In the year 1568 the tyranny and persecution waged against the Christians became very sore and grievous, so that in said year many were apprehended and slain.*
On the 4th of April of the above year, between one and two o'clock in the morning, Adrian Willems, my father, was apprehended by Steven de Wit, the bailiff of Vianen, and taken to the castle of Batesteyn, where he was kept confined fifty weeks and one day.
On the 8th of May the bailiff and part of the members of the court came from Vianen, to examine him concerning his faith, which he freely confessed to them. Being then asked as to who were of the same faith with him, he refused to tell it to them; hence the bailiff threatened him again and again with severe examination [the torture], and accordingly, on the 5th of June, he had the executioner come, caused his hands to be tied behind his back, and made him climb up a ladder, threatening to have all his members dislocated, or he would know who were his fellow believers; but when he saw that he could not extort it from him, he suffered him to come down, without inflicting any torture upon him.
* This Adrian Willems was not mentioned in previous editions.
Said bailiff also had a Franciscan monk come, to delude him from his faith; but after many words and much disputation the monk left him, without having accomplished anything. Afterwards, at divers times, others also came, namely, priests and monks, to draw him from his faith; however, they, all left like the former.
The letters speaking of the conversations with these priests and monks, and of his confession, as also other letters written in prison and received by us, lay, or were put with the others by me, behind the bedstead under the roof, on account of the great fear of persecution and the monstrous tyranny existing at that time. Afterwards it happened, in the year 1570, in February, that the water came rushing from the Diefdijek with such force or volume, that many houses drifted away, and some had their walls broken in, so that said letters fell, into the water and perished. I greatly mourned the -loss of them, because our children might in them have seen or read how valiantly and cheerfully their grandfather confessed the Gospel, and died for it, and how glad he was when he was visited in prison;. for I was there myself at great peril.
On the 29th of June of said year 1568, the aforesaid bailiff announced that he should hold a court the following day, the 30th of . said month; on which he preferred his accusation, demanding that he should be burned at the stake, until death ensued, and his property confiscated for the benefit of the king. Afterwards, many court days having been held, and both parties having presented their papers, the bailiff did not cease to request that sentence be passed, whereupon the judges decided that thirty-two guilders be paid in, to go and get advice by way of consultation. This having been done, they of the court went to the court of Holland, and returned with the sentence of death.
Shortly after, the 21st of March, 1569, he was informed that he should receive his sentence the following day. Well knowing that it should be a sentence of death and not of life (according to the time appointed), he resolved to write, his wife and children a last farewell letter. When e had begun to write, a monk came to harass him, in order, if possible, to hinder him in his faith. He withstood him, and left the monk in the evening, desiring to rest a little while. The next day at four o'clock in the morning the monk again came to him, to torment. as much as possible. Afterwards about eight o'clock the same day he was taken from' the room in which he had been confined during his entire imprisonment, with heavy iron fetters, with which he was shackled night and day, except that they unlocked them when he took off or put on his garments and stockings, namely, in the evening when he went to bed, and in the morning, when he rose. They brought him into a kitchen, where stood a table with victuals, of which he partook' a little, and thereupon received a drink from Steven de Wit, which he accepted in a friendly manner, to leave the former no ground for suspecting that he bore any ill will, though he delivered him to death. 'The monk (as heard before) persisted in his attempts to draw him from his faith, but did not effect his purpose. From there they took him to the city hall to receive his sentence; with his hands tied, a monk at his side, and the executioner and two beadles before and behind him, all well armed; and thus they led him as a defenseless lamb to the slaughter. When they arrived in the city hall, the court assembled, and the bailiff himself demanded the sentence. Then the judge said, "Adrian Willems, do you wish to say something yet in regard to this?" He replied, "I know of nothing to tell you, , save. that you would remember that you must also appear before the judgment seat of Christ, who shall pass a righteous judgment upon the good and the evil, or the dead and the living." Then they arose. When they came out of the council chamber, they pronounced the sentence, passing judgment, that said Adrian Willems should be executed with the sword, and his body be put into a coffin and buried under the scaffold. They then rose again, with pale and sad countenances, without closing the court, and left him in the hands of cruel men, who stripped him, took him out of the city hall with his eyes blindfolded, and hastened to execute the sentence of the judges, which they also did. Thus the afore-mentioned Adrian Willems voluntarily delivered himself up to death, choosing rather to keep his faith, than to retain his life here for a little while, and forsake his faith; and committed his soul unto God the faithful Creator, and thus departed this life, bearing witness to the Gospel, and confirming his unfeigned faith with his blood. Amen.
