A Confession About Separation

Dirk Philips

From “A Confession About Separation Briefly Summarized, In How Far We Shall Shun or Avoid the Apostate”

Whether one may also show mercy to the apostate in the time of need? Here we answer first that we do not desire to withhold or hold back mercy and welfare from anyone when they behave according to the right nature of godly truth and the Holy Scripture without frivolity; and we also hate false boasting of mercy; we consider it to be idle and useless if they have not seen it out of the true nature of Scripture and God’s will. Therefore, we will briefly state our understanding of it.

We say that is imposed on us and seriously commanded in Holy Scripture that we should love the Lord our God out of our whole heart and all our power, out of all our soul and all of our ability. This love supersedes all other love and all other love must give way to this love, and this love, briefly, is found in obedience to his godly commandments which the entire Scripture reports.

Third, it is commanded us to love our neighbor in all decency as ourselves. Fourth, it is taught us in the Scripture to practice a common love to the common heathen and people. So we now advise, beg, pray, and admonish everyone that everyone seriously set as his purpose to act rightly in this earlier mentioned love; loving, honoring, fearing, thanking and obeying the Lord his God above all creatures. Furthermore, that everyone deals with his neighbor in every way, with words, works and thoughts as he would that it be done to him.

Finally, that he have a compassionate heart for the ordinary poor and miserable of this world who daily need the helping hand, and there are many before our eyes in great misery, and the poor are also still there and certainly will remain, so that no one is guiltless before the Lord.

So we think that it is very dangerous for those who complain about others that they withhold from showing mercy since they themselves act so unfaithfully in the practice of ordinary love and are found to be unmerciful. Oh, we are concerned that many brothers themselves fall short, judge and perish in their business, since they do not help those who are trustworthy. They are already very corrupted, and will watch if perchance over a year or ten an apostate corrupts himself; and they are already , yes, more needy than any apostate, and the Scripture so earnestly admonishes the brothers to help them according to all their abilities, and still they complain over others while they will withhold mercy from someone.

All such boasting of love we consider to be useless chatter, yes, more a cause of controversy than of love, more a cause of slander than of mercy. For who has seen among us at anytime an apostate in such need, suffering, poverty, and misery as are the poor of this world before our eyes who are burdened with pox, sores, wounds, and indescribable illnesses? We must first advise, teach, and pray that we may help these sick and miserable people since they need help first, and already many are present who in their misery need help and assistance.

In sum, we admonish and pray all brothers that they do not offend anyone through blasphemy and carelessness to God or his neighbor. He should act trustworthily in godly, brotherly, and ordinary love with words, works and thoughts, and show mercy according to their ability to the needy, poor, the miserable, and already ruined and sick of this world. Yes, according to this own will and good pleasure, he should act before the Lord trustworthily in all matters; and if still in addition, he deals with an apostate and his corruption, pray the Lord int eh meantime for wisdom and understanding. Then do what the almighty God gives in his heart, freely, without anyone hindering. Yes, we say once again, without anyone hindering. And thus we also desire to do through the grace of God. For herein no one can be burdened through frivolity or his own wisdom. This is in short our understanding…

Dirk Philips, from The Writing of Dirk Philips 1504-1568 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992), 614-616