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Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Behold the Lamb, The Story of the Moravian Church, by Peter Hoover

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church

by Peter Hoover

If you have heard of Moravians-persecuted Christians that fled to Germany in the early 1700s-you most likely know of their prayer meeting that lasted one hundred years, their missions to Greenland, to the native Americans, to Suriname, the Virgin Islands, or India's Malabar Coast. But quite likely you heard less, or nothing, of the story behind those wonders of faith and perseverance. Through everything the Moravians accomplished around the world shines an infinitely greater wonder-that of the Lamb of God for sinners slain. Perhaps, through reading this book, you may catch glimpses of that "greater wonder" and find yourself inspired to live and do like they did in our time.

I. A Song In The Wilderness

Veronika Löhans struggled to understand an Afro-Caribbean man speaking to the crowd. Far back, under a palm thatch roof without walls, she watched the light of a lantern on his face. The man spoke eagerly, in short syllables. He was tall and strong and moved his arms quickly. Veronika smiled to herself in the dark. Even though she did not understand everything he said, she did not fear him like she would have as a child. She loved him, a brother in the Saviour’s Gemeine (church community), and to see how he spoke to the people filled her with happy thoughts.

Mosquitos moved about. Like the other women at the meeting, Veronika slapped her legs and waved them from her ears. She wondered how the men, mostly without shirts, could ignore them so well. But, glancing behind her, she saw that something of far greater urgency than night-flying bugs held the attention of the crowd.
Faces kept emerging from the darkness under low-hanging coconut palms. More and more—perhaps over five hundred faces—surrounded the light and kept drawing closer to hear what was said. In spite of the humidity and bugs, in spite of the ever tightening crowd, Veronika felt deeply thankful for having come to St. Thomas in the West Indies. The Saviour was here, and with the seekers around her, she found joy in becoming little, like a worm, before him.

Veronika was young—only married a few months—but the road behind her was already long. A peasant girl from the backwoods of Moravia, she had lain a year in prison for having attended secret meetings of believers. On her release she had escaped through the mountains of Silesia to Germany. There she had joined the congregation of believers at Herrnhut in Upper Lusatia. Immediately after her marriage to Valentin Löhans in 1738, they had sent them overland to Rotterdam from where they sailed to the New World.

Now she sat among believers on the Posaunenberg (Mountain of Trumpets) where on a twenty-seven acre lot the brothers had built houses among flowering jasmine and lemon trees. In the crowd gathered there to worship she saw few white faces—until a sudden commotion turned all heads at once.

Rough men with swords and whips tumbled in on the multitude. Roars and shouts drowned out the screams of terrified children. “Kill them! Shoot them! Beat them! Stab them!” Veronika distinguished the voices at once from musical West Indian patois. They were crude white men’s voices and struck terror to her soul.

Benches rolled over as terrified mothers around her snatched their children to flee. Swinging cutlasses, heavy booted men smelling of cane liquor charged into the circle of light beneath the lantern. They caught the one who had spoken—a brother baptised “Abraham”—and began to beat him wildly. One white man hit the helper1 Petrus’s wife over the head. She clutched her newborn child tighter while another cracked a bull whip around her. Georg Weber’s wife Elisabeth, a European sister, got a stab wound through her breast and a cutlass sunk deep into Veronika’s shoulder.

Within minutes the multitude had vanished into surrounding darkness, the intruders had galloped off on horseback, and only the most injured lay groaning among patches of blood on the hard packed earth. Then the sugar cane rustled and a few of the brothers, looking cautiously this way and that, returned.

At the scene of violence they knelt, undismayed, to pray for their white Protestant persecutors. Some prayed in West Indian patois and some in the languages of central Europe. Abraham, the strong young man who did not fight back when the drunks beat him, prayed with tears for their “awakening.”

Within three weeks of the attack, the Saviour’s Gemeine on St. Thomas (consisting almost entirely of black slaves owned by white “Christian” masters) sent out sixteen pilgrims2 to speak to the lost about their souls. They reached every plantation on the island and the number of believers increased so rapidly that landowners threatened the governor they would leave unless he crushed the movement at once.

