| || |
WORKS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
THE BURNING OF FRIAR HENRY IN DITHMARSCHEN
PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
Martin Luther, Preacher at Wittenberg, to all beloved and elect friends of God in Christ at Bremen.
Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Most dearly beloved in Christ: Having gathered from trustworthy and upright witnesses the true history of the martyrdom of your evangelist, the blessed Friar Henry, I was unwilling that it should remain hidden or be but imperfectly known. I have resolved to publish it, therefore, to the praise and glory of divine grace, which has in these days been so abundantly bestowed upon us condemned, lost, and unworthy sinners that we not only have, hear, and read the pure Word of God and see it rise, as the sun in his brightness, upon many lands, but also perceive and experience how the Spirit of God is confirming and establishing this Word with mighty and heroic deeds, as He has been wont to do from the beginning. Above all, He has given us brave and bold hearts, so that in many places both preachers and hearers are daily being added to the number of the saints, some shedding their blood, others being cast into prison, still others driven into exile, and all enduring the shame of the cross of Christ. Now hath appeared again the form of a true Christian life, terrible indeed with suffering and persecution in the world’s eyes, but precious and well pleasing in the sight of God; as it is said in the Psalter, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,” and again in Psalm 72:14, “Precious shall their blood be in His sight.”
Of these your Henry Zutphen doth verily outshine all, who endured so shameful a martyrdom in Dithmarschen for the sake of the Word of God, and mightily sealed the Gospel with his blood. Howbeit John and Henry of Brussels, the first martyrs of all, became likewise two bright and shining lights through their good death, being offered as a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. With them belong also Caspar Tauber burned at Vienna, and George the bookseller in Hungary. I have heard recently of still another who was burned at Prague in Bohemia for leaving his order of impure chastity and entering the divine estate of matrimony, the order of pure chastity. These and their like will drown in their blood the papacy with its god the devil; they will also preserve the Word of God in its truth and purity from the unclean profaners, the new false prophets, who are nowadays bestirring themselves and breaking forth everywhere. For it is certain that God is suffering them to die and pour out their blood in these days when divers heresies and schisms are arising, in order through them to admonish us and to bear witness that this doctrine, which they taught and kept and for which they shed their blood, is indeed the true doctrine and confers the true Spirit; even as aforetime the holy martyrs died for the sake of the Gospel and sealed and certified it unto us with their blood.
No such glory was ever obtained by those who have misled the world with their doctrines of works, human righteousness, and free will. For such doctrines the devil puts no one to death; he suffers their adherents gladly, nay he grants them great riches and the honor and power of this world, so that they are at peace and lead a pleasant life. Even though they died for those doctrines, they would be no martyrs of God, but their own and the devil’s martyrs. The very heathen have endured death for their temporal rights, goods, and honor; as St. Paul says, in Romans 5:7, that peradventure some one might die for a good thing (that is, for things the world counts good, such as riches, honor, and power), but for a righteous thing one will scarcely die. But to die for the Word of God and for faith, that is a precious, fine, and noble death, possible only to the Spirit and sons of God. To endure such a death is to die for the unrighteous and even for those who put us to death, and to intercede for them in dying; as Christ did according to Isaiah, “And made intercession for the transgressors.” Hence we read of no instance of a Christian dying for the doctrine of free will and of works, nor for anything else than the Word of God.
Forasmuch, then, as our merciful Lord has so graciously visited you at Bremen, and has drawn very near to you and given you through this same Henry so plain and tangible a demonstration of His Spirit and power, I have thought fit to write down for you and to publish the narrative of his sufferings, in order to admonish you in Christ not to mourn, nor to speak ill of his murderers, but rather to rejoice and to thank and praise God, who has made you meet to behold and possess these His wonders and gifts of grace. As for those murderers, they have already suffered retribution enough and more than enough, having so horribly stained their hands with innocent blood, and heaped up such great and terrible guilt in the sight of God, that there is far more reason to weep and lament for them than for the blessed Henry, and to pray that not they alone but the whole land of Dithmarschen may be converted and come to the knowledge of the truth.
