Teachings of Menno Simons | 1

1. Preliminary

Since our oral teaching and testimony can and may not be given, we are led and constrained to publish in writing our answer

that by our written defence those of God-fearing, upright heart and conscience, be they magistrates or citizens, learned or unlearned, may know

that we, as concerns the aforementioned accusations, are guiltless and are slandered and belied by our adversaries.

Since it is well known to many thousands of honest people (as I suppose) that we seek nothing upon this earth than in our weakness to walk willingly in the footsteps of Christ and, denying ourselves, to obey His Word,

to again light the extinguished torch of the truth, point many to righteousness and by the help and grace of the Lord save our own souls,

on which account we poor people must everywhere endure so much tribulation, misery, anxiety, cross and persecution,

therefore no well-disposed person will think hard of me that I, by the Spirit and Word of my Lord to the best of my ability, openly set forth and defend the honour of my God, the salvation of my brethren, the foundation of my faith and the praise of Christ, my Lord.

Since there are many of you who treat God's children so inhumanly, as is evident, we have described concisely our practice, principles, faith and doctrine from the Word of God,

and have published them in print, that all revilers, evil speakers and cruel persecutors may therefrom learn and understand our purpose, aim and work.

2. The Authority and Inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Dear reader. I admonish and advise you, if you seek God with all your heart and would not be deceived,

do not depend upon men and the doctrine of men, however old, holy and excellent it may be esteemed, for one theologian is against the other, both in ancient and modern times;

but build upon Christ and His Word alone, upon the sure teaching and practice of His holy apostles, and you will through the grace of God be kept safe from all false doctrine and from the power of the devil, and walk before your God with a confident and pious mind.

This holy Christian church has only one doctrine - the pure, unmixed and unadulterated Word of God, the Gospel of grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All teachings and decrees that do not accord with the doctrine of Christ, be they the teachings and opinions of doctors, decrees of popes, ecumenical councils, or anything else, are but teachings and commandments of men (Matt. 19:5), doctrines of devils (I Tim. 4:1) and therefore accursed (Gal. 7:8).

We write and teach nothing but the pure, heavenly Word and the perfect commandments of Jesus Christ and His apostles.

My dear brethren, against the aforesaid doctrines, ordinances, sacraments and life, no imperial decrees, papal bulls, or councils of the learned have any authority;

no old usage, no human; philosophy, no Origen, no Augustine, no Luther or Bucer, no prison, banishment or murdering will avail.

It is, I repeat, the eternal, imperishable Word of God, and will abide forever.

The first sign by which the Church of Christ may be known, is the salutary and unadulterated doctrine of His holy divine word.

 - In short, where the Church of Christ is, .... there His word is preached purely and rightly. The Church of Christ knows no other doctrine but the Word of the Lord (299a; II:81a).

I pray all God-fearing hearts, for Jesus' sake, to submit reason to the Word of the Lord and to think and believe of God as the Scriptures require and teach,

not to ascend higher or descend lower, but walk with a humble, contrite heart before the Lord and His church, and they shall find peace of conscience (563b; II:370a).

Think you, my friends, that the Lord is a dreamer or His Word a fable? Ah, no! not a letter will fall to the ground of all that He spoke.

But that he appeals to Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen and Augustine,

my reply is, first, If these writers can support their teaching with the Word and command of God, we will admit that they are right. If not, then it is a doctrine of men and accursed according to the Scriptures. Gal. 1:8.

We tell you the truth and lie not:

If anyone under the canopy of heaven can show us from Scripture that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, the eternal wisdom and truth, whom alone we acknowledge as the lawgiver and teacher of the New Testament,

has commanded one word to that effect, or that His holy apostles have ever taught or practiced the like, there is no need of an attempt to compel us by tyranny and torture:

Only show us God's Word and our matter is settled. For we seek nothing else (God who is omniscient knows) than in our weakness to walk in obedience according to the divine ordinances, word and will, for which we poor persecuted people are shamefully reviled, banished, robbed and slain in many countries.

Our salvation is wholly grounded upon and comprised in Jesus Christ and His holy Word and never in men nor in any other doctrine.

Again, I have no visions or angelic revelations, neither do I seek or desire such, lest I be thereby deceived. For Christ's Word alone is sufficient for me. If I do not follow His testimony, then verily all is lost.

And even if I had such revelations, which is not the case, they could not deviate from the Word and spirit of Christ, or else they would be only imagination, seduction and satanic deception.

