Netherlands

In Antwerp Jacob Spreng, prior of the Augustinian monastery, openly supported Luther’s teachings and began preaching the same doctrines. In 1519 he was arrested and taken to Brussels where he recanted out of fear of being burned at the stake. After being released, Spreng moved to Bremen where he discreetly preached reform. The reform that he began in Antwerp continued through the work of the monks of his monastery. Another follower of Luther, Henry of Zutphem, began preaching the Gospel in Antwerp. He was soon imprisoned, and narrowly escaped being the first martyr of the Reformation through being rescued by a mob of townspeople, who broke open the jail and released him. Soon after this a large crowd gathered on a Sunday morning in the ship-building yard on the banks of the Scheldt, hoping that a preacher would come to preach the Gospel. As no one else came forward to preach, a young man by the name of Nicholas, who had spent much of his time studying the Scripture, entered a boat moored on a dock and began preaching to the crowd. The authorities of the city paid two men to assassinate him, which they quickly did by waylaying Nicholas, grabbing him and stuffing him into a large sack, which they threw into the river. When the news of Nicholas’s death spread through the city many people turned from Romanism and embraced the true Gospel.     

On July 31st, 1523 in Brussels, Henry Voes and John Esch, two young Augustinian monks who were followers of Martin Luther, became the first Protestant martyrs. As they were led to the stake they cried out in a loud voice that they were Christians. Once they were tied to the stake and the fire was kindled they loudly recited the Apostles Creed, and then they began to sing alternately the verses of the hymn Te Deum Laudamus (To God be Glory) until the flames took their lives. Martin Luther wrote the first song to come out of the Reformation in their honor.

    

A new song now shall be begun,

Lord, help us raise the banner

Of praise for all that God has done,

For which we give Him honor.

At Brussels in the Netherlands

God proved Himself most truthful

And poured His gifts from open hands

On two lads, martyrs youthful

Through whom He showed His power.

 

One was named John, a name to show

He stood in God’s high favor.

His brother Henry, well we know,

Was salt of truest savor.

This world they now have left behind

And wear bright crowns of glory.

These sons of God had fixed the mind

Upon the Gospel story,

For which they died as martyrs.

 

From where the Foe in ambush lay,

He sent to have them taken

To force them God’s Word to betray

And make their faith be shaken.

Louvain sent clever men, who came

In twisting nets to break them.

Hard played they at their crooked game,

But from faith could not shake them.

God made their tricks look foolish.

 

Oh, they sang sweet, and they sang sour,

They tried all their devices.

The youths stood firmly like a tow’r

And overcame each crisis.

It filled the Foe with raging hate

To know himself defeated

By these two lads, and he so great.

His rage flared high, and heated

His plan to see them burning.

 

Their cloister-garments off they tore,

Took off their consecrations;

All this the youths were ready for,

They said Amen with patience.

They gave to God the Father thanks

That He would them deliver

From Satan’s scoffing and the pranks

That make men quake and shiver

When he comes masked and raging.

 

The God they worshiped granted them

A priesthood in Christ’s order.

They offered up themselves to Him

And crossed His kingdom’s border

By dying to the world outright,

With ev’ry falsehood breaking.

They came to heaven pure and white;

All monkery forsaking,

They turned away from evil.

 

A paper given them to sign-

And carefully they read it-

Spelled out their faith in ev’ry line

As they confessed and said it.

Their greatest fault was to be wise

And say, “We trust God solely,

For human wisdom is all lies,

We should distrust it wholly.”

This brought them to the burning.

 

Then two great fires were set alight,

While men amazed did ponder

The sight of youths who showed no fright;

Their calm filled men with wonder.

They stepped into the flames with song,

God’s grace and glory praising.

The logic choppers puzzled long

But found these new things dazing

Which God was here displaying.

 

They now regret their deed of shame,

Would like to slough it over;

They dare not glory in their blame,

But put it under cover.

They feel their gnawing infamy,

Their friends hear them deplore it.

God’s spirit cannot silent be,

But on Cain’s guilty forehead

He marks the blood of Abel.

 

The ashes of the lads remain

And scatter to all places.

They rise from roadway, street, and lane

To mark the guilty faces.

The Foe had used a bloody hand

To keep these voices quiet,

But they resist in ev’ry land

The Foe’s rage and defy it.

The ashes go on singing.

 

And yet men still keep up their lies

To justify the killing;

The Foe with falsehood ever tries

To give to guilt clean billing.

Since these young martyrs’ holy death

Men still continue trying

To say, the youths with their last breath

Renounced their faith when dying

And finally recanted.

 

Let men heap falsehoods all around

Their sure defeat is spawning.

We thank our God the Word is found,

We stand in its bright dawning.

Our summer now is at the door.

The winter’s frost has ended,

Soft bud the flowers more and more,

By our dear Gard’ner tended

Until He reaps His harvest.

 

