Also at Aerdenborgh in Flanders they began to put into execution various means for the oppression of the Anabaptists who resided there and had escaped the claws of the Romish wolf, the cause of which was a certain prohibition emitted by the bailiff and the council of said city; in which said people in the first place, were refused liberty in the practice of their religion, insomuch that they were not allowed to assemble for this purpose, neither in the city, nor within the limits of its jurisdiction.
Thereupon there began they to afflict these innocent and defenseless people, not only with heavy fines, but also with arrest and imprisonment.
This sad beginning would, to all appearance, have culminated in greater mischief to the aforesaid people, had not their High Mightinesses, the Lords States General of the United Netherlands, who had received information of this, opposed it with a certain mandate, whereby those who were the cause of said oppression were prevented from proceeding with the execution of their aforementioned prohibition, and on the other hand, liberty of religion was granted to those that were oppressed. The contents of the afore-mentioned mandate are as follows:
The States General, etc., to the Bailiff, Burgomasters and Judges of Aerdenborgh.
Honorable, etc.: We have learned with surprise, that contrary to our resolution announced to Your Honor by our order by the clerk, Jan Bogaerd, you still hinder the members of the community called Anabaptists or Mennonists, residing in Aerdenborgh and the parts under its jurisdiction, in the freedom of their assembling and the exercise of their religion in Aerdenborgh, and trouble and oppress them, by prohibiting their assembling, by arrests, and fines.
Whereas we desire that the aforesaid members of the community belonging to the Anabaptist persuasion be allowed to enjoy just as much freedom, with all quietness and modesty, in their mind, conscience, assembling, and exercise of their religion, in Aerdenborgh as is the case every where else in the provinces, cities, and places of the United Netherlands, without any contradiction or resistance, except that you may exercise an oversight over their gatherings, as far as they deem it well, and that they, to this end, may inform you every time that they desire to assemble. Hence we command you, to govern yourselves precisely in accordance with this, to the better maintenance of tranquillity, peace and unity in the aforesaid city; without causing the apprehension or execution of the aforesaid members for any fine or contravention, because of previous gatherings. Upon this we shall rely, and, etc. Given this 1st of May, 1615.
This agrees with the minutes preserved in the rolls of their High Mightinesses. Signed,
When the aforesaid mandate had been drawn up, and properly delivered by order of their High Mightinesses, the hope was indulged in that it would be obeyed, and thereby the peace desired accomplished, but through the intervention of envious and malevolent persons this hope was frustrated; for it was sought, notwithstanding said mandate to find cause whereby the liberty of the afore-mentioned people might be annulled justly as it were, and their peace disturbed.
To this end served, or at least was used, a certain ordinance decreed in July of the year 1619, by order of the Excellencies lords in power against certain individuals. Though this ordinance had no reference whatever to the Anabaptists, yet their assembling and religious worship was prohibited; hence they again addressed themselves with humble supplications to the High Mightinesses of the United Netherlands, to the end that they might be delivered from this disturbance of their peace, and freely permitted (as had been ordained before) to practice their religion; whereupon followed another mandate to the governor of Sluys, and the
bailiff and magistrates of Aerdenborgh, it read as follows
The States, etc., to the Lord o f Haultain, Governor of Sluys and the adjacent parts,-, as also to the Bailiff and Magistrates of the city of Aerdenborgh.
Noble, august, honorable, dear, particular: We here send you the adjoined request presented to us in the behalf of the members of the community called Mennonites or Anabaptists, residing in Aerdenborgh who complain that they are disturbed in the free exercise of their religion which we have granted them in the aforesaid city; you doing this under the pretext of the decree emitted by us on the 3d of July last; whereupon we have deemed it necessary to advertise and explain to you, that it is not our intention that the supplicants be comprehended in the aforesaid decree of the 3rd of July, but that the supplicants shall retain, enjoy, and continue in, said freedom in the exercise of their religion, in Aerdenborgh, even as they have previously had and enjoyed. Hence we charge you, to govern yourselves in accordance with this, without further troubling the supplicants, as that they have to follow our previous concession and resolution. Hereupon we shall rely and commend you into the high protection of the Almighty. From the Hague, the 16th of November, 1619.
