The following excerpts are taken from the book, And Follow Their Faith
HEROES OF FAITH IN OUR TIME
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:16-18.
All through the ages, denial and persecution have been the fate of Christianity. This was the experience of the Master and Founder of Christianity, and therefore we should not wonder when the disciples and true followers of Christ make the same experience. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” Matthew 10:25
Thus we also of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement have made many an experience, especially during the time from 1930 to 1945, about which we want to testify and report. The purpose of this testimony is to honour Him who went before us in the battle of faith as the Herald of our salvation. It should also serve as an encouragement for us to follow in the footsteps of those who suffered imprisonment, shame and death rather than conform to the powers of darkness by taking the easier way and thereby denying Christ. As it was in the days of the Apostle Paul, so also in our time there are faithful soldiers of the cross of whom it is written: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Heb. 10:32-34.
TESTIMONY BEFORE RULERS AND COURTS
“And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:18.
Brother Gottlieb Metzner, himself a martyr for the faith, was instrumental in bringing a young man from Karlsmark, Brieg County, Germany, in contact with the SDA Reform Movement. This was during the time when the totalitarian power of the state in Germany rose and the military machine required every German citizen to take a positive stand in defence of the fatherland. As a result, this young Brother Gustav Psyrembel was soon called for military service. When the draft call came, he had not been married very long. Brother Psyrembel refused to perform this military duty because of his belief in the gospel of peace which Christ gave. He declared in short and clear terms that he refused to participate in any military training for the war effort because it is irreconcilable with the spirit of the gospel according to the Sermon on the Mount given by Christ. He was fully convicted that all people who believe this gospel are bound into one international body and their main task is “to seek and to save that which is lost”… Therefore, with those of like faith, he could not conscientiously agree to participate in the blood-stained warfare of nations and all that was connected with war.
He was arrested, and after fruitless efforts were made to change his mind, he was brought before the Military Court at Berlin. On this occasion he was told that he was to account for his actions before a military court, not before a church council. They tried to convince him that every man should be subject to and obey the government. But Brother Psyrembel testified courageously that the kingdom of God is not of this world and that therefore the followers of Christ cannot fight for worldly kingdoms. (John 18:36.) Then a lengthy letter from a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was laid before him and this recommended the defence of the fatherland as a Christian duty. But the young man, standing alone before a high war tribunal – betrayed by the ministers of the Adventist Church, who claimed he had erroneous views – declared firmly that he could not serve two masters….
Thus our young Brother Psyrembel was condemned to death by the court. In a detailed letter to his wife, he pictured how it hurt him that an Adventist minister in a letter to the court had betrayed him and placed his stand in such a false light. But even this betrayal could not discourage him. In a lonely prison cell he waited for the day of the execution of his sentence. What was in the heart and mind of this soldier of the cross during those days and hours only the Lord knows.
Prison B, No. 4378
Section AI Z 5
Berlin NW 40, March 5, 1940
Dear Mama … !
God’s peace as greetings!
Again I want to show some sign of life and send you a few lines. I would have written sooner, but I wanted to wait for my term to expire so I could tell you more about it. The decision has been made, and I hope that you… have prepared yourself for this hour…. Dear Mama, I reported to you in my last letter that I stood at the beginning of the term. Today I can tell you that I now have that behind me.
It was short, and all went quietly, for I did not allow myself to have any false hope and was prepared for the worst. For me there were only two things I could do – either confess my faith or deny it. Right at the start I was told that I was not appearing before a church council which would decide religious questions but before a war tribunal. The motives for my action and conviction were regarded as wrong and were rejected. Only the offense and the deed were considered: My withdrawal from military service; the refusal to use weapons; the refusal to swear allegiance to the German flag and make the German salute. The most serious offense is the refusal to swear allegiance to the flag; this carries the death sentence. I had a lawyer to defend me, who asked for a life sentence, but this was rejected and I was given the death sentence.…
Dear Mama, when you receive these lines, I will no longer be in the land of the living, because my execution will take place in the next few days; and then my soul will rest in peace. Trust in theLord in all circumstances of life. He will help you to bear the duties and burdens that will now rest upon your shoulders. Do it in love and faith in Him; endure until the end so that we shall see each other again in that better land, in the city built of gold where all pain and suffering will be ended.
Farewell! We go through suffering to glory. Once again many greetings.
Another letter arrived, and it read as follows:
Prison B, No. 4378
Section Al Z 5
Berlin NW 40, March 12, 1940
My dear Mama. … !
The peace of the Lord be with you!
I would like to take advantage of an opportunity to write you a few lines, because every new day that dawns may be the last one for me. … Therefore we will not yield in the hour of decision, for this is the right way and the truth. It is His work, and He will not let it perish. It is very regrettable when many of our fellow believers stray from the right way, leave our Leader and banner, fall away from Him, begin to doubt His divine love and guidance, and thus grieve Him. Some day they will bitterly regret it and acknowledge their wrong, but then it will perhaps be forever too late and there will be no help or salvation. They do not realize that they betray those who hold fast to God and make their battle unspeakably heavy. When a case such as mine comes before the war tribunal, they say: “The ·others are all convinced that they are doing their duty and do not violate their conscience and God’s commandments; why can’t you do the same?” It is very, very hard in such a case to defend the truth, to explain this stand to the authorities and say that we cannot do otherwise. Another reproach came upon me because of my “unteachability” and “stubbornness.” These apostatized Adventists, especially the ministers, have managed to deceive the people. Through their false representations of the truth, they declare us as the criminals and the deceived ones. It is not enough that they avoid conflict and try to sail around the difficulties, but they also attempt to justify their wrong actions through words and examples from the Scriptures that are not at all applicable. These words I have seen in the long, seven-page letter of the minister, and these statements are supposedly confirmed by the Testimonies. But all this should not shake us. Truth remains truth, and what is right will remain right; and the future will reveal on which side it can be found.
…In the faith that there is a reunion, I will now close. The Lord be with you. Receive my many cordial greetings and kisses from deeply loving Papa.
Best greetings to all those who always think of me.
On March 29, 1940, Brother Psyrembel wrote his final letter to his wife and child. It reads as follows:
Greetings with 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
I have just learned that tomorrow, the 30th, at 5:00, I am to be executed. Once again I had the opportunity to strengthen myself with the Word of God for this last journey. The New Testament was brought for me to read. (But I got less food to eat.) The portions of bread are much smaller here, and in general everything is much stricter, than at Ploetzensee; but I have borne everything gladly and patiently, for I know for Whom I do all these things and I am not the first and only one to receive this fate. The Lord says: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” “Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” These words and precious promises are what keep us going in our heavy but wonderful battle. The Lord has promised His power and protection. And He is also prepared to grant it to His children when they are in need of it. I have experienced this in all the years of my battle up to this very hour. The Lord be thanked and praised! He has kept me healthy in body and soul and has given me His joy and love in a rich measure. He will not leave me in the last hour. We shall not be sad, but happy, and regard it a privilege to suffer and die for His sake. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” He has promised, and with faith in this power and salvation I will depart from this life in the hope, my dear ones, that we shall see each other again in His kingdom, to be forever with Him who has loved us unto death and has always had good intentions toward us. There we will live in the undisturbed and inseparable happiness and peace for which we have longed so much here. We shall be as such that dream and will hardly be able to comprehend the happiness that will be the portion of us sinful, unworthy creatures, who have deserved death and punishment. What a precious privilege it is to know and believe all this. And you, dear Mama, do not permit this precious treasure ever to be taken from you; trust in the Lord in all your circumstances of life, and He will be at your side and never leave you; overcome the pain and finish the race; be comforted and of good cheer.
“I would not give up this faith for all the world.” He who loves Christ can never leave Him. The Lord will grant success to all His children who make such efforts to keep His commandments. It will also be a comfort to you that I will be dead before I am buried, and will not be buried alive. I hope that the Lord will sustain you. May He bless and keep you; may He let His protection and grace be over you and grant you His peace is my last wish and prayer. Amen.
Once again; and for the last time, very heartfelt greetings from your dear Papa. Best greetings also to Mother and all our dear brothers and sisters in the faith, as well as all our relatives on both your side and mine.
This last testimony of faith from this courageous soldier of the cross proves how the power of God’s Spirit has overcome the world according to His word: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4.
In the midst of a worldly Christendom which has deliberately involved itself in war and bloodshed as well as political battles among the nations during many ages – and today, in our enlightened age as this same apostate Christendom gives a shameful testimony before other religious confessions through their mutual slaughter – we deem it a privilege to report the upholding of the pure gospel by our faithful Brother Gustav Psyrembel, who testified for Christ and a better world. This hero of faith without boasting could also say with the apostle Paul: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.”
Excerpts from the book, And Follow Their Faith.
Book available for purchase from Religious Liberty Publishing Association:
“In reviewing our past history, having travelled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”—Ellen G. White, Life Sketches, p. 196 (1902).