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MEMOIR OF MENNO SIMON:*
This celebrated Reformer was sacred volume; but Menno had born in the year 1496, in the pro- never touched a Bible, fearing, to vince of Friesland, (one of the use his own expression, lest he United Provinces,) in the village should be seduced by the perusal of Witmarsum, not far from Fra- of the scriptures. “What a neker, between Harlingen and preacher," says he, “ must I have Bolswaert. No particulars are been for the space of two or three related concerning him, during years !” the period from his birth, till he After he had been engaged in entered on the ministry, in the the ministry about that period, Popish church, in 1524, any far- he began to entertain scruples ther than that his education was respecting the Popish doctrine of such as was generally adopted in transubstantiation. Whenever he that age with persons designed to celebrated mass, he was deeply be priests. In bis 28th year he impressed with the thought, entered on the ministry, in a vil-" This bread and wine cannot be lage called Pinningtom, the resi- thereal body and blood of Christ." dence of his father, where he He imputed the impression, howfound two other young men, of ever, to the agency of Satan, who, the same age with himself, and he thought, thus endeavoured to engaged in the same profession: seduce him from the faith of the one of them, the pastor of the holy church. He therefore revillage, possessed a tolerable sisted with all his might: he share of learning, and both had prayed, he confessed, he groaned, some slight acquaintance with the but his resistance was in vain;
* We are indebted for this account to a valuable manuscript, written by the late Rev. Wm. Rowe, of Weymouth. We again express our wish, that the whole work could be published, of which this is a specimen, for the benefit of his widow and children.
The characters of those who, during a dark age, contributed to sweep away the rubbish of ages from the professed church of Christ, are so extraordinary, that wo seize with pleasure every opportunity of exhibiting them to the notice of our readers. The subject of this Memoir was a foreign divine, contemporary with Luther, and bis illustrious colleagues, and, with them, adopted the principle of the sufficiency of the scriptures in all matters of religion In our opinion, he acted much more consistently than those who, by retaining a practice which had no other foundation than the authority of the church, left their work very imper. lect. Menno Simon rejected all human tradition in religion, and became the Founder of the Dutch Baptist Churches, which, from his name, are still called Mennonites. VOL. X.
the impression that this doctrine | the gospel, without the least tinge could not be true, remained with of heresy or fanaticism. His sounabated force on his mind. ciety was generally courted. He
No moral change, however, at was admired as a preacher, and present appeared. In company commended as a religious man. with his two clerical friends, his The world loved him, and it is days and nights were spent in his own declaration) he loved the sports, drunkenness, and the vain world. and unprofitable amusements About this time, a person common to young people of a named Sicke Snyder, one of the dissipated turn. On these occa. thousands who suffered under the sions, the scriptures were fre- name of Anabaptists, was bequently introduced for purposes headed at Lewarden. Till now, of sport. Menno never mentioned Menno had heard of no other them but to ridicule their con baptism than that of infants; and tents: yet so great was his igno- it was with no small surprise that rance, that he was unconscious of he heard of the firmness with the folly and wickedness of his which the martyr adhered to his conduct.
sentiments, and of his preferring In the mean time, conscience an ignominious death on the scaf. was not silent, but admonished fold to the dereliction of this arhim that he was in a wrong path. ticle of his creed. His restlessness increased ; and The insight into the word of he at length resolved to give the God, which Menno already pos. New Testament a serious investi- sessed, and the light which had gation. He had not proceeded shape upon him, whilst searching far in the interesting task, before the divine oracles upon the subhe discovered the errors of Po-ject of the mass, had freed him pery, and that transubstantiation from the trammels of Popish bi. had no foundation in the word of gotry, and had destroyed his reGod. All this was effected by sistance to the force of truth. the instrumentality of the Bible His mind was become open to alone, without any human aid. conviction; and the fact which He acknowledges, however, that had occurred before his eyes, of he was indebted to the writings a person suffering martyrdom for of Luther for a more clear and sentiments on baptism different decided conviction of one import from those generally maintained, ant truth, namely, that the omis- suggested an immediate and sesion of the commandments of dulous investigation of the scripmen does not rendera person sub-tures respecting that ordinance.
ject to eternal death, however it The issue may easily be conjec'may expose him to temporal | tured :. he could find no trace of punishments, and temporal death. Pædobaptism in the Bible; and
Menno made a daily progress was thus convinced that two of in the knowledge of the scrip- the sacraments of his church were tures. He continued to discharge unscriptural. his duties as parish pricot, and He immediately held a converpossessed just that degree of re-sation with the pastor who has ligious feeling and conduct which been already mentioned. The led all men to speak well of him. subject underwent a long discusHe all at once became, in the sion; and our young advocate for public estimation, a preacher of baptism, although entirely iguo
rant of the arguments employed | hamic covenant, and to .circumby the Baptists of that age, incision; the former of which was support of the practice, but with made with infants, and the latter only the New Testament in his administered to them. The aphand, obliged his friend to con- plication of these things to infant. fess that pædobaptism had no baptism, he could not reconcile foundation in the Bible.
with that view of the nature and Afraid, however, of placing subjects of baptism, which he too much dependence on his own had acquired by reading the judgment, though supported by | New Testament. the word of God itself, he So far from removing his scrusearched the writings of some of ples concerning pædobaptism, the ancient fathers, and found these discordant opinions of the that they defended the opinion different leaders in the Reformawhich he suspected to be unte- tion heightened them. He saw nable, upon this ground, that that they differed widely on the “ the baptism of infants washed point, and therefore was confirmthem from the defilement of ori-ed in his sentiment, that both Pa. ginal sin.” The inconsistency of pists and Protestants were mistathis position with the scriptures, ken, and that the Baptist, who stimulated him to continue his had so lately suffered in defence research. Convinced that the of his opinions, had truth and opinion of the ancients ascribed scripture on his side. that efficacy to baptism, which is No improvement, however, possessed only by the blood of had at present taken place in his Christ, he consulted the Re- character, except a slight one in formers, and especially Luther, morals only.. He was still the who had by this time risen into slave of a love of popularity, and celebrity. The information which laboured with the greatest ardour he gained from this quarter was to obtain and preserve the praise not more satisfactory; it being of men, Beinginvited, about this the opinion of Luther, that time, to exercise the priestly of “ infants were to be baptized on fice in Witmarsum, the place of their own faith, infused into them his nativity, worldly gain, and an at baptism." He could neither increase of popularity, were the reconcile this opinion with the motives which induced him to scriptures, nor conceive it to be embrace the invitation. “ There,”. possible that infants, destitute of says he,“ [ preached, and said reason, should possess faith, much from the word of God, but
From Luther he turned to Bu- without any influence from the cer, who taught that infants Spirit, or any proper affection for should be baptized, in order that the souls of men; and I made, by “ they might be the more dili- these sermons, many young pergently watched, and that they sons, like myself, vain boasters, might be instructed in the ways and empty talkers; but they had of the Lord.” This argument very little concern for spiritual appeared to him to be merely hu. I things." He had a considerable man, and unsupported by the acquaintance with the word of scriptures..
God; but he says, “I entered He then applied to Bullinger, with ardour into the indulgence who directed him, in vindication of youthful lusts, and, like the of pædobaptism, to the Abra- generality of persons of similar
pursuits, sought exclusively after thought,) were Antipædobap. gain, worldly appearance, the tists.* They farther say, that the favour of men, and the glory of a Waldenses being dispersed, by name."
persecution, all over Europe, Thus it appears, that his just great numbers of them settled views of both the ordinances of in the Netherlands, long before the gospel were acquired by read the time of Menno, and that the ing the scriptures, and meditation Dutch Baptists before him were upon them, whilst his heart re- these very Waldenses. It is cermained unsanctified. They were tain, that the Dutch Baptists, like attained, as he himself observes, the Waldenses, maintained the by the mere grace of God, and unlawfulness of oaths, and of by the illumination of his Spirit, war; and asserted, that passive and not by means of any seduc obedience is incumbent upon tive arguments used by sectaries, Christians. They also agreed as his enemies falsely represented. with them, in maintaining that " I hope," adds he, “ that I write Christians ought not to be civil the truth, and do not seek vain magistrates, but should consider glory. If I received help from themselves as strangers and pil. any one in making farther ad grims upon the earth; and that vance in truth, I give God eter Christian ministers ought not to nal thanks for the same."
receive a stipend. They resemThe manner in which he was bled them also in their boldness brought to a reception of the dis- in reproving vice, in their love to tinguishing tenets of his party, each other, in their humility, in should be borne in mind by the their contempt of the world, in reader, as it will account for the the simplicity and purity of their ardour with which he maintained manners, in the plainness of their his peculiarities of sentiment, as dress, and in many other partiwell as remove the stigma which culars. his enemies endeavoured to fix Their adversaries, on the other upon him, by charging him with hand, maintain, that they are having derived his views of bap- descended from the insurgents of tism from the insurgents of Mun- Munster. This insurrection of
the German boors, or peasants, There are two opinions con-|(as well as "several former ones cerning the origin of the Baptists. before the Reformation,) was ocThe first, maintained by them-casioned by the intolerable opselves, is, that the apostles, and pression of their lords, against first Christians, were Baptists; whom Luther inveighed, saying, that infant baptism, and infant that they deserved to be dethroncommunion, were early corrup-ed by God; at the same time tions, which rose up together, exhorting the poor peasants to and which were gradually intro submit. A few ambitious and duced together into the church; designing men, of considerable that there has been, however, a talents, joined their standard, and succession of persons from the became their leaders. Some of apostolic age, who have confined these were Baptists, and many of baptism to believers; and that the insurgents came over to their the great body of the Waldenses, (and not the Petrobrussians and M
* See the Works of Herman Schyn,
Mehrning, D. T. Twiscke, T. V. Braght, Henricians only, as some have &c.