Previous Index Next


The persecution did not cease with the imprisonment of the above-mentioned seven friends at Berne but they proceeded still further with their constraint of conscience, and consequently with the exercise of their fury; insomuch that they also aimed at those that were dispersed and wandered about as sheep having no shepherd.

Against them, on the 9th of August of the year 1659, in the meeting of the Council of the city of Berne, a certain edict was drawn up, confirmed and also proclaimed, touching the bodies and goods of the afore-mentioned, poor, wandering, and afflicted people, teachers as well as those taught; reading as follows

Extract of an edict, published by those of Berne against the Anabaptists

The teachers, _ of whom, by close search; one or more can be apprehended, shall forthwith, by the bailiff, be conducted here into our orphan house, for safekeeping; in order that the necessary steps for their conversion may be taken there, or, if they persist in obstinacy, proper punishment be exercised. In the meantime the officers shall seize their property and deliver an inventory thereof to us, or to the directors appointed by us for this purpose.

Now between those that are not teachers, but simply their adherents and followers, as also between the stubborn and obstinate, and the simple or weak and inexperienced, this difference shall be made, that with the former more severity is to be used, but with these more gentleness.

Those, however, as well as these, our officers and preachers shall together, kindly, diligently and punctually examine and investigate, concerning their and their fellow believers' life, conversation and faith; remind and convince them from the word of God of their error, and thereupon, for the same reason, show them, with proper discretion and prudence, their bounden duty towards God, His Word, the preaching of the same, holy bap-

tism, the holy Supper and catechization, and also toward their God-appointed Christian authorities, fidelity and allegiance towards their country, together with other things required, and remind them well, so that they may at all times execute these things.

If then by such kind words, instruction and admonition, some shall have been brought back into the true way, so that there is hope of their reformation and conversion, the same shall and may without any other abjuration, or without rendering any oath, be set at liberty, with a good admonition, and paying the expenses, and as converted members, graciously be received back into the bosom of the church; without this causing them any further rebuke, hatred, contempt or the like, but much rather praise for their obedient return.

Then, as soon as these people shall have returned the preachers of said place shall so order their sermons, as to strengthen the same after their conversion, and earnestly admonish all the others in general, much rather to honor, praise and love these people on account of their conversion, than that they should therefore in any wise hate, despise and revile them. Further, they shall set them a good example, by a blameless life and conversation, by piety and honesty, in the hope, that by this means the rest may be won the more easily, and, without fear, be brought back into the true way.

But to those who accept no reminding, instruction or admonition, but continue disobedient and stubborn, neither will renounce or depart from their error, the penalty of banishment imposed upon them shall be announced, and their immovable obstinacy and reprobacy be made known to the directors appointed by us over the affairs of the Anabaptists, that our further orders with regard to it may be expected.

And when such obstinate, erring persons, upon the above-mentioned report, have been sentenced by the court, it is our meaning, intention and command: that they, under a safe escort, be conducted to the boundary, and by a promise, in place of an oath (since they do not swear an oath), be utterly banished from our country and dominion, until their apparent conversion; and if they, notwithstanding the banishment, return unconverted, and are apprehended, and still do not recant, but obstinately persevere in their error as before, they shall, as often as this occurs, be publicly scourged with rods, branded, and again, as before, expelled and banished from the country, which well deserved punishment is founded upon the following reasons and arguments

1. All subjects are, without contradiction, bound to show their natural, God-given authorities, fidelity and allegiance, and to attest such fealty or fidelity with an oath; but those who will not render such oath of allegiance are not recognized as subjects, nor tolerated in the country, hence the Anabaptists, who flatly refuse the same, neither can or shall in any wise be permitted to remain in the country.

Page 1131

2. Just as little can they be recognized and tolerated as subjects, who will not acknowledge (as subjects are bound to acknowledge), that their authorities are from God, and with God, without which acknowledgement there can be no obedience; but as the Anabaptists will not admit, that the office of magistracy is compatible with Christianity (or can exist in the Christian church), hence they can also not be tolerated in the country.

3. All subjects are bound to defend and protect their country, as being our common mother, yea, to sacrifice their property and blood for it; hence those, who, contrary to the command refuse to do this, cannot be permitted in the country and as the Anabaptists utterly refuse this, they cannot be tolerated in the country.

4. All subjects are bound, according to the teaching of the holy apostle Paul, to render, for the common support of their country, tithes, customs and taxes; and those who refuse to do this cannot be tolerated in the country. Since, then, the Anabaptists, though they do not refuse to do these things, which is done through fear, yet teach, that to take this, is not compatible with Christianity; which doctrine, if it should gain the ascendancy, might easily produce evil fruit; therefore such people can not be put (or tolerated) under a government.

5. Since the magistracy, as the same apostle teaches, is given of God as an avenger, upon those that do evil, especially upon murderers, traitors, and the like, the subjects are bound to make the same known to their authorities; but those who will not obligate themselves to do this, cannot be reckoned among the faithful and obedient subjects; now therefore as the Anabaptists are such as refuse to make known one of them to the authorities, they cannot be tolerated.

