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The Life Of Simon Menno

The Life Of Simon Menno image
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This man was founder of the sect of Meimonites. The attention of America has been partioultirly directed to these people of late, owiug to the large number who are niigrating to our shores. Menno is supposed to have been born about the oponing of the sixtoonth ceni tury, at the little village of Wittmarsum, i in Friesland, a province in the Netherlands. He was early intended for the service of the church, and was educated undor her guidance. In 1524 he waa made a priest, and settled in the village of Pingium. In 1530 ho opened the Now Testament with a spirit ot honest investigation, and was led to abandon the dootrine of transubsantiation. He lived in an age of free inquiry, and the shackles of prejudicö and bigotry were powerless to retain expanding, liberty-seeking thought. In the general breaking away, Menno was not uninflueuced. He opposed " infant baptism " vigorously. He gained daily in popularity, and was applauded by the reforinerg as an evangelical preaoher. For soveral years he struggled to suppress his secret conviotions, lacking the moral courage to face the odium of suffering which he knew the avowal would coat him. But when in 1535 tho life of his brother was required of him to witness for Christ, he could hold out no longer, and openly declared himself a herotic. After thus severing himself from the Iiouian Catholic church he exporienced great trials of soul, but grew in grace and bccame a prominent man among the reformeis. In 1539 a few laymeii of Groningon, in Holland, whohad embraced the reformed doctrines but opposed infant baptiem and the taking of oaths, called upon Menno to come among them as their pastor. He promptly accepted the otter, and foeling himself relieved of the vow of celibacy, entered upon his duties as public teacher after he had secured for himself a worthy companion. He was, however, too zoalous for the spread of Protestant opinión to rest conttmted at Groningen. The low countries were ñlled with Anabaptista. He had always opposed the radicáis of that sect, and had even writeen against the Munster excesses; but he believed that the principal doctrines as held by them were biblical in thoir origin, and he was anxious fora uuion of all moderate Anabaptists, now largely divided among themselves. He gave his attention to the organization of these scattered adherents of his cause, and in his work traveled in company with his wife through east and west Friesland, Holland, Guelderland, Brabant, Westphalia, and the Germau provinces on the coast of the Baltic ; everywhere he attracted the judicious and liberal-ininded of the Anabaptista, " exerted a wholesome influence among them, orgauizing churches which he taught and regulated for years," and thus at last became the acknowledged head of a new body of separatista who at once took his name. Like the other Protestant reformers, Menno accepted the tormal and material principies of the Eeformation ; but, besidea these, he aimed at a moral, practical end. It was his earnest desire to restore the kingdom of God, or the Chriatian church, to that purity which ia taught in the New Testament, and which he believed had existed in the Apoatolic church. To bring back this golden age of Christianity, and to organize a congregation, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, bnt wholly and without blemish, was the constant aim of all his eftorts. This accounts for the singular asceticism of the sect, and explains why the Mennonites did not, liko other evangelical bodies, concern themselves about abstract religious speculations, but about moral laws and duties ; for the same reason they also separated themselves from the unbelieving world, and tried to purify the church by administering the ordinance of baptism only to those who had made a personal profossion of faith in Christ. The validity of infant baptism was rejected, whlle only adulta " who do actually profesa repentance toward God and obedience to our Loid Jesua Christ" were considered proper subjects of this ordinance. Menno was a gentle, earuest, modest man, of a spiritual nature, with no traoe about him of wild fanaticism ; ready to encourage all that was noble, pure, and good in hiB fellow-men, constantly reproving those of his followers who appeared guilty of misdemeanors of any sort. Although oftentimes exposed to persecution, Menno nevertheless continued steadfast to his work. When he found it impossible to remain any longer in the low countries, he sought refuge at the mansión of a kind-hearted nobloman in the duchy of Holstein, and there not only enjoyed protection but encouragement. He died January 13th, 1561, in the satisfaction of having gathered a large and flourishing body of Christians.


Old News
Michigan Argus