A. D. 1568, a God-fearing, pious brother, called Valerius Schoolmaster, having in his time exercised the functions of schoolteacher at Hoorn, in Holland, and at Middelburgh in Zealand, was apprehended for the testimony of Jesus, at Brouwershaven, in Zealand. He was a zealous follower of Christ, and would not hide the talent he had received in the earth, but put it with great diligence out upon usury; so that in paths and highways wherever he saw a fit opportunity, he exhorted the people with the word of God, threatening the sinner with the terrible punishment and vengeance which at the speedy appearance of Christ from heaven will fall upon all ungodliness; and, again, comforting the penitent with the great and glorious promises and rewards which the Lord God at the end of the world will give to all believers. In consequence of this he incurred the displeasure of benighted men, who can neither hear nor endure the light of the Gospel, so that once he was put in bonds at Goes, in Zealand, but was released again, keeping his faith. Finally, however. he was apprehended at Brouwershaven, in the district of Zierickzee, where he suffered many assaults and long imprisonment, but by the grace of God, overcame everything, and attested and sealed the faith of the truth with his death and blood, and thus, through grace, obtained the crown of eternal life.
He also was not idle during the time of his imprisonment, but wrote two excellent little books, well worth reading, and sent them from prison. The first is entitled, Of the Decrease and Decay of the Apostolical Church; and Of the Rise of Antichrist, and how the Light of the Gospel is obscured by him. Written in the sixtieth week of his imprisonment; together with an earnest exhortation ,to apostates from the Word of God, that they may seek the grace of the Almighty betimes, while He is yet to be found.
The other book bears the title, 1.The Proof of Faith; in which he teaches with great earnestness, to count this world and all visible things nothing but mere loss and dung, so only Christ be won. Wherefore he exhorts all believers, to become poor for Christ's sake, and to expect riches hereafter with God in heaven. Hence he greatly commends the Dovertv and piety still remaining in Menno Simon's S. G., and says that herein he puts to blush many others. We have therefore added here, for his remembrance, the first Dart of said book, that by this little the reader may judge of all the remain-
der, which would be too long to adduce .here in full. He wrote it the fourteenth week of his imprisonment. Read it with attention., "Natural, impartial reader or hearer, who have any understanding, you may well know and imagine that a man that is so depraved and wicked, and has done so much evil, as to insure his death, in case he were apprehended, ought to be afraid of committing any more evil, lest at last he be apprehended' and put to death. But if he do not cease from evil he may at last be apprehended for his crimes. Then, when imprisoned, he tnay reflect and concern himself night and day,. how he may escape or obtain his liberty, whether by strategy, violence or breaking outand all this, that he might, prolong his uncertain life for a little while, which, though he should escape, he must ultimately relinquish. And if a poor prisoner cannot help himself, he may consider whether some good friend' cannot assist him. And if his friend fail him, he may meditate whether the judges might not be merciful to him, at whose feet he may fall, and implore them to spare him in mercy; moreover, he may promise thoroughly to reform, and that he will commit such or like misdeeds no more all the days of his life. And when the prisoner has done this much, yea, all that he knows to do, and all his plans, and everything else, prove of no avail, he may in desperation give up all courage. And when he sees the monk coming, he may become, greatly alarmed, knowing that his confessor (who with lies and vain consolation may promise him eternal life, thereby seeking to assure his soul) is the harbinger of his death; and when the doomed man hears the court pro nounce his sentence of death, he may become still more afraid and dismayed. And when at last he is led to death, and beholds the instrument of his death, the gallows, wheel, stake, or water, he may most of all fear and quake, so seized -with mortal dread and horror as though he were dead while still living, unless he be assured by the priests or some other liars, of his salvation, in which case he might be of good cheer-one in this way, another in an other way. And if some one should bring to this doomed criminal under the sword or at the stake, good news assuring him of his life, and tell him to arise and he himself should kneel down in the'malefactor's stead, how joyfully should the latter- with gratitude accept his transient life! But Christ, who gives redemption and eternal life by His death, few are willing gratefully to accept aright and unto repentance. John 3:16; Col. 1:14; Isa. 53:4., "Now, suppose that the doomed criminal were a filthy, unclean harlot, imprisoned for a crime, or for having herself alone committed (if it were possible) all the wickedness and sins ever perpetrated by the whole world, for which she were condemned to the most shameful death that could be devised
