The Vaudois

J. N. Darby.

<20028E> 355

I know not whether your readers are interested, as I have been, in the hunted remnant of the middle ages, both east and west, during the time that ecclesiastical corruption and wickedness were on the throne of their power. They laboured under a double disadvantage. They have no historians but their enemies, alike bitter and unprincipled, who would stop at no calumny to blacken them, their own stupendous wickedness making the accusation of it a natural weapon. This was one reason why we know so little truly of them, and that little to their disadvantage.

But there was a second disadvantage under which they laboured; they were thrown, by being separated from the public professing body, into the danger of following their own ideas instead of the abominable and senseless traditions in which they had been nurtured, and so much the more because they had (though the first that largely used them after darkness set in in the church), comparatively speaking, very little the opportunity of availing themselves of the word of God. And further they were in danger not only from the working of the human mind as we all are, but of coalescing with various heresies and works of Satan which moved about in the dark, but hated the ruling religious powers for the truth they preserved more than for the corruption they were guilty of You will always find Edomites that would raze Jerusalem, not because it is corrupt but because it has the standing of the city of the great king, as well as those who say "The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these," while they are only bringing ruin on it by corrupting it and dishonouring the Lord of the temple.

The Waldenses have this advantage - they are attacked by both. Roman Catholics and Ritualists attack them of course; and free-thinkers, who would have error free because it is free-thinking, will never bear subjection to the word of God, nor holding fast to the truth because it is the truth, for then man cannot be a free-thinker. Another very serious disadvantage under which the Vaudois have laboured is, that those in the seventeenth century who furnished their documents or copies of them to the Protestant world in England and France tampered with them - that is, Leger and Perrin, or at least Perrin. Critics and Ritualists settled on this, as flies on a sore, and sought to cast on the Vaudois the sins of their historians and furnishers of documents. There was no serious effort to investigate the truth, but the greatest delight in detecting what was false and thereby discrediting the Vaudois or Waldenses. Even Moreland, who deposited the MSS. at Cambridge, did not escape; he, it was said, must have stolen them away after putting them there, that they might be in some safer Puritan's place and detection avoided. Quite a theory as to this was built up by Mr. Algernon Herbert in a very vulgar-minded detective-police article, quite worthy of that class of religionists, which is now proved to be all false. The MSS. are in Cambridge, and have always been there, overlooked though close by the rest.

356 Nor was the spirit of Dr. Todd much better, who anxiously insinuates they held popish errors in the very pieces which relate their being tortured and delivered to the secular army by Romish prelates. Some of the MSS. are of a later date than the warm advocates of the Vaudois have supposed, and some falsely dated by the copyist for Perrin, or by Perrin himself - very likely the latter. I know not why, but the French Synods were dissatisfied with his work, yet at last accepted it. The Nobla Leycon is a genuine and ancient document, but their manipulations had sought to give it an earlier date than was the real one; and we have a large body of documents genuine, though some have been meddled with, and some probably very ancient; and Gilly has pretty well proved the most ancient European translation of the New Testament found in any language is the Romaunt or Gallic. The copies we have are written with chapter and verse, but scripture is quoted in some treatises without either, proving the quoted passages to have been written early in the thirteenth century at latest. (Gilly's Introduction to the Romaunt version of John, 41.)

It appears that the Nobla Leycon reads really 1400 years are fully accomplished, not 1100. This was Leger's doing, or some other, who furnished the MSS. But the poem is genuine; and long before the Reformation the early French translations were to supplant the Vaudois scripture. Such is the evidence of documents now afforded. We have the testimony of a letter of Pope Innocent III in 1199, of a Gallic translation circulated in the diocese of Metz in 1229. The Romaunt version was prohibited in the Council of Toulouse. Other acts of the inquisition and councils to prevent people reading this version it is unnecessary to speak of.

357 Simon (Hist. Crit. de l'Anc. Test.) informs us that the first Roman Catholic translation was made to hinder the people reading these. They were evidently widely spread in 1250. The inquisitor Reinerius Saccho states distinctly that he knew poor people who knew the whole New Testament. The use and quotation of it subsequently is beyond all question.

As to the antiquity of the Vaudois themselves, some remarks may be useful. Waldo's history is well known. He appeared about 1170, was at first well received by the Pope, but forbidden to preach; he did however and was driven from Lyons. He had nearly all, if not all, the Bible translated, and was very active, having given away all his fortune. The upholders of popery have taken great pains to shew that the Vaudois were in many points conformed to the followers of the Pope. Now there were many points as to which they were in the dark. The infamy of the clergy, degraded by species of vice which none can call in question, had roused the conscience of many, and more as to practice and the acts by which they made money than as to dogma. But purgatory, consecration to the priesthood and indulgences, confession to priests, prayers for the dead, were all rejected. They are charged by ritualists with recognizing penances of prayers, fasting, alms. There is truth in this; but they appear to have been as opposed to indulgences which had obliterated all true discipline. They rejected oaths on confession extorted by torture. Andrinus Crespini, or Valoy, said there was no purgatory but in this world; he denied the spiritual power of the Pope, prelates and clergy, disapproved of the invocation of saints, kept no feasts or fasts of the church, gave no honour to images, had no faith in holy water. This was half a century before the Reformation. The superstition and vices of the clergy and church of Rome - that they rejected; holding the common faith of the church at large, without any apparent protestant doctrine of justification by faith. This was the case also with the revival in Moravia and Bohemia of Hussitism before the Reformation, closely connected as it was with the scattered Waldenses, as their history plainly shews. They did not then like the doctrine of justification by faith when brought from Luther. Todd seeks to insinuate that they held the seven sacraments; but his own quotation proves that they did not hold extreme unction as really such, though he speaks of Perrin's only giving what refers to the abuses of the Roman Catholics. Nor, it is clear, did they hold priestly ordination at all.*

