Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Saviour, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660
COMPILED FROM VARIOUS AUTHENTIC CHRONICLES, MEMORIALS, AND TESTIMONIES, BY
THIELEMAN J. van BRAGHT
Translated from the original Dutch or Holland Language from the Edition of 1660
BY JOSEPH F. SOHM
Publisher's Preface to Third English Edition, 1886
A the English language, year by year, becomes more prevalent among our Mennonite people, the necessity of presenting to them in that language the doctrines, teachings and practices, as well as the story of the sufferings, the faithful endurance and the final triumphant deaths, of those of like faith with us who lived in the earlier ages of Christianity, becomes apparent to every reflecting mind.
These doctrines, teachings and practices together with the examples of faithful devotion to Christ and His Word, and the unfaltering endurance under the severest persecution, are powerful incentives to Christians today, to inspire many sincere souls to live a more consecrated life, to practice greater self-denial, to live more separated from the world, and show a greater zeal in the work of the Lord and-the salvation of souls; and they are especially precious to us, as Mennonites, because through these people it pleased God to hand down to us the living exemplification of the peculiar tenets and doctrines which we hold and practice at the present day.
The reading of books of this kind will also help us to appreciate more highly the privileges with which God has blessed us above our forefathers. While they oftentimes were not permitted to have permanent places of abode, and were driven about and hunted down like wild beasts, compelled to dwell in caves and mountains, and other secluded places, hold their meetings in secret, and suffer every imaginable form of injustice and persecution, because to be a true follower of Christ in those days was considered the very worst of crimes, we enjoy all the privileges of citizenship and are protected in the fullest enjoyment of our religion and forms of worship.
It is the duty of the church to maintain and teach the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and to transmit the same to coming generations, and as we contemplate these facts, what a glorious treasure of pure Christian devotion shines in these pages of the Story of the Martyrs, and how much this grand record of their sufferings has done, and may yet do to perpetuate the pure doctrines of the Gospel, eternity alone will reveal.
For these reasons and many others that might be referred to, the publishers of this edition, have, in the fear of God, for the promotion of His glory, undertaken the publication of"The Bloody Theater or Martyrs' Mirror" and herewith give it to the public, in the hope that it may be the means of promoting the glory of God and of doing much good among the children of men.
NOTE.-The translation of this work was made from the Dutch Edition of 1660, and where questions of doubt occurred, the edition of 1685 as well as the German editions were consulted.
Publisher's Preface to the English Printing of 1950
It was in the year 1742 that the Mennonites of eastern Pennsylvania wrote to their brethren in the Netherlands reporting their numerical growth in the New World and their fear of war being imminent. Three years later they wrote again, repeating the contents of their first letter and making a special appeal for assistance in the publication of a German edition of van Braght's Bloody Theater or Martyrs' Mirror. The six Skippack ministers who signed the letter stated that they wrote at the instance of the other congregations. They were concerned to prepare their people for the cross of testing and suffering which war would bring with it. They said simply that"it becomes us to strengthen ourselves for such circumstances with patience and endurance, and to make every preparation for steadfast constancy in our faith." They had a special concern for the generation of young men in their congregations who were not able to read the Dutch Martyrs' Mirror. The story of the eventual publication of a German Martyrs' Mirror at Ephrata in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1748-49 is too well known to require rehearsal here.
Two centuries after the publication of the first American edition of this sixteenth century Dutch Mennonite classic, we again find the Mennonite brotherhood laboring to strengthen its young people in the nonresistant faith of the fathers by the publication of another English edition of the Martyrs' Mirror of T. J. van Braght, 1625-64. Indeed the loyalty of the Mennonite brotherhood to its historic peace principles has been tested in the first and second world wars more severely than at any time since the sixteenth century. The pressures of the contemporary culture upon the group to surrender this historic principle are strong. It is evident that vigorous efforts must be made to capture the loyalty of our youth if the Biblical doctrine of nonresistance is to be preserved. May God add His blessing to this effort to glorify His name.
September 20, 1949
© MENNONITE PUBLISHING HOUSE
-J. C. WENGER, Secretary of the
Historical Committee of the Mennonite
The first English edition of Martyrs Mirror, translated from the German, was published in 1837 at Lampeter Square, Lancaster County, Pa., and reprinted in 1853 at London, England. The second English edition, translated from the original Dutch edition of 1660, was published in 1886 at Elkhart, Ind., and reprinted in 1938 and later years at Scottdale, Pa. Beginning in 1977, reprints include improved reproductions of engravings, from The Drama of the Martyrs, by permission of Mennonite Historical Associates, Lancaster, Pa. Second English edition, twenty-first printing, 1999 Printed in the United States of America. 49,500 copies in print from 1938. International Standard Book Numbers: 0-8361-1390-X (hard cover). 0-8361-9087-4 (Kivar cover)
The principal object in writing this preface is to point out the chief difficulties I had to contend with while engaged in this truly laborious and exhaustive task. I do this not for the purpose of exciting sympathy on my behalf, but to convey to the reader an appropriate idea of the perplexing nature of the work that has engrossed my closest attention, and absorbed so much of my energy and care for nearly three years. The reader will thereby be prepared to view with greater leniency the unavoidable inconsistencies and other imperfections his critical eye may discover.
First of all, I will state, that the original is written in a language that has now been obsolete for many years; which proved a very great obstacle, since no dictionary obtainable could at all times give the desired information; hence the meaning of many words and phrases had to be ascertained by long and laborious research and comparison, which necessarily did not always preclude the possibility of an error, though I have taken great pains to give as correct a rendition as possible.
Another feature of the original that frequently proved very trying is, that it consists in great part of letters written by comparatively illiterate persons, in consequence of which the language used is very often ambiguous or obscure, necessitating an incalculable amount of weighing and comparing, without affording certainty of having apprehended the writer's true meaning.
Still another perplexing obstacle was the fact, that, many proper names occurring in the work, and foreign to the language of the original, having apparently been incorrectly transcribed, it was not always possible to determine the exact spelling of such names; which, though desirable, is, however, not of any material consequence.
But the greatest and most harassing difficulty of all was the circumstance that the version of the Bible used by the various authors of the work differed in many, and, sometimes, in very essential points from our English translation, making it an utter impossibility, to adopt an inflexible rule, without involving one's self in countless errors and misconstructions. The course I generally pursued was, that when the rendering of the passage, or passages, given or used in the original, almost coincided with, or at least did not materially differ from that of our English Bible, I would take the quotation in question verbatim from the latter; while, when the discrepancy was too considerable, or an argument depended on the exact rendition, I translated the phrase or passage to be quoted literally from the original. Hence the reader will perceive, that this made an absolute impossibility to adhere to one, invariable rule; and if he but knew the amount of careful thought, and anxiety, expended in drawing the line, when to quote from the English version, and when to translate literally, he could not- but heartily sympathize with the translator, and kindly overlook any shortcomings he may discover.
