On the eleventh of February, A. D. 1538, another pious and faithful brother, named Walter of Stoelwijk, at Vilvoorden, in Brabant, fell into the hands of the ravening wolves (Matt. 7:15), and had to suffer much for the truth, from these envious papists. But he, as a wise builder, had founded his house upon the firm and immovable rock, Christ Jesus; and therefore remained steadfast in all these great trials, though he had to suffer cruel imprisonment for three years, and much severe and tyrannous examining and torturing from these bloodthirsty men. Finally, on the 24th of March, in the year 1541, he was sentenced and burned at said place. Thus he remained faithful to his Lord and Creator unto death, and steadfastly confirmed with his death and blood the genuine faith of the truth, and his unwavering, living hope. He shall therefore, as an obedient sheep, also hear the voice of the great Shepherd of the sheep saying to him, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." John 10:3; Hell. 13:20; Matt. 25:34.
Grace, peace, and mercy from God our heavenly Father, and from Jesus. Christ our Lord and Saviour, be with all those who live godly in Christ Jesus, and therefore suffer persecution, to the glory and praise of the true God, to the trial of their faith, and the eternal salvation of their souls. Amen. Rom. 1:7; I Cor, 1:3; II Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; II Tim. 3:12,
Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His unfathomable grace and mercy hath called us out of darkness unto His marvelous light, and still daily lets His face shine upon us, that we may know His way on the earth, and His salvation among the Gentiles.- Yea, blessed, praised, and glorified be God our most blessed Lord and most merciful Father, who, through His unspeakable goodness, and not through the merits of our works, has chosen us, through Jesus Christ, to be His children, that we should be heirs of His eternal kingdom, and inherit all things as true children and heirs of God; children of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we do the will of God our heavenly. Father, that we may be glorified with Him, and enter into His glory. Tit. 3:5; II Tim. 1:9; Eph. 2:6; Rom. 8:17. For it is true what Christ says, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 7:21. Now it is the will of our heavenly Father, that we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus Christ.
In the first place, we must deny ourselves; that is, we must forsake our own will, and surrender ourselves wholly to Jesus Christ, so that according to the words of the apostle, we live no more unto ourselves, but unto Jesus Christ, who died for us, that He may be Lord both of the dead and living, and that no one shall live unto himself, but unto Him who died for him, and rose again. O to deny themselves, and desire only to do the will of God; yea, how many do not yet know which is the true will of God, but hold to the doctrine and commandments of the Roman pope, and antichrist, and are in such a condition, that they do not know Jesus Christ. To these, the Almighty God, according to the pleasure of His will. must open the eyes of their understanding, with the radiance of His grace, that they may emerge from this blindness into the true light, and know with all the saints, what is the delusion and sorcery of the Babylonian whore (Rev. 18:2), and that the teachings and commandments of Christ Jesus alone are to be kept, yea, that we must follow and preserve only the teachings and commandments of Christ Jesus, and that we may in no wise live according to our own will, but are to consider that Christ Jesus Himself did not His own will, but the will of His Father, who sent Him; which was done and written for our admonition and instruction, that we should not fulfill our own will, which, because of the innate wickedness of our cursed nature, is prone to evil; but the acceptable and perfect will of God, so that we may pray aright, as Christ has taught us, saying: Heavenly Father, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matt. 6:9, 10. How many there are who do not say this with a good heart, but with false lips, even as Judas said to Christ, "Hail, Master" (Matt. 26:49; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:47) , at the same time betraying Him; so they say with the mouth, that God's will is to be done; while at the same time all their thoughts and works are contrary to the will of God. These are those real false Christians who say to Christ Jesus, "Lord, Lord," and yet do not what He has commanded them. These are the true Pharisees, the hypocritical saints, who honor God with their lips, while their heart is far from Him. These are the true unbelievers of whom St. Paul says that with their words they profess to know God, but in works deny Him, so that they are abominable to the Lord, because they are disobedient to Him, and reprobate unto every good work. Yea, these are the true hypocrites,' the disciples of deceitful Satan, who have learned from their master, to disguise their inward craftiness, and outwardly to adorn themselves with a beautiful appearance. Such hypocrites the Lord will forever curse and cast out, and say to them, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity; I know you not." Matt. 7:23; Ps. 6:8. But He will bless the pious Christians and bless and glorify the good and true disciples of Jesus Christ, who deny themselves, and have surrendered themselves unto the will of God, which is the true beginning of the Christian life, and without which life can not be begun.
