What did the Waldensians really believe? Were they in doctrine really fundamentalist Protestants? What were their reactions to the Paganism in our Christianity? Did they believe in the law of God, or in Martin Luther's prefabricated "faith alone," no law Protestantism? That their doctrines were far different in their first history compared to the church that compromised with Protestantism and that now exists in Italy is abundantly recorded. Philip Smith says:
The popular misconception is aided by the idea, which such words naturally tend to perpetuate, of a perfect agreement (or, to use, under protest, the expressive modernism, solidarity) of the strong Protestant faith of these people since the Reformation with the original theology of the Waldenses.
What the Waldenses learnt to hold and teach after contact with the Hussites in the fifteenth century, and still more after communications held in the sixteenth with some chief continental reformers, has been regarded as that which they held from the beginning.37
That this popular misconception is far from the truth is shown by no other greater authority than the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
The Waldenses, under their more modern name of the Vaudois, have survived to the present day in the valleys of Piedmont. ... It is, however, by no means easy to determine their original tenets, as in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries they were a body of obscure and unlettered peasants, hiding themselves in a corner, while in the sixteenth century they were absorbed into the general movement of the Reformation.38
Another source of difficulty in arriving at their early and true beliefs is the attempt of so many Protestant writers to record only so much as would suggest such a strong Biblical people and highly Christian moraled body to be their ancestral progenitors. This very difficulty is illustrated by the Baptist historian, Orchard:
Since the publication of Perrin's history of these people in 1619, many able pens have been employed to rescue their names from reproach, while each writer has, from the character of these Vaudois, been desirous of finding their religious creed in alliance with his own.39
When God's Spirit begins to enlighten a person, they begin to question how much they have always believed is really Christian and founded on Biblical authority. A person begins to read the Bible itself, and take it for what it says without need of human interpretation or spiritualizing it away. What does the Bible really say, is his main principle. As the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts, he may need that some man should guide him, but it must be through the scriptural references and not through human opinions or interpretation. Such happened to Peter Waldo as recorded by Philip Smith:
It is said of Waldo by the Dominican Inquisitor Stephanus de Borbone at Lyons about 1225, "His one desire was to have a fuller knowledge of Holy Scripture than he could obtain from hearing the lessons read in church, and to regulate his life by the example and precepts of Christ and His Apostles."40
As Waldo grew more acquainted with the Scriptures, he discovered that the general practice of nominal Christians was totally abhorrent from the doctrines of the New Testament: and in particular, that a number of customs, which all the world regarded with reverence, had not only no foundation in the divine oracles, but were even condemned by them.41
Yes, what a shock it is to the average Christian when he puts his lifetime beliefs and practices to the test of Scripture. What a jolt to realize the churches have done just what Jesus said they would, coming in the Christian name teaching Christ, yet deceiving the many by their unbiblical "Christianity." Jesus again warned that in vain He would be worshipped in the teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (Matt. 24:5; Mark 7:7-9). Paul warned that the time would come when they would not endure sound doctrine, but would be turned unto fables (II Tim. 4:3-4). This is exactly what Peter Waldo discovered when God really opened his eyes. It is also recorded of the Waldensians:
They despise the decretals, and the sayings and expositions of holy men, and they only cleave to the text of Scripture.
...They say that the doctrine of Christ and His apostles is sufficient to salvation, without any church statutes and ordinances. That the traditions of the church are no better than the traditions of the Pharisees; and that greater stress is laid on the observation of human traditions than on the keeping of the law of God.
"Why do you transgress the laws of God by your traditions?"
