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The Waldenses no Anabaptists, but Presbyterians.


The Waldenses no Anabaptists, but Presbyterians.

James Dodson

[Samuel Miller’s Appendix to James Wharey’s Sketches of Church History.]


Rev. and Dear Brother—

You request me to give some solution of the question, why in the “History of the Waldenses,” by Mr. William Jones, of the Baptist denomination, which has been extensively circulated in the United States, nothing appears to indicate the pædobaptist belief and practice of those far-famed witnesses of the truth? In reply to this inquiry, I have only to say, that two facts are unquestionable. The one fact is, that the ancient records of the Waldenses do contain abundant and conclusive evidence that they did baptize their children. The other fact is, that Mr. Jones has carefully withheld all the evidences of this fact from his readers. What were his motives for doing this, and how he reconciled it with historical candour and verity, are questions which it is not incumbent on me to answer, and on which I dare not pronounce. They must be submitted to the judgment of every impartial reader. But both facts are unquestionable.

1. As to the first fact, it is not necessary to go into much detail, but on the accuracy of the following quotations you may rely.

In an old “Defence,” which the Waldenses of Bohemia sent to Ladislaus, their king, who had severely persecuted them, dated A.D. 1508, about ten years before the Reformation by Luther commenced, they repel a number of calumnies, which had been circulated against them by the Romanists. In this defence we find the following unequivocal passage:

“The fourth calumny was concerning Baptism, which it was said, they denied to little infants, but from this imputation they acquit themselves as follows: Neither is the time or place appointed for those who must be baptized. But charity and the edification of the church and congregation ought to be the rule in this matter. Yet notwithstanding, we bring our children to be baptized, which they ought to do to whom they are nearest related, as their parents, or they whom God hath inspired with such a charity.” “True it is,” say they, “that being for some hundreds of years constrained to suffer our children to be baptized by the Roman priests, we deferred the doing of it as long as possible, because we detested the human inventions annexed to the institution of that holy Sacrament, which we looked upon as pollutions of it. And by reason that our pastors, whom we call Barbes, are often in travels abroad for the service of the church, we could not have baptism administered to our children by our own ministers; we therefore sometimes kept them long without baptism, upon which delay, the priests have charged us with that reproach.” Perrin, Part II. Book I. Chap. IV.

In a “Treatise of the Old Waldenses and Albigenses, concerning Antichrist, Purgatory, Invocation of Saints, and the Sacraments,” and dated by Perrin in 1220, the following passage, under the head of Sacraments, occur. ‘That which is of no necessity in the administration of baptism, is the exorcism, the breathing on, the sign of the cross upon the infant’s breast and forehead, the salt which they put into his mouth, the spittle put into his ears and nose, &c.” Perrin. Part II. Book V. Art. IV.

In a “Brief Confession of Faith,” made with general consent by the ministers and heads of families of the churches in the valleys of Piedmont, assembled at Augrogne, Sept. 12, 1532, the following explicit declaration is found:

“Concerning the matter of the Sacraments, it has been determined by the Holy Scripture, that we have but two sacramental signs left us by Jesus Christ; the one is Baptism, the other is the Eucharist, which we receive to show that our perseverance in the faith is such as we promised when we were baptized, being little children, and moreover, in remembrance of that great benefit given to us by Jesus Christ, when he died for our redemption, and washed us with his precious blood.” Morland, Book I. Chap IV.

Again, Perrin tells us that, in the year 1506, that is about eleven years before the Reformation by Luther commenced, Louis XII. king of France, having been informed that a certain people inhabited a particular part of his dominions, who refused to commune with the Church of Rome, and were represented as exceedingly corrupt in their practices, sent a trusty agent to visit them and inquire into their real character and habits. The agent on returning, reported that he had found the people whom he had been charged to examine, and that they were by no means so corrupt as they had been represented; nay, that the information which had been given concerning the Waldenses of Provence, was notoriously false; “that they were not any ways guilty either of sorcery or adultery, but lived like honest men, doing no hurt or injury to any man; that they caused their children to be baptized, and taught them the articles of the creed, and the commandments of God; that they carefully observed the Lord’s day, and that the word of God was purely expounded unto them.” Perrin, Part II. Book II. Chap. VIII.

Perrin mentions this report concerning the Waldenses in another place, as a remarkable instance of a testimony in their favour, extorted from adversaries. Perrin, Part II. Book I. Chap. V.