With regard to the marginal notes or remarks, I would state that I have invariably translated them when they contained anything necessary for the complete understanding of the subject under consideration; but frequently they are simply a resume of a paragraph, or side remark of the compiler, without any information or value for the reader; in this case I have omitted them.
These are the chief points I would have the reader consider, for by bearing them in mind he will be enabled to judge understandingly, and also, charitably, of the manner in which the translator has performed his task. To claim that this translation contains no errors would be simply preposterous, when all circumstances are taken into consideration; but I can truthfully say that I have conscientiously striven to furnish the reader with as correct a translation as it was in my power to give. How I have succeeded I leave to the reader to judge. Trusting that the contemplation of the faith, the self-sacrificing zeal, and the religious fervor of these martyrs of former ages will leave its imprint for good upon the hearts of those who shall read this book, I now consign it to the hands of the printer.
JOSEPH F. SOHM.
To God, my Lord, the Creator, Preserver and Redeemer of my soul, be praise, honor and majesty, forever and ever.
Pardon me, O my Lord and my God! that I, who am but dust and ashes, approach Thee. Gen. 18:27. I fear to come to Thee, because Thou art a consuming fire, while I am wood, hay and stubble, subject to be burned; yet I must not remain away from Thee, because I have that which is Thine, yea, which is Thy most precious treasure, even the blood and offering of the saints; I must needs come and offer it to Thee.
May it be well-pleasing to Thee, my dear Savior, that I offer that which long since has been offered up to Thee. But I have full confidence that Thou wilt not reject me. I believe I have the assurance that this will be acceptable to Thee, for Thy servant David, a man after Thine own heart, sang,"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Ps. 116:15.*
Moreover Thou knowest, O my Saviour and Redeemer, the steadfast faith, the unquenchable love, and faithfulness unto death, of those of whom I have written, and who gave their precious lives and bodies as a sacrifice to Thee.
Besides, Thou hast. spared my life, that I unworthy and weak as I am for such a task, might yet perform it; for snares of death had compassed me, keeping me bound nearly six months during last fall, winter and spring, so that I often thought I could not survive; nevertheless Thy power strengthened rife, Thy hand rescued me and by Thy grace was I led safely through, so that in the midst of my difficulties and contrary to the advice and opinion of the physicians (for -the zeal and love of Thy saints had taken complete possession of me), I wrote and finished the greater part of this work.
The sacrifices which are acceptable unto Thee are a broken spirit, etc. Ps. 51:17. But this offering, O God, was accompanied with many tears, caused partly by my distress, as 1, on account of the weakness of my nature, called upon Thee for help, partly through joy, as I found and experienced Thy comfort and help.
Yet that which more than all else caused my tears to flow was the remembrance of the sufferings and the death of Thy martyrs, who altogether innocent, as defenceless lambs, were led to the water, the fire, the sword, or to the wild beasts
* Not only oxen and sheep, but also turtle doves and young doves were formerly acceptable offerings to Thee. O my God, and how much more the blood and death of Thy Saints. in the arena, there to suffer and to die for Thy name's sake. However, I experienced no small degree of joy as I contemplated the living confidence they had in Thy grace, and how valiantly they fought their way through the strait gate.
Ah! how often did I wish to have been a partaker with them; my soul went with them, so to speak, into prison;* I encouraged them in the tribunal, to bear patiently, without gainsaying or flinching, their sentence of death. It seemed to me as though I accompanied them to the place of execution, scaffold or stake, saying to them in their extremity, Fight valiantly dear brethren and sisters; the crown of life awaits you. I almost fancied that I had died with them; so inseparably was my love bound up with them; for Thy holy name's sake.
I therefore entreat Thee once more, O my God, to let this sacrifice be well-pleasing in Thy sight, and to accept it from me, Thy most humble servant, as a token of love towards Thee as well as toward Thy blessed martyrs.
But before I leave this, strengthen me with Thy good Spirit, and arm me with the consolation of Thy grace, that I may not only confess Thee here with my mouth, but also honor Thee by a virtuous and pious conversation (Ps. 119:5), in the most holy faith, not refusing, if necessity require it and Thy honor be promoted thereby, to give my life and body into suffering and death, so that I may become like unto Thy dearest friends, my slain fellow brethren and sisters, and receive with them the same reward in the great day of Thy recompense. Song of Sol. 1:4.
This is the desire and petition of him, whose name is known to Thee, and who entreats Thee for grace now and in the hour of his death, and in the ages of eternity. O Lord, so let it be I For Thine, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
T. J. VAN BRAGHT.
Dort, July the 23rd, 1659.
NOTE.--The ADVERTISEMENT by the Dutch Publishers is omitted, as we deem it irrelevant to the present Edition. It contains a few plain statements of some amendments introduced in regard to obsolete words and phrases; that many noteworthy additions compiled from authentic records have been made, etc.-Translator.
*"What is said of Onesiphorus according to the body, we have experienced in the spirit. Paul says, "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain." 11 Tim. 1:16.
TO MY BELOVED FRIENDS AND COMPANIONS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR SAVIOUR
Next to God we are joined to our fellow-believers who have received the same faith with us; and we shall therefore address ourselves to them.
But most beloved, do not expect that we shall bring you into Grecian theatres, to gaze on merry comedies or gay performances. Here shall not be opened unto you the pleasant arbors and pleasure gardens of Atlas, Adonis or Semiramis, which are said to have been built in the air, and of which the ancients used to sing their merry lays; yet far be it from us to conduct you to places of sadness, surely not to such as can, in verity, be called places of sadness.
True enough, we shall lead you into dark valleys, even into the valleys of death (Ps. 23:4), where nothing will be seen but dry bones, skulls, and frightful skeletons of those who have been slain; these beheaded, those drowned, others strangled at the stake, some burnt, others broken on the wheel, many torn by wild beasts, half devoured, and put to death in manifold cruel ways; besides, a great multitude who having escaped death bear the marks of Jesus, their Saviour, on their bodies, wandering about over mountains and valleys, through forests and wilderness, forsaken of friends and kindred, robbed and stripped of all their temporal possessions, and living in extreme poverty.
Yet to look upon all this will not cause real sadness, for though the aspect is dismal according to the body, the soul will nevertheless rejoice in it, seeing that not one of all those who were slain preferred life to death, since life often was proffered them on condition that they depart from the constancy of their faith. But this they did not desire; on the contrary, many of them went boldly onward to meet death; some even hastened to outstrip others, that they might be the first, who did not shrink from suffering anything the tyrants could devise, nay more than could be thought possible for a mortal man to endure.
