Susanna combined Cornelia’s twelve-page confession with nine of Cornelia’s poems in a collection entitled A Short Confession of Faith. She prefaced the book with her own seven-page biography of her sister and a short poem by Susanna’s son, statesman and author Adrian Hoffer, who heartily recommended the book – the first book in Dutch authored by a Reformed woman. The timing was right, because the Netherlands were going through another wave of attacks by Spain. But the book remained popular after the war for at least twenty more years.
Largely unknown today, Susanna and Cornelia Teelinck inspired two generations of Dutch Christians to trust God to deliver them from Spanish domination.
They were born in 1551 and 1553 respectively into a distinguished family from Zierikzee, in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Their father Eewoud Teellinck (d. 1561) was a brewer who also served as an alderman and treasurer in the City Council. Judging by the statues of saints and the crucifix found among Eewoud’s belongings, the family was probably Roman Catholic. It was also a cultured family, who owned a small but rich library of French, Latin and German books. All four children, however, converted to the Reformed faith.
Eewoud died in 1561 and his wife Helena Willem Jansdr followed him four years later, leaving their oldest son Joos to act as a guardian to his siblings.
Around 1573, nineteen-year-old Cornelia, the youngest, requested admission to the Lord’s Supper from her local Reformed church. She marked the occasion by writing a confession of faith which she presented to her consistory. While not innovative (it was modeled after the approved confession of Guido de Brès), her confession was simple and to the point, inspiring many to copy it by hand and distribute it to others.
It was a heartfelt confession, which she concluded with a bold statement: “Here I have written the foundation of my belief based on the examination of Holy Scripture, and as a sign that I am not ashamed, I have also included my name.”
It was a courageous stand because at that very moment Spanish troops were terrorizing Netherlandish cities in what contemporaries called the “Spanish Fury,” taking particular aim at Reformed Christians.
How to Face Violent Opposition
Although Cornelia didn’t witness the violent sack of her hometown (by then, she lived with her husband Anthonie Limmens in Antwerp), she was deeply affected by the news and became a victim of the unruly raids of unpaid and hungry Spanish mutineers who roamed the country in the aftermath.
She responded with four poems where she thundered against Spain and called God to action: “Stand up O Lord; show that you are a mighty, blessed God, who out of nothing shaped heaven, Earth, and all that lives. Will you also now complete your unfinished work by your very strong hand?”
Seeing the Spanish as God’s tool to bring his people to repentance, Cornelia exhorted all believers to call on God and place their trust in him: “Stand up Jerusalem, God’s City…God will be your comfort and your help and he shall put an end to your destruction…You need not fear sword or enemy for the Lord shall take up your case himself and show all that he is a God of vengeance over those who have persecuted the pious.