The Lord's Intervention in the Founding of the Dutch Nation
We were in Amsterdam in 2011 on a family vacation. As we toured around, I felt “apprehended” by the Lord that there was a story here. Gazing on the sights, it became obvious that these people had been very wealthy in the 1600’s. And as it turns out they were the number One country in those times - the Dutch Golden Age. They ruled. As the wondering continued, some online research was done and an online book was found, called,
“ THE WONDERS OF THE MOST HIGH (A 125 YEAR HISTORY OF THE UNITED NETHERLANDS 1550-1675)
Indication of the causes, ways and means whereby the United Provinces, against the expectation of the whole world, were elevated in such a marvelous way from their previous oppression to such great, awe inspiring riches and acclaim.
Reading the stories in the book are so similar to the accounts we read in the Old Testament. This little writing will try to summarize the highlights of this information. There will be direct quotes, paraphrasing, referencing and personal learnings.. The book is available on-line at http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/wonders.htm, if you would like to read more from the source document.
The basic conflict is the moving of the people of faith from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism. Remembering that Protestantism is Protestatio (The word Protestant was coined in 1529 to denote those German princes and reformed cities that lodged a protestatio (protestation) at the Diet of Speyer (1529) after the repudiation of toleration in Catholic areas of the Holy Roman Empire.) There is much more to His Story in these events and hopefully it can be researched and reported on in the future.
The Lord intervenes in the hearts of the people and when they decide to move on with Him, there are rulers who feel their way of life is threatened. For example the Roman Empire. If Christianity had been allowed to continue the Roman Empire’s existence would be threatened, so the Emperors persecuted the Church and inadvertently caused it to grow. In the 1500’s the Reformation consumed Europe and every country had a war between the new “move of God” and the old. And the old did not give up easily, as armies were mobilized to eradicate this “new religion”. The Lord gave the revelations that caused the hearts of the people to be stirred and were willing to lose their lives to stand for this new truth. He started the Reformation and now He had to intervene in the affairs of men to ensure the rulers of the day would not snuff out His work. All through His Story, for the poeple to follow the Lord they have had to give up their way of life and sometimes even their lives. This is what happened in the United Netherlands.
The Netherlands in its entirety is often referred to by the much older designation "Holland" (meaning holt land, or wood land), though this refers only to North and South Holland, two of the nation's twelve provinces. From Wikiledia. A Dutch friend I worked with corrected me when I referred to the nation of Holland. The nation is Netherlands and 2 of the twelve provinces are North and South Holland.
Back to His Story; How did this small land become the leading nation of the 17th century (ie. the 1600’s). In the 16th century (latter half of 1500’s) they were the lowest of the low of the European nations. How did they go from “being the tail to being the head”.
From Wikipedia - In October 1555, Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire began the gradual abdication of his several crowns. His son Philip II took over as sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands,
which at the time was a personal union of seventeen provinces with little in common beyond their sovereign and a constitutional framework.
When Philip left for Spain in 1559 political tension was increased by religious policies. Not having the liberal-mindedness of his father Charles V, Philip was a fervent enemy of the Protestant movements of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the Anabaptists. Charles had outlawed heresy in special placards that made it a capital offence, to be prosecuted by a Dutch version of the Inquisition,
The atmosphere in the Netherlands was tense due to the rebellion, preaching of Calvinist leaders, hunger after the bad harvest of 1565, and economic difficulties due to the Northern Seven Years' War. Early August 1566, a monastery church at Steenvoorde in Flanders (now in Northern France) was sacked by a mob led by the preacher Sebastian Matte. This incident was followed by similar riots elsewhere in Flanders, and before long the Netherlands had become the scene of the Beeldenstorm, a riotous iconoclastic movement by Calvinists, who stormed churches and other religious buildings to desecrate and destroy church art and all kinds of decorative fittings over most of the country. The number of actual image-breakers appears to have been relatively small and the exact backgrounds of the movement are debated, but in general, local authorities did not step in to rein in the vandalism. The actions of the iconoclasts drove the nobility into two camps, with Orange and other grandees opposing the movement and others, notably Henry of Brederode, supporting it. Even before he answered the petition by the nobles, Philip had lost control in the troublesome Netherlands. He saw no other option than to send an army to suppress the rebellion. On 22 August 1567, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, marched into Brussels at the head of 10,000 troops.
Print of the destruction in the Church of Our Lady in Antwerp, the "signature event" of the Beeldenstorm, August 20, 1566, by Frans Hogenberg
Iconoclasm: The organised destruction of Catholic images swept through Netherlands churches in 1566.
Alba took harsh measures and rapidly established a special court (Raad van Beroerten or Council of Troubles) to judge anyone who opposed the King. Alba considered himself the direct representative of Philip in the Netherlands and frequently bypassed Margaret of Parma and made use of her to lure back some of the fugitive nobles, notably the counts of Egmont and Horne, causing her to resign office in September 1567. Egmont and Horne were arrested for high treason, condemned, and a year later decapitated on the Grand Place in Brussels. Egmont and Horne had been Catholic nobles, loyal to the King of Spain until their deaths. The reason for their execution was that Alba considered they had been treasonous to the king in their tolerance to Protestantism. Their executions, ordered by a Spanish noble, provoked outrage. More than one thousand people were executed in the following months.The large number of executions led the court to be nicknamed the "Blood Court" in the Netherlands, and Alba to be called the "Iron Duke". Rather than pacifying the Netherlands, these measures helped to fuel the unrest.
William I of Orange was stadtholder of the provinces Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, and Burgrave of Antwerp; and the most influential noble in the States General who had signed the petition. After the arrival of Alba, to avoid arrest, as had happened to Egmont and Horne, he fled to the lands ruled by his wife's father — the Count-Elector of Saxony. All his lands and titles in the Netherlands were forfeited to the Spanish King.
In 1568, William returned to try to drive the highly unpopular Duke of Alba from Brussels. William's nominal purpose was to remove misguided ministers like Alba, end rebellion, and thus restore the proper authority of King Phillip. This view is reflected in today's Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus, in which the last lines of the first stanza read: den koning van Hispanje heb ik altijd geëerd (I have always honoured the King of Spain). In pamphlets and in his letters to allies in the Netherlands William also called attention to the right of subjects to renounce their oaths of obedience if the sovereign would not respect their privileges. William's forces moved into the Netherlands from four directions. Armies led by his brothers invaded from Germany while French Huguenots invaded from the south. The Spanish had won the Battle of Rheindalen near Roermond on 23 April 1568, but the Battle of Heiligerlee, fought on 23 May 1568, is commonly regarded as the beginning of the Eighty Years' War, and it was a victory for the rebel army. But the campaign ended in failure as William ran out of money and his own army disintegrated, while those of his allies were destroyed by the Duke of Alba. William remained at large and, as the only grandee still able to offer resistance, was from then on seen as the leader of the rebellion.
The above gives some of the background to the beginning of the Dutch Revolt. Now, as it has happened in the past there are those who arise with the Spirit of the Lord to be Leaders. In this part of His Story, it is the House of Orange. William of Orange and his family are heroes in the revolution against Spain. As he and his 2 sons are mentioned numerous times in the “The Wonders of the Most High”, it is worthwhile learning about them.
From Wikipedia - “William was born on 24 April 1533 at Dillenburg castle then in the County of Nassau-Dillenburg, in the Holy Roman Empire (now in Hesse, Germany). The family was devout and William was raised a Lutheran.
In 1544, William's agnatic first cousin, René of Châlon, Prince of Orange, died childless. In his testament, René of Chalon named William the heir to all his estates and titles, including that of Prince of Orange, on the condition that he receive a Roman Catholic education. William's father acquiesced to this condition on behalf of his 11-year-old son, and this was the founding of the house of Orange-Nassau. Besides the principality of Orange (located today in France) and significant lands in Germany, William also inherited vast estates in the Low Countries (present-day Netherlands and Belgium) from his cousin. Because of his young age, Emperor Charles V, who was the overlord of most of these estates, served as regent until William was old enough to rule them himself.
William was sent to the Netherlands to receive the required Roman Catholic education, first at the family's estate in Breda and later in Brussels, under the supervision of Mary of Habsburg (Mary of Hungary), a sister of Charles V and governor of the Habsburg Netherlands (Seventeen Provinces). In Brussels, he was taught foreign languages and received a military and diplomatic education under the direction of Champagney (Jérôme Perrenot), brother of Granvelle.
Being a ward of Charles V and having received his education under the tutelage of the Emperor's sister, William came under the particular attention of the imperial family, and became a favorite. He was appointed captain in the cavalry in 1551 and received rapid promotion thereafter, becoming commander of one of the Emperor's armies at the age of 22. This was in 1555, when Charles V sent him to Bayonne with an army to take the city in a siege from the French. William was also made a member of the Raad van State, the highest political advisory council in the Netherlands. It was in November of the same year (1555) that the gout-afflicted Emperor Charles V leaned on William's shoulder during the ceremony when he abdicated his Spanish possessions in favour of his son, Philip II of Spain.
In 1559, Phillip appointed William stadtholder (governor) of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, thereby greatly increasing his political power.
There are several explanations for the origin of the style, "William the Silent" (Dutch: Willem de Zwijger). The most common one relates to his prudence in regard to a conversation with the king of France.
One day, during a stag-hunt in the Bois de Vincennes, Henry, finding himself alone with the Prince, began to speak of the great number of Protestant sectaries who, during the late war, had increased so much in his kingdom to his great sorrow. His conscience, said the King, would not be easy nor his realm secure until he could see it purged of the "accursed vermin," who would one day overthrow his government, under the cover of religion, if they were allowed to get the upper hand. This was the more to be feared since some of the chief men in the kingdom, and even some princes of the blood, were on their side. But he hoped by the grace of God and the good understanding that he had with his new son, the King of Spain, that he would soon get the better of them. The King talked on thus to Orange in the full conviction that he was aware of the secret agreement recently made with the Duke of Alba for the extirpation of heresy. But the Prince, subtle and adroit as he was, answered the good King in such a way as to leave him still under the impression that he, the Prince, knew all about the scheme proposed by Alba; and on this understanding the King revealed all the details of the plan which had been arranged between the King of Spain and himself for the rooting out and rigorous punishment of the heretics, from the lowest to the highest rank, and in this service the Spanish troops were to be mainly employed.”
The Burgundian Catholic Balthasar Gérard (born 1557) was a subject and supporter of Philip II, and regarded William of Orange as a traitor to the king and to the Catholic religion. In 1581, when Gérard learned that Philip II had declared William an outlaw and promised a reward of 25,000 crowns for his assassination, he decided to travel to the Netherlands to kill William. He served in the army of the governor of Luxembourg, Peter Ernst I von Mansfeld-Vorderort, for two years, hoping to get close to William when the armies met. This never happened, and Gérard left the army in 1584. He went to the Duke of Parma to present his plans, but the Duke was unimpressed. In May 1584, he presented himself to William as a French nobleman, and gave him the seal of the Count of Mansfelt. This seal would allow forgeries of the messages of Mansfelt to be made. William sent Gérard back to France to pass the seal on to his French allies.
Gérard returned in July, having bought two wheel-lock pistols on his return journey. On 10 July, he made an appointment with William of Orange in his home in Delft, now known as the Prinsenhof. That day, William was having dinner with his guest Rombertus van Uylenburgh. After William left the dining room and walked downstairs, van Uylenburgh heard Gérard shoot William in the chest at close range. Gérard fled immediately.
According to official records, William's last words were:
Mon Dieu, ayez pitié de mon âme; mon Dieu, ayez pitié de ce pauvre peuple. (My God, have pity on my soul; my God, have pity on this poor people).
Maurice of Orange (14 November 1567 – 23 April 1625) was stadtholder of all the provinces of the Dutch Republic except for Friesland from 1585 at earliest until his death in 1625. Before he became Prince of Orange upon the death of his eldest half-brother Philip William in 1618, he was known as Maurice of Nassau.
Maurice spent his youth in Dillenburg in Nassau, and studied in Heidelberg and Leiden. He succeeded his father William the Silent as stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland in 1585, and became stadtholder of Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel in 1590, and of Groningen in 1620. As Captain-General and Admiral of the Union, Maurice organised the Dutch rebellion against Spain into a coherent, successful revolt and won fame as a military strategist. Under his leadership and in cooperation with the Land's Advocate of Holland Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the Dutch States Army achieved many victories and drove the Spaniards out of the north and east of the Republic.
Frederick Henry, or Frederik Hendrik in Dutch (29 January 1584 – 14 March 1647), was the sovereign Prince of Orange and stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel from 1625 to 1647.
As the leading soldier in the Dutch wars against Spain, his main achievement was the successful Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch in 1629, It was the main Spanish base and a well-fortified city protected by an experienced Spanish garrison and by formidable water defenses. His strategy was the successful neutralization of the threat of inundation of the area around 's-Hertogenbosch and his capture of the Spanish storehouse at Wesel
The next quotes are from the Dutch book “ The Wonders of the Most High”.
“History is said to be His Story. If this is true of any nation it
is certainly true of the Netherlands. In particular of the times this
book was written. The following pages deal with the period (appr.)
1550-1675. It was written during the latter years of that period. The
original book appeared under the title, "De Wonderen des
The author, Rev. Abraham van de Velde was born in 1614 and died
in 1677, and was a witness of many of the things that happened during
It follows that the book was written well over three hundred
years ago about a period that began more than 400 years ago. It
deals with the time of the Reformation and 125 years following that
great event. The times were different, the people were different, but
the God they served is still the same. He is the One Who never
“This is what the fathers experienced in their great struggle
against Spain, which lasted for eighty years. They saw in these great
occurrences the hand of Almighty God. That is why the book was
written, that is why it was translated. It was written, that we, the
children, should remember the things "We have heard and known, and
our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from our children,
shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his
strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done" (Ps. 78: 3 and 4).
All this for the purpose, "That they might set their hope in God, and
not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" (verse 7).
