« VorigeDoorgaan »
trees and the candlesticks in different ways are witnesses to the truth.
The "fire that proceedeth out of their mouth" denotes the divine threatenings to which those who reject their testimony are exposed. In this way all who have perseveringly set themselves against the truth of God, have been slain by it; not only as incurring the wrath to come, but spiritual judgments even in this life: such are blindness of mind and hardness of heart, the most awful and sure presages of eternal death.
Their having "power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, to turn waters into blood, and to smite the earth with plagues as often as they will," denotes the influence of prayer when presented in faith and in conformity to the will of God. There is a reference, no doubt, to the prayer of Elijah against apostate Israel, which prayer was answered with a dearth; but without any thing properly miraculous, the prayers of God's suffering servants may draw down both temporal and spiritual judgments on persecuting nations. The terrible things which God is now in righteousness inflicting on the nations, may be in answer to the prayers of his servants of former ages, who century after century have been crying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them dwell on the earth!" Such cries enter the ears of the Lord of Hosts, and must be answered.
THE history of the witnesses prior to the eleventh and twelfth centuries is difficult to be traced, owing to the want of materials; and during those centuries, almost all the accounts that we have of them are from the pens of their persecutors, who have not failed to transmit their memory to posterity in the most odious colours. That some who in church history are deemed heretics were really such, need not be questioned; but let any serious Christian read the church history of MOSHEIM; and unless he can find a portion of true religion under the article of "heresies and heretics that disturbed the peace of the church during this century," it is difficult to say where he is to look for it. After the utmost search through other parts, he may ask, Where is wisdom, and where is the place of understanding?
There is little doubt but that all through these dark ages there were many thousands who stood aloof from the corruptions of the times, and bore practical testimony against them; and who, notwithstanding some errors, were much nearer the truth and true religion than those who have reproached them as heretics.
There is reason to believe that amongst the Novatians, the Paulicians, the Cathari, the Paterines, and others who separated from the Catholic Church, and were cruelly persecuted by it, there were a great number of faithful witnesses for the truth in those days.
We should not, like Bishop NEWTON, confine the witnesses to councils, princes, and eminent men, who in their day bore testimony against error and superstition. They will be found, I doubt not, in great numbers amongst those who were unknown, and consequently unnoticed, by historians. God hath chosen the things that are not to bring to nought the things that are. Let a church history of our own times be written on the principles of that of MOSHEIM, and the great body of the most faithful witnesses would have no place in it.
The history of the witnesses will be principally found in that of the Waldenses and Albigenses, who for a succession of centuries spread themselves over almost every nation in Europe, and in innumerable instances bore testimony, at the expense of their lives, against the corruptions of the antichristian party.
John Paul Perrin, a French Protestant, of the city of Lyons, who early in the seventeenth century wrote the history of these churches, traces their origin to Peter Waldo, who was also a citizen of Lyons. Waldo, as we shall see presently, was not the father of the Waldenses; but he was an excellent man. About the year 1160 he began to bear testimony against the papal corruptions. The Archbishop of Lyons being informed of his proceedings, sought to apprehend him; but Waldo having many friends in the city, was concealed there for about three years. After this, he was driven from Lyons, and it is said that he retired into Dauphine in the South of France, and afterwards into Picardy in the North; and that his followers spread themselves, not enly in Piedmont, Provence, Languedoc, &c. but in almost all the nations of Europe.
Waldo translated, or procured to be translated, the Scriptures into the French language; by means of which his followers disseminated the truth over a great part of Europe.
'In Piedmont, whither some of his followers were driven, churches were planted, which, though exposed to innumerable oppressions and persecutions from their princes, who were stirred up by the priests, yet continued to bear witness to the truth, not only till the Reformation, but for a considerable time after it. In Picardy, whither Waldo himself retired, the houses of three hundred gentlemen who adhered to him were razed to the ground and several walled towns were destroyed. Being driven from thence, he and his followers retired into Flanders, where great numbers of them were burnt to death. From thence many fled into Germany, particularly into Alsace, and the country along the Rhine, where the Bishop of Mayence caused to be burnt thirtyfive burgesses in one fire, and eighteen in another, who with great constancy suffered death. At Strasburg eighty were burnt at the instance of the Bishop of the place. They were scattered through the whole kingdom of France. From the year 1206, when the inquisition was established, to 1228, such multitudes were seized, particularly in France, that even the Bishops declared to the monks inquisitors, that "the expense of supporting them would be more than could be defrayed, and that there would not be found lime and stone sufficient to build prisons which should contain them!" A hundred and fourteen were burnt alive at one time in Paris. In 1223 they had goodly churches in Bulgaria, Croatia, Dalmatia, and Hungary; and notwithstanding the persecutions in Germany, one of their martyrs assured his persecutors in the year 1315, that there were then 80,000 of the same mind in the country. In Bohemia, a colony of Waldenses settled and planted churches 240 years before the time of Huss. Another colony went from Dauphine about 1370, and settled in Calabria, where they were defended by their landlords against the priests till 1560, when they were exterminated by the papal soldiery. In England, during the reign of Henry II. namely, from 1174 to 1189, they were persecuted under the name of Publicans. About 1315, LOLLARD, who was seven years afterwards burnt to death at Cologne, came over to England, and taught many, who from thence were called Lollards, and were persecuted without mercy. Soon