The persecution, killing and murdering of the Christians not yet ceasing in many places, certain friends, on account of the severe tribulation and small opportunity for making a living, went from Flanders to England; among which number were also one Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieterss. While living in their simplicity, in London, to earn bread for wife and children, it occurred in the year 1575, on Easter Day, that the assembly met in a suburb, to hear the Word of God. Having thus engaged together in prayer to God, the constable (for they had been spied out) came in, fiercely and insolently, and called them devils, asking them who was their preacher. He wrote down their names, and made the women promise, to remain there together until further orders. Thus these friends remained there till the constable returned. He called off their names, and drove them before him as sheep are led to the slaughter, and conducted them to prison, there being twenty-five persons, of which number two escaped without any violence. They were confined two days in the South Fort in the Mersey, and were then released on bail, but soon after summoned to appear in St. Paul's Church, where the bishop and other eminent teachers and persons were assembled. There four questions were put to them, which were as follows
1. Whether Christ, our Saviour, had not assumed His flesh from the body of Mary?
2. Whether it is lawful for a Christian to swear an oath?
3. Whether Christians ought to have their children baptized?
4. Whether it is lawful for a Christian to administer the (criminal) office of the magistracy?
These questions these friends could not answer in the affirmative, but they denied one and all of them because they had not read them in the holy Scriptures with which our belief must agree. But they confessed that they had read of a magistracy which God has appointed in every country, for the protection of the good, and the punishment of the evil. When these friends, through the fear of God, could not follow the learned in these their questions, the bishop, and also the others, inveighed against them in a very brutal and furious manner, saying that the law should be applied to these people; if not, they would themselves lay hands on them. And because one of the prisoners spoke a little more than the rest, they said, "This is their captain; you shall no longer scatter your evil seed in our country," and they shut him up by himself. And the bishop showed them a large letter, saying very sternly: That the court has given orders, that all strangers should have to subscribe the above mentioned four questions, and he who would do this might remain in the country free and without molestation, but all that were found obstinate herein should be put to a terrible death. Let everyone consider this, subscribe and deliver himself from danger.
These cruel and unchristian threats terrified some, so that through the weakness of the flesh five of them apostatized from the truth, and refused to lose their bodies for the name of Christ. Having caught these in their net, they did not rejoicingly lay these found sheep (as they were regarded by them) upon their shoulders, according to Christ's teaching; but, on the contrary, they exposed these five, for a disgrace, in St. Paul's churchyard, with a fagot tied on their shoulders, as a token that they were worthy of burning, with which they stood there till the bishop had concluded his sermon, and gave a letter into their hands, saying: That these people were seduced, but that this was the truth, which was taught there; and that they should give bail, that they would unite with the Dutch (Duytsche) church, and thus become their brethren. The other friends who steadfastly adhered to the truth were brought before the bishop twice afterwards, and it was sought, by severe threats with the decree, to constrain them to subscribe, or they would have to die a terrible death. When the bishop could by no manner of means cause these friends to apostatize, he delivered them over to the mayor, and they were put into severe imprisonment with malefactors, where these fourteen women and a lad were confined for some time with great tribulation and sorrow, by frequently being threatened with a cruel death. But the matter ultimately took a different turn, so that they released these women, and drove them, as innocent lambs (whom it was easy to compel), with halberds and armed men, (as though they had to guard a city) to the ship. But the young lad they ied to a cart, and scourged him out [of the city] with a whip, which caused him to say, "This is for the name of Christ." When they were on board the ship, to embark for Gravesend, a letter was given to the skipper, which stated, that these people were not worthy to come among Christians. The other five brethren were brought forth again, and with great severity urged to subscribe, or in default of which to be burnt in Smithfield. Thereupon Jan Pieterss replied with a valiant heart, that this was a small matter. The bishop sternly asked, "What does he say?" When he had understood Jan Pieterss correctly, he presumptuously said that such heretics must be shunned; and that he did now expel them from his church, as bad members. Thereupon Hendrick Terwoort said, "How can you expel us from your church, when we have never yet been one with you?" The bishop answered, "That this was all the same, and that in England there was no one that was not a member of God's church." Thus they put these friends of Christ into Newgate, confining them very securely, and tormented them with manifold temptations, with disputations, and [threats of] a cruel death.