Keep His commandments, at home, at Church, and in the nation.
In translating the book, again and again, I was struck by the
faith of these people. Theirs was a faith strong enough to face
death. As it was with William of Orange who made a "firm Covenant with
the Potentate of potentates", so it was with those who faced the
scaffold. The Word of the Lord was enough for them. It was so with
those that made war, whether on land or on the seas. They did not
waver. Not for a moment they doubted; they were fighting the Lord's
battles. That is why they were fearless. When, with a few ships, they
were confronted by a great fleet, they attacked, for they were
fighting the Lord's battles. There was no reason whatsoever to waver.
It had to be done, they went and did it. Not for a moment did they
think of what was in it for them, it was their duty.”
The subsequent words of Asaph in Psalm 78, are worthy of our
consideration: "I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark
sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have
told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the
generations to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and
his wonderful works that He hath done. That the generations to come
might know them, even the children which should be born; who should
arise and declare them to their children. That they might set their
hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his
History is the cord that connects us with our ancestors - the
beacon that points to the rock where at one time we ran aground and
suffered shipwreck - the light house that illuminates the safe
harbour to which we have directed all our hope. She is the teacher,
who declares the Word of God, and applies the first principles of His
ways. That is how it was understood by Asaph, that is how the
Fathers perceived it.”
“Our modern age, after kindling its so called new light, was aware
that it had to cut the cords of history prior to making a beginning with
the reformation of history. They were well aware that the deep
impression of God's name and image in history could not be removed from
the nations, unless God was deposed from history. That is why an
attempt was made to separate the school from the Church, for history is
the soul of the school; the Church wages in the school (which is its
vanguard), its first and often deciding battles. For a long time the
nation was not aware of this. The most precious was taken from us, and
we did not defend the truth.”
“Although it seems that the Lord forsakes them at times,
nevertheless, His bowels are troubled concerning them; wherefore in
their greatest need, the Lord renders them the most of His Fatherly
help and assistance. Their enemies to the contrary experience His
wrath and awful power, as we read in 1 Sam. 11: 2; 2 Kings 7, and Is.
37; also by what happened in the days of Queen Esther, as in so many
other instances, of which we read in Scripture. But when "The earth
mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is
like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits" (Is.
33: 9), then the Lord is wont to rise up and glorify Himself in
delivering His people through marvelous deeds.
Did any nation or country ever experience such gracious
wonderful works of the Lord; was any people ever taken through water
and through fire, by a high hand, above all expectation into an
abundant refreshing, as was our dear fatherland? We become aware of
this when we consider the deep misery, the physical and spiritual
slavery in which our Fathers were under Antichrist, and under Spanish
tyranny, to which they were subject; how they set the knife on our
throat, and we were esteemed as sheep for the slaughter, how
graciously, and marvelously, the Lord led us, and how He delivered us.
How He made our enemies the tail, and us the head, and how He
went before us, and His glory was our rear-guard. Never may we
forget what He did for us. For now, yes, at this time we have cause
to sing the hymn, and the praises of God's people:
Now Israel may say and that in truth,
If that the Lord had not our right maintained,
If that the Lord had not with us remained,
When cruel man against us rose to strive,
We surely had been swallowed up alive.
Yea, when their wrath against us fiercely rose,
The swelling tide had o'er us spread its wave;
The raging stream had then become our grave;
The surging flood, in proudly swelling roll,
Most surely then had overwhelmed our soul.
Psalm 124 st.1 and 2 from the Psalter Hymnal (No. 266).
Yes, our God has dealt with our fatherland in such a way, that
it seems He has chosen it among many nations to be an object of His
favor and marvelous deeds. And taking note of this, we cry out with
Moses the man of God, "O United Netherlands! Who is like unto Thee! O
people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the
sword of thy excellency" (Deut. 33: 29).
Again with King David, "And what one nation, is like the United
Netherlands, whom God went to redeem for a people unto Himself, and
to make Him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for
thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst from the most
horrible slavery, driving out from before them idolatrous popery, and
their gods" (2 Sam. 7: 23).
The Lord gave us such great and deciding victories, delivering
us from the power of the enemy by giving their armies, cities,
strongholds, fleets and ships into our hands, that the nations of the
world wondered greatly when it was told them. When there is any place
where the right hand of the Lord is highly exalted, or did great
deeds, it is in the delivery, rise and prosperity of our dear
That is what we want to show you in this Treatise, in order to
exalt the name of our God, that all of Zions children, and could it be,
even the coming generations would see the wonders of our God, and
awaken them to their beholden duty.”
The next quote brings to mind matters of today. When hearing the news today, one needs to be wary to seek out the truth. Because a matter is a written word, does not mean it is written in truth. Many are the reportings today that are written to promote a particular point of view. I have read and listened to stories from two different sources that are at a contradiction with each other. If you only listened to one, you would be deceived. The truth is out there - but many times you have to look for it. This warning from “Wonders of the Most High” comes from over 300 years ago.
We deem it necessary to tell you, and warn all good patriots and
lovers of the truth to be careful when reading and researching the
history of the fatherland, not to harm your souls but avoid such
books and pamphlets. More so because in these histories and
pamphlets, the most important matters are darkened, yes, taken out.
That is why we must read our Netherland history. For we must not
only read our history for curiosity's sake just to know what
happened; but in the first place we must learn to know the grace,
faithfulness and mercy of the Lord shown to the fathers, and in them
to us. Also His great might, the manifold wonders, which our God
wrought on our behalf, that we may use it to our advantage. For, as
we said before: as in previous ages no more dignified or wonderful
matters expired, than what happened to our nation, so we may say in
truth that the God of heaven in many ages has not shown His terrible
might and stretched out arm, in ready assistance and wonders, to make
a "drowning nation into a remnant, and those who were despised into a
mighty nation", as His Majesty did to this country and to this
“However, it is our intention to point out the results of this
war, how and why the Lord helped us, and His help was as wonderful
as it was merciful. For it seemed at the beginning of the war, and
certain times after, that the ship of the Republic was running
aground, unable to weather the storm and the waves of the Spanish
Ocean. But the Lord, in spite of that, during the first part of the
war, which was fought with the utmost violence, helped us in such a
way, that we were only not destroyed, but exhausted the riches of
the mightiest potentate of Christendom, the King of Spain, Philip III.
Exhausted him in such a way that his banks (financial establishments),
were insolvent up to three times, not able to pay the interest, until
finally he was pressed into requesting and promoting all means to
establish an armistice, which was granted after much difficulty and
the help of others, for the duration of twelve years (1609-1621). The
war which began in 1568, had lasted forty years.”
“Those who know but little about the history of these lands, are
not aware how miserable and helpless the nation was, how we were in
a pit of misery, when gallows, wheels, racks, stakes and trees were
loaded with beheaded, hanged, scorched and burned corpses; when the
earth was swollen as it were with those buried alive; when water and
fire were tired of tormenting the innocent, and the air was
contaminated by their corpses. When it was esteemed a blessing to be
able to leave the Fatherland and to flee; as Prince William says in
his 'Considerations' concerning the State of the Netherlands, published
in 1566, "It was so difficult for the common man, that he would rather
The inhabitants of these lands left in so great numbers, that by an
express edict, the Princess of Parma prohibited the people to leave
the country. According to Hooft lib. 5, page 100, more than 100,000
families had fled the country. Every day the dead clocks, by their
sound, announced the death of relative or friend, while there was no
end to confiscating of goods and possessions.
We all know how the cry of the Netherlands rose to heaven, and
everything was colored with blood, there was no hope of relief. We
will not forget how the Princes of Nassau, and among them especially
Prince William, made our cause his own. We cannot forget that he lived
in rest and quiet at his estate in Germany, where he dwelt in honor
and state, nevertheless he entered the ship of our Republic when it
was shaken by the tempest and storms of the Spanish fury.”
This Republic was according to the Apology of Prince
William (page 53), dumbfounded, oppressed, powerless, despised, rejected
and desperate. Philip II, King of Spain who lived in incest, and above
that killed his own wife and son; provoked, tormented and aggravated
the Republic, looked for nothing else than that by resisting him we
would give him cause to continue his wretched regime, so he could
take our liberty from us and continue to rule us indefinitely.
According to the witness of Hooft and van Reyd (1567), Alva, in his
letter concerning the business in Holland, made clear that to this end
he was sent here. And as became evident from letters of the Spanish
ambassador to France, this was the purpose of the Spanish
government. The King did every thing in his power to make his
intention to stand. Among these were the bloody and terrible cruelties
of the Inquisition, the continuous shedding of blood what moved the
nobles to plead with the King to relax the laws against the Reformed
6 Iconoclasm 1
It was the 24th of July, 1566, that the gospel was openly
preached. The power of the discovered truth had great effect, and the
Ark of the Covenant which was now established did so much harm in
Dagon's temple, that the images all through Holland - in which the
finger of God was clearly seen - were speedily cast down as if struck
by lightning, broken in pieces by the iconoclasm that started in
Yperen and continued in almost all towns and cities. It was February
16, 1568 that King Philip declared this nation guilty of lese-majesty,
and again confirmed the inquisition's edict, as can be found in Bor's
fourth book (1568).
Holland was now a convicted criminal, and could expect nothing
but death. The sentence also declared that possessions and life were
forfeited. Very few were seen as still innocent, for not only those
who had taken part in the iconoclasm, but also those who had not
hindered the devastations were declared guilty by this cruel tyrant.
Vargas, the president of the Blood Council, who spoke only Latin
was wont to say, "Haeretici fraxerunt templa, boni nil fecerunt contra,
ergo debent omnes partibulare", i.e., "The heretics destroyed the
Churches, the Roman Catholics did not stop them, so all of them shall
hang." Concerning the sentenced Catholics, they were said to pretend
to be Roman Catholics, but they came much short of the reverence
they owed the King and their religion, and should therefore partake of
the same punishment as the heretics. In short, all had sinned, and it
was the oppressor's purpose to exterminate the inhabitants, or to
make them into slaves, as Prince William wrote in his Apology (page
72). He also testified that the Spanish commanders clearly said that
this was decreed in the Spanish Council long before this. In executing
that cruel command, they decided to send Alva with a strong army into
the Netherlands. Alva was a man of whom it was alleged he was so
cruel, that his evil intent not only surpassed the human, but also the
demonic. He was therefore a fit person to oppress these lands. He
also advised the King to destroy all evidences, as seals, alliances,
covenants, and cast them into the fire; make new laws, establish a new
order, and by so doing put these realms a bridle in the mouth, and in
that way subject them once and for all time.”
“25 Iconoclasm II
The Lord wrought these wonders for us to show the enemy that
their idols and images did nothing to save them. Every nation, yes
every city had its own patron saint. Saint Jacob was Spain's patron
saint; St. Dionysius and Saint Michel of France; St Martin of Germany;
St. Stanislaus of Poland; St John of s'Hertogenbosch, etc. This was
exactly the way of pagans who had their special idols to protect
them. Those of Troy were of the opinion that their city could not be
conquered as long as they had the images of Pallas or Minerva with
them; they called it Palladium. That is why Ulysses and Diomedes took
them from Troy, after killing the guards.
We related before this how those of s'Hertogenbosch thought it
quite impossible for us to take their city. Saint John was their
patron Saint, and they had his image, made of silver. Written above
the city gate was the following:
"Keep people, home and place of sacrifice,
O Saint John, our Patron Saint, from sore demise".
Above the gate of a cloister for nuns were the words:
"Be he, who he may be,
And came this place to see,
Do not pass, and fail
To say aloud, 'Hail Mary, Hail'."
During the siege they carried the image with them around the
city and rendered it all possible honor, they expected it to deliver
them. And yet, in spite of all their ravings the city fell into our
hands. It is as Augustine wrote against the heathen, "Images do not
keep the people, but people keep the images. Why are they than
honored? To keep the nation and the inhabitants, who cannot be kept
by their keepers. What else is that but trusting in devils, instead of
the living God?"
It happened to Romish Babylon what is written, "Every man is
brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven
image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in
them. They are vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their
visitation they shall perish. The portion of Jacob is not like them;
for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his
inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name" (Jer. 51: 17-19). The desire
of God's people is fulfilled, "Confounded be all they that serve graven
images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods"
(Psalm 97: 7).
Right at the beginning of the irregularities in this nation, we
previously saw the hand of the Lord in the iconoclasm which took
place in all cities and villages of the Netherlands. From Churches,
Chapels and Cloisters: images, paintings and ornaments were cast out.
As we have said, in this we saw God's finger. Truly when something is
marvelous in what happened in our Fatherland, it is this iconoclasm,
and that for many reasons.
1. Reason number one is that it went so fast. Hooft writes in his
3d book, that it went through the Netherlands like lightning; for in
the time of three days, more than 400 churches were plundered. It was
not like an infection that slowly destroys the body, but like the
Jesuit Strada wrote, it was like an earthquake, where everything is
destroyed at once. Bor writing in his second book in the year 1566,
relates, "that before they knew who did it, it was done." Strada
writes that in the great Church of Antwerp all images and altars were
broken down by less than 100 people, from evening until midnight,
although the building was full of images, and contained more than 70
altars. Following this, according to Van Meteren, they went to the St
Franciscan church, St. Jacob, St. Andries, St. .Joris, St. Michiel in
Peter Pots, de Borght, Fakens, White Sisters, Black Sisters, the Third
Order, the Nonnen, to Bogaarden, to Prekaars, and to all the church
buildings and chapels of the city, and had most all of these destroyed
That is how it went in other cities. Lydicus, in "Glorios Belg"
relates that carpenters openly acknowledged that fifty experienced
men could not have done in eight days, what a few boys and children
performed in one, or mostly two days.
2. It is also a wonder that although this work of tearing down
images and altars was largely the work of boys, women and children,
mostly from among the common people, nothing was done by the
authorities to stop the abuse. The Reformed as well as Popish
citizens, were silent onlookers. Both parties were evenly concerned.