Among a great number we perceived a godfearing hero and knight of Christ,* who, advancing
* This hero and knight of Christ we may understand to be one of Christ's apostles, but it may also very properly be inferred that reference is had to"Gerardus," who went singing before his"On': to suffer for Christ's name. See first book about Arnold , Marsilius, Tbeodoric and five other men and two women, who were burnt alive with him at Cologne. before others, went cheerfully unto suffering and death, in which he acquitted himself so well that he fought or pressed his way with such force through the strait gate, that he left his flesh on the posts.
When we had beheld this with the eyes of faith, and had meditated upon the matter, our spirit was kindled, and we almost seemed to welcome him, and to wish him everything good, in these words
Klimt op uw' gulden Hoogtt', Voor-vechter van de bende
Der heyl'ge Zielen, die God's roode Bloed-banier Navolgde, in't gedrang, in't midden der ellenden, Daer niet dan rook en damp van menschen offervyer
Tot door de wolken vloog; noch gingt_gy Held haer voor,
Ja streed, door d' enge poort, ten ruymen Hemel door.
[Climb up your golden height, champion of the band of holy souls, who followed God's red banner of blood, in oppression and in the midst of misery; where naught but the smoke and vapor of human burnt sacrifices ascended to the clouds; yet thou, hero, didst go before them, yea, didst fight thy way through the strait gate to the wide Heaven.]
Then followed a great multitude of very pious and virtuous people-men, women, youths and maidens, all clothed with the same armor of faith and walking in the same path. Some of these were, like their leader, deprived of life; the rest were led to different places of execution, where they beheld many of their fellow brethren and sisters whose lives had been taken by the most dreadful means burned and roasted at the stake. They nevertheless were not terrified, though they had to expect to be put to death in the same manner; but were of good cheer, calling upon God for help, that they might not falter in their sufferings, but prove steadfast to the end; this clone, they also were burned.
This seemed almost to break our heart; our soul was horrified, and filled with pity on account of their misery; but when we remembered their constancy, and that now, for the heat endured, they found refreshing with God, nay, could expect the blessed crown of immortal glory, our grief subsided and sweet consolation filled our soul, so that we, to their memory, wrote the following words for ourselves and our fellow brethren:
Het schriklyk offer-vyer, de glinsterende staken, Den smaed, die Zion leed, kon God's verkoren volk Belet noch hinder doen, noch geensins angstig makers
Te dragen Christi naem, als in sen vritte wolk: Tot dat een heete vlam haer lyven heeft versloizden; Waer door haer zielen toen by God verkoeling vonden.
[The dreadful sacrificial fire, the shining stakes, the shame which Zion suffers, could neither disturb nor hinder God's chosen people, nor make them afraid to bear the name of Christ, as in a white cloud: Until a burning flame has consumed their bodies; whereby their souls found refreshing with God.]
Some were not only bold, but went forth unto death rejoicing, which was evident from their conduct. Others showed this by their words, as they spoke of the consolation in their heart and the glad hope dwelling in their soul, when they were placed at the stake. Many, when the fire was kindled, and even when they were enveloped by the flames, sang with a loud voice to the honor of their God and Saviour, because they had been counted worthy to be offered up as sacrifices for His holy name's sake. Acts 5:41.
Were we to relate the joy and consolation of those, who, having escaped death, wandered about in foreign countries and solitary places, without friends or kindred, help or assistance, time would fail us and the words be inadequate to sufficiently describe it. Here the testimony of Paul is found true,".that all things work together for good to them that love God." Rom. 8:28. For those who were forsaken by friends and human assistance, found help with the angels of God, and protection under the wings of the Almighty. Those who had no eternal rest or dwelling-place found rest and a mansion of content in their souls and hearts. Those who went almost naked, having no clothes to put on, were most preciously clothed and adorned according to the soul, with the robe of righteous-, ness and the garment of salvation and godly virtues. Those who had to abandon their secular business, and submit to despoilment of their money, goods and everything they had, so .that outwardly they were very poor, possessed great riches within themselves through the grace of God which they received through the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and the word of the Lord, which was more precious to them than many thousand pieces of gold and silver.
The inconvenient seasons of the year, the heat of summer, the cold of winter, the wetness of spring and fall, together with the contingencies of thunder, lightning, hail, snow, rain, wind, hunger, thirst, sickness, fatigue, and other innumerable troubles with which they met while wandering about and suffering persecutions, were to them sweet pleasures and recreations in the Lord, for They knew that this would afterwards be turned into joy to them, since it is written, "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh." Luke 6:21. Again, "That we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22. And, in another place, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." II Tim. 2:12.
This caused them to say with the apostle, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." II Cor. 4:17."For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8:18."For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's." Rom. 14:8, etc.
Many of them would not have exchanged the. darkest and severest dungeons, or the caves of the earth, in which they had to hide themselves, for royal palaces. The wilderness was to them a delightful pleasure-garden, the howling of the wild beasts which surrounded them, as sweet music or the songs of birds; and water and roots or dry bread delighted them more than the daintiest viands and drink from the tables of the great.
All this was granted them by the munificent hand of God, on account of the constancy of their faith, from which they could by no means be made to swerve, nor brought to waver in it; on account of their living hope, which begat in their souls a longing for the future riches, so that they were enabled to esteem the present ones as of little worth and forget them; and on account of their unquenchable love for God, His holy truth, and their beloved fellow-believers, whereby their souls were kindled into a flame far more intense than were their bodies through physical fire though these were reduced to ashes.
But can carnal men comprehend this? Will any of them believe these things? We think not; for how can a carnal man partake of the Spirit of God? How could one who is earthly-minded ascend to heaven in his thoughts? I Cor. 2:14. How can one comprehend that which pertains to salvation, who himself is altogether unsaved and possesses no desire to obtain salvation through the grace of God? What fire of divine love can he feel, whose heart is totally cold, and who loves nothing but sin and sinful creatures.
We maintain, therefore, that these are things which belong not to the blind worldly-minded, since they in their ignorance would not esteem them; but to the heavenly-minded, who, as spiritual eagles, contemplate with the eyes of the soul the mysteries of God; who seek their food with God, and find their delight in His saints and wellbeloved who sacrificed their lives for His holy truth.
For this cause we have addressed ourselves to you, most beloved brethren and sisters, who, with
us, and with our slain friends, the blessed martyrs of God, have received the same faith: This book, the humble work of our hands, but which is nevertheless a precious jewel, in view of the persons and matters contained therein, we have dedicated to you. Receive it, then, with the same love with which it has been dedicated to you. Read it again and again, and with the same attention and emotion with which -we have written and re-written it. We are fully confident that, if you do this, it will not be unfruitful to you. But, before all things, fix your eyes upon the martyrs themselves, note the steadfastness of their faith, and follow their example.
Ruth, the Moabitess, said to Naomi, the mother of her husband, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." Ruth 1:16, 17.
