Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: baptism

The cackle or the egg?

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The cackle of a hen is a promise that she has laid an egg. But my farm boy experience taught me that sometimes the cackle was a false promise – no egg could be found.

Christians put a lot of emphasis on experiences, and rightly so. Christian life is a new life that must begin with a new birth, an experience. As we grow after the new birth, there should be other experiences: a deeper consecration, a correction in the course our life has been taking, a conviction about whom we should marry, a conviction for service.

I wonder, though, if we should put less emphasis on the experience and more on the result. Some people claim heart-warming experiences with the Lord, but nothing changes in their life. They have mistaken the cackle for the egg.

Blaise Pascal wrote that the heart of man is so wicked that as soon as he begins to think of getting converted he believes he is converted. Someone who has travelled in Christian circles long enough knows what an experience sounds like. He may want so badly to have his own experience that he manages to convince himself that he really has had one.

This is a dangerous situation. Forty years ago my wife and I went to hear David Wilkerson speak in Regina, taking a friend with us. Our friend was deeply moved during the meeting and stood when the call came. All the way home she bubbled over with how her life was going to be different from then on. The bubbles lasted a couple of days and then were gone, leaving no sign of a change in her life. It wasn’t David Wilkerson’s fault, he gave good direction, but our friend didn’t make a connection with God. The cackle filled a momentary emotional need but left no trace of changed life.

As Mennonites, we do not baptize solely on the basis of a person’s experience. The person who claims to have had a new birth experience tells that experience to a congregation made up of people who are born again and know how it transforms a life. The congregation decides on the baptism, not just on the basis of the experience, but on the substance of the changed life they have observed in the convert.

I don’t mean this to sound disrespectful of anyone. But I do want to point out the emptiness of telling a wonderful experience with the Lord when there is no evidence of a changed life. Years ago a friend told me about someone with whom he’d had some costly business dealings. I’ll call the man Andy. My friend said “Every time Andy gets into trouble, he get’s born again. He’s been born again four or five times already and he’s still the same man he always was.” I knew the circumstances and I knew my friend was telling things as they were. Andy’s multiple claims of being born again were no more than empty cackling.

I don’t want to hear that so-and-so has had an experience. I want to see that his life is transformed. Just like I don’t care how often a hen cackles, I want to see the egg.

Riding a tricycle to church

This is a story about someone we met 25 years ago. I wish the details were a little clearer in my mind, but I will tell what I remember.

It looked like a beautiful day outside. Cindy got herself dressed, ate a bowl of cereal and ran outside to ride her tricycle. Her Dad and her older brother and sister were still sleeping. Her Mom had gone away and wasn’t coming back.

There was a faint sound of singing coming from somewhere. Cindy pedalled her tricycle in the direction of the sound. She crossed onto the next block, she saw a brick building with an open door and that was where the singing was coming from. She got off her tricycle and walked closer, then walked right in the door. Just then people got up and separated into groups. A lady saw her and asked, “Do you want to go to Sunday School?”

Cindy had no idea what kind of school this could be on a Sunday morning, but the lady seemed so kind that she went along with her. She heard a story like nothing she had heard before. When Sunday School was over she rode her tricycle home and told her Dad where she had been. Dad was surprised, but probably thought that wasn’t the worst thing she could have done that morning.

She went again the next Sunday, and the one after that and soon all the family knew that when Sunday came Cindy would be going to Sunday School. She started to get to know the people in the little church and one day realized the others didn’t go home when Sunday School was over. She decided to stay and see what happened next.

There was even more singing and then a man talked about God and about Jesus and about a place called heaven. Cindy decided church was just as good as Sunday School. She found out that the man who talked about God was the husband of her Sunday School teacher. Sometimes they would invite her to their home.

Dad didn’t quite know what to think about all this, but he saw that it made Cindy happy, so he allowed her to keep going. She was learning to be helpful at home, too. After a few years, Cindy announced to her Dad that she had become a Christian and wanted to be baptized. This was going farther than Dad had ever expected, but how could he refuse?

Thus it happened one day that Cindy made a public profession of faith, was baptized and became a member of the little church. And it all started with riding her tricycle to church one morning.

Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1120 AD

1. We believe and and do firmly hold all that which is contained in the twelve articles of the symbol, which is called the Apostles Creed, accounting for heresy whatsoever is disagreeing and not consonant to the said twelve articles.

2. We believe that there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

3. We acknowledge for the holy canonical Scriptures, the books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicle, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Here follow the books Apocryphal, which are not received of the Hebrews. But we read them (as saith Jerome in his Prologue to the Proverbs) for the instruction of the people, not to confirm the authority of the doctrine of the Church: 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch with the Epistle of Jeremiah, Esther from the tenth chapter to the end, The Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, The History of Susanna, The History of the Dragon, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees.

