This Jacob van den Wege, born at Ronse, in Flanders, was a nephew of Mr. Claes, who was a colleague of the Dean of Ronse, in his time, probably, the most prominent and zealous inquisitor and persecutor of the Christians in that country. As Jacob had come to the knowledge of the truth, and followed it with ardent love, he was on this account banished from all the dominions of the king of Spain, and had thus, as a fugitive, for more than seven years to subsist very meagerly, gaining a livelihood, and providing bread for his wife and children, by making chests or trunks. Much of the time he abode secretly with good friends, here and there in Flanders, as at Meenen, Halewijn and Wervick, whence, on account of the severe persecution under the Duke of Alva, and because he was also an exile, he went to work in a shop at Rijssel, which was three leagues from the former place.
Having afterwards secretly taken up his residence, with wife and children, at Ghent, it happened at a certain time, that he went to the house of one Christoffel van Leuven, a minister of the Word of God, at the very time that the authorities of Ghent had sent to apprehend this Christoflel, and not finding him, they laid hands upon Jacob, taking him along and putting him into severe confinement, in a tower, guarded, and secured with seven doors. There, lying in great fear and distress, he earnestly called upon the Lord his God, in prayer, in spirit and in truth, that He would strengthen him therein, and graciously grant him help, of which he was then in great need, seeing many strong enemies assailed him; for Satan, the envier of all that is good, exerted great power to make him apostatize from the Lord his God, not resting day or night, but very subtly going about him to lead his soul astray. The emissaries of Satan also approached him very craftily, with plausible speeches, as though they sought to comfort and enlighten him; but if he had listened to them, they would have murdered his soul, from which God preserved him. His wife and children also were to him a source of great temptation, for it was very hard for him to leave them, but for the Lord's sake it had to be done.
After he had been imprisoned for a time and valiantly withstood many entreaties and torments, he was finally publicly burned, at Ghent, for living in accordance with the genuine truth, about three years after his brother Hans had been burned there for following Christ, as related before.
We have added here the letters of this Jacob van den Wege, which have come into our hands, that the reader from them may see in what faith he stood and died.
O my most beloved under the sun, and my three children, who make my heart so faint that I scarcely know what I have in myself, for when I think of you, I am so sorely crushed with anguish in the press of affliction, that my eyes run over with tears, so that I only with difficulty can quiet myself.
O my dear wife, and my three lambs, whom I love, how strong is love? how shall I be able to write you a parting letter? for the waters of affliction fill my eyes, and this through my infirmity, misery and great weakness.
O my wife, I confess here before you and before all that read this, that I have written you here, far too feebly and miserably; neverthelees, the great anxiety and deep affliction, which rises from my strong love for you four, impelled me to it. But I hope that you will accept it from me for the sake of the truth; and, my dear wife, please hear my answer in regard to what you had asked me, as to what advice I would give you concerning the traveling. I say, I give you no advice with regard to it, since I do not know an opportunity at present; but I would most urgently entreat you, that, if it be possible for you to gain some sort of a livelihood here, that you remain until the matter is decided with me one way or the other, and this for no other reason, but that I might still hear from you now and then, for a greeting from you is more precious to me than much silver or gold. And, my wife, please know, that Kalleken Meere, who is imprisoned with me, has made a bequest, namely, a shift, a necklace, a night neckerchief, and a hairlace; and Hijntgen also gives you a night neckerchief, a neck-cloth, and her best apron. This they give to you for their remembrance and testament; after their death it is yours, and they cordially greet you with the peace of the Lord. Amen.
Written in my bonds, by me, your dear husband and brother in the Lord.
JACOB VAN DEN WEGE.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Lu 2:14.
I, Jacob van den Wege, imprisoned for the invincible truth, wish my dear in God beloved wife and sister in the Lord, and my three innocent little children; and further all brethren and sisters, and all my dear friends in the Lord, grace, peace, mercy, much true Christian wisdom and prudence, an understanding heart, a steadfast mind in the truth, a strong faith, a living hope, a good, peaceful conscience toward God and man, and an unblamable, holy conversation in all humility, meekness, kindness and unity, and all this in the true fear of
God bound with the bond of love. This I wish you all from God the heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ His eternal, only, true Son, our Lord, together with the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, as a cordial and affectionate greeting. Amen.