and the King should send His only, beloved Son from His kingdom and glory into'great poverty, imprisonment; suffering and an innocent death, in the stead of the unclean harlot, who by all manner of contempt and evil-doing had angered the King, and ,merited death a thousand times, but is now nevertheless, out oft grace, through the death of the King's Son (.on condition of her amending) reconciled to the King, made at peace with Him, liberated from prison, and delivered from death, and remains alive, a partaker and heir of all the riches of the King; ought she not to accept,this great love and grace; love the King, amend her ways, and be greatly afraid of vexing the King any more all her life, who cleansed her, forgave all her evil deeds, paid all her debts, espoused her as his beloved queen, exalted her into his glory; and protected her as himself from all enemies? But if she should not amend, (according to her promise), should again anger the King, and do worse than before, were this not great ingratitude, worthy of sorer punishment than before'? Hereby we may prove ourselves, whether we that are redeemed through the grace of God, also keep the promise of amendment. And though all this were to happen thus, a thing which was never heard of or seen, nor ever occurred; yet, since it were but temporal and of short duration, it is not an adequate comparison to that which is eternal and intransient, namely, the love of God, which has come to us through Christ His beloved Son.
For God so loved the condemned world, His enemy, steeped as it was in sin,. and lying in wickedness, that lie spared not His only Son, but sent Him from His glory in heaven, and delivered Him up to the ignominious and cursed death of the cross that whosoever believeth, should not perish or be condemned, but, through the love, mercy and grace made manifest through Christ, be acquitted, blessed, redeemed, cleansed from sin, protected from the wrath to come, wooed, wedded and exalted as His chosen bride, obedient wife (Hos. 2:20), and glorious 'queen, and His eternal and imperishable kingdom, and live with joy unspeakable; whereas we were so 'unclean in our sins, polluted in our blood, no one attending to us (Ezek. 16), taken captive by the devil at His will, and sentenced by God, according. to His. justice, to eternal death and damnation.
Now let us well consider and advise with ourselves according to the simile of the criminal, imprisoned . harlot under the sword or at the stake. Let us well examine ourselves, whether we have risen from our sins,amendeda and still daily amend, and whether we have rightly accepted, by the faith which worketh by love, this love, grace and redemption of God, made manifest through Christ, and whether we in return love God, keep His commandments, and are afraid of offending Him.
The world was by nature corrupted by sin, and judged or sentenced to condemnation, so that Christ did not come to judge or to condemn that which was already judged, but to redeem from judgment and condemnation all those who rightly, by faith; accept His grace (Tit, 2:1.1), that is, those
who die unto and forsake their sinful life, repent and amend; in a word, those who are born again, live after the Spirit (John 3; Rom. 8), as the Scriptures abundantly testify in many places.
But the others, who do not rightly accept, by faith, unto the amendment of their entire life, according to the holy Word of the Lord, this love, grace and redemption, abide notwithstanding, held captive by their sins, under the condemnation and wrath of God, and will on account of their unbelief, impenitence and unrighteousness not see the kingdom of God, nor inherit eternal life, because they still continue in sin, and thus cannot receive edemption and forgiveness of sins; and if they have once received it, yet, when their new sins exceed the old ones, it may go worse with them than before, because they are so ungrateful, and do not keep their promise of amendment. For Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree of the cross (on this condition of our amendment) that we believers, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we were healed. For we were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. I Pet. 2:24, 25. From this we may clearly perceive, that those who do not die unto their sins, nor live according to righteousness, are not yet healed or redeemed by the stripes and death of Christ; for they are not yet by faith returned unto God, from their sins, wherein they still live. Hence they in vain assure themselves, of eternal life, and of their redemption by the death of Christ, since they are still bound by their sins. Either they must turn from their sins to God, obediently to serve Him all the days of their life, in all holiness and righteousness of faith which is pleasing in His sight; or they still remain captive, unbelieving and condemned, as the Scriptures declare more abundantly than I can designate; for I have never had a. Bible in prison. Let each examine himself. II Cor. 13:5.
