They who seek truly to follow the words and commandments of God often have to suffer great contempt and persecution from the learned of this world, as was well seen at Leeuwaerden, in Friesland in the case of a brother named Douwe Eeuwouts, who on the 3d of January of the year 1571, for the name of Christ, had to leave five little children alone in the house, and suffer himself to be imprisoned in a dark dungeon, where he had to remain confined with criminals for a long time, which he, though longing to be offered up, patiently suffered. Afterwards he was examined by the bishop and others, who greatly tormented him, in order to cause him to recant, but all in vain. They asked him concerning his faith, which he freely confessed. They also greatly praised up to him the pope's trumpery; but he said, he would keep to the commandments of God, and let go the commandments of men. He also proved, that their hours, mass, confirmation, anointing, exorcising, and other things were not in accordance with the Word of God; and he further besought them, that now that he had confessed his faith, they should not torment him any more, but cut short his sufferings and troubles; for he was ready to give up his life for the truth, knowing that he might then expect the crown of life. Finally the bishop condemned him as a heretic, and delivered him to the secular judges, that they should deal with him according to the king's decree, for these so-called Christians, like the Pharisees, can put no one to death. But in consequence of the bishop's delivering him, Douwe Eeuwouts, after long imprisonment, was sentenced to death on the 12th of October, A. D. 1571, to be drowned the following night. When he heard this sentence, he showed himself valiant as a giant in the faith, not terrified by impending death, but greatly longing for the new Jerusalem; and sat in the room with his head uncovered, thanking, praising, and praying to his heavenly Father, till the hour of his departure had come. They then tookhim, and tied him in a bag, when he began to sing"I poor lamb on the heath." Many that were there praised his boldness, that he went to death so voluntarily and joyfully.
Thus he most joyfully departed this temporal sorrow, and ended his life in the water, and now rests under the altar, and there waits for the eternal joy which is promised to all of God's dear children.
In the year 1571, Hans Misel, a weaver, who was yet a young man, at Langensmeer in Swabia, was asked by some persons to read and speak from the Word of the Lord; and as he declared to them the way of the truth, he was betrayed, and reported at Warthausen. The lady who then resided there, sent her clerk thither, who came with servants, surprised the brother, drew his sword, and with the hilt of the same several times struck the brother on the heart or breast, berating him fearfully, and saying, he had power to do this and more. He also struck him with the blade of the sword, and said he had authority to thrust him through with it, and kill him. But the brother did not allow himself to be intimidated, but with gentle words said to the clerk, that he should calm himself, and not carry on so. The clerk bound him himself, and they took him with them to Barthausen, and kept him that night in a house, where they reveled and caroused, and made sport of and ignominiously treated the brother, the whole night. When day came, they conducted him into the castle, and confined him in a tower, where many priests came to him, who greatly labored with and tempted him; but all that came to him had to retire from him with shame. The executioner also had to do his part to try him; they greatly racked and tortured him, but could not move him to renounce his belief or to do anything that was contrary to the faith. When they had finished all their temptations, and he remained steadfast, and would not depart a single step from the way of faith and of the divine truth, the lady of the castle sent for the priests, and said to them, that she was a woman, and knew little how he ought to be dealt with; they should advise her as to what ought to be done with him. Here the lady had hit upon the right counselors, even as though one were to ask the wolf what ought to be done with the sheep; for they immediately presented to her the imperial law and mandate, and thus adjudged him worthy of death, according to the way of their fathers, who also gave counsel concerning Christ and cried, "Away with him, he is worthy of death; we have a law, and by the same he ought to die." John 19:15, 7. Thus it happened that he was sentenced to death; several in the council however would not give their voice; but this was of no avail, the devil, who works in the children of unbelief, was master of the game.
Now when he was to be executed in the morning,
his friends came in the night, and wanted to help him out of the tower. They dug until they came almost to him, so that he heard them. He warned them, that they should not dare do this, since he should not come out to them through the hole; hence they had to let it go. And as the sentence had come, that he was to be executed, they wanted to,give him something to eat first; but he would not eat, and when he heard that his last hour had now come, he requested to be left alone in peace, in a corner for a little while, which they granted him, without knowing why he requested this; however, they had him watched, to see what he should do, and what he intended. He raised his hands to heaven, and offered up an earnest and sincere prayer to God, and also praised God, that He had permitted him to see this hour, and had counted him worthy thereto; and prayed that He would give him power and courage for it, that he might die the death of an upright and manifest witness of God. He then also faithfully thanked God for all the benfits which He had ever shown him, and also prayed that God would assist him now in his last hour, which was at hand, and thus commended himself into the hands of the Lord his God.