In the second place, we must take up our cross, namely prepare ourselves for suffering, according to the teaching of Jesus Sirach, who says, "My son; if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble. Cleave unto him, and depart not away, that thou mayest be increased at thy last end. Whatsoever is brought upon thee, take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate. For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity." Sir. 2:1-5; Wisd. 3:6. With this accords also what Paul says, "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." II Tim. 3:12. Yea Christ Himself says to His apostles, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." Mark 13:13. From all these words it must incontrovertibly follow, that all servants of God; all godly men, all disciples of Jesus Christ, must suffer persecution for His name's sake; and be tried through manifold temptations.
Therefore it is an awful blindness, that men boast of the Gospel and Christianity, and know what belongs to a Christian life, but, alas! they have the least thought of suffering anything for the name of Christ Jesus; yea, though they know and confess that all the works which take place in papal desolation are evil, and nothing but blasphemy against God, yet have they fellowship therewith, and commit the most shameful idolatry, in order that they may avoid and escape the cross, in which cross all pious Christians may glory (Gal. 6:14)-and still they want to be considered good Christians. O what wicked servants ! O what wicked disciples! Wicked servants we say, because they would be above their Lord Jesus Christ;
wicked disciples we say, since they reject and condemn the doctrine of their Master Jesus Christ. O people, people, mockers of the living God! who think to deceive God with your dissimulation, and to pay Him with words, unmindful of the words of Paul; namely: that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power I I Cor. 4:20. O people, true hypocrites! who fancy that they serve Christ, but how far are they from glorying with Paul, the pious and faithful minister of Christ, only in the cross of Christl Gal. 6:14. O miserable people, who would rather now live for ,a little season in peace and voluptuousness with the Babylonian whore, and afterwards be tormented with her in everlasting pain, than suffer with Christ Jesus for a little while, and thus enter into eternal glory!
Ah! the true saints and servants of God did differently; they would rather suffer death, than transgress the commandment of God. Pious Joseph would rather go to prison; yea, into death, than offend the Lord his God, and commit adultery with the adulterous woman. Gen. 39:8. Moses, the ardent and jealous lover of God, through his faith, chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to live in carnal and worldly lusts with the Egyptians; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. Ex. 2:11; Heb. 11:25. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego feared God the Lord more than all the torments of the tyrannous king, and would rather die a temporal death, and adhere to their God, than deny Him. Dan. 3:16. Daniel who was rich in spirit and strong in faith, did not shrink from the den of lions, in which he would rather be cast, than worship any strange God. Dan. 6. The pious Tobit would rather transgress, the commandment of the king at the peril of his lie, than to forsake God his Lord; wherefore he also commanded his son, to fear God all his life, and never to let his will be set to sin, or to transgress the commandments of God his Lord. Tobit 1:18; 4:5. Eleazar, the pious Israelite would rather die for the law of God, than act contrary to it; yea, than to dissimulate once, and thus cause offense in Israel. The mother and her'seven sons were so ardent in the love of God, that they were not afraid of all the tyranny of the wicked king, nor would they act contrary to the law of God, but much rather suffer a severe death for it. II Macc. 7. Yea, how many saints and witnesses of Jesus Christ are still hated, persecuted and slain by the Babylonian whore, because they will not drink of the wine of her fornication, or have fellowship with her idolatrous works.
Therefore all hypocritical saints, all wicked hypocrites, who boast of being called Christians, yet will not suffer for the name of Christ, may well be ashamed. Christ may justly say to them: If I be your Lord, why do you not keep My commandments? if I be your Master, why do you not hear and believe My words? Mal. 1:6; Luke 6:46. Wellthen, let all hypocrites, and falsely prudent, unfaithful servants, and falsely wise disciples of Jesus Christ, depart from their Lord and Master, we nevertheless, through the grace of God, intend to adhere to Christ, and are ready to suffer for His sake, even as He suffered for our sakes. But He suffered as Lord, and we as disciples; hence we servants and disciples must not bear the cross reluctantly seeing our Lord and Master Himself bore it.
