Peter de Bruys, Henry of Toulouse, and Arnold of Brescia


The darkness of the preceding centuries became still deeper in the twelfth. The Catholic church which had been going farther and farther away from the faith of the apostles, now made rapid strides in its departure, plunging into the grossest errors in doctrine and practice. Still, through the thick darkness, some gleams of light appear, showing that the true cause of Christ had not become entirely extinct. Prominent among those who protested against the corruptions of the Catholics was Peter de Bruys, who made his appearance about 1110. He made great efforts to reform the abuses and to remove superstitions, which were crowned with abundant success. His followers, who became quite numerous during the twenty years of his ministry, were called Petrobrussians. Peter de Bruys first raised his voice in the Province of Dauphine in southwestern France, but the Catholic clergy becoming aroused and alarmed at his success, by their influence he and his followers were expelled from that province. He visited other provinces and kingdoms, his itinerant labors being everywhere blessed. His preaching was readily received by the mountaineers. The country people and the inhabitants of towns, especially Toulouse, rallied about the standard upheld by him.

His sentiments are not fully known, but historians agree that he taught that the "ordinance of baptism was to be administered to adults only; that it was a piece of idle superstition to build and dedicate churches to the service of God, who, in worship, has a peculiar respect to the state of the heart, and who cannot be worshiped in temples made with hands; that the crucifixes are objects of superstition, and ought to be destroyed; that, in the Lord's supper, the real body and blood of Christ were not partaken of by the communicants, but only represented in the way of symbol or figure; and, lastly, that the oblations, prayers, and good works of the living, can in no way be beneficial to the dead." - Orchard's History, pp. 181, 182. At this time the Catholics were expending much labor and money in erecting fine church temples and gorgeously decorating them, supposing such sacrifices of time and means would be rewarded by the gift of paradise. Peter zealously protested against this extravagant folly, contending that God was to be worshiped from a pure heart, and not by mere outward display. The worship of crosses or crucifixes was denounced by him in the most emphatic terms. He taught that they were objects of superstition. So great was the war thus waged, that, at one time, he made a great bonfire of all the crosses he could collect and he cooked meat on "Good Friday," distributing it to the congregation, in defiance of the Catholic custom to eat no meat on that day. This intrepid reformer finally sealed his testimony with his blood. He was burned to death at St. Giles in France, about the year 1130, "by an enraged populace, instigated by the clergy of the Catholic church."


About the year 1125 Peter de Bruys was joined by an eloquent fellow-laborer, Henry of Toulouse. This zealous preacher had lived the life of a hermit. In the beautiful city of Lusanne he had learned the simple truths of the gospel. The idleness of the hermit gave place to the armor and toil of an ambassador of Christ. To the dwellers in the valleys of the Alps he expounded the word of God with burning zeal. Passing across the mountains he carried the glad tidings to beautiful, yet darkened France. He was banished from Mans, Poictiers, and Bordeaux. "He passed through those cities, exercising his ministerial function with the utmost applause of the people, and disclaiming with vehemence and fervor against the superstitions they had introduced into the Christian church." - Mosheim, p. 289. In the quaint old city of Toulouse, where four thousand martyrs were burned in a century, the hermit hero, Henry, raised his voice against the corrupt practices of the Catholic church. The clergy woke to the danger of their craft, and Henry was drive from Toulouse. He fled to the mountains, was pursued, captured, and brought before a council at Rheims, which was presided over by the Pope. This was in 1158. Henry was condemned, sent to a dungeon, and left there to die. His followers were called Henricians. Amid the darkness of those times the monument of his labors towered aloft, bearing the inscription of the gospel he preached, and proclaiming to us through the dim past that from a dungeon below, a noble spirit took its flight to a bright home above.


Contemporary with Peter de Bruys and Henry of Toulouse was the Italian, Arnold of Brescia, Italy. In early life he traveled from Italy into France, and there became a pupil of the celebrated Abelard. Here he imbibed the spirit of soul-freedom, and received into his heart the light of the gospel. Returning to his native city he began preaching the gospel with great power. The people were melted and roused beneath his fiery appeals. The Catholic clergy became alarmed at his success, and condemned him to perpetual silence in the year 1139. He at once fled to the wilderness, and in the valley of the Alps found shelter among people of like views. He finally planted himself in the midst of his foes and entered Rome itself. His appeals for freedom and liberty of conscience were for a time successful. Rome seemed to waken from the slumber and slavery of ages. The united power of the clergy was again brought against the preahcer. He was charged with advocating that the kingdom of Christ was not of this world, that the church was a distinct and spiritual assembly of baptized believers. For advocating just what Baptists now teach, he was arrested, condemned, crucified, and then burned, and his ashes thrown into the Tiber. These three heroes of truth - Henry, Peter de Bruys, and Arnold of Brescia - were flame pillars in the night-gloom, and stand as way-marks in the wilderness by which we are able to trace the true church of Christ through the darkest period of the past. Their followers were known by their enemies as Henricians, Petrobrussians, and Arnoldists. They were numbered by thousands, and were what would now be termed Baptists. We shall trace these humble, zealous followers of Christ, on through succeeding centuries, in demonstration of the Master's declaration, that the gates of hell should not prevail against his church. There have been a succession of churches in regular order from the apostles, if Jesus spoke the truth. This cannot be reasonably denied. This being true, the Old Baptist church is the true church, or the Roman Catholic church is. To evade the force of this unanswerable argument, representatives of other churches assert that there is nothing in the question of church succession. There is no other way to escape the conclusion, the churches of recent origin can establish no claim to be churches of Jesus Christ.

- Elder John R. Daily, Primitive Monitor, 1897, pp. 422-425.

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