The Papists were afraid they would be blamed, the Reformed that they
would be accused and attacked, as related by Emanuel van Meteren.
3. It is also a wonder that no one was hurt during the
performance. The Churches were filled with onlookers, and great
statues, made of stone, were hurled down from great hights. We should
remember it was night and therefore dark. According to Van Meteren in
his second book, 1566, "With regard to the circumstances, it was a
great and strange work; for no one knew the culprits, no one was
known to boast about it later; there was no fighting among them, no
one was hurt, which was a wonder, because it was dark and there was
so much wood, stone and other building materials that were sent a-
All these things that happened during the iconoclasm are very
remarkable. The Lord showed hereby the insignificance of images.
Furthermore, the iconoclasm was a sign of things to come. It was a
sign of how fast new truth would break forth, and the idols disappear.
So was the breaking of idols a preparation for the Reformation in
Scotland. See Letus in Compend. Hist. Universel. page 563.”
“It was as Prince William testifies in his Apology (page 72), "that
all over, blood was shed in such abundance that it could be seen to
flow in the streets of cities and towns. And who could without
sadness and heartache tell of the pain and sorrows endured by these
poor inhabitants who were tortured by the tyrants of the nation"? No
"granted rights and privileges", could stop the Spanish fury. Prince
William continues, "They have trodden under foot our rights and
privileges, and all that still remained of our glory and greatness
from the past in such an audacious and haughty way, as if we were no
humans anymore; yes, they spoke of us as animals."
We will note here, that in this letter, the States of Holland
made the comment that the cruelties and abuses were perpetrated to
commit the utmost in oppression, that the Spaniards repeatedly
boasted that they would torture and provoke this nation until its
inhabitants would be pressed into rebellion, and so have sufficient
reason to subject the country and rob it of its possessions. They
showed from some letters which proved that this was their intention.
The States, in a short and dignified manner, wrote about the cruelties
that took place in the country at that time.
In order to know what happened, and how terrible were the times,
it is necessary to read these letters. There was nobody who could
save his goods from the tyrant's avarice, wife or daughter from their
lewdness, or his life from the blood-thirstiness of the Spaniards.
Many a time it happened that a man would attempt to save his
wife from their violations, that they howled like dogs, calling: Spain,
Spain, and so killed several people. Many pregnant women were ripped
open, and the fruit of the womb they killed; yes, some men were
skinned alive, their skins they put on their drums; others were burnt.
Some were burned with red hot fire-tongs until they died, and
others were tortured in many ways unto death. Parents lost their
children, children lost their parents. Many bodies were exhumed and
hanged in spite of God and nature.
Married woman were taken from their husbands under the guise of
saying they were heretics; and against all divine and human
institutions some of the richest and most beautiful of them were
given to the soldiers for loot.
In short, we are told, all love and reverence that we owe one to
another was brought to nought, or openly defied by killing children
who helped parents in their great need with some money, or had
written them a letter for their comfort. How could a people be more
oppressed, and suppressed then in this manner?
Dutch historians, and among them in the first place, Emanuel
van Meteren, relates that in Maestricht a father was killed because
he lodged a son who had been away for a long time; another because
he gave some grain to a widow whose husband had been killed for his
faith; still another, because he had sent a little money to a relative
Hooft, in his fifth book (1567), remarks that listening to a
sermon was considered to be a great crime. Yes, Prince William says in
his Apology (page 48), if one looked at an image with less than a
reverent look, it was enough to burn at the stake.
As the Jewish midwives in Pharaoh's day had to drown the male
children, so the midwives in Holland were committed by oath to take
newborn children to the R.C. priest to be baptized before the children
were 24 hours old.
In the midst of this, the Blood Council found much cause to
condemn the innocent to death, and torture them in many ways. Many
inhabitants became insane and desperate, they fled into woods and
other out of the way places.
Hooft also relates, that there were many who "steadfastly and
firmly faced the fire, and spoke with boldness of the faith and the
hope that was in them."
However, the enemy invented a frightful tool to stop them from
speaking. The tongue was pinched in between two red hot irons, until
it swelled and no more sound could be made. This caused the most
excruciating pain. Hooft continues, "the chained wretches writhed like
worms, and lowed like cattle."
The tyrant, Alva, after he ruled these lands for six years
(1567-1573), boasted that he killed 18,600 people by the executioner,
except those who died by the siege and capture of the following
cities: Antwerp, Mechlin, Maastricht, Doornik, Valenciennes, Yperen,
Oudenaarden, Aalst, Dendermonde, Heerlen, Rotterdam, Oudewater,
Zutphen and Deventer. Yet, Spanish cruelty was not satisfied, for
Vargas, president of the Bloody Council was of the opinion, "that the
Netherlands were lost (for Spain) by 'charitable folly'."
“That is why the Prince left Holland, and went to Germany. But
what was impossible with men, was possible with the great God, Who
would show His might and power, and by our little strength made us
mindful of His all-sufficiency, His wonderful ways and abundance of
blessings. For when the Prince had given everything he had, how little
was our strength. It is said that money is the strength of war, and
Prince William called it the "most important buckle of the harness,"
but we had nothing of all this. Bor relates in his 6th book (1572),
that he saw a letter from the Prince, in which he wrote among others,
"Had we money, we could with God's help hope for something positive,
for according to what we hear from many places, now is the time that
we can do something with less money, than with much at other times."
He also spoke of a proposal he made through Sonoy to some nobles
and other persons, and could not execute because not only had he no
ready cash, but had used all his goods for the good of the nation
before this, and had nothing left to give than life and blood to
promote the good cause.”
“That is why the Lord humbled us. He humiliated us exceedingly,
to show the fame of our increase and the glory of His name so much
better. For according to the testimony of Samuel's mother, "He raiseth
up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the
dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the
throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's and he
hath set the world upon them" (l Sam. 2: 8).”
“9 The Time of Our Rejection
We cannot ascribe all this low esteem to Spanish pride or
enmity, for let us see what reputation and esteem we had with our
friends who envied Spain for its prosperity, but favored us. Van Reyd
in his 12th book gives proof of this when he writes (1573), that the
Queen of England did not dare to receive the envoys of the States,
but in secret and only at night. Again in 1585, our ambassadors were
sent to France to offer their King the rule over these lands. The
King did not grant them a hearing, did not let them come to Paris, but
answered them through Brulart, his secretary. How can a people be
more despised than in such a manner! Even the Lapland and Finnish
peoples, the lowest and smallest, find an open ear with Kings and
Emperors when they send them their delegates.
We have seen how this nation was despised in its ambassadors.
When we look at succeeding times, it seems unbelievable that the
kingdoms of England and France refused to accept the rule over this
country, which we, when we were oppressed by Spain's great might, by
stately embassies at several times presented to them. According to
Hooft the rule of the nation was offered to England in 1575, 1585, and
1587; and to France in 1585. We all know how desirous monarchs are to
enlarge their domain; and how often they do this at the cost of the
blood and goods of their own subjects. The emblem of Emperor Charles
V was, "Plus Ultra." Others had the symbol of a waxing moon with the
added words, "Donec totum compleat orbem." The King of Spain, in his
pride, established an emblem of a painted globe in the sea, out of
which ascends a horse, above which the inscription, "Unis non sufficit
orbis", (One world is not sufficient for me). This can be found in van
Meeteren's 25th book (1602). All this to feed the King of Spain's
arrogance and pride.
But see, here Kings refused the rule that was extended to them,
even though they were humbly asked to accept this rule. Prince William
used to say, "The Netherland Virgin would never be without a suitor,"
however, it is clear from these instances that the Netherland Virgin
was disdainfully rejected, as was done by the Queen of England in
1587. Van Reyd in his book (1587), writing of contempt and scorn that
were heaped upon us by Denmark states, "Such were the circumstances,
that they had to endure this treatment with much patience."
The cause why our request was refused, was on the one hand our
miserable and wretched state; on the other hand the great and
terrible might of the King of Spain. Had the King of kings dealt with
us in that way, we would have long since perished. But here was
repeated what the Lord at one time spoke to the Jewish nation, "None
eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion
upon thee, but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing
of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by
thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when
thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in
thy blood, Live" (Ezek. 15: 5 and 6).
It is the way of our God to help when there is no help of men,
and the gathering of straw is added to the number of bricks made (Ex.
5: 7), to send deliverance. Or as it was said by the ancients, "In the
mount of the Lord it shall be seen (Gen. 22: 14), meaning that the Lord
waits until the utmost before helping out, and the Lord is seen to
work in marvelous ways for the escape of His people at times when
there is no more hope. All this has been the experience of the
Netherlands during the rise of this Republic. The miserable state of
this nation can without doubt be seen by what we have related thus
“This Republic was first brought down to hell and thereafter
exalted to the heavens. It may justly be said of us, what the Lord
said to the prophet, "And I will gather her that was driven out; and I
will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put
to shame" (Zeph. 3: 19).
The Lord not only gave us a name and praise, but made us so
great that our ambassadors were not just highly regarded by the
mightiest potentates, but were esteemed above the envoys of kings.
Mighty nations and kingdoms honored this nation with their
ambassadors. It was in 1642 that in the Hague there were ambassadors
>from several different nations at one and the same time. They were
among others, Francisco d'Andrado, ambassador of Portugal, Cressy of
France, Thomas Roo of Germany, and Strickley, from England. It is
especially remarkable that from 1609-1630, more than 200 ambassadors
representing Kings, Grand Dukes, Electors, Dukes, Princes, Counts,
Lords and Republics honored the Republic with their presence.
We will now deal with one remaining cause we have not touched
upon as yet. It is that these lands descended in such deplorable
state, in such a miserable and wretched condition, with the
impossibility to save themselves, that the most desperate proposals
were made by the most prominent and stouthearted among us. If in our
Netherland history someone was ever praised for wisdom, extraordinary
bravery and valour, and unswerving loyalty, it was Prince William,
whose cheerful countenance encouraged the States General during
these most trying and difficult times. His motto was, "Saevis
tranquillus in undis" (calm in the midst of the tempest). But so fierce
were the winds, so brutally high the waves that beat against the ship
of the Republic, that this pious Prince, and Father of the Fatherland
became so discouraged that seeing the ship was sinking, he advised to
forsake the country, and give the land back to the sea.
According to Hooft in his 10th book, the Prince advised that men,
women and children who loved liberty, board ship with whatever they
could take with them, burn the wind mills, break dikes and dams, spoil
the country by flooding, and like other peoples had done before them,
go to another place in the world where they could live in freedom.”
“10 A Covenant with the Potentate of potentates
But how! Prince William! The Lord's Hero! Father of the
Fatherland! Be not discouraged, for this is the Lord's time to show
His great power and His outstretched arm. Your clever brain may not
know of help or counsel, our God has plenty of both! nothing is too
great and marvelous for His infinite wisdom and incomprehensible might!
You are depressed that England's Queen refuses to be the
nation's sovereign, but do you not remember that the Potentate of
potentates took our government upon Himself? Did you forget you made
such a sure covenant. Were you not assured that you and all that
trust in Him would be relieved by His mighty hand, in spite of all His,
and your enemies? You want to leave the country, but note, before
long the enemy shall leave the same, and "the desolate land shall be
tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by"
(Ezek. 36: 34).
You want to make the good land into a salty sea, but our God
shall yet make it a garden of Eden, "for the Lord shall comfort Zion,
He shall comfort its desolate places." You intend to look for another
country, but this land shall yet be a haven for other nations, in
particular those who are persecuted for the faith; "thou shalt surely
clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee
as a bride doeth" (Is. 49: 18). You would take of the best of the
country and take it unto other lands. Not so; for as from now on,
from the ends of the earth shall come the finest merchandise to
enrich these lands. "Thus saith the Lord, the labour of Egypt, and
merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall
come over unto thee"; yes, even the treasures of thine enemies; "and
the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together,
gold and silver, and apparel, in great abundance" (Zech.14: 14). That
decree is the counsel of the Holy One, the Lord has such intended, He
shall execute it, and nothing shall hinder His decree.
You acknowledge that the change of religion is much more a work
of the Lord than of men? Do you think the Lord will not prosper the
sake of His Son, that His adversary, the anti-christ, may rule? No!
No! but they all shall be ashamed that are bitter against the Lord.
The Lord saw that Israel's misery was very bitter, that Israel
had no helper, and He never said that He would take our name away
from under heaven. The measure of shed blood was full, the affliction
of God's people was accomplished. "Awake, awake, stand up, 0 Jerusalem,
which has drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou
hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out"
(Is. 5I: 17). God has afflicted you in His anger, but in His good
pleasure He has been merciful to you.
Thus says the Lord your God Who pleads the cause of His
people, "Behold I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling,
even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it
again. But I will put it in the hands of them that afflict thee; which
have said to thy soul: Bow down that we may go over: and thou hast
laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went
over" (Is. 51: 22, 23). Now, your eyes shall see the salvation of the
Lord, and the arm of His power. For as the Lord has pulled up, and
broken down, so shall He now plant you and build you, and the Lord's
servants shall dwell in Zion. "So shall they fear the name of the Lord
>from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the
enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up
a standard against him" (Is. 59: 19).
This nation shall devour its enemies, "Therefore, all they that
devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, everyone of
them shall go into captivity, and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil
and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey" (Jer. 30: 16). All
the earth shall know there is a God in Israel, and the Lord does not
redeem by spear and sword, for the battle is the Lord's. "And I will
feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be
drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall
know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One
of Jacob" (Is. 49: 26).
He is an everlasting Rock, He can be trusted. Rejoice you
heavens, for the Lord has done it. Shout for joy, you nether parts of
the earth, you mountains and forests make a great noise with singing,
for the Lord redeemed Jacob, made for Himself a name in Israel and
made His wonders known to the Provinces, yes, the ends of the earth
have seen the salvation of our God.
