Baptist History Homepage

Baptist History Notebook
By Berlin Hisel

Chapter 23

[p. 195]
      Terms of reproach often became the designation of some of our ancestors. It is true that some who were not our Baptist ancestors were sometimes called by the same name. Thus, the Waldenses (people of the valleys) were known also by names of reproach. Sometimes these people would be called after the name of a prominent leader among them. In this way the same people would be called by a variety of names. People, in different countries believing the same doctrines, would have different names to describe them in their native land.

      The chapter before us will deal with two of those names of reproach: Picards and Beghards. The spelling of these names varies with the historians. Among these people, so designated, we will find our ancestors.

Picards or Pickards

      It is the opinion of Orchard that the names originated from the country of Picardy (I think). Writing of Peter Waldo and his followers he says, "On being forced from France, particularly Dauphine and Picardy, in which places Waldo had been very successful he first retired into Germany, with many of his followers, who were called Picards, carrying along with him, wherever he went, the glad tidings of salvation: at last settled in Bohemia...."1

      The Religious Encyclopedia says of Picards (Pickards): "A corruption of 'Beghards,' applied as a term of reproach to the Bohemian Brethren."2

      William Wall thinks the term comes from a man. He writes: "The third sect is of those whom they call Pyghards: they have their name from a certain refugee of the same nation, who came hither ninety-seven years ago, when that wicked and sacrilegious John Zizka declared a defiance of the churchmen and all the clergy. (This was 1420)."3

      Possibly all three views have truth in them. At any rate, the term was one of reproach given them by their

[p. 196]
enemies. It has always been so of the ancient people now called Baptists.


      It seems that Picards was a term that really stuck with the Bohemian Brethren. Orchard writes: "We do not discover in history the exact source from which these pious people at this time arose, though it is not improbable they were followers of Peter de Bruys, Henry, or Arnold of Brescia which circumstance is supported by the era of events, though at a later period they were named Picards These Baptists obtained this influence...."4 The term "Picard" is applied over and over to the Waldenses in Bohemia by the historians.

Maximilian II

     When Maximilian II became emperor of Bohemia he brought s season of liberty of conscience to his people. Here I insert a quote from Robert Robinson: "Maximilian after he became emperor openly declared to Henry III of France, as he passed through Vienna, that such princes as tyrannize over the conscience of men, attacked the supreme being in the noblest part of his empire, and frequently lose the earth by concerning themselves too much with celestial matters. He used to say of Huss, they very much injured that good man. His physician, Crato, was one day riding with him in his carriage, when his imperial majesty, after much lamenting the contentions of mankind about religion, asked the doctor which sect he thought came nearest the simplicity of the apostles? Crato replied, 'I verily think the people called Picards.' The emperor added, 'I think so too.'"5

     This is a lovely statement. God's people should be such to hold the respect of their leaders if their leaders have any conscience in matters of religion. The above statement compliments what we believe about perpetuity.

Doctrine of the Picards

[p. 197]
     William Wall, in his work on Infant Baptism, quotes from a letter written by one Joannes Slechter Costelecius of Bohemia, written to Erasmus. It amounts to a declaration of faith from the Pyghards. Here is the quote: "These men have no other opinion of the pope, cardinals, bishops, and other clergy, than as of manifest Antichrist: they call the pope sometimes the beast, and sometimes the whore, mentioned in Revelation. Their own bishops and priests they themselves do choose for themselves, ignorant and unlearned laymen that have wives and children. They mutually salute one another by the name of brother and sister."

      "They own no other authority than the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. They slight all doctors both ancient and modern, and give no regard to their doctrine."

     "Their priests, when they celebrate the offices of the mass (or communion) do it without any priestly garments: nor do they use any prayer or collects on this occasion, but only the Lord's Prayer: by which they consecrate bread that has been leavened."

     "They believe or own little or nothing of the sacraments of the church. Such as come over to their sect must everyone be baptized anew in mere water. They make no blessing of salt nor of the water; nor make any use of consecrated oil."

     "They believe nothing of divinity in the sacrament of the Eucharist; only that the consecrated bread and wine do by some occult sign represent the death of Christ: and accordingly, that all that do kneel down to it or worship it are guilty of idolatry. That that sacrament was instituted by Christ to no other purpose but to anew the memory of his passion, and not to be carried about or held up by the priest to be gazed on. For that Christ Himself, who is to be adored and worshipped with the honour is to be adored and worshipped with the honour of latria, sits at the right hand of God, as the Christian church confesses in the Creed."

     "Prayers of the saints and for the dead they count a vain and ridiculous thing: as likewise auricular confession, and penance enjoined by the priest for sins. Eves and fast days are, they say, a mockery, and the disguise of hypocrites."