With such inseparable love ought we, most beloved in the Lord, to be joined t© our blessed fellow brethren who have been slain for the testimony of the Lord, that we might follow their footsteps unto the end; for surely, the God whom they confessed and served, is also our God; the Saviour on whom they placed their hope is our Saviour; the faith which they all confessed is our faith (we speak of Anabaptists in general); the law and commandments of God which they received as their rule of life are also our laws and commandments; they bowed their knees before God; they obligated themselves by the words of their lips to render obedience t˘ God, and thereupon received holy baptism; we have done the same; they promised to continue steadfastly all the days of their life in the faith and due obedience, without departing therefrom, yea, if necessary, to suffer death for it; we have promised the same. What difference, then, is there between us and them? Certainly only this: that they all persevered unto the end nay, unto a cruel death, without departing to the right or to the left; which we have not yet done. They have taken by force the blessed Fatherland, the Canaan rich with milk, the true promised land which flows with honey; which we have not yet done. They have therefore entered into rest, yea, have come to the Lord; while we are yet in unrest, proceeding in our pilgrimage in the absence of the Lord.
Therefore, my most beloved friends in Christ Jesus, let us also in this last respect seek to be conformed to our beloved slain fellow brethren, that we may continue steadfastly unto the end in the most holy faith which we have confessed with them. Oh! be careful in this matter; watch over your dear-bought souls; for it is highly necessary, yea, more necessary than at any former time.
OF THE GREATER DANGER THERE IS AT THIS TIME, THAN IN THE BLOODY AND DISTRESSING TIMES OF THE MARTYRS*
These are sad times, in which we live; nay, truly, there is more danger now than in the time of our fathers, who suffered death for the testimony of the Lord. Few will believe this, because the great majority look to that which is external and corporeal, and in this respect it is now better, quieter and more comfortable; few only look to that which is internal and pertains to the soul, and on which everything depends,"for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matt. 16:26.
These times are certainly more dangerous; for then Satan came openly, through his servants, even at noon-day, as a roaring lion, so that he could be known, and it now and then was possible to hide from him; besides, his chief design then was to destroy the body: but now he comes as in the night, or in the twilight, in a strange but yet pleasing form, and, in a two-fold way, lies in wait to destroy the soul; partly, to trample under foot, and annihilate entirely, if this were possible, the only saving Christian faith-- partly to destroy the true separated Christian life which is the outgrowth of faith. Ps. 9l:5, 6.
He reveals himself on the one hand as an angel of light, II Cor. 11:14, 15, as a kind, pleasant, yea, even divine messenger, with humble countenance, downcast eyes, plain garb, and living in seclusion from the throng of the worldly-minded, even as the holiest people, yea, the martyrs of God, formerly did. His words are modest, trembling and full of contrition-seemingly coming from deep meditation, inward fear and apprehension, lest he might speak amiss or untruthfully. Meanwhile, and before one is aware of it, he seizes hold and tears like a wolf in sheep's clothing, robbing the innocent lambs of Christ of their precious faith, which, he pretends to be of small importance, but without which faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6, nay, without which we, according to the words of Christ shall be condemned, Mark 16: 16; for (says Paul), whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 14:23.
It grieves us to the heart that we must live to see these times, and therefore speak in this wise. O Lord, strengthen our faith! help Thy weak, trusting lambs, that they may not be led into error, nor moved from the foundations of the most holy faith.
On the other hand, through his instigation, the world now reveals itself very beautiful and glori-
* When Israel under Pharaoh, in Egypt, had to burn brick, and to perform other hard labor, for the king, they remembered God, yea, cried unto the Almighty, so that God was moved to compassion Ex. chap. 1, 2, 3, etc.; but when God had delivered them, anti brought them into a goodly land where it went well with them according to the body, they forsook the Lord, and became wanton. Dent. 32:15. This difference is found to exist also between the times of oppression and the times of freedom.
ous, more than at any preceding time, in a threefold pleasing form-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.* Almost all men run after her, to worship her as a queen supreme; but all are deceived thereby; yea, many who have drunk of the poisoned wine of her lusts from the golden cup of her iniquities and deceptions, die a spiritual death.
As the first design is aimed at the faith, so this is directed against the true Christian life. Here lies great danger. Who shall escape these snares? He that would at no time be taken unawares by it, must indeed be cautious and watchful. But our very flesh seems prone to it. Here must be fasting, watching, praying, and calling upon God for help, otherwise there is no escape.
Many of the ancients who supposed that they had been circumspect and observed their duty, were deceived hereby-; some were lulled into a careless sleep, so that they paid no heed to themselves or to their vocation; others were brought to despair of the divine truth; others were drawn away totally from God; some died a spiritual death; others died both spiritually and bodily; and some have plunged themselves helter-skelter into the abyss of the disfavor of God, to be punished by Him soul and body and forever.
These things which we tell you are no riddles or blind speeches, for we speak the truth, or the Word of God must be false; but as the Word of God cannot lie, what we have said is certain and infallible since God in His Word bears witness of it, yea, declares it emphatically and abundantly. Other histories which make mention of this, we pass by in silence and dismiss them altogether, because we do not hold them in equal estimation with the holy Scriptures. It was the world and its lusts that of old caused all the great calamities of which we have spoken; and not only this, but it has also caused thousands who live in various cities, countries, kingdoms, empires, yea, on the face of the whole earth, to mourn, weep and wail, on account of their natural misery as well as on account of their experiencing the wrath of God in their souls because of the magnitude and enormity of the sins perpetrated by them.
It certainly was through worldly lusts that the old world perished; that Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboim, and Admah were consumed, overthrown and totally destroyed by fire from Heaven; that in forty years, through serpents, fire, and other plagues, the wanton and lustful people of Israel perished to the number of over six hundred thousand in the wilderness; and that the mighty mari
*" John, the friend of Christ, has presented the deceptive, beautiful appearance of this world in its threefold view of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. I John 2:16. Solomon portrayed the same as a harlot or wanton woman, who allures young men unto her; who is loud and stubborn, and whose feet abide not in her house; but whither those who follow her are led, as an ox to the slaughter, to certain destruction, nay, to death and hell. Prov. 7.
* The following and other misfortunes which were caused by worldly and carnal lusts cannot be numbered. O, that Solomon, the wisest among the children of men, might have known, conquered, and taken care of himself in this respect. ime cities, Zidon and Tyrus, whose ships were trimmed with embroidered, silken sails from Egypt; whose rowers sat upon benches of ivory; where incalculable riches were bought and sold and, from carnal incentives, almost inconceivable arts practiced were reduced to a heap of stones and so leveled to the ground, that the fishermen stretch out their nets to dry on the rocks upon which these cities stood. Gen. 7; Matt. 24:37, 38; Luke 17:26, 27; II Peter 2:5.-Gen. 19:24, 25; Isa. 13:19; Jer. 50:40; Hos. 11:8; Amos 4:11; Luke 17:28, 29; I I Pet. 2:6; Jude 7.-Compare Num. 1:2, 3, 46 with Num. 14:22, 23. Also Num. 11:1 and 16:31-35; 21:6; Jude 5.-Isa. 23:4, 5; Ezek. 27:26-28; 28, the whole chapter.
