A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Mennonites
MENNONITES, a society of baptists in Holland: so called from Menno Simonis of Frlesland, who lived in the sixteenth century. He was originally a Romish priest, but joined a party of the Anabaptists, and becoming their leader, reduced the system to consistency and moderation. The Mennonites maintain that practical piety is the essence of religion, and that the surest mark of the true church is the sanctity of its members. They plead for universal toleration in religion; and debar none from their assemblies who lead pious lives, and own the scriptures for the word of God. They teach that infants are not the proper subjects of baptism; and that the ministers of the gospel ought not to receive salaries. They object to the terms person and trinity, as not consistent with the simplicity of the gospel. They deny the lawfulness of repelling force by force, and consider war in all its shapes as unchristian and unjust; they also teach that it is unlawful to take an oath on any occasion; and are extremely averse to the infliction of capital punishments.
In their private meetings every one has the liberty to speak, to expound the scriptures, and to pray. They assemble (or used to do so) twice every year from all parts of Holland, at Rynsbourg, a village two leagues from Leyden, at which time they receive the communion, sitting at a table in the manner of the independents; but in their form of discipline they are said more to resemble the presbyterians.
The ancient Mennonites professed a contempt of erudition and science; and excluded all from their communion, who deviated in the least from the most rigorous rules of simplicity and gravity; but this primitive austerity is greatly diminished in their most considerable societies. Those, who adhere to their ancient discipline, are called Flemings, or Flandrians. The whole sect were formerly called Waterlandians, from the district in which they lived.
The Mennonites in Pennsylvania do not baptize by Immersion, though they administer the ordinance to none but adult persons. Their common method is this: The person to be baptized kneeling, the minister holds his hands over him, into which the deacon pours water, and through which it runs on the head of the baptized; after which, follow imposition of hands and prayer.
- Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. vol. iv. p. 151—162. Dict. Arts and Sciences, vol. iii. p. 2,037. Edwards' Hist. of the Amer. Baptists, vol. i. p. 94