Guido de Brès (1522–1567) Comforts His Family from Death Row

Artist’s conception of Guido de Bres and Peregrin de la Grange in prison [Public domain] image source not recorded.

The author of the Belgic Confession spent six weeks incarcerated in sewage in the lowest section of the prison of Brunain at Valenciennes. Like many other reformers, Guido de Brès was imprisoned by Roman Catholic authorities because of his Protestant beliefs. Condemned to die, he wrote letters of comfort to his mother and his wife.

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His sentence was death by hanging, and he went joyfully to his execution, telling fellow prisoners just before the event “My brothers, I am condemned to death today for the doctrine of the Son of God, praise be to Him. I would never have thought that God would have given me such an honor. I feel the grace of God flowing in me more and more. It strengthens me from moment to moment, and my heart leaps within me for joy.”

At the foot of the scaffold he wished to pray, but was not allowed to do so. As he waited to die, he encouraged the crowd. At the moment when he was hung, the troops seemed to go crazy. For no apparent reason they began shooting bystanders and each other. Looting broke out. Some contemporaries took this as a judgment from God. Here are excerpts from de Brès’ last letter to his wife.

Last Letter to His Wife.

The grace and mercy of our good God and heavenly Father, and the love of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, be with you, my dearly beloved.

Catherine Ramon, my dear and beloved wife and sister in our Lord Jesus Christ: your anguish and sadness disturbs my joy and the happiness of my heart a little, so I am writing this for both our consolations, and especially yours, since you have always loved me with an ardent affection, and because it pleases the Lord to separate us from each other. I feel your sorrow over this separation more keenly than mine. I pray you not to be troubled too much over this, for fear of offending God. You knew when you married me that you were taking a mortal husband, who was uncertain of life, and yet it has pleased God to permit us to live together for seven years, giving us five children. If the Lord had wished us to live together longer, he would have made a way. But it did not please him to do so and may his will be done. Now remember that I did not fall into the hands of my enemies by mere chance, but through the providence of God who controls and governs all things, the least as well as the greatest. This is shown by the words of Christ, “Be not afraid. Your very hairs are numbered. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without the will of your Father. Then fear nothing. You are of more worth than many sparrows.” These words of divine wisdom show that God knows the number of my hairs. How then can harm come to me without His command and providence? It could not happen, unless one should say that God is no longer God.

…[He encourages her in Christ, shows Satan’s stratagems, and reminds her that he is honored to die a martyr]

Since such things have happened, my dear sister and faithful wife, I implore you to find comfort from the Lord in your afflictions and to place your troubles with him. He is the husband of believing widows and the father of poor orphans. He will never leave you — of that I can assure you. Conduct yourself as a Christian woman, faithful in the fear of God, as you always have been, honouring by your good life and conversation the doctrine of the Son of God, which your husband has preached. As you have always loved me with great affection, I pray that you will continue this love toward our little children, instructing them in the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ. Be their father and their mother, and take care that they use honestly the little that God has given you. If God does you the favor to permit you to live in widowhood with our children after my death, that will be well. If you cannot, and the means are lacking, then go to some good man, faithful and fearing God. And when I can, I shall write to our friends to watch over you. I think that they will not let you want for anything…