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Baptist History Notebook
By Berlin Hisel

Chapter 13

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     This group of our ancestors takes their name from Henry of Lausanne. He had been a monk in the Roman Church. The Monastery of Clugny in Burgundy was the most famous cloister of these times. It had been founded early in the tenth century. It was famous for the piety and scholarship of its abbots and monks. It had become, by the twelfth century, an immoral scandalous place. During its worst times Henry became an inmate of Clugny.

     Historians are not sure where he was born. Some say in Switzerland, others say Italy. The historians say he was probably born at the close of the eleventh century. He was a man of great piety and high morals. He became disgusted with the immorality of the monks at Clugny so he renounced his vows. He began to preach the gospel from one place to another.

Description of Henry

     Thomas Armitage quotes from Neander's Life of Bernard of Henry: "He had all the attributes to deeply impress the people, great dignity in personal appearance, a fiery eye, a thundering voice, a lively step, a speech that rushed forth impetuously as it flowed from his heart, and Bible passages were always at hand to support his addresses. Soon was spread abroad the report of his holy life and his learning. Young and old, men and women, hastened to him to confess their sins and said they had never seen a man of such severity and friendliness whose words could move a heart of iron to repentance, whose life should be a model for all monks and priests."1

     Henry seems to have started out as a reformer of the Catholic Church. "He appeared in the garb of a penitent, his long beard hanging upon his breast, his feet bare even in winter, a staff in his hand; a very young John the Baptist, in a living voice. In drawing his picture, an enemy speaks of 'his face through the quickness of his eyes,' as 'like a perilous sea;

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tall of body, quick of gait, gliding in his walk, quick of speech, of a terrible voice, a youth in age, none more splendid than he in dress.'"2

Henry in Mans

     In 1116 this lithe, young Baptist apostle of the Alps drew near to the thriving city of Mans, and sent to obtain permission of Hildebert the bishop to preach in his diocese. This prelate was a disciple of Berengarius, and so looked with favor on Henry's efforts to purify the Church. He was about to depart from Rome, but instructed his archdeacon to treat Henry kindly and allow him to preach. The fame of his piety had reached the city before him, and the people believed that he possessed a prophetic gift. He entered Mans, and while the bishop was visiting Rome the people received him with delight; the priests of the lower order sat at his feet, almost bathing them with tears, while most of the higher clergy protested against him and stood aloof. A platform or pulpit was specially erected for him, from which he might address the people. He made marriage a chief matter in his sermons. He would free it from unnatural restrictions, would celebrate it in early life and make it indissoluble. He would not accept the repentance of an unchaste woman until she had burned her hair and her garments in public. He condemned extravagant attire and marriage for money. 'Indeed,' says his enemy, 'he was marvelously eloquent,' a remark which couches his matter as well as his manner. While the priests wept over his exposure of their corruptions, the people were enraged at the priests. They refused to sell any thing to them, threatened their servants with violence, and their safety was secured only by the shield of public authority. The clergy came to dispute with Henry, but the people handled them roughly and they fled for safety. Chagrined at their defeat, they united in a letter forbidding him to preach, but the people protected him and he went on boldly.

     When the bishop returned the people treated his religious acts with contempt and said: 'We do not want your benedictions. You may bless the dirt. We have a father and a priest who surpasses you in dignity, holy living and

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understanding. Your clergy avoid him as if he were a blasphemer, because of the spirit of a prophet he is uncovering their vices, and out of the Holy Scriptures is condemning their errors and excesses.' The bishop had an interview with Henry, but dared not tolerate the stanch reformer any longer. Henry, therefore, retired to Poitiers and other southern provinces of France, where he continued to labor with great success, in some cases whole congregations leaving the Catholics and joining his standard. The people gave him a ready hearing, for the Catharists and Peter had prepared his way. He had met Peter in the Diocese of Narbonne and received from him the direction of the rising sect.3

     It is probable that Henry, through association with Peter de Bruys, ceased to be a reformer and became known by the Roman Church as a heretic. Newman says he seems "to have associated himself with Peter de Bruys and for ten years these zealous preachers carried on conjointly their evangelistic work."4

St. Bernard's Account of Henry's Influence

     Henry C. Vedder quotes from one of St. Bernard's letters to the Count of Toulouse, to warn him against Henry:

     "The churches are without congregations, congregations without priests, priests without their due reverence, and, worst of all, Christians without Christ. Churches are regarded as synagogues, the sanctuary of God is said to have no sanctity, the sacraments are not thought to be sacred, and feast days are deprived of their wonted solemnities. Men are dying in their sins, souls are being dragged everywhere before the dread Tribunal, neither being reconciled by repentance nor fortified by Holy Communion. The way of Christ is shut to the children of Christians, and they are not allowed to enter the way of salvation, although the Saviour lovingly calls on their behalf, 'Suffer little children to come into me.' Does God, then, who, as he has multiplied his mercy, has saved both man and beast, debar innocent little children from this his so great mercy? Why, I ask, why does he begrudge to little ones their Infant Saviour, who was born for them? This envy is of the devil. By this

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envy death entered into the whole world. Or does he suppose that little children have no need of a Saviour, because they are children?"5

     It seems very obvious from these words of St. Bernard that Henry refused baptism to infants and baptized only believing adults.