Let us see what the historian Bor adds here, for it is
remarkable. "Consider the great need of the nation during that time. I
say this for those who come after us, for they must know that we had
nothing of which to boast, that it was not by our, or the father's
wisdom that we resisted and endured that greet and mighty Potentate
(Spain). We have come to this prosperity only by the grace of God;
Honor and praise is due to Almighty God, and to Him alone. He helped
and stood by us, protected and redeemed us while we were devoid of
all human aid and there was no hope of relief. It will be made clear
by the following and other books that will be written after this, that
it was God Who redeemed and helped this nation in its great and
extreme need. It was clearly seen that when we built our hope on
people and mighty armies, we achieved but little. Let us therefore
never forget, that to God alone belongs the honor and the praise for
our deliverance, our prosperity and our blessings."
Thus far the historian Bor. We quoted him here because they
were truly remarkable matters that came to pass in the Netherlands.
They are so great that they still fill us with gratitude and wonder
for God's love.
We refer to this, because Bor made it his work to give God the
glory, and his precious books cannot be bought by the common man.
The nation realized what David testified of himself, "Though I
walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch
forth thy hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand
shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me" (Psalm
138: 7 and 8b), and "They compassed me about like bees; they are
quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will
destroy them" (Psalm 118: 12). And 2 Chron. 20: 12, "0 our God wilt thou
not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that
cometh against us; neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon
thee". And, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may
Israel say, . . .they had swallowed us up quick, . . .then the waters
had overwhelmed us; Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a
prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare
of the fowlers; the snare is broken and we are escaped" (Ps. 124).
Our Fathers who were so greatly oppressed, could they only see
our present blessings, how amazed and filled with wonder would they
be for all that the Lord did for us; they would cry out with the
Exultantly they ask: "Who Lord, within Thy dwelling,
Who of the kings of earth, in carnal strength excelling,
Can be compared with thee, Jehovah great and glorious,
In all Thy wise designs triumphant and victorious?"
Psalm 89 st. 3b. No 172 of the Psalter Hymnal.
"He remembered all our woes,
Snatched us from the clutch of foes.
For His mercy will endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure."
(idem; Psalm 136; st. 9b. No 283.
This, of course is written for us now living, who are witnesses
of what the arm of the Lord has wrought. With David, we sing:
"The wondrous works that God has wrought,
His people ever keep in mind,
His works with grace and mercy fraught,
Revealing that the Lord is kind."
(idem; Psalm 111; st. 3. No. 222).
The following is left in the Dutch for those who can read the
language, for you to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of this
poem in the original:
Heere God! Uwe werken zijn wonderlijk;
Gij denkt op ons, Heer goedertier,
Soo dat niemand in 't leven hier
Uwe gaven kan melden sonderlijk.
Uit den slijk seer onreine
En den afgrond niet kleine,
Met kracht Hij ons uittoog.
Hij heeft ons voeten vast
Tot Sijn wegen gepast,
Op een' steenrots seer hoog.
Which in the English reads as follows:
Lord God Thy works are marvelous and great,
Thou thinkest on us in Thy grace,
For no one from this very place,
Can e'er Thy precious gifts appreciate.
From deep, foul and filthy mire,
And that great abyss entire,
His great power drew us out.
He established falt'ring feet
Now on His way they meet,
Upon a Rock, great and stout.”
“The fathers experienced times when all human reason and modesty
were absent, blood was running down the streets; true religion was
not allowed, privileges and rights were trodden under foot, the States
were muzzled, and all the country was nothing but a prison, a
scaffold, and a scene of murder.
These are often the ways of the Lord, our great God; those He
will bless are brought into great distress and misery, those He exalts
to heaven are first humiliated to hell. "Thou hast caused men to ride
over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou
broughtest us out into a wealthy place" (Psalm 66: 12).
When the time was there that God would lead His people in
the blessed country of Canaan, the ornament of all lands, He
made Egypt into an iron oven for them. Before giving them their
own government, and making them a free people, he made them
submit to unheard of servitude. When He would revenge Himself
on His enemies, and fill His people with blessing upon blessing,
they first were subjected to affliction upon affliction, the aged among them
succumbed under heavy
labour, the children were drowned like cats and dogs.
The Lord dealt similarly with His people during the reign of the
Roman Emperors, when He brought them through a sea of suffering to a
desired haven of rest and liberty. We know from Church-history that
when Emperor Diocletianus raged against Christianity, it seemed they
all had perished. That evil Emperor had money coined with the
inscription, "I have destroyed the name of Christians who overturned
the Republic." This persecution continued in the East under Galarius,
under Maximus in Africa, and Maxantius in Rome, in the West. After
their miserable deaths (Galerus was eaten by worms and Maxentius
drowned in the Tiber), the time of persecutions came to an end. Now,
the Christian Emperor Constantine the Great delivered the Christian
Church from bondage into liberty; banished idolatry, and Christ
subjected the kingdom of Satan under His feet, as we can read this in
the summary of CHURCH-HISTORY by Hornius (page 104).
Before the blessed times began under Queen Elizabeth, England
underwent the terrible persecutions of cruel Queen Mary. Many burnt
at the stake. There is, according to the book of Martyrs, from the
time of the Apostles, nowhere so much blood shed as there was in
this kingdom. A great multitude of people: Nobles, Teachers, Doctors,
Bishops and Preachers died for their faith. At times there were 10, at
other times 12 who burned in the same fire. Some died of hunger,
others perished in prison.
During this persecution the following persons were burnt for
their testimony: Roeland Taylor, John Bradfort, John Hopperus, bishop
of Glouchester; D. Nicolas Ridley, bishop of London; Hugo Latimer,
bishop of Worchester; Thomas Crammer, bishop of Canterbury. King
James in his Apology testifies that they tortured a pregnant woman
until she lost her child, and then burned her with the child. But when
it seemed that the sun of true religion was sinking, God made it rise,
to the joy of all those who loved Zion. Here is established what
certain martyr, Midas Busseay, who was glorified by suffering for the
truth said in 1557, "God is known to help His people when the barbaric
persecutions are at their height; to show thereby, that such
deliverance and aid, is from nowhere, but from Him alone", (Hoornbeek
OF SPIRITUAL FORSAKINGS, page 173).
The foregoing examples make clear how the Lord at times sorely
humiliates those He intends to exalt and lift up. "He turneth the
wilderness into standing water, and dry ground into water springs"
(Ps.107: 35). Van Sande, in his first book, states, "Many a time the
Lord allowed us to sink very low, and when there was no more hope of
human aid, He delivered us in marvelous ways."
“For now, we will pass by particular instances as of Joseph,
Jephtah, David and others, all of whom went through great affliction,
before the Lord lifted them up to greater state. We can also see how
we were turned into a wilderness before the Lord made us into a
garden of Eden. How He made us call from the depths of misery, before
"making thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and
in name, and in honour" (Deut. 26: 19). Our Fathers, to express the sad
state of the fatherland, had coins made on which was pictured a ship
without sails and broken masts; the ship was hurled to and fro, and
almost devoured by the tempestuous sea. The following inscription was
on its edge, "Incertum quo fata ferent," i.e., "We don't know what will
become of us." (Boxhorn, HISTORY OF ZEALAND, vol.1 page 120).
By effecting this great change for us, the Lord sanctified His
great Name, did everlasting reproach to His and our enemies, and gave
us cause for rejoicing, wherefore we must remember this with
“The Lord, in order to make this Republic great, first of all,
gave us men with heroic spirits and stout hearts. We maintain this in
spite of the fact that at one time the Prince was so discouraged
that he left the country as we have shown above. We believe this
happened so the nation, by the impossibility of the situation, would
depend so much more on the Lord for deliverance; yes, as we read by
Bor, "give Him all the praise." We can truly say that the Lord gave
our men stout hearts, and under the most fearful situations they
showed invincible courage. In his introduction, van Reyd writes,
"Searching the history of nations we come to the conclusion that what
happened in this nation has no example. There is no other instance in
history that such a small country cast off the yoke of a mighty nation,
of such a mighty King as the King of Spain."
"All civilized nations, even Russia and Turkey, speak well of the
arms and war in the Netherlands, and desired to know what would be
the end of such great a matter." And no wonder, for this conflict
seemed to be between a flee and an elephant, between a lamb and a
lion, a sparrow and an eagle, a child and a giant. The outcome seemed
hopeless, there was no expectation but the greatest misery, tyranny
and slavery, for the inhabitants of these lands.
Surius, as we related before, mocking the Dutch for their daring
and recklessness, said, "What do the Dutch think to accomplish against
the King of Spain?" So little appeared our might against this Goliath,
that hardly anyone dared to offer any help. Again, let us see what
van Reyd has to say in his first book, (1575):
"As often, as I think of the matters belonging to Holland, it
seems marvelous that such a little country, broken and weakened by
so much misery, never lost courage to continue the war with that
mighty giant, especially because they stood all alone."
It followed that for the duration of five years, Holland, and a
part of Zeeland, held out against the King of Spain, then the
mightiest Potentate in Christendom. The words of a letter sent to the
King of Spain by the Prince and the States of Zeeland in this respect
are remarkable. This is what they said, "We were compelled to take up
arms, and by all means to deliver our oppressed fatherland from such
horrible tyranny; and rather die several deaths than submitting to
such a tyrant; we know that death which no man will escape, is but
the way to everlasting life."
Furthermore, rejecting the forgiveness proffered by Alva, they
said, "We know, in God's providence, that our days are numbered, a
number, which in spite of Alva's pardon, we shall not exceed." Again, at
the end of the letter, "We want to be known as a people that took up
arms against the Duke of Alva and his cohorts, to deliver ourselves,
our wives, children and our possessions from him and his bloodthirsty
crowd. When he should prove to be stronger, we would rather die an
honest death, and leave a good name to our children, not bow the neck
to such a tyrant and have our dear fatherland submit to such
shameful servitude, whereby we would not be able to hold up our
heads before any man.
"Therefore, the cities have mutually as well as each in
particular, covenanted, if necessary, to commit the utmost, even life
itself; yes, rather set fire to our dwellings than to submit to this
tyrant. For we are well aware that we cannot expect any mercy; but
that he rather colors streams and rivers with our blood, and use all
trees and gallows in the country to hang us, than not to satisfy his
thirst for blood."
“Nevertheless, it is said that during the siege of Leyden, women
encouraged the men to call out to the enemy, that they would rather
than submit, thereto pressed by hunger, eat their one arm and have
the other left to fight. The women showed the same courage when
Alkmaar was under siege. The Princess Espinoy was also an example of
courage when Doornik was surrounded by the enemy. Hooft (1551), writes
that when the enemy attempted to overrun fort Ter Voorn, some women
put on men's apparel, and went to the soldiers on the walls; others
showed their courage by bringing on led and gunpowder, others by
carrying on big timbers. That was in 1637. Van Meteren in his 23d book
(1602), tells of "women, in men's clothing, who served as soldiers in
the war." What courageous deeds they performed, especially at Bergen
op Zoom (1625), he relates in his 27th book. We may never forget the
courageous deeds of these Amazones.
By the courage, with which it pleased the Lord to equip many of
our people of all ranks, few have neglected to fight the enemy until
death, or until, by the grace of God, they gained the victory. In 1570,
24 Dutchmen fought 150 Spaniards, fighting till death. In 1573, 18
footmen attacked a detachment of 150 Spanish cavalry and finished
them off. It was the lion hearted Prince Maurice, who in 1593, with
5,000 men dared lay siege to Geertruideberg, in spite of the fact
that the enemy came against him with 14,000 man. In 1598 he defeated
the enemy who had 28,000 men in the field, with 6,000. In 1597 he
defeated with 800 horsemen, 4,000 of the best and most experienced
soldiers of the King of Spain. We must not forget his unflinching
gallantry in the battle of Nieuwpoort, for in spite of the fact that
the enemy had already beaten 17 companies of his best soldiers,
Maurice was not discouraged, but by a heroic decision attempted to
encourage his soldiers. According to van Reyd (1600), and Bor in his
28th book, "he commanded that all ships in which the Prince and his
soldiers could escape, must depart from the seashore. So standing
between Pharaoh and the Red Sea he attacked with so great courage,
that historians described this victory, which was so important for the
country's well-being, beside the mighty hand of God, to the wisdom,
valour and prudence of Prince Maurice. But who girds Princes with
valour? Is it not the Lord? Psalm 18."
“What happened in 1606 at Sluys is even more amazing. When the enemy succeeded and
went with 3600 men over the bridge into the city, only 16 soldiers
kept back this multitude with great courage until the rest of the
army had time to compose itself, and expelled the enemy who lost four
or five hundred men. God had, as it were, in that battle confounded
the enemy with blindness, for although the bridge was full of soldiers,
they did not use their muskets, but no other than javelins and
swords. See van Meteren in his 27th book. How manfully, and with what
extraordinary courage the garrison of Rijnbeek expelled the enemy,
who were already in the city, master of the walls and the artillery,
can be read by van de Sande. For time's sake we will not relate what
happened during the siege of Bergen op Zoom in 1621, and what
happened when in 1629 Wezel and Maestricht were taken.
We will testify that as our lion-heart was marvelous at land,
the Lord our God did not less for our heroes at sea, and blessed
them with the same undaunted spirit of bravery. To relate everything
is not possible, and not necessary for proof. But we must say
something to remember the wonders of the Lord, and boast of His
What van Meteren relates in his 4th book (1573), is almost
unbelievable. Those of Vlissingen (Flushing), he says, had the 14th of
January taken some ships from the harbor of (Spanish) Antwerp; yes,
few took men from their beds in Antwerp, and compelled them to leave
the city and come with them. They also took the young son of admiral
Bouwen Ewoutsen from the house of the sheriff, where he was
prisoner, and took him to their ships in full daylight. Through these
and similar courageous acts, relates the same author, the Vlissingers
were respected by most. The Zealanders showed by these acts of
heroism that the old saying, "they must be appreciated not for their
money, but for their courage", is not without reason used by them.
See Oomy, WAR-TRUMPET, page 14.
