That the Churches of Italy were not founded by Peter Waldo.


AFTER all that I have before observed concerning the original of the Paterines, of their opposite opinions to those of the Church of Rome, the spreading of their disciples through several countries of Europe, it appears very evident, that the keeping of the truth in the diocese of Italy, and particularly in the diocese of Turin, and in the valleys thereabout, was the work of these Paterines and Subalpini, and that we cannot, with any show of justice, attribute the same to Peter Waldo. What kind of person this Waldo was, whether a simple laic, or a Manithee, will be of no concern to Churches which subsisted long before him, under a ministry distinguished from that of the Church of Rome. Yet so it has happened by the malice of the Papists, in calumniating these Churches, and the inadvertency of diverse Protestant authors, that it is scarce possible fully to satisfy our readers, without showing what share Waldo had in this reformation, which is ordinarily attributed to him, because it has pleased the Roman party to denominate these Churches from Waldo, as if it was he who had first founded them. Whereas I affirm, that we are wholly beholden for this notion to the Papists, who made it their business to persuade men, that before Waldo began to contradict the Bishop of Lyons, and to propound new doctrines, which happened a little before the end of the twelfth century, there was never a Church, either in Italy or elsewhere, that was of his belief. It is for this reason they so much affected to fix the name of Waldenses on those who were of his opinion. This we may see in Bernard, Abbot of Foncaud, as well as in Alanus, who wrote before the end of the twelfth century. The polemical writers, of the past and foregoing ages, have made use of this mistake by a kind of prescription against the novelty of the reformation. And as it ordinarily happens that men suffer themselves to be caught by the sound of words, and by these kind of prejudices, which are set forth with so much affectation, it cannot be denied, but that some Protestants, on this occasion, have fallen into the snare that was set for them.

Wherefore, that I may once for all clear this matter, I say, first, that it is absolutely false, that these Churches were ever founded by Peter Waldo.

Let them show us any author of that time, who asserts, that Peter Waldo ever preached in the diocese of Italy, or that he founded any Church there. Let them produce any sure tradition of that people referring the original of their Churches to Peter Waldo. Those who wrote at that time do not tell us any thing like this, no more than they who lived after. Wherefore we must needs conclude it a pure forgery to look upon Waldo as the person who first brought the reformation into Italy we now find there. I own, indeed, that by Peter Waldo’s taking care to have the holy Scripture translated into the vulgar tongue, the Churches of Italy reaped much benefit from that version, whereof we have to this day some old copies in the library of the University of Cambridge. But this does not in the least infer, that Waldo ought to be considered as the founder of them. I say further, that by the acknowledgment of the enemies themselves of the Waldenses, it is absolutely false, that these Churches are of no older standing than Peter Waldo. For this we have the confession of Raynerus, an inquisitor, who lived before the middle of the thirteenth century. He ingenuously acknowledgeth,

“That the heresy of those he calls Waudois, or poor people of Lyons, was of great antiquity. Amongst all sects, saith he, cap. 4. that either are or have been, there is none more dangerous to the Church than that of the Leonists, and that for three reasons: the first is, because it is the sect that is of the longest standing of any; for some say it hath been continued down ever since the time of Pope Sylvester, and others, ever since that of the Apostles. The second is, because it is the most general of all sects; for scarcely is there any country to be found, where this sect hath not spread itself.”

Now, it is clearer than the sun, that Raynerus would never have talked at this rate, if he had known, that the first rise of this sect was not above seventy years before he wrote this treatise; as we must acknowledge, if we suppose Waldo to be the founder of it. It is also unquestionably plain, that it was impossible for a sect to spread itself so far and wide in so short a space of time.

The Bishop of Meaux highly chargeth Beza for saying, that the Waldenses, time out of mind, had stiffly opposed the abuses of the Romish Church, and that they held their doctrine from father to son, ever since the year 120, as they had heard and received it from their elders and ancestors. He tells us, that the first disciples of Waldo were content to allege for themselves, that they had separated themselves from the Romish Church, at the time when, under Pope Sylvester, she had accepted of temporal endowments and possessions: a pretension which the Bishop of Meaux calls ridiculous, as well as the former. The reader who has perused my observations will be able to judge whether the Waldenses did falsely boast of their apostolical antiquity. And as for that which was just now mentioned, that the first disciples of Waldo did distinctly determine the date of their separation from the Romish Church, to the pontificate of Pope Sylvester, I own, with him, that the tradition is not founded upon any sure proof. But however thus much may be said to justify the Waldenses, that as they had no exact knowledge of history, so it would be very unjust to charge this their ignorance upon them as some heinous crime, at a time especially when darkness covered the face of the Romish Church, and wherein the greatest doctors of that proud communion were no better than very children in that point. But if we search this matter to the bottom, who was it that first invented this fable, that the Church was fallen into a prodigious corruption, upon occasion of the temporal endowments bestowed upon her at the time of Pope Sylvester? Is it not notorious, that they were the Popes themselves who caused the false donation of Constantine to be published, which was made before the year 850, to give themselves by this forgery an antienter title to what they held in Italy, than those late donations of Pepin and Charles the Great, and thereby gave occasion to the dating the corruption of the Church from the time of Constantine? Are the Waldenses so unpardonably guilty for having made this the date of their reformation, since they never pretended to be great critics, and when they saw that the Church of Rome, and the Popes upon such a title, made it their only business to subject all the world to themselves, per fasque nefasque, right or wrong, which they pretended had been formerly bestowed upon them by Constantine?

After all, the Bishop of Meaux knows well enough that this donation was made use of in the time of Otho I. to lessen the acknowledgment which was due to him from the Church of Rome, and that the same was inserted by Gratian in his decree, before the middle of the twelfth century. Who are they that allege this in their disputes? Is it not the Church of Rome and her partisans? If we doubt of it, we need only to read Ecbert’s treatise against the Cathari, and we shall be fully convinced of it. He wrote about the year 1160. And since the diocese of Italy was then already separated from the Church of Rome, their posterity being deceived by the fraudulent pretences of the Papists, gave occasion to these honest people to conceit that their ancestors first appeared in the time of Constantine. But pray, does not this pretension of theirs naturally suppose, that a long time before there was in Italy a body of men separated from the Church of Rome, though, for want of skill in history, they were ignorant of the exact time of their separation from the Romish party?

But in the mean time, will some say, sure it is, that Raynerus gives the name of Waldenses to those of Italy against whom he writes. I confess he has done so, when he calls them Leonists: but we are also to take notice, that a more ancient author, whom Raynerus quotes, viz. Tonson the Monk, calls them Patetines, Rayner. cap. 6; which is sufficient to justify their antiquity, according to what we have made out in the foregoing chapter.

I own, that sometimes the Churches of the Valleys have been denominated from Waldo, because he had a great number of disciples, who joined themselves with those who were already separated from the Romish Church; but I utterly deny once more, that ever they were absolutely called by the name of Waldenses, because he was the first founder of their sect. This is that which I undertake to make out beyond all possible contradiction.

1. These believers of the Valleys could not be so called from Valdo of Lyons, because he did not flourish at the soonest till the year 1160, according to Roger Hoveden, whereas the people of the Valleys of Lucerne and Angrogne had the name of Wallenses from the beginning of the twelfth century, I have already made it appear, that they separated themselves from the Church of Rome long before, and that the name of Wallenses, or Vaudois, was given them from the place of their abode, which the inhabitants called les Vaus de Lucerne et Angrogne, that is to say, the Valleys of Lucerne and Angrogne, from whence came the Latin name Vallenses, which was afterward changed to Valdenses, when the design was laid to make men believe that Valdo was their first founder. This is that which I have made out from Eberard de Betbune, cap. 25. Moreover, that they were called Vaudois before Valdo, is evident from the poem which is called, The Noble Lesson, which is in the University library of Cambridge, which bears date anno 1100, where they are so called.

2. I say, that Waldo could not possibly give them his name, till after he had been condemned by the Archbishop of Lyons, which was not till about the year 1172, by John de Beauxmains; if so be it were he that persecuted them.

3. I say, that in the Council of Lateran, under Alexander III. in the year 1179, they are not called Vaudois, but Patetines. True it is, that Gualterus Mappeus, who assisted at that council, where he disputed against them, calls them Valdesii, and speaks of them, as if they had got that name from Petrus Valdo, who had been very famous amongst them. But it is apparent that he did so only to abuse them.

Accordingly we find that the canon of the Lateran Council speaks only of the Albigenses, though it is evident he bestowed the several names upon them of Cathari, Paterines, and Publicans only, to render them the more odious; either as having been restorers of old heresies, or as corresponding with the heretics of the. diocese of Italy, or as being downright Manichees, which the term Publican implies, as we have had occasion to observe elsewhere.

It may possibly be objected against what I have now said, that divers authors have maintained, that Peter Valdo was the author of the opinions of those who were called Vaudois in the twelfth century. This is that which is maintained by Bernard, Abbot of Foncaud, published by Gretser and by Alanus, in his book against the Vaudois, dedicated to William, Earl of Montpellier.

