This Elizabeth was of a noble family, and had in her youth been put by her parents into the convent of Tieng, near Lier near East Friesia, there to learn various arts, and also the Latin language. There she accidently, or rather through the direction of God, came into possession of a Latin Testament, by the constant reading of which and meditating upon it she obtained so much knowledge of the will or God, that she became distressed on account of her state of life, and seeing no chance to alter her life according to the rule of said Word in the convent, much less under the parental roof, she resolved, after much conflict and reflection, secretly to escape from the convent, trusting to the fatherly providence of Almighty God for help and guidance. To this end, she made an agreement with a milkmaid of the convent, that she should change clothes with her, and thus assist her to escape from the convent early in the morning, in the guise of a milkmaid; which having been accomplished, she first came to Lier, and without her knowing it, to a certain house, in which there lived Anabaptists, who upon learning her circumstances and condition, took her in, and instructed her still more fully in the way of God, and, after some time, fearing that search might be made for Elizabeth, brought her to Leeuwarden, and there left her with a pious sister of the Anabaptistic church, named Hadewijk, with whom she was afterward apprehended.
This Hadewijk was married to a certain drummer of the company quartered at Leeuwarden, who, having neither to go marching, nor to mount guard, etc., worked in a certain shop to gain a livelihood for his wife and children. There was working there together with him a very pious Anabaptist brother* who at that time was put in bonds and condemned to death for the sake of his religion. Said company having been ordered to the place of execution, when this pious brother was to be offered up, to form a circle around him, to prevent an uproar, the aforesaid drummer objected to serve in. his capacity as a drummer at that time and under such circumstances which he also indicated to his wife Hadewijk, who opposed him in this matter, and advised him to proceed in the discharge of his duty. This then he resolved to do; but as he was first also to get himself partially in. toxicated, in order to feel less of compassion for the innocently doomed man, but this intoxication, instead of depriving him of his sense of compassion, only increased it, and he became so bold that he told the spectators of the piety and virtues of this martyr so well known to him, why he was so maltreated, how wickedly the authorities, instigated by the clergy, acted in this matter, and that it were better to apprehend and treat after this manner, wicked men, whoremongers, adulterers, unrighteous, and such like, of whom there were plenty in the city, yea, even among the clergy. Some laughed, others laid it to heart; some said, "The drummer is drunk;" others, "He is crazy," etc. But when he had become sober and was himself again, he reflected on what he had done, and what in all probability he now had to expect, and resolved to leave the city of Leeuwarden, his company, and the Roman church. H'e entreated his wife to go with him, but she could not approve of it, and after his departure, never knew whither he had gone. But coming to reflection some time after, she inquired after the Anabaptists, found opportunity to attend the exhortations, embraced the faith, and was not only baptized upon her faith, but also suffered herself to be apprehended together with Elizabeth. Being confined in a separate room from Elizabeth, it was announced to her that on the following day she should be examined and have to defend herself in a considerable
number of articles, which caused her exceeding great distress and anxiety of heart, especially since she could neither read nor write, and was more pious and willing than experienced. Hence, she earnestly importuned God, that-the exceeding good and man-loving Father would be pleased to look with compassion upon her, His poor handmaiden, whose inability and unfitness He knew best, and not to try her above her ability, but to deliver and save -her by His divine hand, whereupon a voice came to her while she was thus engaged in prayer, exclaiming, "Hadewijk I" Looking up and around her, and seeing no one, she continued in her fervent prayer. A second time she heard the voice, but again seeing no one, she persevered in her supplications until the same voice said to her the third time, "Hadewi jk, I tell thee, come out!" Seeing the door open, she put on her hood, and went out of the prison, but did not know where to conceal herself. She went provisionally into- the church, where she soon heard those who came there relate that the gates of the city had been closed because a certain Anabaptist woman had escaped from prison, no one knowing how, there being great reason to suspect sorcery in the matter, for which reason very diligent search was being made for her everywhere. Just as she left the church she heard the drummer in the street exclaim that whoever could point out her person, should receive one hundred guilders, but whoever concealed her should forfeit one hundred and fifty guilders, which