In the year 1572, when many exiles were residing in Nieuwvaert, near Breda, where they enjoyed a little more liberty than elsewhere, among whom there were also some who for the testimony and following of Jesus Christ, had fled thither from other places; it happened in the beginning of the month of August of said year, that, many brethren and sisters having come there from without, from Brabant, from Breda, Sevenbergen, and several adjacent villages, also from Holland, from Leyden, Haerlem and elsewhere, which being discovered, it was reported to the bailiff, while he was sitting at Gerrit Vorster's and drank with the steward, who hearing this, was filled with anger and said, "We will disturb that nest, and exterminate that band at once." Thereupon they gathered an armed force, in the evening of the fifth of August, about nine or ten o'clock, when these assembled to hear the preaching, and to marry a couple, in a house standing on the Voorstraet, in the front part of which resided Pieter de Gulicker, a tailor, and in the back part, Jan Pieterss, a weaver, where about one hundred men and women were assembled together. The steward and the bailiff with their men
came twice to the house to listen, without accomplishing anything further; but the third time the steward sent a servant, who found them assembled, by the light of many candles, engaged in their preaching. Thereupon came the steward, stadtholder, and bailiff, with all their servants and people well armed with pistols, halberds, swords, and other weapons, and thrusting open the doors of the house, they apprehended some whom they could get; but most of them broke through the walls, passages, and the roof of the house, and escaped. In all there were apprehended, Jan Pieterss of Vlaerdinge,. who lived in the rear part of the house, and ministered to the assembly with the Word of truth; Pieter de Gulicker, a tailor, who resided in the front part of .the house, with one of his apprentices, who was but sixteen or seventeen years old; Geleyn Corneliss, a shoemaker of Middleharnisse, near Somerdijck; Arent Block of Sevenberger; and Cornelis, the son of Koppen de Gijselaer, of Dortrecht; and two or three women. These having been apprehended they were brought to Gerrit Vorster's house, and the men put in irons; bur the women were placed unfettered in a chamber by themselves, whence they made good their escape. The next day in the morning there came to these six prisoners Michiel, the uncle of Cornelis de Gijselaer (married to the widow of Valerius the schoolmaster, who in the year 1568, about three years prior to this, had been offered up at Brouwershaven), who having come to visit his friends, to comfort them from the Word of God in their tribulation, the bailiff happened upon them and apprehended him likewise, saying, "You also belong to this people; you must also stay here with them."
All the property of these prisoners was immediately written down and confiscated, so that the women and children had to flee deprived and stripped of everything, which was lamented by many. In consequence of these things the people in Nieuwvaert were so terrified, that many dared not stay there any longer, the more so, as the steward had written to the duke of Alva, and having received a letter in return, had gone thither in person. In all, there fled about thirty, brethren as well as sisters; of those who resided in Nieuwvaert, besides all the others who had come there from other places.
The schoolmaster of Nieuwvaert, called Master Pieter Claess van der Linden, who had disputed five hours with Jan Pieterss (besides that the pastor had also disputed with him two or three times), and was greatly embittered against this people, gives nevertheless this testimony concerning them, that their chief and principal errors are, "That they do not baptize infants; that they cannot believe that Christ had His flesh and blood from Mary; and that they regard themselves as the little flock and the elect of God: But that, with this exception, their life and conversation is better than that of many others, and that they also seek to bring up their children in better discipline and fear of God, than many other people. That he also had of their children in his school, who were apter and learned more readily than any others. That he and many others deeply deplored the great persecution and vexation inflicted upon these people, and especially that on account of the men the poor women and children were so lamentably stripped of all their possessions, and driven away into misery."
