A letter from Pieter Bruynen van Weert, which. he
wrote in prison at Antwerp, where he and four
others were put to death for the Word of
the Lord, on the 2nd of October,
A. D. 1551
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God of mercies, who has with His divine Word begotten us again unto a lively hope, reserved in heaven for us, who by the power of God are preserved in the faith, and tried for the kingdom of God, wherefore we suffer, for which thanks be to the Lord, because He has chosen us thereto, and made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Rom. 1:7; Jas. 1:18; Col. 1:12. Therefore, dear brethren, be valiant and fearless, and walk with a firm and unchanging faith before God and His church, and firmly resolve, not to depart from the Lord, nor to separate from His love, on account of any distress or tribulation; and He can give you assistance and comfort, when you are forsaken, being deprived of all human help and consolation; for He comes to the help of him that forsakes and denies himself, since He dwells and will dwell alone in the hearts of men, and will not have it that we should serve any one but Him. Matt. 4:10. Thus, be established and built up in Him, and let love increase among you, whereby one sustains the other, and each joyfully endeavors to be the chiefest in virtue. Pay no regard to the walk of- the slothful and heedless, to follow their example, namely those who are called Christians in ease of life (Matt. 11:8), adornment of clothing, or external appearance, but consider those whose life and confession of faith conform to the doctrine of Christ; so that you may go neither too high nor too low, neither too broad nor too long. Eph. 3:18. For many go astray by looking to one another; in consequence of which they grow cold.
Hence, my dear brethren, if you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, that your mind may be directed towards the incorruptible, and let your hope be set on the things which are not seen, and be patient herein; for there must be patience, if we would receive the promise. II Cor. 4:18; Heb. 10:36. Stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Jas. 5:8. Put off the old man, and put on the new man (Col. 3:9, 10); deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and be transformed by the renewing of your minds. If you would be partakers of the -resurrection of Christ, know, that you must first have crucified the old man, that the body of sin-may be destroyed. Rom. 6:6. And do not become weary in welldoing, since your labor shall not be in vain; for you are made partakers of Christ, if you hold thebeginning of your confidence steadfast unto . the end. I Cor. 15:58; Heb. 3:14. Be therefore not shaken by anything, neither be afraid of the sons of men, who pass away as grass; for they can do you nothing without God's permission. But fear God for this is perfect wisdom. Humble yourselves before Him; for the great Glory is honored by the lowly. Count yourselves always with the humble, and you shall be great in the eyes of God. Do not think yourselves to know something, or to be something, lest you deceive yourselves. Always forsake yourselves, and regard not those who may inflict evil or suffering upon you, though you be wronged; for this is thankworthy, if a man of conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. Matt. 5:39; I Pet. 2:19. Hence, be, patient in your tribulation, and be partakers of the sufferings of Christ, .that you may inherit the promise; for the reproach suffered here is brief when compared with the eternal joy. Rom. 12:12;. I Peter 5:1. And this light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; for though our life is poor, yet we shall be rewarded with much wealth. And though death reigns over us now, an east wind shall come from the Lord, and dry up His torments. For it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. I Cor. 15:43, 44. Hence, the house of this tabernacle must be dissolved, if we would obtain the building prepared us by God. We need therefore not fear them that kill the body, since they cannot harm the soul; for the greatest of which they deprive us, is also that for which God will give us the greatest reward; and after that they have -no more that they can do to us. Matt. 10:28. Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, watch in prayer, always giving thanks unto God the Father, through our Lord Jesus. Christ, .for His abundant grace, and that He has made- known unto us His will, manifested the savor of His knowledge, and given us the most glorious and precious 'promises, who were sometime estranged in our minds by wicked works, and alienated from the life of God, of which we had' no hope in the promises. But after that the kindness of God appeared .toward us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, in whom we are sealed until the time of redemption, who is the earnest of the future inheritance, and who assures us, and bears witness with our spirit, that we are .the children. of God, and teaches us all things, and who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. To God the Father, who only hath immortality, and to whom' alone belong power and might, praise and glory, be honor and thanks, through Christ our Lord, for His unspeakable grace, now and forever. I Pet. 1:13; Eph. 1:9; JI Cor.
2:14; Eph. 4:18; Tit. 3:4; Eph. 1:13, 14; Rom. 8:16; I Cor. 1:30; I Tim. 6:16; Rev. 4:11.
As regards our present condition, the Lord be praised for it, whom we cannot thank enough for the joy, that He has counted us worthy to suffer for His name, and for the joy given us by Him, which we have in our imprisonment; for He is faithful, so that with the temptation He also provides for His own a way of escape, and He does not suffer His own, who trust in Him, to be confounded. The grace of the Lord be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss; Jan, Pleun, and I, also greet you much. Herewith I commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace. Written by me, Peter Van Weert, while in prison with two others.