In the third place, we must follow Jesus, but not as did many Jews, who followed Him, because they had eaten of the loaves; which, alas! many false Christians still do, who join the Christian church, not because they truly seek Christ Jesus, not because they love the truth, but that they may be aided and fed by the Christian church (whom they perceive to be the most charitable). But to follow Christ in this manner is nothing but a mockery of God, and Christ will not have such followers, as we may clearly understand from the case of the scribe whom Christ condemned, because he wanted to follow Him from covetousness; for the Lord beheld the heart o£ the scribe, and therefore did not answer him according to his words, but according to his thoughts, saying, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58. Just as if Jesus had intended to say: If you will follow me, follow me in the manner in which I go before you. For Christ well knew his intention, namely, that he wanted to follow Him for gain, and thought that Christ should give him power to perform wonderful signs and miracles, as He had given to His apostles, by which he might have sought gain. But such designs are not good, and cannot succeed; for the Lord Himself was poor (Zech. 9:9), as He declares: If I the Lord and Master am poor, it is evident that My servants are poor, and that My disciples do not seek or desire riches. As though the good Lord had meant to say: He that would follow Me, must follow Me in the poverty in which I walk before Him. But, alas! many people at the present day think that gain is godliness, as Paul says (I Tim. 6:5), and, under the semblance of the Gospel and the Christian name, seek their own profit. O what perverted men! who will not go in the right way, but follow the way of the traitor and thief Judas, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; when he received the awful punishment of his wickedness, as everyone know. Matt. 27:6; Mark 14:18; John 12:4. O what blinded men, who can not take to heart that Ananias and Sapphira were put to such great shame, and punished, for their equivocation, by which the Almighty Lord God has undoubtedly given us an example, that all hypocritical and double-minded men shall be thus put to shame and punished; as we find in Jesus Sirach
Woe unto those that are of a double heart, to those of wicked lips that enter the land by two ways. Therefore the wise man also teaches us, that our
hearts should be without any deceit and, dissimulation, saying, "Be not obstinate, and distrust not the fear of the Lord . . . and come not unto him with a double heart. Be not a hypocrite in-.the sight of men, and take ,good heed what thou speakest. Exalt not thyself, lest thou fall,and bring dishonor upon thy soul, and so God discover thy secrets, and cast thee down, in the midst of the congregation, because thou camest not in truth to the fear of the Lord, but thy heart is, full of deceit."; Sir. 1:28-30.
O that all hypocrites would earnestly consider the words of Jesus. Sirach, and reform, before they be confounded and punished by God, which shall be done to all the double-minded, if not now, yet in the day of judgment, when the .ungodly shall not stand, nor sinners remain in the congregation of the righteous. Ps. 1:5. Then.,Christ_ will bring to light what is now in darkness, and make manifest the counsels o£ the hearts; yea, He will take the fan into His hand, and purge His floor, and, gather the wheat into the garner, but the chaff will He burn up with unquenchable fire. Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17. Hence, let everyone beware of hypocrisy; and let him truly follow Christ Jesus, as is proper, not with the Jews, for the sake of the loaves, nor with the scribe, from covetousness. But, O ye Christians, follow Christ, your Lord and Master with a pure heart, a clean conscience, unfeigned faith, and ardent love, without turning to the right or to. the left. But those who follow Christ Jesus. differently, are among good Christians what chaff is among the wheat, and their end will be everlasting fire, from which the Almighty Father preserve us through Jesus Christ.,
Moreover, we must, from ardent love, follow Jesus Christ even unto the end, and not do as did some of His disciples, who forsook Him, and became offended at His words, saying, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" John 6:60. O how many are unwilling to hear the divine words of our Lord Jesus Christ, yea, rave, when told that Christ Jesus promises tribulation and suffering. -to all His servants and disciples. ,From a stony, heart and an embittered mind they say: Must one always suffer? Must one always. be ,persecuted? This is a hard .saying; who can hear it? O God, how is the sweet honey changed into gall, and the clear wine into bitter water,! Alas!how have they come to loathe that precious, heavenly bread, and how has the eternal medicine, by which every soul must be healed, become a deadly poison to them!And how do men who will not believe the Word of God, nor receive the holy doctrine, of our Lord Jesus Christ, condemn the comforting Gospel, which has been sent us from heaven through the Holy Ghost, and sealed by Christ with His own precious blood; but if a lying prophet comes, a messenger prophesying of temporal peace and happiness, though it never comes to pass, he is heard, while the good Lord Jesus Christ, who has promised us the eternal peace of His heavenly kingdom, can not ,obtain ahearing; so that it is as Christ said to the Pharisees, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." John 5:43. Yea, many now do as did the rebellious and unbelieving Israelites, who forsook God the Lord, who had delivered them out of Egypt, and desired other gods for leaders and protectors. Num. 14:2; Ex. 32:1; Acts 7:39. Thus also now many Christians forsake Jesus, who has freed them from the power and tyranny of Satan, and. delivered them from the jaws of, the lions, who devoured them; yea, had hastened with them in the way to eternal damnation, utterly to destroy them.