How great courage was shown by the Zealand fleet when they
attacked the mighty Spanish fleet, can be read by the same author in
the year 1574. For although, the enemy came with two mighty fleets
filled with soldiers, the Zealander admiral Boisot attacked him with
such courage, conquered, and after a cruel and bloody fight captured
the admiral, the vice-admiral, and took besides those which they
burned, 9 or 10 of his best ships. D.P. Pers says the following
concerning this battle: "The greet courage of the Zealanders was
exceedingly praiseworthy, for mainly by their courage, the land was
They knew very well that it was the hope of the Spaniards to
win the war by remaining masters at sea. Had the Spaniards been
enabled to execute their intention, the country would have been lost.
However, in all this, the Lord was willing to show His marvelous
leading, it was the Lord Who gave lion hearts to the Zealanders that
they feared not death, but subjected themselves to many dangers. This
in spite of the fact they were not at all times sufficiently paid, and
complained about this. This victory aroused in the hearts of the
allies a general rejoicing, they thanked God, in many places bonfires
were lit. By all this the Hollanders and Zealanders were again
encouraged, as if they had been re-created.
At the same time the city of Middelburg came into our hands; and
that because of among other things also the prayers of our Prince,
who, to have all things ordered well, traveled from Delft to
Vlissingen, where he, according to Press was in great anxiety, for he
feared that the two enemy fleets would unite, and so gain the
victory. Having done all he could, he went to his room, to give himself
to prayer and wrestle with God for good success. This prayer was
heard before he prayed. For when according to Hooft in his 4th book,
the Prince received the message that the Spanish fleet was anchored
before Breskens, anxiety left him, and he went to the harbor to be
convinced of the truth with his own eyes. When he noticed the mistake
of the enemy, who made no use of the favorable tide, he thanked God
for His grace.
In these special circumstances it may be seen that anxiety and
courage, humiliation and bravery, pleading and fighting, prayer and
victory went together. The first is cause of the second; the second
cause of the first. The one demonstrates what is proper for princes
and rulers when their country and their subjects are in danger; the
other, which is the duty of those who for the good of God's people
under their government attack the enemy in a just war, and how both
together are a blessing for the people. Fervent prayer and courage in
acting, are as a rule successful, and are followed by rejoicing and
thanksgiving. 2 Chr.13-16; and 32: 6, 7, 20, 21; Neh. 4:9.
When in 1573, the Lord blessed the courage of the Zealanders
and they gained the victory; the Prince, filled with joy, wrote to all
the cities in Holland and admonished the people, to "fervently praise
and thank Almighty God, and furthermore pray that God would bring
their cause to a good end; that after so many afflictions, the Lord
would grant them to live in peace." (See also Bor in the same year).
In 1601, three Dutch ships commandeered by Wolphert Hermansz.,
partly destroyed, and partly forced a mighty Portuguese fleet to
flee, near Bantam (East Indies), consisting of several galleys and
other ships, thirty in number. (Dyonisius Sprankhuizen in his TRIUMPH,
1629). He adds that this was such a great wonder, as of four or five
mosquitoes gaining the victory over an army of elephants.
Our mariners, according to van Sande, showed the same courage
in 1612, when eight of our ships on their way to the East Indies,
attacked 17 Spanish galleons near the Salt Islands. They destroyed or
captured all but four ships that escaped.”
14 Martin Tromp was of the same courage when with twelve ships he
occupied Dunkirk, in which city were twenty two Royal ships ready for
battle. The governor of the city had received liberty to attack our
admiral, "For" he said, "it was a shame that so great a royal might
was restrained by so few ships", the Spanish ships were received by
ours in such a way, that they surrendered two ships, each with 250
men. The ship of their vice-admiral with 24 guns stranded, and was
set ablaze by the enemy themselves. Eight or nine ships were so
damaged that they could not reach harbor. This fight, v.d. Sande says,
was terrible. Commelin in his book entitled "Frederick Hendrick" vol. 2
(1639) states, "Concerning this battle there went up a great cry in
the city, for the number of dead, wounded, and those taken prisoners
was estimated to be 16 or 1700." In this fight which lasted from eight
in the morning until three in the afternoon, Tromp was at one time
surrounded by five large Dunkirk ships, against whom he fought alone
for three hours, and according to the witness of the mentioned
author: the Spaniards were well aware of his courage.
From this and other examples we are well aware that at sea, and
on land, our heroes were endowed with admirable courage, whereby they
did not fear death.
This virtue was especially true of the Princes of Orange, no
danger was ever too great to keep them from performing the duties of
good commanders. The ancients may boast of their heroes, Troy of an
Aeneas, Macedonia of Alexander, Cartage of the great Hannibal, Rome
of a Julius Caesar; we have no less reason to boast of the courage
of our Princes. According to Bor, in the beginning of his 28th book,
the State was much concerned about the fact that they were not
careful in caring for their own lives, but entered into dangers above
the call of duty. They could be found in places most dangerous. God's
marvelous Providence was here visible in that they were spared time
upon time. It is said that Prince Frederick Hendrick never became the
slightest wound. Of Prince William (the Silent) it is known that when
the enemy fell into his army camp at Bergen in Hanault by night, he
was saved by his dog scratching him on the face. The animal started
to howl and the Prince escaped. Hooft relates this in his seventh
Let us say a few words of a grandchild of this hero. We must
admit that this virtue emanated to him from his ancestry. I will say a
few words of his grandson the late William 11. Montanus writing in "The
Life and Acts of Frederick Hendrick" states, "He (William II) attacked
the army of Cantelmo at Burgerhout with some hired troops in such
good order and with such unflinching courage that the Spanish
lieutenant Jan de Borger, ascribed to him the title of perfect
commander. It seems that this noble virtue by special Divine
Providence was added to that admirable dynasty of Orange as part of
their inheritance. The same virtue is most commendably seen in the
only son of this Prince, by whose hand, William III, it pleased the Lord
to deliver us in such a wonderful way.
I bring these things to your attention, not to show what these
heroes did for the Fatherland, but what the great God gave us in
them and through them. The dauntless courage of our Princes and
other heroes is not natural.
14 Our Hearts Encouraged III (Leyden)
Why did the enemy depart from Leyden, yes, take to flight as if
he was conquered? Nothing but the collapse of a part of the city
wall. According to van Reyd this was something that should have put
fear in the hearts of the besieged, because the city-wall, their
defense, was now gone. Nevertheless, the enemy was so frightened
when they heard the noise of the wall collapsing and falling in the
water of the moat in the darkness of the night, that they left their
siege, and even the castle of Lammen. They were in so great haste
that they never took time to investigate what happened. In his ninth
book (1574), Bor remarks that all that was brought to play to relieve
Leyden, would have been lost, had not the Lord given a faint heart to
Van Reyd relates how remarkable the Lord dealt with the siege
of Leyden, matters that seemed to be to their disadvantage turned by
God's Fatherly Providence into advantages. 1. The most eminent
citizens had left the city. 2. There was only a small garrison. 3. The
city was visited with the plague. All these things, he wrote, were to
aid the city; for the citizens who left the city could do much more to
aid the city, than when they had remained. The English sent by the
Prince to aid the city, but through carelessness left outside, without
a doubt would have hastened its surrender. They gave sufficient
evidence of this, when after having received powder and bullets from
the burgomaster, they threw away their arms as soon as they saw the
Spaniards approach, and went over to the enemy. Concerning the
plague: the death of so many citizens saved enough food for the city
so they were able to hold out that much longer. As we mentioned
above, the collapsing wall, whereby the city lay open for the enemy,
frightened them so much, that they fled.
But what is much more miraculous, and in which our God bared His
arm, is that again the Lord used wind, weather and water, like He did
in 1572. For the only way to deliver the city was by way of the fleet.
At Prince William's command the Meuse and Ysle dikes were broken
through, the sluices opened, and the land inundated. In spite of this,
only nine inches of water covered the land. The boats needed at least
>from 15-18 inches. Again this was the time for our God to work. For
what happened? The Lord sent a storm from the North-West, the water
went inland and rose from nine inches to twenty-eight inches.
After the Lord sent His host, the water, into the land, the
water could not reach Leyden. Then the Lord sent a storm from the
South-West and now the water flowed straightway to Leyden, in spite
of the fact that the Spaniards attempted to stop the flood. Now our
fleet could reach the Spaniards, but the Spaniards dared not wait for
them, for when they saw the fleet and the water, the Lord made their
hearts into water, and so the city was delivered. Now the cry was
heard in the streets, "Leyden, Leyden is relieved! For ever praise our
God!" God was thanked in all Churches. The Prince who seemed so far
that same morning, was that same afternoon in the French Church (in
Delft), where he received tiding of Leyden's relief. After the service
he had it announced and the Lord was instantly glorified with
thanksgiving. According to Hooft, "The emotions released by the shock
of such a sudden and great joy was unbelievable. The sound of bells,
the flames of bonfires, and young people's shouts of joy, prepared
from all places a way up to heaven."
According to Bor in his seventh book, the States of Holland
testified to those of Leyden, "That the relief of Leyden, was
paramount to victory over the rest of Holland." If ever our God
showed that He fought for us, and used His waters, winds and terrors
to redeem us from the Spanish yoke, it was here.
However, to relieve the city, holes had been made in the Meuse
and Isle dikes, whereby thousands of people received damage, and now
there was great concern how to relieve this fertile land that was
made into a great sea, of this surplus water. But what happened? The
day after Leyden's relief October 4, the State was again favored with
another work of wonder and benefit, of which Bor said, "We may not
forget to tell of God's wonderful works so clearly revealed; for on
that day, the fourth of October, the wind turned from South-West to
North-East, while it blew so hard that it was difficult to travel from
Leyden to Delft, whereby the water that had served its purpose,
flowed back to sea.
"O wonderful God! who is like unto thee, there are no works like
unto Thine; great and mighty Thou art, O Lord! and faithfulness is Thy
cloke. Thou art a very present help in time of trouble unto Thy
people. Thou hast redeemed the broken hearted from one that was
mightier than he, and set the oppressed in a high tower."
What compelled commander Taxis to leave Friesland, which he had
suddenly occupied in 1586? Nothing but heavy rains, which began to
fall when he was still gaining on ours. The rains made him so afraid
that he fled the country as if he were defeated; he left his dead
with the conquered guns; he did not take time to plunder the higher
land where was much wealth. Emanuel van Meteren in his 25th book
wrote of this, "We can see what great things the Lord does by little
What drove the enemy from the Catherine entrenchment in
Flanders? Nothing but the shouting of sailors who had lost a gun in
the morass, that they attempted to retrieve. The enemies became
faint-hearted, and were frightened so much so that they left the
entrenchment, and it came into the hands of the Prince.
What was it that made the enemy in the winter of 1624 leave the
Veluwe, where according to van Sande the enemy terrorized the
population with an inhuman thirst for vengeance, and had already
shelled Arnhem? Nothing but fear. It was the Lord Who in His grace
heard our prayers, and gave marvelous relief. Baudartius in his
"Memories", book 16, 1624, states, "As long as the enemy was in the
Veluwe, daily prayers were sent up in all cities. Publicly in the
Churches, and particularly in the homes by families. He wrote, "Daily
in the Churches, in the homes and on the walls they called upon the
Lord with groanings, offering our prayers unto the Lord, sad about
the misery of our neighbours." It is said of Spinola that he used to
say, "Watch out for the geuzen (beggars or Lutherans) when they
pray," because the Lord often so noticeably heard us.
It was then that the Lord truly 'put a bridle in the jaws of the
enemy (in the Veluwe), causing them to err' (Is. 30: 28). Baudartius
continues, "During the night they became so frightened, they left food
and drink, even silverware at their tables, and fled in the greatest
confusion. Baggage and arms were found in the houses, and on the
roads on which they fled, in order to get away faster. There was no
one that persecuted them, except the hand of the Lord. Van Sande
writes that the cause of their flight was none else but a trumpeter,
who had blown the national anthem.
17 Our Hearts Encouraged IV (The Zuiderzee. The Armada)
Let us now return to the previous subject, for we must never
forget the wonderful works of the Lord. The following is one of God's
wonder works in the Zuiderzee. The whole fleet of Northern Holland
was solidly frozen in the ice, and they expected the enemy to come
and put fire to our ships. Alva's son came with a strong army to
Naarden and ours already talked of leaving the ships and sinking the
guns. But our God wonderfully supplied in our need, and how? He sent
a strong North wind which split the ice, and there was water for the
fleet to escape. Neither was this the end of the Lord's wonder works,
for a second followed the first. The waters rose so much that the
ships could sail through the Zuidergat, near Enkhuizen, in spite of the
fact that there was never enough water in that place for ships of
war. All this to the great joy of ours in Northern Holland.
Our Fathers saw this as a great wonder work of our God, for
such was never seen before or after. Yes, they concluded that the
Lord would maintain their cause since He put His attendants, wind and
water, so clearly at our disposal. And what made this wondrous work
of the Lord so much greater is the fact that as soon as our ships
were in a safe haven, the ice immediately closed itself. That is how
the Lord added a third wonder to the previous two. It was clear that
this wind, thaw, and flood was sent by His Majesty. Emanuel van
Meteren writes, "This was such a great wonder for those of Enkhuizen,
that they doubted not but the Lord had adopted them, and would
lawfully protect and bless them." By proclaiming Days of Thanksgiving
our people joyfully glorified the Lord for the many times He delivered
There was great fear for this Spanish fleet (Armada) in Holland.
The year was 1588. The fleet consisted of 145 or 150 mighty ships (110
were as big as castles). That fleet was put together with unbelievable
sums of money. Nobility, and the greatest lords of Spain were part of
its entourage. A particular description is found by Bor, Reyd, van
Meteren, van Sande and others, in the year 1588, and is almost
unbelievable. Strada, the Jesuit writes, "There never was anything in
preparation to which more nobility joined themselves, and more sure of
victory than this fleet." Historians testify that there were 20,000
soldiers and 10,000 sailors on board. Pamphlets were printed and said
that the fleet was manned with 40,000 soldiers, who regarded men,
neither the devil. They were the same who in India, Portugal and in
other countries made the blood of its inhabitants flow like water;
they were experienced, they understood how to destroy countries and
cities, torture and plunder its citizens (Lydius in gloriose Belg. pag.