What, on St. Thomas, had taken place?
What exposed the landowners’ wickedness so clearly (to their unbounded rage) and led thousands of slaves into new life and joy? What brought a great company of Africans and Europeans into previously unheard of unity? What inspired young peasant women to cross the ocean and brave life in strange tropical lands where all predicted they would die? What turned wild drunkards and thieves into believers noble enough to return good for evil—while the rest of “Christendom” languished in hypocrisy and sin?
Reinhard Ronner, a German brother walking the white trails of St. Thomas in the 1740s, came upon the answer where he did not expect. A distance from any village or plantation house, down where the road crossed a thicket of tropical vegetation, he heard a song.

At first he thought he must be imagining things. Then he stopped short and listened. “Christi Blut und Gerechtigkeit, das ist mein Schmuck und Ehrenkleid. . . .” Out of the underbrush the hymn came in majestic strength, the voice of a young man singing with all his heart. “Damit will ich vor Gott bestehn, wenn ich zum Himmel werd eingehn!”

Reinhard could wait no longer. He had to see where it came from, and scurried down into the dimly lit space beneath the leaves. There he saw him, a boy—obviously a slave from an island plantation—clearing land with a cutlass, alone. He had has back turned and Reinhard stood still as the song (given here in translation) poured from the depths of his being:

The blood of Christ and his righteousness, is my adornment and robe of praise. With it I shall stand before God when I enter heaven.
I see the holy innocent Lamb, my Lord and Christ—the Lamb that died on the rough cross for me. I see the value of his blood, treasure beyond price, eternally reckoned in heaven.
This blood alone is my confidence and hope. Though all else should fail, my confidence remains. Sure as rock it stands.
As long as I continue here below, this shall be my goal: I will testify with a glad spirit of grace in Jesus’ blood.
Praise to you, Jesus Christ! Praise for becoming a man! Praise for buying my freedom and that of the whole world! King of honour, Jesus Christ, the Father’s only son, have mercy on the world, and bless those who stay with you!

When the song ended, Reinhard hesitated to make himself known. But the young man turned in his work and saw him. Startled, he drew back, speechless.

“Do not fear,” Reinhard told him. “I am a brother!”

At once the joy of having his sins forgiven shone from the young man’s face and Reinhard found him “inwardly small and tender to the Lamb” before leaving him, unspeakably encouraged, to continue on his way.

The road between St. Thomas cane fields seemed transformed. Dark nights of storm and violence seemed like a distant dream. Never had Reinhard Ronner noticed a more heavenly sunlight glistening on rolling expanses of emerald green above the sea.

Men and women had seen the Lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!” And yes—in Europe, in the West Indies and abroad, during the mid-eighteenth century—saints had overcome evil with his blood!

1 lay leader
2 evangelists sent out by the Moravian church


 2008/5/31 17:29Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb, The Story of the Moravian Church, by Peter Hoover

Chapter 2 Bethlehem’s Fountain

Two hundred and fifty years after Reinhard Ronner’s work in St. Thomas I drove east toward Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. Frost lay bright on the fields, at sunup, in the beginning of Advent season.

East over the Tulpehocken Creek where Nicholas Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf stayed with Conrad Weiser on his way to Indian territory. East past the Indiantown Gap into the valley of the Lehigh I found my way into the heart of old Bethlehem, looking just as I had remembered it. Stone buildings with many floors, levels, and curious additions looked through small-paned windows onto its streets and squares under spreading walnut trees. Beneath a weather-vane in the shape of a lamb, nestled what had been its central meeting house, communal residences, and dining hall. But on this visit to Bethlehem I did not stop at its steep-roofed Gemeinhaus1 built of logs in 1741. I did not watch the current film at the Moravian visitors’ centre, or drink a mug of hot cinnamon tea with milk at the Sun Inn. Today I was “on to something.” I parked my car at the Monocacy Creek below the Single Brothers’ House and set off walking briskly uptown.

Much water had flowed under the Lehigh bridge since I first came to know the Moravian Church and their former communal settlements in eastern Pennsylvania. In fact, now that I was back in Bethlehem, I could not help but rehearse the story in my mind.

