The Antiquity of the Evangelical Churches in the Valleys of Piemont, from the days of Christ and his Apostles down to the present Age
The fore-going chapter presents to the readers eye, the beautiful situation of the Valleys of Piemont, with the great abundance of fruits which the earth there brings forth both for the necessity and convenience of the body: This gives him as pleasant a prospect of the heavenly situation of those evangelical churches, together with the spiritual and divine fruits of faith, hope, and patience, which were long since planted by Christ and his Apostles, and cultivated by their successors in following generations, down to this present Age.
True it is, that a great part of the most ancient records, and authentic Pieces, treating of, and discovering the antiquity of those churches, have been industriously fought after, and committed to the flames, by their bloody persecutors, in the years 1559, and 1560 that so the truth or their affairs might lie for ever smothered under those ashes, and be buried in perpetual silence , nevertheless God has been so gracious to his church, both in preserving, as it were by miracle, many authentic pieces relating to this particular, compiled and written by the ancient inhabitants in their own proper language, as also by differing even the most eminent and bitter of their adversaries, ever and anon unwarily to let fall many remarkable passages to this purpose, in those very writings which they competed expressly against them; that by the help of these two Mediums, it will be easy to produce such arguments for the antiquity of that religion, which both they and we at this day profess, as are sufficient to convince any sober person, who does not willfully shut his eyes against a noon-day truth.
But before we fall directly upon this point, it will be necessary to premise this, namely, that it is a truth generally received by all those who profess to be versed in ecclesiastical history, that before the year 800, the differences between the Catholic and reformed churches (excepting some few clouds of ceremonies which were yet no bigger than a mans hand) did not at all publicly appear, (at least, so as to be established by General Councils or decrees) in any part of Italy. As for the first 500 years, Bishop Jewel will undertake, that not any one clear lenience can be produced out of any one father or Council for the Papists against the Protestants. And therefore we may take the generality of the fathers and writers in those ages to be on our side, in all points then controverted and now maintained by us against Rome. So that the main of the Quere will fall upon the 2 next centuries, which was a period most barren of authors, and of those few that wrote, Italy had but a small proportion, yet we may instance in one or two of note. Gregory the first entitled the Great, who died A. D. 605. (besides his detesting and rejecting the title of ecumenical Bishop, which was the next year after his death, claimed by Boniface the third, contented to by Phocas the emperor, and confirmed by a Council at Rome A. D. 607) is ours in very many points against the present church of Rome, some whereof Illyricus in his Catalogus Testium hath collected, and more might be gathered, had not the Papists so abominably corrupted him, as Dr. Thomas James in his Bellum Gregorianum hath made to appear in some hundreds of places. Also Paulinus Bishop of Aquileia in the year 790, held the truth in many of the controverted points, as appears out of the same Illyricus. In the year 794, the Synod of Franckfort, at which were present many Italian bishops, condemned the second Nicene Council for decreeing image worship (though Binius and others would fain evade it) for confirmation whereof there are cited Aventinus l.4 Aimonius l.4.c.85. Hincmarus in Lugd. Episcop. C. 20. Abb. Urspergensis, whole testimonies are related by Hospinian de Origine Imabinum, c.10 printed Tiguri 1603, and partly by Vignier in his Recuel del’ Histoire de L Eglise, as An. 794.
These things being premised, in the first place therefore it may be affirmed. That these churches of the Valley of Piemont remained united with the other Christian churches, and particularly with that of Rome, so long as it retained the true religion, which was planted throughout all Italy, by the Apostles, their Disciples, and successors. But when as the church of Rome began to corrupt it self, and would by no means be persuaded to retain the purity of that Apostolic doctrine and divine worship, then those of the valleys began to separate themselves from them, and to come out from amongst them, that so they might not be partakers of their sins, nor receive of their plagues. And this is evident by divers very ancient manuscripts, long since laid up and preserved in the Valley of Pragela, which do directly strike at and oppose the errors of the church of Rome. Among these manuscripts there are three very considerable: The first is entitled, Qual cosa sia Anti-Christ? that is to say. What thing is Anti-Christ? which was written in the year 1120. The second was written (as is supposed) much about the same time, entitled, Purgatori Soima, that is to say, The Dream of Purgatory: The third is as ancient as the other two, and Entitled, La causa del nostre departiment de la Gleisa Romana, that is to say, The cause of our separation from the church of Rome. These manuscripts are not only made mention of by that famous and learned Mr. Paul Perrin in his History Des Vaudois; but likewise averred by Mr. Thomas Tronchin the chief minister of Geneva, (a person of known probity and learning) whose formal attestation is here inserted.
The Attestation of Mr. Thomas Tronchin, the chief minister of Geneva a person of known probity and learning, concerning certain manuscripts touching the ancient Doctrine and worship of the evangelical churches in the Valleys of Piemont, inserted in Mr. Paul Perrin's history. The true original of which Attestation, is to be seen, together with the rest of the original papers and pieces of this present History in the public library of the famous University of Cambridge.
