28. The Planting of Reformed Churches in
and around Dordrecht: Letters of 29 August and 5 December 15721
Bartholdus Wilhelmi to the Ministers and Elders of the Dutch Congregation at London, Friday 29 August 1572
... Most dear brethren and fellow ministers in the Lord, you will be pleased to learn that I arrived at Dordrecht on 27 August in good health and without [meeting] any danger from the enemy of God, for which I cordially beseech you to praise the Lord for this grace of God .... Further that you will, as you promised, inform the congregation why I travelled here without taking my leave, namely for no other reason than to prevent the danger that was consequently to be expected and not out of any contempt or negligence, and [that] therefore ask the congregation not to take it amiss, on the contrary ....
Further, because those of Dordrecht ask you for still more ministers, since the harvest grows, but the workers are very few, so is it, dear brethren, that I beseech you, through the request of the most notable of the town, who have also desired the same from me, that you will show in this matter the love which you owe to both God and His Holy Congregation and send at least four or five of our ministers of the Word as quickly as possible. There are not only still some deficiencies in Dordrecht, but in addition there are some ten or twelve places in the neighbourhood of Dordrecht, both towns and villages, with neither ministers nor services. The inhabitants of these same places daily complain and cry out, 'Alas we are like sheep without shepherds, we live without religion and hear nothing of God'. In one place you will find eight unbaptised children, in others six or four, and it is impossible to improve matters and to assist them in their great need unless we have more ministers, for much depends on Dordrecht and therefore this place in particular must be provided. All the ministers whom you send across shall be well received and looked after. The town governor himself [Johan de Hornes, baron of Boxtel] was so delighted by my arrival that he did not know how he could sufficiently thank the congregation and consistory of London on account of the love they had shown by sending one of their ministers. Should this not move us, my dear brethren, more and more to help advance the preaching of the gospel which has begun? Should we not consider how many sheep who have strayed may in this way be brought, through God's grace, to the sheepfold? Likewise, how precious they stand in the sight of Christ for did He not also shed His blood for the same on the wooden cross? O what fruits there shall be if they can be won for Christ. Ought we not to ponder on this and still other matters, too long to enter upon here?
And since almost no one at Dordrecht and thereabouts has ever heard anything about the reformation of the congregation or has been in Reformed congregations, you can readily appreciate from this that we need ministers with some knowledge of the government of the church, who can set matters in good order. And who is more apt in this respect than our brother [Godfried] van Winghen, who has had long experience with the congregation, or Silvanus [Joris Wybo] if he is fit, or [Peter] Carpentier, or [Jan] Lamoot, [Johannes] Cubus etc. Therefore do your best in this matter so that the Lord's dilapidated house may again by the Lord's grace be built up. I do not doubt that as you have begun well, you shall likewise continue. ... I would have written more but as the ship master wants to sail I have not been able to complete everything as I would have wished. Therefore you shall take it in good part on this occasion. Farewell. From Dordrecht, 29 August 1572.
Greet my wife and continue to comfort her in my absence ... and take good care, dear brethren, of the flock that God has acquired by His blood, for there will be a time of reckoning so that you may always have a good conscience before God ...
Your fellow brother and servant, so far as I am able, Bartholdus Wilhelmi.
Any letters you want to send me should be addressed: To Cornelis Franssen Wittesz. on the Nieuwe Haven.
Godfried van Wingen to the Ministers and Elders of the Dutch Congregation in London, 5 December 15722
...Late in the evening to-day master Bartholdus [Wilhelmi] came with the master of his house to visit us in our lodging and welcomed us joyfully. Next day after the service we went to the consistory where we were again welcomed by the whole company and they have arranged for lodgings where we can now stay. At the same time Pieter de Bert was appointed to be minister at IJsselmonde, two miles from Dordrecht, where on Sunday he shall, by God's grace, be conducted by master Johannes Lippius in the company of master Bartholdus, and begin his ministry. I have been told to remain at Dordrecht and to preach twice next Sunday. The consistory of Dordrecht thanks you all and our congregation highly for having sent us over. For as we understand many places here are still in great need of real ministers. At Gouda someone has intruded himself (I do not know whether a priest or monk, who recently cast off the papist cassock): he is not very gifted.3 It is also said that there are many followers of [Sebastian] Franck there and that my lord Van Swieten is governor there. Everywhere through which we passed on our journey, we found the fair beginnings of the true Reformation. At Delft a fine large temple purged of all idolatry; likewise at The Hague, Rotterdam and most purely at Dordrecht, where you will not find any idolatry, priests, monks, béguines in any temples ... [Van Wingen goes on to describe the unpromising military situation]. Nevertheless, the people are for the most part very desirous for the true Religion ... Have regard, dear brethren, for the office in which you stand that you serve it faithfully, heedless of any evil so that you may therefore render a good account to God ... At Dordrecht 5 December 1572.
Your well-disposed servant in the Lord, Godfried van Wingen.
Source: Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum, ed. J.H. Hessels no. 206, 211.
1 Bartholdus' letter was received in the Dutch consistory in London on 21 September 1572.
2 Received in the consistory on 25 December 1572.
3 Probably Joachim Adriaensz., who may have been a former priest.