This fruit of Henry’s martyrdom is the more confidently to be expected, since many in that land are already turning eagerly to the Gospel and regret this murder committed among them. For God, who permitted the blessed Henry to suffer in that place, verily intends not only to punish the ungodly, if they do not repent, but to turn this murder into a blessing to many in that land and to bring them thereby to eternal life. I pray you, in the name of God, to take a hearts interest in the dear folk at Dithmarschen, and to show them all friendly comfort and aid, so that they too may come over to our side. For I hear that many are incensed beyond measure at the monks for bringing this outrage upon their land. That is a good spark, kindled by God; it will surely spread into a fine flame, if you treat it with kind and gentle spirit, so that it be not quenched.
I commend to you your preacher, Jacob Propst, together with the other preachers, whom may God strengthen with you all, and grant you grace to hold fast the doctrine sealed with Henry’s blood, and to follow cheerfully, should God require it, in his footsteps. Amen.
All our brethren in Christ salute you. Pray for us. The grace of God be with you. Amen.
THE HISTORY OF FRIAR HENRY ZUTPHEN
In the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and two and twenty came Henry to Bremen, not intending to preach there, for he was on his way to Wittenberg, having been driven by the tyrants out of Antwerp for the Gospel’s sake. But being requested by certain good Christians to preach them a sermon, he consented out of Christian love, and delivered his first sermon on the Sunday next before St. Martin’s Day. When the people heard him and perceived that he taught the Word of God, the whole congregation of the parish earnestly besought and invited him to remain with them and declare to them the Word of God, which he was agreed to undertake for a season.
Now as soon as this became known to the so-called spirituals, namely, the canons with the monks and priests, they put forth every effort to suppress and cast out both him and the Word of God, for the sake of their greed, as is the custom in all lands. To this end they petitioned the honorable and wise council to expel that wicked heretic, forasmuch as his teaching and preaching were against the holy Christian Church. Upon which the honorable council summoned the trustees and elders of the parish in which Henry preached, and laid before them the accusation of the chapter and of all the clergy.
The trustees of the parish replied that to the best of their knowledge they had engaged a godly and learned preacher, who taught them the Word of God in its truth and purity. If, however, the chapter or anyone else, great or small, could bring proof that he had taught contrary to God’s Word or preached any other heresy, they would by no means suffer this nor retain him in office, but would assist the chapter in bringing him to book. If, on the other hand, the gentlemen of the chapter with the other clergy could fasten no charge upon him of having taught contrary to God’s Word, but were minded to displace him forcibly and without any fault on his part, they would by no means permit this to be done. They respectfully prayed the honorable council, therefore, not to expect them to take this action, but to leave them in the enjoyment of their legal rights; they, on their part, would see that their preacher conformed at all times to the law. This reply the honorable council communicated by messenger to the chapter. When the spirituals perceived that they could accomplish nothing with good words, they resorted to anger and threats, ran off forthwith to their bishop and notified him that the Bremers had turned heretics and refused obedience to their clergy, with many lamentations about the danger of the whole land being led astray.
Then the bishop dispatched two of his councilors to Bremen with orders that the monk be sent to him. On being questioned for what reason he was to be delivered up, they replied that he preached against Holy Church; asked to indicate in what articles, they had no answer. One of the councilors was the suffragan bishop of the preaching friars, who did his utmost to bring the monk into his power, fearing he might otherwise find himself without a job. The honorable council finally made them the following reply: Forasmuch as the preacher they had engaged had not been refuted from Holy Scripture, and no one was able to point out any article in which he preached error, they saw no way to induce their citizens to let him go; therefore they respectfully prayed their gracious lord bishop to send his foremost scholars to Bremen, to hold a disputation with their preacher. If the latter were found to be in error, they would impose on him a fitting punishment and expel him; but if not, they could not see their way to dismiss him. To this the suffragan replied, beseeching them earnestly, for the peace of the whole land, to deliver up the preacher to him, with many protestations that he sought only the salvation of their souls. But in vain; for the Bremers held to their original reply.
