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very few of the people were capable of reading it. We may well suppose, then, that their knowledge of divine things was very scanty; but nobody can tell how small the degree of knowledge is, by which a sinner may be saved, if it be but the knowledge of Christ. Multitudes, who were called the poor men of Lyons, had obtained that knowledge, and were enabled to maintain the truth, at the expense of being hated and persecuted by their neighbours.
Providence raised up one among them, who was highly honoured as an instrument of extensively propagating those truths which were, three hundred years after, embraced by Luther and his colleagues, at the time of the reformation. This was Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyons, from whom it is supposed, the Waldenses took their name. Having had a better education than most of his neighbours, he was able to teach the people the text of the New Testament, in their mother tongue. Here he saw clearly the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, and found peace and comfort to himself
. He was desirous of communicating to others the knowledge of that truth which he found to be to his own salvation. He abandoned his mercantile pursuits, distributed his wealth to the poor, as occasion required; and, while the latter flocked to him, to partake of his alms, he laboured to engage their attention to the things which belonged to their everlasting peace. He either translated, or procured to be translated, the four gospels into French; and had the honour of being the first who gave the word of God in any modern language of Europe.—See this subject more in detail, in Jones' History of the Waldenses
, 2d ed. chap. v. sec. 1. Waldo laboured incessantly in propagating the truth, and in demonstrating the great difference their was between the Christianity of the Bible, and that of the church of Rome. The archbishop of Lyons heard of these proceedings, and became indignant. Their tendency was obvious; the honour of the church was involved in them; and in perfect consistency with the usual mode of silencing objectors among the Catholic party, he forbade the new reformer to teach any more, on pain of excommunication, and of being proceeded against as an heretic.”—Waldo replied, “ that though a layman, he could not be silent in a matter which concernod the salvation of his fellow-creatures.” “ Information of these things was then conveyed to Pope Alexander III., who no sooner heard of such heretical proceedings, than he anathematized the reformer and his adherents, commanding the archbishop to proceed against them with the utmost rigour." He was now compelled to leave Lyons, and afterwards, “ persecuted from place to place, he retired into Picardy, where also success attended his labours. Driven from thence, he proceeded to Germany, carrying along with him the glad tidings of salvation; and, according to the testimony of Thuanus, a very authentic French historian, he at length settled in Bohemia, where he finished his course, in the year 1179, after a ministry of nearly twenty years." Hist. Wald. rol. ii. p. 12.
Attend now to the intolerant spirit of the popish religion, and the cruelties exercised upon the followers of Peter WALDO ;—The doctrines which he had taught, which were evidently those of the gospel, spread extensively in Alsace, along the Rhine, and in many other places. “ Persecutions ensued-thirty-five citizens of Mentz were burned in one fire, at the city of Bingen, and eighteen in Mentz it
self. The bishops of both Mentz and Strasburg breathed nothing but vengeance and slaughter against them; and in the latter city, where Waldo himself is said to have narrowly escaped apprehension, eighty persons were committed to the flames. In the treatment and in the behaviour of the Waldenses, were renewed the scenes of martyrdom of the second century. Multitudes died praising God, and in the confident hope of a blessed resurrection."
1." Ibid. That ihese cruelties were inflicted, not on the mere authority of individual bishops, but on the authority and at the instigation of the pope of Rome, as head of the church, appears by a decree of Pope Lucius III. against heretics, A. D. 1181, which commences thus :“ To abolish the malignity of diverse heresies, which are lately sprung up in most parts of the world, it is but fitting that the power committed to the church should be awakened, that, by the concurring assistance of the imperial strength, both the insolence and mal-periness of the heretics, in their false designs, may be crushed, and the truth of catholic simplicity shining forth in the holy church, may demonstrate her pure and free from the execrableness of their false doctrines. Wherefore we, being supported by the presence and power of our most dear son, FREDERICK, the most illustrious emperor of the Romans, always increaser of the empire, with the common advice and counsel of our brethren, and other patriarchs, archbishops, and many princes, who, from several parts of the world, are met together, do set themselves against these heretics, who have got different names from the several false doctrines which they profess, by the sanction of this present decree, and by our apostolical authority, according to the tenor of these presents, we condemn all manner of heresy, by what name soever it may be denominated.