They condemn all approved ecclesiastical customs which they do not read of in the gospel, as the observation of Candlemas, Palm Sunday, the reconciliation of penitents, the adoration of the cross, of Good Friday. They despise the Feast of Easter and all other (Roman) festivals of Christ and the Saints work upon holy days (of the Roman church) where they can do it without being taken notice of...42
One of their persecutors, Reinerius, says, "they despise all ecclesiastical customs which are not read in the gospel; such as Candlemas, Palm Sunday, the adoration of the cross on Good Friday, the Feast of Easter, and the Festivals of Christmas and the Saints."43
Pope of the Bible
In contrast to the customs, traditions, and commandments of men, they were willing to follow any Biblically proven practice no matter how small or difficult it might seem. So exactly did they adhere to the Bible that it is recorded of these people:
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. From their ancient Confession of Faith we can see that they held in abomination human inventions as antichristian inventions for which we are disturbed. 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.44
It is also recorded in history that Martin Luther said of the Waldenses:
...that among them he had found one thing worthy of admiration, a thing unheard of in the popish church, that laying aside the doctrines of men, they meditated in the law of God day and night, and that they were expert, and even well versed, in the knowledge of the scriptures.45
When the day's work was over, labourers and artisans gave their evenings to study.46
Elders' Dress and Title
Should ministers of God be distinguished by their apparel? Is black and white especially pious, religious or holy to God? Thank God He did not make the sky black and the ground or grass white as tokens of His righteousness or holiness in creation! What does the dress of the individual have to do with the sanctity of the individual's heart? No, caps nor tams, robes nor shawls, sandals nor sabots indicate a pious person. It is said of the Waldensians:
Their elders and officers do not appear distinguished from their brethren by dress or names, but every Christian was considered as capable in a certain measure of instructing others, and of confirming the brethren by exhortations. Their elders were the seniors of the brethren, while the presbyters were the whole body of the teachers, whether fixed or itinerating.47
Even Jesus was not identifiable by His dress: "She, supposing Him (Jesus) to be the gardener" (John 20:15): and, "Now he that betrayed Him (Jesus) gave them a sign, saying, whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast." (Matt. 26:48) Jesus had also warned against using titles in referring to human religious leaders: "Be not you called Rabbi: for one is your Master, Christ: and all you are brethren. And call no man your Father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." (Matt. 23:8-9) We had also been told by God that "holy and reverend is His name." (Psalms 111:9) So again we find the Waldenses to be sound in scriptural example even in the dress and titles of their ministers. One might wonder in many cases if it is not the man who is turned around backward instead of just the collar. This quote also reveals that the people in general knew that they should "be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks you a reason of the hope that is in you" (I Pet. 3:15): and, that they should "study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Tim. 2:15) Some have mistaken this to mean that they felt all members should be ministers and teachers, but what a twisting of the facts of. their own records. Even this historical record qualifies the meaning by stating that "in a certain measure" every Christian was considered capable of instructing others, not of preaching or teaching as ministers. Many New Testament passages show that each Christian is to "confirm the brethen by exhortations," but this does not mean by preaching or teaching sermons in a public assembly. (Heb. 3:13; 12:5; 13:22; 10:25) In Romans 12:8, it is even listed as a spiritual gift or talent that some members have been given by God's Spirit to increase their natural ability in this virtue. It might also be noted in the record that some presbyters were fixed over certain churches, while others were itinerating or traveling like an overseer or superintendent over several church areas. Thus they had their "barbs" or Pastors, Evangelists as some historians record, Elders and Deacons in their church offices, again holding true to the Bible example.
Their rules of practice were practiced by a literal interpretation of Christ's sermon on the mount. They consequently prohibited wars, suits at law, acquisitions of wealth, capital punishments, self-defense, and oaths of all kinds.
...They abstained, like the greater sort of Anabaptists in later times, from all appearances of pomp and luxury. These people contended that a church was an assembly of believers, faithful men, and that of such a church the Lord Jesus Christ is head, and He alone; that it is governed by His word, and guided by the Holy Spirit; that it behooves all Christians to walk in fellowship.48
The literal interpretation of the sermon on the mount has always been a token in the history of God's church throughout the ages: "Swear not at all; love your enemies; turn the other cheek; resist not evil," (Matt. 5:34; 44, 39). This literal interpretation of these sayings caused it to be said of these people, "Whosoever refuses to curse, to swear, to lie, to kill, to commit adultery, to steal, to be revenged of his enemy, they say he is a Validois, and therefore they put him to death."49 What a testimony to be recorded of any Christian body that they were so well known as living by the sermon on the mount, that anyone who even followed any of its tenets was classed as one of them.
Another distinguishing factor of God's people in the history of the church, in and since New Testament times, has been the refusal to bear arms, revenge oneself, hate, kill, or even come under the military authority. Why should, or would, a German Baptist line up on a battlefield opposite an American Baptist and kill him in the name of his country, and against the name of his church and religion? Would not this prove his country above his faith, in priority, in slaying a brother Baptist? It is said of the Waldenses:
As to revenge, they say, "The Lord knowing that we should be delivered up, said, 'beware of men'; but He never teaches nor counsels His elect to slay anyone, but to love their enemies. When the disciples said unto Him, shall we call for fire from Heaven and consume them? Christ answering, said unto them, you know not what spirit you are of. Also the Lord said to Peter, put up thy sword into its place. ...While we are here, we are the threshold of the Lord, to be beaten like corn when it is separated from the chaff.50
Their objection to "taking human life on any ground"51 was named by Cernay as one of the four chief errors of the Waldenses. Does this mean, however, that they objected to capital punishment even in the case of criminals? Or was this not uttered because of the bloodshed at the time in the name of religion regardless of the doctrinal grounds against "heretics"? Let their own history answer this question.
