Were the Waldenses Baptists or Pedo-baptists? (Part 1)

Part 1

The following article by John L. Waller is from The Western Baptist Review, Vol. IV. No. 5, Frankfort, Ky., January, 1849 --

Even during the world’s midnight, when the dark cloud of papal superstition was spread in blackness over the moral sky of the civilized nations, here and there a star was seen, bright, beautiful and peculiar, pouring celestial splendor upon the surrounding gloom. When Popery was the world’s despot-when, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, the Man of Sin had ascended to the throne of universal dominion--when Rome, under the Pontiff’s more than under the Caesars, was the mistress of the world--when the Pope had successfully maintained his right to dispose of sceptres and croziers, kingdoms and continents, according to his sovereign and arbitrary pleasure-when the kings and the chief captains of earth were his sycophants and serving men--even then there were multitudes of the meek and humble followers of our Savior who defied his power and refused to acknowledge his supremacy. And in this, history is the verification of prophecy. The same inspired seer that foretells the rise and reign of the Roman Anti-Christ, also predicts the persecutions and privations of those who, during the night of his dominion, should suffer for the witness of Jesus and the word of God. The church of God, though cast down, was never destroyed. The gates of hell never prevailed against it. God reserved myriads to himself who would not bow the knee to the Pope of Rome--who would not become his slaves and receive his mark upon their foreheads and in their hands. The papal church reeled intoxicated with their blood, but she never subdued them. They were horribly persecuted, and driven into the caves and dens of the earth, but they were never conquered. In the recesses of the wilderness and in the clefts of the mountains, they worshipped God in spirit and in truth, uncontaminated by surrounding corruptions and unterrified by the frowns of power.

Eminent among these witnesses for the truth in times of general apostasy, stand the Waldenses. They first appear prominent in history in the twelfth century. Long before that, no doubt, in the valleys of the Alps, they had maintained the true religion, having retreated from the corruptions and persecutions of the Romish church. They had remained there in comparative quietude, perhaps esteemed too insignificant for molestation, until in the century named the papal hierarchy was startled at the wide prevalence and popularity of their doctrine, and hence felt it necessary to employ all the infernal machinery of persecution for their destruction. Their missionaries had gone into all the world, and then, in almost all the countries of Europe, as if by one consent, there started up simultaneously, great numbers of individuals who denounced the supremacy of the Pope, condemned the corruptions and venality of the priesthood, and boldly proclaimed that the church of Rome was the "whore of Babylon" predicted in the Apocalypse--they declared that Christ was the only head of the church, and that the Bible was the only infallible rule of faith and practice. These confessors obtained different names-from their localities, from their principal men, from some circumstances in their manner or some peculiarity in their doctrine, and from the wit and malice of their enemies. The most common names, however, by which they were called, were those of Waldenses and Albigenses--the former derived from the valleys of the Alps, and the other from the town of Albi, two places where for a long time their doctrine most flourished.

But these names are used with great latitude by historians. The papal writers from the twelfth to the sixteenth century--to the Reformation--often include under these names, and sometimes under one of them, all the dissenters from the church of Rome, however different and distinct in sentiment and practice; as they now call all denominations Protestants who do not admit the infallibility of their church. This fact must be kept prominently in view by all who would draw the proper distinctions among those who, in that age, in divers countries and for different causes, were marshaled in battle array against the papal dominion. Some were opposed merely to the supremacy of the Pope, others sought simply to reform the manners of the clergy. Here was a party that rejected the mummeries of the mass, or laughed at the folly of transubstantiation; and there was a party that abhorred the adoration of images, repudiated the intercession of saints and angels, refused homage to dead men’s bones, contemned penances and pilgrimages, and despised and ridiculed all the absurd superstitions and absurd practices under which the duped and deluded millions were crushed by a designing priesthood. Such persons were Reformers. They esteemed the church of Rome to be the church of Christ in a state of apostasy. They wished to purge her of pollution, and restore her to primitive purity and excellence. But Popery will not be reformed. The constituents of its being are impurity and sin. Hence its Reformers were denounced as heretics, fit only for chains and death; and hence, to call down upon them general odium, and to excuse and justify their persecution, they were denominated Waldenses and Albigenses-a people who, it was notorious, declared the Pope to be the "son of perdition," and his church "the whore of Babylon." The true Waldenses and Albigenses were no Reformers of the Papism. They disclaimed all connection and kindredship with the church of Rome-denounced her ministers and ordinances as those of darkness; and roundly asserted that the church of Christ was never included within her precincts or befouled with her abominations.