After my simple, cordial salutation, my beloved wife, and all brethren and sisters, and further all my friends in the Lord, let me please inform you, that it is still well with me, and I am unchanged in the faith and knowledge of God, even as I was when I bowed my knees before the Most High, so I am minded; and still stand through the grace of God, and the power of Christ, which strengthens me, to live or die with Christ in this same faith and truth. The Almighty Lord, who is able so to strengthen and confirm him that is miserable, weak, and without strength here in this conflict, to Him be praise, thanks, glory, and honor forever and ever, and this for all His great benefits which He has so abundantly shown me. So I trust that it is also very well with you, on which account I rejoiced, and thank God the Most High, for all His great goodness that He has shown you, and all this through His great mercy and love; and I pray the same Almighty Lord and God of grace, to bless you all, and to fill you with all knowledge and spiritual wisdom and understanding, that you may walk worthily and fruitfully all the days of your life in holiness and righteousness, and receive the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Let me further, please, tell my dear friends the reason why I have been so backward in writing, when you have so many times requested of me, that I should write to you. Hence I tell you, that I hardly dare write anything, and this because it is such a perilous time, so that people sometimes understand and construe a letter as they will, and not as the writer has meant it. Even as I have only too much known this to be the case, and it has even happened to me, in my simple writing. Not that I mean that I am above criticism; God forbid! but I say that some people find fault not only with the letters of simple prisoners, but sometimes also with the holy Scripture; and since I also know myself far too simple and ignorant, to write anything profitable for your exhortation, therefore I have always refused them that requested it of me, and have thus far put it off. And were it not for my innocent little children, who today understand neither good nor evil, I should not have written much yet; but they constrain me to write now, in order that when they come to the years of understanding through the grace of God, and I shall then have been taken from them, the same might then teach them of my faith, and instruct them in righteousness and the knowledge of God, in the fear of the Lord, and in all obedience. And since I must walk the way, and obey the vocation in which I am called, and I can then not admonish them with my lips, I write and leave them this much for a treasure and testament; for gold or silver I cannot give them, but such as God has given me, which is little, but yet more thanI am worthy of; this I leave them for an exhortation, that they may also know most assuredly and certainly by my own writing, in what doctrine and faith I died, and that I did not suffer for any misdeed or wickedness, or heresy, as one that follows his own mind and purpose (though I am called a heretic by this evil generation, who imagine that they are pure, and are yet not washed from their filth; but their railing is no proof, and their calumny is untruth); for I well know and am sure that all who follow their own mind and purpose do not keep God's commandments: for the Scriptures teach us, that we must be spiritually minded, as Jesus Christ was, that we must be obedient and deny ourselves, yea, utterly and completely renounce our own will, and bow ourselves under the Word and the mighty hand of God, which Word is like a fire, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces, yea, as a two-edged sword, which shall judge men in the last day. Rom. 8:6; Philippians 2:5; Matt. 16:24; 6:10; I Pet. 5:6; Jere, miah 23:29; Rev. 1:16; John 12:48. Hence I say that I have submitted myself, to obey the same with all my power and ability, to suffer myself to be instructed by it, to believe what the Scriptures say; for I believe all that is written in the law and the prophets, both in the Old and the New Testaments; and have hope toward God, for which the prophets themselves waited, namely, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; and herein do I exercise myself, always to have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men (Acts 24:14-16); thus my faith which God has given me, is as the Word of God, and like the Scriptures, as here briefly follows
In the first place, I believe and confess one only, eternal, Almighty God the Father, of whom are all things. Him I confess to be a living God, who created and made heaven, earth, the sea, and all that in them is, even as both the Old and New Testaments highly extol and worship Him in His worthiness; as an invisible and immortal God, a God of gods, a Lord above all lords, a great God, mighty and most terrible, who sits upon His throne, a Lord unto whom there is none like, for He is higher than the heavens, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and wider than the sea, as He Himself by the prophet says, "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool." Rightly has Jeremiah said, "Thou great and mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is thy name; great in counsel, and mighty in work. For behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens can not contain him." Hence I also say, that a creature cannot comprehend the Creator, but I confess Him to be a holy, true, gracious, merciful, but also a severe, righteous and just God, before whom alone we must tremble and fear, fall down and worship, and love and obey Him; who shall render unto every one according to His works, whether they be good or bad, either salvation or damnation. Mark 12:29; Isa. 40:28; Gen. 17:1; I Cor. 8:6; Gen. 1; John 1:18; I Tim. 6:16; Deut.