Jan Jansz de Bakker van Woerden/John de Bakker

1499 – September 15th, 1525

John de Bakker’s father was a sexton in Woerden and also a tenant and worker at the brickworks. De Bakker was a pupil of Johannes Rhodius, headmaster of St. Jerome School of the Brethren of the Common Life in Utrecht, who was a proponent of Sacramentarianism.  The Dutch Sacramentarians rejected the sacraments of the Catholic church and denied that the host consecrated at mass was the real body and blood of Jesus Christ. They called indulgences and pilgrimages mere idolatry and were critical of the low moral standards and conduct of the clergy. In 1520 de Bakker's father called him back to Woerden, concerned that some of his views were contrary to the church's doctrine and could get him in trouble with the authorities. De Bakker transferred to the Catholic university in Leuven, and in 1522 he completed his education there. De Bakker returned to Woerden, was ordained in Utrecht as a priest, and assisted his father as sexton and deacon. De Bakker started to spread his views, some of which were considered heretical by the church, and in May, 1523 he and another priest were arrested by the steward of the castle. After a short time they were released, and the two men travelled to Wittenberg.  When de Bakker returned he continued his preaching, and aggravated his conflict with the Roman Catholic church by breaking his vow of celibacy and getting married. On the night of May 9th, 1525, de Bakker was arrested and the next day he was transferred to The Hague, where he was tried by the Inquisition. De Bakker declared to the judge, “I could submit to no rule of faith save Holy Writ, in the sense of the Holy Ghost, ascertained in the way of interpreting Scripture by Scripture.” He went on to say that “men are not to be forced to ‘come in’, otherwise than God forces them, which is not by prisons, stripes, and death, but by gentleness and by the strength of the Divine Word, a force as soft and lovely as it is powerful.” De Bakker’s elderly father, who had been removed from his office as sexton, stood beside his son throughout the trial, and was heard saying to him at key points, “Be strong, and persevere in what is good; as for me, I am contented, after the example of Abraham, to offer up to God my dearest child, that never offended me.” Refusing to recant, he was defrocked and sentenced to death. He was dressed in a short yellow coat and a yellow hat made to look like a fool’s cap. As he was being led to the stake he passed by the prison, and he loudly cried out the prisoners “Behold! My dear brethren, I have set my foot upon the threshold of martyrdom; have courage, like brave soldiers of Jesus Christ, and being stirred up by my example, defend the truths of the Gospel against all unrighteousness.” The prisoners began clapping and shouting and then broke into singing Te Deum Laudamus and then other hymns, they continued singing until de Bakker was fully burned. When John de Bakker was tied to the stake he cried out, “O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?” “Death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ.” “Lord Jesus forgive them, for they know not what they do. O Son of God! remember me and have mercy upon me.”  It was on September 15th, 1525 that he was burned at the stake in The Hague.

 

Te Deum Laudamus

by Ambrose

These are the first three verses of eight, as they were translated by Stenhold and Hopkins and included in their Psalter.

 

       We praise thee God,

We knowledge thee,

The only Lord to be: and as eternal Father,

All the earth doth worship thee.

To thee all Angels cry, the heavens

And all the powers there in

To the Cherub and Seraphim,

To cry they do not lin.

 

O holy, holy, holy Lord,

Of Sabbath Lord the God,

Through heaven and earth thy praise is spread,

And glory all abroad.

Th’ Apostles glorious company

Yield praise unto thee:

The Prophets goodly fellowship

Praise thee continually.

 

The noble and victorious host

Of Martyrs sound thy praise:

The Holy Church throughout the world

Doth knowledge thee always.

O Lord do thou thy people save,

Bless thine inheritance:

Lord govern them and Lord do thou

Forever them advance.

 

In 1566, during one of the worse seasons of persecution, John Cornelius Winter was arrested and thrown into prison. Winter was a Reformed minster in Horn who had spent thirty years quietly and zealously preaching the Gospel. He was sentenced to beheaded in The Hague. As Winter was led to the block he sang Te Deum Laudamus, and as he finished the line “Of Martyrs sound thy praise”, the axe fell.

 

Beginning in 1523, there were close to 100,000 Lutheran, Reformed and Anabaptist martyrs put to death in the Netherlands, first by Charles V’s government, which was administered in the Netherlands by his sister, Margaret Dowager, Queen of Hungary, and then under Philip II’s government, administered by his illegitimate sister Margaret, Duchess of Parma and later by Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva. Though the persecution lasted throughout the Spanish rule of the Netherlands, the years 1525, 1535, 1540 and 1559-1572 were especially marked by bloody government aggression. Many people were put to death for such things as being accused of having daily family or personal devotions, for not worshipping the image of a saint as it was carried down the street, for singing a psalm or even whistling a tune from the Geneva Psalter, or for simply being suspected by their neighbors of not being a Roman Catholic. During the six years that the Duke of Alva governed, beginning in 1567, he set up a tribunal known as the “The Council of Blood”, which executed 18,000 Protestants.

Robert Ogier of Ryssel, with his wife and two sons, was brought before Judge Peter Titlemann, one of the more notorious members of Philip II’s government. Robert and his family were accused of forsaking mass and having daily family worship. The judge asked the younger of the sons what the family did when they worshiped together, to which the youth replied, “We fall on our knees and pray that God may enlighten our minds and pardon our sins; we pray for our sovereign, that his reign may be prosperous and his life happy; we pray for our magistrates, that God may preserve them.” Though some in the court were brought to tears by the youth’s response, Titlemann sentenced the father and his eldest son to death. When they were brought to the stake the youth cried out, “O God, eternal Father, accept the sacrifice of our lives in the name of thy beloved Son!” The monk that stood beside them angrily interrupted the prayer with, “Thou liest, scoundrel! God is not your father, ye are the devil’s children.” As the fire was kindled the youth cried out to his father so that all could hear, “Look, my father, all heaven is opening, and I see ten hundred thousand angels rejoicing over us. Let us be glad, for we are dying for truth.” The monk again rebuked them. Then the father and son spoke together in gentle tones until the flames took their lives.     

In April, 1554 Galein de Mulere, who was a Reformed schoolmaster in Oudenard, was arrested and brought before Inquisitor Titlemann. De Mulere was the father of five young children and fearing what would happen to them if he was killed he answered the inquisitor in very vague terms. Titlemann became angry with de Mulere and demanded, “I adjure thee not to trifle with me, St. Peter commands us to be ready always to give to every man that asketh us, a reason of the hope that is in us.” To which de Mulere cried out, “My God, my God, assist me now according to thy promise,” and turning to the inquisitor he said, “Ask me now what you please, I shall plainly answer.” De Mulere then boldly laid out his belief in Christ as the only and full Savior and his abhorrence of the pope. Titlemann, trying to push de Mulere to recant his clearly stated confession, said: “Do you not love your wife and children!” De Mulere responded, “You know that I love them from my heart and I tell you truly, if the whole world were turned into gold and given to me, I would freely resign it, so that I might keep these dear pledges with me in my confinement, though I should live upon bread and water.” Titlemann responded, “Forsake then your heretical opinions and then you may live with your wife and children as before.” De Mulere stoutly replied, “I shall never, for the sake of wife and children, renounce my religion, and sin against God and my conscience, as God shall strengthen me with his grace.” De Mulere was then promptly pronounced a heretic and taken out, strangled and his body burned.

