On the last of January, 1550, there were offered up for the faith, at Lier, in Brabant, four pious Christians, named Govert, Gillis, Mariken and Anneken, who, as sheep for the slaughter, had been apprehended without violence. When they were brought before the council, and questioned concerning their faith, they made a frank and unfeigned confession of it. The bailiff then said, "You stand here to defend yourselves?"
Govert replied, "As regards my faith, I have freely confessed it, and shall turn to no other; though it cost my life, I will adhere to it."
Forthwith the imperial edict was read to them, and the bailiff asked them whether they understood its contents.
Govert said, "God has commanded , us through Christ, as is recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Mark, that all who believe and are baptized shall besaved, and that those who do not believe shall be damned; but the emperor, in his blind judgment, has commanded that whoever is baptized upon his faith, shall be put to death without mercy. These two commands militate against each other; one of the two we must forsake; but everyone ought to know that we must keep the command of God; for though Satan teaches that we are heretics, yet we do not act contrary to the Word of God."
When they were led to the tribunal, Govert said to the priests, "Take off your long robes, put on sack cloth, put ashes on your heads, and repent, like those of Nineveh."
In the court the bailiff asked him whether he desired no favor.
He replied, "I will not ask for your favor; for what I cannot do without, the most high God will give me."
The bailiff said also to Anneken, "Do you not desire a favor, before sentence is passed upon you?))
She answered, "I shall ask favor of God, my refuge."
Mariken, an old woman of seventy-five years, was asked whether she would confess her sins to the priest.
She replied, "I am sorry that I ever confessed my sins to the mortal ears of the priests."
Seeing some brethren, Govert turned his face and joyfully comforted them, saying among other things, "I pray God, that you may be thus imprisoned for His glory, as I now am."
The bailiff very fiercely said, "Be still, for your preaching is of no account here.", "My lord bailiff," said he,"I speak only five or six words, which God has given me to speak, does this give you so much pain?" And when the people murmured on this account, he said, "This has been witnessed from the time of righteous Abel, that the righteous have suffered reproach; hence be not astonished." The two servants that stood by him said, "You must not speak; the bailiff will not have it; hence be still."
Immediately God closed his mouth, which grieved many. Gillis was not questioned, and he said nothing at all; but they were led back to prison, where they rejoiced together, and sang: Saligh is den man, en goet geheeten; and also the forty-first psalm. The bailiff then came into prison, and asked Govert, whether he had considered the matter; to which be replied, "Unless you repent, the punishment of God shall come upon you." The bailiff looked out of the window, and said, "Will God damn all this multitude of people?"
Govert replied, "I have spoken the Word of God to you; but I hope there are still people here who fear God?"
The bailiff then turned to Anneken, and asked her what she had to say to it.
She replied, "Lord bailiff, twice I have been greatly honored in this city, namely, when I was married, and when my husband became emperor;
but I never had a joy that did not perish, as I now have."
On his way to death, Govert delivered an excellent admonition, reproving the wicked railing, and said, "Be it known to you, that we do not die for theft, murder or heresy, but because we seek an inheritance with God, and live according to His Word."
The executioner commanded him silence, but he said, "Leave God be with me for a little while; repent, for your life is short."
A brother then said, "God will strengthen you.", "Oh, yes," said he,"the power of, His Spirit is not weakening in me."
The monk attempted to speak to Mariken, but Govert said, "Get you hence, deceiver, to your own people; for we have no need of you."
Entering the ring, Govert said to the gild-brothers, "How you stand here with sticks and staves? Thus stood the Jews when they brought Christ to death; if we had been afraid of this, we would have fled in time."
They then knelt down together, and prayed; whereupon they kissed each other. Anneken immediately commenced to sing, "In thee, O Lord; do I put my trust." Ps. 71:1. The servants told her to be still; but Govert said, "No, sister, sing on," and helped her sing. Enraged at this, the bailiff called to him a servant, and whispered something in his ear. The latter went to the assistant of the executioner, who, upon receiving the order, immediately put a gag on Govert; but the latter held his teeth so firmly closed, that the gag did not hinder him much, and he laughingly said, "I could easily sing with the gag on; but Paul says: 'Sing in your heart to God."' Eph. 5:19.
The executioner, in order to put her to shame, made Anneken stand in her bare chemise. A servant asked Gillis whether he did not see some of his people. Gillis said, "Do you know of nothing else to torment us with?""What does he say?" asked Govert."He inquires for our fellow brethren," replied Gillis. Govert said, "Though I could count twenty, I would not mention a single one. You think that by killing us you can suppress the Word of God; but of those that hear and see this, hundreds shall yet come forth." Standing at the stake, he said, "Amend your ways and repent; for after this there will be no more time for repentance." A servant who had a bottle of wine, asked them whether they wished to drink. Govert said, "We have no desire for your insipid wine; for our. Father shall give us new wine in His eternal kingdom." Matt. 26:29. When it was thought that the old woman had been strangled at the stake, she began to sing a hymn in honor of her Bridegroom, which when Anneken heard it, she, from ardent love, sang with her. When they all stood at their stakes, each with a strap around the neck, they smiled at and nodded to one another, thus affectionately saluting and comforting each other,. andcommending their souls into the hands of God, they fell asleep in the Lord, and were burned.
