The unspeakable grace, peace and mercy of God our heavenly Father, who is a Father full of grace and truth, through the bitter suffering and death of our only Saviour Christ Jesus, who washed and cleansed us from all our sins and unrighteousnesses; the power of the Holy Ghost, for the increase of your faith, to resist all the enemies of truth; this I wish you, my affectionately beloved mother, far the salvation of your soul. Amen.
My dearest mother, whom I love from the heart; my chosen mother, who gave birth to me in pain and anguish, from whose body I came forth; I, your son, who am now confined at Antwerp, in prison, for the word of truth, commend myself to you from the bottom of my heart, and thank you, my dear mother, for the great benefits you have shown me from the beginning of my existence until the present day, that you have cared for my neces-
sities, and are still caring for me. But especially do I thank you, my dearest mother, that through the comforting letter you wrote me, you exercise a care for the salvation of my soul.
Oh, when I began to read the letter, and understood that it was from you, my mother,.then my tears began to flow, so that I could hardly finish reading the letter, because of the many tears that flowed from my eyes; for I had thought that I should hear from you no more. I was so rejoiced by your consoling instruction, and that you followed the example of Tobit, who also gave instruction to his son.
Oh, I thank, yes, I thank you, my dear mother, that you thus exhort me to steadfastness and boldness, to confess the name of Christ, which I hope to do by the help of the Lord, who alone is my helper and my strength, to resist the principalities and powers of this world, the spirits of the air, as Paul says (Eph. 6:12), yea, these priests of Jezebel, who thirst for the blood of the righteous that walk in the ways of the Lord, who, according to the word of Christ, seek to walk the narrow way, and to forsake their own life, as also, sin, unrighteousnesses and carnal lusts, and seek to please the Lord in righteousness, according to the will of God, in holiness. I Thess. 4:3. These are rejected, despised, and persecuted, yea, imprisoned; their end is to be killed, because they seek to walk the way in such a manner, that they may please the Lord. Hence Esdras says, "The way is narrow, and cannot be walked without danger." II Esd. 7:8. This we may well consider.
Behold, there were two brothers in the world, namely, Cain and Abel. Abel sought to walk the narrow way and to please the Lord with his offering, with which the Lord was pleased and had.respect to it, because he and his offering were good. Cain sacrificed to the Lord, but his offering did not please the Lord, because he was evil; hence the Lord had not respect to his offering. Then Cain was angry at his brother Abel, and slew him. I John 3:12.
Consider Lot in Sodom, how they assailed his house through their wickedness, and wanted to commit fornication with the angels that had entered into his house. Again, Abraham had to forsake his country, and went to sojourn in a strange country, where he was a stranger, and had to live in tents. Again, behold Isaac, who walked in the ways of his father Abraham, and served the Lord; he was hated by the Philistines; for they went and stopped the well which his father Abraham had digged; yea that was not enough yet, but King Abimelech commanded him to leave his dwelling place. Genesis 26:14.
Jacob was hated and persecuted by his brother Esau, who also sought to kill him.
Joseph was by his brethren cast into a pit, and sold to the Ishmaelites; and chose rather to flee from the wife of the captain of the guard, leaving his mantle behind than to comply with her desire.
So, dear mother, I will also rather lose my life, than do what they command. The children of Israel were also afflicted. If I were to tell further all that happened to all God's prophets, I fear my paper should not suffice; such and similar examples, namely, concerning Christ, the author of faith, how He was persecuted in this life; yea, He had hardly been born, when His mother Mary had to flee with Him. She nourished Him up in poverty, yea, He was in poverty, for He Himself says, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Matthew 8:20. Behold, how it further went with Him: they crucified Him; His feet and hands were pierced; they gave Him vinegar and gall to drink; and His side was pierced with a spear, from which flowed blood and water.
Observe, thus it went with our Captain Christ Jesus; thus He concluded His days in poverty and with reproach, was scourged, beaten, mocked, and crowned on His head with a crown of thorns. Oh, I cannot sufficiently tell all that He suffered for us poor men, to save us and yet these Pharisees are not ashamed to rob His honor, saying that we are saved by baptism; whereas the Lord Christ sanctifies and cleanseth from sin. Oh, how sad it makes me when I hear this; the Lord forgive them. Yea, if Christ were here now, they would kill Him yet.
Thus we have an example in our Captain Christ, yea, in His dear apostles. Paul, too, suffered much for the name of Christ. Consider how many others yet have suffered since the time of Christ and the apostles, unto the present day.
Since, then, my beloved mother, so many have suffered, and we are compassed about, as Paul says, with so great a cloud of witnesses; I say with Paul, "I rejoice in my sufferings which I endure for Christ's sake." Heb. 12:1; Col. 1:24. Hence rejoice also that Christ wants me, your son, to whom you have given birth, a poor, unworthy man, worthy to suffer for His holy name, so that I long to be delivered from this flesh, and to be with Christ, in whom I now believe, yet not see; but then I shall behold Him; and partake of the joy which the heart of man has never conceived of, neither can tongue express the great joy that is prepared for the good. They shall be clothed in fine, white linen; they shall be crowned with the crown of eternal life; they shall sit upon Mount Sion, and sing the new song, so that I may say as David says, "A day with the Lord is better than a thousand in joy and gladness here." Rom. 7:24; Luke 23:42; I Pet. 1:8; I John 3:2; Rev. 19:8; 2:10; I Esd. 2:42; Psalms 84:10.
O dear mother, who would now want to remain here, when such joy is prepared for the good, which shall last forever. There we shall neither hunger nor thirst any more, there we shall feel neither heat nor cold, so that I may say with Paul, "I reckon the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8:18.
Hence, then, dear mother, in consideration of this, I need not think it strange, though I suffer for the name of Christ, for His Word and truth; since all God's righteous ones, from the beginning of the world have suffered. Hence Peter says, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, which means tribulation, affliction and persecution." I Pet. 4:12. For the prophet David says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous
but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." Ps. 34:20. Paul well says, "That we must through much tribulation and affliction enter into the kingdom of heaven." Acts 14:22.
