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THE REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED AND BECAME MAN IN

CHRIST, THROUGH WHOM, AND HOW, HE ATONED FOR AND


RESTORED MAN'S FALL AND MAN HIMSELF THROUGH
THE MESSIAH WHOM HE SENT. BY JOHANNES BNDERLIN
OF LINZ
Trans, and Ed. by CLAUDE R. FOSTER, JR. and WILHELM JEROSCH

Within the fold of South German Anabaptism there arose reformers


in whom the forces of the Reformation, the Renaissance and medieval
German mysticism sought to reconcile themselves. The Reformation had
awakened their religious conscience and had made them discontent with
Rome. Renaissance humanism made the Reformed doctrine of man's de-
pravity unacceptable to them. Their view of man led logically to the re-
jection of the Reformers' doctrine of revelation, dependent as it was on
sovereign grace and restricted to the objective word within the channel
of Heilsgeschichte. Medieval German mysticism led them to the belief in
the individual's immediate communion with God, apart from all mediatorial
institutions, signs and ceremonies. One of the outstanding spokesmen
for this group was Johannes Bnderlin of Linz in Upper Austria.1
Bnderlin was born probably around 1498, having matriculated at the
University of Vienna in April, 15152 He probably died or was executed
in the 1530s.3 From 1515 to 1519 Bnderlin attended the University of
Vienna, exactly at the time when that university, having become one of
the leading humanistic centers of learning in the German-speaking lands,
was attracting its largest sixteenth-century enrollment.4 From 1519 to
1526 the name of Bnderlin disappears from the sources, but sometime
during that period the little man, wearing a black beard and a black coat,
had become a priest.5 Soon after the coming of the Reformation to Upper

1 See the author's doctoral dissertation "Johannes Bnderlin: Radical Reformer


of the Sixteenth Century" (University of Pennsylvania, 1963), for a detailed study
of Bnderlin's life and thought.
2 Die Matrikel der Universitt Wien, 1451-1518 (Graz-Kln, 1959), p. 416.
3 George Williams, Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, p. 147, . 4, has Bnderlin
meeting with Schwenckfeld in 1538. However, in his most recent work, The Radical
Reformation (Philadelphia. 1962), p. 156, Williams gives Bnderlin's dates as 1499-
1533. No source is given for the alleged 1538 meeting with Schwenckfeld or for the
dates 1499-1533. On the basis of Martin Frecht's letter to Ambrosius Blauer, 23
August 1539 in Traugott Schiess, ed., Briefwechsel der Brder Ambrosius und Thomas
Blauer (Freiburg i. Br., 1910), II: 31, and Frecht to Blauer, 13 October 1539, ibid,
p. 37, a Bnderlin-Schwenckfeld meeting for the year 1538 appears quite possible.
See also Johann Steinau of Silesia to Schwenkfeld, 23 May 1540, Corpus Schwenkfeldi-
anorum, V, 633.
4 Rudolf Kink, Geschichte der kaiserlichen Universitt zu Wien (Wien, 1954),
I: 184-230.
5 Passauer Akten in Alexander Nicoladoni, Johannes Bnderlin von Linz und die
obersterreichischen Tufergemeinden in den Jahren 1525-1531 (Berlin, 1893), pp.
188-202.
260
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 261

Austria, Bnderlin became converted to evangelical Protestantism. He


entered the service of the Protestant noble, Bartholomaeus von Starhem-
berg, and served in the capacity of chaplain-secretary.6 During the years
1526-1527, South German Anabaptism swept into Moravia and Upper
Austria. Bnderlin became an Anabaptist, having been baptized in the city
of Augsburg, and entered the service of Leonard von Liechtenstein in
Nikolsburg.7 In 1529 Bnderlin was arrested in Strassbourg along with
others at the meeting which had been called at the house of one Claus
Bruch, a citizen of Strasbourg.8 Although Nicoladoni incorporated the
Passauer Akten in his biography of Bnderlin and had access to the Stras-
bourg sources, he failed to recognize that Hans Fischer (Vischer) and
Johannes Bnderlin were two names for the same person. In treating them
as two distinct personalities, great confusion was caused until Gustav Bos-
sert proved the identity of Hans Fischer with Johannes Bnderlin.9
When we meet Bnderlin in Strasbourg in 1529, it is clear that he does
not belong to the Biblically-oriented, orthodox Anabaptists led by Pilgram
Marpeck. It is perhaps no overstatement to say that Bnderlin and Mar-
peck developed their respective theological positions in opposition to
each other.10
Four books have been ascribed to Bnderlin, written, it was thought, in
the following order:
Eine gemeine Berechnung . . . 1529
Aus was Ursach . . . 1529
Eine Einleitung in den Verstand Most. . . 1529
Erklrung durch vergleichung der biblischen geschrift . . . 1530
Eine Einleitung in den Verstand Most is the only book which does not bear
Bnderlin's name, but it may be ascribed to him on the basis of style, vo-
cabulary and content.11 In my opinion, Aus was Ursach was the first work

6 Nicoladoni, Passauer Akten, p. 189. See Manfred Krebs and Hans Rott, ed.,
Quellen und Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte, XXVI; Quellen zur Geschichte
der Tufer, VII: Elsass I. Teil, Stadt Strasburg 1522 bis 1532, No. 175, p. 229.
7 Krebs and Rott, No. 176, p. 232; ibid., No. 175, p. 229.
8 Krebs and Rott, No. 176, pp. 231-32.
9 Gustav Bossert, "Miscellen: Hans Bnderlin." Jahrbuch d. Gesellschaft f. d.
Geschichte des Prot, in sterreich, XV (1894), 36-37. Neff, "Bnderlin," ME, I (1955),
469-70, profited by Bossert's research, but Loserth in the same encyclopedia, "Linz,"
ME, III (1957), 352, treats Hans Fischer and Johannes Bnderlin as two distinct
personalities. One source which has been overlooked seems to prove beyond doubt
that Hans Vischer and Bnderlin were the same person. "Auch Bnderlin oder Hans
Vischerlin und der Hans Wolf sich fr die zwei ausgeben, die doch viel fleischlichen
Verstand vorbrachten." T. W. Rhrich, "Zur Geschichte der strasburgischen Wieder-
tufer in den Jahren 1527 bis 1543," Zeitschrift fr die historiche Theologie (1860), 104.
10 See William Klassen, "The Hermeneutics of Pilgram Marpeck." (Unpublished
Th.D. dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1960).
11 For a detailed account of why Eine Einleitung in den Verstand Most should
be ascribed to Bnderlin, see the author's dissertation, pp. 181-87.
262 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

which Bnderlin published.12 It is also his shortest work. Aus was Ursach
presents some of the key ideas held by those reformers in whom the
humanistic and spiritualistic elements came to dominate over Reformation
theology and Biblical Anabaptism. Among others those who shared in
large part the views here presented were Hans Denck, Ludwig Haetzer,
Jakob Kautz and Sebastian Franck.13 Johannes Bnderlin, whose spiritual
pilgrimage led him from Rome by way of the Reformation and Anabaptism
to a mystical spiritualism, was not without followers. The sources refer to
a Bnderlin Sect.14
The following translation of Bnderlin's shortest work was undertaken
with the assistance of my friend and colleague Wilhelm Jerosch, Gelsen-
kirchen, Germany. If the little cooper of Linz does not speak English as
well as he should, the translators assume the blame.15

