« PoprzedniaDalej »
MEANWHILE a little leaven was at work, which served still to keep a better faith alive; a little salt of the earth which prevented the great carcase of human nature from offending the nostrils of its Creator. The Almighty has been ever wont to make such provision for the continuance of sound doctrine. Whilst all flesh was corrupting its way, still a household or two were left to keep his name from perishing, and to rally the true religion again-an Enos, an Enoch, or a Noah. When idolatry had once more spread itself over the world, almost to the extinction of the knowledge of the Most High, a few chosen vessels were left to the preservation of it still-an Abraham, a Lot, a Melchizedec, a Job. Generations rolled on, and God thought fit to act on a greater scale, but still on the same principle; and the Israelites were separated from mankind as a peculiar people, as the depositaries of the creed of man; and their fortunes were so shaped as to occasion their dispersion amongst the Gentiles, with the Bible in their hearts, and hands; and thus were they made the channels through which the will and works of God were communicated to those who would otherwise have sat in darkness; and to this origin, perhaps, rather than to be unassisted efforts of natural reason, is to be referred the more sublime part of the philosophy of the heathens.*
* See the very learned charge of Dr. Waterland upon "The Wisdom of the Ancients borrowed from Divine Revelation," viii. 1. et. seq. Oxf.
So it was, in a degree, during the times of papal ignorance; for though to the question, which the Romanists taught every priest that could scarce read his breviary to ask, "Where was the religion of protestants before Luther?" it was sufficient to say, as it was said, "In the Bible;" still even in the darkest times, it had many faithful witnesses to produce besides, and both in individuals and in whole congregations might even then be read the eloquent chapters of the good man's life. Thus, whilst the pope was grasping at universal power, and the monks were busy in seconding his efforts, and councils were giving authority to abuses both doctrinal and practical, on which his usurpation was grafting itself, and wars were waged between the several ecclesiastical orders, to the ruin of that which is the keystone of the gospel, charity, and ignorance was becoming more dense, and manners more profligate, there was abiding amongst the recesses of the Alps a race of hardy mountaineers, who held (as they still hold after ages of poverty and oppression) the essential articles of the reformed faith, and to whom it had been apparently derived from the apostles themselves:-Vaudois, Valenses, or Waldenses, was the name of this primitive people, dwelling as they did in the valleys of the Cottian Alps-a name which, though at first like that of Albigenses and Romanists, having a reference to the local habitation of the persons who bore it, eventually embraced a large and widely scattered sect which professed certain religious opinions, and on more occasions than one sealed them with their blood. For that they took their title or origin from Peter Waldo, the heretic of Lyons, as the catholics pretend, is not to be admitted. He was excommunicated by the archbishop of that place, in 1172, and is not mentioned before the year 1160, whereas there is evidence that the Vaudois existed as a distinct society at least half a century earlier; and it is probable that
the Subalpini, and Paterines, a more ancient name still, men who worshipped the God of their fathers after a manner which the church of Rome called heresy, were but the same Waldenses, under a prior designation. Certain it is, that no shadow of proof exists of Peter Waldo having ever set foot in Piedmont, and a substantial difference may be descried between his followers and the church of the Alps, that whilst the former assumed the functions of the clerical office without hesitation, the latter constantly and scrupulously insisted upon a regular call to the priesthood, and imposition of hands.* Indeed, the episcopal form of church government was faithfully preserved among them, till poverty, aggravated by a dreadful pestilence in the early part of the seventeenth century, threw them for resources upon Switzerland, which very naturally sent them, together with clerical recruits, (for only two out of the thirteen barbes or pastors had been left alive,) her liturgy, her presbyterian constitution, and her cold and unattractive ritual.† Among many of their tenets to which their enemies bear witness, we find that they gave no credit to modern miracles, rejected extreme unction, held offering for the dead as nothing worth except to the priest, neglected the festivals, denied the doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, and invocation of saints, and held the church of Rome (not an uncommon opinion in the thirteenth century) to be the woman in
* See Alix's Churches of Piedmont, c. 24.
+ See Gilly's Researches among the Vaudois, 76., and his Second Visit, 219. It appears that the several liturgies of Geneva, Neufchatel and Lausanne are used at present; but that of Geneva by the majority of the pastors. On comparing the brief sketch of this service (given by Mr. Gilly as the one of La Torre) with the Geneva "Forme of Common Praires, made by Master John Calvyne," we may conjecture that the latter is in a great measure retained.
See Dante's Purgatorio, c. xvi. xxxii. Petrarc. Son. 196.
scarlet of the Revelations. From La Nobla Leçon, a certain poem of their own, of unsuspected authority and very ancient date, for it was written about the year 1100, we may further gather in addition to the particulars already given, that the commandments were taught by them; not excepting that against idols, and the worship of the Trinity, though without a word in favour of the Virgin. Slanderous tongues would indeed "have done them to death;". things which they knew not were wantonly and wickedly laid to their charge; many, of the same kind, urged in the same spirit, and with the same regard to consistency, as the charges objected to the first Christians by the heathens of old time. They were dissolute libertines, and they were ascetic precisians; they used the Lord's Prayer only, and yet they prayed at greater or less length seven times a day; they permitted laymen to consecrate the elements, and yet they had priests, and, as some said, three orders of priests; they allowed the former also to receive confessions, yet they rejected the confessional; they would have ecclesiastics supported by alms, and they denounced the mendicant orders as Satan's own invention;--non hæc satis inter se conveniunt. Archbishop Usher has been at the pains to collect and compare the manifold accusations cast in their teeth and makes it manifest that "the testimony agreeth not together.* Here, however, were many of the principal tenets of the reformed faith, long before the time of Luther:-in the fastnesses of these mountains (to use the language of bishop Jewel) were they found, even as it was in such places, that the older prophets prophesied from the Spirit of God. The Vaudois extended themselves. They sent forth a colony to Calabria which was basely and barbarously put to the sword, when the signs of the times
* De Christianarum Ecclesiar. Successione et Statu. c. vi. § 19. 33.
TENETS OF THE VAUDOIS.
foreboded a reformation in Italy; and struck the pope with "fear of change." A settlement so distant could not affect England, or if so, very indirectly. But another division of the same people migrated to Bohemia; and the intercourse between England and that country in the time of Wickliffe was considerable. Natives of Bohemia were then students at Oxford;* and Richard II. chose a Bohemian princess for his queen. The partiality which she herself (as indeed her nation in general) manifested for the writings of our early reformer is an indication of some sympathy between the parties. The good seed must have fallen on ground prepared to receive it, or it would not have shot up so vigorously; and it is probable that the early heresy of Bohemia might help to raise up a Wickliffe for England, as he paid the debt back by giving to Bohemia a Huss and a Jerome. Certain it is, that catholic writers of the greatest authority, in treating of the doctrines of Wickliffe, have considered him as adopting those of the Waldenses, by whatever means he had become acquainted with them; and the Vaudois to this day claim a fraternal feeling as due to themselves from England, on the same ground.† Mr. Wordsworth, whose "Ecclesiastical Sketches" are in general scarcely more remarkable for their poetry than for their historical accuracy, points at this connection in his Sonnet on the Waldenses:
These who gave the earliest notice, as the lark
By striking out a solitary spark,
When all the world with midnight gloom was dark.
In vain endeavoured to exterminate,
Fell obloquy pursues with hideous bark;
* Eccl. Biog. i. 99.
+ See Mr. Gilly's Narrative, 78.