Behold, my dear mother, what consolation we have, so that when it pleases the Lord to try our faith, that we should not be grieved in the trial; for he says, "Unto us it is given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his sake." Phil. 1:29. Paul, who cared well for the flock of Christ, did not forbear to reveal to those who wanted to walk according to Christ's ways, and tread the narrow way trod by few, that they must suffer persecution, in order that when affiliction, tribulation, persecution or reproach comes, we should not think it strange. II Tim. 3:12.
Hence Christ also says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation"; and comforts His disciples, in order that they should not be grieved in the tribulation, and says, "Be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." John 16:33. He also teaches His disciples, that they should not fear tribulation or reproach: for when they, namely, the rulers of this world, have done all, they can but kill the body, but the soul they cannot harm. But He teaches us whom we shall fear, namely; Him that hath power to cast soul and body into the eternal fire, which shall burn forever, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Luke 12:4, 5; Matt. 22:13.
Oh, how sorrowful shall they then be, that have feared the kings and princes of this world more than the Lord, who is the Lord of lords, the God of gods, the King of kings, who, as David says, can make and crush the heart of the kings and princes of this world like potsherds. I Tim. 6:15. Why then should we fear? for the Lord says by the prophet Zechariah, "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye." 2:8.
Consider what Christ says, "He that rejecteth or despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me." Luke 10:17. Again Christ says, "Blessed is he that is despised for my sake: for great is his reward in heaven." Matt. 5:11, 12.
Hence, my dearest mother, comfort yourself with these and similar words of Christ, and rejoice with me, and thank and praise the Lord, that you are counted worthy to be persecuted for His name. Follow now the advice of Paul, "Be patient in tribulation, and continue- .nstant in prayer." Phil. 4:4; Romans 12:12; I Thess. 5:17.
Remember the consolation of Moses, with which he comforted the children of Israel, saying, "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he Will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Deut. 31:6. Hence, my mother, though our enemies are many, and I am here in the midst of the hand of the enemy, yet I will say with the prophet David, "Lord, now thou art with me, and art my helper, I will not fear, though I were compassed by many thousands." Again with the prophet David, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Though death should come upon me, I will not fear; for the Lord is ever with me to strengthen me." And again, "He is my fortress; I will not fear, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Ps. 27:1; 23:4; 18:3; 46:2.
Thus, my dear mother; press with me, by force, through the straight gate; that is, through affliction and persecution, for Christ says, "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Matt. 11:12. I also hope to take it by force, through the strength which the Lord gives me to resist the cruelty of these fell lions, that are not satisfied with the blood of the righteous, but seek, through their subtle words and fair speeches, yea, with invented lies, (according to the advice of their father the devil, as Christ says; for he was a murderer and deceiver from the beginning of the world), to devour and slay their souls, and to deprive them of their inheritance, namely, of eternal life, which they obtained through the shed blood of Christ our only Saviour. John 20:31. But the Lord be forever praised and thanked, that He keeps and delivers us, so that they cannot harm our souls; for when they have done all that they can do, they have no more power than to take this temporal life, which I gladly resign for Christ's sake, for I know and doubt not that the Lord shall give me a better, which He promises to all the good that have not been ashamed to confess His word and truth before this adulterous generation. Hence Christ says, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it again." Matt. 10:39. Not a life that shall perish, but that will endure forever, an incorruptible life, a life that shall endure forever in joy. Therefore my dear mother, my soul longs for this life; though flesh and blood should remain at the stake, yet I regard it not; rather than that I should suffer myself to be spoiled of my inheritance, namely, eternal life, for a little of temporal life. Oh, no! God forbid; for I now regard not this visible, but the invisible, the eternal and imperishable.
O my chosen mother, think not that there is aught that might rob me of my salvation, for Paul says, "Who can separate us from the love of God? Neither hell, the devil, nor death. Christ has conquered all, so that I may say: O hell, where is thy pain? O death, where is thy power? Christ has vanquished death; Christ has bruised Satan's head,
so that he can but bite the heel, which he indeed does, but that is of no account. Who therefore, says Paul, can lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is Christ that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died." Rom. 8:35; Heb. 2:14; Rom., $:33, 34.
Hence, my dear mother, be armed with me, and all God's righteous ones, as Paul says, with the armor of God on your body, the helmet of salvation upon your head, and the sword of the Spirit in your hand; and above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one, for the prophet says, "Be of good courage; you shall at last climb upon the devil's shoulders." Eph. 6:13; Bar. 4:25.
Therefore my mother, if you should hear any thing of me that is not true-for the devil is crafty, and deals much in lies, to grieve the righteous-do not hearken to it; as I also trust that you will not: for my mind is unchanged, for which I thank the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and' to His name be praise for ever and ever, through His only Son Jesus Christ our Saviour, who strengthens me, poor, unworthy, despised man with His Holy Spirit to resist all the enemies of the truth who seek to spoil me of my salvation (Col. 2:8) for which they have no power, for the Lord is my strength, as the prophet says, "He is my song; I shall with joy draw water out of the well of the Saviour." Isa. 12:2', 3. Again the Lord says by the prophet Isaiah, "I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not: I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye few men of Israel! I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer." Isa. 41:13, 14. Of whom should we be afraid, for the Lord hath said it. Therefore, my mother, take courage with me, to overcome, like Joshua and Caleb, the great and strong giants, the princes of this world, and not to fear them, and thus to take the promised land, the kingdom of heaven. Of whom should I be afraid, when we have this glorious consolation, that they that trust in the Lord, shall not be ashamed, for the prophet says that the Lord will not forsake the righteous even unto death; yea, the Lord says by the prophet Isaiah, "Can a mother forget her child, that she should not have compassion on the fruit of her womb? and though she forget, yet will I not forget thee; for I have graven thee upon the palm of my hands, saith the Lord." Ps. 25:3; Isa. 49:15, 16. Remember, again, how the Lord speaks by the prophet Malachi, saying, "The Lord has a book of remembrance before him, in which he has written all them that fear him, and he shall deliver their souls from death." Mal. 3:16. Happy are those then, that have feared the Lord, for David says, "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord." They who then have not been ashamed to walk in the ways of the Lord, their names are recorded in heaven in the book of life. Luke 10:20. Hence rejoice with me, my mother; I should like to write you still more, that you would always walk in the ways of the Lord, and never depart therefrom, and bring many to the knowledge of the truth, but my paper is failing me. Z pray you, my dear and beloved mother, take this little knowledge and simple writing from me in good part, for I write you out of love, and impart to you of this little gift which the Lord, through His unspeakable grace, has given me, unworthy man.