THE REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED AND BECAME MAN IN


CHRIST, THROUGH WHOM, AND HOW, HE ATONED FOR
AND RESTORED MAN'S FALL AND MAN HIMSELF THROUGH
THE MESSIAH WHOM HE SENT
God who is the eternal sole good, presented and poured himself out
at the beginning of creation in order that one might become aware of
him and that something might exist which could recognize him. This
revelation, however, had to occur in two distinct forms. First, such a
revelation occurs through heavenly and spiritual creatures who behold
God face to face (Matt. 18:10) as those being of his manner and nature
without any earthly admixture. In them the Godhead properly and with-
out hindrance is revealed, and they are capable of his gracethose spirits
whom one calls angels or emissaries because of their service and mission
to men. They brought the message of God to man by outward and visible
revelation, which revelation appertained alone to the Old Testament.
For the fleshly Israelites in the congregation were without the judgment
of the Spirit and therefore needed the physical revelation to be assured of
the will of God. In addition, however, the angels had the task of leading
men away from the old into the new. Similarly, in the beginning of the new
covenant, Christ and the apostles made use of miraculous signs only for a
brief time. For example, Peter was led out of the prison by the angel,

12 Ibid., pp. 179-180.


13 "Erklrung der Schulpfleger ber Francks Irrtmer," Alfred Hegler, Bei-
trge zur Geschichte der Mystik in der Reformationszeit (Berlin 1906), p. 131. See
also Hegler, Geist und Schrift bei Sebastian Franck (Freiburg i. Br., 1892) p. 273.
Cf. Krebs and Rott, op. cit., No. 241, p. 318.
14 Hegler, Beitrge zur Geschichte, pp. 70, 81, 86. Franck's Weltbuch, cited in
Karl Hagen, Deutschlands literarische und religise Verhltnisse im Reformationszeitalter
(2. Auflage, Frankfurt, 1868), III: 310.
15 In the scriptural references Bnderlin gives only the chapter number. We have
inserted the verse reference.
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 263

the emissary of God to men, for man perceived the intervention of God
only when it was connected with an outward sign, for which reason God
so often sent the angels to the fathers. Therefore the angels are called
servant spirits, in whom God was revealed and recognized by the fathers.
These angels, by the fulness of the invisible power of God dwelling
within them, thus became the mediators and teachers of this same power
to men because man of himself was unable to hear these mediators and
teachers. They gave us to recognize the will of God, and, as a sanctified
one of God does for his fellow men by delivering something worthwhile from
the good treasury of his heartlike such sanctified ones they shared with
men from the treasury of their knowledge.
The recognition of God's will occurs in the present New-Testament
time entirely within us because heaven and the kingdom of God are
within us. One should not conclude that because a master is separated
from his servant by sending him on a mission, God's constant communion
with the angels is also interrupted when he sends them. The human
heart, however, projects such an interruption, conceiving of and judging
God as though he were a creature. But the spirits recognize God as he
is. They had to spring forth from him in order that he, being the sole and
eternal good, might not remain without a counterpart, comprehending or
understanding his nature. They had to spring forth from God in order that
he should not remain unknown, which would have occurred if no such
created counterpart had been called into being by him. This deficiency
would have had the effect of negating his existence, for he would have
had no one upon whom to bestow his grace and love.
Therefore, in order to avoid such an absurdity, God in the beginning,
entirely by himself and without anyone's aid, began to create the spirits
in order that we might be taken captive in our reason, for reason always
seeks to deify itself. For the same cause also he began to release his
divine power, a power which nevertheless eternally remains in him for
he comprehends all things in himself and fills them with his presence.
But since God is the most perfect good and excels the thoughts of
all angels and men in his omnipotent and inexpressible nature, the divine
essence (John 4:24) of necessity, although uncoerced and free, had to
distribute itself in the creation and form its (that is the Spirit's) counter-
part, namely, physical and visible creation, as heaven, earth and all of the
earth's ornaments, and at last man also, according to God's image and
likeness. Consequently, Moses writes concerning the physical things
mentioned above, not alluding to the former invisible God whom figurative
Israel could not have comprehended, and, without exception, he writes
within these limits according to the content and demands of his office-
limits necessitated by the fleshly, for whose sake the Scriptures were first
given. By the visible creatures, who could not exist without a beginning,
Moses demonstrates to Israel her own origin out of the invisible God so
that Israel could become aware of and recognize the invisible God in her
264 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

heart. The visible creatures, together with man, their lord, were created
for the purpose that no human heart, which was created last, might, during
the time of its being and living, be able to conceive of a deficiency in
or possible addition to creation. From such a negative perception man
could have judged that God not only did not surpass human thoughts, as
already described, but that he was unable even to attain to men's thoughts.
This then would be the greatest insult to God by which he would be
thought imperfect and therefore not considered to be God at all. These
human thoughts which might only be conceived by man after his creation,
God knew before creation as well as if they were thought in the moment
of creation, for God knows and names all things before they exist, which
things are all created in such perfection that no addition to them might
be thought or made in all eternity. To such a degree God has concluded
his works in such perfection that none of them is able to escape or fall out
of him. Among the other visible or comprehensible parts of God's works,
only man is capable and able to understand the Godhead. For man,
because of the earthiness of the flesh in him, is placed just a little lower
than the angels (Psalms 8:5). Man is then rightly exercised and tested,
in his capability of recognizing, by the possibility of choosing between
two different powers constituted within him, with the liberty of grasping
after the one or the other. God has ordained it thus for man's own
good in order that man might become aware in himself of the power of
God, out, of, and with its counterpart and by a humble watching before
the eyes of the Lord, might guard himself against sin which desired to
flow out of him. God gave man perfection and liberty in the future,
although the Lord knew, even before it happened, that sin would occur
in order that man might not blame God for any deficiency or coercion in
creation. Such a lack of liberty would have constituted a beginning and
reason for sin if man had desired to go to law with God. But the Lord
wanted to obviate this accusation by making certain that man did not
sense any deficiency in himself, regardless of whether man employed this
liberty for good or for evil. Of course, God could have forced man not
to desire evil; but although man, by his own decision, made out of the
goodthe good which was to be for him a detraction from sina reason
for evil, God, nevertheless, could not omit to endow his creatures perfectly.
Surely God foreknew that Adam would fall (for how else could he have
been God had this fact been concealed from him, the ignorance of which
would have demonstrated a deficiency in the Godhead). But in the face
of all this, the Lord, by his image and likeness planted in man, though he
fell, a remedy and restoration in order that help might not be too far away
and might not be sought apart from man himself, but be discovered in
himself, by which alone the heart is secured (Rom. 10:8; Deut. 30:14;
Gen. 2:7).

Man acts against the image of God in himself but God left his image
in man that man might be reconciled by it and might not suppose that
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 265

God was to blame for his fall. For how could man desire God's grace if
he thought God to be his enemy? God has obviated this conclusion con-
cerning his enmity with man by planting his image in man, which image
gives one to recognize the goodness of God. This divine image is also
the kingdom of God within us (Luke 17:21) which God, in the beginning,
planted in man as a pleasant garden in Eden where the rapture of God
desired to dwell with the children of men. Thus man recognizes God's
goodness, faithfulness, and love toward him which, apart from God's pres-
ence, he would have understood as little as an animal comprehends. Man,
therefore, thanks God by obeying him in all respects and regards himself
as a servant for his Lord. Man would have eternally remained in inno-
cence if he had really maintained himself as a servant of God and he
would have been victorious over the fall and sin, which did not exist,
until man sought to change his servant status. God did not need the fall
and sin in order to demonstrate his mercy, but would have preferred not
to have seen them consummated. But since they occurred, God came to
the rescue with his mercy in order that Adam might not despair, which
mercy the Lord revives in Adam and Eve and by his Spirit he reveals the
forgiveness of sins to them. This result of the fall and sin God caused and
assisted. It surely occurs that one man wishes to keep another one in his
friendship and love for the latter's own good by various benefits which
the former no longer desires to see praised. But he who is benefited makes
a matter and cause of enmity or hate out of the benefits. The benefactor
would certainly not be to blame for the enmity, but the perverted and un-
grateful heart of the enemy which seeks its own benefit and, being evil,
apart from the guilt of the other party, is irritated by everything. In such
a situation God may be compared with the benefactor. Damnation comes
out of you, O Israel, says Hosea. He who would be found in such a deed
and ingratitude must recognize this in his heart and thereby inwardly
blame himself, though he does not wish to do so outwardly and publicly
because of his pride.