I will not now speak of Jerusalem, Chorazin, Bethsaida; Capernaum, and other mighty licentious and luxurious cities, which, with all their inhabitants who had in this respect sinned against God, have borne His-wrath, and felt, to their destruction, the plagues of His afflicting hand; for this would consume too much time.* O awful judgments of God! O pernicious worldly-mindedness 1 O corroding and cankering luxury, that draggest after thee such a train of unspeakable miseries! Help, Lord, that our soul be delivered from all these dangers.
But what danger would there be, if none but the open enemies of God and His holy truth were guilty in this matter? What harm could be done, if they alone, and no others, would arouse and call down upon themselves the wrath of God? For then every pious and serious soul would beware of their example as of a savage beast, venomous serpent, or deadly basilisk. But now such is the state of things that many commoners and such as are not total strangers to religion or the worship of God; who, as they say, would fain be saved; and who, therefore, though they are not truly enlightened, glorify and praise God and His Word with their mouth, show nevertheless (to the seduction of the simple) that the world is their dear friend, yea lies nearest to their heart, since most of their works are directed to its service, that they may thereby partake of its glittering but deceptive reward.
Hence arises that shameful and vast commerce which extends far beyond the sea into other parts of the world, Ezek. 27, but which notwithstanding cannot satisfy those who love it, but, on. the contrary, brings great danger, that that which has already been gotten, may be lost, others defrauded, and they themselves, both in soul and body, stripped and robbed of their possessions.
Numerous large, expensive and ornamented houses, countryseats of splendid architecture and provided with towers, parks magnificent as a , and other embellished pleasure-grounds, which are seen on every hand indicate this in no small degree. Dan. 4:29, 30.
* See Josephus on the Jewish wars; also Egesippus, Eusebius, and Pamphilius.
The wearing of clothes from foreign countries, whether of foreign materials, uncommon colors or of strange fashions as obtain in the course of time according to the custom of the openly worldly-minded (which are as changeable as the moon), and which custom is followed by many humble and seemingly plain people, confirms greatly what we have before said. Gen. 35:2; Zeph. 1:8; Isa. 3:16-24.
The giving and attending great dinners, lavish banquets and wedding-feasts (though one may never be found in taverns or tippling-houses), where everything is in profusion, and where the beneficent gifts of the Lord which should not be used otherwise than with great thankfulness, and of which a portion naturally belongs to the poor, are squandered and consumed without the least necessity, even by those who are considered sober and temperate, is an incontrovertible evidence of a sensual and wanton heart; and proves also that those who have much to do with these things, cannot be exculpated from living after the flesh; for which carnal life certainly has no promise of salvation, but on the contrary, many severe threatenings of the wrath and displeasure of God, nay, of eternal damnation, are recorded in the blessed leaves of the Word of God, which contains nothing but the truth. Esth. 1:3-8; Dan. 5:1-3; Luke 12:19, 20; 16:19.
O how different is this from the life of a true Christian, who has forsaken himself and his lusts. How great the step that is between their walk and that of the holy martyrs, who delivered up, not only their carnal desires, but also their bodies and lives, unto death for the Lord's sake! But how great a difference will also be between the two classes afterwards I When the former, having had their good things in this life, shall be shut out from the true, heavenly riches, but the latter, because they have love to God, renounced and abandoned their possessions, which might have led them into sin, be admitted to the true enjoyment of the heavenly riches and pleasures, and that for ever and ever I Mal. 3:18.
Here shall obtain what is recorded concerning the end of the luxurious rich man and that of poor Lazarus: that the rich man, when he saw Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, while lie himself was in hell, received this answer to his doleful lamentations, "Son, remember, that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented." Luke 16:25. Appropriate is here also Wis. 5:1, 2.
Nevertheless, these and similar evil examples are constantly presented to our eyes, and they are the more pernicious and dangerous for the reason that some worldly-minded people pronounce them to be non-essential, unimportant for either good or evil, and therefore, allowable; while it is the same with them as with the fruit from the tree of knowledge, which stood in the midst of , and was pleasant to the eyes, but deadly in the use, for whoever ate of it, had to die, Gen. 2:17; or with the apples which grow in the land of Sodom, on the border of the dead sea; which possess a beautiful red appearance, but contain, as some have written, only dust and ashes, and are inedible, nay, even deleterious to health. Bijb. Naemb. edition 1632, fol. 881, Col. 2, concerning the name Sodom, ex Philippo Melanchthone. Also Bernh. Bredenb. in Tract, super Siddim. Also H. Buntung, Itinerarium sacrw scripturoe, edition 1642, lib. r, pag. 62, col. 2, etc.
O that Satan would show himself, as he really is, and that the world, too, might come forth without disguise or mask; then certainly no one possessing reason would allow himself to be deceived by them. For in Satan nothing would be seen but deadly snares, traps and murdering daggers for the soul, poisoned arrows wherewith to destroy everything good in man, through unbelief, apostasy from God, impenitent obduracy, and despair; which are followed by a train made up o~ the fears of hell and horrors of damnation. In the world men would perceive nothing but vanity, mingled with much vexation, sorrow, grief and misery, and this in such abundance, that if as many tears could be wept over it, as there is water in all the sea and all the rivers, yet the weight of the true sorrow that springs from them it could not be adequately expressed, for they draw after them not only temporal but also everlasting miseries.
But, O how lamentable! all this is hid under a beautiful appearance. Satan appears to be a prince or king, and the world a noble princess or queen. The servants and servantmaids who follow them as pages and maids of honor, appear as cavaliers and ladies, reveling in joy and delight; though, as regards the soul, they are poor and deformed; yea, meaner than beggars, and without the true joy which delights the upright soul in God.*
There is, therefore, great danger of being deceived. O, ye upright children of God, be on your guard.** Let your simplicity be coupled with prudence. Your faith as well as your life are the objects aimed at. If Satan gain the mastery over you, your precious faith which has been commended to your keeping as dearly as your soul, is ruined. If ye are overcome by the world, it will soon put an end to your Christian and virtuous life, without which latter the best of faith is of no avail. Care, therefore, my dear friends, equally well for both, for the one is as important as the other. Faith
*" It is a very lamentable fact that the things fraught with danger are not as they appear, and appear not as they really are. Is not the fish caught with a bait, in which is concealed the hook? Are not the birds ensnared in the net, in which berries or grains of corn are scattered for them to eat? Certainly. Is it to be wondered then, that blind, carnal and worldly-minded men are deceived and led into perdition by the wiles of Satan and the alluring lusts of a deceitful world?
