Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Waldensians

Duty of separation of the Christian

That the Christian is commanded to separate himself from the Antichrist, is said and proved by the Old and the New Testament:

For the Lord says, Isaiah fifty-two: Depart ye, depart ye; get out of here, do not touch anything unclean, get out of it; purify yourself, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. For you will not go out in haste, nor will you walk away.

And Jeremiah fifty: Flee from Babylon, come out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be like goats at the head of the flock. For behold, I will stir up and set up against Babylon a multitude of great nations in the land of the north; they will fight against it, and will seize it.

Numbers, sixteen: Separate yourself from the midst of this assembly, and I will consume them in a moment. And then: Depart from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you perish at the same time that they will be punished for all their sins.

Leviticus: I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You will observe the distinction between clean and unclean animals, between pure and unclean birds, so as not to make your people abominable by animals, by birds, by all the reptiles of the earth, which I have taught you to distinguish as unclean.

Exodus, Thirty-four: Be careful not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are to enter, lest they be a snare for you.

And then: Be careful not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, lest they prostitute themselves to their gods and offer them sacrifices, and invite you, and eat none of their victims; lest you take their daughters for your sons, and their daughters, prostitute themselves to their gods, do not lead your sons to prostitute themselves to their gods.

Leviticus, fifteen, 31: And ye shall drive the children of Israel away from their uncleanness, lest they die because of their uncleanness, if they defile my tabernacle that is in their midst.

Ezekiel, eleven, 21: But for those whose heart is pleased with their idols and with their abominations, I will make their works fall on their heads, says the Lord, the Eternal.

Deuteronomy, eighteen: When you have entered the land which the LORD your God gives you, you will not learn to imitate the abominations of those nations. For whoever does these things is an abomination to Jehovah; and it is because of these abominations that the LORD your God will drive out these nations before you. You will be wholly to the Lord your God. For those nations that you are hunting will listen to astrologers and soothsayers; but to you the LORD your God does not allow it.

In the New Testament, too, it is manifest, John, eleven: That the Lord should die, that he should gather in one the children of God.

For it is for these truths of unity and separation from one another that he says, Matthew ten: For I came to put the division between man and his father, between the daughter and her mother between the daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law; and the man will have for enemies the people of his house. And he commanded to part, when he said: He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, & c.

Similarly – Beware false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, etc.

So also: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.

In the same way: Take care that no one deceives you. For many will come under my name, saying; It’s me. And, they will deceive many people. If anyone says to you then: Christ is here, or: He is there, do not believe him. ; do not go after them.

And, in the book of Revelation, he admonishes in his own voice and commands his people to come out of Babylon, saying: And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that you do not participate in her sins, and have no part in her plagues. For her sins accumulated to the heavens, and God remembered her iniquities.

The Apostle says this very same: Do not put yourself with the unbelievers under a unequal yoke. For what connection is there between justice and iniquity? or what is there in common between light and darkness? What agreement is there between Christ and Belial? or what part has the faithful with the unfaithful? What connection is there between the temple of God and the idols? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord; do not touch the unclean, and I will welcome you. I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

Ephesians five: So have no part with them. Formerly you were darkness, and now you are light in the Lord.

1 Corinthians ten: I do not want you to be in communion with the demons. You can not participate in the Lord’s table, and at the table of demons.

2 Thessalonians three – We recommend you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to depart from every brother who lives in disorder, and not according to the instructions that you have received from us.You know yourselves How then must we be imitated? And then: And if any man obey not what we say by this letter, note it, and have no communication with him, that he may be ashamed. Ephesians five: Do not take part in the unfruitful works of darkness.

Similarly, 2 Timothy 3: Know that in the last days there will be hard times .. And lower: Having the appearance of godliness, but denying what makes it strong. Keep away from these men.

Of the above-mentioned things, the evil deeds of Antichrist and his perversity are clearly demonstrated. And as it is ordained by the Lord to separate from him internally and externally, and to unite in Jerusalem the holy city. Thus, knowing these things which the Lord reveals to us through his servants, and believing in this revelation, according to the holy Scriptures, and being at the same time admonished by the commandments of the Lord, we separate ourselves internally and externally from what we believe to be Antichrist, and we stand together with one another, united in goodwill and righteous intentions, with the pure and simple foundation of pleasing the Lord and being saved, with the help of the Lord, as much as the truth of Christ and his Bride, as well as our weak intelligence, may permit it.

We therefore point out the causes of our separation, as well as of our congregation, so that if the Lord gives others the same truth, they may love Him at the same time as us. And so that if they are not well enlightened, they will be helped by this blessed ministry sprinkled by the Lord. And if it happens that more has been granted to someone, and more abundantly, we humbly desire to be taught, to know better about Him and to be corrected in what we lack.

What is the Antichrist?

(Part 1 of an ancient Waldensian treatise, from a collection of writings from 1120 AD. Translated from French.)

Antichrist is a falsehood worthy of eternal damnation, covered with the appearance of the truth and righteousness of Christ and his Bride; he is opposed to the very way of truth, of righteousness, of faith, of hope, of charity, opposed to the moral life and true ministry of the Church, administered by false apostles, and upheld resolutely by both arms (the ecclesiastical arm and the secular arm).

Antichrist is an alteration of the truth of salvation, hidden by material and ministerial objects, or a fraudulent service to Christ, to his Bride, and to every faithful member. Thus, he is not one particular person, ordained to a degree, or office, or ministry, considering the thing in general; but falsehood itself, opposed to the truth, covered and adorned with beauty and piety foreign to the Church of Christ, by names, offices, Scriptures, sacraments and many other things.

Iniquity is thus supplied with its greater and smaller ministers, and those who follow it with an evil and blind heart: such a congregation, taken together, is that which is called Antichrist, or Babylon, or fourth beast, or whore, or man of sin, son of perdition.

Its ministers are called false prophets, ministers of darkness, spirit of error, the whore of Revelation, mother of fornication, clouds without water, withered trees dead and twice plucked up, waves of the raging sea, wandering stars, Balaamites, Egyptians.

He is called Antichrist, because, covered and adorned with the appearance of Christ, the Church, and His faithful members, he opposes the salvation wrought by Christ, and truly administered in the Church of Christ, of which the faithful partake by faith, hope, and charity. In all these respects he opposes by worldly wisdom, by false religions and feigned goodness, by ecclesiastical power, by secular tyranny, by riches, by the honour of dignities, by delights and by worldly pleasures.

Therefore may everyone know that the Antichrist can not  appear in any way, except when the things just named will be united together to form a perfect hypocrite and a perfect lie, that is, to say when the wise men of the world, the religious men, the Pharisees, the ministers, the doctors, the secular power,  the worldly people, will be united. Thus they altogether form the man of sin and error completely.

For in the time of the apostles it is a truth that Antichrist was already conceived, but because, being in infancy, he lacked his necessary members, either internal or external. That is why he then might have more easily been known, destroyed and excommunicated, being then in a more raw and rough state. And he was silent, because he did not have the wisdom that knows how to reason, who knows how to excuse himself, who knows how to define, who knows how to pronounce sentences; for he lacked the hypocritical ministers without truth,, and human ordinances; he lacked men who were outwardly religious. Although fallen away in error and sin, he did not have the things with which he could cover the defilement or the shame of errors or sin. As he lacked riches and endowments, he could not lure ministers to himself; he could not multiply them, preserve them, defend them; for he lacked secular strength or power; he could neither force nor compel anyone from truth to lies.

Because he lacked such things, he could neither shake nor scandalize anyone by his deceits. And so, being too tender and weak, he could obtain no place in the Church. But growing in its members, that is to say in its blind and hypocritical ministers and in its worldly people he at last became a complete man, that is to say grew up to full age, that when the friends of the world in the Church and State, blind in faith, multiplied in the Church, they gave power into his hands. As evil as he was, he yet wished to be invoked and honored in spiritual things, and to cover his authority, malice, and sins, resorted to the worldly wise and Pharisees, in this, as it is said below.

For it is an extreme iniquity to hide and adorn an iniquity worthy of excommunication, and to desire to establish himself by what is not given to man, but which belongs to God alone and to Jesus Christ as mediator. To remove these things from God fraudulently, and to transfer them to himself and to his works, must be an extreme felony, as to attribute to himself regeneration, forgiveness of sins, dispensing the graces of the Holy Spirit, to represent Christ, and similar things.