increased her fear more and more. Trusting herself by no means into her own house, and yet compelled to seek shelter somewhere, she went to the house of her former master and mistress, whom she, before she was married, had served very faithfully for sometime, and who therefore thought much of her. These she entreated whether they would not please give her shelter in this distress, but they refused to do it; whereupon she went away as in despair, and came before the priest's house, where lived a certain half-witted fellow, well-known to her, whom she, as he was standing at the door, addressed, asking him to conceal her; which he did, taking her up into the garret, and providing her with food and drink; but in the night he came to her, and made indecent advances to her. Here the embarrassment was greater than ever; she had to deal with one who was strong of body and passions, with whom reasoning had little influence; if she made an outcry her life was in danger; she therefore lifted up her soul, and betook herself to her Redeemer, and called upon Him for help in this great distress, and also entreated this fellow to desist from so evil a deed, because it would be adultery and she had a husband; and adulterers and adulteresses had to burn forever in hell; whereupon he left her in peace and went away, saying, "The jade is too wise in the Scriptures; I have no chance with her." The next day he went to the Zuypmarket, to Hadewijk's brother-in-law, who daily brought buttermilk there for sale, and told him that he had, unknown to anyone, concealed his sister-in-law in the priest's house, and advised him to come with his boat to the back stairs of the priest's house, there to take her into the boat, and carry her out of the city through the floodgate, which he did, and thus this lamb Hadewijk, through the miraculous hand of God, escaped the claws of the ravening wolves, fled to Emden, and lived the remainder of her life in the meetinghouses of the Anabaptists, where she fell asleep in the Lord.
Remmeltje Wubbers, from whom I have this account, heard it only frequently from her parents and others, but also from the woman who attended Hadewijk in her last sickness, to whom Hadewijk related it with her own lips.
About the year 1553, there was put to death with the sword, in the city of Vuren, in Flanders, for the testimony of Jesus, a God-fearing, pious brother, who had to endure many severe conflicts from the papists, the adversaries of the truth; but as a valiant hero of Christ he would not fear them that kill the body, but sought much rather to please Him who after this temporal death has power also to cast into hell, into everlasting fire, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. He therefore comforted his sorrowful wife, who was pregnant, and whom he loved dearly, with the Word of God, fearing that adversity was in store for her; that she should not regard the torments inflicted upon him for the Word of God. They sentenced him to be executed with the sword; hence he took affectionate leave from all his brethren, and, as a humble lamb, following the footsteps of his Leader Jesus, ascended the scaffold; but the evening wolves, which let nothing remain until the morning, by which and other fruits they may be known, retained their wolfish nature, so that they killed this friend of God with seven cruel blows, and finally sawed off his head, so that through great sorrow many a tear was shed by the people who were present and witnessed this martyrdom. His poor, pregnant wife lamented greatly, so that she died with her fruit from excess of grief. Many witnessed this heinous murder, perpetrated by the bloodthirsty; but the great and faithful God, who regards the sufferings of His own, as though the apple of His eye had been touched, will avenge this in due time. O how will these bloodthirsty men excuse themselves, when the chief Shepherd shall appear in the clouds, and require an account of this matter! But those faithful heroes and adventurers of God, who did not dare deprive their Creator of His divine honor, but would serve Him rightly according to His Word, and gave their lives therefor, they have the promise from the mouth of Jesus, that He will confess them before His Father in heaven, that it is the Father's good
pleasure to give this little flock His glorious kingdom, and that all who here suffer with Christ for righteousness' sake, shall rejoice forever with God. Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8, 32; Matt. 5:10.
Concerning this, read hymn in the old hymnbook.
In Questions and Answers
Question. "What is your name?" Answer. "Pieter Witses." Ques. "How old are you?" Ans. "Twenty-seven years." Ques. "When were you to confession last?" Ans."I confess everyday, and acknowledge that I am a sinner." Ques. "What do you think of the sacrament?" Ans."I esteem it highly." Ques. "What do you think of the sacrament which the priest gives on Easter?" Ans. "Nothing." Ques. "Christ said: 'Take, eat; this is my flesh."' Ans. "It is true; but He spake it to those who were obedient to Him." Ques. "Are you also rebaptized?" Ans."I know of no rebaptism; I was baptized once, and that according to the teaching of God." Ques. "How long ago?" Ans. "About a year and a half."