The omniscient God who knows all things before they occur warned
Adam of all this and announced to him that death would overcome him
if he sinned. God warned Adam that he, in all humility, might give the
more heed to himself and that he might in no case perish. Thus God
(by his spirit) daily warns us even now of sins when he revives our heart
by a severe affliction and terror and when he, as he did before to Adam,
speaks to us of death. Death does not originate with God any more than
sin doesas though God wanted to take revenge on Adam as the flesh
imagines. For if such were so, God would not have permitted his grace
to follow Adam's sin. But death forged out of Adam himself, who had
been wounded by sin, the weapon of death, and thus the life of the spirit
was expelled. Thus Adam is, from every side, directed to the faithfulness
and love of his God and this for his own sake only (for God does not
need the praise of man) in order that he might not suspect the Lord in
266 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

any way or harbor evil thoughts concerning him. For if Adam had sus-
pected or thought evil of God, he alone would have perished and would
not thereby in any fashion have diminished the Godhead (Job 35:6-8).
Thus Adam not only accepts the sum of all good, to which in eternity no
addition can be made or imagined, as long as he remains in the state of
innocence, but he is also warned of the evil by which he had to be tested
by the wisdom and lust of the flesh, as through a serpent and Eve. Adam
is warned of the evil which originates in him and expresses itself through
him, without any guilt on God's part, and therefore he is rightly tempted
by evil. God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13) and yet Adam had
to be tempted. For he is a creature composed of heavenly and earthly
nature and the recognition of God and the creature had to be tested, ex-
plained and accepted in the soul which is a judge of the union of the
spirit and flesh and of their mutual hostile natures, for the power of God
may be perceived in no other way. This temptation would have benefited
Adam had he remained good as he was created, and as he so desired to
be constituted in order that no deficiency might be found in him. And
even now we are all so minded that we do not like to be in the least di-
minished.
Only in the second place did God (who according to the manner of
love always desires to be the last and to be that which he is only for our
sake) ordain it to his own praise that no addition to his creatures may
be imagined by whose perfection one senses his sovereignty, wisdom and
goodness. Adam was also pleased that he was thus created and did not
desire to be constituted in any other way, being so wise and learned that he
gave all the animals upon earth their natural and proper names according
to their species. As Adam was so pleased to be thus constituted, the God-
head, had Adam perceived himself not created as he thought himself to
have beennamely perfect, would have been accused of a deficiency because
of the revelation of an addition in creation. This accusation against the
Godhead would have been made even if the least deficiency, regardless of
its nature, appeared in Adam. On the other hand, it was surely correct
that Adam was tested and tempted without God's guilt by that which he
desired to be and to have, which being and possessions he did not want
to surrender. So must the words of James mentioned above be understood.
God, nevertheless, in the most faithful way by his warning, arms
Adam in his dangerous position on every side against the future temptation.
But Adam completely forgets God's warning just as a thief forgets the
hanging when in the act of stealing. He is brought to stealing when he
continually fastens his eyes upon that which he desires to steal, by which
greediness he forgets the seriousness and severity of the law, and at last
solitarily slinks away to his crime. In the same way Adam misuses God's
works within him and (by his own arrogance) makes of them a cause for
evil and by his arrogance he thinks to guard his own claims and therefore,
because of his pride, no longer highly esteems his God. He acts as a
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 267

haughty servant who, in the absence of his lord, before whom he is other-
wise humble, demonstrates his excessive boasting before others but who
would immediately be ashamed if his lord appeared. Certainly God was
not guilty of Adam's fall because he only does good and all his creatures
were very good. Adam, however, withdrew within himself and began to
be pleased in that in himself which was not his own, but God's. He became
fond of himself and, trusting in himself, began to arrogantly dare to revolt,
having listened to the suggestion of the serpent and his wife. Adam was
prepared to go to any length in order that he might be like God. Therefore,
it follows that the human heart cannot be satisfied apart from submission
and obedience to God, for the more it has the more it desires. Thus it
remains poor because of its greed. Therefore, the earnest prohibition and
warning of the Lord his God disappeared out of Adam's heart when
his deliberation concerning his origin, fear, humility, love and alertness
were driven out by arrogance. Thereafter he fell into impertinence, sel-
fishness and haughtiness, out of which disobedience the trespass arises. Thus
the judgment of death according to the word of the Lordflashesin his heart
by the announcement of the conscience, overwhelming and completely
surrounding him so that he may nowhere escape though he may flee and
seek refuge by himself as much as he pleases. Furthermore Adam imagines
himself not to be allowed to desire help from the Lord whom he has
despised for, being ungodly in his thoughts, he, because of the discord of his
conscience, thinks the Lord to be angry and furious as a man would be if
he had been offended. Adam came to this conclusion through sin by
which he fell from divine thoughts and took up their opposite.
But God does not react like an offended man, because he does not
mark sin. But he and he alone is the good itself, of which man is robbed
by sin which separates him from the good and leads him into the void
which void is sin. It is not God, however, who deprives man of the good,
but his own conscience which convinces him in his heart of the evil
which evil did not originate with God. His conscience terrifies and tor-
ments him, as a hungry man who must fast, when he must do without
the support for his life-namely the good God. Without this goodness of
God he is as little able to live before God as a man without nourishment
is able to survive (Gen. 2:16-17; Amos 8:11; Psalm 59:15; Matthew 4:1-4).
But man is deprived of the good when the stubborn flesh which despises
God erects in itself a barrier between itself and God and the judgment of
death is executed after the trespass which in its inception, like a mouse
trap, presents an even and easy access and bait.
Man is deprived of the good when this occurs and he thus can never
again, completely and independently in spirit and flesh, adhere to God as
he did before the fall and continue to serve him without any hindrance
or antipathy of the flesh (Rom. 7 and 8). Nevertheless man, by the
spirit within him, desires freedom without ceasingfrom which freedom
he has fallenuntil the flesh, being the root of sin which deprives us of
268 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

liberty and leads us captive in its law, again disappears in physical death.
But before we are set free from the flesh we meanwhile are to fight
and conquer through God's power in the kingdom of faith into which
the Lord alone had to ordain us in covenant of his promise because of
our changeable and vain heart.
Apart from God's power (Heb. 11:3) we could not believewhich
power, even after the trespass, God often and in various ways indicates and
points out that it has been in us from the beginning. However, God re-
veals his power in different ways to the pious and to the evil ones ac-
cording to whether they turn their face or back to the light, or depending
on how each one, according to his measure of faith, increases or decreases
in the recognition of God. God works in us this recognition of his power
by his Spirit in order that we in no way despair when, in our own eyes,
we are completely frustrated. But on the contrary, by the testimony and
work of his Spirit inwardly perceived, we become bold and, thus with
zealous exercise in the will of God, expect the redemption of our body
from death, which death is in us and originated in us because of our
guilt.
The Lord who well foreknew our fall, but certainly took no pleasure
in it, created the first man as living flesh or in a natural life and nature
which would again die if man sinned and thus man would be released
by death from his misery, vanity and sin (Rom. 8:10). God thus, by
creating the flesh temporal, anticipated man's being eternally captured
in the fallen flesh and thus provided that the misery of sin and death
might not eternally endure but might be overcome as the last enemy
(I Cor. 15:26). This release from the fallen flesh could not have occurred
if the flesh, in which the law and root of sin is present, had been immortal.
Therefore, for Adam's own benefit, the Lord with the cherubim and the
fiery sword bars the way to the tree of life, which life Adam would have
liked to have had in this flesh. But the Lord bars the way to the tree of life
in order that Adam might be discouraged from seeking eternal life in the
flesh and from desiring to live eternally in fear, which eternal fear would
have resulted had the life in the flesh become immortal.
Adam's path was blocked so that he would be moved to choose another
path pointed out by the Lord, who knows better than Adam what is
good for himnamely to eat his bread here in the sweat of his brow until
he returns to earth and only then break into life, which life God would
have preferred to grant him beforeindeed which God would have liked
to bestow upon him without death, had it been possible. However, the
flesh does not believe that God would have liked to confer such life. But if
we want to recognize God's will concerning us and to strive after it in
truth without hypocrisy and conceit of the heart, we surely must have
another skin in order to comprehend this will and become a new creature.
We must be completely changed in contrast to the former life. One comes
to this change of heart first by the reconciliation of the Son of God per-
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 269