In the year 1550, there were apprehended at Leyden, in Holland, four lambs of Christ, namely, a brother and three sisters, named Willem, Maritgen, Dieuwertgen and Maritgen Jans, who, having frankly confessed their faith, and no pain or suffering have power to cause them to apostatize, were finally sentenced to death as heretics.
When they were brought forth, Willem said, "We suffer not as thieves or murderers, but for the name of,the Lord; therefore, O Lord, forgive them that do this to us."
Maritgen said, "Lord, strengthen us, who suffer for Thy Word, which few are willing to do. I am not worthy to suffer for Thy name; but, Lord, Thou shalt make me worthy." Acts 5:41.
Dieuwertgen came forward singing, and then said, "Dear citizens, do not avenge this; for it is done for the name, of the Lord, " She further said, "Lord, look upon' us, who suffer for Thy word; for our trust is in Thee alone."
Maritgen Jans said, "This is the narrow way to salvation. O Lord, receive my spirit. And you lords of the council, only consider what great injury you are doing to your souls, in shedding innocent blood; hence repent, like those of Nineveh; for we suffer, not on, account of heresy or sedition; we seek not to contend, save with the sword of the Spirit, which is. the Word of God." Thereupon, commending thir souls into the hands of God, they offered up. their sacrifice, presenting an acceptable savor to God, for, which they will hereafter not lose their reward.
As this Teunis van Haustelraed was a zealous man in the fear of God, and very diligent with the talent which the Lord had committed to him, to get gain _for the Lord, to bring many to the knowledge of the truth, and to strengthen those who had received the truth, in the same;. and as he thus most faithfully oversaw and served the church of Christ, he was finally apprehended, and ,imprisoned at Limmick, a city in:the province of Jueelick, -where he had many, a. severe contest with many subtle and shrewd spirits, and had to suffer and endure many torments for his faith. The controversy was principally about infant baptism and the sacrament, in which he.did not agree with the papists. And as he could not be overcome or moved by them, but adhered firmly to the truth, he was finally condemned to, be burred. They led him out of the city into the open field, and there burned him to ashes, about the year 1550.
While he was yet in prison,.he remembered his brethren and sisters with a consolatory admonition,
which he sent to them from prison; it reads as follows, "O God, grant that in my great suffering I may unceasingly press to Thee, and not fear any pain, or death. Yea, dear Lord, I beseech Thee, who art God over all things, that I may not be ensnared by whatever may and will yet come upon me, which I shall suffer with Christ, unto salvation; for I know that the crown of life is prepared for those who persevere herein. Therefore, O ye pious, despair not, but earnestly betake yourselves to your Captain Christ, for He can win the field; and He shall come at the last day, in flaming fire, and hold a severe judgment over all the ungodly. He shall then say to the sheep on His right hand: 'Come, inherit the kingdom of my Father, prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' Matt. 25:34. O all ye Christians, cast from you all that burdens you, and stand with your loins girt, and watch for the Lord. Heb. 12:1; Luke 12:35., "If you are righteous, become still more righteous; for, believe me, you will need it all. O all ye members of Christ together, I beseech you, wake up now, that you may not sleep when the Bridegroom comes; for then the wise will be admitted to salvation, but the foolish will be shut out into eternal damnation. Matt. 25:10., "The Lord, to whom belonged the talent entrusted to you, will come again, and strictly inquire what each has gained. He shall then commend the wise, saying: 'Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.' But the slothful shall be reproved for his wickedness, and committed to torment. Matt. 25:26. O ye lambs of the Lord, feed now, that you may become ready, so that you may not be unprepared when you are to come to the wedding. Otherwise the king will say: 'Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?' Then the man, having no good answer, shall be speechless. But the king will command him to be cast into everlasting darkness. Matt. 22:13., "Do not become buyers of lands, but rather sell, you that are bidden, and give to the poor. Luke 14:18; Matt. 19:21. O dear brethren, have compassion on the poor, and comfort and assist them. I have nearly fought the fight, and my course will soon be finished; God grant that I may keep the faith, and the crown of life will be prepared for me. II Tim. 4:8. O Lord, raise up faithful servants, and make them rulers over thy household, that they may give them meat in due season. Matt. 24: 45. Pious Christians, I give you this as a brotherly adieu, for your good. It has been written with a faithful heart, and I hope to seal it with my blood."
Tijs van Lindt was a zealous and devout man, a resident of Remunde, in Guelderland, and walked, according to the knowledge which God had given him, devoutly in the fear of the Lord; he was especially gifted with a sympathizing and mercifulheart towards the poor and needy, so that, through the manifold alms and assistance which he rendered to the poor in general, he had a good report with many; for, with that which God had given him, he comforted many in their distress. But as he had forsaken popery, with its idolatry, accepted the evangelical truth, received the saving faith in Jesus Christ, repented of his sinful life (abused in ignorance), been baptized upon his faith, and daily sought to go on in the new and holy life, to the honor of God, the edification of his neighbor, and the enlightenment of those who still sat in blindness, in order thus to present his body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, the adversaries of the truth could not bear it, and this pious man was reported and charged with heresy. He was put into prison, where he had to endure many conflicts and assaults; they assailed him severely with torments, that he should apostatize from his faith. But as he notwithstanding all sufferings and torments steadfastly adhered to his faith, he was finally condemned by virtue of the imperial mandate, and burned to ashes.
