Teachings of Menno Simons | 4

16. Predestination

Zwingli taught that the will of God actuated a thief to steal and a murderer to kill, and that their punishment was also brought about by the will of God - which in my opinion is an abomination above all abominations.

What shall I say, dear Lord? Shall I say that thou hast ordained the wicked to wickedness, as some have said? Be that far from me.

I know, O Lord, that thou art good and nothing evil can be found in thee. We are the works of thy hand, created in Christ Jesus unto good works that we should walk therein.

Life and death hast thou left to our choice. Thou wiliest not the death of the sinner, but that he should repent and live.

Thou art the eternal light, therefore hatest thou all darkness; thou desirest not that any should perish, but that all repent, come to knowledge of thy truth and be saved.

O dear Lord, so grievously have they blasphemed thine unspeakably great love, thy mercy and majesty that they have made thee, the God of all grace and creator of all things, a very devil, saying that thou art the cause of all evil - thou who art called the Father of lights.

Of a surety evil cannot come from good, nor light from darkness, nor life from death;

yet do they ascribe their stubborn hearts and carnal minds to thy will, in order that they may continue upon the broad way and have a cover for their sins.

17. The Church

The true messengers [of the Gospel] who are one with Christ in Spirit, love and life, teach that which is entrusted to them by Christ, namely repentance and the peaceable Gospel of grace which He Himself has received of the Father and taught the world.

All who hear, believe, accept and rightly fulfil the same are the church of Christ, the true, believing Christian church, the body and bride of Christ, the ark of the Lord, etc.

They are chosen to proclaim the power of Him who has called them from darkness unto His marvellous light.

Christ's church consists of the chosen of God, His saints and beloved who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who are born of God and led by Christ's Spirit,

who are in Christ and Christ in them, who hear and believe His word, live in their weakness according to His commandments and in patience and meekness follow in His footsteps,

who hate evil and love the good, earnestly desiring to apprehend Christ as they are apprehended of Him. For all who are in Christ are new creatures, flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone and members of His body.

The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known:

1. The unadulterated pure doctrine.
2. The scriptural use of the sacramental signs.
3. Obedience to the Word.
4. Unfeigned brotherly love.
5. Candid confession of God and Christ.
6. Bearing oppression and hatred for the sake of the Word of the Lord.

Some of the other parables, as

of the net in which good and bad fishes are caught;
of the wise and foolish virgins and their lamps;
of the wedding of the king's son and the guests, and
of the threshing floor with wheat and chaff,

although the Lord spoke them in allusion to the church,

yet they were not spoken for the purpose that the church should knowingly and wilfully accept and suffer open transgressors in its communion;

because in that case Christ and Paul would differ in doctrine, for Paul says that such should be disciplined and avoided.

But they were spoken because many intermingle with the Christians in a Christian semblance, and place themselves under the Word and its sacraments who in fact are no Christians, but are hypocrites and dissemblers before their God;

and these are likened

unto the refuse fish which will be cast out by the angels at the day of Christ;
unto the foolish virgins who had no oil in their lamps;
unto the guest without a wedding garment and unto the chaff.

For they pretend that they fear God and seek Christ; they receive baptism and the Lord's Supper and outwardly have a good appearance, but do not have faith, repentance, true fear and love of God, Spirit, power, fruit, works and deeds.

18. The Ordinances

All the rites ordained of God, both of the Old and New Testament, have been instituted that our faith may be exercised and our obedience proven.

Therefore we must not use them at our own pleasure, nor change them to suit our fancies, but we must use them as the Lord Himself has ordained and commanded in His Word.

For the truly regenerated and spiritually minded conform in all things to the word and ordinances of the Lord; not for the reason that they suppose to merit the propitiation of their sins and eternal life; by no means.

For this they depend on nothing except the blood and merits of Christ, relying upon the sure promise of the merciful Father which was graciously given to all believers,

which blood alone, I say again, is and ever will be the only and eternally valid means of our reconciliation, and not works, baptism or Lord's Supper, as said above.

Repentance must come before the ordinances, and not the ordinances before repentance:

For the signs [ordinances] of the New Testament are in themselves quite powerless, vain and useless, if that which they signify, namely the new contrite life is not in evidence as has been said above in treating of baptism.

Dear reader, understand rightly what I write:

Without true repentance neither water, bread, wine, or ceremonies, if they were administered even by the apostles themselves, will avail before Jesus Christ.