-Then Christ delivered them, and placed them again in the way of eternal salvation. John 1:29. Many now forsake the good Shepherd, who spared not. His life for our sakes, but delivered.it unto death, because of the great love which He had to us; and trust in men, of whom the prophet says that their assistance availeth not, and they cannot help; for their breath must go forth and return to the earth, and the thoughts of all them that put their trust in men and follow false prophets, who delight in unrighteousness shall perish. Hence all pious Christians must follow no other than Christ Jesus, who, as Peter says, suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps. I Peter 2:21. The same is declared also by Paul, with these words, "Let us lay aside all guile and hypocrisy, and the besetting sin, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him; endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, " Heb. 12:1, 2; Mark 16:19. In these words of the apostles we may perceive, that we are to follow Jesus Christ, and look to Him as the Captain of the faith, the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, yea, the good Lord and Master, who has given an example to all His servants and disciples, that they must suffer even as He suffered. Heb. 2:10; John 10:11; I Peter 2:25: But, O God, how much Christ had to suffer! He who was Lord of heaven and earth became so poor for our sakes, that He had not where to rest, or lay His head
when He was in the. form of God, He humbled Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6, 7; John 13:5), that He might serve us, and gave His life for our redemption; yea, though He was the eternal wisdom of the Father, who upholds all things by the word of His power, He had nevertheless to hear. the Pharisees call Him a flatterer and deceiver of the people, a sinner, yea, a demoniac and madman, and many other abominable blasphemies, reproaches and mockeries; in short, though He was the only begotten Son of God, the Almighty Father, yet He was counted a malefactor, and had to die the most bitter death, so that Isaiah could well say of Him, "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is
despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our grief s, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." Isa. 53:2-5. Hence He could justly say, "I restored that which I took not away. For, for my friends' sake I have suffered pain; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. All they that see me, laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd.; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." Ps. 69:4, 7, 8, 20, 21; 22:7, 13-18; Matthew 27:34; Matt. 15:23; John 19:23. Yea, as He says through the prophet, "I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." Ps. 22:6. Yea, my beloved brethren, God the heavenly Father laid the chastisement of our peace upon Him; for by His stripes we are healed. All we went astray, as sheep that have no shepherd; we have turned everyone to his own way; but the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all."He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." I Peter 2:24, 25; Isaiah 53:5-7; Acts 8:32.
Are you pious Christians? Then consider what Christ Jesus suffered for us poor sinners; the Lord for His servants, the Master for His disciples, the Shepherd for H'is sheep, yea, God for men. I Peter 4:1; John 10:11; Ezek. 34:23. O deep humility of the Master, that He would serve His disciples, and give Himself unto death for theml John 13:5. O great grace of the Lord, that He would suffer so much for His servants! O infinite righteousness of the Shepherd, who would give His life for His sheep I John 10:11; 17:9. O unspeakable love of God to us poor mortals, that He would redeem us by His own precious blood: This every Christian should at all times remember, and feel grateful to Jesus Christ for these benefits, not only with words but also with works. But alas! some have gone so far, that they can indeed talk of Christ, that He suffered and atoned for us, and are desirous alsoof partaking of the redemption purchased for us with the blood of Christ; but they never once think of suffering with Christ Jesus, though they nevertheless hope to be .glorified with Him. But it is a faithful saying, says Paul, that if we are dead with Christ, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer with Him, we shall also rejoice with Him. forever; if we deny Him, He also will deny us. II Tim. 2:11, 12; Rom. 6:23; Luke 12:9. Let all apostate Christians, who return to the Roman Babylon, from which they had separated, and make friendship with the whore whom they had hated bear this in mind. What shall we say to such unstable persons? How can men who once knew the truth be so blinded as to depart from Christ Jesus their only Saviour, and return to the infamous accursed whore of Babylon, the mother of all unrighteousness, and queen of all the children of unbelief and cursing, who has become their comfort and protection, yea, their idol. Woe unto such perverse men, who depart from righteousness, from light to darkness, from life to death, and go from Jesus Christ to antichrist, seeking consolation from Satan, and not in God. Woe unto such fearful ones, who fear those who can kill only the body, more than God, the Almighty Lord, who can cast both body and soul into eternal damnation. Revelation 21:8; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:4, 5. Woe unto such, that they were ever born unless they remarkably amend their ways and go out of Babylon; for the Scripture says not in vain, "Go ye out of the midst of Babylon, my people, and touch not the unclean thing, that ye be not partakers of her plagues, or sins." Isa. 52:11; II Cor. 6:17; Revelation 18:4. These are the clear words of the Lord; Who can blot them out? Who can endure the stings of a guilty conscience? let him begin as he may, he will find it a hard undertaking, and shall not be successful in it. Acts 9:5; 5:5.
