In the year 1569 there were imprisoned for the testimony of Jesus, at Middleburgh, in Zealand, the following pious sheep and followers of Christ
Hendrick A!ewijns, a purse-maker by trade, and Hans Marijns van Oosten, with Gerrit Duynherder. These suffered from the ministers of antichrist manifold assaults, and threats and tortures terrible to the flesh, all of which they, through faith and the power of God (which was in them) patiently and valiantly resisted. And after they had suffered all this for Christ's sake, they were together burnt alive at said place, on the 9th of February 1569, confirming the belief of the everabiding truth with their death and blood, and now serve as a beacon to all true believers, that they may follow their unfeigned faith. Phil. 3:17.
The Hendrick Alevijns mentioned here was in his time a very zealous follower of Christ, and was elected and chosen by the brethren to serve the church of God with the Word of the holy Gospel, in which he was very diligent, and, though young in the service, he exceedingly abounded and increased in the work of God. II Cor. 8:19; Luke 1:2; I Tim. 4:15. And though he had neither silver nor gold, nor temporal means, yet his hands gained him and his wife and children a livelihood, and he sought to minister to the flock of Christ not for the milk and wool, but this hero followed the good, true and faithful Shepherd Jesus, and willingly, of a ready mind, ministered to the work of God, wherefore, at the appearance of the chief Shepherd, he shall receive the imperishable crown of honor. Acts 3:6; 20:34; Matt. 10:16; Ezek. 34:3; I Pet. 5:2, 4.
During the time of his imprisonment he also did not forget his brethren and sisters, but wrote beautiful letters, descriptions and hymns, worthy of being read, to them, as also to his three little orphans; some of which have previously already appeared in print. We pray the reader attentively to read those adduced here, the first of which was sent to the beloved children of God in Zealand, and reads as follows
A most Christian greeting and salutation in the Lord! Hendrick Alewijns, unworthy, a weak brother and simple companion in the faith in God, a partaker of His sufferings, also of patience, and of the hope of eternal life, with all the saints, all through the grace of God, unmerited. Grace, peace, the mercy of God, salvation, prosperity, and everything good from above, through Christ Jesus, constantly to be kept stirred up, and the ,ardent im-
pelling of the Holy Spirit, even unto the blessed end, these things I wish all my beloved friends, brethren, sisters, and companions, from God the Father, through Jesus Christ our dear Lord, Redeemer and Saviour. Amen. This I send as a greeting, in a good intention, from the very depths of my love, to you, as my special acquaintances and friends, to exhort and stir up one another to good devotion, while absent, yet in one hope of the kingdom and glory of God, though I am now confined at a distance from you.
My very kind, especially peaceable and ever wellmeaning friends, seeing before me my departure from this life, and having time to write, I gladly turn to your love for a little while, to give you intelligence and glad tidings, which, I presume, is according to your wish and desire. Behold; be it known to you all, that I, your friend, am still prospering in the Lord, in both respects, that is, in body and soul, in the unchanging determination, to endeavor with a good resolution, to keep body and soul surrendered to and in God, pleasing to you to hear, and to my salvation. May God grant this to the blessed end of my faith, O dear Lord. Amen.
Further, the cause of my writing to you, and to your love, is also to ask you to help me pray in my behalf, for steadfastness in God's truth, and that I may live in His grace, and for God's faithful assistance towards me. I inform you that I am of very good cheer in my imprisonment, tribulation, sorrow, reproach, and suffering for righteousness' sake; and also I have, with all the saints, in my tribulation, a bright prospect, the hope and consolation of the Spirit, and the rich promises of God to succor us in this present time, who also assures us of eternal life hereafter, of which so abundantly mention is made in the Scriptures.
In the first place, I know, consider, and firmly believe with many saints, according to the abundant testimony of the Scriptures, that God is faithful in keeping His promises. Read Deut. 32:4; Numbers 23:19; I Cor. 10:13; I Thess. 5:24; II Tim. 2:13. He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape. He does not leave His children comfortless. He will with His Spirit defend us before kings and princes, as much as will be needful at the time. He will, and knows how, to deliver the godly out of temptation. He says, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Therefore I will trust in the Lord, and not fear what man shall do unto me. Heb. 13:5, 6."What can flesh do?" says Paul.
Again, "If God be with us, who can be against us?" and God is with us, if we are with Him, mark. Romans 8:31; II Chron. 15:2. Again, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
Again, "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus." II Cor. 2:14. Again, "Whatsoever is born of God over cometh the world." I John 5:4. For which cause we faint not (because of God's consolation); but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. I I Cor. 4:16. Again, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Phil. 4:13. O how blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which God has promised to them (he says, to them) that love Him. James 1:12.