ceived in the heart. This change and reconciliation must be exercised


according to the example of Christ so that we might become like Him by
the birth of the new man in a righteous and quickening spirit, a spirit which
performs its office in the inner sanctuary of our hearts until our death
(Rom. 8:11, 29).
This transformation occurs when one considers in the depths of his
heart what God intended by the mission of his Son (I Cor. 10:1-4). In
him, even before his advent, the ancients were also saved because they
perceived the true promise of God in their heart, which knowledge was
as valid for them concerning their salvation as if the mission of Christ
had already been outwardly revealed and performed. It was sufficient
that they, men like Simeon and many kings and prophets, earnestly desired
the praise of God and the salvation of their neighbor, which divine glory
and salvation were powerfully manifested throughout the ministry of
John the Baptist and Christ (Matt. 11:21-24; Luke 2:34). During the
ministry of Christ it could be clearly seen in God's commissioned Son,
Jesus Christ, our king and example, what our goal must be and where we
belongnamely when Christ called out of this world the sanctified of
God, and was himself the first to die by the shameful death of the cross.
For those who were hanged on a tree were regarded as cursed. It also
was plainly evident where we belonged when Christ, for the benefit of
his disciples, returned to his Father from whom he had come to us as
a messenger from heaven. To us who still lay in the fleshly commands
and blessings of Israel, the Son had come. Christ was of heaven ( 1 Cor.
15:47-48) in order that he even through death, the bitterness of which
he had already conquered, might bring us to our heavenly Father and draw
us away from the fleshly commands and blessings of Israel, which com-
mands and blessings had only been intended to indicate the future bless-
ings hidden in God.
Therefore the flesh is put away as being the cause of the disobedience
and struggle against God within us, for which reason all visible and physical
creatures, recorded by Moses, were created for a testimony and intro-
duction into the eternal and as a temporary dwelling for this dispensation
until we die. By the testimony and introduction into the eternal we again,
with penitent hearts, were converted to the invisible God and hastened
to him from whom all things flowed for our sakesbut which things, how-
ever, we loved more than him. We returned to God in order that man, who
is God's counterpart, might also be deified. God created his creatures in
the beginning and equipped them most perfectly in order that they might
be a testimony to the blind flesh concerning its denial of God, because the
flesh itself is taught and persuaded by the clear perception and increasing
recognition of an invisible God as the origin of all things. As all creatures
have a beginning and their nature does not originate in themselves, for they
daily pass away and are changed, flesh thereby must recognize and con-
clude that all creatures must have an invisible (for the visible does not
270 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

remain), spiritual, single and eternal origin. This origin is God, whom
the creatures then would recognize as remaining immortal and without
disunity in eternity, and retaining in himself, by his sovereignty, all that
which is.
Furthermore, the love and faithfulness of God toward the whole
world without respect for persons can be seen in the fact that he forms
his image in man to such a degree and reveals this image in man by his
Spirit that man must also perceive it, regardless of how long God's enemies
might grumble and reproach him, as though he wanted to damn them.
By this inscribing of his words, which are in them, he will judge them
(John 12:48). For this inscribing is the secret of his will, which secret he
plants in all men without distinction in order that they might not have any
excuses, although the secret of his will is not sealed by his Spirit in the
enemies of Christ. The scriptures announce to us the indwelling of the
secret of God's will in order that we might thereby have comfort and hope
when we thus perceive ourselves in our hearts by the Spirit of Christ,
as the Scriptures testify.
One must not regard the single events in the Scriptures, but the over-
all context by which they speak to us. Each believer is thus to train
himself in reading the scriptures as with the Lord's wealth which one
is to invest and thereby gain profit, and which one is not permitted to
bury. But the spiritual relationship between God and man decreased
from the beginning, all flesh perverting its way and drowning itself in
love for the world. The spiritual relationship was suppressed by the
mind and wisdom of the flesh as the good seed is choked by thistles and
thorns. For this reason God then also began to explain His work physi-
cally to the world as the world could no longer grasp the inward (to
employ the common speech) as in the beginning.
The longer the world existed the more exercise and skill to maintain
the flesh was invented, by which all men continually became more unfit
for the kingdom of God by completely plunging and entangling them-
selves in this world order so that they later gave themselves over to idolatry
and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the worship of mortal
creatures (Rom. 1:23) and the inward recognition of God was almost com-
pletely extinguished by their pride and ambition (Acts 7:39-41). Therefore
the Lord elects and purifies his people whom he seeks to prepare for future
events and the capability of comprehending himself. He reminds and
admonishes them concerning his will in order to comfort the faithful ones
among them and also the heathen who would in the future join them
for whose sake such an election took place, and in order to strengthen
them in the path undertaken and to convince his enemies, as no other
means could any longer assist, by the revelation of the Scriptures.
God admonishes them and thus quickens that which was already in
them in order that hope might increase and grow in the faithful. But
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 271

God stops the mouths of the unbelievers and despisers, for they have
nothing to oppose against the Scriptures they have heard (their hearts
being forced to justify the Scriptures). God, so to say, goes to judgment
with them and even tolerates their judgment against the Scriptures. But
if men do not conform their lives to Scripture, they will rightly be judged
by it, apart from God's responsibility, and by their own judgment. They
will thus be judged because they do not obey the truth of God which
was formerly in their hearts; exalting and esteeming creation above God,
which creation really should have led them to God (having been created
by God for man's sake), they permit this same creation to divert them
from God.
God desired that the above described conviction of his will, which
occurred for the sake of and the leading into the recognition of God, be
more orderly presented to the blind world in order that the world might
also comprehend his will. For this reason one work of God after another
was outwardly performed in order that God's involvement with men could
not be denied. And, at last, in order to explain his will most gloriously,
God elected a single man out of the whole world, a world which had
become almost completely godless. This man, however, namely Abraham,
was not elected because of his merit, but out of grace. Abraham was
suited for this work of God because of his sincere desire to perform the
will of the Lord. To Abraham God then inwardly demonstrated and
proved His goodness and grace which were only valid for him, for no one
can believe for another. Furthermore, for the sake of the heathen, God
also granted to him outward goods and benefits of this world in order
that the heathen might experience and perceive God's will, but which
goods and benefits within themselves did not carry salvation. The heathen
only had fleshly eyes, for which reason they little esteemed the goodness
of the Spirit, for the Spirit which searches all things was no longer the
judge in them (Gen. 6:3; I Cor. 2:10). God granted these outward
blessings to his people in order that he might draw at least some of the
heathen, with whom he deals through his people Israel, if he could not
win all of them. This wooing of the heathen began openly at the time of
Christ. Surely God would have preferred to win them all, if they had
only been willing to come to him. But he would have acted inconsistently
with his work, order and divine manner if he had compelled them to
accept salvation, although he could have done so. If he had compelled
them to accept salvation, man's freedom of the spirit and his capability of
choosing whatever he wanted would have been annulled. An incontestable
deficiency would then have appeared in the creature, and man would
have been nothing more than an animalfor which reason he could no
more have been judged for his conduct than cattle may be judged. But
as freedom of the spirit was left to man, it is thus proper that the heathen
are judged who, not only remain in sin in opposition to the inward testi-
mony of God, but despise him, although they experience the love, faith-
272 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

fulness, strength, mercy and justice of the Lord daily performed for his
people (Rom. 1:19-20).
It was necessary for them to experience all these divine works in
order that they might be moved and continue to seek the God of Israel
and worship him at his holy mountain. But the heathen who did not per-
mit themselves to be moved were therefore the more justly condemned
and they could not excuse themselves with the accusation against God
that he had not created them Jews. For God indeed, because of their
habitation of the holy land and its significance, requires much more of
the Jews than he does of Naaman who was only temporarily among Israel.
But the heathen should not imagine that they will escape severe condemna-
tion because they know less (Matt. 11:20-24; Luke 12:48). Therefore
the Scriptures only speak of the condemnation of the heathen in gen-
eral and not of the individual, to whom Paul allows the possibility of
an excuse when he, without law and out of a good conscience, does the
things contained in the law. The Scriptures speak of the condemnation
of the heathen in general; how and why they were at that time an abomi-
nation to the Lord. This judgment of the Scriptures was leveled against
the heathen because they did not respond to the message of the elected
Israel as later Israel was judged because she failed to accept the gospel
which the heathen did accept. This judgment against the heathen was
completely suspended in the New Testament era as the heathen were
converted en masse and joined Christ, although the evil ones remained
outside of Christ. The general curse against the heathen was thereby
suspended as it was announced to them that they also belonged to the
kingdom of Christ. They belonged to the kingdom of Christ even without
being circumcised, an exemption which had never been made before.
Thus judgment against the heathen was suspended when grace was pub-
licly preached, regardless of who accepted it. The despisers of grace,
however, were not included in the preaching of grace as those selected
Israelites who escaped the general blindness were not included in the
judgment of condemnation. To these Israelites the words of Paul refer
(Rom. 11:1-5) when he writes that God had not rejected his people,
because Paul himself was an Israelite. These words doubtless point to
the elected faithful in Israel as the following words in the same chapter
concerning rejection refer to Israel as a nation. Compared with the
multitude in Israel those who separated from it were only a little band,
but the heathen who were converted were a great company. At that time
grace had already been offered to Jew and Gentile through the apostles
of the Lord. The Jew and Gentile had yearned for this grace for some
time and it was granted to them in order that the words concerning grace
might not have been pronounced in vain, and in order that by the
orderly justice of God, who is no respecter of persons and much less of
time, granting his grace to all men and times, would have been satisfied
if his word had only been preached to the desiring and mature hearts.
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 273

This word of course must first be quickened in the heart for how else
could it be inwardly heard, as Jeremiah says, and that is the reason why it
is only understood by the spiritual ones of the New Testament, who possess
the Lord. In order to introduce men into perfection, which must be re-
vealed at the end of the world when God unites (Ephesians 1:10) all things,
the Lord elects his own people to whom he revealed and prescribed his
commands, laws and customs. The power of his commands, etc. were
really in them and he prescribed them not only inwardly but even out-
wardly to unify Israel, his children, by the threat of punishment for the
sake of his name and truth. By revealing his command, the Lord only
reminds them of his will, which was about to disappear in them (but nev-
ertheless to some extent was still in them); otherwise the Israelites would
not have said amen when Moses read the commands to them or the Lord
would have rejected them as being of a false heart if their words had
not been sincere or if they had not understood God's commands. The Lord
later employs this law given to Israel to bring the heathen to silence. For
the heathen also being unjust, selfish and fleshly, had erected laws before
the Lord had given his law, and without God's commandment. To the
laws of the heathen belonged the codes of Lycurgus and Solon (which they,
however, were not commanded by God, their sole Lord, to draw up) before
which no other law was valid except those which pleased the princes
and the lords (Deut. 4:2; 12:1; Prov. 30:6; I Cor. 6:3).
Therefore, by revealing and presenting his law to them through Moses,
God confounds the heathenwhich one readily perceives when one com-
pares the law of God with the law of the heathen. For the Lord has
more right to make laws than they, and everything which he at any time
orders and establishes includes in itself the highest equality. For even the
foreigner has the same right as the native or the Israelite with whom he
lives. The Greeks, on the contrary, did not grant the same right to every-
one but always expanded their country at the foreigner's expense, which
the Israelites did not do. The Israelites had another law as (Deut. 4:6) the
Scriptures announce when Moses says that even the heathen would praise
and regard as wise the people of God because of this law's just and im-
partial judgments. The prophet also sings in spirit of this people although
he regards not the nation as such but rather the future spiritual potential
in it, which was only prefigured by Israel when he says to her in the
148th Psalm that the Lord has not thus dealt with all people nor revealed
his law to them. The Lord wanted to make known to the whole world
through Israel that he alone was God in order that all who strove after him
in truth might be saved by thus recognizing him. The heathen were moved
to recognize God as they saw how God so wonderfully saved his people
from the hands of their enemies, taught them his will and punished the
evil among them in order that his name might not be reviled in them by
perverted living (Rom. 2:24).
Perversion surely would not have failed to appear among such a
274 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

great multitude if there had not been threat of penalty and punishment
by which they, under the law in the time of punishment (Heb. 9:27), had
to be prevented by force from doing evil. At last, however, the scepter
fell in Judah and Judah came under the command and power of the
Romans, for which reason then the ungodly life arose in Israel (which life
became a stumblingblock for the heathen), as Paul complains in the sec-
ond chapter of his epistle to the Romans (2:24).
At that time one had to execute the law of God with force because
of the fleshly multitude among whom there were many unwilling to
follow the law. But God, in order that He might in no case be regarded as
a tyrant, and in order that Israel might not completely despair, continued
to frequently grant mercy through the judges, who dealt mildly with her in
many ways. This anarchical period in Israel's history is really a figure of
our undisciplined flesh. Furthermore, as God promised to the Israelites
to multiply them as the stars of the heaven, he has not only desired to
prove and to keep his promise inwardly (in that those who did right
were saved, of whom there are a sufficient number), but also outwardly and
physically. The inward state is perfected according to the words of
(Apoc. 7:3-8), while the outward deeds of God were performed because
of the unbelievers among Israel who would have liked to have made God
a liar if he had not kept his promises to them, which would have been
the pretext for them to accuse him, as it is written (Num. 14:11). God's
honoring and fulfilling of the promises had to be subsequently made
known to the heathen, as he had promised to Israel. Although Israel
was not worthy of God, he nevertheless kept all his promises to her but
he made such promises only under the condition that Israel Uve according
to his will, and only to confirm his word (Deut. 9:5). For although they
had all gone through the Red Sea, God nevertheless was not pleased with
all of them (I Cor. 10:1-5). Therefore God, according to prophecy, con-
firms to Jacob the outward rule and scepter, lasting until the coming of
Shiloh, God, as a powerful Lord, saves Israel from the nations or foreign
peoples for his truth's sake which he employs for the benefit of all men in
order that men might thereby come to him. God has saved Israel for the
sake of the increase and the preservation of the seed up to Christ. For
otherwise many of them, as do now, would have fallen away and become
heathen. But Israel was strictly held together for the sake of Christ who
had to come out of Judah. Finally, after the deportation of the ten tribes,
the seed was only preserved in Judah, who, for this reason alonenamely
that Christ had to come out of Judahreturned from Babylon to Jerusa-
lem. When, however, the cause for something is realized, that which
flows out of the cause must also have a conclusion. For these reasons
Israel is called God's inheritance, that is the whole nation, in contrast to
the heathen. She is furthermore called a people for our example, children
serving under the elemental statutes erected at the time of the Old Testa-
ment (Gal. 4:4-7). But how God at that time outwardly dealt with
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 275