These prisoners were confined in irons, in the house of said Gerrit Vorster, from the fifth of August, when they were apprehended in the night, until noon of the seventh, when they were together taken to Breda, where they were most severely assailed with examinations, promises, threats, and tortures, to cause them to apostatize from their faith, and to name their fellow believers, so that Pieter de Gulicker, unable to resist the same, abandoned the faith and his God, whereby he nevertheless did not obtain a release, but was executed with the sword. But the rest remained steadfast unto the end, however unmercifully they were treated in the torture. For one was very cruelly tortured and wounded upon the rack, and while thus lying, urine was poured into his mouth, and his body trampled upon; another was fastened below by his feet, his hands tied behind his back, and he was thus hauled up from behind, and scourged. But Geleyn, the shoemaker, was tortured most cruelly of all. They stripped him naked, and suspended him by his right thumb, with a weight attached to his left foot, and while thus suspended he was burned under his arms with candles and fire, and scourged until the two commissaries of the Duke of Alva, who were present, themselves became tired, and went away and sat down to play cards, the executioner looking on, for about an hour, or an hour and a half. Meanwhile Geleyn was left suspended, who, during all the time that they played, experienced no pain, but was as though he had been in a sweet slumber. or in a swoon; yea, he subsequently himself testified that he never in his life rested on his bed with less pain, than while he was suspended there. When they had finished playing, they said to the executioner, "Seize him again; he must tell us something; a drowned calf is a small risk." Coming to him, the executioner exclaimed, "The man is dead" (so deep was his sleep or swoon). Then one of the commissaries darted up, and shook him so roughly by one arm as tosprain it, which was not yet healed from the burning. When he began to revive again, he was let down; but he implicated no one, nor did he deny his faith, so that he was finally sentenced to the fire with Jan Pieterss and the young apprentice to be burnt alive. When they were standing at the stakes, and were being burned, the flames were wafted away so much from Geleyn, that the executioner had to hold him into the fire with a fork on the other side of the stake. Thus these, valiantly adhering to the truth, laid down their lives for it.
Shortly after, when Cornelis de Gijselaer and Arent Block were also led to death to be burnt, Arent dropped a later which he had written, thinking that some one of the friends would pick it up and get it, but unfortunately, it fell into t1~e hands of the tyrants, who immediately had the tvio taken back to prison, whereupon they were yet most dreadfully tortured; but when they nevertheless constantly remained valiant, named no one, and in no torture apostatized from their God, they were finally, like the three preceding ones, also sentenced and burned; and very soon after also Michiel, the uncle of Cornelis de Gijselaer followed the others with a like sacrifice.
Thus these now lie together under the altar, and wait for the number of their brethren to be fulfilled, that they may then live with them forever in everlasting joy with the Lamb that was slain, and all the friends of God, and sing the new song.
We did not spare the pains, to have looked up, through the mediation of certain of our good friends at Breda, in the present archives of the year 1659, by the clerk of the recorder there, every thing that might be noted, and could be found as recorded by the papistic rulers, of the year 1572, concerning the imprisonment, sufferings and death of the afore-mentioned pious witnesses of Jesus Christ. But soon after search for it had begun to be made, information was received that the archives where these and similar documents had been preserved was destroyed and laid in ruins by a terrible conflagration a few years ago; for which reason nothing could be brought to light in regard to the matter, except the particular reminiscences of old writers, from which the above is recorded. This by way of notice.
The city of Delft, in Holland was at this time only a burying place, yea, a dreadful murderers' den, for the extirpation of God's saints. This appeared in the case of two very pious, God-fearing, and most virtuous lambs of Christ, who had betaken themselves among the flock of the great
Shepherd of the sheep, Christ Jesus, to be led and fed by Him in the green meadows of the true evangelical doctrine. Une was named Maerten Janss, by trade a corn porter; the other, Jan Hendritkss, born at Swartewael, a steersman, who followed the sea for a livelihood.