I whose name is here under-written, minister of the Holy Gospel, and divinity Professor at Geneva, do attest, that Sieur Jean Paul Perrin coming into this city to print the history of the Waldenses and Albigenses by him compiled, did then communicate to me that his work, and divers original manuscripts, out of which he had extracted the ancient doctrine and discipline of those people, which manuscripts I then saw and perused, in faith whereof I have given this present Attestation, to the end that it may serve and bear witness to the truth, when and where ever there shall be occasion. Made at Geneva, Nov. 19, 1656.
Now then I say, these churches of the Valleys of Piemont, separating from the church of Rome, do not upon this account either begin or cease to be the true church of God; but rather did hereby manifest their perseverance in that ancient doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, from which the Church of Rome was now departed. Even as the Jewish church of old separated itself from the ten idolatrous tribes; and lo, the faithful Jews believing in Jesus Christ, and retaining the ancient doctrine of the Patriarchs and Prophets, when they were persecuted by the High Priests of the unbelieving Jews, separated themselves from them; but yet neither did the one or the other by this separation, lose their ancient right of succession.: Nay, on the contrary, they did hereby retain the same in its first channel, and primitive purity.
In the second place, and in confirmation of the former, the ecclesiastical history that treats of Charles the Great and his followers, tells us, that both that emperor and the western churches did jointly strive and use their utmost endeavor in the Council held at Frankfort in the Year 794 to have drawn Pope Adrian and the church of Rome out of that gulf of superstition, into which it had precipitated itself, by persuading them to embrace the true doctrine of Christ and his Apostles. Moreover, that one of the chief counselors of the said Emperor,(by name Claudius Archbishop of Turin, and consequently of the Valleys of Piemont) was exceeding active, and did very much stickle in this business. This Claudius was one of the most learned and renowned worthies of his age, he was one of the chief founders of the Academy of Paris, (as the Bishop de Meaux in his preface to the Books of Charles the Great touching images, abundantly testifies.) And about the year of our Lord 815 the Emperor Louis Le Debonair Son of Charles the Great, preferred him to the Archbishopric of Turin, that so he might furnish his Dioceses with the doctrine devoted Italic & plebi, to the people of Italy: the which he in truth did with all his might, (as his famous adversary Jonas Aurelianensis confesseth) as well by frequent writings, as by painful and constant preaching to, and instructing the flock committed to his charge: for, indeed, (his holy man finding that he was not able to withstand that mighty torrent of the Romish superstitions in other parts, employed all his endeavors, to preserve his own Dioceses from being infected with those idolatrous principles; and to this end he ceased not to instruct his people by all ways and means. That they ought not to run to Rome for the pardon of their sins, nor have recourse to the saints or their reliques; that the church is not founded upon St. Peter, much less upon the pope, but upon the doctrine of the Apostles, that they ought not to worship images, nor so much as have them in their churches. And this he observed throughout his whole Dioceses, as is confessed by the above said Jonas Aurelianenfis, in a book that he wrote expressly against him, in the Year 820. The same is likewise reported by Bellarmine, from whence I conclude, (and it is exceeding remarkable as to the proof of the matter in hand) that the same belief which was publicly taught and professed in those Valleys of Piemont in the year 820 was the very same that is at this day professed and owned by the reformed churches; that is to say, the true, ancient and evangelical doctrine. To this I shall add, that not the most bitter adversaries of this Claudius Archbishop of Turin, were ever able to lay to his charge any fundamental error, for as much as he always retained fidei Catholica Regulam, the rule of the Catholic Faith; and did not express any opposition, save only against the (pretended) Traditiones Ecclesiasticas, Ecclesiastick Traditions. These are Jonas Aurelianensis’ own expressions, yet in the mean time he dexterously gives himself the lie, for that calumny of Arrianism wherewith in other parts of his writings he had unjustly branded that worthy bishop and his Disciples, merely for their not complying with the idolatrous and superstitious inventions of the church of Rome. And this is all likewise that Rainerius Saccon has to object against the Waldenses, who succeeded this Archbishop and his Disciples; for faith he, all other sects render themselves horrible, by reason of their blasphemies against God Himself, but on the contrary, this hath great appearance of piety, for as much as they live justly in the fight of men; they believe well, as concerning God, in all things, and hold all the Articles of the Creed, there is only one thing against them, that is, they hate and blaspheme the church of Rome, and hereby they easily gain credit and belief among the people. In like manner Samuel de Cassini a Friar of the Franciscan order, writing against the Waldenses, inhabiting the Valleys of Piemont, declares plainly in the beginning of his book, entitled, Vittoria Trionsale, printed at Coni cum privilegio, in the year 1510. That all the (pretended) errors if those Waldenses consisted in this, that they denied the church of Rome to be the holy mother church, and would not obey her traditions. As touching other points, he confessed, that the Waldenses did acknowledge the Christian Church, whereof likewise he reckons and esteems them as true members.
