30. The Formation of a Reformed Congregation in a Village: Naaldwijk 1572-1575

A. A Compendium and Brief Explanation of everything that has befallen, occurred and been undertaken by me, Willem van Hooff, as Castellan of the House and Castle at Honsholredijk, and as Steward of the Countess of Arenberg… at the same House during the Troubles of Holland in 1572 and 1573.

… shortly afterwards [i.e. after 19 July 1572] a Matthijs Jacobsz., carpenter at Naaldwijk, who had fled to Emden on account of the troubles of the past years2 …, appeared at the House at Honsholredijk. He requested consent and leave from me, as castellan and steward, for the opening of the said collegiate church in order to practice and to use there God’s Word and his Religion (as he said): the mass-priests (as he called them) had abandoned and deserted the said church and the community had to be served. Whereupon I replied that I had no commission to consent to what he was requesting and desiring, but that he must address his request to my mistress, the Countess of Arenberg, in her capacity as Lady of Naaldwijk and patron and collator of the said collegiate church and of the estates belonging thereto. Howbeit I also believed that the same, in my opinion (as I said), would neither consent nor allow any other religion than the old Catholic and Roman and permitted religion to be practised and used within her said church and manor … and that he therefore should not do, make or introduce any novelty at Naaldwijk before and until His Majesty and the authorities should have regulated and otherwise resolved and determined the issue of religion, the more so since the published edicts of the Prince of Orange prescribed and declared that everyone should be allowed to keep his property and religion without on that account being molested.3 At this the same Matthijs Jacobsz. left … satisfied.

But shortly afterwards, on 18 October 1572, he returned to the same House and Castle at Honsholredijk, attended and accompanied with yet another carpenter from Naaldwijk, called Peter Matthijs (both being strangers, being neither born nor related to Naaldwijk but having come through marriage). He too had been banished and had been a fugitive abroad on account of the first troubles.4 Together they persisted and stuck by the said request concerning the church and, what is more, also proposed and desired that I, in the said capacity, should release all such ecclesiastical incomes due to and belonging to the chapter of Naaldwijk, as well also as the ecclesiastical and spiritual property at Naaldwijk, in order thereby to maintain their minister, schoolmaster, grave-digger and sexton. [There follow other demands]. I desired to have the whole request delivered in writing and signed by the petitioners so that it might be sent to my Gracious Lady, the said Countess, my mistress for it was not in my power and faculty (as I expressly told them) to be able to agree to such. And after they had handed over the said document, which was sent to Her Grace in order to know her resolve and opinion, Her Grace replied that she was not permitted nor did she in any way agree, in accordance with her obligations, duty and due obedience to the old Catholic Religion and her service to His Royal Majesty, … to give effect or consent to the said alleged commission and request, and still less to permit any innovation or alteration in religious matters outside the old Catholic Church …

Notwithstanding the said reply, and even without waiting for it, the said two carpenters went to the sexton of the said church and fetched the keys to the said church (without his leave) from his house and opened the same church. They and their accomplices broke the images and altars of the said church, hacking and chopping them in pieces, burning quite indiscriminately the books from the library of the same church, for they not only burnt and destroyed books concerning the said Catholic religion, but also those which treated of the imperial written law, medicine, philosophy and other histories, which had nothing to do with religion. They also broke certain portraits and paintings of those who have been lords and ladies of Naaldwijk during the past two hundred and sixty-five years as well, also, of the deans during the same period, which were very fine ancient works. … They also conducted services in the same collegiate church after their way of doing, notwithstanding my protest and prohibition to the contrary …

On 18 November 1572 the aforesaid Matthijs Jacobsz. and Peter Matthijs, carpenters, presented a petition to the Prince [of Orange], in which they protested and declared that they, the petitioners, had received a commission and command from Dr. Pieter Dathenus, having a commission [from Orange],5 to appoint a godly and pious minister in Naaldwijk; item, to administer and to receive the spiritual properties, established and given for the upkeep of divine service, and to use and distribute the income deriving from these, as His Grace the Prince thought good and proper, and that they, having received the said commission, which has been appended to this, had kept watch on their magistrate and steward of the Countess of Arenberg, namely Willem van Hooff, in order with the agreement and consent, indeed with the help of the same their magistrate, to put in hand and to implement the same commission. But they, the petitioners, had not been able to induce the same steward to put this into effect, no matter what means they also used. And the same steward had always opposed their commission, holding it in contempt, thereby obstructing the upbuilding and reformation of their congregation in Naaldwijk in accordance with God’s Word. They therefore demanded that His Grace the Prince should compel their magistrate to the reckoning and conveyance of said annuities and income so that they might maintain a good and true minister and schoolmaster, for the honour of God and the common weal, and also feed the poor…

