We poor prisoners, named Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieterss, lying in bonds in the Mersey, for the testimony of Jesus Christ, and from there sentenced to death, to be burnt to ashes at the stake, whereunto we have willingly prepared ourselves here, this 10th of April, A. D. 1575, in London.
Further, we poor prisoners kindly ask, that you will accept in good part our simple writing to your honor; for the reason that we do this, is because we are very sorry that your honor is not well satisfied with the simple answer made by us; which has caused us briefly to write your honor, in order that you may better understand and know what views we have in regard to it. Hence we have also briefly written our confession concerning it.
This is the confession of our faith of God our heavenly Father.
1. We believe in one only God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and of the earth, as is written, Gen. 1:1; in whom Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the prophets believed. Heb. 11.
2. We further believe in Jesus Christ the only Son of the Father, who was in the beginning with God. Mic. 5:2; John 1:1; I John 1:1. And when the fullness of the time was come, which God had promised, this Word became flesh, and was born of the house of David, Rom. 1:3, of the pure virgin Mary, espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, who is blessed above all other women. We believe that this true Son of God, by many signs and miracles which He did, proclaimed to us the word of His Father. And after that He was delivered up to the Jews, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried. Matt. 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18.
3. We also believe that this same Jesus Christ is true God and man, and suffered for our sins. Isaiah 53:5. And when we were His enemies, He suffered a bitter death for us, that those who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
4. We also believe that this our Saviour was raised up from the dead, Matt. 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6; John 20:9, even as He had foretold. Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9; Luke 9:22. And is sitting at the right hand of His Father. Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55.
5. We furthermore believe in the Holy Ghost, even as is written, I John 5:7, saying that there are three that bear record in heaven: The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.
6. We also believe in the communion of the saints, whose prayers avail much for us, I John 1:3;*
James 5:16. We also believe in a holy church, in which are those who believe in Jesus Christ, who by one Spirit are baptized into one body, even as Paul says, I Cor. 12:13. And Jesus Christ is the Head thereof, namely of the holy church, even as it is written, Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18.
We believe and confess, that this holy church has power to close and to open, to bind and to loose, and whatever is bound upon earth is also bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed upon earth is also loosed in heaven. Matt. 16:18, 19. We also believe that God has ordained in this holy church, apostles, prophets and teachers, I Cor. 12:28, bishops and deacons. I Tim. 3.
7. We believe in and confess also a baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, even as the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us and ordained (Matt. 28:19), and as the apostles practiced (Acts 2:38), and as they wrote with regard to it (Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Eph. 4:5; I Pet. 3:21). And we believe that all those that have received this baptism are members of the body of Jesus Christ, in the holy church. I Cor. 12: i 3.
8. As further regards the holy Supper of Jesus Christ, we believe and confess even as Christ said with reference to it, as is written, Matt. 26:26: As they were eating the supper, Jesus took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And He also took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink, and divide it among yourselves; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many- for the remission of sins: this do in remembrance of me." Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:17, 19. We believe as Paul declares, saying, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of Ahe blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?'-" I Cor. 10:16."Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up, at the last day." John 6:54.
9. We also confess and believe in a marriage state, as being an ordinance of God, as we read, Gen. 2:24. A man and a woman joined together in the name of the Lord, in the holy church. I Corinthians 7:2. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Eph. 5:31. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Matt. 19:6. For marriage is honorable in all, and. the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Heb. 13:4.
10. We further believe and confess that magistrates are appointed and ordained of God. Wisd. 6:3; Sir. 17:17; Rom. 13:1, for the punishment of the evil, and the protection of the good; to which magistrates we desire from the heart to be obedient, even as is written (I Pet. 2:13), "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake.""For they bear not the sword in vain." Rom. 13:4. And Paul further teaches us, that, first of all, we are to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved. I Tim. 2:1. He further teaches us, that one should be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates, and be ready to every good work. Tit. 3:1. Hence we would kindly beg your majesty, that you would rightly understand our meaning
that is, that we do not despise the august, noble, and gracious queen, and her wise council, but esteem her majesty worthy of all honor, and we also desire to be subject to her in all that we can; for we confess with Paul as stated above; for she is the minister of God; and that whosoever resists this power resists the ordinance of God; for rulers are not a terror to them that do good, but to those that do evil. Hence we confess that we owe, and are ready to give, to the secular power, custom, tribute, honor and fear, even as Christ Himself taught us, saying, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God,the things that are God's." Matt. 22:21. Hence, since she is a minister of God, we would kindly entreat her majesty, that she would be pleased to show mercy to us poor prisoners, even as the heavenly Father is also merciful to us.
