Among many other true believers baptized according to the command of Christ, who were everywhere persecuted, expelled and put to death, also one Heyndrick Arents of Briel, about the year 1568, fell into the hands of these persecutors. The circumstances that led to his imprisonment were as follows, "A vessel having cast anchor in the roadstead off Briel on account of a leak which it had sprung, and said Heyndrick Arents being a shipcarpenter in Briel, those of the vessel requested him to calk the craft. While he was thus with them, the lords of Rotterdam learned that said vessel was a pirate, and sent thither a detachment of soldiers. These captured the vessel and conducted said Heyndrick Arents and the pirates to Delft as prisoners. And as those of -Delft refused to take them in, they were forthwith taken to Rotterdam, where they, on account of their misdeeds, were soon sentenced to be hanged. When Heyndrick Arents perceived this, he asked whether he had come into a city of justice, or of violence-why they wanted to condemn the innocent with the guilty? and said that he had not been apprehended on account of any crime. If they would inquire concerning him and his faith, they would find it to be so. Sus. 53; Ex. 23:7; I Peter 4:15.
Hearing this, the governor asked, "What does he say? what sort of a heretic is this? if he is one of the Anabaptists he shall not be hanged, but burned." Thus, he was examined concerning his
faith, and freely confessed that he had been baptized upon his faith, according to the command of Christ; and, on the other hand, rejected usurping infant baptism and all papal errors, but confessed the ordinances of Christ and His apostles (which were observed by him and his fellow believers). Thereupon they sentenced him, and, after an imprisonment of two weeks, he was burnt at said place, in great constancy, and confirming the faith of the truth with his death and blood.
Meenen is a beautiful little town in Flanders, three leagues from Rijssel, on the road to Bruges, built on the edge of the Leye. In this town there lived a God-fearing man, Piersom des Muliers, with his wife Claudine le Vettre, who through the preaching of Leenaert Bouwens, and by reading and studying the Word of God, were turned from papal idolatry. Learning of this, Titelmannus, Dean of Ronse, and inquisitor of the faith, came thither with bailiffs, thinking to apprehend the aforesaid Piersom in his house. But a pious man of the council of Meenen had-warned Piersom to flee from the inquisitor, which he did, betaking himself into a certain piece of woods not far from his house. But his wife Claudine being engaged with her four little children (one of whom is still living), tarried a little too long, and had just left the house, with a child on the arm, when the bailiffs entered, who tumultuously asked the children and the neighbors where the husband was; and when they could not learn it they prepared to leave. Perceiving this, one of the neighbors, kindled with an evil and perverse zeal, said, "Men, there goes the wife with a child on her arm." They therefore forthwith caught her, and delivered her into the hands of the aforesaid inquisitor. This happened in the year 1567, a few months before the Duke of Alva's arrival in the Netherlands. She was taken from Meenen to Ypres, where many lay in prison for the faith that is because they could not understand that there was another Mediator and Saviour than Jesus Christ alone, who was offered up for our sins on the tree of the cross (I Tim. 2:5; Rom. 4:25); and could not believe that God had any pleasure in images of wood and stone, or silver and gold, but believed rather that such worship was prohibited in the Word of God (Ex. 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:16). And because they also did not believe that dead men can hear our prayers and help us; but much rather that we are to call upon no one but God alone, who alone is the discerner of our hearts and thoughts, and knows what we shall pray,for, even before we have poured out our prayer; who exclaimed with a loud voice, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," etc.;"to whom all the prophets and apostles point us, and not to one of the departed saints." Matt. 4:10; Rev. 2:13; Heb. 4:12; Matt. 6:8; Rom. 8:26; Matt. 11:28; Acts 10:43; 4:12; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15.