By this then, say they, first, it plainly appears, that the inhabitants of those Valleys have professed and taught the same evangelical doctrine which they now own, before the Dukes of Savoy had any possession of Piemont, and therefore he has no justifiable pretext to deprive them of their ancient Liberties and privileges, upon the account of religion.
Again it is as manifest, and necessarily follows, that the Waldenses who escaped the Massacres in France, in the Year 1165 and came from thence into the Valleys of Piemont, were not the first founders of that religion, but rather that they joined themselves to those their faithful Brethren, for the better fortifying and mutual edification of each other’s faith, just as those other Waldenses did, who having recourse Bohemia, closed with the faithful professors of the Greek Church there, who had retained the ancient and true religion, (not the Papal as Stranchi Reip. Bohem testifies.) Neither is it at all probable, that it could be otherwise; for the Waldenses knew right well, that the feat of their chief adversary was in Italy, and therefore they would not have been to void of all sense and common prudence, as to have undertaken to long and tedious a journey over the Alps, had they not been well assured that the natives of those valleys who professed the same religion with them, would receive and embrace them as their Brethren. D’Aubign’e a very judicious historian seems to be clearly of this opinion. And Mr. Perrin amongst his other Manuscripts makes mention of a certain epistle of the Waldenses, inscribed, La Epistola al serenissimo Rey Lancelau, a’ li plus veil del Regne, Lo petit tropel de li Christinas appella per sals nom salsament P.O.V. That is to say, An epistle to the most serene King Lancelau, the Dukes, Barons, and most ancient nobility of the realm. The little troop of Christians falsely called by the name of poor people of Lions, or Waldenses. By which it is most evident, that they had not their origin from the said Waldo, but that this was a mere nick-name or reproachful term put upon them by their adversaries, to make the world believe, that their religion was but a novelty, or a thing of yesterday. Thus those who escaped the massacres in France, were by the popish party surnamed either according to the places where they inhabited, or the chief of their leaders; for example, from Waldo a citizen of Lyons, they were named Waldenses, and from the Country of Albie, Albigenses. And because those who did adhere to the doctrine of Waldo came out of Lyons, naked and striped of all their goods and estates, they were in derision, styled. the poor of Lyons, in Dauphine they were nick named in mockery Chaignards. And for as much as part of them went over the Alps, they were called Tramontani. In England they were known by the name of Lollards, from one Lollard who was one of their chief instructors in that isle. In Provence they were usually termed Siccars, from a vulgar word then in use, which signified cut-purses. In Italy they had given them the title of Fraticelli, or men of the brotherhood, because they lived together like brethren. In Germany they were named Gazares, a word which signifies execrable, and wicked in the highest degree. In Flanders they went under the name of Turlepins, that is to say, men inhabiting with, or companions of wolves, because those poor people were oft times constrained in the heat of persecution, to inhabit in woods and deserts, amongst wild and savage beasts. Sometimes to render them more execrable, their adversaries borrowed the names of several ancient heretics to brand them with. Thus for as much as they made profession of purity in their life and doctrine, they were called Cathares, that is, Puritans. And because they denied the host which the priest holds up at mass, to be God, they were called Arrians, as those who denied the divinity of the eternal Son of God. And because they maintained that the authority of the dings and emperors of the world, did not depend upon the jurisdiction of the Pope, they were called Manichai, as men asserting two first principles. And for such like causes as these they were surnamed Gnostics, Cataphrygians, Adamites, and Apostolics. Yea sometimes their adversaries were outrageous, Matthew Paris calls them Ribaux, that is, Rogues, Rascals, Scoundrels, Varlets, or base fellows. The Author of the Thresor des Histoires, calls them Bougres, that is, Buggerers or Sodomites. Rubis reports, that the word sorcerer was in those days expressed by the term Valdensis.
Now the lapse of time between Claudius Archbishop of Turin, and Waldo, does not at all hinder the continual succession of those Churches and that Religion, no more than those dark intervals which were in the church before and after the deluge, those intervals of the Egyptian bondage, the Judges, the Babylonish captivity, and the like in after ages, did hinder or interrupt the continual succession of the Jewish religion , no more than the sun or moon do cease to be, when their light is eclipsed or withdrawn from the eye by the interposition of other bodies; no more than the Rivers, Po, the Rhene, or Guadiana in Spain, do lose their continual current, because for some time they run under ground, or among the rocks, and appear not; so for the Church of God, though sometimes it has not been to visible to the eyes of men, it hath notwithstanding continued in a constant uninterrupted succession through all ages and generations. Thus the good prophet Elijah in his days thought he had been left alone, but yet God had reserved at that very time seven thousand souls of the very same principles and profession with himself.