Thereupon the suffragan departed in high dudgeon from Bremen, and refused afterwards in the greatness of his anger to confirm the children of those heretics. On returning to his lord, he submitted to him the above reply together with what he had learned from the priests and monks. After this, when each day brought fresh tidings of how the preacher was daily delivering stronger and stronger sermons against the clergy, they changed their tactics and sent estimable men to warn the Bremers of the harm that would come upon their city through their preacher violating the decree of His Holiness the Pope and His Majesty the Emperor; they also made known that he was a prisoner of Lady Margaret’s, which was likely to bring heavy damages upon them, and they published threatening letters from Lady Margaret demanding his surrender. All to no avail; for to all of this the honorable council replied invariably, in writing and by word of mouth, in the most unobjectionable manner. Then the bishop and his crowd concocted another scheme to suppress the Word of God; they called a provincial synod, not at Bremen as is customary, but at Buxtehude, where they might be free to deal with Friar Henry as they pleased. To which synod they cited and summoned all the prelates and scholars in the whole bishopric, for the purpose of discussing matters of faith and practice.
To this synod the preacher also was cited, but with the difference that he was to be proceeded against as a heretic, notwithstanding he had not been convicted nor tried. The elders, therefore, with the whole parish refused to let their preacher attend; for the malice of the papists was apparent to all.
Friar Henry, however, drew up a summary of his preaching, that is, of the things he taught and believed, in brief articles, which he sent to the archbishop with a letter in which he showed his innocence and the correctness of his articles, and offered, if they could show from Scripture that he was in error, to give up and recant such error, only they must show it from Holy Scripture, for he was able to prove his teaching and preaching from Scripture.
This offer they rejected together with the articles, for he had no reply.
What decision they reached may be gathered, however, from the fact that immediately afterwards they ordered the bull of Pope Leo X and the imperial edict issued at Worms to be published and posted up.
Nevertheless, the good preacher continued his sermons without interruption, constantly declaring himself willing and ready to answer to everyone for his doctrine and preaching. Meanwhile the papists were not idle, but sent their chaplains everyday to his services, thinking to entangle him in his words. But God showed forth his marvelous works and brought certain of them to repentance, so that the greater part of the chaplains they sent acknowledged such doctrine and preaching to be the truth and from God, which no one could withstand, for they had never in their lives heard such doctrine from any man. Wherefore they ought to have ceased from their evil ways and from persecuting God’s Word and to have come to faith, that so they might be saved; but their wickedness had blinded them and hardened them like unto Pharaoh, so that they became only the more wicked, according to their deserts. And though they daily cried, “Heresy! heresy!” not one of all the monks has been able to this day to say a word against his preaching, no nor ever will be.
Now when Almighty God beheld the time approaching that the good Henry should bear witness with his blood to the truth he had proclaimed, He sent him into the midst of the murderers whom He had raised up for this purpose. For it came to pass, in the year four and twenty after Christ, that he was called by Pastor Nicolas Boye and other good Christians of the parish of Meldorf in Dithmarschen to proclaim to them the Word of God and deliver them from the jaws of Antichrist, who had there set up a mighty kingdom. Which call he accepted as from God and promised to come to them. On St. Catharine’s Eve he invited six good brethren and fellow citizens to his house, to whom he made known his call to Dithmarschen and his decision to go thither to see what God would accomplish through him; for he was in duty bound to preach the Word of God not only to them at Bremen, but to whosoever desired it. He prayed them to advise him how he might most readily proceed thither without the whole congregation knowing it and seeking to prevent him, which they would certainly have done. The good Christians besought him to remain with them, and to consider how little hold the Gospel had gained upon the populace, especially in the surrounding towns, and that the persecution was still strong; and to consider that he had been called by them to preach the Word of God. If the Dithmarschers desired a preacher, let him send them someone else; for they well knew what manner of folk the Dithmarschers were. Moreover, they told him, they could not let him depart without the consent of the entire parish.
Henry acknowledged that he had been called by them, but replied that they had enough pious and learned men to preach to them; the papists, moreover, were in large measure discredited, even women and children being able to see through and reject their foolishness; besides, they had had him for two years, while the Dithmarschers had no preacher at all; wherefore he could not with a good conscience refuse their request. As to their not being able to dismiss him without the knowledge and consent of the whole congregation, that carried no weight, for it was not his intention to leave them for good and all; his plan was to remain in Dithmarschen for only a short time, say one or two months, until he had laid a foundation by his personal presence and preaching, and then to return to Bremen. It was his desire and request, therefore, that after his departure they should make known to the congregation the call which had come to him and which he had not been able to decline, and that they should explain to them the reasons for his secret departure; for he must needs leave secretly on account of his enemies, who sought to harm him, lying in wait day and night, as they themselves knew, to put him out of the way. He assured them also that he would ere long be back among them again. With these words he convinced them, so that they suffered him to depart; for it was their hope that the Dithmarschers, who are oppressed above other people with idolatry, might come to a true knowledge of the Word of God.
Accordingly, on Monday of the first week in Advent, Henry set out through the midst of the diocese of Bremen on his way to Dithmarschen, and came to Meldorf, whither he had been called, and where he was received with great joy by the pastor of the parish and other good Christians. As soon as he arrived, and before he had preached a sermon, the devil with his members flew into a rage and stirred up in particular Augustine Torneborch, the prior of the Black Cloister (the monks of which are called Jacobins or preaching friars), who ran pell-mell to his comrade Master John Snicken, the vicar or commissioner of the official of Hamburg, with whom he consulted what had best be done to prevent their kingdom from falling.
They finally decided that they must before all else prevent him from preaching; for if he were to preach before the common people, their knavery would be exposed and the game would be up. For they were well aware of what had happened at Bremen. This decision having been reached, the prior of the preaching monks set out early next morning, having passed a poor night what with his great anxiety, and journeyed to Heide, — it was the Saturday before the Second Sunday in Advent, — and appeared before the eight and forty regents of the whole province, making bitter accusation and notifying them that the monk had come from Bremen with the purpose of leading the whole land of Dithmarschen astray, just as he had done in Bremen. The prior was supported by Master Gunther, the clerk of the province, and by Peter Nannen, both sworn enemies of the Word of God. The two of them most zealously abetted him, and represented to the remaining six and forty regents, who were unlearned and plain men, what a name they could make for themselves in all the Low Countries, and especially how they might earn the undying gratitude of the Bishop of Bremen, if they put this heretic monk to death. On hearing this the poor simpletons straightway passed a written resolution to kill him, a man they had not even laid eyes on, much less tried and convicted.
The prior, in short, obtained a letter or mandate from the eight and forty regents for the pastor of the parish, commanding him, under full penalty of the law, to expel the monk before ever he preached a sermon. Armed with this letter the prior set out post-haste for Meldorf, and delivered it to the good pastor during the night, hoping to prevent Henry from preaching; for he knew well enough how much was at stake. When the pastor read the letter or mandate, he was greatly astonished at its contents, because it was contrary to custom for the eight and forty to interfere in Church matters, since the right to manage its own affairs belonged to the whole congregation of the parish according to the ancient custom of the province.
Forever since its adoption by the whole province, it has been a standing rule that every parish has the right to appoint and dismiss its pastor or preacher of its own free choice.
The pastor apprised Friar Henry of the contents of the letter, and informed him also of the usage and custom of the province. To which Henry replied that, having been called by the whole parish to preach the Word of God, he would abide by this call so long as it was the pleasure of the whole congregation; for we must obey the Word of God rather than man. If God was minded to let him perish in Dithmarschen, it was no farther to heaven from there than from another place; he must in any case shed his blood at some time for the Word of God.