All who held such faith were by Titelmannus declared heretics, and delivered to the secular authorities, to be dealt with according to the decrees, namely, the men to be burnt alive, and the women to be buried alive. This severe death greatly terrified some, so that many apostatized, in order to save their lives. For at one time a large number broke out of prison and escaped, so that Claudine also could have made her escape, but she would not leave her child; so also a pious brother, who remained with her in prison unto the end, and would not leave her, dying with her for the truth, at said place. But Claudine did not apostatize, notwithstanding manifold assaults, continuing one year, but remained steadfast in the faith, refuting, from the word of God, all that the priests and monks were able to bring forward against her, as appeared from divers letters which she wrote to her husband from prison.* Finally, when they could not prevail upon her, they endeavored to move her by her maternal love for her infant, which hitherto had been nourished at its mother's breast in prison. The child therefore was taken from her and put out to a wet nurse, which was the greatest affliction she suffered during her imprisonment, and on account of which she wept many a tear, constantly praying God for power and strength against such temptation and assault of the flesh, in order that she might not fall, even as many of her fellow believers fell in her presence. God Almighty heard her prayer, for the Duke of Alva, having in the meantime entered the country, and commanded to clear all prisons from heretics, she also was crowned with the crown of the godly, without Ypres, A. D. 1568; and with her a brother, who was also burnt for the truth, at said place.
Her husband, Piersom, often said of his aforesaid wife that it was astonishing how well she was versed in the Scriptures. For whenever he could not find a passage, he would ask his wife Claudine, who would at once clearly indicate to him what he sought. t
It is understood that the child which was taken from her in prison was from that time on seen no more, without the father and the friends ever knowing what became of it.
Piersom had formerly lived with his wife Claudine, in Bruges, where the same thing had happened to him, namely, that he with his wife escaped from the inquisitor, through the friendly warning of a councilor of the city. However he had to leave beh'nd everything he had, as was also the case at Meenen. But the pious man of Meenen who had warned him, concealed Piersom's books and part of his household goods, and saw that they were again taken to the place where the books belonged. But
the bad neighbor, who had betrayed Claudine, fell into such detestation with the town's people that he had to leave the place, after the rabble of the town had demolished and ruined his shop, calling after him, Judas! Judas, the traitor I
Meenen was at that time an open city, without walls and gates, and hence Titelmannus did not dare trust his prisoners there: it would have gone with them as it did in another small town of 1, landers, where on a set day the peasants came in great numbers, broke open the prison, and liberated about four hundred persons who had been imprisoned for the same cause.
The friends had Piersom's children baptized by the pastor of Meenen, as Margriete, the oldest of the children, who subsequently died, at the age of sixteen, in Calais, was wont to relate.
The remainder were three sons, named Pieter, Nicolaes and Jan, the last mentioned being the infant which was nourished at the mother's breasts in prison. Pieter died during his mother's imprisonment.
Piersom subsequently married a woman by the name of Peronne Hennebo, who died at Leyden, A. D. 1589, leaving two daughters, Maria and Martha, both born at Hoorn. This Martha was the wife of Doctor Dirk Volkertsz Velius, who wrote the Chronicles of Hoorn, and the mother of Pieter Velius of Hoorn.
Piersom's third wife was Habeau de la Motte, mother of Margriete des Muliers, who resided at Gonda.
Piersom fell asleep in the Lord in Leyden, in the year 1591, leaving a son by his first wife Claudine, two daughters by his second wife Peronne, and a daughter by his last wife, as already said.
Claudine was beautiful of person, and a good singer, so that she moved the bystanders by her singing. Especially on the last day of her life, people stood before the prison, to hear her sing with a joyful heart, when death was announced to her. One who related it to me had heard her sing with a clear, strong voice the 27th psalm of David
Le Seigneur est la clarte qui m'addresse
And the people firmly believed that if they had not gagged her when they brought her to the place of execution, she would have departed life singing and praising God.
This account we received from D. N. M., the son of Piersom and Claudine, by the help of D. D. V., Claudine's brother-in-law.
The descendants of Piersom, the husband of Claudine le Vettre, claimed to have received, by way of tradition, that this Piersom at the time of the imprisonment of his afore-mentioned wife betook himself to a miller who lived in or near his mill, which stood close under the walls of Ypres, in order to be able there daily to get tidings from his beloved wife, which, gleaned from street rumors were brought to him by the miller's wife, as often as she returned from town, though without knowing that it was his wife, or that he was an Anabaptist.
