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CHRISTIAN Family Record,


Original Essays. THE WALDENSIAN, OR VAUDOIS CHURCH. The Right Rev. Dr. WORDSWORTH, Bishop of Lincoln, in his “ Pastoral to the Wesleyan Methodists of the Diocese of Lincoln," challenges them to prove, if they can, that the Church of England“ does not minister the Holy Sacraments by that form of Church Government which, and which alone, for fifteen hundred years was known and accepted by the Universal Church of Christ, to which He promised His continual presence and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost to teach her all things,' and to

guide her into all truth ;' namely, by the three orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” He asks, “ Can these promises of Christ have been fulfilled, if the Church of Christ did not know for fifteen centuries what ought to be her own form of government in the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, and if it was left for men in the seventeenth century to discover it ?” Then comes the interrogative home-thrust : “Can you yourselves be safe, either in ministering the Sacraments without a due mission and ordination to minister them (in opposition to the uniform judgment and practice of the Universal Church of Christ for fifteen centuries), or in abetting and encouraging any who minister them without such mission and ordination, and in receiving the Sacrament at their hands ?” He adds the advice : “ Inquire whether it be not true, that the Universal Church for fifteen hundred years after Christ believed that none but Bishops could confer Holy Orders.” The Bishop further asserts that the qualification of Presbyters to ordain ministers is "a theory repugnant to the judgment of the Universal Church for 1,500 years."

The Bishop repeats these things in all the editions of his Pastoral, and urges


them with great earnestness in the Preface penned after its first issue, in reply to various criticisms thereon. The three orders of ministers, in the opinion of the Bishop, have been in existence, by apostolic authority, from apostolic times ; the power to ordain being in the Bishops only, and that power transmitted to the present day, by successional ordination ; thence called Apostolical Succession : and this order was unchallenged; or, at least, unaltered, for the first fifteen

JANUARY, 1875.


centuries of the Christian era : and if such had not been the case, the promises of Christ to His Church must have failed. Reference for support of these views is made to Matt. xxviii. 20; John xiv. 16, 26; xvi. 13. Four short texts are thus made the foundation for the enormous superstructure which Popery had reared, and on which the Bishop takes his stand, and whence he sallies forth to make war upon the Wesleyans, and upon all who decline to accept the theory of Apostolical Succession, and the Divine Right of Episcopacy.

We are not intending to enter into a controversy on these matters with Dr. Wordsworth ; we place his opinions here because of the ignorance they reveal. Either the Right Rev. Prelate is strangely ignorant, for so 1 earned a man, or he is censurably bold and presumptuous. In either case he is inconsistent with his theory, in remaining in communion with a schismatic Church : for, if Methodists are schismatics, in not being members of the Church of England, on the grounds upon which he argues, then surely he and his Church-Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and peopleare schismatics, in not being members of the Church of Rome. On the other hand, if it is our duty to give up our denominational distinctiveness, and to identify ourselves with the Church of England, on the ground of Apostolical succession and Episcopal order, we ought not to stop there, but to go, both we and she, over to Rome.

But why speak of these things in connection with what we may have to say about the Waldensian Church ? For this good and sufficient reason ; that that Church can trace its own history fully four hundred years anterior to the date given by the Bishop as that down to which Episcopacy prevailed and the doctrine of Apostolical succession was accepted by the Church Universal ; the government of that Church being not Episcopal, but Presbyterian. Moreover, the historians of that Church adduce evidence enough that their doctrines have been held continuously, in opposition to Popery, by a people-often “scattered and peeled,” but never destroyed, --ever struggling against persecuting and oppressive bishops, and maintaining their church life separately from the papal Church. They show the rise and spread of the Papacy, and the bud and development of its corruptions and enormous pretensions ; and that from the days of the apostles until now such a Church as itself had nerer ceased to exist. With this evidence and these facts before us, we are warranted in boldly denying the allegations of Dr. Wordsworth, and in affirming that the whole fraternity of Apostolical Successionists in the Church of England are building upon sand, which historical investigation and Biblical study must inevitably sweep away.

The Waldensian Church was an active missionary Church, having an apostolical Presbyterian order, for centuries before the time of Luther and his coadjutors,- for centuries, therefore, before the rise of the great Reformation, -and consequently for centuries before the time when, Dr. Wordsworth tells the Methodists, the Episcopalian form of government

had continued to be the universal form of government in the Church of Christ. Not only is this the fact, but a still more interesting fact is shown by the Waldensian historians; viz., that she is the Mother of the Churches of the Reformation ; because her missionaries and converts in many lands had shed such light upon the darkness of Popery as cleared the way for the Reformers, and resulted in actual reform in different European countries.

The existence of such a Church, protestant and evangelical in principle, and presbyterian in form, was an abomination to the Romish Church, both ecclesiastics and people. Rome has ever branded nonconformity as a capital offence; and stigmatised, persecuted, and slain nonconformists. A people renouncing episcopacy and the errors of Popery could not be tolerated. Either the subjugation or the extermination of such a people must, if possible, be effected ; and who could doubt that either one or the other was practicable ? Not to believe all that a fallen and corrupt priesthood taught, was a crime ; and to occupy a position and propagate doctrines hostile to the priesthood was intolerable and unpardonable. Those who did so were no better than beasts of prey, that must be either tamed and restrained, or destroyed. That was the view taken by the Papacy, and that its policy. All along, therefore, has the Waldensian Church been subject to persecution, as was the primitive Church from which it bad its origin. Not by force of reason, but by force of arms, has the Church of Rome and its agents ever sought to subdue the Waldensians; or, failing in that, to root them out of the earth.

No fewer than thirty-two of these attempts have been made--some by France, and some by Sardinia, at different times and under various circumstances; some of them accompanied by most atrocious deeds of blood and slaughter, and unmentionable forms of wickedness. Dreadful havock of them and their country has been made by their persecutors, sometimes; and there have been occasions when their extermination seemed inevitable. In their extremities, however, their trust was in God, to whom they cried; and by His intervention and their own heroism they often put the foe to flight, and secured for themselves a season of repose. Terribly as they have been harassed, and severely as they have suffered, their church life has been perpetuated to this day; and at this hour they are actively and energetically labouring in many parts of Italy to enlighten their benighted countrymen, and to lead them to the knowledge of Christ crucified.

Some writers have entertained the idea that the Waldenses took their name from Peter Waldo, and had their origin from his evangelistic labours. But this is altogether a mistake. He was a merchant of Lyons, converted through studying the Scriptures for himself, and hearing evangelical preaching, probably by one of their missionaries. He gave up business, and gave himself to the service of Christ, in the ministry of the Word ; winning many converts from the ranks of Romanism, until his

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