Shortly after the burning of this pious witness of Jesus Christ, in Remunde, the city itself took fire, and was almost entirely reduced to ashes. How it was is not known, unless of its own accord. Many think that it was a punishment for the innocent blood, which judgment we leave to God.
Palmken Palmen was a resident of Borren, near the bailiwick of Millen, and was very zealous to live in the truth of the holy Gospel, and to follow Christ his Lord in obedience, whom he had put on when he was baptized upon his faith. But as the light is hated by darkness, and there was at this time a severe persecution in the country, by certain bloodthirsty authorities, instigated by the priests there, this good man was often in great distress, and was finally imprisoned, in which imprisonment he suffered much reproach and many assaults; and as he immovably kept his faith in every fear and distress, he was finally sentenced to be burned to ashes, which sentence, as appeared, he received with gladness; for, when he was taken away from the house at Borren, he joyfully kept singing a hymn until the last moment, that is, as long as he had breath, while he was standing at the stake at which he was burned to ashes; which took place between Sittert and Limmerich, in the open field, where a gravestone still marks the place where he is said to have died.
A short time previously there were seven brethren at one time, and eleven at another, executed with the sword, in the bailiwick of Millen and.Bor-
ren, and thus bore- testimony with their blood to the name of Christ.
There was also a ,pious and devout brother and fellow member of the church of Jesus Christ, named Remken Ramaeckers, burned for the evangelical truth, near Sittert.
In like manner, Gerrit van Kempen was burners for the testimony of Jesus Christ, at Wislen.
The malice of the priests was so great that they could not bear it, that those who sought in quietness to serve God the Lord in simplicity and sincerity should reside in Antwerp; but they so instigated the Margrave, that rather than lose his office, he went about to apprehend them, and having to this end sent out his servants, he arrested three of them, which caused the priests great joy. The captive brethren, on the other hand, also rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for the name of the Lord. They were sharply examined concerning their faith, of which they made a good confession, with regard to baptism, and the sacrament, as well as to other articles; and though greatly assailed with subtlety by the priests, and the doctors of Louvain, they so.sagaciously defended themselves with the Scriptures, that the margrave himself declared that he had never heard so clear an exposition of the Scriptures, and that if he were with them only two weeks they should persuade him. Thereupon the brethren said, "Judge yourselves, whether it is not the true faith and the truth for which we pledge our lives, and from which we will not depart, but persevere therein to the praise and the glory of the Lord, who did not forsake us, even when we were sitting in darkness." Heb. 10:28; Matt. 24:13; Heb. 13:5; Matt. 4:16.
Now when the doctors produced many Scriptures in a perverted and wrong manner, the brethren said, "How dare you be so presumptuous as to teach the way of the Lord so pervertedly?" One of the.doctors replied, "It is because we are not willing to be imprisoned and in fear and tribulation with you; but in about seven or eight years I will promulgate the truth aright, and make great gain by it."Poor man I" said one of the brethren,"you trust in a vain hope, since you are sure of neither evening nor morning, hour nor time, which came true; for he died shortly after." Luke 12:20."Behold," said they,"you acknowledge yourselves, that we have committed no crime; why then will you take our lives?" The council said, "The decree of the emperor commands us to put you to death.""Take then," said they,"the decree withyou into the judgment of the Lord, and see what it will avail you; indeed nothing."
They were then sentenced, each to be burned at a stake. This sentence did not terrify them; but they greatly rejoiced, and comforted each other. The council said to the youngest, "Pray the margrave, and:ie will very probably release you.""Oh, no," replied he."I will suffer with my brethren for the truth." Thus they went together gladly and boldly to the stakes, saying to one another, "We go in peace to the peaceable house of God, there to obtain an everlasting habitation." They also prayed for the lords, that God would not lay this deed to their charge, but enlighten them, that they might come to repentance. Finally, standing at the stake, they cried out, "Heavenly Father, receive our spirits into Thy hands," and thus they offered up their sacrifice as true children of God.
The Lord Jesus said to Peter, who was not only a lamb of Jesus Christ, but also a faithful shepherd, elder and overseer of the flock, "Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest
but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.""This spake he," says John,"signifying by what death he should glorify God." John 21:18, 19. Here no great bishopric, benefice, or yearly stipend is promised to the high apostle Peter, by his Master Christ Jesus, for this his faithful service, which he should begin and carry out in watching and feeding the sheep and lambs of the Lord; but much rather tribulation, bonds, and the bitter death with which he should meet. John 16:33; 15:20.
But even as his Master entered through tribulation and suffering into His glory, so it was His will, that His servants should follow His footsteps. This was exemplified, about the year 1550, in the case of one Anthony van Asselroye, a faithful follower of Christ and His chosen apostle Peter. He also bowed his neck under the easy yoke of our Lord Jesus, following Him from the whole heart in the regeneration, so that he was chosen by the church of God, to feed and pasture, like Peter, the souls of the sheep of the Lord with the Word of God; which he faithfully did in that dark, perilous and bloody time, until he fell into the hands of the bloodthirsty papists, who bound him, and carried him whither he would not; for no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous to the flesh, but grievous. Heb. 12:11.