It began at an auction sale in my home town of Kitchener, Ontario. The sun was about to set on a snowy, winter afternoon. The auctioneer had become anxious to quit and bargains began to move, right and left. My mother bid two shillings on a box of books and got them. She also got a kitchen table, a mattress, and several chairs. A German immigrant hauled them home for us (we were “horse and buggy Mennonites” and could not easily take things out of the city) and I dug through the box of books to see what I could find. My first discovery was the story of the Moravian Church, told in a book about Pennsylvania.2

It spoke to my soul and stayed with me.

In fact the Moravians, through their witness and writings, took me to where I as a thirteen-year-old could not have dreamed—even though my family knew both, centuries before my time.

In 1748 a Moravian pilgrim, Brother Hautzach, stopped for the night in Pennsylvania’s Conestoga River settlement. After putting up and feeding his horse, Brother Hautzach’s hosts, Christian Martin and his son David (my Mennonite great-grandfather, five generations removed) took him in for supper and to visit. The Martins, like Brother Hautzach, had come from Germany and felt kindly disposed toward him. Much more, they felt spiritual kinship in their dedication to Christ and in the nonresistant, nonconformed lifestyle they shared. Christian had spent a long time in jail for what he believed (like the Moravians he refused to do military service and swear oaths). David’s wife had died and he buried her at sea on the voyage to William Penn’s colony where—like the Moravians—he had come in search of religious freedom.3

But the pleasant conversation and spirit of unity ended when Christian’s son Heinrich (also my ancestor) came over. Heinrich Martin, Brother Hautzach reports in his journal, was not “tender toward the Lamb’s wounds” like his father and brother. Rather, he was in a quarrelsome mood and contradicted everything the Moravian pilgrim had to say.

For many years I felt uncertain about the attitude we Mennonites had taken toward the Moravians. On one hand I deeply appreciated the Moravians’ conviction, in the eighteenth century, to live by the Sermon on the Mount. I saw that like the early Anabaptists, they gave everything up to follow Christ. Their communal settlements—their “Pilger” and “Hausgemeine” (pilgrim and home congregations)—fascinated me, along with their witness for peace, their evangelism “by the wheel,” and the First Fruits story (the incredible account of their world missions, made the subject of a 20’th century film).

Nevertheless, I continued to have my doubts. Only too well could I imagine what my great-uncle, six generations removed, would have found to contradict.

The Moravians were “plain,” in some ways more so than Mennonites in the eighteenth century. But along with their “plainness” they had a flair for celebration—great feasts with decorated halls and music by their church orchestra. Intellectuals among them, university professors, artists, composers, even nobility, set for them a remarkably different tone than that of other non-conformed groups. I could see how this would have given my Mennonite family a problem. But there were other, even more serious, differences. . . .

My great-grandfather Heinrich would have had a hard time with the Moravians’ view of the sacraments, especially baptism. Certain expressions in their worship he would have found baffling, or more likely, offensive. And as a climax of differences, he no doubt rejected totally the renewed Moravians’ concept of becoming “ganz klein und sünderisch” (altogether tiny and sinner-like) before the Lamb. I did too, until a long series of events—Moravian influences among them—brought me to make a difficult adjustment to my Anabaptist understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Where my Anabaptist ancestors focused on obedience to Christ, the Moravians focused on recognition of their guilt and trust in Jesus’ blood. Both groups believed in both teachings, but their clear contrast in emphases led to cases like that of Peter Haller and Jakob Lischy in 1745.

Peter Haller, like my Martin ancestors, was a Mennonite settler in Pennsylvania. He liked the Moravians and began to attend their Sing and Gebetsstunden (song and prayer meetings) until a neighbour who also attended the meetings fell in temptation and got drunk. Then Peter had a problem. “Why didn’t you take action against that man?” he asked the Moravian pilgrim, Jakob Lischy, after the next meeting. “The Bible says no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God, and we are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but must rather reprove them. Also, we are to separate ourselves from sinners and come out from among them.”

Peter Haller felt confused and upset. He could not understand pilgrim Lischy’s calm acceptance of the man’s continued participation in the meetings. Even less could he understand what Jakob meant by saying, “Now I love him [the brother who had sinned] even more than before.”

Then things went wrong for Peter. He “looked too deep into the cider barrel” himself and on top of that, got into a fight.