And since God is so faithful in all His promises, as said, we press straight on with righteousness, as though we beheld God, and saw no adversaries; as though we saw no decree, fire, water, or sword. For who is he that will harm us, if we be followers of that which is good? as Peter assures us. I Peter 3:13. Also Paul says, "Who shall separate us from the love of God?" etc. Rom. 8: 35. Who will pluck our Shepherd's sheep out of His hand? No one. John 10:28. But one can and may indeed himself stray out of His hand. Again it is written, "No evil shall happen to him that feareth God; for when he is tempted, he shall be delivered again." Mark, John says, "There is no fear in love" (I John 4:18); understand, such fear as departs from the way of rectitude. Yea, such fearless ones run through patience (mark, through), not out of, but into, the conflict that is set before us, and look not at the dreadful tyranny, but unto Jesus, the Captain, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Heb. 12:2.
And these comforting promises of God, here partly mentioned and touched upon, behold, speak, and treat chiefly only of God's keeping, assisting and strengthening us, in this time, and in the sufferings of this present time.
But, friends, how much greater and more valuable must be the consolation, reward, and the crown of eternal life, of which so much is said in other places, of God's eternal life, kingdom and glofy, which are promised to those that overcome and patiently endure, as will here in part follow.
In the first place, observe in the Book of Wisdom, concerning the day of judgment, and the glory of God's elect, "Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him, and made no account of his labors." Wisd. 5:1. Again, "The righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High. Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand." Verses 15, 16. Mark well, an eternal reward. Again, "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them." In the sight of the unwise they seem to die, and their departure and going from us are taken for destruction; but they are in peace. For though they have much suffering (he says, much suffering) in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality, and having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded; for God proves
them, and finds them worthy for Himself. Wisd. 3:1-5. Yea, here they shall suffer strait things, but hope for the wide: but they that have lived wickedly, and yet have suffered the strait things, shall not see the wide, alas, no. II Esd. 7:.18. Again, II Macc. 7:36, "My brethren, who now have suffered themselves to be martyred for a short time, now wait for everlasting life, according to God's promise" (he says, everlasting life according to God's promise). Again, also the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, "That all who have followed him in the regeneration (he says, in the regeneration) and have forsaken everything dear to them, house, home, wife, children, etc., and their own life, shall receive a hundred fold in this time, and hereafter everlasting life; and shall also sit with Him upon thrones, and help judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matt. 19:28.
Again, "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven" (he says, in heaven). Luke 6:21. Mark, heavenly consolation. Again, Paul says, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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." II Cor. 1:3-5. Again, "He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life and peace." O friends, let us therefore not be weary in welldoing; for in due season we shall reap without ceasing (he says, without ceasing). Gal. 6:8;,9. O friends, let this claim your joyful consideration and attention. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward (he says, afterward) it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them (he says, them) which are exercised thereby. Heb. 12:11. Again, in Paul we further find, "It is a faithful saying [he says, a faithful saying]: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us." II Timothy 2:11, 12.
Again, in Peter, also we read, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you [he says as though some strange thing happened unto. you]: but be partakers of Christ's sufferings, that, when he shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." I Pet. 4:12, 13.
Behold, such and similar beautiful promises, and heavenly consolations for the hereafter, yea, such in great abundance,. make tribulation sweet, precious and light. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more ex ceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; which are nevertheless true. II Corinthians 4:17. Hence it is impossible for these to be plucked out of the hand of our Shepherd. Yea, God is faithful, and not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. I Cor. 10:13; Hebrews 6:10.
Now, mark well, the beautiful promises of God mentioned here, and many similar ones, point and reach farther than God's help in the distress of this present time; the promises for the present time being essentially different ones, as said above. But these are full promises and a reward for the hereafter, in eternal, imperishable, yea, unspeakable or inexpressible glory, even as Peter says of these unspeakable things, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time [mark, in the last time]. Wherein ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable [mark, unspeakable] and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." [Mark who]. He says, "Ye who now for a season, if need be are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your .faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable," as already quoted. I Pet. 1-:3. Justly does Esdras say of the incomprehensible and unspeakable recompense of God, "Thou canst not find out my judgment, or in the end the love that I have promised unto my people." II Esd. 5:40.
Happy those venturesome ones who now sow liberally to the Spirit in every manner, without becoming weary (Gal. 6:9); for it will not be lost, will not spoil, rot, rust, or become moth eaten.