In the year 1568, a brother named Lucas de Groot, a native of Ostend, in Flanders, was apprehended there for the testimony of the truth, and after he had boldly confessed his faith, and would unwaveringly adhere to it, he was sentenced to be strangled and burned; the judges, however, afterwards changing their mind, Lucas was hanged to the gallows, in contempt of the believers.
In the same year a brother named Jan Portier, a native of Komene, in Flanders, and a fuller by trade, who had also been Lady van Meessen's porter, was aprehended at Meessen. When he had confessed his faith, he was greatly tortured; the first time with screws; the second time, he was drawn up high by his thumbs, with heavy iron weights attached to his feet, and thus severely scourged; but being ruptured, he was not put to the rack. And when these tortures and other threats could not move him to desist or apostatize from the truth he had accepted and apprehended, he was finally sentenced to be burnt. And thus he
was put to death for the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, with so small a fire that the smoke suffocated him; which took place without Meessen, at the Spring gallows, in November, 1568.
Jan van Paris, Pieter van Cleves, Hendrick Maelschalck, and Lauwerens Pieters, had not yet united with the church, but were novices and ready to unite; hence going to hear the Word of God preached, they were apprehended, at Ghent, in Flanders, in the year 1568, and taken to the Count's Castle. After a bold confession of, and steadfast adherence to, the faith, they were sentenced in Passion Week, to be strangled and burned. But when they had mounted the scaffold, the Spanish Provost (there being at that time nineteen companies of Spanish soldiers in Ghent), seeing that it was the intention to strangle them, compelled the executioner to fetch other appliances. Hence the executioner spoke to the commander-in-chief, who ordered. him, contrary to the sentence pronounced, to burn them alive. The provost also severely kicked and beat the brethren.
In the meanwhile the executioner fetched a basketful of chains. When the brethren heard that they were to be burnt alive, they raised their voices and sang, "I call upon thee, O heavenly Father." Then the Spaniards beat them so dreadfully with sticks, that the eye of one fell out on his cheek. And thus they were burnt alive, the Spaniards loudly vociferating, and throwing sticks into the fire at a rapid rate, as desiring to have part in this madness, as though they thought to do God service thereby.
We wish you abundant grace, joy, peace, and mercy, and eternal salvation, from God, our heavenly Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father, to whom be praise, glory and honor, and power and thanks, for ever and ever. Amen.
After wishing you all grace and salvation, we would inform you, Goelken our beloved friend* in the Lord, and all dear friends that fear the Lord, that we four prisoners at Ghent, for. the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, are still well according to the flesh, and according to the spirit we thank and praise the Lord, that He thus strengthens us by His grace; for it is still our mind and purpose, by His grace and mercy, always to adhere to the Lord, and to depart from Him neither for life nor
* The word used in the original denotes a female friend.-Trans
death. Praise and thanks to the Lord, who thus strengthens us by His grace, since we are weak and miserable. But through the help of the Lord we have been able to endure so far, and we trust through the same Helper to persevere unto the end; for in that He Himself was tempted, He is able also to succor and deliver them that are tempted. For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; so that we may boldly say with the apostle, "The Lord is my helper." Phil. 4:13; Heb. 2:18; 13:5, 6.
Now, dearly beloved brethren, if God is with us, who can be against us; for all men are but the works of His hands, and He has created everything, and has power to bring it to nought again at His pleasure; why then should we be afraid of mortal men? Rom. 8:31; Isa. 51:12. Surely, we must much rather fear this God; for He alone it is that can save and condemn, and though we should escape the hands of men, we cannot escape Him. Hence we will rather say with Susanna, "It is better to fall into the hands of men, than to sin in the sight of the Lord." Sus. 23.
Therefore, dear friends, we trust by no means to forsake the Lord, but always to go on to the promised land, to possess it, which is full of all good things; to this end, may the Lord strengthen, confirm and fit us by His grace and mercy, and all them that fear and accept Him.
I, Hendricks, have written you all, dear friends, a little about the state of our minds. Further, I would kindly entreat you, always to continue steadfast in the fear of the Lord; for they that fear the Lord will do good things, and those who love Him will strive to do His pleasure, and humble themselves before Him., If ye fear God, says the prophet, depart not from Him, but enter into the eternal joy and gladness. They that fear God shall attain to a good end, and in the day of their death they shall be blessed. Therefore, dear friends, let us always fear the Lord With all our heart and mind; let us obey Him and keep His Word, for they are blessed that hear the Word of God, and keep it, and they are also those who love Him, and keep His Word, and he that loves Him is known of Him. But he that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not God's commandments, is a liar, and in him the love of God is not perfect. Luke 11:28; John 15:10; h John 2:4; 4:18. Therefore, my dear friends, let us love Him, because He first loved us, even as Paul testifies that, though He was rich, yet He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich; yea, He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through Him. II Cor. 8:9; 5:21. Hence, seeing we well know that the Lord has loved us thus, and so abundantly shed His grace upon us, let us all take good heed that His grace be not bestowed in vain upon us; for we are made partakers of Him, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. Hebrews 3:14.