The day afterward he returned, a changed man, to speak with Jakob Lischy. “God has punished me for judging my neighbour,” he confessed. “Now I see that I sinned even more than he. I got drunk myself and fought like a devil. I have come to see what kind of man I am and my own holiness has fallen into the dirt.”

Jakob Lischy neither condemned nor condoned him. Neither did he smile and say, “I told you so!” He simply wished him “viel Glück mit der Sache” (a good outcome of the matter) and thanked the Saviour for doing his wonderful work in men.4

The Saviour keeps on working.

By the time I entered Bethlehem that frosty December morning I had a number of eventful years of Christian living behind me. My Anabaptist ideals of church purity and personal obedience to Christ had been tried out in more ways than I could have imagined. In mission congregations in Latin America, in teaching Bible School, and serving as a minister in a Mennonite church, I had made discoveries and observations—not all of them positive—and had more questions by now than answers, on how to do things.

Some of my questions involved the church. Did we Anabaptists know how to build a church like Christ had in mind? What about our constant struggle for unity in details, our bannings and shunnings, and our belief in the fellowship of the sanctified (die Gemeinschaft der reingewaschene we spoke of in my childhood) in the context of our appalling fragmentation? Without much humour I recalled an observation made by the Moravian, Georg Hantsch, in 1748: “May the dear Lamb bless our visit among the poor Mennonites who know nothing but fighting and struggling, and who consider our teachings dangerous because we direct them to the Gospel instead of to the law.”

Along with these questions I wondered about our ability (or lack of it) to “make disciples of all nations” and bring them to obey what the Lord commanded. Even though the Anabaptist movement began with a great wave of new converts, within one generation the wave became a trickle, and by the time of the renewing of the Moravian church in the eighteenth century, it had not only stopped flowing altogether, but reversed.

“What happened?” I asked myself. While non-conformed non-resistant Moravians preached the Gospel to millions around the world and started communities in the most inhospitable places on every continent except Antarctica, nonresistant nonconformed Anabaptists became tiny enclaves, fortified with tradition and ethnic peculiarities against a hostile world. What did the one have that the other lacked? Even today it is rare for seekers “from the outside” to successfully become part of plain Anabaptist communities. Did this mean we have down-played personal “experience” so far, and focused on submission to the brotherhood so long, I wondered, that we have become stunted and weak? Or was something worse the matter with us?

Above all else, I had come to have questions about myself. After years of preaching, writing, and teaching others, circumstances had forced me to a shocking recognition of my own imperfection. Whether I liked it or not, honesty before God forced me to see I was still a sinner by nature, and far too often a sinner (a “short-comer”) in thought and deed as well. In fact, it plainly seemed the older I got, the more sinful I looked to myself.

That, for one who had long believed the sinful nature dies at conversion to be replaced by a new and utterly transformed “Christian” nature, was difficult. More difficult, perhaps, than anything else in my life.

Could I, after so many years of claiming “assurance of salvation” and holiness in Christ, sit down and admit I was still a sinner? A sinner by nature? Could I beat my chest and pray like my students at mass (in Costa Rica I taught at a Catholic school), “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner”?

The very idea seemed heretical. I had not called myself a sinner since my conversion years before. (We believed it was possible for a Christian to sin, but by accident, not by nature. Therefore Christians were no longer sinners but saints. “Don’t make the Church of Jesus Christ a hospital for sinners!” I remembered a Mennonite preacher thundering across the pulpit.) Yet now, the more I thought about it the more I felt like admitting exactly what I was—a great sinner—and live with the consequences. Living with the truth, for as terrible as it might be, looked suddenly more attractive than living with a lie.
With this change of perspective, it became easy to admit our shortcomings in the church as well. For the first time I felt ready to confess that neither I nor the church to which I belonged, was anything more than ordinary. But could I go on and say the rest?

“I am a sinner and my church is simply another cell in that vast assembly of sinners—wounded, imperfect, scattered across the ages and around the world—that together form the body of believers for which Christ died.”

That, for me, still seemed like a startling and unacceptable confession, totally unlike what I as an Anabaptist had learned, and it brought serious paradoxes to mind. How could one follow Christ and be a sinner at the same time? How could the Church, consisting of sinners, be spotless and without wrinkle? Wasn’t this where Martin Luther had gone wrong?

