Now when some brethren and sisters in the Swiss dominions had died in prison, of misery, want, hunger, and grief, but five still lived in confinement, the remaining ones who were yet out of bonds, when they were threatened, especially by those of Berne, that they should expel them all from the country, and seize their goods, and sell them, had recourse, next to God, with an humble and friendly letter, to their fellow believers in Holland and elsewhere in the Netherlands, requesting that they should everywhere fervently call upon God the Lord in their behalf, for comfort and grace, to the end that they might patiently endure that which might come upon them according to the flesh, for His holy name's sake.
This letter was written the 22d of July, old style, in the year of our Lord 1645, and was signed by
What followed therefrom, and how it subsequently went with those who were imprisoned, can be seen in a subsequent account, in a marginal note, in connection with Ully Wagman.
But as to how the poor wanderers that were not imprisoned managed in their misery and poverty, we have received no clear information, but it can be sufficiently inferred from the sad condition of affairs.
The persecution of the sheep of Christ remained at this time not confined in the limits of Zurich and Berne; but as a fire of gunpowder, or a flash of lightning, rapidly passes from one place to another, so it went also here; for also those of Schaffhausen, being one of the Swiss cities designated by the name of Cantons, following the footsteps of their fellow believers, took, even as the former, to banishing the defenseless people who, having hitherto peaceably lived under their protection, were called Anabaptists.
There was, however, some time set them, in which they might leave with their families; hence the distress of those whom this befell was not so great as that of those of whom we made previous mention, and of whom we shall hereafter speak.
All this was caused by a certain edict published for this purpose, which, if it were necessary, could be adduced here; but for certain reasons we are compelled to be brief, and to abridge our account as much as is possible.
Even as an innocent lamb that has escaped the wolf, at last falls into the claws of the bear, so it went also at this time; inasmuch as some of the defenseless followers of the meek Jesus, daring no longer to trust themselves to the Swiss confines, under the dominion of the Zwinglian Reformed, fled hither and thither, and thus also, as it appears, into Bergsland, the dominions of Guliche, and elsewhere, where the Roman Catholic Prince of Neuburg, William Wolfgang ruled, and where the Anabaptists had lived in peace for many years, under toleration.
But now it came to pass, about the year 1653; that the same prince, instigated, as it is supposed, by certain envious and malignant Jesuits, also opposed all those that were called Anabaptists within the limits of his dominion; insomuch that he, by a certain public mandate, banished these people, in whatever part of his dominion they were resident, however with these conditions
1. That all Anabaptists who had become such by apostatizing from the Romish religion, should have to leave without delay.
2. That all other Anabaptists, who had not apostatized from the Romanists, but had proceeded out of themselves, if they owned no real estate, should have to leave within half a year.
3. That all like . conditioned Anabaptists, who owned real estate, and were engaged in an established mercantile business, should be granted for their removing, in order first to save their property, two years, etc. All this was accompanied with certain threats.
This was executed by his order, and published without any delay in every place of his dominion where it is customary to make proclamation; however, at Glabbeeck, in the country of Guliche (from where we have received information concerning this matter), it was done on the last of January of the year 1653.
In the meantime divers supplications for mitigation of the afore-mentioned edict were delivered to the prince; to which, as it appears, he would in a measure have been inclined: but before this was done, he departed this world; hence that which had already been published remained in force with his successor.
Hence the afore-mentioned people had to leave those parts, and everyone had to look out where he might best go; in which the Lord God showed many of them the grace that they were peaceably and joyfully received in the places whither they went, especially in the country of Cleves, under the Elector of Bradenburg, and in the Netherlands., "When they persecute you in this city," says the Lord,"flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." Matt. 10:23.
There was some respite or abatement, as it appears, between the years 1644 and 1654, in the Zurich dominions, inasmuch as we have not learned of any one having died in prison, from bad food or maltreatment (though some, of those whom we previously, and also in the margin, made mention of, had been apprehended a considerable time previously); but when the year 1654 was come, we again learn of the death of a pious Christian there.