55). The King had to lay out 30,000 ducates daily, for this fleet.
The Prince of Parma had above this, thirty-two ships of war, and
many others ready to move his army of almost 40,000 men from Holland
to England. He was planning to join the mighty fleet, which the Spanish
For a long time rumors of such a great fleet did the rounds in
Holland and England, it seemed almost unbelievable. Van Meteren wrote,
"but when they saw what was almost unbelievable, the population,
greatly upset, called upon the Lord. In particular the Dutch
Congregations in England, who felt threatened above others, held
continuous days of fasting and prayer and entreated the Lord to turn
His wrath from them". Days of prayer were held in Holland also.
Let us now see what happened. The so-called invincible fleet,
shortly after lifting anchor, on the 29th of May 1588, was met by the
Lord with His winds, and they were compelled to put into port. From
thence it went under sail again and was seen by the English on July
22. The English attacked with such courage that the English Admiral,
in a letter to the Queen, praised it as a special work of the Lord.
The courage of the English was as great as the fright of the Spanish.
When lying at anchor near Calais, they saw seven or eight fire-ships
coming their way, and were taken by such great fright that they
lifted anchor, cut the cables and sailed into the North-Sea. Here, the
Lord sent another storm, which lasted two or three days. They did not
only suffer much damage, but were driven off course along the coasts
of Flanders, Zealand, Holland and Friesland, to the river Eems. Van
Meteren wrote of this, "The Lord wanted to show this great fleet not
only to England, but also to Zealand, that they should acknowledge how
little they were over against such a great force."
It can justly be said with Bor in his seventh book, page 40, "God
used this little country against such a great power, that His great
power should be so much more glorified. For the King of Spain was
such a great potentate, he was not only feared in his own country,
but by nearly all potentates in Europe; even in the other world, I
think in India, he was feared."
The Lord was gracious to this nation, for he showed the enemy's
great force, not to fear them, but to show us the evidence of His help and
our own impotence; yes, He brought our enemies to the stage
to give them over to death. As if the Lord said, as Moses spoke of
Pharaoh's host, "Fear not, stand fast, and see the Lord's salvation,
you see them now, but you will not see them again for ever." And how
did they fare after this? The English who pursued the Spanish for
some time, by lack of powder and led, were compelled to return to
The Spanish fleet sailed again to England, and hoped to unite
with Parma's fleet. However, the Zealanders and Hollanders prevented
Parma from leaving Dunkirk, whereby all hope to unite was taken from
Medina Sidonia and the latter decided after having lost twelve great
ships and 5000 men, to sail around Scotland and return to Spain. At
that time especially, Almighty God showed that He fought for us, and
could destroy the courageous Spaniard; for He ordered His winds and
they so disjointed the fleet, that the fleet was dispersed. Near
Ireland about thirty-two ships were shipwrecked, ran ashore or were
taken by the Irish, at which time almost 1000 men lost their lives.
Some ships were lost and never heard from again.
It is said that of the whole fleet only 31 ships, among which
only one ship in good repair, returned to Spain under Duke Medina
Sidonia who was witness of God's judgment and the general mourning in
Spain. The story goes that he said after he came back, "The King told
me to fight his enemies, and not the elements."
It was here that our God walked on the high places of the
earth, and broke this Spanish Moab as an undesired vessel, humiliating
Castilian pride down to hell.
In all of Spain was mourning and lamentation, the country was
like a graveyard. There was almost no high born family or it mourned
a father, son or brother. Just like it was in Egypt after all the
firstborn were slain. The mourning and lamentation was so great that
the King publicly disallowed mourning, but for a short period. In
Lisbon a rich merchant was hanged at the King's command, because he
displayed some joy over the loss of the Spanish fleet. Either laughing
or crying about the state of the fleet was prohibited. Then our
haters were compelled to say that the Lord did great things for us.
Our enemy, that child of perdition, Antichrist, who sold mighty
indulgences to promote his endeavours to conquer England and Holland,
could do nothing but gnash his teeth.
Their pride concerning this fleet was so great that they openly
sang of its victory before it sailed. But here they should have
remembered the words of 1 Kings 20: 11, "Let not him that girdeth on
his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off".
18 Our Hearts Encouraged V (Don Pedro De Toledo. Niewpoort)
Before we go back to land, we will relate one more remarkable
story from the sea. In 1632 Don Pedro de Toledo appeared
unexpectedly with a strong fleet in the English channel. This was most
likely to hinder our ships from passing between England and France
through the narrow channel. But again the Lord was on our side and
that fleet was destroyed by violent winds and thunder storms. The
same thing had happened before this (1626), when the King of Spain
sent 20,000 men, a million of gold and forty-two small ships to
Dunkirk, according to van Sande in the same year.
Much was attempted by the Spanish in 1631, for they intended to
separate Holland from Zealand by taking Willemstad. No cost was
spared. A fleet was brought together consisting of 50 big barges with
sail, ten pontoons, eighteen other ships, besides them a large number
of row boats without sail. According to Commelin they worked with such
great zeal that they laboured on this fleet during Sundays and other
holy days. Beside a lot of guns of divers descriptions, they had
about 6 or 7000 men on board. On September eight of that year they
sailed in presence of Infante Isabella, the Queen mother Maria de
Medeci and the pontifical Nuntius, who blest her with the words, "Go,
thou blessed, and slay the cursed ones". But this Balaam cursed those
who were blessed by the Lord. That is why their curse returned upon
their own pate, and the Lord, for our good, dealt wonderfully.
For what happened?
1. It was fair weather when the enemy sailed, the sea was calm and
the wind from the east. That is why our fleet which was toward the
west could not harm him.
2 When he came to the land of Bath, some of his best ships ran
aground, and moved no more. Here is where the Lord began to work
against their might.
3. The Lord deprived our enemy of wisdom, for they remained to
wait for their ships that ran aground; had they continued on their
course they would have been twelve hours ahead of our fleet. About
11 o'clock they could have been in Stavenisse, and next in Willemstad
to complete their mission. Or by failure they could have escaped to
Prinsenland where they had 7000 men in garrison.
4. Although high tide waters were receding, the Lord gave a very
strong current, so that all our ships sailed through the land of Bath;
yes, some say that there was a stronger current than at other times.
5. What the Lord did from hereon was mostly to their destruction.
It was first of all their intention to continue their journey and
execute their attempt; they avoided contact with ours, instead of
attacking our fleet. But see, toward evening the Lord sent a fog,
which according to Commelin came up fast and prevented them from
continuing their journey. When they became dispersed because of the
fog, it added greatly to their fears. Ours attacked their fleet on
September twelve in such a way that several of their ships sank, many
of their men jumped ship and drowned. The rest of the fleet escaped
to Nieuw-Vossemeer, where the multitude sought to escape on water
as well as on land, but all the enemy ships with the commanders and
4000 prisoners, and all that pertained to that fleet fell into our
hands. That is how they who were cursed by the pontifical nuntius,
were truly blest.
But did the Lord contend for us only at sea? Let us relate
what the Lord did for us on land in 1600, at the battle of Nieuwpoort.
It was judged at that time that success in this battle was paramount
to the salvation of the country. That is the place where the Lord did
battle for us with sun, wind, sand and smoke; where He took wisdom
and understanding from the enemy, when he neglected to do that which
would have defeated our forces.
According to Van Sande, "This battle took place July 2, 1600,
exactly 302 years after Adolf van Nassau was defeated by Duke Albert
of Austria. He continues, "The glory of this victory belongs to
Almighty God, Who worked above what we could think and delivered our
army when it was caught like Israel between Pharaoh and the Red Sea."
The States were poorly prepared and knowingly they went into a place
that was a trap, there was no food, no means to cover a responsible
retreat, neither means to fight. Had the enemy known this and not
risked to fight a desperate enemy, but had kept his ease (as was the
counsel of some of the best experienced commanders of the day), ours
would in few days have been defeated by hunger and thirst. According
to van Reyd, ours had by lack of drinking water already dug holes and
pits. Ours were in great danger, and this was aggravated by the fact
that the enemy was assisted by the counsel of the most experienced
commanders. But our God turned Ahitophel's counsel into foolishness.
Prince Maurice had given command for our ships to leave shore and
lay at anchor some distance from shore. The Spanish seeing this
attacked ours without delay. They did not heed the counsel of their
advisers, and God Who turns the hearts of men like water courses
made this a cause to reject good counsel, and they began the battle.
According to Bor in his 37th book in the year 1600, the States
were in Ostende, they could see nothing but the future of the
fatherland hanging on a thread, and called fervently upon God. They
did as it were force heaven, showed their strength in prayer and
inclined the Almighty to help them. The Lord did more for them, for
the enemy rejected the best counsel given him and began the fight.
The situation was grave indeed, yes, it was already gone so far, that
our cavalry was retreating, and by other disorders the enemy was
certain the victory would be his. But Prince Maurice did his duty by
admonishing his men, pleading with them rather to die fighting
courageously, than drown in the sea. Whenever he saw some of his
horsemen together he would send them wherever he thought they were
needed most, calling on them to do their utmost, for it was not
hopeless; and so he continued to encourage his men.
Bor is of the opinion that if the cavalry of the enemy would
have fought as valiantly as his footmen, he would have been
victorious. "But" he continues, "it was God Who turned the battle to
our good; He is the God of hosts, for nobody could ascribe the
victory to people who were already confused and fleeing." Truly, it is
God to Whom all glory is due; it was He, Who through sun and sand
bared His arm for our good, for He sent a favorable wind and used
His sun to blind the eyes of the enemy. Van Meteren wrote, "Prince
Maurice marched to the East, he had the sea on his left, and since
the wind blew from the West, it was on his back; and since it was
midday when the battle ensued, -- by which we could see God's
Providence,-- he had the sun also behind him, all these things kept
sand, dust, smoke and the sun from our eyes, and all this was of
great advantage to our troops."
Bor wrote, "All these things were a great hindrance to the
enemy, the sun in his eyes, while the wind blew dust and sand in his
face; and more than this it was our God Who showed mercy to His
Through all this our State became a great victory, while the
enemy was sure the victory was his. The Infante had said she was
curious to know how Prince Maurice would act when he was brought
before her as a prisoner. Several thousands were killed during the
action, and among the 600 prisoners was the Admirant of Arragon, yes,
even Albert himself was in danger of falling into our hands. There was
unbelievable joy throughout the land. The Lord was thanked with tears.
Van Reyd wrote about this in a touching way.
It is remarkable what van Meteren related of Prince Maurice;
"When the battle was won, Prince Maurice descended from his horse and
bursting out in tears said, "O Lord, we are poor sinners, and who are
we, that today, to the glory of Thy name, Thou shouldest impart so
great happiness to us? To Thee be glory and thanksgiving for ever."
He continued saying that if darkness had not come upon them, so he
could not gather his troops, he would have ordered a general
thanksgiving that night. This was observed the following day in the
city of Ostende, in the presence of the Prince and all the lords of
the States General.
The States General ordered that a special Thanksgiving Day
should be observed in the United Netherlands. Bor relates how the
States General being assured of this glorious victory, had Rev.
Uytenbogaard lead in a service of thanksgiving to God Almighty; and
the Prince coming into Ostende on July 3, desired that again another
thanksgiving service should be held, which was done in the French
language, from Psalm 116. From this it is evident how thankful the
Prince was, and how he ascribed all the glory to God.
19. Our Hearts Encouraged VI (Maestricht, De Briel)
Thus far we have seen how the Lord ruled wind and rain, frost
and warm weather, fog and sunshine, smoke, sand and sea for our good.
In this account we see God's mighty arm dealing with the rivers, the
walls of our country, to stop the power of the enemy. That is how
the Lord helped us in 1632 when we besieged the city of Maestricht.
When Prince Frederick Hendrick came to the city of Maestricht,
the river Meuse was so low that a man could ride or walk through the
river. However when the enemy came to the river and desired to cross
it, to the end to relieve the city; as Van Sande says, "by God's
decree, the water rose to a hight of seven feet." The water was too
high and the enemy could not cross it. Commelin in his book "Frederick
Hendrick", in the year 1632, states that much rain had fallen, whereby
the water level so increased, that the Spanish could not cross the
river, and the State troops had time to strengthen and secure their
battlements and they were without danger. The same author writes
that in 1641 the Spanish under commander La Fountaine came to
Aardenburg, as it was their purpose to go to Cadzand, and how
unfavorable weather frustrated their purpose.
After seeing all these things, we understand that the true
Netherlander and lover of God's Israel has reason with the Psalmist
to call out, "Who is a God like unto thee? Thou art the God Who doeth
wonders; thou hast made known Thy strong arm among the nations. Thou
hast redeemed thy people by thy arm, the children of Jacob, Sela. The
waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the
depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out waters: the skies
sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy
thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the
earth trembled and shook. Thy way was in the sea, and thy path in the
great waters, and thy footsteps are not known" (Psalm 77: 14-19).
To think of these things, whereby was this nation truly saved?
Was it not by God's arms of water and wind?
I must admit, I do not understand. How is it possible that so
little is said of these great deeds of the Lord? How is it possible
that we don't show anymore thankfulness. Why is it that we see the
outward means, but put so little trust in our God? He has shown that
He loves this nation. He has through wonders and great deeds
revealed Himself visibly to this nation, and for our sakes to the
whole world. How is it that we so little appreciate His holy truth, for
it is for the glory of His truth that the Lord did these things for
us, Isaiah 42: 19, 20.