Then Pieter was put into a dungeon, and having been there for about an hour, was again taken before the lords, and asked anew, "Pieter, are you seduced? will you not suffer yourself to be instructed?" Ans. "Yes, gladly; he that rejects reproof and instruction is miserable. Prov. 10:17. Take a Testament, and instruct me." Ques. "We are no teachers; will you not suffer yourself to be instructed by priests?" Ans. "God is the best priest; He will instruct me, and to this I shall adhere by the grace of God." Ques. "Some vagabond has been preaching to you." They further said that they had read in the Old Testament, that many children were baptized. Pieter replied, "I have read nothing about this; I have read that Christ commanded to baptize believers. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; that it was practiced by the apostles, Acts 2:38; and that Peter taught: 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children,"' etc. He also quoted John 3.
Then they said, "Pieter, you are deceived; are your brethren also thus minded?" He replied, "What do I know about my brethren? I can speak of what God has given me; that I know." He further quoted the words of Christ, where He says
Go into all the world; preach and teach: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Mark 16:16. Also, that Christ came to John at the Jordan, to be baptized of him, in order that He might fulfill all righteousness for us, to be an example, that weshould follow His steps. Matt. 3:13, 15; I Pet. 2 21. And after Christ's suffering the apostles, who were His body and church, practiced it.
Concerning their supper, he confessed, that he thought nothing at all of it. They admonished him with the Gospel, which he regarded as all right, but not as having been said with reference to their church; for Christ, said he, said to His apostles, "Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you." Also the cup, "Drink ye all of it; for this is the cup of the new testament in my blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." MatthevA, 26:26-28.
Christians are to observe it, as Paul teaches the Corinthians, where it is clearly expressed. I Cor. 10:16. They said that the supper which they eat and drink was true flesh and blood, and asked me whether we did not also thus eat and drink it. I replied, "Christ said: 'The flesh profiteth nothing, eaten outwardly; but the word is spirit and life.' John 6:63. And our church is not without the body of Christ."
Christ said, Matt. 24:5, "Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many;" which words are true; for when you confess your sins to them, they forgive them, as they say. This they have carried on since the Gospel has been hid, and they do it yet. Paul also foretold this to Timothy (I Tim. 4:2; II Tim. 3:2); Christ says, Matt. 7:15, "Beware of false prophets," etc., and John also writes much concerning this, in the tenth chapter of his Gospel. Also, Jude and Peter. But these are as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed; they speak evil of the things that they understand not. Again: They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web. Isa. 59:5. They daub the wall with untempered mortar, and put pillows under men's arms. Ezek. 13:10, 18. And although the church flee into caves, the confession abides forever. They cannot resist; for they deny the power of God; they love the broad way; the cross of Christ is foolishness to them. II Tim. 3:5; I Cor. 1:18.
Concerning these, God gave me something to speak. I perceive nothing but the abomination of desolation of which the prophet Daniel speaks, and of which Christ also says that He will scarcely find faith upon earth. Dan. 9:27; Luke 18:8. But be of good cheer; and fight in faith, well knowing that it is the word of truth, which cannot fail. Upon this, through the grace of Christ, I have built and He will keep me, and I will daily trust in Him, knowing and feeling confident that there is no power, might, or dominion in heaven or on earth, save only of Him. Hence, give diligent heed; prove yourselves in your consciences, as to what you seek-every work will be made manifest. Read and examine diligently for it greatly concerns us all. The authorities can by no torturing seduce one, but the
erring spirits come with deceitful snares, in the name of Christ; but we are sufficiently warned. Matt. 7:21; I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 3:5; Tit. 1:10; Rom. 16:17; Phil. 3; I I Pet. 2; Jude 1.
My dear friends, they thus assail me with questions as much as they can. Give the young and simple hearts good instruction regarding the Lord's Supper, for I know what happens to me. If the house is truly built upon the cornerstone, it cannot fall. Let everyone take good heed; for the time of trial is at hand, and we know that it will not always stop at mere words; for Christ Himself suffered. If they laid their hands on His blessed body, they will do the same to us. Let us arm ourselves with the Word of God; for the Word of God is the true door. It is the bread of life. The time of weeping is come; hence our deliverance is nigh. Let us pray for grace. The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that believe not in the Word? I Pet. 4:17. My brethren, do not forget us poor sheep in your prayers, for us who for the truth are kept in bonds by the authorities. Care for them that live among you; for Christ will say, "I was naked, and you clothed me," etc. Matt. 25
36. Pray and watch; the abomination of desolation is drawing nigh; cease not, but be of good courage, for greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. I John 4:4. 1 affectionately desire, that you be diligent, lest you be deceived, for the times now are perilous. Know, that whenever I was brought before them, I kept down my own thoughts, and prayed Almighty God, that He would open my mouth according to His good pleasure, and believe it freely, He gave abundant comfort to the humble. They assented to me in many things, when I spoke with them with a meek spirit by the grace of God. My, dear friends receive it kindly. May the Lord preserve you from wicked deceivers. Pray and watch, the times are perilous; and do not forget us in your prayers, and visit us sometimes, it is very edifying; may the Lord preserve us all.