Toward the end of a difficult period of rethinking and adjustment, these questions took me to Bethlehem in Pennsylvania—down to the lower story of the library at Moravian College, back through carpeted spaces into the beautiful Moravian Studies room. Beautiful, that is, not for its pleasing modern design but for what I found among leather-bound, carefully printed German books—several thousand of them from the eighteenth century—on its shelves and in special collections.

Holding in my hands the very books they carried to the West Indies in the 1700s and reading their letters for myself, the inner workings of the renewed Moravian church began to come clear. I began to understand their ganz klein und sünderisch attitude, not as a license to keep on sinning (as my Mennonite ancestors may have supposed), but as the lowly position—the only position, in fact—from which one can see the Lamb.

“Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”

In previously unknown Sünderhaftigkeit (recognition of human sinner-ness) I began to feel, with the young slave on St. Thomas, the unspeakable worth of Jesus’ blood and wounds. Thousands of Moravian hymns suddenly became my hymns. Their struggle to put to words what they felt, became my struggle, and their vision to bring the world to unity and peace under the conquering Lamb, became my vision. Then the story of Saul and David came home to me.

God chose Saul, the tallest and most handsome man in Israel, to be that nation’s first king. Samuel anointed him. God helped him win spectacular victories. But Saul did not stay “little in his own eyes” and God gave his work to a shepherd boy from Bethlehem.

He always does. It takes little people—like his son, born into that shepherd boy’s family, in a barn—to change the world.

Back on the street I hurried past the Sun Inn. Down to the family and widows’ houses above the Monocacy Creek I hurried past the area where the mill, the dairy, and the water works hummed with activity in community days. And there, close to the stable in which the first settlers lived and the settlement got its name from a carol on Christmas eve, 1742, I passed a fountain. Every time I saw it earlier, its whimsical inscription had cheered me: “Drink Pilgrim here; and if thy heart be innocent, here too shalt thou refresh thy spirit.”

Only on this cold day at the beginning of Advent, it no longer seemed so whimsical. If our hearts were innocent, to “drink from the fountain in Bethlehem” might change what we believe and how we live, forever.

1 Community house, where the “pilgrim brothers” lived and where believers met in its second story Saal.
2 Klees, Fredric, The Pennsylvania Dutch, MacMillan, New York, 1951
3 In North America the Moravians first settled in Georgia. But Georgia’s colonial government compelled them to bear arms and they moved to Pennsylvania rather than comply.
4 From Lischys und Rauchs Relation von ihrer Visitationsreise und Predigten in den Reformierten Gemeinden in Pennsylvanien, 1745, Moravian Archives


 2008/6/1 8:48Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb, The Story of the Moravian Church, by Peter Hoover

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 3 Goats And Sheep

The story of the Moravian church begins, one may say, at Bethlehem. Not Bethlehem in Pennsylvania but Bayt Lahm, Jesus’ birthplace in Israel.

From the night of Jesus’ birth in a stable to a believers’ community on the heights above the Lehigh River an unbroken story of faith continues. It is a story other Christian groups have often wished to invent for themselves, but with little success.

The Moravians, without invention, are an “Apostolic” church (a church that has kept its succession of leadership unbroken from the apostles’ times to now). More than that, they survived as a movement keeping its place in the love of Christ with far greater faithfulness than most, through two thousand years. Yet their story, like the story of all faith communities, involves struggle, confusion at times, and trials that obscured its way. It is not as simple as some have been led to believe.

“As a church we descend from the movement of John Huss, burned at the stake in 1415,” say tour guides at Moravian museums. At first I took what they said at face value. But the more I learned of the facts behind that statement, the more I saw how potentially misleading it could be. The Unitas Fratrum (the Brotherly Unity or Moravian church) “descends” from John Huss in the same way, perhaps, as the Anabaptists from Martin Luther, or the Quakers from Oliver Cromwell. Certainly, there was a connection, but to speak of spiritual “descent” implies more than there really was.

The “renewed Moravians” (the Unitas Fratrum after 1722) were not Czech-speaking people of Moravian background. True, they came across the mountains from Moravia—the “hidden seed”—but their ancestors were German Waldenses who in their turn had fled there for refuge. In Moravia their ancestors had linked arms with the Unitas Fratrum, a Czech renewal movement. But even it had stood in sharpest opposition to John Huss’s reformation from the beginning, and far from representing him now, bore the marks of brutal suppression suffered under the rule of his followers for centuries.