“ More particularly, we declare all Catharists, Patorines, and those who call themselves the Poor of Lyons; the Passagines, Josephites, Arnoldists, to be under a perpetual anathema. And because some, under a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, as the apostle saith, assume to themselves the authority of preaching; whereas the same apostle saith, “How shall they preach, except they be sent ?”— we therefore conclude, under the same sentence of a perpetual anathema, all those who either being forbid, or not sent, do notwithstanding presume to preach publicly or privately, without any authority received from the apostolic see, or from the bishops of their respective dioceses," &c. &c. 'Thus, by authority of the holy father, the emperor of the Romans, and many princes from different parts of the world, any man who shall tell his neighbour about salvation by Jesus Christ, however privately, is subjected to a perpetual curse: and the decree proceeds :" As for any layman, who shall be found guilty, either publicly or privately, of any of the aforesaid crimes, (that is, preaching, or speak' ing improperly of the sacraments,) unless by abjuring his heresy, and making satisfaction, he immediately return to the orthodox faith, we decree him to be left to the sentence of the secular judge, to receive condign punishment, according to the quality of the offence.” Hist. Wald. vol. ii. p. 15, 16. This of giving orer to the secular judge, was well understood to infer certain death, often accompanied by the most cruel tortures that the ingenuity of men could invent.
ILDEFOxsus, king of Arragon, followed up this decree of the pope,
by one of his own, in 1194, in which he ordains that all heretics, found in his dominions, • be condemned and persecuted every where;" that any persons who should receive any of them into their houses, or“ be present at their pernicious sermons," shall be punished, as if they were actually guilty of high treason." The Emperor FREDERICK II. published a similar edict, with regard to those in his dominions. “ The care of the imperial government,” says his majesty, “committed to us from heaven, and over which we preside, demands the material sword, which is given to us separately from the priesthood, against the enemies of the faith, and for the extirpation of heretical pravity, that we should pursue with judgment and justice, those vipers and perfidious children, who insult the Lord and his church, as if they would tear out the very bowels of their mother. We shall not suffer these wretches to live, who infect the world by their seducing doctrines
, and who, being themselves corrupted, more grievously taint the flock of the faithful.” In another edict, the emperor accuses them of savage cruelty to themselves; “ since, besides the loss of their immortal souls, they expose their bodies to a cruel death, being prodigal of their lives, and fearless of destruction, which, by acknowledging the true faith they might escape, and, which is horrible to express, their surrirors are not terrified by their example. Against such enemies to God and man, we cannot contain our indignation, nor refuse to punish them with the sword of just vengeance, but shall pursue them with so much the greater vigour, as they appear to spread wider the crimes of their superstition, to the most evident injury of the Christian faith, and of the church of Rome, which is adjudged to be the head of all churches.” Page 94–97, 2d rol. Jones, who refers to the 2d vol. of Limborch's History of the Inquisition, where the edicts are to be found entire.
The whole power of the Romish church, clerical and laical, was mustered against these unoffending people, whose only crimes were presuming to read and understand the word of God for themselves, and refusing to believe all the nonsense which was taught by the Romish priests. The latter were constantly employed in preaching up crusades against them. Their favourite text was Psalm xciv. 16,
Who will rise up for me against the evil doers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity ?" and the application of their sermons usually ran in the following strain :—“ You see, most dear brethren, how great the wickedness of the heretics is, and how much mischief they do in the world. You see, also, how tenderly, and by how many pious methods, the church labours to reclaim them. But with them they all prove ineffectual, and they fly to the secular power for their defence. Therefore, .our holy mother, the church. though with great reluctance and grief, calls together against them the Christian army. If then you have any zeal for the faith; if you are tonched with any concern for the glory of God; if you
would reap the benefit of this great indulgence, come and receive the sign of the cross, and join yourselves to the army of the crucified Saviour.” The pope had despatched preachers throughout all Europe, to entice men to engage in this holy warfare. He promised paradise, and the remission of all their sins, to those who should serve forty days, which, I suppose, is what is meant by the great indulgence"
mentioned above. After telling them that “they were not to keep faith with those who do not keep faith with God,” he thus proceeds:-“We exhort you, that you would endeavour to destroy the wicked heresy of the Albigenses, and do this with more rigour than you would towards the Saracens themselves; persecute them with a strong hand; deprive thein of their lands and possessions; banish them, and put Catholics in their room." I shall not torture my readers with the horrible details into which this subject would lead me. It is enough to say, that, by fire and sword, the armies employed by Pope Innocent III. murdered above two hundred thousand, in ihe short
of a few months. For many years, the work of extirpating heretics was continued, at the instigation of the pope, who commanded the princes who were subject to him, that is, all the princes in Christendom, to kill, to destroy, and cause to perish, all who presumed to difier, in any point of religion, from the doctrine of the church of Rome. To Louis, king of France, he says,—“'Tis the command of God, who says:“If thou shalt hear say in any one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known, thou shalt smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword.' Although you are under many obligations already to God, for the great benefits hitherto received from him, from whom comes every good and perfect gift, yet you ought to reckon yourself more especially obliged courageously to exert yourself for him, against the subverters of the faith, by whom he is blasphemed, and manfully to defend the catholic purity, which many, in those parts, adhering to the doctrines of devils, are known to have cast off.”
