Says Mosheim: “In Italy, Arnold of Brescia, a disciple of Abelard, and a man of extensive erudition and remarkable austerity, but also a turbulent spirit, excited new troubles and commotions both in church and State. He was, indeed, condemned in the council of the Lateran, A. D. 1139, by Innocent II, and thereby obliged to retire to Switzerland; but upon the death of the pontiff he returned into Italy and raised at Rome, during the pontificate of Eugenie III, several tumults and seditions among the people, who changed by his instigation the government of the city and insulted the persons of the clergy in the most disorderly manner. He fell, however, at last, a victim to the vengeance of his enemies; for, after various turns of fortune, he was seized, in the year 1155, by a prefect of the city, by whom he was crucified and afterward burned to ashes. This unhappy man seems not to have adopted any doctrine inconsistent with the spirit of true religion; and the principles upon which he acted were chiefly reprehensible from their being carried too far, and executed with a degree of vehemence which was as criminal as it was imprudent. Having perceived the discords and animosities, the calamities and disorders, that sprang from the overgrown opulence of the pontiffs and bishops, he was persuaded that the interests of the church and the happiness of nations in general required that the clergy should be divested of all their worldly possessions, of all their temporal rights and prerogatives.
He therefore maintained publicly that the treasures and revenues of popes, bishops and monasteries ought to be solemnly resigned and transferred to the supreme rulers of each State, and that nothing was to be left to the ministers of the gospel but a spiritual authority and a subsistence drawn from the tithes, and from the voluntary oblations and contributions of the people. This violent reformer, in whose character and manner there were several things worthy of esteem, drew after him a great number of disciples who derived from him the name of Arnoldists, and in succeeding times discovered the spirit and intrepidity of their leader, as often as any favorable opportunities of reforming the church were offered to their zeal.”1
Kurtz gays of Arnold: “His fervent oratory was chiefly directed against the secular power of the church and its possession of property, views which were probably based on a more spiritual conception of what the church really was. Otherwise his doctrinal opinions seem to have been in accordance with those commonly entertained.”2
Wadington gives substantially the above account, adding: “It is, besides, asserted that his orthodoxy was liable to suspicion respecting the eucharist and infant baptism. In consequence of these various charges he was condemned by a Lateran council in 1139 A. D.”3 Of Arnold Wadington further says: “To diminish the privileges, “to reduce the revenues of the church, to deprive the pontiff of temporal Rower and all civil jurisdiction, and to degrade (should we not rather say exalt?) his stately splendor to the homeliness of his primitive predecessors;…
1 Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., cent. 12, part 2, chap. 5, see. 10.
2 Kurtz's Ch. Hist., vol. 1, p. 456.
3 Wadington's Ch. Hist., p. 258.
…these were the projects preparatory to the political regeneration of Rome.”1
Says C. Schmidt, regarded as one of the main authorities on this subject: “But comparing the first Christian congregation, the church of the Apostles, with the church of his own time, he felt scandalized at the difference. The root of all evil he found in the wealth of the church. All the vices and all the worldliness of the clergy he ascribed to their riches. …He was a gifted man, upright and fervent. The frightful corruption of the church naturally struck him, and in the Bible itself he found the corrective.” 2
To the charge that Arnold was turbulent and a creator of mobs and other disorders, the reader must bear in mind that any one, on behalf of liberty and a pure church, could not then speak out against such evils as he protested without being so charged. Church and State then being united, the people, under the pretence of taxation, were robbed to enrich a licentious clergy and to build up vast houses of ecclesiastical prostitution and kindred abominations.* Why, no greater praise could be accorded any one than that he made troublesome times for such a church and such a clergy. Treason against such government can but be loyalty to God. If, as reported, there were disorders attending Arnold's agitation, what were they but such as attended all great movements, from wicked men taking advantage of the state of war; or, more likely, from an outraged people being no longer able to control themselves, a thing for which not Arnold was to blame but the corrupt clergy and the church, from which the cause of outrage…
* During the middle ages the Romish church robbed the people until it got much or most of their wealth into its own hands. The age of freedom brought tie recovery or much of this property. But in Mexico, and in some other countries, it yet retains the property it obtained by this robbery.
1 Idem, ibid.
2 Schaff-Herzog Ency., vol. 1, p. 148.
…proceeded. Arnold “exhorted the people to organize a government similar to the ancient Roman republic, with its consuls, its tribunes and equestrian order. But they, provoked by the treachery and opposition of the papal party, and disunited among themselves, gave way to the grossest excesses.”1
As Cramp observes: “Had it not been for the support derived from the imperial power, Italy would have been Protestant before the Reformation. The success of Arnold of Brescia was an impressive warning. In the year 1143 he established a new form of government in Rome, which wrested the civil power out of the hands of popes and compelled them to content themselves with the management of ecclesiastical affairs. That the attempt was ill-advised, because society was not sufficiently prepared for it, is evident; but the continuance of the new order of things for eleven years and the alacrity with which the people adopted an anti-papal policy, were remarkable signs of the times.”2 “Arnold was formally condemned by the second general Lateran council, 1139. But his appeals to the people had found an echo in many breasts.”3 Baird: “At his suggestion the form of the ancient Roman commonwealth was restored with its consuls, senate, equestrian order and the tribunes of the people. But it was all in vain. The Romans were no longer fit for freedom, but like the Cappadocians of old, when offered the boon, they preferred, the chains which they had been so long accustomed to wear. …We know little of this Arnold from any contemporaneous source, except the pages of Roman Catholic writers, who were not likely to do him justice. But by their own…
1 Universal Knowledge, vol. l, p. 671.
2 Cramp's Bap. Hist., p. 98.
3 Kurtz's Ch. Hist., vol. 1. p. 403.
…showing, it is manifest that he contended for truth and justice.”1 Says G. Schmidt, of Arnold: “His reforms were all of a practical character.”2 Of Arnold, Armitage says: “God had endowed him with rare gifts. He possessed great fervor, purity and serenity, with a remarkable flow of eloquence; these he united to most graceful and attractive manners and charming conversational powers. As a preacher he filled Lombardy with resistance to the pride and pretensions of the priesthood. He was the purest, most severe and bold personification of republican democracy, both laical and ecclesiastical, of the century. …Under the stirring appeals of his deep convictions and impassioned eloquence the popular cry was raised: 'The people and liberty,' and he became as much its incarnation as Mazzini and Garibaldi in modem times. As the apostle of liberty he contended for a full dissolution of the union between church and State, and fired the cities to seek perfect freedom from both pope and empire by establishing a republic. As a patriot he looked upon these civil enemies only with contempt, and summoned Italy to shake them off. As a Christian he was an anti-sacramentarian, desiring to bring the church back to the New Testament standard; or, as Gibbon expresses it, he boldly threw himself upon the declaration of Christ: 'My kingdom is not of this world.' He would not use the sword, but maintained his cause by moral sentiment; and yet formed the daring plan of planting the standard of civil and religious liberty in the City of Rome itself, for the purpose of restoring the old rights of the senate and the people. His pure morals and childlike sense of justice startled the whole land. …Rome was thrown into insurrection; all Europe felt his power, and…
l Baird's Prot. in Italy, pp. 20, 22.
2 Schaff-Herzog Ency., vol. 1, p. 149.
…the eyes of Christendom were turned to the Eternal City. After a desperate contest against three several popes, which cost Lucian his life, a new constitution was framed and the sanction of Adrian IV was demanded to its provisions. The pope fled for his life, his temporal power was abolished, and a new government was established in 1143, which maintained the struggle with varying fortunes for about ten years. The violence of the people, however, prevented final success. They rose in insurrection, demolished the houses and seized the property of the papal party, while Arnold was conservative and touched nothing. Nevertheless, his holy apostolate planted the seeds of that republicanism which controls the Italy, Switzerland and France of today.” Speaking of his martyrdom, “Thus perished this great patriot and martyr to the holy doctrine of soul-liberty. But Italy will ever hold his name in hallowed remembrance.
“Down to 1861 a simple slab commemorated his noble deeds; then a modest statue took its place. But in 1864-65 the Communal and Provincial councils of Brescia each voted a sum of 30,000 lire (Itali) for a splendid monument to his honor. The city of Zurich made a large contribution, and from other sources the sum amounted to 150,000 lire, about $30,000. The ablest artists of Northern Italy competed for the prize model, which was awarded M. Tabacchi. The base after the design of the great architect, Tagliaferri, who has succeeded admirably in reproducing the old Lombard style of architecture in Arnold's time, is of various colored marbles, hewn from the rocks of Brescia. The statue itself is of bronze and is. four meters (13 feet 4 inches) high. Arnold is represented in a preaching attitude; his gigantic figure being that of a monk, in a long robe with graceful folds. His long nervous arms extend from the wide sleeves, his wonderful face is serene, but inspired for address; and the simplicity of the whole conception is worthy of the greatness of the man. The first alto-relievo represents him expounding his doctrine to the Brescians, holding in his hand the book of truth; in the second he is on trial, defending himself before his judges against the accusations of his foes; in the third he stands preaching in the Forum, surrounded by shields, broken columns and capitals, among which is the arch of Titus; the fourth presents him on the scaffold with his hands tied behind his back, the judge at his side about to read the sentence, and a funeral pile ready for lighting behind him. This beautiful work of art was dedicated to him as the forerunner of Italian liberty in the nineteenth century, and was officially unveiled in Brescia, Aug. 14, 1882. Most eloquent orations were delivered, while redeemed Italy looked on, by the patriot Zanardelli, 'Minister of Grace and Justice' for that year.
