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  • HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT CHRISTIANS -
    HISTORY OF THE TEN PERSECUTIONS OF THE VAUDOIS


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    THE DESCENDANTS OF THE OLD WALDENSES ENHABITING THE VALLEYS OF THE ALPS.

    PREFACE

    IN the History of the Old Waldenses, it was observed, that from the inadvertency of protestant writers, as well as from the malice of the Roman party, and, their inquisitors, that the churches of Milan, and the Subalpine Waldenses, were supposed to be derived from Peter Waldo; as if it were he that first founded them; but the contrary has been most clearly demonstrated by Allix, in his History of the Ancient Church of Piedmont, and in his history also of the Albigenses. He proves beyond all exception, that the Waldenses separated themselves from Rome, or rather it may be said, Rome degenerating gradually departed from them, long before Valdo of Lyons; and that the name of Valdenses, or Vaudois, was given them from the place of their abode, which the inhabitants called les Vans de Lucerne and Angrogne, whence came the latin name Vallenses, which was afterwards changed into Valdenses, when the design was!aid to make the world believe that Valdo was their first founder.

    The summary account of this matter is as follows. The thing which is affirmed is this — That the Christian religion, which was planted in Italy by Paul, has ever since been retained in the primitive purity of its fundamental doctrine and divine worship, in the churches of Piedmont to this day. For the proof of this assertion, I must acquaint you, that though many of their ancient records, and other authentic manuscripts, were destroyed by popish persecutors in the years 1655, and 1656; yet a great number no less authentic, divers of which are to be seen in the foregoing history of the Old Waldenses, were most wonderfully preserved, and give a full and clear testimony to this truth. Besides, we have the concurrent testimonies of the most eminent popish authors, who were the bitterest adversaries of these churches, and which is almost miraculous, by a strange over-ruling Providence, unwittingly confessed in many places of their writings, this antiquity, for the concealing of which, and to make the world disbelieve it, those very books were purposely written and designed.

    Rainerius acknowledges, “that among all the sects which are, or ever were, none have been more pernicious to Rome than that of the Leonists; and among other causes he gives this as the first, that it is the most ancient of all; since some affirm, that it has continued from the time of Sylvester, or from the times of the Apostles.” It is a truth generally received by all those who profess to be versed in ecclesiastical history, that before the year 1800, the differences between the Roman and the Reformed Christian Churches, were not publicly established by any general councils or decrees in any part of Italy. As for the first five hundred years after Christ, there cannot so much as one sentence be produced out of any one father and council, for the papists against the protestants. In the next century, the year 606, Boniface III., Bishop of Rome, with the consent and approbation of the usurper, traitor, and murderer, Phocas the emperor, took upon him the title of universal bishop, in which he was confirmed by a council held at Rome the year following. After this, corruptions and heresies rapidly crept into the Church of Rome, which were still opposed by some writers of the western churches, both in that, and the eighth century; about the end of which in the year 794, the emperor Charles the Great having called a council at Frankfort, with the western churches jointly endeavored to have drawn Pope Adrian and the Church of Rome, out of that gulph of superstition and idolatry, into which they were fallen, by persuading them to embrace the doctrine of Christ and his Apostles. But that design proving ineffectual, Louis the emperor, son and successor to Charles, undertook and prosecuted the same in the ninth century; and in order thereunto, among other things, he preferred to the Archbishopric of Turin, of which the valleys of Piedmont are part, Claudius chief chancellor to Charles the Great, and one of the most renowned men of his age, as well for piety and learning, in the year 815. But that good man finding that he could not resist that mighty torrent of superstitious and idolatrous blasphemies, which were taught and practiced at Rome, endeavored to keep his own diocese from being infected with them, and to this end he told his people; “that they ought not to run to Rome for pardon of their sins, nor have recourse to the saints or their relics; that the church is not founded upon Peter, much less upon the Pope, but upon the doctrine of the Apostles; that they ought not to worship images, nor have them in their churches.” A grand adversary of his, also confesses; “that Claudius and his disciples and successors were people of good lives and principles, and that nothing could be objected against them, but that they did not obey the ecclesiastical traditions.” Rainerius saith, whereas all other sects render themselves horrible, by reason of their blasphemies against God, this hath a great appearance of piety, inasmuch as they live justly before men, they believe aright concerning God in all things, and hold all the articles of the creed; there is however one thing against them, that they blaspheme the church of Rome, and hereby they easily gain credit among the people.”

