The north wind of persecution blew now the longer the more through the garden of the Lord, so that the herbs and trees of the same (that is the true believers) were rooted out of the earth through the violence that came against them. This appeared, among other instances, in the case of a very God-fearing and pious woman, named Maey ken Wens, who was the wife of a faithful minister of the church of God in the,city of Antwerp, by the name of Mattheus Wens, by trade a mason. About the month of April, A. D. 1573, she, together with others of her fellow believers, was apprehended at
Antwerp, bound, and confined in the severest prison there. In the meantime she was subjected to much conflict and temptation by so-called spirituals (ecclesiastics), as well as by secular persons, to cause her to apostatize from her faith. But when she could by no manner of means, not even by severe tortures, be turned from the steadfastness of her faith, they, on the fifth day of October, 1573, passed sentence upon her, and pronounced it publicly in court at the afore-mentioned place, namely, that she should, with her mouth screwed shut, or with her tongue screwed up, be burnt to ashes as a heretic, together with several others, who were also imprisoned and stood in like faith with her.
Thereupon, the following day, the sixth of October, this pious and God-fearing heroine of Jesus Christ, as also her fellow believers that had been condemned with a like sentence, were brought forth, with their tongues screwed fast, as innocent sheep for the slaughter, and each having been fastened to a stake in the marketplace, deprived, by fierce and terrible flames, of their lives and bodies, so that in a short time they were consumed to ashes; which severe punishment of death they steadfastly endured; hence the Lord shall hereafter change their vile bodies, and fashion them like unto His glorious body. Phil. 3:21.
The oldest son of the afore-mentioned martyress, named Adriaen Wens, aged about fifteen years, could not stay away from the place of execution on the day on which his dear mother was offered up; hence he took his youngest little brother, named Hans (or Jan) Mattheus Wens, who was about three years old, upon his arm and went and stood with him somewhere upon a bench, not far from the stakes erected, to behold his mother's death.
But when she was brought forth and placed at the stake, he lost consciousness, fell to the ground, and remained in this condition until his mother and the rest were burnt. Afterwards, when the people had gone away, having regained consciousness, he went to the place where his mother had been burnt, and hunted in the ashes, in which he found the screw with which her tongue had been screwed fast, which he kept in remembrance of her.
There are at present, 1659, several grandchildren (well known to us) still living of this pious martyress, who are named after her.
Touching the others, her fellow believers, who were put to death with her, we are not able, because it is so long ago, to give their names, but it appears to us, that they are those who are mentioned in the next following account (that is, the women*) since it is stated of them, that they were, on the same day, namely the sixth of October, 1573, also put to death, at Antwerp, by fire. This by way of notice.
Bemint Gott boven al: op den Steen,
Daer de vreugde is seer kleen;
Maer ik hope 't sal hier haest zijn gedaen
Als't God belieft my in genade't ontfaen.
Grace and peace from God the Father, through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, who grant you wisdom and understanding, that you may wisely govern yourself and your children, and bring them up in the fear of God, to which end may the good Father strengthen you, and the Holy Ghost comfort you in your tribulation. This is the greeting and wish of my heart to you my dear and much beloved husband in the Lord. After all salutation, I inform you that I am still tolerably well according to the flesh, and also according to the spirit I trust I am doing the best; but my best is nothing special, and I regret, that I am not more thankful for all that comes upon me, for it is all the work of the Lord. We ought to thank the Lord in adversity as well as in that which is agreeable to the flesh; for if the Lord takes all from us, He takes from us no more than what He has lent us, for it belongs to us no longer than it pleases the Lord, Oh that I could always thank the Lord as well when the flesh suffers adversity, as when it prospers-then we can thank the Lord indeed.
O my dear friend, I should never have thought that parting should come so hard to me as it does. True the imprisonment seemed hard to me; but that was because they were so tyrannical; but now the parting is the hardest of all.
