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One little Christian fish, swimming against the current, flashing in the sunlit waters!


Luke 9:52-56

NKJV

52 . . .And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.


 

 

Philipp I, Landgrave of Hesse
Source: Reformation Picture Gallery – People web site

Philipp was known as der Großmütige, 

Philip the Magnanimous!

I hope you will see that by the grace of God he truly was magnanimous! 

Philipp was Landgrave [Count] of Hesse, a region in Germany. When he was only five, his father died. Until 1518 he was under the regency of his mother Anna.

He introduced the Reformation into Hesse,

founded the University of Marburg,

and was one of the most zealous promoters of the Reformation in Germany.

In his attitude toward the Anabaptists he showed extraordinary generosity and kindness. He saw in their movement a disorder in religious life, which had its roots in error and weakness in the faith rather than in moral error like sedition and revolt, and which must therefore be treated with lenience and consideration.

He said,

“On every hand there is no perfect faith in us, so that we must say: Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.”

“Alas, how cold love is among us who call ourselves Christian and those who create such offense must give an account before God and bear a grievous judgment.”

Above all, he said, one must try to lead the Anabaptists back to the church by persuasion and indoctrination. His heartfelt policy was a matter of conscience. He would not agree to execute anyone for a matter of faith, where there was no other ground for taking his life. Otherwise no Catholics or Jews could be tolerated, he said, for they blasphemed Christ and they too would have to be put to death.

He declared in a letter of May 1533, that he had never yet had a man put to death solely on a matter of belief; he had merely banished such or commanded them to sell their goods and move out – only the obstinate who refused to go had he arrested. He could not persuade himself “to punish anyone with the sword because of an error of faith, which is a gift of God, and was adopted at the time, not from malice, but from ignorance.” 

When 18 Anabaptists were again seized in Hausbreitenbach and the Elector of Saxony demanded their execution, Philipp refused with the words, “Our Lord will give grace that they may be converted.” His hope was fulfilled in several instances.

After the fall of Münster and the capture and condemnation of the Anabaptist leaders, upon Philipp’s express wish an attempt was made to convert the leaders by the Protestant clergymen Antonius Corvinus and Johann Kymeus. His view was that,

“One should pray God to correct the errors in his own life and to admonish the Anabaptists kindly and in a friendly spirit. . .it is necessary to use caution and not make use of the sword until all other means have been tried.”

His policy included the abolition of vices in his realm because Anabaptists were offended by them. But they also included sharp punishment of foreign and local Anabaptists: beating, branding, and banishment. However, he wasn’t greedy of their confiscated goods but stipulated their return to the Anabaptists if they would depart his realm.

Philipp never confirmed a death sentence. In 1540 he was able to write that in his realm the death sentence had never been inflicted on an Anabaptist. In that day, Anabaptists were executed elsewhere and other German nobles tried to convince him to follow them in this. Instead he took pains to induce imprisoned Anabaptists to recant. He sent a letter in his own hand to those jailed at Wolkersdorf, chiding them but saying that he wanted to deal with them graciously and kindly, and was therefore sending them a God-fearing man who wanted to discuss with them in a friendly way their error and that they should listen to this person:

“. . .he shall show you the right way, so that you may come to the true knowledge of divine truth, which we would most heartily like to see and would rather hear than to proceed against you with rigor, as is our right, since you refuse to desist from your unchristian sect.”

To this end he called Martin Bucer, reformer of Strasbourg, to Hesse. This led to success. The Anabaptist Peter Tasch and his followers declared themselves willing to submit to the church. They presented their modified principles in the document:

Bekenntnis oder Antwort einiger Fragestücke oder Artikeln der gefangenen Täufer und anderer im Land zu Hessen vom 11. Dezember 1538  [Confession or answer of some questions or articles of the captive Baptists and others in the country of Hesse of December 11th 1538].

The statement was accepted by the Lutheran clergy. Eagerly Philipp accepted the proposal of Bucer to have these converts win their own brethren. He did not hesitate to deal with Anabaptists in person, and to his great joy most of them within his realm returned to the established church.

Writing to Johann Friederich in 1545, Philipp gave his general reasons for the policy, citing Matthew 13:24-30; Luke 9:52-56; Romans 14:1-5; and Romans 12 ff. He wrote,

“These quotations block our path to such an extent that we cannot find it in our conscience to proceed with such rigor against a person who errs somewhat in the faith; for the person might accept instruction over night and desist from his error. Now if such a one should straightway be put to death by one of us, we are truly concerned that we may not be innocent of his blood. . .Therefore it pleased us once more, wherever these people are, that they be arrested and indoctrinated by skilled persons with the Word of God; and those who would not return to the church and desist from their error after being instructed should be expelled from the country; if they returned or if they were so completely obstinate that they might infect others they should be kept in prison.”