But when these friends, as men in the faith, steadfastly endured all this, they, very unmercifully, cast them into a deep dungeon, infested with filthy and noxious vermin, which was a dreadful and unhealthy place to be confined, so that one of the friends, named Christiaen, died there in a short time. Once an English teacher [minister] came to them, and laying his hands upon them, and falling down upon his knees, cried aloud, "Lord, convert their heart;" and naming the devil, said, "Depart from them, thou wicked one." But as these men, through the grace of God, and for the love to Him, bore all this, finally a letter was shown them, containing eight articles: That all strangers must subscribe to, and whether it were not right to put to death such vagabond heretics; together with the above-mentioned articles. Thereupon sentence was sent from the court upon Jan Pieterss and Hendrick Terwoort, that they should both be publicly burnt. This sentence was also assented to by the common people, by subscribing, that such heretics should be put to death.
On the Sunday following intelligence was brought to them, that they should be burnt in three days; and they were at the same time also asked, whether they desired any postponement. Hendrick Terwoort answered, "If it has to be according to your intention, make haste in the matter, for we would rather die than live, that we may be delivered from this dreadful vermin." But it was delayed until Friday, when they were brought forth early in the morning, to be put to death in Smithfield.
On their way to death Jan Pieterss said, "We need not be ashamed of this way, since many prophets went the same before us." And thus they, as defenseless sheep of Christ, following the foot-
steps of their Master, went boldly to death for the name of Christ. An English teacher who was present derisively said before all the people, "These people do not believe in God." Thereupon Jan Pieterss replied, "We believe in one God, our heavenly Father almighty, and in Jesus Christ His Son." When they stood at the stakes, they were once more tormented [with the demand] to subscribe to the articles referred to, and on condition that they should subscribe to them; they were promised pardon. Thereupon Jan Pieterss spoke thus, "You have labored with all your might to bring us over to you; but now that you cannot accomplish your purpose, we are placed at the stake." Thereupon one of their preachers excused them, saying, "That this came through the council'alone, and that it was also the will of the queen, that they should be put to death." Jan Pieterss .replied that they who were the teachers of the queen ought to instruct her differently; and that therefore our blood shall be required at your hands. Thus, on the 22d of July of said year, 1575, both were burnt alive and confessed the word of truth with their death. But the other two prisoners, Gerrit van Byler and Hans van Straten, after much misery -and distress, were set free, unharmed in their faith.
It is also deserving of the consideration of every intelligent person, how utterly incompatible with the Christian faith such unchristian and cruel proceedings and sentence as seen here, are, since the Christians are described as sheep and lambs sent out among cruel, ravening wolves. Matt. 10:16; Luke 10:3. Who then can believe with a good conscience, that these English preachers are the true sheep of Christ, seeing they so signally brought forth in this the fruit of wolves, since according to the teaching of Christ, the tree shall be known by its fruit. And these preachers are to be censured so much the more yet, since they regard as a principal article of their faith, that God Almighty before the foundation of the world elected a certain small number of men, which can in no wise be decreased or increased, but who shall infallibly all be saved. And that God Almighty, on the other hand, rejected the great majority of men, who shall likewise infallibly be lost. And that the will or ability which God has given man, can do no more in the way of inducing acceptation of God's gracious conversion, than dead men are able to resurrect from temporal death. If it stands thus with man's conversion, how utterly unfounded is then the course of these English preachers, who by such tyrannical means sought to force the faith and conversion (according to their, idea) upon these poor defenseless prisoners, by threatening them with a terrible death. It appears from this, that they do not believe their principal article themselves.
This occurred under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in the eighteenth year of said reign.
He that will, may read this account also in an old printed hymn, which was then composed concerning the offering up of these friends.
First of all he states that they, more than twentyfive of them being assembled in prayer to God, on Easter Day, were surprised, apprehended, and put into the Queen's prison, where they were confined till the third day, that they had to give bail for a large amount of money, etc., someone going security for it; and we, writes G. van Byler, kept our word.
(From here on we shall follow G. van Byler's own words.)
We were then brought before her majesty's bishop, to confess our faith, which we did.
When we came before the bishop, there were assembled there: Mr. George, James King, John Wheelwright, two aldermen, and a French preacher. Again: we came before the lords and their servants; they presented to us four questions, and thereupon said, "Say yes or no."
1. Ques. Whether Christ had not assumed His flesh and blood from the virgin Mary?
We replied, "That He is the Son of the living God."
a. Ques. Whether infants must not be baptized?
We replied, "That we could not understand it so, since we had not found it in the holy Scriptures."
3. Ques. Whether a Christian may administer the [criminal] office of the magistracy?
We replied, "That our conscience did not allow it, but that we recognized it as the servant of God, as we read."
¢. Ques. Whether a Christian, in case of necessity, may not swear?
