BRÈS, brê, GUY DE (Guido de Bray): Reformer in the Netherlands; b. at Mons 1522; executed at Valenciennes May 31, 1567. He was brought up strictly by his Roman Catholic mother, but before his twenty-fifth year had become a thorough Protestant. When persecution broke out in 1548, he fled to England, where he spent four years. Then he came back and settled at Ryssel (Liége), where he won great popularity as a preacher. In 1556 his congregation was dispersed by a fresh persecution, and he was obliged to flee, going apparently for a while to Ghent, then to Frankfort, and probably to Switzerland. Early in 1559 he returned to the southern Netherlands, with Tournai for his headquarters, but serving also Ryssel and Valenciennes, and visiting Antwerp and Mons in the cause of his religion, often in disguise for safety's sake. The public singing of Marot's psalms in Sept., 1561, gave rise to a judicial investigation, which exposed Brès to fresh danger. Undaunted, he undertook to secure justice for his comrades by laying before the authorities his confession of faith (known as the Belgic Confession, in thirty-seven articles, on the model of that adopted by the French Reformed churches in 1559. This modest, sober, positive statement, which he hoped would show the authorities that his friends were not revolutionary Anabaptists, failed to stop the persecution; but the frequent editions of it show that it met with popular approval; it won thousands to the cause of the Reformation, and was soon recognized as a standard formula. Once known, however, as its author, the Reformer was obliged to escape from Tournai to Amiens, and thence possibly to Antwerp. In 1564 he was in Brussels for a conference with William of Orange, and took part in the negotiations at Metz for a union of the Lutherans and Calvinists. Then he found a refuge at Sédan with Henri Robert de la Marck, Sieur de Bouillon, but was called back to a post of danger in the summer of 1566 by the consistory of Antwerp. In August he settled at Valenciennes, where by this time more than two-thirds of the inhabitants were in sympathy with the Reformation. At first he preached in the open air, but after the iconoclastic outbreak of Aug. 24 took possession of St. John's church. The governor's attempts to suppress the movement led to the siege of the city in December, and its surrender in the following March. Once more Brès was forced to flee, but he and his fellow preachers were captured a few hours later at Saint-Amand, and sent as prisoners to Tournai and then back to Valenciennes. The letters which he wrote to comfort his wife and his aged mother give an insight into his faith and the nobility of his character. He was sentenced to be hanged in front of the town hall, and thus ended a life full of toil and peril, which is one of the glories of the Reformation in the southern Netherlands.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. A. van Langeraad, Guido de Bray; zyn leven en werken. Bydrage tot de geschiedenis van het zuid-Nederlandsche Protestantisme, Zieziksee, 1884; W. C. van Manen, Guy de Bray; opsteIler van de Belydenisse des geloofs der gereformeerde Kercken in Nederland, Amsterdam, 1885.
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