Always have God before your eyes.
Grace, peace and joy from God our heavenly Father, wisdom, righteousness and truth, through Christ Jesus His beloved Son our Lord and Saviour; together with the comfort and illumination of the Holy Ghost; these I wish you, much beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord, as a friendly greet-
ing and eternal adieu in this sad world, where nothing is to be found but every sorrow of heart. I trust to go and rest, with all the elect saints of God, under the altar, and hope to wait for you there: to this end may the Lord grant us His grace, and may He keep me, miserable sinner, unto the end, as I hope and trust He will do. Amen.
Know, much beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord, that we are all well yet, the Lord be praised; and it is still the purpose of us all, to adhere to the holy truth of the Lord all the days of our life, for which we can never fully thank the Lord. O dear brethren and sisters, how could we fully thank Him, that He so loves me unworthy one! I hope by His grace, that I shall suffer for His holy name, and I trust to hear with all the beloved saints of God, "Come, ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matt. 25:34. O dear brethren and sisters, what beautiful promises are given to them that overcome, "That they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father; that they shall be of the household of God; that they shall eat of the hidden manna, and of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Rev. 3:12; Matthew 13:43; Eph. 2:19; Rev. 2:17; 2:7.
O why should I write you much; I hope and trust, that you yourselves are all taught of God. Hence, dear brethren and sisters, I know of nothing special to write you, save that we should always take heed well to keep that which is committed to our trust, that no man take our crown, for Peter says, "The devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith." I Tim. 6:20; Rev. 3:11; I Peter 5:8. O we shall be well rewarded, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. Herewith I will commend you all unto the Lord, and to the rich Word of His grace, which is able to build us all up for His heavenly kingdom. Amen. And I kindly pray you, also to see to my child a little as much as you can. I have also requested this of the sister at Vlissingen, and of Christian. You may advise together as is best; for I must now part from it, so that I cannot take care of it. But I am heartily satisfied with this, and am ready to forsake not only wife and child, but also body and life, if the Lord will only keep me, as He has hitherto done, and will yet do. O dear brethren and sisters, we are all of such good cheer. I and Hendrick and Gerrit greet you all much. Greet Hendrick and Maeyken much in my name, and Adrian and Gerrit Coelemey, and your companion Lieven, and Huybert; further, Yde and her husband, and Jacob Wit, and the rest of the brethren, and to all whom it is convenient to greet. Bid them all farewell in my name. Written on the third of February, in the year 1569, after I have been advised of my sentence. Farewell altogether, and be valiant always. I trust that we shall see one another again. Communicate to Geertgen occasionally something of the profit, as seems best to you; and do with her what is best, this I earnestly ask of you.
By me, Hans Marijns, your unworthy brother in the Lord, with what is in my ability for your best, for this time.
This Anpleunis van den Berge, because he had permitted, in the year 1556, that the Word of God was truly and openly preached on his land, and that he had lodged some of the brethren, had to leave his own house and property, and conceal himself, and sojourn with other good friends (so severe was then the persecution against the Christians), until, finally, while walking on the road, he was apprehended, and this only because one who saw him walking, said, "There goes the man who permitted preaching on his land." And though he offered to give to the officer that apprehended him his purse containing fifty pounds Flemish, if he would let him go, he was nevertheless taken along into prison at Kortrijk, where he, after a bold confession of his faith, was very severely tortured, by scourging as well as otherwise; but as he would in no wise apostatize from his faith, or implicate any of his fellow members, he was finally sentenced to death, and burned, in the year 1569, thus obtaining a house and inheritance which shall never be taken from him. II Cor. 5:1.
At Antwerp, about the year 1569, there was apprehended a brother, named jasper den Taschrinkmaker, who, when he was examined concerning his faith, boldly confessed it, and would allow no entreaties, threats or tortures to swerve him from it, so that because of his steadfastness he was sentenced to death as a heretic, and offered up his sacrifice by fire. Hence the eternal fire shall not destroy that which he has built upon the foundation Jesus Christ.
When the Duke of Alba tyrannized with great violence against the Gospel, as Antiochus against the law, II Macc. 7, there were brought prisoners into Ypres, in Flanders, in the year 1569, one Dirk Anoot, of Westvleteren, and one named Willem, a woodsawyer, who, as they could in no wise be drawn from the truth by tribulation, fear, or any suffering inflicted upon them, were finally condemned and sentenced by the fire, and were then brought into the marketplace, before the city hall, with a stick fastened in their mouth, that they should not speak. There each was placed at a stake and burned. Thus they, as those who did not love their life, but delivered it up for the Gospel, offered up their bodies as a burnt sacrifice unto God, their Lord.