Thus this teacher and elder was compelled to tread the bloody wine press, and suffered and endured many torments from these persecutors. And as he patiently passed through all this, and no tyranny could move him to apostatize, he was condemned and put to death, and thus torn and devoured by these ravening wolves, according to the
flesh, but in no wise according to the Spirit. But even as this hero and soldier of Jesus Christ obediently followed Christ and His faithful followers, in the faith and the regeneration, so he, at the appearing of the Lord, shall sit with them upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matt. 19:28. There he shall receive again, in glorious immortality, like unto the glorious body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the members which he delivered into bitter death, for the truth and the name of the Lord, and shall live with Him forever. Phil. 3:21; I Thess. 4:17.
Peter Bruynen, who was offered up at Antwerp, A. D. 1551, confesses that he received Christian baptism upon his faith, by said Anthony van Asselroye.
In the year 1550, there were imprisoned in the city of London, in England, two pious witnesses of Jesus, a man by the name of John Knel or Buchner, and a woman named Anna Cantiana; who, among other things, believed and confessed with Menno Simons and all true believers, that the Son of God became man for our sakes, and that He did not receive His humanity from Mary or any other source, but that the eternal Word or Son, became Himself flesh or man. As the afore-mentioned could by no means be brought to apostatize, but would firmly adhere to the truth accepted, they, after suffering many torments, were condemned to death at said place. John Knel was burned the second of May, A. D. 1550. Anna Cantiana was also burned to ashes the same year. According to the testimony of John Fox she was ever ready to render service to others especially to those who were in bonds and imprisonment, with whom she constantly was, to minister to them. And as these above-mentioned martyrs suffered all this for the testimony of Jesus, and not on account of any crime, and steadfastly died for the truth, and were not ashamed of Christ and His 'word; in this life, before men, He shall also not be ashamed of themm, before His Father, but, out of grace, bestow upon them and all the blessed, the kingdom prepared for them from the beginning.
Concerning this, see preface to the old Oferboeck of the year 1616, letter J,'other side.
At a certain time, which we have not been able precisely to ascertain, a lad named Jacques Dosie, was imprisoned at Leeuwaerden, in Friesland, for the truth of the holy Gospel. It is said that he was only about fifteen years of age; but the wonderworking God, by the holy Spirit, manifested His power through this little one, and perfected His praise out of the mouth of this young child. Matt. 21:16; Ps. 8:2. For; on a certain occasion, when the lord and lady of Friesland, with many noblesand ladies, were assembled at Leeuwaerden, they summoned Jacques before them, conversed with him, and examined him, whether he was contaminated with any heresy. But the faithful God, according to His promise (Luke 21:14; Matt. 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11) , gave him a mouth and wisdom, which they could in no wise resist or quench.
Thus it came, that after a few words the lord of Friesland went his way, because the people were waiting for him; but the lady of Friesland, moved to compassion; it seems, talked with him, asking him why ,he,' who was still so young, was thus severely imprisoned and bound.
Jacques answered, "This was- done only because I believe in Christ, adhere to Him alone, and will in no wise forsake Him."
The lady asked him, "Do you not belong to the people who rebaptize themselves, perpetrate so much evil in our country, make rebellion, run together; and say that they are dispersed on account of the faith, and boast of being the church of God, although they are a wicked set, and cause great commotion among the people?"
Jacques. "My lady, I do not know any rebellious people, nor am I one of their number; but we would much rather, according to the teachings of the Scriptures, assist also our enemies, satisfy them, if they hunger and thirst, with food and drink, and resist them in no wise with revenge or violence." Rom. 12:20, 17; Matt. 5:39.
Another said, "It would be seen, if you only had the power.
Jacques replied, "Oh, .no my lady, believe; if it were permitted among us, to resist the evil with the carnal sword, know, that no seven men should have brought me here, and I should have kept out of your hands, for there would have been power to do it."
Lady. "I know there are such sects, who are very wicked and kill the people, and also have their goods and wives in .common."
Jacques. "Oh, no, my lady, we are quite unjustly charged with these wicked things, and occasion is thereby sought, to persecute us; but we must suffer and endure all this with patience." Matt. 5:11; Acts 21:38; 11 Tim. 2:3.
Lady. "Was it not your people, who with great dishonor took up arms against the government at Amsterdam and Muenster?"
Jacques."Oh, no, my lady; for those people erred greatly; but we regard it as a doctrine of the devil, to seek to resist the authorities with the external sword and violence, and would much rather suffer persecution and death from them, together with everything that is inflicted upon us." Rom. 13:1_; I Pet. 2:13; Tit. 3:1.
Lady. "Nevertheless, it is imputed to you, and they who make uproar do very wrong; however, I believe what you say concerning it."
Jacques. "My lady, do we not read much of this character, how wicked men spoke evil of the apos-
tles themselves, and the whole band of Christians, and, by many wicked things, sought to incite the authorities to vengeance against them, -though it was all falsehood?" Acts 28:22; 24:5; Luke 2:34.
Lady. "Do you not believe that all are damned who are not baptized according to your way?"
Jacques. "Oh, no, my lady, for judgment with regard to this belongs to God alone, who shall reward everyone according to his works, as is clearly evident in many places of the holy Scriptures. Moreover, the water has not power to cleanse us from sin, as Peter says, but is merely a sign of all obedience." I Peter 3:21; Matt. 3:15.
Lady. "When you are baptized, tell me, can you still sin?"
Jacques. "Yes, my lady, for this appears very clearly from the words of Paul; since we are still clothed in a weak and sinful body, and sin in many things. Rom. 7:14, 18; Gal. 5:17; Jas. 3:2: But we must constantly crucify and mortify it, and not practice or fulfill the works of the flesh; or the righteousness of God will condemn us to eternal death."
Lady. "Wherein do you still differ with the inquisitor, let me hear once?"
Jacques."My lady, because I will in no wise accept his doctrine, unless he first clearly prove to me that it accords in every respect with the Word of God; otherwise he labors in vain; for my faith is founded on the pure Word of God alone. As regards the practice of infant baptism, we contradict it with reason, since it is not a command of God Almighty, but much rather the invention of men, seeing infants have not the least knowledge or discernment of what is required or comprised in baptism. But Christ in His love for such innocent ones has promised them the kingdom of God through grace, without requiring any of these conditions. Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Matt. 18:3. My lady, I find that popery is infected with many other errors besides this; for they seek to make Christ come into the bread, or that the bread should become changed into His flesh and blood; which we in no wise believe, but .regard as an exceedingly gross error and absurdity. But we believe that Christ truly ascended to heaven, and sits on the right hand of His Father. Mark 16:19; Luke 24: 51; Acts 1:9. Thus we do not believe that there is any salvation in their flour, mass, purgatory, or any of their services for the dead, and all like human inventions, of which they have a great number, and all of which are nowhere recognized in the holy Scriptures, but excluded therefrom: Gal. 1:14; I Tim. 4:2. But, on the contrary, we call upon God and seek our salvation in Him, and not in any creature, that we may not corrupt God's own glory, and give it to any of His creatures. Jer. 13:16; Josh. 7:19.
The provincial having come, he began to speak, and said, "Will you not believe in the sacrament, which Christ Himself instituted?"
Jacques."My lord, Paul says that the bread is broken in remembrance of Him, and that the cup of blessing is the communion of the blood of Christ." I Cor. 11:24; 10:16. Thus he ended his words.
Lady. "I consider this the worst thing in you, that you will not have the children baptized; for all Germany and every kingdom regards your doings as heresy."
Jacques. "My lady, it is indeed true that we are everywhere despised, .and, like the apostolical band, evil spoken of in all the world; but do not think that such shall therefore perish at the last day." I Cor. 4:9; Matt. 5:11; II Pet. 2:2.
Lady. "My dear child, behold, I pray thee, come over to our side, and repent, and you shall get out of this trouble, and I promise to procure your release."
Jacques. "My lady, I thank you very much for your affection and favor towards me; but I will not change my faith, to please mortal man; unless it be proved to me with the Scriptures, that I err; for I have given myself entirely to God, to be His friend, and herein I hope to live and die." Galatians 1:10; Phil. 3:8; John 15:14.
Laxly."My son, behold this multitude of men; I have compassion for you, and entreat you, repent of your baptism and do not remain so obstinate; if you, so young a child, should die for this cause, it would, be a heavy cross for my heart; hence see that you are released, and may go home."
Jacques."My lady, I can not see that there is any crime at all in my baptism, seeing I herein have not followed my own, but the holy institution of our Lord Jesus Christ; had I been able to find another, better way to the kingdom of God, it would not have happened; for I was inclined with my whole heart to seek the Lord my God." Isaiah 56:6.
Lady. "Should they then all err, so many learned men that have been before you; do you dare be so presumptuous as this?"
Jacques. "My lady, in Israel four hundred prophets were against the single Micaiah, who alone spoke the truth, and was kept imprisoned on bread and water; which King Ahab experienced in his distress, but too late." I Kings 22:27; II Chronicles 18:5.
The lady finally said, "I find many good things in you; but your greatest error I consider to lie in your baptism, which does not seem to me to be of God."
In this manner she had him brought before her many times; but as he, young in years, but old in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Wisd. 4:8; I Cor. 14:20), had built his foundation upon the rock Jesus Christ, he valiantly repelled all the subtle devices of Satan-whether consisting in many severe threats, or in fair promises of the kingdom of this world (Matt. 4:8)-with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; and as nothing could move him to forsake Christ, he was con-
demned to death by the rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6:12), and thus testified-and confirmed the true faith of the truth with his death and blood, and, through grace, obtained the crown of everlasting glory.
Concerning this, see -a hymn in the Gulden Harp, beginning: Tot Leeuwaeyden op eenen dagh.
As it has from the beginning been abundantly heard and seen, that the truth is envied and trampled upon by its enemies and haters, and that its pious confessors have had to suffer from them in manifold ways; so, among many other examples, it was verified, at a certain time after Mary van Beckum and her sister had been offered up at Delden, in the case of a faithful brother named Hans van Monster, who lay imprisoned for the truth, in the castle of Berchem, near Antwerp. And since Jesus very earnestly teaches and recommends to us the visiting of the sick and imprisoned, in their tribulation (Matt. 25:36; Heb. 13:3), a single man named Old Jacob, and another by the name of Bartel, moved by the spirit and brotherly love, went from Antwerp to Berchem, to comfort their brother, according to their ability; in his tribulation. When they arrived there; the enemies watched them, supposing that old Jacob was a teacher and elder; for at that time the bloodthirsty papists had put a reward of three hundred guilders upon teachers, to be given to any who should deliver them into the hands of the executioners; and as old Jacob was very eloquent, and could defend himself very ably with the Word of God, they hoped to earn said money by him, in which, however, they; failed, as Jacob was no teacher. Nevertheless, they kept them, and imprisoned them with their fellow brother; and as they together were built upon the immovable rock Christ Jesus, they remained steadfast in all these tempests; and since no torment could induce them to depart from the truth, they were together put to death in the castle of Berchem, valiantly offering their lives for the truth, and are now waiting with all the saints of God, the blessed resurrection unto eternal life. Rev. 6:11; I Thess. 4:16.
In the beginning of the conversion of the beforementioned Bartel, and another, named Gerrit, it occurred that these two young men were present when Mary van Beckum and her sister were offered up in the castle of Delden; and they testified that they heard Mary van Beckum declare publicly before the people, when she was placed at the stake, to be burned, "You shall see this stake at which I am to be burned grow green, by which you may know that it is the truth for which we here suffer and die." These two young men, who heard this themselves, some time afterwards went of their own accord to the stake, and saw it flourish. Terrified thereby, they went together to Antwerp, toinquire for such people; and having come to an elder by the name of Hendrick van Aernem, and Jan Lubberts of B., they related the above to them. Thereupon Hendrick van Aernem replied, "I would not dare repeat this after you." They said, "Should we not tell what we have heard and seen ourselves?" Thus they adhered to their assertion concerning what had occurred with regard to Mary van Beckum, and, accordingly, lent their ears to the truth, repented, became converted, and united with the church of God. Afterwards Gerrit went to Amsterdam, where he resided until his death; but Bartel lost his life for the truth, as has been heard.
About the year 1550, it happened in the bishopric of Bamberg, that two young girls espoused and received Christ by faith, were baptized upon their faith, according to the doctrine of Christ, and arising from sin, sought to walk in newness of life with Christ. On this account the antichristians sought to hinder them in this good resolution, and to quench their good intention as much as lay in their power: They therefore cast these two young lambs into prison, where they tortured them with great severity, and sought also with other unchristian means to cause them to apostatize; but as they were firmly built upon Christ, thev remained faithful and steadfast during the entire trial. Col. 2:7; Rev. 2:10. Hence, the authorities, who herein generally follow the advice of the false 'prophets, condemned them to death; at which they were joyful and undaunted. When they were led out to execution, their persecutors, by way of reproach and mockery, placed wreaths of straw upon their heads; whereupon one said to the other, "Since the Lord Christ wore a crown of thorns for us, why should not we wear these crowns of straw in honor of Him? The faithful God shall for this place a beautiful golden crown and glorious wreath upon our heads." Thus these two young branches armed themselves with patience, according to the example of their Captain Jesus, remained faithful unto death, died steadfastly, and. obtained, through grace, the glorious crown with God in heaven.
To these girls their adversaries accord the praise, that they died quite undauntedly and steadfastly, and that they had the true foundation and ground of the Christian faith in their Redeemer Christ Jesus, whom they openly confessed, and called upon in their distress, wherein they steadfastly died with a firm hope; so that doubts were entertained among their adversaries, as to whether they themselves were not in greater error before God, than these young girls, though they were Anabaptists.
He that wishes may read, with regard to this account, Johannes Manlius, printed at Frankfort, A. D. 1550.
At the same time a lad of fifteen years was put to death, suffering it with great steadfastness, at I_eeuwaerden; whose faith is compared to that of the aforementioned two young girls put to death at Bamberg. See Ondeygang, page 1130, col. 1.
It appears that at this time the bitterness of the Romish clergy increased and broke forth more and more, against those who sought to .follow the evangelical doctrine of .Jesus Christ; so that they prevailed upon the Emperor, through decrees, to revive the inquisition aver the consciences of the inhabitants of the Netherlands, which for a time had seemingly abated, and to introduce it with greater rigor than before; which was accordingly done in the manner prescribed, which caused great dissatisfaction and sorrow to the common people of said countries. In regard to this, a certain author writes thus:, "Though many severe decrees had been published before at different times, for the oppression of the evangelical believers, whereby many thousands were miserably put to death for the faith, in the Netherlands; yet the hatred and ill will of the people increased to an unwonted degree, in the year 1550, in consequence of the decree in regard to the inquisition, issued by Emperor Charles V, at Brussels, on the 29th of April; for thereby it was declared, that it was the intention, from that time forth publicly to introduce the spiritual inquisition, but to have the cruel and bloody mandates nevertheless rigorously executed by the secular power." Chron. van den Ondergang, page 11.29, col. 1, compared with Eman. de Met., lib. 1. Pieter Bor., lib. 1. Oorspronch der Nederlantsche Beroerten, old edition, fol. 5, 6.
