College Notes
Church History
Lecture 16

Waldensian Beliefs

A. Reference book: Gilly's Vadois
1. Church not new group. Dated before the time of Waldo
     a. Manuscript found pre-dating Waldo - 1100, using name Vaudois
     b. Other manuscripts found with Waldensian sermons pre-dating Waldo

From The Waldenses of Italy we read:

"We do not find anywhere in the writing of the Old Testament that the light of truth and of holiness was at any time completely extinguished. There have always been men who walked faithfully in the paths of righteousness. Their number has been at times reduced to a few; but has never been altogether lost. We believe that the same has been the case from the time of Jesus Christ until now; and that it will be so unto the end. For if the Church of God was founded, it was in order that she might remain until the end time." p.9

From A Complete History of the Waldenses, volume 1, p. 3, we read:

"Indeed it cannot be doubted that before the days of Valdo, Peter de Bruys and Henry condemned the error of the Catholic church ... and sought to return to the pure doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. Nor is it improbable that Peter sowed the seeds of his doctrine in his native valley and left followers there ... It is also likely enough that of the remaining disciples of Peter and Henry, many joined the Valdenses in whom they found the same zeal for the doctrine of the Bible and thus it probably came to pass that no trace of the Petrobrusians and Henricians appear at any subsequent period." p. 28

From The Waldenses of Piedmont, we read:

"...We likewise beseech your highness to consider, that this religion we profess, is not ours only, nor hath it been invented by man of late years, as it is falsely reported; but it is the religion of our fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and other yet more ancient predecessors of ours, and of the blessed martyrs, confessors, prophets, and apostles; and if any can prove the contrary, we are ready to subscribe, and yield thereunto. The Word of God shall not perish, but remain forever; therefore, if our religion be the true word of God, as we are persuaded, and not the invention of men, no human force shall be able to extinguish the same.... Jesus is our Saviour; we will religiously obey all your highness's edicts, so far as conscience will permit; but when conscience says nay, your highness knows we must rather obey God than man: we unfeignedly confess that we ought to give Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, provided we give also to God what is due to him." p. 104-106

  From "Gilly's Vaudois" we read:

“For want of a regular and well-continued history of the Waldenses, or Vaudois, it is a difficult matter to assign a certain date to the periods, in which some of their most eminent pastors flourished; more particularly as we lose sight of them, when they were obliged to fly from the heat of persecution, or when their records were destroyed by their adversaries. But nothing can be more true, or more important to the cause of truth than the fact, that for men, to whom the holy work of the Reformation is attributed, the same doctrines, which they preached, were already established, in their utmost purity, among this little community of mountaineers, who preserved, in their impregnable fastnesses, the faith, and very probably the exact discipline also, of the primitive church of Christ."

    2. Waldo had Bible translated into language of the laity. Led to catholic forbidding laity from reading the Bible.
3. Noted that their chief persecutors were Catholic

B. Waldo went up to Holland and through Europe into Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary
a. A book in Hungary shows his work there
b. It shows he went into Russia
c. Churches of the Molokans exist today possibly a result of contact with this phase of his work
     1. These originally kept Sabbath
     2. In this country today they keep Sunday but observe the Holy days and know what they mean
     3. They know the origin of the Pagan holidays
     4. They also keep the food laws
d. Waldo died in East Europe and the work's light began to flicker out

C. The interim between the death of Peter Waldo and the Reformation was 300 years. During this time the Waldensians were absorbed into the Protestant reformation.
a. Voted to become part of Calvin movement
b. At this time their light went out altogether 1600

D. The Inquisitors discovered that the Waldensians were:
1. Against Rome and Clergy.
2. Against Sacraments.
3. Against Ecclesiastical customs.

A. They thought that the Church was pure up to the time of Sylvester

Comba writes in The Waldenses of Italy:

"The Church of Christ, says the monk Raincris Saccho, continued in her bishops and other prelates, down to the blessed Sylvester; but under his reign it declined until the Restoration, which was their work. They say, however, that at all times there have been God- fearing people who have been saved. They believe that Pope Sylvester, at the instigation of the devil, became the founder of the Roman Church. They say, repeats the monk Moneta, that the Church of God had declined in the time of Sylvester, and that in these days it had been re-established by their efforts, commencing with Waldo. They call themselves successors of the Apostles, adds monk David of Augsburg, and say they are in possession of the apostolic authority, and of the keys to bind and unbind." P.7


    1. Threw off authority of the Pope.
2. Exercised right of lay members to preach.
3. Confession could be made to anyone (indicating practice of confession).

From A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, we read:

"The reading and knowledge of the Scriptures are equally free to both laity and clergy; that baptism and the Lord's Supper are the only sacraments of the New Testament Church; that in the Supper both elements are to be received by the people as well as by the priest; that the bread and wine are signs and symbols of Christ's body and blood, that the sacrifice of the mass is impious, to say prayers for the dead is downright folly; that Purgatory or any middle state of departed souls, is but an invention of men; that the church of Rome is the Apocalyptical whore of Babylon; that the pope has no lawful primacy over the Church, or any title to both civil and ecclesiastical authority; that vows of celibacy are an invention of men; that monkery is but a stinking carcass of devotion." p. 52

    4. Refused to tithe to Catholic Church.
5. Abolished much of the ritual in Catholic Baptism.
6. Objected to celibacy in the clergy.
7. Deprecated unction. Last rites before death.
8. Opposed prayers for those dead. A major doctrine of the Catholic church.

From History of the Christian Church, by William Jones, we read:

"They declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have apostolical authority, and the keys of binding and loosing. They hold the church of Rome to be the whore of Babylon, and that all that obey her are damned, especially the clergy that have been subject to her since the time of pope Sylvester. They deny that any true miracles are wrought in the church because none of themselves ever worked any. They hold that none of the ordinances of the church, which have been introduced since Christ's ascension, ought to be observed, as being of no value. The feasts, fasts, orders, blessings, offices of the church, and the like, they utterly reject. They speak against consecrating churches, church-yards, and other things of the like nature, declaring that it was the invention of covetous priests, to augment their own gains, in sponging the people by those means of their money and oblations. They say, that a man is then first baptized when he is received into their community. Some of them hold that baptism is of no advantage to infants, because they cannot actually believe. They reject the sacrament of confirmation, but instead of that, their teachers lay their hands upon their disciples. They say, the bishops, clergy, and other religious orders are no better than the Scribes and Pharisees, and other persecutors of the apostles.... Some of them hold that this sacrament (the Passover) can only be celebrated by those that are good, others again by any that know the words of consecration.... They say that a priest, who is a sinner, cannot bind or loose any one, as being himself bound.... They reject extreme unction, declaring it to be rather a curse than a sacrament." p. 264-5

      9. Songs of the church, they referred to as "clamor".
10. Rejected ecumenical hour of times to pray, felt prayers more effective when said in secret.
11. Opposed all customs not ordained in the scriptures.
12. Felt pilgrimages were useless.
13. Objected ecclesiastical funerals.
14. Interpreted Sermon on the Mount to the strict letter, ie. Didn’t swear; bear arms, etc.

 Jones' History of the Christian Church, says:

“Reinfrius Saccho, whose name I have had occasion more than once to mention, was for seventeen years of the earlier part of his life, in some way or other connected with the Waldenses; but he apostatized from their profession, entered the Catholic church, was raised in it to the most dignified station of an inquisitor, and became one of their most cruel persecutors.... and about the year 1250, published a catalogue of the errors of the Waldenses.... 'Their first error,' says he,' is a contempt of ecclesiastical power, and from thence they have been delivered up to Satan, and by him cast headlong into innumerable errors, mixing the erroneous doctrines of the heretics of old with their own inventions. And being cast out of the Catholic church, they affirm that they alone are the church of Christ and his disciples. They declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have apostolical authority, and the keys of binding and loosing. They hold the church of Rome to be the whore of Babylon, (Rev. 17) and that all that obey her are damned, especially the clergy that have been subject to her since the time of pope Sylvester.... They hold, that none of the ordinances of the church, which have been introduced since Christ's ascension, ought to be observed, as being of no value. The feasts, fasts, orders, blessings, offices of the church, and the like, they utterly reject. They speak against consecrating churches, churchyards, and other things of the like nature, declaring that it was the invention of covetous priests, to augment their own gains, in sponging the people by those means of their money and oblations. They say, that a man is then first baptized when he is received into their community. Some of them hold that baptism is of no advantage to infants, because they cannot actually believe. They reject the sacrament of confirmation, but instead of that, their teachers lay their hands upon their disciples. They say, the bishops, clergy, and other religious orders are no better than the Scribes and Pharisees, and other persecutors of the apostles. They do not believe the body and blood of Christ to be the true sacrament, but only blessed bread, which by a figure only is called the body of Christ, even as it is said, 'and the rock was Christ.' Some of them hold that this sacrament can only be celebrated by those that are good.... This sacrament they celebrate in their assemblies, repeating the words of the gospel at their table, and participating together, in imitation of Christ's supper.... They reject extreme unction, declaring it to be rather a curse than a sacrament.... They hold all oaths to be unlawful, and a mortal sin, yet they dispense with them when it is done to avoid death, lest they should betray their accomplices, or the secret of their infidelity. They hold it to be an unpardonable sin to betray an heretic, yea the very sin against the Holy Ghost. They say that malefactors ought not to be put to death by the secular power.

Some of them hold it unlawful to kill brute animals, as fishes, or the like; but when they have a mind to eat them, they hang them over the fire or smoke till they die. Fleas and such sort of insects they shake off their clothes, or else dip their clothes in hot water, supposing them thus to be dead of themselves. Thus they cheat their own consciences in this and other observances. From whence we may see, that having forsaken truth, they deceive themselves with their own false notions. According to them there is no purgatory, and all that die, immediately pass either into heaven or hell. That therefore the prayers of the church for the dead are of no use, because those that are in heaven do not want them, nor can those that are in hell be relieved by them.... They hold, that the saints in heaven do not hear the prayers of the faithful, nor regard the honors which are done to them, because their bodies lie dead here beneath, and their spirits are at so great a distance from us in heaven, that they can neither hear our prayers nor see the honors which we pay them.... Hence they deride all the festivals, which we celebrate in honor of the saints, and all order instances of our veneration for them. Accordingly, wherever they can do it, they secretly work upon holy days, arguing, that since working is good, it cannot be evil to do that which is good on a holy day. They do not observe Lent, or other fasts of the church, alleging that God does not delight in the afflictions of his friends, as being able to save without them. Some heretics indeed inflict themselves with fasting, watchings, and the like, because without these they cannot obtain the reputation of being holy among the simple people, nor deceive them by their feigned hypocrisy.... They say it is sufficient for their salvation if they confess to God, and not to man.... No doubt there were shades of difference in sentiment among them on points of minor importance, even as there are among Christians in the present day; and it is very certain that the Catholic writers sometimes class under the general name of Waldenses or Albigenses, persons whose theological sentiments and religious practices were very opposite to those which were professed by the followers of Peter Waldo." p. 264267

Under the heading "Waldensians of Faith," in Jones' History of the Christian Church, we read:

“The Centuriators of Magdeburgh, in their History of the Christian Church, under the twelfth century, recite from an old manuscript the following epitome of the opinions of the Waldenses of that age. In articles of faith the authority of the Holy Scriptures is the highest; and for that reason it is the standard of judging; so that whatsoever doth not agree with the word of God, is deservedly to be rejected and avoided. The decrees of Fathers and Councils are (only) so far to be approved as they agree with the word of God. The reading and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures is open to, and is necessary for all men, the laity as well as the clergy; and moreover the writings of the prophets and apostles are to be read rather than the comments of men. The sacraments of the church of Christ are two, baptism and the Lord's supper: and in the latter, Christ has instituted the receiving in both kinds, both for priests and people. Masses are impious; and it is madness to say masses for the dead. Purgatory is the invention of men; for they who believe go into eternal life; they who believe not, into eternal damnation. The invoking and worshipping of dead saints is idolatry. The church of Rome is the whore of Babylon. We must not obey the pope and bishops, because they are the wolves of the church of Christ. The pope hath not the primacy over all the churches of Christ; neither hath he the power of both swords (secular and spiritual power). That is the church of Christ, which hears the pure doctrine of Christ, and observes the ordinances instituted by him, in whatsoever place it exists. Vows of celibacy are the inventions of men, and productive of uncleanness. So many orders (of the clergy,) so many marks of the beast. Monkery is a filthy carcass. So many superstitions dedications of churches, commemorations of the dead, benedictions of creatures, pilgrimages, so many forced fastings, so many superfluous festivals, those perpetual bellowings, (the practice of chanting) and the observations of various other celebrations...obstructing the teaching and learning of the word, are DABOLICAL INVENTIONS. The marriage of priests is both lawful and necessary." p. 277

  Jones continues in his Church History to say:

"About the time of the Reformation, the Waldenses who resided in the South of France, and who of course were subjects of the French king, were persecuted with the most sanguinary severity.... In the year 1540, the parliament of Aix, the chief judicature of the Provence, passed a law, that 'they should all of them promiscuously be destroyed, that their houses should be puffed down, the town of Merindole be leveled with the ground, all the trees cut down, and the country adjacent converted into a desert....' The sentence nevertheless, was executed in all its rigor five years afterwards, as will be related in a future section. In the preceding year, however, (1544) as we are informed by Sleiden, in his history of the Reformation, p. 347.

The Waldenses, to remove the prejudices that were entertained against them, and to manifest their innocence, transmitted to the king, in writing, the following confession of their faith.

1. We believe that there is but one God, who is a Spirit--the Creator of all things--the Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all; who is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth--upon whom we are continually dependent, and to whom we ascribe praise for our life, food, raiment, health, sickness, prosperity, and adversity. We love him as the source of all goodness; and reverence him as that sublime being, who searches the reins and trieth the hearts of the children of men.

2. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son an image of the Father--that in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, and that By Him alone we know the Father. He is our Mediator and advocate; nor is there any other name given under heaven by which we can be saved. In His name alone we call upon the Father, using no other prayers that those contained in the Holy Scriptures, or such as are in substance agreeable hereunto.

3. We believe in the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, proceeding from the Father, and from the Son; by whose inspiration we are taught to pray; being by Him renewed in the spirit of our minds; who creates us anew unto good works, and from whom we receive the knowledge of the truth.

4. We believe that there is one holy church, comprising the whole assembly of the elect and faithful, that have existed from the beginning of the world, or that shall be to the end thereof. Of this church the Lord Jesus Christ is the head--it is governed by his word and guided by the Holy Spirit. In the church it behooves all Christians to have fellowship. For her He (Christ) prays incessantly, and his prayer for it is most acceptable to God, without which indeed there could be no salvation.

5. We hold that the ministers of the church ought to be blameless both in life and doctrine; and if found otherwise, that they ought to be deposed from their office, and others substituted in their stead; and that no person ought to presume to take that honor unto himself but he who is called of God as was Aaron--that the duties of such are to feed the flock of God, not for filthy lucre’s sake, or as having dominion over God's heritage, but as being examples to the flock, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, and in chastity.

6. We acknowledge, that kings, princes, and Governors, are the appointed and established ministers of God, whom we are bound to obey (in all lawful and civil concerns.) For they bear the sword for the defense of the innocent, and the punishment of evildoers; for which reason we are bound to honor and pay them tribute. From this power and authority, no man can exempt himself, as is manifest from the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who voluntarily paid tribute, not taking upon himself any jurisdiction of temporal power.

7. We believe that in the ordinance of baptism the water is the visible and external sign, which represents to us that which, by virtue of God's invisible operation is within us--namely, the renovation of our minds, and the mortification of our members through (the faith of) Jesus Christ. And by this ordinance we are received into the holy congregation of God's people previously professing and declaring our faith and change of life.