Hence, dear friends, as ye have therefore re-
ceived Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye.. in Him; rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught (says the apostle), well knowing that it is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. Col. 2:6, 7; I Pet. 5:12. Therefore, always give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall, says Peter; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. II Pet. 1:10, 11. Therefore let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and let us always watch diligently, and wait for the Lord, even as good and faithful servants, that He do not come at an inopportune moment for us; but that we may always be prepared, as were the five wise virgins, who had trimmed their lamps, and went in to the marriage. But the five foolish virgins had to remain without. Matt. 25:4. Hence, dear friends, let us not be as were the foolish, but as the wise. Herewith we commend you to our dear Lord, and to the comforting word of His grace; may He strengthen and confirm you all, and us all, in all truth and righteousness. Amen.
Further, cordially beloved friend Goelken, and all other friends who read this, accept this in good part, which I have written in my weakness; for I do not think myself worthy to exhort you; since I am fully aware that you are well taught -of God. But I have done this .from love, because I heard that you desired to have something from us; hence receive this kindly.
Further, should you wish to know something about our imprisonment, as to whether it will not soon be at an end with us, we would inform you that we do not hear much about 'it. We had expected to offer up our sacrifice before Christmas, for we had heard said, it should be very soon; however, now we hear nothing of it, but by the grace of God we are constantly expecting it. Affectionately beloved friends in the Lord, pray for us, that we may continue steadfast unto the end, and oiler up an acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord. We trust to do the same for you, according to our weakness. Furthermore, we send you three new hymns, as a cordial and friendly greeting. Though they are simple, receive them in good part, for it has been done from love. Farewell; till in eternity. Amen. Greet your husband very much, and Grietgen your sister, and Bet., and Cor. Versw., and Anna van L.; and Susanna also greets you all very much. We further greet all them that fear the Lord.
Written by me, Hendrick Maelschalck, imprisoned at Ghent for the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ; on the 26th of January, 1568.
Cordially, affectionately and much beloved friends, the Lord has truly said that He shall come as a thief in the night; for yesterday I had concluded and sealed the foregoing letter, thinking to send it to you; but it happened, that the next morning all four of us were examined, of which we knew little when we wrote the preceding conclusion. Hence I say that the Lord has truly said that He shall come as a thief in the night. I Thess. 5:2. Thus, all four of us were examined, one after another, in the presence of two commissaries. They asked us many simple questions, which it would be too tedious to relate. But they did not ask us concerning our faith, except whether we were not baptized or rebaptized. Jan van Paris said he was baptized; Lauwerens said that he was not baptized according to the Scriptures; Pierken said that he was not baptized; and I said that we were not Anabaptists, and that I was not baptized. They asked Pierken, whether if he should be released, he should have himself baptized. He answered, "Yes, if I were fit for it." They also asked him, whether he would renounce his opinion. He replied, "I do not consider it an opinion, but the true faith." They then asked me whether I would not renounce my belief or opinion. I told them that I had renounced lies, and followed the truth. Hence, if I were to renounce, I should renounce the truth; but by the grace of the Lord I hoped to adhere to it. In this manner they continued to ask, so that it would be too tedious to write it. To Jan van Paris they said that we should. soon be dispatched, and that we should be patient for nine or ten days yet; they also said that they should send us men who should instruct us, and if we desired to hear them, we might do so. Hence we expect to have priests here; but we trust to keep our eyes open, for we well know what they seek. Thus, dear friends, all of you, we are of good cheer, the Lord be praised and thanked forever; and by the grace of the Lord we trust to keep the faith, whether it be life or death. Thus, dear friends, we think our confinement will not last much longer; for it seems that we have been delivered over to the lords of the council, and that they have orders from the Duke of Alva to dispatch us, and that the bailiff and the judges have nothing more to do with us. Hence we take leave from you all, dear friends, and pray you always to be diligent. We hope to go before; may the Lord by His grace and mercy strengthen and fit us thereto. Amen. Written on the 27th of January, 156$. By me. HENRY MAELSCHALCK., "And fear not them which kill the body; but him which hath power to cast both soul and body into eternal darkness." Matt. 10:28.
