At- Cologne, on the Rhine, a God-fearing brother, named Thomas van Imbroeck, a printer's servant, was apprehended for the truth, in the year 1557, and imprisoned in a tower. When afterwards examined in regard to baptism and marriage, he met them with the Word of God, in such a manner that they desisted from examining, him further and put him into another tower. His wife wrote him a letter exhorting him to fight valiantly, and to adhere firmly to the truth. For these comforting words he affectionately thanked her, and showed by many Scriptures that the righteous have always suffered, and that he stood with a good conscience void of offense before God, to follow them, forsake wife, children, and all visible things, and take up the cross of Christ, and follow Him, for which he prayed God that he might be found worthy. Afterwards there came to him two priests, who disputed with him concerning infant baptism; but they disagreed among themselves; for the one would have that the infants that died unbaptized were damned, while the other admitted that they were saved. They insisted that he should become converted. But he said, "That, which I maintain, the Scriptures have taught me, and if any one will teach me a better way from the Scriptures, I will gladly follow him." They said, "You despise our church, and refuse to be taught by us." He replied, "That I condemn your church and do not come under your communion, is for the reason that you do not keep your church pure; for perjurers, whoremongers, and the like are pious brethren among you." They also asked him why he did not have his .children baptized. He answered, "The Scriptures teach no infant baptism, and those that are to be baptized according to the Word of God, must first believe." Then they said that he was aheretic, but were not able to prove it. He was then brought to the rack, where he was sharply examined, but not tortured, though the executioner had everything ready for it; for the lords were not agreed among themselves. This happened three different times. After this he was brought into the house of the count, who would gladly have set him at liberty had he not so greatly feared the imperial decree and the displeasure of the bishop. Thomas, however, was bold, of good cheer, and ready to lay clown his life for the name of Christ, and to adhere so firmly to the truth and the love of God, that neither fire, water, sword, nqr any other thing should move him therefrom. When they took him away from the house of the count, he suffered much temptation all night from the count's people and others, who undertook to teach and instruct him, but all in vain; for they were such as were themselves not instructed or taught of God.
Finally he was brought before the high court, where he was condemned to death, in presence of the count, who then; for the first time, pronounced judgment, staining his staff with Christian blood. Thus he was beheaded, as a pious witness of Jesus Christ, for his steadfast continuance in the faith, on the 5th day of March, 1558, being twenty-five years old.
From his prison he wrote letters to his wife and brethren, and also a confession of his faith regarding baptism, of which a special book has been published, all of which is very instructive and comforting for the God-fearing, as you shall see by the following part, which is here presented to you.
Much grace and peace from God the heavenly Father, who is a true Father; for He shows His fatherly faithfulness to all His children, according to His promise, when He says, "I will be a Father unto them, and they shall be my sons and daughters." May this Father so speak to your hearts, that you may believe me with a good conscience, that you are His children, and it will not fail you.
This grace I wish you, my dear wife, and also the wife of my Lord (you understand whom I mean), through the Author and Finisher of life, Jesus, to whom alone we must take refuge, that we may become conformed to Him in this world, according to the words of the prophet, who says, "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him." Isa. 53:2, 3.
But what says the Scripture, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
Hence I deem it necessary for us, O wife of the Lord, to reflect on this; for though we are now the
reproach of .all men, yea, as the filth and offscouring of everyone, so that they say, "Away with him. for he is not fit to live;" they shall in due time confess and say, "Behold, how are they now numbered among the children of God and their lot is among the saints. We accounted their life madness, and their end to be without honor." Wisd. 3:5, 4. Now we sigh, but when He shall come for whom we wait; then they shall sigh, and be distressed with great pain; who shall be without hope; for their worm shall never die, and their fire shall not be quenched.
Hence, there is a great difference between the pious and the ungodly; for the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and there shall no torment touch them, for their hope is full of immortality. Wisd. 3:1, 4.
This, my brethren, we are to consider well; for if we look back, we still look upon deadly or mortal things, and there cannot apply to us the comforting words of Paul, where he says, "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." II Cor. 4:17, 18.