6. Those who refuse to submit to the wholesome ordinances and statutes of the authorities of the country, yea, act directly contrarily to them, can be tolerated still less. Now the Anabaptists are such people; for they act and offend against the so necessary and not less beneficial ordinances of the authorities, in the following ways

1. They preach without the calling and confirmation of the authorities.

2. They baptize in their churches without the calling and command of the authorities.

3. They pervert the church discipline (or have other church regulations) contrary to the public ordinances of the authorities.

4. They attend no meetings (of the church) held on Sundays or days of prayer.

Hence, as they will not submit, as behooves faithful subjects, to such institutions and ordinances, that agree with the Word of God, and contemptuously act contrarily to them, they are not worthy to live in the country.

For these manifold and vitally important reasons we are entirely resolved, and would earnestly have it laid to heart by all, that they constantly and without delay proceed with such banishment and the penalties pertaining thereto, against all the adherents and followers of this erring and (on account of much evil) very dangerous, wicked sect; that the same may make no progress, much less, receive additions, but that it may, with every possible means, be utterly abolished, and the country be rid of it; whereupon we graciously rely.

Touching, then, the property of such disobedient banished people, as also of those that have run away, the same shall, after computation of the expenses accrued, be divided with the obedient wives and children, and said portion, whether real or personal property, after our officers have seized it, an inventory thereof shall be semi to the hands of our aforesaid directors, in order that such property may be managed at their discretion, the annual income be drawn from it and, if the banished or fugitive persons do not again return, but die unconverted in their errors, the same be adjudged to us with perfect equity; likewise shall it be done regarding the property belonging to the wives and children of Anabaptists, who went away with them, though they were not regarded as adherents of the sect.

We herewith also declare and prohibit with equal strictness, that no one, whoever he be, shall lodge or give shelter to native or foreign Anabaptists, whether they be related to him or not; or to help encourage their meetings, preaching, etc., whether by granting them the use of houses or barns, or by aiding them with means; or, in the future, to have any intercourse whatever with them, whether written or oral; or in any wise to lend them any aid in the way of money, provisions, or the like, neither secretly nor publicly; but, on the contrary, we earnestly admonish every one of our subjects, whatever they can learn concerning them, by writing, by messengers, or orally, forthwith to report the same to the high bailiff, that he may regulate himself according to these our ordinances, and proceed against offenders, for every offense of which they are found guilty, with the irremissible fine of one hundred guilders; or, in case they are not able to pay it, with arbitrary punishment, concerning which last mentioned point, every one shall, until further information, be warned by a special proclamation read from the pulpit.

Given in our council meeting, on the 9th of August, A. D. 1659.


This edict having been drawn up and proclaimed everywhere, especially in the confines of Berne, caused very great sorrow, for those that were already imprisoned, as well as for the rest that

Page 1132

were still out of bonds; since, as it seemed, it was now imminent, that the whole remaining light of truth, which had most gloriously arisen in these parts, should be extinguished, and even the very foundation and root of the lovely flower of the true Christian church utterly eradicated and destroyed.

But in the meantime it happened, that the aforementioned edict came to our notice, in the original Swiss language, and also translated into the Dutch; whereby there was caused in us, and in many other of our fellow believers in -the province of Holland, who had received reliable information regarding the same, an inward affection, love and compassion for the distressed Swiss friends, who were severely threatened thereby.

Hence it was resolved and determined, in February of the year 1660, to dispatch certain persons, fellow believers of our faith, from the cities Dortrecht, Harlem, Leyden; Amsterdam, Goude, and Rotterdam, to Gravenhage, or the Court of Holland, where their High Mightinesses, the Lords States General, were then holding their special assembly; to the end that the distress of the Swiss Anabaptists might be made known to them, and favorable letters of recommendation be obtained, to the cities of Berne and Zurich, for the release, or at least alleviation of the condition, of said people that were persecuted there.

Thereupon those dispatched from the aforementioned cities appeared together in Gravenhage, about the 18th of February, of the same year, and very speedily brought into the proper form an humble supplication (which had already been drafted, but was not yet signed by all)-signed it, and, to the end of aforesaid, delivered it to their High Mightinesses.

These, as kind fathers and friendly fosterers of the afflicted, poor and oppressed, took such great interest in the matter, that they without delay, immediately resolved to comply with what was requested in the afore-mentioned supplication.

Hence three documents were drawn up by the order of their High Mightinesses; the first to the rulers of the city of Berne, for the releasing of the prisoners, etc. The second to those of Zurich, for restitution of the property of the imprisoned, deceased and expelled Anabaptists (of whom we have also made mention in this book), which they had kept in their possession already from the year 1635. The third, as a passport for Adolph de Vrede, who was now to travel to Berne and Zurich in Switzerland, in behalf of the Dutch Anabaptists, or at least in the name of those who had drawn up the afore-mentioned supplication, and thereupon obtained the letter of recommendation from their High Mightinesses; to deliver the first mentioned two documents to the lords there, to the end aforesaid.

These three documents; since we have received true copies thereof, we shall, as much as concerns this matter in particular, present to the well-disposed reader, and accord them a place in this book, for a laudable memorial of what the States General of these blessed United Netherlands have herein done.