* Meanwhile the prudent knight and valiant champion of Christ must be on his guard and constantly in arms, that he may neither by the one nor by the other be diverted from his noble watch over his soul, which has been entrusted to him, and thus be led away and cast, either in soul or body, or according to both, into the direful abyss of perdition.
without the corresponding life, or the life without the faith, can, will, and may not avail before God. They are like two witnesses, who must agree, and of whom the one cannot stand or be received without the other.
Knowing, then, that we must care for both, there remains nothing for us but to do it, however, this work must certainly not only be begun, but also finished, according to the example of the steadfast martyrs of God; with which finishing, whether it be brought about in a natural or a violent manner, according as liberty or persecution brings about we must comfort ourselves, since it is certain that the crown is not to be found in the beginning or in the middle, but at the end.*
But as necessary as it is to finish well, so necessary it is also to begin well, and, having begun, to go on well; for without a good beginning and a good progress it is impossible to attain to a good end.
We speak to you, then, most beloved in the Lord, who have begun with us; received the same faith with us; and with us as a token of this have been baptized.
Surely, we have made a vow to the Lord, which we cannot recall, as David sings, "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High." Ps. 50:14.
We have, through faith, received Christ, the Son of God, as our Prophet, Priest, King, Shepherd, Friend, and Bridegroom; and in this we must go on and grow stronger. This, Paul teaches us, saving, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught," etc. Col. 2:6, 7. Hereby we have come from the darkness of ignorance to the true light of knowledge; which we are commanded to keep in perpetual remembrance. In this direction tend the words, "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;" etc. Heb. 10
32. In short, "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." Phil. 3:16."Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 20, 21."Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Verses 24 and 25. Isa. 40:30, 31; Phil. 4:13.
We would now commend you, beloved brethren and sisters, to the Lord and to the word of ,His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Our work which has been done for your benefit, is now finished in this respect; that you
*" O that this would be considered, as it should! may make good use of it, is our friendly desire Remember us always in your prayers, until we de part this life; Phil. 1:23, that God may be gracious unto us now and in eternity. We hope, on our part, to do the same for you. O that God would grant, that we all, without one missing, might behold one another, face to face, in the kingdom of God! I Cor. 13:12.
Meantime we rejoice in the salvation of the Lord; for it sometimes seems to us, as if Heaven had come down upon earth; or that we were ascending from earth to heaven. II Cor. 12:1-12 etc; or that we, who are still among men, held communion with God and His holy angels; or that eternal heavenly joy and glory were offered to us; nay, that we had a foretaste of those thing which mortal eye hath never seen, nor ear heard, nor heart experienced, in this life.*
We walk no longer upon earth. with our thoughts; nevertheless, we are still encompassed by a cloud of earth, a body of clay, a heavy load of the soul. O, that we were free from it, and that our soul, liberated from this load, might return to God in heaven, her true origin! like a freed dove which has been confined in a strange place, returns to her nest and abode. But we must wait for this until the time which God has appointed, comes.
Let us be patient together, then, most beloved in the Lord, till the day come, which, if we remain faithful unto the end, will assuredly bring us that which we here wait for in hope. Then the tears, which we, sighing and longing for the highest salvation of God, have wept here, shall surely be wiped away from our eyes; then shall we no longer see through a glass, darkly, but face to face; then shall the heavenly be shown us no longer in thought or in spirit, but it shall be given us, and we be made participants of it, by experience alone, in truth and in deed. O great and precious subject! we can go no further: our reason cannot comprehend it; our earthly tongue cannot express it!
Yours very affectionally in the Lord,
Dort, July the 25th, 1659.
TO THE READERS IN GENERAL
Good friends and fellow citizens
Of old, among the heathen, the greatest and highest honors were accorded to the brave and triumphant warriors, who, risking their lives in the land of the enemy, conquered, and carried off the victory. j- Thus Homer, the foremost of the writers of heroic poetry in Greece, has, in twenty-four books, extolled and embellished with many eulo-
* These things can appropriately be understood to have been caused by meditation and holy contemplation; and in like manner the passage, "For our conversation is in heaven." Phil. 3:20.
* The victors at the Olympic games (so-called from Mount Olympus in Greece, where they were held) were crowned with wreaths of oak and laurel, which was considered a great honor.
gies the warlike deeds of Ulysses. Quintus Curtius described, in ten books, the deeds of Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedonia: how triumphantly he conquered and subjugated Europe, Asia, India, and the countries bordering on the eastern Ocean, till he ultimately lost his life in Babylonia. Phttarch composed a voluminous work devoted to the praise of illustrious and valiant men. Titus Lizius has written of the Roman heroes, how praiseworthily they acquitted themselves in behalf of the country of Romulus. Virgilius Maro and others eulogized the emperor Augustus. And this usage has obtained from ancient times, and obtains yet, in every land, yea, throughout the whole world.
We say nothing of the honor and praise, which, many years after their death, was bestowed in public theatres, upon those who had been sacrificed to idols, for the narration of it would consume too much time.
But God, in His Word, goes higher and farther yet. in this respect. He has caused the conflict, the sufferings, and the triumphs of His spiritual courageous heroes, children and favorites to be written, in language the most touching, glorious and triumphant, as an everlasting memorial for their descendants, and not only this, but as a full assurance of their happiness; so that they should always be remembered, and never forgotten. Yea, the whole volume of holy Scriptures seems to be nothing else than a book of martyrs, replete with numerous, according to the flesh, sorrowful, but according to the spirit, happy, examples of the holy and steadfast martyrs, whose sufferings, conflicts and triumphs have been recorded in as holy and worthy manner as it is possible to imagine.
However, they are variously spoken of, according to the importance of their merits. Some of them suffered and fought much, but not unto blood, nor unto death; their victory and their honor are, therefore, not represented as of the highest degree. Others, however, suffered and fought not only unto blood and death, for the Lord's name, but even to the greatest pain and most bitter death. We shall first speak of the former class, and then of the latter; yet the last shall surpass the first. Abraham, the father of the faithful, and Isaac and Jacob, to whom God had promised the possession of the land of Canaan, lived, nevertheless, as strangers in the land of promise, and, sometimes, had to endure hunger, thirst and oppression. Compare Gen. 12:10; 26:20; 31:22, 23 with Heb. 11:9.
Moses, the friend of God. had to flee from Pharoah into the land of Midian, where he sat down by a well. Ex. 2:15. Afterwards he came very near being stoned by the disobedient in Israel. Ex. 17:4.
David, a man after God's own heart, was several times in peril of being transfixed to the wall by a javelin, I Sam. 18:11; 19:10; yea, his life was in such danger, that he complained to Jonathan"There is but a step between me and death." I Sam. 20:3. For this reason he often called upon God for help, that he might not meet with an untimely death. Among other things he says, "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." Ps. 13:2.
In the days of Ahab and Jezebel a hundred prophets of the Lord had to flee on account of persecution, and were hid in a cave, and fed with bread and water, by one Obadiah. I Kings 18:13.
