Persecution Of The Waldenses In France
Popery having brought various innovations into the church, and
overspread the christian world with darkness and superstition, some few,
who plainly perceived the pernicious tendency of such errors, determined
to show the light of the gospel in its real purity, and to disperse
those clouds which artful priests had raised about it, in order to blind
the people, and obscure its real brightness.
The principal among these was Berengarius, who, about the year 1000,
boldly preached gospel truths, according to their primitive purity.
Many, from conviction, assented to his doctrine, and were, on that
account, called Berengarians. To Berengarius succeeded Peter Bruis, who
preached at Thoulouse, under the protection of an earl, named
Hildephonsus; and the whole tenets of the reformers, with the reasons of
their separation from the church of Rome, were published in a book
written by Bruis, under the title of ANTI-CHRIST.
By the year of Christ 1140, the number of the reformed was very great,
and the probability of its increasing alarmed the pope, who wrote to
several princes to banish them from their dominions, and employed many
learned men to write against their doctrines.
A. D. 1147, Henry of Thoulouse, being deemed their most eminent
preacher, they were called Henericians; and as they would not admit of
any proofs relative to religion, but what could be deduced from the
scriptures themselves, the popish party gave them the name of
apostolics. At length, Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a native of Lyons, eminent
for his piety and learning, became a strenuous opposer of popery; and
from him the reformed, at that time, received the appellation of
Waldenses or Waldoys.
Pope Alexander III being informed by the bishop of Lyons of these
transactions, excommunicated Waldo and his adherents, and commanded the
bishop to exterminate them, if possible, from the face of the earth; and
hence began the papal persecutions against the Waldenses.
The proceedings of Waldo and the reformed, occasioned the first rise of
the inquisitors; for pope Innocent III. authorized certain monks as
inquisitors, to inquire for, and deliver over, the reformed to the
secular power. The process was short, as an accusation was deemed
adequate to guilt, and a candid trial was never granted to the accused.
The pope, finding that these cruel means had not the intended effect,
sent several learned monks to preach among the Waldenses, and to
endeavour to argue them out of their opinions. Among these monks was one
Dominic, who appeared extremely zealous in the cause of popery. This
Dominic instituted an order, which, from him, was called the order of
Dominican friars; and the members of this order have ever since been the
principal inquisitors in the various inquisitions in the world. The
power of the inquisitors was unlimited; they proceeded against whom they
pleased, without any consideration of age, sex, or rank. Let the
accusers be ever so infamous, the accusation was deemed valid; and even
anonymous informations, sent by letter, were thought sufficient
evidence. To be rich was a crime equal to heresy; therefore many who had
money were accused of heresy, or of being favourers of heretics, that
they might be obliged to pay for their opinions. The dearest friends or
nearest kindred could not, without danger, serve any one who was
imprisoned on account of religion. To convey to those who were confined,
a little straw, or give them a cup of water, was called favouring of the
heretics, and they were prosecuted accordingly. No lawyer dared to plead
for his own brother, and their malice even extended beyond the grave;
hence the bones of many were dug up and burnt, as examples to the
living. If a man on his death-bed was accused of being a follower of
Waldo, his estates were confiscated, and the heir to them defrauded of
his inheritance; and some were sent to the Holy Land, while the
Dominicans took possession of their houses and properties, and, when the
owners returned, would often pretend not to know them. These
persecutions were continued for several centuries under different popes
and other great dignitaries of the catholic church.
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