This Sunday in Baptist History
Four and a half centuries ago, in the Dutch city of Nijmegen (Ni-may-hen) lived Jan Block. His family had become wealthy through the linen industry, and Jan lived a life of indolence and sin. One of his friends was Symon van Maren, who had moved to Nijmegen (Ni-may-hen) from Hertogenbosch. In Hertogenbosch was a congregation of Anabaptists, and Symon had come under conviction of sin and the Truth. Even after he settled in Nijmegen (Ni-may-hen) the testimony of the Anabaptists pursued him, and in time he repented before God and trusted in the finished work of Christ. The change in his friend greatly touched Jan, and soon Symon was sharing Christ with him. He, too, was converted, and his life was outwardly changed. As people started asking questions about his clean life-style, Jan began to openly preach salvation by grace.
Because of the influence of his family, city officials began to worry about Jan’s new testimony. They placed a bounty on his head, and he fled from town. In time he returned, trying to find work as a common laborer, but the bailiff learned that he had returned and hunted him down. He was imprisoned and ultimately tried for heresy. During the course of his trial, Jan pointed out that while he was living sin and dissipation he was accepted by society, but as soon as he began to live a useful life, he was hunted as an enemy of the state.
On this day (July 23) in 1569, Jan Block was led from the prison to the place of his execution. As the executioner tied him to the stake, some of his judges wept to see him die. But there was no hesitation, and Jan joyfully faced his death in order to meet his Saviour.