We hereby do not consent at all to those who would resist the higher powers, but confess with all our heart, that one must be obedient and subject to them, as we have stated above,
11, Furthermore, to the question put to us, whether we would not be willing to swear any oath, we reply that we do not find ourselves free in our conscience, that we may do this, because, as is written, Christ says (Matt. 5:33), "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne
nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." Further, also James teaches us (Jas. 5:12), saying, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not; neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay." For these reasons we dare in no wise swear.
12. We further believe in the resurrection of the dead, as is written Isa. 26:19; Job 19:25; Daniel 12:2; John 5; I Cor. 15:12; I Thess. 4:16. That men shall rise from the dead in their own body,
Job 19:26; Isa. 26:19; I Cor. 15, when the Lord shall come in the clouds, with His angels, when He shall judge every man according to his deeds, Matthew 25:31; Rom. 2:6.
13. We furthermore believe all that is contained in the holy Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testament. And we poor prisoners make humble entreaty, if we have in any wise done amiss to her majesty, or her subjects, praying them, to forgive us for it, and be merciful unto us, even as the heavenly Father is merciful; for we are a poor, simple people, of humble knowledge and understanding, and we are sorry that we cannot write more courteously. Hence we beg your highness, that your majesty would accept our simple writing in good part.
Herewith we will commend your royal majesty to the Lord for this time; the Lord be with you and us all. Amen.
Written in our imprisonment, in London, on the 21st of July, in the year of our Lord 1575, by
A clear account of the foregoing"tatters is contained in the following letter, written by one Jaques de Somere (a member of the Calvinistic church, resident at that tune in London), and sent to his mother, Tanneken van der parent, residing at Ghent, in Flanders; in which city he subsequently became a pensionary, while the Reformed ruled at Ghent, before the city was delivered up to the [Duke of] Parma, in the year 1584.
Venerable and beloved mother, after most humbly commending myself to you, please let me inform you, that we are well, God be praised, even as we, not without great joy, learned from father's letter, that this is also the case with you. I dare say that I never read a letter from my father without anxiety and fear, until the end of the same assures me of your health, since I, aware of the weakness and infirmity of your nature, and in constant dread, lest you might have fallen into some severe sickness, which would cause me greater grief, than if I myself were in the greatest distress and pain.
But God be praised for His goodness, that He does not visit you more grievously, nor lay upon you a greater burden, than you, by His help and the consolation of His Word, and the hope of the life to come, are able to bear; and permits me to enjoy the greatest joy which a good child might wish in this world, namely, to see my father and mother attain to a good old age, and bear me such solicitude, love and favor as I could possibly expect from the most solicitous and benevolent parents, for which I owe you eternal gratitude.
Further, my beloved mother, as regards the particulars of the execution of the Anabaptists, though I doubt not but you have already heard much concerning it from the accounts of others, and I do not like to write of this matter, of which I can never think without great sadness; yet, since you desire it of me, and I perhaps know more about it than the common people, as I was often with them, and took a memorandum of everything, I would not forbear to write you such information as I have with regard to it; and I will also send you some copies of their confession, upon which they died (though some of them are still imprisoned), together with a supplication, which they presented to her majesty, but which was not accepted.
The matter was as follows: On Easter Day, the 3rd of April, A. D. 1575, there were gathered in a house beyond Aldgate (on the way leading to Mirror Court), thirty Anabaptists, men as well as women, for the purpose of exhortation and prayer. But being discovered of the neighbors, nearly all of them were led from there to prison, with so few beadles, that part of them could easily have escaped, had they felt free in their conscience to run. After they had fallen into the hands of the magistrates, they were brought to the house of the bishop of London, in order to be examined by him (through the mouth, however, of the Dutch and French preachers, since the bishop did not understand their language) concerning their faith, which they delivered in writing, and which was of such a character, that it contained nothing but what I myself would have dared subscribe to, excepting only the article touching the oath, in which they openly confessed that they believed that one might not swear in any wise.
