"The blood of the martyrs," said one of the ancients,"is the seed of the church; the rose grows in and among the thorns; so also the rose of the blooming church of Christ." This appeared in these sore and sorrowful times, when scarcely anything was heard of but slaying, burning, murdering and shedding of the blood of the innocent and defenseless lambs of Christ; so that in that very time far more persons were stirred up to follow them and embrace their faith; than had been slain before. Whole bands so to speak, marched to the spiritual conflict, yea, to the places where nothing but certain death was to be expected. Each was ready to become an offering for God (if He accounted him worthy for it.) Neither fire nor sword was feared for the testimony of the Lord: for they looked to His comforting and, most glorious promises which He has given to the steadfast.
This appeared in the year 1552, in the month of August, in the case of six pious Christians, who, having fled from Babel, betook themselves to the vision of peace, to the spiritual Jerusalem of the true church of God, notwithstanding many assaults and storms were made upon them insomuch that it cost them their lives through the cruel and terrible death by fire.
The circumstances of the case were as follows
Three of them had already through baptism been accepted as members of the church, and the other three were ready for it. In the meantime they were all apprehended, and brought to Amsterdam, where they all made a good confession of that most holy faith, which dwelt in their souls, though the lastmentioned three greatly deplored the one fact, namely, that they were not baptized to which they, if it had been possible, would have yet attended before their death.
In short, sentence of death was passed upon them all, namely that they should be executed as heretics with fire, that is, in common language, burnt alive; which cruel death they all steadfastly endured, as appears from the following sentence, which we received from the book of criminal sentences of the city, of Amsterdam, just as it was read in the court immediately before their death, and which we shall therefore here adduce as an indubitable attest of the afore-mentioned matter.
Anthoniss, Claes Gerbrants
Whereas Lievijn, son of Jans of Ghent, otherwise called Liefken de Keyser, weaver by trade;
Meynert Hermans of Balch, wood sawyer; Pieter Thymans of Sutphen. formerly cooper, now bookbinder by trade; Reyer Egberts, citizen of this city, Hendrick Anthoniss, of Leyden, both of them weavers; and Claes Gerbrants, native of Wormer, have resorted to the conventicles and gatherings of the Anabaptistical sect, and gone to hear the doctrines of the heads or teachers of said sect, n mely, said Claes Gerbrants the doctrines of Menno Simons, ten years ago, and said Lievijn of Ghent, and all the others, the doctrines of Gillis, of Aix-la-Chapelle; and forasmuch as they, adhering to the doctrines, errors and heresies promulgated by the aforesaid false teachers, have separated from the faith, obedience and unity of the holy Christian church, and hold pernicious views with regard to the sacraments of the holy church, insomuch that the aforesaid Lievijn, Meynert and Pieter, have been rebaptized by said Gillis, of Aixla-Chapelle, thus renouncing the baptism which they received in their infancy, and the aforesaid Reyer Egberts, Hendrick Anthoniss, and Claes Gerbrants, likewise renouncing their aforesaid baptism have confessed themselves to be ready for rebaptism, if they can attain to it, all of which is 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 as they moreover, obstinately persist in their unbelief, heresy and errors; therefore, my lords the judges, having heard the demand made by my lord the bailiff, concerning the aforesaid delinquents, together with their confessions, and having duly regarded the circumstances of the aforesaid case, condemn said delinquents to be executed with fire by the executioner, and furthermore declare their property confiscated for the benefit of his Imperial Majesty, as count of Holland and our gracious lord, without derogation or prejudice to the privileges of this city. Done and pronounced in the court, on the 6th day of August, A. D. 1552, in the presence of all the judges, dempto Andries Boelen, by the advice of the Burgomaster.
Of these, two were examined by torture, namely, Hendrick Anthoniss, on the 28th of June, and Reyer Egberts on the last of June, 1552.
Thus extracted from the book of criminal sentences, preserved at Amsterdam, in the keeping of the secretary of the city.
