Hans van Overdam, together with his fellow prisoners for the testimony of Jesus Christ, wishes all brethren and sisters in the Lord, grace, peace, and an ardent love, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be praise, honor, and majesty forever and ever. Amen.
My most dearly beloved, grieve not on my account (Eph. 3:13), but praise the Lord that He is so good a Father to me, that I can suffer bonds and imprisonment for the testimony of Christ, for which I also hope to go into the fire. The Lord give me strength through His Holy Spirit. Amen. Walk in the fear of the Lord, even as you are called. I Cor. 7:17. And though we see one another no more in the flesh, may we behold each other hereafter, in the kingdom of our Father, where I hope soon to be: The peace of the Lord be with you. Amen.
O dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, my heart's deepest desire and prayer is (Rom. 10:1), that you may constantly give more and more diligence to make sure the calling whereunto.you are called by God the Father, through Christ, to the majesty and glory of the kingdom 'of His beloved Son, who purchased His church with His own blood, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Eph. 5:25-27.
Therefore, O dear friends, mark here what great love the Father has shown us, that He did not spare His only begotten Son, and how Christ so willingly delivered Himself up, and suffered the most ignominious and shameful death of the cross, and shed His precious blood, for us, to wash and cleanse us from our sins. O dear brethren and sisters, let us take heed, and diligently pray and watch, lest the saving grace of God, and the unspeakable love of the Father, and of Christ, be neglected or forgotten by us (Heb. 12:15) , through the cares andanxieties of this world, or through the lusts and desires which kill the soul, and we be washed and scoured off as spots and wrinkles from the glorious church of Christ; yea, cut off as unfruitful branches, and destined to the fire. For, my most beloved, it- is not enough, that we have received baptism upon faith, and been engrafted by it into Christ, if we do not hold the beginning of our confidence Steadfast unto the end. Heb. 3:14. Therefore, if there is any one that feels that he is become a spot or wrinkle, let him see to it that he make haste, before the day come upon him, as the snare upon the bird; let him repent with true sorrow and penitence, lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, .and run with full strength the race that is set before him, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but that it may much rather be healed and strengthened, that we may pass the time of our sojourning here in the fear of God, and keep ourselves unspotted from this wicked evil world, which is full of deceit, snares, and nets, which the devil sets for the purpose of seducing the souls of men, and of taking them captive by manifold lusts and wiles.
O Lord,.preserve (from this murderer) Thy pilgrims who walk in the hope of Thee, and expect their help and comfort from Thee alone. O, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, preserve us that Thou mayest perform the good work which Thou hast begun in us, to the praise and glory of Thy holy name. O Thou Almighty and everlasting God, how utterly incomprehensible is Thy grace and fatherly mercy upon those that fear and love Thee.. O Father, who should not fear such a God, who knows how to deliver His own; though they may seem to be forsaken here for a little season, despised of all men, rejected and-cursed on this earth; yet He does not forsake His own through the consolation of His Holy Spirit in our hearts, who makes us bold and joyful, that we may suffer reproach for His name. And we hope through the goodness of God; that our pilgrimage will soon end, and we shall be delivered from this miserable world and vale of tears, and that this earthly house of our tabernacle will be dissolved, that we may be brought home to our heavenly Father, and receive the crown of everlasting life, which is set before us, and which we hope no creature shall take from us. To this end, may the Almighty and eternal God, the merciful Father, strengthen us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Dear friends, let me tell you, how it went with me before my imprisonment, and how they treated us after my imprisonment.
At the time when the four friends concerning whom I composed the hymn, and whose burning I witnessed, were offered up, I heard it stated that they had. assailed the friends who yet remained in prison, with great cunning and deception, through the advice of the false prophets, whose minds are constantly filled with the subtlety of the devil, even as they had boasted that they would do. Our
friends that remained there, were two lads and a girl, for whom we daily very diligently prayed the Lord, fearing, lest they might by some means be moved from the faith. We daily expected that they would also be put to death, and because of their youth I was impelled in my heart to station myself at the scaffold, when they were to be put to death, in order that, if they should be troubled on any account, I might comfort them, and also reprove the monks, who greatly distress and vex our friends when they are led to death. But, alas! the poor children did not get so far; for they imprudently allowed themselves to be drawn into disputations with the false prophets, though they had been sufficiently warned to beware of it as they valued their souls; for it is not given to everyone to dispute, but boldly to confess the faith. This when received from the Lord, well becomes Christians.
