INHABITING THE VALLEYS OF THE ALPS.
I. THE WALDENSES II. THE ALBIGENSES III. THE VAUDOIS
With An Essay On Their Present Condition, By Rev. Robert Baird, D.D.
And A Recommendatory Letter From Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D.
Professor Of Ecclesiastical History And Church Government In The Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey
HISTORY OF THE OLD WALDENSES ANTERIOR TO THE REFORMATION
With Illustrative Notes From Modern Historians And Theologians
INTRODUCTION (1991 EDITION)
When the printers at Church History Research and Archives asked me to write the introduction to Jean Paul Perrin’s history, I felt a sense of bewilderment and frustration. The bewilderment I felt was because, of the more than ten thousand volumes in my library (one thousand church histories), Jean Paul Perrin’s history is shrouded with mysteries and shadows. Some of these mysteries are as follows: Who was this man Perrin? There is no encyclopedia with that information. Even Schaff- Herzog’s great work never mentions him, but every ancient history quotes from his book. For example, in Allix’s Ancient Churches of The Piedmont (1619), we read that Allix got his facts from Perrin Then when we read Sir Samuel Morland’s History of The Churches of The Valley of Piedmont (1658) quoting Perrin on the baptizing of infants as a work of the antichrist. We learn from Allix’s history that Jean Paul Perrin was a Waldensean Pastor and attended a very important meeting which drew up six articles condemning the church of Rome, as the whore in the Book of Revelation and clearing the Albigenses and Waldenses of Manicheanism.
When Henry D’Anvers wrote his Treatise of Baptism (1674), we find him quoting Perrin on the education of children an ancient confession of faith the succession of churchesthe baptizing of children as a work of antichrist, and many other things that great English Baptist quotes from Jean Paul Perrin. Now dear reader, you can understand some of my bewilderment.
My frustration comes from my feeble ability to tell how great this history of Jean Paul Perrin’s has been to substantiate the proof of a succession of true churches which has existed down through the ages. It is an overwhelming fact and we must humbly bow our heads and say with Shakespeare: If circumstances lead me, I will find Where Truth is hid, though it were hid indeed Within the center.
R. Lawrence Crawford, PhD.
January 15, 1991
Addressed To The Publishers By Samuel Miller, D.D., Professor Of Ecclesiastical History And Church Government In The Theological Seminary At Princeton.
Gentlemen, It has given me no small pleasure to learn that you are engaged in publishing an American edition of the Rev. Jean Paul Perrin’s “History of the Old Waldenses, anterior to the Reformation.” In the execution of this undertaking, you are undoubtedly rendering an important service to the cause of evangelical truth and order. It is indeed wonderful that a work so interesting, and so truly instructive and valuable, which has been more than two centuries before the public, and which was translated into the English language more than a hundred years ago, should never have been given from the press on this side of the Atlantic: a work, too, so often inquired after, so frequently quoted, and deemed of such high authority in the department to which it belongs. I cannot help hoping and believing that your enterprize will be favorably received, and suitably rewarded. Such a work ought, undoubtedly, to be within the reach of all who are disposed to inquire what the Church of God has been in its best days since the Apostolic age.
The promise of the Savior to his apostles was, that the gates of hell should never prevail against his church. This promise seems to secure to his people that there shall be, in all ages, and in the worst of times, a true and substantially pure Church; that is, that there shall always be a body of people, more or less numerous, who shall hold fast the doctrines and order of Christ’s house, in some good degree, in conformity with the model of the primitive Church.
Accordingly, it is not difficult to show that, ever since the rise of the “Man of Sin,” there has been a succession of those whom the Scriptures style, “Witnesses for God” — ”Witnesses for the truth;” who have kept alive “the faith once delivered to the saints;” and have, in some good degree of faithfulness, maintained the ordinances and discipline which the inspired apostles, in the Master’s name, committed to the keeping of the Church.
Among these Witnesses, the first that we distinctly read of were the Pauliclans. They rose about A.D. 660. A very interesting account of these pious people is given in Milner’s Ecclesiastical History of the seventh century; and a still more extended and distinct account, in the Revelation Adam Blair’s History of the Waldenses, Book I. chapter I.
While the Paulicians were still maintaining their faithful testimony, the Waldenses arose; or, rather more probably, these two denominations had a common origin, and a common faith. The name Waldenses, the most common and popular one of these humble and devoted people, was evidently derived — not from Peter Waldo, but from the place of their abode. The following statement of the learned and ingenious Robert Robinson, a divine of Cambridge, in England, who died more than half a century ago, places the origin of this name in what I suppose to be the true light. “From the Latin, Vallis, came the English, valley; the French and Spanish, valle; the Italian, valdesi; the Low Dutch, valleye; the Provencal, vaux, vaudais; the ecclesiastical Vallenses, Valdenses, Ualdenses, and Waldenses. The words simply signify vallies, — the inhabitants of vallies, and no more. It happened that the inhabitants of the Pyrenees did not profess the Catholic faith. It fell out also that the inhabitants of the rallies about the Alps did not embrace that faith. It happened, moreover, in the ninth century, that one Valdo, a friend and counselor of Berengarius, and a man of eminence, who had many followers, did not approve of the Papal discipline and doctrine. And it came to pass, about an hundred and thirty years after, that a rich merchant of Lyons, who was called Valdus, because he received his religious opinions from the inhabitants of the vallies, openly disavowed the Roman religion, supported many to teach the doctrines believed in the vallies, and became the instrument of the conversion of great numbers. All these people were calledWALDENSES.” 1 The same people, that is, a people who substantially agreed in faith and practice, were called by different names derived from their places of residence; from the names of distinguished leaders; and from a variety of minor peculiarities: — as Albigenses, from their principal seat being in the neighborhood of Alby, in Francs; Bohemian Brethren, from their being found in large numbers, in Bohemia; Catbari, or Puritans, from their opposition to the corruptions of the Papacy; Leonisis, or Poor men of Lyons, from their chief residence in the city of Lyons; Petrobrussians, Arnoldists, and Henricians, from the names of distinguished ministers and leaders; and a variety of other appellations, familiar to the students of ecclesiastical history. These names, however, will be found so fully enumerated and explained in the History itself, which I here recommend, that further remark upon them here is altogether unnecessary.
