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Thieleman van Braght-A Selection From The “Martyrs’ Mirror or The Bloody Theater”

A 1743 portrait of Tieleman van Braght by Jan Maurits Quinkhard.

From the collections of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is a small selection from Thieleman Jansz van Braght‘s ‘Martyrs’ Mirror, or the Bloody Theater‘, here in its 1886 second English edition published by the Mennonite Publishing Company in Elkheart, Indiana, and translated anew from the original Dutch edition of 1660 by Joseph F. Sohm. Now an online text source at the Project Gutenberg.

The ‘Martyrs’ Mirror‘, first published in Holland in 1660 in Dutch, documents the stories and testimonies of Christian martyrs, especially Anabaptists. It differs significantly from Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs‘ in that it only includes those martyrs which were considered nonresistant, while Foxe’s book also does not include many Anabaptist martyrs.

Anabaptists’-the term literally means ‘re-baptize’, and refers to the rejection of infant baptism-were among sixteenth-century Europe’s most persecuted and vilified groups. Both Catholics and Protestant groups condemned them as both spiritually and political dangerous, and the Anabaptist seizure of Münster of 1534–35 became a byword for the rebellion and disorder that many believed would follow radical Reformation. Perhaps as many as 2500 Anabaptists died for their faith in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

The intensity of this persecution placed martyrdom at the centre of Anabaptist culture and identity, and the movement had many ways of celebrating their faithful through print, manuscript and song. First published in 1660, ‘Het Bloedig Tooneel’ (‘The heart-bleeding spectacle’) was a collection and expansion of earlier Anabaptist martyrologies, gathered and written by the Flemish Mennonite Thieleman Jansz van Braght [1625-64]. This second edition of 1685 enlarged further on van Braght’s work and added 104 copper engravings by Jan Luyken, providing lurid illustrations of the suffering described in the text.

Deliberately drawing together martyrs from many different Anabaptist traditions, this monumental text created a coherent and distinctive identity for a minority shunned and persecuted by Europe’s dominant churches. Source: Wikipedia & University of Cambridge.


The ‘Martyrs’ Mirror‘ 1685 second Dutch edition’s frontispiece.


To God, my Lord, the Creator, Preserver and Redeemer of my soul, be praise, honor and majesty, forever and ever.

Pardon me, O my Lord and my God! that I, who am but dust and ashes, approach Thee. Gen. 18:27. I fear to come to Thee, because Thou art a consuming fire, while I am wood, hay and stubble, subject to be burned; yet I must not remain away from Thee, because I have that which is Thine, yea, which is Thy most precious treasure, even the blood and offering of the saints; I must needs come and offer it to Thee.

May it be well-pleasing to Thee, my dear Savior, that I offer that which long since has been offered up to Thee. But I have full confidence that Thou wilt not reject me. I believe I have the assurance that this will be acceptable to Thee, for Thy servant David, a man after Thine own heart, sang, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Ps. 116:15.1

Moreover Thou knowest, O my Savior and Redeemer, the steadfast faith, the unquenchable love, and the faithfulness unto death, of those of whom I have written, and who gave their precious lives and bodies as a sacrifice to Thee.

Besides, Thou hast spared my life, that I, unworthy and weak as I am for such a task, might yet perform it; for snares of death had compassed me, keeping me bound nearly six months during last fall, winter and spring, so that I often thought I could not survive; nevertheless Thy power strengthened me, Thy hand rescued me, and by Thy grace was I led safely through, so that in the midst of my difficulties and contrary to the advice and opinion of the physicians (for the zeal and love of Thy saints had taken complete possession of me), I wrote and finished the greater part of this work.

The sacrifices which are acceptable unto Thee are a broken spirit, etc. Ps. 51:17. But this offering, O God, was accompanied with many tears, caused partly by my distress, as I, on account of the weakness of my nature, called upon Thee for help, partly through joy, as I found and experienced Thy comfort and help.

Yet that which more than all else caused my tears to flow was the remembrance of the sufferings and the death of Thy martyrs, who altogether innocent, as defenseless lambs, were led to the water, the fire, the sword, or to the wild beasts in the arena, there to suffer and to die for Thy name’s sake. However, I experienced no small degree of joy as I contemplated the living confidence they had in Thy grace, and how valiantly they fought their way through the strait gate.

Ah! how often did I wish to have been a partaker with them; my soul went with them, so to speak, into prison; I encouraged them in the tribunal, to bear patiently, without gainsaying or flinching, their sentence of death. It seemed to me as though I accompanied them to the place of execution, scaffold or stake, saying to them in their extremity, Fight valiantly dear brethren and sisters; the crown of life awaits you. I almost fancied that I had died with them; so inseparably was my love bound up with them, for Thy holy name’s sake.

I therefore entreat Thee once more, O my God, to let this sacrifice be well-pleasing in Thy sight, and to accept it from me, Thy most humble servant, as a token of love towards Thee as well as toward Thy blessed martyrs.

But before I leave this, strengthen me with Thy good Spirit, and arm me with the consolation of Thy grace, that I may not only confess Thee here with my mouth, but also honor Thee by a virtuous and pious conversation (Ps. 119:5), in the most holy faith, not refusing, if necessity require it and Thy honor be promoted thereby, to give my life and body into suffering and death, so that I may become like unto Thy dearest friends, my slain fellow brethren and sisters, and receive with them the same reward in the great day of Thy recompense. Song of Sol. 1:4.

This is the desire and petition of him, whose name is known to Thee, and who entreats Thee for grace now and in the hour of his death, and in the ages of eternity. O Lord, so let it be! For thine, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

T. J. van Braght.

Dort, July the 23d, 1659.