Inasmuch as I daily see these terrible dangers, and from the beginning many an unwise soul has been misled,

and many are yet misled by false prophecies, smooth words, seeming holiness, lying wonders, boasting and false promises of the antichrists

and false prophets who under the cloak of God's Word have ever sought their own honour and advantage, as was the case with the Roman popes, with John of Leyden at Münster and with others,

- therefore I deem it needful and well sincerely to warn and admonish my beloved readers, not to accept my doctrine as the Gospel of Jesus Christ

until they have investigated for themselves and found it to agree with the Spirit and Word of the Lord, that their faith may not be founded on me nor on any other teacher or writer, but solely on Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, every reader should know that however learned the before mentioned scholars and however unlearned I may be the opinions of us all are of equal avail before God;

for in divine things nothing that is pleasing to God can be instituted or practiced by us without the command of the Holy Scriptures, may we be ever so learned.

For in the Holy Scriptures we are not pointed to these or other scholars, but to Jesus Christ alone. Whenever, therefore, such highly renowned men by their subtle sophistry and artful philosophy would take from us, or change, the plain, express ordinances of Jesus Christ and His apostles. we must, surely consider their doctrine in that respect as doctrine of man and false teaching.

3. The Trinity of God

We believe and confess with the Holy Scriptures that there is an only, eternal God who created heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is;

a God whom heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot comprehend; whose throne is heaven, and the earth is His footstool;

who "hath measured the waters with the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heavens with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance;"

"who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen or can see;"

who is an almighty, powerful Ruler in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; whose strength, hand and power none can withstand;

a God of gods and a Lord of lords, who is above all, mighty, holy, terrible, praiseworthy and wonderful; a consuming fire; whose kingdom, power, dominion, majesty and glory is eternal, and shall endure forever.

And besides this only, eternal, living, almighty, overruling God and Lord we know no other. And He is a Spirit so great and awe-inspiring, and invisible.

He is also inexpressible, incomprehensible, indescribable, as may be deduced and understood from the following Scriptures: Deut. 4:35; 6:4; John 4:24; 1:18; Gen. 1:1; Psa. 33:6; Col. 1:16; Isa. 43:11; 44:6; 48:13; 40:12; Job 11:8; I Tim. 6:16; Eccl. 1:7; Matt. 11:27; Rev. 17:14; 19:16; Heb. 12:29; 1:8, 10.

This only, eternal, omnipotent, ineffable, invisible, inexpressible and indescribable God we believe and confess with the Scriptures to be the eternal, incomprehensible Father, with His eternal, incomprehensible Son, and with His eternal, incomprehensible Holy Spirit.

The Father we confess to be truly Father: the Son truly Son and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit, not carnal and comprehensible but spiritual and incomprehensible, for Christ says: "God is a Spirit."

John says: "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Read also Matt. 28:19; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:8; John 14:16; 15:26; I Cor. 12:11.

And although they are three, yet in divinity, will, power and working they are one and can no more be separated from each other, than the sun, brightness and warmth, for the one is not without the other. -

My brethren, understand all this in a divine and spiritual sense, and not in a human or carnal manner:

Then you will indeed be satisfied with the plain, deep and simple testimony of the prophets, evangelists and apostles concerning this unfathomable mystery.

Dearly beloved brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus, take notice:

Since the eternal God is such a great and terrible God, since Jesus Christ was born of the Father, as said, and the attributes of God so richly abound in Him;

also, as the prophets, evangelists and apostles so strongly declare, preach and teach that He is God, and as the Scriptures so abundantly teach and testify the same of the Holy Ghost,

and confess that the eternal Father with His eternal Son and Holy Spirit in their divine nature, state, power, glory and sovereignty are ineffable, inexpressible and incomprehensible,

as may be plainly understood from the cited Scriptures, for it is all Spirit and God and therefore beyond human comprehension and wisdom;

therefore I earnestly pray, admonish and desire all my beloved brethren in Christ Jesus,

not to accept and consent to any speculations, new teachings or expositions of any man, be it of whom it may, concerning this incomprehensible majesty of God.

My dear brethren, I for myself confess that I would rather die than to believe and teach to my brethren a single word concerning the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, at variance with the express testimony of God's Word, as it is so clearly given through the mouth of the prophets, evangelists and apostles.

All who abide honestly and humbly by the Word of God, as testified through the prophets, the evangelists and the apostles,

and accept and believe it although they cannot fully comprehend it, avoiding all human subtlety, disputing, explaining, distorting and conjecture regarding these unfathomable depths,

will by God's grace stand securely in all trials, and walk with a peaceful, cheerful, conscience before their God all the days of their life.

4. Christ; His Deity and Humanity

We teach and believe that Jesus Christ is God's first and only begotten Son, the incomprehensible, eternal Word, by whom all things are created, the first born of every creature. Col. 1:15;

that He became a true man in Mary, the immaculate virgin, through the almighty, eternal Father's eternal Spirit and power, beyond the comprehension and knowledge of men;

sent and given unto us out of pure mercy and grace, from the Father; the express image of the invisible God and the brightness of His glory, Heb. 1:3.