Observe and read Matt. 6:19; Luke 12:33; I Tim. 6:19. O brethren, our faithful God is surely faithful. The alms of a man is as a signet with Him, and He will keep the good deeds of a man as the apple of the eye; and afterward He will rise up and reward them, and render their recompense upon their heads. Sir. 17:22, 23. Observe: Thus we may well say with Sirach, "We have had labor for a little season, and have found great comfort." 51:27.
O friends, let us not be weary in sowing and well-doing, for our reward, according to the promises of God, is great in the time to come, as has been heard, and is unfathomable, incomprehensible and unspeakable. Nevertheless, it is now revealed to
His saints, by His Spirit. I Cor. 2:10. It is an eternal and exceeding weight of glory. II Cor. 4:17.
Now, all attentive [readers], who firmly believe, know and hope this with all their heart and from the depths of their soul, and also understand, on what conditions, and to whom, and to whom not, this glorious kingdom is promised and sure. Such an intelligent and far-seeing Christian is so rich in hope toward God, so firmly anchored in his soul, that he completely and humbly surrenders himself soul and body to a faithful Creator, however, in well doing without boasting. I Pet. 4:19.
Yea, we confess and declare with all saints rich in hope, that this present time is short, and that the sufferings of this time, for righteousness, are small, and, hence, not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18), as will here follow.
Believers lightly esteem the sufferings of this present time, because of the hope, promise, and reward.
In the first place, the youngest of the seven brothers in Maccabees spoke thus out of his joyful hope, "My brethren, who now have suffered themselves to be martyred for a little while, now wait for eternal life according to God's promise." II Macc. 7:36. Again, in Solomon we read, "Having been a little chastised [mark, a little], they shall be greatly rewarded." Wisd. 3:5. Again, in Peter, also, "Ye who now for a season [he says, for a season], if need be, are in heaviness through manifold temptations," etc. I Pet. 1:6. Again, "The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while [he says, a while], make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." I Pet. 5:10.
These and other like passages esteem the sufferings of this present time short, small and light, and the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of this world. Heb. 11:26. The fearful woman in travail, of whom Christ speaks, has anguish in her hour of travail, but afterwards she rejoices, and forgets the anguish. John 16:21. And these, who are thus strong in God, though weak and nothing of themselves, who are thus surely fixed in faith, hope, and the love of God, these (I say these) say with Paul, "Who shall separate us from the love of God.""For I am persuaded." he says,"that neither death, nor life . . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God. which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 8:35. For if God be with them, who can be against them? Verse 31.
But it were fearful presumption, to boast, or say, yea, to think, without God and a good conscience toward Him, that we can do anything of ourselves. Such arrogancy, boasting and self strength, as in the case of inconsiderate Peter, are nothing, even as the independent, severed branch, without abiding in its vine, can do nothing. John 15:6. And as those impotent individuals who took upon them to cast out Satan in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preached (Acts 19:13) , even so can no powerless man boast without God; he must first calculate whether he dare with ten thousand go out against twenty thousand, according to the counsel and words of Christ. Luke 14:31. Therefore, he that would glory, let him glory in the Lord: If the Lord will, and we live. Jer. 9:23; I Cor. 1:31; James 4:15. And if He be with him, no one can be against him. Rom. 8:31. And God is with them if they are with God. Then they can do all things through Christ, which strengthened them. By their God they can leap over a wall, run through a troop, and overcome the world. The gates of hell cannot prevail against them; for love with its patient hope and firm faith can do all things through the grace of God. Mark well, they who thus closely, firmly and boldly cleave to God, become stronger in the conflict, as Sirach says. Sir. 2:3. Cleave therefore unto God, and depart or waver neither to the right nor left, that you may continually wax stronger.
Mark: God said to Joshua, whom He appointed in Moses' office and stead, "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage." Josh. 1:5, 6. Again, "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Deut. 31:6. Mark here the advantage of freely trusting -in God's promise. Hence such a pious people say thus in their hearts, "O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and shewest mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts." lI Chron. 6:14. Observe well who they are: he says, [that walk before thee] with all their hearts. Whose rock and fortress is the Lord; who is their God, deliverer, consolation, and shield; the horn of their salvation; their high tower and refuge; their Saviour who saves them from all violence. II Sam. 22:2, 3. These are also they who have-set the Lord always before them; hence He is at their right hand, and they shall therefore not be moved, says David. Ps. 16:8. Mark here boldness, and its power. But the fear of man bringeth a snare: (mark) but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. Ps. 29:25. Mark: he that is with God, and with whom God is. David says, "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble." Ps. 37: 39.
