About the year 1547, there was a God-fearing woman, whose name was Richst Heynes (so named after her husband, according to the custom of the country), and who lived in the Ilst, not far from Sneeck, in Friesland. She also bowed her shoulders under the easy yoke of the Lord Jesus, hearing and following His blessed voice, avoiding that of strangers opposed to Him. The enemies of God perceiving this, very speedily sought to hinder and stop it; to which end, they sent forth tyrannical servants, who came as ravening wolves, and apprehended this defenseless sheep. Her husband perceiving it, escaped with great peril of life. She was very roughly handled, and cruelly bound, without the least mercy or compassion, though she was pregnant, and very near the time of her delivery, so that the midwife had already been with her. But notwithstanding all this, they took her with them, though her little children cried and wept piteously. They brought her to Leeuwaerden in prison, where after three weeks imprisonment, she gave birth to a son. The child, to the great astonishment of all who beheld it, very plainly showed on his arms the marks which his mother had received from the cruel fetters. They afterwards tortured her so cruelly, that she could not lay her hands upon her head. Thus she was maltreated with inhuman tortures, mainly for the reason that she would not betray her brethren, for these wolves were as yet by no means satisfied, but thirsted greatly after more innocent blood. The faithful God, however, who is a fortress in time of need, and a shield to all them that trust in Him, guarded her lips, so that none were betrayed by her. Hence, as nothing could move her to separate from Christ, she was sentenced at said place, thrust into a bag, like an irrational brute, and cast into the water and drowned. All this she as an innocent lamb of Jesus Christ patiently and steadfastly endured for the name of the Lord, remaining faithful unto death; hence she is worthy ultimately to receive the crown of everlasting life from God, and to enjoy it forever and ever.
Claes Lecks, a native of Ostende, was summoned to the town-house, in the year 1548, on account of certain reports that were circulating about him. Having arrived there, he was examined respecting his faith, and, making a good confession, he was committed to prison. He was a man of very good reputation, on account of the many alms which he gave to the poor. When he was examined, he renounced the papistic, Roman church, and also
infant baptism, which he refuted with the holy Scriptures. Thereupon, as he steadfastly adhered to his faith in God, he was sentenced to be strangled and burned. As he was being led out to death, the priest presented the crucifix to him to kiss it, which he refused to do. The priest also said to the people, "Pray for this deceiver; for he is going from this fire into the eternal fire." To this he simply replied, "This is what you say, but I have a better assurance." Thus he offered up his sacrifice as a true child of God.
Elizabeth was apprehended on the 15th of January, 1549. When those who had come to apprehend her entered the house in which she lived, they found a Latin Testament. Having secured Elizabeth, they said, "We have got the right man; we have now the teacheress;" adding, "Where is your husband, Menno Simons, the teacher?"
They then brought her to the town-house. The following day two beadles took her between them to prison.
She was then arraigned before the council, and asked upon oath, whether she had a husband.
Elizabeth answered, "We ought not to swear, but our words should be Yea, yea, and Nay, nay; I have no husband."
Lords, "We say that you are a teacher, and that you seduce many. We have been told this, and we want to know who your friends are."
Elisabeth, "My God has commanded me to love my Lord and my God, and to honor my parents; hence I will not tell you who my parents are; for what I suffer for the name of Christ is a reproach to my friends."
Lords: "We will let you alone in regard to this, but we want to know whom you have taught."
Elizabeth: "Oh, no, my lords, let me in peace with this, but interrogate me concerning my faith, which I will gladly tell you."
Lords: "We shall make you so afraid, that you will tell us."
Elizabeth, "I hope through the grace of God, that He will keep my tongue, so that I shall not become a traitoress, and deliver my brother into death."
Lords: "What persons were present when you were baptized?"
Elizabeth: "Christ said: Ask them that were present, or who heard it." John 18:21.
Lords: "Now we perceive that you are a teacher; for you compare yourself to Christ."
Elizabeth: "No, my lords, far be it from me; for I do not esteem myself above the offscourings which are swept out from the house of the Lord."
Lords: "What then do you hold concerning the house of God? do you not regard our church as the house of God?"
Elizabeth, "No, my lords, for it is written: 'Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said,
I will dwell in them, and walk in them."' II Cor. 6:16.
Lords: "What do you hold concerning our mass?"
Elizabeth: "My lords, of your mass I think nothing at all; but I highly esteem all that accords with the Word of God."