Now I know that wife and children are visible, and though they are dear to me, yet I will count them but dung, and say, "Henceforth know I no roan after the flesh; but the knowledge of the spirit abideth forever." Phil. 3:8; II Cor. 5:16. And thus I hope to know you all when we shall appear together in the eternal joy, which is prepared from the beginning for them that are not ashamed of Christ; but this is not to be ashamed, when we, as malefactors, go without the gate, for Christ's sake, and help Him bear His reproach, without the camp. Heb. 12:13.
Hence I desire that the rich seek no excuse, and say, "Yea, I cannot forsake everything, it would create great wonderment and sensation before the world, if I should so completely forsake my rank." Yea, they should imagine that they were doing too much in this. Ah no! He who is over all, God blessed forever, humbled Himself much more than this; for He was King over all, and Lord of the whole world, even as David in spirit calls Him Lord: He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister unto all; for He became the servant of us. all, that He might make us free. Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:7; I Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; Matt. 20:28; John 8:36.
If we therefore have received freedom through Him, let us be grateful, and not cast it from us; for it has a great reward, though some say we ought not to serve God for the reward. This view, I say, is not right; for I say with Paul, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." I Cor. 15:19.
Yet, let no one think, that he shall be justified and saved by his good works alone; for this we must wholly ascribe to the grace of God, and tothe merits and innocently shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who works the good in us.
Therefore, my dear brethren, beware of such spirits; for they would experience greater perfection, but fail in those things which are least. Adhere to the doctrine you have learned. One thing I desire and request: that the simple may be better and more thoroughly instructed, lest your labor be burned in the fire; for the scripture says not in vain, "In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted," for experience brings perfect wisdom, even as Paul says."Blessed be . . . 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"; yea, through Him, I say, we shall gain the victory; for He is our life, and to die is gain for us, since He says, "Though you were dead, yet shall you live." Heb. 2:18; II Cor. 1:3-5; John 11:25; II Tim. 2:11.
Hence it is good to die with Christ; for He was raised up by the glory of His Father, and, hence, will draw unto Him all that the Father has given Him. Rom. 6:4; John 12:32. Therefore, my brethren, and my dear wife, let us be valiant; for the apostle says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." II Cor. 12:9. Hence I deem it good, to be in weakness, (mark) if it be followed by being in reproach, distress, persecution, and fear for Christ's sake.
Yea, if the Lord should count me worthy to testify with my blood- to His name, how greatly would I thank Him, for I hope not only to bear these bonds with patience, but also to die for Christ's sake, that I may finish my course with joy; for I would rather be with the Lord, than live again in this abominable, wicked world; however, His divine will be done. Amen.
And if anything should be defective yet in my life, that I may not have been diligent enough (which I confess), may the Lord blot it out and purge it, through the fire of His love and mercy, in the blood of Jesus Christ through which everything must be purified, and purged. I John 1:7.
Dear brethren, I desire that you will all pray to God for me, that He will keep us through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
May grace, peace and mercy from God the heavenly Father, and the pure love of His Son Jesus Christ, be perfect in your heart, my dear wife, that you may thereby be drawn from all visible things, to the invisible and eternal, through the help and co-operation of His Holy Spirit, who is the Governor and Guide of the children of God; to Him be glory and praise forever and ever, Amen.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His great and unspeakable grace, which He has imparted to us through His gracious goodness, and has drawn us into the kingdom of His Beloved Son, through whom we have received redemption from all our sins, in His blood. Eph. 1:3.
Hence it is right and just that we ought not to cease constantly to serve Him with great humility as grateful and obedient children, and not disesteem the grace which has been given us, but diligently consider why and for what purpose it has been given us, namely, that we should use it and get gain by it, that we may hear the sweet voice which says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things." Matt. 25:21.
Be admonished by this, that the merchant sold all that he had, and bought the field in which lay the treasure. Matt. 13:44. Thus you should also think now, that you willingly give your husband to the Lord, like Jephtha, who offered up his daughter to the Lord; or remember also Abraham, the pious father of all the faithful, who did not become weak in faith, but willingly delivered up his son Isaac to show obedience to the mighty God, who gives life and breath to all men, Judg. 11:39; Heb. 11:17.
Remember also patient job, who in his trial with all meekness said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21.