This agrees with the minutes preserved in the rolls of their High Mightinesses. Signed,
After this second mandate there followed in the aforesaid city and its jurisdiction the hoped for peace, at least so that we have learned of no noteworthy disturbance or obstruction of religion.
Meantime the mischief broke out again in other places, especially at Deventer, though also from those professing the Calvinistic doctrine; insomuch that the authorities of said city, instigated by certain bitter and malignant persons, endeavored, through a certain edict containing divers punishments against the Anabaptists, to abolish the gatherings of those professing that belief; an account of which we shall forthwith give.
When the year sixteen hundred and twenty, after the birth of Christ had come, the aforesaid magistrates emitted an edict, not only against the Romanists (from whom they had formerly suffered persecution themselves), but also against the Mennonites or Anabaptists, who had always shown themselves peaceable and friendly toward and among them, whereby they prohibited, among others, also the assemblies of the Anabaptists, yet not on pain of death.
That this may be well understood, we shall correctly copy the edict; as far as it is directed against he Anabaptists, and present it to the impartial reader.
The magistrates of the city of Deventer prohibit all citizens and residents of their city; that no Mennists, etc., shall hold any secret or open assembly or meeting where any preaching . ~ .* marriage, or any other exercise of religion is practiced; under whatever pretext the same may be done; on pain that those who shall be found to practice it shall forthwith be banished from the country forever; and every person that shall be found at such a place or in the assembly shall forfeit the upper garment and twenty-five guilders in money; the second time, the upper garment and fifty guilders; the third time, to be punished arbitrarily. And he that lends his house, for the purpose of holding such gatherings, forfeits a hundred guilders; the second time, two hundred guilders; the third time, he shall be banished forever. See Chron. van den Ondergang, Book 17, for the year 1620, etc., page 1825, col. 1.
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward Gad endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, -this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps. I Pet. 2:19-21.
In the meantime men did not cease to slander and speak evil of the doctrines of the Anabaptists; especially about the article which they confessed concerning God, as also touching the incarnation of the .Son of God, etc., even as though they advanced the most absurd, yea, ungodly opinions in regard to it; which was done, in order, if possible, to cause a persecution of these people, even in the midst of the Netherlands.
For this occurred in such a way, that also the high magistrates and States of the country were exercised with regard to it; who, to get full information about this matter, gave orders to divers churches. of the Anabaptists, to make a uniform confession touching the afore-mentioned articles, anti to deliver the same to their noble High Mightinesses.
To this. the afore-mentioned Anabaptists were, " That which is left out here concerns the religion of the papists; hence we have omitted it.
not averse; inasmuch as they composed these articles in writing, and delivered them, on the 9th of October, A. D. 1626, to the deputies of the Court of Holland. The contents thereof were as follows
We believe from the heart, and confess herewith according to the testimony of the Word of God, that there is one, only, eternal, almighty, merciful and just God (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 19:17; Ps. 90:2; Isaiah 40:28; Rom. 16:26; Gen. 17:1; Ps. 103:8; Philippians 2:4; Dan. 9:7), and none other (I Corinthians 8:4, 5), to whom there is none like (Ex. 8:10; Isa. 46:9), whose greatness is immeasurable, and His form indescribable, II Chron. 