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Chapter 12

EIGHT HUNDRED TO NINE HUNDRED A.D.

 Increase in the Popedom

  During this century says Hugh Smith, on page 251 of his history, "It was fashionable to explain Scripture by the writings of the fathers. No man was allowed to vary in the least from their decisions. The apostolic rule to compare spiritual things with spiritual things was lost. The popedom now grew stronger and stronger, and whoever dared to oppose the bishop of Rome drew upon himself a host of enemies."

Persecutions continued during this period against the Paulicans and the Waldensians, which constituted the true church, and who were still holding to the Scriptural name, the "Church of God," observing the true Sabbath according to the commandment. They also taught the literal reign of Christ upon the earth, and celebrated the Lord's Supper yearly. We gather the following account of how they were persecuted during this century from Hugh Smith's History. He says, "Simeon, a Greek officer clothed with imperial power come to Colonia, and apprehended Sylvaneus and a number of his disciples. Stones were put in the hands of these last, and they were required to kill their pastor as the price of their forgiveness. A person named Justus was the only one of the number who obeyed, and he stoned him to death who had labored among them for twenty-seven years. Justus signalized himself still more by betraying the brethren while Simeon (the imperial officer), struck with the divine grace apparent in the sufferings, embraced the faith which he came to destroy, gave up the world, preached the gospel and died a martyr. For one hundred and fifty years these servants of Christ underwent the horrors of persecution with patience and meekness. If the acts of their martyrdom, their preaching, and their lives were distinctly told they would resemble those the church justly reveres." All of this time the power of the Spirit of God was with them, and they practiced the thirteenth chapter of Romans, as well as other precious truth. -- Idem, p. 254.

Not all secular rulers during this the dark ages were upholding Rome, for many befriended the industrious and holy people within their boundaries. Perrin says:

"The ambassadors to the duke of Savoy, asking for mercy for the Waldenses in his provinces, stated that these Christians in the valleys of `Piedmont did not hold by the concessions of their princes the liberty to exercise in public their religion, because it was established in this country above eight centuries, and that they enjoyed this right long before they were the subjects of this highness's ancestors; insomuch that, having never been of the same religion as their princes it could not be said that they had abandoned it, nor be obliged to return to it.'" -- Jones' Church History, p. 402 ed. 1837.

"Memorial presented to Court of Savoy by Murat and Murat, Counsellors of State, of Zurich and Berne, Switzerland, states in part: `We find ourselves obliged to represent to your royal highness, that the churches of the valleys in Piedmont did not separate themselves from the religion of their prince; because they live in that they received from their predecessors about eight centuries ago, and which they did profess before they were under the dominion of your royal highness's ancestors, who, having found them in the possession of their religion, have maintained them therein by several declarations.'. . .

"They were a very peaceable people, beloved by their neighbors (in Provence, France), men of good behavior, of godly conversation, faithful to their promises, and punctual in paying their debts. That they were moreover liberal to strangers and the traveling poor, as far as their ability extended. . . . . They were a people who could not endure to blaspheme, or name the devil, or swear at all, unless in making some solemn contracts, or judgment. Finally, they were known by this, that if they happened to be cast into any company where the conversation was lascivious or blasphemous, to the dishonor of God, they instantly withdrew." -- Quoting Perrin, Jones' Church History, p. 260, ed. 1837.

"Claudius Seisselius, archbishop of Turin, is pleased to say, that `their heresy excepted, they generally live a purer life than other Christians. They never swear but by compulsion, they fulfill their promises with punctuality; and, living for the most part in poverty, they profess to live the apostolic life and doctrine. They also profess it to be their desire to overcome only by the simplicity of faith, by purity of conscience, and integrity of life; not by philosophical niceties and theological subtleties.' And he very candidly admits that `in their lives and morals they were perfect, irreprehensible, and without reproach among men, addicting themselves with all their might to observe the commands of God.'" -- Jones' Church History, p. 259.

"Eating the bread of poverty and dressed in the garments of penury, the church in the wilderness followed on to serve the Lord. She possessed the untampered manuscripts of holy revelation which discountenanced the claims of the Papacy. Among this little flock, stood out prominently the Waldenses. Generation after generation of skilled copyists handed down, unadulterated, the pure Word. Repeatedly their glorious truth spread far among the nations. In terror, the Papacy thundered at the monarchs of Europe to stamp out this heresy by the sword of steel. In vain the popish battalions drenched the plains of Europe with martyr blood. The Word of God lived unconquered." -- Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 254, 255.

"Jacobus de Riberia, who in his time assisted in persecuting the Waldenses, says that they were so well instructed on the Holy Scriptures, that he had seen peasants who could recite the book of Job verbatim, and several others who could perfectly repeat all the New Testament." -- Jones' Church History, p. 259.

"The antiquity of the Valdenses, or believers, is asserted by their friends, and corroborated by their enemies, Dr. Maclaine, in Mosheim's history, says, `We may affirm with the learned Beza, that these people derived their name from the valleys they inhabited; and hence Peter of Lyons was called, in Latin, Valdus, because he had adopted their doctrine.' Reiner Sacco speaks of the Lionists as a sect that had flourished above five hundred years (back to 750); while he mentions authors of note among them, who make their antiquity remount to the apostolic age. Theodore Belvedro, a popish monk, says that the heresy had always been in the valleys. In the preface to the first French Bible, the translator says, that they (the Valdenses) have always had the full enjoyment of the heavenly truth contained in the holy Scriptures, ever since they were enriched with the same by the apostles; having in fair MSS. preserved the entire Bible in their native tongue, from generation to generation." -- Orchard, Baptist History, p. 257.

"Beza affirms the Waldenses were the relics of the pure primitive Christian churches; some of them were called `the poor of Lyons.' Paul Perrin asserts, that the Waldenses were time out of mind in Italy and Dalmatia, and were the offspring of the Novatianists, who were persecuted and driven from Rome, A.D. 400 (rather 413); and who, for purity in communion, were called Puritans. The name of Paterines was given to the Waldenses; and who, for the most part, held the same opinions, and have therefore been taken for one and the same class of people, who continued till the Reformation under name of Paterines or Waldenses. There was no difference in religious views between the Abigenses and Waldenses. All those people inhabiting the south of France were called, in general, Albigenses; and, in doctrine and manners, were not distinct from the Waldenses. Bossuet, bishop of Meaus, says, as to the Vaudois, they were a species of Donatists, and worse than the ancient Donatists; they formed their churches of only good men; they all, without distinction, if they were reputed good people, preached and administered the ordinances. The celebrated Matthew Francowitz says, the Waldenses scent a little of Anabaptism. The Waldenses were, in religious sentiments, substantially the same as the Paulicians, Paterines, Puritans, and Albigenses." -- Idem, p. 259.

"Their elders and officers do not appear distinguished from their brethren by dress or names, but every Christian was considered as capable in a certain measure, of instructing others, and of confirming the brethren by exhortations. Their elders were the seniors of the brethren, while the presbyters were the whole body of the teachers, whether fixed or itinerating. Their rules of practice were practiced by a literal interpretation of Christ's sermon on the mount. They consequently prohibited wars, suits at law, acquisitions of wealth, capital punishments, self-defense, and oaths of all kinds. The body of believers was divided into two classes; one of which contained the perfect, the other the imperfect Christians. The former gave up all worldly possessions, the latter were less austere, though they abstained, like the graver sort of Anabaptists in later time from all appearances of pomp and luxury. These people contended that a church was an assembly of believers, faithful men, and that of such a church the Lord Jesus Christ is head, and he alone; that it is governed by his word, and guided by the Holy Spirit; that it behooves all Christians to walk in fellowship; that the only ordinances Christ hath appointed for the churches, are baptism and Lord's Supper; that they are both symbolical ordinances, or signs of holy things, `visible emblems of invisible blessings,' and that believers are the proper participants of them." -- Idem, p. 261.

 
 
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