Probier-Stein, oder Schrifftmässige und auss dem wahren innerlichen Christenthumb Hargenommene Gewissenhaffte Prüffung dess Täufferthums In der Forcht des Herrn Herrn zu Allegemeiner Erbauung Abgefasset (Bern, 1696) is a small octavo volume of 610 numbered pages, besides 82 pages of introductory material including a short history of Anabaptism, written by a Reformed minister, Gorg Thormann (1655-1708), at that time serving as pastor at Lützelflüh in the Swiss canton of Bern. It was prepared at the request of both the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of Bern and printed by the government printery. The author states his purpose to be to give the common people a book that will strengthen them against the "strongly growing" Anabaptism, and indicates that he intends to do this in a good way, different from the usual polemics. He even states that he will not use the term "Widertäuffer," because "it is so hated by them," but will use "Täufer" instead.
Thormann actually presents a very fair picture of the Bernese Anabaptists, making no effort to show them in a bad light. He says repeatedly that his readers are well informed concerning the doctrine of these people and their commendable life and conduct. He writes, "Among our country people the opinion prevails in general that whoever sees an Anabaptist sees a saint, a person who is dead to the world, having experienced true conversion, and that there are no more earnest and consecrated people than they." And again, "If among all Christian communions there is one which seems to be upright and give assurance of personal salvation to the soul, it is certainly that of the Anabaptists. And this is true to such an extent that their religion appears to very many of our country people as by far the surest way of salvation." And again, "Their regard for them is such that many look upon them as saints, as the salt of the earth and the very kernel of Christendom. Their opinion concerning them is so favorable that many believe a good Christian and an Anabaptist to be one and the same thing." The latter part of the book contains earnest challenges to follow the good example of the Anabaptists. Thormann's book gives abundant light on the question why the Bernese in spite of tremendous effort found it impossible to exterminate them. It was because the general population in the area where the Anabaptists lived sympathized with them and gave them assistance and help in every possible way.
The book is divided into four parts described by the author as follows: (1) "an account of the apparent reasons why the country people have such a great regard for the Anabaptists"; (2) "a discussion of the points of difference: infant baptism, preacher's office, ban, oath, war, etc., and which shows that it is quite unnecessary to be an Anabaptist to be saved"; (3) "proof that it is rather highly dangerous to one's salvation to be an Anabaptist"; (4) "conclusion, directions showing how a true Christian among us should live and serve the Lord to all pleasing, and should fulfill all righteousness in spirit and in truth."
This is one of the most remarkable books ever written by an enemy of the Anabaptist-Mennonites, and is very valuable for a knowledge of these people in the Emmenthal in the canton of Bern in the late 17th century. The above description is taken in part from John Horsch's account of the book in his Mennonites in Europe (Scottdale, 1942), pp. 398-40. The Goshen College Library copy of the Probier-Stein was once the possession of Adolf Fluri of Bern.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 220-221. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Bender, Harold S. "Probier-Stein." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/probier_stein.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. (1959). Probier-Stein. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/probier_stein.