Israel occurs in all men's hearts even now without ceasing, concerning
which inward witness of God the outward served only as an indication.
When one has nothing to oppose to such an inward witness he is over-
whelmed as if by a powerful testimony. But, as it occurred in Israel and
also in New Testament times, to the faithful everything always results in
good and to the unbelievers everything always issues in evil. This result,
however, in the congregation of the New Testament era, is not of a
physical nature, but spiritual.
This fact, that to the faithful everything came to good and to the
unbeliever everything resulted in evil, had to be revealed to the spiritual
eyes also outwardly as the former statutes had been revealed, and the
spiritual eyes then alone recognized this distinction while the fleshly and
literal eyes remained blind. This fleshly blindness rises without ceasing
as a test in our hearts, as well as in the hearts of the false believers, for
we are men as they are. This blindness also stirs itself against the spirit
in our hearts whereby dissension arises in man as in the world outside him.
Ishmael's discord with Isaac and all other discord among men was thus
caused. The faithful Father in order to remind us of the danger of this
struggle not only demonstrated this danger by mere words as by the Deca-
logue, but also by figurative words, which words God speaks to us in
so many ways because they are so powerful in reviving the old man.
He who wishes to well comprehend the difference between these two
covenants should investigate their contrasting and common elements and
that which is specially revealed in each one and, furthermore, he should
regard that which was still only in secret, presented and revealed to the
old covenant times by words or figures, as the gospel was also in the Old
Testament (Col. 1:26). In studying these two covenants one should
give heed to their cause, reason, contrasts, circumstances, respects and the
transition from one to the other. One reason, for example, why the cov-
enants were concluded is that fleshly Israel was to be held together by
the threat of penalty up to the advent of Christ, as a promissory note is
retained in lieu of cash. A contrast, for example, may be found in the
opposition of the written law in the Old Testament era and the revealed
gospel in the New Testament era, at which later time the secret of the
law as promised by God (through Moses and the prophets) will be re-
vealed within the covenants; the circumstances, differences and transitory
steps from the old to the new are also included. Therefore neither cove-
nant is expendable, for the old must be fulfilled by the new and the new
is based upon the old. One is able to clearly perceive the common secret
and its revelation in the fullness of time. This fact should be kept in
mind in order that one might not conclude that in the Old Testament or
in the era from Moses to Christ the law alone, having once been pre-
sented, had existed and dominated, and in the New Testament era only
the gospel had validity. But as the law of God even today exercises its
office and power in us individually (Rom. 7:5), thus the gospel also was
276 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

in the hearts of the believing fathers, but in secret, hidden under the
letter of the Mosaic law (I Cor. 2:7; Galatians 3:6). By this faith alone
they were saved and this salvation occurred then through their childlike
faith and the inherited Spirit of God by which one is enabled to cry
"Abba."
This salvation is revealed in the same fashion today when the secret
of God is revealed. The fathers yearned for this revelation and they were
comforted in spirit, although their comfort did not yet manifest itself
physically, but spiritually. For they all ate of a spiritual food and Abraham
saw the day of the Lord (John 8:56). Therefore is was imperative that
the law and the gospel have their respective eras in which each was re-
vealed. These distinctive revelations occurred according to the plan of
God to convince the world in order that it might understand and become
attentive to God's plan through the transition of time and of the laws.
This perception and understanding would be achieved if the plan of God,
as it is exercised in a spiritually disciplined man and develops in him by
the new means of revealing God's will, also becomes known to the fleshly
ones, who deny the inner witness. Thus, when the testimony of God,
namely the inward, finds no response in man, the revealed law is a public
custodian preparing man for the revealed Christ of the New Testament.
Therefore the time of punishment has publicly been imposed upon
man and prepares the way to the revealed Christ at the time of His
advent. Likewise, even now, the Spirit of God, by holding the law
before us, punishes us in our hearts because of sin (John 16:8), in order
that the Son of Man, who has come to seek sinners, might find entrance.
But in order that we might the more give heed and attention to the in-
ward and spiritual goods of the heavenly glory of the kingdom of Christ
which was preached in the New Testament to draw men out of the world,
the Lord, withfiguresand outward signs, desired to indicate these spiritual
goods in the Old Testament as with an extended pointer. For the Old
Testament was to introduce us into the inward recognition of the divine
and eternal gifts, which gifts were indicated by the figures, such as cir-
cumcision, Canaan, Jerusalem, temple, sacrifice, priest, judge, king, etc.
And those who were of sluggish and fleshly or Israelite heart were re-
vived and moved much more by deeds than by mere words. The sluggish
ones were moved by deeds among which was the strangling of the godless
trespassers of the law and the heathen, who plagued God's people. All
such deeds were commanded by God. However, in the New Testament
the sluggish hearts are revived and moved by the martyrdom of the pious
who are victorious according to the spirit. The law in the Old Testament
has an end according to the letterbut according to the spirit it remains
(Matt. 5:17-18), for Jesus says, "I am not come to abolish the law,"
etc. Out of this law the New Testament now flows as the fountain
sprang forth out of the molar tooth of Samson's donkey (Judges 15:18-20).
Christ also was born out of the fathers according to the promise of
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 277

God and through Christ we, who thought the Father to be our enemy,
are reconciled with himwith him who had never really been angry.
On the contrary Christ offers himself to us in human formby which
communication we remained constant, trained in faith, when he spoke to
us so that he was comprehensible to our inconstant hearts. For we do not
yet recognize him as he is (I John 3:2) for it has not yet appeared what
we shall be. Therefore, the unchangeable, as if he were changeable as
we are, presents himself to us for our comfort in order that we might not
despair in our vacillating changeableness and inconstancy, but rather hope
to partake of his steadfastness. Christ desires to bring us into his un-
changeableness and will bring us there because he, only for our sake, pre-
sents himself and permits himself to be seen in human form. It is not out
of his being and nature when he speaks of fury and the like (for he is
God and cannot change) that we might become as he is and, by means
of the earthly words of Jesus (John 3:12), might be led into the recog-
nition of the heavenly words of which flesh and blood, being strictly
contrary-minded, are incapable of comprehending.
Therefore God alone thus leads the faithful into a more perfect rec-
ognition of himself. This recognition continually increases in the faithful
if we, even today, after Christ's departure from his human habitation, see
him, with the eyes of the spirit, hanging upon the cross. Our spiritual
recognition increases if we then continue to consider why the crucifixion
took placenamely for our sake, whom the Eternal Love has loved so much
that he gave himself in the mission of Christ and that the Father spared not
his only Son. God is an invisible eternal power (Rom. 11:33; I Cor. 1:25)
which no man or creature may encompass (Prov. 25:3) or comprehend.
He has descended into no one's heart and he who would spy out the
glory of God would be overwhelmed by its brilliance. Men now sense
the judgment of eternal death in their conscience.
In this condition the invisible Being, God, has for our sakes revealed
and poured himself out, but he can neither be distributed, divided and
poured out, nor may he come out of himself, as he includes and sustains
all things in himself, and, although himself unsustained, he remains com-
pletely free. But God wanted to teach us who are confused in ourselves,
separated from our true nature and therefore torn, full of unbelief and
therefore having no hope, to reach that which the creatures may not reach,
namely, eternity.
Creation points us in the direction of eternity, for the flesh does not
recognize eternity and is therefore convinced by outward creation, which
stems from eternity. Flesh is convinced when it considers that creation
does not come into being by itself and that it therefore must have its or-
igin in eternity. Our flesh however, is not willing to believe in eternity
as it does not see it, and is unable to endure. Every man may easily rec-
ognize this fact and, if he, nevertheless, attaches himself to creation, he
will, with right, be denied access into the rest of the Lord. For he should
278 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