They aimed at the leaders of the church, especially at those who ministered in the Word of God. Among these they had apprehended, and imprisoned at Zurich, in the convent Othenbach, a very dear and worthy man, who, from a faithful heart, with the gift he had received from God, took heed to the church of Jesus Christ, and cared for it spiritually; his name was Ully Wagman.
But as in his imprisonment he was treated very harshly and rigorously, he felt that his death was near, and having commended his soul unto God, he departed this life. Compare both of the aforementioned tracts.
With him there was imprisoned another brother, who after Ully's death (since he did not want to apostatize, nor to go to church with his opponents) remained in confinement about two years longer, namely, until the 2d of October, A. D. 1656. But as to how it subsequently ended with him, we have not learned. M. Meyli, Tract edition 1658.
Meanwhile, the former lost his life, while the latter remained in bonds. The Lord will hereafter pronounce a righteous judgment upon those who have done and those who have suffered this; the dead that die in the Lord are blessed; those imprisoned for the testimony of Jesus Christ shall be brought into the liberty of the children of God; and on the other hand, those who imprisoned shall be imprisoned and bound with the woeful bonds of darkness; those who put to death the pious, or were the cause of their death, and have not repented of it, will, it is to be feared, not escape the second and eternal death. Oh, that those who may be guilty in this matter, and are still living, might repent before their death! Oh, that from persecutors they would became true followers of Christ and of His saints! Oh, that they might be saved! This we also wish them out of pure love and from the heart.
NOTE.-Already prior to the year 1645 they had at divers times brought this and that one of the scattered flock of Christ prisoner to Zurich, and confined them in Othenbach. Among these there were particularly five brethren, namely, Jacob Aussilly, Jacob Gachnauer, Jacob Baumgarter, Hans Huber, and another, named Henry. With these,it went, consecutively, as follows
Jacob Aussilly, from the county Kiberg, was imprisoned in Othenbach already m the year 1644, stripped of his clothes, dressed in a long grey coat, and fastened to a chain.
Jacob Gachnauer, from the Groeningen Bailiwick, was first with his wife driven out of the country, his family broke up, the children expelled and thrust into poverty, house and furniture sold, and the proceeds thereof delivered into the hands of the authorities. But when he subsequently undertook to come back into the country, to seek his scattered children, he met the persecutors on the way, who also imprisoned him in Othenbach, deprived him of his clothes, dressed him in a gray coat, fastened him to a chain, and dealt with him as with the preceding brother.
Jacob Baumgarter, an old man of seventy years, had prior to this time been imprisoned five times on account of his faith, but had escaped every time; but when he was now apprehended, and also brought to Othenbach, there was no hope of deliverance, for they also fastened him to a chain, likewise deprived him of his clothes, and, as had been done to the former, also dressed him in a gray coat. Moreover, he was for a time fed on bread and water, stripped twice, and put in irons twice, and also in fetters and handcuffs, etc.; his house and homestead were sold for 500 guilders, and the money delivered to the authorities.
Hans Huber, from the Horgerberg, was first imprisoned with eleven other brethren, for the faith's sake, from which bonds he was delivered with his companions; but he was subsequently again apprehended, and imprisoned in a strong place at Othenbach; and as he was fettered and chained, there was no prospect for him to be released without the miraculous help of God.
In the meantime, his wife and her sister, two aged women, were driven into exile, also because of the faith.
The last, named Henry, had divers times also been severely persecuted for the testimony of Jesus Christ, and had also been imprisoned; but he was now confined with the others, in a way which made deliverance almost an impossibility.
They were all chained, and stripped of their usual garments, and dressed, in the aforementioned manner, for a mockery and reproach, in long gray coats.
Thus they persevered until the last of August of the year 1645, being the time when we heard of them for the last time; how it further went with them, we have not been able to ascertain.
In the meantime there cannot be withheld from them the name of pious witnesses of Jesus Christ; since they professed a good profession, and, moreover, suffered all this for His name's sake. See Tract, Mang., of the year 1645, completed the 15th of September.