It was a gross calumny to censure them as inimical to the penal power of the magistrate, because they complained of the abuse of his power in condemning true Christians to death without a fair examination: when, at the same time, in their own books, they asserted, that "a malefactor ought not be suffered to live."52
How completely they avoided warfare and military service is detailed and magnified even more so by a Baptist historian thusly:
The Vaudois, Waldenses, or Picards did not enter Ziska's army during the war. We know their principles were opposed to war, and they do not seem to have borne arms at any time. During such commotions, it is said of them, that "they were always going and coming, retiring from the cities while others were coming to reside." When they were persecuted in one city, they fled to another.53
Again we find them directly obedient to the word of God, for Jesus said, "when they persecute you in this city, flee you into another." (Matt. 10:23) Also, we see that they "saw trouble ahead, and avoided it," by leaving the cities and going into the mountains, when others were gathering together into their cities for safety in numbers and the fortress of the city. When the modern Waldensians bore arms, they were no longer God's true church. God had removed their candlestick into England previous to this when Lollard, a Waldensian minister, began the true church in that country. The same had been true when a large Paulician army many centuries earlier had begun to defend itself and make war. God had already removed the smaller body of faithful Paulicians into another area to continue His true church in another area and under a new name imposed on them by the world. Another strong testimony to their attitude toward military service states: "They rejected purgatory, and intercession for the dead, indulgences, oaths, military service, and the death penalty."54
God Fights Our Battles
From the oldest piece of literature extant of the Waldenses, dated 1400 A.D., we derive their understanding of how and why God fought for His people in the Old Testament. Note it carefully!
VI. This lesson affords us much instruction: When they kept the law, and the commandments, God fought for them against the other nations. But when they sinned, and committed wickedness, they died; were destroyed, and made prisoners by other nations. ... The old law said you shall love your friends, and hate your enemy; the new says, you shall no more do so, but you shall love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you, and seek occasion against you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. ...No one should kill, or hate one another; much less should we mock the simple, or the poor. Yet it is nowhere found, that the saints ever persecuted, or put any in prison.55
Thus we realize, even in the Old Testament, when the people obeyed God, He fought their battles for them; as at the Red Sea, Gideon's battle with pitchers or vases, the walls of Jericho falling over flat, with bees or wasps, with 300 men against an army, etc. This the Waldenses knew even as we do today! This also illustrates their knowledge of the spirit of the law, contrasted with the oldness of the letter. Finally, have you ever known of a saint of God who persecuted, imprisoned, or martyred a fellow human being made in God's image? The Waldenses had "nowhere found" such an incident, nor have I, nor have you! Once Paul was a converted Christian saint, you find him doing harm to no man. The same is true of Peter, James, John, Peter Waldo, or any other servant of God, which note, they called "saints." Any later Waldensians who had forsaken these spiritual truths had "fallen from grace," and "went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (I John 2:19) How clearly these early documents show their beliefs in this matter, and any later deviation from it is a "backsliding" from the plain truth of the heart of Christ's message.
Fear of God
Because of this permissive age in which we live, modern philosophies cannot comprehend a fear of God, correction even associated with love, and law as liberty and necessity. Yet all through the Bible we find that "the fear of the Eternal is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7; Ex. 20:20; Acts 5:11, 5); and, "by the fear of the Eternal men depart from iniquity." (Prov. 16:6) Also we find "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3); and, "whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer." (James 1:25) The Waldenses walked in the fear of God, kept His commandments, and realized their Barbs were to correct them in love with the word of God. In their "Noble Lesson," it states, "Yet the Apostles were so strong in the fear of the Lord, and likewise the men, and women, who were with them.56 Even the Baptists formerly realized this, for one of their historians states:
The introductory discourse of the presbyter before delivering the creed, runs thus,
"Dear brethren, the divine sacraments are not so properly matters of investigation, as of faith, and not only of faith, but also of fear, for no one can receive the discipline of faith, unless we have for a foundation, the fear of the Lord."57
God said through the wisest man at least until his day, Solomon, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." (Eccl. 8:11) A similar utterance of wisdom comes from the Waldensians, when in answer to the matters of correction and discipline they state:
Without correction and discipline, doctrine serves to no purpose; neither would judgment be known, or sins be punished; and that therefore just anger is the mother of discipline, and patience without reason the seed of vices, which suffers the wicked to proceed in their excesses.58
Solomon said in summation of his lifetime's search and experiment for the summum bonum, "Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Eccl. 12:13) These people realized this principle as a fact of life, for it is recorded among their documents:
In a confession of their faith, one of the members of the Waldenses stated their faith, "declaring that they proffered the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and comprehended in the Apostles' Creed, and admitted the sacraments 'instituted by Christ, and the Ten Commandments,' etc. They said they had received this doctrine from their ancestors, and that if they were in any error they were ready to receive instruction from the word of God...."59
How much the Protestant churches have changed even since their ancestors recorded the history of the Waldenses is shown by their own admissions as to their beliefs which at that time also coincided with these Protestants' beliefs. Notice that-the Waldensian doctrine was based on the Old Testament as well as the New! How many Protestant churches who claim them as their ancestors can accept this fact? If we follow the Old Testament doctrine, in view of the Ten Commandments; which day of the week will we keep holy? If we reject all extra — Biblical customs and days of men, which holy days will we keep, and which holidays will we reject? Also these Waldenses said if they were in any error, they were ready to receive instruction from the word of God. God's church has always been willing to admit it when it was wrong, and to change. But will the Protestant churches do this? Or have they not just continually changed in a backsliding way, and continued to fall away from truths once held? One of many such evidences is a Presbyterian Waldensian history which states: "33. Finally, that we ought to receive the symbol of the apostles, the Lord's Prayer, and the Decalogue, as fundamentals of our faith and of our devotion."60 Do the Presbyerians today hold the Decalogue as a fundamental of their faith, or have they joined the "no-law" Protestants and thus departed from "the faith once delivered unto the saints"?
