Instruction on Beginning a True Christian Life

Hans Schlaffer
Hans Shlaffer resigned the priesthood in Austria in 1526 after coming under Martin Luther’s influence. Soon after this, he came into contact with Hans Hut, one of the early Anabaptist Reformers. From there, he quickly became influential among the Austrian Anabaptists, before his beheading in 1528.

Hans Schlaffer, selection from “Instruction on Beginning a True Christian Life” (1527), in Early Anabaptist Spirituality, ed. Daniel Lichety (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994)


In the first place all that is created, the creatures, which God created for the use, requirements and needs of humanity, witness to teach a Christian life blessed by God. No creature is created for its own sake. That is, no creatures lives and dies for itself alone. It lives and dies according to the will and pleasure of humans. That is why Christ commanded his apostles to preach the gospel of all creatures. This he did himself in such parables as the trees, the vineyard, the fields, the seeds, branches, bread, fish, hidden treasure, oil, lamps, clothing and many other things. He never preached without suing parables.

His disciples undoubtedly did this also. As Paul said, he has become a servant of this gospel. The others did as well. Here is an example. A hen or fish or other animal, if you want to eat it, cannot by its own pleasure and will be prepared, that is, slaughtered, skinned, feathered, made presentable, threaded or cooked. You must do this. It must suffer according to your will. You must clean it according to your will. The animal does nothing but stay still and endure your will and work. And so what for the animal is to the highest degree contemptible (that is, when you chew and swallow it) is for you the best thing. This is how you must consider and learn from other creatures as well. Think how wine and bread must suffer before you can eat it or use it. When we use the creatures and such for no higher purpose than to fil the belly and to nourish our stinking bodies, we are no better than Turks or heathen. Indeed, we are like the dumb animals themselves, as David said it. Here is another parable about a field. So long as it is overgrown with grass, thistles and thorns, no seeds are sown in it, as the prophet said.

Now look how much work the field must suffer before it is ready for seeding. Likewise, a wild tree brings forth wild fruit. For it to bring forth good fruit, it must be husbanded and cut down to a stump. After that a good branch can be planted. Likewise, nobody farms in a field which is not his. Nobody plants a tree in a garden he does not own, as the prophet said. Now we are according to our nature (that is, as soon as we come to know the difference between good and evil) a bad tree and are unable to make ourselves good, just as a field cannot farm itself or a tree cannot husband itself. A farmer or gardener must do that. So God alone must make us spiritual, righteous, and worthy for his praise. We must endure this and be still before him…and suffer his work and discipline.