Good friends and fellow citizens: Of old, among the heathen, the greatest and highest honors were accorded to the brave and triumphant warriors, who, risking their lives in the land of the enemy, conquered, and carried off the victory. Thus Homer, the foremost of the writers of heroic poetry in Greece, has, in twenty-four books, extolled and embellished with many eulogies the warlike deeds of Ulysses. Quintus Curtius described, in ten books, the deeds of Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedonia: how triumphantly he conquered and subjugated Europe, Asia, India, and the countries bordering on the eastern Ocean, till he ultimately lost his life in Babylonia. Plutarch composed a voluminous work devoted to the praise of illustrious and valiant men. Titus Livius has written of the Roman heroes, how praiseworthily they acquitted themselves in behalf of the country of Romulus. Virgilius Maro and others eulogized the emperor Augustus. And this usage has obtained from ancient times, and obtains yet, in every land, yea, throughout the whole world.

We say nothing of the honor and praise, which, many years after their death, was bestowed in public theatres, upon those who had been sacrificed to idols, for the narration of it would consume too much time.

But God, in his word, goes higher and farther yet, in this respect. He has caused the conflict, the sufferings, and the triumphs of his spiritual courageous heroes, children and favorites to be written, in language the most touching, glorious and triumphant, as an everlasting memorial for their descendants, and not only this, but as a full assurance of their happiness; so that they should always be remembered, and never forgotten.

Yea, the whole volume of holy Scriptures seems to be nothing else than a book of martyrs, replete with numerous, according to the flesh, sorrowful, but according to the spirit, happy, examples of the holy and steadfast martyrs, whose sufferings, conflicts and triumphs have been recorded in as holy and worthy a manner as it is possible to imagine.  …/…



Next to God we are joined to our fellow-believers who have received the same faith with us; and we shall therefore address ourselves to them.

But most beloved, do not expect that we shall bring you into Grecian theatres, to gaze on merry comedies or gay performances. Here shall not be opened unto you the pleasant arbors and pleasure gardens of Atlas, Adonis or Semiramis, which are said to have been built in the air, and of which the ancients used to sing their merry lays; yet far be it from us to conduct you to places of sadness, surely not to such as can, in verity, be called places of sadness.

True enough, we shall lead you into dark valleys, even into the valleys of death (Ps. 23:4), where nothing will be seen but dry bones, skulls, and frightful skeletons of those who have been slain; these beheaded, those drowned, others strangled at the stake, some burnt, others broken on the wheel, many torn by wild beasts, half devoured, and put to death in manifold cruel ways; besides, a great multitude who having escaped death, bear the marks of Jesus, their Savior, on their bodies, wandering about over mountains and valleys, through forests and wildernesses, forsaken of friends and kindred, robbed and stripped of all their temporal possessions, and living in extreme poverty.

Yet to look upon all this will not cause real sadness, for though the aspect is dismal according to the body, the soul will nevertheless rejoice in it, seeing that not one of all those who were slain preferred life to death, since life often was proffered them on condition that they depart from the constancy of their faith. But this they did not desire; on the contrary, many of them went boldly onward to meet death; some even hastened to outstrip others, that they might be the first, who did not shrink from suffering anything the tyrants could devise, nay more than could be thought possible for a mortal man to endure.

Among a great number we perceived a god-fearing hero and knight of Christ, who, advancing before others, went cheerfully unto suffering and death, in which he acquitted himself so well that he fought or pressed his way with such force through the strait gate, that he left his flesh on the posts.

When we had beheld this with the eyes of faith, and had meditated upon the matter, our spirit was kindled, and we almost seemed to welcome him, and to wish him everything good, in these words:

Klimt op uw’ gulden Hoogtt’, Voor-vechter van de bende
Der heyl’ge Zielen, die God’s roode Bloed-banier
Navolgde, in’t gedrang, in’t midden der ellenden,
Daer niet dan rook en damp van menschen offer-vyer
Tot door de wolken vloog; noch gingt gy Held haer voor,
Ja streed, door d’enge poort, ten ruymen Hemel door.

[Climb up your golden height, champion of the band of holy souls, who followed God’s red banner of blood, in oppression and in the midst of misery; where naught but the smoke and vapor of human burnt sacrifices ascended to the clouds; yet thou, hero, didst go before them, yea, didst fight thy way through the strait gate to the wide Heaven.]

Then followed a great multitude of very pious and virtuous people—men, women, youths and maidens, all clothed with the same armor of faith and walking in the same path. Some of these were, like their leader, deprived of life; the rest were led to different places of execution, where they beheld many of their fellow brethren and sisters whose lives had been taken by the most dreadful means—burned and roasted at the stake. They nevertheless were not terrified, though they had to expect to be put to death in the same manner; but were of good cheer, calling upon God for help, that they might not falter in their sufferings, but prove steadfast to the end; this done, they also were burned.

This seemed almost to break our heart; our soul was horrified, and filled with pity on account of their misery; but when we remembered their constancy, and that now, for the heat endured, they found refreshing with God, nay, could expect the blessed crown of immortal glory, our grief subsided and sweet consolation filled our soul, so that we, to their memory, wrote the following words for ourselves and our fellow brethren:

Het schriklyk offer-vyer, de glinsterende staken,
Den smaed, die Zion leed, kon God’s verkoren volk
Belet noch hinder doen, noch geensins angstig maken
Te dragen Christi naem, als in sen witte wolk:
Tot dat een heete vlam haer lyven heeft verslonden;
Waer door haer zielen toen by God verkoeling vonden.

[The dreadful sacrificial fire, the shining stakes, the shame which Zion suffers, could neither disturb nor hinder God’s chosen people, nor make them afraid to bear the name of Christ, as in a white cloud: Until a burning flame has consumed their bodies; whereby their souls found refreshing with God.]