    Another popish writer who was very famous in his time, in a book published in the year 1610, with approbation and privilege, saith: “that the aforesaid doctrine continued throughout the ninth and tenth centuries.”

    In another book, printed at Turin in the year 1649, dedicated to the Duke of Savoy, speaking of the doctrine which the churches of the valleys then held, he saith: “it is the same which Claudius Archbishop of Turin, (and consequently of the valleys, being within that diocese,) maintained in the ninth century.” Thus you see the constant and uninterrupted succession of the doctrine of those churches from the times of the Apostles, to that of Claudius, and so through the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, till some of Waldo’s disciples came into these valleys, which was in the twelfth century, where they have professed and taught the same ever since. I need not prove the continued succession of this doctrine in those churches, from the twelfth century till now, because all popish writers do unanimously confess it; but seeing divers of them have had the impudence to tell the world, that the Waldenses, as they call them, who escaped the massacre in France, in the twelfth century, and came thence into the valleys of Piedmont, were the first founders of that religion, which the inhabitants there now own and profess; I cannot but answer such writers, that it is, not at all probable that those people, who knew that the seat of their grand adversary was in Italy, could have been so void of all sense and common prudence, as to have undertaken so long and tedious a journey over the Alps, had they not been well assured before hand, that the natives of those valleys had professed the same religion with them, and would receive them and embrace them as brethren. In the preface of a French Bible, which those inhabitants caused to be printed at their own charge, in the year 1535, they say; “that they had always fully enjoyed that heavenly truth contained in the Holy Scriptures, ever since they were enriched with the same, by the Apostles themselves.” 3 Thus you have a brief account of the apostolic and primitive antiquity of the churches of the valleys; and as to the purity, wherein they continued the same apostolical doctrine, the reader may find it deduced with great diligence by Allix through every century, even those of the middle ages, when it was most corrupted throughout christendom; which is also learnedly defended by the same author from the imputation of Manicheism, and other heresies, wherewith the adversaries endeavored to load them.

    As to the purity of their manners and conversations, not to repeat the testimonies of the piety, probity, and learning of the Waldenses, given by several of their adversaries themselves, as Jacobus de Reberia, Rainerius a Jacobinc monk, Claude de Seissel, Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Baronins, Lewis XII., of France, and Thuanus; I refer the reader to Perrin’s History of the Old Waldenses, Chap. V. But I add here another most signal one of Rainerius because not before mentioned; “these heretics, says he, may be known both by their manners, and by their words; for in their manners they are composed and modest. They show no pride in their garb, being therein neither costly nor sordid. They avoid merchandise and trade for fear of lies, oaths and cousenage, but live only by their labor and handicraft; and even their teachers and artificers. They heap not up riches, but are content with necessaries. And these Leonists are singularly chaste; whereas elsewhere he says, all others but they, are incestuous. They are also temperate both in eating and. drinking. They frequent not taverns, neither dancings, nor other vanities. They refrain from anger, and they always are at work, and both learn of, and teach one another. They are also to be known by their speech, in which they are wary and modest, and take special care to abstain from scurrility and detraction, from levity of expression, and from lying and swearing. What can be greater than such a character, and that from so bitter an adversary?” Dr. Thore, though of the Roman communion, is so just to them, that after he had with wonderful eloquence described their poverty, and the meanness of their habitations, he gives the account of their religion, manners, and frugality, and particularly of their religious regard to their sovereign, in such words as one would think should make them extremely beloved, and not so horribly persecuted, by their princes, as they have constantly been: His words are these; his opibus beati, etc. “These people not unhappy with so mean a substance, being equal to one another in poverty, have no beggars amongst them; and contented with one another’s acquaintance, they seek but little friendship, and no affinity with strangers. Nay, though they are in such poverty, or rather misery and squalidness, as has been spoken of, and such as is very horrid, and mere deformity to the eye; yet this is admirable in them, that they are by no means uncivilized in their manners; for there is not one amongst them, but can read, and they can write also tolerably well. They are skilled in French, so far as to understand their bibles, and sing their psalms; nor can you easily find among them so much as a child, whom if you question concerning the faith which they profess, cannot expeditely, and memoriter, give a reason of the hope that is in him. Which understanding in religion is common to them with other of their brethren of the valleys. Their tribute they pay most religiously, and that next to their duty to God, is a principal article in their confession; insomuch, that if they are hindered to convey it to the court by any civil disturbances in the State, notwithstanding such obstruction, they both gather it, and lay it aside, and after the peace, are solicitously careful to pay it to the prince’s collectors.” 5 Such was their piety, such was their loyalty, witness even a Romanist; and should not this people be rather dear to, than persecuted by, their princes?

    Notwithstanding as Allix expresses it, “scarcely is there a church to be found in the world, that ever had the advantage of having borne the cross of Christ, as the church of the valleys of Piedmont. Never did the Church of Rome give more incontestible evidence of her own antichristianism, than by her insatiable thirst after the blood of those christians who renounced her communion these six hundred years last past. To allay which, she has made the blood of those poor innocents to run down every where like rivers, exterminating by fire and by sword, those who were not moved by the empty noise of her anathemas: so that for so great an interval of time, the Waldenses have always been in the condition of sheep led to the slaughter, by their continual and uninterrupted martyrdom, and adorning the religion of our Savior, which the Church of Rome did no longer profess, but in a mode and way adapted to her corrupt worldly interests, and to the design which she had of making it a stalking horse, to the pomp, lordliness, and tyranny of her Pope and clergy.” 6 I know that the Church of Rome has looked upon them as a people abandoned by God, in that he has permitted them to be so often and so horribly ravaged by their enemies. But that also was the fate of the Primitive Church. Audit was no small pleasure to me, in laying together the materials of this history, to find, that those Vaudois, come the nearest to them of any Christians in their outward condition; as well as in their persecutions. If these papists would only make due reflections upon what they know of the primitive church, and consider, what is predicted of the state of the true church of God in future ages, they would have quite other sentiments, than to think them abandoned, because of their unparalleled calamities. For is there any thing more evidently predicted in scripture; than that the state of the church was to be militant; and that particularly under the antichristian domination, it should suffer a long and dismal oppression, grievous harassings, and frequent persecutions, and even an extermination in some places, so as to be forced to take her flight into the closest coverts? What else can mean those words of John, Revelation 12: 6. That the “woman should fly into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, and that there she should be fed a thousand two hundred and threescore days,” which, in the prophetic style, mean twelve hundred and sixty years; “and that there she should prophecy the whole term in sackcloth?” Revelation 11: 3. The wilderness doth most aptly denote the chief place of her residence, and close retirement in the middle ages especially; and her being in sackcloth, the sadness of her heart, her outward poverty, and her sad condition during that time. But the god of this world hath so blinded their eyes, that they cannot see the light.

    It would indeed have been an amazement to me, but that they lock up the scriptures from themselves as well as others, that so many learned men among them should not see the true church described in these words. For the same reason I should be still more amazed, that they should make prosperity a note of the true church, when, on the contrary, the word of God makes that very thing so clear a mark of the false one. So that when “she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, and hath said in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow” — she would do well to consider this in time, “lest her plagues come upon her in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she be utterly burnt with fire: for strong is the Lord who judgeth her.” Revelation 18: 7, 8.

    It now only remains, that I give some account of the several books comprised in this third part, or history of the Vaudois. My design in the whole martyrological history was, to collect such of the more valuable among the smaller pieces already printed, and to dispose them in such order, as will make up a regular history of such matters. And my design in making up the history thus, was not only because I would have others authority answerable for the whole; but indeed, to preserve those pieces, which I esteemed too valuable to be lost, from that fate which is incident to pamphlets more than any other writings; but especially to preserve them from the practices of the enemy, who make it their care to smother and suppress, as much as they can, these accounts as soon as they come forth, that protestants may be kept in deep ignorance of the hellish cruelties and barbarities of their antichristian church; and this their policy seems to have been practiced upon this very history of the Vaudois, as it was published by Mr. Boyer.

    As to the second, third and fourth chapters concerning the original of the Vaudois, the purity of their religion, and their ecclesiastical government and manners, I have given the account just as I found it in Boyer, judging what is farther requisite to be known on these heads, may be seen in the foregoing history of Perrin. In the succeeding chapters from six to twelve, I have given the history of their several persecutions, more appositely under the character of inquisitions, crusades, and massacres, and have taken in several enlargements from Leger.

    The eighth and ninth persecutions of the Vaudois are by Boyer, and the account of the tenth persecution was but printed at Oxford, an authority with reference to that and other parts of their history, sufficient to stop the mouths of cavillers.

    The account of their wonderful return and establishment in their own country, after a total extermination, as was thought, is given from Boyer, with additions from the late history, of their re-entry by their pastor Henri Arnaud.

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