The Secret of the Strength

What Would the Anabaptists Tell This Generation?

by Peter Hoover

Image - The Anabaptist corner preacher

"We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard, said the apostles marching directly into persecution. They had discovered the secret of Jesus' strength. We may discover it too, thanks to the clues left behind by those who loved not their lives even unto death. In this book you may find many clues."

The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you," Christ told his followers-and a few fishermen, a tax collector, and a motley crowd of Jerusalem "believers" set out to change the world.

They succeeded.

In sixteenth century Europe, the Anabaptists preaching in cities by night, on back streets, and in wood corners behind rail fences began to do the same. What was their secret? In this book you may study what they accomplished as long as they remembered it and what they lost when they forgot it.

Was their secret a return to the Bible? No, they were far more than biblicists. Was it a return to the apostolic way? No, they were far more than keepers of tradition. Fundamentalism and traditionalism have never held Christianity together nor made it work.

The "secret of the kingdom of God" is stunningly simple. With two words Christ revealed it to his friends, who-upon comprehending it-came to a sudden knowledge of the will of God, of the whole Bible, and of the right way to live.

The purpose of this book is to help many more to comprehend the same.

Conrad Grebel, Menno Simons, Peter Rideman--what did these Anabaptists really say about conversion, separation from the world, the visible church, the meaning and mode of baptism, the frequency of communion, divorce and remarriage, community of goods, and many other issues? With its nearly four hundred quotes from sixteenth century writings (many of them original translations), and dozens of character sketches, this 300 page book is a serious attempt to answer the question of its subtitle: "What would the Anabaptists tell this generation?"

"I highly recommend Peter Hoover's book, The Secret of the Strength. The teachings and sufferings of the early Anabaptists are thoroughly documented. The author vividly describes both our strengths and weakness in the four hundred seventy-three years of our history."

Myron Dietz, Old Order River Brethren historian

"The strength of this work is its evocative use of language to set a scene, its mixture of stories---Anabaptist and personal---with Anabaptist texts, and the gently passionate tone of its message. The book makes Anabaptist sources broadly available to the casual reader, and it places their story into the broader, deeper framework of commitment to Christ."

John D. Roth, editor, Mennonite Quarterly Review

New! Visit Rocky Cape's Bookshelf page for the new 2008 edition of The Secret of the Strength as well as a new book The Mystery of the Mark (both written by Peter Hoover).

New! Both books are now available in printed form from Scroll Publishing:
 The Secret of the Strength
 The Mystery of the Mark

"The Secret of the Strength" has been translated and edited for a German readership. If you have friends who only read German please inform them that the book is available in their language. In German the book has the title "Feuertaufe für die Freiheit". It can be ordered via the Internet: Down to Earth

"The Secret of the Strength" has been translated for a Spanish readership and a free PDF is available online here.

Please note: If you click on a footnote your browser should take you to that footnote. You will need to click on the "Back" button of your browser to return to your previous place in the text.

This web site is also available for download as a PDF file (size: 724 KB) by clicking here: Sos.pdf

There are two other books by Peter Hoover on the books page.


Introduction i
1. A Man Hanging from His Thumb 1
2. What Was the Secret of the Strength? 4
3. The Woman Who Had a Baby in Jail 9
4. From Where Did the Anabaptists Come? 13
5. Literarily . . . An Explosion! 20
6. On to Christ 25
7. On to Conviction 25
8. On to the Teachings of Christ 65
9. On to the Word 72
10. On to a New Life 86
11. On to Baptism 94
12. On to Commitment 118
13. On to Communion 131
14. On to Community 147
15. On to Visibility 171
16. On with the Message 184
17. On to Witness 191
18. On to Peace 203
19. On to an Ethical Way of Life 213
20. On to Modesty 222
21. On to Christian Families 228
22. On to Christian Service 237
23. In Spite of Terrible Mistakes 242
24. A Bull in the China Shop 255
25. Zu de Gmeysleid 269
26. To the Outsiders 273
27. The Last Chapter 282
How to find the Anabaptists' writings 295
Index 297

Cover illustration: The Anabaptist Winkelprediger (corner preacher) tells his audience about the death and resurrection of Christ. Finding its way into Martin Luther's 1534 Bible as a title page for the prophet Hosea, the original woodcut is of very early but uncertain origin. Luther apparently did not like it, and in the next edition of his Bible he had it removed.

This book is not copyrighted and no publisher shall do so. No rights are reserved. All parts of it may be reproduced in any form or by any means for the cause of Christ. But before reprinting it, please contact the present publisher if possible. The need for corrections or revisions to the text may have become apparent.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless included as part of translated quotes from German text. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Additional notes by the publisher of this web site:
1) I have left the page numbers intact in the above table of contents so that you can make some use of the present index.
2) All of the HTML pages for this book are available for download in this zip file (size: 293 KB):
3) There is a PDF version of this book available here (size: 724 KB): Sos.pdf
4) This book is especially of interest to those of Anabaptist background, but others will find the "picture" of the Anabaptists that is given (primarily through their own writings) valuable. Everyone should at least read Chapter 26 which has the account of Indians in the Ohio valley.

My hope is that the publication of this book on the Internet (since summer 1998) will encourage you to follow Christ in all you do. Please let me know what you think of this book and if it has been helpful. Other comments or suggestions are also welcomed. Thank you!

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