On June 10, 1535, a special proclamation was made, giving the decree that anyone who had baptized others and refused to recant would be put to death by fire. And any who aided the Anabaptists with hospitality would beheaded, or in the case of women, drowned… all of this to the end desire that the Anabaptists might be exterminated. And so, hundreds were being burned, beheaded and/or drowned.
One day a 14 year old lad joined a crowd who were watching an Anabaptist being executed at the stake. The man was chained, but he had an obvious expression of peace, if not actual joy, on his face. With a clear voice he affirmed his faith in Christ; and as the tormentors were about to light the fire, the man prayed:
“O Father and LORD, endue me with thy Spirit for this trial. Do not punish these who mistreat me today, but bring them also to the faith of Christ. Accept me now in thy grace.” — And so, he died a martyr for Christ.
As the 14 year old lad left that scene, he was awed by the man’s faith. Not long afterwards, this lad, Cornelis Aertsz de Man, found a gathering of the Anabaptists and he joined them for evening Bible Study. “Their witness of faith, their serious study of the Word of God, their joy in life, and their concern for love and moral integrity, all excited him.” Soon, Cornelis was converted to Christ. His family was alarmed; but soon they could only admire his gracious disposition, the love and purity of his life, His diligence in studying the Scriptures and the joy with which he shared his new relationship with Christ.
By age 17, Cornelis’s faith was so strong that the religious authorities of the Roman Catholic institution felt they had to stop him. So, he was arrested. And they sought diligently to get him to recant and return to Catholicism. On a particular day, the Roman Catholic leaders lined the courtroom and promised Cornelis future position and honor if he would renounce the simple Bible-based faith of the Anabaptists. Calmly, Cornelis replied:
“There is no higher position than to be a child of God and no greater honor than to be a voice for Him.”
Ultimately, they tortured young Cornelis to the extreme and finally at age 21, he was burned.