Some were not only bold, but went forth unto death rejoicing, which was evident from their conduct. Others showed this by their words, as they spoke of the consolation in their heart and the glad hope dwelling in their soul, when they were placed at the stake. Many, when the fire was kindled, and even when they were enveloped by the flames, sang with a loud voice to the honor of their God and Savior, because they had been counted worthy to be offered up as sacrifices for his holy name’s sake. Acts 5:41.

Were we to relate the joy and consolation of those, who, having escaped death, wandered about in foreign countries and solitary places, without friends or kindred, help or assistance, time would fail us and words be inadequate to sufficiently describe it. Here the testimony of Paul is found true, “that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Rom. 8:28. For those who were forsaken by friends and human assistance, found help with the angels of God, and protection under the wings of the Almighty. Those who had no eternal rest or dwelling-place found rest and a mansion of content in their souls and hearts. Those who went almost naked, having no clothes to put on, were most preciously clothed and adorned according to the soul, with the robe of righteousness and the garment of salvation and godly virtues. Those who had to abandon their secular business, and submit to despoilment of their money, goods and everything they had, so that outwardly they were very poor, possessed great riches within themselves through the grace of God which they received through the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and the word of the Lord, which was more precious to them than many thousand pieces of gold and silver.

The inconvenient seasons of the year, the heat of summer, the cold of winter, the wetness of spring and fall, together with the contingencies of thunder, lightning, hail, snow, rain, wind, hunger, thirst, sickness, fatigue, and other innumerable troubles with which they met while wandering about and suffering persecutions, were to them sweet pleasures and recreations in the Lord, for they knew that this would afterwards be turned into joy to them, since it is written: “Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.” Luke 6:21. Again: “That we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. And, in another place: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” 2 Tim. 2:12.

This caused them to say with the apostle: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor. 4:17. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18. “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s.” Rom. 14:8, etc.

Many of them would not have exchanged the darkest and severest dungeons, or the caves of the earth, in which they had to hide themselves, for royal palaces. The wilderness was to them a delightful pleasure-garden, the howling of the wild beasts which surrounded them, as sweet music or the song of birds; and water and roots or dry bread delighted them more than the daintiest viands and drink from the tables of the great.

All this was granted them by the munificent hand of God, on account of the constancy of their faith, from which they could by no means be made to swerve, nor brought to waver in it; on account of their living hope, which begat in their souls a longing for the future riches, so that they were enabled to esteem the present ones as of little worth and to forget them; and on account of their unquenchable love for God, his holy truth, and their beloved fellow-believers, whereby their souls were kindled into a flame far more intense than were their bodies through physical fire though these were reduced to ashes.

But can carnal men comprehend this? Will any of them believe these things? We think not; for how can a carnal man partake of the Spirit of God? How could one who is earthly-minded ascend to heaven in his thoughts? 1 Cor. 2:14. How can one comprehend that which pertains to salvation, who himself is altogether unsaved and possesses no desire to obtain salvation through the grace of God? What fire of divine love can he feel, whose heart is totally cold, and who loves nothing but sin and sinful creatures.

We maintain, therefore, that these are things which belong not to the blind worldly-minded, since they in their ignorance would not esteem them; but to the heavenly-minded, who, as spiritual eagles, contemplate with the eyes of the soul the mysteries of God; who seek their food with God, and find their delight in his saints and well-beloved who sacrificed their lives for his holy truth.

For this cause we have addressed ourselves to you, most beloved brethren and sisters, who, with us, and with our slain friends, the blessed martyrs of God, have received the same faith. This book, the humble work of our hands, but which is nevertheless a precious jewel, in view of the persons and matters contained therein, we have dedicated to you. Receive it, then, with the same love with which it has been dedicated to you. Read it again and again, and with the same attention and emotion with which we have written and re-written it. We are fully confident that, if you do this, it will not be unfruitful to you. But, before all things, fix your eyes upon the martyrs themselves, note the steadfastness of their faith, and follow their example.

Ruth, the Moabitess, said to Naomi, the mother of her husband: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” Ruth 1:16,17.

With such inseparable love ought we, most beloved in the Lord, to be joined to our blessed fellow brethren who have been slain for the testimony of the Lord, that we might follow their footsteps unto the end; for surely, the God whom they confessed and served, is also our God; the Savior on whom they placed their hope is our Savior; the faith which they all confessed is our faith (we speak of Anabaptists in general); the laws and commandments of God which they received as their rule of life are also our laws and commandments; they bowed their knees before God; they obligated themselves by the words of their lips to render obedience to God, and thereupon received holy baptism; we have done the same; they promised to continue steadfastly all the days of their life in the faith and due obedience, without departing therefrom yea, if necessary, to suffer death for it; we have promised the same. What difference, then, is there between us and them? Certainly only this: that they all persevered unto the end, nay, unto a cruel death, without departing to the right or to the left; which we have not yet done. They have taken by force the blessed Fatherland, the Canaan rich with milk, the true promised land which flows with honey; which we have not yet done. They have therefore entered into rest, yea, have come to the Lord; while we are yet in unrest, proceeding in our pilgrimage in the absence of the Lord.

Therefore, my most beloved friends in Christ Jesus, let us also in this last respect seek to be conformed to our beloved slain fellow brethren, that we may continue steadfastly unto the end in the most holy faith which we have confessed with them. Oh! be careful in this matter; watch over your dear-bought souls; for it is highly necessary, yea, more necessary than at any former time.




These are sad times, in which we live; nay, truly, there is more danger now than in the time of our fathers, who suffered death for the testimony of the Lord. Few will believe this, because the great majority look to that which is external and corporeal, and in this respect it is now better, quieter and more comfortable; few only look to that which is internal and pertains to the soul, and on which everything depends, “for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matt. 16:26.

These times are certainly more dangerous; for then Satan came openly, through his servants, even at noon-day, as a roaring lion, so that he could be known, and it now and then was possible to hide from him; besides, his chief design then was to destroy the body: but now he comes as in the night, or in the twilight, in a strange but yet pleasing form, and, in a two-fold way, lies in wait to destroy the soul; partly, to trample under foot, and annihilate entirely, if this were possible, the only saving Christian faith; partly to destroy the true separated Christian life which is the outgrowth of faith. Ps. 91:5,6.

He reveals himself on the one hand as an angel of light, 2 Cor. 11:14,15, as a kind, pleasant, yea, even divine messenger, with humble countenance, downcast eyes, plain garb, and living in seclusion from the throng of the worldly-minded, even as the holiest people, yea, the martyrs of God, formerly did. His words are modest, trembling and full of contrition—seemingly coming from deep meditation, inward fear and apprehension, lest he might speak amiss or untruthfully. Meanwhile, and before one is aware of it, he seizes hold and tears like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, robbing the innocent lambs of Christ of their precious faith, which, he pretends to be of small importance, but without which faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6, nay, without which we, according to the words of Christ shall be condemned, Mark 16:16; for (says Paul), whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 14:23.

It grieves us to the heart that we must live to see these times, and therefore speak in this wise. O Lord, strengthen our faith! help thy weak, trusting lambs, that they may not be led into error, nor moved from the foundations of the most holy faith.

On the other hand, through his instigation, the world now reveals itself very beautiful and glorious, more than at any preceding time, in a threefold pleasing form—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Almost all men run after her, to worship her as a queen supreme; but all are deceived thereby; yea, many who have drunk of the poisoned wine of her lusts from the golden cup of her iniquities and deceptions, die a spiritual death.

As the first design is aimed at the faith, so this is directed against the true Christian life. Here lies great danger. Who shall escape these snares? He that would at no time be taken unawares by it, must indeed be cautious and watchful. But our very flesh seems prone to it. Here must be fasting, watching, praying, and calling upon God for help, otherwise there is no escape.

Many of the ancients who supposed that they had been circumspect and observed their duty, were deceived hereby; some were lulled into a careless sleep, so that they paid no heed to themselves or to their vocation; others were brought to despair of the divine truth; others were drawn away totally from God; some died a spiritual death; others died both spiritually and bodily; and some have plunged themselves helter-skelter into the abyss of the disfavor of God, to be punished by him soul and body and forever.

These things which we tell you are no riddles or blind speeches, for we speak the truth, or the word of God must be false; but as the word of God cannot lie, what we have said is certain and infallible since God in his word bears witness of it, yea, declares it emphatically and abundantly. Other histories which make mention of this, we pass by in silence and dismiss them altogether, because we do not hold them in equal estimation with the holy Scriptures. It was the world and its lusts that of old caused all the great calamities of which we have spoken; and not only this, but it has also caused thousands who live in the various cities, countries, kingdoms, empires, yea, on the face of the whole earth, to mourn, weep and wail, on account of their natural misery as well as on account of their experiencing the wrath of God in their souls because of the magnitude and enormity of the sins perpetrated by them.

It certainly was through worldly lusts that the old world perished; that Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboim, and Admah were consumed, overthrown and totally destroyed by fire from Heaven; that in forty years, through serpents, fire, and other plagues, the wanton and lustful people of Israel perished to the number of over six hundred thousand in the wilderness; and that the mighty maritime cities, Zidon and Tyrus, whose ships were trimmed with embroidered, silken sails from Egypt; whose rowers sat upon benches of ivory; where incalculable riches were bought and sold, and, from carnal incentives, almost inconceivable arts practiced were reduced to a heap of stones and so leveled to the ground, that the fishermen stretch out their nets to dry on the rocks upon which these cities stood. Gen. 7; Matt. 24:37,38; Luke 17:26,27; 2 Peter 2:5.—Gen. 19:24,25; Is. 13:19; Jer. 50:40; Hos. 11:8; Amos 4:11; Luke 17:28,29; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7.—compare Num. 1:2,3,46 with Num. 14:22,23. Also Num. 11:1 and 16:31–35; 21:6; Jude 5.—Is. 23:4,5; Ezek. 27:26–28; 28, the whole chapter.

I will not now speak of Jerusalem, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and other mighty licentious and luxurious cities, which, with all their inhabitants who had in this respect sinned against God, have borne his wrath, and felt, to their destruction, the plagues of his afflicting hand; for this would consume too much time. O awful judgments of God! O pernicious worldly-mindedness! O corroding and cankering luxury, that draggest after thee such a train of unspeakable miseries! Help, Lord, that our soul be delivered from all these dangers.

But what danger would there be, if none but the open enemies of God and his holy truth were guilty in this matter? What harm could be done, if they alone, and no others, would arouse and call down upon themselves the wrath of God? For then every pious and serious soul would beware of their example as of a savage beast, venomous serpent, or deadly basilisk. But now such is the state of things that many commoners and such as are not total strangers to religion or the worship of God; who, as they say, would fain be saved; and who, therefore, though they are not truly enlightened, glorify and praise God and his word with their mouth, show nevertheless (to the seduction of the simple) that the world is their dear friend, yea lies nearest to their heart, since most of their works are directed to its service, that they may thereby partake of its glittering but deceptive reward.

Hence arises that shameful and vast commerce which extends far beyond the sea into other parts of the world, Ezek. 27, but which notwithstanding cannot satisfy those who love it, but, on the contrary, brings great danger, that that which has already been gotten, may be lost, others defrauded, and they themselves, both in soul and body, stripped and robbed of their possessions.

Numerous large, expensive and ornamented houses, country-seats of splendid architecture and provided with towers, parks magnificent as a paradise, and other embellished pleasure-grounds, which are seen on every hand indicate this in no small degree. Dan. 4:29,30.