Nor must these names be taken in too contracted a sense. The title of the edition of Perrin’s History before us is calculated to mislead- "History of the Ancient Christians inhabiting the Valleys of Alps." This would seem to imply that the true Waldenses and Albigenses were confined to the Valleys of the Alps-that their doctrines were held and taught by a people of a particular district. But Perrin had no such contracted view of the matter. It will be quite apparent to every critical reader of his work, that he supposed these names belonged to a religious persuasion, and not to a carnal lineage of men-to those who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. He quotes Reinerius as saying "That sect is universal, for there is scarcely any country where it hath not taken footing." [To prevent circumlocation merely, we shall call the inhabitants of Piedmont since the Reformation and especially since the great persecution near the close of the seventeenth century, Vaudois, in contradistinction to the Waldenses and Albigenses previous to that time.] Outside of the Alpine Valleys, the most illustrious champions of Waldensian doctrine flourished. Beyond these borders, the bloody crusades against the Albigenses were chiefly waged. There most of their martyrs fell. In almost every country of Europe, Perrin shows the existence of the Waldenses, and records their devotion to the truth. Hence, while we should be careful, on the one hand, to guard against giving a too general application to this name; we should also be careful, on the other, not to limit it too much. The people justly entitled to this name are to be ascertained by the advocacy of certain sentiments, during a certain period of time; and no matter in what country you find them or what language they speak, if during that time, you discover them maintaining these sentiments, you have a right to call them the Waldenses. Such is the course of Perrin, and such is the course of all who have written any tolerable history of these witnesses of the truth during the dark ages.

We have intimated that it was important to consider the time when these names were applied. Are the doctrines and practices of the old Waldenses still maintained on the principal theaters of their former testimony and sufferings? Or were their churches all broken up, and their pastors all slain? And are those churches and pastors now claiming to be their descendants walking in the paths consecrated by their footprints? These are questions of great importance in the investigation of the subjects now before us; and to which we shall call attention in another part of this article. We will now detain, however, to remark, that nothing can be logically inferred in relation to the old Waldenses from the doctrines and practices of the Vaudois [quoted by Jones, p. 324] (for so we shall call the present inhabitants of the valleys of Piedmont protesting against the papism) unless it can be shown clearly that they teach and practice as did their fathers. The mere fact that they are the descendants of the Waldenses, and that they now dwell in the valleys where those ancient confessors dwelt, proves nothing whatever. We cannot argue from what the Vaudois now are to what the Waldenses were before the Lutheran Reformation. This is always an unsafe, sophistical and dangerous method of arriving at the truth in such matters. Religion, pure and undefiled, is not inherited by children from their parents. Fathers cannot devise it to their sons; and one generation is not invariably followed by another like unto it in all moral and religious aspects. What monstrous absurdities have been ascribed to the apostles, by those who have sought to learn their teachings and usages from the crude and visionary systems and customs of the fathers of the second and third centuries. Who could have gone to Corinth, or Thessalonica, or Rome, three centuries after the death of the Apostles, and found there the doctrines and ordinances proclaimed and practiced by them? What would be thought of the candor of the individual who should insist that the present churches and ministers of Geneva were fair examples of the churches and ministers there in the days of John Calvin? And how immense and dreary the distance in a doctrinal aspect, between Protestant Germany in our days, and the days when Luther and his coadjutors unfurled the banner of revelation against the traditions and superstitions of the papal hierarchy! Whatever, therefore, may now be the teachings and customs of the Vaudois, proves nothing abstractly respecting the Waldenses. Descent by blood and occupancy of the same country, can never establish identity of doctrine. This is confirmed by all history and observation. The world abounds with too many instances of instability in religious matters, to warrant the conclusion that the deflection of the Vaudois from any particular custom or tenet of their ancestors according to the flesh, must be considered a departure from a general rule. But more of this anon.