Oh, James may well say, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord." Jas. 5:11. And also Paul says, "Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself." Heb. 12:3. He knew no sin; bur we must confess that we deserve more punishment than we suffer, though the same is profitable, as is written that He chastises us for our benefit, and that all things work together for good to us. Rom. 8:28.
Hence I desire of you, my dear friend, that you be of good cheer in the Lord, and do not grieve, for I have well perceived that you have lost flesh and become emaciated. Rejoice with me, and thank God that we are not bastards, but that He receives us as a Father, yea, as children and fellow heirs of His kingdom, who here on earth receive like reward with His Son, and this for the sake of His testimony.
Why should we not suffer the evil, seeing we have received the good from Him? However, if we would sorrow, we have cause enough for it, for godly sorrow I mean; for we may with truth lament, that we are still very unfit; even as you write me, that you cannot pray well, even as I also, alas I am imperfect. Jas. 4:3. But the reason of it, in my opinion, is this, that we are not sufficiently displeased with ourselves, and also, that we do not perceive the thorns that are in our flesh.
May the Lord have compassion upon us, and open the eyes of our understanding, so that we mayhate sin, even as God Himself hates it; for then He takes pleasure in us, even as also holy David when he says, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak: O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed; but thou, O Lord, how long? Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. . . I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears." Ps. 6:2-4, 6.
But where are the tears which we have shed, my dear wife, over our past sins, when our souls were wounded even unto death, yea, sunk in hell? True, we sing, "I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me, " but it were far better for us, to lament from deep distress of heart, and to pray with a broken, contrite and fervent heart, if we experience the same, now that tribulation and suffering happen to us in the flesh.
Thus also Esther learned to pray, where she says, "O my Lord, thou only art our King: help me, desolate woman, which have no helper but thee; deliver us and help me; for thou knowest all things; O Lord, thou knowest that I hate the glory of the unrighteous, and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised, and that I abhor the sign of my high estate." II Esther 14:3, 15.
We must observe here that the pious woman had an aversion for the costly apparel, and hated it more than she loved it. Do you also beware of it, and reprove it sharply in those whom you see given to it; for it proceeds not from a humble heart. The proverb says, "Don't put moths into the fur;" neither must we give the flesh occasion for sin, since it is, alas! evil enough without that. Gal. 5:13.
Therefore, my dear sister, do not respect persons; for the faith of Jesus does not suffer respect of persons (Dent. 1:17; Jas. 2:1); but reprove that which is evil with all kindness and humility, out of love, and show yourself in all things a pattern of good works and sobriety to all women, with piety and silence; for he that bridles not his tongue, deceives his own heart, and his religion is vain.
Hence I affectionately exhort you, while you have time now, that you will use all diligence; for it is not enough, that we confess the name of the Lord with the mouth in prison, but we must first demonstrate our confession in power; for we know that he who transgresses out of prison, sins just as much as he that sins in prison, though through weakness, while the other, sins from wantonness.
Therefore take heed to yourselves, and be always prepared; for we know not the hour. Watch therefore, and keep your garments clean, lest you walk naked, and your shame become manifest. Be always ready for conflict; for David says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken." Ps. 34:19, 20."He saveth the poor from the sword of the ungodly, and the needy from the hand of the mighty."
Job 5:15. Job further says, "Happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: for he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole." 5:17, 18.
Paul also says, that he wants to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His deaath; if by any means (he says) I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phil. 3:10, 11. Hence we must mourn with Him, that we may also rejoice with Him. Does not Christ say, "Blessed are they that mourn and lament; for they shall be comforted; yea, the tears shall be wiped away." Matt. 5:4. And the Lord does not forsake the widow that is oppressed, as it is written, "He hears the prayer of the distressed and oppressed, and He does not despise the prayer of the widows, if they pour it out before Him with lamentation and sighing; yea, their tears ascend to heaven, and the Lord will hear them." Sir. 35:24.
