In the year 1573, at Ghent, in Flanders, there were also apprehended, for following Christ, two sisters, young maidens, named Susanneken and Kalleken Claes, or Draeyaerts, the former aged about twenty-six, and the other about twenty-four years. While imprisoned in the Saucelet, the city prison, they had to suffer many entreaties. and afflictions from the enemies of the truthin all of which they steadfastly adhered to their only Shepherd, Lord, and the Author of their faith, to help them bear His bloody banner, His cross, and reproach, and, as courageous heroines, to strive valiantly unto death, which they had to taste for His name; for as they remained steadfast, and would in no wise depart from the divine truth, nor from the true faith, upon which they, according to Christ's ordinance, had received baptism, ,they were finally sentenced to death as heretics, and, on the 4th of December of the aforesaid year, and with balls tied into their mouths, to prevent them from speaking or confessing with their mouths. the cause of their innocent, fearless, voluntary.and God-pleasing death and sacrifice, they were brought into the Friday market, and there publicly burned at the stake, going thus with burning lamps, and the oil of love in their vessels, to meet their Forerunner and Bridegroom, who will let thetp,1~, as wise virgins, to His marriage, when the foolishshall knock and not be heard, and, with too late repentance and sorrow of heart, shall have to remain excluded.
While the Duke of Alva so dreadfully persecuted, and tyrannized over, the believers, there was also apprehended and put to death, for his faith and the practice of the truth, at Tielt, in Flanders, one Anthonis Ysbaerts, who had been a servant of the High Bailiff of Ghent, and consequently often attended the executions of the saints, where he did not always with a sin-desiring, unconcerned, vain mind, nor with blinded eyes, behold the invincible steadfastness in the faith, and the;joyful peace of mind, of the Christians, who in the midst of their innocent sufferings undauntedly confessed, proclaimed and magnified the name of God; but he was finally so stirred and troubled by it in his heart, that he forsook not only the service of his temporal lord, but also the worship of idols, and betook himself henceforth to become a servant of God, notwithstanding he had many times witnessed what had befallen others on this account, [and knew] that he had to expect the same, as it also occurred with him.
As soon as he had betaken himself to hear the word of God, and to follow Christ, and so advanced therein, that he was considered worthy to receive baptism upon his faith, and to be received as a fellow member of the church of Christ, he had to flee the country, and thus went to Vriesland, where he, not being conversant with any. trade, could earn only a very precarious living. In the meantime it happened that a brother who had also fled from Tielt (mentioned above) on account of his faith, and come to live in Vriesland, and who had left behind much property, hired this Anthonis, and sent him to Tielt, to arrange his unsettled affairs, and save his effects and convey them to him, as much as he conveniently could. When he had attended to all the things with which he had been charged, and was just on the point of returning to Vriesland, the bailiff of Tielt came to him, and asked him, whether he did not belong to the same people as those that had sent him out, which when he did not dare deny, the bailiff sent for his beadles, and had him conducted to 'prison, where he had to resist not a little vexation and torment; but when he, in all things, steadfastly adhered to the accepted truth, he was finally, pursuant to the king's decree, sentenced to death, to be burnt alive as a heretic.
This sentence having been read to him, he requested permission to speak a word, and this being granted, he asked the lords whether they did not think that such a sentence was too cruel for him, who had not done anything amiss to any one. This produced such a commotion among the judges, that they held a consultation and concluded that he should first be strangled, and then burnt.- He thanked -them that they had shown him so much mercy.
There was also with him one Friar Pieter de Backer, who sought to converse much with him, in order to cause him to apostatize, but he mostly refused all he said, finally saying, "Let me alone; my heart is of good cheer, my departure is very near at hand, for the bell which is striking now shall not strike another time before I hope to have offered up my sacrifice, and to be at home with my Redeemer, in whom all my hope and confidence rests."
He was therefore brought forth to die, in very mean attire, for which he had exchanged his own clothes, which were better, giving the latter to one who was imprisoned for his crime, and was shortly to be released.
When he came to the stake where he was to offer up his sacrifice, he kneeled down and offered up an earnest prayer to God, and then voluntarily prepared himself for death. But when the executioner was to strangle him, he could not find his twistingstick; hence the bailiff with his sword cut off a piece from the torch which they had to light the fire, that it might be used for a twistingstick. Thereupon he, commending his spirit into the hands of God, sweetly fell asleep in the Lord, and when he had been strangled, the fire was lighted to burn him. And just as this was taking place, there arose such a terrible storm, that many people were frightened, and were of the opinion that God thereby meant to show His displeasure upon the tyranny inflicted upon His elect.