On the last day of January 1573 … there appeared before me at the said House … the said minister of Naaldwijk, accompanied by Matthijs Jacobsz. and Peter Matthijs, the said carpenters, and the same minister put it to me, in effect, that I should consider the salvation of my soul and also of those of the inhabitants … over whom I had been sufficiently charged and placed in authority, and how, on account of my absence and my staying away from the church and from the hearing of God’s Word, the chief men, magistrates and the community of Naaldwijk also did not appear in church and in the services, with the result that he could not build up God’s Word so fruitfully as otherwise he would have expected. If I came to church and to the services with my household and used the talent that the Almighty Lord had bestowed on me, as he said, and since he was the one who should take heed for the salvation of my soul and of the subjects, he therefore wanted me, indeed, to come to church and to the services. Whereupon I asked him who had agreed and appointed him as a judge and overseer of my conscience and who had given him the authority and order to take possession at Naaldwijk of the church and the office of preaching, seeing that Countess of Arenberg was Lady of Naaldwijk and patron and collator of the said church…

B. Register of the acts, history, origin, progress and upbuilding of the congregation of Naaldwijk reformed in accordance with God’s Word, after the first scattering of the Christians in 1567 had begun to draw to a close in these Low Countries. Its beginning was 9 August 1572.

On 1 April 1572 the Count vander Marck, lord of Lumey, entered the Maas with some ships and captured Den Briel in Holland. Immediately thereafter the Almighty and Wonderfully Wise God began to deliver his poor Christians from the tyrannical Spanish Inquisition and from the Kingdom of the Antichrist.

Shortly afterwards the Spaniards retreated from Holland with great dishonour and the towns of Holland everywhere received the aforesaid Count vander Marck, acting for the Prince of Orange as stadhouder of Holland, Zeeland, Westfriesland and Utrecht. They also began everywhere in Holland about this time to purge all the churches, religious houses and other foundations of all idols and to root out the papist superstitions and to preach the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ purely.

On 9 August 1572 the first public service took place in the church at Naaldwijk in conformity with God’s Word. And shortly afterwards, in the same month, the church at Naaldwijk was completely purged of all idols and all images made of wood and stone and their altars were cast down and destroyed. The brethren of Naaldwijk would have preferred to have carried this out with the agreement and consent, indeed also with the help of their magistrate, namely Willem van Hooff, castellan of the House of Honsholredijk, in accordance with God’s Word, but he (the same magistrate) violently opposed [this] and would on no account give his consent, declaring, ‘Remember that what you do you must sooner or later answer for’.

On 15 October 1572 Adam van Malsen, who had been a canon of Naaldwijk in popish times, forsook and abjured popery with all its idols in the public service and, having embraced the true religion with his wife, they married in the presence of the whole congregation and thereby placed themselves under the obedience of God’s Word.

On 25 November 1572 the minister, by name Thomas Gerardus Morus alias Dockum, with the brethren of the Reformed congregation of Naaldwijk chose, following the example of the Apostles in the first church (Acts 6), their elders and deacons from the same congregation. The elders are Matthijs Jacobsz. and Pieter Matthijsz. The deacons are Adam van Malsen, Philips Thomisz., Lambrecht Jansz., and Claes Huijgensz.

On 24 May 1573 the Holy Supper of Our Lord Jesus Christ was administered for the first time in the congregation at Naaldwijk and the same Supper was administered to these following persons after making confession of their faith and undergoing examination of themselves by the minister of Naaldwijk, who also has received the same. These are they who have been on the aforesaid day at the Holy Supper of our dear Lord Jesus Christ. [A list with thirty-eight names follows.]

On 25 September 1573 the Supper of Jesus Christ was held in the congregation at Naaldwijk for the second time and the congregation of God grew with these following persons, who also went to the Supper. [A list with nineteen names follows.]

On 13 September 1573 the brethren of the consistory of Naaldwijk resolved and ordained that henceforth whenever they were gathered together in the consistory a prayer shall be said before the business and after the business the thanksgiving shall be said.

It was also decided on the same day in the assembly that if there were still people living unmarried with others that the same shall be spoken to and admonished to permit themselves to be joined together in the congregation in accordance with God’s Word. And if they refused to be joined together and continued as before that the authorities should punish them according to the circumstances. Our magistrate, by name Matthijs Jacobsz., has consulted the consistory of Delft about the same, but he was given no other advice.

On 27 September 1573, following the decision taken by the consistory of Delft with our brethren, it was decided in our consistory that henceforth the bell shall, for the time being, not be rung at the burial of the dead in order to remove from men’s hearts the abominable superstition of the papists, who believe and teach that the ringing confers benefit on the dead.

On 23 May 1574 the brethren of the consistory of Naaldwijk ordained that henceforth if anyone shall present any children for baptism, the parents of the same children shall be obliged first to speak to the minister and allow the names of the children to be registered; children shall only be baptised on Sunday afternoon or during the week when there is usually a sermon.

