THE PETROBRUSSIANS AND HENRICIANS.
The Petrobrussians numbered their hundreds of thousands. In the Middle Ages they were a great and shining light. Historians agree that the Petrobrussians appeared in the South of France about 1104. Of their great leader — Peter de Bruys — Kurtz says: “He rejected the outward or visible church, and only acknowledged the true, invisible church in the hearts of believers. In his opinion all churches and sanctuaries should be destroyed, since God might be worshipped in a stable or tavern. He used crucifixes for cooking purposes; inveighed against celibacy, the mass and infant baptism; and after twenty years of continued disturbance ended his days at the stake by the hands of an infuriated mob, 1124. He was succeeded by one of his associates, Henry of Lausanne, formerly a monk of the order of Clugny. Under him the sect of the Petrobrussians greatly increased in numbers.”1
Farther on we will see that in stating the Petrobrussians rejected the visible church, Kurtz is as much in error as he is in stating that the only true church is not an outward organization, but only internal or invisible. Indeed, in that he says they rejected infant baptism, implying that they practiced adult baptism, Kurtz confutes his own statement; since water baptism implies a visible church.
1 Kurtz's Chr. Hist., vol. 1, p. 456.
Says Mosheim: “A much more rational sect was that which was founded about the year 1110 in Languedoc and Provence by Peter de Bruys, who made the most laudable attempts to reform the abuses and to remove the superstitions that disfigured the beautiful simplicity of the gospel, and after having engaged in the cause a great number of followers, during a ministry of twenty years continuance, was burnt at St. Giles, in the year 1130, by an enraged populace, set on by the clergy, whose traffic was in danger from the enterprising spirit of the reformer. The whole system of doctrine, which this unhappy martyr, whose zeal was not without a considerable mixture of fanaticism, taught to the Petrobrussians, his disciples, is not known. It is, however, certain that the five following tenets made a part of his system. (1.) That no persons whatever were to be baptized before they were come to the fullness of their reason, (2.) That it was an ideal superstition to build churches for the service of God, who will accept of sincere worship wherever it is offered, and that such churches as had already been erected should be pulled down and destroyed. (3.) That the crucifixes as instruments of superstition deserved the same fate. (4.) That the real body and blood of Christ were not exhibited in the eucharist, but were merely represented in the holy ordinance, by their figures and symbols. (5.) And, lastly, that the oblations, prayers, and the good works of the living, could be in no respect advantageous to the dead. This innovator was succeeded by another, who was of Italian birth, and whose name was Henry, the founder and parent of the sect of Henricians.”1
In Mosheim stating that notwithstanding Henry took up the work where Peter de Bruys left it and that Henry…
1 Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., cent. 12, part 2, chap. 5, sect. 7, 8.
…founded the Henricians, we see how historians attribute the origin of way previous party to its new leader, naming it a new name, for that leader. Mosheim continues: “We have no account of the doctrines of this reformer transmitted to our times. All we know of the matter is, that he rejected infant baptism; censured with severity the corrupt and licentious manners of the clergy; treated the festivals and ceremonies of the church with the utmost contempt; and held clandestine assemblies, in which he explained and inculcated the novelties he taught. Several writers affirm that he was a disciple of Peter de Bruys.”1
After giving substantially the same account of the Petrobrussians and Henricians, as the foregoing, Wadington says: “Henry is generally described as a disciple and fellow laborer of Pierre de Bruys. The objection to this opinion, urged by Mosheim, is, that Henry was preceded in his expeditions by the figure of the cross, whereas Pierre consigned all crucifixes to the flames. Without supposing that the objection of Pierre might be to the image of the Savior, not to the form of the cross, the objection is far from conclusive.”2
To Wadington's answer may be added: Protestant and Baptist churches, while joining Peter de Bruys in destroying crucifixes as he found them used, do not hesitate to use the representation of the cross in song, picture and even on churches. Hence, Henry could have used the cross in harmony with his teachers.