When all the afore-mentioned outrages perpetrated on the Swiss brethren gave rise to much censure on the part of some people, against the authors of said outrages, a certain letter was sent from the city of Zurich to one of the merchants at Amsterdam, in which the cause of the persecuted brethren was represented in the blackest hues, but the cause of their persecutors, in the fairest colors; consisting principally in the assertion, that those who were persecuted there were quite a different class of people, and of another faith and practice, than their fellow believers in the Netherlands, namely, that they were disobedient, stubborn, etc.
This letter having arrived at Amsterdam, it was found good to send the same (either the original or a copy of it) to the Swiss brethren; to the end that they might obtain from them a correct and true explanation with regard to this matter.
Thereupon they wrote an answer upon the 20th of March, old style, or the 30th of the same month, new style, A. D. 1658, and sent the same, together with the confession of their faith to the ministers of the church of God at Amsterdam. .
Therein it is stated, among other things, concerning the slander of disobedience, that even the Zu rich lords of both estates had often confessed to them (the prisoners), that they had been to them very dear and obedient subjects, that is in common or civil matters, yea, that in the matter. of doing right they serve as lights and examples uno others. Again, that they had nothing to complain of them, save only that they would not go to church with them, etc.
It is then stated in said letter, that they had nevertheless been reduced to extreme desolation and misery, in regard to which these words are found, "They apprehended the old and sick, women enceinte and in childbed, together with their innocent babes, and treated said persons in various ways, with great harshness and cruelty; yea, they seized all whom they could get into their power, so that at one time there were, in confinement, thirty-seven persons, of whom many men and women, in consequence of the dampness and long confinement, were very grievously injured in their health, and sixteen persons had to die in these prisons," etc.
This letter was written at Mackenheym, and signed by six elders and ministers from Alsace (whose names on account of the present peril, we will not mention), in the year 1658, in the month and on the day given above.
The little flock of Christ having fled from the confines of Zurich to the regions of Berne, could at this time also there obtain no freedom, inasmuch as those of Berne, following the footsteps of those of Zurich, also undertook to lay hands on them, but especially on the shepherds and leaders of the church, in order that they might by this means, as it Seems, cause the more terror among the innocent sheep and lambs of the scattered flock of Christ.
Seven of the teachers and principal elders of the church were apprehended, for whom special prisons were prepared, namely, Uly Bogart, Anthony Hinnelberg, Jegly Schlebach, Hans Zaug, Uly Baumgarter, Christian Christians, and Rhode Peters.
These were for awhile kept very hard at work, and very poorly fed with heavy food, spelt and rye, to make good the expenses they caused; besides that much reproach, contumely and vituperation was heaped upon them.
They were first told, that they should be kept confined in this manner until the end of their life; in which they patiently comforted and surrendered themselves to the grace of the Lord. . However, when they saw that there was no hope of dissuading these people from their faith and religion, they determined upon another plan (according to what we have been informed from Alsace), namely that
they should have to choose one of these three things: (1) To go with them to church; or, (2) Be perpetually banished to the galleys; or, (3) To have to die by the hands of the executioner.
Certainly a hard and difficult choice; for the first proposition concerns the soul, and the last two the body: by choosing one of these things doubtless either the soul or the body, or even both together, should be imperiled.
If one denies his faith, he does violence to his conscience; or if he adopts another religion, contrary to his heart and mind, he exposes his soul to extreme danger, yea, to the peril of damnation.
If one on the other hand will keep his faith, not bend or violate his conscience, and maintain and defend the religion which he has accepted and thinks necessary to salvation; he brings, in such case, his body in distress, so that he must wander about in misery, or meet with an untimely and violent death.
However, in such a case, it is necessary to consider, that the soul is of infinitely greater importance than the body, which latter at all events must once, when the soul shall continue, be put off. Hence heed ought to be taken to the instruction of Christ, where He says, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matt. 10:28.
As to what was done in this matter, either on the part of the prisoners, or by those who kept them imprisoned, we have not been able to learn; it is certain, however, that they remained in confinement as late as A. D. 1659, which sufficiently indicates the immovableness of their faith, wherein the Lord, who is gracious, be pleased to strengthen them by His good Spirit, so that they, striving steadfastly, may hereafter, with all the saints, of whom we have mentioned many in this book, receive the blessed crown of unfading glory from the Lord.