10:17; Ps. 139:8; Isa. 66:1; Jer. 32:19; I Kings 8:27; Lev. 19:2; Ps. 7:11; Matt. 4:10; II Cor. 5:10.
In the second place, I confess and believe in Jesus Christ, God's only, own, true Son, our Lord, who was with the Father from the beginning and from everlasting, whom the Father has imbued with His real presence, and expressly set forth the same in Him, as is everywhere fundamentally contained and declared in the Scriptures; so that He is the image of the eternal light, the immaculate reflection of the divine glory, and the likeness or image of His being. So that when He was in the form of God, He was glorified as God, yea, the wisdom and Word of God Himself, in whom alone was life, the firstborn of every creature, invisible, impassable, and immortal, through whom all things were created and made; He is before all, and all is in Him, so that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, who is, and who was, and who is to come; even thus do I confess the Son of God in His divinity as the eternal true Son of God, true God with the Father, equal with Him in glory, brightness, power, will, and providence. John 3:16; Rom. 8:32; Mic. 5:2; Col. 1:15; II Cor. 4:4; Phil 2:6; John 1:4; Col. 1.:15; Rev. 1:8, 17; John 17:21.
But when the man Adam, by transgressing the commandment, had sinned, and through sin, because of God's strict justice, was, with all his posterity, under the sentence of eternal death, God, kindled with compassion and fervent love, comforted the miserable, sorrowful Adam and promised to man His only Son, or eternal Word; by which all things were made, yea, Adam himself having first been created after His own likeness; He promised him, that he should be redeemed and saved by that same Word. This promise God also made for consolation, to many ancient fathers, as patriarchs, prophets and servants of God, by beautiful figures and shadows, for a Redeemer and Saviour of the world, especially of those that believe. When the time and all promises were fulfilled, God sent His Son, born of a woman named Mary, who was espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. This virgin conceived of the Holy Ghost, even as God had foreordained, and spoke by Isaiah saying"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." Yes, she conceived of the Holy Ghost, and through the power of the Most High it became flesh in her, that is man, like unto us in all things, sin excepted. Namely, He that was previously invisible, became visible; He that was immortal, became mortal; and He that enjoyed great riches of glory, was glorified as God, yea, was Himself true God, the same forsook His riches, glory and brightness for a little while, and became like unto other men, and was found in fashion as a man: so that He was both true God and man, and was put under the law to redeem .them that were under the law. Gen. 3; Romans 5:18; Jer. 33:14; Deut. 18:15; 1 Tim. 4:10; Gal.4:4; Matt. 1:25, 20; Isa. 7:14; John 1:14; Heb. 2:17; 5:2; John 17:5; Phil. 2:7, 8; Gal. 4:5.
Thus I confess with the apostle, that the eternal Word of the Father, in whom alone was the light and the life of men, became flesh, and dwelt upon the earth, and they beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. Even as John testifies and says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that w~ich we have seen and heard declare we unto yo . And their testimony is true. Hence I confess from these words, and other Scriptures, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Yea, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." John 1:4, 14; I John 1:1-3; John 17:3; I John 4:2; Rom. 9:5; I Tim. 3:16.