For in Him and before Him a new creature alone, a converted, changed and contrite heart, true fear and love of God, unfeigned love of one's neighbour, a consecrated, humble, sober and peaceful life according to the Lord's word and example, will avail.

To this end baptism and the Lord's Supper were instituted in the Lord's house, that through them we should testify our faith and obedience:

That we desire to walk in continuous contrition of heart; that we remember His unspeakably great love and blessings;

that we be reminded that He has offered for us His spotless body and has shed His precious blood for the reconciliation of our souls in His exceedingly ardent love for us;

that we ever walk with Him in unity of the Spirit and follow in His footsteps;

that we love, assist, console, reprove, bear, admonish and serve each other as members of one body, and that we prove ourselves before all the world unto death as the regenerated children of God, in all righteousness, holiness and truth.

Behold, dear reader, for such purpose were the signs [ordinances] of the New Testament instituted.

This is briefly, in all matters that concern the Christian church, my only foundation and sincere conviction, that before God

neither baptism, nor the Supper, nor any other outward ordinances avail if partaken without the Spirit of God and the new creature, but that before God only faith.

Spirit, the new creature or regeneration avail, as Paul plainly teaches, Gal. 5:6:

All who by the grace of God have received these from above, will be baptized according to the command of the Lord and rightly partake of the Supper.

Yea, with ardent desire they accept all the ordinances and doctrine of Jesus Christ and shall never wilfully oppose the holy will and plain testimony of God.

All who bring you another doctrine respecting the signs or ordinances, and place them before or above faith and repentance, deceive you, however much they may adorn their teaching with choice words, such as sealing, sign of grace, etc., for it is in fact nothing but human wisdom, deception of souls and hypocrisy.

For, if the children under the Old Dispensation were received into the covenant by circumcision and those of the New Dispensation by baptism, as he [Gellius] says,

it would undeniably follow that the infants who died before the eighth day and those who were not circumcised in the wilderness [Josh. 5:5], as well as all the females, were not in the Israelitish church or congregation, and consequently had no share in the grace, covenant or promise.

The same would also apply to the children who have died before they could have been baptized. O great abomination!

Ceremonies without the reality are not valid before God:

For He is not such a God who has any pleasure in any outward shadow, ceremony, type, bread, wine, water, and nominal service, but in spirit, power, deed and truth.

Again, the prince of darkness, the old serpent and the devil, can transform himself into an angel of light:

Nothing of an external nature is oppressive or vexatious to him; if he can only gain possession of the citadel of our hearts, and expel therefrom Christ's nature, spirit and power, he has already won the price of his craftiness.

Yea, if a man were baptized even by Peter or Paul himself, and received the bread of the Holy Supper from the Lord's own hand, and never again witnessed the idolatry of the priests,

yet if he retained but one of the fruits of the devil whether hatred, envy or bitterness, revengefulness or avarice, pride or unchastity, or any other vice, it would have to be said with the Scriptures that his spirit is ungodly and his life hypocrisy.

My brethren, it was by no means permitted to change one letter touching the ceremonies of the law of Moses:

For it is not the will of the almighty God that we should follow our own inclinations with regard to the ceremonies which He has commanded us, but He desires us alone to observe His good will and pleasure; for this purpose He has commanded them.

In the outward ceremonies alone God has no pleasure, but He has commanded them because He ever requires of us the obedience of faith.

His wrath has often come upon those who deviated in the practice of His ceremonies from His commandments, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu and many others.

For it is His will that we should not follow our own opinion, but that we should hear, believe and obey His holy voice.

For a truly believing Christian is thus minded that he neither will nor may do otherwise than that which is taught and enjoined upon him in the word of his Lord:

For he knows that all presumption and disobedience are like the sin of witchcraft, and the end thereof is death. The wilfully disobedient are standing outside of the promise.

In the first place, as we said before, we all are accepted into the covenant of God, not by any signs [ordinances], but by grace.

- For Abraham was already in God's covenant before he was circumcised, as Paul shows, that his faith was counted for righteousness when he was yet uncircumcised (Rom. 4:3,11);

and because he was in God's covenant, justified by faith, therefore God commanded him the circumcision.

To all those who are thus, by faith, accepted of God through grace into the covenant of peace, with Abraham, God has given as evidences of their faith His ceremonies and figurative signs.

Not that they are thereby justified, for if it were by the signs, it would not be grace,

but that they should be justified and be children of God, children of the promise, etc., by faith, which they should show by their obedience to the commandments of God, having been called and accepted through grace and consoled by His promise. For those who are obedient unto God are His friends (John 15:14).