But, dear friends, if one is not pious, pure in heart, and prepared for temptation as a servant of God, when this temptation assails and terrifies him; if he is not found in a pure conscience, genuine love of God and his neighbor, in a pious life, firm faith, sober vigilance, and armed against every assault; but is an impotent follower, a niggard, a sleeper, or hypocrite, then, O friends, God will forsake him; for David says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Ps. 66: 18."The Lord is far from the wicked: but he hear-
eth the prayer of the righteous." Prov. 15:29. Yea, it is true; for God heareth not sinners (mark, those who continue in sin); but if any man fear God, and doeth His will (doeth, it says), him He heareth. John 9:31.
Hence I conclude and counsel with wise Jesus Sirach, "My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation;" he says, prepare thy soul for temptation. Sir. 2:1. Again, also with Christ, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate. Yea, take heed that thy fear of God be not hypocrisy; lest God discover thy secrets, and cast thee down thereby in the midst of the congregation, because thou camest not in truth to the Lord, and thy heart was full of deceit and falseness." Sir. 1:28. Behold, such cannot overcome; but only those who are in favor with their God, as is mentioned in Judith 5.
Now, there is further to be noticed the patience of which the pious have need in many tribulations. Heb. 10:36. Also, what great advantage, profit, gain, and acquisition are, and will be, obtained by tribulation and patience, follows here in part. Meditate on it.
In the first place, the encouraging words of Judith, "Thus Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all whom God loved, remained steadfast and had to overcome much affliction [he says: much affliction]. But the others, who would not receive affliction in fear of God, but blasphemed and murmured with impatience against God, were destroyed by the destroyer and by serpents. Let us therefore not be impatient in this affliction, but confess that it is a punishment from God, much less than our sins deserve, and believe that we are chastised as his servants, for correction, and not for destruction." Judith 8. O how wisely does Solomon speak of it, "He that is patient is prudent, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." Prov. 19:11. Again, "He that is patient is wise; but he that is impatient reveals his folly." 14:29. And again, "A patient man is better than a strong man; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." 16:32. Mark how lovely, praiseworthy and advantageous godly patience is, as Jeremiah testifies, "It is a precious thing to be patient, and to wait for the help of the Lord; Yea, that a man that is forsaken, be patient when something befalleth him; and puts his mouth in the dust, and wait for the help of the Lord, and give his cheek to the smiter, and suffer much reproach, for the Lord will not cast off forever." Lam. 3:26.
Again, Sirach says, "An humble man will wait for the time which will bring him comfort. For though his cause be oppressed for a time, yet shall the pious praise his wisdom." Sir. 1:23, 24. Of this we have examples in job and in"the end of the Lord." Jas. 5:11. Also in Tobit, for God permitted affliction to come upon him-why? That posterity might have an example of patience in him, as also in holy job. An angel said to this Tobit (when he complained that he could not see the light of heaven);"Have patience, God shall soon help hee, . which also came to pass." Tob. 5:12. Paul does truly say that whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and the comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. But, friends, mark well, where no promise nor godly tribulation is, there is certainly no need of patience; but where the aforesaid are, Oh, there is need of patience. Heb. 10: 36. For we know, says Paul, that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed. Again, also, Christ's own words concerning patience, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not a hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls." Luke 21:17-19.
Again, Paul advises us to all patience in all our distress, and to approve ourselves thjerein as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in stripes, in imprisonments, (yea, in imprisonments), in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report, yea, as deceivers and yet true. Mark, in how many things a patient minister of God is tried, that is, in these and similar things (II Cor. 6:4), mark, a minister of God, and whereby he is shown to be such. Again, James would have us count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations; knowing this (he says), that your faith, if it be genuine, worketh patience. But patience must be constant unto the end. Jas. 1:2.
Behold, thus we must with patience (with patience, says Paul), run the race that is set before us, looking unto the Captain of our faith, the young man who will set the crown of reward upon our heads, on Mount Sion. Heb. 12:1; II Esd. 2:43.
Behold, all this is obtained as the profit and reward of patience, as in the case of Christ, and of all holy martyrs; and it must all be seen by faith, and waited for with patience, as James advises, saying, "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of our Lord, and like the husbandman, let us also wait for our harvest and joyful time of reaping." Jas. 5:7. O then the liberal sowers, who have sowed to the Spirit shall reap without ceasing. Gal. 6:9.
