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Definition and Demarcation – Conrad Grebel and Others to Thomas Müntzer (September 5, 1524)

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We anticipate much that is good from Jacob Strauss and several others who are little esteemed by the negligent scribes and doctors at Wittenberg. We also are rejected by our learned shepherds. All men cling to them because they preach a sinful sweet Christ, and they lack the power to discern, as you point out in your booklets – which have richly instructed and strengthened us, who are poor in spirit. We stand together on everything, except that we learn with sorrow that you have erected tablets [in the church building], when the New Testament teaches nothing of the kind, neither by text or example. In the Old Testament, to be sure, the writing was indeed outward, but now in the New the writing is to be on the fleshy tablets of the heart. This is confirmed by a comparison of the two Testaments. See Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 8, and Ezekiel 36: where this is taught. Unless we are mistaken, which we do not think or believe, you should again do away with the tablets. This arose out of your own notions, but is a futile expense, however, and is bound to increase and become utterly idolatrous – and spread into the whole world, as did the idols. It will also give rise to the notion that always something external has to be set up, in place of the idols, by which the unlearned might learn. But it is the outward Word alone which is to be used, according to the example and command of the whole Scripture, especially as pointed out to us in 1 Corinthians 14 and Colossians 3. But this kind of learning from the one Word [likely the Ten Commandments on the tablets] might in the course of time become burdensome. And even if it never would do any harm, yet I would never invent and set up anything new, and thereby follow and become like the negligent, falsely sparing, learned ones who lead others astray; nor would I from my own notions invent, teach, and set up a single item.

Press forward with the Word and create a Christian church with the help of Christ and His Rule as we find it instituted in Matthew 18 and practiced in the epistles. Apply it with earnestness and common prayer and fasting, in line with faith and love, and without law and compulsion. Then God will bring you and your lambs to full soundness, and the singing and tablets will be abolished. There is more than enough wisdom and counsel in the Scripture, how all classes and all men shall be taught, governed, instructed, and made God-fearing. Whoever will not repent and believe, but resists the Word and the moving of God, and so persists [in sin], after Christ and His Word and Rule have been preached to him, and he has been admonished in the company of the three witnesses and the congregation, such a man, we declare, on the basis of God’s Word, shall not be killed, but regarded as a heathen and publican, and let alone.

One should also not protect the gospel and its adherents with the sword, nor themselves. We learn from our brother that this is also what you believe and hold to. True believing Christians are sheep among wolves, sheep for the slaughter. They must be baptized in anxiety, distress, affliction, persecution, suffering, and death. They must pass through the probation of fire, and reach the Fatherland of eternal rest, not by slaying their bodily [enemies] but by mortifying their spiritual enemies. They employ neither worldly sword nor war, since with them killing is absolutely renounced: unless, indeed, we would still be under the Old Law – in which (so far as we understand) war was, after the promised land had been conquered, only a plague. Of this, no further comment.

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