At Ghent in Flanders also three sisters were apprehended on account of the faith, namely Tanneken van der Meulen, Jaecxken van Hussele, and Jaecxken Teerlings, who had to leave, for, the Lord's sake, five little children, whom she ommended to a faithful keeper and Provider, since she had to help her two imprisoned fellow sisters contend for His name, in which all three of them evinced such manful courage unto death, that even the tyrants were amazed at it, who shall be still more amazed, when they shall hear the sound of the trumpet, and see that these with all the children of God shall be taken up into everlasting joy and gladness, while they themselves standing on the left hand will have to go into everlasting sorrow, and that the time of repentance shall then be utterly taken away from them.
In the year 1569, at Ghent in Flanders, there were apprehended for the faith, three brethren and two sisters, namely, Joost Goethals, Roelandt and Pieter Stayert, Janneken Roelands and Janneken de Jonckheere. These had to resist many examinations, trials and temptations, but remained valiant in everything unto death, so that they were tried as gold in the fire; nor did that fail which they had built upon the cornerstone Christ; wherefore they shall, for having been faithful here over a few things, be made rulers with the good and faithful servant over many things, and enter into heaven into the joy of their Lord. Matt. 25:23.
Not long after the above there were also apprehended at Ghent three brethren and one sister, namely, Christoffel Buyze, Laurens van Rentergen, Joost Meerssenier, and Grietgen Baets. These, in order to follow Christ, gladly took up His cross, and had to suffer much reproach, temptation, and pain in the narrow way; but in all this they courageously persevered, and could in no wise be induced to apostatize, so that they finally had to lay down their lives for the name of Christ, and with Him press through the strait gate, in order that they might take the kingdom of God by force, where they in the new Jerusalem, shall have Him for an everlasting light, and shall with all those who have valiantly contended for the truth, live in everlasting and imperishable joy.
As the Jews did to the Shepherd, so their successors do still to His sheep, which was evident in the year 1569, when they, having come from Kortrijck to Meenen, apprehended there a brother named old Pieter; but not yet satisfied with this, they returned on the Friday before Easter, in the night, and apprehended Jan Watier, Jan van Raes, Wouter Demjs, Francais the Carpenter, and Kalleken, the widow of Anpleunis van den Berge (which latter had previously been offered up). These were so tightly bound that it was pitiful to behold. Jan Wader said, "If there is any one here from Komen, greet my wife, and tell her to fear God." These were then conducted to Kortrijck, where they lay for three weeks, so closely guarded that no one could come to them, to comfort or speak to them. They were also very severely tortured, in order that they should mention others; but God kept their lips. The old man, Jan van Raes, was put on the rack twice, but he nevertheless betrayed no one. When Jan Watier was led back to prison, it was a lamentable sight to behold how he had been tortured, all his limbs appearing to have been broken.
When they were led to the court, they said, "Now truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter." Isa. 59:14. There they (the five brethren and one sister) comforted and cheered one another with the Word of God. I Thess. 4:18, There the innocent were sentenced to be burned, and delivered to the hangman or executioner. Longing for their Father's land, to be in peace with Him forever, they boldly came forth, and Pieter sighed and cast up his eyes, saying, "O Lord, succor Thy servant, and strengthen him in his last extremity; and do not account this as sin to them, but convert them; for they know not what they do." Jan Watier said to the lords, "If we have done amiss to you in anything, do forgive us; we gladly forgive you all that you have .done amiss to us; but let the innocent blood you have shed satisfy you, and do not shed any more." Pieter said to the people, "If you would enter into life, seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all that you further need shall be added unto you." Matt. 6:33. He further said, "This is the strait gate by which we enter in; here we are going home, where we shall be this evening." Wouter Denijs said, "O Lord, reprove them with the hammer of thy divine word, that they may perceive, whom they have pierced, and be converted." John 19:37. Pieter again said, "These members, which God has given me, I will gladly surrender for his honor; for hereafter, when I rise, he shall give them to me again." II Macc. 7:11.