6:18; Job 11:8, 9. Before whom, above whom, and beside whom, there is no other, Isa. 43:11; Deut. 10:17; 32:39. Who is of Himself that He is, Ex. 3:14. To whom all things that are owe their existence, Gen. 1; Ps. 146:6; Acts 14:15. Who is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, Rev. 21:6; Isa. 41:4. Who knows, sees, and hears all things, Ps. 94:11; I John 3:20; Ps. 33:13; 94:9. Who alone is good, and the fountain and source of all good, Matt. 19:17; James 1:17. Wherefore to Him, blessed be He, belongs and must be given all divine honor, fear, love and obedience (Ps. 29:1; Luke 2:14; Deut. 10:12, 20; 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Jeremiah 11:7), which may not be shown to any other, neither to angels, nor to men, nor to any other, whether they be heavenly or earthly creatures, Rev. 19:10; Acts 10:26. For He will not give His glory unto another, neither His praise to idols, Isa. 48:11, 42:8. But although God in the aforesaid manner manifests and makes Himself known in general by His Word: yet by the same word He also shows Himself distinctively and separately, as, namely: That there are three that bear record in heaven, I John 5:7. Not three gods, but one Father, one Word or Son, and one Holy Ghost, even as this was shown, when the Lord Christ was baptized (Matt. 3:16); and is also taught in the words of Christ, where He commands His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matt. 28:19. So that therefore, according to the Word of God, the Father is the true Father of the Son (Matt. 7:21; 10:32, 33; 16:17; Mark 14:36; John 17), from whom the Son proceeded in an incomprehensible manner from eternity, and was born before every creature. Micah 5:2; Col. 1:15. Hence the Son is also the true Son of the Father (Ps. 2:7, 12; Matt. 3:17; 17:5 ), so that also the Father, as far as He is the Father, is not the Son, John 3:16, 17; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4. That likewise the Son, as far as He is the Son, is not the Father, John 16:28; Rom. 5:10. But that herein the Father is another than the Son, and the Son another than the Father, John 5:32, 37; 10:25, 29; 15:24. That also the Father and the Son, as far as they are Father and Son, are not the Holy Ghost. That also the Holy Ghost, as far as He proceeds or is sent out by the Father, in the name of the Son, is another than the Father or the Son. But as far as the Father is God, eternal, uncreated, but the Creator of all things, with many other divine attributes, herein we believe that the Son and the Holy Ghost are one with the Father, to whom one and the same title of God, in the highest significance, honor, service, and obedience, belongs.
However, the manner, how and wherein Father, Son and holy Ghost are three and also one, we do not think that God has so fully revealed to us in His Word; that also all the knowledge of it is not necessary to salvation, since it is a high or deep mystery, which here in this life can be known but in part, as if seen through a glass darkly, I Cor. 13:12. The perfect knowledge and true contemplation of which, is hoped for by faith, in this life, but will only hereafter, in the life eternal, be fully known. I John 3:2. Wherefore deep investigation of this matter, beyond or above the Word of God, is more subtilty than Christian simplicity. The terms, of one essence, trinity, three persons, invented in former times by the ancients, we avoid, because they are unknown to the Scriptures, and because it is dangerous, in naming God, to use other words than those of the holy Scriptures. By the words, three beings, or three in one being, previously used by Jaques Outerman, as also by some of our teachers, we understand nothing else than what is comprehended in this our preceding confession.
We believe and confess, that God, willing to show His very great love to the human race (who through sin had fallen into death and into much corruption), and to perform by the deed His gracious promises made to the fathers (Gen. 3:15; 12:3; 22:18; Deut. 18:18), sent to this purpose His only (John 3:16), dear (Luke 9:35), and beloved Son (Matthew 3:17), who was from eternity (Heb. 1:2), by whom all things were created and made (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1), into this world (John 3:17; 1 John 4:9), who gladly obeyed the will of His Father (Ps. 40:8: Heb. 10:7), and came from above (John 3:31; 8:23), from heaven (3:13; 6: 62), came forth from His Father (16:28), leaving His divine glory (17:5), form (Phil. 2:6), and riches (II Cor. 8:9), descended (Eph. 4:9), came into this world (John 16:28), so that the virgin Mary, by the power of the Most High (Luke 1
35), conceived Him (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23; Luke 2:7), so that also the same, and no other, was born of her (Isa. 7; Matthew 1:25; Luke 1; Gal. 4:4). For although Mary bore the Son of God in another form, than in which He was with the Father before the foundation of the world; yet it is nevertheless the same, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, Micah 5:2; Isa. 9:6. For the Word or Son became flesh. John 1:14. Yea, He that was like unto God, be-