Elijah, for the same reason, was compelled to turn eastward and hide himself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. I Kings 17:3. His life was afterwards made so bitter to him, that he fled into the wilderness by Beer-sheba, sat down under a juniper tree, and prayed,"O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers." I Kings 19:4.
When Elisha, the servant of Elijah, proclaimed the word of the Lord in the city of Samaria, the king of Samaria swore, that the head of Elisha should not stand on him that day. II Kings 6:31.
The prophet Micaiah, who had foretold in the name of the Lord the truth to the king of Israel, had to eat the bread of sorrow, and drink the water of sadness, in the prison in which he was confined, until the king was slain in a battle. I Kings 22:27-37.
Jeremiah was cast into a mire-pit, in which he sunk down so deeply that he was in danger of death, until he was saved through Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian. Jer. 38:6-13.
Amos was called a conspirator, and forbidden not only the city in which he prophesied, but also the land of the ten tribes of Israel. Amos 7:10-13.
All these, and many more, endured much suffering and many conflicts yet not unto blood or death. But those of whom we shall speak now, suffered the bitterness of death, and are therefore, in this respect, of higher rank than they who have preceded, just as the loss of life is a severer test than to suffer in the body or to lose temporal possessions; which is the only difference between the two classes named.
This bloody army of the spiritual champions, who fought unto blood and death for the Lord, commenced with the beginning of the world, as though God's saints were born to suffer and fight; and as though God had designed, that His church should be tried from the beginning and all through, even as gold in the furnace that her purity might become the more manifest.
In the beginning we see Abel who, having in faith offered unto God a lamb as a sacrifice, was slain in the field by Cain, his brother. Gen. 4:8; I John 3:12.
In the days of Ahab and Jezebel many prophets of God were slain by the sword of the rebellious and disobedient in Israel, so that Elijah thought he alone was left. I Kings 19:14.
When the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, so that he said to the disobedient people, "Why transgress ye the command-
ments, of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you," they took stones and killed him at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord. II Chron. 24:21.
When Urijah, the son of Shemaiah, of Kirjathjearim prophesied in the name of the Lord against the city of Jerusalem, his life was sought, so that he fled into Egypt. But Jehoiakim the king sent men who fetched him back, and he slew him with the sword, and buried his dead body among the common people. Jer. 26:20-23.
The god-fearing young men, named Shadrmch, Meshack and Abed-sego, who refused to worship the image of King Nebuchadnezzar, were cast, bound, in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments just as they were, into a fiery furnace, in which they would have been immediately consumed, if God had not preserved them. Dan. 3:21-23.
The prophet Daniel, because he would not worship king Darius, but only the true God of Israel, was cast into a den of lions, to be torn by them; but God protected him as He did those mentioned before. Dan. 6:16.
Onus, the high priest, who, in a very praiseworthy and peaceful manner, led and kept the people at Jersualem, so that foreign kings were moved to honor the city and the temple of God with gifts, was falsely accused by Simon the Benjamite, removed from his office by Jason, his own brother, and stabbed to death without regard of justice and equity by perjured Andronicus; for the which cause not only the Jews, but also many Gentiles took great indignation. Compare. II Macc. 3:1, 2 with 4:1, 34.
Two women, who had their children circumcised according to the law of God, were led round about the city, with their babies tied to their breasts, and then cast down headlong from the wall: II Maccabees 6:10.
Some who hid themselves in caves, to keep the Sabbath or day of rest of the Lord, and who would not defend themselves against the enemies, when it was discovered to Philip the tyrant, were burned. II Mace. 6:11.
Eleazar, an old man of ninety years, because he would not sin against the law of God by eating forbidden meat, nor set an evil example to young persons, nor dissimulate, had to carry his hoary hairs with blood to the grave, and die a cruel death through many stripes. II Mace. 6:27-31.
Seven brethren, for the same cause, were scourged with rods and thongs, had their tongues cut out, their hands and feet cut off, and were roasted in pans, and killed in this terrible manner to the last one, together with their mother, who had witnessed it all, and likewise refused to depart from the law of God. II Macc. 7.
This last mentioned class, from Abel to the Maccabees, are the true army of God and the heroes of the old covenant who, for the honor of God and the law of their fathers, did not spare their lives.
These the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews has in view when he speaks of the great cloud of witnesses, who, looking through faith for the fulfillment of the promises of God and the coming of the Son of God, in the flesh endured all sufferings, conflicts, and, at last, death, bravely and with an undismayed heart. But the others, says he meaning the steadfast saints of God of whom we have spoken, had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy. Heb. 11:36-38.
Hence the whole volume of holy Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, seems to be almost exclusively, a book of martyrs, as we have stated in the beginning; appearing from the examples which we have adduced, and of which we could point out many more, if it were necessary.
As regards the heroes of the new covenant, that is, those who since the advent of Christ, and for the testimony of the holy gospel, have fought the good fight, even unto blood, yea, death; have finished their course; and steadfastly kept the faith, notwithstanding the various horrible torments; it would be impossible to speak briefly of it here, and do the subject full justice; for which reason we have done this in the following two books, to which we would refer the reader.
All this was written for a perpetual remembrance of the steadfast and blessed martyrs; concerning whom it is the will of God that they should not only always be remembered here among men, but whom He Himself purposes never to forget but to remember them with everlasting mercy.
THE SEQUEL COMPARED WITH THE BEGINNING OF THIS HISTORY
We have already spoken of the great honor which custom conferred upon the brave and triumphant warriors; yet not one of all these, however great, mighty, valiant and victorious he may have been, or how great the honor and glory with which he may have been hailed, could in any wise be compared with the least martyr who suffered for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Even aged and feeble persons, youths and maidens, and such as were not noticed, yea whom the world did not esteem at all, did infinitely more through the power of their faith, their ardent love to God, and, especially, their steadfastness unto death, whereby they were enabled to forsake, yea, despise, all visible things, and to put entirely out of their thoughts, forget, and bid, as it were. eternal adieu to, until the consummation of all things, money, property, houses, farms, brothers,
sisters, parents, children, dear friends and relatives, yea their own bodies and lives, and everything pleasing and delightful according to the flesh; whereas others, if possible, gladly enjoyed and retained all this, and would fain have retained it always, or still retain it.
The honor, therefore, which is due to the holy martyrs, is infinitely greater and better than that of earthly heroes; just as the fight they fought, was infinitely more profitable, and their victory, as coming from the hand of God, infinitely more praiseworthy and glorious.*
Through earthly wars countries and their inhabitants are destroyed, the innocent killed, the fugitive robbed of their property, and much weeping and mourning caused among those who remain. But through the warfare of the martyrs, at least through the martyrs themselves, the prosperity of countries and their inhabitants was promoted because of the fervent prayers offered up by the martyrs to God for those who did them harm and for the common welfare of all the inhabitants.
