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Baptist History Notebook
By Berlin Hisel

Chapter 18

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      As has been stated elsewhere in this Notebook, the Albigenses and the Waldenses were the same people in doctrine and in origin. In this chapter we will note several historians' comments about them.


      William Nevins writes: "On the French side of the Pyrenees was the little village of Abby in the province of Albigeois. Here came the Novatians and Donatists, and later the Paulicians, and later still, the Waldenses. But as they all held identical views, in opposition to the Roman Church, they mingled and blended into one harmonious whole, and became known as the Albigenses, from the town near which they lived, and then the name was given to others with like views that inhabited the surrounding provinces."1

      Thomas Armitage writes: "They arose in Southern France early in the eleventh century and were first known as Publicani; but at last took their name from the city of Abbi, the center of the Albigeois district. They were first called Albigenses by Stephen Borbone, 1225."2

     That this is the origin of the name Albigenses is the testimony of all the historians.

Their Doctrine

     Our Baptist historians are almost all agreed that the Albigenses were, in doctrine, much like the Baptists of today. Rather than quote them all, I will give here a section from W. A. Jarrel. He quotes from many of them.

     "To the charge that the Albigenses held to Manichaeism, I reply: (1) By reminding the reader of Vedder's words beginning this article. (2) That, as they are identical with the Paulicians, the refutation of this charge in Chapter XI., is the refutation of this charge against the Albigenses. (3) To this I add the following: Robinson, one of

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the most careful and reliable historians, did not sufficiently credit that charge to affirm it. His cautious words are: "The Albigenses were Manichaeans, or nearly so," "Nearly so" is not "so." There are certain modified forms of Manichaeism which, while erroneous, would not unchurch any party. Mosheim says that those who held to Manichaeism held it "differently interpreted and modified by different doctors." Prof. Carl Schmidt says: "The representations which Roman Catholic writers, their bitter enemies, have given them, are highly exaggerated." Even admitting them slightly tainted with Manichaeism, since they lived in an age of little thought and learning, it would no more affect their claims to be churches of Christ than slight errors of the head, especially of the unlearned, now unchurch. (4) But there is no proof conclusive that the Albigenses were so much as tainted with Manichaeism. Wadington, speaking of the great Romish controversialists attempt to blacken their characters, (Bishop Bossuett) observes: "He has failed to prove their Manichaean doctrine."

     .... He calls them indeed "new" Manichaeans and admits that 'they had softened some of their errors.' But they had parted with the characteristic error, or in fact they never held it." On p. 291 Wadington observes: "Manichaeism was the frightful term employed to express their delinquency; but it is more probable that their real offence was the adoption of certain mystical notions, proceeding, indeed, from the feelings of the most earnest piety, but too spiritual to be tolerated in that age in that church."

     Though the charge that the Albigenses rejected marriage, baptism and the supper has been refuted in page 119, refuting the same charge against them under the name Paulicians, the readers will notice that these charges are, incidentally, further refuted in the following: The Encyclopedia Britannica says of them: "The statement that they rejected marriage, often made by the Roman Catholics, has probably no other foundation in fact than that they denied marriage as a sacrament; and many other statements of their doctrines must be received at least with suspicion, as coming from prejudiced and implacable opponents."

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     Alanus, speaking of the Albigenses, says: "They rejected infant baptism… It does not appear that they rejected either of the sacraments." Collier says: "They refused to own infant baptism." Brockett says: "Nothing is said of Hoveden of their rejection of the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist, which would certainly have been mentioned by so careful a writer as Hoveden, had it existed. Indeed, his strongest objection to them was their refusal to take an oath." Favin, a historian, is quoted as saying: "The Albigenses do esteem the baptizing of infants superstitious." Izam, the Troubadour, a Dominican persecutor of these heretics, says: "They admitted another baptism." Chassanion is quoted as saying: "I cannot deny that the Albigenses, for the greater part, were opposed to infant baptism; the truth is, they did not reject the sacraments as useless, but only as unnecessary to infants."

     They had no Campbellism in them. As Armitage observes: "They rejected the Roman church traditions and ceremonies. They did not take oaths, nor believe in baptismal regeneration; but they were ascetic and pure in their lives; they also exalted celibacy." Their encouraging celibacy, as they believed in marriage, was probably for the reason Paul encouraged it temporarily, because of persecution being harder to endure in families than when single.

     As refusing to take oaths was a practice of many of these ancient Baptists, I here stop to say: While that matter with Baptists is a matter of little importance, yet I believe they were, probably, nearer right than we are; for, while by "swear not at all" our Savior alluded to only profanity, yet, as Archbishop Whately observes, I believe that men who will tell a lie will swear one as readily, once the penalty is out of the way; hence, instead of taking an oath annex the penalty of swearing a lie to telling it in court.