Although this be a truth that is by many thought sufficient of itself against the fiercest objections of the gain-saying adversaries, yet I shall proceed a step further, and make bold to allege moreover, that Marc. Aurelio Rerenco Priour of Lucerna in his narrative del Introduttione de gl’ heretici nelle Valle di Piemonte, printed at Turin, Anno Dom. 1632 with approbation and privilege, confesses that it continued to the ninth and tenth century, which is the very interval between the said Claudius and Peter Waldo, or rather the retreat of certain of his disciples into the said Valleys. For the said Rorenco testifies in express terms page 16. Nel nono e’ decimo secolo continuarono l’ heresie antecedenti, that is, the above said heresy continued throughout the ninth and tenth centuries, and to remove all scruples, that this doctrine which he calls heresy, (as Saint Paul speaks Acts 24:14 and which the enemies of the Christian religion call heresy) continued in the Valleys of Piemont, the same Rorenco in his historical observations printed at Turin, 1649 with approbation, and dedicated to the Duke himself, confesseth page 3 that the said Claudius Archbishop of Turin, (and consequently of the valleys, which were within that Diocese) maintained this very doctrine in the ninth Century. Wherefore seeing the succession of the evangelical religion is manifest from the time of the Apostles to that of Claudius Archbishop of Turin, which was in the eighth century, and that his doctrine continued in the ninth and tenth centuries; and that in the beginning of the eleventh century the Waldenses or disciples of Peter Waldo came into the valleys to reside with their Brethren, where they have professed and taught the same ever since, the professors of the reformed religion may clap their hands in token of an absolute triumph for ever against all the disciples of the church of Rome, and say, that they are now able manifestly and undeniably to prove and make good the continual succession of their religion from the days of Christ and his Apostles down to this present age.
In the second place, the faithful people of the valleys in the year 1535 being at that time possessed of their ancient histories and manuscripts, testifying the antiquity of their churches, which were afterwards consumed to ashes by their persecutors in the years 1559 and 1560 caused to be printed at their own proper cost and charges the first French Bible that ever was put forth, or came to light, and that for the benefit of the evangelical churches where this language was in use, and dedicated the same to God Himself by the pen of their interpreter Robert Olivetan, in the preface of the said Bible; which was a piece most solemnly consecrated, and speaking as it were to God Himself, wherein they mention, that they have always had the full enjoyment of that heavenly truth contained in the holy Scriptures, ever since they were enriched with the same by the Apostles themselves. And for as much as it is a piece so exceeding rare, and to be found in very few places of the world, I have here inserted the same at length, in the original language, and their own words as followeth.
(Please note that the original language has been omitted from this electronic version, and only the English version of Robert Olivetan’s preface is included as follows.)
The Preface of Robert Olivetan to his Translation of the French Bible, Printed at Neus Chastel, and published, June 3. Anno Dom. 1535.
It has been a laudable custom in all ages, for such as have caused books to be published, (whether they have been the true authors thereof, or the translators only) to dedicate and present the same to some prince, king, emperor, or monarch, or to a more supreme power, it there were any such, to the end (as they themselves freely confess,) that their work might appear with the more boldness and confidence before men, having as it were a safe conduct, and being under the protection of that prince, to whom it is dedicated. And this we see daily practiced, and indeed not altogether without ground: For besides that the expectation of some royal thanks, (that is to say, of a noble and princely reward) does allure and invite men thereunto: There are those who do verily believe, that their inventions would not find acceptance with the people, unless they were adorned with the livery of some most illustrious, excellent, high, mighty , magnificent, dreadful, invincible, sacred, blessed, and most holy name.
