committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs



Various Opinions respecting Baptism—Berengar—Peter of Bruys—Henry of Lausanne—
Arnold of Brescia—Cologne—England—Lombers—Pope Lucius III.


The Reformers of whom we have given a brief account, although they differed from one another on some minor points, agreed in these three things:—the sole authority of Scripture in matters of religion, in opposition to the burdens of tradition which had been laid upon men’s shoulders; the spiritual nature of Christianity, and the consequent necessity of personal faith and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, in opposition to dead forms and reliance on the priesthood; and the right of every one to think and act for himself in these all-important affairs, in opposition to the tyrannical assumptions of the Romish clergy, sustained by the secular power. They sought Bible truth, spiritual life, soul freedom. This three-fold cord will guide us in the labyrinthine darkness of the Middle Ages. Whenever we can lay our hands on it we find the grace and power of God.

We come now again to the consideration of baptism. On this subject there were differences of opinion. Some retained the doctrine and practice of the dominant church; others rejected both baptism and the Lord’s Supper; for the former they substituted a ceremony which they called “consolamentum,” or the “baptism by fire,” in allusion to the words of John the Baptist. “They assembled in a room dark and closed in on all sides, but illuminated by a large number of lights affixed to the walls. Then the new candidate was placed in the center, where the presiding officer of the sect laid a book (probably the Gospel of John) on his head, and gave him the imposition of hands, at the same time reciting the Lord’s Prayer."1 In arguing against infant-baptism they adopted the same course of reasoning as has been employed by Baptists in all ages. They uniformly exposed the absurdity of baptizing those who could not believe. A third party propounded scriptural truth, but evidence is wanting as to how far their views were developed. It may be inferred that they abstained from baptizing children, as in all consistency they were bound to do. The fourth class consisted of those who not only taught, but openly practiced, Baptist sentiments. We will furnish such information as we have gathered respecting them, derived from the original sources. There will be no hazarding of conjectures or surmises.

Many of the Councils of this period refer in general terms to the heretics of the times, condemning them in the lump, without enumerating the various sects, and sometimes without any specification of their opinions. In some instances, however, there is such reference. Those who rejected “baptism of children,” were condemned by the following Councils, viz., Toulouse, A.D. 1119 ; Lateran II., A.D. 1139; Lateran III., A.D. 1179; London, A.D. 1391. We do not affirm that all the parties condemned were Baptists, because probably some of them rejected both baptism and the Lord’s Supper; but we wish to direct particular attention to the fact that their denial of infant-baptism was uniformly justified by them on the ground of the non-existence of faith in the child. They saw clearly that, in the New Testament, faith is always represented as the prerequisite to baptism, and hence they naturally enough said, “These children cannot believe—why do you baptize them?”

Berengar of Tours was an excellent man. He was Principal of the Cathedral School in that city, and afterwards Archdeacon of Angers. His fame as a teacher induced young men in different parts of France to repair to him for instruction. Neander says, “He was constantly deviating from the beaten tract—striking out his own path, in matters both of secular and ecclesiastical science—a proof of the independence and freedom of judgment with which he pursued all his inquiries. Thus, for example, he studied to make improvements in grammar, and endeavoured to introduce a new pronunciation of Latin.”2This freedom and independence eminently characterized his theological researches. The controversy on transubstantiation attracted his attention, and he was quickly repelled by the absurdities propounded on that subject. He saw that Christian ordinances required faith in those who observed them, without which the observance was altogether useless; and, in regard to the Lord’s Supper in particular, he abjured the commonly received opinion, and taught the spiritual presence of the Saviour, in connection with the believing apprehension, on the part of the communicant, of the truths embodied in the institution. For this he was severely persecuted, condemned, and compelled, through fear of death, to renounce his alleged heresies. But he re-asserted them, and they were embraced by great numbers of his former pupils, and by many other persons in France and Germany.

In the following extract from one of Berengar’s writings, the reader may see in what light he viewed baptism and the Lord’s Supper. “Our Lord Christ requires of thee no more than this. Thou believest that out of His great compassion for the human race, He poured out His blood for them; and that thou, by virtue of this faith, wilt be cleansed by His blood from all sin. He requires of thee, that, constantly mindful of this blood of Christ, thou shouldst use it to sustain the life of thy inner man in this earthly pilgrimage as thou sustainest the life of thy outward man by meat and drink. He also requires of thee that in the faith that God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son as a propitiation for our sins, thou shouldst submit to outward baptism, to represent how thou oughtest to follow Christ in His death and in His resurrection. The bodily eating and drinking of bread and wine—says he—should remind thee of the spiritual eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ, that whilst thou art refreshed in the inner man by the contemplation of His incarnation and of His passion, thou mayest follow Him in humility and patience.”3 A person who held such sentiments as these could not with propriety practice infant-baptism. Consequently, we find that he is charged by writers of those times with attempting to overthrow that rite. Deoduin, Bishop of Liege (who died A.D. 1075), says of Berengar, and of Bruno, Bishop of Angers, who had been one of his pupils,— “As far as is in their power they overturn the baptism of little children.” Guitmund, a Benedictine monk, and afterwards Archbishop of Aversa (who died A.D. 1080), uses similar language, and expresses his horror at the “depth of all evil” into which such persons would be likely to fall, whom the devil should persuade, through Berengar, to renounce their baptism in infancy, since, as he supposed, they would hold themselves at liberty to plunge into every vice, in the assurance that whenever they might be baptized all would be cleansed away.4 The reader will not sympathize with Guitmund in that matter. He will pity his ignorance. Berengar’s teaching did not produce such effects.

Berengar died A.D. 1088. Later writers have stated that his followers were very numerous. It is even said that in the next century as many as 800,000 persons professed his sentiments. It is obvious, however, that any exact enumeration is impossible. As Berengarians, the party was not of long continuance. But the principles remained, though the name was disused, and were spread over a large part of Europe.

In less than twenty years after Berengar’s death, Peter of Bruys was preaching in the South of France with great power and blessing. It is to be wished that we had the materials for the history of this movement, and Peter’s own account of his doctrine. We know not by what means he was led to those thoughts and conclusions which issued in his assuming the bold position of a reformer. If the Abbot of Clugny is to be believed, he had been a priest, and for some unmentioned reason had been dismissed from his parish; but the abbot refrains from any statement of facts.5 Certainly Peter must have had a profound conviction of the utter worthlessness and injurious tendency of the religion of the age. He saw that people were “mad upon their idols,” substituting the outward for the inward, the name for the reality. It seemed to him that nothing but a radical change would meet the necessity of the case. Seeing that the churches were held in so great reverence, as consecrated buildings, the only places where worship should be celebrated, he taught that God’s blessing was not limited to localities, and that prayer to Him, if sincere, was as acceptable in a shop or in the market-place as in a church, in a stable as before an altar. Reproving the pomp and splendor and the constant appeals to the senses by which the public services were characterized, especially the chants and the music, he instructed the people that “pious affections” were far more pleasing to God than loud vociferations. Instead of conniving at the adoration of the cross, or allowing any respect to be paid to it, he said that it should be regarded only as the representation of an instrument of cruelty, and therefore worthy of all detestation and fit to be destroyed. There was a practical demonstration of the effects of his instructions. The people assembled in great numbers on Good Friday, collected all the crosses they could lay their hands on, made a bonfire of them, roasted meat at the fire, and ate it publicly. Once more, Peter dissuaded his hearers from attempting to benefit the dead by prayers or by payment for priests’ masses. No advantage, he told them, could accrue to the departed from anything of the kind.

Baptism and the Church were contemplated by Peter in the pure light of Scripture. The Church should be composed, he constantly affirmed, of true believers, good and just persons: no others had any claim to membership. Baptism was a nullity unless connected with personal faith, but all who believed were under solemn obligation to be baptized, according to the Savior’s command.

Peter was not merely what is now called a “Baptist in principle.” When the truths he inculcated were received, and men and women were raised to “newness of life,” they were directed to the path of duty. Baptism followed faith. Enemies said that this was Ana-baptism, but Peter and his friends indignantly repelled the imputation. The rite performed in infancy, they maintained, was no baptism at all, since it wanted the essential ingredient, faith in Christ. Then, and then only, when that faith was professed, were the converts really baptized.6

Great success attended Peter’s labours. At first he preached in thinly populated places and villages. But, like his Divine Master, he “could not be hid.” Multitudes flocked to hear him, and the towns and cities of Narbonne and Languedoc were enlightened by his ministry. This continued for twenty years. What an interesting chapter would it form in the history of the Church, if the record of the facts could be recovered! What striking conversions! What penetrating, powerful sermons! What revival meetings! What lovely manifestations of Christian fellowship! Doubtless such scenes were witnessed—and ministering angels rejoiced—and the news reached the saints in heaven, causing a fresh outburst of joyful acclaim. And again they sang, “Thou art worthy—for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth!”

Instead of recitals which would have gladdened our hearts, we have but the meager and melancholy jottings of a foe, written with the pen of prejudice. Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Clugny, whose treatise against the Petrobrusians is our only authority on this subject, sums up all in these words: —“The people are rebaptized, the churches profaned, the altars dug up, the crosses burned, flesh eaten in public on the very day of the Lord’s passion, the priests scourged, the monks imprisoned, and compelled by threatenings and torments to marry wives.”7 When we bear in mind that in the first ebullitions of zeal during the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the instruments and objects of superstition, as well as its abettors, sometimes received rather rough usage, the people thus evincing their indignation at the trickery which had been practiced upon them, we may wonder the less at any uproarious proceedings taking place four hundred years before. We are under no necessity, however, of believing that the “rebaptized” people committed the outrages spoken of. At such times there are always many to be found who are willing to attach themselves outwardly to an enterprise for the sake of some worldly advantage, and when they run into excesses the blame is laid on the cause with which they are connected. Yet, partial and unsatisfactory as Peter the Venerable’s statement is, it indicates the extent and effect of the Reformer’s efforts. Labbe, the Jesuit (also one of the editors of the “Concilia”), evidently regarded Peter of Bruys as a man by whose labours great injury was inflicted on Romanism. These are his words:—“Almost all the heretics who came after Peter of Bruys trod in the steps of his heresy; hence he may be deservedly called the parent of heretics.”8

Martyrdom awaited him. Having preached with his accustomed fervor at St. Gilles, in Languedoc, the infuriated populace seized him and hurried him to the stake. It was like the murder of Stephen—the act of a lawless mob. Nor can we doubt that the Lord, whose presence cheered the first martyr, comforted Peter of Bruys, and enabled him to meet death, even in that terrible form, with the composure of faith.

Such was the end of a Baptist minister in the twelfth century. Peter’s martyrdom is supposed to have occurred about the year 1124. But the bereaved flocks were not forsaken. Another shepherd was ready to take charge of them.

Henry of Lausanne was a monk, an inmate of the monastery of Clugny, a town about forty-six miles from Lyons. The seclusion and inactivity of that mode of life ill comported with his fervid spirit. He felt a consciousness of power, and longed to do something for the cause of God. Being eminently gifted as a public speaker, he engaged in a preaching itinerancy. He commenced his labours at Lausanne, in Switzerland, about the year 1116, and thence proceeded to the South of France. His first efforts were directed to the reformation of manners and morals. He declaimed against the vices of the clergy and the general dissoluteness that prevailed, and he preached so eloquently that all classes bowed beneath his rebukes, great numbers confessing their sins and entering upon a course of reform. At Mans, where, while the bishop was absent at Rome, he was permitted to occupy the cathedral, his influence over the people became so powerful that when the bishop returned they refused to receive him, and clamorously declared that they would adhere to Henry. Hildebert, however (that was the bishop’s name), managed the affair with discretion, and Henry chose another field. He repaired to the district where Peter of Bruys had preached, and entered into his labours. By this time his own views were greatly enlarged. From opposing vice he proceeded to attack error. A treatise which he published, and which unfortunately is not now extant, contained a full exposition of his sentiments. It is said that on some points he went farther than Peter, but what they were is not stated. This is certain, that he fully agreed with him on the subject of baptism, and that those who received the truth were formed into “Apostolical societies,” or, as we should now say, Christian churches.

Henry’s success alarmed the Church dignitaries of the country, who procured his arrest. He was condemned by the Council of Pisa, in the year 1134, and sentenced to confinement in a monastery. Having obtained his liberty, after a short imprisonment, he resumed the work of preaching, and for ten years the cities of Toulouse and Alby, and the district in which they are situated, enjoyed the benefit of his exertions. Astonishing results followed. Many nobles sanctioned and protected him. Multitudes were added to the churches, and, as in the times of the Apostles, “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” The celebrated Bernard of Clairvaux says, in a letter to a nobleman, “The churches are without flocks, the flocks without priests, the priests are nowhere treated with due reverence, the churches are leveled down to synagogues, the sacraments are not esteemed holy, the festivals are no longer celebrated;” and he states in one of his sermons, that “Women forsake their husbands, and husbands their wives, and run over to this sect,” and that “Clergymen and priests desert their communities and churches.”9Stripping these expressions of their Romish meaning, the facts of the case clearly show themselves. Had Henry been the historian he would have said, “God has blessed His work; priests and people have received the Gospel; true churches are now formed; Christian ordinances have supplanted the old superstitions; and the commands of Christ, and His only, are obeyed.”

Pope Eugenius heard of it, and sent Cardinal Alberic, accompanied by Bernard, to quash the movement. Bernard was reverenced as a great saint, and was accustomed to carry everything before him; but the Henricians knew Scripture as well and probably better than he, and quoted it against him with great effect. He met with poor success. But when preaching failed, force was employed. Henry was again seized. A council held at Rheims in the year 1148 condemned him, and he ended his days in prison. Samson, the Archbishop of Rheims, disapproved of shedding blood for the faith, and so the perpetual dungeon was substituted for the stake. Henry languished in solitude and privation (for they put him on meager diet) till the Master called him. The time of his death has not been recorded.10

Hildebert, Bishop of Mans, styled Henry “a great snare of the devil and a celebrated champion of Antichrist.”11 These expressions are significant of extensive influence. And, indeed, it appears that his sentiments spread not only in Languedoc, where he chiefly laboured, but in other parts of France. It is probable that his disciples traveled into Germany, and propagated the same doctrine there.12

It is much to be regretted that we are not furnished with any particulars respecting the order of worship or the mode of church government adopted by Peter and Henry. There can be no doubt that plainness and simplicity characterized the whole, and that there was a rigid adherence to the laws of the New Testament. They called Jesus “Master and Lord.” They rendered obedience to His commandments, as interpreted and exemplified by the Apostles, and they were so scrupulously conscientious in these respects that the title of “Apostolicals” distinguished them from others. How much pleasure it would afford us to read a full description of one of their meetings—and copies of the hymns they sang—and a sermon or two preached by Peter or Henry—and a few extracts from their church-books—that we might know in what manner they sought to “walk and to please God.”

Arnold of Brescia occupies a conspicuous place in history. By some writers he has been classed with “Baptist Martyrs.” There is not sufficient evidence to warrant such a statement. Arnold was a reformer, but not a separatist. Himself an ecclesiastic, he employed all his energies in attempting to restore his Order to primitive plainness and purity, and thus to regain the moral influence which had been lost, and with it to promote a revival of scriptural piety. He declaimed loudly against the wealth and luxury of the clergy. He taught that they should not be possessors of worldly property, but be supported by tithes and the voluntary offerings of the people. So acceptable were his teachings, that commotions were feared, and Arnold was banished from Italy. He pursued the same course in France, whither he had retired, and again he was banished. We then hear of him in Switzerland, where he was still indefatigable in his endeavors. The great Bernard, now called Saint Bernard, was unremitting in his efforts to stop Arnold’s progress, and the language employed in his letters seems to imply that the reformer did not content himself with inveighing against the pomp and pride of the clergy, but exposed whatever evils he discerned, and laboured to remove all the obstacles that stood in the way of religious restoration. His own life was a pattern of propriety. “Would that his doctrine,” says Bernard, “were as sound as his life is austere! If you would know the man, he is one who neither eats nor drinks; like the devil, he hungers and thirsts only for the blood of souls.”13Hard words, Bernard! very unlike a saint!

Arnold’s sentiments became popular at Rome. He went there, and thundered out well-deserved invectives against the union of secular and ecclesiastical power in the person of the Pope. His Holiness, he said, ought to be a prelate only, not a prince. He exhorted the people to demand their ancient liberties, and restore the old form of government. They adopted his policy. The Pope was required to resign his temporal power. Insurrection followed. Rome was in a state of disturbance during the reigns of four successive Popes, from 1143 to 1154. Arnold was there all the time. But Pope Adrian IV. quelled the storm. He laid Rome under an interdict. The terrified inhabitants promised to expel Arnold if the Pontiff would remove it. Arnold fled. But he was taken prisoner in Tuscany, and conveyed back to Rome, where he was hanged, or, as some say, crucified. His body was burned, and his ashes thrown into the Tiber. This was in the year 1155.

 The only authority for the ascription of Baptist sentiments to Arnold is Otto of Frisingen, who states in his Chronicle that Arnold was “said (dicitur) to be unsound in his views respecting the sacrament of the altar and the baptism of children.”14The common histories give no support to this affirmation. Indeed, unless there has been an enormous suppression of facts, Arnold’s attention was mostly confined to the points above mentioned. Bernard styles him “a flagrant schismatic.” Baronius designates him “the patriarch of political heretics.” But Neander observes, “The inspiring idea of his movements was that of a holy and pure church, a renovation of the spiritual order, after the pattern of the Apostolical Church . . . The corrupt bishops and priests were no longer bishops and priests—the secularized church was no longer the house of God. It does not appear that his opposition to the corrupt church had ever led him to advance any such remarks as could be interpreted into heresy; for, had he done so, men would, from the first, have proceeded against him more sharply, and his opponents who spared no pains in hunting up everything which could serve to place him in an unfavorable light, would certainly never have allowed such heretical statements of Arnold to pass unnoticed. But we must allow that the way in which Arnold stood forth against the corruptions of the Church, and especially his inclination to make the objective in the instituted order, and in the transactions of the Church, to depend on the subjective character of the men, might easily lead to still greater aberrations.”15

We cannot but acknowledge the correctness of these remarks, and are disposed to think that either Arnold’s opposition originally extended to other particulars besides those specified, or that his followers separated from the Church after his death. The “Arnoldists” were proscribed, with others, by Pope Lucius, A.D. 1183, and by the Emperor Frederic II., in a sanguinary edict against the various classes of heretics, issued in 1224.

We have not the means of knowing how the societies established by Peter and Henry prospered after their death. None of the names of their successors have reached us. It can only be affirmed, generally, that the work continued to advance, as may be sufficiently gathered from the proceedings of sundry Councils.

The heretics, as they were called, were very numerous at Cologne. Evervinus, Provost of Steinfeld, wrote against them in 1146, and applied to Bernard for aid, who discoursed virulently on the points in debate, and made up in railing for the lack of sound argument.