But when these poor lambs engaged in controversy, they became perplexed in their consciences, and apostatized from the truth, which gave the false prophets cause for great boasting, since they had won their souls, and brought them back to the holy church. When I heard this, my soul and spirit were greatly grieved on account of the loss of-the poor sheep, and because the false prophets, and also the councilors gloried so much in the fall and destruction of the poor lambs and children, whom they had driven to this by adjuring them as you shall hear in the sequel.
Being thus sorrowful, I sighed and complained to God over the violence and power of the devil, which he exerts through the children of unbelief. Then the thought came to me, to write a few letters-for the purpose of informing them in several places-reprehending their vain joy over the loss of the poor lambs whose souls they had murdered. I then began to write, and while thus engaged, my soul was so kindled, that what I had intended to be a little letter of a handbreadth, became a letter of a whole leaf. The Lord opened my understanding, so that in a wonderful manner I proved to the lords, by references to the Scriptures, their punishment with the whole Roman Empire and its end. In the letter I wrote, that I desired and requested liberty publicly to dispute with all their learned men, in the presence of a great fire, into which the defeated party should be cast; also, that they should let the poor lambs in peace, and that they should leave the sword to the secular power, and contend with the Word of God.
Having completed this letter,' I showed it to the brethren, who were well pleased with it. I then had a brother, who was a better writer than I, make six copies of it. In the meantime, the poor, ruined lambs were released from prison, and recanted everything. One of the lads died the same day on which he came out, a league from the city, and thus became an example to those who seek to save their life.
At the time that this occurred I came with Hansken Keeskooper from Antwerp, and we made allour arrangements for the disposing of our letters. On Saturday evening we sent the letters to the lords of the city, and also posted two open ones in the middle of the city, that everyone might read them. We greatly praise and thank the Lord, that we did this before we were apprehended: for we were all betrayed by a Judas, who was among us, and who seemed to be one of the most pious of all the brethren that were there, so successfully could he practice his deception. It had long been his aim, as we now perceive, to betray a large number of the friends. This traitor was present when the letters were posted. We had appointed to meet together on Sunday morning, to speak of the word of the Lord: for I desired to take leave of the brethren, intending to go on a journey the next day. But the Lord be praised, who had ordered it otherwise. Early in the morning, Hansken went with me to the woods where we were to assemble. We did not find our friends at the place where we expected to meet them. We hunted for them a good half hour, and came to the conclusion that they had not yet come, as there had been a heavy rain the evening before. We were about to turn back; when I .said, "Let us go; they may be here ahead of us," and sang softly; that, if they were there, they might hear us. I then heard a rustling in the woods, and said to Hansken, "Our friends are here." We stood still, and looked to see who should come out. Then three men with weapons and sticks came forth.
I said, "Well, boys, have you been hunting a hare, and have not caught it?"
Their faces turned pale as death, and they stepped up to us, and seized me by the arm, saying, "Surrender."
Thus they apprehended us, saying, "We have caught a great number besides."
We then saw a whole wagon full of our brethren sitting bound, and three judges with all their servants, a great number, who guarded them. When we came to them, we saluted our brethren with the peace of the Lord, and comforted them with His words, boldly to contend for His name.
We then reproved the judges for being so desirous of shedding innocent blood. Thereupon they coupled Hansken and me together with iron fetters, and also our thumbs. We expected they would take us to the city; but as we had been apprehended in another seigniory, we had to go half a league further. We regarded it as very fortunate that we could be together so long, thus being enabled to comfort one another on the way, with the Word of the Lord, before they separated us.
We were then taken to a castle, a league from the city, where we were all kept together in one room, remaining there three days; for this was the law of the seigniory where we had been apprehended. There we thanked and praised the Lord our God for having ordered it so well, that we had so much time freely to admonish one another. Much people also came from the city, to see and hear us;
but towards the last no one was permitted to come into our room. There the chief bailiff of the country of Aelst examined us in regard to our faith, which we freely confessed to him. We expected to be taken to Aelst; but as the bailiff of Ghent had put us into the wagon when we were apprehended, to take us to Ghent, all of us had to be taken to that city. The traitor who had betrayed us, was apprehended with us, that we might not notice it. He was put into a separate room, and we felt much compassion for him, because he could not be with us; for we knew not that he was our betrayer. He was also taken along in the wagon, to the prison at Ghent, where we first learned that he had betrayed us.