8. We hold that the Lord's supper is a commemoration of, and thanksgiving for, the benefits which we have received by his sufferings and death--and that it is to be received in faith and love--examining ourselves, that so we may eat of that bread and drink of that cup, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures.

9. We maintain that marriage was instituted of God--that it is holy and honorable, and ought to be forbidden to none, provided there be no obstacle from the divine word.

10. We contend, that all those in whom the fear of God dwells, will thereby be led to please him, and to abound with the good works (of the gospel) which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them--which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, sobriety, and the other good works enforced in the Holy Scriptures.

11. On the other hand, we confess that we consider it to be our duty to beware of false teachers, whose object is to divert the minds of men from the true worship of God, and to lead them to place their confidence in the creature, as well as to depart from the good works of the gospel, and to regard the inventions of men.

12. We take the Old and the New Testament for the rule of our life, and we agree with the general confession of faith contained in (what is usually termed) the apostles' creed." p. 278-9

A. They are the only medieval sect to survive
B. Out of them come groups we will study later.
C. Reference book: Funk's Manuel of Church History.
    1. See beginnings of trade unions.
    2. Waldensians maintained guilds of craftsman.
D. Best reference book: Jones' Church History
1. Daily life:
     a. Orderly and biblically based

C.H. Strong, in A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, says:

"In doctrine, the Waldenses insisted upon the foundation principle that the Word of God, independent of every other authority is to be recognized as the infallible and only rule of faith and practice.... So rigidly did they adhere to this principle that they were sometimes charged, by their Roman Catholic antagonists, with making a Pope of the Bible.... Their supreme reverence for the Bible, and their continual study of its pages, led them to a knowledge of Christian doctrine which every day became purer and more complete." p. 51-2

b. Noted for modesty in behavior and dress, both men and women

Strong says in his A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses:

"They are such scrupulous observers of honor and chastity, that their neighbors, though of a contrary faith, entrusted them with the care of their wives and daughters, to preserve them from the insolence of the soldiery." p. 71

c. Tradesmen, not businessmen and hard workers

From A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, by Strong, we read:

"They had learned also from the Word to 'be diligent in business.' An idler was not tolerated among them. Says one of their prosecutors, 'They labor constantly.' Says another in describing the Vaudois, 'They never eat the bread of idleness, but labor with their own hands for their livelihood." p. 71

We read in Jones' Church History:

"An ancient inquisitor, to whose writings against the Waldenses, I had occasion to refer in a former section, thus describes them. 'These heretics are known by their manners and conversation, for they are orderly and modest in their behavior and deportment. They avoid all appearance of pride in their dress; they neither indulge in finery of attire, nor are they remarkable for being mean and ragged. They avoid commerce, that they may be free from deceit and falsehood. They get their livelihood by manual industry, as day laborers or mechanics; and their teachers are weavers or tailors. They are not anxious about amassing riches, but content themselves with the necessaries of life. They are chaste, temperate, and sober. They abstain from anger. Even when they work, they either learn or teach. In like manner also, their women are very modest, avoiding backbiting, foolish jesting, and levity of speech, especially abstaining from lies or swearing, not so much as making use of the common asseverations, 'in truth,' 'for certain,' or the like, because they regard these as oaths--contenting themselves with simply answering 'yes' or 'no.' Claudius Seisselius, archbishop of Turin, from whose Treatise against the Waldenses I have quoted largely in a former section, is pleased to say, that 'their heresy excepted, they generally live a purer life than other Christians. They never swear but by compulsion, and rarely take the name of God in vain. They fulfill their promises with punctuality; and, living for the most part in poverty, they profess to preserve the apostolic life and doctrine.... 'In their lives and morals they were perfect, irreprehensible, and without reproach among men, addicting themselves with all their might to observe the commands of God.' Lielenstenius, a Dominican, speaking of the Waldenses of Bohemis, 'I say that in morals and life they are good; true in words, unanimous in brotherly love; but their faith is incorrigible and vile, as I have shown in my Treatise.' Samuel de Cassini, a Franciscan friar, speaking of them in his 'Victoria Trionfale,' explicitly owns in what respect their faith was incorrigible in this that they denied the church of Rome to be the holy mother church, and would not obey her traditions.' Jacobus de Riberia, who published a work entitled, 'Collections of the city of Toulouse,' and who, in his time, assisted in persecuting the Waldenses, nevertheless acknowledges, that...they were so well instructed in the Holy Scriptures, that he had seen peasants who could recite the book of Job verbatim, and several others who could perfectly repeat all the New Testament....