Not satisfied with this confession, the bishop laid before them four articles, which they were to sign, or, if they remained obstinate, be burnt alive; declaring that he had received this commission from the court.
The articles were: 1. That they should desist from, renounce and forsake all errors, sects and heresies of the accursed sect of the Anabaptists, and confess that they had been seduced thereto by the devil; and further believe and confess with heart and mouth, that Christ had assumed His flesh and blood from the substance of the flesh and blood of Mary. 2. That infants ought to be baptized. 3. That a Christian might administer the office of magistracy. 4. That a Christian might swear an oath.
Thereupon they replied that they could not believe this in their consciences, and that they would hold to their first confession. Hence they were from these conducted back to prison; but on the way ten or twelve of them (seeing in what danger they were, and that they had a good opportunity to escape, since only one or two beadles went with them), escaped, all of whom, however, in a day or two, of their own accord, returned to the prison. partly to release their bail who were bound in the sum of a hundred pounds; and partly, because the bishop, as a man of honor, promised them with an
oath, that he should release all of them together in four or five days, if they returned; if not, he should keep the others in confinement till Christmas.
Shortly after; five of the men (through the much disputing of our Netherlanders, who belonged to the [Calvinistic] church), before they were condemned as heretics became converted. And yet they were made to stand, in St. Paul's churchyard, in a full assembly of many thousand Englishmen, in front of the pulpit (mark), each with a fagot on his shoulder, as a token that they had merited the fire; and much other loss and ignominy was inflicted upon them, though the bishop had promised them, that he should forthwith acquit them of everything, and release them without any trouble, if they would only sign the four articles; but the contrary was evident.
This occurred on the twenty-fifth day of May, A. D. 1575.
A few days afterwards, when the bishop saw that the rest would not depart their faith, he condemned them all to death, in the ecclesiastical court in St. Paul's church (where the papistic bishop in Queen Mary's time was wont to sentence the Christians), and delivered them over to the secular judge, by whom the women, tied hand to hand, were conducted to Newgate (which is the prison of those confined for capital crimes); together with one of the men, whom they considered to be the youngest and most innocent. But the rest of the men were taken back to their old place of confinement of the bishop's prison, so that it was thought that the women were to be executed first, even as they also daily came and threatened them, holding up death before their eyes, if they should not renounce; so that for five or six days they suffered great distress and temptation, expecting from day to day to be burnt, and this was done even on the very day when their sentence of banishment had arrived from the court; for at ten o'clock in the evening the bailiff and his beadles came into prison, to make an inventory of all their property, and to apprise them, that they should prepare themselves to die the next day, which he did, in order to see whether none of them would renounce through fear. But when he saw that they all remained steadfast, he announced to them, that the queen would show them mercy, and only banish them from the country, and cause the youth to be scourged behind a cart.
Thus, within five or six days afterwards, fourteen women or thereabouts, were conducted, by the officers of justice, from the prison which stands near St. Martin's Church, to St. Catharine's on shipboard, and the youth was scourged behind a cart which went immediately in front; and thus all were banished from the country, on pain of death, and they are now residing in Holland and Zealand.
A few days afterwards, the five men who were still confined in the bishop's prison were likewise sentenced by the bishop, and brought to Newgate, where one of them, through the poverty and hard ship of the severe confinement, died in prison. The others, fearing that the extreme penalty should be inflicted upon them, since they had so rigorously dealt even with the women; and hearing that the queen and the entire council were so incensed against them, that hardly any one dared intercede for them, because of an evil report that they denied God and Christ, and rejected all government and authority of magistrates and higher powers as ungodly and unchristian; ventured to present a supplication, together with their confession concerning the four articles that had been laid before them (copies of which I send here), to her majesty, who was so incensed against them that she would not even receive it, but severely reprimanded the maids of honor who presented it tp her, as they themselves reported to those that had delivered it to them.