When we were brought out of the castle, to be taken to the city, much people had come from the city to see us; there my brother's wife, who was a sister, was apprehended, because she spoke to me, and was put into the wagon; also a man who wished us Godspeed. We freely spoke to the people that had come, telling them that those who would turn from wickedness, and follow Christ, had to be a prey for everyone. Isa. 59:15. There were many who would have liked to talk with us, but did not dare do so, because of the wicked judges. There were ten of us; two were ready [for baptism], and four were novices; the other two were apprehended because they spoke to us. Thus they took two wagon loads to the city, in broad daylight. On the way, they also apprehended a woman, only because she said to us, "God keep you." She also had to sit in the wagon. But if they had apprehended all who spoke to us when we came into the city, and to whom we replied with the Word of God, they could not have carried them in twenty wagons, as the people came running from every corner which we passed; as water which runs down from the mountains, and becomes a large stream, so the people flowed together, which continued from one of the gates of the city to the castle of the count, which stands at the other end of the city, a walking distance of about one hour. We were led up to the castle, and the judge of the country of Aelst, delivered us over into the hands of the lords of the Imperial Council. Here we were separately confined, some into upper rooms. The women also remained above; but eleven of us were led into a gloomy, deep dungeon, containing divers dark cells built of masonry, in which we were put in separate parties of three and three. But Hansken and I. were put into the darkest of all, in which there was a small quantity of crumbled straw, about an apron full, with which we might help ourselves. I said, "It seems to me that we are with Jonah in the whale's belly, so dark it is here; we may well cry with Jonah to the Lord, that He will be our comforter and deliverer; for we are now deprived of all human comfort and assistance." This did not defect us, but we praised and thanked God, that we were permitted to surer for His name. We also spoke to our brethren that lay in other cells; for wecould easily hear each other speaking. After we had lain there for three or four days, Hansken and I were both summoned before the lords, where we were examined, and interrogated concerning the ground of our faith, and when we had been baptized.
The Lord then, according to His promise, gave us a mouth, to speak boldly, and we requested to be allowed publicly to defend ourselves with the Word of God. They replied to us, that they would send us learned men, who would instruct us; whereupon we were taken below again.
Shortly after, I was taken above into another room, to two councilors and a clerk. There they interrogated me very closely, where I had been, and if I knew that I had been banished six years ago, in the time of Martin Huereblock, and where we had held our meetings; all of which they knew, for the traitor had already told them. I said, "Why do you ask me, who have come from foreign countries?" (For I purposely did not wish to ask much, that, in case I should be apprehended, I might not have much to answer.)"Why do you question me so closely? Have you not yet enough innocent blood to shed? Do you thirst for still more?""Ask as closely as you want to," said I;"the righteous judge shall ask you again, if you do not repent."
They then asked me still more, and adjured me by my baptism, that I should tell them;"For," said they,"we know that you people do not lie; hence tell us."
I said, "That you know that we do not lie, is to us a testimony of salvation, but to you of perdition (Phil. 1:28), because you put such to death; but your adjuration has no power against the truth."
All that I said was written down, and they threatened to torture me if I would not tell them everything. I said, "I can not tell you what I do not know." Thus they tormented me for a very long time. Thereupon I was taken below again. In this manner they dealt with all our friends, with each separately.
One Saturday I was taken above again into the same room. Four monks were present; the guardian of the Minorites, with another, and the Superior of the Jacobines, with another. With me there came a young brother, who had not yet received baptism, but was ready for it.
When I had seated myself, I asked them what they wished. They said they were sent by the lords, to instruct us, and to converse with us concerning the ground and articles of faith. I replied that I was ready to be instructed with the Word of God, and to hold converse concerning the ground and articles of faith, and this publicly, in the presence of the judges who were to judge us, and of our brethren and sisters that were imprisoned with us.
Arcs."This they will not permit."
Hans van Overdaw. "Well, let them do what they please; we will not dispute secretly and alone, lest our words be perverted behind our backs."
Ans. "We will not pervert your words."
Hans. "No, we know you well."
Ques."What do you take us for? What evil did we ever do you? Pray, tell us what evil do you know of us?"
Hans. "If you would know it then; I regard you as false prophets and seducers."
Here we got into a dispute concerning their spiritual semblance, and the command of the pope regarding the purity of the priests and monks, and why they were called spiritual, and others secular, when all ought to be spiritual.
They then said, "This is not profitable; let us dispute about the articles of faith."
Thereupon I said, "What I have said I have said."
They replied that they would tell it to the lords. Thus we separated, having disputed with each other for fully two hours. Two days after, Hansken and I were summoned before the lords; the four monks were present, and attempted to engage us in a disputation.
I then said to the lords, "My lords, I ask you, in what house are we, in a house of justice, or of violence?"
Ans. "In a house of justice."
Hans. "God grant that it be so; but, my lords, of what do you accuse us, that you keep us imprisoned and confined like thieves and murderers? Have we wronged any one, or do you charge us with violence, murder, or roguery?"
Ans. "No; we know no such thing of you."
Hans. "Well, my lords, why then have you imprisoned us?"
Ans. "Your adversaries will tell you that."
Hans. "Are you our adversaries?"
Ans. "No, but we are judges."
I then said to the monks, "Are you our adversaries?"
Haw. "Well, if no one is our adversary, why are we imprisoned?"
A councilor then said, "The Emperor is your adversary."
Hans. "We have not offended against his Imperial Majesty according to the power which he has received from God, and will obey him in every ordinance, as far as we can do so consistently with the truth."
Councilor."You have held meetings of this new doctrine, and the Emperor has commanded that this should not be done."
Hams. "God has not authorized him to make such commandments; in this he transcends the power which God has given him, and in this we do not recognize his supremacy; for the salvation of our souls concerns us more, so that we show obedience to God."
The monks then said, "We are your adversaries, in that your doctrine is not good; for if it were good, you would not preach in woods and corners, but openly."
Hans then said, "Grant us a. free place in the market, or in your monasteries and churches, and see whether we then shall go into the woods; but no, you are afraid that you would be reproved; hence you have brought it about, that you cannot be reproved, and have driven us from cities and countries."
Monks. "Alas! we have not done it; the Emperor does it."
Hans."You have urged him to it."
Monks. "We have not."
The lords also then began to speak against us, why we were not content with the faith of our parents, and with our baptism.
We replied, "We know of no infant baptism, but of a baptism upon faith, concerning which the Word of God teaches us."
We then had many other words, and reproved them for undertaking to be judges in matters of faith, when they did not understand the Scriptures."If you would be judges, be impartial, and let the matter proceed in regular order; let both parties appear together, and let our brethren and sisters that have been brought prisoners here together with us, be with us. Then one of us, whose mouth the Lord shall open, will speak, and the others shall listen in silence while he is speaking; and thus shall also our adversaries do."
Lords: "We will not let you come together; we would have you dispute alone here."
We then said, "My lords, it would be the most convenient for you, and the whole matter could be finished with one disputation; otherwise you will
constantly have to dispute anew with one or two at a time."
Lords. "What then? We will not have it so."
Then a councilor said, "They want to have them together, in order to seduce one another still more; therefore they cannot be allowed to come together."
Hans. "My lords, you say that you are judges, but we regard you as our adversaries; for you seek to injure us in every way, and to cause us and our brethren by violence and subtlety, to apostatize from our faith."
Ans. "Why should we not do this, in order to bring them back?"
Hans. "Well, my lords, hear this: since we see that you are no judges, but our adversaries, and employ, wherever you can; all violence and subtlety, to your advantage, and our detriment: Firstly, you have by violence deprived us of our testaments, in which we find our consolation; secondly, you have confined us separately, some in deep, dark dungeons, others in rooms up above; and thirdly, you seek to outwit and deceive us by separate disputations, afterwards to say behind our backs, to our brethren, that you had overcome us, and, vice versa, to say the same to us concerning our brethren and sisters; therefore, my lords, we will not dispute here, unless our brethren and sisters are present."
When they heard that their design against us did not proceed according to their wish, they became greatly enraged, and also the monks. We saw easily enough to what it amounted, and that all they did was pure deception; for though it was proved by the Scriptures, with regard to several articles, that they were in the wrong, yet they would not acknowledge it, and excused themselves with the Emperor and his mandates, and the monks with the long continued customs of the Roman church (Wisdom 14:16), and the great number of our forefathers: and when the contrary had been proven to them from the Scriptures, it was just as before, even as though one should have talked to the stove.
We then said, "My lords, will you not permit us, to dispute in regular order, as we have requested?"
Ans. "No.", "Well then," said we,"You know the ground of our faith, which we have freely confessed to you; you may now do with us as you please (Jer. 26:14), as far as God will permit; but take good heed what you do, for there is a judge still higher than you. Eph. 6:9. May the Lord open the eyes of your understanding, that you may see how miserably you are seduced and deceived by the false prophets, indeed so that you fight against God and the Lamb, for which it will go hard with you, unless you, repent."