Dear friends, let us now, as at the right time, also at the right time, sow liberally to the Spirit and in hope, with joy and not wearying; for in due time it will fill our garner with sheaves as large as in I Pet. 1:16.* For God will not forget our work and labor, as has already been said.
To sum it all up in a few words, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life; which God hath promised to them that love him." Jas. 1:12. Now, this promise, inheritance, reward, and crown
meets the wants of everyone; but only few relish the notable conditions upon which these are promised, namely, obedience to the Word of God, complete renunciation of ourselves, and the cheerful, voluntary bearing of our cross. For Paul says, "Unto us it is given, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. Phil. 1:29.
Mark, friends, that it is certainly his pleasure, that the servant be as his lord. Matt. 10:25. Hence Christ in His time assured His servants and disciples of so much sorrow, tribulation, reproach, suffering, and of death, for His name's sake. He did not give it to them as His opinion, not as something which might eventually, or perhaps come to pass, but positively assured them that it should befall them, as will here follow, and, in part, be shown.
In the first place, Christ's own words, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up [he says, they will deliver you up] to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles." Matt. 10:16-18.
Again, "The brother shall," he says, shall,"deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall" he says, shall,"be hated of all men for my name's sake." Verses 21, 22.
Again, "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord, nor the disciple above his master. If they have persecuted me, they will [he says, they will] also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake." John 15:20, 21.
And again, "These things have I spoken unto you that ye should not be offended. They shall [he says, they shall] put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come. [mark well] ye may remember that I told you of them." 16:1-4. Paul, also, says that we must through much tribulation (he says, must through much tribulation) enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22. And that all (he says, all) that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. II Tim. 3:12.
Now, dear friends, mark, if it must be so, and also will be so; as has been mentioned in part, and is certain, then, in the name of God, let it be [borne] willingly, and let us not regard the fearful tribulation and distress, but look far beyond, as said before, and be mindful of the comfort contained in the declaration that this temporal tribulation is not worthy to be compared with the eternal glory (Rom. 8:18); and let us also remember that this evil and unrighteous world is not fit for, and was not worthy of, that blessed crown for suffering for righteousness' sake. Heb. 11:38.
But they are fit who have followed Christ in the regeneration, and forsaken all that is dear to them here. Matt. 19:28. Remember also, brethren, that they who are, ,or would be, without this chastisement, are bastards, and not sons. Heb. 12:8. Thus, tribulation is certainly promised us believers, as has been heard.
With regard to this, I counsel with Sirach and many others. If we would serve God, let us do it with earnestness, lest we tempt Him (Sir. 18:23); for he that would be God's servant, must prepare (mark, prepare) himself for temptation, and always labor in the work of the Lord, that, whether we be present with Him, or whether we be here, absent from Him, we may always please God; and everyone of us must strive to be (not to think, or boast [of being], but to be), the chief in good works, as also Peter says, "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for his coming, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." II Pet. 3:14. Oh, how we must be prepared then with a holy conversation, and with godliness. Every man that hath this hope in him must purify himself, even as He (whom we look for) is pure. I John 3:3. He that is holy, must become still holier; and he that is pure, still purer. To become holier and holier behooves us, since we call upon such an Holy One as our Father, who judges without respect of persons, as Peter says, and this according to every man's work. Hence, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear, and it will then be with us as Peter says, "Let all them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him with good works [mark, with good works], as unto a faithful Creator." I Peter 4:19. Let no one here understand salvation by good works, but salvation with good works; good works without meriting salvation (mark well) for salvation is of grace, thanks to our Lord Christ, as in Gal. 2:16, and still clearer in Eph. 2:7.* This I say is my advice, that we also thus prepare our souls, and commit them to Him as unto a faithful [Creator], with good works without boasting (without boasting), as His unprofitable servants, who would fain be perfect. Luke 17:10. Finally, dear friends, let us not seek to save our life, which, at all events, we must eventually lose; but let us always entreat our God for strength to suffer, that we may finish our course as valiant adventurers. Amen, dear Lord, Amen.
Here now follow instances of exemplary adventurers of former times-pious persons that were persecuted, greatly hated, and put to death; mark, how, by whom, and also why these things always happened; namely, in order that we need not think it strange, when we become partakers of the same sufferings and death.