When they saw this they changed said articles and supplication to some extent and delivered it to My Lord of Bodley, who, having conferred with the bishop about the matter, returned them the following day with the answer that he was sorry for their sakes, but that there was no hope at all of mercy, except they were willing to sign the articles, and renounce their heresy. In the meantime, the bishop, in behalf of her majesty, issued several articles, one of which was that a Christian magistrate might punish obstinate heretics with the sword; commanding all strangers to subscribe to the same, or if not, to give sufficient bail that whenever it shall please the bishop they will appear before him and the queen's commissioners, to be more fully examined and punished according to the finding. Hence, nearly all the strangers, more through fear than otherwise, signed the same, except some who would rather be in danger, than, against their conscience, sanction, by their handwriting, the killing of the poor people; how it will end with them, is not yet known.
Shortly after, an order from the court came to the sheriff or bailiff of London, that he should execute the oldest two, according to their sentence. One of them named Jan Pieterss, was a poor man, more than fifty years of age, with nine children. His first wife had previously likewise been burnt for her religion, here in Ghent in Flanders. And he was now married to a woman whose husband had also previously been burnt at Ghent for his religion. Hence both, on account of persecution, had fled to England, thinking that they should be able to live there without peril in the liberty of their conscience. All this he stated to the bishop, and asked for mercy to leave the country with his wife and children; but it was not granted him.
The other, named Hendrick Terwoort, was a handsome, wealthy man of thirty-five or six years, a goldsmith by trade, and had only been married eight or ten weeks previous to his apprehension.
These two, as no disputing of the Dutch and French preachers could move them to subscribe the articles, but were much rather confirmed in their views through the cruelty and unchristian proceed-
ing of those who boast themselves of the Gospel and the true faith, notwithstanding that many Englishmen as well as Dutchmen solicited pardon for them, were, nevertheless, the 22d of July, at six o'clock in the morning; in Smithfield (where they formerly used to burn persons belonging to our religion) most miserably burnt alive at a stake, till consumed to ashes, without any strangling or gun powder, according to the custom of the country, on the Friday after that on the preceding Tuesday the stake had been erected. I doubt not but that the queen consented to it with reluctance, but was persuaded thereto by some papists or other perverse persons and enemies of the truth, of whom there are many here; who made her believe that the Anabaptists (which religion is unknown to this nation), not only deny God and Christ; and thus overthrow the salvation of souls, but that they also reject all secular politics, laws and authorities, and instigate the people to sedition and rebellion, teaching that the office of the magistracy is ungodly and unchristian, whereby mostly, I doubt not, she became incensed against them, so that she would not even receive their supplication.
May the Lord forgive those who were the cause and authors of this, and so greatly slandered these poor people before her majesty, as you may judge from this their confession, which they subscribed in my presence, with their own hands: which though it does not satisfy me in every respect, and I greatly fear that they labor under a misapprehension as regards the point of Christ's first conception and the origin of His flesh; yet, since they with expressed words confess in a Christian manner, and have often orally confessed in my presence, that Christ is true God and true man, like unto us in flesh and blood and all other things, except sin alone; I am so far from deeming them worthy of any capital punishment, that I would not hesitate to recognize them as brethren and do not doubt their salvation, provided they have feared the Lord, and walked before Him in a good conscience; for our God is a merciful and gracious God, who does not condemn men for this or that misapprehension and error, but much rather graciously forgives their weakness and infirmity, for His Son Christ Jesus' sake, if it does not arise from stubbornness, but from pure ignorance, even as Paul says of himself, that he obtained mercy with God, because he had sinned ignorantly (I Timothy 1:13); and the error does not concern the fundamental doctrines of the faith, but the accessories of it, as is the case with these Anabaptists.
As regards the two young men that are still left, they continue as firm and steadfast as ever, and daily expect to have the same punishment inflicted upon them.