     In church government the Albigenses were Baptists. A historian says: "Their bards or pastors were every one of them heads of their churches, but they acted on nothing without the consent of the people and the clergy," i.e. the ministers who had charge of no church. "Deacons expounded the gospels, distributed the Lord's Supper, baptized, and sometimes had the oversight of churches, visited the sick and

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took care of the temporalities of the church." Chr. Schmidt says: "Their ritual and ecclesiastical organization were exceedingly simple."

     This was so much the case that the Romish church, not seeing any church in so simple an organization, thought they had no churches, and Prof. Schmidt has, thereby, been misled into the same conclusion. In Chapter XI - noticing them as Paulicians - they were clearly proved to have been, in church government, Baptist.

     The Albigenses were pure in their lives and a zealous people in good works. Carl Schmidt says of them: "Their severe moral demands made impression because the example of their preachers corresponded with their words…In a short time the Albigenses had congregations with schools and charitable institutions of their own.... The Roman Catholic Church, so far as it still could be said to exist in the country, had become an object of contempt and derision. This state of affairs, of course, caused great alarm in Rome."

     Thus, "the Albigensian heresy," as the Lord Macaulay observes, "brought about civilization, the literature, the national existence…of the most opulent and enlightened part of the great European family."2

Their Persecution

     The story of the crusades of the Catholic Church against the Albigenses is one of the darkest ever recorded in history. Adolf Hitler, in his personal hatred of the Jews was mild in his persecution of them compared to what the Roman Church did to the Albigenses and the Waldenses.

     At this point we give the words of Thomas Armitage:

     "One crusade succeeded another. Innocent III, offered the prelates and nobles all the blessings of the Church for the use of their sword and the possessions of the heretics as an additional reward. Their own prince, Count Raymond VI, was compelled to slaughter his subjects, and the pope summoned the King of Northern France with all his nobles to the same bloody work. Half a million men were gathered, four Archbishops joined the invaders with twelve bishops and countless nobles. Towns were sacked, seven castles

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surrendered to the pope, and five hundred villages, cities and fortresses fell."

     Barons, knights, counts and soldiery flocked like eagles to the prey from all directions. Their superstition was fed by the promise of two years’ remission of penance, and all the indulgences granted to the invaders of the Holy Sepulcher; and their cupidity was fired by the tender of the goods and lands of the heretics, as well as the right to reduce them to Mohammedan slavery. They followed the lead of Arnaud, the legate of the Holy See, bearing the cross and pilgrims' staves, from the adjacent countries, French, German, Flemish, Norman. They first attacked Beziers, which was strongly fortified and garrisoned; but it was taken by storm and thirty thousand were slain. Seven thousand had taken refuge in the Church of St. Magdalene, and the monk Peter tells us with the most ferocious coldness that they ‘killed women and children, old men, young men, priests, all without distinction.' There were many Catholics in the town, and the 'Holy Legate' was asked how these should be spared, when he commanded: 'Kill them all, God will know his own!' Lest a heretic should escape they piled all in an indiscriminate heap, and the Chronicle of St. Denis gives the whole number as six thousand. After Beziers had fallen, July 22, 1209, Carcassone was invested. There Count Roger, the nephew of Raymond, was inveigled under the pretense of safe-conduct and a treating for peace out of the city into the enemies' camp and by treachery was made a prisoner as a heretic. When his men found their captain gone they retreated by a private passage, the great city fell, and its captain died in a dungeon, as the pope expresses it, ‘miserably slain at the last.' The French barons agreed that any fortress which refused to surrender on demand, but resisted, should when captured find every man put to the sword in cold blood by the cross-bearers, that horror might appall every heart in the land. Their own historian says: 'They could not have dealt worse with them than they did; they massacred them all, even those who had taken refuge in the cathedral; nothing could save them, nor cross, nor crucifix, nor alters. The scoundrels killed the priests, the women, the infants, not one, I believe, escaped.' Eight hundred nobles

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were either hanged or hewn to pieces, and four hundred heretics were burnt in one pile.

     The story of this murdered people for about half a century is heart-sickening in the extreme. They held many errors of the head, but no prince ever ruled over grander subjects. They were far advanced in refinement, and were high-toned in morality. Their record is the brightest, briefest and bloodiest in the annals of pious, persecuting deviltry. In begins in the middle of the twelfth century, and was blotted out before the middle of the thirteenth. It is a short, swift stream of gore mingling with their mountain torrents, but more romantic than their Alps. If the eternal snow and ice had not turned these eternally pale, the frozen steel of St. Dominic had chilled them forever, when the pravity of his infernal machine made them witnesses of a rushing destruction, without parallel in human villainy."4

Bright Lights in Dark Times

     Thank you for your patience concerning the persecution of the Albigenses. I feel I must give one more example found in that great little book, Bright Lights in Dark Times.

     "This was the famous crusade against the Albigenses, a people identical with the Waldenses in regard to the purity of their faith, but who dwelt on the French as the Waldenses on the Italian side of the Alps. History intimately connects them with the latter.

     We shall now give some account of the progress of this crusade before entering upon the persecutions of the Waldenses of Piedmont, which began at a later date.

     The mighty host thus gathered together was formed into three great armies, over each of which an archbishop, a bishop, and mitred abbot. But the soul of the movement was the notorious Simon de Montfort, one of the darkest names in the annals of persecution. The abbot Arnold (well called the dragon abbot) was the spiritual, as De Montfort was the military leader, of the hosts. And now they poured over the rich provinces of the Albigenses, 'Forward' was the cry of the holy abbot. You shall ravage every field, you shall slay every

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human being; strike and spare not. The measure of their iniquity is full, and the blessing of the Church is on your head." Thus commanded of the priest, the vast army marched through the land of vineyards, and of olive-yards, burning, slaying, ravaging as they went, the peasantry being ridden down and slaughtered in cold blood.

     Little or no resistance could be offered in the open country, against such an overwhelming and infuriated host. But the great cities did not as readily submit to be butchered in cold blood. The inhabitants closed their gates on the approach of the crusaders and, when summoned, refused to surrender. The terrible fate of Beziers and Carcassonne, two of the principal cities of the Albigenses, is thus recorded: "The soldiers of the cross, the priests of the Lord," as they called themselves appeared before Beziers: which had been well provisioned and garrisoned. The bishop of the place was in the army; he was allowed by Arnold to offer his advice to the people and recommend a surrender; "Renounce your opinions and save your lives: was the bishop's advice; but the Albigenses firmly replied that they would not renounce a faith which gave them the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. "Then," said Arnold, “there shall not be left one stone upon another; fire and sword shall devour men, women, and children." The town fell into the hands of the besiegers, and fearfully was the injunction obeyed. The knights, pausing at the gates, asked abbot how the soldiers were to distinguish Catholics from heretics; "Slay them all," he replied, "the Lord knoweth them that are His." The slaughter began: men, women and children, and clergy were massacred indiscriminately, while the bells of the cathedral were rung till the slaughter was complete. Trembling multitudes fled to the churches, in hope of finding a sanctuary within the hallowed walls; but not one human being was left alive. The vast population of Beziers, who so lately had thronged the streets and marts, now lay in slaughtered heaps. The numbers, thus slain are estimated variously from twenty to one hundred thousand. The city was given up to plunder, then set on fire."

     Having thus completed their bloody work at Beziers, the crusade moved on to Carcassonne to inflict a similar vengeance on that devoted city. It is thus graphically

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described: “The terrible fate which had overtaken Beziers –in one day converted into a mound of ruins, dreary and silent as any on the plains of Chaldea – told the other towns and villages the destiny that awaited them. The inhabitants, terror stricken, fled to the woods and caves. Even the strong castles were left tenantless, deeming it vain to think of opposing so furious and overwhelming a host. Pillaging, burning, massacring, the crusaders advanced to Carcassonne. The city stood on the right bank of the Ande, its fortifications were strong, its garrison numerous and brave, and the young count Raymond Roger, was at their head. The assailants advanced to the walls, but met a stout resistance. The attack was again renewed, but was as often repulsed. Meanwhile, the forty days’ service was at an end, and bands of crusaders, having fulfilled their term, and earned heaven, were departing to their homes. The Papal legate, seeing the host melting away, judged it perfectly right to call wiles to the aid of his arms. Holding out to Raymond Roger the hope of an honorable capitulation, the swearing to respect his liberty, Arnold induced the viscount to present himself at his tent. ‘The latter,’ says Sismondi, ‘profoundly penetrated with the maxim of Innocent III that to keep faith with those that have it not is an offence against the faith, caused the young viscount to be arrested, and all the knights who had followed him.

     "When the garrison saw that their leader had been imprisoned, they resolved along with the inhabitants, to make their escape overnight by a secret passage known only to themselves. The crusaders were astonished on the morrow, when not a man could be seen upon the walls; and still more mortified was the Papal legate to find that his prey had escaped him, for his purpose was to make a bonfire of the city, with every man, woman and child within. But if this greater revenge was now out of his reach, he did not disdain a smaller one still in his power. He collected a body of some 450 persons, partly fugitives from Carcassonne whom he had captured, and partly the 300 knights who had accompanied the viscount; and of these he burned 400 alive, and the remaining 50 he hanged."

     Such were the principal scenes enacted in this terrible crusade against the Albigenses, an inhuman wickedness

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without a parallel even in the history of crimes. While we blush to think the human heart capable of such enormities, we cannot forget that a just retribution surely awaits the guilty souls of those who committed them. How unspeakably solemn is that woe pronounced by our Lord, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew XVIII. 6).5

Notes on Chapter 18

1 Alien Baptism and the Baptists, page 55.
2 History of the Baptists, Volume 1, page 278.
3 Baptist Church Perpetuity or History, pages 125-128.
4 History of the Baptists, Volume 1, pages 279-280.
5 Bright Lights in Dark Times, pages 41-45.

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