The Bloody Theatre, or, Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians
Who baptised 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.
Compiled from various authentic chronicles, memorials, and testimonies, by Thieleman J. Van Braght, 1660
Translated from the original Dutch or Holland language, by Joseph F. Sohm, 1886
To God, my Lord, the Creator, Preserver and Redeemer of my soul, be praise, honor and majesty, forever and ever.
Pardon me, O my Lord and my God! that I, who am but dust and ashes, approach Thee. Gen. 18:27. I fear to come to Thee, because Thou art a consuming fire, while I am wood, hay and stubble, subject to be burned; yet I must not remain away from Thee, because I have that which is Thine, yea, which is Thy most precious treasure, even the blood and offering of the saints; I must needs come and offer it to Thee.
To my beloved friends and companions in Christ Jesus our Saviour
Next to God we are joined to our fellow-believers who have received the same faith with us; and we shall therefore address ourselves to them.
But most beloved, do not expect that we shall bring you into Grecian theatres, to gaze on merry comedies or gay performances. Here shall not be opened unto you the pleasant arbors and pleasure gardens of Atlas, Adonis or Semiramis, which are said to have been built in the air, and of which the ancients used to sing their merry lays; yet far be it from us to conduct you to places of sadness, surely not to such as can, in verity, be called places of sadness.
Good friends and fellow citizens:
Of old, among the heathen, the greatest and highest honors were accorded to the brave and triumphant warriors, who, risking their lives in the land of the enemy, conquered, and carried off the victory. [The victors at the Olympic games (so-called from Mount Olympus in Greece, where they were held) were crowned with Wreaths of oak and laurel, which was considered a great honor.] Thus Homer, the foremost of the writers of heroic poetry in Greece, has, in twenty-four books, extolled and embellished with many eulogies the warlike deeds of Ulysses…
Summary of the Following Work
This work comprises two books, each of them containing a different and independent topic. The first is a treatise of the holy baptism and of that which pertains to it. The second is a historical account of the holy martyrs who suffered on account of baptism, or, generally, for the testimony of Jesus Christ. These two topics have been briefly, yet not less clearly, treated, throughout, in every century, from the days of Christ up to our present time; and this order has been followed: through every century first an account is given, through faithful and authentic authors . . .
The following work is set forth in its entirety, including footnotes which have been added in brackets either preceding or following the reference points. The first 18 chapters provide an overview of Gospel history, beginning with Adam and Eve and proceeding to the present time of the publication, 1660. The remaining chapters are devoted to a detailed record of the sufferings and martyrdoms of God’s people through the ages who have been identified as Baptists. Although the author identifies the history of God’s people as Church history, we believe a more accurate designation would Christian history. Nevertheless, the sentiments of the author are well intended and his overview of history is informative to the reader.
Of the True Church of God, Its Origin, Progress, an Immovable Stability, through all Times
[As in the following work a survey is given, to some degree, of the succession and establishment of the church, we find it expedient in order that the same may not be misinterpreted, and because some of our good friends have requested and besought us (though we have intended to leave it as it was), to precede, by way of introduction, that which follows, by our exposition of the true and the false church, and of their respective good and evil succession and progress; also, to state the views we hold in regard to the right of succession. We will, therefore, begin here, and, so as not to be tedious, endeavor to be as brief as possible.]
Of the Divine Service of the Church
The state and divine service of this church have varied from the beginning according to the different periods in which it existed and flourished. From Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ, from Christ to the end of the world, God ordained, for each of these periods . . .
In What Points the Church of God has Always Continued the Same
God has always ordained teachers in His church, and, therefore, always caused His will to be proclaimed to the people; which commenced principally in the days of Enos, the grandson of Adam; for then began men to call upon the name of the Lord. 4:26. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, preached of the judgment . . .
Of the Stability, Durability and Visible Characteristics of the Church of God
That this church, from the beginning to the time of David, was always visible, discernible, and distinguished from other nations, is clear and manifest, and, as far as we know, not doubted by anybody. There remains, then, only to be proved, that the same after the time of David, has always been discernible, according to the preceding manner, and will continue to be so to the end. [The discernibility of the church of God before the time of David, will, we think, not be disputed; and we shall begin, therefore, from that period, leaving the time previous to that untouched.]