The executioner said, "This man is bolder than we all."
When he had finished praying, he came forward again to the people with smiling lips, and was willing to die. The confessor of Warthausen went with him when he was taken out, and wanted that he should renounce, and have mercy on himself. But he said, that they should renounce and turn from their whoredom, villainy, and the idolatrous, ungodly life, into which they were sunken.
When the executioner brought him to the place where he was to be executed, he said to him, that if he would recant, he still had authority to let him go. But he refused, and would there seal his faith with his blood, and so far as he was concerned, he said, he might proceed. Thus he was beheaded and then burnt, and as they could not burn him quickly enough, they cut him into pieces and burned the pieces. When the executioner had struck off his head, so that the same lay on the ground, his body still remained erect, with the hands uplifted, as though he were praying, till the executioner pushed him over with his foot. It was also said that his head and hair could not~be burned, but that it was found entire and undisfigured in the ashes, and was thus buried. This took place on the 13th of December of said year 1571.
When he was about to be executed, he said, his blood should be seen in the sun. And it came to pass on the third day after, at noon that the sun presented a blood-red appearance, and where it shone through the windows, upon tables and other things, they seemed as though they were standing in the fire, so that the people came together in the streets from amazement, as those who saw it and are still living can testify.
About the year 1572, there was burnt at Nimeguen, a young man named Jan Block, who had wealth, and lived of the same, so that he had not learned any profession or trade. He associated with a brother named Symon van Maren, a furrier, born at Hertogenbosch, with whom he formerly was wont to go to the tavern to tipple, but who, after he was converted, admonished him to read the New Testament, which advice he also followed; and the good Lord so opened his heart, that he understood from it what was right, and joined the church of God. This done, he could not remain hid, since he led a better life than before; so that all his property was confiscated, and a price set upon his apprehension, that whoever would betray him, should receive for it seventy gold reals. Then he fled out of the city, and in a village asked a mason for work as a tender, in order that he might earn a living, since he knew nothing else to do. The mason refused him this, saying: "They would come here to apprehend you, and this would bring me into trouble." Sometime after he came into town, where he was espied by a traitor, who went and reported it to the officer and his beadles, who came to seek him. The woman of the house had compassion on Jan Block, and he went and stood upon the bed behind the curtains. The bailiff looked into the chamber, but did not search very closely, since he was not a bloodthirsty man, and then turned back again, saying: "He is not there." The traitor said, "He is there; I saw him go in." One of the beadles went back, and raising the curtains, saw him standing there. He was then taken along, as a malefactor. While in prison he was often visited, and cared for by the God-fearing.
Finally sentence of death was pronounced upon him, and he was condemned to be burned at the stake as a heretic.
While this took place, one of the lords in the court, who, since Jan Block was of high descent, had formerly associated much with him, sought, as he pretended, to convert him to the Romish faith before his end; to whom this valiant witness of Jesus Christ, turning around, answered: "You should have converted me when we were formerly together in such and such places (which he named to him) and each of us had a harlot in his lap."
Coming upon the scaffold, to be put to death, he showed such a joyful countenance, as though he had come to a wedding feast or a festival; for he went to the stake at which he was to offer up his sacrifice, with as much alacrity as though he had made a leap.
Having arrived at the stake, he pointed out to the executioner his carelessness, consisting in this, that the holes where he was to be fastened were not bored at the proper place.
Shortly after this, after having commended his
soul into the hands of God, and suffering many tortures, he was burned, and an end put to his life.
All this was so affecting, that several of the lords who had sat in judgment over him shed tears of compassion for this innocent, but nevertheless well-established and steadfast young man; which we have deemed necessary to record from the testimony of those who according to their statement were present on that occasion and witnessed it.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26.
The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Blessed be God, the heavenly Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted or comforted, it is all for our good and our salvation. This salvation, except my bonds, I wish you from the depth of my soul, for comfort and salvation in your greatest need, when you, dear brother in the Lord, will have need of help and comfort, as you, moved and impelled through the operation of the Holy Spirit, have now at the right time written and sent to me, poor prisoner at Nimeguen, for the Word of our dear Lord; by which you have done me such a great and acceptable service, that I shall never in my life be able sufficiently to thank God my heavenly Father, who appointed you, like Habakkuk, to bring food, by which the pious Daniel was fed outwardly according to the flesh, through the confidence which he had toward our God. O how great is this spiritual food, dear brother, with which you have fed and comforted my poor, hungry soul, which you, according to the opportunity of the past, abundantly wrote to me in your letter from the holy word of the Lord, for my consolation, and to incite me to take undaunted courage; for which I, as said above, cannot sufficiently thank you. By the help of our dear Lord I hope to do the same; through the almighty Lord I still have the will to do well from the heart. I hope and trust in God our heavenly Father, who shall strengthen me, poor, unworthy prisoner for His holy Word, to finish it to His holy praise, when I shall offer up my sacrifice, as you write to me of many prophets and apostles, yea, of Christ Himself, who, for the -sins of us all, out of love for us was led to the slaughter as a dumb lamb; how much more ought I, poor miserable sinner, to deliver up my life for His holy name's sake, of which I sincerely deem myself unworthy. Yet I trust, as above, and as you wrote to me, as the prophet Ezekiel speaks by the mouth of the Most High, that He will remember sins nomore, as we, the Lord be thanked, well know on what condition the Lord has spoken to us. All that desire this, and are converted from the heart, God will hear.