Behold, dear reader, in this manner Abraham was circumcised and thus we are baptized, because it is thus commanded of God.

He who disobeys the voice of the Lord commanding these ceremonies, and despises the performance of them because of their supposed triviality, not observing that they were commanded of God,

excludes himself from the covenant of grace, by his stubborn disobedience, neither does he seal his faith that it is fruitful and living, but on the contrary, he proves that it is unfruitful and dead before God:

For he hears not the voice of his Lord nor lives in accordance therewith, but despises it as vain and useless.

Therefore observe and know that we are not accepted into the covenant by an outward sign, but alone by grace through Christ Jesus.

And because we are by grace in the covenant, therefore He has given and instituted for us His signs, that they shall be observed by them to whom He has commanded them, namely the believers.

For if it were possible that we could come into the covenant of God by any signs or ceremonies, then the merits of Christ would be vain and grace ended.

No, brethren, no:

Abraham was already chosen, accepted and justified by God, through faith, before he was circumcised, and because he believed and was justified through faith, therefore circumcision was commanded him of God, that he should thereby seal his faith.

Again, Abraham and all his seed, born of Isaac, together with others were already included in God's covenant, women as well as men, and the promise was given to both, yet it was not commanded that the females should be circumcised, but the males.

Observe well, dear reader, had they obtained the covenant of God through the signs and not through grace, then the females must have been excluded and without the promise:

Not so, it was by grace, it is grace, and it will in all eternity be grace.

19. Baptism

We are not regenerated because we have been baptized ... but we are baptized because we have been regenerated by faith and the Word of God (I Pet. 1:23).

Regeneration is not the result of baptism, but baptism the result of regeneration. This can indeed not be controverted by any man, or disproven by the Scriptures.

Faith is to precede baptism:

For the beginning of all righteousness which avails before God is faith, from which baptism results as a sign and proof of obedience. If the infants, then, had faith, their baptism would not be forbidden by the alleged words in Matthew and Mark.

The Scriptures know of only one remedy, which is Christ with His merits, death and blood:

Hence, he who seeks the remission of his sins through baptism, rejects the blood of the Lord and makes water his idol. Therefore let everyone have a care, lest he ascribe the honour and glory due to Christ, to the outward ceremonies and visible elements.

The believing receive remission of sins not through baptism, but in baptism, in the following manner:

as with their whole heart they believe the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ which has been preached and taught to them,

namely the glad tidings of grace, remission of sins, peace, favour, mercy and eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

they experience a change of mind, renounce self, bitterly repent of their old sinful life, and with all diligence give attendance to the Word of the Lord who has shown them such great love; and fulfil all that He has taught and commanded in His holy Gospel.

Their confidence is firmly established upon the word of grace promising the remission of sins through the precious blood and the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.

They therefore receive holy baptism as a token of obedience which proceeds from faith, an evidence before God and His church that they firmly believe in the remission of sins through Christ Jesus, as has been preached and taught them from the Word of God.

With the sacrifices, also of the Old Testament was connected atonement in the Scriptures,

not because of the worthiness of the sacrifices upon the altars, for the blood of bulls and goats, says Paul, could not take away sin (Heb. 10:4);

all that might and could be offered was moreover beforehand the Lord's, yes all the cattle upon a thousand hills, says David (Psa. 50:10);

but because they truly believed the word of divine promise and therefore were obedient to His command.

Similarly now the remission of sin is preached through baptism, not for the sake of the water or of ceremonies performed by us;

we say it again, Christ alone is the means of grace; but because we accept the promises of the Lord by faith and in obedience fulfil His word and will.

20. Import of Baptism

All who by the grace of God have been translated from Adam into Christ, and been made partakers of the divine nature and are baptized of God with the Spirit and fire of heavenly love will not contend so deridingly against the Lord and say: What can water avail,

but they say with trembling Saul: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and with the penitent on the day of Pentecost: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

They will renounce their own wisdom and willingly obey the word of the Lord, for they are led by His Spirit, and through faith, with willing obedient hearts perform all things commanded them of the Lord.

But as long as their minds are not renewed, and they have not the mind of Christ, Phil. 2:5; are not washed in the inner man with clean water from the living fountain of God, Heb 10:22,

they may well say. What can water avail us? For the whole ocean would not cleanse them as long as they are earthly and carnally minded.