We replied, "That our conscience did likewise not allow it, because Christ, in Matthew, had said
'Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.'"
Then we kept silence. The bishop said that our crimes therein were very great, so that we should not inherit the kingdom of God. O Lord, do not avenge it!
The bishop then said to us all, that they should conduct us back into the Mersey, whence we had come out, and keep us confined there.
A young brother, who being questioned first, boldly declared the truth, was severely accused for it, and taken from us to Westminster, where he was confined by himself, which grieved us greatly.
While we were thus imprisoned, Mr. George came, and said that if we would adhere to the church, he would release us, and free us from our bonds, to which end, he said, he had orders from the bishop. But we adhered valiantly to the truth
of Jesus Christ; He is our Captain, and no other; yea, in Him is all our trust.
My dear brethren and beloved sisters, let us courageously persevere, till we are taken hence. The Lord shall give us to drink of the new wine. O Lord, strengthen our faith I As we have received the Lord Jesus Christ, so let us go on, valiantly trusting in Him.
When we thought that the conflict was almost over, it was only the beginning of it. We were put in irons, and each separately confined, with fetter on our legs. This lasted a little more than three weeks.
In the meantime we had to appear before the lords again, when we were told that we should be burnt, which was grievous for the flesh; but we called to God in our distress, that He would strengthen us, as He had strengthened Israel.
On the morning of the day before Whitsuntide we were two and two coupled together, and brought before the lords (which was the fourth time), and we remembered the word of the Lord, "When ye are brought before lords and princes, fear not what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that hour." Hence we trusted in the Lord.
When we had been brought there, the lords again presented to us the afore-mentioned four questions, and urged us to sign them. But we said, we would adhere to the word of the Lord.
We were then taken away and each separately confined, and fettered as previously. The women and one young brother were taken to Newgate, whence they were conducted on board a vessel, and carried away; and the brother was tied to a cart and whipped out of the city.
We were then released from our fetters for about five days, which, however, were put on us again, and then we looked for the end.
After this, two Dutch preachers, sent by the bishop, came and gave a letter to the jailer.
Thereupon, on the 2d of June, we were bound again, led forth, and brought before the lords, who again presented to us the afore-mentioned four questions, and after this had been done, they sent us into Newgate prison, where the other friends had been confined.
Then we expected our end in a day or two, for which we greatly longed, for the imprisonment was severe; however, it was not yet the Lord's will.
When we had been confined there about eight days, one of our brethren was delivered from the flesh, and died a godly death, at which all of us were called to be present, to witness it.
In the meantime we were confined among many thieves and criminals, to whom the bishop, as also a preacher, said that they should take care not to be seduced by us.
After many storms Mr. Godfrey and two others came, and we were confined in cages, so that we could not converse with our neighbors.
And as a thunder clap, death was, from day to day, announced to us, by hanging, burning, and otherwise; however, the Lord strengthened us, praise be to His holy name. They also told me before, that when I should be in the heat of the flames, I could not bow or beckon for pardon; hence I should do it before, said they, for the less pain the better; so that I should not have to suffer much in death.
Thus we waited for death from day to day; we thought little of our lives, though it was grievous for the flesh, and consoled ourselves with the thought that once, at all events, we had to die.
My severest conflict was, that I had to leave my dear wife and all my little innocent children. After twelve days two of us were informed, that they should have to die by fire on the third day; whereupon on Tuesday, a stake wag erected in Smithfield; but the execution did not take place.
On Wednesday much people were gathered, to behold the death of our two friends; however, they dispersed again. But this was done for the sake of intimidation, to draw our friends and us from the faith. But on Friday, two of our friends, namely, Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieterss, were taken from prison and led forth to be offered up.
Jan Pieterss said as he was going out, "This way went all the pious prophets, as also Christ our Saviour, which has been thus from the beginning of days, from the time of Abel."
These two were put at a stake in Smithfield, and strove through by force, in the midst of the fire, thus becoming a sacrifice before the Lord, which they offered up to Him alive.
NOTICE.-Here follows in this writing a hymn, with the remark, that Jan Pieterss Wagemaker, who was burned at this time, composed the same before his death, in prison. It treats of the sufferings of all the righteous, until Jesus Christ and His apostles, and many martyrs, and begins thus
Hoort Vriendekens al to samen,
Een lied heb ik gestelt, etc.
And concludes with this stanza
Die dit lied heeft begonnen,
Hy was seer teer en krank:
Had by den strijd gewonnen
Het ware wel sijnen dank.
Den strijd was in saysoene.