To the city of Berne in Switzerland:

Noble, very respectable, wise, prudent lords, especial good friends and neighbors. From the complaints of, divers persons, delegated by their respective churches, who here in this land are called Mennonists, citizens and inhabitants of the cities of Dortrecht, Harlem, Leyden, Amsterdam, Goude, and Rotterdam, all situated in the province of Holland, we have learned, that their fellow believers, under the name of Anabaptists, are suffering great persecution at Berne,and thereabouts, by virtue of very rigorous edicts enacted against them, whereby they are not only prohibited from continuing to reside in the country, but are not even permitted to depart elsewhere with their families and goods, though they cannot be charged with any crimes.

That also some of the above-mentioned persuasion are kept in close confinement there.

All of which has moved us to Christian compassion, and we could therefore not forbear, but, on the contrary, have deemed it well, hereby to request you very kindly and neighborly, also most earnestly, that you will not only not meet, neither suffer to be met,-the fellow believers of the supplicants, who under the name of Anabaptists are found in, or belong to your dominion and are obedient, with improper proceedings, and release and set at liberty the aforesaid prisoners,-but also much rather, according to the good example of the lords of the government of Schaffhausen, grant them sufficient time, to remove with their goods and effects, whithersoever they shall resolve to go.

Taking into favorable and proper consideration, that in the year 1655, when the Vaudois, our and your fellow believers, were so miserably dispersed and persecuted by the Romanists, solely for the profession of their Reformed religion, that the distress of the poor, dispersed people, could not be relieved in any other way, than by the giving and gathering of great contributions in England, in this country, and elsewhere, where the Reformed* religion was practiced, the Anabaptistic church, now the aforesaid supplicants, upon this simple recommendation of their respective magistrates, from due obedience to the same, and at the same time, also out of Christian love and compassion for the aforesaid dispersed and persecuted Christians, gave so liberally in their meetings, that it swelled to a notable sum, which the deacons of the aforesaid church, by the order of their afore-mentioned respective magistrates, turned over to where it belonged.

We will rest confident, that you will defer to our well-meant friendly and neighborly intercession, as much as the justice of the matter demands, and

*"True Reformed," a certain copy has it.
Page 1133

as we expect from your usual wisdom and discretion; assuring you, that we shall never fail to return and acknowledge respectively this favor to you collectively and individually, also to your inhabitants, whenever an opportunity for it shall present itself to us, and you shall be pleased to try us in this respect. In the meanwhile we pray God Almighty: Noble, etc. In the Hague, the 19th of February, 1660.

This accords with the minutes preserved in the records of their High Mightinesses.


Besides this writing of their High Mightinesses to the lords of Berne, there was drawn up also the following, to those of Zurich, which (excepting a few words expressed in the foregoing, and hence not necessary to be repeated), we will present here,


To the city of Zurich in Switzerland

Noble, very respectable, wise, prudent lords, especial good friends and neighbors. From the complaints of divers persons, delegated by their respective churches, who here in this land are called Mennonists, citizens and inhabitants of the cities of Dortrecht, Harlem, Leyden, Amsterdam, Goude, and Rotterdam, all situated in the province of Holland, we have learned, that their fellow-believers, under the name of Anabaptists, have suffered great persecution at Zurich and everywhere in your dominion, by virtue of very rigorous edicts enacted against them, and that they have thereby been compelled to leave everything and to remove to other countries, to their great inconvenience and total ruin.

All this has moved us to Christian compassion, and we could therefore not forbear, but on the contrary, deemed it good, hereby to request you very kindly and neighborly, also most earnestly, that you, according to the good example of the magistrates of the city of Schaffhausen, release the property of the fellow believers of the supplicants, which you have now for several years had managed by directors appointed over them, and drawn the fruits thereof, and deliver them to the aforesaid persons interested, or those authorized by them, to be sold within a certain sufficient time, and turned into money for their benefit.

(The rest is identical word for word with the preceding letter.)

Besides the afore-mentioned two letters of the States General to the lords of Berne and Zurich, which are dated the same day, namely, the 19th of February, 1660, there followed yet a third letter, on the 9th of March of the same year, serving partly as a passport to the ambassador and bearer of said two letters to the cities of Berne and Zurich, and partly to request the neighboring potentates near and around those parts, to promote said matter for the protection of the Anabaptists. The contents thereof are as follows



The States General of the United Netherlands, to all who see this or hear it read, greeting.

Be it known: Whereas divers merchants and inhabitants of the chiefest provinces of Holland and West Friesland, have informed us, that they, for the performance and promotion of matters of consideration and importance, most deeply concerning them and their own (for which purpose we also, several weeks ago, granted our favorable letters of recommendation had deemed it necessary, to dispatch to Switzerland and the adjacent countries, the honorable Adolph de Vrede, we have, according to the manner customary here, in such cases, deemed it well, hereby to request his Roman imperial majesty, all kingdoms, republics, princes, por tentates, states and estates, also the rulers of cities and places, friends and allies of this state, or maintaining neutrality with the same, and especially the kings, republics, princes, potentates, and lords in the aforesaid parts, together with all others that shall see this or to whom it shall be shown; that they will render and show, and also suffer to be rendered and shown, the afore-mentioned Adolph de Vrede, during this his coming journey, in going, stopping, as well as returning, all aid, favor and assistance, whereto an opportunity may present itself, which we are ready to return and acknowledge, at all occurrences and opportunities, to his most high aforesaid imperial majesty, said high kings, said high republics, princes, potentates, said noble states, estates, and rulers of cities and places, as also to their subjects and inhabitants respectively, to each according to the opportunity and propriety of the State and Country).

