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 p

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