O my very dear and beloved husband, pray the Lord heartily in my behalf, to remove the conflict from me; for it is in His power, if it is His pleasure. Truly the Lord has said, "He that does not forsake everything is not worthy of me;" for the Lord well knew that it would come hard to the flesh. But I hope that the Lord will also help me through even as He has helped many, and for which I can simply trust Him. Oh, how easy it is to be a Christian, so long as the flesh is not put to the trial, or nothing has to be relinquished; then it is an easy thing to be a Christian.
Herewith I will conclude my letter, and commend you and your children to the Lord, that you
may walk in wisdom, to the edification of your neighbor, and the salvation of your soul. I coin mend you to the Lord, and to the rich Word of His grace: this is the good greeting and wish of, my heart. As regards further the visiting, you may do in the matter according to your pleasure; for 1 should indeed often desire your visit, were it not for the expense. But if you want to make your heart glad, you may come; I dare say nothing else, except that it costs so much, else I should desire to have you come soon. If you come, go to no expense in the way of bringing anything with you, as it costs far too much. No more for this time, except that you may prosper in soul and body; this is my desire. Greet the acquaintances in the Lord much in my name, and also the friends according to the flesh. My companions also greet you much. My children also come in for a share.
Written in my bonds by me,
The grace and peace of God the Father, and the great mercy and love of the Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who through grace was sent by the Father to the salvation of all those that have died unto their sins, and are thus risen with Christ unto newness of life; and the eternal, unfathomable joy, comfort, and fellowship of the Holy Ghost, strengthen and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
After all cordial salutation to you my very dear and beloved husband and brother in the Lord, I inform you that my heart is still fixed to offer up a sacrifice to the Lord, the Lord be praised for the great grace which He shows to me poor, miserable creature. And I am also tolerably well according to the flesh, as I trust through the grace of the Lord that it is also with you, my most beloved in the Lord. Nothing more for this time, but I commend you to the Lord and to the words of His grace; this is the good wish and greeting of my heart. Farewell. Pray for me.
By me, your dear wife and sister in the Lord.
Always fear God and love Him above all
My dear child Adriaen, my son, I leave you this for a testament, because you are the oldest, to exhort you that you should begin to fear our dear Lord, for you are getting old enough to perceive what is good or evil; think of Betteken, who is about as old as you are. My son, from your youth follow that which is good and depart from evil: do good while you have time, and look at your father, how lovingly he went before me with kindness and
courteousness, always instructing me with the Word of the Lord. Oh, if I had so followed after him, how light would be my bonds! Hence, my dear son; beware of that which is evil, that you will 'not have to lament afterwards, "Had I done this or that; for then, when it is as far as it now is with me, it will be too late." Hear the instruction of your, mother: hate every thing that is loved by the world and your sensuality, and love God's commandment, and let the same instruct you, for it teaches, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself," that is, forsake his own wisdom, and pray, "Lord, thy will be done. If you do this, the anointing of the Holy Ghost will teach you all that you are to believe. I John 2:27. Believe not what men say, but obey that which the New Testament commands .you, and ask God to teach you His will. Trust not in your understanding, but in the Lord, and let your counsel abide in Him, and ask Him to direct you into His ways. My child, learn how you are to love God the Lord, how you are to honor your father, and all other commandments which the Lord requires of you. Whatsoever is not contained therein, believe not; but whatever is contained therein, obey. Join yourself to those that fear the Lord, and depart from evil, and through love do all that is good.
Oh, regard not the great multitude, or the ancient custom, but look at the little flock, which is persecuted for the word of the Lord, for the good persecute none, but are persecuted. When you have . joined them, beware of all false doctrine, for John says, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. .He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." II John 9. The doctrine of Christ is mercy, peace, purity, faith, meekness, humbleness, and full obedience to God.
My dear son, yield yourself to that which is good; the Lord will give you understanding. I give you this as my last adieu to you. My dear child, heed the Lord's chastening; for whenever you do evil, He will chasten you in your mind; desist, then, and call to the Lord for help, and hate that which is evil, and the Lord will deliver you, and good will come to you. God the Father, through His beloved Son Jesus Christ, grant you His Holy Spirit, that He may guide you into all truth. Amen.