And to cover oneself in all these things with the cloak of authority of the Word, and to deceive by these things the ignorant people that follow the world. in the things that are of the world: to depart thus from God, and the true faith, and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit; to depart from true repentance, from perseverance in good; to depart from charity, patience, poverty, humility, and, worst of all, to distance oneself from true hope and place it in all evil and vain hope of the world; to provide all the ceremonies for these things, to cause the people to serve fraudulently the idols of the whole world, under the name of saints,  to commit idolatry with all the idols of the world under the name of saints and relics, and to worship them; it is thus that the people, straying exceedingly from the path of truth, believe that they serve God and do good, are stirred to hatred, anger, and wickedness against the faithful and the friends of God. And he murders many of them, and so the Apostle spoke the truth: Thus is the man of sin fulfilled, and it is he who rises above all that is God; and who is served, and who is opposed to all truth, and who sits in the temple of God, that is to say in the Church, showing himself as if he were God, and who comes with all kinds of deceitfulness for those who perish.

And since this wickedness has already come in completeness, we must no longer look for him. Indeed, by God’s permission, he is formed and already old, since he is already decaying. For his power and his authority are diminished, and the Lord Jesus kills this wickedness by the breath of his mouth and by many men of good will, and he sends abroad a power which is contrary to him as well as to those that love him, who disturbs his peace and his possessions, and who sends division into this city of Babylon, from which all generations of iniquity draw their vigor and might.

Primitive Christianity and the Celts

As far as archeologists can determine, the Celtic peoples originated near the Danube River and spread east, south and west from there. Today, the only identifiable Celtic populations are found in France (Brittany) and the British Isles (Ireland, Scotland and Wales). Two thousand years ago they were all over southern Europe.

They lived along the Po River in northern Italy, in Switzerland, Belgium, France, Spain, all over the British Isles, into Bosnia and as far as Asia Minor (present day Turkey). The Greek form of Celts is Galatai. In France they were known as Gauls, in Asia Minor they were Galatians.

The Apostle Paul brought the gospel to the Galatians. Believers from there took it to the Gauls in southern France and from there it spread into the British Isles. It may have been Celtic missionaries from Scotland that carried the gospel to northern Italy, Bohemia and Switzerland. In time the gospel spread from the Celts to the people around them.

The Celts never organized into nation states, they were more a loose association of clans. As long as they were able to maintain their independent existence, the gospel that took root among them was of a purer form than the syncretistic gospel that was imposed in the Roman Empire after Constantine.

As Germanic peoples moved into the territories occupied by the Celts and the Roman Empire extended its reach, the Celtic peoples were absorbed into the majority culture. Nevertheless, evidence remained of their purer gospel among the faith groups known as Waldenses in the Alps, Albigenses in southern France and Bogomils in Bosnia. There is historical evidence of links between these groups, preachers from Bosnia appearing in the south of France, in Italy, Bohemia and other places.

These old evangelical brethren believed that Christians were citizens of the kingdom of God and were not to take part in governing earthly kingdoms. The Roman Catholic church accused them of being dualists, of believing that the God of the Old Testament was not the same as the God revealed in the New Testament. There is historical evidence of that belief in many of the same areas, but the faith groups named above did not hold such a belief. It was merely a handy accusation to justify using political power to persecute rivals to the Roman Catholic church and taint all evidence of the purity of their faith.

Eventually these churches appeared to have been persecuted into oblivion. Yet the faith proved to be more resilient than the persecutors. New churches sprang up in Switzerland, south Germany and the Low Countries, professing the same old faith. They came to be known as Mennonites. There is one intriguing last glimpse of the old churches in eastern Europe. In the 16th century, three men from the region of Thessalonika travelled to Germany because they had heard there were fellow believers there. They met with a Mennonite congregation, found they were united in all points of their faith and held communion together.

The achilles heel of reference Bibles

An ancient Waldensian confession of faith states that their preachers were required, before being ordained, to memorize the gospels of Matthew and John, all the Epistles, and a good part of the writings of Solomon, David and the prophets. Of course that was necessary in their day, before the invention of the printing press. After all, a manuscript copy of the Scriptures was far too bulky to be carried about.

Nowadays we have reference Bibles and electronic Bibles that allow us to look up relevant verses on any topic that we are concerned about. With all that information about the Word of God at our fingertips, one would think that knowledge and understanding of the Word would be increasing at an exponential rate. Is it?