Herewith we commend you all, dear brethren, to the Lord, wishing that you may finish your course to the praise of the Lord, so that you may obtain the crown, and remain steadfast unto the end, in order that you may obtain salvation; for no one obtains the prize, except he strive valiantly. I Cor. 9:24; II Tim. 2:5. Run, therefore, that you may obtain the prize; fight as soldiers of the Lord; firmly resolve to take no thought how or what you shall speak when you shall be brought before the magistrate, for God the Lord suffers not His own who trust in Him to be confounded. Matthew 10:19. Though they are arraigned as malefactors, yet He does not forsake His own; for though weeping come in the evening, joy shall return in the morning. Ps. 30:5. And though He, to chasten us, be angry for a moment, yet through His mercy He keeps us alive. Heb. 12:8; Isa. 54:8. Hence, we are not forsaken by Him, though we have more adversity than the world.
My brethren, the servant is not greater than his Lord or Master. Remember, that though Christ was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, and though He was exalted, yet for our sakes He suffered and accepted reproach, that we through His poverty might be made rich, and through His reproach become heirs of His promises. II Cor. 8:9. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, and help bear His reproach. Heb. 13:13. Let us long for the future possessions. And be not in darkness, nor overcharged with eating or drinking; neither entangle yourselves with the cares of this life; walk as children of the light; be always ready like those who constantly wait for their lord; for He will come as a thief in the night. Luke 21:34; 12:36; Rev. 3:3. Make yourselves ready, take the staff into the hand, gird up your loins, and journey to the promised land; you shall possess it, if you do not fall into unbelief. It is pleasant and beautiful; we have seen it from afar, for which we thank and praise the Lord.
On this account, we desire of you, lovers of the truth, that you help us thank the Lord. For I once made a vow to the Lord, that I would live to Him all the days of my life (Luke 1:75), which He hashelped me fulfill, for which I praise Him, and have often earnestly done so, with outstretched arms. The reason I write this, is, that you may not forget to thank and praise the Lard, for He is greater than all our lives; for you cannot so magnify Him that He is not still more wonderful. Sir. 43:30. Continue in His words, and keep His commandments. Love one another sincerely. I Pet. 1:22. We also praise Him for His faithfulness according to His promises, which He shows in us, in that we cannot sufficiently describe the joy He gives us; for in the beginning of our confinement, when we were imprisoned, we were joyful and fearless, likewise before the lords, and were filled with joy also afterward an the bridge and in our prison. Moreover, we hope that God will give us boldness unto the end.
Hence, our dear brethren, be not terrified, if they inflict more than one death upon us, since much can be done in a quarter of 'an hour, yet it is as nothing to the pain of hell, and not worthy to be compared to the future joy. For after we have suffered this distress, and pass through this strait, we expect joy and amplitude; then shall all our tears be wiped away, and we shall weep and cry no more, but pass from one joy to another. O my brethren, strive to enter into His joy. Lead henceforth a Christian life and see that the Gospel be not evil spoken of on your account. Rom. 14:16. Be always meek, and have an unspotted conscience, and whatsoever you take in hand remember the end, that you will not do amiss. Matt. 11:29; Sir. 7:36. And forget not the ardency of the spiritual reformation in the beginning of the Christian life, lest when you think you are a perfect Christian, reformation of life be still necessary. We commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace. We, Jan, Pleun, and Peter, greet you in the Lord. Pray the Lard for us, that we may finish our course to His praise. We also pray for you.
Question. "What do you think of infant baptism?"
Answer."I do not think it to be anything but a human institution."
Ques."By what then will you prove or maintain your baptism?"
Ans. "Mark 16."
Ques. "What are your views concerning the sacraments?"
Ans."I have nothing to say of the sacraments of men, but the Supper, as Christ held it with His apostles, I approve and esteem; for I think there are many who do not know what sacrament means."
Ques. "What do you think of the Roman church?"
Ans. "Nothing, but I esteem the Christian church, which is the church of Christ."
Ques. "What do you hold concerning the host which the priest holds in his hand? do you not believe that our Lord is in it with flesh and blood?"
Ans."No; for it is written, Acts 1, that He shall come again in like manner as He ascended into heaven."
Ques. "What do you think of the pope?"
Ans. "That he is the antichrist." I Thess. 2:3.
Ques. "What do you think of the mass, ceremonies, and confession observed in the church?"
Ans. "Nothing, since the tree from which they spring, is good for nothing."
Ques. "Where were you baptized?"
Ans. "My lords, if you know it, why do you yet ask me?"
The bailiff then said, "I adjure you by your baptism, that you tell us where you were baptized." Matt. 26:63.
Ans. "My baptism I ,hold to be good and right; but your adjuration I do not regard."
They then read to me the names and surnames of all that had been baptized with me and said, "Assuerus has confessed it to us." I then said, "It is true."
Ques. "Who baptized you?"
Ans. "It does not behoove me to tell."
Ques. "We shall make you tell."
Ans. "My flesh is before you; do with it as you please."
(Copied from an old Writing*)
Willem, the cabinetmaker, resided in Weesz, a village belonging to the country of Cleves; he was a very peaceable and pious man, who on account of the Christian faith had to leave his native country, and when he would not conform to the world, he was brought prisoner from Weesz to Cleves, and having there been imprisoned for about a year, finally beheaded. He wrote several letters from prison.