This, I, Maeyken Wens, your mother, have written, while I was in prison for the Word of the Lord; the good Father grant you His grace, my son Adriaen. Write me a letter as to what your heart says, whether you desire to fear the Lord; this I should like to know. But you must write it better than the last two letters were written; the one which Maeyken Wils brought however, was good.
Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. I Peter 4;19.
O my dear son, though I am taken from you here, strive from your youth to fear God, and you shall have your mother again up yonder in the New Jerusalem, where parting will be no more. My dear son, I hope now to go before you; follow me thus as much as you value your soul, for besides this there shall be found no other way to salvation. Thus, I will now commend you to the Lord; may He keep you. I trust the Lord that He will do it, if you seek Him. Love one another all the days of your life; take Hansken on your arm now and then for me. And if your father should be taken from you, care for one another. The Lord keep you one and all. My dear children, kiss one another once for me, for remembrance. Adieu, my dear children, all of you. My dear son, be not afraid of this suffering; it is nothing compared to that which shall endure forever. The Lord takes away all fear; I did not know what to do for joy, when I was sentenced. Hence cease not, to fear God, because of this temporal death; I cannot fully thank my God for the great grace which He has shown me. Adieu once more, my dear son Adriaen; ever be kind, I pray you, to your afflicted father all the days of your life, and do not grieve him; this I pray all of you, for what I write to the oldest, I also mean to say to the youngest. Herewith I will commend you to the Lord once more. I have written this, after I was sentenced, to die for the testimony of Jesus Christ, on the fifth day of October, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1573.
By me, your mother, who gave you birth in much pain, as a memorial to you. Preserve well this the adieu which your father wrote your mother when she had been sentenced, and the adieu of your mother.
Fear not them which kill the body.
Love God above all; He it is who is, and shall be
The rich grace and peace of God the Father, and the love of Jesus Christ; may He be your comforter. Though we must now die, we are better off than you who remain in this vale of tears; however, one must bide the time with patience till the Lord comes. O my brother in the Lord, I would so gladly have written you a short letter, but my time has slipped away, although I have been confined long enough. But I am such a poor writer; hence you must excuse me, and think, if you were invited to a table somewhere, would you not certainly be satisfied with that which was prepared? So you must also be satisfied with my writing, for I do not have much, and hence I cannot give much. And now I can also not write much, because I have been sentenced; nevertheless I was so full of joy, that I should not be able to express it with the mouth, the
Lord be forever praised for, the great grace He has shown me, who has feared so much. Oh, what a strong God we have, compared with what we see the wicked have. Oh, let us have good courage; we shall devour our enemies like bread. I go before you, tomorrow; the Lord grant you strength, that you may come to me, as I trust you will. But, my dear brother in the Lord, always watch, for .the Lord will come as a thief in the night, when we least expect it, for this was my experience; it, is good then, that a man be not sleeping. But, .dear Jan, I should have written you more, but my time of delivery came on speedily, hence my, flesh begins to tremble somewhat; however this is the, nature of the flesh. I will herewith commend you to the Lord, and, to the Word of His grace. Farewell, my dear friend Jan. I have written you this the night I was sentenced that you might have something from my hand, for old acquaintance's sake. Take my simple letter in good part, for I would not have thought that J could write you so much yet after I was sentenced. I will now bid, you adieu here in this world; but I hope .that we shall.see each other up:yonder in the New Jerusalem, where parting shall be no.more.. However, I hope that before this letter shall have been read, .I shall have entered into .rest by the help of the Lord; and I also hope to be an,epistle. which shall be read of all men. II Cor. 3:2. Adieu adieu, dear ,friend. Greet your dear wife much in my name, and tell her that if she has seen aught, in me which did riot edify her, .not to, follow me therein; but if she has seen anything that was edifying; to follow that which is best. This is the good wish of my heart, written to you on the fifth day,of October, 1573. My fellow prisoners - also greet you, much.. ,
Written in my bonds, by, me your weak sister, as much as I am, able, which is but little: .
So persecuted they the prophets.