That the Waldenses were evangelical in doctrine and pure in their manner of life, is not only affirmed by the Protestant world, but has been conceded by many of their opponents and persecutors. On these points, the volumes before us utter one voice. But touching their church government, and especially their views on the propriety of infant baptism; some discussion exists; and the works upon our table defend each a different theory. Mr. Sims, the editor of Peyran, insists that they were Episcopalians, with their three orders in the ministry-prelates, priests and deacons, deriving ordination from the Apostles by succession-with their forms of prayer, and all the other peculiarities of the Church of England. While Dr. Baird, the editor of Perrin, and Dr. Miller, who writes the Recommendatory Letter, most solemnly affirm that they were Presbyterians, having sessions, presbyteries and synods, and rejecting with solemn disgust the distinguishing features of English and Episcopacy. With this controversy we have no disposition to interfere, so long as confined to the Vaudois, or the present inhabitants of the valleys of Piedmont. Mr. Sims and Dr. Baird profess to speak that they do know and to testify that which they have seen. They have traveled among them-"have seen and therefore ought to know!" That one or the other of the reverend gentlemen is involved in a mistake, we are very certain, but which of the twain, we will not undertake to determine. It is a matter of perfect indifference to us. But we affirm most emphatically that both are wrong so far as they intended their remarks to bear upon the customs of the Waldenses. We have no mention in book, by friend or foe, that there were any individuals burdened with prelatical dignity among these ancient confessors; nor have we ever seen or heard of any minute of the proceedings of any Waldensian or Albigensian synod or general assembly; nor is there any mention of such convocation in all their history. These gentlemen then can only speak in reference to the Vaudois. Truth--the records of history may sustain the one or the other thus far; but certainly no farther. But our investigations should be confined to the times anterior to Luther and Calvin--to the Waldenses standing up for the truth against the world in error; and then we maintain that all the ingenuity of Mr. Sims and of Dr. Baird will be inadequate to discover the first trace of the peculiarities of either Episcopalianism or Presbyterianism. Indeed, AEncas Sylvius says, "They reject all the titles of prelates, as pope, bishop, etc. They condemn all ecclesiastical offices, and the privileges and immunities of the church, and all persons and things belonging to it, such as councils and synods, parochial rights, etc." [Peyran, p. 479.] Strange Episcopalians and Presbyterians, truly!

But these points will incidentally come up in our other investigations. The main question at issue between our historians is, whether the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists or Baptists. The editors of Peyran and Perrin affirm that they baptized infants: this Mr. Jones denies, and maintains that they were Baptists. This point is an important one, in our estimation, mainly because it has elicited much discussion. As Baptists, we have nothing to gain or loose by the adjustment of the question either way. We are no successionists. Our churches, ordinances and ministry are all derived, as we believe, directly from the Scriptures; and hence, had there been no Baptist churches previous to those now in being, it would not at all affect our notions of ecclesiastical existence. Hence our remarks on this much controverted point, will be prompted solely by a disposition to vindicate the truth of history, and not to subserve any denominational interest, or to justify any denominational peculiarity.

Were The Waldenses Pedo-Baprists?

This is the first question claiming our attention. Mr. Sims affirms they were. "The genuine Waldenses," says he, "of Piedmont, etc., always practiced the rite of infant baptism" [Perrin, p. 2]. But Dr. Miller is very positive. He says: "Contrary to the assertions of some, it is perfectly plain, from their Confession of Faith, that they practiced infant baptism, and that they baptized by sprinkling or affusion" [Perrin, p. 5]. Again he remarks: "Our anti-pedo-baptist brethren also lay claim to the Waldenses as the advocates of their creed, both as to the subjects and 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" [Ib. p. 28]. Of course, if it is "perfectly plain" that the Waldenses baptized their infants, we shall be able to see it; and if "the most cursory perusal" of Perrin’s history will "convince every impartial reader," it is not too much to hope that even Baptist readers may be convinced by a careful and critical reading of the same volume. Let us see.

Jean Paul Perrin was a Pedo-baptist--a French Presbyterian--who flourished about the beginning of the seventeenth century. He was anxious to make it appear that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists and Presbyterians. He admits that they were charged with being opposed to infant baptism; that this accusation was brought against them at the very beginning of their career, and was reiterated all the time of their persecutions. He denies its truth, and pronounces the charge a calumny. He remarks:

"The fourth calumny was concerning baptism, which it is said they denied to infants. From this imputation they quit themselves as follows: ‘Neither is the time or place appointed for those who must be baptized; but charity, and the edification of the Church and Congregation, ought to be the rule in this matter;--yet, notwithstanding, we bring our children to be baptized; which they ought to do to whom they are nearest related; as are their parents, or those whom God hath inspired with such a charity’" [Ut Supra].