It would not be strictly accurate to say, that among the large body of churches bearing the general name of Waldenses, there were no diversities of opinion in regard to any points; still it may be said, with entire confidence and safety, that, on all leading points, there was a great uniformity of practice. Their own Confessions of Faith, drawn up and published at different times, nay the very accusations and calumnies of their enemies leave us at no loss in regard to this matter.
The following statement may be considered as a fair and impartial Synopsis of their religious principles and practices. These, indeed, may all be gathered from the pages of the ensuing history; but it is judged best to exhibit a summary of them in this place, for the purpose of exciting the attention, and directing the inquiries of those who shall undertake to examine for themselves the numerous and diversified documents which are embraced in this volume.
They zealously contended for the doctrine of the Trinity — the Divinity of Christ — the fall of our race in and by the first sin of Adam — the entire depravity of human nature — the vicarious nature of the atonement — the sovereign, unconditional election of all who are saved, before the foundation of the world — justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ — the necessity of regeneration and continued sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit — the perseverance of the saints — and the endless punishment of the finally impenitent. In regard to all these points they adopted what we are accustomed, in later times, to denominate Calvinism, with scarcely a single deviation.
But that which attracted most attention in their day, and created most enmity against them in the dominant Church, was their adoption and publication of the following opinions and practices bearing on the system of Romanism.
They renounced the Church of Rome as mystical Babylon, abhorred the Pope as the “Man of Sin,” and rejected all the traditions of the Papacy as of no authority among Christians. They held that there were only two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; that the other five, so named by the Romanists, have no just title to be called sacraments; and that of the five, three, viz. confirmation, penance, and extreme unction, have no foundation whatever in the word of God. That all God-fathers, and Godmothers, in the baptism of infants, are to be rejected, excepting the parents, who alone ought to present their children, if they are living, and of a suitable character. But that if the parents are dead, or destitute of Christian character, then the children ought to be presented by any who are willing to become responsible for their Christian education. That fasts and festival days, and saints’ days, have no authority in Scripture, and ought not to be observed. That no day ought to be kept holy but the Lord’s day. That the true Church consists of all those who have knowledge of the Gospel, and walk according to its principles and rules. That purgatory, transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, and to saints, auricular confession, and all image worship, were all departures from primitive purity and simplicity, and ought all to be rejected with abhorrence. They pronounced the consecration of churches, churchyards, church bells, and all things of a similar nature, to be superstitious, and the invention of covetous priests to increase their gains, by extorting from the people, fees and oblations. They maintained the doctrine of Presbyterian parity among their clergy; rejecting all diversity of rank and order in the priesthood. They had also Ruling Elders in their churches, and conducted their ecclesiastical affairs by a Synod, — in which pastors and elders came together to deliberate and decide on all their affairs. In regard to dress, their ministers were content with a simple black coat, instead of the pompous vestments of the Romish clergy. Contrary to the assertions of some, 2 it is perfectly plain, from their Confession of Faith, that they practiced infant baptism, and that they baptized by sprinkling or affusion. They taught that the clergy were allowed to marry, and that the doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy was a doctrine of devils, leading to enormous moral mischief. They were charged by their enemies with denying the lawfulness of defensive war, of capital punishments; of taking oaths, even in judicial process; and of exercising the office of the civil magistrate. All these charges, however, they solemnly denied, and declared that they were mere slanders. They taught that the sacraments, though appointed by Christ, and though binding on all Christians, were yet not necessary to salvation; that is, that all sincere believers in Christ, who had no opportunity of attending on those ordinances, or who were prevented by any mistake from attending on them, would still certainly be saved.
Most of these statements are confirmed by the adversaries of the Waldenses, who, with no view to do them honor, represent them as holding the opinions just mentioned, as evidences of enormous and even damnable heresies. A few specimens of this testimony will appear to the impartial reader perfectly conclusive.
Lindanus, a Roman Catholic bishop of the see of Ghent, who wrote in defense of the tenets of the Church of Rome, about the year 1560, represents John Calvin as the inheritor of the doctrine of the Waldenses. Mezeray, the learned historiographer of France, in his Abridgment of Chronology, speaking of the Waldensos, says, “They held nearly the same opinions as those who are now called Calvinists.” Gualter, a Jesuitical monk, in his chronological tables, drew up a catalogue, consisting of seven and twenty particulars, in which he shows that the principles of the Waldensos, and those of the Calvinists, coincided with each other. Eckius reproached Luther, that he had only renewed the heresies of the Waldenses and Albigenses, of Wickliff and of John Huss, which had been long ago condemned.
Bellarmine asserts, that the identical belief which was publicly taught and professed in the vallies of Piedmont, in the year 890, and onwards, was the very same which is at this day professed and owned by the Reformed Churches. Genebrard, a Benedictine monk, born in 1537, in the third book of his Chronicles, calls the doctrine of Claude and his followers, in rejecting the traditions of Rome, Calvinistic doctrines; and denominates the Waldenses, Calvinists.