Given in our assembly, under our hand and seal, and the signature of our recorder. In the Hague, on the 9th of March, 1660.


By the order of said High Lords States General in the absence of the Recorder.

J. Spronssen.

Besides that which was done by their high mightinesses, for the release; or at least for the alleviation of the condition of the persecuted Swiss friends in the confines of Berne and Zurich also some separate cities of the United Netherlands, particularly in the province of Holland, who were sincerely opposed to the constraint exercised over the faith and the practice of the dictates of conscience, reproved their coreligionists in Switzerland, especially the rulers of the city of Berne, and admonished them to gentleness; yet all this, in a courteous, friendly and discreet manner.

Of this, in order not to adduce too much of a matter, we shall not quote the whole, but only that which, by the burgomasters and rulers of the city of Rotterdam, was written to this end, in Latin, and sent to the rulers of Berne, which, translated into the Dutch, as sufficiently expressing the sense of the whole, we will present to the well-disposed.

Page 1134

COPY (Translated from the Latin)

To the Rulers and Councilors of the City and Republic of Berne, the Burgomasters and Rulers of the City of Rotterdam wish all happiness and prosperity.

Noble, honorable, highly respected lords, esteemed friends: It is but a few days ago, that there was presented to us, from the elders of the church, which, from their predecessor,* Menno, is called the church of the Mennonites, a request, in the name of said church, containing long complaints; that their fellow believers, under the odious name of Anabaptists, are proceeded against with such fury in your E. E. city, that, in consequence of the edicts, they are not allowed (though they are harmless and not accused of any crimes), to remove with their possessions and temporal effects out of your E. E. city and jurisdiction, and go elsewhere, yea, that some, solely out of hatred against their faith, are deprived of their goods, and confined in prison.

They the supplicants, request, that we, through our intercession, should endeavor, to avert, if possible, the punishments decreed against their brethren; which their request, being founded upon just arguments, if they at all are founded on truth, we, by virtue of our duty and office, could not ignore.

Hence we request your E. E. highly-esteemed lords, yea, we beg your E. E., for the sake of religion and the faith in Christ; which we have in common with your E. E., that your E. E. would be pleased, either utterly to abolish the aforesaid exceedingly severe decrees enacted against the innocent, erring or wandering ones, or, if your E. E. should not deem this compatible with the situation of your state, of which the judgment belongs to your E. E., would at least permit, that the afflicted people, after selling their real estate, and arranging their matters, may remove with their means to where they may expect more tranquillity and safety.

As far as we are concerned, honorable lords, we have ever since the foundation of this city held, that this class of people can quite safely be tolerated in the state, without injury to the republic.**

And for this our judgment we have to thank Prince William of Orange, of blessed memory, who through his valor established for us freedom of conscience, whom the entreaties and perverse zeal of a class of evil disposed men never could move, to refuse the Mennonites any civil privileges. And, truly, we have not yet regretted it, having never found, that the Mennonites, under the cloak of religion (which alone is pernicious for all republics), have ever sought to brew any thing in the state; but, on the contrary, that they have always with a cheerful and willing mind rendered custom and taxes, and all that a subject owes to his prince, yea, that they relieved, with their very liberal contributions, the Reformed that were elsewhere suffering trouble for their faith, and again recently, the Vaudois, our fellow believers, when they, upon the instigation of the pope's ministers, were miserably maltreated by the duke of Savoy.

It is not hid from us, highly esteemed lords, that certain madmen, through a wrong and perverse zeal, endeavor to persuade your E. E. by arguments that the tolerating of the Mennonites is injurious for the republic; but they do this with such arguments, the weight of which was never sufficient to induce us, to oppress the Mennonites with any severe edicts.

For, that they do not consider the office of magistracy lawful for a Christian, and religiously abstain from the swearing of oaths (with which two points they are principally charged), this cannot be detrimental to the republic; seeing they do not refuse obedience to the magistrates, to whom, though they command something onerous, they, constrained by their conscience, consider themselves in duty bound to obey; and will be so bound to their naked declaration, that, when convicted of broken faith and of falsehood, they are willing to submit to the punishment of perjurers.

Which things, as long as they continue unchanged we cannot see, what harm the Republic has to expect therefrom.

That some, through pious, or even superstitious, fear, abstain from the magisterial office, and from the swearing of oaths, what will those say against it, who under the truly glorious name of Reformed, follow the tyranny of the pope, and under the favor of the excellent titles of reformation and purity of faith introduce popery, with regard to the cruelty of which, as it was practiced in former times, in this city, especially against the Mennonites, as often as the remembrance of it, preserved in our records, burdens our thoughts, our souls are seized with horror and we rejoice that through the blood shed in former times our necks have been freed from the yoke of the furious harlot.