Thus I believe that the true Messias did come, whom God had promised to the believing fathers; for Abraham received the true promised seed of Christ, in whom he and all the nations upon earth are blessed. And this beautiful Morning Star rose out of Jacob, and hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Judah received his Shiloh or Deliverer, and Moses his Prophet. He was born in the city and of the lineage of David, and called the Son of the Highest, yea, Israel and Judah beheld themselves their Lord, King, Saviour, and God, and the arm of the Lord reigned with power and He taught men, not only as a true messenger, but also as a lover of life, and a faithful steward, the Word of His Father, which He Himself had first heard and seen from His Father, and which He proved and confirmed with very many mighty signs, and ultimately sealed with His precious blood, when He took upon Him our sin and transgression, and had to restore that which He had not taken away; who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Of Him Isaiah says, "He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, and he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." And He died for us an ignominious death on the tree of the cross, when we were yet enemies. He was buried, and raised again the third day according to the Scriptures, for our justification, and after His resurrection. as an almighty, victorious prince and potentate in heaven and earth, He again taught His apostles, to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them. He then ascended up on high, and sat down at the right hand of His Father in heaven, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name
that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And He is our Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Mercy-seat, Reconciler and High Priest, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; for in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted, and can have compassion on our weakness, wherefore He is able also to save them evermore that come unto God by Him. John 4:25; Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16; Num. 24:17; I I Cor. 4:6; Gen. 49:10; Deut. 18:15; Luke 2:4; John 12:49; Heb. 9; I Pet. 2:24; Ps. 69:4; I Pet. 2:22; I sa. 53:4, 5; Rom. 5:10; I Cor.15:4; Rom. 4:25; Matt. 28:18, 20; Eph. 1:20, 21; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 2:17, 18; 5:2; 7:25.
In short, I believe and confess that Jesus Christ was sent by God, and that God testified of Him, that He is His Son. Now, he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. But I confess with John, that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are' in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. This is the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive, and liveth now for evermore. Little children, keep yourselves from idols, especially Adamitic creatures that are highly esteemed by the world. Amen. Matt. 3:17; I John 5:10-12; John 3:36; I John 5:20, 21; Rev. 1:11,18.
In the third place, I believe in the Holy Ghost, who is an eternal Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, which Spirit I confess to belong to both the Father and the Son, proceeding from the Father through the Son. This Spirit God by the prophets promised to pour out upon all flesh, which promise He effectually fulfilled in the apostles, and in their time, and the same is still poured out, and will be poured out, upon all believing, regenerate children of God, for the consolation of their consciences sorrowing after a godly manner and to seal them unto the day of reconciliation, to distribute unto every one spiritual gifts, according to His good pleasure. By the same we cry, Abba Father; for the same Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, even as Paul says, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory; by which Spirit also the prophets spake from the beginning of the world, and prophesied in a mystery the treasures of wisdom and the knowledge of God, but now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, whereunto Paul was appointed a preacher, and apostle, and teacher of the Gentiles, and all this according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. All these things Paul and all holy men did and spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. I therefore believe and confess the Father as the Creator of all things, through His Son or Word; and Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who redeemed us, and bought us with His precious blood; and the Holy Ghost as a mighty operation of the Most High, in all truly regenerated and believing children of God. These three I confess to be one only, eternal, almighty, living God, who have one purpose, one counsel, one will, one work together in all eternity. As John writes, that there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. To this only, eternal, almighty, living God, who is incomprehensible, unsearchable, and indescribable, alone be praise, honor, wisdom, thanks, glory, power, and strength, forever and ever. Amen. John 14:17; Isa. 44:3; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:3; Eph. 1:13; Tit. 3:5; Gal. 3:26; II Cor. 7:9; Eph. 4:30; Rom. 8:15,16; I I Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14; II Pet. 1:21; II Tini. 1:10, 11; I Tim. 2:7; Rom. 16:25; Gen. 1:1; John 1:3, 12; Mark 12:29; I John 5:7; Rom. 11:33.
In the fourth place, I also believe all that this only God spake by His holy prophets and apostles, and He Himself declared and taught with His own mouth; and confess from this same teaching of the Gospel, a holy Christian church, which is the communion of the saints, and congregation of the believers, new creatures, and children of God, which children are bound together in unity and peace with the bond of love, and baptized into one Spirit and body, as Paul says; for they confess one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. They have the mind which was in Jesus Christ, and look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for their conversation is in heaven; hence they are also the temple of the living God, in which God dwells with His Holy Spirit, which Spirit assures them, that they are the children of God, and are justified by faith, and wait for all the promises of God. These have the forgiveness of sins, and redemption through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Acts 24:14; I Cor. 12:13; II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:5, 6; Phil. 2:5; II Cor. 4:18; Phil. 3:20; II Cor. 6:16; Rom. 8:16; Eph. 1:7.