My dear chosen wife, abide in God, and mingle not with the wicked; for if the righteous draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him, says the Lord. John 2:28; Ps. 1:1; Heb. 10:38. The time of my departure seems to be nigh; may it take place with God. When the hour of parting comes, fear not, but guard your lips. My dear wife, abide in the grace of God given you.
In the year 1554, there was imprisoned at Ghent, in Flanders, for following Christ and living according to God's commandments, a young brother named David, who, when examined, freely confessed his faith. Being asked what he thought of the sacrament, David said, that he considered it nothing else than idolatry. Then a priest said tohim, "Friend, you err greatly, that you so readily confess your faith, for it will cost you your life, if you do not change your mind in time." Thereupon David sweetly replied, "I am ready to shed my blood for the name of Christ, even though it should be here in this place; for God is my salvation, who will keep me, and preserve me from all evil." The priest said, "It will not be as good as though you were put to death secretly here in this place; but you will be burnt publicly at the stake, for an everlasting reproach." He was then brought into the court, where he was condemned to death, and his sentence was read, namely, that he had fallen from the true faith into heresy, and was therefore, according to the imperial edict, sentenced to be strangled and burned. David said, "No one will ever be able to prove by the Scriptures, that the faith for which I must now die is heresy."
There was also sentenced to death with him a woman named Levina, who rather forsook, not only her six dear children, but also her temporal life, than her dear Lord and Bridegroom Jesus Christ. Arriving on the scaffold, David attempted to kneel down in order to offer up his prayer to God, but he was prevented, and they were immediately driven away to the stakes, standing at which, David said to Levina, "Rejoice, dear sister; for what we suffer here is not to be compared with the eternal good that awaits us." Rom. 8:18. When about to offer up their sacrifice, both exclaimed, "Father, into thy hands do we commend our spirits." A little bag of gunpowder was tied to each of them, whereupon they were strangled and burned. But there happened a manifest miracle of God; for though they were completely burned, and the fire was as good as extinguished, David was seen to move his head, so that the people exclaimed, "He still lives." The executioner seized the fork, and thrust it three times into his bowels, so that the blood flowed out; yet even after this he was still seen to move, hence, the executioner threw a chain around his neck, and bound him to the stake, and thus broke his neck.
Thus these two valiantly fought their way through, firmly trusting in God, who did not let them be confounded, since they had firmly built their building upon the only foundation; wherefore they shall never perish, but abide forever.
In the year 1554, there was put to death for the testimony of the truth, at Ghent, in Flanders, a pious witness of God, named William Van Louvain, the grandfather of Jan Doom. He did not suffer for any crime or heresy, but only for the testimony of the truth, in a good conscience, having renounced the Babylonian whore, together with her lovers, and all her false worship, and united himself with Christ, following Him with the whole heart in the regeneration, and through faith, overcoming this world with all that is therein, whereby
he finally, through grace, obtained the end of the faith, that is, eternal salvation, through Christ Jesus. .
In the year 1555, the young nobleman Jan van Immerseele having become Margrave, four brethren were apprehended at Antwerp, for the testimony of the truth, namely, Pieter with the lame foot, Jan Drooghscheerder, Hans Borduerwercker, and Frans Sweerdtveger, who, as they valiantly adhered to it, and could not be brought to apostatize, were finally sentenced to death, and had to lay down their lives publicly in the marketplace, for the name of the Lord, for which He will well reward them.
In said year there was also apprehended at Antwerp, a young maiden from Ghent, named Tanneken van der Leyen, who loved God and His truth more than all that was in the world; hence, since she preferred the doctrine of Christ and His apostles to all human doctrine, and immovably adhered to it, she was condemned to death, and drowned in the Scheldt.