In the time of a great persecution of the Waldenses of Merindol and Provence, a certain monk was deputed by the bishop of Cavillon, to hold a conference with them, that they might be convinced of their errors, and the effusion of blood prevented. But the monk returned in confusion, owning that in his whole life he had never known so much of the Scriptures, as he had learned during those few days that he had been conversing with the heretics. The bishop, however, sent among them a number of doctors, young men, who had lately come from the Sorbonne, which, at that time, was the very center of theological subtlety at Paris. One of these publicly owned, that he had understood more of the doctrine of salvation from the answers of the little children in their catechisms, than by all the disputations, which he had ever before heard. Francis I. king of France, being informed that the parliament of Provence brought very heavy charges against the Waldenses, whom they were then severely persecuting at Merindol, Cabriers, and other neighboring places, was desirous of ascertaining the truth of those accusations.... On their return, they reported that 'they were a laborious race of people, who, about two hundred years ago, had emigrated from Piedmont, to dwell in Provence--that betaking themselves to husbandry and feeding of cattle, they had restored many villages destroyed by the wars, and rendered other desert and uncultivated places extremely fertile by their industry. That by the information given them in the said country of Provence, they found they were a very peaceable people, beloved by their neighbors--men of good behavior, of godly conversation, faithful to their promises, and punctual in paying their debts. That they were charitable people, not permitting any among them to fall in to want. That they were moreover, liberal to strangers and the traveling poor, as far as their ability extended. And that the inhabitants of Provence affirmed, they were a people who could not endure to blaspheme, or name the devil, or swear at all, unless in making some solemn contracts, or in judgment. Finally, that they were well known by this, that if they happened to be cast into any company, where the conversation was lascivious or blasphemous, to the dishonor of God, they instantly withdrew." p. 287-289

d. On the average, they were more highly educated than the common people
e. Obedient to established government, paid taxes.
f. Held annual synods in the fall, possibly Feast of Tabernacles

1. Conferences held in 1218 in Lombardy in So. France|
2. Ordained ministers then when necessary

A.W. Mitchell, M.D., in his The Waldenses of Piedmont, says:

"The consistory is composed of the pastor, the elders, and the deacons. The deacons have the care of the poor. The elders are first nominated by the congregation, and then elected bye the consistory. They are regularly installed, after sermon, in the church, and have a charge to watch over the spiritual interests of the flock, to aid the pastor, to reprove the erring, to exhort to the performance of duty; and two of them are appointed to represent the congregation in the higher ecclesiastical tribunal.... The Waldensian synod anciently met every year, in the month of September.... The synod is composed of all the ministers who are actual pastors or professors in their college, and of two elders from each parish.... They are ordained by the imposition of hands. Ministers committing gross sins are to be deposed." p. 373-4

g. Strong marriages and family ties
h. Did not observe pagan festival

C.H. Strong, in his A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, says:

"They despised all ecclesiastical customs which are not read in the gospel; such as Candlemas, Palm Sunday, the reconcilement of penitents, the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, the feast of Easter, and the festivals of Christmas and the saints." p. 82-3

i. They taught that there have always been men from the time of Christ down to the present who have been righteous

1. 1000s were brought before the inquisition, and tortured until they confessed or died.
a. Most of what we know of their beliefs is written by their enemies
b. They were infiltrated by the Franciscan and Domician orders
c. These were founded expressly to counteract the Waldense's movement
d. Domician comes from Dominicane = Lord's dogs
e. They were to sniff out heretics and convert them back to the Catholic faith
2. Many fled into the wilderness.
3. We will discuss the inquisition in more detail in the next lectures

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