Further Observation.-Though the writer says its the sequel, that some magistrates would not publish this decree concerning the inquisition, and that some, by humble petitions to the Emperor, obtained a mitigation; yet it had come so far, that actual means were secretly employed to carry out this purpose, through the inquisitors; in consequence of which, the minds of the people became the more agitated and disaffected; so that many emigrated
from the cities of Brabant, particularly from West Flanders. See the authors cited.
At this time, also Reyer Dircks, a pious hero and valiant soldier, of Jesus Christ, though of small repute in the eyes of the world, who gained his livelihood with a little boat on the river Amstel, enlisted under the bloody banner of his Saviour, .and united with the cross-bearing church, contemptuously called Anabaptists. Having been with them about three years, he virtually experienced that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and that the violent take it by force; inasmuch as he could not enter the spacious halls of the blessed palace of God without pressing through the strait gate, so that his flesh, yea the whole body, remained on the posts, and this in the fire, as food for the birds and wild beasts.
He was imprisoned at Amsterdam, in Holland, and, though he was most miserably tortured, he nevertheless refused to depart from his faith, and the promise which he had made to God in baptism. He was then condemned to death as a heretic, and very cruelly executed with flaming fire.
The foregoing may be clearly seen from the following sentence, which was read on the day of his death, in the court at Amsterdam, by the ecclesiastical rulers.
Whereas Ryer Dircks, boatman, citizen of this city,. did, about three years ago, embrace the doctrines, errors, sects, and heresies of the Anabaptists, and is holding pernicious views with regard to the sacraments of the holy church, contrary to the holy Christian faith, the ordinances of the holy church, and the written laws and decrees of his Imperial Majesty, our gracious lord, and, moreover, persists in his errors and heresies, notwithstanding the instruction given him in the true faith; therefore, my lords of the court, having heard the demand made by my lord the bailiff, in the name of his Imperial Majesty, concerning the afore-mentioned Ryer Dircks, as also his confession, and having duly considered the circumstances of the case, condemn said Ryer Dircks, pursuant to the aforesaid decrees, to be executed with fire by the executioner; and, furthermore, declare his property confiscated for the benefit of his Imperial Majesty, as Count of Holland, without derogation and'prejudice to the privileges of this city.
Thus pronounced, and committed to the executioner for execution, this sixteenth day of August, A. D. 1550, in the presence of the bailiff, all the burgomasters, and all the judges, with the exception of Jan Dunen.
Ryer Dircks was examined by torture the ninth of July, A. D. 1550.
Extracted from the book of criminal sentences, in the keeping of the secretary of the city of Amsterdam.
In or about the year 1551, a smith was apprehended for the divine truth, .at Komen, in Flanders. He freely confessed his faith, and as he would not depart from it, he was sentenced to death in two ways, namely, if he recanted, he was to be executed with the sword; otherwise to be burned alive. To this end, twofold preparations were made; but seeing the multitude, and fearing trouble, the authorities kept the brother in prison. Hence, some climbed to the top of the prison and broke through the roof, to see what was being done with the doomed man. At last, one knocked at the door of the prison, desiring to know whether the brother was alive or dead. Having been admitted, he immediately returned with blood on his hand, which he showed to the people, saying, "He is dead! He is dead!" The dead man was then brought out on a ladder, with his head lying between his legs, and the ladder placed upon the wall of the churchyard, where the priest made a long speech (a sermon probably), saying among other things, that he had renounced his heretical belief, and reaccepted the Roman church and her saving faith; and"holding now a good resolution," said he,"he was instantly executed, lest he might fall back into his old error." But it was firmly believed that the priest slandered the dead man, and this the more so; since after relating the sentence, he said that he obstinately adhered to his previous confession. Thus God constrains the wicked, in the telling of their lies; themselves, unawares, to reveal the truth of the matter.
On the 21st of July, A. D. 1551, two pious Christians, a brother by the name of Gillis, and a sister named Elizabeth, were sentenced to death as heretics, pursuant to the imperial decree, at Ghent, in Flanders. They were not led forth to death at the usual time, but at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Having ascended the scaffold, they prayed to God. In the meantime, the executioner unlaced the gown of Elizabeth, which, when she arose, fell down, so that she stood there in her shift and linen trousers, which the executioner, by way of mockery, had made her put on. Feeling greatly ashamed on this account, she immediately went to the stake, and then said, "I thank Thee, O Lord, that I am worthy to suffer for Thy name. I now stand at the touchstone, at which God's elect .are tried. O Lord, strengthen me, and delay not."
Gillis said, "Dear sister, be patient in your suffering, and comfort yourself in God; He will not forsake you."
"O dear brother," said she,"I will never depart from Him."
Gillis then cried, "O Lord, forgive them their sins, who inflict death upon me; for as they do not know Thee, they know not what they do."
Finally they cried out, "O heavenly Father, into Thy hands we commend our spirits." And thus, through fire, they died a blessed death well pleasing unto God.
