From Here to Forever


Chapter 13—The Netherlands and Scandinavia

In the Netherlands the papal tyranny very early called forth protest. Seven hundred years before Luther, the Roman pontiff was fearlessly impeached by two bishops, who, having been sent on an embassy to Rome, had learned the true character of the “holy see”: “You set up yourself in the temple of God; instead of pastor, you are become a wolf to the sheep. ... Whereas you ought to be a servant of servants, as you call yourself, you endeavor to become a lord of lords. ... You bring the commands of God into contempt.”1 HF 149.1

Others arose from century to century to echo this protest. The Waldensian Bible they translated in verse into the Dutch language. They declared “that there was great advantage in it; no jests, no fables, no trifles, no deceits, but the words of truth.” Thus wrote the friends of the ancient faith, in the twelfth century.2 HF 149.2

Now began the Romish persecutions; but the believers continued to multiply, declaring that the Bible is the only infallible authority in religion and that “no man should be coerced to believe, but should be won by preaching.”3 HF 149.3

The teachings of Luther found in the Netherlands earnest and faithful men to preach the gospel. Menno Simons, educated a Roman Catholic and ordained to the priesthood, was wholly ignorant of the Bible and would not read it for fear of heresy. In dissipation he endeavored to silence the voice of conscience, but without avail. After a time he was led to the study of the New Testament; this, with Luther's writings, caused him to accept the reformed faith. HF 149.4

He soon after witnessed a man put to death for having been rebaptized. This led him to study the Bible in regard to infant baptism. He saw that repentance and faith are required as the condition of baptism. HF 150.1

Menno withdrew from the Roman Church and devoted his life to teaching the truths which he had received. In both Germany and the Netherlands a class of fanatics had risen, outraging order and decency, and proceeding to insurrection. Menno strenuously opposed the erroneous teachings and wild schemes of the fanatics. For twenty-five years he traversed the Netherlands and northern Germany, exerting a widespread influence, exemplifying in his own life the precepts which he taught. He was a man of integrity, humble and gentle, sincere and earnest. Great numbers were converted under his labors. HF 150.2

In Germany Charles V had banned the Reformation, but the princes stood as a barrier against his tyranny. In the Netherlands his power was greater. Persecuting edicts followed in quick succession. To read the Bible, to hear or preach it, to pray to God in secret, to refrain from bowing to an image, to sing a psalm was punishable with death. Thousands perished under Charles and Philip II. HF 150.3

At one time a whole family was brought before the inquisitors, charged with remaining away from mass and worshiping at home. The youngest son answered: “We fall on our knees, and pray that God may enlighten our minds and pardon our sins; we pray for our sovereign, that his reign may be prosperous and his life happy; we pray for our magistrates, that God may preserve them.” The father and one of his sons were condemned to the stake.4 HF 150.4

Not only men but women and maidens displayed unflinching courage. “Wives would take their stand by their husband's stake, and while he was enduring the fire they would whisper words of solace, or sing psalms to cheer him.” “Young maidens would lie down in their living grave as if they were entering into their chamber of nightly sleep; or go forth to the scaffold and the fire, dressed in their best apparel, as if they were going to their marriage.”5 HF 150.5

Persecution increased the number of witnesses for truth. Year after year the monarch urged on his cruel work, but in vain. William of Orange at last brought to Holland freedom to worship God. HF 151.1