Here also no excuse will avail, as is clearly shown in the parable of the wicked servant, who, out of fear, had buried his Lord's pound into the earth, but was not heard when he wanted to excuse himself to his lord. Matt. 25:26; Luke 19:22. By this wicked servant we understand all the fearful, who are not fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and relish and seek all earthly things more than heavenly things. They may excuse themselves as ever they will, their excuse shall not avail, but eternal damnation will be their recompense; for every tree which does not bring forth good fruit, shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire. There must be fruits; leaves alone will not avail. Matt. 21:19. Christ is our example; He practiced and taught. He taught His disciples to suffer and endure, for He Himself suffered and endured; hence Paul teaches us to look unto Christ Jesus, saying, "Consider him (Christ Jesus), ye Christians, that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself; lest ye be wearied, and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which
speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Heb. 12:3-10; Prov. 3:11; Rev. 3:19.
By these words the apostle indicates to us, how necessary and profitable chastisement is for us, yea, so necessary and profitable that we can not be children of God unless we are chastened by our God and heavenly Father, as is clearly declared in these words, "For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons." With this accord the words of Judith, namely: that Abraham was tried by many tribulations, and became the friend of God; so also Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all that pleased God were found faithful through many tribulations. Judith 8:26. But those who did not receive their trial in the fear of the Lord, and showed their impatience and the evil of their murmurings against the Lord, were destroyed by the destroyer, and killed by the serpents. I Cor. 10:6; N um. 21:6. Therefore, as gladly as we have God for our Father, so readily must we receive the chastisement of our heavenly Father; and as unwillingly as we would be counted bastards by God, so unwillingly must we also be to be without chastisement and correction, and so willing must we also be to be tried by tribulation. In short, as much as we love God and the salvation of our souls, and as much as we fear the punishment of God, so cheerfully must we receive all sufferings imposed upon us by God,- and remember that Christ says, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, cannot be my disciple." Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:54; Luke 9:23. Also: Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever loses his life in this world, for the Gospel's sake, shall save it forever. Where now are the false Christians, who do not lose their life for Christ's sake, and still think to keep it in eternity? Yea, so Saul thought that he could please the Israelites, and still remain the friend of God; but God rejected him for his double-mindedness. I Sam. 15:26. Thus they may also think to save their temporal life, and still obtain eternal life; but they shall find themselves disappointed in their hope. O Lord God, how can men be so blinded as to so love this transient life, seeing they know neither the day nor hour when they must die; even as the apostle James says that this life is but a vapor, which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. Jesus Sirach also says that our life, compared wit the days of eternity, is as dust or as a grain o sand to all the sand of the sea, or as a drop of water unto all the water of the sea. What then i man 1 and what is his beauty? or what are his possessions on which he would rely?
Since then our life is so uncertain and brief, i is a lamentable matter, that men take so muc care for it, and bestow so little thought upon the eternal life. This is partly owing to false teacher and deceitful laborers, the adversaries of Chris and His apostles, who openly teach that Christian are not to suffer any more.
They shall be confounded with their people, wh prophesy lies in the name of the Lord; they shal be punished with Zedekiah and Ahab who shame fully sin, and seduce the Israel of God, causin them to trust in vain things. They shall be put t shame with the Egyptian magicians, who now resis the truth, even as they resisted Moses. They shal be accursed with Balaam the son of Bosor, wh with him forsake the right way, and go in crooke paths; yea, they shall sink into hell with Dathan Korah, and Abiram, who with them caused conten tion and offence in the church of God, and despis the godly doctrine of Jesus Christ, by which the awaken, the wrath of the Almighty God, and treas ure up unto themselves the wrath of God agains the day when Christ Jesus shall be revealed fro
heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that knew not God, an obeyed not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Chris (Rom. 2:5; Matt. 25:31; II Peter 3:4; II Thess 1:7-10); who shall suffer pain and everlastin destruction from the presence of the Lord, whet He shall come to be glorified in His glory, an glorified in all them that believe in Him. Isa. 2:10 Wisd. 5:2.
