Matthijs Servaes von Ottenheim (1536-1565)

1 Andernach 1

Matthijs Servaes entered the historic city of Andernach along the Rhein on the night of his baptism in a secret Anabaptist meeting.

From Matthijs’s first letter to the Church:

My dear brethren, be careful, and diligently dig through the vineyard of the Lord, with the plow or the hoe which breaks in pieces the hard stones, which is the word of God. (Jer. 23:29); so that the nettles and thorns may not oppress, destroy or choke the good seed that has been sown.

Take also the sharp, two‑edged sword (Eph. 6:17) , and cut off clean the unfruitful, evil and dry branches, that the others may be more healthy and vigorous to bring forth fruit. Inspect also carefully the wall of the vineyard; if it begins to give way anywhere, prop up that part; if there are any openings in it, go to work and close them; and if it has. fallen down in any place, build it up again speedily, that the little foxes may not run into the Lord’s vineyard, and dig up and spoil it. Cant. 2:15. And what more shall I say? Faithfully feed the flock of Christ, and watch with all carefulness over the souls of men. I Pet. 5:2. Take heed also, that you administer needed reproof, and act and judge without respect of persons, and remember that judgment is God’s and not yours. Deut. 1:17.

Weigh, therefore, every matter in the balance of the divine Word: so that when you reprove, judge, or forgive anything, it may be truly reproved, judged or forgiven also before the judgment of God, and thus your reproof agree with God’s reproof, your judgment with God’s judgment, and your forgiveness with God’s forgiveness. Take heed also, that you do not carry avoidance too far, lest it prove a stumbling‑block to you. For avoidance is good indeed if it is not abused; however its purpose is solely to avoid offenses (to which end it is instituted);’ hence we must take heed that we do not, while seeking to avoid little offenses by it, cause greater ones. Matt. 18:15‑17; 1 Cor. 5:11; II Thess. 3:14. Bestow great attention upon the first commandment with promise, namely: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” Eph. 6:1. This is an express word; hence be careful herein. Show a friendly face to all apostates, and admonish them with all kindness to that which they have surrendered and forsaken, and from which they have fallen: I mean such as receive admonition; for blasphemers and mockers are to be left alone. II Thess. 3:15;, Tit. 3:10.

Dear brethren, I do not write you this as something new, but to remind you of the old; for I should like.to see carefulness exercised, and that one Scripture should not be observed so strictly and rigidly as thereby .to violate another. For sometimes some resort to avoidance all on a sudden, without the least discretion, and pity for the fallen. Hence I advise carefulness. For if we are to have the mind of our Lord Jesus; yea, are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, then let us from the heart consider His longsuffering, and how He has borne with us, and let us also show ourselves thus toward our fellow servant, that we may give offense to no one, neither to the world, nor to the church of God. Phil. 2:3, 5; Matt. 5.:48; Col. 3:12; Matt. 18:29; I Cor. 10:32. And be also not slothful in seeking men’s souls; wherever you have some hope, there go. Say not: “It will be labor lost.” Put your hand to the plow first, in the fear of the Lord, and ask Him to give the blessing; but you do the planting and watering. Pray the Lord to give the increase. And if then your endeavors are unsuccessful, you are free. For I have often felt accused, that we have not much more sought men’s souls, to the praise of the Lord.

O brother, beware of contentious tongues. Wherever you go, there make peace, if it can be done by the grace of God. O my dear brother, how greatly I am grieved on account of what was done in.the upper country. Not, that you should think that I am doubtful; Oh, no, my brother; for I am still of the same mind as indicated in the letter which I wrote to them; but I am fearful simply of the discord, by which many who would like to see it remedied, and are innocent, might perish. I do not know what account can be given for this before God. Oh, that those who are found guilty in this matter might fall down, with weeping before God, and repent of their sins! I am also concerned about the’ lower country, and should like to see them helped, and put under good order, for I find them still wanting in many things; yet I sincerely love them, but I should like to see them yet put off much of their pride, and that they would consider what kind of people they ought to be, and to what they are called, so as to govern themselves accordingly, and that. the. elders do not stay at home when meeting is held. I do not say that it can be remedied right away.

Do you also heartily receive it? O my dear brethren, be little and low, in your own eyes, and be not self‑complacent, so as to think: I have done this, and the like. It is nothing; the Lord, and He alone, does all things, and this by man. Hence, give Him alone the praise. And let no one esteem himself better than others; yea, let each esteem other better than themselves. And let all submit one to another, and in lowliness of mind let each serve the other. Phil. 2:3; Eph. 5:21. .And I desire of all brethren and sisters, that they beware of all,those who leave the church. And if you can tell L: to advise with himself in the time of grace; for how shall he be able to give an account in the day of judgment? For his own conscience, if he properly considers the matter, will accuse him. O L., O L., come back; for you are not in the best way. O my brethren, how much I had to suffer on account of the many factions! Hence beware of divisions. Seek peace, if you can, and ensue it. I Pet. 3:11.

To read all ten letters of Matthijs Servaes, click here.