The abundant grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Grace and peace be with you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also giveth unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. I Cor. 1:3-5; II Cor. 4:17, 18; 5:1-8; Rom. 8:22; Rev. 3:18.
I admonish you, dear brethren and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you will diligently assemble yourselves together, to give each other good instruction in the eternal truth of our Saviour, while you have time; for here we have no continuing city, but we wait for one, and this through patience. Heb. 10:25; 13:14.
Therefore, dear brethren and sisters, take the Word of the Lord well to heart, and understand well what the Lord says, that you may stand fast valiantly, when you are tried; for I tell you, dear brethren, that valiant fighting must be done to a much greater extent than I thought; for they approach us with such subtle questions, and honeyed words, in order that they may catch us in some word, and thus cause us to apostatize. Hence, dear brethren, teach one another well to discern which is the way of the Lord, and the way of the devil, and which is the true worship of God, and the worship of the devil and of idols, and which
are the children of the Lord, and the children of the devil; for the children of the Lord are not of this world; hence the world hates them; they all suffer persecution; they are led to death, as sheep for the slaughter, and are hated by all men; they are a prey to all; they have nowhere a certain dwelling-place; they are the offscouring of all men; they weep and lament, and the world rejoices; they suffer reproach, because they trust in the living God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous; he that committeth sin is of the devil. Therefore, O dear little children, love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. Jas. 1:27; John 17:16; Ps. 44:22; Isa. 59:15; I Cor. 4:11, 13; Jno. 16:20; I Tim. 4:10; I Jno. 3:10; 2:15-17.
My most beloved, know that I fought a great conflict against the rulers of darkness and false prophets; for they said that one may nevertheless hear,. and be taught by, them, though they do not live according to the commandments of the Lord. I then asked, "Is not he a stranger to the Lord who walks not in his commandments?" They replied, "Yes." Then I said that Christ says (John 10:27), "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me; but they hear not the voice of strangers, but flee from them, " hence, if I should hear strangers, I would not be of Christ's sheep; for His sheep hear not strangers. ' They replied, "They certainly preach the truth; the word is therefore not diminished." I replied, "John says (I John 2:4): He that saith that he knoweth God, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Now, if there is no truth in him, how can he speak the truth? Else John must lie. Christ says (Matt. 7:18): A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Again (Matt. 12:34): How can ye, being evil, speak good things? Solve this question, and I will believe you." I tell you, though he should take a Testament, and.read it from beginning to end in your church, as the apostles have written it, yet I will prove to them, that they lie. But let a man speak the same words, who walks in the ways of the Lord, and he will speak the truth. If one of your people should preach these words in your temple, with regard to drunkards, adulterers, thieves, murderers, covetous, defamers, evil-speakers, etc., and say: Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the virtues of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy (I Pet. 2:9, 10); if he should speak these words with regard to this wicked people, would he not lie? But if a God-fearing man were to speak these words with reference to the God-fearing people, he would speak the truth. Again, if you should preach: For thy sake we are led to death, as sheep for the slaughter; would this not also be a lie from you
But a God-fearing man would speak the truth.
Thus we had many words, but all to no purpose. I then asked whether the children of the Lord must not all be spiritual."Yes," he replied. Thereupon I asked, why then they were called spiritual, and the others secular, when they must all be spiritual. This they were not able to explain. I then said
Christ prays not for the world, but for them that are not of the world (John 17:9); now, if you are spiritual, how comes it that you are not all of one mind? for some may only go in gray; are not allowed to handle money, and their shoes must have an opening on the top; others must all go in black; some, again, all in several colors; and others may not eat cooked food, and may not talk with father or mother when they see them; but when they do not see them, they talk with them. I said, "These are all different sects, planted by men, and not by God; therefore they will all be rooted up." Matt. 15:13. To this they did not have much to say. I then said, "Your doctrine is the doctrine of the devil; for all that is done and observed, is contrary to the truth, as Paul says (I Tim. 4:1, 3)
That in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created. Now I see that you teach this; for you forbid to marry, and command to abstain from meats." Then they bade me go away.