If the charge that the Waldenses denied infant baptism be a "calumny," it was one of the full six hundred years standing when Perrin wrote his history; and during that time was repeated and published in every generation, as we shall show hereafter. Why then did not our author show from some accredited document that it was untrue? He quotes here from a work called the "Spiritual Almanac," of very questionable authority, to say the best of it-of which no one knows either the date or author! There are abundance of their writings put forth when they were persecuted in consequence of this charge--writings of undoubted antiquity and genuineness--which do not deny this charge, as will be fully shown in due time. These are the documents that should be appealed to. If the charge was false and injurious, in these documents it would have been so declared. But they contain no denial and make no complaint of misrepresentation on this point. Besides, this "Spiritual Almanac" is no ecclesiastical document. It bears the name of no author, and is without date. Who the writer or writers were, and by what right he or they spoke in the name of the Waldenses, Perrin has not told us, nor does any one know. The denial, therefore, was wholly unauthorized so far as any evidence in the case appears. And our historian felt that his proof was insufficient, and hence sets up another distinct defense in the very next paragraph. He there says:

"True it is, that being for some hundreds of years constrained to suffer their children to be baptized by the Romish priests, they deferred the doing of it as long as possible, because they detested the human inventions annexed to the institution of that holy sacrament, which they looked upon as pollutions of it. Their pastors, whom they called Barbs, being often in travels abroad for the service of their churches, they could not have baptism administered to their children by their own ministry. They therefore sometimes kept them long without baptism, upon which delay the priests charged them with that reproach. To which not only their adversaries have given credit, but many of those also who have approved of their lives and faith in all other points" [Perrin, p. 3].

These are Baptist facts and Pedo-baptist reasons. The facts are, that for "some hundreds of years," the children of the Waldenses were not baptized, either by the Romish priests or their own Barbs or pastors: and by consequence, as their infants were not baptized, the Papists and many Pedo-baptist Protestants, ("who have approved of their lives and faith in all other respects,") have supposed them to be Baptists. Those, we say, are the facts as stated by our author. They were too stubborn to be removed by the "Spiritual Almanac." Whatever they might be in theory, it was too palpable to deny that for "some hundreds of years" they were Baptists in practice--their infants were not baptized either by priests or barbs. Our author, we repeat, felt that here was a knot that an Almanac without a known author or date could not enable him to untie. Hence he was constrained to cut it by offering the singular and startling reason, that they would not let the priests baptize them, and that their own ministers being from home "some hundreds of years," could not of course baptize them!! If it is sinful to doubt the reason here assigned, the Lord help our unbelief! Besides, how did Perrin know that this was their reason for neglecting infant baptism? He refers to no authority. He quotes no book or record of any kind. By what light he was guided to this conclusion, he gives no intimation. He was evidently in great difficulty. He felt that the quotation of so doubtful a document as the "Spiritual Almanac" did not move, nor meet even, the fact well known to Papists and Protestants, that for "some hundreds of years," the Waldenses did not practice infant baptism. This was too notorious to be denied. Hence his desperate effort to explain it away. Hence the monstrous supposition that during ‘some hundreds of years’ they were without ministers to attend to the administration of the ordinances! Now this may be proof "perfectly plain" to Dr. Miller’s eyes, that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists; but if so, we insist that it is equally plain, that he has more respect for Perrin’s logic than for Perrin’s facts.

We do not mean to impeach Perrin or to endeavor to discredit his history. When he wrote, the Baptists were under the ban of every state in Christendom, and abhorred and anathematized by the Papal and Protestant churches. Then it was esteemed to be doing God service to put them to death. Perrin was, therefore, anxious to remove this reproach from the Waldenses. He felt, no doubt, that it would be a benefit conferred upon the cause of religion in general if this injurious impression could be effaced. And then who would attempt to vindicate the cause of a people every where pursued and persecuted? Who would stand up on the side of the Baptists, oppressed and trodden upon by the iron heel of church and state? And perhaps too, like the great mass of his contemporaries, he could not see how pure Christianity and the baptism of only believers, could be associated. He might have supposed that it would shock the common sense of the men of his generation, to affirm, in one breath, that the Waldenses were holy and orthodox; and then to announce in the very next, that they were Baptists. In fine, it must have been in. some such way--either misled by a mistaken benevolence or blinded by prejudice--that he failed to draw correct conclusions from premises which he admitted and from facts which he could not deny.

Some discrepancies between Jones and Perrin, in their histories of the Waldenses, have been pointed out by the Pedo-baptists, and the former has been severely denounced, criticized and censured in consequence. Dr. Miller, in a note to his "Recommendatory Letter" of Perrin, says: "William Jones, an eminent Baptist, in his ‘History of the Waldenses,’ has so mutilated and perverted the plainest documents of those pious witnesses of the truth, in order to make them speak the language of anti-pedobaptists, as to place his character as an honest historian in a most undesirable position" [Perrin, p. 36]. It is a matter seriously to be regretted that the venerable doctor did not esteem it worth while to mention a few examples of the mutilations and perversions, or at least the "documents" alluded to.

