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An Account Of The Persecutions In The Netherlands

The light of the gospel having successfully spread over the Netherlands,
the pope instigated the emperor to commence a persecution against the
protestants; when many thousand fell martyrs to superstitious malice and
barbarous bigotry, among whom the most remarkable were the following:

Wendelinuta, a pious protestant widow, was apprehended on account of her
religion, when several monks, unsuccessfully, endeavoured to persuade
her to recant. As they could not prevail, a Roman catholic lady of her
acquaintance desired to be admitted to the dungeon in which she was
confined, and promised to exert herself strenuously towards inducing the
prisoner to abjure the reformed religion. When she was admitted to the
dungeon, she did her utmost to perform the task she had undertaken; but
finding her endeavours ineffectual, she said, Dear Wendelinuta, if you
will not embrace our faith, at least keep the things which you profess
secret within your own bosom, and strive to prolong your life. To which
the widow replied, Madam you know not what you say; for with the heart
we believe to righteousness, but with the tongue confession is made unto
salvation. As she positively refused to recant, her goods were
confiscated, and she was condemned to be burnt. At the place of
execution a monk held a cross to her, and bade her kiss and worship God.
To which she answered, "I worship no wooden god, but the eternal God who
is in heaven." She was then executed, but through the before-mentioned
Roman catholic lady, the favour was granted, that she should be
strangled before fire was put to the fagots.

Two protestant clergymen were burnt at Colen; a tradesman of Antwerp,
named Nicholas, was tied up in a sack, thrown into the river, and
drowned; and Pistorius, a learned student, was carried to the market of
a Dutch village in a fool's coat, and committed to the flames.

Sixteen protestants having received sentence to be beheaded, a
protestant minister was ordered to attend the execution. This gentleman
performed the function of his office with great propriety, exhorted them
to repentance, and gave them comfort in the mercies of their Redeemer.
As soon as the sixteen were beheaded, the magistrate cried out to the
executioner, "There is another stroke remaining yet; you must behead the
minister; he can never die at a better time than with such excellent
precepts in his mouth, and such laudable examples before him." He was
accordingly beheaded, though even many of the Roman catholics themselves
reprobated this piece of treacherous and unnecessary cruelty.

George Scherter, a minister of Saltzburg, was apprehended and committed
to prison for instructing his flock in the knowledge of the gospel.
While he was in confinement he wrote a confession of his faith; soon
after which he was condemned, first to be beheaded, and afterward to be
burnt to ashes. In his way to the place of execution he said to the
spectators, "That you may know I die a true christian, I will give you a
sign." This was indeed verified in a most singular manner; for after his
head was cut off, the body lying a short space of time with the belly to
the ground, it suddenly turned upon the back, when the right foot
crossed over the left, as did also the right arm over the left: and in
this manner it remained till it was committed to the flames.

In Louviana, a learned man, named Percinal, was murdered in prison; and
Justus Insparg was beheaded, for having Luther's sermons in his

Giles Tilleman, a cutler of Brussels, was a man of great humanity and
piety. Among others he was apprehended as a protestant, and many
endeavours were made by the monks to persuade him to recant. He had
once, by accident, a fair opportunity of escaping from prison and being
asked why he did not avail himself of it, he replied, "I would not do
the keepers so much injury, as they must have answered for my absence,
had I gone away." When he was sentenced to be burnt, he fervently
thanked God for granting him an opportunity, by martyrdom, to glorify
his name. Perceiving, at the place of execution, a great quantity of
fagots, he desired the principal part of them might be given to the
poor, saying, a small quantity will suffice to consume me. The
executioner offered to strangle him before the fire was lighted, but he
would not consent, telling him that he defied the flames and, indeed, he
gave up the ghost with such composure amidst them that he hardly seemed
sensible of their effects.

In the year 1543 and 1544, the persecution was carried on throughout all
Flanders, in a most violent and cruel manner. Some were condemned to
perpetual imprisonment, others to perpetual banishment but most were put
to death either by hanging, drowning, immuring, burning, the rack, or
burying alive.

John de Boscane, a zealous protestant, was apprehended on account of his
faith, in the city of Antwerp. On his trial, he steadfastly professed
himself to be of the reformed religion, which occasioned his immediate
condemnation. The magistrate, however, was afraid to put him to death
publicly, as he was popular through his great generosity, and almost
universally beloved for his inoffensive life, and exemplary piety. A
private execution being determined on, an order was given to drown him
in prison. The executioner, accordingly, put him in a large tub; but
Boscane struggling, and getting his head above the water, the
executioner stabbed him with a dagger in several places, till he

John de Buisons, another protestant, was, about the same time, secretly
apprehended, and privately executed at Antwerp. The number of
protestants being great in that city, and the prisoner much respected,
the magistrates feared an insurrection, and for that reason ordered him
to be beheaded in prison.