The wearing of clothes from foreign countries, whether of foreign materials, uncommon colors or of strange fashions as obtain in the course of time according to the custom of the openly worldly-minded (which are as changeable as the moon), and which custom is followed by many humble and seemingly plain people, confirms greatly what we have before said. Gen. 35:2; Zeph. 1:8; Is. 3:16–24.

The giving and attending great dinners, lavish banquets and wedding-feasts (though one may never be found in taverns or tippling-houses), where everything is in profusion, and where the beneficent gifts of the Lord which should not be used otherwise than with great thankfulness, and of which a portion naturally belongs to the poor, are squandered and consumed without the least necessity, even by those who are considered sober and temperate, is an incontrovertible evidence of a sensual and wanton heart; and proves also that those who have much to do with these things, cannot be exculpated from living after the flesh; for which carnal life certainly has no promise of salvation, but, on the contrary, many severe threatenings of the wrath and displeasure of God, nay, of eternal damnation, are recorded in the blessed leaves of the word of God, which contains nothing but the truth. Esth. 1:3–8; Dan. 5:1–3; Luke 12:19,20; 16:19.

O how different is this from the life of a true Christian, who has forsaken himself and his lusts! How great the step that is between their walk and that of the holy martyrs, who delivered up, not only their carnal desires, but also their bodies and lives, unto death for the Lord’s sake! But how great a difference will also be between the two classes afterwards! when the former, having had their good things in this life, shall be shut out from the true, heavenly riches, but the latter, because they from love to God, renounced and abandoned their possessions, which might have led them into sin, be admitted to the true enjoyment of the heavenly riches and pleasures, and that for ever and ever! Mal. 3:18.

Here shall obtain what is recorded concerning the end of the luxurious rich man and that of poor Lazarus: that the rich man, when he saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, while he himself was in hell, received this answer to his doleful lamentation: “Son, remember, that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” Luke 16:25. Appropriate is here also Wis. 5:1,2.

Nevertheless, these and similar evil examples are constantly presented to our eyes, and they are the more pernicious and dangerous for the reason that some worldly-minded people pronounce them to be non-essential, unimportant for either good or evil, and therefore, allowable; while it is the same with them as with the fruit from the tree of knowledge, which stood in the midst of Paradise, and was pleasant to the eyes, but deadly in the use, for whoever ate of it, had to die, Gen. 2:17; or with the apples which grow in the land of Sodom, on the border of the dead sea; which possess a beautiful red appearance, but contain, as some have written, only dust and ashes, and are inedible, nay, even deleterious to health. Bijb. Naemb. edition 1632, fol. 881, col. 2, concerning the name Sodom, ex Philippo Melanchthone. Also Bernh. Bredenb. in Tract, super Siddim. Also H. Buntung, Itinerarium sacræ scripturæ, edition 1642, lib. 1, pag. 62, col. 2, etc.

O that Satan would show himself, as he really is, and that the world, too, might come forth without disguise or mask; then certainly no one possessing reason would allow himself to be deceived by them. For in Satan nothing would be seen but deadly snares, traps and murdering daggers for the soul, poisoned arrows wherewith to destroy everything good in man, through unbelief, apostasy from God, impenitent obduracy, and despair; which are followed by a train made up of the fears of hell and horrors of damnation. In the world men would perceive nothing but vanity, mingled with much vexation, sorrow, grief and misery, and this in such abundance, that if as many tears could be wept over it, as there is water in all the sea and all the rivers, yet the weight of the true sorrow that springs from them it could not be adequately expressed, for they draw after them not only temporal but also everlasting miseries.

But, O how lamentable! all this is hid under a beautiful appearance. Satan appears to be a prince or king, and the world a noble princess or queen. The servants and servant-maids who follow them as pages and maids of honor, appear as cavaliers and ladies, reveling in joy and delight; though, as regards the soul, they are poor and deformed, yea, meaner than beggars, and without the true joy which delights the upright soul in God.

There is, therefore, great danger of being deceived. O, ye upright children of God, be on your guard. Let your simplicity be coupled with prudence. Your faith as well as your life are the objects aimed at. If Satan gain the mastery over you, your precious faith which has been commended to your keeping as dearly as your soul, is ruined. If ye are overcome by the world, it will soon put an end to your Christian and virtuous life, without which latter the best of faith is of no avail. Care, therefore, my dear friends, equally well for both, for the one is as important as the other. Faith without the corresponding life, or the life without the faith, can, will, and may not avail before God. They are like two witnesses, who must agree, and of whom the one cannot stand or be received without the other.

Knowing, then, that we must care for both, there remains nothing for us but to do it; however, this work must certainly not only be begun, but also finished, according to the example of the steadfast martyrs of God; with which finishing, whether it be brought about in a natural or a violent manner, according as liberty or persecution brings about we must comfort ourselves, since it is certain that the crown is not to be found in the beginning or in the middle, but at the end.

But as necessary as it is to finish well, so necessary it is also to begin well, and, having begun, to go on well; for without a good beginning and a good progress it is impossible to attain to a good end.

We speak to you, then, most beloved in the Lord, who have begun with us; received the same faith with us; and with us as a token of this have been baptized.

Surely, we have made a vow to the Lord, which we cannot recall, as David sings: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High.” Ps. 50:14.

We have, through faith, received Christ, the Son of God, as our Prophet, Priest, King, Shepherd, Friend, and Bridegroom; and in this we must go on and grow stronger. This, Paul teaches us, saying: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught,” etc. Col. 2:6,7. Hereby we have come from the darkness of ignorance to the true light of knowledge; which we are commanded to keep in perpetual remembrance. In this direction tend the words: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;” etc. Heb. 10:32. In short: “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” Phil. 3:16. “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 5:20. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Verses 24 and 25. Is. 40:30,31; Phil. 4:13.