In the first place, pious, good Abel was slain by Cain, out of hatred on account of his piety. Lot was greatly vexed by the- wanton Sodomites, because of his virtue and righteousness. David was persecuted by Saul, Shimei, and by Absalom his son, for his glory and own kingdom. The man of God from Judah was threatened by Jeroboam, because of his .prophesying against Jeroboam's gods and his altar. I Kings 13. The holy and mighty prophet of God, Elijah, and many others who were put to death in his time; he had to flee from the place, and was greatly persecuted by Jezebel, on account of his prophetic miracles which he wrought through God. I Kings 19. Micaiah was imprisoned by the king, who fed him with the water and bread of affliction; because he opposed the four hundred false prophets of Jezebel with the Spirit and holy Word of God. I Kings 22:27. Urijah, a prophet, and also a fugitive, was brought back, and slain with the sword by King Jehoiakim, on account of his message from God, the prophecy against Jerusalem and the land of Judah. Jer. 26:20-23. Jeremiah, a prophet of God, was cast by the princes into the miry pit to die, because he would not cease to preach and prophesy in the name of the Lord. Jer. 38:6. Zechariah, a priest's son, and prophet of the Lord, was stoned at the commandment of the king, because he had prophesied nothing but calamity for them, because they had forsaken that which was good, and transgressed the Word of God. II Chron. 24:21. Mark, for what reason each one of these was put to death.
The three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were by King Nebuchadnezzar cast into a furnace heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated-in which God nevertheless preserved them on account of their trust in Him-and this because they would not honor neither worship the king's self-made image, idol and buffoonery. Daniel 3:19. Daniel, a most worthy and holy prophet of God, was by the worshipers of the dragon, out of hatred and envy, cast into the den of lions, against the will and power of the king; God, however, preserved and delivered him. This was done, because he, fearing no man, nor the king's plain and strict commandment, openly worshiped, honored and confessed his God alone, with the windows open toward Jerusalem. Hist. of the Destr. of the Drag. Dan. 6:10. Mark, are not the pious subtilely sought? Yes, sought and found. O Lord, all the steadfast pious in Israel were scattered, and most atrociously slain by Antiochus. Why? Mark, because they circumcised their children, according to God's commandment, would eat no swine's flesh, according to the prohibition of the law, and refused to follow the heathen customs, since they were unclean and contrary to the law. I Macc. 1. Again, on another occasion, all the Jews were everywhere caught like wild beasts, bound, chased, dragged off, conveyed away in ships, and doomed to a general massacre, from which latter, however, they were miraculously delivered by the hand of God. They were thus tormented by King Ptolemy, because they would not be compelled by him to depart from the law of God, sacrifice to idols; and adopt heathen customs. III Macc.. No fair reason, friends; and so it is still. Again, in the second book of the Macca.bees the same,thing is enacted. A cruel decree of said King Ptolemy, which whoever should not obey, was to be put to death instantly. II Macc. 6:9.
Some were burnt. Two women had their infants tied or hanged to their breasts, and were thus led in derision round about the city, and finally cast headlong over the walls. Mark why? Because they adhered steadfastly to the law of God, and had circumcised their children. Thus also Eleazar, an aged man of ninety, was slain by Antiochus. Why? Because of his unfeigned steadfastness in refusing to eat swine's flesh, or to pretend to eat it. Again, also a pious mother and seven steadfast sons were by King Antiochus roasted in red-hot pans, with the skins of their heads pulled off, and their tongues cut out. II Macc. 7. Why? Mark, because they would in no wise eat swine's flesh contrary to the law, because it was forbidden. And similar instances in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, also, we find instances of a like character.
In the first place, the holy forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, was beheaded by Herod. That good man, why did he kill him? Mark, because he reproved Herod for an improper and shameful liaison. The good Christ Jesus was also hated by the world, because He testified of its evil works. Yea, without guilt or cause worthy of death, Pontius Pilate the judge, through the hatred of the Jews, delivered Him up, and put Him to death. The holy apostles, also, were frequently apprehended, scourged, and forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus, by the council of the priests. Why? In order that the name, doctrine and church of Jesus should not spread and increase.
Stephen, a deacon, and pious witness of Jesus, was stoned by the stiffnecked. Why? Because they could not resist his spirit, wisdom, and doctrine. The church at Jerusalem, in the beginning, was dispersed and scattered abroad throughout the land of Judea, by the Jews. And Saul, the persecutor, went hither and thither with letters and authority to apprehend and vex any whom he should find of this way or persuasion, in order to hinder the doctrine, faith and way of Christ. And, yet, to be brief, some were vexed by Herod; he killed James with the sword, and seeing that it pleased the people, he apprehended also Peter, and guarded him with sixteen servants, and bound him with two chains, with doors closed, through the hatred of the Jews; but an angel delivered him. Acts 12:1. Let us therefore not wonder at this as though it was something strange.