In Monnikendam, on the shores of Zuyder Zee, lived a godly widow, Wendelmutha Klaessen. The local priest hearing of her reformed beliefs tried to get her to worship the wafer during mass, to which she replied, “I do not adore them, I abhor them.” The priest then tried to get her friends and family to convince her to deny her faith. Wendelmutha replied to one friend who tried to get her to be silent about her beliefs: “Dost thou not know, my sister, the meaning of these words, ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’?” Wendelmutha’s family tried to scare her about the horrors offacing a martyr’s death, to which she replied, “I confess that I have not yet tasted death, but I also know that I never shall taste it, for Christ has endured it for me and has positively said, ‘If a man keep my saying he shall never see death.’” Not being able to silence her the priest had Wendelmutha arrested and turned over to the Dutch Supreme Court of Justice. After her trial a priest endeavored to get her to recant saying, “Recant while you still have life,” to which she fired back, “I am already dead, and God is my life. Jesus Christ has forgiven me all my sins and if I have offended any one of my neighbors, I humbly beg him to pardon me.” On November 20th, 1527 Wendelmutha was taken to the stake. A priest attempted to get her to kiss a crucifix, but she turned her head away saying, “I know not this wooden Saviour, he whom I know is in heaven at the right hand of God, the Almighty Saviour.” After being bound to the stake she calmly bowed her head and closed her eyes like she was asleep and thus died in the flames.

In 1529 William of Zwoll, who had served as a chaplain to Christian II of Denmark, was called before the Roman theologians of Louvain University to state his beliefs. He boldly stated, “Reverend doctors, I believe, with respect to the pope, that if he be minded to wield the temporal sword, to refuse obedience to the lawful magistrate, rather than confine himself to the spiritual sword which is the Word of God, he has no power either to bind or to loose consciences. With respect to purgatory, every Christian knows perfectly well that after death he will be blessed. With respect to the invocation of saints, we have in heaven Christ alone as mediator, and it is to Him that I cling. With respect to the mass, it is certainly not a sacrifice, for the blood of Christ shed upon the cross suffices for the salvation of the faithful. With respect to Luther’s books, I admit that I have read them, not however out of contempt for His Imperial Majesty, but in order that by learning and knowing the truth I may reject every untruth.”  For this confession William was hastily condemned and burnt at the stake.     

        

 

Guido de Brès/Guy de Bray

1522-May 31st, 1567

Guido de Brès was born in Mons, which today is part of southwestern Belgium. His father Jan le Béguinage was a tin-glazer and glass painter. Jan changed his name to that of De Brès when he settled in Mons with his wife and their six children, Jehan, Jherome, Christoffel, Guido, Mailette and Michel. De Brès mother was a devout Catholic and brought him up to be very religious. He was trained in his father’s trade. As a teenager de Brès began reading and studying the Scripture, it was through this study he came to embrace the reformed teaching of Luther. In 1548 while de Brès was still in Mons, he became friends with an English couple, the Nicholases. The Nicholases and a friend of theirs were caught by the authorities and charged with subversion of the Roman Catholic faith. De Brès then fled to England and lived there during the reign of Edward VI. While in England he attended the church of Jan Łaski, where he became familiar with Łaski London Confession. De Brès left England in 1552. De Brès went to Germany and later moved to Geneva, where he studied under John Calvin and Theodore Beza.  Around 1559 he returned to the Netherlands, as a travelling Calvinist preacher. From 1559 to 1561 he served as the resident minister in Tournai. In 1561 de Brès authored the Belgic Confession with the help of Adrian de Saravia, who was a professor of theology in Leyden, and Herman Modet, who was a Reformed preacher and evangelist and later served as a chaplain to William the Silent. The confession was edited by Franciscus Junius, a pastor of a congregation in Antwerp, and then sent to be reviewed by pastors in Geneva where it was first printed by Jean Crespin in 1562. On the night of November 1st, 1561, de Brès threw his confession over the castle wall of Tournai, where Margaret of Parma, regent of the Netherlands was staying, to bring the confession to the attention of the Spanish government. In 1565 de Brès was arrested for his Calvinist beliefs along with a young missionary from Geneva, Peregrine de la Grange. He was tried before the Spanish Inquisition, received the death penalty and was hanged at Valenciennes. He died a martyr's death in front of a large crowd after making a final statement of his beliefs. He was pushed off the scaffold by the hangman whilst addressing the crowd.

De Brès wrote a number of books which helped the Reformation to grow in the Netherlands. By 1566 the Belgic Confession was translated into Dutch, German and Latin. It was adopted by the Synod of Antwerp in 1566, by the Synod of Wesel in 1568, the Synod of Emden in 1571, the Synod of Dort in 1574, and then it was adopted in the name of all the Reformed Dutch Church at the Great Synod of Dort in 1619. Along with the Canon of Dort and the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession makes up the “Three Forms of Unity”, with is used as a doctrinal standard by many Reformed churches, particularly the Dutch Reformed Church.

 

“The grace and mercy of our good God and heavenly Father, and the love of His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, be with you, my dearly beloved…my dear and beloved wife and sister in our Lord Jesus Christ: your anguish and sadness disturbs somewhat my joy and the happiness of my heart, so I am writing this for the consolation of both of us, and especially for your consolation, since you have always loved me with an ardent affection, and because it pleases the Lord to separate us from each other…You knew when you married me that you were taking a mortal husband, who was uncertain of life, and yet it has pleased God to permit us to live together for seven years, giving us five children. If the Lord had wished us to live together longer, he would have provided the way. But it did not please him to do this and may his will be done. Now remember that I did not fall  into the hands of my enemies by mere chance, but through the providence of my God who controls and governs all things, the least as well as the greatest. This is shown by the words of Christ. “Be not afraid. Your very hairs are numbered. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without the will of your Father. Then fear nothing. You are more excellent than many sparrows.” These words of divine wisdom say that God knows the number of my hairs. How then can harm come to me without the command and providence of God? It could not happen, unless one should say that God is no longer God…It is very true that human reason rebels against this doctrine and resists it as much as possible and I have very strongly experienced this myself. When I was arrested, I would say to myself, “So many of us should not have traveled together. We were betrayed by this one or that one. We ought not to have been arrested.” With such thoughts I became overwhelmed, until my spirits were raised by meditation on the providence of God. Then my heart began to feel a great repose…I am happy; my heart is light and lacks nothing in my afflictions. I am so filled with the abundance of the richness of my God that I have enough for me and all those to whom I can speak. So I pray my God that he will continue his kindness to me, his prisoner…I am practicing now what I have preached to others. And I must confess that when I preached I would speak about the things I am actually experiencing as a blind man speaks of colour. Since I was taken prisoner I have profited more and learned more than during all the rest of my life. I am in a very good school: the Holy Spirit inspires me continually and teaches me how to use the weapons in this combat…My God does not take away his promises, consoling my heart, giving me very much contentment.”  From a letter written by de Brès to his wife on the eve of his execution on April 12th, 1567.

