In the year 1671 there arose again a severe persecution against the Anabaptists, in said dominion of Berne; which persecution was so rigorous and long-continued, that it seemed that the authorities would not desist, until they should have utterly driven that people out of their dominion, or exterminate them. In consequence of this it also happened, that about seven hundred persons, small and great, found themselves compelled to leave their abode, forsake their property, and, many of them, also their kindred, together with their earthly fatherland, and betake themselves with the others to the Palatinate, in hope that the Lord should so order it, that they might find a place of abode there. We were eyewitnesses, as to how it went when they arrived there, and we inspected place after place whither they had come to find abodes.
However, as we, just before we went thither, had received, from the persecuted people themselves, as well as from others who wrote in their name, and as they told them, several letters, which plainly state the circumstances and condition of this persecution, just as we had heard it from their own lips, we deemed it advisable, to insert the same here, in order that the Christian reader, reading them, may fancy to himself, that he hears the account, not of ear or eye witnesses, but even of the very people that suffered said persecution. The letters read as follows
As to the request of the friends, concerning the situation of our Swiss brethren in the Berne dominion, the facts are, that they are in a very sad condition, as we have learned from the lips of the fugitives that have arrived here, some of whom are still in my house. They say that they are daily hunted with constables, and, as many as they can get, taken prisoners to the city of Berne, so that about four weeks ago about forty, men and women, were in confinement there. They have also scourged some, and banished them from the country, one of whom has arrived here. They also scourged a minister in the word, and then conducted him out of the country, into Burgundy, where, when they arrived there, they first branded him, and let him go among the Walloons. However, as he could talk with no one, he had to go about three days with his burnt body, before his wounds were dressed and he obtained some refreshments; being in such a condition, that when they undressed him for the purpose of binding up his wounds, the matter ran down his back, as a brother who helped dress the wound told me himself. This friend arrived in Alsace together with two women and a man, who had also been scourged and banished. Hence they proceed very severely, and, as it seems, will not desist from their purpose, until they shall have utterly banished from their country and exterminated this harmless people.
It also appears that nothing further can be done in favor of these persecuted brethren; for besides that the friends at Amsterdam and elsewhere labored for several years in the matter, so that several favorable letters of recommendation from the Lords States of Holland, as also in particular from the city of Amsterdam, and also of other persons of quality, were sent thither to the magistrates; also, in the year 1660, an Express named Adolf de Vreede, was sent to them; however, he did not effect much for the benefit of our friends there. Hence, I cannot see that the friends at present will be able to effect anything that would tend to the relief of our persecuted brethren there. We will have to await with patience the deliverance which the Lord our God may be pleased to grant them.
The persecution of our friends continues as rigorous as before, so that we are surprised, that they do not make more speed in leaving the country. Now and then one or two come straggling down; but the most of them still stay above Strasburg, in Alsace. Some go into the woods and chop wood; others go to the mountains and work in the vineyards, in the hope, as it appears to me, that by-andby tranquility will be restored, and that they might then be able with the greater convenience to return to their forsaken abodes; but I fear, that it will not pass over so soon, and that they will find themselves greatly deceived in their hope.
The magistrates at Berne caused six of the prisoners, among whom was a man with nine children, to be fastened to a chain, and to be sold for the sea, to be used as galley slaves between Milan and Malta; but as to what they propose to do with the other prisoners, cannot really be learned. One of the prisoners, an old man of about eighty years, died in prison. May the Lord comfort them in their sorrow, and strengthen them in their weakness, so that they may patiently bear the cross, and strive faithfully unto the end, for the truth of the Gospel, and thus be enabled ultimately to obtain the promised salvation and crown of life. Amen.
Hendrick de Backer, most esteemed friend and beloved brother in Christ. I wish you and yours much grace and peace from God our 'Heavenly Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, as a friendly greeting. Amen.