Now, in conclusion, receive my eternal adieu, and brotherly greeting.
Behold, I have written this to my dear friends, brethren and sisters in the Lord, in humility, with
a good intention, and in love, for three special reasons. The first reason is, to communicate to you welcome news, namely, an account of my prosperity, good health and cheerfulness, in both respects, that is, in soul and body; and to stir you up to aid me in praising, thanking, and praying to God for all His grace and comfort, shown towards me unworthy one here, and also towards us all. Of this comfort (by which I also am comforted of God) it has been my endeavor to communicate to you a share, according to your wish and desire already referred to, and I send it to you as a honey-comb, perfume of roses, balm, incense and myrrh, from Eden's pleasure garden as it were, fruits of the heavenly paradise; as a fruit, sample, perfume and delectation for you, to be inwardly contemplated with attention; yea, as a signal token to you of my joy and peace which I feel to have with God, in union and in one spirit. Oh, I, unworthy and unprofitable servant of my Lord, that I enjoy peace with my Christ, and the fellowship of His Spirit. Rom. 8:15; I Cor. 6:17; Gal. 3:26. Be it said to His praise, it is all through His merciful faithfulness, and great, unmerited grace. I glory in the Lord, and in His power; we have received from Him this precious treasure in our weak earthen vessels; hence, if it is preserved, the excellency of the power is of God and not of us; Oh, not of us, but by grace we are what we are. Jer. 9:24; 11 Cor. 4:7.
The second reason is, that, since you are partakers with me of the same hope, reward and comfort, I might awaken in you a refreshing, devotion, renewed joy in the promises, and inward gladness, by pointing out our comfort mentioned, consisting in doctrine- and example of the Scriptures, as noticed here in part, thereby showing my favor, love and affection towards you all, as remembering you in the Lord.
Thirdly and lastly, also for the reason that I might make many of you my debtors, to do the same in their turn, that is, to send us a letter, in token of your steadfast continuance in love, for our comfort and joy, and the acknowledgment of your remembrance of us, according to the doctrine, debt and obligation towards prisoners; as in Matt. 25:36; Acts 12:5; II Tim. 1:16; Heb. 13:3. This from you would be most acceptable to us three prisoners here-Oh, as welcome as the perfume of opening roses, incense and myrrh from the bowers of Zion, the vineyard and pleasure-garden of our God; which has hitherto happened to us so very little, far too little, almost as though your love to us had ceased. Stop! lest I wound you or someone else by words spoken with no evil intent; for I do not have reference to the necessaries of life. Oh, no; we thank God and our careful friends most heartily for these. Accept from me in good part all that is good, and interpret all my love according to love; this I earnestly pray for the Lord's sake. Let no one misapprehend my labor of love, by interpreting it, or thinking, as though I had done this or the like from desire for honor and praise, or from any hankering after a gift from any one, or after any carnal or earthly communion; for it was love which, out of a pure intention, prompted me to it. O Lord, thou knowest it all.
Yes, my friends, pure love thinketh no evil; however, she sees, finds and reproves evil. Examples of this are, Ananias, Simon the sorcerer, the Corinthian fornicator, etc. Acts 5:1; 8:9; I Cor. 5:1.
And now, dear friends, brethren and sisters, I again commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace (as the salutation of Paul), which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Be saluted, strengthened, comforted, and of good cheer in the Lord.
Watch and pray. By me, HENDRICK ALEWIJNS, and my fellow prisoners, all of us of good cheer. Farewell. Given in November, A. D. 1568.
Yes, dear friends, before this letter left my hands, two of us were brought before the court; dear Gerrit Jans Duynherder, our pious brother and myself. And behold, we are kept in durance, as sufficiently sentenced, and both of us expect to die very soon now. O Lord 1 O Lord! into Thy hands, O faithful Creator! we com9nend our soul and spirit. Amen.
O beloved church of God, take care of my three poor, dear little orphans, that are without parents, without possession, or inheritance.
Adieu, my dear children; adieu, all my friends. This is going before you all, and following after my Lord Christ, in His footsteps. Lord, assist Thy servants unto the last, unworthy and unprofitable though they be.
Most worthy officers, justiciaries, and all my lords, who in the name and by the authority of the king are to be my judges and examiners, and are present here, give audience to me, the condemned, Hendrick Alewijns, now ready here for the torture, through your sentence. Behold, I find myself inwardly constrained, and incessantly urged, not to neglect to point out and make known to you all the outrages committed by you on me and those like me, who are innocent of wicked crimes and have not merited legal punishment.