zealously follow the Lord through the wilderness as Israel did (for it
is the Lord's passover). According to the Lord's word, this desert is the
whole world. But we will first perceive this when Christ will appear in
the glory of his Fatherthat is to say, in eternity when even the heavens
will pass away with a great roar. Hope for that day has been planted
in our hearts in order that we might have a desire for the eternal goods.
Since, from the beginning of the world, God spoke and dealt with us,
he is willing to grant to us these blessingsthat is to say, himself.
All this occurred only for the sake of our salvation, for God needed
neither our salvation, nor usas if he suffered a deficiency. Furthermore,
God even becomes like us in order that we might become as he is, accord-
ing to his teaching. That is the nature of love which love God isnamely,
not self-seeking. But in order that we might comprehend such love, the
Undivided God divides himself and nevertheless remains undivided. God
permits his goodness and all that which he is to be called "His word,"
which word we already have in our hearts. He permits his goodness to
be called his word in order that we might remain the more constant,
because he does not speak to us of things which we cannot attain, a con-
dition which would lead to despair. Thus God offers to us his faithful-
ness, love and truth to such a degree that it must be painful to the damned
when they, without any hindrance of the present curtain of our flesh,
must plainly see that which they have despised and for which they have
been ungrateful.
But he who accepts such gifts from God will experience the highest
measure of joy. He will be overjoyed as if a mighty lord, whom he pre-
viously feared and by whom he was terrified, spoke kindly to him, arousing
the desire within him to address the Lord. This joy may well be seen
in the example of Abraham speaking with the Lord and how much greater
will it be when our God, revealing himself to us, speaks of peace with and
in our hearts. This revelation occurs by his word which in the beginning
is called a word for our sakewe who are created by it. God then calls
this word his Son that we might have a lively hope in us, when we are all
reborn through this word, so that we may understand and comprehend it
for the word is spirit and life. We, however, are flesh and death. Through
and in this word we became the children of God.
God, our Father, thus deals with us at this time, because of our doubt-
ing, in various and divergent ways, and he desires to be called Father in
order that we might recognize his heart in contrast to our own. For his
heart is love itself while ours is evil and selfish. On judgment day he will
openly appear and demonstrate how faithfully he has dealt with us, as
a father with his children. But when God is openly revealed, Christ's
enemies will be defeated, for they will be laid at his footstool. Many of
his enemies shall boast seeking their own honor, which Jesus does not do,
and, since they are not like him, they are his enemies (John 5:43-47).
Thus the word in the beginning is called a word for our benefit, for
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 279

we employ words while God is Spirit, being different from man who has
a tongue, teeth and mouth. Our heart also even now partially senses how
God speaks through his Spirit in us, but not in a human way and we sense
somewhat his nature when his Spirit in us yearns for union with him and
pours into us, by his divine and eternal power, His justice, peace and
joy. Therefore, we are not concerned with exterior happiness, etc., for
the kingdom of God is within us. But the outward word of God, which
is a testimony of the inward and true word as being the seed of God in
the field of our mind, is called a word for the reason that we might think
beyond ourselves, and, thereby, inspired by an earthly symbol, appreciate
the heavenly and divine estate. In this estate one does not speak with
words or employ any outward senses, as one now does; but one is there
filled with inexpressable spiritual exultation and consciousness. We now,
by the Spirit of Christ, possess only a foretaste of this estate and do not
yet know it completely as we are known (I Cor. 13:12). For this estate
has not entered into anyone's heart and we remain yet in the flesh, which
esteems only visible things and temporal creatures because they are on
the same level with the flesh, which draws us away from the invisible
eternal Goodwhich is God.
On the contrary, the spirit strives beyond itself seeking the sphere
from which it came. If a man responds and gives place to the yearning and
sighing of the spirit, the spirit, being captured in the flesh, craves unceas-
ingly to be freed by God. No one can imagine or even understand this
yearning if he does not sense it in himself, by which he either increases
or decreases according to the extent of his experience. To this spiritual
experience belongs the battle of faith. Happy is he who in truth recognizes
his God for he will surely, after such a recognition, hasten to him denying
himself and the whole world. Thus believers will not permit their own
company to be hindered by unbelievers who confess God, the highest good,
it is true, but, lying, do not follow him, for they worship God only with
their lips. Their confession will increase the judgment upon them. But
they who sincerely desire God are in a human way immediately rescued
by him, through his word, before they completely sink. Therefore, if the
outward and inward man correspond, God comforts him in the struggle
and gives testimony that his Spirit is in him.
In this struggle there will be those who do not want to be instructed
and led by Christ as they are not his, because they do not sincerely strive
after him, but only wish to be seen by men. The Father has not given
them to the Son and they will have to fall away from the Son and be
defeated. They will be overwhelmed, although they possess the true light,
but do not sincerely accept and embrace it nor give themselves completely
to it, nor offer themselves up to their God although they have been His
and belonged to the priests of the New Testament, whom the Holy Spirit
has annointed (I John 2:20). Sacrifice is an abomination to God if one
thinks he is able to give God something as, for instance, in Israel the
280 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

fleshly ones thought to do (Isaiah 1:11; Psalm 50:9-B) and as the hypocrites
think to do in the congregation of Christ. But the hypocrites will be
discovered when divisions arise, by which disagreements they are unmasked
before the eyes of the spiritual (I Cor. 11:18-19). God, however, knows
the hypocrites from the beginning (II Tim. 2:19); otherwise, because of his
ignorance, he could not have been God.
God forces no one, although one might feel himself coerced when he
considers God's overwhelming power. But the divine desires to coerce
no one by fear whom he elects to salvation (not with special regard,
however, for he is no respecter of persons) (Acts 10:34). The scriptures
do not present salvation as though God waited upon man's acceptance,
for God's nature is unchangeable; otherwise, he, who is the eternal love,
must also be capable of becoming angry and hostile. But salvation is
presented to us in order that in faith we might exercise ourselves in the
will of God, which exercise should lead us to him. Likewise the word and
light emerging from God are word and light in their nature and essence,
for God has no mouth and is not a creature possessing a material light. But
for our sake, who are hindered by the earthly-minded-resisting flesh as by
the enemy and jailor of the spirit, the eternal power of God is called in
the scriptures a word and a lightthrough which word and light God
wants to adapt himself to us. Thus also the words spoken to Nicodemus
must be understood when the Lord says, "if I have spoken to you of earthly
things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you of
heavenly things" (John 3:12). It is not true that Jesus spoke in an earthly
and fleshly way, for His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). But these
earthly words are spoken in adaptation to heavenly words, as an intro-
duction to them, which heavenly words eyes have not seen. The heavenly
and the earthly words are as far apart as the earth is below the heaven.
Therefore, God has given earth to men and speaks to them in an
earthly fashion. For our reason must confess, even in its fleshly under-
standing and comprehending, although it does not recognize God, know-
ing, however, that he exists, that there is a God. God speaks to us in an
earthly way in order that our reason might be captured under obedience
to Christ, the king annointed by God to whom power is given in heaven and
on earth. Woe to his enemies and to the disobedient ones. And God
desires our reason to be captured in order that in no case we might attempt
to be like God as Adam did in the beginning, for we have in us, as Adam
had, the same nature and the same root of sin, together with the ambitious
striving to be God. This desire to grasp after the Godhead, sin-
cerely recognized, destroys us in our own eyes before our God, in order
that he might bring us to honor. With such an inward recognition, the
only Love is most highly pleased. Thus the recognized unbelief in us,
which first damned us, promotes and prepares us for the kingdom of God,
for God is so good that even out of the greatest evil, he makes a cause
for the greatest good (if only we do not resist).
Having recognized this, one first really becomes conscious of what
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 281