Here follow the books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, #1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, the Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation of John.

4. The aforesaid books teach us that there is one God, Almighty, all wise and all good, who has made all things by his goodness. For he formed Adam in his own image and likeness. But that by the envy of the devil, and the disobedience of Adam, sin has entered into the world and that we are sinners in Adam and by Adam.

5. That Christ was promised to our fathers who received the Law, that so knowing by the Law their sin, unrighteousness and insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ, to satisfy for their sins and to accomplish the Law by himself.

6. That Christ was born in the time appointed by God the Father, that is to say in the time when all iniquity abounded, and not for the cause of good works, for all were sinners: but that he might show us grace and mercy, in being faithful.

7. That Christ is our life, truth, peace, and righteousness, as also our shepherd, advocate, sacrifice and priest, who died for the salvation of all those that believe, and is risen for our justification.

8. In like manner, we firmly hold that there is no other mediator and advocate with God the Father, save only Jesus Christ. And as for the virgin Mary, she was holy, humble and full of grace, and in like manner do we believe concerning all the other saints, that they wait in heaven for the resurrection of their bodies at the Day of Judgment.

9. We believe that after this life there are only two places, the one for the saved and the other for the damned, which two places we call Paradise and Hell, absolutely denying that Purgatory imagined by Antichrist and taught contrary to the truth.

10. We hav always accounted as an unspeakable abomination before God all those inventions of men, namely the feasts and the vigils of saints, the water which they call holy, and to abstain from flesh upon certain days, but especially their masses.

11. We esteem for an abomination and as anti-Christian all those human inventions which are a trouble and prejudice to the liberty of the Spirit.

12. We do believe that the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, or visible forms of the invisible grace, accounting it good that the faithful sometimes use the said signs or visible forms if it may be done. However, we believe and hold that the faithful may be saved without receiving the aforesaid signs in case they have no place nor any means to use them.

13. We acknowledge no other sacrament but baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

14. We ought to honour the secular powers by subjection, ready obedience and paying of tributes.

The baptism of suffering

So soon as the believer has the witness of the spiritual baptism and has received the baptism with water, he should yield himself willingly to receive the baptism of the shedding of his blood for the name of Christ, if required, and take on him the witness of blood, according to 1 John 5:8: “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.

The believer, in his baptism, is baptized into the body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13. 27). And then he puts on Christ and unites himself to him to follow him truly and constantly, and bearing his cross after him. And should the believer be called on to suffer for the name of Christ, and to lay down his life for his name, he should be willing to be baptized with the same baptism of suffering and shedding of blood wherewith his Lord and Master was baptized when he laid down his life to redeem man from death, and this is the allegiance of all the true disciples of Jesus Christ in this world. “ye shall drink indeed of my cup and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with (Matthew 20:23). “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. The servant is not greater than his lord, if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:18. 20). “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2).

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). And verses 22 & 25: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27).

For it is evident that when believers, as members of Christ, will enter heaven with Christ the heavenly bridegroom to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and drink of the new and sweet wine in heaven (which is manifested in John 2:10 and Matthew 26:29), that they must first drink with him the bitter wine of affliction and tribulation, and be baptized with his baptism (Matthew 20:22-23). But the drinking of this cup and being baptized with this baptism must be done and endured for the sake of Jesus Christ and for his name alone.

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

Baptized into the death of Christ

From the words, to be baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3); and to be buried with him by baptism into death (v. 4) flows also the following doctrine: that when the believer delivers himself to baptism, he gives himself up with body and soul to become a member of the body of Christ and by baptism binds himself with Christ to bear his cross – to cleave to him and follow him, though it be at the loss of his earthly goods, his life and blood, and rather than deny Christ, to die the death of a martyr and be buried so that he may rise with Christ in glory. For, saith Paul, if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (v. 5).

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

(Henry Funk, 1697-1760, was the first Mennonite bishop in North America.)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Bible speaks of three types of baptism: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of believers by water and the baptism of suffering. Of the three, the most important is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as it is a precondition for the other two. There is evidence of this Holy Spirit baptism throughout the Bible.

The anointing oil which was poured upon the head of priests and kings was a type of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, imparting to them the sanctification and spiritual gifts needed to lead God’s people. First was the anointing of Aaron, the first high priest, by Moses:
And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him. (Leviticus 8:12)

The anointing of kings; the first example is Saul, the second is David:
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. (I Samuel 10:1, 6, 9-10)
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. (I Samuel 16:10)

A prophecy of the anointing of the Messiah:
Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Psalm 45:7.)