You further write me in your consoling letter, whether I have any lack of the necessaries of life. Oh, no, I have enough, the Lord be thanked. You also write in your letter, that if I desired you, I should write so, and you should come, though you had to pay for it with your blood. O my dear mother, why should I desire this; I shall never desire it, for you could not help me. For my refuge is the Lord alone; He is my helper; He it is that gives me strength to overcome and to go to. battle valiantly. Hence, my mother, walk prudently, for they are cruel to shed the innocent blood. .However, they can do no more than the Lord permits them. If I were to write more concerning it, my paper should not suffice, for I intend to relate to you yet, that I have been twice more with the priests since I wrote the letter to you, so that in all I have been before the priests four times; but twice I wrote you a little; hence I also hope to write you a little now. The third time I spoke with the dean, but mostly against the inquisitor, for he wants to be master; his name is Pardo. We talked much of the Supper, and there was present a bailiff, the new one, and a man that could speak English. I heard Pardo talk much of the Supper, which was contrary to the word of the Lord; and he asked me, whether it was not true that Christ gave His apostles His own body, and that His disciples ate it. I said that He gave His disciples bread, and what they ate was bread; and that He gave His disciples wine, and what they drank was wine, and not changed, as you say.
I showed them how it was to be understood, both the bread and the wine; I would repeat it here, but my paper would give out. We then spoke of the baptism of infants; I said that he should show to me with the Scriptures, that Christ taught to baptize infants, and that the apostles followed or practiced it. They said: Christ said and taught, John 3:5, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." I said, "Christ there did not speak of water baptism, but Christ teaches of baptism in Matthew 28 and Mark 16," and I told them the text.
Then the man said, "A fool cannot believe; hence he cannot be baptized; he is therefore damned." I said, "Christ says not: Go teach fools. I ask you," said I,"whether a fool can be taught?" He answered, "No." He then asked me, whether the fool was damned. I said, "I may judge no one; I leave the fool in the hands of the Lord." Thus, to be brief, the man asked me whether I had been in England. I said, "Yes.""What sort of people," said he,"were those that were put to
death?." I said, "I believe that they were Menno's people." He said, "No," and that they were Puritans. I said, "No." He said that I was of that people, that I was also 'a Puritan. I said that I did not know them; that it was the first that I heard of it. I said that he should tell me, what sort of a people it was, and what kind of a faith they have. But he would not tell me that. They said more, but it would take too long to relate it.
The last time was the 13th of June, when I spoke with four priests at once, but not so much as at other times; I was asked whether I would not repent. I said, "Yes, I want to desist from sin from day to day." No, whether I would not' hearken to the ecclesiastics and the Roman Catholic church? I said, "I thank the Lord, who has instructed me, and opened my eyes, and brought me into the right way; and I desire to be instructed by the' Lord still more."
Thus they wrote a letter, that they would deliver me over to the lords; that I was an obstinate heretic, and would not hearken to them; and they wrote that they had done their best, so that they would not talk with me any more. Thus I was released. from the priests, and delivered to the authorities, so that I expect to hear my sentence on the 22nd of June, and to offer up my sacrifice on the 23d. The Lord grant me strength unto the end, to the praise of the Lord and the salvation of my soul. The Lord grant me the spirit of boldness, that I may finish my conflict with joy.
Thus, my dear mother, cleave to the Lord. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be with you, and keep you. The Lord preserve your going out and coming in, now and forever. Num. 6:25. l
My dear mother, I greet you with a holy kiss of love (I Pet. 5:14), for I think that you will see me no more in this flesh, nor I you, my mother. Farewell, the Lord be with you, my mother; I go before, and shall wait for you in the kingdom of heaven, there we shall see each other in joy and gladness.
I bid you adieu; once more, farewell. The Lord be with you forever, for I know not whether I shall write you any more; I think that it is the last time. I greet you once more, my dear mother, who have given birth to me in pain and anguish. Greet cordially my dear brother D., and admonish him to walk in the ways of the Lord, to the salvation of his soul; this I pray you, my mother, even as I also trust, and doubt not that you will also do. Greet my beloved sister K. A., with T. and W. Greet also those whom you well know, also my beloved master, whom I love from the heart; and G. The Lord be with you all" now and forever. Amen.
My affectionately beloved. mother, whom I love from the depth of my soul; I leave you here, and enter into joy, and shall behold Christ, in whom I now believe, not seeing Him; and you remain here in this distressful world,where nothing else can be expected than tribulation, affliction and persecution, so long as it pleases the Lord. The Lord com fort you in all tribulation, and be with you now and forever. Amen.
Written by me your son, whom you well know, at present confined in prison at Antwerp;. for the word of the truth, and for the confession of God's holy Word; I expect my sentence, to be burnt alive at a stake, if it pleases the Lord, to the praise of His holy name.