This is in reply to your request touching the condition of our persecuted Swiss brethren. The facts are, that on the 11th ult., it was resolved in the full council at Berne, to send the male prisoners that are young and strong also upon the galleys, even as they have before this done to six of them; but the old and feeble they would either send elsewhere, or keep them in perpetual confinement. Learning of this resolution, and being moved to compassion, a certain gentleman in Berne went to the magistrates, and requested that they would be pleased to postpone sending away the prisoners until he could go to their fellow believers, residing in Alsace, and see whether they would be responsible for the prisoners, by promising that the latter, after leaving the country, should return no more without consent. This he obtained, and coming into Alsace to our friends, he presented the matter to them, who, as soon as they had heard it, forthwith accepted the conditions, and promised in case the authorities at Berne should be pleased to send the prisoners to them, that they would be responsible for them, and aid them in obtaining other abodes. This our friends, as I understand, promised this gentleman (his name was Beatus), not only orally, but also gave it to him in writing. Thereupon he promised them again to do his best with the authorities of Berne, and hoped to obtain so much from them, that they should bring the prisoners as far as Basle, from where the friends might take them away with them. Hence, we long to meet them, daily expecting to hear that they have arrived in Alsace, or that they shall come over here to us.
At this moment there have arrived at my house, four Swiss brethren with their wives and children, who say, that also many others are on the way, since the persecution and search are daily increasing. Concluding herewith, I commend you, after a Christian and brotherly greeting, to the Most High, for your eternal salvation.
Your affectionate friend and brother in Christ,
Concerning our Swiss friends, they are now coming this way in large parties, so that there have already arrived over two hundred persons, and among them are many old, gray-headed people, both men and women, that have reached seventy, eighty, yea, ninety years; also a number that are crippled and lame; carrying their bundles on their backs, with children on their arms, some of good cheer, some also with tearful eyes, particularly the old and feeble persons, who now in their great age are compelled to wander about in misery, and go to strange countries, and many of them having nothing on which to sleep by night, so that I and others with me, have now for about two weeks had to make it our regular work, to provide shelter and other necessaries for them.
We are also in daily expectation of still more, so that we hope, that when the people have mostly left the country, the prisoners also will be released. Farewell.
The sequel was, that continually more and more of the expelled fugitives came down from Switzerland into the Palatinate, in all nearly seven hundred persons, old and young, among whom were families of eight, ten, and as many as twelve children, who had scarcely been able to bring with them enough for their traveling expenses, as appears from the following extract
There has arrived in the region above Heidelberg, a man, being a minister in the North, having twelve, mostly very young children, but having, as I understand, brought with him only four rixdollars in money, and a very poor horse. Some others have brought with them some money, but many nothing at all, so that after close examination there was found among two hundred and eighty-
two persons, one thousand and forty-six rix-dollars. And in the Alzey Bailiwick, among two hundred and fifteen persons, six hundred and eight rix-dollars. In the Darmstein Bailiwick, there were found one hundred and forty-four persons; but as to what their means are, I have not learned; but from appearances I judge them to be the most indigent. In short, we find that their number consists of about eighty full families, then further, widows, single persons, and husbands and wives that had to forsake their companions, because the latter, being attached to the Reformed Religion, could not make up their minds to leave; in all, six hundred and forty-one persons, whose funds amount to no more than the little sum already stated; so that you can easily calculate, that considerable assistance will be necessary. Besides these, we understand, there are about one hundred persons more sojourning in Alsace, whom we also expect by the forepart of the year. Farewell. Thus far the extracts from the letters.
Subsequently the brotherhoods residing in the provinces of the United Netherlands, in March of the same year, 1672, sent some from their midst to the Palatinate, who traveling everywhere to the persecuted brethren, and hearing and seeing them, not only found the above related, to be true, but also, that already some of the last-mentioned had come over from Alsace, who, bringing also, like the others, no funds with them, were, together with these, aided and comforted by the common assistance of the wealthy churches or brotherhoods of the United Provinces.
