The Execution of Rev. Hans Bret on January 4, 1577
In 1660, Author, Thieleman van Braght published a book cataloging some of the events of the martyrdom of the Anabaptists. This work was titled, “The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians – “Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Saviour, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660.”
The Anabaptist believed that infant baptism was not scriptural and did not save the soul of the infant. They maintained that in order to receive salvation, one had to first believe on Jesus Christ, and repent of their sin. Baptist was an act of obedience required by Christ for all who believed on his name. Since an infant was unaware of personal or generational sin, they could not repent. To add to this, an infant does not yet have a manner to understand who Christ is nor what atonement should mean, so therefore could not believe on Jesus Christ as their savior. The Anabaptist required that any adult coming into their folds have a confession of faith in Jesus Christ and be baptized in believer’s baptism. This meant that they were to be re-baptized. The Anabaptist did not initially call themselves Anabaptists, this was a mocking name placed on them by the Catholic and Protestant religions of the period. Eventually they accepted their title as a badge of distinction.
This distinction would cost them dearly for their lives would be the price to stand on the scriptures and adhere to their faith in Christ. The persecution of the Anabaptist by the Catholic and Protestant religions is reported to be so severe that more Anabaptist were martyred in the sixteenth century then the amount of Christians martyred by Rome and pagan religions in the first three centuries of the origins of the church.
Hans Bret, a baker by trade, and Anabaptist by faith is one such life laid down for Christ. He was in his twenties and an earnest bible scholar who supported his widowed mother and drew many converts who sought his teaching and preaching of the Word. On May 6, 1576 in the evening hours his home and bakery were surrounded by the bailiff and his posse. They arrested young Hans and several others who were meeting in his establishment. Thrown into prison and charged with heresy for being re-baptized Hans Bret was sentenced to execution by burning at the stake. He was tortured and beaten multiple times while awaiting his execution. This young man never retracted his statement of faith. In his dark prison cell, he wrote several letters to friends and family and encouraged them in their faith and the faithfulness of God. Tradition tell us that before they carried him out for his sentence, his tongue was burned up by torch, so that he could not preach from the steak.
I often wonder when I read these accounts of the horrific way a fellow believer has been martyred; if I could endure such an event. Could you endure such an event for your faith? We are living in a time where Christians have no backbone. We cower down when confronted about our faith. We are afraid to lose friends, family or our jobs, of social standings. It makes me wonder if we really believe at all? I know that Hans Bret believed. I know that Rev. Bret only wanted to share the truth and to care for those that he loved. He loved enough to die for them, so that they could keep the faith. Keep your eyes upon Jesus.