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.