Therefore let us be resigned, and say within ourselves, "O Lord, Almighty King, all things are in Thy power; if it is Thy will to restore, unto me my husband, there is none that can resist Thy will. Thou hast made heaven and earth, and all that is contained in the circuit of heaven. Thou art Lord of all things. Thou preservest us as the apple of Thine eye, and hast said through the mouth of David, that we shall cast our burden upon Thee; for Thou wilt sustain us, and never suffer the righteous to be moved." Ps. 55:22. Then will your prayer be fulfilled, as you write, me, that you cannot pray otherwise than only, "Lord, Thy will be done." And I wish to God for you, that this may be found in you in truth, and not as Israel cried to the Lord, when they drew near Him with their mouth, and magnified Him with their tongues; but their heart was not right with Him, and they were not found faithful in His covenant. Isa. 29:13. But they that keep His commandment, shall pray, and whatsoever they shall ask (in accordance with His will) shall be granted unto them. John 15:16.
Hence be of good courage, and bring up your children in gpod manners, and in the fear of God, that their natural propensities may be mortified; and take an example from yourself, how you bring them up in their weakness, with great labor and trouble, and give the breast to them to whom the Lord has,commanded milk to be given.
You are also to give them the rod, according to the command of the Lord, when they transgress and are obstinate; for this is also food for the soul, and drives out the folly which is bound up in their hearts. Prov. 23:13, 14. Remember the words of Sirach, where he says (7:26), "Shew not thyself cheerful to thy daughter, nor laugh with her, lest she become bold against thee, and thou have to bear shame on her account in the end. But teach her the law of our God, that she may put her hope in the Almighty and Most High, and may neverforget the benefits bestowed upon us through Christ."
I also pray you, that they, as far as possible, be kept away from intractable children; do not allow them to run about in the streets, but keep them with you as much as possible, that you may have joy and sorrow with them; and forget not the kind of widow mentioned by Paul in his letter to Timothy (I Tim. 5:4); but place your hope firmly in the Lord, and wait for Him with patience.
Now I understand that you would gladly die; but when I was still with you, and we lived together in peace, then life was no cross for you. Remember therefore now what I often told you, namely, that it is good for the believer to have tribulation and distress, that we may learn to say with Paul, "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 body, are burdened, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, than to walk in his absence in much affliction." II Cor. 5:2. Alas! friend, how few there are that say this; I mean among those who enjoy peace and rest.
Therefore thank the Lord, that He has given this grace, and perhaps removed me from your sight for the best; for He is a jealous God; He will be loved the most, and have sole possession of the human heart. And you have also asked Him to remove from your path everything that might be in the way of your salvation. Hence think that He is proving us both, and let us willingly take the yoke upon us, and count it all joy. Jas. 1:2. For what are the sufferings of this world? Nothing but a dream, as David says, "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter." Psalm 126:1.
Thus it is with us as with a woman in travail; when the child is brought forth, she would not surrender it, because of the former pain. So also we, when we have been delivered from the child, we would not take the whole world for it.
Hence take good heed, that you be not startled or frightened, that the child may be born in due time. Take food and nourishment from the husband Christ, that you may have strength for labor; and neglect not to receive the true food, the Word of God. Remember Israel, who were satiated with bread from heaven. May the Lord give you a sound soul, and a fervent stomach of love, so that the food may be well digested. Amen.
May the grace of the Lord be increased unto you, my dear wife. Be always subject to the God-fearing, and associate with the pious, and pray God to keep me in the truth; for truth abides and is strong forever; it lives, and will forever prevail.
Greet all the saints with the kiss of love, and all who love the Lord Jesus, and tell them to be kind; for God is the Hero and Captain, who so faithfully succors in time of need. He is like a shower upon
the parched earth in a dry summer. _ Thus He refreshes the afflicted souls, that thirst for Him, He is a shadow from the heat of the sun. Matt. 11:28; Isa. 55:1; 25:4.
Tell the brethren to take care of the novices, and, to pray earnestly for me. I will also pray for them, as much as is in my power: Remember my bonds. The Lord be with your spirit. Amen.
Your dear husband, Thomas van Imbroeck,
imprisoned for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
P. S. This Thomas van Imbroeck composed an excellent confession of baptism, as also a defense against the adversaries, in regard, to the same matter, and delivered it all to the lors of justice of the city of Cologne. Concerning this, see our Account of Holy Baptism, for the year 1558.