These simple hearted pious people little imagined, three hundred years ago, when they were execrated with so much bitterness, and persecuted with so much cruelty, that the time would ever come, when their opinions and practices would be regarded as a model; and an alliance with them claimed as a precious privilege! Yet so it has happened in the allwise providence of God. There is hardly a Protestant denomination of Christians which has not set them up as a kind of exemplar of primitive purity, and boasted of a conformity to their ecclesiastical character. Yet how often, to this hour, have their opinions been mistaken, and grievously misrepresented! The friends of Prelacy have often confidently claimed them as their spiritual ancestors; when nothing can be plainer, from their Confessions of Faith, and their whole history taken together, than that Presbyterian parity, and the government of the Church by Ruling Elders, and by ecclesiastical courts of review and control, were the uniform principle and practice of this remarkable community. Some short passages, which seem to speak a different language, may be easily explained in full consistency with the foregoing statement, by appealing to the most authentic historians. 7 Our antiopedobaptist brethren also lay claim to the Waldenses as the advocates of their creed, both as to the subjects and the mode of Baptism. The most cursory perusal of the ensuing volume will convince every impartial reader that there:is no foundation whatever for this claim.
But there is one notorious, unquestionable fact, which is sufficient, of itself, to refute the allegation, both of Prelatists and antipedobaptists, in regard to the Waldenses; and that is, that after the Reformation on the continent of Europe, and the organization of the Reformed Churches, on the Presbyterian plan, in France, Switzerland, Germany, etc., the Waldenses acknowledged them as true churches; held communion with them; received ministers from them, and in every variety of way, manifested that they recognized their regular Christian character, and the validity of their ministry.
This, surely, could never have been done, if the Waldenses had maintained the divine right of Prelacy, or the obligation of the antipedobaptist system.
I could wish that another work, which has been highly interesting to me, were more familiar to the religious public than I suppose it to be. I mean the History of the Waldenses, and an exhibition of their Creeds and Confessions, by Sir Samuel Morland, an English gentleman, who was sent, by the English government, nearly two centuries ago, on an embassy to that people. The occasion of his embassy was a remarkable one, and attended with very remarkable circumstances. In 1655 the Waldenses of Piedmont, under the sanguinary policy of the Duke of Savoy, in whose territory they resided, were persecuted in the most cruel and ferocious manner.
Impelled by the pitiless bigotry of the Romish clergy, the Duke ordered his emissaries to go round to the villages of these pious, devoted people, and to inform every family, that they must either conform to the Church of Rome, or depart in three days from his dominions, under the penalty of death, and the confiscation of all their property!
It is difficult to conceive of the distress occasioned by this proclamation. It was now in the middle of a very severe winter.
Thousands of families were compelled immediately to abandon all their domestic abodes and comforts. The aged, the sick, the mother advanced in pregnancy, the mother recently confined, and not yet risen from the bed of maternal confinement, the delicate female, the helpless children and young people, were all compelled to surrender every comfort, to encounter frost and snow, and almost impassable roads, in the midst of an uncommonly severe season, and to go, they knew not where.
The poor persecuted sufferers begged and prayed — that if they must leave their homes, they might be favored with the respite of a few weeks, until the rigor of winter should be over. But all in vain.
They were compelled to go at once. No sooner had they quitted their houses, than armed soldiers, with unfeeling violence, broke into them, plundering and bearing away whatever of value had been left behind. These ferocious wretches next proceeded to level their habitations to the ground; to cut down the trees and all the improvements which surrounded them; and to burn and destroy what they could not carry away. Not content even with this, they pursued the fugitives, and massacred them in the most inhuman manner. The order had been to quit the country unless they would consent to go to mass. But even this was cruelly prevented. They tortured the women and children by every device that cruelty could suggest; — chopping off the heads of some; dashing out the brains of others against the rocks; nailing some to the trees, with their heads down, leaving them to perish by slow tortures. They violated the younger women with every circumstance of brutality; and with respect to the men whom they took prisoners, young and old, they mutilated and tortured them in a manner which beggars all description, and which, if it could be described, ought not on the score of decency, to be clothed in language.
The account given of this massacre by Sir Samuel Morland, and also by Leger, in his General History of the Churches of Piedmont, really almost transcends belief, and could hardly, indeed, be credited, were it not attested by so many unimpeachable witnesses. In fact, it would be scarcely too severe to say, that if all the demons of the pit had been let loose upon the rallies of Piedmont, we could scarcely have expected the perpetration of greater enormities than were now exhibited by the emissaries of Rome. The report of these enormities by indistinct rumor, spread amazement and horror, through all the Protestant states of Europe; and the principal actors in this awful tragedy, we are assured, soon found it convenient, for the sake of their own reputation, to deny their agency in this horrid work, and to shift off the blame, as far as possible, on others.
When the news of this awful massacre reached England, Oliver Cromwell, who was then at the head of the government in that country, immediately determined to interpose, and, as far as possible, to prevent the continuance, and, at any rate, to obviate the progress of such enormous iniquity. Whatever faults may be ascribed to that extraordinary man, we must certainly award to him the praise of great talents; wonderful energy; inflexible opposition to Popery; and indefatigable zeal in promoting what he considered as the real interests of religion.
Cromwell immediately determined to interfere, and, as far as he could, not only to arrest these diabolical proceedings, but, if possible, to turn against them the withering odium of the Protestant world, and to cover with shame the wretched actors in the scene. He, accordingly, forthwith, appointed a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, to humble the nation before God, in the view of such atrocious wickedness. He next set on foot a subscription for the relief of the impoverished sufferers on this occasion; subscribed himself a very large sum; and secured the transmission to them of very efficient pecuniary aid. Nor did he content himself with these measures. He sent an ambassador to visit the poor oppressed sufferers, and express to them his tender regard and sympathy. He transmitted also, by that ambassador, letters couched in very spirited and solemn language, to the Duke of Savoy, who was principally responsible for what had been done; to the king of France, some of whose troops had been implicated in the execution of these nefarious acts; and to several of the Protestant potentates of Europe. It is refreshing to the admirers of Christian heroism, at the present day, to read these letters, so full of correct opinions, of elevated sentiments, and of laudable, sublime decision.