A. D. 1568, three persons were apprehended in Antwerp, named Scoblant,
Hues, and Coomans. During their confinement they behaved with great
fortitude and cheerfulness, confessing that the hand of God appeared in
what had befallen them, and bowing down before the throne of his
providence. In an epistle to some worthy protestants, they express
themselves in the following words; Since it is the will of the Almighty
that we should suffer for his name, and be persecuted for the sake of
his gospel, we patiently submit, and are joyful upon the occasion;
though the flesh may rebel against the spirit, and hearken to the
council of the old serpent, yet the truths of the gospel shall prevent
such advice from being taken, and Christ shall bruise the serpent's
head. We are not comfortless to confinement, for we have faith; we fear
not affliction, for we have hope; and we forgive our enemies, for we
have charity. Be not under apprehensions for us, we are happy in
confinement through the promises of God, glory in our bonds, and exult
in being thought worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. We desire not
to be released, but to be blessed with fortitude, we ask not liberty,
but the power of perseverance; and wish for no change in our condition,
but that which places a crown of martyrdom upon our heads.

Scoblant was first brought to his trial; when, persisting in the
profession of his faith, he received sentence of death. On his return to
prison, he earnestly requested the jailer not to permit any friar to
come near him; saying, "They can do me no good, but may greatly disturb
me. I hope my salvation is already sealed in heaven, and that the blood
of Christ, in which I firmly put my trust, hath washed me from my
iniquities. I am now going to throw off this mantle of clay, to be clad
in robes of eternal glory, by whose celestial brightness I shall be
freed from all errors. I hope I may be the last martyr to papal tyranny,
and the blood already spilt found sufficient to quench the thirst of
popish cruelty; that the church of Christ may have rest here, as his
servants will hereafter." On the day of execution, he took a pathetic
leave of his fellow-prisoners. At the stake he fervently said the Lord's
Prayer, and sung the fortieth psalm; then commending his soul to God, he
was burnt alive.

Hues, soon after, died in prison; upon which occasion Coomans wrote thus
to his friends, "I am now deprived of my friends and companions;
Scoblant is martyred, and Hues dead, by the visitation of the Lord; yet
I am not alone, I have with me the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of
Jacob; he is my comfort, and shall be my reward. Pray unto God to
strengthen me to the end, as I expect every hour to be freed from this
tenement of clay."

On his trial he freely confessed himself of the reformed religion,
answered with a manly fortitude to every charge against him, and proved
the scriptural part of his answers from the gospel. The judge told him
the only alternatives were, recantation or death; and concluded by
saying, "Will you die for the faith you profess?" To which Coomans
replied, "I am not only willing to die, but to suffer the most
excruciating torments for it; after which my soul shall receive its
confirmation from God himself, in the midst of eternal glory." Being
condemned, he went cheerfully to the place of execution, and died with
the most manly fortitude, and christian resignation.

William Nassau fell a sacrifice to treachery, being assassinated in the
fifty-first year of his age, by Beltazar Gerard, a native of Franche
Compte, in the province of Burgundy. This murderer, in hopes of a reward
here and hereafter, for killing an enemy to the king of Spain and an
enemy to the catholic religion, undertook to destroy the prince of
Orange. Having procured fire arms, he watched him as he passed through
the great hall of his palace to dinner, and demanded a passport. The
princess of Orange, observing that the assassin spoke with a hollow and
confused voice, asked who he was? saying, she did not like his
countenance. The prince answered, it was one that demanded a passport,
which he should presently have.

Nothing farther passed before dinner, but on the return of the prince
and princess through the same hall, after dinner was over, the assassin,
standing concealed as much as possible by one of the pillars, fired at
the prince, the balls entering at the left side, and passing through the
right, wounding in their passage the stomach and vital parts. On
receiving the wounds, the prince only said, Lord, have mercy upon my
soul, and upon these poor people, and then expired immediately.

The lamentations throughout the United Provinces were general, on
account of the death of the prince of Orange; and the assassin who was
immediately taken, received sentence to be put to death in the most
exemplary manner, yet such was his enthusiasm, or folly that when his
flesh was torn by red-hot pincers, he coolly said, If I was at liberty,
I would commit such an action over again.

The prince of Orange's funeral was the grandest ever seen in the Low
Countries, and perhaps the sorrow for his death the most sincere, as he
left behind him the character he honestly deserved, viz. that of Father
of his people.

To conclude, multitudes were murdered in different parts of Flanders; in
the city of Valence, in particular, fifty-seven of the principal
inhabitants were butchered in one day, for refusing to embrace the
Romish superstition; and great numbers were suffered to languish in
confinement, till they perished through the inclemency of their

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Previous: General Persecutions In Germany

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