 

The Belgic Confession

Article VII The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to be the Only Rule of Faith

We believe that these Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein….

Article XIII Of Divine Providence

We believe that the same God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them, according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment; nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed….

Article XXIV Of Man’s Sanctification and Good Works

We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do any thing out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man…For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works, otherwise they could not be good works any more than the fruit of the tree can be good before the tree itself is good…

Article XXIX Of the Marks of the True Church

We believe that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church…The marks by which the true Church is know are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church….

 

The first “field-preaching” took place June 14th, 1566 near Ghent. The message was preached by Herman Modet, who had been a monk but at the time was pastor of a Reformed church in Oudenard. During this first public open air service over 7,000 people gathered to hear the preaching. A government officer soon arrived on horseback to put a stop to the meetings and with drawn sword and pistol he tried to push his way through the crowd to arrest the preacher. Modet was able to escape into a nearby forest. The officer then began to order the unarmed people to disperse, at first they seemed inclined to comply, but then like a breaking storm they began throwing rocks at him until his cries for mercy were heeded and he was allowed to escape with his life.

The second “field-preaching” near Ghent was held on July 23rd, 1566, with Herman Modet again preaching, this time from a rudely made pulpit on top of a cart. Over 10,000 people gathered to take part in these meetings. The men came armed with guns, pikes and hatchets, and a formidable group of armed men stood guard over the meetings. Printers set booths up to sell reformed books and pamphlets. Besides listening to the preaching the people heartily sang Psalms from the Geneva Psalter, which could be heard for miles around. Zealous listeners took time to go and seek out people traveling on the road and invite them to come and hear the Gospel preached. Many of these meetings began to be held throughout the Netherlands, most notable were those held near Antwerp, Tournay, Amsterdam and Overeen, near Haarlem.

In July of 1566 about 10,000 people of the city of Tournay gathered outside the city to hear Peregrine de la Grange, a preacher from Provence. After they gathered de la Grange rode up on his horse to the pulpit and began preaching with great eloquence and force. Throughout the next two days he preached and each time he was ready to begin preaching he would stand at the pulpit and fire a pistol into the air to signal that he was about to commence. After de la Grange preached for two days the pulpit was turned over to Ambrose Wille and the crowd swelled to over 20,000. Wille had studied under John Calvin and was a great expositor of the Scripture.

In July of 1566 John Arentson, who was a basket-maker, an eloquent speaker and student of the Word, met outside the city gate, with six other citizens of Amsterdam, to pray, asking the Lord for guidance about how to advance the Gospel in Amsterdam. The seven men entered the city by different gates, as they entered the city the bells of the city rang out calling the citizens to the town square. The city magistrate read aloud to the citizens an edict from the court that pronounced death on all reformed preachers and teachers, as well as anyone that helped them. The next day the seven men again met outside the city to pray and they all believed that the Lord wanted them to organize a “field-preaching”, no matter the cost. On July 14th, 1566 John Arentson did his first “field-preaching”, outside the village of Horn north of Amsterdam.   

A “field-preaching” was organized for Sunday, July 21st, 1566 in the town of Overeen, near Haarlem. Thousands of wagons and boats flowed from Amsterdam to hear the preaching. The burgomaster of Amsterdam sent a message to the burgomaster of Haarlem warning him of the meetings that were organized. The burgomaster ordered the city gates closed and locked, entrapping many of the people that had planned to attend the “field-preaching”, including Peter Gabriel, who was to be the preacher for the day. The streets were soon filled with people wanting out of the city, a few jumped the city wall, but most gathered around the gates and demanded to be let out. Finally around noon the burgomaster, fearing what the crowd might do ordered the gates to be opened. The people poured out to the preaching field joining the crowd that had already gathered and were awaiting the preacher. Peter Gabriel stood in the middle of the crowd with all the women and children near him and all the men, who were armed, encircled the crowd, creating a human wall around the worshiping women and children and the preacher. They sang a Psalm and then Gabriel began preaching from Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Though Gabriel was not strong in body he preached the Gospel for four hours. Through the preaching of the Word and the movement of the Spirit nearly the entire crowd of over 5,000 was in tears by the end of the sermon, being filled with sorrow over sin and joy in the great salvation of the Lord. The service then ended with a thunderous singing of a Psalm.

On August 14th, 1566, on the eve of the Festival of Assumption of the Virgin, a band of men armed with staves, hatchets, hammers, ladders and ropes, and guarded by men with swords and guns, entered Flanders. This band went throughout the whole city destroying all religious images, paintings, vestments, holy oil and church alters. In the next three days similar bands of lower-class Reformed and Anabaptist men and boys went throughout the country and “cleansed” over 400 churches of Romish idolatry. Many of these bands turned riotous and disorderly, venting their anger for the thousands of people martyred in the last ten years. Many of the Reformed ministers condemned the actions of these bands of unruly idol destroyers.       

 

William I, Prince of Orange

April 24th, 1533 – July 10th, 1584

William I, Prince of Orange, commonly known as William the Silent, was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs that set off the Eighty Years’ War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1581.

William was born in the House of Nassau as Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, the eldest son of William, Count of Nassau, by his second wife Juliana of Stolberg-Werningerode. His parents had twelve children together, of whom William was the eldest. The family was devout and William was raised a Lutheran.

In 1544 William's first cousin, René of Châlon, Prince of Orange, died childless. In his testament, René of Chalon named William the heir to all his estates and titles, including that of Prince of Orange, on the condition that he received a Roman Catholic education. William's father acquiesced to this condition on behalf of his 11-year-old son, and thus the house of Orange-Nassau was founded. Besides the principality of Orange (located today in France) and significant lands in Germany, William also inherited vast estates in the Low Countries (present-day Netherlands and Belgium) from his cousin. Because of his young age, Emperor Charles V, who was the overlord of most of these estates, served as regent until William was old enough to rule them himself.

William was sent to the Netherlands to receive the required Roman Catholic education, first at the family's estate in Breda and later in Brussels, under the supervision of Mary of Habsburg (Mary of Hungary), a sister of Charles V and regent of the Habsburg Netherlands (The Seventeen Provinces). In Brussels, he was taught foreign languages and received a military and diplomatic education.

Being a ward of Charles V and having received his education under the tutelage of the emperor's sister, William came under the particular attention of the imperial family and became a favorite. He was appointed captain in the cavalry in 1551 and received rapid promotion thereafter, becoming commander of one of the emperor's armies at the age of 22. William was also made a member of the Raad van State, the highest political advisory council in the Netherlands.

In 1559, Philip II appointed William the stadtholder (governor) of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, thereby greatly increasing his political power.

William soon became one of the most prominent members of the opposition in the Council of State, together with Philip de Montmorency, Count of Hoorn, and Lamoral, Count of Egmont. William was dissatisfied with the increasing persecution of Protestants in the Netherlands. Brought up as a Lutheran and later a Catholic, William was very religious but was still a proponent of freedom of religion for all people. The activity of the Inquisition in the Netherlands, directed by Cardinal Granvelle, prime minister to the new regent Margaret of Parma (1522–1583), increased opposition to Spanish rule among the then mostly Catholic population of the Netherlands. The opposition also wished to see an end to the presence of Spanish troops.

Following the widespread destruction of images by bands of Reformed and Anabaptist commoners in 1565, unrest in the Netherlands grew, and Margaret agreed to grant the wishes of the Confederacy, provided the noblemen would help to restore order. In late 1566 and early 1567 it became clear that she would not be allowed to fulfill her promises, and when several minor rebellions failed, many Calvinists and Lutherans fled the country. William retreated for a time to his native Nassau.

As one of the most prominent and popular politicians of the Netherlands, William of Orange re-emerged from Nassau as the leader of the armed resistance. He raised an army, consisting mostly of German mercenaries, to fight on land. William allied with the French Huguenots, following the end of the second Religious War in France when they had troops to spare. Led by his brother Louis, the army invaded the northern Netherlands in 1568. However, the plan failed almost from the start. The Huguenots were defeated by French royal troops before they could invade, and a small force under Jean de Villers was captured within two days. On May 23, the army under the command of Louis won the Battle of Heiligerlee in the northern province of Groningen against a Spanish army led by the stadtholder of the northern provinces, Jean de Ligne, Duke of Aremberg. Aremberg was killed in the battle, as was William's brother Adolf. The Duke of Alba countered by killing a number of convicted noblemen (including the Counts of Egmont and Hoorn on June 6), and then by leading an expedition to Groningen. There, he annihilated Louis’ forces on German territory in the Battle of Jemmingen on July 21st, although Louis managed to escape. These two battles are now considered to be the start of the Eighty Years' War.

In October, 1568 William responded by leading a large army into Brabant. As William advanced, disorder broke out in his army, and with winter approaching and money running out, William turned back. William made several more plans to invade in the next few years, but little came of them since he lacked money and support. He remained popular with the public, in part through an extensive propaganda campaign conducted through pamphlets. One of his most important claims, with which he attempted to justify his actions, was that he was not fighting the rightful ruler of the land, the King of Spain, but only the inadequate rule of the foreign governors in the Netherlands, and the presence of foreign soldiers.

On April 1st, 1572 a band of Watergeuzen captured the city of Brielle, which had been left unattended by the Spanish garrison. Contrary to their normal "hit and run" tactics, they occupied the town and claimed it for the prince by raising the Prince of Orange's flag above the city. This event was followed by other cities opening their gates for the Watergeuzen, and soon most cities in Holland and Zeeland were in the hands of the rebels, notable exceptions being Amsterdam and Middelburg. The rebel cities then called a meeting of the Staten Generaal , and reinstated William as the stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland.

Concurrently, rebel armies captured cities throughout the entire country. William himself then advanced with his own army and marched into several cities in the south.

In 1573, William joined the Reformed Church.  He appointed a Calvinist theologian, Jean Taffin (1573–1581), as his court preacher. Taffin was later joined by Pierre Loyseleur de Villiers (1577–1584), who also became an important political advisor to the prince.

Calvinist rebels grew more radical, and attempted to forbid Catholicism in areas under their control. William was opposed to this both for personal and political reasons. He desired freedom of religion, and he also needed the support of the less radical Protestants and Catholics to reach his political goals.

Five northern provinces, later followed by most cities in Brabant and Flanders, signed the Union of Utrecht on January 23rd, 1579 confirming their unity. William was initially opposed to the Union, as he still hoped to unite all provinces. Nevertheless, he formally gave his support on May 3rd. The Union of Utrecht would later become a de facto constitution, and would remain the only formal connection between the Dutch provinces until 1797.

On July 10th, 1584 William was shot by an assassin in his home and shortly afterwards died.

According to official records, William's last words were:

“My God, have pity on my soul; my God, have pity on this poor people.”

The Netherlands became formally independent after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

 

Maurice

1567-1625

The second son of William of Orange, Maurice succeeded his father as the leader of the Dutch Republic. Maurice was a better strategist, military organizer and ballistic engineer than his father, which enabled him to gain many victories, giving the northern Netherlands independence from Spain. In 1617 he proclaimed himself a protector of the Dutch Reformed Calvinists, giving the Calvinists the preeminence in church and state. 

 

Canon of Dort

The State-General convened the National Synod of Dort, which began on November 13th, 1618 and lasted until May 9th, 1619. It consisted of eighty-four members, twenty-six of which were representatives from England, Scotland, France and Germany, as well as eighteen state commissioners. The synod held fifty-four formal sessions, most of which were crowded with spectators. The synod was convened to deal with the followers of Jacob Arminius, called the Remonstrants, who were teaching doctrine contrary to Reformed teaching on salvation. The synod drew up the Canon of Dort which defined what is now known as the five points of Calvinism, under five articles entitled Divine Predestination, The Death of Christ, Corruption of Man, The Manner of Man’s Conversion and the Perseverance of the Saints. The five points are usually known today as Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. The acronym T.U.L.I.P. is often used to help teach the five points.     