The immortal poet, Milton, at that time the Latin Secretary of Cromwell, was the penman of these letters, which are an imperishable monument to the honor of him who ordered, as well as of him who executed them. The fact, that the author of Paradise Lost, approved the opinions, and warmly sympathized with the character and sufferings of the Waldenses, carries with it the evidence of a volume in their favor, and against their cruel persecutors.
The ambassador sent to execute the benevolent purposes of Cromwell,was Sir Samuel Morland, whose mission led to the production of one of the best histories of the Waldenses, and of their opinions and practices, that was ever published. Sir Samuel Morland’s history has the advantage, in some respects, even of Perrin’s work; but it is much larger, and is accompanied too, with plates and cuts, which would render an American reprint very expensive. By and by, when the public taste becomes improved, as I hope, before long it will be, I am confident Morland’s history will be called for, and an American edition of it amply warranted.
In the meantime, let Perrin’s volume be extensively circulated. Try to place a copy of it in every Christian family in the United States; and there will be an end of the delusion which has so long prevailed concerning the real tenets and character of the Waldenses, that remarkable people, whom almost all Protestants are fond of praising, and claiming an alliance with, but whose example few seem really to understand or to imitate.
Some advocates of the Papacy have been so audacious and reckless as to assert, that the Church of Rome was never a persecuting church; that all the bloody persecution which has been charged against her, has been the work, strictly speaking, of secular powers, and was never justly imputable to the Church as such. It appears to me that the most cursory perusal of Perrin’s History is quite sufficient to refute this strange allegation. He who can doubt, after reading this, and some similar works, that theINQUISITION, that far-famed instrument of sanguinary cruelty, was primarily and essentially an ecclesiastical agent for crushing the alleged errors of the Waldenses; and that the secular power, instead of being dominant in these bloody proceedings, was every where the dupe and the slave of the Church, and simply the servile instrument for executing her bigoted and tyrannical orders, must be strangely blind to the most unquestionable testimony. It appears to me that the volume which you propose to republish, if it serve no other purpose, cannot fail to open the eyes of many who have listened with credulity to the misrepresentations of Papists on this subject.
And, while it does this, it will exhibit, in their appropriate character, a body of Witnesses for the truth, who shone brightly in a dark age, and whose true glory was set in a stronger light by the blindness, the unfeeling bigotry, and immeasurable ferocity of a body, boasting itself as the exclusive Church, and given up to the belief, that, in robbing, imprisoning, and butchering without mercy, millions of the best people in the world, they were “doing God service!”
Those who are instrumental in sending forth a GOOD BOOK into society, adapted to enlighten the public mind on such a subject as this, are surely benefactors of their generation.
May the great Head of the Church give prosperity to your enterprize, and crown it with a rich blessing!
I am, gentlemen, with much respect, Your friend and obedient servant, SAMUEL MILLER.
PRINCETON, Feb. 24, 1845
TO WILLIAM JAY, BEDFORD, NEW YORK, PRESIDENT OF THE WESTCHESTER BIBLE SOCIETY: A WALDENSIAN HUGUENOT, WHO ESTEEMS IT BOTH A PRIVILEGE AND A DUTY TO GIVE HIS NAME AND HIS EFFORTS TO THE MAINTENANCE OF PROTESTANTISM.
Dear Sir — As “the goodly fellowship of the Prophets,” and “ the glorious company of the Apostles,” both have passed away from the church militant to “the rest that remaineth to the people of God” — and as, according to our poet’s characteristic definition — “A Christian is the highest style of man.” I know not a more honorable privilege, than to be numbered, even in our comparatively pacific times and country, among the descendants of, “the noble army of Martyrs,” in the anterior ages of the suffering persecuted Churches, during that direful period when “all the world wondered after the Beast,” to whom “the Dragon gave his power, and his seat, and great authority.” Of that exemplary and numerous “Household of Faith?” you are a member.
You have your noble ancestry and their Christian kindred among the Huguenots, those Confessors and Martyrs who were expatriated by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes — and those proscribed Christians, “of whom the world was not worthy,” require not any other terrestrial title to their enumeration in the catalogue of the “Two witnesses.”
The volume which I now present to you does not record the diabolical transactions of that long protracted hail storm and pestilence, during the prevalence of which, the elite of France, hundreds of thousands of the Lord’s disciples, were tortured to death for his sake; and an equal multitude more either fled or were driven from their Gallic habitations into every other country where their gracious Master provided them a refuge; — but this History of the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and the Vaudois, comprises the narrative of the similar Papal atrocities by which those elder brethren of the Huguenote, the Christians of the Alpine valleys: were desolated and slaughtered.