His charge is most emphatically denied. We challenge the production of a solitary instance to justify this unmeasured condemnation. The only instance of perversion and mutilation that the most diligent have been able to allege, was of Perrin, but not of any Waldensian document. Revelation N.L. Rice, in his Debate with Revelation A. Campbell in Lexington, charged Jones with a most "glaring falsification of history?;" and we step aside to notice and refute this charge because it has been often used to the prejudice of truth, and because it is the only one which has ever been adduced calculated in the least to sustain the remarks of Dr. Miller just quoted. The case is this. Perrin says:

"King Louis XII of France, having received information from the enemies of the Waldenses dwelling in Provence, of several heinous crimes which they fathered upon them, sent to the place Adam Fumee, master of requests, and a Sarbonist doctor, called Parui, who was his confessor, to make inquiry into the matter. They visited all their parishes and temples, and neither found there any images, or sign of the ornaments belonging to the mass, or ceremonies of the Romish church; much less could they discover any of those crimes which they were charged. But rather that they kept the Sabbath duly, caused their children to be baptized according to the primitive church, taught them the articles of the Christian faith, and The commandments of God. The king having heard the report of said commissioners, said, with an oath, that they were better men then himself or his people" [Jones, p. 348].

Jones narrates the same circumstance, substantially as Perrin, except in reference to infant baptism, He represents the report of the messengers as of the following effect:

"They kept the Sabbath-day, observed the ordinance of baptism, according to the primitive church, instructed their children in the articles of the Christian faith, and the commandments of God" [Debate, p. 405].

Upon this discrepancy, Mr. Rice, in his Lexington Debate, says: "Here Mr. Jones, when he came to infant baptism, wholly omitted it; and instead of saying, as did the author he quoted- ‘causing their children to be baptized,’--he says, ‘observe the ordinance of baptism according to the primitive church’!! Thus the Waldenses were proved to be anti-Pedo-baptists, by concealing their testimony. A more glaring falsification of history I never saw!" [As quoted in Pope and McGuire’s Debate, p. 209.]

Mr. Rice was not remarkable for scrupulous accuracy in his statement of facts in this Debate. Nor are his feelings, at any time, characterized by leniency towards persons whose religious sentiments come in contact with his own. But we must pardon the grossness of the assault upon Mr. Jones, by remembering that it was made in the hurry and excitement of an oral discussion. Mr. Jones does not quote Perrin, as charged by Mr. Rice. The authority referred to by Perrin for the anecdote is, "’Vesembecius’ Oration respecting the Waldenses." Jones refers to the same authority, ‘Vesembecius’ Oration on the Waldenses, in Perrin, ch. 5." He does not say, "as quoted by Perrin." He evidently looks beyond Perrin, and draws his authority from the same source. To impeach Jones, therefore, and to discredit him as a historian, appeal must be made to the original authority--the authority upon which he and Perrin both rely--to the Oration of Vesembecius. This Mr. Rice did not do. He has consequently made his charge at random, and affirmed concerning that of which he knew nothing. Had he gone to the proper source for information, he would have found that Jones was right and Perrin wrong. The language of Vesembecius is:

"Illi ad regein referunt, illis in locis homines baptizari, articulos fidei et decalogurn doceri, dominicos dies religiose coli, Dei verbum exponi, veneficia et stupra apud eos nulla esse. Ceterum se in ipsorum templis neque imagines, neque ornamento missae ulla reperisse. His auditis, rex, jurejurando addito; me, inquit, et cetcro populo meo Catholico meliores illi viri sunt." That is:-"They report to the king, that the men were baptized, the articles of faith and the ten commandments were taught, the Lord’s day observed, the word of God preached, and no show of wickedness of fornication to be perceived amongst them; but that they found not any images in their churches, nor ornaments belonging to the mass. The king hearing this, said, and he bound it with an oath, They are better men than myself and the rest of my Catholic people" [Perrin, pp. 83,84].

The charge against Jones falls to the earth! He has perverted no documents nor falsified any history. The report to the king was, that "homines," men, adults, and not infants, were baptized. Jones’ account of the matter is amply sustained by the original authority. The blows at his reputation recoil. We trust that Mr. Rice and Dr. Miller will reconsider their statements, and retract their charges against Mr. Jones; as it is thus proved that he was right and Perrin wrong.

The history of Perrin was originally written in the French language, and strong suspicions have been expressed respecting the fidelity of the English translation. We are not of those who entertain such suspicions. As we have already remarked, Perrin no doubt thought it would subserve the interests of religion to remove from the Waldenses the reproach of their being Baptists; and in his zeal to accomplish this, he was betrayed into inaccuracy of reasoning as well as of statement, as we have already proved beyond all question. And here is another instance of the same sort; and we refer to it because it has often been quoted to prove that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists. Perrin says:

"The president with his assessor took their journey to Perouse, and caused public proclamation to be made in the name of the king, that every one of the inhabitants should go to mass upon pain of death. Afterwards they came to Pignerol, where they summoned several to appear before them. Among others, there appeared a poor simple laboring man, whom the president ordered to have baptism again administered to his child, who had been lately baptized by the Waldensian minister, near Angrogne. The poor man desired so much respite as to offer up his prayers to God, before he answered him. Which, with some laughter, being granted, he fell down upon his knees before all the standers by, and having concluded his prayer, he said to the president, that he would cause his child to be re-baptized, provided he would oblige himself by a bond, signed with his own hand, to discharge and clean him of the sin that he should commit in so doing, and suffer himself the punishment and condemnation, which God would one day inflict upon him for it, taking this iniquity upon him and his. Which the president understanding, commanded him to depart out of his presence, without pressing him any further" [Letter of Ecclampadius, Jones, p. 445].

Our author does not tell us to whom he is indebted for this anecdote. It strikes us as extremely improbable. The Papists are not wont to administer baptism anew, no matter how heretical the minister by whose hands it is given. They not only recognize the baptism of heretics, but have authorized, in cases of necessity, the rite to be administered by a midwife, a degraded priest, a Jew or Turk. They have ever esteemed anabaptism a damnable heresy. Could this ‘president,’ then, demand the re-baptism of the Waldensian infant, without incurring the anathemas of his church? Did he not know, that by so doing he was walking in the paths of heresy, and setting at nought the canons of councils and the decisions of the fathers? If such a thing did occur, it is without parallel in papal history--it is a single and solitary instance of anabaptism being urged by any Romish dignitary. But we suspect that he simply demanded the child to be baptized. Instances of this sort abound in the conduct of both Papists and Protestants toward the Baptists. They are of very recent occurrence in Europe. On this supposition, the conduct of the peasant and the ‘president’ was natural and consistent. The president wished the salvation of the infant, and hence demanded its baptism for the regeneration of its soul and the purgation of its original sin. These the doctrine of his church led him to believe would ensue. The peasant, on the other hand, being a Baptist, and esteeming such an act as unauthorized by the Scriptures, as worshipping the host or bowing before an image, would not give his consent in the matter. He acted as full many a Baptist, in ancient and in modern times, has acted. Papists have made such requisitions of Baptists, but never of Pedo-baptists, so far as any other recorded fact bears testimony. The severe anathemas of Rome against the Novatians, Donatists, and even the Waldenses, for anabaptism, make it very questionable that the event narrated above ever transpired--that any minister of papal vengeance ever so glaringly and wantonly outraged the doctrines of his church. The incident, however, is of no intrinsic importance, as doubtless at the time of its reputed occurrence, 1555, Presbyterianism had found its way into some places, where the Waldensian doctrines and practices had prevailed; and this thing happened, according to our author, in a district adjacent to Geneva. We have alluded to the matter simply to show the bias of our author’s mind-as an instance where a story, bearing a strong impress of the apocryphal, is gravely narrated to prove that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists.

Sims, Perrin and others have pointed with great confidence to the creed drawn up and adopted at Angrogne, September 12, 1535, in which the baptism of infants is set forth. But this creed is so unlike any document of the sort preceding it, put forth by any portion of the Waldenses, that an explanation of the circumstances in which it originated is necessary to its proper interpretation. The persecutions of the Waldenses had been unusually severe in parts of Piedmont and in the adjoining portions of France. Not only the Inquisition, but large armies had been active in their suppression. Their churches were broken up and their ministers put to death. Hunted like wild beasts, their prominent men nearly all destroyed, the poor Waldenses of these regions were almost sunk into despair. ‘Persecution caused them to dissemble and conceal their faith. They attended the Romish masses, and in other respects conformed outwardly to the mummeries of papal superstition’ [Perrin, p. 80]. But they could not be at ease while thus to escape the displeasure of men, they brought upon themselves the displeasure of God. They had heard much respecting the boldness of the Reformers in Germany and Switzerland; and in their distress, they determined to seek their counsel and advice. Accordingly they sent two of their ministers, George Morel and Peter Masson, to confer with Ecolampadius and Bucer, and others of the Reformers. [Jones, p. 446.]

Masson, returning home, was taken and put to death by the Papists. [Fox’s Acts and Monuments, Vol. 2, p. 1-6.]

Morel returned in safety with the letters and papers, assembled his brethren, and reported. Fox says, that Morel "declared to his brethren all the points of his commission; and opened unto them, how many and great errors they were in, into which their old ministers, whom they called barbs, that is to say, uncles, had brought them, leading them from the right way of true religion" [Murdock’s Mosheim, vol. 3, p. 184, note 57]. Thus it is evident that Morel had learned something new of the Reformers, differing from the doctrine of the Waldensian fathers, and which he proposed to introduce into the creed of the brethren in his region.

And so Dr. Murdock, the translator of Mosheim, in a note upon that author, represents the case. He says:

"In their council in Angrogne, A.D. 1532, [1535], they adopted a short confession of faith, professedly embracing the doctrine they had firmly believed for four hundred years, yet manifestly a departure in some particulars from the principles stated by their deputies to Ecolampadius; and conformed to the new views he had communicated to them, especially in relation to free-will, grace, predestination, and several points of practical religion" [Ib. 470].

And Mosheim, speaking of the Waldenses of that time, says: "The descendants of the Waldenses who lived shut up in the valleys of Piedmont, were led by their proximity to the French and Genevans to embrace their doctrines and worship" [Perrin, p. 81].

But the very face of the creed puts its paternity above all dispute. We will quote a few articles:

"II. All that have been, or shall be saved, were elected by God before all worlds." "III. They who are saved cannot miss of salvation." "IV. Whosoever maintaineth free-will, wholly denieth predestination." "XVII. As to the sacraments, it hath been determined by the holy scriptures, that we have but two sacramental signs or symbols, which Christ Jesus hath left unto us: the one is baptism, the other the eucharist or Lord’s Supper, which we receive to demonstrate our perseverance in the faith, according to the promise we made in our baptism in our infancy; as also in remembrance of that great benefit which Jesus Christ hath conferred upon us, when he laid down his life for our redemption, cleansing us with his most precious blood" [p. 481].

Can any one be so blind as not to perceive in these articles, the handiwork of the Reformers? Who can fail to recognize one or more of the phrases and tenets peculiar to that age, and unknown to the Waldenses? The baptismal article, especially, partakes largely of "the new views" learned in Germany. The expression "the promise we made in our baptism in our infancy," can only have meaning by admitting allusion to be made to godfathers and godmothers--to sponsorial promises; and yet Dr. Baird, Dr. Miller, and all Presbyterians vehemently insist that the Waldenses never tolerated such sponsion! Dr. Gill maintains that the article must not be understood in a literal sense. The true rendering is, "The promise we made in baptism, being little children," So by Sims in Peyran. [Divine Right of Infant Baptism, pp. 37, 38.] "This phrase, being little children," says Dr. Gill, "as I think, means their being little children in knowledge and experience, when they were baptized; since they speak of receiving the eucharist, to show their perseverance in the faith they then had promised to persevere in: besides, if this be understood of them as infants in a literal sense, what promise were they capable of making when such? Should it be said, that they promised by their sureties, it should be observed that the Waldenses did not admit of godfathers and godmothers in baptism; this is one of the abuses their ancient barbs complained of in baptism, as administered by the Papists" [Eccl. History, vol. 3, p. 184].

Let the matter of this creed be viewed from whatever point it may, it can never prove that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists. It is too modern to enter into the merits of the discussion now in progress. It was got up and adopted by a few of the Waldenses only; and these few confess that they had lapsed from the stern faith of their ancestors. They admit too, that they had learned many new things of the Reformers, under whose advice and instruction they acted; and by whom they had been taught to reject much of the teaching and many of the practices of their barbs. We may reasonably suppose, that their rejection of infant baptism was one of the "many and great errors" in which the Reformers believed them to be involved-one of the paths "leading them from the right way of true religion," into which "their old ministers" had directed them. The Reformers were the bitter enemies and persecutors of the Baptists. They pursued them with as unrelenting and as merciless severity as ever did the Papists. They would not of course countenance these deputies from the Waldenses until they gave up their opposition to infant baptism. The fact, then, that no creed of the Waldenses, that no book or document of theirs, makes the slightest commendatory allusion to infant baptism, until at this time, in this creed, drawn up and adopted at the suggestion of the enemies and persecutors of the Baptists, by an assembly who reproach their fathers and their old ministers with "many and great errors"-these things, we say, furnish to our mind strong presumptive proof that infant baptism was then first introduced among any who could pretend at all to belong to the Waldenses proper.

And here appropriately we may notice the fact, so often and so triumphantly referred to--by Dr. Miller, Mr. Sims, and others--that the Waldenses readily united with the Reformed churches, and received ministers from them. This is true of the Waldenses in Piedmont, and we have shown above how this, in part, was brought about-by leading the Waldenses to reject the practices of their fathers. In their persecuted and depressed condition, they sought and obtained the sympathy of their neighbors in Switzerland; and as they had considerably fallen from their former boldness and purity of faith and practice, they were readily induced, in order to secure the favor and fellowship of their new acquaintances, to conform to such customs and opinions as they might dictate. Mosheim says, "They retained not a few of their ancient rules of discipline, so late as they year 1630. But in this year, the greatest part of the Waldenses [in Piedmont] were swept off by pestilence; and their new teachers, whom they obtained from France, [Geneva], regulated all their affairs according to the pattern of the French Reformed [Presbyterian]Church" [Perrin, p. 231].

Thus it is plain how the inhabitants of Piedmont became Presbyterians--just as the inhabitants of Geneva and other places became so--by the influence of John Calvin and co-laborers. Until they came under the influence of the Reformers, we find no traces of infant baptism among the pure Waldenses. Not a line of theirs, prior to the Reformation, has been adduced by any one of the authors before us--Perrin, Peyran, and their editors--to show that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists--not a line or syllable. That some of them since should embrace that practice, we have shown to be natural enough, and we have fully explained the means by which they were induced to adopt a custom unknown to their "old ministers" and churches.

True, Perrin or his editors have introduced into the volume before us, mixed with the ancient writings of the Waldenses, certain extracts from the "Spiritual Alamanc," and which is done, too, without informing the reader of the source from which they were derived! Of course, this was done to serve a purpose, whether honorable or not, the reader must determine. It looks very much like a pious fraud! It is certainly calculated to impose a falsehood, as the extracts stand among Waldensian writings confessedly of great antiquity, without the slightest intimation that these are quotations from the "Spiritual Alamanc," a work of doubtful date and certainly of no authority! This fraud may be found on pp. 230-232. It is strange, after such a flourish against Mr. Jones’ integrity in the beginning of this volume, that an act of such doubtful morality, to say the least, should be perpetrated before the volume was half completed! But no one can see motes in others’ eyes so clearly and so readily as those who have beams in their own! In one of the extracts from this "Spiritual Almanac," is the following language, so often quoted by Pedo-baptist controversialists:

"And whereas baptism is administered in a full congregation of the faithful, it is to the end, that he that is received into the church, should be reputed and held of all, for a Christian brother, and that all the congregation might pray for him that he may be a Christian in heart, as he is outwardly esteemed to be a Christian. And for this cause it is, that we present our children in baptism, which they ought to do, to whom the children are nearest, as their parents, and they to whom God hath given this charity."

These look like Presbyterian, but not like Waldensian practices. The whole clause taken together, would seem to teach that infants were presented in baptism that they should be ‘reputed and held by all as Christian brethren’! The reason and the rite are alike absurd.

But the argument most relied on to prove that the Waldenses were Pedo-baptists is derived from the practice of the Vaudois, or the Protestant churches now in Piedmont. This is often repeated in great triumph; and very recently we saw it stated in the newspapers, that Dr. Sawtell had made quite a display of this matter in Indianapolis! We have already exposed, in part, this miserable refuge. Admitting that it proved any thing, it could only establish what was the custom of the Waldenses who formerly dwelt in Piedmont. It could not go further. But the great majority of the Waldenses dwelt in other countries. They were to be found almost in every state and kingdom of Europe. What then can the Vaudois custom prove in relation to these? Besides, the old Waldensian churches were utterly broken up in Piedmont in 1686. Not a vestige of them was left. They and their friends were put to death, or else driven into exile. True, several years after, a company of some eight hundred armed men returned, and by force of arms established themselves upon their farms and in their villages again. These or their descendants embraced Presbyterianism, and to a considerable extent maintain that form of worship to this day.

Before any thing respecting the Waldenses can be concluded from the Vaudois, it must be shown that the latter maintain the doctrines and conform to the customs of the former. It is the sublimity of nonsense to infer, from the simple fact that the Vaudois are the descendants of the Waldenses according to the flesh and because they dwell in Piedmont, that therefore they hold the sentiments and customs of the Waldenses! But it is unnecessary to expose this absurdity further. To mention it is to call upon it universal contempt.


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