Dirk's Decision [Brochure]

Dirk's Decision by John A. Kaiser
Gospel Brochure, Large Print, 14-Point Type
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3.7" x 8.5"
6 pages
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A True Story of Costly Christian Compassion

Dirk Willems was born in Asperen, Gilderland, in the Netherlands, (southern Holland), about 500 years ago. So, why mention him now?

Well, Dirk did something rather noteworthy which has caused him to be reverently remembered ever since. Very few details of his life are available, but we are told that he was apparently converted to Christ as a teenager, and that, as he grew older, he apparently earned a very good reputation for his character and for his work.

At the time of our story (1569), Holland was harshly ruled by the Spanish Duke of Alva. Any profession of faith in Christ apart from the doctrine and practice of the Roman Catholic Church was strictly forbidden. But, a good light cannot be easily hidden, and so Dirk was captured and imprisoned in a residential palace. This palace was surrounded by a moat—a great ditch full of water.

However, as winter came on, the moat froze; and considering his situation carefully, Dirk realized that there now appeared to be a means of escape. He made a rope of whatever rags and bedding he had and let himself down from his window to the ice in the moat which surrounded the castle. However, his escape was soon noticed and he was pursued.

Hoping to escape his pursuers, Dirk ran across a frozen body of water (some accounts say it was a pond, others say it was a river) which might have been expected to cause his pursuers to hesitate; but one bold fellow followed Dirk onto the ice. However, because he was heavier than Dirk, or because Dirk’s passage had weakened the ice, the ice broke underneath this pursuer, and with a shriek he sank into the freezing water, calling for help.

Dirk heard that call, and, knowing what it might cost him, he turned back and rescued his pursuer and helped him to shore. It is said that the rescued pursuer begged to allow Dirk to go free, but he was reminded of his oath to his master. And Dirk knew that if he turned and ran again, his pursuer might suffer further. So Dirk was taken to a different prison—one from which he could not so easily escape.

At his trial, Dirk was challenged to give up his beliefs and to conform to the doctrine and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Because he refused to do so, he was condemned to be burned to death. We are told that he was tied to a stake and burned alive, and that he met his death bravely, repeatedly confessing his dependence upon God’s aid to bear his sufferings. Dirk paid a very great price to show kindness to his enemy.

Dirk Willems’ costly example of Christian compassion and self-sacrifice illustrates the great grace of God which should be seen in every other child of God as well. He, and his example, deserve to be remembered, and will be.

And let us consider the One whom Dirk so exemplified and so honored—the Person for whose sake Dirk really died. Yes, Dirk died because he chose to rescue his enemy, but Dirk merely did what his Lord had done first; and Dirk died for His Lord Jesus Christ’s sake more than for the sake of his pursuer.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” Luke 6:27

And then He did what He said:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10

And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Such Scriptures inspired the following hymn:

O blessed Savior, is Thy love
So great, so full, so free?
Fain would we have our thoughts, our hearts,
Our lives engaged with Thee.

No man of greater love can boast
Than for his friend to die;
Thou for Thine enemies wast slain!
What love with Thine can vie?

Thou wouldst like wretched man be made
In everything but sin,
That we as like Thee might become
As we unlike had been:

O Lord! we treasure in our souls
The memory of Thy love;
And ever shall Thy name to us
A grateful odor prove.

Joseph Stennett, 1697