Not as far as I can see. The thing that is being missed in this reliance on search tools is that knowledge and understanding of the Bible is contextual and cumulative. If we do not understand the context in which one passage of Scripture was written, and how it is connected to all the rest of Scripture, we are pretty much Scripturally illiterate.

We need to read the whole Bible, and read it again and again. In doing that, we begin to see the whole picture; and we find that the Bible interprets itself. When we only read snatches here and there, we are reading Scriptures out of context all the time and then we need someone to tell us how it all fits together. Lots of people are quite willing to do that, but can we trust their interpretations? How can we even know if they are trustworthy if we don’t really know the Bible ourselves?

The Bible should not be treated as a black box that we can reach into and pull out a short passage of Scripture each morning to inspire us for that day. We are missing so much if we do not read a book of the Bible from beginning to end, reading a part each day. That is the way that our understanding will grow about what God has been doing in the world all these many years, and what He expects of us. The plan of salvation is implicit in the Old Testament, but we don’t really get it until we read the New. But we don’t really get what the New Testament is saying either if we haven’t read the Old.

All the Bible is interrelated and fits together in a way that reveals the hand of God at work over the many centuries it took to complete the book. It is a bottomless well of spiritual water, but we have to pump it up for ourselves. Let’s not drink from the stagnant pools that someone else has pumped and left behind.

Why isn’t this happening today?

A.D. 1199.— It is stated that at this time the Albigenses, who were one church with the Waldenses, had so increased in the earldom of Toulouse, that, as the papists complained, “almost a thousand cities were polluted with them.”

With this the lord of St. Aldegonde concurs, when he says: “That notwithstanding Peter de Bruis was burnt as a heretic at St. Gilles, near Nimes, the doctrine nevertheless was spread throughout the province of  Gascony, into the earldom of Fois, Querci, Agenois, Bourdeloicx, and almost throughout all Languedoc, and the earldom of Jugrane, now called Venice. In Provence also this doctrine was almost universally accepted, and the cities, Cahors, Narbonne, Carcasonne, Rhodes, Aix la Chapelle, Mesieres, Toulouse, Avignon, Mantauban, S. Antonin, Puflarens, and the country of Bigorre were filled with it, together with many other cities which were favourable to them, as Tarascon, Marseilles, Perces, Agenois, Marmande, and Bordeaux; whereby this doctrine spred still further, from the one side into Spain and England, from the other into Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, Moravia, Dalmatia, and even into Italy.

“Indeed, in such a manner did this doctrine spread that however sedulously the popes and all their minions exerted themselves, aided by the princes and secular magistrates, to exterminate them, first by disputations, then by banishment and papal excommunication and anathemas, proclaiming of crusades, indulgences and pardons to all who would commit violence upon them, and finally by all manner of tortures, fires, gallows, and cruel bloodshedding, yea, in such a manner that the whole world was in commotion on account of it; yet they (the papists) could not prevent the ashes from flying abroad, and becoming scattered far and wide, almost even to all the ends of the earth.”

The above seems marvellous, but it is not marvellous with regard to the Lord God, with whom nothing is wonderful or impossible. In the meantime, we see how God permitted this grain of mustard seed of the Waldenses, or Poor Men of Lyons, to grow up a large tree, and this in the midst of their persecutions. Oh, the great power, wisdom, and love of God, who never forsakes His people!

-The Martyrs Mirror, page 290

Lollard Conclusions, 1394

1. That when the the Church of England began to go mad after temporalities, like its great stepmother the Roman Church, and churches were authorized to by appropriation in divers places, faith, hope, and charity began to flee from our Church….

2. That our usual priesthood which began in Rome, pretended to be of power more lofty than the angels, is not that priesthood which Christ ordained for his apostles….

3. That the law of continence enjoined on priests, which was first ordained to the prejudice of women, brings sodomy into all the Holy Church, but we excuse ourselves by the Bible because the decree says that we should not mention it, though suspected….

4. That the pretended miracle of the sacrament of bread drives all men but a few to idolatry, because they think that the Body of Christ which is never away from heaven could by power of the priest’s word be enclosed essentially in a little bread which they show the people….

5. That exorcisms and blessings performed over wine, bread, water and oil, salt, wax, and incense, the stones of the altar, and church walls, over clothing, mitre, cross, and pilgrim’s staves, are the genuine performance of necromancy rather than of sacred theology….

6. That king and bishop in one person, prelate and judge in temporal causes, curate and officer in secular office, puts any kingdom beyond good rule…

7. That special prayers for the souls of the dead offered in our Church, preferring one before another in name, are a false foundation of alms, and for that reason all houses of alms in England have been wrongly founded….

8. That pilgrimages, prayers, and offerings made to blind crosses or roods, and to deaf images of wood or stone, are pretty well akin to idolatry and far from alms, and although these be forbidden and imaginary, a book of error to the layfolk, still the customary image of the Trinity is specially abominable….

9. That auricular confession which is said to be so necessary to the salvation of a man, with its pretended power of absolution, exalts the arrogance of priests and gives them opportunity of other secret colloquies which we will not speak of; for both lords and ladies attest that, for fear of their confessors, they dare not speak the truth….

10. That manslaughter in war, or by law of justice for a temporal cause, without spiritual revelation, is expressly contrary to the New Testament, which indeed is the law of grace and full of mercies…

11. That the vow of continence made in our Church by women who are frail and imperfect in nature is the cause of bringing the gravest horrible sins possible to human nature, because, although the killing of abortive children before they are baptized and the destruction of nature by drugs are vile sins, yet connection with themselves or beasts or any creature not having life surpasses them in foulness to such an extent as that they should be punished with the pains of hell.

12. That the abundance of unnecessary arts practised in our realm nourishes much sin in waste, profusion, and disguise….since St. Paul says, “having food and raiment, let us be therewith content,” it seems to us that goldsmiths and armourers and all kinds of arts not necessary for a man, according to the apostle, should be destroyed for the increase of virtue….

– quoted from Peters, Edward, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980

Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1120 AD

1. We believe and and do firmly hold all that which is contained in the twelve articles of the symbol, which is called the Apostles Creed, accounting for heresy whatsoever is disagreeing and not consonant to the said twelve articles.

2. We believe that there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

3. We acknowledge for the holy canonical Scriptures, the books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicle, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Here follow the books Apocryphal, which are not received of the Hebrews. But we read them (as saith Jerome in his Prologue to the Proverbs) for the instruction of the people, not to confirm the authority of the doctrine of the Church: 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch with the Epistle of Jeremiah, Esther from the tenth chapter to the end, The Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, The History of Susanna, The History of the Dragon, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees.

Here follow the books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, #1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, the Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation of John.

4. The aforesaid books teach us that there is one God, Almighty, all wise and all good, who has made all things by his goodness. For he formed Adam in his own image and likeness. But that by the envy of the devil, and the disobedience of Adam, sin has entered into the world and that we are sinners in Adam and by Adam.

5. That Christ was promised to our fathers who received the Law, that so knowing by the Law their sin, unrighteousness and insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ, to satisfy for their sins and to accomplish the Law by himself.

6. That Christ was born in the time appointed by God the Father, that is to say in the time when all iniquity abounded, and not for the cause of good works, for all were sinners: but that he might show us grace and mercy, in being faithful.

7. That Christ is our life, truth, peace, and righteousness, as also our shepherd, advocate, sacrifice and priest, who died for the salvation of all those that believe, and is risen for our justification.

8. In like manner, we firmly hold that there is no other mediator and advocate with God the Father, save only Jesus Christ. And as for the virgin Mary, she was holy, humble and full of grace, and in like manner do we believe concerning all the other saints, that they wait in heaven for the resurrection of their bodies at the Day of Judgment.

9. We believe that after this life there are only two places, the one for the saved and the other for the damned, which two places we call Paradise and Hell, absolutely denying that Purgatory imagined by Antichrist and taught contrary to the truth.

10. We hav always accounted as an unspeakable abomination before God all those inventions of men, namely the feasts and the vigils of saints, the water which they call holy, and to abstain from flesh upon certain days, but especially their masses.

11. We esteem for an abomination and as anti-Christian all those human inventions which are a trouble and prejudice to the liberty of the Spirit.