Bartholomew the potter, who was a vessel of honor in the house of God (II Tim. 2:20), was also apprehended for his faith, at Antwerp, examined, much afflicted, and finally, sentence having been pronounced, publicly put to death in the market place, as a pious witness of Jesus Christ.
About this time, also Rommeken, a noted child of God, publicly declared and sealed with his blood the divine truth, in the marketplace at Antwerp; wherefore Christ will also declare and confess him before His Father in heaven.
In the year 1555, -Hans Pichner of Sal, was apprehended at Vorst, in Etschland or Vintschgau, and taken by the beadles to Schanters, before the judge, who was a dreadful tyrant and of a very fierce disposition. He immediately examined John, rigorously questioning him, that he should betray the one that had lodged him; but when he would not do it, he was speedily tortured from the first day. All their torturing, however, was in vain, and they were greatly vexed that they could obtain no information from him. Several times he was stripped, and, while being tortured, left suspended by cords for several hours, yea, he was so stretched, that he could not stand upon his feet, ortake a single step, nor bring his hand to his mouth to eat; yet he was not to be seduced, but remained steadfast in the Lord. After this, they bound him hand and foot, and kept him imprisoned in a dark dungeon for more than six months. They also brought to him many men of worldly erudition (if peradventure they might be able to draw him away from his faith), as priests and monks, also some noblemen, who mightily assailed him for two days and one whole night; but they were put to shame; for he convinced them with the truth, and was not to be intimidated.
After this, they sentenced him to .death, and led him out to the place of execution, where he exhorted the people, who had gathered in great numbers, to repentance. Finally he was placed with his back, in a sitting posture, against a block of wood, and thus beheaded; for they had racked and tortured him so lamentably that he was unable to kneel. But he nevertheless adhered firmly to the Lord and His truth; therefore God kept him in the hour of his temptation, and he shall henceforth not be hurt of the second death; he shall not see the eternal fire, but shall enter into an innumerable company of angels, to the supper and marriage of the Lamb, clothed in linen clean and white; where will be exceeding joy forever and ever. Rev. 3:10; 2:11; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 3:20.
In the year 1555, a brother named Christian was apprehended, in Bavaria, and taken to Worms, and although he had been in the church only a short time, he nevertheless faithfully adhered to the divine truth, which he had embraced and confessed, and firmly kept until death what he had promised God in the covenant of his Christian baptism; and, through divine power and strength, testified to the faith with his blood. He was executed with the sword, at Worms. Thus he fought a good fight even unto death, strove for the truth, safely finished his course, and refused to be led astray, preferring a valiant death to a shameful life. Hence, there is promised to him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, at the last day, will give him, and unto all them that love His appearing. II Tim: 4:8.
A. D. 1555, unholy hands were laid, at Dordrecht, in Holland, upon several of the saints of God, of whom, among others, there is mentioned by name, a God-fearing woman, named Digna Pieters, who being a citizeness of said city, had at the same time a citizenship also in the spiritual city of God, that is, in the church of Jesus Christ on earth, yea, also, because of her integrity,
in the new and heavenly Jerusalem, which is above, in which, and of which, she was regenerated by the Word of truth.
On account of the faith which she had in common with the dear friends and children of God, she was imprisoned, and severely proceeded against in various ways, for the purpose of causing her to apostatize from the faith. But as they could make no progress in the matter, since she was founded upon the immovable cornerstone, that is, Christ Jesus, they resolved to put an end to her citizenship, and at the same time also to her life. Thereupon it followed that the chamber of justice, through the instrumentality of the bench of judges and the council of said city, with public striking of the bell, disfranchised her, before the steps leading up to the city hall, on the 17th of November of said year, to be further dealt with as the lords of said chamber should find or judge proper.
Concerning this, there remains, though almost obliterated by age, the following act in the book of records of said city, in the keeping of the secretary there:
Actum per Campanam,* the 17th of Nov, 1555. Whereas Digna Pieters, citizeness of this city, at present a prisoner, has without pain of iron bonds, openly confessed before the bench of judges, and the council of this city, to have been rebaptized, etc.,** also to have held conventicles, contrary to the faith, holy sacraments, and other services and ceremonies of the holy church; therefore, the council of the aforesaid city has disfranchised said Digna Pieters, and disfranchises her by these presents, further to be proceeded against, as the aforesaid council, according to the exigency and circumstances of the case, shall deem proper.