The life of the innocent, who otherwise would have had to die, yea, their spiritual and eternal life, was obtained and preserved through the medicine of their good teachings, admonitions, examples, and unwavering continuance to the end of life.
The estates of men generally, both according to the soul and the body, they improved and multiplied, causing them to increase thirty, sixty, and even a hundred fold, by their uprightness, fidelity, benevolence, compassion, and incomparable mercifulness toward their fellow men.
They caused no one to lament or weep, by doing him the least damage or injury, but they greeted everybody, even their enemies, with kindness, embraced them with the arms of love, and gave them cause to rejoice and be glad, outwardly as well as inwardly, bodily and spiritually, here and (God granting them mercy) also hereafter.
O most delightful warfare, which did injury to none, but good to all. O ye blessed heroes, who fought this fight I No princes or kings can be compared to you; for all the honors won by earthly heroes on earth shall vanish with the earth; but your honor is an everlasting honor; your glory shall never cease, yea, shall endure, as long as God endures, whom you served.
ADDRESS TO THE WORLDLY-MINDED
Come now, ye earthly-minded and ungodly, and learn here to become heavenly and godly-minded;
* God is worthier than the creatures; heaven is worthier than the earth; and the soul is more excellent than the body; in the same manner the divine, heavenly and spiritual warfare is worthier and more excellent than the creatural, earthly and corporeal warfare; this is beyond contradiction."He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." Prov. 16:32. Of this the apostle Paul glories, when he says; ' I therefore so run, not as uncertainly so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection;' etc. I Cor. 9:26, 27. This praiseworthy fight, when he had brought it to a good end, caused him to say about the time of his death,"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall giveme at that day," etc. II Tim. 4:7, 9. ye impenitent, learn here to repent, and believe in Jesus Christ. Hither must come also all the selfwilled, who, from a prejudiced opinion of their own do not consider the external commandments and ordinances of Christ as necessary, saying that there is not more required than repentance and faith, or a so-called irreproachable civil life. These shall learn here that the external commandments of Christ must be united with the internal, that is, the signs with the things signified; or, to express it clearly: one must be baptized on his faith and repentance; must keep the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him, etc.; for herein the holy martyrs were to them an example.*
Here the passionate must learn patience and meekness from the most patient and meek, who endured without murmuring the greatest reproach and ignominy, yea, even death. Here the unmannered are taught modesty; the proud, humility; the discontented, contentment; the avaricious, benevolence; the insatiably rich, voluntary poverty; those who live after their lusts, the forsaking of all carnal desires; the irreligious, piety; and the wavering and inconstant, steadfastness unto the end in all these things.
All this can be learned here, not so much by words as by deeds, from those who not only commenced the above virtues, but continued in them unto the end, yea, confirmed them through their death, and sealed them with their blood.
TO THE YOUNG, THE MIDDLE-AGED, AND THE OLD
Besides, persons of every age may enter this school of practice in virtue; the young, the middle aged and the old, all shall be led to true godliness by the living examples of those who went before them.
The young people who live after their lusts, and have not come to the light, will see here, that many of their equals, yea, who were only fourteen, fifteen, eighteen, twenty years old, or even younger, had at that age already forsaken the vanities of the world and the lusts of youth; nay, some so early that they had not yet come to know them, much less to practice, them; but that, on the contrary, so soon as they reached their understanding, they remembered their Creator and Saviour, bowed their youthful members under His yoke, accepted His commandments, obeyed Him with all their heart, and surrendered themselves willingly to Him, so that they, for His sake, did not spare their lives unto death. Eccles. 12:1; Prov. 23:26.
The middle-aged, who, like the firmly-rooted oaks of Bashan, are so deeply engrossed in, and joined to, earthly affairs and household cares, that it is next to an impossibility to detach them there-
* As we cannot look at heaven and earth at the same time, nor stand at once upon the mountain and in the valley, even so it is impossible to serve God and the world at the same time. Our Saviour says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Matt. 22:37. Concerning this it should be observed that if we must love God with all our heart, then no love for the world or sinful flesh may remain.
from because of their inseparable desire for the goods of this world; will see here people in the flower and prime of life, who might have gained much, but sought it not, because they would not miss the heavenly gain. These had a contented heart; they were clothed with coats of skins, only against cold and nakedness; they lived in buts or plain cottages, to be sheltered from rain, wind, hail and snow; they ate bread to satisfy their hunger, and drank water to quench their thirst; more they had not.*
There they shall see that these contented people surrendered to God the strength of their bodies, their station in life, and whatever they had; so that they, having become members of His church, esteemed it greater riches to suffer with the same the reproach of Christ, nay death itself, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
The aged, who have neglected their youth and middle life, and are now come to the eleventh hour, ** and yet are still not working in the Lord's vineyard, may here behold persons whose hoary head is a crown of glory, since they are found in the way of righteousness; who devoted their feeble powers, the short span of their life, yea their last breath, to the service and praise of their God and Saviour, watching and waiting for the hour of their departure and the day of their redemption, that
* Surely no man in the world can derive advantage from the abundance of his temporal possessions over and above the necessaries of life. Why then, the manifold anxieties and cares to provide for the future in regard to the things which concern the body; since nature is so soon separated by death from all this? "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." Matt. 6:33."Casting all your care upon him," (the Lord) etc. I Pet. 5:9.
* Though it is not advisable in temporal things to put off doing the day's labor until evening, yet it is better late than never. This holds good also in spiritual things. they might become an acceptable offering to the Lord. They longed for the clock to strike twelve, so as to be admitted by the Lord and be seated at His glad feast.
When two of our last martyrs, Jan Claess of Alckmaer, and Lucas Lamberts of Beveren, an old man of eighty-seven years, received their sentence of death, at Amsterdam, Holland, in the forenoon of a certain day in the year 1544, Jan Claess said to the old man, Lucas Lamberts, "My dear brother, fear now neither fire nor sword. O what a glad feast shall be prepared for us, before the clock strikes twelve." See II Book, year 1544.
All this and infinitely more the worldly-minded, ignorant and unbelieving are taught here. O that each of them would consider this well!
Men are more easily converted by good examples than by good teachings, because examples are more impressive; yet here you have both.
Let every one come hither, therefore; and no one remain behind; all have need to be taught in the way of salvation; no one would choose to be unsaved. Here you shall see the patience, the faith, and the constancy of the saints. Have compassion upon your own souls, whom the Lord loves so dearly, seeking to lead them to heaven; yea for whom the Son of God has shed His precious blood, thus purchasing them with so great a price. We would commend this matter most urgently to you as well as to ourselves. O Lord, help! O Lord, let it prosper!
But it is now time that we turn our attention to giving instructions concerning the proper understanding and use of this work.
TH. J. VAN BRAGHT
Dort., July the 27th, 1659.