Lucas and I sought, if it were possible, to help them out of prison (four days after the others had been executed), and had with much talking brought the matter so far that they subscribed the confession (a copy of which I herewith send you), hop ing that the bishop should be satisfied with it; who, when he had read it, found it good enough, but would nevertheless not accept it graciously, except they would subscribe the first four articles without any contradiction, and unite with the Dutch church, which they had resolved not to do, even though they were entirely and in every respect of our belief because they would thereby have to condemn the two executed, and all others of their fellow believers (who died or still live in the same faith), and confess that they had been led into damnable heresy by the devil, the spirit of lies and error, in which they say that they, in their consciences, in no wise believe, but that they are much more assured of their salvation in Christ, who is true God and true man, and because they would greatly offend God, as they say by saying all these things against their conscience.
Hence there is nothing known but that they will have to suffer the same punishment which their associates suffered; and this the more, because they attempted to break out of prison, by filing off an iron bar from a window, for which reason they are now also fettered much more heavily than ever before, and should consider themselves fortunate, if they, the sooner the better, could be released through death from the great poverty and misery of the imprisonment, since they are both confined apart, so that they cannot comfort each .other, and no one may come there and speak to them, on pain of being held himself.
Here you have, beloved mother, from beginning to end, a written account of the sad history of the imprisoned, converted, banished and executed Anabaptists, which as I well know, has seemed very incredible and strange to you, and that you .have been greatly grieved: because they who formerly suffered persecution themselves here now persecute' others for their religion; and force the conscience of others with fire and sword, whereas they formerly taught (which is the truth); that no man has a right to rule over the conscience of another; and that faith is a special gift of God and cannot be implanted in man by any physical force, but through the Word of God and the illumination of the Holy Ghost; also, that heresy is not a carnal, but a spiritual crime, which God alone must punish; that lies must be overcome not by force, but with the truth; that the disposition of the children of God is, not to put others to death for their faith, but to be put to death themselves for the testimony o f the truth; finally, that the shedding of blood for the sake of religion is a sure sign of antichrist, who thereby sets himself in the place and judgment seat of God, and ascribes to himself dominion over the conscience (which belongs to God alone). I am well aware, I say, that this matter has greatly grieved you and every sympathizing heart; yet I hope that you will hereby not become offended or take occasion to doubt the true faith; but will think (as is also the truth) that it has not been sanctioned or approved of by some of the God-fearing and
learned, of the English, as well as of the foreigners that are here.
Moreover, though this church should approve of it, you nevertheless well know that the truth does not depend on men, who are but frail, weak, sinful, and changeable, so that those who are good and godly today, may tomorrow fall into great sins, especially if their affairs prosper in this world; but that our comfort and hope, religion, faith and salvation consist in God, who is unchangeable, and whose truth ever remains uniform. By Him we have also been taught and warned beforehand, that we should not be offended at the scandals of this world, which are many and of various kinds, and are also often caused by those who shelter in the church of Christ. Even as Paul declares concerning what befell him, the persecution which he suffered from false brethren was not the least.
I would write you more about this matter, if time did permit me. Hence I will conclude here, and pray the Lord, that He will strengthen you and all the God-fearing and lovers of the truth, in virtue and godliness, to the salvation of the soul. Amen.
Your obedient son,
JAQUES DE SOMERE.
Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful .Creator. I Peter 4:19.
A Supplication, Presented to the Queen, in Behalf
of the Prisoners in England, but not Received
by Her Majesty
In consideration of your majesty's laudable goodness and grace, famous far and wide among all nations, because you have always used discretion in all matters, and especially in the matter of religion and conscience, and have recently shown this in our fellow believers; we entirely trust to your majesty, that you will be pleased to show us poor prisoners and strangers the same mercy, since we are in the same state and condition, and in the same faith, which we humbly present to your majesty in Christ, for Christ's sake, that your highness be pleased to peruse the same, and, according to your wisdom and grace, considering the unimportant difference, graciously judge of it. We testify before God and your majesty, that if we could feel or understand otherwise in our conscience, we should with all our heart accept and confess the contrary, seeing it would be a great error on our part, not to prefer living in a true faith, to willfully dying in a false faith. Likewise, will her majesty be pleased to consider according to her innate good ness and wisdom, that it does not behoove us to speak dissimulatingly, otherwise than we believe with the heart, in order thus to escape the danger of temporal death, and that it is impossible to believe differently from what we feel in our conscience; as also, that it is not in our power to believe this or that, even as an evil doer can voluntarily do well or cease to do evil; but that the true faith must be poured into men's hearts by God, whom we daily pray, that He would give us His Spirit, that we may understand His truth and Gospel.