On the same day the consistory also decided that any persons who desire to enter into the matrimonial state, if they have parents, or, in the event of their parents having died, if they have guardians, the same persons, each with their parents, guardians or friends, shall come to the minister before they make known their [betrothal] and show that it has taken place with the consent of their parents; marriages shall now take place on Sunday afternoon.

On 4 July 1574 Franciscus Franckenssen, the minister of the Word, and the brethren of the consistory with some other brethren of the congregation of Naaldwijk, having fled to Delft on account of the enemy’s invasion,6 held their consistorial meeting there. The maintenance of the poor and sick both in Delft and in Naaldwijk was discussed and it was decided and agreed that the aforesaid poor shall be maintained from the property of the Holy Spirit7 and that the baljuw, Matthijs Jacobsz., shall enter what he has lent in his accounts.

At the same time it was decided that the deacons shall go to the houses of the benevolent brethren of Naaldwijk then living in Delft once every two weeks for the maintenance of the poor and if that brought in too little, thereafter they shall go around once a week. The deacons shall diligently record everything they have received, from whom and how much and likewise also what they pay out to whom, how much and when, and to render an account every month before the consistory and the brethren.

On the same day the brethren also decided that the expenses incurred at the synod of Dordrecht, where Franciscus appeared with Matthijs Jacobsz. and lodged for about two weeks,8 shall be claimed against the manor of Naaldwijk because the same expenses were incurred for the common good of the entire community.

1575. After the scattering of the congregation which had occurred in 1574 [and] in which scattering many brethren died and after the relief of Leiden, the enemy withdrew from the surrounding region in the beginning of February. And after the second former minister died the usual preaching of God’s Word started again at Naaldwijk.

On 15 February 1575 a day of fasting and prayer was held to beseech the Lord for a godly peace; it was decided in the consistory that baptisms shall also take place on Sunday morning, if that were desired.

On the same day [13 March 1575] it was decided that everyone of the brethren, elders and deacons shall be required not to repeat what was transacted or discussed by them in the consistory nor to disclose the same to anyone, not even to their own wives, unless it be a matter of such a sort that it is expressly stated that it may be made known. All the elders and deacons with the minister gave a pledge on this.

Also the elders and deacons shall have their meetings together.

On 27 March [1575] a consistory was held and it was decided that the minister of the Word accompanied by an elder shall visit the houses of all the members on Wednesday next.

Item, that the examination of faith should take place in accordance with the ordinance of the synod, in the minister’s house in the presence of one or two elders, on Wednesday and Friday.

Sources: The extracts in source A. were taken from P.J. Goetschalkx ‘Invoering van de hervorming te Naaldwijk, Honsholredijk en ander plaatsen rond de stad Delft’, Bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van het bisdom Haarlem 27 (1903), 341-423. The extracts from source B were taken from the first consistory book for the Reformed Church at Naaldwijk in the Archief van de Nederlandse Hervormde Gemeente te Naaldwijk, 1, pp. 1-12.

1 Naaldwijk lies in the Westland of Holland, a little to the south of The Hague. These two sources permit us to follow the formation of a Reformed congregation in this village. The Catholic castellan, Willem van Hooff, prepared a detailed justification of his conduct during 1572-1573 for the absentee Lady of Naaldwijk, the Countess of Arenberg. His account is unsympathetic to the Calvinists, whom he regards as rebels and belittles as outsiders and social inferiors. The second source provides a different perspective being extracts taken from the first consistorial book of the Reformed church at Naaldwijk. Evidently the first entries were written up some time after the events they describe and the chronology of events cannot always be reconciled with the castellan’s statement.

2 Both Matthijs Jacobsz. and his companion Peter Matthijs had been active in the Calvinist movement in Naaldwijk in 1566-1567. In November 1572 they were chosen as the first elders of the Reformed congregation and in April 1573 William of Orange appointed Matthijs Jacobsz. to the office of baljuw and schout of Naaldwijk.

3 At the meeting of the States of Holland on 20 July 1572 Marnix van St. Aldegonde had declared on behalf of William of Orange that ‘there should be freedom of religion, for both the Reformed and Roman religion and that every individual should enjoy free exercise of the same in public … and no one shall suffer, let, hindrance or trouble on this account’.

4 ie. 1566-67.

5 William of Orange commissioned Pieter Dathenus on 30 August 1572 to ‘set [religious affairs] in good order and government’ in Holland and ordered all magistrates to lend him assistance.

6 During the second siege of Leiden, the Spanish troops occupied The Hague and the Westland (including Naaldwijk) from the end of May 1574 until early October that year.

7 The charitable institution created for the relief of the parochial poor was often called, as here, the Holy Spirit [heilige geest] and the overseers of the poor were therefore known as ‘masters of the Holy Spirit’.

8 The synod of Dordrecht opened on 15 June and ended on 28 June 1574.