In this mood he mounted the pulpit on the following Sunday, and preached his first sermon, from the words of Paul in Romans 1, “God is my witness,” etc., and from the Gospel for the day. At the close of the service the whole parish was called together and the letter of the eight and forty regents, brought by the aforesaid prior, was read to them, in which they were ordered, under penalty of a thousand Rhenish gulden, to prevent the monk from preaching, as well as to send accredited delegates to Heide, where a session of the provincial council was to be held for disposal of an important matter.
On hearing this letter read they became exceedingly angry that such a mandate had been sent them altogether contrary to the custom of the province, according to which every parish had the right to elect as its preacher whomever it pleased; and they decided unanimously to retain and protect the good Henry as their preacher, having been profoundly stirred by the first sermon they had heard him preach. In the afternoon Henry preached again, from Paul’s words in Romans 15:1, “We then that are strong,” etc.
On the Monday following, the people of Meldorf sent two delegates to Heide, declaring themselves ready to argue their cause with anyone in the whole province and making known what Christian sermons they had heard Henry preach. In addition thereto, the pastor wrote a letter to the eight and forty regents, informing them that neither he nor Henry had any intention of fomenting trouble, but only of teaching the pure and uncorrupted Word of God, and offering to defend his cause and Friar Henry’s against all comers. He humbly prayed them not to trust the monks, who were seeking from hatred and greed to suppress the truth, nor to condemn the Word of God, but first of all to investigate the whole truth and to condemn no one unheard. If they were found to be in the wrong, they were ready to take their punishment.
This offer with the testimony was ignored and not answered. All talked, some saying one thing, others another. Finally Peter Detleves, one of the elders, took the floor. “Since there is great dissension in all lands,” said he, “in matters of faith, and since we as the most unlearned and ignorant are not able to settle such questions, it is our sincere opinion that the matter should be postponed until the coming council, which is to be called in the near future, as we have been informed by our clerk, Master Gunther.
Whatever our good friends and neighbors hold and believe at that time, we are willing to accept. But if, as it is claimed, the Word of God is not being taught clearly enough, and anyone is able to teach it more clearly and more purely, we have no intention of forbidding it, for we want no disturbance in our land. Everyone ought therefore to be patient and let the matter rest until next Eastertide; in the meantime it will perhaps be discovered what is right and what is wrong.” This solution pleased them all, and the delegates from Meldorf returned home and made their report with great joy to the assembled parish, hoping all would turn out well.
On the Day of St. Nicholas, Bishop, he preached two sermons; the first on the gospel, “A certain nobleman,” etc., the second from the text, “And they truly were many priests,” etc., with so much spirit that everyone marveled and prayed God earnestly to let them keep such a preacher a long time. On the Feast of the Conception of Mary he preached two sermons from the gospel, “The book of generation,” etc., setting forth the promises of Christ made to the fathers and the faith which they met, and showing how we too must be saved by such faith without any merit on our part. All this he set forth with so much spirit that everyone marveled and thanked God fervently for sending them such a preacher; for they now saw plainly how they had been duped by the monks and priests. They also besought him earnestly to tarry with them over Christmas and preach twice each day; for they were afraid he might be called elsewhere. Meanwhile the prior and Master John Snicken were not idle. For when the prior found his malice accomplishing nothing, he repaired with Doctor William of the preaching friars to Lunden to the grey monks, called barefoot friars or Minorites, in order to seek aid and counsel how to carry out his purpose; for those monks have great skill to deceive poor wights with their dissembling.
The grey friars at once summoned several of the regents, namely, Peter Nannen, Peter Swin, and Claus Roden, and showed them with great lamentation, as is their wont, how the heretic was preaching and misleading the people, a part of whom had become his adherents. Unless they saw to it and put the heretic to death, the worship of Mary together with the two holy convents would be overthrown. That was the “Scripture” with which they thought to destroy the heretic, and thus it came to pass. When the poor simpletons heard this they became angry, and Peter Swin declared that they had written to the pastor as well as to Henry how they were to conduct themselves; if necessary, they would write again. To this the prior replied, “Not so: you must go about it in a different way; for if you begin writing to the heretic he will reply, and as sure as you live you will be drawn into the same heresy before you know it; for when he begins to speak, it is impossible for anyone to withstand him.” Then they decided that he must be taken secretly by night and at once burned at the stake, before it became known to the people and before ever he could open his mouth. This plan pleased them all mightily, and none more than the grey monks.