In this connection, our national American annals, at the most interesting period of the early existence of our Federal Republic: furnish a remarkable and impressive commentary of the promise which was included in the roessage of the man of God to Eli the high priest. “Now the Lord saith, them who honor me I will honor.” In the history of South Carolina, Ramsay thus narrates: — ”Three of the nine Presidents of the old Congress who conducted the United States through the revolutionary war, were descendants of French Protestant Refugees, who had migrated to America in consequence of the revocation of the edict of Nantes — Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, — John Jay, of New York — and Elias Boudinot of New Jersey.” Thus is most emphatically verified the unerring testimony of the Psalmist — ”Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and that walketh in his ways. The children of thy servants, O my God, shall continue, and be established before thee — for the generation of the upright shall be blessed.” “The holy Church throughout all the world,” and every Waldensian both in America and Europe who evangelically fraternizes with you in “the maintenance of Protestantism,” exults in the certainty that the dawn of that long-anticipated and intensely desired morning will speedily appear; when “the angel shall come down from heaven, with great power, and the earth shall be lightened with his glory.” Revelations 18:1-8. Then shall the angel cry “mightily with a strong voice,BABYLON THE GREAT IS FALLEN,IS FALLEN!” — and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” — The cross-capp’d towers, the gorgeous Vatican, The impious Mass-house, Babylon itself, “Yea, all which it inherits shall dissolve; And like that unsubstantial pageant faded,” The flitting mummery of Rome’s fantastic shows, “Leave not a wreck behind.” That you will be on earth to join “the voice of the great multitude,” who, on beholding that most sublime and joyous catastrophe, will resound “Alleluia! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth” — does not accord with my prophetic chronology; but that in the general assembly and church of the first-born who came out of great tribulation, and who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” we may hear of that glorious emancipation of “the whole world that lieth in wickedness,” is the sincere prayer of Your Fellow Soldier in the Faith; and Your servant for Jesus’ sake, THE EDITOR. New York, October 12, 1843.
WHEN the proposition was originally made to republish the authentic standard volume concerning the Waldenses, and the Albigenses, by Jean Paul Perrin, and the Vaudois, by Dr. Bray; it was not contemplated to change or enlarge it. But upon the perusal of his pages, it was perceived that additions, the result of later researches, could be supplied, which would both illustrate the narrative, and render it better adapted to the present exigencies of the Christian churches. Hence, it was determined to issue the work by Dr. Bray entire; and to select and condense from modern authors, and insert those facts and arguments which might add force to the testimony and demonstration to the truth; and to embody those extracts in an appendix to each of the separate parts of the history.
The chief design in this respect has been this — to combine within the limits prescribed for the work, the largest quantam possible of the correlate information which every valuable author, who could be searched, can contribute to the development of the Christian character of the everliving “Witnessess” who during nearly twelve hundred years have been prophesying, “clothed in sackcloth;” but “standing before the God of the earth,” with unshaken firmness, and with changeless brilliancy; and who “overcame the Accuser of the brethren by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives to the death.”
Our great concern has been by the most sedulous exploration to obtain all the elucidations which could be discovered, and especially from the Waldensians themselves and their church records and other documents, of the prominent facts in the eventful annals of those Christians who, from the early ages of the church of God, have resided among the European Alps, and which constitute the most interesting portions of ancient ecclesiastical history.
In reviewing their social organization, two characters impress us with great interest — the antiquity of their origin, and the uniformity of their faith.
Without controversy their churches can be traced in an uninterrupted succession during a thousand years; and that they existed in their evangelical doctrines, spiritual worship, fraternal communion, and abhorrence of antichristian superstitions, for nearly two centuries previous, is a fact attested even by their most infuriated persecutors. One of the remarkable circumstances of modern times is this — that although those followers of Jesus were shut up among the small and most inaccessible valleys of the highest mountains, almost “alike unknowing and unknown,” and not only accounted but persecuted as monsters in human appearance, whom all potentates, secular and ecclesiastical, combined to reproach and destroy, yet their virtues could not be concealed, and their churches could not be exterminated.
This point is lucidly exhibited in a note by Mr. Allport, appended to Davenant’s Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, chap. 1:9: The text contained this remark — ”While we live here, we are as children who are not yet arrived at maturity; whence the Holy Scriptures excite all to a constant advance in every gift of divine grace — to the increase of faith of hope, of love, and of knowledge. Nazianzen says, ‘A Christian either advances or falls back; he cannot remain in the same state.’ Bernard says, ‘he is by no means good who does not wish to be better; and where you begin to be unwilling to become better, there you leave off to be good.’” To which reference to Bernard, Mr. Allport subjoins, “This renowned Romanist, Bernard, enraged against the uncorrupted Christians of Cologne, who had settled there from among the persecuted Albigenses to the great annoyance of the Papists, when he described those followers of Arnold of Brescia, said, ‘If you ask me of their faith, nothing can be more Christian.