Do some believe that all these stories of wind, weather, sea and
rivers are no more than the workings of nature? I answer, "It is God
Who has nature in His hand, and He makes use of it by special
occasions and important situations for the good of a nation, by
showing His help and great might to the same. In particular when they
1. Unusual works that were at other times not seen, like that
marvelous work of the Lord in the Zuiderzee in the year 1572, and
2. When they follow times of fasting and prayer, as happened on
3. When the workings of nature turn in an unknown direction,
agreeing with the desires and designs of a nation, as we have seen
with the siege of Leyden and others we have mentioned. When even
pagans see in such disposal the hand of God, how much more must we
Christians see them, for we know, "Are not two sparrows sold for a
farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your
Father" (Matt. 10: 29). How visibly the Lord heard our prayers, and
showed His wonders in the rivers of our country, is emphatically
related by N. Wassenaar in the year 1627.
But also things that happen in a natural way can show God's
particular help and power, as we see in Josh. 10: 11; 1 Sam. 7: 10 and
12: 17; Job 37: 11-13. Truly, the Lord did things among us which must be
seen as wonders. He has shown His Providence to this nation in such
marvelous ways, that I must say, it is above many great wonders!
21 The Death Of William The Silent
They were anxious days for the Fathers when the Tyrant of
Spain, who was out to kill the Prince, finally succeeded in
assassinating him by the hand of a murderer in the year of 1584, at
the city of Delft. It was as if his death were the death of the
nation. All eyes were directed to God, but after God to the Prince.
Even the most fearful took courage from his example of gallantry,
understanding and resolution. According to Bor in his 7th book, page
40, the people entrusted him with everything; and according to his
18th book, page 423, "he was the most trained Prince in all of
Christendom in matters of state." At the youthful age of 21 he was
General in the army of Charles V, where he was chosen above all
experienced lords, because the King had already seen what he could
do. The same writer continues, "From his discussions, speeches,
counsel and warnings that are found in history, it can be seen that
he was very intelligent." His courage was not less than his wisdom,
and they both were less than his love and loyalty to the Fatherland
and its well-being. He expresses this in the last words that came
>from his dying lips, "Lord! have mercy on me, and on these poor
The King of Spain was of the opinion that it was only necessary
to kill the Prince, and he would gain his purpose with this nation, i.e.,
bring these lands back into slavery. That is why he set a price of
80,000 crowns on the head of the Prince.
There was uncommon joy with the enemy, although the people kept
them from lighting bonfires. It is in this respect most remarkable what
was done by the Lord. Monks in 's Hertogenbosch who were hindered to
celebrate in public, gathered in the Dome-Church to sing the Te Deum
Laudamus. However, the Lord changed this singing into mourning, and
their joy into sorrow. That same evening the tower of the Church was
hit by lightning and burned to the ground, while nothing else was hurt.
The same happened during the time of Charles V, when the Elector of
Saxony, a Protestant Prince, was imprisoned. The monks in Meissen
sang Te Deum Laudamus at seven in the morning to celebrate the
occasion. That same afternoon at five o'clock the towers of the
Cathedral Church where this took place, were hit by lightning and
burned down to the ground, the great heat melting even the bells. See
Hooft, in the year 1584. fabrit. Annal. Urb. Misen, page 97. Wolf. tom.
2. Memorab. page 516. Gerard. Confess. Catho. lib. 2, part 1, page 1291.
To return to the Prince's murder, it can easily be seen by what
we know how great the joy of the enemy was, and what they had
promised themselves when the Prince would be dead. But the
consternation on our side was just as great for the need and unhappy
situation of our dear Fatherland.
But even from this affliction Jacob was delivered, and the
Tyrant saw that his hope was gone. From the cut off stem of the tree
of Orange new sprouts arose, which were an honor to its name.
Although Prince Maurice was still very young, the Lord granted him a
hero's spirit, and under his hand the nation increased. We will note
the words of the States General, in their answer to the Polish
Ambassador in 1597, when they said, "That the Prince was murdered in
a barbaric fashion, with a reward openly promised, not in battle, but
treacherously killed while at home, and gave the enemies hope that
these lands were altogether lost. But in spite of this, with the help
of Almighty God (Who was the hope of these States), under the leading
of his illustrious son Prince Maurice, the provinces were not only
protected but at the same time increased in number." See Bor , lib.
34. page 30.
It is remarkable that in the Providence of God, He took our
Prince when the people trusted him the most. In Holland
especially, the people were thinking of making him their
Sovereign, whereunto they also attempted to move the other
provinces. To that end they evaluated his merits, although they
did not give him anymore credit than what was true of him, and known by
anyone. See the letter to
those of Utrecht, of May 6, 1583, which can be found by Bor, in his
50th book, page 201. But our God wanted to teach the country not to
lean upon a man, but only on His help and power, for our God is very
zealous of His honor. Our wise Prince, being convinced of this, used
to complain that the people trusted him as if he were God. There is
no doubt that the vain trust of people in their Princes is often the
cause that the Lord suddenly takes them by death.
That is what we read of the famous King of Sweden, Gustav
Adolph, who in the last years of his reign made Germany tremble.
Shortly before his death there was a great multitude of people
around him by his entrance that honored him by shouting, "Long live
the King." It seemed to them that when he was around they did not
have to fear a thing. According to Frederick Spanheim in his 'Swedish
Soldier', page 440, the first volume, the King had said, "We are doing
well, but I fear that God will punish me for the foolishness of the
people that honor me too highly, for I am just a man. God is my
witness, that it displeases me. The Lord do what is right in His eyes;
I know that He will finish this work." Good and princely words, which
were a prophecy, as the result has taught us, and will possibly teach
us in the future.
23 Van Reyd on the end of his thirteenth book made a list of the
King's disasters; van Meteren in the year 1606; Van Sande in his
seventh book of the year 1623. Beside the fact that the King's
commerce was in sore decline, it seems that the Lord also took
vengeance for all the unrighteous blood he shed, and the cruelties in
the West-Indies committed by the Spanish. The Spanish were so cruel
that we marvel that the earth did not swallow these monsters alive.
But our God does everything at His time gloriously, and His ways are
not our ways.
Barthel. de la Casa, a Dominican monk, testified that the
Spaniards killed more than 20,000,000 Indians, and predicted that God's
judgments would come over the Spanish for this.
24 The True Cause Of Our Prosperity
To conclude our considerations for the true cause of the Rise
of this Republic, of all we have said thus far, it is clear that the
Lord is our Praise and to Him we must give all the glory. At the same
time we confess that the Lord kept us in His tender Fatherly care. It
is the Lord Who led us by the pillar of fire in the wilderness; He
hovered over us like an eagle over its young. Rejoicing in doing us
good, making His name known and glorious over all the world, all
nations having seen the salvation of our God.
I know that many more things could be added, such as: how
marvelously we came to know the secrets of our enemies, and how
during the war, letters of the King of Spain, mostly to our advantage
came into our hands. How the Lord gave some of ours wonderful wisdom
to decipher their cipher code. And according to Van Read, it seldom
happened that our letters came into their hands.
It was never our intention to write of everything that happened.
We will give others occasion to write of even better things, in order
that our God Who is to be praised, may be glorified and His fame be
set forth from one generation to the next.
All this came to pass, that our enemies should be the tail and
we the head, "That the sons also of them that afflicted thee shall
come bending unto thee; and all they that despise thee shall bow
themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee,
The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Is. 60:14).
Finally, they were so humbled, that they pleaded with us for
mercy and peace. For both, the King of Spain and the Emperor of
Austria, saw that the Lord was with us, it was He Who so marvelously
helped us and made us great.
Our enemies themselves were compelled to testify to that. An
Italian, Guido Ventiviglio, Cardinal and Archbishop of Rhodus, writing
to Cardianal Borghese about the Republic of these United Netherlands,
called her: "A mighty Republic, at sea as well as on land, which is
suddenly increased, yes, marvelously almost more increased than come
into existence." The Jesuit Strada calls her, "A new Republic which in
short time raised its head; which becoming stronger daily, tolerates
no others that are mightier; that with fleets at sea extends it
inhabitants to the utmost shores and makes new places for them to
live. They send ambassadors to all Princes, making mutual agreements,
whose attitude is not less than that of Kings and made for
themselves a new empire in Europe" (Lib 1. de Bello Belg).
But what moved the Lord to do such great and marvelous things
for this nation?
To know the real cause has its own profit. It is much to
acknowledge that it is the Lord Who made us great, but we must also
know why the Lord did so, for unless we know this we cannot thank
the Lord uprightly, but shall look to ourselves and others. We read
that the prophets attempted with great zeal to teach the Israelites
concerning this, see Ps. 105: 8-11; 106: 8, 45; Is. 42; 21. Moses the man
of God dealt with this more than once, as we read in Deut. 7: 8, 9: 4;
10: 14, 15. The words of Deut. 9: 4, 5 in this respect are very
remarkable, "Speak not thou in thine heart, after the Lord thy God
has cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the
Lord has brought me in to possess the land: but for the wickedness
of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not
for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost
thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these
nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and
that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers:
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
In the first place we must acknowledge that the Lord did not do
these wonders and great deeds, because we were righteous or worthy,
or deserved them. For we do not deserve the least piece of bread,
but we by our sins deserve hell. It is not for our righteousness or
might, for we were the least of all nations, and just a handful of
people, despicable in the eyes of our enemies; and so the cause
cannot be looked for here, we must look elsewhere. There is nothing
for which God's people must be more careful than for pride, seek the
cause for the Lord's blessings in self, as though we gave the Lord
reason to bless us, "These people have I formed for myself; they
shall show forth my praise; But thou hast not called upon me O Jacob;
but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me
the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured
me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an
offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet
cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy
sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast
wearied me with thine iniquities" (Is. 43: 21-24). With Jacob the
Patriarch we humbly confess, "I am not worthy of the least of all the
mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast shown" (Gen. 32: 10).
Let us again return to the history of the Netherlands. We have
seen what are not the causes of our blessings; let us now see why
the Lord blessed us so marvelously.
1. It is purely the Lord's mercy, goodness, pity, grace and kindness.
The same as the congregation of Israel confesses the manifold
deliverances, prosperity and blessings, see Neh. 9: 17, 25, 27, 28, 31,
and Psalm 136. The basis of God's mercies, in destroying His enemies
is that, "His mercy endureth forever". The people do not boast in
their piety, but in the Lord's unmerited favour. As we read in Lam. 3:
22, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed; because
His compassions they fail not". He helped us, because He loved us, and
heard our prayers, "That our mouth would be filled with praise, all
the day with His glory," Ps. 71: 8, 15 and 24.
2. We were a little and powerless people, and the Lord helped us
against such a mighty enemy, that we may see and know, consider and
understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and
the Holy One of Israel hath created it, "that he might make his mighty
power to be known" (Ps. 106: 8); that our God should receive more
glory, that the world would see that the victory is His. He is a God
not in need of mighty horsemen and great armies, "but the least of
the flock shall draw them out" (Jer. 50: 45b). Here we are reminded of
the words of David, "He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from
them which hated me: for they were too strong for me" (Ps. 18: 17).
3. The Lord did it to stop the mouth of our enemies, that they
would not say anymore, "Where is the God of the Reformed?" Ps. 79: 10.
"The (Spanish) Assyrian oppressed them without cause. "Now therefore,
what have I here, saith the Lord, that my people is taken away for
nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD
and my name continually every day is blasphemed. Therefore my people
shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am
he that doth speak: behold, it is I to help and redeem you" (Is. 52: 5,
6). The LORD hath done great things for them" (Ps. 126: 2). Truly, the
Lord convinced the enemy that He was near to us with His help. The
whole world as it were, knew this. It is said of the Turks that they
marveled that this little country could contend for such a long time
with a great and mighty Potentate like the King of Spain.
There was the Emperor Amurath (Turk), who could not understand
that such a little country as Holland and Zealand, as was shown him
from maps, could resist such a mighty King as the King of Spain. His
counselors could not answer him. He then asked the ambassador of
Venice, he did not know either; however to say something, he told the
Emperor that the Queen of England greatly encouraged this nation. But
the Emperor was not at all satisfied and said, "Oh, that woman has
enough to do in her own country, her little help cannot do much to
harm Spain. The ambassador continued and said that we were much
assisted by France. "Oh", said His Majesty, "that nation fights a civil
war and has enough in its own country." The ambassador continued and
said, "These lands have great and strong fortifications, which are
surrounded by rivers." But His Majesty was not impressed, and said,
"The King of Spain is so mighty and has enough people that he can dam
the rivers with human flesh, and make of them a bridge to safely walk
over." When there were no more reasons the Emperor said at last, "I
will give you my opinion about the matter: "It is God! It is God!" he
called out, pointing with his hand to heaven, "Who fights for these
lands, otherwise it would not be possible." See Pers, in his
"Frightened Lion", the appendix.
"Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God
hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righeousness the
LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness
of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee"
(Deut. 9: 4).
28 The War Waged for True Religion
What was the leading cause of the bloody wars, which lasted so
long? Was it not religion? One who knows about our history is no
stranger to this. It was in the first place the aim of the King of
Spain to enforce the Roman religion upon us by all means and might;
this is admitted by the Jesuit Strada, lib.4,Hist. de Bello Belg. He
says that the King in secret letters to the Princess of Parma
desired from her to maintain the Roman religion; he tells her how she
can best get her hands on the heretics (the Reformed). After that he
sent Alva to Holland with an army to force the Inquisition upon us, of
which the States General, according to Bor in his 16th book, page 36,
by the abjuration of the King, in 1581, said "that the Inquisition in
these lands was as terrible and offensive as slavery itself."
According to van Reyd in his 6th, and Hooft in his second book, the
King was so determined to maintain the Romish religion, and cause the
complete ruination of the Reformed that he said, "rather to lose his
people and country than to give in the least concerning religion; yes,
he rather lost 100,000 lives, than to allow the least change in them."
