church?"
"Where Christ and His apostles held it, in the woods, in the field, on mountains, on the seacoast, sometimes in houses, or wherever they found a place," Hans answered carefully.
"Christ preached openly, but you people cannot be found, where you are or who you are," pressed the inquisitor.
"It is certainly a painful burden for you, isn't it, that you cannot find them, nor know them, while your officers are known so well. I hope that God will not permit you to find them.
Though you sometimes cut into the branches, you will not cut off the vine. Christ Jesus, the living Son of God, will keep and feed His branches, so that may bear fruit, although you now do your best to tear and destroy them."
"Well Hans, my son, this brings us no further," said the inquisitor as he shuffled his papers nervously. "See that you consider this matter well:
Reform and become converted to the faith of your fathers, for you are in error. Believe the faith as a good Christian is supposed to, and do not attempt so many things."
"Faith is a gift of God," Hans offered.
"Yes, it is truly the gift of God," intoned the inquisitor.
"Then why do you want to force me to believe as you do, with threats of death?"
"Time is given you, to become converted," smirked the inquisitor.
"My lord, how much time? Six, seven or eight days? Can one change his faith so quickly?"
"I have proved our doctrine sufficiently," he answered, "but you will believe nothing but your own ideas, having forsaken the holy church."
"My lord, I have not forsaken the holy church, for if I had recognized your church as holy, I would not have left it to join another."
"Nevertheless, though Satan has deceived you, it is still the same church that has always been since the time of the apostles," answered the inquisitor.
"If it is the same church which existed at the time of the apostles, it must have elders or pastors as the church had then," Hans suggested.
"Yes, and so we have."
"Well then, my lord, show me in your whole church only one elder or pastor who is blameless in doctrine and life, even as Paul, Timothy or Titus, and I will follow him with all my heart."
"Have you such pastors among you?" he demanded.
"You have confessed to me yourself that the fruit of our teachers is good, but that it is their faith which is evil."
"It is true, your walk is good towards all men, and you do unto your neighbours as you would have them do unto you, and live in peace, love and unity with one another, which is very good.
And you help each other in need and distress, which is also very good, I can say nothing against it, and you remove from your churches those who are disobedient to the Word.
Against this I have nothing to say, but what use is it, since you do not have the true faith?" said the inquisitor, waving a finger.
"Our works spring from our faith and prove that it is true. One can only pour from a jar that which is in it."
Where do you think to find such blameless pastors as you seek?" interrupted the inquisitor. "For in Paul's day, they had the Holy Spirit, which is not given now."
"Not given?" Hans asked. "Then what does Paul mean when he says that he who does not have the Spirit of Christ, does not belong to Christ?"
"That has another meaning," muttered the inquisitor.
"My lord, what meaning? I am simply asking you for elders and pastors who are led by the Spirit of God, who are holy, just, vigilant and blameless in doctrine and in life, as Paul teaches they must be."
"I could easily name such pastors as are blameless, but you do not know them, for they are in Italy and Spain," replied the inquisitor haughtily.
"Is the church of God there and not here in Holland?"
"No, no, Hans, we are not all as bad as you think, some in our church are righteous," the inquisitor smiled.
"From my youth I have lived mostly among your priests and monks, and I would be ashamed to tell you the abounding wickedness which I have seen there," Hans stated simply. "So far as I have seen and known, I do not know that I have seen a single one walk as Paul commands, as you know better than I."
"Hans, though our church at times has been led by wicked men, there have also been good ones. But even if they were wicked, they have the true faith," the inquisitor said, leaning forward.
"If a man knows the truth, but gives himself to evil, his faith will not last long."
"My son, you must not search so deeply into the Scriptures," the inquisitor sighed, "but you must allow yourself to be taught by those who have studied longer than you.
What does it concern you, whether our pastors are wicked or not? It is written, do as they say, not as they do."
"Are you then the scribes and Pharisees about which Jesus spoke?"
"Yes," answered the inquisitor.
"Then all the woes and curses will come upon you that follow further on in the same chapter."
"No, they do not."
"Haven't you any other pastors among you to preach the Word, besides scribes and Pharisees whom God has threatened with curses?" Hans inquired.
"Where do you expect to find blameless pastors such as you demand? Do you not see that the whole world is full of wickedness?" The inquisitor was becoming angry and rose to his feet.
"A teacher should not be quick-tempered, says Paul. But if you do not know any, I know some, and such I will follow,"Hans replied.
And scowling at him, the inquisitor quickly left the room.