Now, who are these unbelievers, who do not be lieve the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and shall therefor suffer everlasting pain? They are those who no do not observe the commandments of Jesus Chris and will not suffer for the name of God, or confes the truth according to the instruction of the Gospel hence Christ shall also not confess them, or kno them before His Father, and before His angel with whom He shall come from heaven, to punis such unfaithful and fearful servants, and to glori fy the faithful and valiant soldiers, who have com out of great tribulation, and have washed and puri fied their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Mat 10:33; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; II Tim. 2:12 Matt. 25:31; Rev. 7:14. Therefore are they befor the throne of God, and serve Him day and night i His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne sha dwell among them. They shall hunger no mor neither thirst any more; neither shall the su tighten them, nor any heat. For the Lamb whic is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, an shall lead them unto living fountains of water and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Rev. 7:15-17; Isa. 49:10. The prophet Esdras says, "I Esdras saw upon the mount Sion a great people, whom I could not number, and they all praised the Lord with songs. And in the midst of them there was a young man of high stature, taller than all the rest, and upon every one of their heads he set crowns, and was more exalted; which I marveled at greatly. So I asked the angel, and said, Sir, What are these? He answered and said unto me, These be they that have put off the mortal clothing, and put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God: now are they crowned, and receive palms. Then said I unto the angels, What young person is it that crowneth them, and giveth them palms into their hands? So he answered and said unto me, It is the Son of God, whom they have confessed in the world. Then began I greatly to commend them that stood so stiffly for the name of the Lord." II Esdras 2:42-47; Matt. 16:16; 10:32; Mark 8:29.
O what joy and glory are prepared for all pious Christians 1 Who now is so faint hearted and fearful, as to be unwilling to suffer a little for such joy and glory? It is indeed true, that suffering and tribulation are hard for the flesh; but we must remember the words of Paul, "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Heb. 12:11. Christ says the same to His apostles, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." John 16:20-22; Isa 26:17.
Behold, all ye believers, who now suffer tribulation, anguish and persecution for the truth, for a little season, consider these words, and take comfort: do not let it terrify or grieve you, and though tribulation is not pleasing to the flesh, remember that for a little sorrow you shall receive eternal joy; yea, remember that it is written, "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die; and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from. us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality, and having been a little chastised they shall be greatly rewarded
for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their visitation, they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations and have dominion overthe people, and their lord shall reign forever. They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints.'." Wisd. 3:1-9; Deut. 33:3; Phil. 1:21; Wisd. 5:1; I Peter 1:7; Matt. 13:43; I Cor. 6:2. Oh, what beautiful promises are these for all that are persecuted for the truth; and how comforting are the promises made to us by Christ in the Gospel, namely that we are blessed when we mourn, for we shall be comforted; and that we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for the kingdom of heaven is ours; in short, that we are blessed when men shall despise and revile us, and say all manner of evil against us falsely, for Christ Jesus' sake; then shall we rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is our reward in heaven. Matt. 5:4, 10-12; Luke 6:22; I Peter 2:20. Yea, great is our reward, as Isaiah tells us, "that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Isa. 64:4; I Cor. 2:9. And the prophet David says, "O Lord, how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!" Ps. 31:19.
But how few now labor for this great glory? It is as represented in the parable of the Lord, where it is said that the householder prepared a supper to which he invited many, for all things were ready. But one had bought a farm, and had to go and see it. Another had bought five yoke of oxen, which he must needs go to prove. Another had married a wife, and therefore could not come. But when the householder heard of this, he was wroth, and said that none of those who would not come should taste of his supper. Matt. 22:2; Luke 14:16; Revelation 19:7. Oh, what severe judgment and sentence is uttered against all those who will not come, despising the call of the Lord, and loving anything rather than God; that is, those who for father, mother, brother, sister, wife, child, wealth, poverty, praise, or reproach, forsake God, and do not obey His voice; yea, who do not count all earthly things and excellence, but dung, that they may win Jesus Christ, even as Paul did, and also the Hebrews of whom the apostle says that they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had in heaven a better and enduring substance. Matthew 10:37; Phil. 3:8; Heb. 10:35. But, O God, how little do men now regard heavenly things. Oh, how little do they think, what difference there will be between the righteous and the wicked. Yea, there will be such a difference as the Lord has declared through Isaiah."Behold, my servants shall eat but ye shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit." Isa. 65:13. 14. Hence Christ says in the Gospel:
there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Luke 13:28. Oh, how glad shall the pious Christians then be, who fight valiantly for the name of Christ, and through Him overcome. Yea, how glad, say we, will they be, when they shall receive the beautiful promise of which the Spirit of God says, "To him that over cometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Fear none of. those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna; and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. And he that overcometh and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God; and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. As many as I love, I will rebuke and chasten; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Rev. 2:7, 10, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 10-12, 1921; Prov. 3:12. Yea, my beloved brethren, that -they shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and possess all things.
