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the impression that this doctrine | the gospel, without the least tinge
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.
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.
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
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 In the mean time, conscience an ignominious death on the scafwas 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 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 from the trammels of Popish bihad 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 render a person sub-tures respecting that ordinance. ject to eternal death, however it 'may expose him to temporal punishments, and temporal death.
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.
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
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.
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 confirm
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.
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 ori-ed in his sentiment, that both Pa ginal 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
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 eter- Christian ministers ought not to nal thanks for the same." receive a stipend. They resembled them also in their boldness
reproving vice, in their love to 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 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 upon him, by charging him with having derived his views of baptism from the insurgents of Mun
Their adversaries, on the other hand, maintain, that they are descended from the insurgents of Munster. This insurrection of 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,
sentiments. They became wild and frantic enthusiasts, and ran into the greatest excesses, until the insurrection was quelled. In their character and principles they very much resembled the fifth-monarchy men, especially Venner and his followers, in 1661, all of whom were Pædobaptists, except one individual.* This observation reflects no dishonour upon the Pædobaptists: it only shows that wicked and mad enthusiasts have been, in some way or other, connected with every denomination; and that the Baptists are no more disgraced by the insurrection of Munster, than the Pædobaptists by that of Coleman-street; or, than wise and rational Episcopalians by the high-church mobs of Sacheverel, and of Birmingham.
To return to Menno-his convictions at length became irresistible. "What shall I do?" he was accustomed to exclaim; "If I continue in this state, and do not, to the utmost of my ability, expose the hypocrisy of false teachers, and the impenitent and careless lives of men; their depraved baptism and supper, with their other superstitions; what will become of me?" These convictions ended in true conversion and repentance.
It was impossible for him long to maintain his communion with the church of Rome: it continued but nine months after his conversion. He writes as follows: "God then stretched out to me his parental hand, and imparted to me such a degree of his Spirit, that I voluntarily made a surrender of my reputation, and of the honour which I had acquired among men, together with all
See Ivimey's History of the Baptists, Vol. I. p. 308.
my Popish abominations, my mass, my pædobaptism, my ungodly life, and all my worldly prospects, and determined to spend my life in poverty, bearing the cross of Christ. In my feeble measure, I feared God. I sought for pious men, and found some, though but few who were equally distinguished for the soundness of their opinions, and the ardour of their zeal. Thus, gentle reader, did my gracious God, by his rich grace towards me, a miserable sinner, draw me to him. self. It was He who filled my heart with inquietude; it was He who renewed me in the spirit of my mind; it was He who humbled me in his fear, who made me in some measure acquainted with himself, who drew me from the path of death, and who introduced me into the communion of his saints, in the narrow path that leadeth to life. the praise for ever.
To Him be Amen." After passing about a year in the society of a small, but faithful, band of Christians, employing himself chiefly in writing and reading, he received an unexpected visit from six or eight persons, of one heart and mind with himself, who had been deputed to him by a society of pious per sons, of the same spirit and sentiments. These worthy people besought him affectionately, and with great earnestness, to be their pastor.
This invitation threw him into no small perplexity. On the one hand, he was deterred from accepting it by a sense of his own incompetency, ignorance, timidity, and feeble constitution; by his knowledge of the wickedness and tyrannical disposition of the world; by the existence of numerous and powerful parties in the religious world; and by the
severe trials which were then [tions, miseries, and persecutions, connected with the preaching of living in every place in poverty, the gospel. But there were mo-in fear, and in perpetual hazard tives in the other scale which of a cruel death. While other preponderated. These were, the preachers have reposed themexcellent character of these pious selves on beds and pillows of men, their poverty, and their ur- down, we have generally been gent entreaty that he would ac- compelled to conceal ourselves cede to their request. in secret hiding-places. Whilst After earnest prayer, therefore, they have been indulging themto God, he accepted the invita-selves at feasts for the celebration tion; upon which event he makes of marriages and of births, we the following reflections: "I have have been alarmed by the barkno connexion with the Munster-ing of our dogs, fearing lest some ites, nor with any other seditious persecutor should be at our doors. sect, as has been slanderously While they have been saluted by reported; but though unworthy, every one as doctors, masters, and was called to this office by a peo- gentlemen, we have been compelple who confessed Christ and his led to hear ourselves saluted as word, and who passed their lives Anabaptists, house-preachers, sein penitence and the fear of God, ducers, and heretics, and greetserving their neighbours in love; ed in the name of the devil. In a people who bore their cross, a word, whilst they have been reand sought the salvation and munerated for their labours with good of all men; who loved annual stipends, and good days, righteousness and truth, and de- our stipend has been the fire, the tested injustice and wickedness." sword, and a cruel death. In His ministry was attended with this anxiety, poverty, wretchedgreat success. "God rendered," ness, and hazard of life, I, an unsays he, "the form of his church worthy man, have to this day, so beautiful, and invested its faithfully discharged the ministry members with such invincible of the Lord. I hope also that, fortitude, that not only many by his grace, I shall continue to stubborn and haughty sinners discharge it to his praise till the were brought to supplicate for day of my death. This statethe incontinent became ment has been extorted from me, mercy, chaste, the drunken sober, the since preachers on every hand churl bountiful, the cruel benign, calumniate me, and I am accused, and the impious devout; but without any shadow of truth, of they likewise bore a glorious tes- having been called to this ministimony to the truth which they try by a seditious and nefarious professed, manifesting the great- sect. Let him who fears God, est constancy in surrendering read and judge." their fortunes, their liberties, and their lives."
In the year 1543, which was about six years after his leaving "To promote this great ob- the Romish church, a placard ject," adds he, "it has been ne- was circulated throughout West cessary for me to endure, with Friesland, promising not only my poor and feeble wife, and my pardon, but the favour of the infants, during a period of eigh- Emperor, the freedom of the teen years, numerous and various country, and a reward of a hunanxieties, burdens, griefs, afflic-dred Caroli-guilders, to any one