Soon after, the Dean of Ronse came, and with him another priest; they assailed me most severely with subtle questions; but the Lord preserved me, so that I was not betrayed. He asked me whether I did not believe that the bread which Christ gave His apostles was the body of Christ, when He said, "Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you?" I replied, "That bread was not the body of Christ, which was broken for us; it was for a memorial." He rejoined, "The bread became changed into His body." But I said, that it was for a memorial, and was not the body itself. They then questioned me in regard to baptism, whether infants did not have to be baptized. I said, "There is nothing written of infant baptism, but of baptism upon faith." Then they said."Behold, we will prove that infants must be baptized. Does not Christ say, John 3: 'Except a man be born again, of water and of the Spirit, he cannot inherit the kingdom of God?"' I said, "This is not spoken to infants, but to those who can hear." But they said, "It is," and would thereby prove and establish infant baptism. Thus we had many words, but agreed in nothing.
Therefore I admonish you, dear brethren and sisters, to instruct one another well in all matters,
namely, concerning the Supper, baptism, the incarnation of Christ, and in regard to the spiritual children and the children of the world; and walk wisely in the fear of the Lord, and fear not men, though they rage furiously. I also admonish you; dear brethren and sisters, by the love of our Lord, that you will all pray the Lord for me, so that I may stand fast valiantly, when I am tried. I furthermore entreat you, that you will diligently instruct my beloved mother, in all matters, and also my brother, and my wife, if haply they might become converted. The Lord fill you with His Spirit, Amen. Written in fear on account of the people who were constantly here. The abundant grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
He that feareth the Lord will do good. Sir. 15:1.
In the year 1552, there was apprehended under the administration of the Count of Kulenburgh, for the testimony of Jesus, a lad called Cornelis; he was kept imprisoned at said place about three years, and then burnt for the truth of Christ. During his, imprisonment he was greatly assailed by priests, monks and prelates, who were gathered in the castle of Kulenburgh. These ministers of said Roman antichrist laid many snares for said youth, to entrap his soul; they inflicted severe tortures upon him, that he should name his fellow-believers, and then plied him again with fair promises of this world, herein following the example of their master, Satan, with our Saviour Jesus. But this prisoner, though young in years, yet old in the faith, through the grace of God valiantly resisted this temptation, on which account he was [condemned to death] * by said count, the latter being constrained to this by the so-called spirituals (priests), and his desire to remain a friend of the pope. Jno. 19:12. Thus this pious youth had to pay for it; he was placed at a stake, and while there, the priests yet came to him, and tried to make him apostatize
but he chose much rather to die for the name of Jesus, than to depart from the truth; and Was therefore burnt at the stake, thus becoming a partaker of the sufferings of Christ, for which he will be rewarded with everlasting joy, when the great God shall be revealed.
Concerning this, see hymn in History LiedtEoeck.
The distress of this time was very great, and did not cease; insomuch that all who truly left the idolatrous Roman Babel, and turned to the spiritual Jerusalem of the peaceable church of Jesus Christ, were forthwith declared to have forfeited their lives.
This appeared in the beginning of the year 1553, at Amsterdam, in the case of Herman Jans, a nafive of Sollem and a pious, God-fearing novice, who stood prepared to receive baptism on the confession of his faith. Being yet in his first zeal for the divine truth, he was apprehended by the rulers of wickedness, and brought a prisoner to Amsterdam, where he had to suffer much vexation and torment, inflicted upon him for the purpose of drawing him from the faith; but remaining immovable and steadfast, he was sentenced to death, to be burnt as a heretic; which sentence was publicly read to him in the court, on the 14th day of January, 1553, and also executed on him the same day; as appears from the following sentence, which we, in proof of this matter, have received from the criminal records of the city of Amsterdam. It reads as follows
Sentence of death of Herman Jans of Sollem.