She judged Claudine not to be in her right mind because she had allowed herself to be rebaptized, and let so many sufferings be inflicted upon her on this account, and would rather die, than do what the priests said. This every time pierced Piersom's heart like a dagger, and ofter compelled him to step aside to give vent to the deep feelings of his heart.
The day when Claudine was to be offered up, the miller's wife, desirous of seeing her b Ing executed, asked Piersom whether he did not wi;h to go along and behold the scene, which he declined, requesting her kindly to pay strict attention to everything, in order to give him an account of it afterwards. When she returned home she related to Piersom how valiantly and undauntedly Claudine went to death, what she said, and how she conducted herself; everything, however, with the idea, that Claudine had not acted rationally. Thereupon Piersom, having warmed up, took heart and discovered himself to the miller and his wife, saying that he was of the same belief, and that the one put to death was his beloved and very rational wife, and upon what foundations of truth they founded their doctrine and life. This so deeply affected the miller and his wife, that they also resolved to amend their life. They were baptized upon their faith, and shortly after sealed the truth with their blood.
The dreadful murdering, burning and killing of the innocent and upright followers of Jesus Christ were not sufficient at this time to deter from the true confession and practice of the Christian faith a certain pious brother and faithful witness of the Lord, named Pieter Pieters Beckjen, by trade a boatman on the Amstel, and so zealous, that at divers times he gathered the little flock of the oppressed pious who lived about Amsterdam, into his boat, in order to edify one another with the Word of God, and to strengthen one another in the accepted faith.
And when it came to pass that his dear wife bore him a child, he, from Christian carefulness, took said infant with him to a place where it might be secure from the superstition of the papists, and from being baptized.
In short, he manifested his zeal in every respect, notwithstanding the cruelty of the rulers of darkness, and this with a sincere and good intention, till finally he was, on that account, denounced to the magistrates of the city of Amsterdam, apprehended, dreadfully tortured, and, at last, when he would
Whereas Pieter Pieters, alias Beckjen, boatman, prisoner, unmindful of his soul and salvation, and of the obedience which he owed to the Lord God, and to his imperial majesty, forsaking our mother, the holy church, and this from the time that he attained to understanding, even until now, has re-, fused to go to the holy, worthy sacrament, despising and disregarding the same, and has in twenty years been to confession only once, contrary to the ordinance of our mother, the holy church, and, moreover, has attended the reprobate and prohibited assemblies, or conventicles, of the Mennonists, etc., and has himself, in his own boat, twice held conventicles of the aforesaid Mennonists, in which abominable and reprobated sect he so obstinately persists, that still recently before his apprehension, his wife lying in childbed, he took said child and conveyed it away, not willing to tolerate or permit that said child should be baptized according to the ceremonies of the ancient Roman Catholic and Apostolical church; in which he is still captive, persisting therein, and not willing to return to our mother, the holy church, notwithstanding he has at divers times, by various ecclesiastical persons, and also by the aldermen of this city, been admonished and urged to return and to leave this accursed sect,-all of which are crimes against the divine and the secular majesty, as said before, which disturb the peace and the common weal, and which ought therefore, for an example to others, not to go unpunished; therefore, my lords of the court, having seen the demand of my lord the bailiff, also his information, the confession of the prisoner, together with the poor defense of said prisoner, and having duly considered all, have condemned the aforesaid prisoner, as they by these presents do condemn him, to be executed with fire, according to the decrees of his majesty; and declare his entire property confiscated for the benefit of his majesty aforesaid, without prejudice to the privileges and all other interests of this city.
Done in court this 26th of February, A. D. 1569,
in the presence of all the judges, by the advice of all the burgomasters.
How said person was condemned to the rack, and when this happened
He was condemned to the torture, the 17th of January, A. D. 1569, and examined and threatened with torture on the same day, and in the same place, as appears from the records of the confession.
Thus extracted from the book of criminal sentences, preserved in the archives of the city of Amsterdam.