 

Adolf Klarenbach

c. 1497 – September 28th, 1529

Adolf Klarenbach was burnt at the stake in Cologne, and died as one of the first Protestant martyrs of the Reformation in the Lower Rhine region.

Beginning in 1523, Klarenbach, a teacher, sought to spread the principles of the Reformation first in Münster, then in Wesel, for which he was dismissed from his post by John III, Duke of Cleves. In 1525 he was driven from Osnabrück, Büderich and Elberfeld, also because of his open adherence to the teachings of Martin Luther.

On April 3rd, 1528 Klarenbach was imprisoned and confined for 18 months. An eye witness to Klarenbach's eventual execution, wrote:

“After two years' arrest he could have escaped the cruel imprisonment if he had only admitted that the laity have no claim to half the sacrament. Twice I heard him in disputation with the so-called theologians: of excellent memory and in every way to the point, he proved all his teachings from the Holy Scriptures; and of the church fathers he particularly quoted Augustine.”

The religious authorities sentenced Klarenbach to death, to be burnt at the stake on September 28th, 1529 outside Cologne, with another follower of Luther, Peter Fliesteden, who at the elevation of the host during mass, covered his head, turned his back and spat.

Klarenbach's last words were reported as follows:

“When you have killed me, you will still not have your way, but I will have eternal life. So even this death does not terrify me, for I know that Christ has overcome death, the devil and hell.”

He is said to have shouted these words to the judge before being led into the straw hut that was then set on fire.

Franciscus Junius/François du Jon

May 1st, 1545 – October 13th, 1602

Franciscus Junius was born in Bourges, France and, beginning at age twelve, studied law at the university there. On account of his abilities in Greek and law, Junius was given the position of aide to the French ambassador at the court of Suleiman I in Constantinople, but before Junius reached Lyon, the ambassador had departed.

Junius studied for two years at the gymnasium at Lyon reading Greek and Roman classics. He nearly became an atheist while reading Cicero and Epicurus, but after reading the first chapter of John Junius was convinced to commit himself to God and he entered the French Reformed Church. He went in 1562 to study at Geneva under John Calvin and Theodore Beza. In 1565, Junius was appointed minister of the Walloon church at Antwerp. In 1566 an iconoclastic uproar ensued in the Netherlands, but Junius did not take part. William the Silent made an agreement with Philip II of Spain in 1566 to protect Protestants, but only those who were natives of the Low Countries, placing Junius in danger. Several times he barely escaped arrest, and finally, after spending six months preaching in Limburg, he was forced to flee to Heidelberg in 1567. There Junius was welcomed by the elector Frederick II, and temporarily settled in charge of the Reformed church at Schönau; but in 1568 his patron sent him as chaplain with Prince William of Orange in his unfortunate expedition to the Netherlands. Junius returned to his church and remained there till 1573.

From 1573 till 1578 Junius was at Heidelberg, assisting Emmanuel Tremellius, whose daughter he married, in a distinctively Reformed Latin translation of the Bible, the Tremellius-Junius Bible, which was first published in 1579. It received thirty-three printings between 1579 and 1764 and was very influential on Reformed dogmatics, shaping Protestant theology into the late eighteenth century. The Tremellius-Junius Old Testament was often paired with Theodore Beza's translation of the New Testament.

From the late 1580s to 1592, Junius participated in diplomatic missions for the duke of Bouillon in France and Germany, which involved meeting personally with the king of France, Henry IV of Navarre. In 1592, he was named professor of theology at the University of Leiden. There he wrote De Vera Theologia, which became a cornerstone of Reformed scholastic theology, as well as De politiae Mosis Observatione (1593), which addressed the contemporary political implications of the Mosaic Law.

We worship Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator,

Through life’s storm and tempest our Guide hast Thou been;

When perils o’ertake us, escape Thou wilt make us,

And with Thy help, O Lord, our battles we win.

-Dutch Hymn from The Collection by A. Valerius

 

 

Melchior Hofmann

1493-1544

Melchior Hofmann was born in Hall in Swabia, South Germany. He was a furrier by trade and a good orator. When Luther’s writings were first published Hofmann fully embraced his teaching and traveled to the Netherlands to preach the new reform. In 1529 he moved to Strasburg, during this time he turned away from Luther to follow the teaching of Zwingli. Hofmann soon began to follow Lienhard Jost and his wife Ursula, who claimed to be prophets. Hofmann published a booklet of the Josts’s prophesies which he believed to be divinely inspired. In 1533 Hofmann printed the first book containing some of his own prophesies. He claimed to be Elijah and named himself an “apostolic herald”. Hofmann taught that he was one of the witnesses in Revelation 11:3 and that Cornelius Polterman of Middelburg, Holland was the other. He saw infant baptism as unscriptural and baptized many into his new faith. Hofmann traveled throughout the Netherlands and West Germany preaching his new beliefs. In 1533 Hofmann believed that God wanted him to turn himself into the authorities in Strasburg, and that God would miraculously save him. After telling the authorities his beliefs Hofmann was promptly imprisoned, and he was never released. In prison he continued to write, and his followers, called Melchiorites, continued to print his writings. Hofmann predicted the end of the world several times as well as his own release.