Moreover, it is well-known to her majesty, that we are not a turbulent people, neither seek to instigate any rebellion against her majesty, but much rather daily pray the Lord for her prosperous reign and welfare according to soul and body (Jer. 29
7); finally, that we have not sought to spread our faith in this country, nor are we able to do it, since we are simple and unlearned trades-people, and inexperienced in divinity. These and other reasons we humbly entreat her majesty to consider for our benefit, and in particular to be mindful of her laudable and princely grace, which is a marvel to all nations, and which has ever appeared in all matters, but especially in the matter of religion and conscience.
It was subscribed:
GERRIT VAN BYLER,
HANS VAN STRATEN.
Touching our faith of Jesus Christ our Saviour: We not only believe in His incarnation, but also regard him, who denies that Christ is come in the flesh, to be the antichrist. I John 4:3. Hence w e believe with the heart and confess with the mouth, that the eternal Word of God was from the begining with God; that the Son of God became man when the fullness of the time was come, for the salvation and redemption of men; that He was conceived of the Holy Ghost, and through the power of God the Most High, born of the blessed virgin Mary, and manifested of the seed of David; that He is the fruit of the body of Mary; and that inasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same. Hebrews 2:14.
Finally, we believe that He is the promised seed of the woman that has bruised the serpent's head; we also believe, all that is further written concerning Him in the holy Scriptures; and we place the hope of our salvation solely in His death and resurrection. But herein alone is the difference, that we can as yet not find it in our conscience to say that He took His flesh from the substance of the flesh of the virgin Mary; since we do not find this ex-
pressed in the Scriptures; hence we forbear to inquire into the mystery of God.
As regards the baptism of children, we believe that infants are in a saved state and belong to the kingdom of God; but as we do not find a commandment or an example in the holy Scriptures, to baptize them, we deem, according to the ordinance of Christ, that one ought to wait with baptizing them, till they are able to confess their faith in the church of God. In the meantime we do not condemn the churches that hold other views.
Regarding the magistracy, so far as the office in itself is concerned, we confess that it is not only good and profitable for the maintenance of the common welfare, but also ordained of God, for the protection of the good and the punishment of the evil; that he has not received the sword in vain, to whom we also are bound, through God's commandment, and ready, to show all subjection and service. We believe that it does not behoove us further to inquire into or judge of this matter.
But being constrained in our conscience by questions as to whether the magistrate can be a Christian, we say that to human eyes it will, for manifold obstacles, be hard and difficult; nevertheless we do not despair of it, since that which seems impossible to men is possible before God, according to what Christ says in the Gospel concerning the rich. Matt. 19:26.
Finally, as to swearing: In this article we agree with the Dutch preachers, that we may, with a good conscience, call God to witness in a matter of which we know and are certain.
These articles, as contained here, we simply believe, notwithstanding the conclusions which some, out of their own understanding, draw from them to the contrary.
Hence we beseech her majesty, for Christ's sake, to bear our weakness, and to consider that if w e could feel somewhat different in our conscience, we would most gladly accept the same from the heart, and confess it with the mouth.
Thus we humbly pray God for her majesty's long life, prosperous reign, and eternal salvation. We doubt not but that she will be pleased to show us poor prisoners and strangers such grace as has already been shown to our companions, for which thanks be to God and to her majesty.
GERRIT VAN BYLER,
HANS VAN STRATEN.
Reverend and well beloved Sir Doctor Fox: We have read your letter, from which we learn the endeavors you have put forth in our behalf, with her royal majesty as well as with her wise council, for which we greatly thank you, even as we also do for your good admonition, which notwithstanding it seems to us to be written somewhat severely, we are nevertheless assured proceeds from love and from a good zeal which you have for the truth and the welfare of your neighbor; hence we cannot but give it a good interpretation. However, we are very sorry that you, not better understanding our point, have an opinion of us different from what we would like; since you think that through our singularity and obstinacy we not only give offense to the church of God, but also greatly offend God, and overthrow our salvation.