In the year 1569 there was apprehended in 's Hertogenbosch, in Brabant, a pious follower of Christ, named Lauwerens Verkamer, for the single reason that he could not follow the Romish priests and monks in their self-invented idolatry, but separated therefrom, and united with the true members of our Lord Jesus, seeking to observe and practice with them in true obedience, His holy commandments. For this reason he was persecuted in a very hostile manner by the papistical and anti-Christminded, so that he, with many others, in the beginning of January, left Antwerp, with the intention of taking up residence at Nimeguen. But though the rest went to Holland, he, while on the journey to Nimeguen, was apprehended by the sheriff of 's Hertogenbosch, and brought to that place a prisoner on the 5th of January, and suffered very severe and tyrannical imprisonment, none of his good friends being allowed to visit him, nor might he indicate by letter his distress and severe imprisonment to any one-thus unmercifully and malignantly was he kept. For as he was a man of distinguished family and large means, and had with him many books of his temporal affairs, these bloodthirsty men could ascertain his circumstances, which tended to aggravate his situation. But his firm unwavering steadfastness in the true saving faith was manifested in him; for in the year 1569, about the end of June, he was burnt by the enemies of the truth, in great constancy, and sealed the faith of the eternal truth with his death and blood, and put off this mortal clothing of the flesh in true obedience, for which, at the last day, he shall be clothed by the true Bridegroom Christ Jesus with the immortal clothing, and be rewarded with the crown of eternal glory. II Esd. 2:45; I Cor. 15:58; 11 Tim. 4:8.
As in the time of Ishmael and Isaac, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit (Gal. 4:29), so it still goes in these latter days. For the ministers of the Roman antichrist imprisoned at Kortrijck, in Flanders, a Godfearing lamb of Christ named Sijntgen Vercoilgen, the mother of Jan Vercoilgen, and after many temptations, she was put to death at said place, in great steadfastness, for the testimony of Jesus, in the year 1569, on the 9th of March, having put off her womanly weakness, and in place of it, by the grace of God, received through the illumination of the Holy Spirit in her heart a manly courage; and testified and sealed the belief of the truth with her death, and blood, as a memorable example to all followers of Christ.
In the year 1569 there was put to death, at Ghent, in Flanders, by the maintainers of the Roman antichrist, for the genuine truth and the practice of it, a woman by the name of Lippijntgen Stayerts, the wife of Pieter Stayerts, about St. Peter's day, not on account of any crime, but only for the sure truth, as she had renounced the world and all its false, invented lies, and submitted herself to the prince of truth, Christ Jesus, hearkening with obedient ears to the blessed voice of truth, and shunning all strangers contrary to it, wherefore she shall also, with all the obedient sheep that have heard and followed this voice, at the revelation of His glory, hear the words, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning." Matthew 25:34.
In the year 1569, the 25th of June, there was put to death for the testimony of the truth, in Briel, reckoned to Holland, on the Maese, Maerten Pieters of Maesland, a village situated near Delft in Holland and with him Grietgen Jans, wife of Adriaen Heynsen, a weaver of Swartewael. Maerten Pieters was beheaded with the sword, and Grietgen Jans was burnt at the stake, in the town, whereupon their dead bodies were taken down, and conveyed out of the town, to the place of execution, called the Nieuwe Noordt. Here Maerten Pieters was laid upon a wheel, and his head upon a stake. And Grietgen Jans was again tied to a stake, and thus given for food to the fowls of the heavens. Ps. 79:2. And all this they suffered for the testimony of the truth, were in no manner charged with any evil works, but accused simply on account of having united with those called Mennists, and having, according to the doctrine of Christ, been baptized upon their faith, seeking thus to please their Creator, according to all their ability. Therefore they have a firm and sure promise from God: that all who have been put to death by men, for the testimony of Jesus, shall receive again in great glory at the resurrection of the dead these their members, which are here sown in dishonor, being made like unto the glorious body of Christ, and shall live with Him in unspeakable joy forever and ever. II Maccabees 7:11; Phil. 3:21; I Cor. 2:9.
This account of the sacrifice of these pious witnesses of God is taken from the book of criminal sentences of the town of Briel,
commenced on Bamis,* in the year 1564, and now, the 3rd of June 1616, extracted from it by the clerk of said town.