 

Radical Anabaptists

Jan Matthys, a baker from Haarlem and a Melchiorite prophet, joined with Jan van Leiden and Bernt Rothmann, a pastor in Münster, in a scheme to set up the center of the kingdom of God in Münster, in Westphalia, in northwestern Germany. In November, 1533 Jan Matthys came to the Melchiorites in Amsterdam and proclaimed himself the second witness, Melchior Hofmann being the first, and proclaimed Münster as the city of God. Those that joined Matthys went throughout the country preaching as “apostles” and gathering followers. In early 1534, Jan Matthys, with the help of his followers and some powerful trade guilds, much like present day unions, took over Münster, proclaiming it the “New Jerusalem” and Matthys its king. Matthys forced at the edge of the sword all the citizens to be re-baptized and all goods to be held in common. The Catholic bishop of Münster raised an army and put the city under siege for eighteen months. Matthys was killed during the fighting and Jan van Leiden proclaimed himself to be King David, amassed all the wealth in the city for himself, and began preaching polygamy, taking several wives for himself. The city suffered greatly during the siege, and on July 24, 1535 the city fell with help from citizens inside the walls. After the city was taken Jan van Leiden was taken to prison and then executed. The Münsterites who had not been killed and still believed in the teachings of Hofmann, Matthys and van Leiden joined themselves under the leadership of Johann von Batenburg, becoming known as the Batenburgers. When Batenburg was executed in 1538, most of his followers joined a group led by David Joris, a former Obbenite minster, and were known as Davidians. Joris taught that God the Father came in the person of King David in the Old Testament age, that God the Son came as Jesus, the second David, in the New Testament age, and that he, Joris, was the Spirit, come in the flesh to bring in the “Age of the Spirit”. In 1544, Joris left the Netherlands, moving to Basel, where his followers in the Netherlands supported him in living a lavish life. On May 11th, 1535 a group of Münsterites, led by Jan van Geelen, tried to forcefully take over Amsterdam, but were quickly suppressed. The Melchiorites, Münsterites, Batenburgers and Davidians brought a bad reputation on all Anabaptists in the Netherlands and throughout Europe and although men like Menno Simons strongly opposed their teachings and actions, most of the governments believed that all Anabaptists had the vision of overthrowing the state and setting up radical governments like the one in Münster.

 

 

Obbe and Dirk Philips

In 1531 Sicke Freerks Snyder, a Melchiorite, was martyred in Leeuwarden in West Friesland, where Obbe Philips, a local surgeon, lived. Obbe’s brother Dirk, who was a Franciscan monk, was present at Snyder’s execution. After this martyrdom Obbe and Dirk joined the Melchiorite movement. When “apostles” came from Jan Matthys calling all Melchiorites to join them in their plans to set up the “kingdom” in Münster, Obbe and Dirk did not believe their teaching. As Obbe and Dirk saw the Melchiorites running after Matthys they began spending more time studying Scripture to refute Matthys’ teaching, which led them to reject the false teachings of Melchior Hofmann. Those that followed the Philips brothers were known as Obbenites, and they rejected all extra-biblical revelation and put members under the ban who joined the Münsterites or remained Melchiorites. Many of the Melchiorites in Amsterdam joined the Obbenites. On July 10th, 1535 Jacob van Kampen, an Obbenite minister in Amsterdam, was martyred. In 1540 Obbe left the group that he had founded, having become disillusioned with the Anabaptist movement, and moved to Northern Germany, where he lived quietly until his death in 1568. Dirk and Menno Simons, who had been baptized and ordained by Obbe, became the leaders of the group that was to become known as Mennonites. Dirk was more of a scholar and pastor, than an organizer and leader like Menno Simons. Dirk wrote several books and pamphlets, the most notable one being Handbook of the Christian Doctrine and Religion. Dirk died in 1568.      

 

“The gospel is the word of grace. It is the joyful message of Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, the only Redeemer and Saviour, who gave himself for us that we might be ransomed from the power of Satan, sin, and eternal death. He has made us children and heirs of our heavenly Father, to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen people, and a possession of God in the Spirit.” –Dirk Philips 1560

“Be diligent therefore, my most beloved, by the grace of God, to bear the cross of Jesus Christ with patience, and look with the eye of faith to the joy and glory which is prepared for you.” –Dirk Philips 1558

 

Menno Simons

1496-1561

Menno Simons was born in Witmarsum, West Friesland in 1496, a few miles from the North Sea, into a Dutch peasant family. As a young man he studied at the Franciscan monastery in Bolsward, West Friesland where he learned both Latin and Greek. On March 26th, 1524 Simons was consecrated by the Bishop of Utrecht as a Roman priest, and he was appointed vicar in the village of Pingjum, which was only a few miles from his birthplace. During this time he believed that reading the Scripture was a dangerous thing to do, so he avoided reading his Bible. Simons would later write, “Such a stupid preacher was I.” Simons was easy-going and lived a care free life. He said that he spent his time with “playing, drinking, and all manner of frivolous diversions.” One day in 1526 while serving the mass the thought came strongly upon him that the bread and wine could not be the body of Christ, he believed that it must be the devil tempting him. Simons confessed, prayed, made the sign of the cross over and over but as time went on he could not shake the thought that the mass was not truly what the pope taught. Simons then began reading the writings of Luther, Bucer and Bullinger, which finally led him to the New Testament in search of the truth.  Through studying the New Testament Simons came to strongly believe that the Roman church was wrong about transubstantiation. On March 20th, 1531 Sicke Freerks Snyder, a follower of Melchior Hofmann, became the first Anabaptist martyr in the Netherlands. This was the first time Simons had ever heard of someone rejecting infant baptism. Meanwhile, the revolutionary wing of early Dutch Anabaptists began stirring up the people in his district. Many people began following Jan Matthys, a self proclaimed prophet among the Melchiorites, who believed he was called to bring in the kingdom of God, starting with setting up a communistic kingdom in Münster. After the bloody failed attempt in Münster in 1535, Simons felt an increased desire to help those he considered to be misguided, both in the Roman church, as well as those of revolutionary thinking. His bold and outspoken ministry soon jeopardized his safety, and in 1536 Simons went into hiding for a year. A short time later he left the Roman church. In 1537 Simons was baptized by Obbe Philips, a leader among the peaceful Anabaptists. In less than a year after his baptism the brotherhood of Obbe Philips’ church called Simons into the ministry. In 1539 he married Gertrude. He repeatedly wrote of his wife’s full willingness to share with him the severe hardships of homelessness and untold danger that they had to suffer for their faith. In 1541 Simons was proclaimed an outlaw by Charles V, who issued an edict against Simons, and promised 100 guilders for his arrest. The next twenty years Simons spent traveling throughout Friesland and the Rhineland, preaching, baptizing and planting churches, as well as writing and printing books on doctrine and devotion, while always trying to avoid arrest. His book Foundation of Christian Doctrine, first published in 1540, and soon translated into German and English, was his most influential work. This book was important in laying out doctrine for future Mennonite generations as well as helping to give rise to the English Baptist movement in the beginning of 1600s. Menno Simons died in 1561 in Wustenfelde, near Holstein, Denmark. Simons’ more than 40 writings were all prefaced with I Corinthians 3:11, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