What cause you have thus to think of us, we do not know; however, we can assure you of this, that we seek with all our heart to serve the only God and Christ in a good conscience, and to edify our neighbor as far as is possible to us.
Hence we willingly accept whatever the holy Scriptures declare to us, and wish that we would be left to adhere to the simplicity of the Word of God, and not with subtle questions to be driven further, than we with our feeble understanding can comprehend or answer with the Scriptures. We confess (even as you say) that Jesus Christ the Son of the living God, when the time was fulfilled, was born of woman and became truly man.
We confess that the flesh of Christ is not a fantasm or ethereal, but true, human flesh, like unto us in all things, except sin; that He is the promised seed of the woman, David's son, and the fruit of Mary's body. Finally, we believe all that the holy Scriptures further testify of Him; and whether we live or die, we do not place our salvation in our works or holiness, but solely in His death and resurrection. Hence we cannot wonder enough, what more could be required of a Christian, since you yourself quote from the apostle, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." II Cor. 5:16, 17.
By this the apostle sufficiently indicates to us that we ought rather to observe and appropriate to ourselves the fruits of the incarnation and the sufferings of Christ, than arrogantly to dispute about the origin of His flesh; which we yet confess as far as the Scriptures tell us concerning it; contenting ourselves with what you request of us, that He is come in the flesh. If people only were satisfied therewith, and would not compel us to confess that Christ has His origin from the substance of Mary's flesh; which because we cannot comprehend or believe, for the reason that the word substance is not mentioned in the holy Scriptures, and, therefore it is concluded against us, that we believe that Christ is not true man, and in short, that we deny our salvation; whereas, on the contrary, according to the dictates of love, it ought to be concluded that, when we say that Christ had just as true, human flesh as our first father Adam had before the fall, we at once confess Him to be true man and our Saviour, especially when we confess this with express words. If you reply to this, that you find little or no
difference between your faith and ours, except in the expression, substance o f the woman, and that we ought not therefore obstinately to reject the same, we rejoin, on the other hand, that we ought not to be constrained thereto by force, but that our weakness in this respect ought to be borne with, since we cannot believe otherwise in our conscience, and should greatly sin against God, if we were to speak contrary to the testimony of our conscience.
Hence, if we are put to death (which we do not hope of her royal grace) we testify before God, that we do not die for this or that article (which if we could, with arguments, be made to believe, we would accept with all our heart), but for our conscience' sake, to which if we act contrary, though we did well, we nevertheless do ill, and witness against ourselves, as you with your learning can understand far better than we simple and unlearned people.
Finally, we are men, and what is more, unlearned men, who are liable to err; and hence we will always show ourselves teachable to all those who can show us something better with the Scriptures; but that they want to constrain us thereto with fire or sword, this appears to us a vain undertaking, and to militate against reason; for it is indeed possible, that through fear of death we could be made to speak differently from what we understand; but that we should understand otherwise than we believe, you know to be impossible.
Therefore those who should deal with us on this wise, offer us this alternative, either temporal or eternal death; temporal, if we adhere to what our conscience declares to be right, or the truth; eternal, if we act and speak contrary to our conscience. But we have a better hope of her royal grace, which has hitherto not deemed it well to put [any one] to death for the matter of religion; well knowing that the true faith is a special gift of God, implanted in man, not by fire and sword, but through the Holy Ghost and the preaching of the eternal word of God. And we ought to consider well, that formerly we were all heretics here, who if we had been made to die in such a condition, would all have had to suffer the death of both body and soul. But we will here conclude this matter, thanking you for the trouble to which you have been pleased to go for us, and requesting you that you will do the best in our cause, with the council, and especially before her royal majesty, who, if our point were well known to her, we doubt not, would, according to her excellent wisdom and usual grace, deal mercifully with us, since we willingly show her majesty all reverence and subjection, praying for her long life and prosperous reign. Amen.
Subscribed to by:
GERRIT VAN BYLER,
HANS VAN STRATEN,