We teach and believe that this first and only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, is our only and eternal Messiah, prophet, teacher and high priest....

through whom we all who believe from our hearts, have the forgiveness of our sins, grace, favour, mercy, liberty, peace, life eternal, a reconciled Father, and free access to God in the Spirit,

and all this through His merits, righteousness, intercession and blood, and not through our own works.

Behold, this is the very summary of our belief concerning Christ, our Saviour, the Son of God.

All promises given the fathers, all expectations of the patriarchs, the whole figurative law and all prophecies of the prophets are fulfilled in and through Christ.

- In short He is our only and eternal mediator, advocate, high-priest, propitiator and intercessor, our head and brother.

And since we know all this by faith, therefore I say we also observe His word faithfully, hear His voice and implicitly follow His example and counsel, and depart from ungodliness.

The heart is changed, the mind is renewed and with Moses we rely on the future promises as though they were placed before our eyes, and patiently wait for them with faithful Abraham till we with all the chosen shall in reality inherit them.

We believe and confess that this same eternal, wise, almighty, holy, true, living and incomprehensible Word, Christ Jesus who in the beginning was with God and was God

- in the fullness of time, according to the unchangeable purpose and promise of the Father, became a true, visible, suffering, hungry, thirsty, mortal man, in Mary, the pure virgin, and was born of her, through the working and overshadowing of the Holy Ghost;

yea that He was like unto us in all things except sin;

that He grew up as other men and at the appointed time was baptized and entered upon His ministry, and obediently fulfilled the office of grace and perfect love which was enjoined upon Him by the Father.

He effaced and fulfilled the hand writing against us, that is the law, and at last in this His human flesh, nature and weakness, in which also He has sighed, wept and prayed unto the Father,

has through the eternal Spirit of His heavenly Father offered Himself, has sweated water and blood and purified our consciences of dead works, that we should serve the true and living God;

and all who believe in Him have through Him received grace, mercy, remission of sins, and eternal life,

by means of His precious blood which He, in His great love, according to the good pleasure of the Father has offered and shed for us poor sinners on the cross, and has thus become our only and eternal high priest, reconciler, mercy-seat, mediator and advocate with God, His Father.

For, as God, the almighty Father, through His almighty Word, Christ Jesus, has created Adam and Eve, so He would also through Him, after they had been seduced by the serpent, restore them together with all their descendants, and save them

- that we might give no one, neither in heaven nor upon earth, the praise for our salvation, but only the eternal Father through Jesus Christ, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost.

This may suffice on the Incarnation. Matt. 1:16, 25; 5:4; Mark 1 5:37; Luke 2:7; 22:67; 23:46; John 1 5:9, 10; 11:26; Phil. 2:5,7; Col. 2:14,12; 1:13,16; Heb. 3:2; Eph. 2:12; 1:7; Rom. 8:32; 3:24,25; 5:11.12; Isa. 53:13; I Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:8; II Cor. 5:14.

Further, beloved brethren, we believe and confess Jesus Christ to be truly God with His Father; and this because of the divine glory, works and attributes, which are found in such abundance with Him.

Behold, beloved brethren, as the throne of Christ is an eternal throne (Heb 1:10) and the Scriptures confess Him to be God,

and also testify that He founded heaven and earth, that He has all power in heaven and on earth, that He is the first and the last, that He searches the hearts and reins;

whom we should serve and worship, who forgives sin and bestows eternal life, in whom we must believe and who at the last day will raise us from the dead and judge us,

as He has said, so it is incontrovertible that Jesus Christ must be truly God with His Father; for God gives His glory to none other;

and these are all glories, powers and attributes which belong to no one in heaven nor upon earth, except alone the only, eternal, and true God; this all who are taught of God must fully admit and confess.

And the incomprehensible, inexpressible, spiritual, eternal divine Being which is divinely and incomprehensibly begotten of the Father, before every creature, we believe and confess to be Jesus Christ,

the first and only begotten Son of God, "the first born of every creature," the eternal wisdom, the power of God, the eternal light, truth and life, the eternal Word.

- He is the eternal, wise, almighty, holy, true, living and incomprehensible Word, who in the beginning was with God and was God, by whom all things were made and without whom was not anything made that was made and who will remain forever.

And therefore He says, "Before Abraham was I am." And again John the Baptists says, "After me cometh one that was before me."

Yea He had this divine glory with the Father before the foundation of the world was laid. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, His Father. Therefore we confess with John the Baptist, Nathaniel, Martha, and Peter that He is the Son of the living God.