To get the story straight we need to go back—far back beyond Moravia, the Hussites and Waldenses, to early Christian communities in Asia. . . .

Soon after the apostle John died in Ephesus, terrible persecutions drove many who loved Christ from Asia Minor through Greece and Italy, to Gaul. Persecution followed them. For every natural disaster, flood, drought, or plague, pagans found Christians to blame. A hundred years after John’s death Christian refugees in Gaul wrote back to their relatives and friends:

The servants of Christ at Vienna [Vienne] and Lugdunum [Lyon] in Gaul to our brothers in Asia and Phrygia who have the same faith and hope of redemption as we: peace, grace, and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. . . .

The severity of our trials here, the unbridled fury of the heathen against God’s people, the untold sufferings of the blessed martyrs, we are incapable of describing in detail: indeed no pen could do them justice. The adversary swooped on us with all his might. . . .1

After describing how Sanctus the deacon at Vienna on the Rhone, Maturus a new convert, Attalus an immigrant from Pergamum, the old brother Pothinus (in his nineties), Alexander a doctor, Blandina (roasted alive and thown to bulls), and a fifteen-year-old believer, Ponticus, died under torture rather than deny Christ, the letter ends triumphantly:

This was the greatest war they fought against him [the Beast]. . . . Shedding many tears in supplication to the Father, they asked for life and he gave it to them. This they shared with their neighbours when they departed victorious to God. Peace they had ever loved; peace they commended to our care; and with peace they went to God, leaving no sorrow to their mother [the church], no strife or warfare to their brothers, but joy, peace, concord, and love.

Inner peace in the heart of raging persecution, nothing could have laid a better foundation for the church in southern France than the testimony of the martyrs at Lyon in AD 177. One wave of persecution followed another. With the passing of time, persecution under Roman pagans became persecution under Roman “Christians,” but the believers of Gaul never forgot how the first among them lived and died.

That memory, as century after century passed, became ever more precious—and costly.

The Flower of Faith in Languedoc

As usually happens in migrations of the church, only the most dedicated Christians moved from Asia Minor to the Roman frontier. A few, like Alexander the doctor from Phrygia, came with an education. But most who followed him were illiterate brothers and sisters that settled with their children in villages along the Rhone. From there, frequently driven by persecution, they spread north into Lugdunensis (Lyon) and Germania, east into the snow-crowned Alps, and west across the Cevennes into green valleys sheltering the Gallic cities of Albi and Tolosa (Toulouse).

Unlike sophisticated “Christians” in Greek cities and Rome, many Gallic believers kept to a simple, practical faith. Feeling their own guilt and helplessness before Christ, they responded to him with open hearts and ever increasing love for his mercy on them. This, demonstrated by how they lived, led to the conversion of hundreds, and eventually thousands, of Gauls.

Convinced Asian believers and converted Gauls, now the church in western Europe had potential to note! The Gauls (Celts, first galled Galli by the Romans) had long distinguished themselves, not for their organisation but for resistance under attack. Even though the Romans conquered them, they never became Roman at heart. Neither did they become French in AD 486 when the last Roman troops retreated from Gaul and the region fell to the Franks.

They stayed Christian.

Like all who lived in French territories along the Mediterranean Sea, these Christians kept the Languedoc (language where one says “oc” instead of “oui” as in French) and prepared to stand for what they believed.

Roman military rule, under Clovis, chief of the Franks, ended. But because he had converted to Roman Catholicism, domination from Rome only increased. Clovis set out to bring all Christians by force into the Roman church and began, for the believers who worked the farms and vineyards of the Languedoc region, a trial of faith that would far surpass anything they had known.

Thankfully, they did not stand alone. Visiting brothers and sisters from the east kept them in touch with other believers, especially those of Bosnia and Dalmatia.

What were those believers like?

