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To my beloved Friends and Fellow Believers in Christ
Jesus our Saviour
When, in former times, C. Vermander, one of our fellow believers, desirous of describing the Trojan war, followed the Greek poet Homer, called the Blind, relating in Dutch rhyme, the latter's Greek verses treating of this matter, he stopped when he had completed half, that is, the first twelve books of the Iliad,* writing these words
"When following the blind in Il'um's siege,
I wearied when but half the way I'd reached."
He became weary when he had traveled half the way, and certainly, he had good reasons for it; for, who knows not, that by following a blind man, especially on unknown and dangerous roads, one may easily be brought into error, yea, severe misfortunes? And what peaceful and loving person will delight in contemplating severe wars, and terrible storms and assaults, made upon a straitened and much distressed city, like Troy (called Ilium) was in Homer's time? Hence it was proper, and not less profitable for his soul, that he returned, for, as the proverb says, "It is better to turn back in the middle of the way, than to err still further."
But we, much beloved, having come half the way, yea, through fifteen bloody centuries, became only the more desirous to proceed, so insatiable was our desire, from what we had already seen and heard. Yea, what is still more, though we ourselves suffered much heat and cold, hardship and illness; yea, deadly sicknesses,** on the way, our desire was not quenched, but much rather spurred on and stirred up, to reach the end. For, truly, those whom we met here, were no Greek warriors, who had enlisted under the hero Agamemnon, or his general Hector. Nor were the storms and assaults which we beheld, made upon a city built with hands, much less upon the city of Ilium in Phrygia. Nor did the conquerors burn pitch barrels, in token of victory. Neither did the heroes who had acquitted themselves well, and faithfully risked their lives, to obtain fading oak leaves, or laurel wreaths, as marks of honor. Or, if they had died, their graves were not ornamented with tombs, pyramids, or obelisks, which must eventually perish with the world.
* Homer's account of the Trojan war, or the capture of the city of Ilium.
** God visited me with a half year's, and almost fatal, sickness; during which time 'I nevertheless wrote much of the first book.
Here things were quite different, beloved friends; yea, quite different. For heroes met us who served the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, who, though as a slain lamb, is truly the Prince of the kings of the earth.*
The place which they stormed, was the city filled with all good things, or the new and heavenly Jerusalem, whose foundations are all manner of precious stones, the gates of pearls, the streets of gold, like transparent glass. Her they took by force, to possess forever; but the God displeasing idolatrous city of Babel they destroyed, with spiritual weapons, as much as lay in their power.
The honor which they obtained for their victory, is an everlasting honor; their joy a perpetual joy; the triumphal crowns which were given them, are eternal and heavenly crowns. Here no earthly tombs, pyramids, or obelisks, need be mentioned, to honor their dead bodies; since their souls were honored with God, and obtained rest under the altar** of God, the place of all the blessed martyrs.
In our thoughts we have wandered through the places where all this has happened, and with the eyes of faith have beheld these things.
It is true, the sorrow which we, according to the flesh have met with, was almost insurmountable, seeing so many miserable, and not less God fearing, persons laid down their lives for the truth confessed; these in the burning fire, those in the drowning water, others under the keen sword, some in the strangling rope, yea, in the most destructive teeth of wild beasts; not to mention countless other means by which they miserably perished.
But, on the other hand, the joy which we have seen with our spiritual eyes, and heard with the ears of the heart cannot be told, yea, can be described by no language. For, some embraced death, singing and praising God, and what is still more, who can comprehend this? he who was himself subjected to the death by fire, laid his hand upon the heads of his half burnt fellow brethren, encouraging them, and strengthening them in the faith. Another, who had tasted the pain of the fire, and had been drawn out of it, threw herself
* Rev. 1:5.
** I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. Rev. 9:9.
upon one of the dreadfully charred bodies, in order to finish the conflict once begun, and also to obtain the crown of martyrdom.*
This we relate over and above what we have noticed in the first book, although the persons are also there spoken of. We could adduce many such and similar examples, were they not sufficiently known, yea, as clear as the sun.
We therefore proceed to the second Book, and will commence with the beginning of the sixteenth century, where we, as previously, will treat first of Holy Baptism, etc.,, and then of the Holy Martyrs who suffered in those times.
However, our labor will be greatly lessened here (like one who, panting and perspiring, has climbed a steep mountain, and then leisurely de
* This is adduced, from Thuanus and Cesar Heisterb., by D. B. Lydius, speaking of the Waldensian martyr Arnold, whom we have noticed for the year 1163, and some of his fellow martyrs. He says: "This Arnold was burnt, together with nine of his disciples, among whom were two women, on the fifth of August, at the Jewish cemetery, at Cologne. Before his death (or before he was dead), he laid his hand upon the heads of his then half burnt fellow brethren, saying: 'Adhere steadfastly to your faith; this day you shall be with the holy martyr, Laurence.' "
One of the women, he writes, who from mercy, had been drawn out of the fire, with the promise that she should be married, or, if she were inclined this way, placed in a convent, asked where Arâ€¢ nold lay, who had been burnt, with his fellow believers, as a heretic. And when his body, which by this time was mostly burnt, was pointed out to her, she escaped the hands of those who led her, and threw herself upon Arnold's body, in order thus also to obtain the crown of martyrdom. D. Bal. Lyd. Tract. Where the church was, etc., page 59, cot. 1, from Thuan., lib. 6, Hist. Also, Cesar Heisterb. dist. 5, cap. 19.
scends, taking his ease), since, as far as the martyrs are concerned, the previous accounts and printed copies will serve our purpose; in which we do not propose to make any essential change, for we do not wish to diminish the good work of our dear fellow brethren who, in this matter, havje acted in a holy manner before the Lord, except where it may be necessary because of some account which we have added thereto.
At the same time we hope to enrich these accounts with various pious witnesses of Jesus, from faithful memoirs and written records, which were never before made public; as also their examinations, death sentences, letters, and other things connected with this matter; which we have obtained for this purpose from the hands of magistrates. criminal authorities, criminal clerks and other sources, at no small trouble and expense.
This, then, shall be the order of the following work, which we wish may be acceptable to God, edifying to our neighbor and conducive to the profit and salvation of our own soul through Jesus Christ, our only and eternal Saviour, praised and blessed forever. Amen.
Yours, most affectionately in the Lord,
THIELEM J. VAN BRAGHT.
Dort, A. D. 1659.
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