It is recorded concerning the Waldensians:
...that the only ordinances Christ has appointed for the churches, are baptism and the Lord's Supper; that they are both symbolical. ordinances, or signs of holy things, "visible emblems of invisible blessings," and that believers are the proper participants of them.61
Thus, in few words, Waldensian testimony-refuted three major Protestant and Catholic practices; for the Catholics, seven sacraments, transubstantiation, and infant baptism; for the Protestants, open versus closed communion, infant baptism, and the number of ordinances of the church. The Waldenses did not believe the minister performed a miracle at the Lord's Supper and literally turned the bread and wine into the real, literal body and blood of Christ, which is transubstantiation. Nor did they hold that non-believers could participate in the Lord's Supper, nor non-believers, including babies and children, could participate in baptism. Their "Noble Lesson" said, "they baptized the believers in the name of Jesus Christ."62
Many attempts have been made to misrepresent the true Waldensian practice in the matter of infant baptism. One such is illustrated and then cleared up by Philip Smith:
Their alleged denial of the efficacy of baptism, especially in the case of infants, many probably have been rather (as we have seen with the Cathari) an insistence on personal faith as the essential condition of its efficacy.63
The outstanding summary of all the material on this subject, especially relating to the Waldensians, is given by Orchard in his Baptist History. One of his pages of witnesses follows with his summation:
Cardinal Hossius, who presided at the Council of Trent, and wrote a history of the heresy of his own times, says, "The Waldenses rejected infant baptism and re-baptized all who embraced their sentiments."
Amidst all the productions of early writers, friends and foes, confessors of the whole truth and opposers of it, annalists, historians, recorders, inquisitors, and others, with the labored researches of Usher, Newton, Allix, Collier, Wall, Perrin, Leger, Morland, Mosheim, Macleane, Gilly, Sims, and others, all of the Paedobaptist persuasion, with every advantage of learning on their side, who collated councils, canons, synods, conferences, chronicles, decrees, bulls, sermons, homilies, confessions, creeds, liturgies, and c., from the private creed of Irenaeus, down to the rules of Ausbergh; who examined documents at home, and explored the territories abroad, — their united labors could never produce a single dated document or testimony of Paedobaptism among the Vaudois, separate from the Romish community, from Novatian's rupture to the death of the execrable monster, Alexander VI, 1503.64
Annual Lord's Supper
Do you realize the practice of celebrating the "Lord's Supper" more frequently than once a year is a modern practice? The original dispute between the eastern and western segments of the universal church, and that between the Pope and Polycarp, who was John's disciple, was whether the Passover should be on the 14th or 15th of the first month of the Jewish calendar. This was once a year, and not a question of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Do you realize the complete authority for celebrating it more often than once a year is based upon reading into two verses (I Cor. 11:25-26) what they do not say? Other translations render this, "every time" ye drink or eat this bread, or "each time." Paul was warning the Corinthians about taking it unworthily by letting the many years they took it cause "familiarity to breed contempt." He was not saying, take it as often as you please. Other passages showed how often it should be taken: "You know that after two days is the Passover" (Matt. 26:2); "Now when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve." (Matt. 26:20)1 And, "when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him." (Luke 22:14) Everyone knows the very length of Christ's ministry is proven by the number of annual Passovers He kept as recorded by John. The Waldensians knew all of this, for strong testimony is given concerning them:
...they were determined to celebrate the Lord's Supper yearly, and that in France it had been the custom of these people to celebrate it yearly from an early time. This work says further, "In Germany as well as France, the Waldenses celebrated the Lord's Supper yearly, between the years of thirteen and fourteen hundred. In the Cottian Alps, on the other hand, as well as in Provence, Apulia, Calabria, and middle Italy, this independent celebration of the Lord's Supper continued much longer than in France.65
Leger, one of the historians of the Waldenses, who himself was a pastor in the valleys nearly twenty-four years, says that "as a consequence of the Waldensians' supply of ministers from France and Geneva in 1630, one of the changes made was the giving up of the use of unleavened bread in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper."66 Notice how long they held onto this truth about the use of unleavened bread with the Lord's Supper. Until they began their compromise with the Protestants, they still followed this practice from their foundation, and in all these countries. How sad to see such an exemplary people lose these vital truths one by one in being swallowed up by the Protestants.