All of which, highly esteemed lords, if it is properly considered by your excellencies, we indulge the hope, that your E. E. will either abolish the severe decrees against the Mennonites, or, at least, after the example of those of Schaffhausen, one of the Swiss cantons, and the example of the Roman Catholic prince of Neuburg, grant the afflicted, erring (or wandering) ones sufficient time to arrange their affairs, and to settle down elsewhere.

Which, highly esteemed lords, when it shall have been done, your E. E. shall have performed an act that shall be acceptable unto God, glorious for the name Reformed, salutary for the erring (or wandering) ones, and pleasing to us, who are united with your E. E. by the close bond of religion, and able to serve as an example to all those that boast of the glorious name of the meek Saviour.

*First one, etc., another translation has it.
** Here follows a brief parenthesis, which can be omitted with. out changing or diminishing the sense; namely, "If they are only separate from the mad way of the Old," etc.
Page 1135

We pray God Almighty, to enlighten your E. E. persons and republic with the radiance of His truth, and to preserve you in lasting prosperity. In Rotterdam, the 14th of February, 1660,

Your E. E. Excellencies' affectionate friends, burgomasters and rulers of the city of Rotterdam, and in the name of the same.


This then was the laudable and good work of our high authorities in this land of the states general, as well as of the authorities in particular cities; far different from the disposition of those who instituted the afore-mentioned oppressions and persecutions; wherefore we sincerely wish and pray that God the Almighty Lord, would therefore be pleased to be their shield and exceeding great reward.

Verily everyone shall receive reward according to his works. The martyrs who suffered for the truth of God, for their faithfulness and steadfastness unto the end; the persecutors who afflicted the pious, for their cruelty and tyranny, if they died unconverted and without repentance; the saviors and deliverers (that is the good authorities) who sought to defend the oppressed and persecuted, to help them, and to rescue them from the claws and teeth of rapacious, blood-thirsty, unreasonable men, falsely so called, for the salvation and deliverance which they with regard to this effected for the harmless and innocent.

In the meantime we wish everyone the best, even our enemies; for by the means of their cruelty the pious are tried, made martyrs, and brought to that state which makes truly and infinitely happy, namely, to the eternal and blessed life. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. I Pet. 2: 19.


Oh, thou God and Lord of hosts, who hast appointed governments in all countries, forgive those authorities who have laid their hands on Thy saints, and touched the apple of Thine eye; let the blood of those whom they have killed not cry vengeance upon them, lest Thy wrath be kindled against them; let it not be laid to their charge in Thy great day of judgment, which shall be hereafter.

Let those who do not yet cease to rage against Thy sheep, and to scatter Thy dearly purchased church, be brought to the right, so that they may be converted before their death, and from persecutors, become true followers of Thy church.

On the other hand, the authorities whom thou hast set in our fatherland, the blessed Netherlands, that are at present free from the constraint of conscience, free from domineering over the most holy faith, and above all, free from the blood of Thy servants and saints, be pleased to bless them, out of Thy heavenly habitation, with the abundance of Thy wisdom and grace, a foretaste of which Thou hast permitted them to have already, many years ago.

Let Thy church, which is without external armor, shield, sword, or arms, rest under their protection, as under a shady vine or fig tree, in honesty and godliness; so that Thy people may be multiplied, and many that are still in error, be guided into the true, right, and only way that leads to life.

Guide us so into Thy ways, that we may not in any wise be a stumbling-block or offense for them; so that the liberty, which they grant us in the practice of our religion, which we owe to Thee, may not be taken from us because of an improper walk on our part.

Be pleased to let our children and descendants (if it be best for their salvation), enjoy this pleasant peace which we receive under their protection.

O Lord God, grant that none of these authorities, or of those that are ruled by them, perish; but that they may all be kept and eternally saved, through Jesus Christ Thy beloved Son, to whom be praise, now and forever. Amen.

Remember me, O my God, for good. Neh. 13: 31.

Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou_hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Ps. 31:5.


When this book had been printed and fully concluded, we unexpectedly received several things pertaining to the last Swiss persecution in the confines of Zurich and Berne; principally concerning, however, the Berne edict of the 9th of August, in the year 1659, and what was graciously effected and accomplished by the E. E. honorable lords burgomasters of the city of Amsterdam, for mitigation of the same, as also for the release of our already imprisoned friends, and of their goods.

Concerning the edict, it must be stated, that what we shall place here is not the whole, but only the first part of the same, being really a preparation for the extract of the edict shown page 1130, col. 1; for this, when added to that which is placed there, constitutes the whole edict.

The people of this century are very inquisitive, not so much, however, from a true hunger of souls as from a spiritual lickerishness. This work could have consisted just as well, if the following had not been added, since in the afore-mentioned extract; printed in the place above referred to, the execution and punishment of the imprisoned Anabaptists who adhered to their faith is set forth, which is the principal point to be noticed. On the other hand in what follows here, only an address is made to the so-called spiritual and secular persons of rank, of the church, in the jurisdiction of Berne, with regard to their offices: in connection with which some preparation is made for the searching out and apprehension of the afore-mentioned people.