If you observe their conversation, nothing can be more blameless. The sincerity of their language they prove by the consistency of their deeds. In testimony of his faith, you may see a man of this order frequent the church, honor its elders, offer his gifts, confess his sin, and partake of the communion, and what can be more expressive of the Christian? In life and manners also, he circumvents no man, defrauds no man, and does violence to no man. His fasts are frequent, his bread is not that of idleness, and his labor procures him his support.’ Such is the testimony of an opponent to the Protestants of Piedmont. The foregoing passage, if no other could be procured, would of itself alone be sufficient to crush the foul slanders which even at this day, continue to be discharged by the ignorant and malevolent against a most exemplary and brutally persecuted Christian community; but calumny naturally follows persecution.” 1 In our own times, those descendants of the primitive Dissenters from Rome have become the subject of a theological controversy which combines some most important principles connected with the churches of Christ. They differ not in any essential characteristic from the genuine disciples of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, for “in faith, in hope, in charity,” the Waldenses wherever scattered and the sincere Protestants are one. Their grand distinction is this — the Waldensian Churches never belonged to Rome. They never submitted to the Papal jurisdiction, and they never assented to its Christian pretensions — having ever denied their usurpations, and denounced their profession of the Gospel as undisguised hypocrisy. DR.BRAY, in the general preface to his volume, thus introduces “The History of the Old Waldenses and Albigenses, those two glorious Witnesses to the truth of Christianity, in opposition to the Antichristianism of Rome:” — “This celebrated history by Jean Paul Perrin, of Lyons, was written in French, and soon after was translated into our language; but on account of the obsolete improprieties of the phrases, is here rendered anew. Before I resolved upon publishing it, I consulted Dr. Allix, both because he was the best judge, and be, cause in his own volume he had frequently quoted it as an excellent narrative of undoubted authority. Indeed I find it very often cited by the learned men who discuss the subject of those primitive Christians, with great attestations to its worths as giving a complete account of the horrible devastations and wars which were raised and carried on by the Popes, under the solemnity of Croisades, besides the more private ways of murdering by the merciless Inquisitors, against those preservers of the primitive Christianity, and forerunners of the blessed Reformation, the old Waldenses and Albigenses, to the extermination, as far as divine Providence would permit, both of the princes and people, who then were “the only maintainers of the true religion.” “In that part of the history concerning the Albigenses, we have that Latin Antichristian tyranny most remarkably exemplified, in the total ruin and extermination, both of several princes and of their people, merely for endeavoring to conserve primitive Christianity in its native purity, and for opposing the Papal despotism and innovations. Herein are also represented the wars, massacres, and persecutions carried on by the instigation of the Popes and the Romish priesthood, to the distress of every subject in the dominions of those princes who either formerly were, or still are vassals to the Romish hierarchy. In this history of the Albigenses are given various instances of the wicked principles which tended to maintain the Papal usurpations over secular princes; and of the manner in which they were enforced upon the Earls of Thoulouse, Beziers, Foix, and Comminges, and even on the King of Arragon.
The barbarous manner in which those Papal encroachments and usurpations were put in practice, will amaze the reader at the insults and violence of those prime ministers of Satan, Pope Innocent III., and Pope Innocent IV, towards those worthy and honest sovereign rulers; at the perusal of which, all persons who are not of the persecuting party, would, almost shed tears, while their hearts must needs bleed.”q “This history, including both that of the Waldenses and Albigenses is very proper to precede the more extended accounts of the miserable havoc and bloody butcheries made in the succeeding centuries, in the several parts of Christendom, of the true members of Christ’s church, wherever dispersed, or however distressed, over the face of the whole earth; and indeed the following history does admirably relate their story as so distressed and so dispersed.” “THEIR DISTRESSES. — As Antichristianism gradually prevailed in the western church, those eminent and glorious “Two Witnesses” retired by degrees more and more into the coverts of the wilderness, or the almost inaccessible places of the Alps, and the mountainous parts of France; and as was predicted of them, Revelation 12:14, there for some time they remained hidden. But Antichrist having at last attained the height of his power, and the European princes for fear of his wrath, having become so obsequious to him, that they yielded themselves up to the base office of being merely executioners of the Christians whom he condemned — ”that Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition” — being no longer able to tolerate those burning and shining lights, poured forth his own rage, and let loose their fury upon “the called, and chosen, and faithful,” as is amply detailed in the ensuing history. THEIR DISPERSIONS. — As their distresses are there declared, so are their dispersions far and wide, throughout most parts of the kingdoms of Europe, when the persecutions of them were so fiery, that the sheep were scattered from the fold abroad into the world. It pleased the divine Providence, to deal with those confessors and martyrs who, emphatically and kata exochn , were the Lord’s witnesses to his truth, as with the primitive “church which was at Jerusalem, Acts 8:1, who were all scattered abroad,” and who being sorely persecuted in one city, fled into another; and thus by their dispersion spread the light of the Gospel throughout the Oikoumenh or Orbis Romanus, as in the civil law the Roman empire was called, thereby arrogating the whole world as their dominion, as the modern pontifex maximus copying their arrogance, and adding to it his blasphemy, has done. In like manner the Christians inhabiting the valleys of the Alps, having been coerced to forsake their abodes, by the horrid desolations of themselves and their habitations, dispersed themselves, and carried with them the truths of the Gospel far and wide into Bohemia, England, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the adjoining countries to them on the western side of the Alps, and into Calabria and Italy, to the east. There the precious seed of the Word for some ages lay buried, and harrowed as it were under clods, till the happy dawn of the Reformation, since which time it has appeared above ground, and not withstanding many rough winters, God be praised! it has borne a plentiful harvest of truth and righteousness. All this does our excellent historian, Perrin, unfold in his work, which relates the Papal oppression of the injured potentates, and the sore distresses of the martyred people — proving that the injuries of both proceeded from the same Antichristian power.
That much esteemed author has also preserved for us authentic memorials concerning the doctrines, worship, and discipline of the Waldenses and Albigenses, and the noble testimony given by them against the Roman Antichrist, with practical discourses which depict the purity of their manners.
In reference to theirDOCTRINE, we havre the ancient confessions of their:faith, their Catechism for the instruction of their youth, and their genuine Exposition of the Ten Commandments; the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments, and the Apostle’s Creed. “As to theirDISCIPLINE, besides the very ancient confession of their sins which was used among them, and their general mode of visiting the sick, there are many other articles that exhibit their singular care and watchfulness in the regulation of their life and manners.” “Concerning theirWORSHIP, there is that noble testimony of those glorious confessors against the “Man of Sin,” as exhibited in their treatise concerning Antichrist, Purgatory, Invocation of Saints, and the Sacraments.” “As to their practical discourses, their mortification to the world and their Christian simplicity of character really shine in their Treatise of Tribulation, and in their Noble Lesson.” “Upon the perusal of which antiquated documents, it imparts a singular pleasure to all whose eyes are not dazzled with the meretricious paint and attire of the Roman Harlot Mother, to see the “Woman in the Wilderness” so unspotted in her garb, even from the tenth to the sixteenth century, during all the most corrupt ages of the church; and then at the Reformation, to appear so Christian, as on her part to need little or no amendment and purification. “The Roman Inquisitors were enraged at the Waldenses for their constancy and perseverance in such sanctity of faith and practice.