On account of the severe and great persecution which was carried on everywhere in the Nether lands, against the true Christians, .four pious believers, among others, named Joris, , Wouter; Grietgen and Naentgen, fled, in the year 1551,. from Lier in Brabant, to Ghent in Flanders. They had not resided long in the latter place when they were betrayed by a Judas, and brought prisoners from their houses to the castle of the count, where. they joyfully thanked God, and sang praises to Him, because they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. When assailed by the monks and oth.er sophists, they freely confessed their faith, from which no subtlety could turn them; but they valiantly withstood, with the truth, the seducers who sought to murder their souls, and were then condemned to death by virtue of the imperial mandate, because they had apostatized from the Roman church, condemned infant baptism, and had been baptized upon faith. They were sentenced to be burned at the stake without being strangled. They thanked the lords, and Grietgen said, "My lords, save three stakes; we can all four die at one; for we, are spiritually of one mind." Rom. 12:16. They were joyful in the Lord, and thanked. God greatly. Naentgen said, "This is the day for which I have longed so much." Eight monks then came, to torment them; however, they did not accept their advice, but Grietgen said, "Take off your long robes and teach yourselves, before you undertake to teach others." They were led to death like sheep to the slaughter, the monks accompanying, them, to whom they said: "Stay back; let us in peace, for we know you well, and do not wish to hear you."
Having ascended the scaffold, Joris said to the people, "Be it known to you, that we do not die for theft, murder, or heresy." At this the monks became enraged, and contradicted it.
They then fell upon their knees, prayed to God, and arose and kissed each other with the kiss of peace. But when they with glad countenances addressed the people, the monks, to hinder them, went and stood before them; but one of the people cried out, "You furious antichristians, stand back, and let them speak."
Wouter said, "Citizens of Ghent, we suffer not as heretics or Lutherans, who hold in one hand a beer mug, and a testament in the other, thus dishonoring the Word of God, and dealing in drunkenness; but we die for the genuine truth." The executioner then hung each of them by a rope to a stake, but did not strangle them. They then strengthened each other, saying, "Let us fight valiantly, for this is our last pain; hereafter we shall rejoice with God in endless joy." Matt. 25: 23. As they were hanging in pain, before the fire was kindled, Joris fell through the rope, and Wouter cried, "O brother, be of good cheer!""O Lord!" exclaimed Joris,"in Thee do I trust; strengthen my faith." Luke 17:5. The fire then commenced to burn, and they cried out, "O God Father, into.Thy hands we commend our spirits." Thus they offered up their sacrifice according to the will of the Lord, and their faith was tried like gold in the fire, and found good, and so accepted of God.
Eight days after the sacrifice of the preceding persons, a woman named Catharine was also sentenced to the fire. While yet in prison, she was greatly tormented by the monks, in order to make her apostatize, but she said, "I stand so firmly to my faith that for it, to the honor of God, I will suffer my self to be burned at the stake. What would you do for your faith? not much, I think. Hence repent, before you be brought to shame."
Having been sentenced to be burned alive, and on her way to death, she was saluted by a brother. When she arrived on the scaffold, her hands were untied at her request. She then knelt down, and prayed fervently to God for strength, which He also gave her; for when she had arisen, and was tied to the stake, she boldly said, "I am put to death for the truth's sake; whatever you are able to inflict upon me, I am freely ready to suffer." A seducer then came up, to comfort and strengthen her, . as he said, but she replied, "Be still, I am tired of your tormenting; forbear comforting me, and comfort yourself; for He whose name I suffer, shall now be my comfort.".
Thereupon, calling with a firm confidence upon God, she was burned alive in the sight of all men, steadfastly offering up soul and body to God, as a burnt. sacrifice.
In the year 1528, on the Wednesday after All Saints Day, Brother John Bair of Lichtenfels, was apprehended for the faith and the divine truth, and was confined for twenty-three years in a tower at Bamberg, in Franconia, on account of his constancy, as is seen from the following letter, written by him from there to the elders of the church. It reads thus, "Dear brethren, I have received the writing tablets and the account of the doctrine and faith
of our religion, as also six candles and pens; but most important, the Bible, I did not receive, as is written in the forepart of the tablets; but it is my request, that you will send it to me, if it can still be found; for I would like to have it above all things; if it can be according to the will of God; for I am sadly in want of it, and suffer great hunger and thirst for the Word of the Lord these many long years. To God and His church I make this complaint; the days of my miserable imprisonment are twenty years, wanting eight weeks; the Wednesday after All Saints Day will be the anniversary. I John Bair of Lichtenfels, the most miserable of the miserable, and the most forsaken of the forsaken, captive in Jesus Christ our Lord, again make the complaint to God and His angels, and to all His laborers and churches. Now, my most dearly beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord, pray to God for me, that He will deliver me from this peril and great distress, a distress which is unspeakable; this God knows, and I poor man, and you know it with me. Adieu."
Written at Bamberg, in a dark dungeon, in the year 1548.
After this writing, he remained in prison three years longer, that is, twenty-three years in all; when, in the year 1551, he cheerfully fell asleep in the Lord, in his prison, and obtained the martyr's crown.