But in order, also, if possible to satisfy the inquisitive in this respect, and withal to show that

Page 1136

we have in no wise omitted anything that might be necessary, we have deemed it advisable to add this here.

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. John 16:2.

NOTE.-Though this properly has, reference to banishing, ejecting or expelling from the Jewish synagogues, it can be applied to all banishment for the sake of religion.


Of the Edict of those of Berne, in Switzerland, against the (by them called) Anabaptists, dated

the 9th of August, A. D. 1659

We the bailiff and councilors, of the city of Berne, send to everyone of our officers, preachers, and those who administer any office, both spiritual and secular, in all towns, counties, seignioralties and tribunals of our German dominions,* and hereby make known, that since the reformation of the Christian religion, there have been emitted, from time to time, by our laudable and pious forefathers, and by us, pursuant to our Christian reminding and command, admonitions and ordinances, how and by what means, and with what zeal and earnest, the errors of the hypocritical and seductive sect of the Anabaptists, that has crept in, which is rejected by all Christian authorities from the infallible foundation of the Word of God, as being an evil, dangerous, pernicious leaven, because they reject the lawful protection of the magistracy,** through which much baneful harm can be caused to country, people and ranks, are to be opposed and averted, yet, by constant experience we must see and learn that such orders do not meet with real attention and execution, in consequence of which negligence this evil has rather increased than decreased until this time.

But in order that the same may not be permitted further to pursue its pernicious and seductive course, but may earnestly be checked, and as far as possible utterly abolished, we have caused diligent inquiries to be made, in regard to the default in not executing and obeying of the commands and ordinances we have emitted, and held a careful deliberation as to what might be the most expedient to do in this matter, as also, to whom it pertains, by virtue of office and duty, to take care, that these errors and all that is contrary to the confession of the Swiss evangelical faith, be not tolerated in our dominions, and among our God-committed and entrusted, dear subjects, but, on the contrary that our own may be led to the true knowledge of God, and kept therein.

As to the means which we have deemed well to be employed in, and for this our intention and purpose, they consist in two chief points.

First, namely, in the removing of the principal causes of offense to which the so-called Anabaptists object, in order to separate themselves from the common Christian assemblies.

Second, in the course of proceeding that shall be observed against those that are attached to said sect.

Concerning the first point, it comprises and requires a godly and virtuous life and conversation; also proper punishment of open slanders, and attention is therefore to be given that the officers, both spiritual and secular, for the better heeding and evincing of their duty, be, in the following, earnestly admonished. The virtuous life of the officers, with which everyone shall seek to be a light to his subjects, can particularly serve as a good example herein, and prevent further offense; consisting chiefly in this, that they diligently attend preaching and practice other Christian works, so that such apostate persons may at no time take occasion to say, as has already happened, that the things of which they are accused in this respect are neglected also by our own people, and even by the officers.

But the preachers shall be edifying, both by being zealous in their church ministry, and by conducting themselves honestly, godly, and inoffensively in their life, so that especially, of the preachers, no evil reports be heard. The duty of their calling also consists principally in this, that they rightly divide the doctrine of truth, and apply the same to the profit of everyone; also, that they, as often as an opportunity presents itself, show forth the errors of the Anabaptists, and effectually, but yet in the spirit of meekness, refute them from the foundation of the holy Scriptures, well answer all objections, and fully convince them, as also that they better instruct their churches and hearers.

But the officers in general, spiritual as well as secular, especially of the places where such people live, shall, every one in his calling, so perform and do their duty, as before the eyes of the omniscient God; they shall also together, in general as well as in the consistory, sincerely labor with zeal and diligence, that the open vices of whoredom, lasciviousness, cursing and swearing, immoderate eating and drinking, and like wickedness, be strictly and without connivance, punished according to the edicts and ordinances emitted by us, virtue and honesty thereby planted, and thus they who would excuse their departing from the church by such offensive life, be deprived of all occasion.

But to this, our chief point, belongs especially the invocation of God, that He will grant His blessing and increase, to the public proclaiming of the pure doctrine, and keep Satan in check, so that not under the dissemblance of simplicity, the noxious and pernicious weed of hypocrisy, of disobedience to God, of base contempt of the public worship, the holy sacraments, and other holy institutions, as also of the duty and propriety due to us, the Christian magistracy, be propagated.

