From the Archives: The Schleitheim Confession
This broadside has never before appeared in print. It was found in a sixteenth-century file of materials collected by a contemporary who was convinced that the world was coming to an end and considered it his business to amass the clues of that end. This version was written very near the actual event; the same story, with some important differences, also appears over a hundred years later inMartyrs’ Mirror.
Miriam Usher Chrisman, Ph.D., who found and translated this broadside, is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Here I will sum up what I have just heard about two young women who were burned to death recently for the sake of the Gospel near Deventer in the Netherlands. They were and are two noble women and pious Christians, who had no weakness. And God did not forget them.
They lived in Delden and often went from there to hear preaching, placing their souls in safekeeping which displeased the devil. But God assisted them because they preferred God’s Word. May God be protected in all places. However, as God desired to take them together to his heavenly kingdom, he let the devil light up a fire in the world.
The young women were brought to Deventer. The stattholder, with his authority asked them about their beliefs. They replied that they believed in Christ’s teaching and in his holy Word which had been so clearly revealed. They were then dragged to Zwigkel on a pole to frighten pious Christians—a terrible, tyrannical act done by the House of Burgundy.
There they asked the young women whether they believed the teaching of the Anabaptists. They spoke without hesitation: “We were truly baptized once according to Christ’s teaching, as it is clearly explained in Mark 16. St. Paul is also clear on this point.” Then they were asked more and they gave clear answers as to whether the papal mass is a sacrament. “We do not believe in any human teaching,” they said. “We believe in Christ and in his Word. Our greatest treasure is his Testament which he instituted before his death; his precious body in the bread; his holy blood in the clear wine. For our sins and misdeeds he commanded us to eat and drink this in memory of him. True belief leads to the forgiveness of all our sins and we must also lead a just life, through good deeds, and do good to our neighbor as Christ did good to us.”
For such profession of faith the youngest, named Mary, was taken. While she was burned, she prayed God for her enemies in their need. As she died she commended her soul into the hands of the Father for the sake of Christ’s suffering.
The other young woman, named Ursula, asked if she would give up her belief to save her life. She answered, “Should I deny God’s work because of the pain of death? No, death is my greatest refuge. I would rather die here and inherit heaven.” Then she was sharply exhorted to plea for the sword instead of the fire and she spoke, very tenderly, “What my sister suffered, so will I suffer.” And she was prepared in the same way.
Now hear an amazing story of how God manifests himself in wonderful acts, as a sign of Christian glory. As fast as the executioner toiled, he could not burn the body of the maiden. Her body, though dead, remained straight upright, as a powerful symbol. During the night the body was covered from view.
Do not scorn such signs—you members of the Christian band. Be thankful and praise God with strong voices for His wonderful deeds which He has manifested and because He gave us the Holy Ghost as promised in His holy Word. Let us stand by His Word alone, endow us with a believing heart according to the promise given us through our Lord Jesus Christ, without whom there is no other helper. Your mercy is great, may we share in it at all times.
Copyright © 1984 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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