Feast of Pentecost
Was the Lord's Supper the only church festival that the Waldensians recognized? The fact that they observed this ordinance with unleavened bread would suggest to some that they also understood there was an unleavened bread festival for seven days following the Passover or Lord's Supper day. This is rendered even more likely in the light of their testimony about other points connected with the Lord's Supper and other holy days. From the ninth article of their "Noble Lesson" we read:
He remembered them at the Feast of Pentecost; and sent them the Holy Ghost, who is the comforter: who taught the apostles heavenly doctrines: and made them understand languages, and the holy scriptures: then they remembered what He had said.67
In Acts 2:1, the Bible relates "and when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Yet, the Waldensians termed this the Feast of Pentecost, showing they realized it was one of God's feast days, and not some New Testament day just beginning. And they knew the "gifts of tongues" was God's supernatural way of making them understand languages, and not some "unknown tongue" or unintelligible jibberish. Some have even tried to read into this record a trinity belief. Why did they say, "who is the comforter," and "who taught the apostles"? Simply because the word "comforter" is masculine in the New Testament Greek language, and thus requires masculine personal pronouns. Christ was the original Comforter, and when He promised them another Comforter, He explained this by saying further, "I will come to you." This He did in the essence or through the instrumentality of the Spirit. The Greek word Spirit is in the neuter gender and requires the neuter pronouns "it," or "which."
Another service connected with the original Lord's Supper was the footwashing ordinance of humility recorded in conjunction with this supper in John 13. Of this service, Jesus said, "you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." (John 13:14-15) That the Waldensians took this also literally is borne out by history:
In the seventh century, we have a liturgy of Bobbio, near Genoa, but this directory contains no office for the baptism of children, nor the least hint of pouring or sprinkling; on the contrary, there is a directory for making a Christian of a pagan, before baptism, and for washing the feet after it.68
Jesus said, "These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; ...they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17-18) The Waldenses took this in faith to mean what it said, for it is written of them as to their belief, "It is in the manner of God to show His power in the church, and to work miracles there — that is to say, to give sight to the blind, to make the lame to go, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear."69 It is obvious from this testimony they did not think the day of miracles is or was past, nor that Jesus was anything but "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8) Ancient Baptists and other denominations also formerly believed in the miracle of healing still being available to the church. Why has this promise been neglected? It was not among the Waldensians.
Marriage and Divorce
Jesus called the generation when He walked this earth "an evil and adulterous generation." (Mark 8:38) This makes it obvious He had not loosed His Ten Commandment law which said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Ex. 20:14) John the Baptist literally "lost his head" for telling Herod that "it is not lawful for you to have her" (Matt. 14:4, 3-12): her being "his brother Philip's wife." Also Jesus had told the Gentile woman at the well, "You have well said, I have no husband: for you have had five husbands: and he whom you now have is not your husband." (John 4:17-18) Since the Waldenses made so much of the Ten Commandments, how did they understand the spirit of this law? Did they think it was spiritualized away, and therefore no longer binding? Or did they take it literally, as we have found they did in so many of their practices? We will present the testimony of a great Protestant historian to reveal their stand.
Adultery and Marriage
Apology of the Waldenses — Among other things, they publish, like angry and barking curs, that it is a law, and common amongst us to say: Prostitute thyself: whereby men obey the vilest part of their body more than God, who hath forbidden it. The foolish woman doth not only destroy the happiness of her husband, but her own too. He who addicts himself to this vice, doth not keep faith with anyone. Whence it came to pass, that David caused his faithful servant to be slain, that he might enjoy his wife. Ammon defiled his sister Tamar. This vice consumes the estates of many, as it is said of the prodigal son, who wasted his substance in riotous living. Salaam made choice of this vice to provoke the children of Israel to sin, which was the occasion of the death of twenty-four thousand persons. This sin was the occasion of Samson losing his sight. It perverted Solomon, and many have perished through the beauty of a woman....
....In answer to the second scandal, that they maintained, that a man might leave his wife when he pleased, they said, "Matrimony is a bond which nothing but death can untie, unless it be for the cause of fornication, as our Lord Jesus Christ saith. And Paul in the first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 7, saith, 'Let not the wife depart from the husband, nor the husband put away his wife.'"