Therefore having throughly considered these things, and observed how all other authors and translators have their several addresses, the one to his most magnificent Mecanas, the other to his most worshipful patron, and a third to his most reverend, I know not what, I thought, it not fit to comply so much with custom, in the setting forth of this present translation of the Bible, which I have in hand, (notwithstanding that I have been much flattered, tempted, yea importuned by her) as to bind and oblige myself to pay her that tribute which she claims and requires, I mean to entitle some lordly, majestic, and immortal guide to this Book, which I now send forth, not at all intending that it should follow those ways of the gentiles, neither indeed would it become a work of this nature to play the parasite, what glorious Thraso so ever it meets with, for as much as it is quite of another nature than all other books whatsoever, whose authors seek so much after profit and merit in the dedication of them, craftily exchanging the same for rich presents and advantageous grants, which manner of game I hunt not after, as not standing in need thereof, thanks be to God, who abundantly furnishes me with contentment. Now it had been also in my power to have made a fair and singular present of this translation, but not to such as I might have been willing to choose and nominate, though never so great, mighty, and absolute; for this Book needs neither the favor, support, or protection of human powers or principalities, nor indeed any patronage though never so sovereign, but thine only, O poor little Church, together with those thy faithful ones, who have truly learned and known God in Jesus Christ, his only Son and our Lord, I mean not that church which triumphs with pomp and riches; neither do I mean the Chinch Militant which defends it itself by force of Arms: No, it is thee alone to whom I present this precious treasure (whereof thou mayest say as the Children of Israel, yet hoping that it shall never create thee any trouble) in the name of a certain poor people thy friends and Brethren in Jesus Christ, who ever since they were blessed and enriched therewith by the Apostles and ambassadors of Christ, have still enjoyed and possessed the same: and being now willing to gratify thee with what thou desirest so earnestly, they have given me commission to draw this precious treasure out of the Hebrew and Greek cabinets, and having wrapped up the same in a French mantle, to the best of my skill, and according to that talent which the Lord hath given me, forthwith to present thee with it (0 poor church, on whom no man bestows anything. And indeed I see no reason why it should be presented to any but thyself. For what can be given to those that have all things, and to whom every one gives what he hath? As for this, which is of as great, yea of much greater value than all worldly wealth or riches, I say it is for thee, O poor church, whose substance they would much sooner diminish than increase. To thee, I say, who art so unprovided of all things, who art so thin and lean, and out of heart, and hast nothing left thee but the voice only, no I say, thou hast nothing left thee but voice and words (yet) the Word of truth and life, the Word of God, which endureth forever, and whereby thou hast been created and begotten: and so thou hast only the goods which are thine by birth-right and inheritance, being unprovided of all other riches, wherewith the men of the world are painted and adorned, and wherein they so much glory. This therefore was properly due to thee, (to do thee no wrong) because it contains all thy patrimony, thy estate, and all that belongs to thee, that is to say, that very same Word, by virtue whereof, and through the confidence and assurance which thou reposest in it, thou dost esteem thyself rich in poverty, happy in misfortune, in solitude well accompanied, settled in doubts, undaunted in perils, at perfect case in the midst of torments, honored in reproaches, prosperous in adversities, not at all distempered in sickness, and even quickened and raised to life in death itself: Accept therefore I pray thee (O poor little church) this gift which I offer thee in the name of that poor people, with as much joy, and with as good a heart (notwithstanding thine afflictions, griefs and troubles) as it is sent and dedicated unto thee. Why should we be ashamed to present thee with such a royal gift, notwithstanding that thou art to desolate, to deformed and despised, and very often (yea and for the most part) hast in thy family the blind, the lame, the halt, the deaf and the dumb, the sick of the palsy, strangers, widows, orphans, the simple and the ignorant, all standing in great need of the consolations of Christ; feeing the Lord has given and communicated Himself to such a meek, lowly and humble generation, and hath freely declared unto them the great mysteries of the Kingdom, which have been hidden in all ages, as also styling Himself their Evangelist, and assuring them that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs unto them. This is his little inexpugnable canton, his little invincible brigade and victorious army, to whom he gives a spirit of power) and whom he animates and emboldens (like a noble General) by his own presence, and likewise dispossesses them of all fear by the force and virtue of his living and powerful Word.
But now. It may be thou wouldest willingly know who this thy concealed friend and unheard of benefactor is, who undertakes to present thee with that which is thine own,(though as for giving thee what is thine own, I presume that thou esteemest thyself no less beholding unto him, than if he should have given thee something else, and yet he can give thee no better thing) feeing it is now a long time since thou hadst, nay (I believe) thou never hadst leave and leisure (at least not so full and free) to enjoy it, as thou now shalt; the Treasure is thine, and yet he gives it so to thee, that it is his also, and remains his wholly. So fruitful and advantageous is the communication of such a good. 0 the blessed trade of charity, wherewith one may make traffic in so convenient, wise and profitable way! 0 happy profession of grace, which fills and replenishes the giver and the receiver with the same joy! What other, or what equal gift can men give one to another and not sometimes want