39. The Reformed Churches despised in Brussels

Daniel de Dieu to the London Dutch Stranger Church, 9 August 1582

Honourable brethren, since an opportunity has arisen to write to England, I have not wanted to delay greeting all the brethren any longer … As for the state of our oppressed fatherland, we may well compare it, as the prophet Isaiah (ch. 1) [vv. 5-6] does his Jewish people, to a wretched man, whose whole head is sick and his whole heart has grown weary and in whom nothing wholesome can be found; from the soles of his feet to his head there are only wounds, stiffness and ulcers, which can neither be closed, bound up nor soothed with oil. For the Lord does lay aside His wrath, but His hand remains stretched forth and the land is still filled with idolatry, injustice, treachery and every kind of infamy. God’s Holy Word is received by few and read by fewer still. Everywhere you find multitudes of atheists and libertines, some of whom openly scoff at Religion1 and call it a fable and invention, saying that it is nothing more than a matter of policy, devised by crafty and cunning rulers to keep simple folk in fear and obedience. These therefore regard those who do and suffer so much for the sake of Religion as mad. Others who wish to conceal their contempt for God say that such a variety of contending beliefs have arisen in our fatherland that they neither know which is true nor what they should believe. Some set their cap to the wind and outwardly conform with all sorts of Religion. Others extol the peace and prosperity of everything under popery and make out that God’s Word is the cause of all this misfortune and strife. It is therefore not surprising that the wrath of God is still kindled against the country. We on the other side too, who should have been all the more godly as the world grows more godless, have by our sins also increased the fire. Instead of bringing water, we together carry oil to it so that it burns more fiercely than ever. For this reason we see that the Lord gives advancement to the enemy and sets us back. He makes his horses sturdy and his soldiers strong and bold and by contrast He makes ours fearful and timid.

Thus God has also allowed our fellow brethren at Lier to be treacherously surprised and wretchedly treated.2 Some of these escaped naked and many others, having no money to buy their ransom, were miserably murdered, among whom one of the ministers, a virtuous god-fearing man (by name Jan Schijve: he had earlier served at Mechelen) was according to reports most cruelly put to death. The chief men and leaders of the country are not exempt from all sorts of assaults on their person, as was quite recently planned and about which you will have certainly heard.3 What then should anyone think? Shall we allow ourselves to become discouraged and bereft of all comfort? Our answer is no, certainly not. For we know that, although we shall have tribulation in the world (John ch. 16), we nevertheless have peace in Christ. Recently we had here a great mutiny of our garrison; they seized the court, grievously threatened the burghers and forcibly removed some officers, both from the magistracy and from the council of war, from their houses. Whereupon some burghers, both papists and others, were given arms to protect the market, the town-hall and magistrates from any insolence, though not to fight the soldiers, for that would have been the height of folly. Nevertheless the situation was as a result far worse because the servants of the Mass and malcontented spirits strove thereby to incite the soldiers against us by spreading many slanders and threats so that it seemed as though the soldiers and our people would have fallen on one another with their swords. But the affair has been settled and completed made up so that the pro-Spanish party have not yet achieved their boast. Soon afterwards we were warned from all sides that the enemy was coming to besiege us and great preparations were laid, but this cloud also seems to have passed over. Our mass-enticers have now been pressing the Duke [of Anjou] for several months on end to be allowed to take possession of the church on the Koudenberg close by the court (which is used by the Walloon congregation) and openly to celebrate mass. But so far they have failed and only time will tell what they shall obtain hereafter once the Duke comes. God will meanwhile keep away all idolatrous services from us. Brussels, 9 August 1582.

Source : Ecclesiae Londino-Batavorum Archivum , ed. J.H. Hessels vol. III part i (Cambridge, 1897) 679-81.

1 Although De Dieu writes of ‘de Religie’, which usually would mean ‘the Religion’ i.e. the Reformed Religion, he seems here to employ the term in its widest sense.
2 William Semple, a Scottish captain, in the service of the States betrayed Lier to Farnese on 2 August 1582. The Walloon troops sacked the town.
3 On 18 March 1582 Jean Jaureguy made an attempt on William of Orange’s life in Antwerp.