Lords: "What are your views with regard to the most adorable, holy sacrament?"
Elizabeth, "I have never in my life read in the holy Scriptures of a holy sacrament, but of the Lord's Supper." (She also quoted the Scripture relating to this.)
Lords: "Be silent, for the devil speaks through your mouth."
Elizabeth: "Yea, my lords, this is a small matter, for the servant is not better than his lord."
Lords: "You speak from a spirit of pride."
Elizabeth: "No, my lords, I speak with frank. ness."
Lords: "What did the Lord say, when He gave His disciples the Supper?"
Elizabeth: "What did He give them, flesh or bread?"
Lords: "He gave them bread."
Elizabeth: "Did not the Lord remain sitting there? Who then would eat the flesh of the Lord?"
Lords: "What are your views concerning infant baptism, seeing you have been rebaptized?"
Elizabeth: "No, my lords, I have not been rebaptized. I have been baptized once upon my faith; for it is written that baptism belongs to believers."
Lords: "Are our children damned then, because they are baptized?"
Elizabeth: "No, my lords, God forbid, that I should judge the children."
Lords: "Do you not seek your salvation in baptism?"
Elizabeth: "No, my lords, all the water in the sea could not save me; but salvation is in Christ (Acts 4:10), and He has commanded me to love God my Lord above all things, and my, neighbor as myself."
Lords: "Have the priests power to forgive sins?"
Elizabeth: "No, my lords; how should I believe this? I say that Christ is the only priest through whom sins are forgiven." Heb. 7:21.
Lords, "You say that you believe everything that accords with the holy Scriptures; do you not believe the words of James?"
Elizabeth: "Yea, my lords, why should I not believe them?"
Lords: "Does he not say: 'Go to the elder of the church, that he may anoint you, and pray over you?" James 5:14.
Elizabeth: "Yea, my lords; but do you mean to say that you are of this church?"
Lords: "The Holy Ghost has saved you already; you need neither confession nor sacrament?"
Elizabeth, "No, my lords, I acknowledge that I have transgressed the ordinance of the pope,which the Emperor has confirmed by decrees. But prove to me that I have transgressed in any article against my Lord and my God, and I will cry woe over me, miserable being."
The foregoing is the first confession.
Afterwards she was again brought before the council, and led into the torture chamber, Hans, the executioner, being present. The lords then said, "We have thus long dealt with you in kindness;, but if you will not confess, we will resort to severity with you. The Procurator General said, "Master Hans, seize her."
Master Hans answered, "Oh, no, my lords, she will voluntarily confess."
But as she would not voluntarily confess, he applied the thumbscrews to her thumbs and fbrefingers, so that the blood squirted out at the nails.
Elizabeth said, "Oh! I cannot endure it any longer."
The lords said, "Confess, and we will relieve your pain."
But she cried to the Lord her God, "Help me, O Lord, Thy poor handmaiden! for Thou art a helper in time of need."
The lords all exclaimed, "Confess, and we will relieve your pain; for we told you to confess, and not to cry to God the Lord."
But she steadfastly adhered to God her Lord, as related above; and the Lord took away her pain, so that she said to the lords, "Ask me, and I shall answer you: for I no longer feel the least pain in my flesh, as I did before."
Lords: "Will you not yet confess?"
Elizabeth: "No, my lords."
They then applied the screws to her shins, one on each.
She said, "O my lords, do not put me to shame; for never a man touched my bare body."
The Procurator General said, "Miss Elizabeth, we shall not treat you dishonorably."
She then fainted away. They said to one another, "Perhaps she is dead."
But waking up, she said, "I live, and am not dead."
They then took off all the screws, and plied her with entreaties.
Elizabeth: "Why do you thus entreat me? this is the way to do with children."
Thus they obtained not one word from her, detrimental to her brethren in the Lord, or to any other person.
Lords: "Will you revoke all that you have previously confessed here?"
Elizabeth: "No, my lords, but I will seal it with my death."
Lords: "We will try you no more; will you voluntarily tell us, who baptized you?"
Elizabeth: "Oh, no, my lords; I have certainly told you, that I will not confess this."
Sentence was then passed upon Elizabeth, on the 27th of March, 1549; she was condemned to death
-to be drowned in a bag, and thus offered up her body to God.
In the year 1549 there were imprisoned at Amsterdam, for the truth of Jesus Christ, about twenty persons, men as well as women, all of whose names are not known, especially since some of them escaped from prison in the following manner: One of the prisoners had two brothers living in Waterlandt, who were rough fellows, and spent much of their time in taverns. So at a certain time it happened, that as they were sitting in the tavern, they began to think of their imprisoned brother, and supposing that the time when he should be offered up, was drawing nigh, they deliberated among themselves, how they could best liberate him, and swore an oath that they would shrink from neither labor nor peril, even though it should cost their lives; in confirmation of which they held up their fingers, tossed their hats in the air, and called God to witness. In the morning, when they were awake and had become sober, their perilous plan somewhat troubled them; but renuembering the solemn oath which they owed to God, as also the sad departure of their dear brother, they manifested the firmness of Romans, and proceeded in the following manner. They took a rope with a block, which had been well greased, so that the dry block should make no noise. This they packed into a basket, and took it to the house of Jan Jans, who lived opposite the prison, in the crescent, and said to him, "Jan Jans, may we leave this basket here, and call for it late in the evening, as it may suit us?"
Jan Jans assented, without ever thinking of the dangerous plan, till they came to get their basket.
This Jan Jans had a cousin among the prisoners, named Ellert Jans, who had a wooden leg and was a tailor whom the Bailiff had taken from his shop on the new dyke. Therefore these two brothers availed themselves of a dark evening, and brought a boat hook with them, which they thrust into the window, and then climbed up by it. They then made fast a rope, and broke open the windows with a crowbar. Having thus effected their purpose, they let their brother down from the window with a rope, and forthwith, went to other prisoners, all of whom they let down through the window, except Ellert Jan, who refused to go out, telling them as his reason, that he was of such good cheer to offer his sacrifice, and felt so happy that he did not expect even through a long life to become any better, since he feared that on the way through the longdesert his courage might fail him, and thus he would never get across the Jordan, and reach the promised land. He also said that he was too well known by his wooden leg, so that he could easily be described for the purpose of apprehension.
But Tobias, Pieter, Grietgen, Jan, Lyntgen and Barbartgen were confined in other dungeons, where they could well hear, but not get to, them. They remained in confinement till the time of their offering up was fulfilled, except Lyntgen, who was spared on account of her pregnancy. She also gave birth to a child while in bonds; but the pain of delivery so affected her, that she became utterly deranged in her mind; after this she laid yet for a long time at Amsterdam, in a little house, in which she also died.
When the day had arrived, on which the aforementioned persons were to offer up their sacrifices, said Jan Jans stationed himself close to the tribunal, to see what spirit his cousin Ellert Jans would show in the last hour of his life. As soon as Ellert Jans perceived his cousin, he addressed him with such a happy countenance that all the hearers listened with astonishment. He also handed him a testament through the iron bars of the tribunal; but the bailiff cried out like a ferocious lion
Where is the book? but could not find it out.
With many good arguments he admonished every one, principally his cousin Jan Jans, that he should no longer suffer himself to be seduced by the adorned woman, the whore of Babylon, but should enter upon the way to the city of all good things. Yea, he said, that he never had lived a happier day; which Jan so took to heart, that he afterwards also took upon him the burden of the cross. Thus all the afore-mentioned friends ended their lives in great joy, and were burnt alive. Shortly after a lover of the truth composed a hymn in remembrance of them, the first letter of each verse of which accords with the first letter of the names. It is found in the old hymnbook, and is the first of those beginning with T, "'Tis nu schier al vervudt," etc.
The sentence of these six brethren and two sisters, we obtained from the book of criminal sentences of the city of Amsterdam, through the secretary of said place; excepting the title which reads as follows
Whereas Pieter, son of Jans, a native of Lininckhuysen, Tobias Questinex, citizen of this city, shoemakers, by trade; Jan Pennewaerts of Loenen, Gijsbert Jans of Woerden, Ellert Jans, also citizen of this city, tailors, Lucas Michiels of Dortrecht, glazier by trade, Barbara Thielemaus of Dortrecht, and Truyken Boens, daughter of William Boens of
Antwerp, have been rebaptized by one Giles of Aix-la-Chapelle, and have joined the sect and heresy of the Anabaptists, holding pernicious views with regards to the sacraments of the holy church, contrary to the holy Christian faith, the ordinances of said holy church, and the written laws and decrees of his Imperial Majesty, our gracious lord; and, moreover, obstinately persist in their unbelief, errors and heresies; therefore, my lords the judges, having heard the demand made by my lord the bailiff concerning said persons, together with their confession, and having duly considered the circumstances of said case, condemn said persons to be burnt by the executioner; and, furthermore, declare all their property confiscated for the benefit of his Imperial Majesty, as Count of Holland and our gracious lord, without prejudice to the privileges of this city. So pronounced and ordered to be executed, this 20th day of March, 1549, in the presence of the bailiff, Egbert Gabriels and Joost Buyck, burgomasters, and all the judges.