They replied concerning marriage, that it was ordained by God of old in Paradise: that it is a good means against adultery, and that it was the saying of Paul, speaking thereof; Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. Also the husband ought to love his wife as Christ loves His Church: and those who are married ought to live holily together, with their children, in the fear of God. (Remedy against the Sin of Luxury, Chapt. 21., Waldensian book on the Virtues: Chapter on Marriage.)70
Additional testimony concerning the newness of the spirit of the law contrasted with the oldness of the letter comes from their oldest literature extant, "The Noble Lesson," in article seven:
The old law forbad fornication, and adultery: but the new forbids looking at a woman to lust after her. The old law allowed of breaking the marriage ties, and permitted divorces by a writing: but the new says, thou shalt not marry her that is put away; and what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.71
What if someone had already been married more than once before they learned of the Bible teaching concerning this from the Waldenses? Jesus had shown His clear answer to this predicament when He told the woman married to her fifth husband that he whom she then had was not her husband. What would this woman have had to do in order to obey Christ and be His disciple? Why had Jesus said, "everyone that hath forsaken ...wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." (Matt. 19:29) Remember also that this is the conclusion to the very chapter that included Jesus to clear teaching on this very matter. And thus we read, "they laid as a charge against the Waldenses, that those Christians maintained, that a man might abandon his wife at his pleasure, and also a woman might forsake her husband, to follow their church."72 What if a person's mate did not accept the Waldensian beliefs, and was no longer pleased to dwell with them because of their new "religion"? God says, "if any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. ...But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart." (I Cor. 7:12-15) Thus a mate might have to depart from an adulterous situation in order to obey God's law and quit sinning, and become a Waldensian. Or a believer might have his unbelieving mate depart from him, and thus leave him without a mate. This is the only way "a man might abandon his wife at his pleasure, and also a woman might forsake her husband, to follow their church" as it did not allow adulterous unions, and taught that an unbeliever departing should be permitted and not hindered according to the teaching of God's word.
Another consideration pertaining to marriage is shown by the testimony of a Waldensian pastor for forty years who says:
We live in peace and harmony one with another, have intercourse and dealings chiefly among ourselves, having never mingled ourselves with the members of the church of Rome, by marrying our sons to their daughters, nor our daughters to their sons.73
The Waldensian solution to this danger to a young Christian is again right-down-the-line with the Bible, and crystal clear. In comes an answer of theirs to a false accusation thusly:
In answer to the charge of lewdness, they strongly deny it, and gravely express their abhorrence of the sin. ...The remedies for this sin, are fasting, prayer, and the keeping at a distance from temptation. Other vices may be subdued by fighting1 in this we conquer by flight, and by not coming near it; of which we have an example in Joseph."74
What Happens at Death?
Did the Waldensians believe in the fundamentalist Protestant doctrines of an immortal soul, an everburning hell, going to your reward of heaven, or punishment of hell, at death? Later Waldensians did as they came under the influence of the Protestants, but did the ancient Waldenses? Ample testimony is recorded to answer these questions. Philip Smith says, "They denied the doctrine of purgatory, and the lawfulness of the practices connected with it — some of them believing in an intermediate state of rest or of punishment."75 Their understanding of what the Old Testament taught concerning these matters is clearly shown from their "Noble Lesson":
To the good He promised life, but threatened death to the wicked. ...Many others perished in another way, the earth opening, and hell receiving them. ...However, he who is thus persecuted for the fear of the Lord, comforts himself greatly by this, — that the kingdom of heaven shall be given to him at the end of the world. Then he will have great glory for all his dishonour.76
What revealing testimony that is! Life, not heaven, was promised to the good. Death, perishing, the earth as hell was the fate of the wicked, not burning forever in eternal punishing — the repulsive belief without foundation of most of "Christianity." Notice when they taught the saints would receive the kingdom of heaven (belonging to, not in heaven), at the end of the world. The saints will have great glory then, not just a cloud and harp to float around heaven all day. Catholic records relate: "Some of them denied the existence of purgatory, asserting that souls, when parted from the body, go either to heaven or hell, while others believed in an intermediate state."77 An interesting point on Christ's resurrection is shown in "The Noble Lesson": "He rose from the grave on the third day; and raised to life many of His saints."78 Jesus had given this as the only sign He would give to "an evil and adulterous generation" that sought after a sign. (Matt. 12:38-40): "There shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights (not three days and nights, by total) in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
The truth about the fall of the angels under the sway of Satan before man was created upon the earth, as recorded in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, was understood by them, to an unknown degree thus far. Article seven of their 1669 A.D. Confession of Faith states:
That the angels were all in the beginning created pure and holy, but that some of them are fallen into irreparable corruption and perdition; and that the rest have persevered in their first purity by an effect of divine goodness, which has upheld and confirmed them.79
Man's Original Nature