 

“We certainly hope no one of a rational mind will be so foolish a man as to deny that the whole Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, were written for our instruction, admonition, and correction, and that they are the true scepter and rule by which the Lord’s kingdom, house, church, and congregation must be ruled and governed. Everything contrary to Scripture, therefore, whether it be in doctrines, beliefs, sacraments, worship, or life, should be measured by this infallible rule and demolished by this just and divine scepter, and destroyed without any respect of persons.”-Menno Simons 1539

 

“Those who accept the announced Christ by a true faith, which was given us of the Father unto wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and deliverance, are in a state of grace for Christ’s sake and have God as their Father; for by faith they are born of him. He forgives them all their sins; has compassion on all their human shortcomings and weaknesses. He turns them from the curse, wrath, and eternal death. He accepts them as his beloved children, and grants them Christ Jesus together with all his merits, fastings, prayers, tears, sufferings, pain, cross, blood, and death. Besides this, he grants also his Spirit, inheritance, kingdom, glory, joy, and life. And this we say, not by our own merits and works, but by grace through Christ Jesus.” -Menno Simons 1552

 

“Render to the Most High the praise and honor due him, give ear to his holy Word, for those who maintain that the baptism of irrational children is a washing of regeneration do violence to the Word of God, resist the Holy Ghost, make Christ a liar and his holy apostles false witnesses.”-Menno Simons

 

“In the kingdom of all humility, the outward adorning of the body is not desired and sought with power, but the inward adorning of the spirit, with zeal, diligence, and a broken, contrite heart.”-Menno Simons

 

“The believing receive remission of sins, not through baptism, but in baptism, in this manner: as they now sincerely believe the lovely gospel of Jesus Christ which has been preached and taught to them, which is the glad tidings of grace, namely the remission of sin, of grace, of peace, of favor, of mercy and of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord, so they become of a new mind, deny themselves, bitterly lament their old, corrupted life, and look diligently to the Word of the Lord who has shown them such great love; to fulfill all that which He has taught and commanded them in His holy gospel, trusting firmly in the word of grace, in the remission of their sins through the precious blood and through the merits of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.”-Menno Simons  

 

 

My God, where shall I wend my flight?

Ah, help me on upon the way;

The foe surrounds both day and night

And fain my soul would rend and slay;

Lord God, Thy Spirit give to me,

Then on Thy ways I’ll constant be

And, in the Life’s Book, eternally.

 

But when I turned me to the Lord,

And gave the world a farewell look,

Sought help against the evil horde,

The lore of Antichrist forsook:

Then was I mocked and sore defamed,

Since Babel’s councils I now disdained:

The righteous man is e’er disclaimed!

 

As one may read of Abel, famed,

Zacharias too--recall it well--

And Daniel too, whom bad men framed

So that he among fierce lions fell;

So were the prophets treated all,

Christ Jesus too--it is good to recall

Nor were the prophets spared this call.

 

If you in fires are tested, tried,

Begin to walk life’s narrow way,

Then let God’s praise be magnified,

Stand firm on all He has to say;

If you stand strong and constant then,

Confess His Word in the sight of men,

With joy He extends the diadem!

 

-Menno Simons 1540

 

Leonard Bouwens

1515-1582

Leonard Bouwens was born in 1515 in Sommelsdyk, Holland. Bouwens was a Christian humanist who embraced the Reformation when it came to the Netherlands. He joined the Mennonites and become an evangelist. In 1551 Menno Simons ordained him as a bishop. Bouwens lived in Emden, but traveled throughout the Netherlands and Germany preaching, discipling and baptizing. Between 1551 and his death in 1582, Bouwens recorded the names of 10,378 people that he had baptized.

 

The Dortrecht Confession of Faith of 1632, the confession used by most conservative Mennonites today, was drawn up by Adrian Cornelis, the bishop of the Flemish Mennonite Church at Dortrecht in Holland, and was signed by fifty-two ministers.

 

In 1660 Thieleman Jansz van Braght printed his large work entitled The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians: 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, which is commonly just called the Martyrs Mirror. This book was a compilation of early records of Anabaptist martyrs, early church history and letters from imprisoned martyrs, and became an important part of the Mennonite heritage.

 

The Dortrecht Confession of Faith

Article VII: Of Holy Baptism

As it regards baptism, we confess that all penitent believers, who through faith, the new birth, and renewal of the Holy Ghost, have become united to God, and whose names are recorded in heaven, must, on such scriptural confession of their faith, and renewal of life, according to the command and doctrine of Christ, and the examples and usage of the apostles, be baptized with water….

Article XI: Of Washing of the Feet of the Saints

We also confess a washing of the feet of the saints, as the Lord Jesus did not only institute and command the same, but did also himself wash the feet of the apostles….

Article XIV: Of Defense by Force

As it regards revenge, whereby we resist our enemies with the sword, we believe and confess, that the Lord Jesus has forbidden his disciples and followers all revenge and resistance….

Article XVII: Of the Shunning of Those Who Are Expelled

As it regards the withdrawing from, or the shunning of, those who are expelled, we believe and confess, that if anyone, whether it be through a wicked life or perverse doctrine, is so far fallen as to be separated from God, and consequently rebuked by and expelled from, the church; he must also…be shunned and avoided by all the members of the church…whether it be in eating or drinking, or other such-like social matters. In short, that we are to have nothing to do with him….

 

Dirk Willems

Dirk Willems, a member of a Dutch Mennonite church, was taken prisoner for being an Anabaptist and was able to escape in the middle of winter, but he was pursued. He ran across a thin covering of ice on a river, one of his pursuers fell through the ice and began calling for help, Willems turned around and helped the man out of the river. The man he saved then arrested him on the spot and returned Willems to prison. Soon after Willems was burned at the stake on May 16, 1569. This story has become an important part of Mennonite and Amish tradition and teaching in giving an illustration of living out non-resistance.