This letter provides evidence of a generous mind and noble religious tolerance, in which he far surpassed his contemporaries and the reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. He represented a new era, while they were still in the clutches of the Middle Ages. He maintained this position even during his imprisonment by Charles V after the Schmalkaldian War. In 1559, in an opinion to Johann Friedrich of Saxony, he says,

“It is so, many Anabaptists have an unchristian evil sect, as was shown at Münster and elsewhere; but they are not alike. Some are simple, pious folk; they should be dealt with in moderation. Anabaptists who deal with the sword may rightly also be punished with the sword. But those who err in faith should be dealt with leniently, and shall be instructed in accord with the principle of love to one’s neighbor, and no effort shall be spared, also they shall be heard, and if they will not accept the truth and scatter error like a harmful seed among Christians, they shall be expelled and their preaching abolished. But to punish them with death, as happens in some countries, when they have done nothing more than err in faith and have not acted seditiously, cannot be reconciled with the Gospel. Other Christian teachers like Augustine and Chrysostom also violently opposed it.”

Philipp also impressed his attitude upon his sons in his will:

“To kill people for the reason that they believed an error we have never done, and wish to admonish our sons not to do so, for we consider that it is contrary to God, as is clearly shown in the Gospel.”

Philipp’s sons and descendants held to this attitude. His spirit of gentleness and reconciliation lived on among them. 

In spite of his zeal in promoting the Reformation, Philipp’s personal life was marred by a licentious lifestyle and a bigamous marriage. In 1523, Philipp married Christine of Saxony and they had 10 children; then, in 1540 he married Margarethe von der Saale with whom he had 9. He argued with various Reformation leaders that because Scripture allowed men such as the Old Testament patriarchs to have more than one wife, he was therefore entitled to have two marriages. This situation led to a weakening of his relationships with other German Protestant princes.


Extracted from:

Neff, Christian and Richard D. Thiessen. “Philipp I, Landgrave of Hesse (1504-1567).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2007. Web. 7 Nov 2017.

Please go there for detailed citations.


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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 163-166. All rights reserved.

©1996-2017 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.


Martin Luther and the question of anti-Semitism


Romans 11

25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

28 Concerning the gospel they are  enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.  32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

34 “For who has known the mind of theLord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.


This subject must be addressed for the sake of truth and justice, and because it is critical to giving the Gospel – our Gospel and Luther’s – a hearing in our day, especially after the Shoah (Holocaust) and because of the sensitivity of our nation and world to prejudice and its consequences.


The Unquenchable Flame

discovering the heart of the Reformation

Michael Reeves

Luther and the Jews

“What probably turns more people away from Luther than anything else is his tract On the Jews and Their Lies. Trumpeted and used as traditional German virtue by the Nazis in the twentieth century, and displayed in a glass case at the Nuremberg rallies, it is enough for many to dismiss Luther as an odious anti-Semite, and all his theology as fatally tainted. Undoubtedly it contains horrible material that one wishes he had died before writing. However, not only was it written long after his Reformation breakthrough, after a change of heart toward the Jews (meaning that it is entirely inappropriate to tar all his theology with its brush), but also, the caricature is a distortion. There was no racism involved.

In 1523 he wrote That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, a critique of the common mistreatment of Jews by Christians. He dedicated it to a converted Jew he had befriended, whom he would later support financially and whose son he would house at great personal cost. Over the years, though, he detected what he saw as a hardness of heart in the unbelieving Jews, in that they refused to acknowledge that their own Scriptures pointed them clearly to Christ. Finally stung into action by some virulent Jewish apologetics that attacked Christianity, in 1542 he wrote On the Jews and Their Lies. In it he argued, first, that being children of Abraham was always a spiritual matter, not one of genetics;  he then went on to show from the Old Testament that Jesus must be the promised Christ; only then did he move on to his notorious set of recommendations. While he condemned personal acts of vengeance he argued that then-standard blasphemy laws should be applied to the Jews, making their religion criminal. As such, Jewish synagogues and houses should be destroyed as dangerous hotbeds of blasphemy; and, along with other blasphemers, the Jews themselves should be expelled.

It is hard for a modern audience, not only to avoid reading later racial anti-Semitism into such unpleasant material, but also to understand that these were, at the time, standard measures taken against heretics. Luther was arguing for the powers of the state to be applied to uphold Christianity. And, while his recommendations are repulsive, they had not come from a lack of spiritual concern. Concluding the work, he wrote: ‘May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.’


 

Remembering: The importance of the Reformation


Proverbs 4:18

But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.


Dr. Reeves explores the impact of the Reformation on individuals and society. This is one in a series. Good listening! It is so much better than my feeble attempt to put it in a nutshell.

Thumbnail for version as of 15:44, 15 November 2004

Photo: Horst Frank

 


 

Stumbling and bumbling into the Reformation

 


This is 30 minutes of easily digestible history. Dr. Reeves is a capable, friendly, no-nonsense guy, who keeps listeners focused on facts. The video uses lots of images of what Reeves calls Luther’s “unintended reformation.”


Proverbs 4:18 

But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.


Dr. Ryan M. Reeves

A Word in season – The Book of Psalms


5776-a-red-oak-leaf-isolated-on-a-white-background-pv - public domain pictures

Psalm 119:25

My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.

119:37

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.

119:46

I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
And will not be ashamed.

Luther Bible, 1534, photo taken by Torsten Schleese in Lutherhaus Wittenberg, 1999, Public Domain, via Wikimedia.

Luther Bible, 1534, photo by Torsten Schleese, Lutherhaus, Wittenberg, 1999.


 

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