From the Archives: Menno Simons
A Roman Catholic priest until age 40, Menno Simons (1496–1561) became one of the great Anabaptist leaders in the Reformation. His group of Dutch Anabaptist followers adopted his name, becoming the Mennonites. In this excerpt from an early theological work, Foundation of Christian Doctrine, Menno rails against the money-loving of the clergy.
It is manifest, dear reader, that the humble office of a true bishop, preacher, and pastor is an office of Christian service. If rightly served it is full of labor, poverty, trouble, care, reproach, misery, sorrow, cross, and pain. But it has been changed by your preachers into sinful splendor and princely glory so that they are greatly feared and honored by those whose names are not written in heaven. They parade in splendid robes dressed in shining sham, and are called proud names. There is not a word to be found in Scripture concerning their anointing, crosses, caps, togas, unclean purifications, cloisters, chapels, bells, organs, choral music, masses, offerings, ancient usages, etc.; but under these things the lurking wolf, the earthly, sensual mind, the anti-Christian seductions and bloody abominations are readily perceived. For they seek nothing but the favor of men, honor, pomp, splendor, a delicious lazy life, personal advancement, gold, silver, gluttony, etc. Yet they suffer themselves to be called spiritual ones, doctors, masters, lords, abbots, guardians, fathers, and friars.
Alas, how vastly different from the office of the prophets and apostles in service, example, usage, ambition, and procedure. How different they are from the men who without purse enter the Lord’s harvest; men without money or much clothing; men who have to be made a spectacle to the whole world, refuse, and rubbish; men who are killed all the day long for the sake of the Lord’s truth and accounted as sheep for the slaughter, as seen from the Scriptures.
But the chests and coffers of these folk are full, rich with the abundance of Babylonian commerce and sorcery….
O dear Lord, how precisely the opposite of the upright and true bishops, overseers, and pastors have they become, this haughty tribe that boasts that it can bring Christ down from heaven, atone before God, and forgive sins. They say that they are the true pillars of the church, the eyes and the head. And although I have written this especially of the Roman Catholic priests, the reader must know that I do not consider innocent those who make their boast in the Word. By no means. For if men accept open adultery and fornication, also certain idolatrous practices concerning the bread, they differ precious little as a matter of general practice in the seeking of filthy lucre, idolatrous practice, baptism and Supper, obstructing the pious, besmirching and reviling them.
Therefore I fear that all who preach for money and play the hypocrite with the world are the spiritual sorcerers of Egypt, priests of Asherah, servants of Baal, prophets of Jezebel, destroyers of the Lord’s vineyard, defilers of the land, blind watchman and dumb dogs, spoilers of good pastures, polluters of the clear waters, devourers of souls, false prophets and ravening wolves, devourers of widows’ houses, thieves and murderers, enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things (Phil. 3:18, 19)….
Copyright © 1988 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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