The unspeakable love, grace and peace of God our dear heavenly Father, who is a Father full of grace and truth, rich and abundant in mercy and loving kindness, through the bitter suffering and death of His only Son our Saviour, who loved us, and washed us from all our sins in His blood, and from all the unrighteousness that we have done. The power of the Holy Ghost strengthen you, and comfort you in all your tribulation, affliction and sorrow which you have for Christ's word and truth, in your persecution and suffering, in your grief which you may have, as I. understand, for my sake according to the flesh. ay He strengthen you in the faith of the truth, wherein you now stand, which God has revealed to you out of grace, that you may overcome all sorrowfulness of the flesh, which you may have. This; I your son, wish you my chosen mother, with all my heart, to the salvation of your soul, that we may meet together, and may, with all those that have endured unto the end in the belief of the truth, hear that glad and joyful voice ,of the only Son of God, "Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom of my Father, prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Amen.
My affectionately beloved mother, whom I love from the heart, I commend myself to you with all my heart, and inform you my chosen mother, that I did not, think that I should write you this letter yet; but ince it has pleased the good God, to keep me in life until this present hour, I cannot forbear, my dearest mother, to write you this parting letter, perhaps the last in my life, and bid you, my dear mother, adieu. For according to what I hear, the time of my deliverance is near at hand; yet I know not to this hour when, except that I hear that it is to be tomorrow, that I am to hear my sentence. Not that I hear concerning myself alone, but of several, of whom I think that I am one, if it pleases the Lord: We have indeed heard this often, but whether they do it to frighten us, I do not know. I have never heard it from the people here in the house, but from a girl of M.'s people that is imprisoned here; she has told it me. If it is the will of the Lord, let it be done. I am well resigned thereto. The Lord be thanked, who strengthens me poor, weak man here in these my bonds, by His Holy Spirit, to resist all that should be a hindrance or harm to my soul; for it is the day for which I have longed; the Lord grant me strength unto the
end that I may finish my conflict with joy, and gain the victory, to the praise, glory, and honor of the Lord's holy name. Amen. Eph. 3:16; I Timothy 6:12; I Cor. 15:57.
Since, then, my dear mother, it has pleased the good God, to count me, your son, worthy to suffer for His name to help fulfill the number of the righteous that are under the altar, and rest till the number of their brethren is fulfilled, who must also be killed as they; console yourself herein, my dear mother, and be not grieved on my account, this I pray you; for, dear - mother, the Lord has called me to a better place than to remain in this wicked, evil world. Though it is grievous to the flesh, I will not regard it for the joy of which I shall partake with all God's righteous ones; for I say with Paul, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8:18.
O my dearest mother, who should not long for this glory; who should not strive for it, and say with Paul, "I groan and desire to be out of this flesh; for I look for another dwelling, that is not made with hands, but which is eternal in the heavens." II Cor. 5. Then shall we, as John says, see Him in whom we now believe, not seeing Him; then shall we behold Him with our own eyes, whose brightness is greater than that of the sun. I John 3:2; I Pet. 1:8; Job 19:27. Who should now regard this suffering or pain that can be inflicted upon the flesh, and yet not without the Lord's permission, for when they have done all that they can, according to the words of Christ, they can but kill the body, but over the soul they have no power; for we read in the book of Wisdom, that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of the Lord. Matthew 10:28; Wisd. 3:1.
Who should regard this temporal pain that men may inflict upon this body, when such joy is promised for a little pain, and great, unspeakable bliss, yea, an eternal life, for a little of temporal life; for Christ says, "He that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it again hereafter." Rev. 22:5; Matthew 10:39; Mark 8:35.
Behold once, my dear mother, how many laid down their lives for the word of Christ and the truth; and consider what man's life is, which passes away so quickly; it is, as James says, to be compared to only a vapor that arises; for when the vapor disappears and vanishes away, it is seen no more, and is over very quickly; yea, it may be compared to a bubble upon the water, which so quickly perishes. Ps. 90: 5; James 4:14. Why then should we much regard this temporal life? it cannot be compared with the eternal life.
Should you then, dear mother, be grieved on account of our pain, that may be inflicted upon my body, but which is for the faith and confession of God's holy Word and truth? O no, my mother, let not such grief come upon you; but I pray you, my affectionately beloved mother, be of good cheer; I hope by the help of the Lord, that your sorrow shall be turned into joy. John 16:20.
O my beloved mother, let it go with you as it went with Abraham, who had but one only son, whom God had given him in his old age. Behold how God tried this good man, when He commanded him, that he should go and offer up to Him his only son Isaac. We do not read that he was grieved on account of the command, nor was he grieved when his son asked him, "My father, here is the wood: but where is the sacrifice?" Abraham said to his son with a fatherly voice, trusting in the almighty God, "The Lord will provide it." Thus Abraham followed God's command, and made his only, beloved son Isaac kneel down upon the wood, drew the sword from its sheath and raised it to cut off his son's head, and to sacrifice him. But the angel said to him, that he should put the sword into the sheath, and not harm the child. In all this time, even to the last hour, we cannot read that this good man was grieved, or afraid to obey God's command. My dear mother, why would you now be grieved; the Lord does not try you in such a manner, that you should kill your son, but He permits it to be done by the generation of Cain, who always thirst for the blood of the righteous Abelites that please the Lord. My mother, do also trust the Lord like the good man Abraham, and say, "The Lord will provide it; though your oldest son whom you now have, be offered up. The Lord can raise up another, if it pleases Him; hence be resigned to it." It does not go otherwise with me, than it went with all the righteous that have ever pleased God, from the beginning of the world until the present time.
Consider how it went with the prophet Jeremiah, who endured much grief, because he according to the command of the Lord reproved the cities of their sin. He was apprehended and cast into a miry dungeon, yea, much grief came upon him, as the Scriptures sufficiently testify concerning it; yea, so that he resolved no more to preach in the name of God. Behold, to such grief this man of God was subject, who yet had been closen by God, in his mother's womb, to proclaim His holy will. Jer. 38:6.
Again, behold John, who was sanctified in his mother's womb. He who was known to all the people to be a prophet, did not Herod, for the sake of a harlot, cause his head to be struck off in prison? who nevertheless, according to the words of Christ, was the greatest prophet born of woman. Luke 1:15; Matt. 14:5,10; 11:11.
See, my dear mother, if it went thus with those who walked so worthily before the Lord-if they killed those, what shall they do to us?
Consider, that they did not hesitate to kill Christ Jesus, who is the only Son of God, and the Son of man, who, according to the testimony of the Scriptures, is truly God and man, the Son of God, and the Son of men, for He calls Himself in many places the Son of man; and He is confessed and is
the true living Son of God, who delivered us from the power of Satan, from eternal death and damnation, and opened our eyes when we were dead in our sins and unrighteousness, and brought us into this marvelous light; He has revealed to us His Word and truth, the Gospel, which, as Paul says, is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Rom. 1:16.
Since, then, the good God, through His unspeakable grace and goodness, has revealed to us His Word and truth, whereby our dark eyes have been opened, and has given us to believe in Him by whom we might live forever, which is Christ Jesus, upon whom the generation of vipers inflicted much pain and torment, as the four evangelists abundantly testify concerning it; how they scourged, mocked, beat, and very miserably maltreated Him, and placed a crown of thorns upon His head; He had Himself to bear His cross to which they nailed Him; they gave Him vinegar and gall to drink; they pierced His side with a spear, and water and blood issued from the same. Alas, so dreadfully did they deal with Him; all that went by opened their mouth and mocked Him, so that He was the most despised upon earth; He was like the prophet David says and prophesies, "I am a worm and no man; I am the most despised among all men; they open their mouths against me, and cast lots upon my vesture." Psalm 22:6, 7, 14, 18.
O dear mother, how bitter it is to describe the sufferings of the immaculate Lamb of God, that was subjected to so much suffering and sorrow; who should be able to describe His sufferings which He endured for our sakes? Should we then not suffer a little for His sake, when He shall so gloriously recompense all that suffer for His sake? for He says, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake;" and again, "Blessed are they that suffer reproach for my name's sake; for great is their reward in heaven." Matt. 5:10-12; Luke 6:22, 23. Now you may perceive that the Lord will not leave unrewarded all those that suffer for His Word and the truth; who in suffering adhere steadfastly to His Gospel; who depart not from His Word and truth which He has spoken with His mouth; who depart not from the narrow way that leads to eternal life; who were not ashamed to confess the truth before this adulterous generation, who did not fear those that kill the body, but much rather feared Him that can cast soul and body into hell, into eternal darkness and torment, where there will ever be weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the flames shall never be extinguished, where the smoke shall ascend forever and ever, where the worm shall never die; who resemble not, as Peter says, the dog that swallows again that which he has vomited (II Peter 2:22); that are not like the sow which, when she has once been washed and cleansed, goes and wallows again in the mire; who do not call light darkness, and darkness light (Isa. 5:20); who do not call truth lies, and lies truth; who intend with Elea zar to persevere, and not to dissemble (II Maccabees 6:18); who do not reject the truth, when they well know that it is the truth; who do not hearken to the devilish doctrine of the papists (I Tim. 4: 1-3); who follow not the priests of Jezebel, who thirst for the blood of the righteous, who love and serve God, and love Him with all the heart and with all the soul; who seek to follow Christ's footsteps, to live and walk according to His will; who seek to please Him and not men (Gal. 1:10), for James says, "Whosoever will be a friend of God, must be the enemy of the world" (James 4:4); who seeks to walk the narrow way; who desires to forsake unrighteousness; who forsakes the counsel of the flesh and follows the counsel of the Spirit; who forsakes this earthly good, and seeks after the heavenly; who regards the temporal as nothing, and seeks after the eternal and imperishable; who looks not at this visible, but hopes for the invisible (II Cor. 4:18); who regards not this life, but seeks to obtain eternal life, who now delights not in this temporal joy and pleasure, but in the eternal joy and bliss; to those who are thus, there is promised that they shall inherit forever and ever that promised land, the eternal life, where they shall be crowned with great glory; they shall, as Malachi says, leap as calves of the stall (Mal. 4:2); palm branches shall be given into their hands (II Esdras 2:46); they shall, as John says, sing the new song before the throne of God (Rev. 14:30, they shall be arrayed in fine, white linen (19:8); they shall shine forth as the sun (Matt. 13:43); they shall forever be in joy, such joy (Paul says) as ear has never heard, eye never seen, nor has man's heart been able to conceive of the joy of which the righteous that endure steadfast unto the end shall partake. Who should now depart for any reproach or contempt? who should now depart for any persecution or tribulation or any temporal life?
Oh, it is better to leave flesh and blood at the stake, than to suffer one's self to be despoiled of the eternal salvation of one's soul, of one's Father's inheritance which is obtained through Christ. Hence Paul says, "Who can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus? tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness? We may say with the apostle, that we are persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God." Rom. 8:17, 35. Let us then not fear, since, my dearest, there is nothing that can separate us from God, if we love Him from the heart, for John says, "Where love is there is no fear; for love casteth out fear." I John 4:18. This you may also perceive by the words of Paul, where he says, "Though I had faith, so that I could remove mountains; yea, though I gave all my goods to the poor, and suffered my body to be burned, and had not love, it would profit me nothing." I Cor. 13:2, 3. Hence there must be a burning love to Christ, we
must with the wise virgins have our lamps burning, and so wait for our Bridegroom, that is we must be kindled with a fervent love, and thus wait for Christ Jesus our Bridegroom, till He comes.