Whereas Herman Jans, a native of Sollem, has frequented the assemblies of the Anabaptists, received their admonition, doctrines and errors, and attended certain conventicles (gatherings), in which, by Gillis of Aix-la-Chapelle, as also by others, improper things were taught concerning the Scriptures, so that renouncing the baptism administered to him, he has confessed to have desired to receive another baptism, if he should be able to attain it, and also holds pernicious views with regard to the holy sacrament of the altar, all of which is contrary to the ordinances and the faith of the holy Christian Church, and the written laws and decrees of his Imperial Majesty, our gracious lord; and as he, moreover, obstinately persists in his unbelief, heresy and error, notwithstanding the instruction given him by the truly sent; therefore, my lords the judges, having heard the demand made by my lord the bailiff, concerning the aforesaid Herman Jans, together with the confession of the latter, and having duly regarded the circumstances of the case, condemn said Herman Jans, 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. Thus pronounced and executed on the sixteenth day of January, A. D. 1553, in the presence of the bailiff, Pieter Cantert and Joost Buyck, Burgomasters, and all the judges, by the advice of the other two burgomasters.
Thus extracted from the book of criminal sentences of the city of Amsterdam, in the keeping of the secretary there.
On the same day, in the court, and for the same reason, also a certain maiden, named Felistis Jans, and surnamed Resinx, a native of Vreden, in Westphalia, was sentenced to the fire, as appears from the written sentence which we have concerning it, from the original criminal records of the city of Amsterdam, as also the date when she was tortured, all of which we could here adduce verbatim; however to avoid prolixity, we will briefly extract the substance from it, making distinct divisions, so that it may be clearly seen upon what her death was founded.
After giving her name, and the place of her nativity, there are presented.first the accusations with which she was charged, comprised in the following divisions
1. That she had resorted to the assembly of the sect of the Anabaptists.
2. That she had separated from the obedience and faith of the (so-called) holy (that is, the Roman) church.
3. That she held pernicious views with regard to the sacrament of the altar.
4. That she had harbored in her house such persons .as she knew to belong to said sect (that is, to the sect of the so-called Anabaptists).
5. That she had seduced several persons from the obedience of the (Roman) church, to her belief.
6. That she herself obstinately adhered to the afore-mentioned (so-called) errors, refusing to abandon them.
7. That all this was contrary to the ordinances of the holy church, and the decrees of his Imperial Majesty.
Thereupon follows the conclusion, namely: That for this she should be executed with fire by the executioner, and that all her property should be confiscated or forfeited, for the benefit of the Emperor.
Thus pronounced, etc., as above.
Then the time is mentioned, when she was tortured, in regard to which these words .are found, "This Felistis was subjected to the torture or rack the 2nd of January, 1553."
Extracted from the book of criminal sentences, in the keeping of the secretary of the city of Amsterdam.
NOTE.-The year in which the death of this Felistis occurred, was not correctly noted* by the preceding writers of the History of the Martyrs, nor
was her full name* given, until we, by means of the afore-mentioned sentence, made the necessary corrections.
Besides the above, it is also worthy of note that old writers state that she was a virtuous and honorable young maiden, and that through her long imprisonment she became so intimate with the jailer's wife, that the latter employed her as maidservant, to assist her in her household duties.
When it happened upon a time, that the jailer's wife had some filth to carry out doors, but had no one around her whom she could order to do it, Felistis said, "Shall I do it?" whereupon the jailer's wife replied, "Would you not run away?" Felistis said, "No." But reflecting a little on the matter, and considering the frailness of human intentions, she would not undergo this test, and hence, declined to do it, which was certainly a good resolution on the part of a seemingly weak young maiden.
Shortly after, the old writers state, she was seen coming to the scaffold, to be burnt, cleanly, attired and having on a white apron, as though by her outward garments she meant to indicate how purely and uprightly a Christian virgin ought to be adorned inwardly, in order to be acceptable before her beloved heavenly bridegroom, Christ Jesus.
