Menno, Simon

, surnamed Simon, or Simonson, was the founder of a sect called from him Mennonites. He was born at Witmarsum, in Friesland, in 1505. He was at first a Romish priest, and a notorious profligate, and resigned his rank and office in the Romish church, and publicly embraced the communion of the anabaptists. He died in 1561, in the duchy of Holstein, at the country-seat of a certain nobleman, not far from the city of Oldesloe, who, moved with compassion by a view of the perils to which Menno was exposed, and the snares that were daily laid for his ruin, took him, with certain of his associates, into his protection, and gave him an asylum. He began to propagate his opinions in 1636, and had many followers, whose history may be found in Mosheim. They split afterwards into parties, but the opinions that are held in common by the Mennonites, seem to be all derived from this fundamental principle, that the kingdom which Christ established upon earth is a visible church or community, into which the holy and just alone are to be admitted, and which is consequently exempt from all those institutions and rules of discipline, that have been invented by human wisdom, for the correction and reformation of the wicked. This principle, indeed, was avowed by the ancient Mennonites, but it is now almost wholly renounced; nevertheless, from this ancient doctrine, many of the religious opinions, that distinguish the Mennonites from all other Christian communities, seem to be derived: in consequence of this doctrine, they admit none to the sacrament of baptism, but persons that are come to the full use of their reason; they neither admit civil rulers into their communion, nor allow | any other members to perform the functions of magistracy; they deny the lawfulness of repelling force by force, and consider war, in all its shapes, as unchristian and unjust: they entertain the utmost aversion to the execution of justice, and more especially to capital punishments; and they also refuse to confirm their testimony by an oath. Menno’s writings, in Dutch, were published in 1651, folio. 1


Mosheim. Brandt’s History of the Reformation.