We were then led away again, as we would not dispute further; for we had agreed upon this, when we were together yet in the castle, out of the city, lest they should take the simple unawares by disputations. Hence they.could not persuade any that they had overcome them, all knowing that they were not to dispute, except in the presence of the others, in which case the disputation would tend to the consolation and admonition of our brethren and sisters who should hear it; for when we saw that they did their best we would not let anything be wanting on our part, seeing necessity demanded it. When they perceived that this did 'not promise success, they tried another scheme. They sent a councilor and two friars,:a grey and a black, into a room, before whom a brother or sister, one at a time, were brought, to dispute with them and to defend the ground of their faith; but they declared that they would not dispute alone in a room, but openly, when we should be together before the lords. They then said, "We adjure you by your faith and baptism, that you dispute here." The brother replied, "I know my faith and baptism
but with your adjuration I have nothing to do; hence let us come together; for this is just what we wish, to dispute openly with you, but not thus alone in a room." Another'was then summoned, and thus it went until all had' been brought before them; but no one would dispute in this manner. Thereupon I also had to appear alone in a room, before a councilor and two monks, who likewise began to adjure me. I then said, "Why wouldyou adjure me, to cast roses before dogs, and pearls before swine, that you may trample on them? No, this the Lord has forbidden me to do. Matt. 7:6. Nay, I esteem the words of God far too precious, than that I should -let the light shine in vain here, whereby no one would be enlightened, but it would only be blasphemed and mocked, as you do when the truth is told you."
Then they adjured me still much more; but I replied, "Why do you adjure so much? I care not for your adjuration; for it is the manner of sorcerers, who adjure against the truth. II Chron. 33:6. But I now see clearly, how the souls of our two brethren and sisters were murdered and seduced (Ezek. 13:19), it was through your sorcerous adjuration, as they did not guard themselves against the subtlety of the devil, and had not the gift to dispute."
The guardian then said, "You boasted in your letter, that you would dispute publicly; why do you not dare do it now?"
Hans."You monk, I still desire with all my heart to defend my faith with the Word of God, publicly before all men (I Pet. 3:15); but your cap would shake quite differently, if you had to dispute with me at the risk of the fire, and if the authorities would not protect you."
Councilor. "No, we have no desire to let you dispute publicly; you are now in our hands."
Hans."I desired it, before I knew that I should fall into your hands; but I see well now, that I have fallen into the talons of the eagle (II Esd. 11), and whoever gets into them cannot escape without losing soul or body."
Councilor. "Who is the eagle, the Emperor?"
Hans."No, it is the Roman Empire or power; read the letter I wrote you; it will tell you."
We then exchanged many more words, and the monks became angry at me, and commenced to utter puffed-up words. I then said that Paul had prophesied correctly concerning them, that they were blasphemers, proud, and puffed up. II Tim. 3:2.
Thereupon friar Jan de Croock became so enraged that he began to cry, "Fools, fools, heretics, heretics are you!"
Hans."Behold, is this, not a fine teacher? but Paul says that a teacher must not be a brawler, nor angry." I Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7. The councilor felt ashamed that the monk acted so disgracefully, and commanded him to be silent.
At another subsequent time there came two secular priests: Sir Willem of Nieuwenland, and the parish priest of St. Michael. I asked them what they desired. They replied, "We have come to seek your soul." This time I kept under cover as much as I could, in hopes that we might dispute openly before the lords, as they told me that they would use their best endeavors in this direction. But when I heard that it could not be, I thought, when they came again with the clerk, we must accost each other in quite a different way, from what
we did the last time. I then asked, "What do you wish?"
Ans. "We desire'that you suffer yourself to be instructed; for, behold, we seek your soul."
Hans."Do you then take so much pains to seek souls?"
Hans. "Well then, go into the city, to every place, to the drunkards, whoremongers, swearers, railers, covetous, proud, idolaters, revellers, gluttons, and murderers, who shed innocent blood; ail these are still your brethren; go, seek their souls; Christ has found mine."
Ans."We admonish them, and then we have delivered our souls."
Hans. "That is not enough; you must go to them, and reprove them, and if they will not hear you, you must bring them before the church, and reprove them openly; if they still refuse to hear, exclude them from the church, and let them be unto you as heathen and open sinners, as Christ teaches, and Paul writes to the Corinthians. Reprove also your judges, who do violence and injustice, yea, who shed innocent blood."
One of the priests then said, "Should we go and reprove the magistrates?"
I asked whether God was a respecter of persons.
Hans. "Would you be a minister of God, and have respect to persons?"
Ans. "This would cause an uproar in the city, and they would kill us."
Hans. "Then suffer for righteousness' sake."