came like another man. Phil. 2:7. The Son of God appeared in the form of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), and God was manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16), so that the second man Christ is the Lord Himself from heaven. I Cor. 15:47. Hence that which the apostles saw in Christ, with their eyes, heard with their ears, and handled with their hands, was of the Word of life; so that they saw that eternal life which was with the Father. 1 John 1. For God brought His first begotten Son into the world, whom all angels and men must worship. Heb. 1:6; Phil. 2:10. And when we thus believe, we have in our favor the testimony of God and of all the righteous, who with one accord unanimously exclaim: that this visible man Christ is the Son of God (Matt. 3:17; John 1:2; 9:37; 11:27; Matt. 16:16; I John 4:10; 5:5), who dwelt among men (John 1:14; Zech. 2:10; Bar. 3:37), and whom the high priests, because He confessed Himself to be the Son of God, also condemned to death. Mark 14:64; John 18:35. For, not knowing Him, they nailed the Lord of glory, that is the Lord from heaven, to the cross. I ~Cor. 2:8; 15:47. There the Son of the living God suffered (Heb. 5:8), whom God did not spare (Rom. 8:32), but delivered Him up for the life of the world (John 3:16; I John 4:14), to the most ignominious death of the cross. Phil. 2:8. There the Son of God shed His precious blood for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 20:28; Col. 1:14; I John 1:7; Rev. 1:5); He by whom God made the worlds, by Himself purged our sins. Heb. 1:2, 3. He was buried, and the third day was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. I Cor. 15:12; Acts 3:26; Rom. 6:4; I Thess. 1:10. He ascended up to where He was before. John 3:13; 6:62; 16:28; Eph. 4:8; I Tim. 3:16. He is sitting there at the right hand of the Majesty of His Father (Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3), whence He shall come in the clouds of heaven, to judge the quick and the dead. Matt. 24:30; Acts 10:42; Rev. 1:7.
The final cause of the sending, advent, incarnation, and suffering and death of the only begotten Son of God in this world, was to save sinners (I Tim. 1:15; Matt. 18:11), or to reconcile the sinful world to God the Father, John 3:17; I John 2:2; II Cor. 5:19. Hence He is also the only foundation (I Cor. 3:11), the only door to the Father (John 10), the only way to eternal life (John 14: 6), and the only meritorious cause of justification (Acts 13:38; Rom. 3:24), and of eternal salvation; for there is salvation in no other, as the apostle Peter says, neither is there any other name under heaven given among men, whereby they must be saved, than in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12. To Him be praise, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
This was subscribed by twenty ministers of the Anabaptists (who are all well known), in the name of their churches; as of Amsterdam, Haerlem, Leyden, Delft, Rotterdam, Dergoude, Schiedam, Bommel, Blockzijl, etc.
This confession of faith, concerning the articles about God and the incarnation of the Son of God, etc., having been delivered to the deputies of the Court of Holland, produced satisfaction with their high excellencies, and hence the establishment of greater peace and liberty for the Anabaptists in said country, although to the dissatisfaction of those who, through bitterness, had first endeavored to disturb their peace, and, if they could have succeeded to cause an oppression or persecution of them.
NOTE.-Just in time two manuscript tracts, in the Swiss language, were sent to us, both of them having been sent before this date, from the Swiss parts, to divers churches of our fellow believers, but principally to those of Amsterdam, at the request and in the name of some of the oppressed brethren; also in general, of the ministers and elders of the church in the Palatinate and Alsace.
The first was written and completed on the 15th of September, 1645, and bears the signature of Jeremiah Mangold.
The second, in the month of February, 1658, by M. Meyli.
These two tracts, both of them written with one design and purpose, and sent to us, shall aid us in the carrying out of the work we have undertaken; namely, to extend the history of the holy martyrs who suffered for our common Christian faith, to this our present time, and bring it to a completion.
In order to do this in the best manner, and to bring these matters (which in one tract are described very diffusely, and in the other, very briefly, and sometimes abruptly), into a convenient form or shape, we shall not grudge the labor of treating them from their first rise, and to follow up the matters chronologically (though they are described indiscriminately), and to indicate each time, in order that no error be made, as to which tract from which we have taken it.