To carry out the plan, Peter Nannen, a particular friend of the prior’s and willing to curry favor, took unto himself several leaders from other villages, with the aid and advice of Master Gunther. One should in fairness mention no names; but since fame is what they were out after, they ought not to be deprived of it. These are the names of the ringleaders: Peter Nannen, Peter Swin’s son, Henning of Lunden, John Holm, Lorenz Hannemann, Ludwig Hannemann, Bostel John Preen, Claus of Weslingburen, Brosi John of Wockenhausen, Marquard Kramer, of Benstedt, Ludecke John of Wessling, and Peter Grossvogt of Hemmingstedt. These leaders together with the others that were with them were ordered to the parish of Neuenkirchen, where they met at the house of Master Gunther, to consult how to capture the good Henry and prevent his speaking; for they had already passed sentence upon him that he should be burned.
They agreed to meet on the morrow after the Conception of Mary at Hemmingstedt, a half mile from Meldorf, and they strictly guarded the roads into Meldorf, so that no one might warn the people of that village. It was ordered that at nightfall, at the sound of the Ave Maria bell, the men of all the villages should assemble. In all there came together about five hundred peasants, When they were assembled, the purpose of the summons was announced to them; for no one but the leaders knew what was in the wind. When the common men heard what it was, they were minded to turn back and not commit so wicked a deed. But the leaders commanded them, on pain of life and goods, to proceed. They had also consumed three butts of Hamburg beer, which put them in fighting mood. So they came fully armed to Meldorf at midnight on the stroke of twelve.
The Jacobins or preaching friars provided them with lights and torches to see by, lest the good Henry should escape. They had also a traitor with them, Henning’s Hans by name, who told them everything. They broke into the parsonage and after the manner of drunken, senseless peasants, smashed everything within, cans, pots, clothing, cups; but whatever they found of silver or gold, they took along. They burst into the pastor’s bedroom, smiting and stabbing, and crying, “Kill him! kill him!” A part of them drove him naked into the muddy road, arrested him, and bade him come with them. The others cried, “Let him go! We have no orders to arrest him.” After wreaking their malice on the pastor, they burst in upon good Friar Henry, dragged him naked from his bed, beating and stabbing after the fashion of mad, drunken peasants, and tied his hands tightly behind his back. Thus they dragged and thrust him until even Peter Nannen was moved with pity, he that was so venomous a foe of the Word of God, and bade them let him walk unmolested, he would be sure to follow. They gave him in charge of Balke John as his leader, who did not so much lead as drag him along. When they had brought him to Hemmingstedt, they asked him how he had come into their province and what he wanted there. He answered them courteously and told them the truth, so that even they were moved and cried out, “Away with him! If we listened long to him, we should become heretics too.” He then begged them to set him on a horse, for he was weary and spent and his feet were very sore from having walked and been led, naked and barefoot, through the cold night and over icy roads. At this they broke out into mocking laughter and asked if they must needs keep a stable for the heretic; it was too bad, but he would have to go afoot. Thus they dragged him through the night as far as Heide, where they took him to the house of one Raldenes, and were about to make him fast with iron chains, when the householder took pity on him and would not permit this.
Upon his refusal to let them have their way they brought the good Henry to the house of a priest named Reimer Hotzeck, an underling of the official of Hamburg, where they locked him in the cellar and set the drunken peasants on guard, who had their sport with him till morning. Among others there came to him Simon the priest of Altenworden, and Christian the priest of Neuenkirchen, both most ignorant persecutors of God’s Word, who asked him why he had laid off the sacred habit. He answered them courteously from Scripture, but they understood not what he said.
