The first Anabaptist communities of the Netherlands (modern Netherlands and Belgium) took shape in the early 1530s. Severe persecution followed when the Hapsburg monarchs of Austria and Spain took charge of the area, forcing many to flee. During this time many families found their way through the North and Baltic Seas to Prussia where they settled and eventually flourished in large Mennonite communities.
A number of these families moved yet further east, into southern Russia (Ukraine), and in the 1870s to Canada. From here they moved to Mexico, to British Honduras, and on to Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. They spoke an archaic Prussian language, Plautdietsch, and after so many years, in the 1950s, many of these families found new homes in southern Ontario, Canada. Through this, a good number of them became great friends and co-labourers of the Rainham Mennonites and their descendants — leading, in some cases, to unity in church fellowship and marriage.
Books and articles written by Dutch Prussian believers appear here in chronological order.
Menno Simons (ca 1496-1561) — Writings, 1536-1554
All of the Rainham settlers, of Anabaptist background, either owned copies of Menno Simons’ writings in German translation, or else read them as borrowed copies as they travelled around from house to house.
Menno’s most popular writings amongst them were:
1. My Conversion, 1554
2. The Spiritual Resurrection, ca 1536
3. The New Birth, 1537
4. Foundation of Christian Doctrine, 1539
5. The True Christian Faith, ca 1541
6. The Cross of the Saints, ca 1554
Dirk Philips, an ex-Franciscan friar, found his way into the Anabaptist fellowship of the Netherlands in 1533. Not only did he became a church leader, he quickly became a writer, apologist, spiritual defender and author of numerous tracts and books.
To read about Dirk Philips click here.
Dirk Philips writings arrived in Canada with the first Rainham settlers, in the German language, visible here. In 1910 the collected writings of Dirk Philips appeared in Elkhard, Indiana, in English. Read an excerpt.
The book, among some Rainham descendants, still carries respect and appreciation.
Hans de Ries (1553-1638) — What We Believe, 1577
Born in Antwerp in Flanders, Hans de Ries grew up in a Catholic home. Searching spiritual enlightenment he moved north, into the Netherlands, and joined a Reformed congregation. Still dissatisfied, especially by the Reformed Christians’ support of military conflict — something he found totally un-Christ-like — he found his way into the fellowship of Anabaptist believers at Aklmaar in Noord-Holland. For many years Hans de Ries taught, encouraged, and counseled believers far and wide.
Focused on spiritual realities, Hans de Ries never worried too much about outward rules and forms, but in 1577 Hans de Ries led his fellowship into the adoption of a gentle but firm statement of faith. Read it here.
Thieleman Jans van Braght — The Martyrs Mirror, 1659
If the first Anabaptist families of the Rainham Settlement had any books, outside of the Bible and the Ausbund (their commonly used hymnal) they owned a massive Märtyrer-piegel — the German edition of a great collection of martyr stories.
In 1886, John F. Funk, a relative of most Mennonite families in the South Cayuga congregation, a short distance east of Rainham, published and English edition of the Martyrs Mirror at Elkhart, Indiana.
The following three stories from the Martyrs Mirror were of particular value and interest among the Rainham settlers. Not only because of the pathos involved but because of their helpful instructions in following Jesus.
Matthijs Servaes von Ottenheim (1536-1564) — Martyrs Mirror
Of all the accounts in the Martyrs Mirror, the story of the young minister, Matthijs Servaes, struck a chord as none another, amongst the descendants of the Rainham Settlers. Matthijs endured his torture, his interrogation, and eventually his execution in calm, humble fortitude. But before that happened, Matthijs managed to write, in prison, ten beautiful letters for the believers he was about to leave behind. Rich with instruction and wise words of counsel, his words still speak, although his fellowship was scattered and his name forgotten at the place where he worked for the Lord.
To read the story of Matthijs Servaes, click here.
To read what he wrote, click here.
Mathijs Servaes, at the time of his execution, was twenty-nine years old.
Jacob de Roor (ca 1532-1569) — Martyrs Mirror
“The very pleasant and favoured country of Flanders, in and about the year 1569,” Thieleman Jans van Braght wrote, “was as a dreadful den of murderers, in which they did not hesitate to put to death the chosen friends and followers of Jesus Christ, yea, to deprive them little by little of life in the most awful and horrible manner, namely, by fire, to the sorrow and grief of many, who living at that time beheld it with weeping eyes. This appeared, among many others, in two valiant heroes, and champions of Jesus Christ. One of them was named Jacob de Roore, or the Chandler . . . ” Read more.
To learn about this Christian martyr, click here.
Dirk Willems and the Thief Catcher, 1569 — Martyrs Mirror
In the year 1569 a pious, faithful brother and follower of Jesus Christ, named Dirk Willems, was apprehended at Asperen, in the Netherlands, and had to endure severe tyranny from the papists. But as he had founded his faith not upon the drifting sand of human commandments, but upon the firm foundation stone, Christ Jesus, he, notwithstanding all evil winds of human doctrine, and heavy showers of tyrannical and severe persecution, remained immovable and steadfast . . . Read More
The Dordrecht Confession of Faith, 1632
In 1632 Flemish and Frisian Mennonites met in the city of Dordrecht, in Zuid-Holland, to agree on what they believed. Not only did this agreement bring peace and unity among Dutch believers, it later served as a common statement among Swiss Brethren and Amish believers in Southern Germany, France (Alsace), Pennsylvania and throughout all of North America and beyond.
The Rainham settlers instructed their young people for baptism with the Dordrecht Confession, and many of their descendants still use in the same way. Read the Confession.
Gerrit Roosen — Spiritual and Saving Faith
Born at Altona on the Elbe, in Niedersachsen, in 1612, Gerrit Roosen prospered, materially, through his whaling along the shores of Greenland. Read about his long eventful life and ministry.
But far more than being a successful sea captain, Gerrit Roosen loved the Lord and poured his life into the service of others. He preached for many years and in 1702 his instruction for young believers, Spiritual and Saving Faith, was published, just nine years before he died, ninety-nine years old.
All parents of the Rainham Mennonite congregation, in the 1800s, passed Gerrit Roosen’s book to their children, the much loved German edition, the Gemüths-Gespräch. Now, their descendents read the same in English. Read it here.
WALDENZISCHEN OORSPRONG VAN DE NEDERLANDSCHE DOOPSGEZINDEN
Steven Blaupot van der Cate
Read the work here:
Het Geheim van de Kracht
Read the work here:
The Secret of the Strength
The Secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you,” Christ told his followers—and a few fishermen, a tax collector, and a motley crowd of Jerusalem “believers” set out to change the world.
In sixteenth century Europe, the Anabaptists preaching in cities by night, on back streets, and in wood corners behind rail fences began to do the same. What was their secret? In this book you may study what they accomplished as long as they remembered it and what they lost when they forgot it.
Was their secret a return to the Bible? No, they were far more than Biblicists. Was it a return to the apostolic way? No, they were far more than keepers of tradition. Fundamentalism and traditionalism have never held Christianity together nor made it work.
The “secret of the kingdom of God” is stunningly simple. With two words Christ revealed it to his friends, who—upon comprehending it—came to a sudden knowledge of the will of God, of the whole Bible, and of the right way to live.
The purpose of this book is to help many more to comprehend the same.
Read the book here: