Its Doctrine and Persecutions
A very comprehensive study of the Waldensian Churches and its history from primitive times is to be had in the very worthwhile book, The History of the Churches of the Valley of Piedmont, by Samuel Morland, London, 1658, containing “a faithful account of the doctrine, life and persecutions of the ancient inhabitants, together with a most naked and punctual relation of the late bloody massacre, 1655, and. . . following transactions to . . . 1658.” (Franklin Printing Co., 414 B St., Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1955, $10.00).
What the author means on the title page by the words “naked and punctual” he makes abundantly clear in his introduction. “There are now more than nineteen months past since the voice of the blood of the poor Protestants in the Valley of Piedmont was heard in all the corners of the Christian world, especially throughout the English nation, where there then arrived letters upon letters, just like Job’s messengers, one at the heels of another, with the sad and doleful tidings of most strange and unheard of cruelties, for which I almost dare to challenge the best furnished historians, as well ancient as modem, to find me their parallels. Some of their women were ravished and afterward staked down to the ground through their (genitals); others strangely forced, and their bellies rammed up with stones and rubbish: the brains and breasts of others sodden and eaten by their murderers, as if the design of those bloody cannibals and barbarousanthropophagi had been not only to extirpate those poor creatures out of this world, but also . . . to hinder them from having a being in the world to come.” The author then asks, “If two she-bears out of the wood were commanded to tear in pieces forty and two little children for abusing the old prophet barely by the term of bald pate . . . what shall be the end of these murderers of riper years, who took so much pleasure and delight in torturing so many poor, impotent and aged persons by fire and sword?” (p. a-1) This immediately throws light on the meaning and appropriateness of the text printed on the title page, “When he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'” (Rev. 6:9). The book comes well documented, based as it is on authentic ancient historical manuscripts “written many hundreds of years before Calvin and Luther” (some of them), the true originals of which in their proper languages may be seen in the public library of the famous University of Cambridge.
The author informs us that the production of this work, of 709 pages, was a torture of a kind for himself. “My spirit has oft waxed cold within me, and my heart even failed me, yea, my very hand has trembled as with a fit of palsy in the writing thereof.” The perusal of it, in some places will have a similar effect, he assures. “Sure I am, whosoever shall read . . . the treacherous stratagems and horrid cruelties therein contained, must have a heart of adamant and bowels of brass, should they not be touched with a fellow-feeling of their brethren’s misery.” (p. a-3) To read every part of this book and even to carefully examine its horrifying illustrations (in old wood-cut style) will take, if not a heart of adamant, at least bowels of brass or an iron stomach. After a little of this reading, one may understand the author’s opinion that “the ancient heretics, Mohammedans and pagans, had they now lived, would have been very much ashamed to have seen themselves so outstripped by the bloody butchers of these our days, in the invention of so strange and unheard of cruelties!” (p. c-7)
Besides Luther, Melancthon, Bucer and many others regarding them as brethren, Beza called the Waldenses “the very seed of the primitive and purer Christian Church” and “those. . . so upheld. . . by the admirable providence of God, that neither . . . . that Bishop of Rome, falsely so called, nor those horrible persecutions . . . were ever able to prevail upon them, as to make them bend or yield a voluntary subjection to the Roman tyranny and idolatry.” (a-6) The book contains church-historical, doctrinal, confessional, catechetical and sertnonic material in abundance. A few Waldensian statements of faith follow.
1. “Christ . . . died for the salvation of all those that believe.” This is from an ancient confession of faith bearing the date, 1120, A.D. (p. 33). 2. “We believe that there is one holy Church, which is the congregation of all the elect and faithful ones from the beginning of the world to the end” (p. 37). 3. “All those that have been and shall be saved have been elected of God before the foundation of the world” (p. 40). “It is impossible that those that are appointed to salvation, should not be saved. Whosoever upholds free will denieth absolute Predestination and the grace of God.” 4. “We were baptized being little children in remembrance of that great benefit given to us by Jesus Christ, when He died for our redemption and washed us with his precious blood” (p. 41). “Children are to be baptized unto salvation, and to be consecrated to Christ, according to His Word, Matt. 19:13-15” (p. 53). “Baptism (is) a testimony of our adoption and of our being cleansed from our sins” (p. 67). 5. “We request the Reformed Churches to hold and acknowledge us, as true members of theirs, being ready to sign with our own blood, if God calleth us to it, the Confession of Faith by them made and published, which we acknowledge every way agreeing with the doctrine taught and registered by the holy apostles, and therefore truly apostolical, promising to live and die in it” (p. 42). 6. “Where Christ is absent, and His Word rejected, there can be neither a true Church, nor people pleasing to God” (1535 A.D.). (p. 50). “All men ought to join with that Church and continue in the communion thereof” (p. 67). 7. “God so loved the world, that is to say, those whom He has chosen out of the world” (p. 65). “The Church is the company of the faithful . . . having been elected before the foundation of the world.” “All the elect are upheld and preserved by the power of God. . . they all persevere in the Faith unto the end” (p. 67). “God saves from that corruption and condemnation those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world, not for any disposition, faith or holiness that He foresaw in them, but of His mere mercy in Jesus Christ His Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of His free will and justice” (64). “By the holy catholic Church is meant all the elect of God, from the beginning of the world to the end, by the grace of God through the merit of Christ, gathered together by the Holy Spirit and foreordained to eternal life, the number and names of whom are known to Him alone who has elected them; and in this Church remains none who is reprobate” (p. 79). 8. “We do agree in sound doctrine with all the Reformed Churches of France, Great Britain, the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, et al” (p. 69). “Therefore we humbly entreat all the Evangelical Protestant Churches to look upon us as true members of the mystical body of Christ, suffering for His name’s sake, notwithstanding our poverty and lowness; and to continue unto us the help of their prayers to God” (p. 70).
Referring to the persecutions of the Waldenses we read that “they found (when it was too late) how far the [Roman] Catholics keep faith with those that they call heretics; for having used all possible artifices to draw the rest within their reach, they presently clapt to their nets, and dividing the prey, put all to fire and sword, . . . and that in the most barbarous manner they could possibly devise . . . those horrid and unheard of cruelties” (328). Not many will want to read through all these unbelievable (yet we believe it all!) accounts of the obscene barbarities that the Protestants of Piedmont of all ages and sex suffered. But some reading ought to be done in this book. A brief sample of the more refined accounts follows. A Bartholomeo Frasche of Penile is mentioned. He was taken by the soldiers who slashed and sliced his legs, then thrust a poisoned knife through his heels, after which they dragged him to prison, where he soon died a Magdalena La Peine, a woman of about thirty-five, pursued by these enemies and knowing what measure she would receive from them, cast herself over a very formidable precipice, rather than to fall into the hands of such butchers (362) . . .
Jacopo Roffeno refusing to say “Jesus Maria” (shades of Theosophy!) was most cruelly beaten with sticks and clubs, shot several times in the body and then his head cleaved in two (368). . . . What encouraged the vile imaginations of these inhuman persecutors to perpetrate their monstrous crimes was the promise of plenary indulgences, absolution of sins, to all who would go and serve in this war of massacre and extinction. Many originals of these official papal papers, found on the dead bodies of soldiers of the popish army or in possession of prisoners of war, are on record in the library of Cambridge University.
The Church has never demanded “reparations,” and never will, for all the sufferings, bloodshed, death and cruelties worse than death endured by the Christian martyrs. That matter shall be handled in a much different way. The Lord, the righteous Judge will most certainly repay that false persecuting harlot of Babylon with an even greater variety of punishment, both in this world and in that to come. Shall not God avenge (deal justice to) His elect that cry day and night unto Him? I tell you,saith the Lord, that He will avenge them speedily. He shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. When He maketh inquisition for blood He will surely remember them. Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone and a horrible tempest.