Of these delinquents three were subjected to the torture, namely, Tobias Questinex, on the 14th of Feliruary, Pieter Jans, on the 15th of the same month, and Ellert Jans on the 8th of the present month, March.
Extracted from the book of criminal sentences of the city of Amsterdam, in the keeping of the secretary there.
In the year 1549, about three weeks before Easter, two beloved men, named Fije and Eelken, were apprehended at Boorn, in West Friesland. They were brought before the lords, where they boldlv confessed their faith.
They first interrogated Eelken, saying, "Who has authorized you to assemble the people, to teach them?"
Ans. "God has authorized me." Heb. 10:25.
Ques. "What have you taught?"
Ans."Ask them that heard it, what we taught among ourselves; for you have apprehended a woman that heard it."
They then asked the woman what she had heard from Eelken.
Ans. "He read the four Evangelists, Paul, Peter, the epistles of John, and the acts of the, apostles."
Eelken was then asked again, "What do you hold concerning the sacrament?"
Ans."I know nothing of your baked God."
Ques. "Friend, take care what you say; such words cost necks. What do you think of the mother of God?"
Ques. "What do you say; did the Son of God not receive flesh and blood from Mary?"
Ans."No: With regard to this, I believe what the Son of God Himself declares concerning it." John 1:14.
Ques. "What do you hold concerning our holy Roman church?"
Ans. "I know nothing of your holy church. I do not know it; I never in all my life was in a holy church."
Ques. "You speak too spitefully; I have compassion for you," said one of the lords of the council,"and fear that you will lose your neck. Are you not baptized?"
Ans."I am not baptized, but greatly desire baptism."
Ques. "What do you think of these false teachers who run about and baptize the people?"
Ans. "Of false teachers I think nothing, but have greatly longed to hear a teacher sent from God?"
They said, "But we have heard that you are a teacher?"
Eelken said, "Who made me a teacher?"
They replied, "We do not know."
Eelken said, "If you ask me what you do not know yourselves, how should I know it? I know of no one that has made me a teacher; but God has given me all for which I have besought Him."
They said, "We have now written down all the articles concerning which we have interrogated you on this occasion; if there is anything of which you repent, we will gladly strike it out I"
Ans. "Do you think that I should deny God?"
Eelken and Fije were then both sentenced and brought together; they embraced each other, yea, kissed one another's hands and feet with great love, so that all that saw and heard it were astonished. The beadles and servants ran to the lords and said, "Never men loved one another as do these." Eelken said to Fije, "Dear brother, do not take it amiss, that you have been brought into suffering through me." Fije answered, "Dear brother, do not think so, for it is the power of God."
Their execution was deferred till the third day after the sentence was passed. Eelken was first executed with the sword. When Fije's sentence was read, he did not listen to it, because of his great joy; and, ignorant of what had happened, or was to happen, to Eelken, he sang and leaped; praising and thanking God, saying, "This is the only way."
They led Fije into the boat in which Eelken lays beheaded, and beside him the wheel upon which Eelken was to be placed, and the stake at which Fije was to stand, to be burned. In the boat Fije's hands became loose, but he sat still nevertheless. The monks then said, "Bind him again." The hangman replied, "You bind him." But the castellan commanded him to bind Fije again. Some women who beheld it wept bitterly. But Fije said, "Weep not for me, but for your sins."
He further said to the executioner, "What are you going to do to me?"
Ans. "That you will see.", "Yea, yea," said Fije,"do what you will; I have committed myself into the hands of my Lord."
The brethren went out with him, together with the common. people, and when Fije saw some of his acquaintances, he cried out, "Friends, rejoice with me over this marriage feast which is prepared for me.
When he arrived at the place of execution, some brethren, who greatly rejoiced with him, spoke to him, saying, "This is the narrow way; this is the Lord's wine press; from this depends the crown." But when the castellan heard this cry, he called out, "Let no man lay his hands on him, on pain of life, and property."