Thereupon follows in said book, how the chamber of justice proceeded against her, six days afterwards, in regard to which the following words are found.
Digna Pieters drowned
Today, the 23rd of November, A. D. 1555, Digna Pieters, by virtue of a. certain sentence given and pronounced*** by the. bench of judges, and the council of this city, (by the mouth of Wouter Barthouts, judge in the law) was put into a bag, and drowned, in Puttox Tower.
Extracted from the book of records of the city of Dordrecht, commenced the last day of October, 1554, and concluded the 16th of June, 1573.
This was the end of this valiant heroine of Jesus, who, though she was secretly murdered in a tower, like Joris Wippe and others, will hereafter, in the great day of the Lord, be brought openly to light; then it shall be seen what difference there will be between those who did this, and her who suffered it, since everyone shall receive in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. II Cor. 5:10.
This Puttox Tower, where this martyrdom took place, stood close by the gate of the Grootehooft of the city of Dordrecht; but it afterwards fell by reason of great age,!!or as a signal warning of God on account of this murder. In its place stands now a house, in the gable of which these words are carved in hard stone:
"Through the falling of Puttox-Tower
I was built, and stand to this hour."
As to the persons who in said year administered criminal (or capital) justice, and, consequently, executed this work, they were, according to John Beverwijck's history of the government of the city of Dordrecht, the following: Adrian van Blyenbergh Adriaenss, bailiff; and nine judges as follows: Jacob Adriaenss; Philips van Beverwijck Ogierss; Maerten Schrevel Dirckss; Jacob Oem Sir Jacobss; Pieter Muys Jacobss; Schrevel Sir Qckerss; Wouter Barthouts; Cornelis van Beveren Sir Cl.aess; Wouter van Drenkwaert Sir Wilmss.
But whether all these judges, together with the bailiff, concurred in the aforesaid sentence; or whether Wouter Barthouts, who was present at her death, was the chief instigator of this work, is not expressed; however, it seems that the majority did not have much pleasure in it, since Wouter Barthouts alone, as it seems, with the executioner and the servants of justice, was present at the death of this woman.
Up to this time, Emperor Charles V was alone, or at least chiefly responsible for the shedding of the blood of the saints in the Netherlands, as also for the most cruel tyrannies which, through the instrumentality of the Inquisition, and through what followed afterwards, were inflicted upon them, by fire, water, sword, and otherwise; but in this year, his son, Philip II, King of Spain, following in his father's footsteps (instead of lightening the constraint of conscience) caused all the previous bloody and cruel decrees which his father had issued against the so-called heretics, to be renewed and confirmed, especially the most cruel decree published on the 25th of September, 1550, the contents of which we have reserved until the present time, but will now, as renewed A. D. 1556, adduce here, however not with all its particulars, but only so far as it was directed (principally) against the Anabaptists and their doctrine.
In the book in which the prince of Orange, William I, defends himself against the false charges, which his adversaries sought unjustly to bring
against him, printed 1569, mention of this is made (¢. 165, letter L. VI.), in the following words.
Of the ordinances and decrees made for all times,
and for general observance, and proclaimed
everywhere, from the 25th of September,
1550, and renewed and confirmed by
his Royal Majesty in the year 1556
We likewise forbid all lay persons, and others, to converse or dispute concerning the holy Scriptures, whether openly or secretly, especially in doubtful and difficult matters; or to teach, expound or interpret the holy Scriptures to others, unless they [who do so] be theologians and versed in divinity and spiritual law, and approved by some notable university, or others authorized thereto by the ordinary of the place; be it well understood, however, that this is not to be regarded as relating to those who simply and exclusively converse together on the aforesaid holy Scriptures, adducing thereto the expositions of holy and approved doctors; but to those who, in order to seduce others, or to teach and instruct them in that which is forbidden, maintain and teach, contrary to the ordinances of our mother, the holy church, evil and false propositions and doctrines, who are notoriously considered heretics; or to preach, defend, allege or maintain, openly or secretly, any doctrines of the aforementioned authors.