The Bible records that after God had created man in His image, He "saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:27, 31) The Waldenses understood this fact, for in the same confession quoted above, article eight states: "That man was created clean and holy, after the image of God, and that through his own fault he deprived himself of that happy condition, by giving credit to the deceitful words of the devil."80
Did the Waldenses predate the Protestants as bearers of their doctrines, as "reformers before the Reformation"? Surely the doctrine of "good works," being one of the vital and key Protestant issues, should bear this out. In a Catholic world of penance works, indulgences, pilgrimages, etc., the Waldenses would have every reason, and perhaps desire, to do away with good works once-and-for-all as the Protestants later did, yet we read of this issue from their confession:
16. That the Lord having fully and absolutely reconciled us unto God, through the blood of His cross, by virtue of His merit only, and not of our works, we are thereby absolved and justified in His sight. ...20. That as God has promised us that we shall be regenerated in Christ, so those that are united unto Him by a true faith ought to apply, and do really apply themselves unto good works. 21. That good works are so necessary to the faithful, that they cannot attain the kingdom of heaven without the same, seeing that God hath prepared them that we ought to avoid vice, and to apply ourselves to Christian virtues, making use of fasting, and all other means which may conduce to so holy a thing. 22. That although our good works cannot merit anything, yet the Lord will reward or recompense them with eternal life, through the merciful continuation of His grace, and by virtue of the unchangeable constancy of His promises made unto us.81
Watch and Pray
One of the identifying signs of God's church in the Bible and since has been the spirit of prophecy. John described the church as "the remnant of her (the Church) seed, which keep the commandments of God (not a new law of Christ), and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17) When you permit the Bible to interpret itself, it reveals in Rev. 19:10 that, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." One work of God's Spirit is to "show you things to come." (John 16:13) The Waldensians understood many of the fundamentals of prophecy, although many of the things were to them as unto Daniel, "Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." (Dan. 12:9) Many of the end time prophecies they did not need to understand, in fact, may have been hindered or hurt to have understood. Yet, in the heart of their literature, and in the oldest extant document, we read:
"The Noble Lesson," date 1100, Leger tells us was found quite entire in a book of parchment, written in manuscript in an old Gothic character. In Leger's time two exemplars were preserved, one at Cambridge, and one at Geneva. Only the latter is now to be found. Mr. Jackson saw it in 1825. The lesson is in verse, in their own ancient tongue, that it may be more agreeable to the reader, and that the youth may more easily imprint it upon their memory. The original begins thus: O Brethren give ear to a Noble Lesson. We ought always to watch and pray, For we see this world to be near a conclusion, We ought to strive to do good works, For we see the end of this world to approach, A thousand and one hundred years are fully accomplished.82
Prophecy for Today!
These people of God then, as in all ages of the church, understood the prophecies applying to themselves, and understood that they were to be preserved by Jehovah in the wilderness until the time of persecution would end.
A celebrated leader among the Waldenses and Albigenses, Arder Joachim of Calabria, the year 1190, when in conversation with Richard, the Lion Hearted, said, "Certain wicked nations called 'Gog' and 'Magog' shall rise up to destroy the Church of God and shall subvert the race of Christians, and then shall be the Day of Judgment. He says John speaks of the church, that the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared of God that He should feed her there a thousand, two hundred, and sixty days."83
The Waldenses understood when the day of judgment would come, but thought "Gog" and "Magog" would rise up in an attempt to destroy the church, rather than God's people, Israel. They mistook the term, the people of God, to mean the church rather than God's nation as when the prophecies were given. They understood that they were the church in the wilderness, and that the lampstands of Revelation 1-3 were two churches in their time: "The Waldenses on one hand and the Albigenses on the other, were like the two olive trees, or the two lamps of which John speaks, the fatness and light of which were diffused throughout all the ends of the earth."84 A Presbyterian writer, whose doctrines relate far better to the current Waldensian church than the ancient, if, in fact they relate at all to the ancient Waldensians, says:
The character of the early Waldensian church is set forth with singular truth and beauty in their ancient insignia. (see copy in appendix) That church was indeed a "light shining in darkness," and blessed be God its candlestick has not yet been removed from its place.85
Unfortunately the Waldensians lived at the very time of the deepest degeneracy of the Roman church and clergy. The extreme contrast of the Waldensian purity brought upon them a revenge just that much more vigorous. No wonder God likened them to a church in the wilderness. They said, "The Romish Church has become a Babel, a synagogue of Satan."86 A Sabbatarian writer says, "They hold the church of Rome to be the whore of Babylon. They are Papists." (Latin: "members of Antichrist")87 Philip Smith said of them, "Pope Sylvester was identified with the little horn of the prophet Daniel (7:8)."88 Perrin relates that, "Lollard, also, was in great esteem amongst them, not on account of the commentary that he wrote on Revelation, but also, because he conveyed and made known their doctrine in England, from whom the British Waldenses were called Lollards."89 The Baptist historian Orchard records: "The real Waldenses abhorred every vestige of the man of sin, (p. 316)."