Beloved brethren, understand me rightly, I say eternal wisdom, eternal power:

For, as we believe and confess that the Father was from eternity and will eternally remain, yea that He is the First and the Last,

so we also freely believe and confess that His wisdom, His power, His light, His truth, His life, His Word, Christ Jesus, has from eternity been with Him and in Him,

yea that He is the Alpha and Omega,

or else we should have to confess that this begotten, incomprehensible truly divine Being, Christ Jesus, whom the church fathers called a person, through whom the eternal Father has made all things, has had a beginning like a creature;

an opinion which all true Christians look upon as a terrible curse, blasphemy, and abomination.

I have taught Jesus Christ and Him crucified, very God and very man, who before all time in an incomprehensible, inexpressible and indescribable manner was born of Thee

- Thy eternal Word and wisdom, the brightness of Thy glory and the express image of Thy person,

and that in the fullness of time, through the power of Thy Holy Spirit, He became, in Mary, the unspotted virgin, very flesh and blood, a visible, tangible and mortal man, like unto Adam and all his posterity in all things, but without sin;

born of the lineage or seed of Abraham and David, died, buried, rose again, ascended into heaven, and thus became before Thee our only and eternal advocate, mediator, intercessor and redeemer.

The prophets confessed Christ to be their mighty God and everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6), their Jehovah who should be their and our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16); that His going forth was from everlasting.

- Also, all the holy apostles (Matt. 14:33), the angel of God (Luke 1:28), the Father (Matt. 3:17; 3:17; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35) and Christ Himself (John 9:35), John the Baptist (John 1:34; 3:28), Nathaniel (John 1:49), and Martha (John 11:27) confessed Him to be the true Son of the true and living God.

As He is the only and true Son of God, having no other origin but of God, He must also have the nature of the One of whom He is: this is too plain to be controverted.

That He had the divine nature He has proven by these manifest apparent attributes of the true divine nature, as by His perfect righteousness, truth, holiness, love and His wonderful works of power.

As He had the divine nature, I say, on account of His divine origin, He also had the unblemished, pure human nature (like unto the nature of Adam before the fall) and that by reason of His evident true humanity.

For as truly as He was the Father's almighty Word from eternity, so truly also He, in the fullness of time became a true, mortal man (John 1:14; I John 1:1).

That He had the true human nature, as well as the divine, He has shown by the apparent evidence of the real human nature, as by hungering, thirsting, being weary, sighing, weariness, suffering and death.

Christ has fully portrayed Himself in His Word, namely as far as He desires that we should comprehend, know and follow Him and become like Him,

not as concerns His divine nature according to which He is the true image of the invisible God, "the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person," Heb. 1:3, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen or can see," I Tim. 6:16,

but in His life and conversation here upon earth among men. He has given us an example and pattern, by word and deed, which we should follow and to which we should conform.

Besides, beloved brethren, we believe and confess Christ Jesus with His heavenly Father to be truly God; and that because of the plain testimony of the holy prophets, evangelists and apostles.

Behold, faithful brethren, here you have the incomprehensible birth of Christ, His divine glory, working and power,

and numerous precious and plain testimonies of the holy prophets, evangelists and apostles, all of whom with invincible power and clearness testify and point out the true, incomprehensible divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Christ Himself had to suffer death because He confessed Himself to be the Son of God.

5. His Office

To such then [who are convicted of their sinful life] Christ who is a comforter of all contrite hearts says:

Believe the Gospel, that is, Fear not, be of good cheer; I will not punish nor chastise, but heal, comfort and give life, Isa. 41:10; a bruised reed will I not break and the smoking flax [German translation: the faintly burning wick] will I not quench. Matt. 12:20.

I will help that which is broken, will heal that which is sick, I will tie up that which is wounded and seek that which is lost, Ezek. 34:16.

For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32.

I am come into the world according to the pleasure of my Father, and through the power of the Holy Ghost have become a visible, tangible, mortal man, in all things like unto you, yet without sin, Heb. 4:15.

I am the Son of the almighty God, Luke 1:32, anointed with the Holy Ghost to preach the Gospel to the poor, and to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to open the prison to them that are bound, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18.

Believe the gospel. I am the Lamb that was offered for you. I take away the sins of the world. My Father has made me unto you wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, I Cor. 1:30.

Whosoever believeth on me shall not be ashamed, yea all that believe that I am He, have eternal life. John 3:16.

Christ has taught us the true way, fulfilled the law for us, reconciled us to the Father and redeemed us by His precious blood and bitter death; has conquered hell, the devil, sin and death and obtained for us grace, favour, mercy, and eternal life.

And therefore the sorrowful, contrite hearts which saw before them, through the terrible threatening law, nothing but the wrath of God, are again revived; they take courage, become peaceful and joyous in the Holy Ghost.