Teachings of Menno Simons | 7

31. The Dangers and the Right Use of Riches

Since then the Lord himself, as also His faithful servants James and Paul, have in so clear words set forth the dangers of riches and of high station,

and experience teaches how high they exalt themselves, as may be deduced from their titles, houses, shields, clothes, servants, horses and dogs,

and in consideration of Christ's words. Matt. 18:3, it would be more in accordance with evangelical righteousness, if Gellius, instead, would diligently point such proud and exalted persons to the humility of Christ,

that they may learn to deny themselves and to consider their origin and destination, that they may repent of their excessive pomp and vanity, their superfluity and ungodliness, fear God from their hearts, walk in His ways and in true humility of heart serve their neighbours with their riches.

32. Non-conformity to the World

This is not a kingdom in which one adorns himself with gold, silver, pearls, silk, velvet and costly finery, as does the proud, haughty world,

and also your leaders, giving you liberty to do likewise, under the excuse that it is harmless if your heart is free from it. So even Satan might excuse his pride and pretend the lust of his eye to be pure and good.

But this is the kingdom of all humility in which not the outward adorning of the body but the inward adorning of the Spirit is desired and sought with great zeal and diligence, with a broken heart and a contrite mind.

33. The Doctrine of Non-resistance

The regenerated do not go to war nor fight:

They are the children of peace who have beaten their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks and know of no war.

They give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. Their sword is the word of the Spirit which they wield with a good conscience through the Holy Ghost.

Since we are to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), how can we, then, fight our enemies with the sword?

Does not the apostle Peter say:

"For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

who did no sin neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously" (I Pet. 2:21-23; Matt. 16:24).

And this accords with the words of John who says:

"He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6).

And Christ Himself says: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

Again: "My sheep hear my voice ... and they follow me" (John 10:27).

And this is the voice of Christ:

"Ye have heard that it has been said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39).

Again: "Ye have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you;

that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, etc. (Matt. 5:43-45; Rom. 12:20; I Pet. 3:9; Luke 6:34; I Pet. 1:15).

Behold these are the words of Christ. All those, now, who are His sheep, will hear His voice.

My dear reader, if the poor, ignorant world with an honest heart accepted this our hated and despised doctrine, which is not of us but of Christ, and faithfully obeyed it,

they could well change their deadly swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, level their gates and walls, dismiss their executioners and henchmen.

For all who accept our doctrine in its power, will by God's grace not have any ill will to any one upon earth, and not against their most bitter enemies, much less wrong and harm them by deeds and actions;

for they are children of the Most High who from their hearts love that which is good and in their weakness avoid that which is evil; nay, hate it and are inimical thereto.

Antichrist rules through hypocrisy and falsehood, with violence and the sword, but Christ reigns through patience with His word and Spirit; neither does He use any other sword nor sabre.

O man! man! look upon the irrational creatures and learn wisdom:

All roaring lions, all frightful bears, all devouring wolves, live in peace among themselves with their own species.

But you, poor, helpless creatures, created in God's own image and called rational beings, are born without teeth, claws, and horns and with a feeble nature, speechless and strengthless,

yea, neither able to walk nor stand, but have to depend entirely upon maternal care - to teach you that you should be men of peace and not of strife.

Peter was commanded to put his sword into the sheath:

All Christians are bidden to love their enemies, do good to those who do them evil, and pray for those who abuse and persecute them;

to give the cloak also if any one sue them at law for the coat; if they are stricken on the right cheek to turn to him who abuses them the other also.

Say, beloved, how can a Christian, according to the Scriptures, consistently retaliate, rebel, war, murder, slay, torture, steal, rob and burn cities and conquer countries? Matt. 26:52; John 18:10; Matt. 5:12.39, 40.

All who are led by the Spirit of Christ know no sword but the Word of the Lord:

Their weapons are powerful, fervent prayer, a long-suffering, patient heart, strong, immovable faith, a living hope and an unblameable life, as has been said.

By such means the Gospel of the kingdom, the word of peace is to be spread and defended against the gates of hell.

O, beloved reader, our arms and weapons are not our swords and spears, but patience, silence and hope, and God's Word. With these we must fight our battle.

Paul says: "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." In that way we intend and desire to resist the kingdom of the devil; and not with swords, spears, cannons and coats of mail.

