Saturday I posted excerpts from an article by Menno Simons. He mentions several times in this article that his life was in danger. The danger was very real, there was a price on his head for teaching contrary to the official state church. In 1542, Emperor Charles V upped the reward for Menno’s capture to 100 gold guilders. Nevertheless Menno continued to go from place to place in Holland, preaching the gospel, baptizing converts, strengthening the congregations. This all had to be done in secrecy, because of the danger. In 1543 Menno moved his family to northwest Germany, where the local nobility were less antagonistic. He died there in 1561. Here are two examples of the dangers he faced, taken from his own writings.
“About the year 1539, a householder who was a very pious man, named Tjaert Reynerdson, was seized in my stead, because out of compassion and love he had received me in his house secretly. He was a few days later put on the wheel after a free confession of faith, as a valiant knight of Christ, after the example of his Lord, although even his enemies testified that he was a pious man without reproach.” (The wheel, or rack, was a medieval form of torture.)
“Also, in 1546, at a place where they boast of the Word, a four room house was confiscated, because the owner had rented one of the rooms, unknown to anybody, to my poor sick wife and her children.”
Peter Janz Twisck, whose wife was a grand-daughter of Menno Simons, gave the following accounts:
“Menno Simons’ daughter in our presence related the following incident: A man who attended the meetings of the brethren agreed that he would betray him to the authorities for a certain sum of money. He pledged himself that he would deliver Menno into their hands or would forfeit his life. However, this he could not accomplish, for whenever he watched for him in the places where the meetings were to be held, Menno escaped through the providence of God. And at one time when this traitor, accompanied by an officer, undertook to find and apprehend him, Menno unexpectedly passed before them in a small boat on the canal, but the traitor kept silent until Menno had passed them some distance and had leaped ashore on the other side. Then the traitor said: ‘Behold, the bird has escaped.’ The officer was enraged and demanded why he did not speak in time, to which the traitor replied: ‘I could not speak, for my tongue was bound.’ The magistrates were angry and the betrayer had to give his head because he let Menno escape.”
“From a reliable source I have heard that Menno at Eenighenburg, a village in North Holland, at one time went into a church after the priest had completed the services for that day, and with great boldness, readiness of speech and learning he conversed with him in Latin about various Papistic superstitions. The priest was greatly surprised and after he had resigned his office, he related at length his conversation with Menno. Not infrequently Menno conversed with priests. A certain cloister he entered without disclosing his identity and spoke to the prior with great boldness, admonishing him earnestly and pointing out their great errors. Although a decree containing his name, description of his clothing, person, etc., was nailed to the church doors, with the promise of hundred or a few hundred guilders to any one who would cause his arrest, yet God preserved him from all the designs and cunning devices of the persecutors.”