" A certain copy of this edict adds here these words, "Our gracious good will and greeting, etc."
** This is utterly false, since the so-called Anabaptists have never rejected, but much rather honored and highly esteemed the lawful protection of the magistracy as they also still do at the present day. But quite differently did the most laudable rulers of the common Dutch cities, judge of this and especially those of the city of Amsterdam, who gave the Anabaptists, who had lived among them from of old, and do still live among them, the name of good citizens and subjects, who were found wanting on no occasion, etc., as sufficiently appears from their letters of A.D. 1660.
Page 1137

The second chief point, as to how such people are to be dealt with, consists of two points

1. How the same are to be detected and brought to light.

2. How those that are detected are to be proceeded with.

Concerning the first: As these people are hard to be taken, since some are concealed by others, even by those to whom they are related by marriage or other ties, particularly by those with whom there is little knowledge of God, and zeal for religion to be found, and they hold their gatherings mostly by night, in hid or otherwise unknown places; therefore our officers shall with all diligence, according to their oath and official duty, also on pain of punishment for connivance,.be admonished and bound themselves, and through their subofficers and servants, to search for them, especially the teachers, as much as possible, and to have them followed whether in the mountains or in valleys, forests and wildernesses, with all possible means, in order to apprehend or capture as many of them as possible.

In order now the better to know and discover them and their adherents, our church ministers, as appointed shepherds, shall with like diligence, and in accordance with their literal, sworn oath, be admonished, obligated and bound, every one of them, particularly in places where this sect is found, with two or three of the church council in his pastorate, to go round from house to house at least twice a year, and properly to write down all those that belong in the church, that is, men and women, old and young, and to keep a stricter eye on them, so that they may all attend the preaching, catechization, common prayers, and particularly also use the holy sacraments; those who stay away and do not bring their children to holy baptism at the proper time or not at all, and thereby are guilty of apostasy from the church, not only at all times to make known these by name to the chief bailiff appointed, but also to indicate to him the persons and their places of abode, as far as known; also to neglect nothing of all that is required for the managing of such persons.

However, in order that not again something be lacking in the execution of this so necessary work, even as has hitherto been the case, or that it otherwise be slackened and omitted, through want of the necessary zeal, our officers together with the preachers are strictly charged to carry out this order with the proper effect, in sincere earnestness, without regard of persons. And that herein no negligence or connivance be exercised by them, much less that they allow themselves to be turned therefrom by any scruples, as being forbidden, im proper means, or on account of any advantage, lest they incur our disfavor.

The second article of the second chief point con cerns the manner of proceeding against those thal are detected and captured by the aforesaid means whether the same be teachers and seducers, of their adherents, and that are seduced.

Thus far the first part of the edict, which as yet mentions no corporal punishment, but only the apprehending and capturing of the (by them socalled) Anabaptists. The other part then follows, page 1130, col. 1, beginning with these words, "The teachers of whom one or more, by close search," etc.

Thereupon it follows, in what manner they are to be punished, either by depriving them of their goods, utterly banishing them from the country, conducting them under safe escort to the boundaries of the country, and if they, contrary to the banishment, etc.

NOTE.-This edict having been proclaimed in the Berne dominion, soon after arrived in Holland, and caused no small sorrow in many well-meaning hearts among the Anabaptists there, who were moved with heartfelt sympathy for their dear fellow believers, the more so since already some of them were in severe imprisonment, and others in the confines of Zurich, had now for many years been deprived of the use of their property.

Hence, in various Dutch cities, yet especially in the city of Amsterdam, there was presented, by certain men delegated thereto, in the name and by the order of their churches, to the noble, honorable lords burgomasters of said place, the distress of the afore-mentioned oppressed friends, and a formal request made for favorable letters of recommendation to the magistrates of the cities of Berne and Zurich respectively, for the release of the aforementioned prisoners, and the restitution of their goods, etc. This was subscribed with the names of H. Vlaming, W. J. V. Coppenol, and G. Grates.

This request having been delivered, the noble, honorable lords burgomasters and rulers of the afore-mentioned city, very fatherly and kindly consented to the matters presented, giving thereupon this appointment

The burgomasters and rulers of the city of Amsterdam have consented to grant the above requested letters of recommendation.

Done this 29th of January, 1660, and subscribed,


Thereupon followed the promised letters of recommendation to the rulers of Berne as well as to those of Zurich, reading as follows

Page 1138


To the very honorable and highly esteemed lords, our good friends, the lords burgomasters and pensionaries of the city of Berne, Very honorable and highly esteemed lords: A very considerable number of our citizens, who with regard to their religion are called Mennonites or Anabaptists, have shown us, that their fellow believers, dwelling in the cantons of Zurich and Berne, because of their religion have to suffer a very severe persecution, insomuch that many of them have been cast into prison, without that it was granted then, to leave the country with their families and goods.

It is for this reason then, that the above-mentioned citizens, sympathizing in their hearts for their fellow brethren, on account of their distress, have, through Christian, as well as human zeal, requested letters of recommendation from us, in order that by means of the same they may have a favorable access to your noble lordships, to prostrate themselves before your excellencies, with respect and proper humility, to excite compassion and pity in you for those who are persecuted, that you will give and grant them the liberty and reasonable permission, to leave the dominions of your lordships, with all that belongs to them.

They are a class of people who, under our government, and that of our predecessors, have lived for many successive years, and do still live, in this city, with all quietness and peaceableness, as has also been the case in divers other cities of this state; willingly contributing for the support of the Republic, as much as is imposed upon them; discharging further the duties of good citizens and subjects, who have on no occasion been found deficient, in manifesting an unusual love towards the confessors of the Reformed church.