[p. 198]
     "They say the holidays of the Virgin Mary, and apostles and other saints, are the invention of idle people. But yet they keep the Lord's day, and Christmas, and Easter, and Whitsuntide, etc. He says there were great numbers of this sect then in Bohemia."6

     This was all written by a Catholic to a Catholic about the Picards. It pretty well declares them to be Baptists. Probably, when the writer accuses them of using bread that has been leavened, he means no more than it had not been blessed by a priest. Wall tries to argue that when they baptized anew those who came over to their sect, that it is not certain that they judged baptism in infancy valid. He thinks they just judged all baptism received in the corrupt way of the church of Rome to be so. Since Wall seeks to vindicate infant baptism, he would seek to justify it here.

The Beghards

     Gieseler writes: "The rest of the sects dissenting from the dominant Church were designated by the common name of the Beghards. Amongst whom the Fratricelli, and brothers and sisters of the free spirit formed two principle variations. Among the Beghards of southern France, Italy and Sicily, the inclination for the Fratricelli prevailed. The German Beghards frequently called Lollards, were, on the contrary, for the most part professors of the free spirit...."7

     He classes them with Lollards whom we have seen to be Baptists. Notice the company in which Hassell quotes Keller as putting them: "As established by Ludwig Keller, the present royal archivest at Munster, in his thorough and authoritative work on "The Reformation and the Older Reforming Parties Exhibited in their Connection," published at Leipzig in 1885, the evangelical Anti-catholic Christians from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries, known as Petrobrusians, Henricians, Waldenses, Pikards, Beghards, Buguins, Spirituales, Sabbati, Insabbati, Apostolic Brethren, Poor men in Christ, Friends of God, Mystics and Bohemians, were, in the darkness of the Dark Ages, Arminians...."8 Hassell, being a primitive Baptist, sees most Calvinists as

[p. 199]
Arminians. He is quoted here to show he considered Beghards among those we call our Baptist ancestors.

The Name "Beghards"

     G. H. Orchard writes: "It is allowed by Mosheim, that many dissenters of the Paulician character, in this century, led a wandering life in Germany, where they were called Gezari, i.e., Puritans. These good men grounded their plea for religious freedom on Scripture, and were called brethren and sisters of the free Spirit, while their animated devotion gained them the name of Beghards. When this term first sprang up in Germany, it was used to designate a person devout in prayer: at after periods it was used to point out all those communities which were distinct from Rome...."9

     Neander agrees with this origin of the name Beghard. He writes of the Friends of God: "Accordingly they were nick-named after the common fashion in that age of applying some opprobrious epithet to those who, for one reason or another, were looked upon as enthusiasts or priests; they were called Beghards - people who prayed much."10

     Benedict: "Picards, Pighards and Beghards - all these names appear to have the same origin, but were pronounced differently in different countries, in conformity to the language of each. Such is the testimony of Dr. Wall, who furthermore says, that such as come over to their church must be baptized anew, in mere water - of course they were Anabaptists."11

     George P. Fisher: "At the end of the twelfth century there were formed, in the Netherlands, societies of praying women, calling themselves Beguines, and afterward similar societies of men, called Beghards. Many of them, to secure protection, connected themselves with the Tertiaries. Many, following the rule of poverty, became mendicants along the Rhine, and, adopting heretical opinions, made of the names of Beguine and Beghard, elsewhere than in the Netherlands, synonymous with heretics."12


[p. 200]
     It seems that all the Waldenses were called by different names. These names were ones of reproach. The so-called "heretics" by the Roman Catholic Church believed the doctrines we hold today. They all suffered much for their faith. The Picards and Beghards suffered along with the rest. Their persecution is the same as that of the Bohemian Brethren and Lollards and Bogomils, etc. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge gives a section on the persecution of the Beghards. It is found in Volume 2, pages 29-30.

Notes on Chapter 23

1 A Concise History of Baptists, page 104.
2 The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, Volume 9, page 50.
3 History of Infant Baptism, Volume 2, pages 295-296.
4 A Concise History of Baptists, page 231.
5 Ecclesiastical Researches, page 521.
6 History of the Infant Baptism, Volume 2, pages 296-297.
7 A Compendum of Ecclesiastical History, Volume 4, pages 219-221.
8 History of the Church of God, page 335.
9 A Concise History of Baptists, page 324.
10 General History of the Christian Religion and Church, Volume 5, page 388.
11 History of the Baptists, page 53.
12 History of the Christian Church, page 207.

Chapter 24
Baptist History Notebook
Baptist History Homepage