In the first place, let it be clearly, sacredly and Scripturally shown, announced and declared to you, that our, or my matters, are not misdeeds or crimes, but a law of God, matters of faith, and of the spirit; hence they ought to and must be judged spiritually and with the spirit, for a natural man cannot comprehend them; they are foolishness to him. I Corinthians 2:14. Consider this freely and thoroughly.
In the second place, a Christian must be charged with articles of faith, and with the Scriptures, with-
out being notorious for rebellious deeds of the flesh, as I am not, God be praised for it, that I am not under the punishment of justice, but entitled to protection and praise from the same. Rom. 13:3. Also, that the man of God who seeks in such simplicity the kingdom, honor and praise of God, is not amenable to your justice in matters of doctrine and worship. Concerning this you have doctrine and examples enough. But one must be subject to the authorities in good works. Tit. 3:1. Justiciary power is given of God only for the punishment of the wicked and the praise of the good, and for the protection of those who do well. The innocent and righteous slay thou not, says God. Ex. 23:7.
In the third place, there is shown to you clearly and with the testimony of the holy Scriptures, and this from love and in the spirit of meekness, the great crime of the tyrants who in this matter of the innocent, sin against God Himself, and in His people touch the apple of His eye, yea, fight against God, and kick against His goads: likewise your certain woe, doom and career, in the time to come, when our Lord and righteous Prince shall sit in judgment, and take all your power away from you, as is written in Judith, "Woe to the nation that rises up against my kindred; for God will take vengeance on you in the day of judgment; he will put fire and worms in their flesh, that they shall be burned, and feel it forever." Judith 16:17. They shall have no resurrection to eternal life. II Macc. 7:14. God will not spare them. II Esd. 15:25. They shall groan and be terrified and amazed at the appearing of the children of God, seeing their glory, and shall say, "These are they whom we distressed, oppressed, and deprived them, as being mad, erring spirits, of honor, possessions and life." And further, "The wicked troubleth the righteous; he draws out his sword, and bends his bow. But the Lord laugheth at him; for he seeth that his day is coming; he helpeth the poor and needy. He slayeth the righteous; but his sword shall, enter his own heart, and his bow be broken in pieces." Ps. 37:12.
Christ Himself reproves, condemns and threatens all these bloodguilty ones, saying, "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?" Matt. 23:33.
Thus also St. James reproves and laments most grievously, that they have condemned and killed the just, who did not resist them. Jas. 5:6. Not in vain it is written in Isaiah, "Woe to you spoilers! Think ye that ye shall not also be spoiled? And ye despisers! Think ye that ye shall not also be despised? When ye shall have made an end of spoiling and despising, ye shall also be spoiled and despised, saith the Lord." Isa. 33:1. Therefore, my lords, let it engage your hearty consideration; for it is not I that have written it. Like Gamaliel (Acts 5:35), let me, weak man, who am nevertheless a witness of the word, and truth of God, give you a friendly warning. This vengeance of God was understood and experienced by the cruel king and mighty tyrant, and he felt that it is an evil thing to ouch the people of God, because of the help of their God, whose vengeance no one can escape, if any wrong is done to his people. II Macc. 1. This order he sent in great haste to all his governors, "Desist from this people." Holofernes would not understand nor believe this instruction and warning of the wise Achior. Judith 5.
My lords, accept in good part this my favor to you. I have not done it in order to be absolved from the sentence pronounced, which is not customary, and hardly in your power, and you yet remain the friend of the world and the king, which you are determined at any rate to remain. James 4:4; John 19:12. But I pray you nevertheless, to deal mercifully with me, however, as far as is consistent with the proper course of the sentence imposed by you, and as you can answer for it at court. It is better that I suffer, than you; for I know why I suffer. I suffer for a good conscience toward God, and this is acceptable with God; and I am a partaker of Christ's sufferings. I Pet. 2:19; 4:13. I am tortured in order to make me speak contrary to the great commandment of love (Matt. 22:38); but love doeth no evil; love endureth all things, beareth all things, and doth not become weary. I Cor. 13:7. O my lords, think whether it is not so. The wicked can appease you with lies, and say no when it is yes, and yes when it is no; but we can only suffer and speak the truth. Have compassion therefore; yea, as you would that it shall be done unto you when my judge will come, when you will be greatly afraid, and stand in need of help. May God forgive you all wrong against me, as I forgive you, and as I would have it done to me in regard to all my sins. Amen.
O wise counsel of Gamaliel I where art thou heeded now? In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God. I John 3:10."Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." Matt. 7:13.