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Preface to the First Edition.
of his kingdom in this world, happen to coincide pretty much with his own, but who have been debarred the opportunity of exploring the voluminous productions in which that information lay scattered.
Those who have bestowed any considerable degree of attention upon the article of Ecclesiastical History, will readily admit, that no period of it stands so much in need of elucidation, as that which intervened from the beginning of the ninth century to the days of Luther. The original sources of our information are, almost exclusively, the Catholic writers--a race of men who, while they had an interest in disguising the truth, appear to have delighted themselves in calumniating all that dissented from their communion. And even since the time of the Reformation, while the light of divine truth has been shining around us with increasing splendour, and thus contributing to expose in all its deformity that“ mystery of iniquity,” the Roman hierarchy, our Protestant historians have been but too implicitly led by those false guides. There is scarcely any History of the Christian Church extant in our language from which it would not be easy to exemplify the truth of this representation; but in no case could it more strikingly be done, than in that which respects the leading object of the present work. Not to multiply proof of this, where proofs are so abundant, an instance in point may be adduced from a contemporary
Preface to the First Edition.
writer of our own country, who, a few years ago, published, in our own language, the “ History of France,” in five vols. 4to. The following is the account there given of the Albigenses, a class of Christians who, as the reader will see from the subsequent part of this volume, were only a branch of the Waldenses, inhabiting a particular district in France.
“ The Albigenses,” says this historian, “believed in two Gods; one a beneficent being, author of the New Testament, who had two wives, Collant and Collibant, and was father of several children, and among others, of Christ and the devil. The other God was a malevolent being, a liar, and a destroyer of men, author of the ancient law, who, not content with having persecuted the patriarchs during their lives, had consigned them all to damnation after death. They also acknowledged two Christs; one wicked, who was born at Bethlehem and crucified at Jerusalem, and who kept as his concubine Mary Magdalené, the woman so well known for having been caught in the act of adultery; the other Christ, all virtuous and invisible, who never inhabited the world, but spiritually in the body of Paul. They represented the Church of Rome as the scarlet whore mentioned in the Revelations. They regarded the sacraments as frivolous things; considered marriage as a state of prostitution, the Lord's supper as a chimera, the resurrection of the flesh as a ridiculous fable, and the worship of images as
detestable idolatry. Had all their tenets been equally rational with the last, they would not have been obnoxious to much censure. They were divided into two classes; the perfects and the believers. They all openly professed great purity of manners, and secretly practised the most infamous voluptuousness, on the principle, that from the waist downwards, man is incapable of sin."*
Such is the disgusting caricature which this writer has exhibited to the world of the Albigenses. But that any man with his eyes open, and capable of exercising two grains of discrimination, should have first of all permitted himself to be so far imposed upon by the Catholic writers, as to give credit to such a tissue of absurd and ridiculous fooleries, and then gravely to detail them to his readers for the truth of history, is at once a striking instance of weakness in the author, and of the necessity of exercising continual vigilance on the part of the reader, if he would neither become the dupe of Papal slander, nor of Protestant credulity. The reader cannot fail to be
• HISTORY OF FRANCE, Vol. I. p. 412. London, 1791. I am not in. sensible that there is a grossness in this quotation which renders it almost unfit to be transplanted into any other soil; and I am anxions to apolo. gise to my readers for laying it before them; but the truth is, that it is not worse than may be found on the same subject in many other writers, while the recency of its publication, and the high ground which its zuthor has lately taken among us, seemed to entitle him to the right of preference. As to the statement itself, it cannot but remind us of the words of Jesus,“ Blessed are yi «chen men shall say all manner of eril against you falsely for my name's sake.”
Preface to the First Edition.
surprised, when he is told that the author of this wretched ribaldry is no other than John Gifford, Esq. the biographer of the late Right Honourable William Pitt, whose work, recently published in 3 vols. 4to. and 6 vols. 8vo. is held up as a kind of national undertaking! Of the merits of this last publication it would, no doubt, be presumptuous in the present writer to offer any opinion; but if the biographer of our great statesman have been as regardless of the truth of history in the latter instance as in the former, posterity will owe him but few obligations for his labours.
Mr. Hume had a much more correct view of the character of the Albigenses; and it is singular that Mr. Gifford should have overlooked it. The following is the passage to which I refer. “The Pope (Innocent III.) published a crusade against the Albigerises, a species of enthusiasts in the south of France, whom he denominated heretics, because, like other enthusiasts, they neglected the rights of the church, and opposed the power and influence of the clergy. The people from all parts of Europe, moved by their superstition and their passion for wars and adventures, flocked to his standard. Simon de Montfort, the general of the crusade, acquired to himself a sovereignty in these provinces. The Count of Toulouse, who protected, or perhaps only tolerated the Albigenses, was stripped of his dominions. And these sectaries themselves, though THE MOST INNOCENT AND INOFFENSIVE OF MANKIND, were extermai
nated with all the circumstances of extreme violence and barbarity.” History of England, Vol. II. ch. xi. Nothing can be more just than this account of the Albigenses, provided we allow Mr. Hume his own definition of the term “ enthusiasts”-a term which he uniformly employs to denote all those who believe the Bible to be the word of God, and who receive it as the rule of their faith and practice. I may further add, that the reader will find his account of the Albigenses to be perfectly consonant to all that is related of them in the following pages.
I shall here take the liberty to introduce, as expressive of my own sentiments, the language of an author, who, more than a century ago, was engaged in the same pursuit with myself, and to whose learned pen the following pages are much indebted. “ I conceived that it was well becoming a Christian to undertake the defence of innocence, oppressed and overborne by the blackest calumnies the devil could ever invent. That we should be ungrateful towards those whose sufferings for Christ have been so beneficial to his church, should we not take care to justify their memory, when we see it so maliciously bespattered and torn. That to justify the Waldenses and Albigenses, is indeed to defend the Refornia, tion and Reformers, they having so long before us, with an exemplary courage, laboured to preserve the Christian religion in its ancient purity, which the Church of Rome all this while has