In this bloody and perilous time of persecution, also pious Jacob Dircks and his two sons, Andries Jacobs and Jan Jacobs fell into the hands of the tyrants. This Jacob Dircks, a tailor by trade, resided with his family at Utrecht, and as he was spied out there as one belonging to the persuasion of the Mennists, and as the lords wanted to apprehend him he from fear of the tyrants fled to Antwerp. His wife, who did not hold these views, still remaining there for some time, the thief-catchers
seized their property, and took about half of it, While Jacob Dircks resided with his family at Antwerp, his wife died there, and he and his aforementioned two sons, though having escaped the hands of the tyrants at Utrecht, subsequently fell into the claws of the wolves at Antwerp, where the trial of their faith was found much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire (I Pet. 1:7); so that they were together condemned to be burnt, each at a stake, only for the divine truth, and living according to it, and not on acount of any crime committed. On their way to death, Jacob Dirck's youngest son, named Pieter Jacobs, met them, who, as he in his great sadness and sorrow, put his arms around his father's-neck, was instantly most cruelly seized by the thiefcatchers, and thrown under the feet of the people following. With what sorrow the father and the brothers beheld this is easily imagined. When the father and his two sons had each been placed at a stake, he said, "How is it my dear sons?" Each replied, "Very well, my dear father." Andries Jacobs being betrothed at the time, his bride and his sister viewed from a distance with sorrowful hearts and weeping eyes this offering, how their bridegroom and brother, forsaking a temporal bride, and temporal relationship, chose the eternal Bridegroom Christ Jesus above all visible things. Thus these heroes were strangled, each at a stake and then burnt, sealing the truth with their death and blood on the 17th of March 1568. Therefore they shall also, for their severe travail, hear the sweet and welcome voice of Christ, "Ye good and faithful servants, ye have been faithful over a few things, I will make you rulers over many things; enter ye into the joy of your Lord." And, again, the king will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Matt. 25:23, 34.
This narrative is recorded from the accounts of trustworthy persons, who witnessed this offering themselves.
On the third of May, 1568, some brethren were assembled at Tillegem, near Bruges, in Flanders, to hear the Word of God preached, when they were
unexpectedly set upon by some who had come out to get may-poles, and five of them were apprehended, namely, Karel de Raet, a shepherd, barn at Wingen; Hansken in't Schaeck, called Hansken Koordedraeger, from the Schaeck at Kortijck; Willem de Snijder of Honschote; and two others who, since they did not valiantly adhere to the truth, are not worthy to have their names recorded here. The wife of Karel de Raet, and that of Willem de Snijder, were not apprehended with them, nor had Karel's wife as yet united with the church, but was ready for it. Thus it happened, when these men had been apprehended, that Maerten Lem, a burgomaster of Bruges, went out, about twelve o'clock in the night, with the watchmen, and first apprehended Christijntgen, Willem Snijder's wife, and when a watchman was desirous of turning Maerten Lem off from the house where Grietgen, Karel de Raet's wife was to be sought for, and they were rapidly walking along the fortress, between the Asses Gate and Jerusalem, Grietgen with two of her children unexpectedly met them, which caused Maerten Lem to say, "See, God gives this whore into our hands;" and he asked her, "Where are you going?" Greatly amazed, she replied, "To church." Thereupon he said, "It is no time now to go to church. Where is your husband?" She answered, "You know it well." He asked whether the two children were baptized. She said, "No.""Have they no name then?" he asked."Yes," she replied."Well how is this?" said he;"Have they a name before they are baptized?" She replied, "Dogs and other animals receive names; how much more should children, that are created after the image of God? I was not aware that my lords of Bruges are so blind yet.""If you want to talk this way," said Maerten Lem,"You shall be burnt.""I know it," she replied;"But then the crown of life is prepared for me." And thus these two women were likewise taken to prison, where much vexation, pain and suffering were inflicted upon them, as also upon the three men mentioned, to draw them from the faith; but all in vain. Hence, first the men were sentenced to be burnt on the Hillige, near Bruges, where they also boldly offered up their sacrifice; and a few days after, also the two women, because they steadfastly adhered to God, and His truth, were sentenced, and burnt in the castle in Bruges. And they now wait together for the coming of Him that shall come to avenge all their sufferings.
In the year 1568, at Ghent, in Flanders, also four brethren were apprehended, namely; Jan de Smit, Daniel de Paeu, Daniel van Vooren and Passchier Weyns, who boldly confessed their faith and all the articles in regard to which they were examined, and were not ashamed of God and His Word, but valiantly and undauntedly contended for the truth accepted and apprehended; against all that withstood them, unwaveringly even unto death, which they therefore tasted, as valiant soldiers; first, Jan de Smit, and shortly after, the other three. But they obtained to live forever where the new wine will be given them to drink in the Father's kingdom.