On pain, that if any be found to have acted contrary to any of the above stated points, they shall be punished as seditious persons, and disturbers of our realm and the common peace, and be executed as such
Namely, the men with the sword, and the women buried alive; that is, if they will not maintain or defend their errors; but if they persist in their errors, opinions, or heresies, they are to be executed with fire; and in every case all their property is declared confiscated, and forfeited for our benefit.
And as regards what we had ordained in our previous decrees and our last ordinances, that from the day they had acted contrary thereto, or had fallen into the aforesaid errors, they should be disqualified from disposing of their property, and that all alienations, gifts, cessions, sales, conveyances, transfers, testaments, or last wills, made and executed by them from said day on, should be null, invalid and void.
Again (page 168): Since many, from our aforesaid countries, suspected of heresy, especially of the sect of the Anabaptists, change their place of abode, to infect the simple in places where their character is not known; we, in order to guard against this, will, ordain, and decree, that none of the inhabitants of our aforesaid Netherlands, of whatever state, quality or condition he be, shall be admitted or received into any city or village, of said countries, there to live, except he brings with him a certificate from the parish priest of the place where he last resided.
Which certificate he shall be obliged to show and deliver into the hands of the principal officer of the city or village where he intends to live; on pain that those who do not bring such certificates shall not be admitted there to live.
And we charge the officers diligently to inform themselves with regard to them, and to proceed therein as shall be proper, without our aforesaid officers, or the particular lords, and their officers, being permitted to grant such persons any pass or safe conduct.
Again (page 171): That all who have knowledge of any that are tainted with heresy, shall be bound, immediately and without delay to accuse, report, and indicate them to all spiritual judges, deputies of the bishops, and other proper persons.
Likewise, if any be found to have acted contrary to these our ordinances and prohibitions, showing himself to be infected, or favorer of the heretics, or committing any act contrary to these our ordinances and prohibitions, especially anything tending to scandal or sedition, that those who have knowledge of them shall be bound, immediately to report it to our proctors, or their substitutes and commissaries, or to the officers of the place where such tainted favorers or offenders shall live; and this on pain of arbitrary punishment.
In like manner, they shall be bound, if they know the place where any of such heretics keep or shelter themselves, to indicate it to the officer of said place, on pain of being considered, as stated before, favorers, entertainers and adherents of heresy, and punished with the same punishment as would be inflicted upon the heretic or offender, if he should be apprehended.
And in order that the aforesaid judges and officers, who shall apprehend said heretics, Anabaptists, and transgressors of our aforesaid ordinances and prohibitions, may have no reason, under the pretence that the punishments seem too great and severe, and were only decreed to deter the delinquents (Anabaptists), and offenders, to dissemble with them, their accomplices and favorers, or to punish them less than they have deserved, as has been found to have frequently been done hereto-fore; -therefore, we will that those whom they know to have acted contrary to these ordinances, or who have kept in their possession, printed, sold, distributed, or published any heretical scandalous books, writings . . . or have contravened the points already indicated, or to be stated hereafter, or some of them, shall be actually punished and corrected with the punishments set forth above.
We forbid all our judges, justiciaries and officers, as also our vassals and subjects, temporal lords, who exercise high justice, and their officers, in any wise to alter, mitigate or change the aforesaid punishments (those ordained to be inflicted with the sword, earth, or fire); but; on having taken cognizance of such contravention plainly do declare and decree the aforesaid punishments, pursuant to these present ordinances, on pain of being severely
punished; unless that in some particular case, said judges, because of great and important considerations, should find difficulty as to the exact execution of the punishment decreed against the transgressor by our aforesaid ordinances.
In which case they may nevertheless not mitigate the punishment of their own accord; but shall be bound to carry or send the criminal process, faithfully closed and sealed, to the sovereign or provincial council, under whose jurisdiction they shall belong, there to be examined and deliberated on as to whether any alteration or mitigation of the aforesaid punishment is proper or not.
And if our aforesaid councilors find, that in good justice, according to right and reason (in regard to which we charge their consciences), any mitigation or alteration is proper, in such a case they may advise them by writing, and send it all to said judges and officers, that the latter may finish and terminate said process in accordance with it.
We command them to do nothing less, and enjoin them very expressly and strictly, on pain of being arbitrarily corrected and punished, not to make use of said consultations without great and important reasons, but be governed, as much as they can, by the contents of these present ordinances.