True Christians know of no vengeance, no matter how they may be wronged; in patience they possess their souls (Luke 21:18).

They do not break the peace even if they should be tempted by bondage, torture, poverty, and by the sword and fire. They do not cry for vengeance, as does the world, but with Christ they pray, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

They have, according to the declaration of the prophet, beaten their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

Again, our fortress is Christ, our defence is patience, our sword is the Word of God, and our victory is the sincere, firm, unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ.

Spears and swords of iron we leave to those who, alas, consider human blood and swine's blood of well-nigh equal value. He that is wise, let him judge what I mean.

I am well aware that the tyrants who boast themselves Christians attempt to justify their horrible wars and shedding of blood, and would make a good work of it, by referring us to Moses, Joshua, etc.

But they do not reflect that Moses and his successors, with their iron sword, have served out their time, and that Jesus Christ has now given us a new commandment and has girded our loins with another sword:

- They do not consider that they use the sword of war, which they wield, contrary to all evangelical Scripture, against their own brethren,

namely those of like faith with them who have received the same baptism and have broken the same bread with them and are thus members of the same body.

Further we reply that we know and use no other sword than that which Jesus Christ Himself brought down from heaven and which the apostles have used in the power of the Spirit,

namely that which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord, the sword of the Spirit, which is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

With this sword and no other we desire to destroy the kingdom of the devil, reprove all wickedness, preach righteousness, etc. in like manner as Jesus Christ and His holy apostles and the prophets did in this world.

I do not here mean the prophets Elijah and Samuel, understand me rightly, who also used the sword, but I mean the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., who only reproved with doctrine, and not otherwise.

This sword we wield and would not let emperor or kings, or authorities hide it from us or forbid its use. For Peter says, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

To the praise and service of Him who has girded us with this sword we must wield it, whether it bring us life or death, as it may please God.

Captains, knights, soldiers and such like bloody men are offering to sell soul and body for money, and swear with uplifted hand that they will destroy cities and countries, apprehend and kill the citizens and inhabitants and rob them of their possessions, although they have never harmed them nor given them any provocation:

O what an accursed, wicked, abominable business! And yet it is said that they protect the country and people and assist in administering justice!

It is clearer than mid-day that many of you are so mad, so influenced by the spirit of the devil, that ye hate, envy, bite and devour one another:

You have destroyed whole principalities, cities, castles and citadels with your accursed wars and uproar, and have shed human blood like water.

You deprive poor citizens and peasants (those of your own faith) of body and possessions, by burning, robbing, plundering, apprehending, imposition and torturing even those who have never harmed you or given you a rash word.

Such good-for-nothing, godless saints or Christians we do not read of in Scripture.

I tell you the truth in Christ:

the truly baptized disciples of Christ, who are baptized inwardly with the Spirit and with fire, and outwardly with water according to God's Word, know of no weapons other than patience, hope, non-resistance and God's Word.

Paul says, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, etc. (II Cor. 10:4, 5).

Our weapons are not such with which cities and countries are desolated, walls and gates broken down and human blood shed like water,

but they are weapons to destroy the spiritual kingdom of the devil, put away ungodliness and break the flinty hearts that have never been affected by the heavenly dew of the holy word.

Thus we do not combat with carnal, but with spiritual weapons, with patience and with the Word of the Lord, trusting in Christ, against the flesh, the world and the devil, nor shall there ever be found other weapons with us.

Therefore be not afraid of us (I tell you the truth in Christ Jesus):

for we do not desire your destruction but your regeneration - on account of which I have these seven years suffered slander and scorn, anxiety, persecution and great peril of being imprisoned; and persecution is still increasing.

34. Capital Punishment

If a criminal should truly repent before his God and be born from above, he would then be a saint and a child of God, a fellow-partaker of grace, a spiritual member of the Lord's body, sprinkled with His precious blood and anointed with the Holy Ghost

- and for such an one to be hanged on the gallows, executed on the wheel, burned at the stake or in any manner be harmed by another Christian who in Christ Jesus is one heart and soul with him,

I should think strange and out of place, considering the compassionate, merciful, loving disposition, spirit and example of Christ, the meek Lamb, which example He has commanded all his chosen children to follow.