Eckbert, Abbot of St. Florin, published thirteen sermons in 1163, in which he laboured hard to fix the charge of heresy on the Cathari, who, as usual, were accused of Manich?sm. While both he and Evervinus affirm that the Cathari generally rejected baptism altogether, substituting for it the “Consolamentum,” they agree in stating that a portion of them differed from the others in that respect. They rejected infant-baptism only, on the ground that infants could not believe, and they taught that baptism should be administered to none but adults.16

The thirty “Waldenses,” as they are called, who appeared in England about the year 1159, probably belonged to the same party. William of Newbury, the chronicler, charges them with “detesting holy baptism,” which may be fairly understood as implying the rejection of baptism as then practiced by Rome.17

In 1165 a Council was held at Lombers, for the purpose of dealing with some persons who were known by the appellation of boni homines or “good men” (whether imposed on them by others or assumed by themselves, does not appear), and who were manifestly Baptists. When asked what they thought about baptism, they answered, that they would not say, but that they would reply “from the Gospel and the Epistles,” meaning that they would adduce the Scripture testimony on the subject, and maintain the necessity of abiding by the Word of God.18The bishops failed to convince them of their error.

In a Bull issued by Pope Lucius III., he denounced all who held or taught any sentiments differing from those professed by the Church of Rome; and he particularly refers to baptism.19The Baptists gave a great deal of trouble to the Papists in those days.

The terrible storm which fell upon Southern France in the Crusade against the Albigenses, doubtless swept away many of the Baptist churches, and scattered their surviving members. Notwithstanding the vigilance of the persecutors, great numbers escaped. Italy, Germany, and the Eastern countries of Europe received them.


1  Eckbert cont. Catharos, in Biblioth. Maxima, xxiii. p. 615.

2  History of the Church, iii. p. 533

3  Neander’s History of the Church, iii. p. 525.

4  Biblioth. Maxima, xviii. pp. 441, 531.

5  Ibid., xxii. p. 1058.

6  Magdeburg. Centuriatores, cent xii. p. 331.

7  Biblioth. Maxima, xxii. p. 1035.

8  Concil. x. p. 1001.

9  Epist. 24,0. In Cantic. Sermones, 65. 66. Opera, i. pp. 438-440, iii. pp. 415-432. Ed. Paris. 1667.

10  Dr. Allix says that he was burnt at Toulouse, A.D. 1147, but he gives no authority for the statement.—Remarks on the Albigenses, chap. xiv.

11  Biblioth. Maxima, xxi. p. 157.

12  Wall says, in his “History of Infant-Baptism,” that Peter of Bruys and Henry were “the first Anti-p?obaptist preachers that ever set up a church or society of men holding that opinion against infant-baptism, and re-baptizing such as had been baptized in infancy” (Vol. ii. p. 250. Third Edition). We do not admit the correctness of Mr. Wall’s statements, because those churches can be traced a great way farther back. We were about to say, that we can trace their history as far back as the year 31, when the first church was formed at Jerusalem; but Mr. Wall’s epithet, “Anti-p?obaptist,” stands in the way. That church was not an “Anti-p?obaptist” church, because P?obaptists had not then appeared in the world. Infant-baptism was then unknown. Mr. Wall, however, grants that there were Baptist (or, as he calls them, “Anti-p?obaptist”) churches in the twelfth century. That is so far good. Some persons in these times wish to ignore all this, and to make us start from the sixteenth century. Mr. Wall knew better.

13  Epist. p. 195.

14  Labbe and Cossart, vi. p. 1012.

15  History of the Church, iv. 149. See also the Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Art. “Arnold of Brescia.”

16  Biblioth. Maxima, xxiii. p. 601. Gieseler, iii. p. 397. See Appendix.

17  Labbe and Cossart, x. p. 1405.

18  Ibid. pp. 1470, 1479.

19  Ibid. x. p. 1737.

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