{*The editor of Moneta shews this from Reinerius.}

358 And now as regards the origin of Vaudois. Of Waldo I need say nothing. The facts as to him may be found in most church histories, and (with a trifling difference) the date of his coming forward as a herald of what truth he knew, and getting the scripture translated. He was forced to retire from Lyons, but it is admitted that the Vaudois sect was spread over all Western Europe. It is said Philip Augustus of France in the earlier part of the thirteenth century razed three hundred castles of Vaudois Seigneurs. This could hardly be from Waldo, who only began to preach at the end of the twelfth. But further Waldo first received serious impressions from a Troubadour, of whom many carried piety and anti-Roman doctrines around where they penetrated with their songs; and it is expressly said by Stephen of Borbonne that when driven out, Waldo went and joined other heretics of Provence and Lombardy. They were therefore already there. And this question then arises, Were these simply Albigenses or Manicheans as is alleged? That there were Manicheans spread from Bulgaria, originally from the east of Asia Minor, on into Spain itself, can hardly be questioned. But not even the Inquisition ever charged the Waldenses with this. The archives of the Inquisition of Toulouse published by Limborch demonstrate this; and the well-known testimony of Reinerius Saccho which declares that they live justly and believe all the articles of the creed; which makes them, he says, so dangerous. But, if we are to believe Mosheim, there were two parties even among these Bulgarian teachers who filled the whole south of Europe, and particularly Lombardy and the south of France, the latter being exterminated by the crusade of de Montfort, for which the Inquisition was invented. The one, or Albenanses, really held the doctrine of two principles, and thus were Manicheans; the other Baioli, of whom came the Albigenses, held nothing of the kind, but that there was one God the Creator, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, but that Satan, after his fall, had ruined the earth, making the four elements. So they were divided into three parties as to the flesh of Christ, some holding He took flesh of the Virgin Mary, some not; others that He took it really and suffered in it, but did not take it to heaven on His ascension. The sacraments of the Roman body they wholly rejected. They had a certain but unsatisfactory faith in the Trinity.* All this had nothing to do with the Vaudois.

{*See Moneta, 2.5, 247.}

359 We have clearly then, I think, three parties: Waldo's followers, who amalgamated with the Vaudois, and the Cathari, of whom there were two parties, Manicheans, and non-Manicheans, though of unsatisfactory doctrine. We cannot be surprised, as all were opposed to Rome, at Rome's burning all together. She did not care for truth but for authority, and pulled up some tares contrary to Christ's direction and much wheat (as the blessed Lord foretold) with it. She will have to answer for the blood of all saints. But if we seek to trace out the history of the Vaudois proper, those of the valleys of Piedmont, it is not very difficult.

It is well known that Claude of Turin resisted what they resisted. He was archbishop of those very valleys. This was in the ninth century. But it is certain that before that the same opposition to superstition was found there. In Jerome's famous letter to Vigilantius, in which he rages with his accustomed abuse and violence against him for resisting superstitions then coming in, he refers to these very districts and states in the most insolent language (the custom of ritualists when opposed, however they fawn on superiors when it suits them), that the bishops there sustained Vigilantius in his opposition to the growing superstition. Thus from 406 and then in the middle of the ninth century the same opposition continues there; and then we find 300 years after the same opposition still, and them and their adversaries tracing it to some seventy years before we find it established there, as proved by Jerome's letter. It was a protest, not there only, but which survived there against the corruption of the professing church after Constantine, when it borrowed the rites and doctrines of Paganism and thus supplanted it. With the testimony we have from Reinerius Saccho and others, it is utterly impossible to think the Vaudois commenced with Waldo of Lyons, though it be very likely their tenets received a very great extension through his means. Reinerius Saccho's inquisitorial activity was sixty years after Waldo's activity began, and he states there were three reasons why the Waldenses or Vaudois whom he was sent to reduce to the obedience of the Roman Church. The first was they were a great deal older (diuturnior) than all other sects; adding, some say from the time of Pope Sylvester, others from the apostles. It has been attempted to say this is merely "some say," but it is Reinerius who says they were older than sects; and it is important to see that it was they themselves who thus held it to be from Sylvester at least, soon after whose time we find traces of it in these districts, the evil having really begun in his time by the christianizing of the emperor. Next, that they were more universally spread, there was scarce any land where it was not received. This could not have been in some fifty years. The third was that they lived justly, and held soundly all the articles of the creed.

360 The Vaudois then were a people, a religious testimony with their Barbes (uncles) or pastors spread over Europe. Reinerius does not speak of Albigenses, who were treated as open heretics, but the Vaudois; and the history is well known, how they had been sought for their integrity by the feudal lords in Calabria, and, after being settled there some time and visited by their Barbes, were subsequently all utterly exterminated at the instigation and under the direction of the Roman Catholic clergy.

That the Vaudois had sunk very low at the time of the Reformation is quite true. They went to mass and were afraid of holding separate meetings. But we have even then the unexceptionable testimony that they had lived wholly apart from Rome. Seyssel, archbishop of Turin, declares in a book published in 1520, only three years after Luther's theses, that within memory of man no Romish prelates had been in the valleys. He declares that they pretend to date from Constantine but in an ignorant way calling themselves Leonists, from a Leo of Constantine's time who was disgusted with the largesses bestowed on the prelates by the emperor.

The Reformation roused them up, and OEcolampadius blamed them much for thus yielding to popery and not having separate meetings. But at this epoch we have Seyssel's testimony that no prelate had dared to go there within the memory of man, and that by faith he ventured there. As we might suppose, oppression and persecutions came with the Roman clergy. Since the Reformation they sank down, with the rest of the reformed, into Socinianism; but with the rest God has graciously revealed the truth amongst them, though of course they have not got beyond the principles of the Reformation which they received from OEcolampadius and Bucer at the time by the intervention of Masson and Moul their Barbes.

361 Recently Dr. Meila, a Roman Catholic clergyman, has sought to use the efforts of Todd and the recent discoveries (by Mr. Bradshaw) of the Cambridge MSS. to attack their antiquity. The body of the book is simply exposing what was already exposed, the unreliableness of the statements of Leger; and then seeks to prove that the Vaudois were persecuted for rebellion and not religion; but qui s'excuse s'accuse. The oppression is certain; and in another way the answer is no answer at all. There were Waldenses outside the valleys. They were all exterminated in Calabria and brought before the Inquisition everywhere. Rome is drunk with the blood of the saints.

Dr. M. has brought forward only one document of any importance. In 1220 the corporation of Pinerol forbade any to open their houses to Waldenses. He adduced this as a proof that it was then new. This was some 30 years after Waldo's public activity. This may very likely have awakened the activities of the authorities against the Waldenses, but it is no proof one way or other of their existence or otherwise. Reinerius' testimony, which Dr. Meila entirely misrepresents and which was only 30 years after this decree of the local authorities, makes such an idea impossible. Nay the decree rather confirms the importance of the statement. Reinerius' own words are that it was of much older date than any sect. The particular alleged dates he quotes from others; but that it is "diuturnior omnium" is his own statement. He had been a Vaudois himself before the time of the decree and knew what they said, and turned Dominican and inquisitor. How was it possible, if it had only begun 30 years before in the neighbourhood? could he say that it had existed longer than any sect?

The decree of Pinerol is easily accounted for, the condemnation of Waldo and the Waldenses having just taken place at Rome. Not only so, but in the year 1127 there is a treatise of Peter of Clugny against the heretics of the diocese of Embrun, and in 1164 the mountains are said to be infected with heresy. At the very end of that century (1189) the Pope had embraced Waldo, only bid him not preach unless authorized by the priesthood. Subsequently not obeying this order he was driven from Lyons and went over to the Italian side of the mountains and sowed and drank in heresy, says Stephen de Borbonne. That then the decree of Pinerol should have been made, the Pope in council having now condemned them thus active in spite of popes, is perfectly natural, but proves nothing as to the date of Waldensian principles which the contemporary testimony of Stephen de Borbonne and Reinerius Saccho prove. One expressly he found already there; besides testimonies of an earlier date still, which say the heresy was there.

362 My paper has greatly overpassed the limits I had thought of; but it may not (in the presence of these attempts to discredit an oppressed and persecuted people, without any honest search into the truth of the matter) be without interest to some of your readers. It is quite true that Leger and Perrin are not to be trusted, and the attempt to ascribe reformed doctrines to the ancient Waldenses has no foundation. But neither is Dr. Todd to be wholly trusted, and Mr. Herbert's ingenious and prejudiced theories were false. Dr. Todd is obliged to admit it was a monstrous charge, but neither has anything to do with the real history of the case.

Jerome's letter to Vigilantius is of all importance as to the historical facts and the labours of Claude of Turin to keep image worship and superstition out of his diocese. It is also important not to confound the Albigenses and Cathari with the Waldenses, though there is much that is interesting as to the former too.

I may just add that the discussions as to the origin of the term Waldenses, Vallenses, etc., have proved nothing. The Canton de Vaud is spelt with a 'd'; but east of Lausanne there is a commune in the height above the lake which is called Grandvaux with an 'x.' I doubt that Canton Waadh is the same as Wald.