“Although the great distinctive feature in which Arnold most sympathized with Baptists relates to his unbending opposition to any union whatever with church and State, he appears to have sympathized with them in other respects. Dr. Wall says that the Lateran Council of A. D. 1139, condemned him for rejecting infant baptism, and he thinks that he was ‘follower of Peter de Bruis' in this respect. If so, then the council which condemned the Petrobrussians, condemned him. Bernard accuses him and his followers of deriding infant baptism. Evervine not only complains of the same thing but says that they administered baptism only to believers. Gibbon also states that Arnold's 'ideas of baptism and the eucharist were loosely censured; but a political * heresy…
* History demonstrates this “political heresy” the result of Baptist principles.
…was the source of his fame and his misfortunes.'”1
Gibbon says: “The trumpet of liberty was sounded by Arnold of Brescia.”2
Says Brewster: “It is impossible not to admire the genius and the persevering intrepidity of Arnold. To distinguish truth from error in an age of darkness, and to detect the causes of spiritual corruption in the thickest atmosphere of ignorance and superstition, evinced a mind of more than ordinary stretch. To adopt a plan for recovering the lost glory of his country, and fixing the limits of spiritual usurpation, demanded a degree of resolution which no opposition could control. But to struggle against superstition entrenched in power, to plant the standard of rebellion in the very heart of her empire, and to keep possession of her capitol for a number of years, could scarcely have been expected from an individual who had no power but that of eloquence, and no assistance but what he derived from the justice of his cause. Yet such were the individual exertions of Arnold, which posterity will appreciate as one of the noblest legacies which former ages have bequeathed.”3
Dr. Allix says: “We may truly say that scarcely any man was ever so torn and defamed on account of his doctrine as was Arnold of Brescia. Would we know the reason of this? It was because, with all his power, he opposed the tyranny and usurpation which the popes began to establish at Rome over the temporal jurisdiction of the emperors.”4
Says Jones: “But there was a still more heinous thing laid to his charge, which was this: Praeter haec…
1 Armitage's Bap. Hist., pp. 291-293; Wall's Hist. Inf. Bap., vol. 2, p. 265.
2 Gibbon's Hist. Rome, vol. 3, p. 366, etc.
3 Brewster's Edinburgh Ency., Art. Arnold.
4 Allix's Ch. Pied., p. 169.
…de sacramento altaris et baptismo parvulorum, non sane dicitur senisse! That is, he was unsound in his judgment about the sacrament of the altar and infant baptism. In other words, he rejected the popish doctrine of transubstantiation and the baptism of infants.”l Arnold had no Campbellism in him; for the Romish church said of him: “Arnoldistse …asserunt, quod nunquam per baptismum aquae homines Spiritum sanctum accipiunt” — the Arnoldists assert that men never receive the Holy Spirit through baptism in water. †
Neander: “The inspiring idea of his movements was that of a holy and a pure church, a renovation of the spiritual order, after the order of the apostolic church. His life corresponded with his doctrine. …The corrupt bishops and priests were no longer bishops and priests; the secularized church was no longer the house of God. …We must allow that the way in which Arnold stood forth against the corruptions of the church, and especially his inclination to make the objective in the instituted order, and in the transactions of the church, to depend on the subjective character of the men, might easily lead to still greater alterations.”2
Modern historians rightly conclude that Luther's Reformation was only the outburst of principles and
doctrines agitated by the “heretics” long before and up to his time; to the Baptist agitation which had prepared the people for the great uprising against the old “mother of harlots.” Without that preparation Luther's work would have been impossible. Only by keeping in mind the previous Baptist agitation, can we rightly appreciate the origin of Arnold's work. Their agitation of the great…
† Quoted in Recent Researches Concerning Mediaeval Sects, p. 182.
1 Jones' Ch. Hist., p. 286.
2 Neander’s Ch. Hist., vol. 4, p. 149
…principles on which Arnold did his work had made hundreds of thousands of converts and honey-combed the old Romish fortress with gospel shot. Hence the people so readily gathered around Arnold as their God-sent leader. Ivimey says: “Arnold of Brescia seems to have been a follower of Bruis.” 1 Peter de Bruys having been, probably, a pupil of the famous Abelard of Paris,* of whom Arnold had been a pupil † the latter would naturally fall into line with the Petrobrussians, especially as their cause was identical, and as they both took only the Bible for their guide. No great movement, believing, as did Arnold's, in a spiritual church, in the baptism of only believers —regenerate persons — and the separation of church and State, has been other than Baptist. Hence, with Dr. Ford, we may safely say, the Arnoldists were “Baptists.”2 Or, in the language of Vedder, an opponent of Church Perpetuity: Arnold “may fairly be claimed by Baptists as belonging to them.”3 Or with the Watchman, a leading Baptist paper, of Boston: “As to Arnold, of Brescia, from what we read of him, we are not ashamed to call him brother, or to join his goodly fellowship.”
* Armitage's Bap. Hist., p. 284.
† Neander's Hist. Chr. Ch., vol. 4, p. 148.
1 Ivimey's Hist. Eng. Bap., p. 21.
2 Ford's Origin of Bap., p. 102.
3 Vedder's Bap. Hist., p. 65.