On page 50 of John Holdeman’s book, History of the Church of God, he begins to tell the story of Menno Simons and how he became convicted to leave the Catholic Church:
Menno tells how he became a priest and never even opened a Bible, for fear of being deceived. About a year after he had been ordained, the strange thought occurred to him as he handled the bread and wine that it was not actually the literal blood and body of Christ. Quickly the thought came to him that this was the suggestion of the devil and it might lead him away from his faith. He says that he confessed it often, sighed and prayed, but he could not be free from this thought. (Is it any wonder? He saw no change in the bread and the wine…it was still bread and wine. He was not mystical enough to believe it…) Soon he decided that he would study the New Testament, and he had not gone far when he realized that he had been completely deceived. At this point he realized he was in agreement with Luther that “human authority cannot bind unto eternal death.” (If I am not mistaken, the Holdemans teach that they have the power to damn you to eternal death when you are excommunicated from their midst.)
Soon he heard of a man being beheaded for being rebaptized. This seemed strange to him, as he had never heard of being rebaptized. He studied the scriptures carefully but found no evidence for infant baptism. He conversed much with his pastor, who finally had to admit there is no basis for it in scripture. This led him on a long search, as he consulted ancient writings, and visited with Luther and others. All told him that infant baptism was a proper practice. One man showed him the covenant of circumcision to justify infant baptism. This he also discarded as being unbiblical.
Soon, in frustration he returned to the town of his birth and became a village priest. During this time he had a great deal of knowledge of the scriptures, but he made no good use of it. He claims he was foolish, light-minded and sensual. He says that he desired “gain, ease, favor of men, splendor, reputation and honor.” (Oh, how often this happens!) Soon the Munsterites appeared near his town and he observed that even though they had great zeal, they were in error. Menno then began to be reproved in his spirit and began to preach with great zeal and forthrightness, with no thought of what it might cost him. All that mattered to him was that the word was preached in truth, and that error was exposed. He no longer cared about his position or his good name. (Would that there could be more men like that today.)
Oh, listen to this…see what he says next! He says that after about 9 months of fence sitting, suddenly God granted him his gracious Holy Spirit and “I sought the pious, and though they were few in number, I found some who were zealous and maintained the truth. I conversed with the erring , and through the aid and power of God, with his word,reclaimed some from the snares of damnation, and gained them to the Lord, while the hardened and rebellious, I commended to the Lord. Behold, thus, my reader, the God of mercy, through the benign influence of his abounding grace, exerted upon the heart of me, a miserable sinner, produced in me a new mind, humbled me in his fear, taught me to know myself in part, turned me from the way of death, and graciously called me into the narrow path of life, to the communion of his saints. To him be praise forever more, amen.”
Holdeman goes on to commend Menno; “In this account we learn how desirous he was to learn the truth, and even before he was willing to obey it. He did not do like Luther and other reformers, who retained their idolatrous and antichristian baptism, and practiced infant baptism, etc. but could not rest until he investigated the matter and satisfied his mind. He finally sought out the pious and found them, and united with them. (pp. 55)
Do not forget however, that Menno was ordained by a minister of what Holdeman presumes to have been a member of this true lineage, Obbe Phillips, a detail that Holdeman himself failed to take care of. Interestingly enough, Obbe Phillips later fell away from the sect that Menno had joined, so according to some of the things Holdeman writes, should Menno’s ordaination then be invalid?
Menno gives further testimony:
“About one year thereafter, while I was secretly exercising myself in the word of God by reading and writing, it happened that six, seven or eight persons came to me, who were of one heart and one soul with myself, in their faith and life, and as far as man can judge, were unblameable, and according to the testimony of the scriptures, separated from the world and subdued to the cross. They sincerely abhorred not only the sect of Munster, but the anathemas and abominations of all other worldly sects. For the sake of those pious souls who were of the same mind and spirit both with them and with me, they with much solicitude kindly requested me, to reflect on the great sufferings and necessity of the poor, oppressed souls (for the hunger was very great and the faithful stewards were very few, and apply to advantage the talents which I had unmeritedly received from the Lord. When I heard this, my heart was greatly afflicted. Trouble and fear were on every side; for on the one hand I was sensible of my limited talents, my great ignorance, my weak nature, the timidity of my flesh, the unbounded wickedness, perversity and tyranny of the world, the powerful sects, the subtlety of different minds, and the heavy cross which would oppress me, should I comply with their solicitations; and on the other hand, the miserable, starving condition and distress of these god-fearing, pious children, for I saw plainly that they erred as innocent sheep which had no shepherd. At last, after much prayer, I placed myself before the Lord for a season; should it accord with his acceptable and holy will, that I could, or might, labor to his praise…”
Menno, after much prayer and pondering, was willing to take a stand, regardless of what it might cost him. And cost him it did. He lived the life of a hunted man, in poverty and without a place to call home.
What a contrast to the presumed followers of his movement today. They will complain, argue, secretly share their dissatisfaction, but none are willing to make a sacrifice for the sake of conscience and truth. What a shame!
If they are to follow the pattern laid out for them by Menno and John Holdeman, they should fearlessly oppose the false teaching that is around them, be fearless and separate themselves so that the lost sheep who have cruel shepherds would have a safe place to go! Menno and Holdeman set the example, but what they did would be condemned as the worst heresy today. How very strange. And disappointing!