A thousand years after Roman Catholic persecutors destroyed their writings and left little but slanderous accounts of their own, it is not easy to know the truth. That some of them, commonly known as Cathari (pure ones) or in south Slavic countries as Bogomili (those under the Lord’s mercy), misunderstood Scriptures and taught certain things wrong seems likely. Speculation about the origin of matter and spirit caused confusion in their time and led some into unbalanced asceticism. But from a description of the church in Bosnia we read:

They had no priests, or rather the priesthood of all believers was acknowledged. The churches were guided by elders chosen by lot, several in each congregation, an overseer (called grandfather), and ministering brothers called leaders and elders. Meetings could be held in any house and the regular meeting-places were quite plain, no bells, no altar, only a table, on which might be a white cloth and a copy of the Gospels. A part of the earnings of the brethren was set aside for the relief of sick believers, for the poor, and for the support of those who travelled to preach the Gospel among the unconverted.2

Nowhere did this “preaching to the unconverted” bear more fruit, in spite of persecution, than in southern France. From sunny olive groves in Provence, through the Rhone Delta to Lyon and Toulouse—the entire Languedoc region—the movement grew by the eleventh century to include thousands of people. Many villages consisted exclusively of non-Roman-Catholic believers, and in Albi on the Tarn (a tributary of the Garonne) they became so numerous their enemies eventually identified the whole movement as that of the Albigenses.

Faith Growing

Unlike the leaders of the state church whom the Christians of Languedoc criticised for their great wealth and immorality, their own leaders were simple, frugal men. Even their enemies knew them as men of their word, modest in dress and habits, and unusually ready to give their lives for what they believed. One of the first of them about whom we have many details was Pierre, a brother from the village of Bruys.

At the end of the tenth century, Pierre (who had been a priest but left Roman Catholicism after his conversion) began to visit the homes of seekers in the mountainous region east of the Rhone. From Die and Gap to Embrun, at the foot of the Massif de Champsaur he travelled on foot, encouraging believers and holding meetings wherever he could. “Why have church buildings,” he asked the people, “if the Church of Christ consists not in walls, but in the community of the faithful? If we may as well pray to God in a barn, and be heard, if worthy, in a stable as before an altar?”3

Like the first Christians, Pierre taught the people that faith and repentance must accompany baptism for it to be valid sign. Therefore he saw no use for the baptism of infants. He also rejected Roman Catholic teaching about the bread and wine. “Jesus gave himself once for all,” he told the people. “We do not need to offer him up again. We need no priests or sacrifice.”4

Wherever he travelled, throughout the Languedoc countryside, Pierre found ready listeners. What he said confirmed what a large number already believed, and brought others to think seriously. But his teaching enraged Roman Catholic authorities. Even more than his rejection of church buildings and ritual was his feeling about crosses. “The cross,” he said, “was the instrument of Christ’s death. Why venerate it or keep it on continual display? Much rather, we should be ashamed of the cross!”

As a result of Pierre’s teaching, mountain people may have burned wayside crosses. In communities where everyone got converted, they may have torn down “idolatrous churches” like Pierre said they should. But what can clearly be proven is that Roman Catholic authorities, instigated by priests threatened with losing their jobs, burned Pierre alive at St. Gilles, near the old Gallic city of Nimes.

After Pierre de Bruys’s death the bishops of Embrun and Arles, with the fervent support of the Abbot of Cluny, led a campaign against the believers in eastern Languedoc, only to have them become—in the west, around Albi and Toulouse, and along the Mediterranean coast—more numerous than ever.

Under pressure from Rome the city of Toulouse finally passed a law, in AD 1119, that all babies of the region had to be baptised. But believers paid scant attention to it and Henri, a converted monk from Lausanne, became active as an evangelist in Pierre’s place.

The Fruit of Faith

When arrested and brought to trial for their actions, the early Albigensian believers of Languedoc surprised their accusers. Even though many could not read and were simple farmers or craftsmen, they knew the Scriptures well. Especially from the Gospels they could quote long portions—entire chapters or even the Gospels themselves. This had to do with what they believed.

The Albigenses believed God is all around and in creation, but that we cannot see him or speak directly with him. They believed the Word of God became flesh in Christ. Christ is an expression of God and as humans we may relate to him. In third place, they believed the Spirit is subject to Christ and lives in us, showing us what is true and false.

Because they expected to relate directly and only to Christ, his words became of utmost importance. The early Albigenses set their hope in his favour and took his example for their guide in life.