We would now commend you, beloved brethren and sisters, to the Lord and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Our work which has been done for your benefit, is now finished in this respect; that you may make good use of it, is our friendly desire. Remember us always in your prayers, until we depart this life; Phil. 1:23, that God may be gracious unto us now and in eternity. We hope, on our part, to do the same for you. O that God would grant, that we all, without one missing, might behold one another, face to face, in the kingdom of God! 1 Cor. 13:12.

Meantime we rejoice in the salvation of the Lord; for it sometimes seems to us, as if Heaven had come down upon earth; or that we were ascending from earth to heaven, 2 Cor. 12:1–12, etc.; or that we, who are still among men, held communion with God and his holy angels; or that eternal heavenly joy and glory were offered to us; nay, that we had a foretaste of those things which mortal eye hath never seen, nor ear heard, nor heart experienced, in this life.

We walk no longer upon earth with our thoughts; nevertheless, we are still encompassed by a cloud of earth, a body of clay, a heavy load of the soul. O, that we were free from it, and that our soul, liberated from this load, might return to God in heaven, her true origin! like a freed dove which has been confined in a strange place, returns to her nest and abode. But we must wait for this until the time which God has appointed, comes.

Let us be patient together, then, most beloved in the Lord, till the day come, which, if we remain faithful unto the end, will assuredly bring us that which we here wait for in hope. Then the tears, which we, sighing and longing for the highest salvation of God, have wept here, shall surely be wiped away from our eyes; then shall we no longer see through a glass, darkly, but face to face; then shall the heavenly be shown us no longer in thought or in spirit, but it shall be given us, and we be made participants of it, by experience alone, in truth and in deed. O great and precious subject! we can go no further: our reason cannot comprehend it; our earthly tongue cannot express it!

Yours very affectionally in the Lord,

Th. J. van Braght.

Dort, July the 25th, 1659.



Come now, ye earthly-minded and ungodly, and learn here to become heavenly and godly-minded; God is worthier than the creatures; heaven is worthier than the earth; and the soul is more excellent than the body; in the same manner the divine, heavenly and spiritual warfare is worthier and more excellent than the creatural, earthly and corporeal warfare; this is beyond contradiction.”He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Prov. 16:32. Of this the apostle Paul glories, when he says; ‘ I therefore so run, not as uncertainly so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection;’ etc. I Cor. 9:26, 27. This praiseworthy fight, when he had brought it to a good end, caused him to say about the time of his death,”I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall giveme at that day,” etc. II Tim. 4:7, 9. ye impenitent, learn here to repent, and believe in Jesus Christ. Hither must come also all the self-willed, who, from a prejudiced opinion of their own do not consider the external commandments and ordinances of Christ as necessary, saying that there is not more required than repentance and faith, or a so-called irreproachable civil life. These shall learn here that the external commandments of Christ must be united with the internal, that is, the signs with the things signified; or, to express it clearly: one must be baptized on his faith and repentance; must keep the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him, etc.; for herein the holy martyrs were to them an example.

Here the passionate must learn patience and meekness from the most patient and meek, who endured without murmuring the greatest reproach and ignominy, yea, even death. Here the unmannered are taught modesty; the proud, humility; the discontented, contentment; the avaricious, benevolence; the insatiably rich, voluntary poverty; those who live after their lusts, the forsaking of all carnal desires; the irreligious, piety; and the wavering and inconstant, steadfastness unto the end in all these things.

All this can be learned here, not so much by words as by deeds, from those who not only commenced the above virtues, but continued in them unto the end, yea, confirmed them through their death, and sealed them with their blood.



The name “Anabaptists” was really not accepted by them by choice or desire, but of necessity; for their proper name, if we consider well the thing in connection, should be, Christ-minded, Apostle-minded, or Gospel-minded, Gal. 3:26,27,29, as they were called of old, yea, many centuries ago, because their religion agreed with the doctrine of Christ, the Apostles, and the holy Gospel; which appears from the confessions of faith which they from time to time have published, and which we, as far as we know them, are ready to defend, if necessity requires it; of which also others boast; but how they prove it, they may answer for themselves, and the impartial and intelligent may judge.

The name Anabaptists which is now applied to them, has but lately come into use, deriving its origin from the matter of holy baptism, concerning which their views differ from those of all, so-called, Christendom. In what this difference consists, we will now briefly, and in the sequel more fully state.

We could have wished that they had been called by another name, that is, not only after the holy baptism, but after their whole religion; but since it is not so, we can content ourselves with the thought that it is not the name, but the thing itself, which justifies the man. For this reason we have applied this name to them throughout the work, that they may be known and distinguished from others.




We have chosen holy baptism in preference to any other article of the Christian and evangelical religion:

1. Because it is the only sign and proof of incorporation into the visible Christian church, without 16which no one, whoever he be, or whatever he may profess, or how separated and pious a life he may lead, can be recognized as a true member of the Christian church. This is fully, yet without controversy, shown and confirmed in the following history.

2. Because it is, beyond contradiction, the only article on account of which others call us Anabaptists. For, since all other so-called Christians have, yet without true foundation, this in common that they baptize infants; while with us the baptism only which is accompanied by faith and a penitent life, according to the word of God, is administered, to adults; it follows, that with us such persons are baptized who have received baptism in their childhood, without faith and repentance; who, when they believe and repent, are again, or at least truly baptized with us; because with us their previous baptism, being without true foundation, and without the word of God, is not considered baptism at all.

3. Because the imperial decrees (when some so-called Christians began to tyrannize) in the days of Theodosius and Honorius, A. D. 413, were issued and proclaimed everywhere, expressly against the Anabaptists and those who were rebaptized; namely against such who maintained the aforementioned article, as the Anabaptists of to-day do; which was also the case in the last persecution, during the reign of Emperor Charles V, more than eleven centuries afterwards, A. D. 1535; when all who, having been baptized in infancy, had been rebaptized upon their faith and repentance; or who maintained these views, were punished with a severe death, as may be seen in our account of baptism, and of the martyrs, for the years 413 and 1535.

