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MEMOIR OF MENNO SIMON.*
sacred volume; but Menno had
THIS celebrated Reformer was born in the year 1496, in the province of Friesland, (one of the United Provinces,) in the village of Witmarsum, not far from Franeker, between Harlingen and Bolswaert. No particulars are related concerning him, during 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 his 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- the real 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
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 we 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 his 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 imperfect. MENNO SIMON rejected all human tradition in religion, and became the Founder of the Dutch Baptist Churches, which, from his name, are still called
the impression that this doctrine could not be true, remained with unabated force on his mind.
No moral change, however, at present appeared. In company with his two clerical friends, his days and nights were spent in sports, drunkenness, and the vain and unprofitable amusements common to young people of a dissipated turn. On these occasions, the scriptures were frequently introduced for purposes of sport. Menno never mentioned them but to ridicule their contents: yet so great was his ignorance, that he was unconscious of the folly and wickedness of his conduct.
the gospel, without the least tinge of heresy or fanaticism. His society was generally courted. He was admired as a preacher, and commended as a religious man. The world loved him, and (it is his own declaration) he loved the world.
About this time, a person named Sicke Snyder, one of the thousands who suffered under the name of Anabaptists, was beheaded at Lewarden. Till now, Menno had heard of no other baptism than that of infants; and it was with no small surprise that he heard of the firmness with which the martyr adhered to his sentiments, and of his preferring an ignominious death on the scaf fold to the dereliction of this article of his creed.
The insight into the word of God, which Menno already possessed, and the light which had shone upon him, whilst searching the divine oracles upon the sub
from the trammels of Popish bigotry, and had destroyed his resistance to the force of truth. His mind was become open to conviction; and the fact which had occurred before his eyes, of a person suffering martyrdom for sentiments on baptism different from those generally maintained, suggested an immediate and sedulous investigation of the scrip
In the mean time, conscience was not silent, but admonished him that he was in a wrong path. His restlessness increased; and he at length resolved to give the New Testament a serious investigation. He had not proceeded far in the interesting task, before he discovered the errors of Po-ject of the mass, had freed him pery, and that transubstantiation had no foundation in the word of God. All this was effected by the instrumentality of the Bible alone, without any human aid. He acknowledges, however, that he was indebted to the writings of Luther for a more clear and decided conviction of one important truth, namely, that the omission of the commandments of men does not render a person sub-tures respecting that ordinance. ject to eternal death, however it may expose him to temporal punishments, and temporal death. Menno made a daily progress in the knowledge of the scriptures. He continued to discharge his duties as parish priest, and He immediately held a converpossessed just that degree of re-sation with the pastor who has ligious feeling and conduct which led all men to speak well of him. He all at once became, in the public estimation, a preacher of
The issue may easily be conjectured: he could find no trace of Pædobaptism in the Bible; and was thus convinced that two of the sacraments of his church were unscriptural.
been already mentioned. The subject underwent a long discussion; and our young advocate for baptism, although entirely igno
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 infantfess that pædobaptism had no baptism, he could not reconcile foundation in the Bible. with that view of the nature and subjects of baptism, which he had acquired by reading the New Testament.
Afraid, however, of placing too much dependence on his own judgment, though supported by the word of God itself, he searched the writings of some of the ancient fathers, and found that they defended the opinion which he suspected to be untenable, upon this ground, that "the baptism of infants washed them from the defilement of original sin." The inconsistency of this position with the scriptures, stimulated him to continue his research. Convinced that the opinion of the ancients ascribed that efficacy to baptism, which is possessed only by the blood of Christ, he consulted the Reformers, and especially Luther, who had by this time risen into celebrity. The information which he gained from this quarter was not more satisfactory; it being the opinion of Luther, that "infants were to be baptized on their own faith, infused into them at baptism." He could neither reconcile this opinion with the scriptures, nor conceive it to be possible that infants, destitute of reason, should possess faith,
From Luther he turned to Bucer, who taught that infants should be baptized, in order that "they might be the more diligently watched, and that they might be instructed in the ways of the Lord." This argument appeared to him to be merely human, and unsupported by the scriptures.
He then applied to Bullinger, who directed him, in vindication of pædobaptism, to the Abra
So far from removing his scruples concerning pædobaptism, these discordant opinions of the different leaders in the Reformation heightened them. He saw that they differed widely on the point, and therefore was confirmed in his sentiment, that both Pa pists and Protestants were mistaken, and that the Baptist, who had so lately suffered in defence of his opinions, had truth and scripture on his side.
No improvement, however, had at present taken place in his character, except a slight one in morals only. He was still the slave of a love of popularity, and laboured with the greatest ardour to obtain and preserve the praise of men. Being invited, about this time, to exercise the priestly office in Witmarsum, the place of his nativity, worldly gain, and an increase of popularity, were the motives which induced him to embrace the invitation. "There," says he, " I preached, and said much from the word of God, but without any influence from the Spirit, or any proper affection for the souls of men; and I made, by these sermons, many young persons, like myself, vain boasters, and empty talkers; but they had very little concern for spiritual things." He had a considerable acquaintance with the word of God; but he says, "I entered with ardour into the indulgence of youthful lusts, and, like the generality of persons of similar
pursuits, sought exclusively after gain, worldly appearance, the favour of men, and the glory of a
thought,) were Antipædobaptists. They farther say, that the Waldenses being dispersed, by 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 pilany one in making farther ad-grims upon the earth; and that vance in truth, I give God eternal thanks for the same."
Christian ministers ought not to receive a stipend. They resembled them also in their boldness
each other, in their humility, in their contempt of the world, in the simplicity and purity of their manners, in the plainness of their dress, and in many other particulars.
The manner in which he was brought to a reception of the dis-in reproving vice, in their love to tinguishing tenets of his party, should be borne in mind by the reader, as it will account for the ardour with which he maintained his peculiarities of sentiment, as well as remove the stigma which 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 ster, the German boors, or peasants, (as well as several former ones before the Reformation,) was oc
There are two opinions concerning the origin of the Baptists. The 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, and which were gradually introduced together into the church; that there has been, however, a succession of persons from the apostolic age, who have confined baptism to believers; and that the great body of the Waldenses, (and not the Petrobrussians and Henricians only, as some have
exhorting the poor peasants to submit. A few ambitious and designing men, of considerable talents, joined their standard, and became their leaders. Some of these were Baptists, and many of the insurgents came over to their
Mehrning, D. T. Twiscke, T. V. Braght, &c.
* See the Works of Herman Schyn,