it, or not be afraid both to suffer damage by giving it, and likewise want it afterwards? I say, as for other gifts, let the giver thereof make never so fair a show, or color the business with never so fine words, and endeavor to persuade his friends that it comes most willingly and from the heart, yet there is still in some corner or other of that heart, a reluctating kind of prudence which thus whispers in his ears. Have a care of what thou dost, and take heed lest thou come one day to want those things whereof thou art now so prodigal; but now it is not so in this business, and with this gift, which is of a far better nature and virtue than other gifts whatsoever, for thou must know, that it is to be given and communicated to every one, and that it is the pleasure of the gracious Giver, (Who of His free will has given it) that it should be freely given, and without expectation of reward; for it is of such a nature, that it makes rich those to whom it is given, and does not impoverish in the least those that are the givers of it, but rather they find and are persuaded, that they have made a good bargain, and have been no losers in finding an occasion to present it unto thee, and to give thee the possession thereof. This poor people who presents thee with it, was driven away and banished out of thy company above three hundred years ago, and was dispersed up and down in the four quarters of France, and have been ever since accounted and reputed to be (though without ground, only for the sake of Christ, and according to his Word) the most wicked, execrable, and ignominious generation that ever was, in so much that their very name has been a proverb and byword to other people. Nevertheless, of late time, a certain person of eternal renown (having been truly informed of the holy behaviors and integrity of that people, and understood those false and calumnious accusations wherewith they were branded by their enemies) hath of late years taken away their name of reproach by public proclamation, and bestowed on them a noble and royal title, even such as he bore Himself, and it is this, The true patient People, who by silence and hope has overcome all the assaults and violences of their enemies, neither could those lapses and intervals of time any ways rob their just cause of its undoubted right, to the fruition whereof he now invites thee, and to the enjoyment of a fare conquest obtained by Jesus Christ. Dost thou not know who this person is? I tell thee, it is thine own Brother, who, like Joseph, can hide himself no longer from thee; ‘tis even such another friend as Jonathan, the most perfect, constant and sincere that thou ever hadst, who has been touched with the feeling of thy sufferings and hard usage, lamenting the strange and heavy bondage which thou hast formerly lived under, longing still to see thee come to the knowledge of that right, which thou hast in common with him, and which he was loth to enjoy without thee, whereof he would not have thee to be ignorant, to the end that thou mayest be enabled one day to strengthen the Brethren, and mutually to answer that love and affection which he has shown unto thee, notwithstanding that he was unknown to thee, and that thou hadst him in scorn and contempt, yea that his very name was odious and abominable unto thee, conforming thyself to the example and pleasure of thy masters, to whom thou were and are yet enslaved, for the service of which rigid and hard masters (commanding a thousand several things one after another) he has observed thee, (and that indeed not without great grief and fellow-feeling) to trot up and down here and there, being evilly treated, ill accounted, and cruelly handled, all besmeared, torn, and scratched, thy hair hanging about thy shoulders, ready to starve for cold, bruised and beaten, lamed and disfigured, and in so pitiful and sad a condition, that thou mightest sooner have been taken for some poor silly and dirty drudge than for the daughter and heir (as indeed thou art) of the Lord and possessor of the whole world, or for the well beloved spouse of his only Son. Therefore this thy Brother and friend pitying thy sad and afflicted life, has many times called in, as he has passed by, saluting thee by the name of sister, and endeavoring to make thee understand and know thy birth-right, and to give thee the (WORD) by virtue whereof thou might freely pass to the enjoyment of a perfect and happy liberty: but thou wert grown so stupid through the many blows, pains, and troubles, wherewith thou wert tormented by thy cruel and hard masters, that thou wentest on without regarding me, and didst pursue that unacceptable, painful, yea beastlike employment, which they had set thee about: 0 what loads of heavy ordinances has he seen thee take up and bear, in the pretence of those thy most superstitious masters, notwithstanding thy weakness, and yet they pitied not thy pain and the sweat of thy brows so much as to help thee with one of their fingers! Nay not so much as to try in a way of pastime the weight of those burdens which thou didst groan under! Thou wert no sooner freed of one, but immediately they did load thee with another, and would scarce give thee time and leisure to eat or drink, nay these pious pretenders would have thee to fast for the most part, only to please and satisfy the insatiable appetite of such like gluttons, and to fill the slow bellies of such like evil beasts. Wherefore since thou art now come to thyself again, and knowest in some measure of what quality and extraction thou art, and in what a servile condition thou art detained, and what honour and dignity thou art called unto, this people hath thought fit to draw near unto thee, and treat thee gently according to their duty, kindly presenting thee all they have: Go then O poor little church, that art yet in the garb and attire of a mean servant and handmaid, subject to furious frowns and imperious threats of so many sour and ill-looked masters! Go I say, and shake off the filth from off thy sordid garments, which are to nasty and beastly, by reason of thy long walking to and fro through the dirty market of vain traditions: Go and wash thy hands that are to foul with doing the servile work of iniquity. Go wash thy sore and mattery eyes, which thou hast not had leisure to cleanse in former times because thou were wholly taken up and busied about thy works of superstition and hypocrisy that so thou mayest be fit to receive thine own in a decent manner, answerable to the value thereof: and when thou hast once enjoyed it, thou mayest do well to advise with thyself, what course thou oughtest to steer: What wilt thou still lie under bondage, and slavery? Is it not time for thee to look after Christ thy Husband, who like a faithful Lover hath suffered so much for thy sake? Must He at last lose the fruit of all his labors? Is it altogether in vain that He hath loved thee? Hast thou no regard to those precious and incomparable jewels, He Himself sends thee (if thou canst but apprehend it) as an earned of Marriage? For thus does He manage the business by means of his friends and thine, His Holy Spirit being the Solicitor) doest thou love better the slavish fear of thy revengeful masters, than the free love of thy gracious Husband? Is it more pleasant for thee to be where they reproach thee for displeasing the court, than to be in his delightful company who so longs after thee? Doest thou like sophistical brawlings and confused noises more than the pleasing and sweet discourses of thy Friend? Doest thou prefer the shadows and darkness of cloisters (where thou must necessarily be in perpetual silence) before his sumptuous tabernacles and delightful palaces? Are the secret drunken meetings of thy masters, and the filthy dregs of their tippling cups more pleasing to thee than the abundant and delicious table of thy rich Husband? Wilt thou not give Him thy love and thy faith? What means this thy Delay? Wilt not thou trust Him? Or is there not enough in His Father’s house to entertain thee? Doest thou fear He should deceive thee, who never knew fraud or malice? Canst thou fear to be evilly treated by One to mild and so gracious? Art thou afraid He should not love thee, who languishes for love? Canst thou suspect Him of ever abandoning thee, Who is so jealous and faithful? Will He not be able to succor and help thee, Who has power given Him ever all things? Will He suffer thee to be trampled upon, Who has already exposed Himself to death for thy sake? Will He suffer thee to die, Who gives immortal life? Will He leave thee one day a widow, who lives for ever? Defer no longer this marriage with the King’s Son, how poor so ever thou art, considering He is willing to take thee for his Spouse: Take no notice of thine own meanness, seeing He considers not (in this particular) His own greatness: If so be He be willing to favor thee, wilt thou ungratefully resist Him? It is his good pleasure to choose low things to confound and bring to naught the high! The truth is, if the question were to match Him according to his degree and quality, where should we find his equal? He is pleased to choose thee, who art nothing, for to make thee something. Thou art a bond-woman, He will make thee free: Thou art naked and torn, He will clothe thee: Thou art despised, and he will exalt thee: Take no care, do but forget thy kindred and his house, whom thou hast called father, and that base Step-mother whom thou hast hitherto owned for thy mother? Abandon thy masters; take thy leave of them, and give them to understand by solid reasons, that it is high time for thee to look after thine own profit, and to follow and obey the will of Christ thy Friend and Husband, who calls after thee, and whose favor thou must not lose, to do any bodies work; nor do thou let slip such an occasion to pursue thine own interest; I say, quit them freely, thy wages, and salary, and all thou mayest have gotten or deserved of them, according to their own bargain. For thy Husband needs no such goods, neither will He suffer thee to bring all that bag and baggage which thou hast gotten in serving them, or to lay it up together with His precious and pure riches. For as much as this would be a disgrace to Him. It is true, that of thine own thou canst bring Him nothing of any value: But what of that? Come notwithstanding boldly with all the gallants and favorites of thy court, who have been all made an execration for Christ, and not for their misdeeds, and whose titles of honor are these, viz. injured, reproached, fugitives, forsaken, despised, abandoned, excommunicated, anathematised, confiscated, imprisoned, tortured, banished, publicly disgraced, wearing miters in derision, spit upon, shown upon scaffolds, their ears cut off, their flesh plucked off with pinchers, decayed, drawn with horses, dragged up and down, broiled, roasted, stoned to death, burnt, drowned, beheaded, dismembered, and other like glorious and honorable titles of the Kingdom of Heaven, which He doth not despise, being not like to other Kings and Princes, who will suffer none in their courts, unless they be nobly descended, well accounted, in a good garb, well-favored, and in good plight: But for His part, He will have His courtiers to be like Himself while He was in this life, and He calls them friendly to Him, ease them, and to make them rich, to advance and exalt them, and to make them triumph with Him in His celestial court.
Now then, 0 noble and worthy church, that art the happy spouse of the King’s Son, accept and receive this Word, Promise, and Testament, which thou hast here written, word for word, and no where else: and where thou mayest see and learn the will of Christ, thy Husband, and of God his Father, according to which Word thou shalt govern thy family, then shalt thou be called His best Beloved, whereas before thou didst not at all seem to have any relation to him. To present thee with a larger preface than the title and face of the Book can bear, (as the above said arrogant custom requires) I believe it would not only be superfluous, but also temerity, for His Name, Who here speaks, and Who desires to be known and heard, is of such authority, that there is no ear but ought to be open to receive the true and living Word of His Eternal and Immutable will, by which Word all things do subsist; which blessed and holy will of God He will have to be entertained by the ears of our hearts, there to remain and dwell, that so instead of our wicked and depraved lusts, we may here be furnished with the holy and immutable will of God, to whose favor (0 poor little church) we heartily recommend thee; from the Alps, Feb. 12, 1635.
God is all sufficient:
Fear not little Flock, for it is your Father’s good will to give you the Kingdom. Luke 12.32.
In the third and last place, for the more ample confirmation of this truth, I shall here bring and insert the testimonies of their most famous adversaries themselves touching this point, Marc Aurelio Rorenco Prior of Lucerna, and Theodore Belvedere chief of the Missionaries of the valleys, and others, having undertaken to show the original of the said religion in those valleys, were never able to show the very age, even from the days of the Apostles, when it was there introduced. The above said Rorenco in a book of his composed expressly to show their origin, after he had tormented himself to prove that it was not as ancient as the Apostles, confesses Page 60, Non si pui haver certezza del principle del suo ingresso. That is to say, there can be no certainty had of its first entrance, because he was ashamed to confess the true origin, to wit, the Preaching of the Apostles, and the truth is, there cannot be found or produced an edict made by any prince, who gave permission at any time for its introduction. But all the ancient concessions import only thus much, that the said princes have permitted their subjects to continue in the same religion that they had received from their ancestors, the which had been conveyed to them from father to son, & c. even from the Apostles themselves. Yea the said adversaries (falling short in this their design of convicting the belief of the Waldenses of novelty) have been forced to confess the quite contrary; as for example, Belvedere in his relation to the congregation De Propaganda Fide, printed at Turin by privilege and approbation of his superiors, Anno 1638 was so convinced by palpable evidence of this truth, that he confesses Page 37 that the religion which he calls heresy, had been always in Angrogna, La Valli di Angrogna sempre o’ in un tempo, o’ in un altro, ha havuto heretici. So likewise, the Friar Rainerius Saccon writing against the Waldenses, above four hundred years ago; namely 1254. confesses the antiquity of their religion which he calls a sect; see his very words taken out of the Bibliotheque des Peres printed at Paris 1624 the author whereof was Jac. Greisero, Inter omnes Sect as qua sunt vel suerunt, non est perniciosior Ecclisia Cei qua’m pauperum de Lugduno; tribus de cansis, Prima, quia diuturnior, quidam dicunt quod duraverit a tempore Silveslri, alii dicunt, quod a’ tempore Apostolorum, & c. That is to say, amongst all the sects which are or ever were, there is none more pernicious to the church of God, than that of the poor people of Lyons, for three reasons, first, because it is of a longer duration. Some say that it has remained from the time of Silvester, others, from the time of the Apostles. And although Gretserus endeavors to shift off the force of the foregoing passage by this evasion, namely, that what Reinerius there speaks, he speaks not as his own opinion, but as the opinion of others. For if Reinerius had not believed that sect (as he calls it) had not been more ancient than the preaching of Waldo (which was not, as Gretserus himself says, above 94 years before his writing that book) it had been a very ridiculous thing to have at all mentioned the antiquity thereof in such a manner as he there does. This is the learned and famous Bishop Usher’s own observation and comment upon that place of Reinerius, in his book De Christianarum Ecclesiarum successione and statu, Chapter 8 sol. 211 in the following expressions. Fruslra autem est Gretserus cum opponit, Reinerium non ex sua sed ex aliorum sentential affirmart Sectam Waldensium a temporibus Silvestri Papae, vel etiam ipsorum Apostolorum durasse. Nam, ut hoc demus, exaliorum sentential Suisse dictum: illud tamen apparet eum dixisse ex fua; inter omnes sect ar, que sunt vel sucrunt, nullam Suisse diu turniorem quam Leoniftarum hanc sive Waldensiam: quod satis ostendit, prtmam eorum originem ab omni memoria suisse remotissimam, evincit corte’ (quod ostendi fibi postulat Jesuita) novam doctrinam non suisse a’ Waldensibus & Albigensibus circa Annum Christi MCLX primitu’s in mundum introductam,& postea miris incrementis multiplicatam. Cam enim inter Annum Christi MCLX & Annum MCCLIV quo fratrem Reinerium claruisse ex Antonii Senensis Bibliotheca docet ipse Gretserus, tantu’m 94 annorum spatium intercesserit: omnibus ludibrium debuisset qui ta lia de diuturnitate proserret Secta, quam non amplius uno ante seculo exortam conflitisset. And indeed this is the true origin of their religion, which the people of the valleys always conserved without a public separation from the church of Rome during several ages, that is to say, so long as they did not attempt to force them to embrace her errors; but when once they began to offer violence to their consciences, and its tyranny became intolerable: "then they went out of Babylon, and separated themselves from the other’s impieties: and from the time that the same has made any noise in the world, historians have likewise made mention thereof in their books of antiquity. To this purpose, I find a certain passage in a manuscript (which is to be seen together with the rest, in the public library at Cambridge) concerning the religion of the Waldenses, An. Dom. 1587 where, in the first article, when it is demanded, Quanto tempo e’, che stata predicata la pura dottrina nelle Valli? That is, how long since is it, that the pure doctrine has been preached in the valleys? It is answered, Circa cixque cento anni come si puo raccoglier per alcune historie, ma secondo l’ opinione de gl’ habitatori delle Valli il tempo e’ immenoriale e’ di Padre a’ figliuoli. That is, about 500 years, as near as can be gathered from any histories, but according to the opinion of the inhabitants, from father to son time out of mind. Now the reason of this is, because historians have not made any particular mention of these valleys before the time that they were absolutely separated from the heresies and abominations of the church of Rome. However the inhabitants of the valleys have preserved the entire memory of the great benefic bestowed on them by God Himself from the beginning, and which they and their predecessors have enjoyed from generation to generation ever since the days of the Apostles.