Therefore, although the mere force of truth did sometimes extort from them the most honorable testimonies on their behalf, yet generally those Inquisitors published the most wicked lies which they could invent against them; and in their criminal processes they also villanously inserted, in their answers and confessions, crimes of which those guileless Christians never dreamed. “Reinerius contra Waldenses, Cap. IV., however, thus avers: — ’All other sects render themselves horrible by reason of their blasphemies against God, but the Waldenses have a great appearance of piety, inasmuch as they live justly before men, and believe aright concerning God in all things, and hold all the articles of the Creed; but there is one thing against them — they decry the Roman priesthood, and thereby they easily gain credit among the people.’ “Hence, next to the grace of God, I know nothing of greater efficacy and use than the martyrology, the history of confessors and martyrs, to awaken and save us; and to prepare us to endure with Christian patience, and with a spirit of martyrdom, the worst that may come upon us.”
A brief delineation of the more remarkable traits of character which the Christians of the Alpine valleys, on the confines of France and Italy, ever have exhibited, will form an appropriate introductory notice to the ensuing histories. The graphical description of Mr. Sims, Minister of the Episcopal church, in England, has therefore been selected. He twice visited Piedmont expressly to become acquainted with those secluded disciples of Immanuel, and the eventful scenes through which they have passed. To his concise sketch of those valleys and of their inhabitants, he appended this impressive memorial: “The train of feelings induced by the recollections of the Waldenses, when treading those sequestered spots where they reside, were such as neither the treasures of art, nor the stupendous views of nature, unfolded in the Cantons of Switzerland, had possessed, in an equal degree, the magic to impart.” 2 The evidence and narrative of Mr. Sims illustrate and give additional value to the subsequent volume. “There is a small and comparatively obscure district at the extremity of the plain of Piedmont, immediately under the Alps, which, though seldom visited, has been the seat of transactions which have often excited the attention and the sympathy of the principal European states. This district, which is distinguished for much of that grand scenery which characterizes Alpine regions, but which is chiefly interesting when viewed in connection with Christian antiquities, comprises the valleys of Luzerne, Perosa and San Martino, in the province of Pinerolo, in Sardinia. “Those valleys are inhabited by a peaceable, industrious, and inoffensive race of men, whose adherence to the pure truths of the Christian religion has been, and still continues to be, very conspicuous and exemplary. The inhabitants called Waldenses, or Valdenses, in Italian Valdesi, and in French Vaudois, from the valleys which they inhabit, are the descendants of Christians whose heroic achievements have awakened the astonishment of all acquainted with their history, while their piety and constancy justly entitle the sufferers to a place in ‘the noble army of martyrs.’ The present population occupy fifteen villages or parishes, and amount to about twenty thousand persons.” “That a people whose history is so replete with the marvellous and the pathetic, and whose adherence to a primitive faith has been for a series of ages so firm and so uniform, should have excited a more than ordinary degree of attention and respect, cannot be deemed surprising; since, viewed in connection with religion, their soil must be regarded as almost sacred — their rocks and caves, their temples and their dwellings, are beheld with unusual emotions, and the children of such suffering ancestors are peculiarly entitled to our esteem. On such spots, however delightful the scenery, the principal charm consists in the association of all that presents itself to the eye with historical recollections, consecrated, as the territory has been, in an almost unparalleled degree, by the patience of the confessor, and the agony of the martyr.” “The modern Waldenses, who are lineal descendants of ancient worthies, inheriting both their names and their possessions, when compared with most other Christians, must be considered a very exemplary race of men. Those crimes which require the punishment of the magistrate, are of very rare occurrence. A stranger may pass through the country, by day or night, unmolested; and to this day, as above two centuries ago, when De Vignaux wrote his ‘Memoires,’ the Vaudois are preferred to others as domestics by the Romanists — an honorable, but a dangerous preference! From other virtues conspicuous among the Vaudois, theirINDUSTRY,HUMANITY, andLOYALTY, more particularly may be specified.” “Their poverty and privations are extreme. The hardships which they endure in procuring the necessary food for their families are such as we rarely witness. Compelled to raise walls even to prevent the scanty portions of soil on the sides of the mountains from being washed down by heavy rains — obliged to break up ‘that soil by manual labor, for cattle cannot be used to plough it — forced, women as well as men, on account of the steepness of the ground, to carry hay, grain, and their other products, on their backs to great distances, and thus to undertake the drudgery assigned to cattle in this country, and after such excessive labor obtaining, in general, only rye, buckwheat, chestnuts, and potatoes, for their subsistence — it is obvious that their patient industry is almost unequalled.” “TheHUMANITY which they have displayed is remarkable. So circumstanced as to be always in need of the sympathy of others, they have learned that beneficial lesson which is usually acquired in the school of affliction — compassion for others when in misery.
