In the year 1572, the 4th of December, there were burned at Ghent in Flanders, in the Friday Market, for the testimony of Jesus, with balls in their mouths, a God-fearing, pious brother, named Mattheus Bernaerts, called Mattheus van Lineken, born at Meenen in Flanders, forty years old, in his time a minister of the church of God, in the Word of the holy Gospel, and also in the deaconship, to provide for poor needy members of Christ in temporal necessities; and a young maiden, named Dingentgen of Honschoten. These two, together with Maerten van der Straten, born at Kortrijck in Flanders, and Adriaen Rogiers, born at Bommel in Guelderland (who are separately mentioned in this book), four in all, were together burned in the same fire, with balls in their mouths, for the true, indubitable truth, and testified to and confirmed the true faith with their death and blood in great constancy. They thus fought a good fight against the princes and rulers of darkness, the devil and his adherents, finished their course, kept the faith, and are expecting now to receive, through grace, the crown of eternal glory from the hand of the Lord.
God the heavenly Father, Creator of heaven and earth, and the waters, and all that therein is; who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see (I Tim.6:1); the same .eternal, only, Almighty God, grant you, my dear children, through Christ Jesus His only Son, and the power of the Holy Ghost, till your full age, grace and mercy, wisdom and understanding, that your senses may become exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14), so that you may from your youth, through the fear of God, learn to shun sin, and to avoid all evil and wickedness, and thus grow up in the knowledge of God that you may inherit salvation and eternal glory, so that I may find you in life eternal. This I, Mattheus Bernaerts, your father, wish you, my dear children, Janneken, Joosken, and Mijntken, from the depth of my heart, that this may be done. Amen.
I, Mattheus Bernaerts, or Mattheus van Lincken, your father, am now, for the Word of God, confined in prison at Ghent. Hence, my dear children, my first wish is, that, when you are come to years of understanding, you diligently inquire why it came that your father had to suffer; and search also ardently in the holy Scriptures, and you will by the grace of God readily perceive that it is not for any evil doing or heresy that I have to suffer, as I and my fellow brethren that have obtained like faith with me, have been accused by the false prophets; but we are reproached, because we firmly hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. I Tim. 4:10. In the living God, I say, who so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16. We confess that the same only Son of the Father has existed from everlasting to everlasting. For He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, by whom all things were created, and by whom we also have reconciliation, even the forgiveness of sins. Revelation 1:8, 17; Col. 1:16, 14. For when we were yet ungodly, Christ died for us, and we were reconciled by the death of the Son of God when we were yet enemies through the knowledge of evil works, and now are we reconciled by the body of His flesh through death, for the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all our sins. Romans 5:8; I John 1:7. He is also the innocent, spotless Lamb, that took Adam's sin upon Himself, who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth and who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. I Pet. 2:22; I Cor. 1:30.
In short, I believe and confess with many saints of God, that Christ is the Son of the living God, even as Peter confessed Him, with many apostles, Nathanael, Martha, the thief, the angel Gabriel, the Father from high heaven, and many Christian witnesses. This only Son of God revealed and made known to us the will of the Father after He arose from the dead. He gave His apostles a command, saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Matt. 28:18-20. Mark writes, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:15, 16. But man must then first become converted and repent, for Christ caused repentance to be preached in His name, for the remission of sins, and to Christ give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 2:38; 10:43. And the apostles as faithful servants followed the command of Christ, as we read in Acts, where Peter taught the people of Jerusalem, saying, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and they that gladly received his word were baptized." Acts 2:38, 41. Likewise we also find concerning the eunuch from Ethiopia, that he was baptized by Philip upon the confession of his faith. V. 37, 38. Philip also baptized both men and women, when he had preached to them the things concerning the kingdom of God. V. 12. Peter also commanded to baptize Cornelius and his household, when he and all his household, by faith, had received the Holy Ghost. 10:47, 48. The jailer and his household also were baptized, when they had come to believe in the Lord Jesus. 16:33. Thus the apostles baptized only believers, after they had first taught them to repent, to die unto sin, and to be buried by baptism, to rise again in newness of life. Rom. 6:4. Thus baptism is a burial of sin, a washing of regeneration, the like figure whereunto even baptism, says Peter, doth also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God. I Pet. 3:21. For by baptism it is indicated to believers, that they, through Christ, are inwardly baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, concerning which we have many testimonies in the Scriptures, and thus enter into a covenant with the Most High, who assures them by His Holy Spirit, of the grace and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ that He is their God, and that they are His children.
This in brief is our belief respecting baptism, and we, moreover, renounce everything that has been instituted by men, contrary to it.