After manifold and long tyranny, torturing, murdering and killing of the children of God, it further occurred, in the year 1574, through the order of the most dreadful, bloodthirsty tyrant, the Duke of Alva, that there were apprehended, in a meeting, at Antwerp, in Brabant, thirty-seven persons, and at Brussels, in Brabant, at one time, seventeen persons, men, women, widows, and young maidens, who, in the places stated here, were very severely confined, and tortured and examined with dreadful tyranny, to cause them to apostatize from the truth of the holy Gospel, and from following Christ, and to obey again the papistic superstitions, together with all their trumpery of human ordinances and commandments militating against God. Especially were they dreadfully tyrannized and tortured, that they should inform against their fellow believers, and deliver them up into the hands of the executioners and torturers, since they were by no means sated yet, but greatly thirsted after more innocent blood. But these valiant heroes and men of God courageously resisted and overcame, through faith and the invincible power of God(which was in them), the subtle and tyrannical wiles of the devil. Hence the blind scribes declared them heretics, and delivered them into the hands of the secular authorities. These, made drunk with the wine of the Babylonian whore, allowed themselves, this and many other times, to be used as the executioners and obedient servants of these idolatrous priests and monks, and caused all these fifty-four persons to be unmercifully burnt, at different times, so that they all died steadfastly, and scattered and confirmed the faith of the eternal truth with their death and blood. And though open thieves and murderers were permitted to open their mouths and confess to the bystanding people their distress, as also to call upon the God of heaven for forgiveness of their sins, yet the awful tyranny and envy against the true children of God were so great, that this was frequently denied them, and to this end they filled the mouths of the pious witnesses of God with gags and balls, so that they were not able to proclaim to the by-standing people their innocence and the true reason why they suffered this. But the priests and monks having noticed that these pious men of God, when they came to the place of execution, freed themselves from these gags and balls, and spoke to the people from the word of God; the monks, in order to prevent this, had instruments made resembling vises, between which they made the prisoners stick their tongues, which they then had screwed fast, and the tips thereof touched with a red-hot iron, that they should swell up and thus not slip back. And this new and abominable invention of the monks, these tyrants, to their own perpetual shame, used on the persons mentioned here.
All this these true witnesses of Jesus suffered, and were, as humble sheep and lambs of Christ, led to the slaughter, who did not resist, but were thus unjustly put to death by them. But this deed, it is to be feared, will at the coming of Christ, when it will be too late to repent, exceedingly smart their eyes; while these brave heroes and heroines who so valiantly strove for the name of the Lord, will by their Bridegroom Christ Jesus upon mount Zion, be rewarded with the crown of eternal glory; for the fight is now fought, and they are now resting under the altar.
Whoever will, let him read Emanuel van Meteren, the laudable historian of the High Lords States; printed A. D. 1614. On page 99 this matter will be found verified.
At Bruges, in Flanders, in the year 1574, there were also apprehended for following and practicing the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, one Adriaen Hoedemaecker, called Kort Adriaentgen [Short Adrian] of Ghent, and one Mattheus Keuse, and after they had been in confinement for a time, they were, for the steadfast confession of their
faith, sentenced to be burned. When they cane upon the scaffold, to offer up their sacrifice, the priest addressed several remarks to them, whereupon the executioner said to him, "Attend to your preaching." The executioner then kissed these brethren, and comforted them with the Word of God, hearing which the priest or confessor said to him, "Attend to your office; for preaching is my business." After this and other things, these two brethren boldly offered up their burnt sacrifice to the Lord, and commended their souls into His hands, thus taking their departure out of this vale of tears; to enter into the eternal joy with God and all His saints.
In the year 1574, Hans Peltner, a tailor, at Rottenhosen in Imtal, was apprehended for his faith, and the divine truth, who had tcr;endure many disputations and temptations, from the priests as well as others, all of which he very valiantly resisted, and with the Word of God testified to the truth, to which he by the help of God would adhere unto death. On this account he was finally sentenced to death, and conducted forth to the place of execution, where he exhorted the people to desist from sin and repent. He then kneeled down, turning his face to the East, or the rising of the sun, lifted up his hands to heaven, and poured out an earnest prayer to God his heavenly Father, thanking and praising Him for all the grace and benefits shown him and that He had made him worthy to suffer for His name. He also prayed for all men who were worthy, that God would put repentance and amendment into their hearts. Finally he commended his spirit into the hands of God, for whose name he was willing to offer up again his life and body (which he had received from Him), and to testify to His truth even to his last drop of blood, as he had promised Him in baptism, and would thus expect to be received of Him into His gracious arms.
This prayer was too long.for the executioner's patience, for he wanted him to shorten it; but the judges said that he should let him pray to his heart's content, since it was his last time.
When he had finished praying, he rose and went boldly toward the executioner, so that neither his face nor his color changed, but he knelt down again
so intrepidly, that the executioner was consternated by his valiant praying and undaunted mind, and became afraid to execute him.
When the executioner removed the collar front his neck, previous to seizing his sword, he asked him once more, whether he would renounce; but he would not. Thereupon the executioner proceeded, beheaded him, and then burned his dead body. Thus this Christian hero freely testified to the truth with his blood, and in no wise suffered himself to be separated from the way of eternal life in Christ. Hence the Lord, the judge of .the living and the dead, who holds in His hand the judgment and the souls of them that have died for the faith, shall raise him up at the last day, and cause him to appear before Him, where he shall inherit a martyr's crown and all that God has promised His own.