The Anabaptist Memorial, or Täufer-Memorial, a document drawn up by the Reformed clergy, is one of the most important for the history of the Mennonites in Bern. It affords not only a deep insight into the life of the Reformed Church, but is also the best testimonial imaginable for the Anabaptists. This noted court record is found in several copies in the archives of the university of Bern. On 15 February 1693 a government order was issued "to an honorable Convent" (Collegium of the clergy), to determine the reason for this leaven and how to counteract the strong increase of Anabaptism. They were asked to report their findings in written form and send it to the council.
An extensive opinion was worked out by the clergy and presented to the city council. It is called, Ursachen der je mehr und mehr anwachsenden Widertäufer-Sect, samt beigefügten Mitteln, wie solchem Uebel abzuhelfen (Reasons for the steadily increasing Anabaptist sect, together with added means for eliminating this evil). The document is proof that the general decline in morals cannot be blamed on the Anabaptists. Finally the church awoke to the fact that the fault might lie on the side of the Reformed Church. The defects causing the decline were found in the governing class, in the life and doctrine of the clergy, and among the subjects.
Quite openly the vices in the life of the ruling class, the clergy and among the people are pointed out. With the rulers the greatest offense was their use of the office to enrich themselves instead of holding "the honor of God and the welfare of the subjects as their purpose." Without doubt many persons were "enticed by the example of love and kindness that the Anabaptists exercise among themselves," and are thus "led into erroneous faith."
Among the clergy the greatest lack was inadequate teaching, either because they did not have it or because they did not trouble themselves to preach clearly, for which reason the "power of the Word, the proof of the Spirit, and the desired edification" were lacking. They did not preach "the pure and unadulterated Word of God without mingling it with human wisdom and invention." The Bible was not connectedly or thoroughly explained, to inform the listeners, in order that they "might experience divine truth and the power of the mystery of salvation in the indivisibility of all the articles of faith." It should be a part of the conscientious performance of the office of preaching to follow the example of the apostles in house to house visitation to admonish the fathers and mothers, the children and servants, encourage, and comfort them; to prove by kindly encouragement that the salvation of the listeners was a matter of concern to the preachers. Whereas the Anabaptists carried on such family visits, instruction and friendly encouragement by the so-called preachers, the council found that among the "proper preachers, who must give an account for each lamb in their fold," such efforts were neglected.
A further cause of this distressing situation was to be sought in the life and conduct of the preachers. The example of the Anabaptist-minded made it clear that the evangelical simplicity, humility, gentleness, self-denial and love of a pious, godly walk is the best sermon to the people. It could not be sufficiently bemoaned that "this so necessary and saving part of their office" is of so little concern to them. Whence among the Anabaptists, "not only offense and annoyance, but also blameworthy and derogatory gossip and belittling of the Reformed preachers and their service follows." Many preachers revealed in the performance of their church service that they did not seek the honor of the Great Shepherd and the edification of the church, but rather their own honor and benefit, instead of performing the office of preaching conscientiously. It was deplorable and most offensive that some clergymen are found in inns and there "showed themselves properly spiritual neither in words nor in deed."
The third point deals with the "causes to be found among the common people, which are offensive to the Anabaptists." Ruthlessness was prevalent, so "that our preaching is not blessed" and bears no fruit, but is mere letter service. What was most offensive to the Anabaptists was that open sinners were found in the church along with the good and enjoyed communion with them. This was true in spite of the fact that the Reformed doctrine required church discipline. Frivolous swearing or profanity was not only found among the people of all classes, but it was even tolerated. No punishment of any kind was meted out against immoderate eating and drinking and other similar misconduct, desecration of the Sabbath, and lying and deception in trade. Such things could not be found among the Anabaptists in their "apparent piety, simplicity, self-denial, patience, love, kindness, benevolence, strength, and zeal in prayer, worship, and the like." This was the reason why they were held in high regard by the people and "were very strong in winning hearts."
Then the measures to improve the situation are named. A thorough reformation should be made among all classes of people. In order to "lead the people on the right road or keep them in it" it was necessary to remove the causes of offense (Luke 17:1-2). The church officials should lead exemplary lives and show a fatherly attitude toward their subjects. The preachers should "faithfully admonish to church attendance and hearing the public preaching of the Word of God." The preachers should also take a deeper interest in souls seeking salvation "and instruct them kindly in matters of salvation and their Christian duties, praise their good intentions, industry, and zeal, thank God for them, and pray for His grace and blessing upon them." Teachers and preachers should in all things seek "to prove their service," and live irreproachable and holy lives as examples to the flock.
Church discipline should be more strictly enforced, the prebendaries set up "Reformed and according to the Gospel . . . , so that through reproof, admonition, conviction, and humiliation of the offenders the offenses would be done away with and the sinner brought to true repentance and reform . . . . Otherwise where the preaching and church discipline is not carried out in purity and simplicity, no power or blessing can be hoped for it."
The entire document, which gives a true picture of contemporary conditions in state and church, is at the same time evidence that the clergy were really serious in creating better conditions. But in spite of the recognition of their own weaknesses, they were unable to arrive at Christian toleration.
Miss. Hist. Helv. v. III, 38 in the library of the city and university of Bern.
Cite This Article
Geiser, Samuel. "Anabaptist Memorial (Täufer-Memorial)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 14 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Anabaptist_Memorial_(T%C3%A4ufer-Memorial)&oldid=74763.
Geiser, Samuel. (1955). Anabaptist Memorial (Täufer-Memorial). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 14 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Anabaptist_Memorial_(T%C3%A4ufer-Memorial)&oldid=74763.
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