But it seemed to me they had no great desire to suffer for it. In short, we treated so much of the ban, that if the words of Christ and Paul were followed, the pope, prelates, emperor and king, yea, they themselves with all their multitude would be excluded, and only a very small number remain.
I then told them that their house was all on fire, kindled by the flames of hell, and that they should first extinguish that, before coming to see whether our house was in danger of fire. Whereupon they went away; one of the priests came no more. In this manner I dealt also with Sir Anthony van Hille; he tormented the others, but let me alone.
Herewith I commend my dear brethren and sisters in the Lord into the hands of the Almighty God and Father; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Written while in prison for the testimony of Christ. I lay in a dark dungeon for a month; I am now in a deep, round hole, where there is a little more light, and here I have written this letter. I hope to offer up my sacrifice this week, if it is the Lord's will, together with those whom the Lord has foreordained thereto; for if it does not take place this week, it will no doubt be deferred for two months yet, because no court will be held for six weeks. Know, that our brethren and sisters are of good cheer and courage, through the grace of the Lord; God be praised for it. I beseech you, by the brotherly love which you bear to me, that you send this letter to Friesland, particularly to Emdenland; I mean this same letter, as soon as you can; you may copy it, but make haste with it. I kindly desire that it be preserved, so that it may not be torn or soiled. The brethren that are in the dungeon with me, greet you all with the peace of God. We daily pray to the Lord for you; do so also for us. Walk in the peace of the Lord, and it will be well with you. When this letter has been read, send it to Antwerp, that it may be sent to the church at Emden, so that it may be read to everyone; this I desire of my dear brethren, through the brotherly love which you bear to me.
He that bath ears to hear, let him hear, and he that reads, let him attend, and judge with the understanding of the holy Scriptures; but woe to him that judges without understanding. Hearken, I speak to you, O carnal generation, you Ishmaelites, who boast of being Christians, because you are born of water without the Spirit, and persecute the children of the promise, who, through faith in the Word of God, are born of the water and of the Spirit; yea, you persecute them, as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, as Esau did Jacob, and as the Jews persecuted Christ. Even so the antichristians, who are born of the flesh, now persecute the Christians, who are born of the Spirit, who shall receive the promise of the everlasting kingdom through Christ, who is the heir of all things, .and causes His kingdom to be proclaimed through the Gospel, unto repentance and true sorrow for dead works, through faith in Him; they contemn his witnesses, etc. This is the wind, O eagle, mark! which bloweth where it listeth, and thou canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Hear now His voice, which the Most High has reserved unto the latter times, to reveal to thee thy transgressions and punishment, who now begins to deliver His people through much misery and tribulation.
Therefore, mark! O thou eagle, the end of thy time is very nigh; art thou not the fourth beast? Oh, yes, thou art the beast seen by Daniel (Dan. 7:7), which devoured everything with his iron teeth, and stamped the residue with his feet, and brought forth the most wicked little horn. Dan. 7:7, 8. Thou hast dwelt a long time upon the earth with deceit, and hast not judged the earth with truth. For thou hast afflicted the meek, thou hast hurt the peaceable, thou hast loved liars, and destroyed the dwellings of them that brought forth fruit, and hast cast down the walls of such as did thee no harm. Therefore is thy wrongful dealings come up unto the Highest, and thy pride unto the
Mighty. And therefore appear no more, thou eagle, that the earth may be refreshed, and may return, being delivered from thy violence, and that she may hope for the judgment and mercy of Him that made her, whose judgment shall be better and more just than thine, O thou eagle 1 Therefore, shall thy wicked heads which remain to the last, be the end of the eagle to accomplish his most wicked wickedness, together with his wicked feathers, which also are kept unto the last. Therefore hear, vain body of eagle, who vainly boast of what you are not, namely, Christians. Hear also, you most wicked claws, which are willing and ready to destroy and rend what your most wicked heads command you, through the counsel of liars, whom they love. Why do you rejoice in the misery and fall of the poor lambs and sucklings, who feed still on milk, and whom you keep imprisoned with violence, and whose souls you murder with false, deceitful wiles; who have heard the truth only a year or two at the most; you have none as yet, that can instruct you in all the articles of faith? Be ashamed of your boasting, that through your carnal, blind, learned men you have overcome the innocent, with subtle, deceitful wiles and broken Scriptures. Oh, woe, woe! for the great misery and the terrible times, that wickedness has gained so much the upper hand, that truth is not permitted as much as openly to defend itself. Let the misery, violence, and great distress of the pregnant and the sucklings of these times ascend to the ears of the Most High, because no help, comfort, or assistance can be rendered them by those whom the Lord has endowed with more grace and gifts to stop the mouths of adversaries.
