Concerning a True Soldier of Christ
Concerning a True Soldier of Christ was an Anabaptist tract of about 1533-1535. It deserves great attention for its profound thoughts and power and its unusually fine presentation, an outstanding product of early Anabaptism, hitherto completely overlooked. It exists in one copy only in a Hutterite manuscript codex of 1570 (now of unknown location), which explains why it escaped wider attention. It is remarkable also as the only dogmatic contribution (as far as is known) which comes from the Philippite Brethren in Moravia, a group similar to the Hutterites but without their community life. They did not survive the severe persecutions in Moravia in the 1530s. On their flight from Moravia to South Germany in 1535, many Brethren were captured in Passau and put into a dungeon of the castle. It was there that the oldest part of the <em>Ausbund</em> originated (Wolkan, Lieder). Among these men, languishing in prison for many years was also the author of our tract, Hans Haffner, whose name appears also in stanza 11 of No. 100 in the Ausbund. He came from Riblingen (Württemberg), and joined the Brethren in 1533, lay in Passau from 1535 to 1540 or 1541, and was finally released upon recantation. The tract Concerning a True Soldier of Christ must have been written between 1533 and 1535, while Haffner was active as a Philippite in Moravia. It seems to represent very distinctly the general Christian outlook and mood of the Philippites, at least of their elder Michael Schneider (Wolkan, 36). The tract, surprisingly found in a Hutterite manuscript, has not yet been published. Only an incomplete transcription has been preserved (at Goshen Mennonite Historical Library). The manuscript itself seems to be lost. The main contents are described by Friedmann in Mennonite Quarterly Review. The complete title runs as follows, Von einem wahrhaften Ritter Christi, und womit er gewappnet muss sein, damit er überwinden möge die Welt, das Fleisch, und den Teufel (Concerning a True Soldier of Christ, and Wherewith he Must be Armed in Order to Conquer the World, the Flesh, and the Devil). The allusion to Ephesians 6:10 f. is obvious. In the codex the tract covers 23 leaves, written with greatest care. In view of the deviation of certain ideas of the tract from those of the Hutterites, its preservation at this place is remarkable.
A true soldier of Christ then needs four weapons: faith, love, hope, and inner surrender or <em>Gelassenheit</em>. Haffner wanted to demonstrate to everyone "how the true disciple of Christ should be. Let us therefore hear what belongs to a genuine soldier of Christ and of what character he ought to be or wherewith he must fight." The major stress of the tract falls on the idea of Gelassenheit (yieldedness, inner surrender, conquest of self), which is the discipline and test of a true disciple. "The world accepts Christ quite readily as a gift but from the point of view of suffering does not know Him at all. Yet whosoever wants to follow Christ must follow Him on the way of suffering."—"When we truly realize the love of God we will be ready to give up for love's sake even what God has given us." Resignation is the central theme of the tract. By it "a Christian is recognized." It means mortification of the flesh, an inner surrender of everything that is dear to us.
This is not the Hutterite position, which stresses more the principle of obedience over against that of yieldedness, nor is it that of the Swiss and South German Brethren, who show a more positive approach in their understanding of discipleship. This may explain why these groups survived and the Philippites disappeared.
Friedmann, Robert. "Concerning the True Soldier of Christ, a Hitherto Unknown Tract of the Philipite Brethren in Moravia." Mennonite Quarterly Review 5 (1931): 87-99.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1965: 27ff, 36. Available in full electronic text at.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Concerning a True Soldier of Christ." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 20 Oct 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Concerning_a_True_Soldier_of_Christ&oldid=63021.
Friedmann, Robert. (1953). Concerning a True Soldier of Christ. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Concerning_a_True_Soldier_of_Christ&oldid=63021.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 664-665. All rights reserved.
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