4. Because it would not have been possible to write in detail of all the other articles of the Christian faith and worship of God, as they, through all the centuries from the days of Christ up to the present time, have been believed and practiced according to the manner of the Anabaptists of this day; without going beyond the bounds of the largest book; since no book could possibly be printed or planned on so large a scale, as to contain all this; wherefore we have been obliged to observe moderation in writing, throughout, so as not to become diffuse, or overstep the bounds of a reasonable book.





That this church, from the beginning to the time of David, was always visible, discernible, and distinguished from other nations, is clear and manifest, and, as far as we know, not doubted by anybody. There remains, then, only to be proven, that the same after the time of David, has always been discernible, according to the preceding manner, and will continue to be so to the end.

To show this, the song of David of the city or church of God, Ps. 46:3,4, serves an excellent purpose. “Though the sea rage and roll, so that through its tempest the mountains fall in, Selah! the city of God shall nevertheless remain glad with her fountains, where the holy tabernacles of the Almighty are.” This passage, beginning with the preceding verse reads as follows according to the original text: “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.”

Who is there so ill versed in the word of God, as to suppose that he is to understand by the words city of God and the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High, etc., the city of Jerusalem in the land of Palestine, and the temple which was built in that city? for this city and the temple which was in it, were laid waste and totally demolished and destroyed, first by the Chaldeans, in the time of Jeremiah, and subsequently by the Romans, who conquered the land of Canaan and Jerusalem; so that, according to the prophecy of Christ, not one stone was left upon another. We must, therefore, understand this as relating to the church of God, which is called, in holy Scripture, the city of God. Heb. 12:22; for of the same it is said that God is in the midst of her, and that, therefore, she shall not be moved, etc., as shall appear more fully from the following testimonies, Isaiah 2:2: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountains of the Lord’s house shall be established . . . and all nations shall flow unto it.” It is beyond dispute that here, by the words the Lord’s house, we are to understand the church of the Lord, unless there be one who holds, with the Jews, that it must be understood as having reference to the house of stone, which, in former time, Solomon built, to the honor of God, on Mount Moriah; which house is now in ruins, but was to be rebuilt. But this cannot be expected, for the prophet Daniel, with respect to this desolation, says clearly that it shall be poured upon the desolate, even until the consummation (that is, the end of the world). Dan. 9:27 compared with Matt. 24:15.

No small proof of this is furnished by the fact that about forty years after the ascension of Christ, this very house was destroyed, demolished and burned by Titus Vespasian, and has not yet been rebuilt, though about sixteen hundred years have elapsed since; and, on account of the continual quarrels of the Palestinians and other eastern rulers, it is, viewing it from a human standpoint, not likely that it will ever be done.

Since it is true, then, that by the words “the house of the Lord,” we must understand the church of the Lord, there follows also what is said in connection with it namely: that the same shall be firmly, i. e. invincibly, established on the mountain, that is, Christ, the immovable foundation.

Besides the adduced prophecy, Isaiah 2:2, showing the firmness and immovability of the house (or the church) of God, which is founded upon the mountain of the Lord—Christ Jesus—the same prophet treating of the durability, glory and divine dignity of this church, under the type of the New Jerusalem, produces various commendatory testimonies for this purpose, saying among other things, chap. 60, verse 11: “Thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night.”

This is a simile drawn from a peaceful city which has neither fear nor care that enemies will attack her, and, therefore, leaves her gates open by night as well as by day, for the accommodation of the citizens, and the messengers and strangers who are traveling in the night. Thus, he would say, will it also be with the future church of Jesus Christ.

Then, in verse 14, speaking of the enemies of the church of God, and of those who had slandered her, he says: They “shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”

When a city has become so great that even her deadly enemies who had purposed to lay waste and destroy her, come bending their knees, and, as begging for favor, bow down before her, as is shown here of the enemies of the city and church of God; there is no probability that such city will easily be conquered, laid waste, or subjugated. So it is, in a spiritual sense, with the city and church of Jesus Christ; for it is this to which this prophecy has reference.

Immediately after, in the 15th verse, the prophet declares that God will make this city or church an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.

And, as though by this the durability and excellency of this city, well-beloved of God, were not yet sufficiently expressed, he adds these words, verse 19: “But the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.”

And, lastly, verse 21: “Thy people, O God, also shall be all righteousness: they shall inherit the land forever.” Here no further explanation is required, since the text plainly and clearly expresses our meaning; and we will, therefore let it suffice.

We then proceed to what Christ, the Son of God, himself testifies concerning this matter. Matt. 16:18: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Christ, in another place, speaking by parable of a man who built his house upon the sand, adds the explanation: that the same was a foolish man; because such a foundation, and, therefore, also the building which is founded upon it, cannot stand before the floods, rains, and storms, which beat against it.

On the other hand, he commends him as wise and prudent, who built his house upon a rock; since the same, being well-founded, is able to withstand all dangers.

But the foundation of which the Lord speaks here, that he will build his church upon it, is much firmer than any material rock, for these must all pass away with time; but the foundation which is Christ himself, remains, shall remain, and shall never decay: for “the foundation of God standeth sure,” 2 Tim. 2:19.

Yet not only the foundation, but also the building of the church shall not decay, though in nature it is otherwise; for a house, church, or tower, resting on an immovable foundation, but being not sufficiently firm or strong in itself, finally decays, yea falls to the ground; but here it stands so that no opposing agencies, not even the devil himself, can prevail against it, which is evident from these words: “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

In or under the gates councils were wont to be held; and the gates were the strength and power of the cities. Compare Zech. 8:16 with Ps. 147:13. Hence, by the words, “The gates of hell,” etc., we are to understand the council and power of the hellish fiend. Yet, according to the last mentioned place of Scripture, these shall not prevail against the church of Christ; and, consequently, no other opposing agencies; for these are the most powerful and worst enemies.