Als by dit eerstmael sank;
Te Londen was 't to doene
Daer by was in bedwank.
Then follows another hymn, which concludes thus:
Die dit lied heeft begonnen,
heyblijd was by al in den geest,
Uyt liefden was by daer toe gedrongen,
Als by lag in benouwen meest.
Tot God was alleen sijn verlangen,
Die hem kan sterken totters end,
Te Londen daer by lag gevangen,
In Nieuwgeet seer wel bekent.
Again another stanza.
WY zijn, O Heer! nu in den strijd,
Och! wilt ons dock bewaren,
Than ons vyanden, nu ter tijd,
Die ons benouwen aen allen zijd',
O! Heer, ons doch bevrijd!
Op dat wy wel volherden.
O God gy zijt een Heere groot,
Sterkt ons altijd in onsen nood.
After that, the following words were written by Gerrit van Byler
Hope of Believers: Though they condemn me here upon this earth, I nevertheless certainly believe with the prophet David (Ps. 27:13) that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; hence I rejoice in the Lord, and am of good cheer and undismayed, assured that my Redeemer liveth. Spes mea in Deo.*
In Newgate, at London, in September, in the year 1575. Written by me.
GERRIT VAN BYLER.
We received, too late, a certain chronicle of England, by Egmont Howes, a nobleman in London, printed A. D. 1615, by Thomas Dauwson, in which on page 678, the following is related, as having occurred under Queen Elizabeth, A. D. 1575
On Easter Day, being the 3d of April, about nine o'clock in the forenoon, there was discovered a gathering of Dutch Anabaptists, Hollanders, in a house beyond the Aldgate; seventeen of whom were apprehended, and four cast into prison.
On the 21st of May, on Whitsuntide eve, one man and ten women, Dutch Anabaptists, were condemned, in the Consistory of St. Paul's church, to be burnt in a place called Smithfield; however, after much labor and pains with them, only one woman turned, and the rest were banished from the country.
On the 22d of July two Dutch Anabaptists were burned in the place called Smithfield, who died in great terror, weeping and crying. So far the aforementioned author.
We have deemed it well to add this here, since it serves to confirm the foregoing; as also, to testify that they did not suffer for any reviling against her majesty (as circulated by some), but only for their faith. And this is the more authentic, because it was recorded by the hand of their adversaries.
* My hope is in God.
We poor and despised strangers, who are in persecution for the testimony of Jesus Christ, wish all men, of whatever race or office, from God, that the Lord would grant them a long peace, so that we may live in peace among one another, in all godliness, to the praise and glory of the Lord, and the salvation of the soul.
Since we are by so many persons, both with word and pen, very unjustly accused and slandered, we are for this important reason constrained briefly, in writing, to present the ground of our faith, and thus make it known as follows
We are not addressed, and interrogated concerning our faith, with a meek spirit, as the holy Scriptures teach; but reproach is heaped upon reproach, and lie upon lie, to increase and augment our afflictions and sorrows; and because they also have no pity for our poor weak women and children. Our country and kindred, and our property, we had to leave (partly, because of the great tyranny), and fled as lambs before wolves, only for the true evangelical truth of Jesus Christ, and not for any sedition or heresy, as the Munsterite errors or abominations were, and as (God forbid!) is reported of us. We fain would that our whole faith and life were written on our forehead, so that everyone might know and see what we believe, and what we seek and desire here upon earth. There should nothing be found but a true faith in full accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and an unblamable life, seeking to provide bread for our wives and children, even as God has commanded and as the Scriptures teach. I Thess. 2:9; II Thess. 3:8; Eph. 4:28; I Thess. 4:11. Oh, that our persecutors knew that this is the desire of our hearts, they certainly could not but have great pity and compassion upon us poor, despised strangers, if there be any human pity and compassion in them at all, and they would, according to the words of the Lord, have compassion upon us, as the prophet says, "Bring the poor that are afflicted to thy house." Isa. 58:7. Moses says, "If a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him; but the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself." Lev. 19:33, 34.
Mark well that God commands to love the stranger as one's own self. Who is in misery and dwelling in a strange country, that likes to be despised, and driven out of it with his fellow believers, and suffer great loss besides? Hence Christ says, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matt. 7:12. Oh, that they would deal so with us, according to natural equity, and the evangelical truth (of which our persecutors so greatly boast), how soon should the persecutors cease, and the lying and slandering mouths be stopped. For Christ and His own persecuted no one, but in His true Gospel taught the contrary, as He says, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to
rise on the evil -and on the good." Matt. 5:44, 45. This is the doctrine left by Christ and His apostles, as they themselves declare, even as Paul says, "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day." I Cor. 4:1113. Paul further says, "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." II Tim. 3:12.