Behold, hereby we are to know who loves Christ; for He says, "He that loveth me keepeth my commandments, and the Father will come to him, and we will make our abode with him." John 14:23. But without loving Christ, and keeping His commandments; we cannot enter into life. For He says Himself, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep'my commandments." Matt. 19:17. And what is His commandment, but to love Him; and he that loves Him will not depart from Him because of any pain that may be inflicted upon the flesh, as I stated before with the words of Paul which he wrote to the Romans. But if a man do not love Christ, there is vain faith, which cannot please God, for Paul says: This is true faith, which worketh by love, that is, by the love which one has to God to keep His commandments; hence James says, that faith without works is dead. James 2:26. And this can easily be perceived; where there is true faith, there will also good fruits appear, for a good tree will bring forth good fruits, but of a corrupt tree evil fruit will spring forth; for a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit; so it is also with man; he that has a true faith will bring forth good fruits that are pleasing to the Lord. Matt. 7:17, 18.
But where there is a faith that is vain and not true, there you will not perceive good fruits, but all evil, for James says that the devils also believe and tremble. James 2:19.
Now it may be considered how many there are that have also a vain faith, and yet boast that they believe truly, yea, even these papists, they can say, "I believe in Christ Jesus, that He died, was crucified," etc., but they deprive Him of His honor; to be brief, they do not obey Him in that which He commands, they do after the usts of their father, the devil. Christ says, "For he was a liar and deceiver from the beginning." John 8:44.
Oh, how dreadful it is, that some hearken to such liars and deceivers, and confess the devilish doctrine to be the doctrine, Word and truth of Christ, whereas God says by the prophet, "Cursed is. he that maketh and honoreth idols." Oh, what .are they also doing, ,who say that the true body of Christ is in the little house with which they walk along the streets, with their bells, torches, and lanterns. Oh, what abomination it is to call this the truth, while it is but bread and wine. While T am here, my mother, I sometimes sing a spiritual song; but though they forbid it me, I will therefore not cease, as long as they do not fetter my tongue; yea, if I or some of Menno's people sing, then the servants sing a profane song, so that the good may. not be heard.
Oh, I am so glad that my dearest brother whom I have upon earth in the Lord, has soy remembered me, poor prisoner, with a hymn and a letter by his own hand. It rejoiced me so much inwardly'in my soul that I cannot describe it to you. I pray you to thank him heartily, and ask him to write again, and you also, for I think that I shall be here yet eight days longer'; 'but when I,began to write this letter to you, I did not think that I should write so much, for I thought that by this time I should have heard my sentence. But since it has pleased the Lord, that I am still to remain here in this prison, I hope, according to the advice of Paul, to abide the time with patience, till it shall please the Lord; and thus, according to the words of Christ, to possess my soul in patience, for I commit myself into the hands of the Lord, that it may be done with me according to His divine will, to the praise, glory and honor of His holy name, and to the salvation of my soul, now and forever.
Hence, then, my dear mother, I bid you adieu once more; adieu, my chosen mother, adieu, my worthy mother, who gave birth to me in pain and anguish. I pray you, my dear mother, be resigned to the work of the Lord, be not grieved on my account, be of good cheer; since our God has so ordered it that I am to be separated from you, so that you shall see me no more in this flesh, be resigned thereto, for there can nothing happen to me without the Lord's permission, for the Lord is my keeper, my protector, and my defender, for the prophet David says, that the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him. Psalm 34:7. Think .not that there is any one that can harm me, for Christ tells us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and not a sparrow falls to the ground without His will; of how much more value are we than the little sparrows! Matt. 10:30. Hence, though it is so with me that I am cast into prison for the Word and truth of Christ, to confess His name before these cruel men; and suffer contempt and reproach, full of vexation, yea, finally to be put to death by them, rejoice therein according to the words of Christ, when He says, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad when men shall revile you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name's sake." Matt. 5:11.
Remember what Peter says, "Think it not strange as though some strange thing happened unto you." I Pet. 4:12. Why? Because it has gone thus with all God's children that have ever pleased Him, for Christ says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33. Hence we need not, according to the words of Peter, think it strange, for the Scriptures sufficiently declare all this, wherefore also Paul says: 'Ut is given unto us, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his name." Philippians 1:29. Consider what the prophet David says, "Many are tile afflictions of the righteous." Psalms, 34:19. . ,
Behold, Chist Himself, the author of faith, had to suffer, and thus to enter into His glory. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, what shall they then do to his servants? If they have
cast out and killed the heir, what shall they do to those that are sent? Hence the Lord laments over Jerusalem, and says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not 1" Matt. 23:37. Behold, how they have always killed those that were sent by God, and shall yet do so. For Christ says to His disciples, "Ye shall be put out of the synagogues, and whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service thereby." John 16:2.
Now he that will be a good and faithful disciple of Christ and serve his Lord in faithfulness, must willingly bear all that is laid upon him for the Lord's sake, for Paul says, " All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." And again, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven." Luke 14:27; I I Tim. 3:12; Acts 14:22.
Since, then, the kingdom of heaven must be taken through much affliction and vexation, let us with Paul rejoice in the afflictions which we suffer for the name of Christ, for we see how Peter and John, when they came from the council, rejoiced that they had suffered reproach and been scourged for Christ's sake. Acts 5:41. Thus, my dear mother, do also rejoice with me, and thank the good God, that He counts a poor, weak, unworthy man fit to suffer for His Word and truth.
Praise and glorify the Lord for His grace; sing praise to Him for His benefits; say with me, "Thanks be to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, for his unspeakable mercy and goodness which he has shown us poor men." Say with David, "Where is a god like unto our God? to him be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen."
I bid you adieu, my dearest mother, adieu; if I should write you no more, and if this should be the last letter, I bid you adieu, my beloved mother, and take leave from you, if it should be the last time; my mother whom I love, adieu, for I leave you for the Lord's sake, and also hope to lay down my life for His sake, for the Lord has promised me another life, which shall endure for ever, and never pass away; not like this life, which must perish, for this life, or the temporal pleasure of this world, is not to be compared to the joy and gladness that is promised to the righteous that endure steadfast unto the end; where one day, as David says, is better than a thousand here in joy and pleasure. Ps. 84:10.
