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The Martyrdom of Conrad Koch (1565 A.D.)

(Story from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 686-687).


This Conrad Koch was kindled with the light of the knowledge of God, when this light, in these latter days, began to rise again, along the River Rhine as well as in the country of Berg, and the truth of the holy Gospel commenced to shine.  Hence he sought, by the divine help, to leave the darkness, and to walk in this brightly shining light; he forsook popery and the worldly and ungodly life, and betook himself to the church of the Lord, heard and laid to heart the Word of the Lord, believed the Gospel, and was baptized, according to the command of Christ, upon faith in Christ Jesus, and confession of his sins, and accordingly, conducted himself in a brotherly and Christian manner in the church, and, in weakness, showed himself edifying and honorable toward all men.  But as he that walks in darkness cannot bear or endure the light, and the envy of the adversary works in his followers, this man was envied by the papists, and accused to the intendant of the revenue; who was judge and ruler of the country in the name of the prince of Juelich.  Thereupon the intendant sent his servants to Houf, where Conrad lived, and they apprehended him; he was ready, and as a lamb, willingly went with them to Loewenburg, one of the seven castles which, on account of their high situation, can be seen from a great distance.  There they brought Conrad into the tower, and placed him in severe confinement, in which he remained nearly half a year; however, he was greatly comforted by the Lord, though he had to suffer much hunger.


The intendant ofttimes browbeat him and threatened him most severely, that his life should be taken if he should refuse to renounce his faith.  They tried him very hard with entreaties and solicitations, then with hunger, and also with threats to put him to death; but he remained immovable.  His heart was of good cheer.


Now when he had boldly confessed his faith, and no tortures could intimidate him, and the time drew near that he was to die for the truth and depart from this world, the door of his prison was opened, and he went of his own accord, free and unfettered, from the tower of Loewenburg to the village of Houf.  His guide was Barabbas, that is a malefactor who went with him.  His departure took place in great secrecy; and thus he came to Houf, which is some distance from Loewenburg.  But even as Christ was crucified, and Barabbas released, so it was also here.  Conrad was taken to the town hall of Houf, where it was proposed to him, that if he should renounce his faith, his young life should be spared, and his liberty be given him.


Manifold wiles were employed against him with great deceitfulness.  The sophists sang things sweet and sour, saying: “Go to church at least once a year and if they do not preach the pure and clear truth, stay away from it thenceforth.”  One of these hypocrites said to Conrad: “My dear Conrad, though we be false, subtle and evil, it cannot harm your soul; do you only fear God and keep peace with all men; what is it to you if our faith is little.”  Conrad replied to the magistrates: “O you ministers of God, you must know that God wants no hypocrites.  This was seen exemplified in old Eleazar, who would rather surrender his life than dissemble.  II Macc. 6:24.[1]  Therefore I also hope to die before I go into your congregation.”  Conrad further said: “Christ is the Head of the church; he that would please Him must show himself a member of His body; now, one must not sever himself from Christ the Captain.  With this Head I want to remain, though it cost my flesh and blood.”  They asked Conrad of what he thought of infant baptism.  He said: “Of this I can only think that it is also one of the pope’s greatest abominations; however if you can prove it by the Word of God, I will suffer myself to be instructed by the church of the Lord.”  “O God,” said Conrad, “to Thee I bring my complaint; O God, what calamity this, that they put to death those who speak the truth!  They can certainly not allege that I have committed anything criminal, and yet they malignantly seek to kill me.  O Lord, forgive them.”  The mandate of the prince of Juelich was then read to him, whereupon the judges passed sentence, upon which the intendant broke the staff.  The sentence was, that Conrad should suffer death, if he did not recant.  And when he had been thus sentenced twice, they took him out [to the place of execution].  When he arrived there, he began to sing: “O God, how gently Thou dost chasten me.  Reach me Thy gracious hand, that my flesh may now shun all sin, vice and shame, that I may rend the old garment, and have eternal joy with Thee.  Christ, I praise Thee, O my supreme God, that I have lived to see this day and hour, that I may now testify to Thy name with my blood.  My dear brethren and sisters, I commend you all to the Lord.  Keep the Gospel of Christ firmly fixed in your hearts; this I leave you for an admonition: fear God, and be valiant; be my followers, even as I am willing to follow Christ the Lord, and to deliver up my life.”  And thus they put this pious man to death with the sword secretly, so that many did not hear of it.  When thieves and murderers are condemned there it is customary to let the whole land know it; but the pious are murdered in secrecy, which is a shame for the judges.  Thus Conrad was beheaded with the sword standing and proved himself a faithful witness of the sufferings of Christ, at Houf, in the land of Berg, which belongs to the prince of Juelich and Cleves.


In the year 1565, under the same intendant, who was a very bloodthirsty man, also seven other persons, four brethren and three sisters, had been previously apprehended.  These four brethren were also sentenced that they should be put to death, if they refused to renounce their faith.  But the Lord protected them, and delivered them all out of prison unharmed in their faith, for this bloodthirsty tyrant was smitten by God with sudden death, so that the prisoners were liberated from prison, keeping their faith, and adhering to the truth.


[1] An apocryphal book.—Ed.