Stories from Martyrs' Mirror | 9. George Turns Back
9. George Turns Back
Dirk smiled as he finished his story. The brothers and sisters were talking more about the good things of the Lord when one of the priests came into their cell:
Grinning broadly, he announced, "The Lord be praised, George Baumann has returned to the true faith."
"I don't believe it," said Elisabeth.
"But it's true. As he has come back to our holy mother church, he will be freed from prison today."
"Upon what condition?" asked Hans suspiciously: "You have executed many others even though they turned back."
"A simple condition," replied the priest:
"On three different Sundays, he must stand up before the church and tell the people that he had renounced his faith and his second baptism."
"There George is now!" said Dirk as he pointed into the passageway.
"Indeed he is," beamed the priest. "You can ask him yourself if what I say is true."
"George!" boomed Hans. "George! Is it true?"
George turned at the sound of his name, hung his head, and gave no answer. Haddie's heart went out to him, as she noticed he could hardly walk without help. He must have been tortured severely. The door opened at the far end of the hallway, and he was gone.
On his first Sunday out of jail, George was pale as he stood up and stammered: "I have returned to the faith of our mother church, and am heartily sorry that I was re-baptized."
Then he sat down and bowed his head as the church muttered familiar prayers they had memorized in a language they didn't understand. He tried not to look at the front of the church, at the statue of Jesus on the cross, the stone eyes staring down at George.
The next Sunday, George's heart pounded as he rose to his feet and repeated the same words: "I have returned to the faith of our mother church, and am heartily sorry that I was re-baptized."
He tried to push away the thoughts that kept tumbling through his head, memories of powerful secret meetings with the brothers, pledges of loyalty, thoughts about the honour of God and His holy name, and the certainty of where he was going if he didn't turn back.
By the third Sunday, George had made up his mind. As he waited for his turn to speak, a rainstorm brewing outside, he trembled in his seat, but now it was for a different reason.
When his time came, he set his jaw firmly, faced the priest at the front, and looked around at the same people he had grown up with, sinners still as he had been, sitting comfortably in a church that claimed to be the answer to sin.
George took a deep breath and told the church:
"You condemned me in court, and through pain and fear you convinced me to follow you.
But now I take back everything I said. I am heartily sorry that I confessed what I didn't believe. You punished me for clinging to God's truth and the true faith. And yes, it is the way to life in Christ.
But if you continue in your idolatrous life and worldly ways, you are only fooling yourselves and contradicting God. This time I intend to stand by what He has shown me until the end."
George testified to the people as long as he could, but before he sat down, he smiled at the officers who had arrested and tortured him, sitting in church with him, their eyes wide with disbelief:
"You don't need to wait any longer," he told them. "You won't change my mind again."
Shaking themselves as if waking from sleep, the chubby men grabbed George by the shoulders and hurried him out of the church. The wind shook their coats as they tried to reach the prison before the storm came.
Only a few days later, under a black sky that threatened to rain again, the same men walked beside George as they led him outside the village.
Occasionally thunder rumbled its judgements, but George was so joyful he took no notice. As he raced along, he sang a hymn of thanks which he had made up in prison himself.
The officers could hardly keep up with him on the muddy path. He sang for joy that God had again given him such courage in his heart.
When his old shoes stuck in the thick mud, one at a time, he kept on walking:
"Where I'm going, what do I need shoes for?" he thought triumphantly. "I can't take the time to get them now. I can't wait to get there!"
"Contend valiantly, dear brother," one of the believers shouted. The officers looked around angrily to arrest the man who spoke, but he had disappeared into the crowd.
"Oh yes," replied George. "The power of His Spirit is not weakening in me. I have been greatly honoured in this city, but I never had a joy that did not perish, as I now have."
A priest beside him asked, "George Baumann, will you gladly die as a Christian?"
"Yes, I will."
The priest was delighted, "Do you turn away from all false teachings?" he asked.
"That is good! Are you also sorry that you believed them?"
"Yes indeed," George replied, looking the priest in the eye. "I used to believe false teachings, and for that I am sorry, but what I believe now is not false, but the true way, and I stand by my God." And he walked even faster.
One of the servants of the judges offered him some expensive wine.
"I have no desire for that weak stuff," he smiled, "for before the clock strikes twelve, I will be drinking the new wine in my Father's eternal kingdom."
And he kept on walking down the road, as though he were going to his wedding, and his face did not once show any fear of death.