I hope by the help of the Lord soon to partake of the eternal joy. Then I shall be freed from all sighing, weeping and sorrow; then I shall neither thirst nor hunger any more; then I shall no more feel heat or cold; then I shall be released from all, and for ever triumph with the Lamb. Hence, grieve not, neither weep nor sigh; though I go before, we shall meet again; be of good cheer, my chosen mother; the Lord comfort you with His Holy Spirit, in all your tribulation and sorrow. John 14:16.
I might be grieved more than you, for your sake, for I leave you here in this evil world, where you are subject to all sorrow, tribulation and affliction, while I depart from tribulation into joy, from this life into the eternal life; but we need not be sorrowful, but resigned to the work of the Lord, for Paul says, "All things work together for, good to them that believe"; hence, remember what we pray, "Lord, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Rom. 8:28; Matt. 6:10.
Therefore, let us take heed, that we do not will anything contrary to the will of he Lord, but that we be patient and longsuffering in all things, so that there may be fulfilled in us the passage contained in John's Revelation, "Here is the patience of the saints." Rev. 14:12. Therefore, dear mother, be patient in all that has now come upon you, and that may yet come upon you.
Farewell, my affectionately beloved mother, and I pray you, when you begin your prayer to God, remember me poor, weak man, your son, imprisoned here for the testimony of the only Son of God, as I hope and doubt not that you do; for James says that the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avails much, and he adduces an example, and says, that Elias was a man like us, and he prayed that it should not rain, and it came to pass so; and he prayed again, that it should rain, and it rained. This, James tells us, to show how effectual the prayer of the faithful is. James 5:16; I Kings 17:1; 18:45.
Christ also says, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, if ye believe and doubt not, it shall be done unto you." Mark 11:24. The Scrintures abundantly testify. that the prayer of the righteous penetrates through the clouds, so that they are heard by the Lord. Herewith I take leave from you, dear mother, if it should be the last time, and I commend you to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of all comfort console you, the strong God strengthen your faith, to resist all the fiery darts of the wicked one; the Lord keep your going out and your coming in, now and for ever. Amen.
Adieu, my dearest mother, adieu in this life, till we see each other in life eternal, with Christ our only Head and Bridegroom. Amen.
Greet my dearest brother in the Lord Christ Jesus, the dearest brother I have on earth; greet him very cordially, and also my chosen dear master, if he is with you. Greet my beloved brother D. B.. when you write to him. My mother, take this my simple letter in good part, since T have written it out of love, according to my little knowledge. which the Lord, through grace. has given me unworthy man. The Lord be with us all. Amen.
By me your son, whom you well know, at present confined in prison, at Antwerp, on the 7th of July, A. D. 1576, for the Gospel, and for the con-
fession of the only Son of God, Christ .Jesus our Saviour, whom the world does not confess, but denies.
Grace and peace from God our dear heavenly Father, full of grace and truth, rich in mercy and loving kindness, through the bitter suffering and death of His only Son Christ Jesus, who loved us, and washed us in His blood, from all our sins and iniquities that we have done; the power of the Holy Ghost, to strengthen you in the belief of the truth, which the Lord through His unspeakable grace and mercy has revealed to you: this I, your weak brother, wish you from all the heart, to the salvation of your soul. Amen.
Affectionately beloved sister in Christ Jesus, whom I love from the heart, I cannot refrain from writing you this brief letter, here in this pit into which I have been cast, without any light except the light of the candle.
Hence, I herewith bid you adieu, if I should write you no more, which is known to our dear heavenly Father.
I further inform you, my beloved friend, that by His divine help, I want to keep the covenant that I have made with my God, and wait for the coming of our Bridegroom Christ Jesus, that when He comes, I may enter in with Him to the marriage, and be forever in joy. O dear sister, I cannot sufficiently praise or thank our God for His unspeakable mercy, that He succors and strengthens me here in this pit into which I have been cast for .the word of truth.
Dear sister, remember me poor prisoner in your prayers to God, as I hope that you also do; that it may please Him to deliver me soon out of this flesh. so that I may offer up my sacrifice to the praise of His holy name and to the salvation of my soul, so that these enemies may be confounded in their purpose, who think to rob me of my.inheritance, through this pit into which they have now cast me; but thanks be to the Lord that succors me in my distress, and is my only helper, to whom I fly for refuge, for Paul says that He is faithful and true, and will not lay upon us more than we are able to bear. Col. 1:12; Ps. 46:1; I Cor. 10:13. ,
Hence, dear sister, always remember your poor, weak brother to the Lord, for the prayer of the righteous avails much.
O dear sister, these cruel wolves have taken from me all my letters which you have sent me, pens, ink, and paper, altogether, and also a few things that I had written myself. Also two letters, one which I had written to my dear brother H., and another, almost finished, to my brother Willem, and besides one thing and another; but I hope not hat any, trouble will arise from it.
The fact of our writing was disclosed by one that was confined with me; if I were to write you all of it, my paper would give out. This paper I have received since, from the man that was confined with me in this pit.
Thus, I have been confined here ten days; how much longer I am to remain here, is known to our dear Lord. I was confined here, according to my recollection, on a Friday night, the 27th or 28th of July.
But, my dear sister, always adhere to the truth, which is Christ; be not afraid of these wolves, for our God always succors us, according to His promise, in all distress. Heb. 13:5.
I bid you a cordial adieu, my dear sister, greet my mother most heartily in my name, and all my sisters, our brother Hans, and my dear master, and also all the friends. I pray you, do not let my mother know that they have cast me into this Lazarus' pit. The Lord be with you, and keep you in His ways always and for ever. Amen.
Written by me your weak brother, by the light of a candle, in a pit which is called Lazarus' pit, where I am confined for the Word of truth. The Lord knows my redemption. HANS BRET.