But I have two things to answer, sufficient to satisfy any equitable reader: the first is, that whereas this Bernard, Abbot of Foncaud, who was of the order of the Premonstrd, entitles his book against the sect of the Vaudois and Arians, he did not speak so, pag. 1198. B. P. T. 6, but by wilful mistake: for, 1, he calls them Valenses in his title, Incipit Tractatus Bernardi contra Falenses et Arianos. The title of Valenses was their ancient name, taken from the place of their habitation, and not from the name of Waldo. 2. That the reason which he had to make them Waldo’s disciples, was on purpose to have an advantage against them, from the condemnation of their doctrine by Pope Lucius III. We have this condemnation in that Canon, cap. ad abolendurn Decret. Grego. lib. 5:tit. 7. c. 9. Whence it appears, that the Pope thereby pretended to condemn two sorts of persons, who were equally opposite to the Church of Rome. 1. Those who were schismatics from that Church, and whom she had pretended to forbid the exercise of Orders, as judging that their ministry could be no longer lawful or valid after such prohibition. 2. Those whom she looked upon either as not ordained at all, or ill ordained; as deriving their mission from those whom the Church of Rome had condemned. The words are these:

Imprimis Catharos et Paterinos, et eos qui se humiliatos vel pauperes de Lugduno falso noraine, mentiuntur, Passaginos, Josepinos, Arnoldistus, perpetuo decernimus anathemati subjacere. Et q.uoniam nonnulli sub specie pietatis, virtutem edus, juxta quod ait Apostolus, denegantes, authoritatem sibi vindicant praedicandi omnes qui vel prohibiti, vel non missi, prater authoritatem ab apostolica sede, vel ab Episcopo loci susceptam, publice vel private praedicare praesumpserint; et universos qui de Sacramento corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, vel de Baptismate, sen de Peccatorum Confesslone, Matrimonio, vel reliquis Ecclesiasticis sacramentis aliter sentire aut docere non metuunt, quam sacrosancta Ecclesia Romana praedicat et observat vinculo perpetui anathematis innodamus.

“In the first place we decree and judge, that the Cathari and Paterines, and those who falsely take to themselves the name of the humble or poor of Lyons, lie under a perpetual anathema. And forasmuch as some, under the show of piety, but denying (as the Apostle saith) the power thereof, take upon themselves the authority of preaching whosoever are either prohibited or not sent, and nevertheless presume to preach, either privately or publicly, without any authority derived from the apostolic see, or from the Bishop of the diocese; as likewise all those who are not afraid to entertain different opinions, or teach otherwise concerning the Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, or of Baptism, or the Confession of sins, Matrimony, or other sacraments of the Church, than the holy Church of Rome teacheth and observes ...... we do herewith bind under a perpetual anathema.”

What I assert doth further clearly appear from these other terms used by Pope Lucius, who, though he maintains that the heresies, which he mentions, were sprung up modernis temporibus, of late time, yet takes in with them the Arnoldists, whose rise was above sixty years before that: Arnoldus Brixienses having been burnt at Rome in the year of our Lord 1155, as appears from historians.

As for Alanus, it is apparent that he followed the same method.

1. He takes notice only of the Albigenses, against whom he writes, dedicating his book to the Earl of Montpellier, under the title of Waldo’s disciples; and he seems extremely pleased, that he had this their original to object to them, which, as he supposed, might serve for a prescription, his heresy having been condemned in the Lateran Council, anno 1179.

2. It is apparent that he pleased himself in confounding the disciples of Waldo, who had caused the Old and New Testament to be translated, and had writ explanations upon it, before the year 1179, with the Manichees, who, we know, rejected those books. I shall elsewhere lay open the first rise and injustice of this calumny.

So that all that can be said with any certainty in this matter is, that some of Waldo’s disciples did probably join themselves with the Churches of the Valleys of Piedmont, being constrained thereto by the persecution which dispersed them far and near. But withal it is most true,

1. That Waldo was not the founder of the Churches of the Valleys, which were in being long before him.

2. That it does not appear that he had any communion with them: the authors who speak of him telling us, that he retired into Flanders and Picardy.

3. That he died before the year 1179, as appears 1 from the account Gulielmus Mappeus gives us.

4. That the greatest part of his disciples spread themselves amongst the Albigenses, according to the testimony of historians, which Albigenses were in being before Waldo, as may be seen by the 65th Sermon of St. Bernard upon the Canticles.

5. That those of them that came into Italy did not give their name to the Churches of that country, who before that were called Wallenses, from the place of their abode, and that it was only the malice of their enemies that made them pass for the disciples of Peter Waldo.


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