12. We do believe that the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, or visible forms of the invisible grace, accounting it good that the faithful sometimes use the said signs or visible forms if it may be done. However, we believe and hold that the faithful may be saved without receiving the aforesaid signs in case they have no place nor any means to use them.

13. We acknowledge no other sacrament but baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

14. We ought to honour the secular powers by subjection, ready obedience and paying of tributes.

The way of peace

Forty-five years ago I was picking up my mail in a village post office when I heard two older men reminiscing about the war. Somehow the subject of Mennonites came up. “Mennonites!” one of them said angrily, “They should all be lined up against a wall and shot!” The other agreed.

This was at a time when I was just beginning to think about becoming a Mennonite and neither of these men would have been aware of that. They had both served in World War II and were well-respected members of the community. What aroused such feelings of animosity?

I can’t really speak for them, yet those feelings could have been based on several factors.  At the time of the war, Mennonites generally held themselves aloof from the rest of society, to the point of believing there was something almost holy about speaking a Germanic dialect rather than English. As a result, they were not well known or well understood by other Canadians. Some Mennonites seemed to have a sense of entitlement about exemption from military service. Many Canadians may not have been aware that Mennonite boys were serving in alternate service camps during the war, or if they knew, still felt they were being given an unfair advantage.

Peace has always been the central belief of the Anabaptists, Waldensians and Mennonites. Peace with God first of all, then through that peace with our fellow men. Unfortunately, we may sometimes make it seem that the main point of our peace doctrine is non-participation in war. If that is all it amounts to, we are missing the whole foundation of Christian life and the reason why we believe we cannot participate in the shedding of blood.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, taught that we should be peacemakers, suffer persecution if need be and turn the other cheek. James wrote that God gives His children a wisdom that is “peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy”; then goes on to say that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

This is all part of loving our neighbour as ourself. Yet it is very natural and human to think of ourselves first. We are naturally prone to feelings of envy, of being left out, of not being appreciated at our just value. James tells us that these feelings are not heaven-sent, but are earthly, sensual and devilish.

If we take offence at every imagined slight, the peace of God is not reigning in our hearts. We are to esteem others as better than ourselves. Experience should tell us that those who make the greatest efforts to impress others with their own importance are the least appreciated. Yet our concern for others should never be motivated by thoughts of personal advantage.

Canada enacted conscription laws during the two World Wars, but granted exemptions to young men who were members of churches who taught a doctrine of peace. Young men from these churches who were eligible to be conscripted were allowed to join alternative service programs, such as working in forestry camps for the duration of the war.

We understand that if conscription is ever enacted again there will be no automatic exemption based solely upon church membership. Young men and women will be individually examined as to the reality of their personal convictions and whether they have lived according to those convictions.

This is as it should be. Not only our young people, but all of us, should live in such a way that our neighbours know us as peace-loving people, who are always ready to lend a helping hand to a neighbour in need. We should not have a lot to say about the faults of those who govern us; neither should we disdain the poor who have not the courage to believe that anything will ever turn out right for them in life. May we rather be people who can feel the hurts, the sorrows and the joys of others.

I remember my Dad picking me up after school one day when I was nine years old and telling me that my mother was sorrowing that day. She had just received news that her youngest brother, to whom she felt very close, had been killed in Korea. I remember when her last two letters to my uncle were returned unopened and how she kept those letters for years. We need to understand the sorrow of those who have lost loved ones in war.

As Christians, we should never have a sense of entitlement. We are called to serve, not to be served.

The bishops condemned by God

It is the tendency of British historians to consider religious movements in England to be largely independent in origin.  Lollardy is a case in point.  Despite its similarities to the Waldensian movement on the continent, it is generally seen as the result of the teaching of John Wycliffe.

I have no desire to diminish in any way the work of Wycliffe.  However, the name Lollard appears to definitely be of Dutch origin.  Leonard Verduin even states that it was in use in the Low Countries a hundred years before Wycliffe.  The word derives from a Dutch verb which means to sing softly.

The first appearance of the Black Death in Europe was in Sicily in October of 1347.  By 1349 it had spread to London and was all over the British Isles by the following year.  By 1353 it was all over Scandinavia and Russia.   It is estimated that as many as half of the people of Europe died in the years 1347 to 1353.  The cause was unknown at the time, many attributed it to bad air.  The inability of the established church to help in this terror stricken time weakened its hold on the people and opened their minds to hear other teachers.  Ideas spread as rapidly as the disease had.