Again, if he remain impenitent and his life be taken, this would be nothing else but to unmercifully cut short his time for repentance of which, in case his life were spared, he might yet avail himself;

to tyrannically deliver his soul which was purchased with such a precious treasure unto the devil –

never taking into consideration that the Son of Man who says, "Learn of me" (Matt. 11:28). "I have given you an example" (John 13:15), "Follow me" (Matt. 16:24), is not come to destroy souls, but to save them (Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10).

Profane history shows that the Lacedemonians who were heathen did not put their criminals to death but imprisoned them and put them at labour.

35. Swearing of Oaths

We are aware that the authorities advance the opinion that it is right to swear whenever oath is made to the truth.

This we answer simply with the word of the Lord, Matt. 5:33-27. To swear to the truth was permitted to the Jews under the law, but to the Christians it is forbidden in the Gospel.

Christ says, "Ye have heard that it has been said to them of old time: Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths.

But I say unto you: Swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne, nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, etc. (Matt. 5:33-35).

And you, Micron, say that none but light-minded and false oaths are thereby prohibited, as if Moses had permitted Israel to swear light-minded and falsely and that to us under the New Testament only, Christ has forbidden it.

If we have the same liberty as the Israelites in this matter, as you assert ...... then tell me, why did not the Lord say:

Ye have heard that it has been said to them of old time: Thou shalt not forswear thyself, and I say unto you: Obey this injunction. But he says: Moses has permitted you to swear rightly; but I say unto you: Swear not at all.

Since, then, it is more than clear that Jesus Christ, the teacher of righteousness, points us away from the oath of Moses which was an oath of truth and was sworn by the name of the Lord and which you use and highly recommend,

and points us to the truthful yea and nay,

and I well know that His word is the truth and His commandment life everlasting, therefore I am frank and bold thus to teach it, believing of a truth that He will not deceive us by His teaching.

Behold, beloved reader, before these words of Christ all human laws and commandments concerning the oath must yield and be abolished,

all kinds of oaths no matter how they be performed, be it by words, or by raising your hand, or laying your hands upon your breast, or upon a cross, or upon the New Testament, etc.,

and the true yea and nay, ordained of the Lord Himself must be put in its place, if the authorities and subjects do not want wantonly to transgress the word of the Lord and ignore it as useless;

for whatsoever is more than yea and nay, Christ says, cometh of evil.

The same is also taught by James:

"Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." Jas. 5:12.

The Scriptures teach that we should hear Christ, for He is the king in Jacob, Isa. 9:7, the king of righteousness, the teacher and the prophet promised of God, who has taught us the word of the Father, and His word is truth. His commandment is eternal life.

Inasmuch as we confess and sincerely believe that no emperor or king may rule or command contrary to His word,

since, He is the head of all princes and the King of all kings (Rev. 1:5; 19:16) and to Him every knee shall bow which is in heaven, in earth or under the earth (Phil. 2), and He has so plainly forbidden us to swear and pointed us to yea and nay alone,

this is the reason why we, fearing the Lord, do not and may not swear, though we must hear and suffer so much on that account from the world.

The oath is required for no other purpose than to obtain truthful statement and testimony:

Can, then, the truth not be told without an oath? Do all tell the truth who are under oath? You will admit that the first question is to be answered in the affirmative and the second in the negative.

Is, then, the oath itself the truth of the testimony, or does the truth depend upon him who swears the oath?

Why then do not the authorities require the truth to be told with yea and nay, as ordained of God, rather than with an oath which God has forbidden?

For they can notwithstanding punish those who are found false in their yea and nay, the same as those who commit perjury.

I trust that no person is so confused as not to know that the ordinances of God which are of heaven can never give way to the earthly ordinances of men.

We hereby pray all lords and authorities, for Jesus' sake, to fear the Lord sincerely, and to be subject to the word of the Lord in this matter of the oath.

We ask them to consider why they require the oath, namely, that that shall be fulfilled to which oath is made.

Inasmuch, now, as we deem our yea and nay to be of no less import than an oath, why, then, require any further affirmation of us than the word of the Lord teaches and allows?

That yea is yea and nay nay with all true Christians is fully proven by those who, in our Netherlands, are so tyrannically visited with imprisonment, confiscation and torture, with fire, the stake and the sword, when indeed with one word they could escape all this, if they would misuse their yea and nay.

But as they are born of the truth, therefore they walk in the truth, and testify to the truth unto death, as may be abundantly seen in Flanders, Brabant, Holland, West Friesland, etc.