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A Little Ocean Ambiance
Pastor Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
The Baptists of today truely have a rich heritage. Unlike
other denominations, the Baptistis can trace their roots back
through the centuries to their founder, the Lord Jesus
Christ. The Baptists did not come out of the Great Reformation,
as some would believe. The Baptists, unlike the Reformation, or
Protestant churches, have no ties to the Mother Church in Rome,
but have a dignified heritage which can be traced by the trail
of blood which has been shed by Baptists through
It is, nevertheless, a right royal succession, that in every
age the Baptists have been advocates of liberty for all, and have
held that the gospel of the Son of God makes every man a free
man in Christ Jesus.(1)
One of the Baptist groups which has existed in past eras
is the Waldensians, This group of Baptist believers was found
most prevalently in the mountain valleys of the Alps. They truely
have a distinguished history. However, a major question has
been raised concerning the Waldenses, which is: When did the Waldenses
originate? Experts disagree on their antiquity.
Some trace the Waldenses clear back to the Apostolic churches
while others trace them only to the twelfth century
Those who believe that the Waldenses came into existence in the twelfth century base this on the story of Peter
Waldo, one of the great leaders of the Waldenses. Peter Waldo
was born Vaux, in Dauphine, in France. "He first comes into
notice as a wealthy merchant in Lyons experiencing a religious
crisis."(2) The crisis he faced was the sudden death of
a close friend while they were attending a feast.(3) Coupled
with this was the effect that a traveling minstrel had upon his
life. The minstrel sang songs about St. Alexis, who was a fourth
century saint of poverty. The final straw was Waldo's visit to
a "learned divine" who told him, "If thou
wilt be perfect, go sell all that thou hast and give to the
poor."(4) From that day forward Waldo attempted to live a life
of poverty. His followers, known as the Poor Men of Lyons(5) traveled
many miles preaching the Gospel, while taking with them barest
provisions, and usually no shoes. This row of poverty
was to be a mark of the Waldenses down through the ages.
It is without question that Peter Waldo was a Waldensian.
However, many scholars believe the that the Waldensian line
can be traced further than Peter Waldo. The Waldenses
themselves claimed to have a historic line which led back
to the apostolic churches. "They call themselves. ..successors
of the apostles, and say that they are in possession of the
apostolic authority, and of the keys to bind and unbind."(6)
They believed that the apostolic succession could be traced directly
to Peter Waldo.
Still others believe that the Waldenses simply came out of
Rome earlier than the twelfth century. Rorenco, who was the prior
at St. Rock in Turin, states that " they were not
a new sect in the ninth and tenth centuries, and that Claude of
Turin must have detached them from the church in the ninth century."(7)
One question which has been raised is how the Waldenses could
have formed the religious beliefs they did had they started with
Peter Waldo. They were an isolated people in the valleys of the
Alps, and would not have had the opportunity to check into the
errors of Catholocism because they were so far removed from Rome.
This would seem to contradict the idea that the
Waldenses began with Peter Waldo.
The generally accepted theory is that the Waldenses were indeed
in existence before the time of Peter Waldo. Though their antiquity
may not reach to the time of the apostles, their line can be traced
back through the Petrobrusians and other sects. The name "Waldenses"
is from the Italian word "Waldesi" which means valley,
and would imply that the Waldenses were valley
people who lived in the Alps.(8)
This is probably the correct theory.
Most of the historic evidence about the Waldenses comes from
the time of Peter Waldo. Waldo originally did not desire to separate
from the church in Rome. His main desire was to lead man to
a holy life.(9) For this cause, Waldo was not considered a heretic by the Catholic Church. However,
the Catholics did demand that Waldo and his followers not preach
without church authority. Waldo's reply was "we ought to
obey God rather than man, Christ commanded His disciples to preach."(10)
And Waldo and his followers continued to
preach. They met with good success everywhere they went. People
were tired of hearing the priests say one thing, but live another.
They were impressed by the wholehearted dedication which they
found among the Waldenses. The priests saw this as being perilous
to them, and ultimately excommunicated Waldo and his followers.
This forced the Waldenses to flee into the Alps for safety from
This shows the three distinguishing principles of the Waldenses.(11) First, they believed the that it was better
to obey God than men. Secondly, they believed that the Holy Scriptures
were to be their source of knowledge. Thirdly, they
believed in the importance of preaching. These three
guiding principles are seen over and over again in their history.