Extracted from the great book of decrees of Ghent in which are collected all the decrees, mandates, and ordinances of Emperor Charles h, and of King Philip II; and cited by William I, Prince of Orange, in his defense against his adversaries, edition 1569, from p. 165-174 inclusive.
A. D. 1556, or thereabouts, there was in Beverwijk, a brother named Augustine, a baker by trade, who had forsaken the world, and been baptized upon his faith, according to the ordinance of Christ, which the papists could not endure. There was at that time a burgomaster who was very bitter, and filled with perverted zeal, who sometimes said that he would furnish the peat and wood to burn Augustine. The bailiff had said that he should not apprehend Augustine without previously warning him; but he did not keep his word; for he came upon a time when Augustine was at his work, kneading dough. Perceiving him, Augustine attempted to flee, but was instantly seized by his pursuers, and cast into prison; and as he was a man who was much beloved, it greatly grieved the bailiff's wife, who said to her husband, "O you murderer, what have you done!" but all in vain, he had to follow his Lord Jesus as a lamb is led to the slaughter. As he steadfastly adhered to his faith, they passed a cruel sentence on him, namely that he should be tied to a ladder, and thus cast alive into the fire, and burnt. On his way to death, he saw one of his acquaintances, to whom he said, "Farewell, Joost Cornelissen." The latter, prompted by his good opinion of him, replied in a friendlymanner, "I hope that we shall hereafter be together forever;" whereupon said burgomaster replied out of a heart judging with partiality, "He will not get to the place whither you will go; but he goes from this fire into the eternal." Thereupon Augustine said to the burgomaster, "I cite you to appear within three days before the judgment seat of God." As soon as the execution was over, the burgomaster was instantly smitten with a raging sickness, and continually cried with a guilty conscience, "Peat and wood, peat and wood!" so that it was terrible to hear; and before the three days had expired, he died; which was a great sign of they all-seeing eye of God, who would not suffer such cruelty to go unpunished, as an example to all those who from perverse blindness should commit such deeds. For it is often seen that those who think to do God service by exercising tyrannical cruelty over the pious, come to a bad end; for the apostle James also says that they shall have judgment without mercy that have shown no mercy. May the Lord enlighten those who are in such blindness.
At Belle, in Flanders, three women were apprehended for the testimony, of the truth, namely, an old woman named Francijntgen, a young maiden named Grietgen, and niece to the former, and another young maiden, named Maeyken Doornaerts, all of whom suffered much tribulation and torment. The old woman, when they wanted to torture her naked, said to the lords, "Remember that you were born of women; therefore, do not put me to shame;" by which she obtained leave to keep on her shift on the rack. Great pains were taken to draw the young maiden Grietgen from her faith, since she was still very young; but it was all in vain, for she would much rather expect eternal joy for this temporal pain or suffering, than purchase this brief and transient pleasure with everlasting suffering.
The other young maiden, Maeyken Doornaerts, also had to lie naked on the rack, and when they could by no pain or suffering cause her to apostatize from her faith, they began to accost her with asking her, whether she was not ashamed to lie there so nude. She replied, "I did not place myself here naked; but you, who inflict this misery and disgrace upon me who am innocent, shall hereafter have to suffer eternal shame and pain for it." And though she was tortured to such a degree, that her blood flowed down by the rack, she nevertheless, through the grace of God, who always strengthens His own, remained steadfast in the faith. Thereupon all three were sentenced to death, and burnt. Standing at the stake, Maeyken Doornaerts said, "This is the hour for which I have greatly longed, that it might put an end to all my tribulation." Thus these three heroines, valiantly fought their way through, suffering all this, be-
cause they were baptized upon their faith (according to the teaching of Christ), and thenceforth sought, in all simplicity, to serve and please the living God more than mortal men; for which they also expect the joyful crown of eternal and imperishable life.
In the year 1556 there was at Antwerp a very pious and God-fearing brother named Abraham, who was apprehended for his faith, and, after a bold confession, and. steadfast adherence to the same, condemned to death, and thus publicly in the marketplace,. offered up an acceptable sacrifice for God, sealing the truth with his blood.
Shortly after, also Jan de Kudse, an ardent lover of God, who had likewise been apprehended for the truth, from which he would not depart; meekly suffered death as an innocent lamb of Christ, in the marketplace at Antwerp, in order to follow his Lord; and thus violently entered through the strait gate into the kingdom of God.