Oh, how sorrowful will the persecutors of the Christians be, when the righteous God will mete to them with the same measure with which they measured to the Christians. Where shall murderous Cain then hide himself, when the sorrowful and innocent blood of righteous Abel shall cry unto God for vengeance against him? Where shall the BabyIonian whore, who now sits in her pleasure house and pomp, and has become drunken with the blood of His saints, and of the martyrs of Christ Jesus, escape the punishment of God, when the Lord willavenge the blood of His saints and witnesses, and require it at her hands? Which shall undoubtedly come to pass, as has been said through the prophet, "Behold, the innocent and righteous blood crieth unto me, and the souls of the just complain continually. And therefore, saith the Lord, I will surely avenge them, and receive unto me all the innocent blood from among them, " II Esd. 15:8; 9. Christ says, "Shall not the God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." Luke 18:7, 8. Oh, how fearful will the punishment be, with which the Almighty God will avenge all the blood of His saints! How dearly had tyrannous Pharaoh to pay for the blood, of the innocent children, which he had shed! Ex. 1:22; 14:28. How severely was Amalek punished, because he had shed the innocent blood of the Israelites! I Sam. 15:33. The bloodthirsty Jezebel was thrown into the field, so that the dogs licked her blood, because she had shed innocent blood. II Kings 9:33. O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets that are sent to thee, and stonest the Levites, thou art therefore trodden down by the Gentiles, and art become a sport unto all nations! Thus shall God punish those who now shed innocent blood, and it shall come to pass as is written in the book' of Wisdom, "Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him, and made no account of his' labors. When they see it, they shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the strangeness of his salvation, so far beyond all that they looked for. And they repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit shall say within themselves: This was he; whom we had sometimes in derision, and a proverb of reproach: we fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honor: How is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints! Therefore have 'we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness bath not shined unto us, and the sun of righteousness rose not upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction: yea, we have gone through deserts, where they lay no way, but as for the way of the Lord, we have not known it. What hath pride profited us? or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us?" Wisd. 5:1-8.
All these things shall they say; who are in hell, having sinned, "For the hope of the ungodly is like dust that is blown away with the wind; like a thin froth that is driven away with the storm; like as the smoke which is dispersed here and there with the tempest, and passeth away as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day. But the righteous live forever more; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High. Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand: for with his right hand shall he sever them, and with his arm shall he protect them." Wisd. 5:14-16. O
unfathomable grace of the Almighty,God ! O unspeakable, love of the heavenly Father, how abounding is Thy grace, and how infinite is Thy goodness, that Thou hast prepared such glory for Thine elect? Who. can thank Thee aright for all the benefits which Thou hast so richly shown us, and.dost still daily show? Blessed be Thy name forever. Therefore we pray, and admonish- all pious Christians, all who love their .salvation, to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to follow Christ Jesus, and thus to- do the will of God, that we may receive the promise. Let no one be afraid of or terrified by the ungodly, tyrants; but let each do as Matthias taught his sons, saying, "Now, therefore, my sons, be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers. Call to remembrance what acts our fathers did in their time; so shall ye receive great honor and an everlasting name. Fear not then the words of a sinful man: for his glory shall be dung and worms. Today he shall be lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into his dust, and his thought is come to nothing. Wherefore, ye my sons, be valiant, and show yourselves men in behalf of, the law; for by it shall ye obtain glory." I Macc. 2:50, 51, 62-64.
O ye pious Christians, take these words of God to heart, and arm yourselves therewith, to do battle for righteousness, even unto death, and God shall fight for you and subdue your enemies."And fear not them who are able to kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do; but fear the Almighty God, the righteous Lord and ,judge; who is able to cast soul and body into eternal perdition, " Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:4, 5. Him alone let us fear, and walk in His ways, serving Him in holiness .and righteousness all the days of our life; yea, suffering death for His name, that we may say with Paul, "I have, fought a good fight, I.have finished my course, I ave kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord Christ shall give me." II Tim. 4:7, 8. May God, the Father of mercy, and the God of all comfort, by whom it is. given unto us, -not only, to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His nae, strengthen, confirm and establish us with His Holy Spirit, that we may not become weary of suffering for the truth, but continue steadfast unto the end, and rejoice with all the pious and true saints, when we are reviled and persecuted for the name of Christ Jesus. This grant us the Almighty Father, through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,. our Saviour, unto whom be glory, majesty, blessing, the kingdom, and everlasting dominion, Amen.
Be manful, strong and very courageous, to keep and do all things, even the words and the law of God. Depart not therefrom, neither to the right nor to the left; add not thereto, nor take away therefrom, that you may act wisely. Whithersoever you go, be not terrified, and fear not, for the Lord your God is with you, when you pass through the waters, or into the fire; and though through hypocrisy or dissimulation you may now evade pain and punishment, you can neither alive nor dead escape the power of Almighty God. I Pet. 3:14; II Macc. 6:26.
