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Baptists In All Ages: Chapter IV PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.S. Newman   

What did the Waldenses believe?

Barnes, in his history, p. 119, says, "The Waldenses, or Vaudois, a Calvinistic community existing in the valleys of Piedmont, were now treated with terrible severity. Three thousand persons are said to have been massacred; their houses were burned; the fields were laid waste; the woods cut down, and the district was converted into a desert."

According to Thomas Howies' history, the ancient Waldenses and groups of Baptists held to the following points of doctrine:

"1. Of God's eternal purpose and predestination of an elect people; and those, comparatively few, ordained to life and glory eternal.

"2. That man had lost all ability to do good, and freedom of will to choose it; and was in h-;s nature as fallen, inclined to evil.

"3. That nothing ever did or can alter this propensity of the human heart, but the Holy Ghost, by His own immediate agency upon the souls of men.

"4. That a sinner is and can be justified by faith only; and this not of himself; being unable, either to comprehend or receive the things that be of the Spirit of God; and therefore, the faith itself must be the gift of God.

"5. That merit in the creature, there is none, nor ever can be. From first to last a sinner must be saved by grace.

"6. That the vicarious atonement by the one oblation of Christ upon the cross, is effectual, not for the many called, but for the few chosen."--Page 391.

The glorious doctrine believed and promulgated by those ancient Waldenses was the merit of the atonement for the salvation of sinners and the Spirit of God as the only means of regeneration.

I have before me a copy of a book written by J. W. Chism, a Campbellite. He was trying to prove that the seventy weeks mentioned by Daniel could not be fulfilled until the little horn waxed great against the host of heaven or the children of God. If I understand him, he was contending that the papal power was the little horn and papal Rome was to wax great toward the children of God and to kill many of them. He seemed to realize that he could not find in the pages of history where papal Rome had ever waxed great against and murdered any of his people. So when he made his application, he referred us to Armitage's history, page 173, where the historian referred to the persecution under Diocletian, A. D. 303. The historian said, "Then Christianity revived, illustrating the words of Tertullian, uttered long before: 'Our number increases the more you destroy us. The blood of the Christians is their seed.' Amongst the many illustrative cases which exhibit the fortitude of the martyrs is that of Laurentius, a deacon, of whom the magistrate demanded the money of, the church, for the poor. This iron-nerved Old Baptist said, most cheerfully, that the church had valuable treasures, asking the court to send horses and wagons for them, and give him three days to produce them. His request was granted, and when the day arrived, he brought loads of widows and the poor, saying: 'These are the treasures of the church.' For this, they roasted him alive on a gridiron; but so resolutely did he bear his sufferings, that he told the executioner: 'This side of my body is roasted enough, now turn it and, roast the other; and then, if thou wilt, devour it." Tertullian joined the Montanists A. D. 200, and was a member with them at the time of his death.

The writer next refers us to page 196. Here we have another account of the persecution of Diocletian, which began Feb. 23, 303. So we have traced the church up to A. D. 303 by Mr. Chism. He next calls our attention to page 287. This quotation has reference to the Catholics persecuting the Petrobrusians in 1126. So the church was with those persecuted people. Mr. Armitage says, "But the death of Peter was not the end of his cause. Labbe calls him 'the parent of heretics, for almost all who were thus branded after his day trod in his steps; and especially all Baptist heretics.'" The writer next calls our attention to page 292. Here his witness was describing the cruel persecution of Arnold and his followers, and as the Campbellites teach that God has no children out of the church, the church was with the Arnoldists in the twelfth century. He next calls our attention to page 312. The historian said, "Of the Waldensians and other murdered sheep of Christ, he (Innocent III.) said: 'They are like Samson's foxes. They appear to be different, but their tails are tied together.'"

Let me quote from Mr. Chism's book, pages 87, 88: "So I need but call attention to the fact that the papal power had this sway over the people of God for years of the world's history. This is so commonly known that I need not attempt to prove it by a quotation from history; but for the sake of leaving nothing to stand. The suppression of the Arians, as cited above, is proof of this; and again, the massacre of the Waldenses and others who opposed the pontiff of Rome. *** 'And it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.' This gives us the casting down of some of God's people and of some of the illustrious men of the church of God to the ground." The church was with the Waldenses in the fifteenth century. The Anabaptists and the ancient Waldenses were the same in doctrine. The Anabaptists said, "That those which He foreknew He also ordained before that they should be alike fashioned into the shape of His Son."--Vedder, p. 110. Armitage said, p. 304, "There was, however, a remarkable association between the Waldensians of the dispersion and the Baptists in the sixteenth century, both in doctrine and practice. *** Indeed, in some cases, the Baptists evidently sprang from the Waldensians."

The Primitive Baptists of today have much in common with the original Waldenses. They absolutely rejected the error of regeneration by baptism, as held to by the Catholics. They believed in and practiced immersion only. Erasmus was as bitter an Arminian as I ever read after, and it might be interesting to some to know how his attacks on election, predestination and the sovereign grace of God in the salvation of sinners were answered. Erasmus, like all other
Arminians, contended that if the above mentioned doctrines were true there was no use in preaching, "for if these things be so, who will amend his ways? I answer, without the Holy Ghost no man can amend his life to purpose. Reformation is but varnished hypocrisy, unless it proceed from grace. The elect and truly pious are amended by the Spirit of God, and those of mankind who are amended by Him will perish. It is not in a man's power to believe himself such, upon just grounds, till he be enabled from above. But the elect shall be so enabled; they shall be enabled to believe themselves to be what indeed they are. Yet you would have us abstain from the mention of these grand doctrines, and have our people in the dark as to their election of God."

The Primitive Baptists charge that the original Waldenses were their religious ancestors. They believed as the Primitive Baptists do on election, predestination, redemption, atonement, depravity, the work of the Holy Spirit as the only means of regeneration, church succession, the preservation of the saints to grace and glory, baptism by immersion and that of believers only. They also believed that God called men to preach the gospel; and if their preachers did not live as the Holy Scriptures required them to live, they should not bc allowed to preach; and some of their churches washed feet, just as the Old Baptists do now. They did not make feet washing a test of fellowship, and just so it is now with the Old Baptists.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.