From all this it is demonstrable, that those who have the true evangelical doctrine and faith will persecute no one, but will themselves be persecuted. If it be said to us, that we are persecuted for our heretical faith, according to Paul's teaching, and because God has commanded to kill the false prophets (Deut. 13:9), we reply thus, "Paul says, that we are to reject (avoid) a man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition." Tit. 3:10. He does not say, "Drive them out of the country and city without hearing or admonishing them." Besides, one must also know who are heretics: namely, those who advance a doctrine that is beside and contrary to the word of the Lord. But no man can convince us of this; that is, that our doctrine and faith are contrary.to the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His holy apostles, as the sequel will show.
In regard to their allegation, that God has commanded, in His law, to kill false prophets, we reply that if we, in this time of the New Testament, were to kill all which God had commanded to kill in the Old Testament, we should have to kill not only the false prophets, but also the adulterers, whoremongers, and those who take the name of the Lord in vain and curse, and other like transgressors. Leviticus 20:10; Deut. 22:21; Lev. 24:14. And if they would wink at these, and allege against us only the commandment concerning the false prophets, in order to be rid of us, do at least rightly consider the word of the Lord, by what sign false prophets shall be known. For thus does God speak by Moses, "If a prophet or dreamer say to you: Let us go after strange gods, which you know not, that prophet shall die." Deut. 13. But we do not teach to go after strange gods, neither have we a heretical faith which is contrary to the word of Christ. But we believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the pure virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; on the third day He rose from the dead, ascended up to heaven, and is now sitting at the right hand of God the Almighty Father, whence He must come again, to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Ghost. We believe that Christ Jesus is true God and man.
Neither do we seek salvation in our works, as is reported of us; but we believe that we shall be saved only through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor do we boast of being without sin, but confess ourselves every moment as sinners before our God. But from presumptuous sins we must refrain, if we would be saved: as namely, from adultery, fornication, sorcery, sedition, shedding of blood, cursing and swearing, lying and cheating, pride and drunkenness, anger and strife, hatred and envy. These are the sins of which the Scripture says, "They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal. 5:21.
That they also say that we will not hear the Word of God, because we do not hear the preachers in church, to that we reply that we do not hear the preachers, to this the Word of our God constrains us, as they are not fit persons to administer such an office. For Paul teaches Timothy and says, "The things that thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." II Tim. 2:2. For he that would reprove and teach another must be unblamable himself. But if the preachers were according to the apostolic doctrine, we would gladly hear them from the depths of our hearts, and would also be the first and the last in church.
But if it be said to us, that Jesus Christ says"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works" (Matt. 23:2, 3); we answer, "If the preachers are the scribes and Pharisees, then they are the ones who have crucified Jesus Christ, and then also will come upon them all the woes that follow hereafter. But if they are not the scribes, then are also the preceding words, that we are to do according to their words, and not after their works, not spoken of them." Again, they that sat in Moses' seat, were from the tribe of Levi, like Moses, teaching the people of Israel, "All that the priests and Levites teach you, and as they command you, that shall ye observe, and do according to it." Deut. 17:10. The prophet says, "The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth." Mal. 2:7. Since Christ did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them; therefore He taught His apostles thus. But that this should be an argument from the word of Christ (Matt. 23) , to hear the preachers, cannot be; since the preachers are not of the tribe of Levi, whom Israel had to hear, but from the Gentiles. Besides, it must be considered, that when Christ Jesus had fulfilled the law in every respect, by His bitter death and the shedding of His sacred blood, He ordained another priesthood that should teach His holy law, namely, His Gospel, when He said to His disciples, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." John 20:21.
These holy messengers of Christ directed us to hear, not blamable teachers, but such as are unblamable; who are not given to wine, not self-
willed, not soon angry, no brawler, not covetous, not given to filthy lucre; but given to hospitality, kind, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word. And let the deacons also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. II Pet. 3:2; I John 4:1; I Tim. 3; Tit. 1; Rom. 2:21; 16:17.
Hence we dare not regard the preachers as the persons that are to wait on the office of the ministry; nor dare we hear them, because they, according to Paul's teaching, are blamable and unfit thereto: When it is therefore said of us, that we will not hear the Word of God, great injustice is done us; for to hear the Word of God is the greatest joy that can come to us upon earth, for it is the comfort of our hearts.