If any one is ill, there is even a sort of competition among the neighbors who shall pay the first and greatest attentions; and to relieve sudden accidents and distress of the poor, a sermon is preached and a collection made. One illustrious instance of their humanity should not pass unnoticed. When the Austrians and Russians under Suwarrow compelled the French army to retreat, three hundred French wounded soldiers received all the assistance, medical and otherwise, that could be given; and at the request of their minister Rostaing, the inhabitants of Bobi carried those miserable wounded sufferers on their shoulders over the mountains into the French territory. Their most painful task was the act of pure Christian humanity, and not the result of political feelings; yet but for the interposition of Prince Bagrathion, it would have exposed them and their property to considerable danger. The Austrians could not withhold their admiration, and the French General, Suchet published an order for the very purpose of acknowledging such a singular instance of benevolence.” “Still more recently they have exemplified the same humane feelings on an occasion which Count Waldbourg Truchsess, the Prussian Ambassador at Turin, thus describes in a letter, dated Turin, August 18, 1825: — ’The Vaudois spontaneously made a collection among themselves in favor of the Hollanders who suffered by the recent inundations. The collection amounts to more than three thousand francs, which have been sent to Holland, where their donation has excited the most lively gratitude. It is exceedingly affecting to inspect the subscription-list of the various districts. Not one individual was excluded. Each contributed according to his ability. Even the children contributed their saved soul. Benevolence always is one of the noblest qualities. The rich cannot make a better use of their wealth; but it is sublime when it is exercised by him who divides his last morsel of bread, to support his wretched brethren.’” “TheLOYALTY of the Waldenses likewise presents a model worthy of general imitation, to all other people; and the more so, as their religious principles widely differ from those of the state.” “In 1694, Victor Amadeus granted an edict in favor of the Vaudois, which was highly honorable to them. He said to their deputies — ’You have but one God and but one prince to obey. Serve God and your prince conscientiously. Others were the cause of your misery. But if you perform your duty, I will do mine, and as long as I have a bit of bread you shall partake of it.’ “When the army of Louis XIV. invaded Sardinia, Victor Amadeus was advised to rely upon the loyalty, of the Waldenses, and take refuge in Rora. He remained concealed in security for two weeks in the house of a Vaudois peasant named Durand, until Prince Eugene recaptured Turin.” “The late king of Sardinia gave this testimony of the modern Vaudois, in 1821, to Count Crotti, Governor of Pignerol: — ’I know that I am beloved by the Vaudois. I carried on war in their valleys. I lived among them for some time with delight. Their attachment to me I know. Now I am gratified to learn from you, that in these recent circumstances, they have not falsified their character.’” 5 “Thus the Vaudois have maintained willing submission to their temporal sovereign in secular affairs, while they disavowed the arbitrary impositions of the Roman Pontiff in matters of religion.
Even in the earlier ages, they asserted in that wise distinction, those standard principles which are now acknowledged to be of pre-eminent value and authority in all enlightened countries — the exercise of supremacy on the part of rulers, with religious toleration; and of subordination on the part of citizens, without a surrender of the rights of conscience.” Hence the ensuing valuable history will be very acceptable to all American citizens, and especially to every Christian, because, from its authentic documents, it is manifest, that during the protracted continuance of the feudal tyranny and the ecclesiastical despotism throughout the ten kingdoms of the Roman empire, the Christians who resided in the valleys of Piedmont and their immediate vicinity, were the only people who either understood or enjoyed the privileges of civil and religious freedom. In truth, the Waldenses, when divine Providence did not mysteriously permit their ruthless persecutors to ravage their country, exemplified, as the cardinal principles of their social organization in civic affairs, the selfevident truths upon which the primitive Puritans of New England established their commonwealth, and which, in the Declaration of the Fourth day of July, 1776: became the chief corner-stone of the American Federal Republic.
TO THE DUKE FRANCIS DE BONNE, MARESCHAL AND CONSTABLE OF FRANCE
This History of right belongs to you; because the most populous Churches of the Waldenses are within the limits of your government, and because they never had respite to breathe with liberty, until about forty years ago, you defended them against the outrages of their enemies. God out of his goodness comforted them, and they found safe-guard in your protection, and both within and without the realm, your name was to them a strong bulwark.
Moreover the records of the sufferings which in ages past their forefathers experienced, were the holy bounty which you obtained at the capture of Arabrun; when you reduced that city to obedience. The Archbishops of that city, during four hundred years, carefully kept secret the inquisitorial processes and proceedings against the Churches of the Waldenses, the discovery of which has brought upon their persecutors perpetual shame and disgrace. On the contrary, the piety and discretion of your followers is eternized; who obtained and preserved the bag which contained the narrative of those processes; notwithstanding the fire which the enemies of the truth had kindled by the Archbishop’s command, on purpose to destroy those records, and to hinder your faithful servant from entering the tower in which they were kept.
Mr. Vulcon, counselor in the parliament at Grenoble, recovered those documents and delivered them into our hands; having been satisfied for his portion of the spoil with that bag alone, the contents of which indict the Devil himself with all his adherents, and which were providentially preserved for the good and edification of the Church of God.
Having therefore resolved to publish this history under the credit and sanction of your name, I have only restored it to its first and rightful owner; and now return it to its preserver, dedicating the entire structure to him, who has furnished all its most solid materials; and who himself has both known and seen more of the Waldenses, than I have described concerning them. Herein especially doth the hand of God appear, when persons of the same name and in the same province have differed so much in their designs — for Arroas de Bonne, above three hundred years ago, persecuted in Dauphiny, the ancestors of those Christians whom you have restored. Thus doth the eternal God know how and when, as he pleases, to produce from one and the same stem the light of his mercy, whence nothing but darkness before sprung.
Many happy years may you continue in the same purpose and intention of loving and preserving the Churches for which Christ died; and may you also devote the residue of your days to his glory, and the edification of the flocks for which he hath shed his precious blood! On this depends all your glory; and thence that your comfort may proceed, I heartily pray with the same affection, which binds me ever to be, Your very humble Servant, JOHN PAUL PERRIN.
Nyons in Dauphiny, January 1, 1618.