Mark now, how poor mankind receive redemption and salvation, as they think. One hears and sees openly enough that almost the entire population of Europe are called believing Christians, though by their wicked works they hardly show that they are natural men, since they live more unnatural than irrational beasts. Nevertheless, they are taught by their teachers, that they are called children and heirs of God (Ezek. 13:10), which they, also claim they are, being so firmly persuaded of and settled in it, that there are very few of them who can be turned, advised, helped or drawn out of the prison, water, or fire of damnation (Jude 23); for they are already too wise in themselves, already helped, and delivered from death as they think and say, though in this their sinful life and ungodliness, they live enveloped in perdition; and clothed with a beautiful name, being called Christians and children of God, though they lead a worse life than do Jews, Turks, or Saracens, who do not pretend to be Christians, as these, who so openly and shamelessly forsake Christ, in idolatry with wood and stone, which they call an excellent worship; in avarice which they style only industry; in pride, which with them is only neatness; in lasciviousness and adultery, which they term only friendship; in drunkenness, which they call enjoyment, pleasure, glee, good naturedness, or good cheer, even as they know how to name and varnish over every form of wickedness and sin, as though they were nothing but virtue and righteousness. As though they were blameless, many of them are not willing to be reproved for the lusts of their flesh, in dicing, gambling, singing, jumping, dancing, strutting, boasting, in order to be nowhere the least, but everywhere the first, if possible; in vain, false, and renowned arts of earthly worldly and carnal wisdom; in litigating, suing, swearing; in subtle, fraudulent, wicked inventions and traffics; in lying, cheating, quarreling, cursing, fighting, and killing, if not in deed, then with the heart; in hatred and envy, defaming, backbiting, foolish talking, jesting, joking, unprofitableness, impropriety, in all manner of lustfulness and wantonness. This is nearly everywhere as common as daily bread; herein and herewith they spend, abuse and fritter away, to the perdition of their souls, the precious time of grace, their life, and every good creature of God; which good gifts of God we have received from His grace for our good, thereby obediently to serve our God and Creator blessed forever, to the honor of God, the salvation of our souls, and the edification and love of our neighbor. For God is not willing that any should perish, neither has He pleasure in the death of sinners; but He is longsuffering, and waits for all to repent and will have all men to come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved. II Pet. 3:9; Ezek. 33:11; 18:32; I Timothy 2:4.
What more should our Lord God do for man, than He has done? Does not then men's condemnation proceed from their unbelief, disobedience, neglect, abuse, guilt, sin, -obduracy, and ingratitude, because they will not by faith unto repentance accept this grace and incomprehensible love of God? But they reject this repentance, and would still enjoy this grace and salvation in their sinful life, from which they do not turn.* For since men have also the freedom to abuse themselves or their own life, and every creature of God, though this is not the will of God, only He permits it, therefore men, by their first birth, live contrary to the Word and will of God, hence unnaturally, disobediently, ungratefully, unreasonably, heedlessly, according to the will of the devil, are devilishly and carnally minded, covetous and ambitious, unmannerly, immodest, faithless, perjured, hateful, envious, unmerciful, without compassion, impatient, morose, cruel, and revengeful; in short, had men the power of wealth, and of their body, and were there no human authority which they fear and dread more than God, men might live in such an inhuman manner that we might almost have a hell upon earth; for though
* See whether a criminal is pardoned, if he is not willing to amend his ways.