In the fifth place, I further confess from the holy Scriptures, or Word of God, a baptism, both inward and outward. Inwardly, as Christ says, with the Holy Ghost and with fire; and outwardly; with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in token of all that has taken place within, as Paul says, that it is a burial of sin, and also a washing of regeneration. If it then be a burial of sin, and a washing of regeneration, as it also is, it is a vain baptism which is used on infants, for infants, though they are born of sinful seed, have never practiced sin, and do not know it, since they understand neither good nor evil; and
if they have never committed nor known sin, baptism, which is a burial of sin, can not rightly be used on them. And so they can also not be regenerated, since they are pure through Christ and still in their first birth; hence, too, baptism does not belong to them, since it is a washing of regeneration: but I say that they are cleansed and redeemed through Christ, as Christ Himself says, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Acts 1:5; Matt. 3:11; 28:19; Rom. 6:4; Ps. 51:5; Deut. 1:39; Rev. 1:5; I John 1:7; Col. 1:14; Matt. 19: 14.
But when men grow up, and have attained their years, the heart, as Jeremiah says, is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Hence there dwells no good thing in the flesh, but it departs from the Lord in every respect, since through evil lusts and desires the flesh is impelled to all wickedness and sin, whereby they often go astray and sin, because they have little or no right instruction; hence they lose Christ's death and merits, under which grace they were when they were first born. Men must therefore, according to the Scriptures, through the power of the divine Word, be taught to know sin; that sin and all unrighteousness are sin; and they must be exhorted to repentance and amendment, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; and to become new creatures, and regenerated children of God by faith, for we cannot see, nor enter into, the kingdom of God, except we be renewed and born again of water and of the Spirit. Which Spirit in the Scriptures is called water as well its Spirit, even as God spake by the prophet Joel, saying, "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh," that is, upon all generations or nations, namely that have become lowly in spirit and contrite in heart, and believe in God. Which faith, as Paul says, cometh by hearing the word of God. Hence I confess, that men must first be taught, that they bring forth genuine fruits of repentance, believe in Christ, and then be baptized upon their faith, as Christ Himself ordained this, and commanded His apostles, saying, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." And in the sixteenth chapter of Mark, he says, "Go and preach the Gospel to every creature." He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And the apostles did as they were commanded, as we may read in the Acts of the Apostles, and in their epistles: they first taught, and then baptized all the God-fearing with water, in the name of the Lord, they that hearkened to their words and believed in the Son of God received baptism, and this for a burial of sin and washing of regeneration, for a fulfillment of all righteousness and the answer of a good conscience toward God, for a covenant to live in holi ess and righteousness, and for an entrance into and uniting with the body of Christ, which is the church of God; for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, as Paul says, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:18; Gal. 5:17; I I Tim. 3:16; I John 3:4; Tit. 2:12; l I Cor. 5:17; I Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:26; John 3:3, 5; Isa. 44:3; Joel 2:28; Isa. 57:15; Acts 16:34; Rom. 10:17; Acts 2:38;16:31; Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2; 16:14; 2:41; 8:12; Matt. 3:15; I Pet. 3:21; Luke 1:75; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-28.