Henry Was a Baptist

     I would like to give a brief account of Henry by S. H. Ford:

     "In the beautiful city of Lausanne, surrounded by the towering Alps, the sheltering homes of God’s hidden ones, an Italian hermit learned the simple truths of the gospel. The idleness of the hermit was at once exchanged for the armor and the toil of an ambassador of Christ. To the dwellers in those valleys he broke the bread of life; and over those mountain peaks he passed, bringing glad tidings to beautiful, yet darkened France. From Mans, from Poictiers, from Bordeaux, he was successively banished, after what victories or defeats we know not. Of martial valor, of deeds of chivalry preformed on those same spots, we have many flowing record. What would we not give to know the words and acts of this simple gospel preacher, as he passed through those proud old cities, with their grim castles and splendid cathedrals, and glorious recollections of heraldry and conquest looming up in the Gothic twilight of that age. But like the apostolic record, which notes the entrance of Paul into Philippi, where the beauties of Grecian art, column, and statue, and temple, robed in the autumnal charms of a vicious loveliness, surrounded him on every side, one fact only has importance sufficient for enduring record: 'There they preached the Gospel.' So of Henry. More than this we know not.

     "He passed through these 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."

     "We have no satisfactory account," adds Mosheim, "of the doctrines of this man; we merely know that he

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censured the baptism of infants, and the corrupt manners of the clergy."

     But we have a satisfactory account of his doctrines, given by Mosheim himself, and more especially by Wall. Henry was a Baptist, believing in the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, the supreme authority of Christ as King, and the immersion of true believers.

     In the old and melancholy city of Toulouse, where four thousand heretics were burned during a century, the hero hermit, Henry, lifted his voice, "cried aloud, and spared not." Toulouse, from whose cathedral summits are seen the mingling steams of the Cervennes and the Tarn, sweeping on through the beautiful vale of the Garonne; and in the obscure distance of the Pyrenees, rearing their silvered heads to heaven, as though inviting to their mountain fastnesses the shorn lambs of Christ's fold; Toulouse, in the darkness and stillness of its death-sleep, was suddenly convulsed by the embodied power and wisdom of God - the Gospel.

     The clergy woke to the danger of their craft. His opposition to their human dogmas, their splendid buildings, their vestments, instrumental music – the whole train of priestly wrappages, brought down their vengeance on the daring innovator. The great Saint Bernard, we have seen, thundered out his maledictions, and poor Henry, driven from Toulouse, fled to the mountains, was pursued, and brought before a council at Rheins. This was in 1158… He held that the church was a spiritual body composed of regenerated persons. He also held that no person should be baptized until he knew he was saved. He rejected infant baptism. He denied that children, before they reach the years of understanding, can be saved by receiving baptism. So great was this man's influence that the whole congregations left the Romish churches and joined with him."6

     Let me here give the quote from Wall that Ford probably referred to. Please remember that William Wall is the supposed champion (?) of infant baptism among the Pedobaptists (baby baptizers). Wall writes: "Now because I take this Peter Bruis (or Bruce perhaps his name was) and Henry to be the first antipaedobaptist preachers that ever set up a church or society of men holding that opinion against

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infant-Baptism, and rebaptizing such as had been baptized in infancy. . . . "7 This takes them a long way toward Baptists.

Historians Say the Henricians Were Baptists

     "It does not seem open to reasonable doubt, therefore, that Henry of Lausanne, like Peter of Bruys and the Waldenses, taught that only believers should be baptized, and that the baptism of unconscious babes is a travesty upon the baptism of the New Testament."8

     John T. Christian, Sir William Jones, David Benedict, G. H. Orchard, J. M. Cramp, Richard Cook and almost all of the historians outside Baptist ranks, identify the Henricians and the Petrobrusians together. Please see our chapter on the Petrobrusians for more of their doctrinal belief.


     It has been our thesis in this Notebook that those holding Baptist beliefs have always been persecuted by those of the Catholic faith. The Henricians are no exception. William Jones tells of Henry's death. "At Toulouse, he was warmly opposed by the great St. Bernard, that luminary of the Catholic Church, who though he wrote against them with great bitterness, is nevertheless constrained to admit that Henry was a learned man, and greatly respected by his numerous followers. The latter, however, to avoid his fury, was compelled to save himself by flight. He was nevertheless seized in his retreat, and carried before Pope Eugenius III, who assembled a council at Rheins, in which he presided in person, and having received a number of accusations against Henry, committed him in the year 1158 to a close prison, in which he soon ended his days."9

     Dear reader, this might be our end had not our Baptist forefathers brought religious liberty to this great country in which we live.

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Notes on Chapter 13

1 The History of the Baptists, Volume 1, page 288.
2 The History of the Baptists, Volume 1, page 289.
3 The History of the Baptists, Volume 1, page 289.
4 A Manual of Church History, Volume 1, page 561.
5 A Short History of the Baptists, pages 117-118.
6 The Origin of the Baptists, pages 53-55.
7 History of Infant Baptism, Volume 2, page 273.
8 A Short History of the Baptists, by Henry Vedder, page 118.
9 History of the Christian Church, page 277.

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