A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Waldenses

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WALDENSES, or VAUDOIS. The antiquity of this denomination can be traced back four hundred years before the time of Luther, and twenty before Peter Waldo. Many protestants suppose that Waldo derived his name from the Waldenses, whose doctrine he adopted, and who were known by the name of Waldenses, or Vaudois, before he or his immediate followers existed.

The learned Dr. Allix, in his history of the churches of Piedmont, gives this account: "That for three hundred years or more, the bishop of Rome attempted to reduce the church of Milan under his jurisdiction: and at last the interest of Rome grew too potent for the church of Milan, planted by one of the disciples; insomuch that the bishop and the people, rather than own their jurisdiction, retired to the valleys Of Lucerne and Angrogne, and thence were called Vallenses, Wallenses, or The People in the Valleys."[1] From a confession of their faith of nearly the above date, are extracted the following particulars.—(1.) That the scriptures teach that there is one God almighty, all-wise, and all-good, who made all things by his goodness; for he formed Adam in his own image and likeness: but that by the envy of the devil, sin entered into the world, and that we are sinners in and by Adam.—(2.) That Christ was promised to our fathers, who received the law; that so knowing by the law their unrighteousness arid insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ, to satisfy for their sins, and accomplish the law by himself.—(3.) That Christ was born in the time appointed by God the Father; that is to say, in the time when all iniquity abounded, that he might show us grace and mercy as being faithful.—(4.) That Christ is our life, truth, peace, and righteousness; as also our pastor, advocate, and priest, who died for the salvation of all who believe, and is risen for our justification.—(5.) That there is no mediator and advocate with God the Father, save Jesus Christ.—(6.) That after this life there are only two places, the one for the saved, and the other for the damned. —(7.) That the feasts, the vigils of saints, the water-which they call holy, as also to abstain from flesh on certain days, and the like, but especially the masses, are the inventions of men, and ought to be rejected.—(8.) That the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, visible forms of the invisible grace; and that it is good for the faithful to use those signs, or visible forms ; but that they are not essential to salvation.—(9.) That there are no other sacraments but baptism and the Lord's supper.—(10.) That we ought to honour the secular powers by subjection, ready obedience, and paying of tribute.[2]

" The external history of the Waldenses," says Mr. Milner, "is little else than a series of persecution." In the thirteenth century, Pope Innocent III instituted a crusade against them, and they were pursued with unrelenting fury, and thousands were put to a cruel death. Their principles, however, continued unsubdued, and at the reformation their descendants were reckoned among the protestants, with whom they were in doctrine so congenial. But in the seventeenth century the flames of persecution were again rekindled by the cruelty of Louis XIV.

It affords much pleasure to hear from a clergyman of the church of England, who lately visited the Vales of Piedmont, that this people are by no means extinct, but preserve a pleasing vestige of their ancient piety and simplicity among all the calamities of the late war, and the miseries it has introduced.[3]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. See Allix's History of the churches in Piedmont, and Perrin's History of the Waldenses
  2. Perrin's History of the Waldenses, p. 226. Athenian Oracle, vol. i. p. 224. Milner's Church History, vol iii. ch. iv.
  3. Jones' Hist. of the Waldenses. Brief Memoir of the Waldenses, by a clergyman, 1815.