The executioner had forgotten his instruments, and ran to the town to get them. In the meantime, the castellan and the two monks had Fije in the confessional, greatly tempting him with bread and wine; but they could not prevail upon him, for Fije did nothing but sing and speak, praising and thanking God.
When they could not prevail on him, and the executioner returned, they said to Fije, "How is it that you are so obstinate, when you say that you are a member of Christ? Why then will you not do the works of mercy, and receive this bread and wine as bread and wine, for our sakes."
Am."I do not hunger for.your bread and wine; for there is food prepared for me in heaven."
When they could not prevail upon him, they said, "Begone, you heretic, begone!"
The castellan said, "I have seen many a heretic; but in all my life I never saw a more obdurate one than,this."
Fije, standing prepared for death, said to the executioner, "Master, have you finished your work?"
He replied, "Not yet."
Fije said, "Here is the sheep for which you are wanted."
The executioner, then went up to Fije, tore open his shirt, took the cap from his head, and filled it with gunpowder. Standing at the stake at which he was to be strangled, Fije exclaimed, "O Lord, receive Thy servant."
He was then strangled and burnt, and thus fell asleep in the Lord. The common people cried out saying, "This was a pious Christian; if he is not a Christian, there is not one in the whole world."
The tribulation, anguish and distress of the beloved friends and children of God continued; for they did not cease to persecute and kill them, yea, to put them to death in a dreadful, miserable and lamentable manner, which, in the year 1549, ap-
peared also in the city of Amsterdam, in Holland, in the case of two pious and very God-fearing persons, named Jacob Claess of Lantsmeer, and Cecilia Jeronymus of Wormer, who, as they, after suffering many assaults, conflicts and tribulations from secular as well as ecclesiastical persons, who sought to draw them away from the faith, remained constant, were. sentenced to the fire as heretics, which punishment of death they steadfastly endured, on the 9th of November, A. D. 1549, as appears from the following two sentences, which were publicly pronounced on the day of their death, in the court of Amsterdam; true copies of which, obtained by us through the clerk of the court there, we shall adduce here, for the further confirmation of said matter.
Whereas Jacob Claess of Lantsmeer has joined the doctrine, sect and heresies of the Anabaptists, having been rebaptized, and holding pernicious views in regard to the sacraments of the holy church, contrary to the holy Christian faith, the ordinances of the holy Christian church, and the written laws and decrees of his Imperial Majesty our gracious lord; and, moreover, obstinately persists in his errors and heresy, notwithstanding the instruction which has been given him concerning the true faith; therefore, my lords the judges, having heard the demand made by my lord the bailiff, in the name of his Imperial Majesty, concerning said Jacob Claess, together with his confession, and having considered the circumstances of said case, sentence said Jacob Claess, pursuant to the aforesaid decrees, to be burnt by the executioner, and, furthermore, declare his property confiscated for the benefit of his Imperial Majesty, as Count of Holland. So pronounced, and executed by the executioner, on the 9th of November, A. D. 1549, in the presence of the bailiff, Sir Hendrick Dirks; burgomaster, Jan Willems; Claes Meeuwess, Simon, Claess Kops, Florus Marts, Jan Claess van oppen, and Hendrick Jans Croock, Judges.
Jacob Claess was subjected to the torture on the 22d of October, A. D. 1549.
Extracted from the book of criminal sentences, in the keeping of the secretary of the city of Amsterdam.
Whereas Cecilia, daughter of Jeronymus, of Wormer, has joined the doctrine, sect and heresies of the Anabaptists, having been rebaptized, and holding pernicious views in regard to the sacraments of the holy church, contrary to the holy Christian faith, the ordinances of the holy Christian church, the written laws and decrees of his Imperial Majesty our gracious lord, and, moreover, obstinately persists in her errors and heresies, notwithstanding the instruction which has
been given her concerning the true faith; therefore, my lords the judges, having heard the demand made by my lord the bailiff, in .the name of his Imperial Majesty, concerning said Cecilia, together with her confession, and having maturely considered the circumstances of said case, sentence said Cecilia Jeronymus, pursuant to the aforesaid decrees, to be burnt by the executioner, and, furthermore, declare her property confiscated for the benefit of his Imperial Majesty, as Count of Holland. Done and executed as above.
Extracted from the book of criminal sentences, in the keeping of the secretary of the city of Amsterdam.