Louis was very ready to obey the command of his ghostly father, by raising an army to destroy the heretics; but he was afraid the king of England would invade his territory, while he was employed in so godly a work. The pope, therefore, endeavours to keep the English monarch at home, by writing to him as follows:-“ Make no war, either by yourself, or your brother, or any other person on the said king, so long as he is engaged in the affair of the faith and service of Jesus Christ
, lest by your obstructing the matter, which God forbid you should do, the king, with his prelates and barons of France, should be forced to turn their arms from the extirpation of heretics, to their own defence."
In short, it seems as if the whole soul of the pope, and of all his clergy, and of all the princes under his control, had been directed to this one object :—the murdering of those who received their religion directly from the word of God. The Waldenses and Albigenses were a simple, harmless people; they professed no principles, and were convicted of no practices, hostile to the good order of society. Their very enemies bear ample testimony on behalf of their manner of life, as being more moral than that of those who persecuted them. Even an inquisitor, who wrote against them, says,— " These heretics are known by their manners and conversation; for they are orderly and modest in their behaviour and deportment. They avoid all appearance of pride in their dress, they neither indulge in finery of attire, nor are they remarkable for being mean or ragged. They avoid commerce, that they may be free from deceit and falsehood.
They get their livelihood by manual industry, as day labourers or mechanics, and their teachers are weavers or tailors. They are not anxious about amassing riches, but content themselves with the necessaries of life. They are chaste, temperate, and sober. They abstain from anger. Even when they work, they either learn or teach. In like manner also, their women are very modest; avoiding backbiting, foolish jesting, and levity of speech, especially abstaining from lies or swearing, not so much as making use of the common asseverations, "in truth," " for certain," or the like; because they regard these as oaths-contenting themselves with simply answering, "yes," or “no."
ClaudiUS SEISSELIUS, archbishop of Turin, says, “ that, their heresy excepted, they generally live a purer life than other Christians." " In their lives and morals," says he, "they are perfect, irreprehensible, and without reproach among men, addicting themselves, with all their might, to the service of God." Yet this prelate wrote against them, and joined in persecuting them, because they would not submit to all the absurdities and impieties of Rome.
LIELENTENTIUS, a Dominican, speaking of the Waldenses of Bohemia, says," I say, that in morals and life they are good, true in words, unanimous in brotherly love; but their faith is incorrigible and vile, as I have shown in my treatise. SAMUEL DE CAssini, a Franciscan friar, speaking of them in his “ Victoria Trionfale," explicitly owns in what respect their faith was incorrigible and vile, when he says, “ that all the errors of these Waldenses consisted in this, that they denied the church of Rome to be the holy mother church, and would not obey her traditions.”
In the time of a great persecution of the Waldenses of Merindol and Provence, a certain monk was. deputed by the bishop of Cavaillon, to hold a conference with them, that they might be convinced of their errors, and the effusion of blood prevented. But the monk returned in confusion, owning that in his whole life he had never known so much of the scriptures as he had learned during those few days that he had been conversing with the heretics. The bishop, however, sent among them a number of doctors—young men, who had lately come from the Sorbonne, which, at that time, was the very centre of theological subtlety at Paris. One of these publicly owned, that he had understood more of the doctrine of salvation, from the answers of the children in their catechisms, than by all the disputations that he had ever before heard.
Such was the character of those who professed the doctrines of the reformation, long before the reformation took place; and this is the character which their enemies gave them. Undoubtedly, then, they were the church of Christ, they were the followers of the Lamb,—they were the saints of God; and the church of Rome became drunk with their blood-intoxicated with rage against them, and by success in destroying them. The details of the murderous warfare which was carried on against them, for more than three cen. turies, are the most horrible that can be imagined. I shall give only one instance of the manner in which they were treated. It is by no means the worst, but, I believe, it is as bad as any of my readers will be able to bear: