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The Pilgrim Church — Waldenses
26 January 2015
The Pilgrim Church by E. H. Broadbent. In case you missed them, the previous five articles in the series are:
Please note the author’s particular use of the word “primitive” when referring to the early churches. He is using it in the specific sense of “being the first or earliest of the kind or in existence,” and NOT in the more general sense of “uncivilized, savage, simple, unsophisticated, crude, or unrefined.”
In the previous article in this series, we learned about the followers of Yeshua (Jesus) called, by their enemies, Bogomils. During the same centuries that the man-made, satanically-inspired institutional Harlot Church System was persecuting and murdering them in Eastern Europe, it was persecuting and murdering their brethren, labeled the Waldenses, in Western Europe.
I am one of them! And as I wrote in the first article in this series:
In the Alpine valleys of Piedmont there had been for centuries congregations of believers calling themselves brethren, who came later to be widely known as Waldenses (or Vaudois), though they did not themselves accept the name. They traced their origin in those parts back to Apostolic times.
Like many of the so-called Cathar, Paulician, and other churches, these were not “reformed,” because they had never degenerated from the New Testament pattern as had the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and some others, but having always maintained, in varying degree, the Apostolic tradition.
From the time of Constantine there had continued to be a succession of those who preached the Gospel and founded churches, uninfluenced by the relations between church and state existing at the time. This accounts for the large bodies of Christians, well established in the Scriptures and free from idolatry and the other evils prevailing in the dominant, professing church, to be found in the Taurus Mountains and the Alpine valleys.
These latter, in the quiet seclusion of their mountains, had remained unaffected by the development of the Roman church. They considered the Scriptures, both for doctrine and church order, to be binding for their time, and not rendered obsolete by change of circumstances. It was said of them that their whole manner of thought and action was an endeavour to hold fast the character of original Christianity. a reformer almost inevitably emphasizing the evil of that from which he has separated, in order to justify his action. In their dealings with contemporaries who seceded from the church of Rome, as well as later in their negotiations with the reformers of the Reformation, this acknowledgment of what was good in the church that persecuted them is repeatedly seen.
The inquisitor Reinerius, who died in 1259, has left it on record:
Concerning the sects of ancient heretics, there have been more than seventy — all of which, except the sects of the Manichaeans, the Arians, the Runcarians and the Leonists which have infected Germany, have through the favour of God been destroyed. Among all these sects, which either still exist or which have formerly existed, there is not one more pernicious to the church than that of the Leonists, and this for three reasons:A later writer, Pilichdorf, also a bitter opponent, says that the persons who claimed to have thus existed from the time of Pope Sylvester were the Waldenses. Claudius, Bishop of Turin, was the founder of the Waldenses in the mountains of Piedmont. He and they had much in common, and must have strengthened and encouraged one another, but the brethren called Waldenses were of much older origin.
A prior of St. Roch at Turin, Marco Aurelio Rorenco, was ordered in 1630 to write an account of the history and opinions of the Waldenses. He wrote that the Waldenses are so ancient as to afford no absolute certainty in regard to the precise time of their origin, but that, at all events, in the ninth and tenth centuries they were even then not a new sect, but rather to be regarded as promoters and encouragers of opinions which had preceded them.
Further, he wrote that Claudius of Turin was to be reckoned among these promoters and encouragers, because he was a person who denied the reverence due to the holy cross, who rejected the veneration and praying to saints, and who was a principal destroyer of images. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Claudius plainly teaches justification by faith, and points out the error of the church in departing from that truth.
To the princes of Savoy, who had had the longest dealings with them, they could always assert without fear of contradiction the uniformity of their faith, from father to son, through time immemorial, even from the very age of the Apostles.
To Francis I of France they said, in 1544: “Our confession is one which we have received from our ancestors, even from hand to hand, according as their predecessors, in all time and in every age, have taught and delivered.”
A few years later, to the prince of Savoy they said:
Let your Highness consider, that this religion in which we live is not merely our religion of the present day, or a religion discovered for the first time only a few years ago, as our enemies falsely pretend. It is the religion of our fathers and of our grandfathers, indeed, of our forefathers and of our predecessors still more remote. It is the religion of the saints and of the martyrs, of the confessors and of the Apostles.Peter Waldo of Lyon, a successful merchant and banker, was aroused to see his need of salvation by the sudden death of one of the guests at a feast he had given. He became so much interested in the Scriptures that in 1160 he employed clerks to translate parts into the Romance dialect.
He had been touched by the story of St. Alexius, of whom it was related that he sold all that he had and went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. A theologian directed Waldo to the Lord’s words in Matthew 19:21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Therefore, in 1173 he deeded his landed property to his wife, sold the remainder, and distributed the money among the poor.
For a time he devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures and then in 1180 he gave himself to traveling and preaching, taking as a guide the Lord’s words:
Jesus sent His disciples two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” (Luke 10:1‑4)third Lateran Council in 1179, under Pope Alexander III, had already been scornfully refused. They were driven out of Lyon by imperial edict and excommunicated in 1184. Scattered over the surrounding countries, their preaching proved very effectual, and Poor Men of Lyon became one of the many names attached to those who followed Christ and His teaching.
An inquisitor, David of Augsburg, wrote: “The sect of the Poor Men of Lyon and similar ones are the more dangerous the more they adorn themselves with the appearance of piety. Their manner of life is, to outward appearance, humble and modest, but pride is in their hearts.” They say they have pious men among them, but do not see, he continues, “that we have infinitely more and better than they, and such as do not clothe themselves in mere appearance, whereas among the heretics all is wickedness covered by hypocrisy.”
An old chronicle tells how as early as the year 1177, “disciples of Peter Waldo came from Lyon to Germany and began to preach in Frankfurt and in Nuremberg, but because the Council in Nuremberg was warned that they should seize and burn them, they disappeared into Bohemia.”
It is true that Waldo was highly esteemed among them, but not possible that he should have been their founder, since they founded their faith and practice on the Scriptures and were followers of those who from the earliest times had done the same. For outsiders to give them the name of a man prominent among them was only to follow the usual habit of their opponents, who did not like to admit their right to call themselves, as they did, Christians or brethren.
Peter Waldo continued his travels and eventually reached Bohemia, where he died in 1217, having laboured there for years and sown much seed, the fruit of which was seen in the spiritual harvest in that country at the time of Huss and later. The example of Peter Waldo and his band of preachers gave an extraordinary impetus to the missionary activities of the Waldenses, who until this time had been somewhat isolated in their remote valleys, but now went everywhere preaching the Word. Council of Tours, called together by Pope Alexander III, forbade any dealings with Waldenses because they taught “a damnable heresy, long since sprung up in the territory of Toulouse.” Before the close of the 12th century there was a numerous Waldensian church in Metz, which had translations of the Bible in use.
The church in Cologne had long been in existence in 1150 when a number of its members were executed, of whom their judge said “They went to their death not only with patience but with enthusiasm.”
In Spain, King Alfonso of Aragon issued an edict against the Waldenses in 1192, and stated that in doing so he was acting according to the example of his predecessors. They were numerous in France, Italy, Austria, and many other countries.
In the Diocese of Passau, in 1260, Waldenses were to be found in forty-two parishes, and a priest of Passau wrote at that time: “In Lombardy, Provence, and elsewhere the heretics had more schools than the theologians, and far more hearers. They disputed openly, and called the people to solemn meetings in the market places or in the open fields. No one dared to hinder them, on account of the power and number of their admirers.”
In Strassburg in 1212 the Dominicans had already arrested 500 persons who belonged to churches of the Waldenses. They were of all classes, nobles, priests, rich and poor, men and women. The prisoners said that there were many like them in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Bohemia, and other places.
Eighty of them, including 12 priests and 23 women were given over to the flames. Their leader and elder, named John, declared as he was about to die,
“We are all sinners, but it is not our faith that makes us so, nor are we guilty of the blasphemy of which we are accused without reason. But we expect the forgiveness of our sins, and that without the help of men, and not through the merit of our own works.”
The goods of those executed were divided between the church and the civil authority, which placed its power at the disposal of the church.
A decretal of Pope Gregory IX, in 1263, declared: “We excommunicate and anathematize all heretics, Cathars, Patarenes, Poor Men of Lyon, Passagini, Josepini, Arnaldistae, Speronistae, and others, by whatever names they may be known, having indeed different faces, but being united by their tails, and meeting in the same point through their vanity.”
The inquisitor, David of Augsburg, admitted that formerly “the sects were one sect” and that now they hold together in the presence of their enemies.
These scattered notices, taken from among many, are sufficient to show that primitive churches were widespread in Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In some parts they were so numerous and influential as to have a large measure of liberty, though elsewhere they were subjected to the most cruel persecution. Although many names were given to them, and there must have been variety of view among so many, yet they were essentially one, and had constant communication and fellowship with one another.
Bearing no traces of the influence of those churches, they indicate, on the contrary, the continuance of an older tradition, handed down from quite another source — the teaching of Scripture and the practices of the primitive church. Their existence proves that there had always been men of faith, men of spiritual power and understanding, who had maintained in the churches a tradition close to that of apostolic days, and far removed from that which the dominant churches had developed.
Apart from the Holy Scriptures they had no special confession of faith or religion, nor any rules, and no authority of any man, however eminent, was allowed to set aside the authority of Scripture. Yet, throughout the centuries, and in all countries, they confessed the same truths and had the same practices.
They valued Christ’s own words, in the Gospels, as being the highest revelation, and if ever they were unable to reconcile any of His words with other portions of Scripture, while they accepted all, they acted on what seemed to them the plain meaning of the Gospels. Following Christ was their chief theme and aim, keeping His words, imitating His example.
“The Spirit of Christ,” they said, “is effective in any man in the measure in which he obeys the words of Christ and is His true follower. It is only Christ who can give the ability to understand His words. If anyone love Him he will keep His words.” in matters open to doubt or to difference of view, large liberty was allowed. They maintained that the inner testimony of the indwelling Spirit of Christ is of great importance, since the highest truths come from the heart to the mind; not that new revelation is given, but a clearer understanding of the Word.
The portion of Scripture most dwelt upon was the Sermon on the Mount, this being looked upon as the rule of life for the children of God. The brethren were opposed to the shedding of blood, even to capital punishment, to any use of force in matters of faith and to taking any proceedings against such as harmed them. Yet most of them allowed self-defence, even with weapons; so the inhabitants of the valleys defended themselves and their families when attacked.
They would take no oaths nor use the name of God or of Divine things lightly, though on certain occasions they might allow themselves to be put on oath. They did not admit the claim of the great professing church to open or close the way of salvation, nor did they believe that salvation was through any sacraments or by anything but faith in Christ, which showed itself in the activities of love.
They held the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in election, together with that of man’s free will. They considered that in all times and in all forms of churches there were enlightened men of God. They therefore made use of the writings of Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, Bernard of Clairvaux and others, not accepting, however, all they wrote, but only that which corresponded with the older, purer teaching of Scripture.
The love of theological controversy, and pamphlet war was not developed among them, as among so many others; yet they were ready to die for the truth, laid great stress on the value of practical piety, and desired in quietness to serve God and to do good.
The Lord’s Supper was in both kinds and for all believers, and was looked upon as a remembrance of the Lord’s body given for them and at the same time as a strong exhortation to yield themselves to be broken and poured out for His sake.
“As to baptism,” writes an opponent, Pseudo-Reimer (1260), “some err, claiming that little children are not saved by baptism, for, they declare, the Lord says ‘he that believes and is baptized shall be saved’, but a child does not yet believe.”
They believed in apostolic succession through the laying on of the hands on those really called to receive this grace. They taught that the Roman Catholic church had lost this when Pope Sylvester accepted the union of church and state, but that it remained among themselves. When, however, through circumstances, it was not possible to perform the rite, God could convey the needed grace without it.
A distinction was made between those called to be “perfect,” and others of the followers of Christ, based on the fact that in the Gospels some were called to sell all that they had and follow Christ, while others of His disciples were equally called to serve Him in the surroundings in which He found them.
Regular individual reading of the Scriptures, regular daily family worship, and frequent conferences were among the most effective means of maintaining spiritual life. The Waldenses would take no part in government; they said the apostles were often brought before tribunals, but it is not ever said that they sat as judges.
They valued education as well as spirituality; many who ministered the Word among them had taken a degree at one of the universities. Pope Innocent III (reigned 1198-1216) bore a double testimony to them when he said that among the Waldenses educated laymen undertook the functions of preachers, and again, that the Waldenses would only listen to a man who had God in him.
The Waldensian apostles had no property or goods or home or family; if they had had these they left them. Their life was one of self-denial, hardship and danger. They travelled in utmost simplicity, without money, without a second suit, their needs being supplied by the believers among whom they ministered the Word. They always went two and two, an elder and a younger man, who served his older companion.
Their visits were highly valued, and they were treated with every sign of respect and affection. Owing to the dangers of the times they usually travelled as business men, and often the younger men carried light wares, such as knives, needles, etc., for sale. They never asked for anything; indeed, many undertook serious medical studies that they might be able to care for the bodies of those they met with.
The name Friends of God [like the Bogomils] was often given to these apostles. Great care was used in commending men to such service, since it was felt that one devoted man was worth more than a hundred whose call to this ministry was less evident.
The apostles chose poverty, but otherwise it was considered a principal duty of each church to provide for its poor. Often, when private houses were insufficient and simple meeting rooms were built, there would be houses attached to these where their poor or aged could live and be cared for. Pope Clement VII sent a monk as inquisitor to deal with heretics in certain parts. During the next thirteen years about 230 persons were burnt, the goods of the sufferers being divided between the inquisitors and the rulers of the country. In the winter of 1400 the scope of the persecution was enlarged, and many families took refuge in the higher mountains, where most of the children and women and many men died of cold and hunger.
In 1486 a Bull of Innocent VIII gave authority to the archdeacon of Cremona to exterminate the heretics, and eighteen thousand men invaded the valleys. Then the peasants began to defend themselves, and, taking advantage of the mountainous nature of the country, and their knowledge of it, drove back the attacking force, but for more than a hundred years the conflict continued. Calabria and Apulia, in Provence, Dauphiny and Lorraine, received reports of the Reformation.
At the same time, the neighboring countries where the Reformation was spreading also heard that in distant parts of the Alps and elsewhere, people had been found who had always held those truths which they themselves were now contending for.
The name of Barbe [perhaps “bearded,” therefore an elder] was given by the Waldenses to their elders, and one of these, Martin Gonin, of Angrogna, was so much moved by the reports that he had heard that he determined to undertake the journey to Switzerland and Germany to see some of the Reformers.
This he did in 1526, returning with such news as he had gathered, as well as some of the Reformers’ books. The information he brought stirred the greatest interest in the valleys, and at a meeting held in 1530 at Merandol, the brethren decided to send two of their Barbes, Georges Morel and Pierre Masson, to try to establish connections. Basel and, finding the house of Oecolampadius, introduced themselves to him. Others were called in and these simple, godly mountaineers explained their faith and their origin in the times of the New Testament Apostles: “Our ancestors have often recounted to us that we have existed from the time of the Apostles. Nevertheless, in all matters we agree with you, and thinking as you think, from the very days of the Apostles themselves, we have ever been consistent respecting the faith.”
“I thank God,” said Oecolampadius, “that God has called you to so great light.” In conversation, points of difference were discovered and discussed. In answer to questions the Barbes said: “All our ministers live in celibacy, and work at some honest trade.”
“Marriage, however,” said Oecolampadius, “is very appropriate for all believers, and particularly to those who ought to be in all things examples to the flock. We also think that pastors ought not to perform manual labour, as yours do. They could spend their time better by the studying the Scriptures. The minister has many things to learn; God does not teach us miraculously and without labour; we must make efforts in order to know.”
When the Barbes admitted that, under stress of persecution, they had sometimes had their children baptized by Roman Catholic priests, and even attended mass, the Reformers were surprised, and Oecolampadius, said: “What! has not Christ, the holy victim, fully satisfied the everlasting justice for us? Is there any need to offer other sacrifices after that of Golgotha? By saying ‘Amen’ to the priests’ mass, you deny the grace of Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of man’s condition since the Fall, the Barbes said: “We believe that all men have some natural virtue, just as herbs, plants, and stones have.” The Reformers replied, “We believe that those who obey the commandments of God do so, not because they have more strength than others, but because of the great power of the Spirit of God which renews their will.”
The Barbes continued, “Nothing troubles us weak people so much as what we have heard of Luther’s teaching relative to free will and predestination. Our ignorance is the cause of our doubts — please instruct us.” These differences did not separate them. Oecolampadius said: “We must enlighten these Christians, but above all things we must love them.” The Reformers said to the Waldenses, “Christ is in you as He is in us, and we love you as brethren.” Dijon where their conversation attracted the attention of someone who reported them as being dangerous persons, and they were imprisoned. Morel succeeded in escaping with the documents they had in their charge, but Masson was executed.
The report which Morel brought of their conversations with the Reformers awakened much discussion, and it was decided to call a general conference of the Waldenses churches and invite representatives of the Reformers to be present so that they might examine these questions together. Martin Gonin and a Barbe from Calabria, named Georges, were chosen to go to Switzerland with the invitation.
In Grandson, in the summer of 1532, they found William Farel and other preachers conferring as to the further spread of the Gospel in French Switzerland. Here they related the differences which had arisen among them with regard to some points in the teaching and practice of the Reformers and brought the request that some might return with them, so that unity of judgment might be reached and they might take steps for unitedly preaching the Gospel in the world. Farel responded readily to the invitation, and Saunier and another joined him. Chanforans was chosen as meeting place. As there was no building that would hold the people, the conference was held in the open air, rough benches being arranged as seats.
The Reformation was a movement outside the sphere of the Waldenses and unconnected with them, but they had retained their old and widespread connections with the numerous brethren and churches that had existed before the Reformation. These churches, though sympathetically interested in the Reformation, had by no means been absorbed into it.
So there were present at this gathering elders of churches in Italy, reaching even to the extreme south; from many parts of France, from the German lands and especially from Bohemia. Among the numerous peasants and laborers were also some Italian noblemen, such as the lords of Rive Noble, Mirandola and Solaro.
Under the shade of chestnut trees and surrounded by the mountain wall of the Alps, the meetings were opened “in the Name of God“ on the 12th of September, 1532. The thoughts of the Reformers were ably expressed by Farel and Saunier, while two Barbes, Daniel of Valence and Jean of Molines, were the chief spokesmen in favour of retaining the practices current among the Waldenses in the valleys.
On the points where these brethren of the mountains had yielded to pressure of persecution from the Catholic church and consented to observe certain feasts, fasts and other rites, to attend the Catholic services occasionally, and even submit outwardly to some of the ministrations of the priests, Farel was able to show that they had departed from their own more ancient custom, and he strongly urged entire separation from Rome.
The Reformers maintained that everything in the Roman Catholic church which was not commanded in Scripture was to be rejected. The Waldenses were content to say that they rejected all connected with Rome which was forbidden in the Scriptures. Many matters of practice were considered, but the question which excited the greatest discussion was one of doctrine. those who have been ordained to salvation not to be saved. Whosoever upholds free-will, absolutly denies the grace of God.” Jean of Molines and Daniel of Valence laid stress both on the capacity of man and also his responsibility to receive the grace of God.
In this they were supported by the nobles present and by many others, who urged that the changes advocated were not necessary and also that they would imply a condemnation of those who had so long and so faithfully guided these churches. Farel’s eloquence and sympathetic earnestness strongly commended his arguments to his hearers and the majority accepted his teaching. A confession of faith was drawn up in accordance with this, which was signed by most present, though declined by some.
The Reformers were shown the manuscript Bibles in use among the churches and the old documents they possessed; the Noble Lesson, the Catechism, the Antichrist, and others. They saw not only the interest and value of these books but also the need there was of printed French Bibles which could be freely circulated among the people.
This led to the translation of the Bible into French by Olivetan, a faithful worker among the Reformers from the old days in Paris. The brethren of the valleys contributed to the utmost of their ability to the cost of the undertaking, and the Bible was published in 1535.
Farel and Saunier mounted their horses and rode back from their eventful visit to continue the work in French Switzerland, having Geneva especially in view. Jean of Molines and Daniel of Valence went to Bohemia, and after conference among the churches there, the brethren in Bohemia wrote to those in the valleys begging them not to adopt any of the important changes of doctrine and practice recommended by the foreign brethren without the most careful consideration. Henri Arnold, in 1689 said:
The fact that our religion is as ancient as our name is venerable is attested even by our adversaries — “they have existed from time immemorial.” It would not be difficult to prove that this poor band of the faithful were in the valleys of Piedmont more than four centuries before the appearance of the extraordinary Luther and Calvin and the subsequent luminaries of the Reformation.
Our church has never been reformed, from which fact arises its title of Evangelic. In fact, the Waldenses are descended from those refugees from Italy, who, after St. Paul had preached the Gospel there, abandoned their beautiful country and fled, like the woman mentioned in the Apocalypse, to these wild mountains, where they have to this day handed down the Gospel, from father to son, in the same purity and simplicity as it was preached by St. Paul.
From my earliest days in the man-made institutional church I had never truly felt at home. Rather, I felt like an alien, a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land. The members of these organizations were, collectively, not my people, and I was not part of their “family.”
So imagine my immense joy as I started to read The Pilgrim Church and I began to unearth my spiritual roots. In the nearly-2,000-year history of the Pilgrim Church, I finally found my spiritual home, my spiritual family, and my spiritual history. No longer was I an orphan, adrift and alone in the world!
Despite what I had been taught and raised in, the Harlot Church was NOT my mother! My true mother is the Pilgrim Church! And as I read page after page, chapter after chapter of this amazing book, I discovered many long-lost brothers and sisters whom I had never heard of before, and whom I didn’t even know I had. They were true heroes who were worthy to be children of their Pilgrim Church mother and God their Heavenly Father.
Except for books like The Pilgrim Church, these lies have never been refuted, and are therefore the accepted version of history. The Wikipedia articles I have referenced promote this same false history. That is why it is so vital to get your own copy of The Pilgrim Church so you can read for yourself the true history of Yeshua’s Ekklesia.
The story of the Pilgrim Church continues, on a slightly different track, in The Anabaptists: On To Conviction.
This article is 67th a series of articles on this Web site related to Modern Christianity and the Church which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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