Thus she offered up her sacrifice, and was numbered among the holy and God-pleasing martyrs. Compare this with the Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians, edition 1631, page 125.
In the year 1553, a God-fearing brother, named Wouter Capelle, was apprehended at Diexmuyde, in Flanders, for living according to and following the Word of God, and confessed and sealed the faith of the truth with his death and blood at said place; as an instructive example worthy of -imitation to all true believers, to look at his end, and to follow their faith, especially the Captain of the faith, Christ Jesus, blessed for ever. And since this witness of God suffered for the truth and testimony of the Word of God, and not for any crime, he obtained, through the grace of God, the crown of eternal life, promised by God to all those put to death by men for the Word of God: that they shall be raised up in great glory at the last day.
In the year 1553, a bachelor, named Tijs, and a maiden by the name of Beerentge, were drowned at Leeuwaerden, in Friesland, for the testimony of Jesus. They were two zealous followers of Christ; for this reason they had a great desire, to meet at some time for the purpose of rejoicing with each other in the Word of God. However this could not
well be, since Tijs was lame, and Beerentge was constantly confined to her bed. But at last God permitted them to come together; for the persecutors went out to apprehend the people of Gad, who, having perceived this, escaped their hands for this time: however, the former were not willing to return empty handed, and hence, took with them the afore-mentioned two invalid persons, and brought them prisoners to Leeuwaerden, where they were confined together for some time, during which they rejoiced very greatly with each other in the Lord their Creator, so that love, which is stronger than death, and firmer than hell, shone forth most fervently. Cant. 8:6. Sentence of death was therefore then passed upon them, namely, that both should be drowned. This was taken greatly amiss on the part of Tijs; it grieved him much, and he said, "Cats and dogs are drowned." Hence they sought to obtain a transmutation of the sentence and requested to be executed on the place of execution, so that they might obtain the crown with their beloved brethren, and that the people present might hear and see for what cause they died. But this was refused them, and the execution of the sentence was proceeded with. They, about midnight, (ashamed as it were, to put to death such infirm persons) put both together into a bag, with their mouths gagged, threw them into a boat, and had them cast into the moat on the outside of the wall, and having been tied to the boat, the two were dragged along the moat until death ensued. Thus they rid themselves of these pious lights and witnesses of Christ, whom their eyes could not bear to look upon. Wisd. 2:15. But the righteous God, who goes with His people through water and fire (Isa. 53:2), will avenge this deed in due time, and give these worthy children of God rest and peace with Him forever; and this murder, which was perpetrated in the dark, will be justly avenged in His great day, when every secret shall be brought into the light of open day.
Concerning this, see hymn in History Liedtboeck.
About the year 1553 there was at Bergen op Zoom, in Brabant, a shopkeeper, named Simon, who stood in the marketplace, to sell his wares. When the priests passed him with their idol, this Simon did not dare give divine honor to this idol made by human hands (Dan. 3:18), but, according to the testimony of God presented in the holy Scriptures, would worship and serve only the Lord his God. He was therefore apprehended by the maintainers of the Roman antichrist, and examined in the faith, which he freely confessed, rejecting their self-invented infant baptism together with all human commandments, and holding fast only to the testimony of the Word of God; hence he was sentenced to death by the enemies of thetruth, and was thus led without the city, and burnt for the testimony of Jesus. Many of the people present were therefore greatly astonished when they beheld the great boldness and steadfastness of this pious witness of God, who thus through grace obtained the crown of eternal life.
The bailiff who had him executed, on returning home from this deed, was laid upon a bed of severe sickness, and constantly exclaimed with sorrow and remorse, "O Simon, Simon!" and although the priests and monks sought to absolve him, they were nevertheless not able to give him the least comfort, but he soon died in despair, an instructive and memorable example to all tyrants and persecutors. II Macc. 9:9, 28; Acts 12:23.