After giving substantially the foregoing account, another historian adds: “The Petrobrussians, to justify themselves from the calumnies of Peter of Clugny and others, sent forth a work in answer to the question,…
1 Idem, ibid.
2 Wadington's Ch. Hist.-note to p. 287.
…'What is anti-Christ?' It is generally supposed to have been the production of Peter de Bruys, and is said to have been written as early as 1120. …In reference to the ordinances, it declares, 'A third work of anti-Christ consists in this, that he attributes the regeneration of the Holy Spirit unto the mere external rite,' (as Campbellism), 'baptizing infants in that faith, teaching that thereby baptism and regeneration must be had; on which principle he bestows and confers orders, and, indeed, grounds all his Christianity, which is contrary to the mind of the Holy Spirit. This view was supported by a confession of their faith, in fourteen articles, published about the same time. In this confession they acknowledge the Apostles' creed; belief in the Trinity; own the Canonical books of the Old and New Testament; scriptural character of God, of Adam and his fall; work of Christ as mediator; abhorrence of human inventions in worship; that the sacraments were signs of holy things and that believers should use the symbol or forms when it can be done; though they may be saved without those signs,' they own baptism and the Lord's supper; and express their obedience to secular powers.' “Thus, we see the Petrobrussian and Henrician churches were far from being either Campbellites or Pedobaptists, and that they believed in the visible church. Neander says; “Henry became the leader of the Petrobrussians.”1
Dr. J. M. Cramp says of them: “Baptism and the church were contemplated by Peter in the pure light of the Scripture. The church should be composed, they 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…
1 Neander's Hist. Chr. Ch., vol. 4, p. 602.
…baptized, according to the Savior’s command. Peter was not merely what is now called 'a Baptist in principle.'1 When the truths he inculcated were received and men and women were received to 'newness of life' they were directed to the path of duty. Enemies said that was Anabaptism, but Peter and his friends indignantly repelled the imputation. The right performed in infancy, they maintained, was no baptism at all, since it wanted the essential ingredient, faith in Christ. There and then only when they professed were the converts really baptized. Great success attended Peter's labors…Henry repaired to the district where Peter de Bruys preached and entered into his labors…This is certain that he fully agreed with Peter on the subject of baptism and those who received the truth were formed into ‘apostolical societies’ or, as we should now say, into Christian churches.”1 Even Dr. Wall concedes that the Petrobrussians and Henricians rejected infant baptism.2 Of one of the slanderous reports against them, Dr. Wall says: “I hope that those reports are not true.” Wall further quotes them: “It is therefore an idle and vain thing for you to wash persons with water, at such a time when you may indeed cleanse their skin from dirt in a human manner, but not purge their souls from sins. But we do stay till the proper time of faith, and when a person is capable to know his God, and believes in him, then we do (not as you charge, re-baptize him) but baptize him.” On which Wall remarks: “This is, as to the practice, perfectly in agreement with modern anti-pedobaptists.”3 Dr. Wall here reports a slander, that they believed in infant damnation, a slander so threadbare and contradictory…
1 Cramp's Bap. Hist., p. 129.
2 Wall's Hist. Int. Bap., vol. 3, p. 250.
3 Idem, vol. 2, pp. 256, 259.
…to what we know of them, that it is unworthy of notice. Says Dr. S. H. Ford: “Henry was a Baptist.”1 Vedder shows they were not Campbellites. He says: “A third capital error,” the Romanist charged on them was they “denied sacramental grace.”2 Though Vedder seems as much prejudiced against Church Perpetuity, and more ready to credit slanders against some of our Baptist ancestors than candid Pedobaptist writers are, the Petrobrussians were so clearly Baptists, that he says: “In the main, the beliefs attributed to them are such as are firmly held today by Baptists the world over. The question is already practically answered, were the Petrobrussians Baptists? In their main principles they certainly were. Those, therefore, who attempt to trace the descent of modern Baptists through the Petrobrussians have at least a plausible starting point. Anybody that holds to the supremacy of the Scriptures, a spiritual church, and believers' baptism, is fundamentally one with
the Baptist churches of today, whatever else it may add to or omit from the statement of its belief. Contemporary records have been sought in vain to establish any essential doctrine taught by this condemned sect that is inconsistent either with the teaching of the Scripture or with the belief avowed in recent times by Baptists.”3
Vedder, farther, says: “There were other preachers of a pure gospel, nearly contemporary with Peter de Bruys, and more or less closely connected with him. Henry of Lausanne (1116-1150) is described by some as a disciple of Peter, though others insist that he did not share Peter's heresies. Certain it is that at one time they were close companions and the balance of evidence…