An interesting side note is that a group of men who buried the dead while singing chants during the black death were called lollebroeders or lollhorden.

John Wycliffe’s English Bible first appeared in 1382.  It was translated from the Latin Vulgate rather than from the original languages but it was the first time that English-speaking people had access to the Word of God in their own language.  The Lollards certainly appreciated this fact and made good use of Wycliffe’s Bible, but it is probably a stretch to believe they did not exist in England before Wycliffe.  Perhaps he was more influenced by them, or by the same ideas that had influenced them, rather than the other way around.

– the next two paragraphs are quoted from pages 293-294 of England in the Age of Wycliffe, by G. M. Trevelyan, 4th edition, 1909.

“In May 1382, Courtenay’s (the Archbishop of Canterbury)campaign began.  He summoned to the Blackfriars’ convent in London a Council of the provinces of Canterbury, before which he brought up Wycliffe’s opinions for judgement.  First in the list of heresies came the doctrine of Consubstantiation, next the proposition that a priest in mortal sin could not administer the sacraments, and that Christ did not ordain the ceremonies of the Mass.  Two other heresies are of equal note: that if a man be contrite, all exterior confession is superfluous or useless; and after Urban the Sixth no one ought to be received as Pope, but men should live, after the manner of the Greek church, under their own laws.  Wycliffe’s views on the temporalities of the clergy, and the uselessness of the regular orders, were also condemned.  Lollardy was for the first time put definitely under the ban of the Church, and war was formally declared by the Bishops against the itinerant preachers.

“The council at Blackfriars was spoken of throughout England as a new and important move in the game.  A curious accident enabled Wycliffe’s friends to boast that, though their master had been condemned by the Bishops, the Bishops had been condemned by God.  It was on May 19 that the theses were pronounced to be ‘heresies and errors.’  About two o’clock that afternoon, while the churchmen were sitting round the table at the pious work, the house was shaken by a terrible earthquake that struck with panic all present except the stern and zealous Courtenay.  He insisted that his subordinates should resume their seats and go on with the business, although the shock seems to have been more violent than is usual in our country, casting down pinnacles and steeples, and shaking stones out of the castle walls.  It took away from this solemn act of censure some at least of the effect on which the bishop had calculated, and Wycliffe did not let pass the opportunity to point the moral.  Such an omen was no light thing in such an age.”

La Nobla Leyçon – X

There is a brief rehearsal in this lesson,
Of three laws which God gave to the world;
The first law directeth men who have judgement and reason,
To know God, and to pray to his Creator.
For he that hath judgement, may well think with himself,
That he formed not himself, nor anything else:
Then here he who hath judgement and reason may know,
That there is one Lord God who created all the world,
And knowing him, he ought much to honour him;
For they were damned that would not do it.
The second law which God gave to Moses,
Teacheth us to fear God, and to serve him with all our strength;
For he condemneth and punisheth everyone that offends.
But the third law, which is at the present time,
Teacheth us to love God, and to serve him purely:
For he waiteth for the sinner, and giveth him time.
That he may repent in this present life.
As for any other law to come after, we shall have none.
Save only to imitate Jesus Christ, and to do his will,
And keep fast that which he commands us,
And to be well forewarned when Antichrist shall come.
That we may believe neither to his words nor to his works,
Now according to the Scripture, there are already many Antischrists.
For, all those which are contrary to Christ, are Antichrists.
Many signs and great wonders
Shall be from this time forward until the day of judgement,
The heaven and the earth shall burn, and all the living die.
After which all shall arise to everlasting life,
And all buildings shall be laid flat.
Then shall be the last judgement,
When God shall separate his people, according as it is written,
To the wicked he shall say, Depart from me into hell fire, which never shall be quenched;
With grievous punishments there to be straitened;
By multitude of pains, and sharp torment;
For you shall be damned without remedy.
From which God deliver us, if it be his blessed will,
And give us to hear that which he shall say to his elect without delay;
Come hither, ye blessed of my Father,
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world,
Where you shall have pleasure, riches, and honour.
May it please the Lord which formed the world,
That we may be of the number of his elect to dwell in his court for ever.
Praised be God.  Amen.

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