That they would also accuse us of being disobedient to the magistracy, because we do not have our children baptized, to this we reply that we desire to obey the magistracy in all things not contrary to the Word of God. That we do not have our children baptized by the priest, this we omit not from stubbornness or presumption, but through the fear of God, because Christ commanded to baptize believers, and the messengers of Christ did not baptize infants, who were unable to speak, but reasonable persons, upon confession of their sins, and of their faith, as may be read, Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21; John 3:22; Acts 2:28; 9:37; 8:18; 10:48; 16:33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16. Thus did Christ and the apostles teach concerning baptism as we may read, Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 3:23; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12; Tit. 3:5; I Peter 3:21; Heb. 6:2. These are the Scriptures that testify of the baptism of believers. But of baptizing infants devoid of reason or speech, upon the faith of the fathers, and exorcising the devil from them, of this the Scriptures do not say one word. Hence we dare not consent to such a baptism, because God has commanded, that one shall neither add to nor take away from His words. Nor dare we do what seems right to any one, but only that which He commands. It is further written, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Prov. 30:6.
The Scriptures declare in many places, that they will be most grievously punished by God who forsake His Word and follow their own opinion, even as Saul the first King of Israel; Uzzah, who touched the ark of the Lord; the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, who did that which was not commanded them, wherefore they were also punished. I Samuel 15:24; II Sam. 6:6; Lev. 10:2. These are to us remarkable examples, that we dare use no religious rites or ceremonies without a command from God. For Christ says, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." Matthew 15:13. And Martin Luther, commenting on the third chapter of Daniel, writes, "Divine worship without the word is always idolatry." hat they say that the children believe themselves and that God is almighty, so that He can easily give the children faith, since faith is the gift of God, to this we reply that God is almighty, and can easily give the children faith, and not only faith, but also speech, and works, whereby faith is also confessed (for faith is not without confession or good works), but now does God give the children neither speech nor works, to say nothing of faith.* Paul says, "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" Rom. 10:14. It is certainly evident to everyone, that infants can neither hear nor understand, as also the Scripture openly declares. And even though the Scriptures did not teach us this, yet experience teaches us, that they must be guarded and kept from all sharp and dangerous instruments, from water and fire, whereby they prove that there is neither faith nor understanding in them. And as they are not willing to permit that infants should receive the sacrament, they thereby prove themselves, that they do not regard their speechless children as believers.
That they also claim that their children are filled with the Holy Ghost in- their mother's womb, as was John the Baptist; if this be true, how comes it then that they exorcise the unclean spirits from their children, when they baptize them; if they have previously had the Holy Spirit?
That they also adduce the words of -Christ, "Suffer the children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God," as a proof for baptizing the children, we answer that the kingdom of God is theirs we heartily admit; but that they are therefore to be baptized, we do not admit, for the reason that Christ did not baptize the children that were brought to Him, nor did He command that they should be baptized; but they are saved through grace, without any ceremonies, through the blood of Christ, even as the children which died without circumcision in Israel.
That they also assert that we must be born again of the water and the Spirit, or we cannot enter into the kingdom of God, and would conclude that children must be baptized, because water precedes the spirit; or they will not be saved; to this we reply, in the first place, that Christ here does not speak of children, but to an adult person, that came to Him by night, to whom Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." ,john 3:5, 6. In the second place, Christ speaks of a regeneration before the water (v. 3), which regeneration cannot be effected, except through faith in Jesus Christ, as the Scriptures teach. This also Martin Luther writes,t that faith is a divine work in us, which changes and renews us by the power of God, mortifies the old Adam,
makes of us entirely different beings in heart, mind and every power, and brings the Holy Ghost with it.
These words do in no respect concern innocent children, for they do not have the old birth, from the original sin which condemns them, as some would prove, because David says, "I was begotten of sinful seed; and in sin did,my mother conceive me." This psalm David .made, when he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and was reproved by the prophet Nathan. Then he lamented on account of the inborn sin from Adam, but it was not accounted unto his condemnation, because of the promised seed which had been promised to Adam and Eve, namely, Christ Jesus, who reconciled Adam's transgression and took the original sin upon Himself, as Paul says, "As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men, unto justification of life." Rom. 5:18. Thus also Martin Luther declares, writing on the fifteenth chapter of John, "That original sin was taken away through Christ, and that since Christ's advent it does no more condemn any one. Since, then, original sin was taken away through Christ, and no longer condemns any one, there is also no sin can condemn infants if they die without baptism; for the children shall not die for the iniquity of the father, saith the Lord." Deuteronomy 24:16; II Kings 14:6; II Chronicles 25:4; Ezekiel 18:20: Hence it. is a great sin before God, to demand that the children be baptized for the sake of original sin, or that they shall not be saved. Those who demand this, esteem Adam's sin greater than the merits of Christ: they also seek salvation more in the water than in the blood of Christ, which is openly contradicting the Scriptures, since it is so clearly declared"that the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." I John 1:7; Col. 1:14; I Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:5; Heb. 9:12.