now men are feared more than God, still it is altogether too bad.*
Many that are poor refrain from drunkenness because they have no money or pledge, while the rich may refrain from it on account of their honor or pride, or because they have no company according to their liking, or because they wish to preserve their health and mind; and for such reasons also lasciviousness is avoided. Men often refrain from stealing on account of the gallows, and from murder because of the wheel; in short, every sin is left uncommitted more on account of constraint, shame, and fear of men, than from voluntary goodness for the Lord's sake. And though men are so devoid of shame and given up to evil that they openly keep brothels, and live far more detestably than beasts; they are nevertheless called Christians, and claim to be children and heirs of God by grace. How much more then those who manage it a little more decently and secretly, as they think, though they frequently are much worse? Can one do worse, than those who without shame live in adultery and other secret sins, when God the Lord knows every secret of the heart? Rev. 2:23; 16:7. Oh, if men's sins were written on their foreheads, how constantly would they keep in the house, and conceal themselves in corners, holes and dens, so as not to be seen by men.
But they are not ashamed before God, nor afraid of Him, from whom they cannot hide; and who can kill the body, and cast both it and the soul into the fire of hell. Intelligent and impartial reader or hearer, prove whether these false Christians in this their improper and unchristian life can be saved though God's mercy and the death of Christ, or not? even as they presumptuously say, that the kingdom of heaven is for them, and not for the beasts, and besides utter so much nonsense, as though they were raving, as they also are, so that a true Christian may well be ashamed and afraid to see or hear their madness and their unrighteous works. II Pet. 2:8.
O depraved and wanton men I Though the Jews, because they were called AbrahpLm's seed, claimed to be God's children, Christ showed them that a thief, liar and murderer from the beginning, even the devil, was their father, because their works were evil. John 8:44. This may have seemed strange to them, even as it may seem strange to those who obey not the Gospel of Christ, that according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures they are called, and are servants of sin (Rom. 6:20), an evil and perverse generation of serpents, vipers and adders (Matt. 3:7), the seed of the devil, children and heirs of wrath (Eph. 2:3), accursed and of eternal damnation, seed of Cain, Ishmaelites, filthy swine, devouring dogs, ravening wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15 ), that is, under the cloak of sanctity, uncircumcised, gentiles, aliens and strang-
* Many think they are good Christians, because they do not steal or commit murder, and because they do not perpetrate violence or highway robbery, or because they refrain from evils which they can or dare not do; however, this is no virture in their case ers from the covenants of the promise of eternal life, who have no part in the kingdom of God, though they entertain a vain hope of it; without God, without Christ, godless and idolatrous in the world. These evil works are the nets, snares, fetters, blocks, chains, bonds, and imprisonments, with which the prince of this world, the devil, who works in the children of disobedience holds men captive, blinded and bound at his will. Eph. 2:2; II Tim. 2:26. And so long as the false Christians go or creep about bound by their sins, and entangled in their unrighteousness, they boast in vain and heap one great lie on top of another, when they boast that through Christ they are redeemed and freed from their sins, when they still live in their toils, and because of their unbelief and disobedience are predestinated unto eternal damnation, unless they turn from their sins to God, and by faith rightly receive His grace unto repentance; whereby they will not perish, but are predestinated to eternal life, and become vessels of honor prepared unto glory, according to my simple view. Rom. 9:23.