They were both imprisoned at Delft, where they, for almost two years, suffered much affliction, anxiety and distress, from secular as well as spiritual L ecclesiastical j persons, to make them apostatize from their faith. But as they were founded upon the immovable cornerstone Christ Jesus, they could in no wise weaken their faith, much less cause them to apostatize entirely from it. Hence the rulers at said place, inflamed, through the instigation of the papistic clergy, with a bitter hatred against them, pronounced, in court, a very cruel sentence upon both of them, namely: That they should be tied to a stake, upon a scaffold to be erected in the market place, and burned until death should ensue.
Thereupon, on the fifth of February, A. D. 1572, both were brought upon the scaffold at said place, to die; whereupon the town clerk read to all the people: That no one was allowed to speak to them, on pain of forfeiting life and property.
Then Maerten Janss' tongue was seared; yet he nevertheless boldly said, "Thus I must now testify to the truth; for if I had not cared for my salvation, I would have escaped much sore conflict and obtained pardon; but now I have fought a good fight, finished my course, and kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness."
Then he cried, "O Lord, be merciful to me poor sinner. Who am not worthy to suffer for Thy name, but Thou hast made me worthy thereto."
Finally he exclaimed, "O Lord, receive my spirit into Thy hands." And with this his life was ended he thus departing this world through fire.
Jan Hendrickss was likewise gagged, to prevent him from speaking; but when he nevertheless spoke, namely, "Now is the time, now the truth must be fully sealed," etc., a great clamoring, confusion and running arose among the people, so that the lords, filled with fear, caused Jan Hendrickss to be brought inside, until the commotion and turbulence of the people had subsided.
After that he was brought forth completely gagged- having hurriedly been fastened to the stake, he was deprived of this temporal life by fire, even as his slain fellow brother.
Their dead and half-consumed bodies were brought outside of the city, to the common place of execution, called Gallows Hill, where each was separately fastened to a stake, for food to the fowls of the air.
This was the end of the afore-mentioned two lambs of Jesus, who, though a spectacle and reproach before the world, before God became a holy and acceptable sacrifice. OTE.-Having been furnished from the book of criminal sentences of the city of Delft, by the secretary there, with an authentic copy of the sentence of death of the afore-mentioned friends, just as the same was publicly read in court on the day of their death, we deem it well to add it here, that the reader may be fully assured of the truth of the foregoing account. The contents thereof are word for word as follows
Whereas Maerten Janss, corn porter, citizen of the city of Delft, and Jan Hendrickss of Swartewael, steersman, prisoners, have confessed, without torture and iron bonds, to belong to the evil and reprobated sect of the Anabaptists, and consequently to have attended various forbidden and improper meetings; and also confess to be rebaptized, and to have withheld the holy sacrament of baptism from some of their infants: that they also hold very evil views concerning the mass, despising and utterly rejecting the holy sacrament of the altar, as also all other sacraments, services and ceremonies of the holy Roman Catholic Church, and, what is worse still persist and obstinately adhere, to their aforesaid damned reprobated heresy, without in any wise repenting, or being willing to abandon it, notwithstanding all the good admonitions frequently and at divers times addressed to them by various good spiritual Catholic persons; all of which are most enormous, wicked and scandalous matters, which for an example unto others ought not to go unpunished; therefore, the judges of the city of Delft, according to the import of the decrees issued by his royal majesty, have ordered, and do order by these present, the aforesaid Maerten Janss and Jan Hendrickss, prisoners, to be led upon the scaffold erected in the marketplace of this city, and there to be tied to a stake and burned till death ensues, and their dead bodies then to be brought to the Gallows Hill and there placed at stakes. We furthermore declare all their property confiscated and forfeited for the benefit of his royal majesty. We further condemn the aforesaid prisoners to the costs of their imprisonment and the expenses of the execution. Done the fifth of February, A. D. 1572, Delft Style.
NOTE.-The original date seems to be in the year 1570, being two years earlier; but it is an error, as appears from various circumstances that follow, as also from the date of the letters which Jan Hendrickss wrote in prison.
Extracted from the first book of criminal sentences, fol. 195, preserved in the archives of the city of Delft, 23d of August, A. D. 1659.
Secretary of Delft.