Paul (Eph. 2:8) says, "by grace are ye saved," etc., and (Rom. 8:28) to
those who love God, everything works for good." Furthermore, God re-
veals our unbelief though his Spirit in us, under which unbelief we were im-
prisoned because of our guilt, in order that he might show mercy to all
without ceasing. He who senses the Spirit in himself will be prepared by
him for mercy, if he sincerely strives after mercy in the kingdom of faith.
All children of God and all lambs of Christ immediately seek his
mercy without looking behind them. From the conduct of the children
and lambs all shepherds should learn the lesson by which they may easily
recognize the sheep, and not pen them together with the swine. No one,
however, partakes of mercy except the one who feels himself completely
crushed by his unbelief. The greater unbelief presents itself the more
mercy is receivedif we sincerely desire such mercy. But we are unable
to perfectly possess this desire for mercy without being conscious of our
greatest unbelief. Thus life comes in he midst of death, even through
death, faith through unbelief, justice through injustice.
In sum: when we are most depraved in our own eyes and suffer be-
cause of the sin which still rages in our flesh, then only are we elevated
to the highest good. For this consciousness of sin is exercised in us through
the Spirit for the sake of mercy. The Spirit humbles us in order that He
might raise us and not leave us in the depths; we who desire, in our own
strength, to ascend into the heights. We therefore surely would have
had to remain in the depths eternally; and just this opinion, which denies
God, is really the liberation and raising of the dragon, which ascends from
the depths (Luke 1:18).
Therefore, we cannot be saved without the recognition of the unbe-
lief in uswhich recognized unbelief thus drives us away from perdition.
Thereby follows that we are the most blessed when we think ourselves
most unblessed, when the doors of death close us in and imprison us and
when, our heart which leads us in to sin, denying itself and the whole
world, truly yearns for Godnot for the sake of salvation, but in order
to fulfill his will. We desire salvation only for this reason, in order that
nothing may be found in us, as is now, which resists the will of the Almighty
Father. The love of the loving God drives us to desire salvation. He,
by his love, moves us in so many ways to respond to his love that, for the
sake of his will, we should properly hate everything which seeks to de-
tract us from him. We should give ourselves completely to him when we
recognize how faithfully and lovingly he deals with us when he, by an
inward and outward cross, destroys the bonds of the hypocrisy of our self-
righteousness which would have kept us from salvation, and when he
removes the stocks from our paththe path he has promised to make
level (Jeremiah 31:9).
We should renounce everything when we see how he converts into
a drawing to himself that which formerly separated and hindered us from
coming to him so that we may well say with David, how good is the
282 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

God of Israel toward those who are of a true heart." Thus to those who
love God, all things work for good (Rom. 8:28), not the good things alone,
but even the past (not the future) sins (Rom. 4:25) of those who remain
sinners, though saved by grace (Rom. 6:1-14). Even the evil tendency
and inner conflict (Rom. 7:14-25), which is still in our flesh, and likewise
the temptation of hypocrisy, ambition and self-love, etc., work for their
good. The flesh appropriates for itself the slightest work of God in us
and takes pleasure having done so. This hypocrisy then immediately de-
molishes us as occurred to Ezekiel in order that he might experience what
was in his heart which is vain, evil and undesirable (Jeremiah 17:10).
Therefore, we are bound not to trust in the human heart, but always
to watch and pray in the fear of God. Regardless of how high one might
have ascended, he should give heed that he does not become dizzy and
fall (I Cor. 10:12). He should always glory in his weakness and in God's
strength, which strength works in the humility and fervor of the spirit,
giving testimony to the man. It is therefore of vital importance that God
not take His ruling, right and sovereign Spirit from us, but, without ceas-
ing, confirm us by it. We continually stand in the danger of the struggle
as long as we live, by which the knowledge of our true selves is kept
under the rod, causing the bright feathers of the peacock to fall out.
Thus salvation does not come before we have been damned and cast
into hell, in order that God might be able to send His Christ down into the
depths where we are to be found. Christ has come to seek the lost one
who recognizes himself in his own eyes to be lost and would like to be
found. Christ, then, as a strong hero, powerfully crushes sin, devil, death
and hell which have attacked the believers, and he freely saves those who
desire him. But they who despise his salvation, although he has fought
for them, having died for the sin of the whole world (I John 2:2) will, to
their eternal shame, rightly have to acknowledge it on judgment day. In
all this the Only Love works with us for our sake alone and demonstrates
to us our infirmity in order that we might be saved in a living hope toward
our God. He humbles us in order to be able to raise us and that we might
understand and become aware of the word of grace when we sense the
humiliation which has taken place in us.
These scriptural words, to be sure, will eternally remain valid in
themselves as far as God is concerned; but we, meanwhile, will have little
use from them if they do not become true, as far as we are concerned,
in our hearts, and we are not sealed with the spirit which is given to the
children of God.
Who then would not be willing to trust and to love this faithful
Father who turns all things to good? His love when it comes to earth
and develops in the man in whom it has found root, casts out all fear
(I John 4:18), for he always is friendly with us in that he grants us
heaven in the midst of hell. God favors us not only when we are happy
and full of comfort, sensing him in us and his goodness, by which we
would easily become hypocritical and proud, as happened to Adam, the
REASON WHY GOD DESCENDED 283

bitter herbs not lying beside the unleavened bread. But God favors us
even when we despair most, which despair is the remedy for our hypocrisy,
serving us, who have been humbled, now more than ever.
For God has promised us through his word that he is a helper in the
time of fear (not in the time of hypocrisy), and when his help is most
needed. God gave this promise that in no case, neither partially nor totally,
should we seek refuge in any creature, and in order that he might be
recognized as a perfect helper, whom one might trust again even in the
highest despair of the conscience if one calls to mind the former comfort
granted by him. Thereby God wants us to be trained here, while we are
still in the flesh, under the covenant of his word in order that, by the testi-
mony of his Spirit, we might seek salvation, not outside ourselves, but in
ourselves so that we might adhere to him in the fear which bears wisdom,
and watch until the end.
God will be all in all when the word, the Christ who is the word now
in particular (John 8:51-58), will have fulfilled his office in the congre-
gation when the end comes. He has performed his office for our sake from
the beginning of the world (Apocalypse 13:8), which office the scriptures
not only everywhere announce, but also for the proclamation of which office
they were specifically given. God will be all in all when the Son, with his
brothers, the son who has presented an image of God to us and moreover
was our Lord and God, as Thomas calls him, renders the kingdom to the
Father. The Son accepted such a kingdom because of our creaturely mind,
and submitted himself to the Father.
Thus God, from the beginning, has acted so fatherly that he, when
the fullness of time had come, became incarnate in Christ and descended,
for the sake of our flesh, to the deepest depths to those who were in the
abyss of the sinful flesh. Thus God dearly, even now, daily demonstrates
Christ's power in order that we might become god-like and ascend to the
heights, so that it might clearly be seen how good and holy God, the
eternal good, is in himself and why in the beginning of creaturely ex-
istence he created a physical counterpart to himselfthat of his nature.
Thus God has joined in man two thingsnamely spirit, which he
himself is, and flesh. He will also ceaselessly maintain them in man unto
all eternity. This eternal union has never been fathomed by any human
heart, but nevertheless ourfleshlymind misinterprets his care as evil, angry
and as coming from someone who is pleased with man's damnation, as if
God were our enemy, like a man whom one has injured. But it is really
not so. Therefore God will convict him who judges him, although he pre-
sents himself in the scriptures as angry for the sake of the sleepy and lazy
ones, who, before he speaks to them only succeed in destroying the flesh.
God, therefore, presents himself as angry in order to terrify them, as being
his young children, in order that they might afterwards follow his love
and be saved. He only acts thus for the purpose of accomplishing their
salvation.
284 THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW

May the merciful, eternal God give us to recognize perceptively and


vividly this, his love, in our hearts. Then neither fear of death nor love
of life will be able to separate us from his love. By his love we see into
eternity and we are moved by this sight to struggle when we, together
with Stephen, see the heavens open and Christ standing at the right hand
of the power of God. For Christ is love, in order that we also might have
hope to ascend there; he died because of our sins and has been resurrected
for the sake of our justification. Christ then ascended to where he also
desires to bring his own, for which reason the whole plan of man's sal-
vation, entailing the incarnation of God in the man Christ Jesus, was begun
and executed by the Lord. Amen.
Hereafter follow some fundamental theses concerning the understand-
ing of all scripture. Concerning the Old and New Testament; furthermore,
the respective times in which they were revealedwhich testaments are
subsequently called Old and New (II Cor. 3:6); concerning both people,
Jews and heathen, to whom each of the testaments speaks, especially,
particularly and totally.
Concerning the law; what it is; to whom and why it was outwardly
given; how manifold it is; with what degrees of difference Paul speaks of
it; who, now and what in us is submitted to the law; how, where, over
whom, and how long it rules and remains.16
16 These concluding theses appear to introduce Eine gemeine Berechnung . . . ,
visually considered Bnderlin's first book. See note 12.
^ s
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