But perhaps you say, "Let them come forward then, that are better endowed, and have received more grace." To this we reply, that the wolf might call for a long while before the sheep would come; they well knowing that he would tear them with great cruelty, and without right and reason. Alas, alas! what awful judgment and terrible punishment from the fierce and devouring wrath of God shall fall upon those who without mercy distress, persecute and murder the innocent and God-fearing, and themtelves live so ungodly in all the unrighteous works of the flesh, so that they shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. O thou spiritual Babylon, how shall the Lord visit and avenge upon you the innocent souls and the blood of His witnesses; for all this is found in thee. Thou bast made the kings of the earth, and all nations, so drunken with the wine of spiritual whoredom, that they can neither see nor hear the truth., Oh, that we might once freely defend ourselves publicly with the Word of God, in the presence of a large, flaming fire, against all you learned doctors, licentiates, priests and monks, who help strengthen, protect, preserve and maintain the kingdom of antichrist, and that the vanquished party should be cast into the fire; then it would not be necessary to torment and distress the poor, innocent lambs, and yourfaith could be tried, as to how it accords with the truth; then there would be no need of washing the hands with Pilate, or of the imperial mandate, and the authorities would remain free from the blood of the innocent, if they would not let the Word of God be judge over the faith. But no, the false prophets and deceivers well know that their trickery and deceit would be made far too much manifest thereby. Therefore they cry just as assiduously as did the scribes and Pharisees;"Crucify him, crucify him." The mandate of the emperor must prevail. Thus it was in the beginning of the fourth beast, and so it is now at the end of it. Let him that can comprehend with it, observe with understanding, that the end is the worst of all., "Princess, repent and amend your ways; for the end of all things is at hand. Woe unto you false prophets who resist the truth, even as the Egyptian magicians resisted Moses; but your wickedness shall yet be made manifest to all men, even as it already begins. Woe unto you champion antichrist, who put on the time-honored customs of the Roman church as an armor with which to defend yourselves against the truth, and use the mandate of the emperor as a shield, and wield the sword of the magistracy, in every country to shed the innocent blood of those who will not defend themselves with temporal or carnal weapons, but only with the Word of God, which is our sword, and which is sharp and two-edged. But we are daily greatly slandered by those who say that we defend our faith with the sword, as did those of Munster. May the Almighty God preserve us from such abominations.
Be it known to you, noble lords, councilors, burgomasters and judges, that we recognize your officers as right and good; yea, as ordained and instituted of God, that is, the secular sword for the punishment of evildoers, and the protection of the good, and we desire to obey you in all taxes, tributes and ordinances, as far as it is not contrary to God. And if you find us disobedient in these things, we will willingly receive our punishment as malefactors. God, who is acquainted with every heart, knows that this is our intention. But understand. ye noble lords, that the abuse of your stations or offices we do not recognize to be from God, but from the devil, and that antichrist, through the subtlety of the devil, has bewitched and'blinded your eyes, so that you do not know yourselves, who you are, and how sorely you have incurred the wrath of God. Be sober, therefore, and awake, and open the eyes of your understanding, and see against whom you fight, that it is not against man, but against God. Therefore we will not obey you; for it is the will of God, that we shall be tried thereby. Hence we would rather, through the grace of God, suffer our temporal bodies to be burned, drowned, beheaded, racked or tortured, as it may seem good to you, or be scourged, banished, or driven away, and robbed of our goods, than show you any obedience contrary to the Word of God, and we will be pa-
tient herein, committing vengeance to God; for we know Him that hath said,"Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord." And again,"The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Hebrews 10:30, 31. And the spirit testifies, that this is at hand, and has already commenced.
Hearken, thou whose time for bearing is half fulfilled: Prepare thy bed.; for thou shalt bring forth. What shall I bring forth? The fruit of thy labor, with pain and anguish, and afterwards death. Hearken, thou on the right hand: Prepare the measure. What shall I prepare it for? To measure thy neighbor, and then shalt thou also be measured. Get thee ready, thou fire, and do not tarry. Hearken, I speak to you who are of one mind with the horns (Rev. 17:13), the day of your feast has come, your meat is ready; eat quickly the fat flesh of the drunken, that the power may be given to the beast. It has been put into your hearts, so to do. After the beast you shall have power for a little while. You fight against the Lamb, but the Lamb shall overcome you; He is King of kings, and Lord of lords, and His kingdom will endure .forever. Amen.
We testify of Him that it is He that shall come, yea, He comes quickly, the Lord Jesus, who shall reward every man according to his works.
