The Anabaptists of the Reformation era practiced rebaptism of believers who had been baptized as infants, at a time when this was a capital offense. This Hutterite baptismal instruction encourages candidates to “count the cost.” Baptism should be embraced not out of compulsion but as a free act of the will, “to the joy and delight of your soul.”
1. The church of Christ is the gathering of the believing and devout, the people of God who have given up the sinful life. We are led into this gathering by true submission. It is the spiritual ark of Noah in which we can be preserved.
2. It is no human institution but a work of God. Just as Mary conceived Christ through faith and the Holy Spirit by placing her will in God’s will and saying, “Here am I, a handmaiden of the Lord; let it be with me according to your words,” so we must also receive and accept Christ in faith. Then he will also begin and complete his work in us.
3. The church has the key and authority to loose and to bind as Christ has commanded, to exclude the evil and to accept the repentant, so that this is binding in heaven in accordance with the words of Christ (Matt. 16:19).
4. Each should first count the cost carefully as to what he has to give up. But he should not counsel with flesh and blood. For those who would enter God’s service must be prepared to be attacked and to die for the truth and for the name of Christ, if it be God’s will, by water, fire, or the sword. For now we have house and shelter, but we do not know what today or tomorrow will bring. Therefore no one should join for the sake of good days. He who is not prepared to endure evil and good with all the believers and to accept as good whatever the Lord gives and ordains should leave it alone. We will not put pressure on anyone who does not join of his own free will. We desire to persuade no one with smooth words. It is not a matter of human compulsion from without or within, for God wants voluntary service. Whoever cannot do this with joy and to the delight of his soul should therefore leave it alone and remain in his former station.
5. No one should take this step for the sake of another – the wife for her husband’s sake or the husband for his wife’s sake, or the children for the sake of their parents. That would be in vain and built on sand. It cannot endure. Instead, each one should build on the rock, Christ, purely to please God alone; for each must bear his own burden on the day of judgment.
6. Each must submit to and follow brotherly warning, admonition, and discipline and must practice the same toward others in the house of God, so that no one may become co-guilty in the sins of another.
7. Each one should yield himself up in obedience to God and his church and not be obstinate or do only what he wants to do, but allow himself to be placed wherever it is seen to be necessary for the good of the church.
8. No one any longer owns anything, for each gives and surrenders himself to the Lord and his church with all that he has and can do, as it was in the first apostolic church, in which no one said of his goods that they were his own, but they had all things in common (Acts 4:32). This we hold to be the surest way and the most perfect foundation; we are well assured of this in our hearts.
9. We say this clearly to each one now in advance so that there is no obligation to return anything to anyone later: If anyone should enter on this way and then cannot continue and should wish to have what was his returned, let him stay away now, keep what is his, and leave us in peace. Our concern is not to get money and goods, but to win God-fearing hearts.
10. Whoever has had wrong dealings that are punishable in the world – be it that he is in debt or has cheated someone – or if anyone has got himself involved in matters of marriage or is engaged to be married, he must first straighten out all these matters. For if someone should hide any of these things from us and let himself be baptized and we should afterward learn about it, we would have to exclude him as one who did not come into the church rightly, but by falsehood. Therefore let each be warned.
Hutterian baptismal instruction (ca. 1528–1600) included in Johannes Waldner’s Taufbüchlein (ca. 1800).