When they had all finished their prayer, and were standing bound at the stakes, they confidently
exclaimed, "O heavenly Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Thus all these six friends passed through the conflict, as faithful regenerated children of God, and elect sheep of Christ, who remained steadfast unto the end, and with their sacrifice took their blessed departure out of this world.
Wouter Denijs also wrote several letters from prison, three of which have come into our hands, and follow here.
A cordial greeting to you, my beloved wife and children, and to father, and to my brothers, sisters and all my friends according to the flesh, and to all that are known to me, who fear God from a pure heart. This fear, from a pure heart, may the Almighty God grant you through His Son Jesus Christ.
My beloved wife, and my children, whom I love next to God, lay this to heart, for I have written it with great diligence. Behold, I think (and know nothing to the contrary) that you will receive nothing further from me; hence if you would be saved let my words abide in your ears, I therefore pray you from the depths of my heart, through Jesus Christ, always to instruct and admonish my and your children with great diligence in the fear of _ God, as ..long as the Lord will let you remain together. I further request you, always to restrain them, lest they rule over you. You have such a striking example in some whom I will not mention here, not deeming it best; but I will let it be as it is
everyone will give an account of himself. Romans 14:12. Therefore, my dear and beloved, I pray you for Christ's sake, to walk in the fear of the Lord; and use more diligence in seeking your salvation, than you have hitherto done; and be not ashamed to ask questions in matters pertaining to salvation, but let us be ashamed before the Lord of our misery and nakedness; for when the Lord visits us, everyone would like to be found glorious and spotless, and blameless in weakness. For when one gets into bonds, it is such a blessed thing to have peace in one's conscience; or even if one should be laid upon his death-bed. Hence Peter admonishes us, "Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator." I Peter 4:19. And the apostle exhorts us that every one should seek to excel in good works. Tit. 3:8. Abd Christ says in His Gospel, "He that forsaketh not lands and house, father and mother, wife and children, yea, his own life, is not worthy to be my disciple." Luke 14:26.
Therefore, everyone that would be saved must obey-his Saviour, as the Word of the Lord everywhere declares. Hence use diligence to hear and follow the Word of God; for, without the Word of God salvation cannot be found, however grandly he false prophets boast themselves. For from the beginning of the world the righteous had to suffer from the unrighteous, and be persecuted, for if the Prince of our salvation Himself suffered, being an example and pattern unto us, that we should follow Him; we may well see that the servant is not better than his Lord. Hence let everyone that would be saved make entreaty to the Lord, from the depth of his heart and with tears, without ceasing. And I pray you, my dear wife, to teach our children to read and write, if it be possible for you, in order that they may be able to search for themselves. John 5:39.
Thus, my dear and much beloved wife, whom next to God I loved above all men, lay this to heart, and let the same be done by all that shall see it or hear it read. And I pray you, brother and sister, and all who truly know Christ, and love His appearing, that, when they attain to years of understanding, you will exercise an oversight and care not only over mine, but all that are in like condition; and charge Hansken at Proentken's, occasionally to admonish Pieter, and to search whereunto we are called, and for what testimony his father was burned at Wervijke, in Flanders. Acts 23:11.
And I beseech everyone that would be saved, not to neglect the grace of God. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation; let everyone take heed now. On the twentyfirst day of April, about eleven o'clock, I received a letter here, which was welcome to me. However, I will pass this by, and go on. Know that we are still of good courage, and had I been able, I would have sent you something; but this I send you all as a greeting, and for a remembrance to my children, and I request of you who remain there, to keep this till they attain to their understanding, if it be possible for you, if peradventure the Lord should grant grace, and knowledge of the truth, as I trust He will do. I entreat everyone from the depth of my heart, and with tears, before God, to excuse my weakness kindly and in love. I deplore it before God and men, that I have not been more of a light, and that the talent which I have received has gained so little profit.
Hence everyone may take good heed, and always be watchful; for I testify before God and men, that I have not lightly come here. Therefore let everyone take heed, I pray you, that you do not lightly receive this; for, know that I have not lightly written it; with this warning I acquit myself of all responsibility. Let everyone take heed.
Written by me, your husband and dear friend,
The unfathomable grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all dear brethren and sisters, and all dear friends who desire to walk in the true and
pleasant fear of the Lord; and with the overseers of the true bride of Christ; this we wish as a heartfelt greeting, namely, we brethren and sisters, Jan van Raes, Francais the carpenter, Jan Watier, of Komen, Old Pieter, Wouter Denijs, and Kalleken van den Berge, who are in bonds here at Kortrijck for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Further, dear friends, we inform you in regard to our first examination, that we were sharply and severely examined concerning our brethren, leaders and teachers, as to who they are, where they live, and what their names are.