A holy conversation, a living, spiritual faith, hope, and a true evangelical confidence in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, our only Helper and Saviour, I wish to my beloved friends, for glad tidings and an affectionate salutation, that through said faith and confidence in God you may grow up in a new and pure life, which life is perceived and richly found in the holy Gospel. Oh, blessed are they who purify and sanctify themselves according to the tenor of the Gospel; without which purification and sanctification no man shall see God nor the Lord. Thus follow the advice of the Lord Jesus, who says, "Search the Scriptures." John 5:39. I have done nothing else; as I and my fellow prisoners said before the lords of the Imperial Council; and they can not, in truth, bring any charge against us. They asked us, me first, and then the others, one after another, whether we were baptized.
I said, "Yes, my lords."
Ques. "How long since?"
Ans. "Four years, my lords, "
Ques. "What do you hold concerning your baptism received in infancy?"
Ans. "Nothing at all, my lords."
Ques. "Concerning the sacrament of the priests, do you not believe that flesh and blood is there, and that it is God?"
Ans."No my lords, how should it be flesh and blood and God," said I before the priests of Jezebel."Cover over this whole table with them [with wafers], and I will blow them away like dust; hence they are not God, for God can not be handled or eaten bodily."
They then asked whether I would hold to this. I replied, "Yes, my lords, till the contrary is proved to me with the Scriptures."
Thereupon I was led away from the council, -and another brought forward, until ten had made this confession, one of whom is not baptized yet, but he confessed that it is right and good, and said that he once went to the teacher to be baptized.
The lords then asked him, "How came it that he did not baptize you?"
The person, a mere lad yet, and a dear child, replied, "My lords, when the teacher presented the faith to me, and had interrogated me, he well perceived that I was still young in understanding, and bade me search the Scriptures still more; but I desired that it be done. He then asked me whether I knew that the world puts to death and burns such people. I replied: 'I know it well.' He then said to me: 'Hence I pray you, that you have patience for this time, until I come again another time. Search the Scriptures, and ask the Lord for wisdom; for you are yet a youth. Thus we parted."'
The lords then asked, "Are you sorry that you are not baptized?"
He said, "Yes, my lords."
They asked him further, "If you were not imprisoned, would you be baptized?"
He replied, "Yes, my lords."
He was then led away from the council.
See, dear friends, these are beautiful signs and miracles; open- your eyes, and behold when such young persons give themselves for the truth, delivering their bodies into prison, and even unto death. We have told the lords, that they should bring forward all their learned men, and we would prove to them with the truth, that they are all false prophets, and that they have deceived the world for almost thirteen hundred years with their deceitfulness, and that we would rather dispute with them publicly upon a scaffold, in the midst of the marketplace, than secretly; but this the priests will not do, and will spare no pains to escape it. Thus all the learned men were called to dispute in the consistory, all the lords of the council being present, and also four of the most learned priests of Ghent; I was present and heard it myself.
Therefore, search the Scriptures, which the Lord commands you to do, and to act according to them, on pain of the damnation of your souls, and of being cast into everlasting fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth forever; which Scriptures the priests forbid you to read, on pain of being hated by all men all the days of your life, and of having your body burned at the stake; which
is soon done, as may be seen. Hence we rather do what the Lord commands, though we are despised for a little while, and by men cast out of this miserable world, and rest in the Lord, than do what men command, and be forever the enemy of God, in the horrible pit of hell. Therefore, search the Scriptures with an upright heart towards God, and the Lord will give you understanding. The Lord be with you. My love to you.
From me Jannijn Buefkijn, imprisoned at Ghent, for the testimony of Jesus. I wish salvation to all that seek the Lord with an unfeigned heart. Written in, the dark with poor materials.
When these two lambs had been sentenced, the procurator-general said, "That you are sentenced as heretics, is for the reason that divers learned men disputed with you, and you would not suffer yourselves to be instructed."
Hans van Overdam. "My lords, if we could have disputed publicly, it would soon have been seen what kind, learned men they were."
Procurator-General. "It is too late now; it is too late now 1"
Both were sent away then, going with a smile on their lips.
Hans van Overdam. "Yes, yes, it is too late now I"
Hans Keeskooper had agreed with Hans van Overdam, that on the scaffold he would take off his stockings, and in the meantime Hans van Overdam should speak to the people; which was also done. When the executioners would assist Hansken, the latter desired to do it alone, that Hans van Overdam might speak the longer to the people. This done, each was placed at a stake, and they offered up their bodies to God.