That they also want to argue, that circumcision is a proof for the validity of infant baptism; this can not be. Reason, if children were to be baptized as they were circumcised, only the male children would have to be baptized, and not the female, for the female children were not circumcised, but only the male children. Paul does not apply circumcision to baptism, but to the circumcision of the heart, which is a circumcision of the spirit. Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11; Phil. 3:3. God commanded Abraham to use circumcision on the eighth day; this commandment Israel kept until Christ came, and they did not change it, whether in little or in much, but adhered to the eighth day, and did not want to follow their reason and say: that when children die before the eighth day without circumcision they are damned; but they would obey God and His commandments and would not follow their own wisdom. In this manner we in the New Testament are also to use baptism: Namely, at the time Christ commanded it; that is, on believers and we are not to follow our own opinion in the matter of baptism, that we should use it before the proper time on speechless and unreasonable children; because God has not commanded it, and it has not been His will. Had it been the will of God, that infants should be baptized, as they were circumcised when they were eight days old, God would doubtless have commanded it with an express command, that children should be baptized, even as well as He commanded to circumcise the children. Christ would also have received baptism in His infancy, as well as that He was circumcised when He was eight days old. But now this was not the will of God; hence He did also teach otherwise, and received it Himself in a different manner. For Christ came to John, and desired that he should baptize Him, as he also did. By this He teaches us, and has shown us by examples, that they who are to be baptized must have a desire for baptism.
That the preachers assert that Origenes received infant baptism from the apostles, this cannot be; for Origenes lived a hundred years after the time of the apostles, as history testifies. But it is very surprising, that the learned are trying to prove any thing by Origenes, since Martin Luther so strenuously rejects him. They write and say what some Romish bishops or popes instituted, and proved the same from the historian Platina. They write thus, "That Pope Innocent commanded to baptize children as soon as they were born." The same is contained in a book printed at Magdeburg, entitled a"Prayer Book, new from the holy Scriptures." Again, Sebastian Franck's Chsonika, and Adriaen van Bergen write that Ignius the tenth pope instituted the sponsors in baptism. This is the reason why we cannot see the propriety of infant baptism: because it is instituted and commanded by men, and the holy Scripture does not know such a baptism, but knows only the baptism that is taught upon faith, as said before.
We are also branded as profaners of the sacrament and forgetters of God. To this we reply, "We neither profane nor forget the sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ, but hold it in great gratitude, and remember, whenever we observe it, the great love which Christ showed us on the cross, when He suffered His body to be broken, and shed His sacred blood for our sakes; and thus we show forth the death of the Lord, as Paul says, "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." I Cor. 11
26. This is our faith concerning the sacrament. That we do not receive it from the preachers, and observe it with their church, is for three reasons.
The first reason is that the minister or dispenser must be blameless according to the teaching of Paul; he must rule well his own house, and have his children in subjection, and his wife must be faithful in all things. I Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6. In the second place, the church that is to eat of the bread must be a blameless church (Eph. 5:27), as Paul
says, "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Paul further says, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye 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." I Cor. 5:7-11. Since we openly find such works in their church, the Word of God forbids us to observe the Lord's sacrament with them.
The third reason is that they do not observe their sacrament according to the practice of Christ and His apostles, for they took bread, and break it, and gave it to the people. Matt. 26:26; I Corinthians 10:16; 11:23; Acts 2:42; 20:11. But the priest break no bread, but give unbroken wafers. The wafers were instituted by Pope Alexander. Christ commanded it to be done in remembrance of Him (I Cor. 11:24); the priests say that it is to be done, partly, for the forgiveness of sins. These are the reasons why we dare not observe it with them, through the fear of God, for we dare do nothing but what the Word of God teaches us. And we observe it with a blameless dispenser, in a blameless church who fear God, with bread and wine, according to the practice of the Lord and His apostles, in the houses, as Christ and the. apostles did.