There are many prophecies in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all believers:
Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. (Proverbs 1:23)
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. (Isaiah 44:3)
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27.)
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)

John the Baptist also prophesied of the pouring out of the Spirit upon all believers, calling it a baptism:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. (Matthew 3;11)

The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at the beginning of His ministry:
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. (Matthew 3:16.)

Jesus foretold that believers would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63.)
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:5)

The disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit:
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

Cornelius and his household were the first Gentiles baptized with the Holy Spirit:
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 10:45.)
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. (Acts 11:15-16.)

Testimonies of Paul and John on the efficacy of the baptism or anointing of the Holy Spirit:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. (Titus 3:5-6.)
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:20, 27)

Pauls description of the effect of the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 )
For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. (Ephesians 5:9.)

Note the consistency in all the examples of the Old Testament anointings and in the prophecies and examples of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They all show the anointing or baptism as a pouring or sprinkling, the Spirit coming down from God above upon the heads of men and women. There were often outward signs, such as prophesying or speaking in tongues, but the enduring proof of the anointing or baptism was a new heart and a transformed life.

Anabaptists and their persecutors

The following statement was made in 1538 by an unnamed Anabaptist leader during a meeting between  the Swiss Reformed and Anabaptists in Berne:

“While yet in the national church we obtained much instruction from the writings of Luther, Zwingli, and others, concerning the mass and other papal ceremonies, that they are vain. Yet we recognized a great lack as regards repentance, conversion, and the true Christian life. Upon these things my mind was bent. I waited and hoped for a year or two, since the minister had much to say of amendment of life, of giving to the poor, loving one another, and refraining from evil. But I could not close my eyes to the fact that the doctrie which was preached and which was based on the Word of God, was not carried out. No beginning was made toward true Christian living, and there was no unison in the teaching concerning the things which were necessary. And although the mass and the images were finally abolished, true repentance and Christian love were not in evidence. Changes were made only as concerned external things. This gave me occasion to enquire further into these matters. Then God sent His messengers, Conrad Grebel and others, with whom I conferred about  the fundamental teachings of the apostles and the Christian life and practice. I found them men who had surrendered themselves to the doctrine of Christ by ‘Busfertigkeit’ [repentance evidenced by fruits]. With their assistance we established a congregation in which repentance was evidenced by newness of life in Christ.”

Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Reformed all witnessed the purity of life of the Anabaptists and considered it to be evidence of their great perversion:

Heinrich Bullinger (Swiss Reformed) wrote:

“Those who unite with them will by their ministers be received into their church by rebaptism and repentance and newness of life. They henceforth lead their lives under a semblance of a quiet spiritual conduct. They denounce covetousness, pride, profanity, the lewd conversation and immorality of the world, drinking and gluttony. In short, their hypocrisy is great and manifold.”

Franz Agricola (Roman Catholic) wrote:

“Among the existing heretical sects there is none which in appearance leads a more modest or pious life than the Anabaptist. As concerns their outward public life, they are irreproachable. No lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating and drinking, no outward personal display, is found among them, but humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straightforwardness in such measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God.”

Bullinger, Agricola, and most other leaders in the state churches in the 1500’s felt themselves so threatened by the Christ-like lives of the Anabaptists that they felt the only solution was to kill the whole lot of them.

We have lived through several centuries of tolerance since then. As we consider the events of the world around us today, it seems that a time may be approaching when those who lead a pure, Christian life and will not compromise with the world could be once more the object of such hatred from the self-righteous compromisers of the world.

Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water

Geswende Bamogo was already an old man when the Christian Service International workers came to his village in 1977 to drill a well. The well was dry, but the old papa saw something in these men that became a spring of living water in his life. He visited often, learning all he could about their faith.

Two years later, the CSI workers left Upper Volta, but they gave Papa Bamogo the flannel graph materials they had used for teaching the Bible. He made good use of those materials, telling the stories to others and sharing the convictions in his heart.

Twenty-one years after the CSI workers had left, Papa Bamogo and a few others prayed for the return of members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite to teach them more fully the way of salvation. A few weeks later, visitors came to see him, investigating if the church should return to this country, now known as Burkina Faso. He was overjoyed and soon there were mission workers in the country.

December 8, 2001, Geswende Bamogo was baptized at Tandaaga. There were five more baptisms the following year and another six the year after that, including our aged brother’s wife. These baptisms were the fruit of one old man’s efforts to share his faith, later aided by North American missionaries.

Geswende Bamogo was at least 105 years old when he died in July of 2005. The congregation at Tandaaga is small, but it is growing, both in faith and numbers. In 2012 Souleymane Bamogo was ordained as the first minister of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in Burkina Faso.