Moreover, they learned from some of the forty prisoners themselves that they had all been released, and, according to the request of the abovementioned gentleman, been brought to Basle, and there turned over to their brethren, with whom they then together removed. But when the chiefest of them were asked why they had not left sooner and sought such places, where they might have lived with more freedom according to their conscience, seeing the authorities had not prevented their leaving, they gave different reasons for it, of which the following ones were not the least
1. They said that they say that the churches greatly waxed and increased, so that, though under the cross, they nevertheless flourished as a rose among thorns, and that further increase could daily be expected, because many persons manifested themselves, who saw the light shine out of darkness, and began to love the same and seek after it; that the ministers considering this in their heart, found themselves loath to leave the country, fearing that thereby this promising harvest might be lost, and thus many fall back from their good purpose; and hence, they chose rather to suffer a little than to leave, in order that they might yet rescue some souls from perdition, and bring them to Christ.
2. A second reason was that they could not so easily take their departure to other countries, because there are among them many divided families, of whom the husband or the wife is in the church, while the companion still attended the public church, in which case, if the latter would not follow their persecuted companions, also to forsake everything and leave the country, it caused great inconvenience and sorrow; that there were even divers ministers not exempt from this difficulty, and there were also two ministers there in the Palatinate, who had wives that were not in the church, and whom they (having secretly been warned by a good friend), also had had to leave by night, and take to flight, without knowing as yet whether their wives should follow them, or whether they, loving their property more than their husbands, should remain there in the land, and forsake their husbands. That such cases created the more sorrow and difficulty, because the authorities granted liberty to such remaining persons, whether women or men, to marry again and seek other companions. These and other reasons had prevented them from departing uncompelled out of their earthly fatherland; but induced them, rather (as they had now done), to wait until they should see that they could no longer remain there and preserve a good consience.
Truly, it is to be lamented that at this time, when the light of the Gospel has shone so long to the protestants, there are nevertheless still found among them those who think it good to persecute such who in every respect are good and pious subjects, and differ from them only in certain points concerning the Christian religion. Oh, how little there is regarded by such conduct, the teaching of our Saviour, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. And yet such complain of the persecution that is inflicted in France, Hungary, and elsewhere upon their brotherhoods. But what do you think, might they not with justice be replied to in the same manner in which the Apostle Paul replied to the Jews, Rom. 11:21,* etc.? Certainly, very justly.
We conclude this recital with this earnest prayer, namely, that God the Lord would be pleased so to direct the hearts of those that are in authority, that we may under their reign and dominion lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all godliness and honesty. And if it should be, that the great God might deem it good, to permit the persecution of His believers here or there, that He might then be pleased to abide with them with His fatherly care and comfort, and through grace grant that their afflictions may be accompanied with patience, their faith with steadfastness, and their virtues with faithfulness; all to the honor of His name, that can never be praised enough, and to the salvation of their souls, through Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
In connection with the above account of the persecutions that came upon the Swiss brethren, we do not deem it out of place to add the following, namely, that a certain old and pious brother (commonly called Haslibacher, because he was born at Haslibach); was apprehended for his faith, and brought to Berne, where in prison he was handled very severely, and cruelly tortured; but when he, notwithstanding this, steadfastly adhered to his faith, there came to him in the prison, soon after, one Friday, several preachers, who disputed with him, against whom he so bravely conducted himself, in defending his simple confession of faith, that they could accomplish nothing with him. Thereupon the preachers came to him again the following day, being Saturday, speaking more harshly to him, and severely, threatening him, that if he did not renounce his faith, his head should be laid before his feet. Upon this, the good old man courageously replied, that he should in no wise renounce his faith, but would steadfastly adhere to the same, since he felt perfectly assured that his faith was so acceptable to God, that He should by no means forsake him in distress and death.
Thereupon it happened, as is credibly related, that in the following night from Saturday until Sunday he was comforted and strengthened by a divine vision, and exhorted to adhere steadfastly to his accepted faith; and that, though they should severely threaten him, even so that they should put him to death with the sword, he should nevertheless not be terrified, for the Lord should be at his side, and not suffer that he should feel any pain from it.
Now when on Monday the preachers again came to him and disputed with him as before, endeavoring to move him from his faith, adding, that if he did not renounce, he should be punished with death the next day. Haslibacher boldly answered, "I am ready to suffer my head to be struck off, much rather than apostatize from my faith."