Mark what Christians these are, because they say that there is a gracious God, which the devil also believes, and trembles; moreover, they say that they are sorry for their sins, and still they go on in them, the longer the more, the older the worse, and under the cloak of the grace of God commit all kinds of sin, the one in this, another in that, so that no wickedness is left undone. Let every one search the secrecy of his heart, and he will better understand and find what I, prisoner, here write. One man cannot alone commit all these sins, for his life is too short and insufficient. For it is generally seen that sins leave men when sickness or old age comes, which, however, does not tend to their repentance, amendment, or salvation, though many who are robust and healthy abandon and deceive themselves, saying: I shall repent when I am old, when I lie upon my death bed, or I care not longer to serve the world; if any one sorrows for his sins then, and the end is good, all is well., "O vain consolationl for what kind of repentance can that be, when one is no longer able to commit sin and wickedness? it is nothing but mocking the Lord, sinning presumptuously, and rejecting His grace. Oh that all men captive in sin at the will of the devil (II Tim. 2:26), would always consider this, and thus give the more diligence, so that through grace their souls might become disengaged and free from the snares of the devil, or sin; even as a prisoner according to the body gives diligence to obtain his liberty, so as to escape bodily death for a brief and uncertain time yet, though he ultimately cannot escape it. If men believed that God is just, and that He will not suffer any evil to go unpunished in impenitent sinners, they would be terrified, and through fear of God's righteous judgment forsake their sins; but now they are comforted in their misfortune by their preachers, with flattering, words and soothing sermons with
grace, peace, mercy and salvation; whereas they ought to be reproved for their sins, and threatened with the anger, wrath, fury and displeasure of God (Rom. 2:8), and eternal damnation, so that they might repent while the door of grace is open for a little while yet. II Cor. 6:2.
I know of nothing that so securely and firmly holds men in the sleep of sin till the Lord comes as a thief in the night, as to call good evil (Isa. 5:20), the Gospel a sect (of which all manner of evil and falsehoods are spoken), and to change the truth into lies. The Christians are called,heretics and deceivers; every good work, virtue and righteousness is so misnamed, perverted, painted in such abominable colors, and the worst construction put upon them, so that men are afraid of them, as though they would be led astray by the truth, and of God. The devil, on the other hand does trot appear half so ugly as he is represented and I have here described him, but disguised by a beautiful semblance of love, and changed and transformed into an angel of light, as though he were sent of God, and were himself Cod. II Thess. 2:4.. Then are his lies called nothing less than Gospel and truth; Babylon is called the church of God; idolaters are styled my lords; lying and cheating are termed prudence and cleverness; fighting is called valor, and murder, simply misfortune; and thus, many like shameful deeds, upon which an honorable construction is put, so that evil is called good. But woe unto such, as Isaiah says. Isa. 5:20. Thus, the ministers and children of the devil know how to change, gloss over, name, and construe in the most favorable light into good works virtues, and all manner of righteousnesses, all their evil works, vices, sins, and manifold unrighteousnesses; as avarice into industry and pride into neatness.
Who can reprove them therein? And therewith the devil blinds them so artfully and firmly to his will, so that they think themselves to be pious Christians, and are not willing to be reproved by' the truth for their sins, but claim to be unblamable children of God; moreover, they say, like Christ's disciples: 'Our Father, etc.' But let everyone examine himself, whether he is born of God, because he knows how to palliate his 'sins; and whether he so sanctifies and adorns the name of God, and does His will, and whether he carries himself before God as an obedient child before his father; otherwise he joins lie upon lie in his prayer, which in that case is a curse and an abomination before God. In short, he that committeth sin is born of the devil, and knoweth -not God, John 8:44; I John 3; and they that are carnally, minded cannot please God. Hence, mark whom impenitent sinners call upon as their father. Blind indeed must he be who cannot perceive this,and hardened he that is not willing to repent.
O dear reader or hearer, if I may pray you, it is my heartfelt desire of you, that you would always consider (and regulate yourself accordingly), that men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken; how much more then of their deeds. And everyone shall receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad; namely, before the righteous judgment of God, where anger, hatred, envy, yea, not loving in deed and in truth, speaking scornfully or spitefully to one's brother, Raca, thou fool, or offending him, will be deemed and judged murder, worthy of the council, of judgment, and of hell fire. Matthew 5:22; I John 3. In like manner, disobedience will be regarded as witchcraft; to look upon a woman to lust after her, as adultery; and any other evil which is desired with the heart, and consented to with the will (though the power for, and the commission of it be wanting), will be judged and punished as an accomplished evil work. I Sam. 15:23; Matt. 5:28; Not to keep His Word, will be considered lying and perjury, and a good oath, so called, will be as severely recompensed as a bad oath; for Christ has prohibited all swearing; Matt. 5, as also to hate one's enemies, and not to love them like one's friends; and many like things. Now mark how adultery was punished under the law by the judges; for those who committed adultery were. stoned to death. Lev. 20:10. And it is dally seen, how witchcraft, homicide or murder are punished by the secular lords with fire or the sword unto death. Mark, how Adam, for one sin, likewise Cain, then the whole world, with the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the adjacent cities, with fire and brimstone, Egypt, and afterwards the idolaters in Israel and murmurers against Moses, were punished according to the justice of God, for our example. Of how much sorer punishment then are they worthy who murmur against Christ, change His truth into lies, and do not receive His grace and redemption by faith, unto the amendment of their life, but reject the same, living presumptuously in their sins. Heb. 10:29; Rom. 1:25. God who did not spare the angels who had sinned, will also not spare those who through unbelief are unrighteous and false Christians, but punish them with a sorer punishment than Sodom and Gomorrah, which were turned into ashes and condemned and overthrown for an example unto all them that commit ungodliness, and do not. repent. II Pet. 2:4,6; Jude 6; Matt. 11:24; II Pet. 3.