When Willem the cabinetmaker was to be condemned by the judges at Cleves, Claes Meselaer, one of them, would not sit in the court to condemn him, but pretended sickness and went to bed. The Burgomaster, therefore, with the six judges, came to his bedside, to obtain his assent to the sentence. He said he did not want to condemn so pious a man. Thereupon the Burgomaster said, "By this you will incur the great displeasure of our gracious Prince and lord." Claes replied, "I will rather incur the displeasure of Duke William, than of the Most High.""Then I will take it upon myself," said the Burgomaster, who was afterward visited by the avenging hand of the Lord, so that he was tormented by lice, and lost his speech for a time, and thus died in great misery. But Claes Meselaer
resigned his office of judge, and died a brother in the church. Besides him, another brother, named Windel Rauens, was put to death at Cleves; who like the aforesaid, exchanged his life for death, after he had commended his soul into the hands of God.
As it is known and manifest according to the testimony of the divine Scriptures, that all who have been righteous, and lived godly in Christ Jesus, have had to suffer, from the beginning of the world, so this Maria, as a pious, God-fearing woman, also partook of said suffering. For as she, according to the requirement of the Scriptures, had been baptized upon the true faith, as a member of the body of Christ, and had conducted herself for a time in an edifying manner among the brethren and all men, the envy of the dragon manifested itself, and the bailiff of Monjou caused her to be brought and imprisoned at Monjou, where she remained in confinement over a year. And though she had to suffer much, yet she bore it with joy. Her constant admonition to all the pious was, that they should walk in love, and hold fast the covenant of Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:2. She was herself constantly endeavoring to present her body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, and that she might be built up a spiritual house well adorned inwardly with the Word of.God. Rom. 12:1; I Pet. 2:5.
The authorities tormented her for three days in succession, but could not induce her to forsake her faith, since she would adhere to Christ; for according to the Scriptures, no one is ever confounded, who fears God from the heart. The bailiff entreated her to go to church and he would release her, and give her her board for a whole year; but she would not consent, but desired to adhere to Christ, and to give her life for His sake; whereupon she was condemned to be drowned.
On her way to the water, she sang with a joyful heart, because this day had come, and she had lived to see this hour; and thus she proceeded, like a sheep is led to the slaughter, in the hands of Pilate, even as they did with Christ, as the Scripture testifies, "They shall kill you, and think that they do God service." John 16:2.
On the way, Maria said, "I have been the bride of a man; but today I hope to be the bride of Christ, and to inherit His kingdom with Him." As they approached the water, one of the hypocrites said, "O Maria, repent, or it will not go well with you." At the water, they delayed with her over two hours, thinking that they could induce her to apostatize, forsake the truth, and follow them. Thereupon Maria said, "I adhere to my God; proceed with what you have come here for; the wheat is in the straw; it must be threshed, so the Word of God has begun, and must be finished." With this, she undressed, willingly surrendered herself, and
said, "O heavenly Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," and was thus drowned, and died, confessing the name of God, and sealing it with her death to the consolation of all believers.
About this time, also a pious, God-fearing woman, named Barbel, was drowned, at Guelich, because she had forsaken popery and idolatry, and become obedient to the holy Gospel. I Cor. 10:14.
The four brethren, Willem of Bierck, Christoffel from the Geistens, Christian from Eukeraet, and Tielleman from Nunkerken, were executed together on the same day, with the sword, at Blankenburg; they willingly suffered death for the testimony of Jesus, and with their blood testified to their faith.
Those who hold only to God and His holy Word, and seek to fulfill the latter, are not only persecuted but also imprisoned and put to death, as was very evident, in the year 1552, at Leyden, in the case of two women, named Mariken and Anneken, who were apprehended and brought into a house, where they were asked by the bailiff, what views they held with regard to the Roman church. They replied that for the most part it was nothing but the doctrine of devils. He further questioned them respecting the sacrament of the priests, whether Christ was not bodily in it. They said, "It might be a hidden devil; for God does not suffer Himself to be locked up in silver or golden caskets." They were then led to prison, and passing the church they said, "O den of murderers and choir of devils!""Why do you speak such presumptuous words?" said the bailiff's servant."Because so many a poor soul is murdered in it," they replied. Being kept imprisoned for a time, and examined, they boldly confessed their faith and firmly adhered to it, in consequence of which they were sentenced to death. In the sentence of the one it was charged that she had denied infant baptism, rejected the sacrament, and, contrary to the decree of the Emperor, had attended unlawful assemblies, and that she should therefore be put to death as a heretic. The other, not having been baptized, would have been set at liberty, had she been willing to apostatize from her faith, which she was greatly importuned to do; but she remained immovable, and as she had said, "Your bread god is eaten by spiders and worms; I will not be a partaker of it," and remained steadfast also in other articles, she was likewise sentenced to death. Thus these two had to lose their lives for the truth, to satisfy the bloodthirsty judges, who have feet that are swift in running to mischief, and hands to shed innocent blood. Prov. 6:18, 17.
In this same year, a brother named William van Robaeys, was persecuted, apprehended, examined, tortured and finally put to death, at Komen, in Flanders, for righteousness for the truth, and for following Christ.