This is our faith and confession concerning holy baptism: that it may be given to none other but adults that believe, and know themselves what they are receiving, even as they who eat of the bread of the Lord must have understanding and faith, and must examine themselves. Because we thus rightly observe these two sacraments according to the command of Christ, hence it partly comes, that the preachers are so exceedingly hostile to us. It grieves them, that they should lose their profit. They know not what evil things they can falsely tell the authorities and the common people, in order that they should not tolerate us in any city or country. They pretend that there are so many thousands of us in the country, who want to take possession of countries and cities; whereas no such thoughts have entered into our hearts, for it is impossible to take possession of countries and cities without violence and bloodshed. And if we had such a liberty as would permit us to commit murder, and to deprive an other of his property, we would also have liberty to let our children be baptized by the priests; then we would not need to allow ourselves to be driven from our possessions and paternal inheritances, from our ease into great misery, as a reproach to all. If we had such a heart as is reported of us, we would suffer all this in vain, for they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, as Paul says: Gal. 5:21."A lie," says Sirach,"is a foul blot in a man, yet, it is continually in the mouth of the untaught. A thief is better than a man that is accustomed to lie." Sir. 20:24, 25. For they had also invented this lie against Paul, that he had made an uproar, and had brought from the wilderness four thousand secret murderers. Acts 21:38. But with regard to us they have still magnified the lie, and speak of many thousands as being of our faith. We have not so easy a faith, that they flock to us in crowds; only here and there may be a household, which are very solitary and few as a sparrow alone upon the housetop, like the pelican of the wilderness, and owl of the desert, a lily among thorns, and the apple tree among the trees of the wood, which brings forth good fruit (Ps. 102:7, 6; Cant. 2:2, 3; Ps. 1:3) , as a penitent life, to deny one's self, and to hate his own life, otherwise he cannot be Christ's disciple. Luke 14:26. They that are Christ's, crucify the flesh with the affection and lusts. Gal. 5:24. He that says he abides in Christ ought himself also to walk, even as Christ walked. I John 2:6. Christ says that there are few that walk in His way, in the way which leads unto life, and that find it. It is hid from the scribes and wise of this world. Base things, and things which are most despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to them it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Thus Christ and His apostles declare that there are few who have the true faith, and know the way. As also the prophet laments, "The faithful fail from among the children of men." Psalm 12:1. For iniquity abounds, so that, if it were possible, the very elect should fall into error, as Christ Himself says, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8. Hence there will be few believers at Christ's coming, and have also been few from the beginning of the world. As namely, in the time of Noah, only eight believing souls. In Lot's time, there were only three believers. In the time of Israel, there were eight hundred false prophets against one. Also, four hundred false prophets, to one [true] prophet. I Kings 18.
Thus the perverse have always outnumbered the righteous. This is our open confession before God and all men: that the faith and heart of every one of us is of such a nature, that we do not desire in any wise to injure our enemies that persecute us, or to wish them evil; but we desire from the depths of our hearts, to pray for them, and if they should need us, we would most heartily serve them according to our ability, for they know not but that they are right, and are therein doing God great service. John 16:2. Even as they will hereafter have to confess, as it is written in the fifth chapter of Wisdom; but it shall then be too late for them. For this reason the promise of eternal salvation is ours; as Christ Himself said, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great
is your reward in heaven." Matt. 5:11, 12. This promise have they that are persecuted here. But to those that persecute here, woe is prophesied, as Christ says, "Woe unto you, scribes, who kill the prophets; fill up the measure of your fathers." The apostle says, "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl, for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you." James 5:1-3, 6. If it be replied, that they do not want to shed our blood, but only order us out of their cities and countries, we answer that though there is nowhere a place for us, still we must certainly live somewhere; hence we must for this reason go to bloody countries, whence we fled, partly because of the great tyranny, where the blood of the saints is poured out like water. But when that great day of the Lord will come, when men shall say, "Ye mountains and hills, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;" then it shall be found how guilty they have been of our blood. For they shall have judgment without mercy, that have shewed no mercy. For with what measure a man has meted, it shall be measured to him again.
Hence we request and pray, for the sake of Jesus Christ, that what we have written be received in good part, since it has been done out of pure love, for a warning against the punishment of the Lord, lest you sin against us; since we are the true strangers and people of God, who are persecuted for the true doctrine of Jesus Christ and His holy apostles. May the eternal and merciful God look with gracious eyes upon all His afflicted children, who are hated by so many, and not give to the beasts the souls of thy turtle doves, for His great and holy name's sake. Ps. 74:19.
O Lord, shorten the days, and look upon the reproach of Thy people, which they must suffer every day for the sake of the holy testimony of the Gospel, through Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
(End of the first letter)
As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Gal. ¢:29.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised. Heb. 10:23.