If then we are to be saved, through God's mercy, we must repent, must be obedient children of God, born again of Him, and must follow Christ in the regeneration and the footsteps of faith, through the narrow way unto eternal life; nor are we then saved through the merit of good works, but by the grace which came through Christ. Eph. 2:5. For though we lived holy; blameless, and perfect in all righteousness (as the Scriptures require), and suffered for the truth a death more bitter than that of Christ which with us men is impossible, yet we could not be saved through our own good works, but only by God's mercy, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has wrought out our salvation. And if we sought or placed our salvation in our
good works or our sufferings, we should commit idolatry, and we were our own idol, if we trusted in ourselves. But now our salvation depends only on the mercy of God, and not on our running and following after. Rom. 9:16. Though we should run and follow after ever so well (which is our bounden duty), so that we attained, and already had, the perfection (that for which we are apprehended of Christ), and had done all those things which are commanded us, and which it is our duty to do, we were yet only unprofitable servants. Phil. 3:12; Luke 17:10. How much more unprofitable then are we now, with our many defects, though we willingly strive after and should gladly perform that which is good, and are sorry that we are not perfect.* Hence we have great reason, and are in duty bound, to humble ourselves very low under the abundant grace of God, and to pray; for eternal life is a gift of God, and not a debt or reward proceeding from our labor, merit, or good works; for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10), as is our duty to do, in the least as well as in the greatest. But the wages of sin is death; hence we must hate and fear sin, that we do not consent to or commit it, if we want to be saved by the grace and gift of God. Thus, we are delivered through Christ from the bonds of the devil, or sin; let therefore no one say or hope that he is saved by his good works, which are far too insufficient. That, also, no one say: 'Should we not take thought, should we not gain a livelihood, else on what should we live? except to them who say that one is not to support himself by the labor of his hands, but to go idle.' Matt. 6:25; Luke 12:22; Eph. 4:28. And that, also, no one say: 'No man knows the hour and the day of the Lord, except to those who have set the hour and the day, from doing which may the Lord keep me.' Mark 13:32; Matt. 24:42; Luke 12:40. Beware of frivolous babblers, for scorners will speedily come to an end. I Cor. 15:33. And if, when you speak your mind, or reprove with meekness that which does not meet your approbation and one resist you in the good, be silent instantly, Ithat you may retain your peace and the tranquility of your conscience. If it vex you, do nevertheless not engage in contention, that you may be found in peace when the Lord comes. II Pet. 3:14. We must here at any rate suffer violence and wrong; but it will not last long; hence, let us possess our souls in patience. Luke 21:19.
The fourteenth week of my imprisonment, the first day of January, so called, A. D. 1568. I trust that the present year will not pass like the former. Watch and pray, for you know neither the day nor hour; but the God-fearing may consider whether this is the year in which the Lord will deliver His elect and believers; let everyone take warning."
* That no one say, "We cannot be perfect; except to those who say that they are perfect. There is nothing so good as that men will not contradict it, even with the Scriptures."