And such as lament and moan night and day over their great transgression, as I poor, miserable sinner have done, He will hear, and be gracious unto them, for He loves to forgive, so that I, as said above, gladly surrender myself for the name of my Lord, and suffer by His grace very patiently for my sins, and deliver up my body, as did the seven children in Maccabees. And the pious Eleazar would much rather die honorably, than dissimulate and set a bad example to the young brethren. Thus, by the grace of God, is also my mind, dear brother in the Lord. But, much beloved brother, I have such great conflict on account of my former life, that I did not gain a living as an honest man. But, the Lord be thanked, a little before my imprisonment, I had resolved by the grace of the Lord, to support myself in all humility and holiness by the labor of my hands; however, I have not time to carry it out. Hence my mind is often troubled, and this by the passage of Paul where he says that,"Though I had faith, so that I could remove mountains, and gave all my goods to the poor, and gave my body to be burned, and had not charity, it were all of no avail." And that we are to live so holy and unblamable, this causes my heart to shrink, and my eyes daily to flow like a river, because I have so sinfully spent my precious time; this the Lord knows, for whose Word and testimony I, miserable sinner am imprisoned; yet I woul' not give my hope and faith for a thousand worlds. O dear brethren, how little have I known, much less had, the true regeneration and new creature, as I now feel it through the grace of God, and should gladly confess it, if I had the time. Friends, have earnest love to one another, and edify one another in all humility and earnestness in the exercise of godliness, and daily exhort one another to all holiness; also that each be the least in his own eyes, and that you do not walk so haughtily and with such display, lest the poor, blind world, according to her doing, surpass* us in many things. This view I have now, by the grace of God, had for some little time, and if I had indeed in the beginning felt it thus, and accepted it, as I ought to have done, and as I now, alas I in my last time had resolved, by the grace of the Lord, to do, I should certainly not have come to such great sorrow, which originated in superciliousness or secret pride and an easy life. Hence, dear brother, and dear ministers of the church of God, wherever you are, take diligent care, as faithful laborers in the vineyard [and direct into the right way] the branches, which shoot up very lightly, and grow in the fullness and vanity of their mind, who are also alienated from the life of God. I only now begin to experience with the understanding, what the new cr,eature is.
O dear brethren and watchmen over the house of the Lord, do not regard the person; for those that are young in the understanding of the Christian life can be ruined in no way more effectively, than by not diligently exhorting them with the Word of the Lord, to become new creatures. and to humility, and to lead a godly life. Oh, how I have experienced this within my own self, that so few are found at this time who are truly converted and renewed, and rightly follow the life and the footsteps in which Christ went before us. Oh, if they felt it, as I now in my last time feel it, they would be afraid of speaking or thinking of anything, except chiefly of the law of the Lord. O dear friends, now only I understand it, and very often think of one of our three sisters, who wrote her son Tobias a testament, in which she speaks, I think, of improving our time, and that we shall deplore noticing more, than that we have so little improved our time, but often spent it in frivolity. O dear friends, I would from the heart, that those that are guilty in this matter, or are found slothful, could feel their present time as I now feel in my heart my past time, and am accused [in my conscience] concerning it; you would certainly be found, in godly exercise, to be renewed in the power of the Spirit, into a new, spiritual life, which is like the image of Him, who poured out His holy blood for us poor sinners; then we should indeed show forth the mind and nature of Christ in words and in works. We should then, according to Matt. 5, so let our light shine, and be such a salt of the earth, that we should indeed have the greater praise before this adulterous generation; yea, we should shine forth with a clear light in the church of God. Even as the light of the candle is improved by trimming it, so if we would in our short time, trim our body in word and deed from our carnal body, in words and in works, yea, in dress and worldliness, then our lights would certainly be found to give forth a clearer light. Hence since every one sees, how many there are found to be darkness, to the reproach of the Gospel, we see here, that so many in this last time, without affliction, become alienated from God, and wax cold; that, as the Lord says, when the Son of man shall come, whether He shall then find faith on the earth. O dear friends, though one may guard himself so as not to be punished with excommunication, do you think that one is then also a new creature before God, truly according to His Father's image, truly dead unto all sin? Oh, no; I think differently; and this through the grace of the Lord. But this is my last time, to all appearance, and I also make