Mark of the Beast
Since a "beast" in Bible prophecy is shown to be a nation or kingdom in this world (Dan. 7:3-8, 17, 19, 23), then what would a mark of a beast be? A national symbol? A national church? A national church's symbol? Let us see what the Waldensians thought, as revealed again by the very helpful work of Orchard:
The Vaudois did not practice Paedobaptism, nor receive the sign of the cross: this they called the mark of the beast. This is evident from the laws enacted to regulate commercial affairs, and which excluded those from any advantages in trade, who refused this "shibboleth." The cross running through the whole of that system is certainly the mark of the beast. (Bp. Narton, Diss. 2, pp. 195, 289)
It was the ground model of their sanctuaries, the ornament within and without: it was placed on the forehead in baptism, and, by various digitary motions, conferred on every part of the body: it was worn on the clothes, or carried in the hand: it was the ensign of peace, or the signal of war: it was the emblazonry of the field, and the escutcheon of the mansion: it was the pope's signet, and the peasants' security: it was the talisman in private, and the Palladium of the public interest: the pontiff's tiara, the church's confidence, the community's glory and dread. This mark the Waldenses did not receive, and there was no baptism conferred on infants without it. Had they received the mark of the beast, they could not be considered free of the threatened indignation. (Rev. 14:9)90
Astrology and Galatians 4:10
What an amazing discovery to find that the Waldenses understood Galatians 4:10 in the light of its true meaning, and not as Protestants twist it in an attempt to do away with God's Sabbath and holy days. If they did not use this verse, nor Col. 2:16, nor Eph. 2:14, to do away with the Sabbath and holy days of God, did they not rather keep them? We shall see in the next chapter. But for now, what about astrology? This is one of the fastest growing "religions" in the world today. Yet the Waldensians knew exactly what God said about it. Why do not their "descendants" in the Protestant churches today know? Now to reveal their scriptural knowledge on this matter we quote:
"They act against the first commandment," say the Waldenses in the exposition on the first commandment of the law, "who believe the planets can force the free will of man. Such, as much as in them lies, esteem the planets to be God's; for they attribute to the creature that which belongs to the Creator. Against whom the prophet Jeremiah saith, 'learn not to follow the ways of the nations, and be not afraid of those things at which the people are astonished.' And Paul, Galatians IV, 'Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years: I am afraid of you, lest I bestowed upon you labour in vain.'
They act against this commandment who believe in sorcerers and diviners, for such believe the demons to be gods. The reason is, because they ask that of the demons, which God alone can grant: to discover things secret, and to declare the truth of things to come; which is forbidden by God, Leviticus 19-' Thou shalt not regard them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards. Moreover thou shalt not divine, nor give any heed to dreams. Thou shalt not be an enchanter, neither take counsel with familiar spirits, or wizards nor inquire after the truth among the dead: for all these things are an abomination unto the Lord. And because of this sin He will destroy you all at your Entrance.'"91
Footnotes: Chapter IV:
37. Smith, The History of the Christian Church During the Middle Ages, pp. 597-598.
38. "Waldenses," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 13th ed., Vol. 28, p. 255.
39. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 255.
40. Smith, The History of the Christian Church During the Middle Ages, pp. 598-599.
41. Milner, The History of the Church of Christ, p. 47.
42. Lewis, The Sabbath and the Sunday, pp. 211-212.
43. Strong, A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, p. 83.
44. Strong, A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, p. 51.
45. Jones, History of the Christian Church, p. 263.
46. Smith, The History of the Christian Church During the Middle Ages, p. 602.
47. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 261.
48. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 261.
49. Ibid., (Voltaire's General History, cpt. 69).
50. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, p. 274.
51. Smith, History of the Christian Church During the Middle Ages, p. 603.
52. Milner, History of the Church of Christ, p. 51.
53. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 247.
54. F. X. Funk, A Manual of Church History, Vol. 1, p. 353.
55. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, pp. 266, 267, 269.
56. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, p. 269.
57. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 298.
58. Perrin, op. cit., p. 30.
59. Jones, History of the Christian Church, p. 355.
60. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board, The Waldenses, "1669 Confession of Faith," p. 390.
6l. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 261.
62. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, p. 268.
63. Smith, History of the Christian Church During, the Middle Ages, p. 603.
64. Oorchard, Baptist History, pp. 304, 307. (In his letters, apud. opera, pp. 112-213. Bap. Mag.; Vol. 14, p. 53).
65. "Waldenses," Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, p. 243.
66. Strong, A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, p. 81.
67. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, p. 268.
68. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 297.
69. Strong, A Brief Sketch of the Waldenses, p. 74.
70. Jean Paul Perrin, History of the Ancient Christians, (1847), pp. 27-28.
71. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, (1624), p. 267.
72. Perrin, History of the Ancient Christians, (1847) p. 26.
73. Orchard, Baptist History, p. 26.
74. Milner, The History of the Church of Christ, p. 49.
75. Smith, The History of the Christian Church During the Middle Ages, p. 604.
76. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, pp. 265-266, 269.
77. Alzog, Manual of Universal Church History, Vol: II, p. 660.
78. Perrin, Historie of the Waldenses, p. 268.
79. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board, The Waldenses, p. 386. (from "A Confession of Faith" published by the Evangelical Churches of Piedmont, 1669).
81. Ibid., pp. 387-388.
82. Ibid., pp. 29-30.
83. Jones, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, 5:1, p. 266. (Dugger, p. 145).
84. Perrin, p. 46.
85. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board, The Waldenses, p. 39.
86. Neufeld and Neuffer, SDA Bible Students' Source Book, Vol. 9, art. 1755, p. 1072.
87. Lewis, The Sabbath and the Sunday, p. 212.
88. Smith, History of the Christian Church, p. 604.