In the sixth place, I further confess from the Word of God, a true Supper, with bread and wine, by which we are to show Christ's sufferings, and His death, and also to remember the new covenant, or testament, which He made with His people, and sealed and confirmed with His blood. Even as Christ Himself instituted the same, and observed it with His apostles, as is written, "That Christ the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for many: this do in remembrance of me." But all that are to eat this external bread, and to drink the wine, truly in remembrance of Him, must first be renewed and changed by the Word of God, so that they must be lowly of spirit and contrite in heart, and truly confess Christ Jesus by faith, that He alone is their Redeemer and Saviour; and they must have love, unity and peace with one another, and must be sanctified through the Holy Spirit, and assured in their conscience by faith, that they are the children of God, and heirs, who through grace shall be partakers of Christ's great benefits, as, His merits, death and blood, for His suffering is our rejoicing, and His death is our life, as Paul says, "That he has reconciled us in the body of his flesh through death, to present us holy and unblamable and unreprovable; and made peace through the blood of his cross, by himself." And hence they are to examine themselves, as Paul says, and so eat of the bread, and drink of the cup; for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. Hence Paul says, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" Thus the communion of the body and the blood of Christ must be in us, and he that so examines himself, and through the
Holy Spirit finds in his conscience, that he is an heir of the great benefits of Christ, and a member of His body, he may indeed use the memorials of bread and wir ° with regard to it, as Christ says"This do in: .inembrance of me," and Paul says"As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Matthew 26:26; I Cor. 11:23; Heb. 9:12; Luke 22:19; Matt. 11:29; Col. 1:14; Matt. 1:21; Rom. 8:16, 17; Col. 1:20-22; Eph. 2:13; I Cor. 11:28, 29; 10:16-18; Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 11:26.
In the seventh place, I further confess a true Christian excommunication, which is an excluding or binding of the disobedient sinner, and a releasing or loosing of the obedient penitent, even as Christ wisely instituted and effectually taught the same, and His apostles thoroughly expounded, used and also taught it, as Christ spake to the apostle, saying, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And he also says, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is better to have only one hand, and enter into life eternal, than having two hands to be cast into everlasting fire." And the same he also says in regard to the foot and the eye. Matt. 18:18; 16:19; 5:30; 18:8.
But though Christ taught His apostles all this, we do not find it written, that the ordinance was used in Christ's time by any.disciple, with regard to those who having transgressed or apostatized, caused offenses; and this because of, the law, which came to an end in the death of Christ, and because the body was not yet perfect, and the temple of the Lord not yet complete, since they were yet very ignorant, and in many matters not fully instructed, as Christ says to them, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth." Which spirit they must receive, before they could bind or release any one with the key (which is the Word and Spirit of God), as Christ also indicates with these words, when He breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Not that Christ gave the apostles authority, to forgive or to retain any one's sins contrary to His Word, and thus to govern the church according to their will. No; God forbid! They had to act without respect to persons, even though it had been their right hand-retain the sins of those who according to the Word of God were under the wrath of God, and proclaim grace and peace to the penitent, who according to the same word were under the grace of God; and thus Christ appointed unto them the kingdom as His Father had appointed it unto Him. Rom. 10:4; John 16:12, 13; 20:22, 23; Luke 22:29.
But I repeat it, though Christ had so appointed and taught it to them, yet, according to my view,they had then neither a command nor authority to use the same, as already said, before Christ had ascended up to heaven, having sent them forth, to preach the Gospel in all the world, to every creature, teaching to observe whatsoever He had commanded them. They also had to tarry in Jerusalem, until they were endued with power from on high, and had received the promise of the Father, which was the Holy Ghost, who was their teacher and power, whereby they proceeded in this practice. And when the body was perfect, and the temple of the living God complete, in which God dwelt with His Spirit, the apostle effectually taught Christ's institution and ordinance of excommunication, and also used it, as we may read, how the apostle delivered Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme. And so he also punished the Corinthian fornicator, concerning whom he had determined, when they were gathered together, and his spirit, with the power of Christ, to deliver him unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved. Since the Corinthian church was very slack in regard to using this excommunication in the case of him that had done that deed, therefore he reproved them with severe words, as we may read in the second epistle to the Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13. As he also wrote to them, that .a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, therefore he says, "Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump." And thus Paul used excommunication, and also would have it used, even as he writes to the Thessalonians, saying, "We command you, brethren,- in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." For in this epistle he had written to the Corinthians, not to company with fornicators, and since they did not observe it, or perhaps not well understand it, he explained it to them more fully, and said, "Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must we needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat." And thus I confess that such carnal men, who thus sin against God, are, according to the ordinance of Christ, with the Word of God, as Paul has explained this thus, to be excommunicated and excluded from the church, and that we are also not to company with them, as the apostle says, "If any man, obey not our word, signify that man by an epistle, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed" or think with himself, that for his presumptuousness and transgression he is delivered unto Satan (whom he obediently served according to his will, and also hearkened to for the sake of sin,) for the destruction of the flesh, which before the fall lived and desired to live in sin; that
he may be ashamed, may humble himself, repent truly, and thus die unto sin, and the spirit be saved in the day of our Lord. For as the Word of God has power to excommunicate the presumptuous transgressor, so it has also power to teach and to avoid the excommunicated person, since excommunication is ineffectual without avoidance. And as excommunication and avoidance are thoroughly taught in the Scriptures, I confess both, since also Paul excommunicated, and also taught, to put away him that doeth evil, and says, "Keep not company with them; with such [ as he there specifies
ye shall not eat." Even as he also says concerning a man that is a heretic, "When ye have once or twice admonished him, reject him, knowing that he that is such, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. For such cause contention and offenses, and their words eat as doth a canker;" hence the church is to avoid them, lest she be leavened or corrupted by them. Matt. 28:20; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; I Tim. 1:20; I Cor. 5; Gal. 5:9; II Thess. 3:6, 14; Tit. 3:10, 11; Rom. 16:17; I Tim. 2:17.