They still recently, while our brethren the Vaudois, were so cruelly dispersed, contributed in this city, simply upon our recommendation, even to the sum of about seven thousand pounds Dutch money, to be used in the support of said Vaudois.

It is therefore for this reason, very honorable and highly esteemed lords, that we, considering these reasons, could not refuse to grant the effect of our Christian love to these our worthy citizens, interceding for them with your lordships, in favor of their fellow brethren; praying your lordships, if you cannot be moved to let these poor people live under your government here, even as we do, that you would at least be pleased, to deal gently with them; granting them, according to the pattern and example of those of Schaffhausen, as also of the Duke of Neuburg, a Roman Catholic prince, the liberty, and proper time, to remove with their families and goods; in which we doubt not your lordships will do a trug and genuine work of mercy. We on the other hand assure you, that we shall not neglect, when opportunity offers, to reciprocate such obligation in all that in which your lordships shall deem our intercession to be proper; as being truly, very honorable and highly esteemed lords, very ready to serve your lordships, the lords burgomasters and rulers of the City of Amsterdam.

The 11 th of February, 1660.

By order of said my lords.

Subscribed: N. NICOLAI.

NOTE.-It would be sufficient for the intelligent, if only the first mentioned letter were given, since the following contains almost the same words and circumstances; but as it was thought by some, that this work would not be complete, if anything

lacked of that which was also written to Zurich, we shall place said letter here in full.


To the very honorable and highly esteemed

lords, our good friends, the lords burgomasters and syndics of the city of Zurich.

Very honorable and highly esteemed lords: A very notable number of our citizens, who with regard to their religion are called Anabaptists, have shown us, that those of their persuasion have now for several years been compelled, because of edicts published against them, to leave their abodes and goods in the canton of Zurich, without that it was granted them, to take their afore-mentioned goods with them, nor to enjoy the profit and income from the same, even to this day.

It is for this reason then, that our said citizens, sympathizing in their hearts for their fellow brethren, on account of their distress, have, through Christian as well as human zeal, requested letters of recommendation from us, in order that by means of the same they may have a favorable access to your noble lordships, to prostrate themselves before you, and to entreat you with respect and proper submission, to have compassion and pity for those of their church; giving them, or to those whom they have authorized, the liberty and reasonable time, to dispose of their aforesaid goods, which are situated under your lordships' jurisdiction, in order that they may convey them away to where they may deem it convenient or necessary.

They are a class of people, who, under our government, and that of our predecessors; have lived very peaceably for many years, and still live, in this city, as also in divers other cities of this state; contributing with all diligence, to the support of the Republic, all that is imposed upon them, and discharging the duty of good citizens and subjects; who have on no occasion that presented itself been found deficient, to manifest their Christian zeal in an uncommon manner against those of the Reformed religion; even as they also still recently when our brethren the Vaudois were so cruelly dis-

Page 1139

persed, contributed in this city alone, upon our recommendation, even to the sum of about 7,000 pounds Dutch money, to be used for the support and comfort of said Vaudois.

It is therefore for this reason, very honorable and highly esteemed lords, that we, in consideration of the same, could not refuse this present effect of our Christian love, to these our worthy citizens, interceding for them with you, praying your lordships in favor of their fellow brethren: if your lordships cannot allow this poor people to live under your government as we do here, that you would at least be pleased to deal a little more gently with them, granting them, according to the example of those of Schaffhausen, and also of the Duke of Neuburg, a Roman Catholic prince, the liberty and proper time, to dispose of their goods and effects,!n order that they may in pursuance therewith convey or transport the same to where they shall deem proper; in which we in no wise doubt, your lordships will do a true work of equity and mercy. We also assure you, that we on our part shall in no wise fail to evince our reciprocal and mutual duties, in all that in which your lordships shall deem it well to commit it to our intercession, as being truly and sincerely, very honorable and highly esteemed lords, very affectionately yours, and ready to serve your lordships. The burgomasters and rulers of the city of Amsterdam.

The 2d of March, 1660.

By order of said my lords.

Subscribed: N. NICOLAI.

Thus did the noble and most laudable rulers of the city of Amsterdam, as fathers over their dear children, full of compassion and mercy, act in the matter of the afflicted and oppressed Swiss friends. God be their shield and very great reward. May He bless their wise reign. May He grant, that their days may endure as the days of heaven and earth.

The very good example of the afore-mentioned rulers took such great effect in the hearts of some of the leaders in the French church of said city of Amsterdam, that they were also moved, and kindled with a holy zeal of compassion, to labor in like manner, by friendly petitions, to the magistrates as well as to the members of the consistory of the cities of Berne and Zurich, for the deliverance and liberation of the oppressed.

With regard to this, we could, if it were necessary, show their own writings. Truly, a miracle of the Lord! Who should ever have thought, that Zion's deliverance should come through this way? But it is here, as the apostle has said for the consolation of the pious: We know that all things work together for good to them that love God. Romans 8:28. We are persecuted, but not forsaken. II Corinthians 4:9.

Previous Index Next

Introduction Quotations Contents  Index  Old Book  Search  Images  Resources Title