The Judgment of Some Eminent Christians, who Flourished Before the Reformation, Concerning the Doctrines in Debate (Predestination versus Free-Will). [The following quotation from that Section is regarding the history of the Waldenses and Albigenses.]

Even in the worst and darkest of times, God has never left himself entirely without witness, nor permitted the truths of his gospel, to be totally exterminated. They have, sometimes, laid, to all outward appearance, in very few hands: but they have constantly subsisted somewhere.

Among those who may, with the strictest justice, be styled the morning stars of the Reformation, were the ancient and famous Churches of the Albigenses and Waldenses: so denominated from Alby, a city of Langudoc in France, where they abounded in great numbers; and afterwards about the year 1170, from Peter Valdo, an opulent citizen of Lyons, by whom these excellent people were much countenanced and assisted. Though some suppose them to have acquired the name of Waldenses, quasi Vallenses, from their being extremely numerous in the valleys of Piedmont, others from the German word Waldt, which signifies a wood: woods being their frequent refuge from persecution.

Dr. Allix, in his remarks on the Ecclesiastical History of these Churches, is, in general, prodigiously careful not to drop the least hint concerning (what has been since called) the Calvinism of those Christians. But the present learned bishop of Bristol has been more just and candid. His Lordship tells us, from Mezeray, "they had almost the same opinions as those who are now called Calvinists." It will, I apprehend, be easily made appear, that their opinions were not only almost, but altogether the same. Nor did they soon deviate from the evangelical system of their forefathers: for, so low down as the aera of the Reformation, I find that "they sent to Zuinglius for teachers, and afterwards to Calvin: of whose sentiments," add the compilers of the work I quote, "the remainder of them, called the Vaudois, continue to be."

The first rise was of very considerable antiquity. The Romish Council, assembled, by order of pope Alexander III, at Tours, in May 1163, prohibited all persons, under pain of excommunication, from having any intercourse with these people; who are described as teaching and professing "a damnable heresy, long since sprung up in the territory of Toulouse." Van Maestricht assures us, that they wrote against the errors and superstitions of the Church of Rome, in the year 1100. According to Pilchidorffius, the Waldenses themselves carried up the date of their commencement as a body, as high as three hundred years after Constantine, i.e., to about the year 637. For my own part, I believe their antiquity to have been higher still. I agree with some of our oldest and best Protestant divines, in considering the Albigenses, or Waldenses (for they were, in fact, one and the same,) to have been a branch of that visible Church, against which the gates of hell could never totally prevail; and that the uninterrupted succession of Apostolical doctrine continued with them, from the primitive times, quite down to the Reformation: soon after which period, they seem to have been melted into the common mass of Protestants. Neither does this conjecture limit the extent of the visible Church in former ages to so narrow a compass, as may at first be imagined. For they were, say Poplinerius, "Diffused, not only throughout all France, in the year 1100, but through almost every country in Europe. "And," says he; "to this very day, they have their stubborn partizans in France, Spain, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Saxony, Poland, Lithuania, and other nations."

Archbishop Usher, whose enquiries were never superficial, and whose conclusions are never precipitate, lays great stress on a remarkable passage in Reinerius, a Popish inquisitor, who died about the year 1259. The passage is this: "Of all the sects which as yet exist, or ever have existed, none is more detrimental to the Church," i.e., to the Romish Church, "than the sect of the Waldenses. And this on three accounts: 1. Because it is a much more ancient sect than any other. For, some say, that it has continued ever since the Popedom of Silvester*; others, that it has subsisted from the time of the Apostles. 2. It is a more extensive sect than any other: for there is almost no country, in which this sect has not a footing. 3. This sect has a mighty appearance of piety; inasmuch as they live justly before men, and believe all things rightly concerning God, and all the articles contained in the Creed. They only blaspheme the Roman Church and Clergy."**

* There were two Popes of this name. Silvester I. died A. D. 335. Silvester II. A. D. 1003.

** Usher De Success. p. 78. Dr. Cave also lays as much stress on this testimony as does archbishop Usher: see his Historia Literaria, vol. i., p 632. And so does the great Spanhemius, Oper. vol. iii., col. 1129.

-- Complete Works of Augustus Montague Toplady (1737-1775), pp. 88-90.

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