They were severly persecuted by the Catholics because of
their refusal to bow the knee to Rome. The first perscution
occurred in 1332, when the reigning pope ordered his men to destroy
all the "heretics" up in the valleys of the Alps. This
started a long series of persecution. "After this date there
was scarcely a pope who did not bear unintentional witness
to their great numbers and wide diffusion."(12) This indicates
that persecutions more frequent and widespread. Had the Waldenses
submitted to the leadership of Rome, these persecutions would
not have occured. But they believed they ought to obey God rather
The Bible became their only rule for faith and practice. "The
Bible was a living Book, and there were those among them
who could quote the entire book from memory."(13)
It was for this reason that they rejected the doctrines of the
Catholic Church. "They rejected the doctrine of
purgatory, masses for the dead, indulgences, the invocation
of saints, and the use of images, and they venerated, but declined
to adore, the Virgin Mary."(l4) What they did do
was emphasize the imitation of Christ. If anything, they dwelt more
on living a Godly life than they did on justification by faith.(l5)
However, their theology, while not shown in dogmatic statements,
is easily seen through their lives and through the results of
Their final principle was the importance of preaching. This
is quickly evidenced by the rapid growth of the Waldensian movement.
To maintain the truth in their own mountains was not
the only object of this people. They felt their relations
to the rest of Christendom. They sought to drive back
the darkness and reconquer the kingdom which Rome had
overwhelmed. They were an evangelistic as well as evangelica1 church.(16)
The Waldenses started their push in Switzerland and Northern
Italy. But soon their work extended throughout all of Europe.(17) The Waldenses did have the unscriptural belief that
women could preach equally with men. But the fact that this
helped spread the Gospel cannot be denied.
From what has been shown about the Waldenses, it is clear
that they were Baptistic. However, their Baptist doctrines should
be dealt with.(18) First of all, they believed only in regenerate
church membership. This is evidenced by their creeds and by their
rejection of infant baptism. Secondly, the Waldenses practiced
immersion, which is the only proper form of Scriptural baptism.
They were also correct in realizing that baptism identified them
with Christ but did not wash their sins away. Thirdly, they were
Baptist because they believed that the Bible was the highest
authority and the only rule for faith and practice. Fourthly,
they agreed with Baptists on the ordinance of the Lord's Supper.
Finally, and most importantly, they were Baptists in that they
believed that salvation did not come through the church, or through
works, but only through justification by faith.
As the Waldenses continued to spread, "many Roman Catholics
were won over and some of them doubtless brought some error with
them."(l9) Some of these errors gradually crept in to the
movement. These errors eventually worked to bring a downfall to
the Waldensian movement. On the eve of the Reformation, the movement
was drawing to a close. The numbers had dwindled drastically because
of persecution. Many of those who remained had joined the newer
Anabaptist movement. Tired of fighting, the remaining Waldenses
opened negotiations with the Reformers, and in 1532, a union was
brought about. Sadly, this caused the Waldenses to lose some of
their convictions, and they became Pedobaptists.(20)
The Waldensian novement was certainly important
to the line of Baptists. These people came out of their valley
dwellings in the Alps and sent the cause of Christ, and Baptist
principles throughout Europe. At one point, it was said that "one
third of Christendom if not more has attended illicit Waldensian
conventicles and is at heart Waldensian."(21) This great
movement helped to keep the fires of Baptist polity alive through
the dark period predeeding the Reformation. It may be true that
different Waldensian sects did not all
entirely hold the same views. But it is a blessing
to know that the Waldenses, as a whole, were Baptists.
1) John Christian, A History of the Baptists
(Nashville: Broadman Press, 1922) p. 23.
2) Encyclopedia Americana, volume 28, (New York:
American Corporation, 1968 ) p. 275.
3) Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, (New
York: Bryon Taylor and Co., 1887) ) p. 294.
5) Albert Newman, A history of Anti-Pedobaptists, (Philadelphia:
American Baptist Publication Society, 1897)
6) Christian, op. cit., p. 72.
7) J. Wylie, History of the Waldenses, (Washington: Review and
Herald Publishing Association, N.D.) pp. 10,11.
8) Christian, op. cit., p. 76.
9) Armitage, op. cit., p. 296.
11) Christian, op. cit., p. 76
12) Wylie, op . c i t ., p . 27.
13) Christian, loc, cit., p. 76.
14) Encyclopedia Americanna, op. cit., p.
15) Newman, op. cit., p. 44.
16) Wylie, op. cit., p. 20.
17) Newman, loc. cit.
18) W. Jarrel, Baptist Church Perpetuity,
National Baptist Publishing House, 1904) pp. 161-165.
19) Christian, op. cit., p. 77.
20) Ibid., p. 82.
21) Leonard Varduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren,
(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964) p. 173.
A History of the Baptists. New York: Bryan Taylor and Co., 1897
A History of the Baptists. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1922.
volume 28. New York americana Corporation, 1968.
Baptist Church Perpetuity. Baptist Publishing House, 1904.
A history of Anti-Pedobaptism. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1897.
The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Grand Rapids: Williim B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964.
History of the Waldenses.
Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, N.D.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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