Hence we pray you, dear friends, that you do not lightly inquire concerning one another's names or places of abode; for when we get into bonds, we have to suffer great distress on account of it; but the Lord be praised forever, who has hitherto kept our lips; however, we are greatly threatened with the torture. We therefore kindly ask you, diligently to entreat the Lord for us, and for all our brethren that are in bonds at Ghent, Antwerp, and all other places; that the Lord may strengthen them. And we heartily ask you, to see to our wives and children, and to admonish them in the fear of the Lord, as you should like to have done to yours; and to see that you protect their property as well as you can. And know that it is still our purpose to fight through by the grace of the Lord. Kallaken, and Stijntgen and Jaentgen, her two daughters, are confined together, and greet you much; and as regards. their purpose it is also tolerably well with them. But we pray you, dear friends in the Lord, diligently to search His Word, and to admonish one another while you are out of bonds; for I fear that they will yet greatly scatter the church, since they are still thirsting much for blood, even more than the judge. For as Jannes and Jambres vehemently withstood Moses, so do these violently resist the truth. They intend to scatter the whole flock at Meenen. Hence let every one keep as quiet as he can, and if you receive any warning, whether verbal or otherwise, heed it; for if I, Wouter Denijs, had heeded it three or four nights, I would perhaps not be imprisoned. But I thank the Lord for His grace; I thought it should cause me far more sorrow; but now I find that the Lord is wonderful and mighty in His deeds; He who does not leave His children comfortless, for which I can never fully praise or thank Him. Pieter heartily asks the church to forgive him; for what he said was spoken from great consternation, and the man is wonderfully sorry on account of it, and has wept many a tear because it happened. We kindly pray you, to remember us in your prayers, as being imprisoned with us, for we now much need the prayers of the saints. And do not lightly receive our letter, for we have good reason to write this, since we are far more ardent in remembering our fellow prisoners than we were before we were in bonds. For you may know how this letter was written, namely, with a little stick cut off of a counter, and with ink made of red earth. Further, dear friends, I heartily pray you to admonish Ariaenken, my wife. Though matters now thus stand with her, I trust in the Lord, that she will not remain under the subjection of Egypt with her carnal friends, since she has been spoken to. I hope for the best.
No more, but farewell; we commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace.
Written by me, Wouter Denijs, commenced on the nineteenth, and finished the twentieth, by the grace of the Lord, to whom be praise and honor forever. Amen.
Let everyone take heed, though I do not write much or very learnedly, which is something that is not in me. Receive this from me in good part, as I trust you will do. These greetings and warnings I send to those indicated in my preceding letters, and further to those who are principally of my acquaintance, and to all that walk in the fear of God, and love Ws appearing, and desire to follow this; and I admonish everyone to be diligent in searching the Word of God. Exhort one another in love, and copy this for my dear and beloved wife, and preserve these three letters; this I heartily pray you. Take further solicitations for your salvation, and let it be read to you occasionally. Grieve not on my account, but grieve before God because of your sins. Think not within yourselves, that you are without sin, but always have an humble estimate of yourselves before the Lord; for James says, "If any man think that he serveth God, and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain." James 1:9. Therefore, my beloved, comfort yourselves in the Lord, and think that He has called me hereunto; and I trust by His power, through the help and strength of Him who counts me worthy for this, not to depart therefrom for any torture. And I firmly trust that the Lord counts, and shall make, me worthy for it; and I shall firmly trust in Him with a pure heart unto the end; for I may well say hitherto, that the Lord is showing me, and five or six others with me, such abundant grace, that it were impossible for me to describe it with the pen; for we scarcely know of our bonds, but are together in fervency of spirit. Hence I admonish you all to pray with greater diligence than I have sometimes done, for the prisoners, as the apostle exhorts us. Let, therefore, everyone be diligent to pray in love; for we find that they that are in bonds pray much more fervently for those who are out of bonds. Thus I will conclude writing. Let everyone be quick to see how the life and doctrine of the learned and wise of this world accord with the life of our Lord, Christ Jesus, our Saviour.
Herewith I commend you to the faithful Creator, and to the word of His grace.
Written by me,
And my fellow prisoners