I might quote several other passages from the early documents of these ancient people, but these are enough. They establish, incontestably, the first fact to which I referred, as well as ten thousand. Now,

2. As to the second fact which I mentioned, it is certain that not a syllable of the Foregoing extracts, or anything like them, is to be found in Mr. Jones’s history. He refers familiarly to the works of Perrin and Sir Samuel Morland, and speaks of them as the principal sources from which he had drawn his materials, but carefully excludes every thing which they say that savours of infant baptism. Nay more, he expressly quotes the “Treatise on Antichrist, &c.” and the “Defence,” sent to king Ladislaus, and seems to regard them as perfectly authentic documents, worthy of entire credit, and proceeds to pick out from them what suited his purpose, as a Baptist; but the facts, so clearly and unequivocally stated, which make against the Baptist cause, he studiously withholds from his readers.

But this is not the worst. The last extract above stated, from Perrin, found in Book I. Chap. V. of his History, Mr. Jones directly tampers with, and falsifies. In other cases, he was only chargeable with withholding from his readers, testimony of the most direct kind, which lay plainly before him, and which, from his manner of quoting, it is impossible he should have overlooked. But in the case before us, he is guilty of direct forgery! The statement in Perrin stands thus:

“King Louis XII. having received information from the enemies of the Waldenses, dwelling in Provence, of several heinous crimes which they fathered upon them, sent to the place Monsieur Adam Fumèe, Master of Requests, and a certain Sorbonnist Doctor, called Parui, who was his confessor, to inquire into the matter. They visited all their parishes and temples, and neither found there any images, or sign of the ornaments belonging to the mass, or ceremonies of the Romish Church. Much less could they discover any of those crimes with which they were charged. But rather, that they kept the Sabbath duly; caused their children to be baptized, according to the primitive Church; taught them the articles of the Christian faith, and the commandments of God. The king, having heard the report of the said commissioners, said, with an oath, that they were better men than himself or his people.” Book I. Chap. V.

Now, this passage Mr. Jones professes to quote: and expressly refers to Perrin as the source from which he derived it. But, instead of honestly copying the statement above quoted—“they caused their children to be baptized, according to the primitive church;”—he alters and makes it read thus—“They kept the Sabbath day; observed the ordinance of baptism, according to the primitive Church; instructed their children in the articles of the Christian faith,” &c. Jones, II. Chap. V. Sect. IV. p. 71. Here is neither more nor less than the very essence of forgery! It is solemnly, in the face of the public, representing an author as saying what he does not say; and that, most evidently, to serve a sectarian turn.

On these facts further comment is unnecessary. Such management is unworthy of a good cause. I leave the whole matter to be estimated by every candid reader.—If Mr. Jones had told his readers that there were such passages as I have quoted to be found in the documents from which he professed to derive testimony, and had, at the same time, assigned his reasons for refusing to believe them, all would have been well. But, as the matter now stands, can he be exculpated from the charge of premeditated deception?

I know that some of our Baptist brethren have ventured to allege that the Waldenses were Antipædobaptist, because the followers of Peter de Bruis, who was considered as belonging to those people, is said to have rejected infant baptism. But the Petrobrussians were only a small fraction, probably not more than a thirtieth or fortieth part of the whole Waldensian body; and entirely differed from the mass of their brethren on this subject. Just as well might it be said that the Baptist denomination in the United States, keep Saturday as their Sabbath, because there are a few seventh day Baptists in our country. Besides, after all, the form in which the Petrobrussians held the Antipædobaptist doctrine, renders it wholly unavailing to the cause of our Baptist brethren. Peter de Bruis taught that infants were incapable of salvation, and THEREFORE ought not to be baptized. But if we wish to know the opinions of the Waldenses as a body, we must go to their Confessions, and other public documents. This we have done.

It may be shown, with equal evidence, that these pious witnesses of the truth not only baptized their children, but also that they adopted the Presbyterian form of Church government. That is, they had no bishops, in the prelatical sense of the word; their ministers were all equal; each church was governed by a bench of Ruling Elders; and their whole body regulated and bound together by a Synodical Assembly, which met once a year, at which time their candidates for the ministry were commonly examined and ordained. I think we may say with confidence, that if ever there were Pædobaptists and Presbyterians in Scotland, they were also found, long before the Reformation, in the Valleys of Piedmont.

I am, reverend and dear sir, with great respect your brother in Christ,

Princeton, N.J.
March 7, 1838.