1 Ford's Origin of Bap., p. 97.
2 Vedder's Hist. Bap., p. 60
3 Idem, p. 62.
…indicates that Henry of Lausanne was powerfully influenced by his predecessor and co-laborer. …He is described as a man of great dignity of person, of fiery eye, a thundering voice, impetuous speech, mighty in the Scriptures. His preaching was largely scriptural, and an exhortation to shun the prevalent corruption of life and seek righteousness. …The words quoted from Bernard seem to prove that he taught and practiced the baptism of believers only, while it is certain that he held to the supreme authority of the Scriptures and rejected the authoritative clauses of the tradition and the church.”1 Dr. Armitage who has denounced “Succession” as intemperately as any one can well do, says: “The term Cathari has been applied to another thoroughly Baptist sect …the Petrobrussians. …In the Petrobrussians we find a sect of Baptists for which no apology is needed. Peter of Bruis seized the entire Biblical presentation of baptism and forced its teaching home upon the conscience and the life, by rejecting the immersion of babes and insisting on the immersion of all believers in Christ …He held the church to be made up of a regenerated people only, counted the bishops and priests, as he knew them, mere frauds; and set aside all the ceremonial mummeries of the Romish hierarchy. He would not adore images, offer prayers to or for the dead, nor do penance. He laughed at the stupidity which holds that a child is regenerated when baptized, that he can be a member of Christ's flock when he knows nothing of Christ as a Shepherd, and demanded that all who came to his churches should be immersed in water on their own act of faith. …No one is to be
called baptized who is not washed with the baptism wherewith sins are washed away …The Petrobrossians…
1 idem, p. 64.
…were a thoroughly anti-sacerdotal sect, whose hatred of tyranny threw off the Roman yoke of the twelfth century; a democratic body, in distinction from the aristocratic organization …They demanded the words of Christ in the New Testament for everything and not the traditions of an inner and favored few …The Petrobrussians were thoroughly and deeply anti-Catholic in all that conflicted with the gospel. While they were Puritanical they were not ascetic. They abolished all fasts and penance for sin because Christ only can forgive sin, and this he does on a sinner's trust in his merits. They held marriage as a high and honorable relation not only for Christians generally, but for priests …With them a church did not mean an architectural structure, but a regenerated congregation, nor had consecrated places any charm for them; for God could hear them as well in the market place as in the temple …The death of Peter was not the end of his cause. Labbe calls him 'the parent of heretics,' for almost all who were then branded after his day trod in his steps; and especially all Baptist heretics. …When, like Elijah, God took Peter to heaven in a fiery chariot, he had Elisha ready to catch his falling mantle, in the person of Henry of Lausanne, or as Cluniacensis much prefers to put it, he was followed by Henry ‘the heir of Bruis' wickedness.' This petulant author imagined that Peter's principles had died with him, and like a simpleton writes: ‘I should have thought that it had been those craggy Alps, and rocks covered with continual snow, that had bred that savage temper in the inhabitants, and that your land being unlike to other lands, had yielded a sort of people unlike to all others …Such a bold soul had Christ been preparing in Henry, the next brave Baptist of the Swiss valleys. He had formerly been a monk at Clugny and had joined himself to his master, Peter of Bruis, in the midst of his toils; and thus had caught his spirit and been numbered with his principles …He then made common cause with Peter, as Melancthon did with Luther. The land swarmed with Henry's followers.”1
The opposition to church buildings, mentioned in the foregoing, was probably to them only as almost deified by the Romish church. As the Petrobrussians had been accustomed to church buildings only as used by the Romish church they may have opposed them in toto. If they did indiscriminately condemn church houses that in no way rendered them unbaptistic, since church houses are not a Baptist article of faith or necessary to the existence of a Baptist church. That the extravagances of the times should drive the Baptists of those ages into extremes is not to be unexpected. Yet God preserved them from essential departures from the faith. (See Chapter V of this book.)
That the Petrobrussians and the Henricians were Baptists is so certain that I conclude this chapter in the language of that very high authority, Prof. Buckland, late Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Rochester Theological Seminary: “We do reach a distinctively Baptist line in the Petrobrussians, in 1104, and I believe that we may claim that our distinctive principles were perpetuated continuously from that date onward into the reformation period, and so to our day.” Or of Dr. A. H. Newman, of Peter de Bruys and of Henry of Lausanne: “The views of these teachers are well known to have been substantially Baptist.”2
1 Armitage's Bap. Hist., pp. 283-290.
2 Baptist Quart. Rev., July, 1885, p. 321.