THE ORIGIN OF THE BAPTISTS
HENRY OF LAUSANNE
By S. H. Ford
Henry of Lausanne
Peter de Bruis (Bruys)
Arnold of Brescia
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 embassador 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 performed on those same spots, we have many a glowing 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." (Mosheim, p. 289).
"We have no satisfactory account," adds Mosheim, "of the doctrines of this man; we merely know that he censured the baptism of infants, and the corrupt manners of the clergy."
But we have a satisfactory account of his doctrines, given even 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 streams of the ?ervennes 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 whole congregations left the Romish churches and joined with him.
Because of his plain and powerful preaching he was compelled to flee for his life, but was finally arrested and committed to prison at Rheins where he finished his life.
PETER DE BRUIS (BRUYS)
"Peter de Bruis made the most laudable attempts to reform the abuses and to remove the superstitions that disfigured the beautiful simplicity of the gospel; but, after having engaged in his cause a great number of followers, during a laborious ministry of twenty years, he was burned at St. Giles's, in the year 1130, by an enraged populace, instigated by the clergy, whose traffic was in danger from the enterprising spirit of this reformer. The whole system of doctrine, which this unhappy martyr, whose zeal was not without a considerable mixture of fanaticism, taught to the Petrobrussians (a name by which his followers were called) is not known." ... He held to the same principles as Baptists of today. He rejected infant baptism, and baptismal regeneration. He condemned the doctrines of the popes, that the real body and blood of Christ were exhibited in the Eucharist, but taught that they were merely represented or symbolized by the embles used. He taught that the oblations, prayers, and good works of the living, could be in no respect advantageous to the dead. After a laborious ministry of twenty years, he was burned in 1130, by an enraged populace set on by the clergy, whose traffic was in danger from the enterprising spirit of this great and powerful preacher.
ARNOLD OF BRESCIA
Arnold, early in life, traveled from his native Italy into France, (Chapter v, p. 289) and became a pupil of the celebrated Abelard. In France he imbibed the spirit of soul-freedom, and received into his heart the light of the gospel. He returned to his native city in the habit of a monk; and began to preach that gospel in the streets of Brescia. The people were melted and roused beneath his fiery appeals. The clergy were alarmed, and in the Council of Lateran condemned him to perpetual silence. This was in 1139. Arnold fled to the wilderness, and in the valley of the Alps found shelter among kindred spirits. He was soon found proclaiming the truth in the Canton of Zurich, where Zwingle afterward appeared. Conspiracies were formed against him. The whole power of Rome was directed to his overthrow and ruin.
We can not contemplate the lion courage of Luther at Worms without emotions of enthusiastic admiration. The admiration is just. And yet the intrepidity of Arnold, fully equal to it, if not superior, is seldom mentioned. A lone man, in a still darker age, unsupported by the presence and sympathy of princes, as Luther was, he breasted and defied the whole thunderstorm of Rome. Driven from his shelter, he passed the Alps, and planted himself in the midst of his foes, entered Rome itself, and with the sublime example of his master before him, as
"A gate of steel Fronting the sun receives and renders back His figure and his heat"
He flashed the light of truth in burning eloquence over the seven hills. (Gibbon, vol. iii, p. 366) Freedom triumphed for the hour. Rome woke from the slumber and slavery of ages. "But the fervor of the people is less permanent than the resentment of the priest." The powers of the clergy were again concentrated and directed against the preacher. The heresy of Arnold was considered two-fold. "He dared," says Gibbon, "to quote the language of Christ, 'My kingdom is not of this world', that the church was a distinct and spiritual assembly of baptized believers; and, as a consequence, the heinous crime was laid to his charge of rejecting infant baptism." (Pr?ter h?c de sacramento ulterus et Baptismo parvulorum). He was a Baptist. For holding just what Baptists now hold, and for no other charge, "he was arrested, condemned, crucified, and then burned, and his ashes thrown into the Tiber."
Well has Dr. Brewster said, It is impossible not to admire the genius and persevering intrepidity of Arnold. To distinguish truth from error in an age of darkness, and to detect the causes of spiritual corruption in the thickest atmosphere of ignorance and superstition, evinced a mind of more than ordinary strength. To struggle against superstition intrenched in power, to plant the standard of revolution on the very heart of her empire, and keep possession of her capital a number of years, could scarcely be expected from an individual who had no power but that of his eloquence, and no assistance but that which he derived from the justice of his cause. Yet such were the individual exertions of Arnold, which posterity will appreciate as one of the noblest legacies which former ages have bequeathed. Religious freedom: it was not announced first by Roger William, nor Milton, nor the Baptist in Germany. "The trumpet of liberty," says Gibbon, "was first sounded by Arnold of Brescia." That trumpet has been sounded by every true Baptist in every age. In its defense have they ever suffered; yet in its defense they have ever rallied. In its defense, the bleeding body of Arnold was immolated on a burning pile.
But his memory lives, and even in Rome will his name yet become a watchword of victory. The time will yet be, when over the spot where the flame consumed him, will some monument record his greatness and his virtue, when the power which has trampled on human rights, and has rioted in human blood, with all its corrupting inventions, shall have sunk, like the apocalyptic millstone, in the deep, and no traces remain of the ruin it has wrought.
We pass from these heroes of "the faith once delivered to the saints." The Arnoldists, the Henricians, and Petrobrussians we have found, and, by their enemies, showed them to be Baptists. Did the Baptists originate with these men whose names were transfixed to them? We shall pause in our journey, for we have found they were Baptists; and their presence marks another milestone in the path of time.
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