We further have from the Word of God the Supper, or breaking of bread, which the Lord Himself instituted, and commanded His apostles, for a remembrance of His sufferings and death, as Paul writes, "The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For asoften as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." I Cor. 11: 23-29. Thus did Christ Jesus institute the Supper with bread and wine, to be used in the Christian assembly, in the name of the Lord, for a token of brotherly love and unity, for a sign that we, through His merits, by faith in His holy name, have become partakers of Christ, the true bread from heaven, as Paul declares, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." I Cor. 10:16, 17. But they that are meet for this bread must have died unto sin, and have buried it [sin] by baptism, and have risen again with Christ in a godly Christian life; they must have become new creatures in Christ, and been cleansed in His blood; they must be saved by the washing of water by the Word, be flesh of Christ's flesh, and bone of His bones; they must be partakers of the divine nature, and further flee all the perishing lusts of this world; they must also by one Spirit be baptized into one body, and have been made to drink into one Spirit. II Cor. 5:17; Ephesians 5:26; I Cor. 12:13. This Supper is wholly perverted by the world, for they hold their supper with harlots and rogues, with drunkards, adulterers, idolaters, liars, thieves, murderers, railers, and sorcerers, of whom it is written, that such shall not inherit the kingdom of God, for their part shall be in the fiery lake which shall burn with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Gal. 5:21; Rev. 21:8. They also believe that in eating the bread and drinking the cup they eat the real body of Christ, and drink His real blood, whereas Christ says to the Jews, when they also understood it carnally, even as these do still understand it, that flesh and blood did profit nothing; it is the Spirit that quickeneth: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63. We also find in many places, that Christ sat down on the right hand of His Father in heaven, and that He shall possess heaven, until the time that there will be fulfilled what God has spoken by the mouth of His prophets. Acts 3:21. And because I, my dear children, have from the heart accepted and believed these three articles, from the Word of God, as from the mouth of the Lord by the Holy Ghost, and have, according to my weak ability, avoided and shunned evil, and all that is contrary thereunto, as many different abominations, idolatry, infant baptism, the idolatrous, perverted supper, auricular confession, and divers other abominations; therefore I must suffer and die.
But it has been so from the beginning of the world, that the righteous have had to suffer much, as Christ says, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me" (John 16
2, 3); for"had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." I Corinthians 2:8. And Christ says, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." John 15:19.
Thus the children of God are called and chosen from this dark, wicked world to the light Jesus Christ, that their works, which are done in God, may reprove the world and bring to light its wickedness; therefore they are enraged against them, after the manner of Cain. Because Abel's sacrifice was acceptable before the Lord, therefore he was slain by Cain; for that which is pure and clear cannot come forth; he that departeth from evil, and doeth good, is every one's prey. Isa. 59:14, 15. And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. II Tim. 3:12. The angel said to Tobit, "Because thou wast pleasing to God, it had to be thus; thou couldest not remain without temptation, that thou mightest be tried." Tobit 12:13."The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub; how much more shall they call them of his household? If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." Matt. 10:24, 25; John 15:20. My dear little children, what I, your father, must now suffer for, will not be to your disgrace, for it is for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence be not ashamed of it, for we cannot die a more glorious death for the Lord, than for the Word of God. Peter and John departed joyfully from the presence of the council, when they had been scourged, because they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Acts 5:41. And the same apostle says, "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified." I Pet. 4:14.
It is further my wish, my dear children, that you keep yourselves from the evil works of this world, the number of which is very great, that you be not condemned with it; for the world and all the lust thereof shall pass away, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever, yea, the Lord will keep him as the apple of His eye, and his good works as a signet. I Cor. 11:32; Sir. 17:22. Therefore strive from your youth for that which is best, submit your shoulders to the truth, flee all youthful lusts, and endeavor to take up the yoke of the Lord, namely,the doctrine of Jesus Christ, now in your youthful days, even until old age, yea, unto the end of your life, then a wise and perfect man will be beheld in you. Diligently search the holy Scriptures, that you may thereby go on perfect in the divine life, from which the world is alienated; and let the Word of Christ be planted in you, that it may dwell in you richly in all wisdom. Col. 3:16. Remember always God's commandment, and continually His Word, which shall make your heart perfect, and give you wisdom, as you desire; for the Word of the Most High is the fountain of wisdom, and her entrance are the everlasting commandments. Sirach 1:5. Through the Word of God you receive godly senses that are exercised to discern both good and evil, for the holy Scriptures testify of God's goodness, and makes the ignorant (that desire it) wise to fear God, and to flee all wickedness, and do good. For he that fears God will do good. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding. Job 28:28. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of wisdom, to depart from the snares of eternal death. Prov. 14:27. And the wages of sin is death. Rom. 6:23. Hence, my dear children, shun the cause which leads to death, that is sin, which is seen very much in those that arle carnal, for the world lieth in wickedness, for sin is very lightly esteemed by them, yet the teeth thereof are as the teeth of a lion, slaying the souls of men, for all sin and iniquity is as a twoedged sword, the wounds whereof can not be healed. I John 5:19; Sir. 21:2, 3. O my dear children, keep your souls with the greatest diligence, so that you also speak no iniquity with your mouth; and beware of lying, for man, says Christ, shall have to give account of every idle word which he shall have idly spoken. Matt. 12:36. Hence Paul says, "Put away lying, and speak truth with one another." Eph. 4:25. For idle words shall not go free, and the mouth that lieth slayeth the soul; and liars have no part in the kingdom of God, but their part shall be in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. Wisd. 1:11; Rev. 21:8.