We pass on to other Scripture testimony written for the same purpose. Matt. 28:20: “And, lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the consummation of the ages.” Nearly all translators, in order to follow therein the Dutch way of speaking, render the last words of this sentence: “unto the end of the world.” But we have, for good reasons, preserved the Greek mode of expression, inasmuch as it serves better and more clearly to the end we have in view. For we have found that, after the common translation, the words, “unto the end of the world,” have been misinterpreted, and stretched beyond their meaning, by some inexperienced persons, so that these expound that which has been spoken of the consummation of time, as referring to the end of locality; even as though Christ had not here promised his apostles, to remain with them till all time should have come to an end; but only until, for the promulgation of the Gospel, they should have traveled unto the uttermost parts of the earth, which, because it is not possible to travel farther by land, are called the end of the world.

This is a great error, for, according to his explanation, this promise would have belonged to the apostles alone, and been limited by their life time, since they traveled everywhere to preach, so that their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. Compare Mark 16:20 with Rom. 10:18.

But, in order that all true followers of Christ and his apostles, to the end of time, might comfort themselves with this promise, the Lord has expressly spoken of the consummation of the ages, and declared that so long (understand: spiritually) he will be with them.

We arrive now at the point we had in view from the beginning, and which we shall now present more plainly and fully. It is certain that the Lord has spoken here of the preaching of the holy Gospel, of faith, of baptism, and of the manner of establishing and building up his church, as it was his will that the same should be built up and maintained through all ages. After saying this, he gave the before mentioned promise.

It is settled, therefore, that the visible church of Jesus Christ (for this is the one in whom the preaching of the holy Gospel, faith, baptism, and whatever there is more besides, have place) shall exist through all time, even unto the consummation of the ages; for, otherwise, the promise, “Lo, I am with you all the days,” etc., can not be fulfilled in her.

Even as, besides preaching and faith, baptism shall continue in the church to the end of time, so also the holy supper. This appears from the words of Paul, 1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew forth the Lord’s death till he come.”

Thus, if mention is made here of the eating of the bread, the drinking of the cup, and the shewing forth of the Lord’s death, with the additional clause that this shall be observed, and continue, till the Lord come (that is, in the end of time, to judge the world), it follows: that there will be, throughout all ages to the end of the world, a church which will observe the external ordinances of Christ not only in respect to holy baptism, but also to the holy supper, and the shewing forth of the Lord’s death; unless it can be shown that the words, “till he come,” have another signification, such as we have never yet met with in any commentator, since the text is not only too clear, but also too conclusive. Compare this with Matt. 25:31; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 14; Rev. 1:7; 22:12,20.


1685 second Dutch edition containing 104 etchings by Jan Luiken (1649-1712).


The famous and very rare (when complete with its remarkable frontispiece) 1748 German edition printed by the Ephrata community in Pennsylvania.


Title page of the first English edition, translated from the German by Israel Daniel Rupp, and printed for David Miller by Carpenter M’Cleery at the ‘Union Office’ press in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1837. From the Via-Hygeia archives and library.


Full 1837 edition

available online here


Israel Daniel Rupp.



Extract from ‘The Complex Legacy of the ‘Martyrs’ Mirror’

among Mennonites in North America‘,
by John D. Roth:

‘…Finally, ‘right remembering‘ means that we tell the martyr stories as a confession. Confession in the Christian tradition has two quite distinct meanings. The first, as in a ‘confession of faith‘, recognizes that Christians who suffer and die for their faith ‘bear witness‘ to —that is, they testify to, or confess—the Lordship of Christ. Through their lives, their verbal witness, their perseverance, and their courage, martyrs point us to Christ—not just to the suffering that Christ endured, but also, and more importantly, to the resurrection and the fundamental truth that life is more powerful than death. When Christians remember rightly, they celebrate the confession of faith embodied in the witness of the martyrs and they confess their own desire to live in ways that are consistent with these truths.

But in a more complicated way, ‘right remembering‘ should also remind us of a second meaning of confession—namely, an open acknowledgement of the church’s limitations, distortions, and failures, even in the very stories of the martyrs whose actions it regards as exemplary. Many Christian martyrs, on closer examination, are revealed to be deeply flawed people. Though many seem to have absolute clarity at the moment of their demise, in the time leading up to their deaths they are often—like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane—filled with deep doubts and uncertainties. And frequently, the circumstances surrounding their deaths prove to be more complex than they appear at first glance.


‘…Remembering the martyrs as confession begins with a recognition of God’s deep love for the world, even amid the ugliness of human frailty and sin. Telling the stories as confession is to gather all the shards and splinters of our broken lives—both of the martyrs and the oppressors—and then to be attentive to the trace left behind when we enter into the mess of chaos, looking for signs of a new creation. Thinking of the martyr stories as confession means that we will resist using them to explain or defend or argue for anything. The witness they offer is essentially noncoercive: it does not impose anything that makes God, or the church, or God’s world, look better or seem better. Their stories simply reveal what is already implicit in every detail of creation—a beauty of holiness that has been there all along.’

(John D. Roth is a professor of history at Goshen College and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism. A version of this essay was presented at Goshen College and Bluffton University as part of the 2013 C. Henry Smith Peace Lecture.)


Mennonite Quarterly Review‘ N:87 (July 2013)

Full article



More about Tieleman van Braght: 🌿 Text source:
Thieleman van Braght-A Selection From The “Martyrs’ Mirror or The Bloody Theater”

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