The great unspeakable grace and peace from God our heavenly Father, who is a Father full of grace and truth, a God of comfort and of peace, rich and abundant is His mercy, and inexpressible is His grace and goodness, which He has shown us through His only begotten Son Christ Jesus our Redeemer and Saviour, who has redeemed us from the power of Satan, whose slaves and servants we were through our sins and iniquities. But He loved us, says St. John, and washed and cleansed us in His blood from all our sins and iniquities; with which we were burdened and laden; and made us kings and priests before God His Father. The invincible power of the Holy Ghost strengthen your inner man, so that you may grow up and increase in the faith of the truth which the good God through His unspeakable grace and mercy has revealed to you; that you may with Joshua and Caleb and all God's righteous ones take the promised land, namely, eternal life. This is the whole wish of my heart to you my brother in Christ Jesus, to the salvation of your soul. Amen.
My beloved brother in Christ Jesus, sanctified and cleansed, and elected of God, I greet you with this my letter, which I write to you here in these my bonds, out of Christian love, that you may know how it is with me, for which I cannot sufficiently praise or thank the good God, who has assisted me, unworthy one, in all my temptations, so that I can say with the prophet David, "Where is a God like unto our God, who never forsakes him
that trusteth in him; for he that trusteth in the Lord shall not be ashamed. For the prophet says
He that trusteth in the Lord shall not fall, but stand forever as mount Zion." Ps. 125:1. Hence, dear brother, my trust is in the Lord alone, in whom all the righteous have trusted from the beginning of the world; nor were they confounded, but in all tribulation and distress the Lord was their helper, and, according to His promise, succored and preserved them in the water and the fire (Isa. 43:2), as we have many examples concerning it in the Scriptures, for our instruction. When we consider how God led the children of Israel dryshod through the Red Sea, and thus delivered them from the hand of cruel Pharaoh, who persecuted them and attempted also to cross the sea, but they all perished; hereby you may perceive how the Lord delivers him that trusts in Him. Again, consider holy and righteous Daniel, who was in the lions' den, without any food; behold, the Lord did not forsake him, but fed him through the prophet Habakkuk. History of the Dragon 34.
Thus, dear brother, the Lord also feeds those that firmly trust in Him with spiritual food, namely, with His Holy Word, which He' has given us as food for our souls. For Christ clearly says that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. Matthew 4:4. For as man is fed and nourished by bread, so the inward man is fed and nourished by the word of the Lord. For as a man, when that which is necessary for his sustenance is withheld from him, perishes; so also, my dear, when from the inner man, the soul, there is withheld her food, namely, the Word of God, by which she is fed and nourished, she perishes; hence, it is so necessary that we exhort one another, as the apostle Paul says, while it is called Today, to the keeping of God's commandments, that the inner man may daily be fed and nourished, and thereby grow up and become strong. Heb. 3:13; I Pet. 2:2. For the apostle Peter says, "I deem it expedient and profit able, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to exhort you, though you are established in the present truth"; lest, as Paul says, any of you be seduced or hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. II Peter 1:12, 13; Heb. 3:13. Hence, my dear brother, have in remembrance the words of the holy apostle Paul, who says, "Warn them that are disorderly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men." I Thess. 5:14.
O my dearest brother, weary not in the ways of the Lord, neither become slack in keeping God's commandments; have your delight therein day and night, with all God's righteous ones, and say,with the prophet David, "Lord, Thy Word is a greater comfort and joy to me, than all the treasures and riches of this world" and, again, "Thy word, O Lord, is dearer to me than-much gold or silver." Psalm 1:2; 119. . .
Consider how all God's righteous ones comforted themselves with the word of the Lord. So, do also you console yourself with it; have it in remembrance all your life; let it be planted in your soul, that it may save you. James 1:21.
Thug, my beloved brother Hans, I bid you adieu; adieu, if it should be the last time that I write you. I pray you, my dear, persevere steadfastly in exhorting, instructing and teaching, according to the gift which God through His unspeakable grace has given you. If you have received much, dispense liberally; if you have little, communicate also of that little: Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you. I Pet. 3:15. Get much gain with that which you have received, so that the Lord may say to you, "Come, thou faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things." Matt. 25:21. Behold, dear brother, if a man is faithful to the Lord, He will not leave him unrewarded for it. Hence, God says in His Revelation to John, "He that remains faithful shall receive the crown of eternal life." Rev. 2:1Q; Matt. 19:29; James 1:12. Do also you, my dearest brother, remain faithful, so that you may with all God's righteous ones be crowned with the crown of eternal life; to this end may the good God strengthen you, that you may enjoy this forever. Amen.
My dear brother H., my heart and mind writes you indeed more, according to the little gift which I have unworthily received from the Lord; but I lack paper, and I am afraid that you will hardly be able to read this, since the paper blots so. Oh, I thank you so heartily for what you have so faithfully sent me. I am so glad, that I should not be able to describe my joy to you; for I had not heard from you for a long time. I pray you, thank our brother H. very heartily in my name, for his letter, which I could not read without tears, because of his comforting exhortation. He writes me that I should write a letter to A. H. and one to B. O brethren, I would most gladly do so, rather than eat; but the enemies of the truth have prevented me from it, so that I do not know how I could send you the letters. I know not how I shall send this letter; but I have written it in the hope that our dear Lord would provide a means; and though I would like to write more, I have no more paper. I have written this with a little bilberry juice; I hope that if it pleases the Lord you will send me some writing materials, to employ myself while I must pass my time here. Hence, dear brother, no more for this time, through want of paper.
Herewith I bid you adieu; adieu, my brother adieu. The God of comfort and of peace, the God of Jacob and of Israel, keep you in the faith of the truth; may He be with you forever. Amen.
I greet you, dear brother, with a holy kiss of peace. Greet my mother very heartily in my name, and all my sisters, and our brother H., my master. Say that I sent her a letter not long ago; but whether she received it, I do not know. Greet all
the saints in my name. Grace and peace be with you all. Amen.
Written by me, your weak brother, whom you well know, at present in bonds for the testimony of the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Rom. 1:16. HANS BRET.