Menno Simons was a contemporary of the Reformers, although
he was not a part of the Reformation mainstream. The best Protestant historians,
however, concede that he stood close to Luther on his concept of justification
by faith. We here reproduce
Menno's touching and inspiring "Letter of Consolation to a Sick Saint."1 It rings absolutely true to the gospel in that it places the believer's
hope and security outside of his own experience.
"My elect and beloved sister in Christ Jesus; much mercy, grace, and peace be to you, most beloved sister whom I have ever sincerely loved in Christ,
"From your dear husband's letter I understand that during all the winter you have been a sick and afflicted child, which I very much regret to hear. But we pray daily: Holy Father, Thy will be done. By this we transfer our will into that of the Father to deal with us as is pleasing in His blessed sight. Therefore bear your assigned affliction with a resigned heart. For all this is His fatherly will for your own good, and that you may turn with your inmost being from all transitory things and direct yourself to the eternal and living God. Be comforted in Christ Jesus, for after the winter comes the summer, and after death comes life. O sister, rejoice that you are a true daughter of your beloved Father. Soon the inheritance of His glorious promise will be due. But a little while, says the Word of the Lord, and He who is coming shall come and His reward will be with Him. May the Almighty, merciful God and Lord before whom you have bent your knees to His honor, and whom according to your weakness you have sought, grant you a strong and patient heart, a bearable pain, a joyous recovery, a gracious restoration, or a godly departure through Christ Jesus whom we daily expect with you, my beloved sister and child in Christ Jesus.
"Secondly, I understand that your conscience is troubled because you have not and do not now walk in such perfection as the Scriptures hold before us. I write the following to my faithful sister as a brotherly consolation from the true Word and eternal truth of the Lord. The Scripture, says Paul, has concluded all under sin. There is no man on earth, says Solomon, who does righteously and sinneth not. At another place: A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again. Moses says: The Lord, the merciful God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, before whom there is none without sin. O dear sister, notice, he says, none are without sin before God. And David says: Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. And we read, If they sin against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not). We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags. Christ also said, There is none good but one, that is God. The evil which I would not, that I do. In many things we all offend. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
"Since it is plain from all these Scriptures that we must all confess ourselves to be sinners, as we are in fact; and since no one under heaven has perfectly fulfilled the righteousness required of God but Christ Jesus alone; therefore none can approach God, obtain grace, and be saved, except by the perfect righteousness, atonement, and intercession of Jesus Christ, however godly, righteous, holy, and unblamable he may be. We must all acknowledge, whoever we are, that we are sinners in thought, word, and deed. Yes, if we did not have before us the righteous Christ Jesus, no prophet nor apostle could be saved.
"Therefore be of good cheer and comforted in the Lord. You can expect no greater righteousness in yourself than all the chosen of God had in them from the beginning. In and by yourself you are a poor sinner, and by the eternal righteousness banished, accursed, and condemned to eternal death. But in and through Christ you are justified and pleasing unto God, and adopted by Him in eternal grace as a daughter and child. In this all saints have comforted themselves, have trusted in Christ, have ever esteemed their own righteousness as unclean, weak, and imperfect, have with contrite hearts approached the throne of grace in the name of Christ and with firm faith prayed the Father: O Father, forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us. Matt. 6.
"It is a very precious word which Paul speaks, When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Yea, when we were yet ungodly, and thereby He manifests His love toward us. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Rom. 5:6, 10. Behold, my chosen beloved child and sister in the Lord, this I write from the very sure foundation of eternal truth.
"I pray and desire that you will betake yourself wholly both as to what is inward and what is outward unto Christ Jesus and His merits, believing and confessing that His precious blood alone is your cleansing; His righteousness your piety; His death your life; and His resurrection your justification; for He is the forgiveness of all your sins; His bloody wounds are your reconciliation; and His victorious strength is the staff and consolation of your weakness, as we have formerly according to our small gift often shown you from the Scriptures.
"Yes, dearest child and sister, seeing that you find and feel such a spirit in yourself desirous of following that which is good, and abhorring that which is evil, even though the remnant of sin is not entirely dead in you, as was also the case in all the saints who lamented from the beginning, as was said, therefore you may rest assured that you are a child of God and that you will inherit the kingdom of grace in eternal joy with all the saints. Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. I John 4:13.
"I sincerely pray that you may by faith rightly understand this basis of comfort, strengthening, and consolation of your distressed conscience and soul, and remain firm unto the end. I commend you, most beloved child and sister, to the faithful, merciful, and gracious God in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Let Him do with you and with all of us according to H is blessed will, whether in the flesh to remain a little longer with your beloved husband and children; or out of the flesh to the honor of His name and to the salvation of your soul. You go before and we follow, or we go before and you follow. Separation must sometime come.
"In the city of God, in the new Jerusalem, there we will await each other, before the throne of God and of the Lamb, sing Hallelujah, and praise His name in perfect joy. Your husband and children I commend to Him who has given them to you, and He will take care of them. The saving power of the most holy blood of Christ be with my most beloved child and sister, now and forever, Amen.
Your brother who sincerely loves you in Christ."