no other calculation, than to surrender my body from day to day for the testimony.of the Word of our dear Lord, to suffer a little through His grace, and to strive manfully, even unto death, yea, unto the death by fire, or whatever my enemies will, as the Lord permits them. I have commended myself to the Lord of my salvation and strength, and my helper in time of need.O dear brother and sister in the Lord, I have written this letter, my little gift, to you most beloved, with abundant tears, out of love. In short, I beseech you, dear brother, and my cordially beloved sisters in the Lord, from the depth of my soul, that you will everywhere with one accord, bow your knees before God, and lift up holy hands to the Lord, and entreat the almighty Father for me poor weak servant, that He will give me strength, that I may finish it joyfully, to His holy praise, and to my salvation, undismayed unto death, as I hope and trust, without my knowledge. And it behooves you to write, according to ancient, holy custom, that the strong pray for the weak, especially in peril of death. I pray the almighty Lord according to my weak ability for you dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, that He will keep you that are still in a good state; and those who have erred or sinned in anything, that they may truly confess their sins before God, with weeping, and be converted in time. My cordially beloved fellow believers and dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, I your poor unworthy brother-yet through the grace of the Lord I hope to be worthy-would have written you concerning what happened to me before the lords; but I cannot put it all here, nor have I much to write concerning it; for, after I had been confined for a week, they had me brought above; then I confessed my faith; since that time I have had very great conflict, and shall have as long as I am in this tabernacle. I hope to write you more. Dear brethren, if you should find any words that may lack a letter or two, or if the spelling or writing be bad, excuse me, for my reason and memory have lately left me much, and this through great sorrow, to state the reason is not necessary; but my mind is firm and of good cheer in the Lord, and I am as courageous as a young lion. I cannot thank the Lord enough for His great goodness which He daily sends me, sometimes by great sorrow, and sometimes by great joy, yea, that I at times think that I am in heaven; however, for the most part I have tribulation, the Lord be thanked for it. Dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, heartily pray the Lord for me; by the grace of God I shall do likewise, according to my small ability.
Written by me at the Nimeguen in prison, where I unworthy one was confined for the Word of our dear Lord, which is tried and pure. The almighty Lord mightily strengthen my mind by His grace, when I shall have to render up my life, who have not the strength to finish it to the praise of my Lord before wicked men. Adieu, my dear brethren and sisters in the Lord. I bid you most beloved good night, to wait for you all where I hope to get by the grace of the Lord, in the eternal joy. JAN BLOCK.
In the year 1572 there was also imprisoned at Ghent in Flanders, for the testimony of Jesus, a
young man by the name Heyndrick the Shoemaker, because he had turned his ear to the voice which calls, saying, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Rev. 18:4. Hence he separated from Babylon, and united with Christ, in consequence of which he was tried with very many odious and severe threats by the ministers of Babylon or antichrist. But the trial of his faith, being thus purified, was found much more precious than of gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire (I Yet. 1:7); so that he patiently bore all for the name of Jesus. And as no tortures could move him to apostatize, for he was founded upon the rock, he was therefore put to death with the sword at said place, in the Friday market, and thus died steadfastly, and, through grace, obtained the crown of eternal glory, and now rests under the altar, Christ Jesus.
This hero and warrior of Jesus Christ composed in his bonds the beautiful hymn which is found in the Tafereel hymnbook, and commences thus, "Since nature this doth teach me."
After the offering up of the afore-mentioned friend of God, Jan Block, a young man who maintained the truth of the slain martyr, and made the same confession, traveled from Nimeguen to Hertogenbosch, but being spied out, was apprehended by the bailiff there, and taken to the place where it was customary to imprison those that had forfeited their heads, and securely confined there.
Not long after, the mint master of the city of Nimeguen, having heard of it, came to Hertogenbosch, in order, if possible, to rescue and ransom him from death, who was one of his faithful servants.
To this end he paid down to the bailiff there a thousand florins, thinking thereby to have made satisfaction and achieved his purpose: but when the bailiff had received this sum, he would not grant it, declaring that the prisoner had to die nevertheless, according to the imperial decree.
The result was, that shortly after his trial was concluded, his death sentence was announced to him, namely, that he was to be executed with fire, or burned in the market place; which was carried into execution in said city, to the heartfelt sorrow of many spectators.