There are no missionaries anymore at Tandaaga, the congregation is indigenous. There are missionaries at three other locations in Burkina Faso, with a few members in each place.

The need for missionaries is as great today as it has ever been. The need is just as great here in North America as it is in Africa. Yet there is a limit to what a missionary can accomplish. It is only when local people become rooted and grounded in the faith and begin to live it, teach it and preach it, that we can have confidence that the faith has been planted in this location and will endure.

Twelve Foot Falls

We were driving through Wisconsin, on our way from Ontario to Saskatchewan and planning to stop at friends for supper and night. There was a little sign beside the road saying “Twelve Foot Falls” with an arrow indicating the direction. On a spur of the moment impulse I pulled off onto the side road. For a few miles it was a fairly decent gravel road, then it dwindled to a trail through the bush and finally ended. There in front of us was “Twelve Foot Falls,” a creek bubbling down in steps over the rocks. I’m sure that it did drop a total of twelve feet, two feet at a time. We could walk across on the rocks.

That little side trip has been a family joke ever since. Dad goes right by all the really interesting places along the way because we don’t have time to stop, then takes this long winding side trip to Twelve Foot Falls.

Solomon saw this tendency in mankind and commented: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Substitute simple for upright, as one version does, and detours for inventions as in the French Louis Segond translation, and you have the basis for my thoughts. God has a simple, straightforward way for us in life, but we often take detours and go off on little side trips.

Some folks insist that baptism has to be by immersion. This opens up a whole raft of options. Does the baptismal candidate go into the water backwards or forwards? Is it enough to go under the water once, or does it have to be three times — once each for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Can the baptism take place indoors, or must it be outdoors? If outdoors, will a lake do, or does it have to be running water? This is a fruitful field for study and discussion and may possibly lead to forgetting why one wanted to be baptized in the first place.

Others get all wrapped up in investigating what the Bible says about the end times. There are lots of authors and speakers eager to help us understand this subject. Unfortunately, there are just about as many points of view as there are authors and speakers. We can get so wrapped up in trying to sort this all out that we forget the part about being ready when Jesus does return.

This is just scratching the surface, there are many other topics that occupy the minds of folks who are really in earnest about understanding the Christian way. All of these things lead us off on interesting detours which may, or may not, eventually reconnect with the narrow way that leads to the celestial city.

Yet the way is simple and straightforward. Jesus said that all we really need to do is “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

However, these two commandments require self-denial on our part. The detours do not. That is the appeal of the detours; and their danger.

A transformed life

Thus reflecting upon these things my soul was so grieved that I could no longer endure it. I thought to myself: I, miserable man, what shall I do ? If I continue in this way, and live not agreeably to the word of the Lord, according to the knowledge of the truth which I have obtained; if I do not rebuke to the best of my limited ability the hypocrisy, the impenitent, carnal life, the perverted baptism, the Lord’s supper and the false worship of God, which the learned teach, if I, through bodily fear, do not show them the true foundation of the truth, neither use all my powers to direct the wandering flock, who would gladly do their duty if they knew it, to the true pastures of Christ, Oh, how shall their shed blood, though shed in error, rise against me at the judgment of the Almighty, and pronounce sentence against my poor, miserable soul.

My heart trembled in my body. I prayed to God with sighs and tears, that he would give to me, a troubled sinner, the gift of his grace, and create a clean heart within me; that through the merits of the crimson blood of Christ, He would graciously forgive my unclean walk and unprofitable life, and bestow upon me wisdom, spirit, candour and fortitude, that I might preach his exalted and adorable name and holy word unperverted, and make manifest his truth to his praise.

I began in the name of the Lord to preach publicly, from the pulpit, the word of true repentance; to direct the people into the narrow path, and through the power of the scripture to reprove all sin and ungodliness, all idolatry and false worship, and to present the true worship, also baptism and the Lord’s Supper, according to the doctrine of Christ, to the extent that I had at that time received grace from God.

I also faithfully warned every one in relation to the abominations of Munster, concerning kings, polygamy, dominion, the sword, &c., until after the expiration of about nine months, when the gracious Lord granted me his fatherly Spirit, aid and power; then I voluntarily renounced all my worldly honour and reputation, my unchristian conduct, masses, infant baptism, and my unprofitable life, and at once willingly submitted to distress and poverty, and the cross of Christ. In my weakness I feared God; I sought out the pious, and though they were few in number, I found some who were zealous and maintained the truth. I conversed with the erring, and through the aid and power of God, with his word, reclaimed some from the snares of damnation, and gained them to Christ, but the hardened and rebellious, I commended to the Lord.

-Menno Simons

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