Dear children, be faithful wherever you live, or wherever you are be good and faithful to all men; and beware of stealing, for thieves have no place in the kingdom of God, for it is an abominable, great sin; hence let neither your eye nor your heart covet ought of that which is not yours, for a thief is nowhere liked, for wherever he goes he and his hands are watched.
Thus, my dear children, conduct yourselves honestly toward everyone, and whatever you hear in the house that should be kept secret, do not proclaim in the streets, or to everyone from house to house, but observe secrecy and attend to your work, and be not negligent through idleness, for idleness makes thieves of boys, and harlots of girls, which is frequently seen to happen, that daughters reach the brothel, and sons the gallows; this often comes from the fact that they are lickerish, and will not work. Hence conduct yourselves well with
those with whom you are, and obey them, even as you ought to obey your father, and be not stubborn and obstinate, but obey them willingly from the heart, and treat them and all men courteously and kindly; and beware of backbiting, for this too is a great sin, a thief is a shameful thing, but a backbiter is more shameful still, for the backbiter reveals what he secretly knows. Sir. 5:14. Hence keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Eschew evil, and do good: seek peace, and ensue it; for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Ps. 34:13; I Pet. 3:10-12. Therefore put off now all envy and backbiting (I Pet. 2:1), and do not envy one another, nor any one, for envy destroys all friendship, and separates good friends, and through envy Cain slew his brother Abel. Out of envy the sons of Jacob cast their brother Joseph into the pit, and sold him.
O my dear children, keep constantly in the house, and do not go in the street much, when you have nothing to do there; for there one learns nothing but roguery, as fighting, playing, gambling, cursing, swearing, and to speak many unprofitable words. O children, it is very injurious for you, according to soul and body, to run in the street: but, when you do not have to work, take a Testament in your hand, and read in it; that will be very appropriate for you. And you Janneken and Joosken, you are older than your sister Mijntken; show mercy according to your ability in assisting to provide for her board, and work diligently with your hands, that you may have to give to him that needeth (Eph. 4:28), for you are under great obligation, after my departure to do the best for one another, that you may properly help one another according to your ability. Let the younger obey the older, that there may be no contention. In this and all other things show your humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. I Pet. 5:5. And those that are proud of heart He has cast down from their seats, and set them of low degree thereupon. Luke 1:52. Hence, my dear children, let not pride rule in you, in word or in deed; for David says, "A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off; him that hath a high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me." Ps. 101:4-6. O my dear children, be good and kind to one another, and let no spiteful words be heard from you, either to one another or to any one else. Be also obedient to my wife, your mother; for the Lord's sake, and for my sake, for she was very dear and precious to me; but now I must leave her and you for the name of the Lord, according to the command of Christ, which I would not do for all the world, but for the Lord and the Gospel's sake we must forsake everything, father, mother, wife,child, brothers, sisters, lands, house, home, yea, moreover even our own life else we are not worthy to be His disciples. Matt. 10:37; Mark 8:35.
Herewith I will now bid adieu to my dear children and take my leave from them; the Lord grant them His abundant rich blessing, that they may grow up in a becoming godly life, and increase in the knowledge of Christ.
O my dear children, neglect not to thank your Lord and God before eating and drinking (Deuteronomy 8:10); and when you lie down to sleep and when you arise, upon your knees, with folded hands, entreat Him for His grace.
I now commend you and your mother, my dear in God beloved wife, to the Lord, who is able to provide for you above that we are able to ask in our prayer, in soul and body. And it is also my wish, that this testament be copied for you, and that it be preserved for Heyne and the children, in remembrance of me, and when it begins to wear out, have it copied again, that it do not perish; this I kindly request. Adieu, Heyne. Farewell, adieu, Janneken, my oldest daughter, and farewell, adieu, Joosken; farewell, adieu, Mijntken, and adieu, my dear in God beloved wife and sister in the Lord. Adieu, we must now part. The Almighty God, who blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, also bless you in heavenly places, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
The crucified Christ, blessed be He, be your comfort and abundant, rich treasure of grace. The peace of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you. Once more adieu.
Farewell and adieu, dear Neelken. I thank the Lord and you for the kind fellowship and the love you have shown me. I go before; the Lord direct your hearts in the love of God and the patience of Christ, that I may find you with the Lord. II Thessalonians 3:5.
By me, from prison at Ghent, written on the second day of Dec. 1572.
O taste and see that the Lord is good, who has created these creatures, and given them to those that believe, to be used by them with thanksgiving, to the praise and glory of His holy name. (Ps. 34
8; I Tim. 4:3). O dearest, most gracious, merciful, eternal Father do not forget Thy poor, miserable children, that are persecuted for Thy holy name's sake.
Let us now praise and thank the Lord, who has so graciously fed us in our bodies. Let us entreat the Father, to feed us now with the bread of eternal life, that we may with our spirits, souls and bodies
that have been fed do His holy will. O dearest, most gracious, merciful, eternal Father do not forget Thy poor, miserable children, that are persecuted for Thy holy name's sake. Amen:
Written by me in my prison.
called van Lincken.