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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
E. H. Broadbent
From The Pilgrim Church
The King, Ferdinand I, brother of Charles V of Spain, was a fanatical persecutor of the brethren. Many of the authorities were unwilling instruments of his cruelty and would have spared the harmless, God-fearing people, but Ferdinand sent out an incessant stream of edicts and instructions exhorting them to greater ferocity and threatening them on account of their laxity.
So we find magistrates in the Tyrol excusing the mildness of which their savage lord accused them, and writing to him,
"For two years there has seldom been a day that Anabaptist matters have not come before our court, and more than 700 men and women in the Duchy of Tyrol, in different places, have been condemned to death, others have been banished from the country, and still more have fled, in misery, leaving their goods behind them and sometimes even forsaking their children. . . .
“We cannot conceal from your Majesty the folly generally found in these people, for they are not only not terrified by the punishment of others, but they go to the prisoners and acknowledge them as their brothers and sisters, and when on this account the magistrates accuse them, they acknowledge it willingly, without having to be put to the torture.
“They will listen to no instruction and it is seldom that one allows himself to be converted from his unbelief, for the most part they only wish that they may soon die. . . . we trust that your Royal Majesty will graciously understand from this our faithful report that we have not in any way been lacking in industry."
After Ferdinand became King of Bohemia also, the refuge which that country and Moravia had provided for so many of the brethren was cut off and there was now no way of escape for them. Increasing rewards were offered to those who would betray an "Anabaptist" into the hands of the government.
The goods of those executed were taken and used in part to cover the expense of persecution. Women about to give birth to children were ordered back to prison until after the birth of the child and then executed.
A magistrate in Sillian, one Jorg Scharlinger, was so much troubled at being obliged to have sentence of death executed on two boys, of 16 and 17 years, that he ventured to delay while he made further inquiries, and it was agreed that in such cases the accused were to be educated by Roman Catholics, the expense to be paid out of the confiscated goods of "Anabaptists", until the age of 18, when if they did not abjure, they were to be executed.
The Lord lived on earth with a violent death in view, and these Austrian youths followed in His footsteps.