Master Gunther also came to him, inquiring whether he wished to be sent to the bishop of Bremen or would rather take his punishment in Dithmarschen. Henry replied, “If I had taught or done anything unchristian you might indeed punish me for it; the will of God be done.” Upon this Master Gunther cried, “Listen to him, dear friends; he wants to die in Dithmarschen.” But the common folk with one accord gave themselves all night long to their guzzling. In the morning at eight a council was held in the marketplace, to deliberate what was to be done. The full peasants shouted, “Only burn him! On to the fire! Thus we shall gain today favor with God and man; for the longer we let him live, the more persons will he pervert with his heresy. Where is the good of long deliberation? He must die in any case.” In this manner the good Henry was condemned unheard to the stake.
Announcement was then made that all who had assisted in his capture were to march with their weapons to the fire. The grey or barefoot friars were on hand, encouraging the wretched creatures and saying, “Now you are going about the matter in the right way,” and urging on the poor, pitiable drunken folk. Then they took him and bound him, neck and feet and hands, and led him away with loud shouts to the fire. A woman standing in her doorway saw them pass and began to weep bitterly at the pitiable sight. To whom the good Henry said, “My dear woman, weep not for me.” When he was come to the place where the fire was prepared, he sat down upon the ground for utter weariness. Then came up the magistrate, Schosser Maes, bribed to take this part, as it is credibly reported, and condemned Friar Henry to the fire, pronouncing sentence in these words, — “This scoundrel has preached against the Mother of God and against the Christian faith; wherefore, on behalf of my gracious lord the Bishop of Bremen, I condemn him to the fire.” Friar Henry replied, “That I have not done; but as Thou wilt, O Lord!” and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Thy name alone is holy, O heavenly Father.”
Then a good Christian woman, Claus Jungen’s wife and sister to Peter Nannen, a resident of Meldorf, came forward and standing before the fire offered to go to the whipping post and let them wreak their anger upon her, and besides to give a thousand gulden, if they would put the man in ward again until the following Monday, when he might be tried before the court of the whole province and thereafter burned. When they heard that they went stark mad with fury, and struck the woman to the ground and trampled upon her. They rained blows upon the good martyr of Christ; one man drove his smallsword into his skull; but John Holm of Neuenkirchen beat him with a mace; the rest stabbed him in the sides, the back, the arms, wherever they could come at him, and not once, but as often as he attempted to speak.
Master Gunther incited and urged on the crowd, saying, “Go to, my fine fellows! this is God’s work!” Presently the aforesaid Master Gunther brought up an ignorant grey friar to shrive him. To whom said the martyr of Christ, “My brother, have I ever offended thee in any way or provoked thee to anger?” “Why, no!” replied the monk. “Then,” said good Friar Henry, “what sin should I confess to thee that thou shouldest forgive me?”
The grey monk was covered with confusion and withdrew.
Now the fire would not burn, how often soever they kindled it. Meanwhile they wreaked their fury upon him, beating him with halberds and pikes.
This they did by the space of about two hours, during which time he stood before the peasants naked but for his shirt, with eyes lifted to heaven. At last they brought a long ladder, to which they bound him very tight, in order to cast him into the fire. Then began the good martyr of Christ to recite the Creed, but one of them struck him on the mouth with his fist, bidding him burn first, after which he might recite whatever he pleased.
Another stood with one foot upon his breast and bound him about the neck to a rung of the ladder, so firmly that the blood gushed from his mouth and nose; his purpose was to strangle him, for he perceived that for all his many wounds he could not die.
Thereupon they raised him up together with the ladder. One of them set his halberd against the ladder to assist in raising it; for the province has no hangman. The halberd glanced off and pierced the holy martyr of Christ through the midst. Thus they cast the good man with the ladder upon the wood. But the ladder fell to one side. John Holm then ran forward, took his mace, and beat it upon his breast until he died and never stirred more.
Thus they roasted him upon the coals, for the wood refused to burn.
That is in brief the true history of the suffering of the holy martyr Henry of Zutphen.
GOTO NEXT CHAPTER - LUTHER'S WORKS INDEX & SEARCH