Menno Simons, the founder of the “Mennonites,” was enjoying the “good life” of a typical medieval priest, in the 16th century. Yes, he had his religious duties, performing baptisms and the Mass, but he also had a “good time” drinking with his friends, and partying into the wee hours of the night.
But his conscience had gripped him, when he knew of neighbors who had died as martyrs, clinging to a belief in the Bible, as the true source for what it really meant to be a Christian. Menno, even though he was indeed a priest, knew nothing of the Bible.
- “[My friends] and myself spent our time daily in playing, drinking, and all manner of frivolous diversions, alas! as it is the fashion and way of such useless people; and when we were to treat a little of scripture, I could not speak a word with them without being scoffed at; for I did not know what I asserted. Thus concealed was the word of God to my understanding. At length I resolved that I would examine the New Testament attentively.”
Menno eventually became convinced of “Believer’s baptism,” a key feature of the “Anabaptist” movement. He embraced the discipline of a scholar, spending several years, in trying to understand the Bible. But some of his new Anabaptist friends had gone down the wrong track, embracing the error of violence. The Holy Spirit was still working on Menno’s hardened heart:
- “I could find no rest in my soul. I reflected upon my carnal, sinful life, my hypocritical doctrine and idolatry, in which I continued daily under the appearance of godliness. I saw that these zealous children willingly gave their lives and their estates, though they were in error, for their doctrine and faith. And I was one of those who had discovered some of their abominations, and yet I myself remained satisfied with my unrestrained life and known defilements. I wished only to live comfortably and without the cross of Christ.”
After seeking after the Lord, and through his study of the Scriptures, Menno Simons finally discovered the grace of God:
- “Thus have I, a miserable sinner, been enlightened of the Lord, converted to a new mind, fled from Babel, entered into Jerusalem, and finally, though unworthily, called to this high and arduous service…..He who, purchased me with the blood of his love, and called me, who am unworthy, to his service, knows me, and knows that I seek not wealth, nor possessions, nor luxury, nor ease, but only the praise of the Lord, my salvation, and the salvation of many souls.”
Many of the Anabaptist leaders of the Radical Reformation were killed during the 16th century. Menno Simons survived, preaching and teaching from the Scriptures, and those who have been drawn to his teachings are now scattered all over the world. We know these particular Anabaptists today as “Mennonites.”
Christian history professor, Ryan Reeves, gives an eight-minute overview of Menno Simons’ life (For more on Menno Simons personal testimony, read here).