Thereupon, when the preachers left him, and he in the evening fell into a deep sleep which lasted until midnight; it is said that he had a dream in which it was shown him that they would behead him (through which he was suddenly awakened), and it was made known to him in a special manner, that he should be punished with the sword, but that there should be given three special signs, whereby his innocence would appear before men.
NOTE.-As reference has been made to three signs, which however, are not mentioned, but are given in the hymn (the last one of the Gesangbuch der Taufgesinnten), we will in order to complete the account, here insert this hymn in full. We will, however, add that neither this hymn nor the list of Swiss martyrs, copied by Hans Loersch, following it, were contained in the Holland editions of the Martyrs' Mirror, but were afterwards added in the German editions. The hymn which also appears only in part in the German, is here given entire.Publishers.
Give ear, kind friends, and help who can,
To sing about an aged man,
Who hailed from Haslibach;
Hence, Haslibacher was he called,
And lived in parish Summiswald.
Since our dear Lord permission gave,
To men t' accuse him as a knave,
Because of his true faith;
Hence bound they him with rigor stern,
And led him to the town of Berne.
And though he was imprisoned here,
And tortured with torments severe,
For holding to his faith;
Yet did he steadfast still remain,
In torture. anguish, and in pain.
One Friday moning, mark my words,
There came some educated lords,
Into his prison hold;
And in dispute did him enlist,
That he should from his faith desist.
Our Haslibacher then and there,
Gave all their babblings to the air,
For thus he straightway said"
My faith I never will forsake,
Though life and body you should take."
On Saturday these learned men
Came to his prison-hold again,
And thus with threats they spake"
Thou must renounce thy heresy,
Or else thou shalt beheaded be."
Instant he answered with bold heart
"From this my faith I'll ne'er depart,
But firmly cleave thereto;
For God accepts my faith as right
And He'll protect me by His might."
And when night's sable garb was spread,
God's angel came with might and said,
In Haslibacher's ear"
Tis God who me to thee doth send,
To comfort theee before thy end.
"Moreover I will counsel thee,
Not wavering in thy faith to be,
But strong therein remain;
For God accepted thy belief-
He'll keep thy soul and bring relief.
"And though they threaten with the sword
To execute thee, let their word
In thee cause no dismay
For at thy side I will remain
To succor thee from every pain."
And thus again, when Monday came,
Those tutored men of priestly fame
To Haslibacher went,
And sorely him with words they ply,
That his belief he should deny.
"If not," they said, and meant it too,
"Tomorrow's morn brings death to you."
But Haslibacher said"
This body you may put to death-
I'll give my head, but not my faith."
When night again her mantle spread,
Deep sleep fell on his weary head,
Until the clock struck twelve.
He dreamed he was in daylight fair,
Led forth to be beheaded there.
This wakes him up, as well it might,
And lo, about him all is light.
A book before him lies,
And angel's holy voice explains
"Read what this little book contains."
And when he reads the book he finds
That his tormentors set their minds,
That they would him behead.
But God would let three signs appear
To show th' injustice he should bear.
When he had read it to the end,
Night's darkness did again descend,
And sleep his eyelids closed,
'Til daylight brought these murderous men,
Into his prison cell again.
"Good morning, friend," he from them hears,
With thanks, like greeting meets their ears.
Then unto him they said:
That he the Word divine should hear,
Or feast on executioner's fare.
"From this my faith I'll ne'er let go,
The Word of God full well I know;
My cause to God I give;
Yet deep regret doth fill my heart,'
That innocent I must depart."
They led him to an inn in haste,
And meat and drink before him placed,
The hangman by his side
That deep disgust and fear of death,
Might make him yet renounce his faith.
Quoth Haslibacher to the man
"Eat, drink; make merry while you can,
For though upon this day
You offer up my guiltless blood,
My soul more quickly soars to God."
He further said, "The Lord will show
Three signs, to let you plainly know
That innocent I die;
For when my head's struck off, 'twill fall
Into my hat, and laugh withal.
"The second sign upon the sun
You'll plainly see when it is done;
And of the third take heed
The sun will, like my blood, be red,
The town-well likewise blood will shed.
"The judge unto the lords decreed:
Of these three signs take godly heed.
Remember also this:
That if this all shall happen so,
'Twill work your soul's eternal woe."
When he had finished his repast,
They took his hands to tie them fast;
When Haslibacher said
"Pray, Lorenz, listen to my plea,
And leave my hands from fetters free.
"I'm ready now and do rejoice,
That you have let me have my choice
To die and pass from hence.
But Lord, show mercy unto them,
Who me this day to death condemn."
When he at last the block had faced,
He doffed his hat and had it placed
The multitude before
"Friend Lorenz, to my prayer give ear,
I beg to leave my hat lie here."
With this he bowed his knees in prayer,
And when the Paternoster there,
He earnestly had prayed,
He said, "To God I've given my cause,
Act now, according to your laws."
Down comes the sword, when lo, the head
Springs in his hat, as he had said;
And all the signs were seen-
The sun was red and looked like blood,
The town-well shed a crimson flood.
Amazed, an aged sire said"
The Anabaptist laughs, though dead."
Then said another sire
"If you had let this Baptist live,
Eternally you would not grieve."
With one accord the people said.
"Henceforth no Baptist's blood we'll shed."
Then said an aged sire
"Had you not acted 'gainst my will,
This Baptist would be living still."
The hangman too was heard to say"
'Tis guiltless blood I've shed today."
Then said a yeoman old
"The Anabaptist's mouth did laugh,
Which surely indicates God's wrath."
He who composed this little hymn,
Received his death in prison dim,
A sinful mob to please.
They brought him pen and ink to write,
And thus he bade us all"Good night."
NOTE.-At the close of the German edition of the Martyrs' Mirror an extract was received and inserted which Hans Lcersch had copied out of the Tower Book at Berne, and which has been preserved by Christian Kropff; the same reads as follows
At Berne the following persons were executed for the faith: In the year 1528: Hans Seckler, a joiner, and hatter, at Aarau. In the year 1529: Conrad Eicher of Straffisburg; two believers from the Seignioralty Bix; a tinker from the Emmenthal; Ulrich Schneider, of Luetzgenpfluehe; a young lad from Wallis; Hagerly, from the Seignioralty Alburg. In the year 1536: the 2nd of May, Moritz Losenegger. In the year 1537: Bernhard Waelty of Ruederswil, on the 7th of July; Hans Schweitzer of Ruegsau, Juerg Hoffser of Obergallbach, from the Seignioralty Siegnau on the 28th of August, Ulrich Bichsel; Barbeli Willher of Hassli; Barbeli zur Studen of Summiswald; Catharina Friedli Imhoff; Verena Issoli of Schuelbah from the Seignioralty Seignau; Ulrich of Ruegsau. In the year 1538: Cunas Seidenkohen of Constance, on the 28th of March; Peter Stucki, at Wimmis on the 16th of April; Ulrich Huben of Rietenbach from the Seignioralty Seignau; Hans Willer, in August; Elsbeth Kuepfer of Summiswald; two women, on the 28th of May, the one of Summiswald, the other of Hoestetten; Peter Wes-
senmiller of Wimmis, on the 7th of September; Stephen Ruegsegger, on the 8th of December, who was executed at Einygen; one from the Seignioralty Seignau; one of Summiswald; Rudolph Isolly from the Tannenthal. In the year 1539: Lorenz Aeberly of Gruenau, on the 3d of June; Hans Schumacher from the Aargau, of Wuemistern. In the year 1532: one of Oberbip, on the lst of May; Peter Ancken from the Siebenthal. In the year 1543: Christian Oberlen, on the 17th of September; . Hans Ancken of Ausseldingen; Waelty Gaerber on the Striethalter, from the Seignioralty Seignau. In the year 1571, on the 20th of December: Hans Haslibacher, from the Seignioralty Summiswald, who was executed at Haslibach.