This morning in my Martyrs’ Mirror reading, I read the account of Hans Brael and I was very touched in my soul. If you think you are going through trials, are discouraged and have been complaining, please read the following account and be ashamed:
This dear brother was racked, put in a filthy tower hole for a summer, was in a prison with one foot and one hand is stocks for 37 weeks, and many times they asked him to only say several words and he would be set free. I am just amazed at the power of God that worked in this brother’s life.
Hans Brael – Severely Persecuted A.D. 1557
But the judge became enraged, and asked whether he meant to charge the honorable council with requiring treachery of him, and again admonished him very solemnly, to spare himself, or they should deal very severely with him. But as he would not confess to them, they remanded him again to prison, to see what he should resolve upon.
After this they brought him forth again, and took him to the rack, where he himself took off his clothes, lay down before them, and patiently submitted to the torturing ropes, so that the eyes of the bystanders filled with tears, and they could not refrain from weeping.
The executioner suspended him by the rope, but the judge earnestly admonished him to spare himself, and to indicate the persons required; but he said he would betray no one but would bide whatever God permitted them to inflict upon him. Then they tied a large stone to his feet. The judge became angry, when he perceived that he could accomplish nothing, and said, “You swear to each other that you will not betray one another.” He replied, “We do not swear, but we do not betray any one, because it would be wrong.” Then the judge said, “You are a rogue; I have detected you in a lie; why will you suffer yourself to be tortured.” The brother said, “I am no rogue, and in what lie have you detected me?” The judge said, “You said that you were no teacher, but we find that you certainly are one.” He answered, “I am no teacher; but if I were one, I would not be ashamed of it; for it is an honorable thing before God.” I Tim. 3:1.
Thereupon they left him hanging by the rope, and went away; but the executioner staid with him. In the meantime the officers assembled, and he was admonished to confess; or they would not cease racking him until they should have rent his limbs asunder. He replied that he would bide what God should permit them to inflict upon him, since they could do no more than God permitted them. The executioners said, “Are you not a fool, to think that God looks down to see what we are doing in this hole; for this would be ridiculous.” Then the council returned and said that the lady of the castle had interceded for him, that they should torture him no longer, and, hence, they would let it rest; and they sent him back to prison.
Thereupon the lord very joyfully rode to Innsbruck, to the government, and when he returned, he had the priests dispute with and examine Hans for two days in succession, namely Saturday and Sunday, he himself being present. But when they could accomplish nothing by their various disputations, and false and deceitful doctrine, which it would take too long to relate, and he remained steadfast, and constantly confessed that that in which he stood, and would remain steadfast, by the protection and help of God, was the truth, the lord at last became exasperated at him, and said, “O you obdurate dog, I have tried all possible means and ways with you, and will still do so, and place you on a sharp pile, and see how you will trust your God in this trial.” But he answered, “I shall not suffer on account of any wrong-doing, but only for the truth and the faith; and God will overlook no wrong.”
After three days they put him into a deep, dark and filthy tower, where he could see neither sun nor moon, nor daylight, so that he did not know whether it was day or night, only he perceived now and then that it was night, when it was a little colder in the tower than at other times. It was also so moist and damp in the tower, that his clothes rotted on his body, so that he became almost naked, and was without a single garment for a long time, only he had a coarse blanket that had been given him, which he wrapped around his body and thus sat in misery and darkness. The shirt on his body had so rotted, that he had not a shred left of it, except the collar, which he hung on the wall.
At one time when these children of Pilate had him brought out to try him whether he would not apostatize, the light so hurt his eyes, that he was glad when they let him down again into the dark tower. There also proceeded such a fetid stench from the filth that was in this dark hole, that no one could stay in his presence; when they brought him in, they instantly had to go away from him again; yea, the councilors said themselves, that they had never smelled such a horrible stench. Thus he lay in this filthy tower, in which were also many vermin and loathesome reptiles, so that at first he for a long time protected his head, with an old hat, which had been thrown to him out of pity.
The tower, for a long time had not had an occupant; hence the vermin were very numerous, and they caused him much terror, until he got used to it. The vermin sometimes also ate his food, so that when they let down his food, he had to eat it all up, before he set down the dish; otherwise the vermin so covered it, that he could not well eat it. When he got a dish of soup, and set it down but once, they ate it up. In a moment in short, he could keep neither bread nor anything else; for as soon as the vermin smelled it, instantly they were at it. However, this was his least care, inasmuch as he was so tormented with hunger, no great abundance being given him so that he could easily eat it up, if he was only well. The vermin sometimes got also in his drink, and drowned therein, until he finally obtained a large stone, which he placed on top of his pitcher…
Thus he lay in this filthy tower all summer, until after Michaelmas, in autumn, when they saw that the frost was approaching; then they took him out, and put him into another prison, which could likewise not have been worse. There he had to sit, with one hand and one foot in the stocks,for thirty-seven weeks, being unable to lie or sit properly, but only to stand; besides, he had to endure much reproach and ridicule from the ungodly, who said, “There lies a holy man; nobody is as wise as he; there he sits as a light of the world, and as a witnessof the people of God and His church,” and such like taunting remarks.