Let the reader be informed that Jacob van den Wege, the writer of the preceding letter, owing to want of opportunity did not further carry out or write down the articles of faith, though he was sufficiently informed in all, and continued therein steadfastly unto death.
The unfathomable abundant grace and mercy of God the heavenly Father, the peace, holiness and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the joy, comfort and power of the Holy Ghost. This only, eternal and Almighty God, who alone is holy and good, grant you, my dear and most affectionate beloved sisters in the Lord, who are now imprisoned for the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, this my salutation, yea, the Lord grant it to you through His great goodness and benevolence; this I wish you from the depth of my heart, as an affectionate and cordial greeting. Amen.
Further, after all unfeigned Christian salutation, let my dear sisters in the Lord, please, be informed, that we three prisoners, who now are also in bonds, in Ghent, in the count's castle, for the testimony and doctrine of our Saviour Jesus Christ, are still of good cheer, and not changed in the least in our purpose to suffer with Christ, and to strive for the truth. And we are also ready not only to endure poverty, reproach, imprisonment, and bonds, but also to die for the name of the Lord, if it be His pleasure; and all this by His great and mighty power, with which He strengthens us through His great grace; to Him be praise, thanks and glory forever.
From your letter I also understood that it is still well with you four, on account of which I and my fellow prisoners were much rejoiced, and I prayGod the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has chosen us hereunto from our birth, and through His great mercy and love has given us His abundant grace, that He would keep and strengthen us unto the end with His Holy Spirit, that His name may be praised and honored forever through us all, for the edification of our neighbor, and the salvation of our souls. O my dearly beloved sisters in the Lord, let us continue steadfastly, and take good heed, that we do not neglect the grace of God which He has so faithfully shown us, but well improve it, for through neglect one may soon lose that for which he has labored so long, and then it is sometimes very difficult to find it again. Hence I say, let us take good heed, and hold fast that which we have, that no one take our crown. For if we continue steadfast in that which we have, we shall without any doubt be saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heb. 12:15; Rev. 3:11; Matt. 10:22; Acts 15:11. And to this end (namely, to be saved) we have already begun; may God grant us strength, that we may be able to carry it out to His praise and to the salvation of our souls. For God knows, that on earth we seek. no other riches or honor, than the honor of His name and the salvation of our souls, for which salvation we now with great patience endure here so much affliction amidst sorrowing and sighing (all of which rises from reproach and imprisonment), together with manifold conflicts and temptations.
But, my most beloved, let us not become despondent in tribulation and affliction, nor let us think it strange as though some strange thing happened unto us, for from the beginning of the world the righteous had to suffer; but let us rejoice herein that we are partakers of Christ's sufferings, well knowing that if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. I Pet. 4:12, 13; II Tim. 2:12. For Paul says, that it is given unto us, not only to believe on Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; for we must through much tribulation and affliction enter into the kingdom of heaven. Phil. 1:29; Acts 14:22. But the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, who look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them who love Him and keep His commandments; but He hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. Rom. 8:18; II Cor. 4:18; I Cor. 2:9, 10. Hence, my dear sisters, we ought to be comforted by these promises, and work with a joyful heart in the vineyard of -the Lord, patiently endure the heat of the sun, and not fear what man shall do unto us, for we know, and are sure through our faith, that if they kill our body, our Redeemer liveth, and that He shall hereafter raise us up from the earth, and then we shall in our flesh see God; our eyes shall behold Him and not another. Job 19:25. And Paul says, that we look for the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who shall
change our vile body, that He may fashion it like unto His glorious body. Phil. 3:20, 21. Then shall we be caught up in the air to meet Him, to inherit eternal life, and then shall He fill our hearts with joy, and comfort us, and make us glad after our tribulation, shall wipe our tears from our eyes, and shall reward our labor, for sorrow and mourning shall flee away from us, and everlasting joy shall be upon our heads. I Thess. 4:17; Rev. 7:17; Isaiah 51:11. Yea, all this shall happen to us through His great grace and if we firmly persevere and take good heed, and abide steadfast unto the end in that which we have, we shall be saved. Herewith I will commend you to the Lord, that He will keep you my dear sisters in the Lord, with the strong power of His Holy Spirit. And take my brief unfeigned letter in good part, for I had almost not written you at all, because of my ignorance and simplicity; but through your request I dared not forbear.
Written with my own hand, on the last day of April. Farewell. Amen. My fellow prisoners also greet you most cordially with the peace of the Lord. By me.
JACOB VAN DEN WEGE.
I Jacob, imprisoned for the name of the Lord our God, grace, peace, mercy and love from God our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who delivered Himself up for our sins, when we were yet enemies, that He might redeem us from this present evil world, and purify unto Himself a people zealous of all good works. Rom. 5:10; Gal. 1:4; Tit. 2:14. This I wish my dear sister in the Lord as an affectionate greeting. Amen.
After salutation, my dearly beloved sister in the Lord, even as we are both born of one mother according to the flesh, so I hope that according to the spirit we are also born of one God, for we confess, and believe in one eternal God, Creator of all things and by faith He has regenerated us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures, as the apostle says, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God
and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth also him that is begotten of him." Therefore, he that loveth God, and is begotten of Him, must love the brethren, for he that loveth not his brother abideth in death, and whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. James 1:18; I John 5:1; 3:14, 15. Hence Peter says, "Purify your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." I Peter 1:22, 23. As also Paul says, "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, andhath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor." Eph. 5:1, 2. My dear sister, put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any
even as Christ forgave you so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And 'whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. Col. 3:12-17.
Hence, my dear sister, constantly walk devoutly in all things, and be faithful to Him who hath called you out of darkness into His light, from lies into the truth, and from hatred into love; and therefore are you called, that you should walk in the light, in the truth, and in love; and by this, says Christ, shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another. Yea, my dear sister, the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. I Peter 2:9; John 12:35; Eph. 5:8; John 13:35; 1 Tim. 1:5.
Herewith I commend you to the Lord, and to the comforting Word of His grace. The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Heb. 13:20, 21.
Written on the 4th of July, A. D. 1573. Keep this in remembrance of me your weak brother in the Lord, and do not forget me and my fellow prisoners in your prayers; we will do likewise according to our weak ability.
JACOB VAN DEN WEGE.
I, a prisoner for the name of the Lord, wish all my dear brethren and sisters much spiritual wisdom and consolation through the Holy Ghost, especially to my dear wife and children, whom I greatly love; but the Almighty Lord must be the nearest, as you are yourselves taught from the Word of God. Hence, my dear wife, whom I love, I write you this little for a parting letter in this world. Adieu my love, the Lord lighten your tribulation; and my most beloved sister in the Lord, namely, my mother: O mother, be of good cheer in the Lord; the God of all comfort deliver you
from your tribulation. And Sijntgen, Grietgen, and Claerken, my dear sisters in the Lord, always be at peace with one another, and comfort one another in love. Adieu, all of you. I now go to deliver up my life for the name of the Lord. Written the day that I received word that I must die. Adieu Tanneken, my oldest daughter, and Grietgen (O that the Lord might take you), and Betgen my youngest daughter, adieu.
Written in my bonds, by me, your dear husband and brother in the Lord.
JACOB VAN DEN WEGE,