When the representatives of the government of Antwerp
requested Alva not to deal so harsh with the Reformed in their city,
but give them, in connection with a promise of the Princess of Parma,
one month to leave. Angrily he answered that he was amazed to find
such insolence in those of Antwerp that they dared to speak up for
heretics. They should not do that again, otherwise he would punish
them and make them an example to others. His Majesty would rather
see these lands without inhabitant and turned into a wilderness than
to allow erring spirits therein. See Hooft in his fourth book, in the
Cardinal Granvelle, who, like the Jesuit Strada himself, reveals
in his book that he was an unchaste man, and was added to the
Princess for help, boasted that he came to the court of the Princess
to establish the Roman religion in all places, even if he had to burn
100,000 people within one hour. Caspar Grevinus, Sua Institutione, page
The States General in a letter in the year 1584, written to
those of Gent, testify, that neither the intercession of the Emperor
(Maximilian II), nor those of France and England, nor of the States
General, could change the heart of the King, but that he declared
rather to see the country go to ruin, than to allow but the least of
another religion. Pers, Frightened Lion, page 888.
Like our enemies in their blindness were zealous against the
true religion; like that, and even more so, the Reformed were zealous
for the freedom of their religion and be able to freely exercise and
experience the same; which light was kindled in these lands now many
years ago, and for which many thousands have shed their blood. It is
remarkable that when it pleased our God to let the light break
through, as on a second day of Pentecost in the deep darkness of
Popery, the Netherlands were the first to accept the truth, but also
the first who suffered for it.
Luther, in a letter written to the faithful in Holland, Braband
and Flanders admits as much. See Oper. Luther, tom 7. edit. Wittenberg
1558, in farragine Epistol. fol. 484.
Van Sande in his first book, in the year 1566, testifies that
already before the war, 300,000 people were cruelly murdered for
When during the reign of the Princess of Parma the persecution
began to increase, the Nobles of the nation, under Hendrik van
Brederode, a prominent Protestant, presented a petition to the
Princess (Margaret) for relaxation of the edicts, and toleration of the
Protestant religion. When this had not the desired effect, the
Reformed, by Count van Hoogstraten sent a petition to the King and
desired of His Majesty the free exercise of religion, with the
proposition to grant the King a gift of thirty tons of gold, above all
other burdens of taxation. But when all failed, the States under the
leadership of the Prince of Orange, in order to stop the cruel
persecution, and to open the way for the Protestant religion, began
the war which was to last for 80 years. This was the objective of
Prince William, as he testifies in his Apology, page 46, where he says,
"We rejoice that it has pleased God to grant us the grace, that we
should check immodest tyranny, and by these means make it possible to
gain freedom of religion; which true Reformed religion, he says (page
47), only is worthy to have the name of religion."
Then in 1568, from an appeal by the deputies of the Netherland
Reformed Churches, with a promise of financial support, he began the
war, and in a public letter made known why he took up arms. He
emphatically mentioned as the most important cause, "the glory of God
and the increase of His Word." In another letter, August 30, he
testifies to take up arms, "to the glory of God in defending His Word,
and the exercise of true religion." He encouraged everyone to assist
him, if they would, "not be deprived of the Evangelical doctrine."
Concerning the Letters of Instruction written by the Prince, it
will be clear that the Prince had no other intention, but, "to promote
the service of God, help the persecuted Christians, and to protect
the liberties of the country". In 1570, he wrote to the Admiral and
sea-captains, "that above all things he had sought to serve and
glorify God;" and he had not left off, "to use all good means, by
which, with the help of the Creator, the pure Word of God may return
to the Netherlands; to which end he had prepared himself for war." One
other of the points of instruction is the following, "That each captain
on his ship must have a minister to proclaim God's Word, and pray to
God that the soldiers, with the skippers, uphold good Christian
morals." See Bor, in his fifth book, page 233 and 234.
It is remarkable that in the most difficult times, already in
1570, the finances needed for the war, were almost wholly raised by
Reformed people, prompted thereto by their ministers, as we learn
>from Hooft in the same year.
Furthermore, it can be seen from Prince William's Apology that he
saw freedom of religion and the conscience, as the first and most
prominent basis for our righteous war.
Does someone raise the question did we fight for the Popish as
well as the Reformed religion; and did the Roman Catholics contribute
to the cost of the war? We answer, "In no way", for no one had to
fight to exercise the Popish religion. It is true, both religions were
in the beginning, by the State and the Prince tolerated. But when the
Papists always shielded the King of Spain, committed all kinds of
treason, they finally had to forbid them the free exercise of religion.
The Prince in his Apology states, "The papists swore another oath to
the Pope, which they esteemed higher than the oath done to the
Prince William further testified that, had they not banned the
popish religion, the country would have been destroyed in no time. He
esteemed it highly necessary to have only the Reformed religion, "that
without the Reformed religion and its exercise, the country could not
exist for three more days." See page 107 of his Apology.
From what we have said, it is clear why we fought this war, and
that was for freedom of religion. It is true that some of the
provinces hesitated. In most provinces the name of the King was for a
long time used in all business pertaining to the State, and the King
acknowledged as Supreme Ruler. But since the institution of the
Republic of the United Netherlands, in 1581, when finally the yoke of
the King of Spain was cast off, both religions were not allowed
anymore. Although no one was burdened in his conscience, as can be
read from Hooft in his book written in 1581.
However, we must distinguish between the provinces, they were
not always united in their judgment concerning this matter. At times
some would maintain the Romish, and others the Reformed religion.
Because of this the States of Holland and Zealand together, have for
five years fought the King of Spain by themselves, laid the foundation
of the Union and tolerated no other religion but the Reformed; which
only they maintained, for which they gave their all. See Hooft in 21st
book page 33, and in his 27th book page 322.
Just like the Spanish in their war against us used the name of
the King and religion, the Lords of the State of Holland declared in
1573, "to have taken up arms, because the Spanish wanted to dominate
our souls and consciences, and punish our faith and religion; while
some of them did not know whether there was a God in heaven, yea,
hardly ever read a word of the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ."
See Bor in his 6th book, fol. 338. That is what the States of Holland
testified in their answer to Leicester, that they with those of
Zealand, under the leading of the Prince, had started the war against
Spain, "chiefly to maintain the Christian Religion". See Hooft in his
27th book, in the year 1587. Again, according to the same source,
"they hoped to persevere in maintaining the Reformed religion for
which they began the war." Writing to the States of Utrecht they said,
"that with Zealand, only to keep their religion, they had fought for
five years; for which they had suffered and did so much, also to help
those of Utrecht." What they said was true, for this was the
condition under which they had commissioned the highest authority of
their States to the Prince, i.e., that he would maintain the Reformed
religion and fight all religions that were in conflict with the
evangelical, under which the two provinces were also united, and
renewed their union in 1576 under these conditions.
The foregoing is also acknowledged by the author of a "Short
History of the Reformation", although he favors the Papists, by
saying, "that not only would they have freedom of conscience, but
also freedom to discharge their Romish religious duties." However, the
States of Holland and Zeeland had decided not to let in any refugees
but those who with an oath would promise not to do anything against
the Reformed religion, and that they would not import or exercise any
That is how these things, with the Lord's blessing, were executed
in Holland and Zealand; and as the States of Holland and Zealand
acknowledged in their missive to Utrecht, "after conducting the war,
the other provinces united with them, when they, as was reported,
abjured the King of Spain."
They were not only united in accepting the Reformed religion,
but according to Bor in his 20th book, page 872, the States General
decided in 1583, "to allow no doctrine or public exercise of any other
religion in the United Provinces." Prince William testifies in his
Apology, "the Lord did not only enlighten the eyes of our leaders, but
He made them experience that like He blessed the house of Obed-Edom
for the ark's sake, He blessed us marvelously."
The States General in their authorization and approbation of the
Synod of Dordrecht, addressing all kings and princes of Christendom,
testify as before the whole world, that like the Union is the
foundation of the famous Republic, so true religion is the foundation of
The States General declared thereby that they did not take up
arms under the appearance of doing this for religion's sake, of which
the arch-heretic Socinius accuses them, but that for them religion
came in the first place. Touching are the words of the States of
Zealand concerning this as found in their considerations of the 21st
of January 1647, in which they testify, "that the Reformed religion is
the soul of the State, the foundation on which this Republic is built,
and the most important, yes, only connection by which the respective
provinces remain united with each other."
Truly, every word in this declaration has a place, and will
establish what has been said by us, viz., "it was not an irresponsible
desire for freedom of all religions that made us conduct this war, but
the one way to maintain the only and pure religion, and that
therefore the Lord blessed this nation."
Lord de Vrij, at one time Burgomaster of Amsterdam in his
essay, "Origin of the Ecclesiastical Disturbances", writes, "the
Reformed religion is the foundation of liberty, the salvation and
marvelous increase of this Republic."
We would not have said so much about this, were it not that
Arminians and other muddle-heads are attempting to have us believe
that the war was not fought for the sake of pure religion, and that
therefore all religions, yes, even the Papists must have freedom to
exercise their religion.
On top of this, there are Popish writers who acknowledge, yes
attempt to give evidence that it was a religious war. Cornelius
Jansenius, at one time Bishop of Yperen, endeavours to show that this
war against the King of Spain was a religious war. According to Bor in
his 4th book, in 1567, the Spaniards themselves called this war a holy
war, undertaken to maintain the Romish religion, to destroy the
heretics, thereby supported by the Inquisition and the clergy.
35 Conventicles (Field Preaching)
When our Fathers were yet in popery; at the time the pure
gospel began to be preached, they were so filled with joy that they
were not sufficiently capable to express themselves in praise and
J.H., writing his "Netherland History," in the year 1566, has this
to say, "When in Flanders, by Oudenaarde, they preached in public, the
people were so full of joy that he marveled at their abundant joy in
the Lord. Their mouth was filled with singing, filled with joy and they
were like the people of God who were delivered from Babylon, they were
like those who dream. They were so happy, they could eat nor drink.
They went together, with their Bibles, Testaments and Psalm books, to be
taught in the truth. At times they had to go for three or four hours to
the place where the Word would be preached."
Preachers were sent from Germany, Friesland, England, Embden and
Wezel; at times they preached three or four times a day.
The testimony of J.H. is the more remarkable, for he lived during
those days and he himself attended the meetings of the Reformed. He
relates that the Reformed, before they enjoyed the freedom to do so,
met with thousands and by night. Bor also testifies that the Reformed
at first met secretly in forests and unknown places, until at last
they went more publicly to their meetings. At times they carried arms,
from fear to be attacked. Although they were often harassed, this was
not enough to quench their zeal, as he relates of the year 1566, lib.
2, fol. 47; where he writes that the Reformed went on foot and on
horseback, and met outside of Antwerp, not without arms. At different
places they had guards at the entrances; at one time there were
three preachers, and each preached three sermons. This shows the
great zeal of our fathers to hear and enjoy the Word of God.
Especially when we remember that in those dangerous times they were
not a few who came together, but several thousands, as we gather
from the above.
We are the more convinced of their zeal when we note what the
enemies of God's Church testified of this. According to the Jesuit
Strada, there were at one time more than eight thousand gathered at
Doornik to hear the Word. A still greater number gathered in a
district near Rijsel, in Flanders. Near Antwerp were thirteen thousand
gathered on one day (see Strad. de bell. Belg. lib. 5, ad annum 1566).
Prince William, in a letter written to the Princess of Parma, in which
he attempts to move her to give consent to have the Reformed meet
within the walls of Antwerp, testified that no less then 20,000 people
went without the city to hear the preaching. (Strada. Ibid).
It is remarkable what we read from Pers in his "Frightened Lion"
in the year 1566, page 242, "When it was decided to preach outside of
Haarlem's city walls, the burgomasters attempted to keep the people in
the city. Carts and boats were filled with people, and there were
hardly enough lodging places, so that multitudes slept out in the open
"Amsterdam warned Haarlem, and they closed the gates. Two
preachers who were in the city and lodged with a certain Ysbrant
Staetsz, were smuggled out of the city.
"Since the gates were now guarded, some climbed over the walls,
and swam the moat; others took to boats and rafts, and so came to
the other side. When the authorities saw that all efforts to keep the
people inside the city failed, they opened the gates, and a multitude
forced its way through the gates. They found a mighty gathering of
people, but no preacher. It was told the multitude that a preacher
was coming, and when he appeared around midday, a platform was build
on sticks that were put in the ground, from which he preached. They
sang their psalms, and after prayer was made, they listened to the
preacher for four hours. The preaching was done with so great zeal
that most returned full of joy, with tears running down their face.
Next day this was repeated, in a company of approximately 5,000
Who will not marvel at the perseverance of our Fathers, how
they conquered the greatest handicaps to hear the Word? More so,
because just then it was the time that martyrs burned at the stake,
but they nevertheless went to hear the Word preached. While they saw
the flames rise, and the light of the fires of their persecutors, a
holy fire was lit in their hearts that burnt in the service of their
God. It is said of Fransiscus Junius, that he taught and educated the
Church of Christ in Antwerp when the reflection of the light of the
flames that burned the martyrs at the marketplace were almost enough
to light the room in which they met (J. Lydii, glorios. Belg. page 32).
By this, their zealous bravery, and their brave zeal, the truth which
glorified the name of the Lord advanced with power, and in all this
the Lord manifested that He is ever mighty in His saints. This is
sweetly expressed by the learned Hofferus when he praised the Lord
"Not the sword, nor flaming fire,
Could make Thy Church retire;
Nor did the heat of flame,
Quench their lawful claim.
Counts of noble birth and high,
Judged by Alva, were condemned to die.
But in spite of all his clamour,
He raised nothing but a tremor.
Lord our God! so strong in might,
Thy works are true and right!
The ways of Him who doesn't sleep
Are like still waters, very deep.
(see his 'Nederduytse Poemata,' page 169).
The Fathers have shown how precious they considered the Bible,
this light and pearl of God's holy truth to be, and with how strong
desire they were filled to possess and enjoy the same. In this way
the descendants, like their ancestors, should esteem the Lord's Word