Therefore let us forsake all that is in this world, for it lieth in wickedness.; and let each take up his cross, and follow Jesus Christ; for He is nigh unto and with all those who are in distress, and will deliver them, and bring them to honor, if they are of a broken heart, and contrite spirit. Oh, what great comfort is it, to have such a powerful and faithful companion, and what great honor is it, that He Himself will so kindly aid us 1 But we must know that our Lord Christ Jesus is our Companion and Helper only at His own proper time, according to the counsel of the divine will and pleasure, in which He has ordered everything after one measure and weight; for even as He is the Head of the holy church, and beholds her sufferings, so He has also appointed the number, measure, and weight, how far He will permit the wicked .to go, how far they shall reach, and not longer nor farther, even as the Babylonian captivity should continue seventy years. Jer. 29:10. Yea, when, the distress, is at its height, and men think that God has utterly forsaken and forgotten them, at this very time the help of God is nearest them; yea, properly speaking, the Lord comforts before and in the midst of all affliction, for the Christian has in his heart the Spirit of God, the fountain of living water, by which he is always refreshed, comforted,. rejoiced, and made glad. John 4:10; 7:37; II Cor: 7:7. Yea, the more sufferings increase, the greater the help and aid we receive;"for God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it." 1 Cor. 10:13. Behold, in these words Paul tells us for our great consolation, that God will not suffer us to be assailed or tempted above that we are able to bear; for if the sufferings of Christ abound in us, our consolation also abounds by Jesus Christ our Lord. II Cor. 1.;5.
As a captain makes his soldiers valiant by encouraging words and promises, how then should not the true and faithful God make us manful and strong by His divine Word of the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Rom. 1:16. Yea, the righteous God does not stop at mere words, but is present with us with His Spirit, who, as an -earnest, assures our hearts of His divine grace and help, and strengthens our weakness. Eph. 1:13; Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:23; II Cor. 1:22. For if the devil, by his lying spirit, so animates men, that they are- perfectly willing to commit wickedness, though it cost their life; why should not the grace of God, by, His true Spirit, make us equally ready unto every good work, in all distresses and tribulations? This the gracious God also does, not only through His Spirit, but also through angels, stars, elements, beasts, men, and all manner of creatures. For -instance, Elisha said to his servant, "Fear not: for, they that ~be with
us are more than they that come against us." II Kings 6:16. The Red Sea and Jordan divided, so that the children of Israel passed through them dry-shod. The sun and the moon stood still for Joshua at the time when he defeated the five kings. Elijah was miraculously fed by the ravens. The children of Israel were delivered by the hand of a woman from their wicked enemies. Judith 14
18. God the Lord generally comforts men through their fellows: for all the saints and Christians on earth have fellowship with one another, in adversity as well as in prosperity; for when one suffers pain and grief, he suffers it not alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer it with him. For He says in the Gospel: Ye have fed, clothed, entertained, and comforted me. And all Christians are one body, one bread, one drink in the Lord Christ Jesus. Acts 9:4; Matt. 25:35; I Cor. 10:17.
Now if Christ Jesus our Lord frequently spent whole nights in prayer, and also prayed in the garden before His death, we should also pray without ceasing, especially in our distress, to the Father of lights, from whom alone is every good and perfect gift, that He may forgive our sins, for the death of His clear Son, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification. Matt. 14:23; Luke 6:12; Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32; Luke 22:41; I Thess. 5:17; Jas. 1:17; Rom. 4:25.
Hence we are to pray that He would deliver, or punish us, not according to our judgment, but according to His divine wisdom, lest we utterly perish. Yea, we must give praise and thanks to God also in our tribulation, that He do not forget us, but chasten us according to His fatherly mercy, and graciously help us to bear every burden, even as Paul thanked God in his affliction, saying, "Blessed be God, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation. Amen." I Cor. 1:3, 4.
Merciful Father; look upon me with eyes of compassion, as Thou didst look upon the prodigal son; for to Thee only, O Father, belongs praise and honor, but unto us nothing but shame before Thy face; hepce, good Father, I commit soul and body into The divine and gracious keeping: guide me, through Jesus Christ Thy dear Son, into all things that are well pleasing to Thy divine Spirit; and bring to folly and madness the counsel of the ungodly, and preserve us by Thy divine Word now and forever. Amen.
Composed by WALTER OF STOELWIJCK.