Following Christ they refused to swear oaths in any form. They did not take interest on money. They returned good for evil and suffered violence rather than take up arms in self-defence.

Simple faith in Christ brought them to confess their faults to him and to one another, rather than seek the services of a “mediatorial church.”


 2008/6/1 21:19Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 3 Goats And Sheep continued:

Members One of Another

Not only did the Albigenses confess their faults among themselves. They believed like Paul that we are “members one of another”5 and did what they could to encourage whoever belonged to the body of Christ.

Within the Albigensian congregation credentes (believing members) and perfecti (complete members) lived in remarkable unity. Everyone—the mature and the immature, the fully committed and those still finding their way—discovered the place best for them. But no one could join an Albigensian congregation before passing through a novitiate. Questions asked of them during that time included the following:

Do you pray before mounting a horse, boarding a vessel, entering a town, or walking across a log bridge?

When you see something lying on the road that is not yours, do you pick it up?

Do you pray before and after meals?

Do you visit the sick and show concern for the spiritual welfare of others?

Do you pay your debts?

On their acceptance as believing members men and women promised to hold their heart and goods, both present and future, at the disposal of the Lord and his community. If later on they desired complete membership they received, on top of this, the consolamentum (the comforting of the Holy Ghost). This, according to a sermon on baptism given in Languedoc during the thirteenth century, was to take place as follows:

The Bonne Homme [presiding elder] in charge shall admonish him [the applicant] and teach him with words appropriate for his consolamentum, saying: “Pierre, you wish to receive the baptism through which the Holy Spirit is given to the church of God with the holy pronouncement and the laying on of hands. Of this baptism our Lord speaks in Matthew 28:19-20, and other places. He set the pattern for this laying on of hands himself (Mark 16:18, etc.) and afterwards Paul and Barnabas practised it in several places. Through it the Holy Spirit comes to the church and this custom has been kept from the apostles’ time until now, passed on from Bonne Homme to Bonne Homme, and will be passed on to the end of the world.

You must understand that power is given to the church of God to bind and loose, to forgive and retain sin, as Christ said (John 20:21, etc.). If you wish to receive this power, you must also keep the commandments of Christ and the New Testament to the best of your ability. He commands us not to commit adultery or murder, not to lie or swear oaths, and to keep from stealing. On the contrary, we are to pardon and love our enemies, pray for those who speak against us, if one strikes us on one cheek we are to turn to him the other as well. We are to hate the world and the things that are in the world (1 John 2:16-17, etc.)6

If the applicant committed himself to this way of life in Christ, the Bonnes Hommes placed a copy of the New Testament on his head, laid hands on him, and prayed. Then they received him as a complete member with the kiss of peace.

Albigensian brothers greeted one another like this and sisters did the same, among themselves. Complete members (always single) greeted those of the opposite sex only by touching elbows and never sat beside them on a bench, no matter how long it was.

The Trust of Membership

To be a complete member of the Albigensian community was no light or easy matter. One promised to remain single, to renounce all material possession, and to spend one’s life in voluntary service for others. Complete members could not work for wages or commit themselves to a trade. They lived entirely at the mercy, and in the service, of the believing members’ community.

Among the complete members the sandaliati (sandalled ones) spent much time teaching the novellani (novices). Together they memorised and copied Scriptures, visited seekers, and made long trips on foot to spread the good news of the peace of Christ. All leaders of the Albigensian church, conjointly known as Bonnes Hommes but holding the offices of deacons, elders, and overseers, were complete members. Of these, the congregation chose none to leadership before they turned twenty, and then only if they had proven themselves for at least six years of complete membership.


An account from the twelfth century lets us know how the Albigenses celebrated communion:

When the congregation comes together, both brothers and sisters, they spread a table or bench with a clean cloth and set a cup of good pure wine and an unleavened cake or loaf upon it. Then the brother in charge says: “Let us ask God to forgive our sins for his mercy’s sake, and to fill us, for his mercy’s sake, with everything for which we rightfully ask. Then let us pray the Lord’s prayer seven times to the honour of God and the Holy Trinity.”

On their knees the congregation follows these instructions. Then the brother takes a white cloth and hangs it over his left shoulder. With his bare right hand he wraps the loaf or cake in the cloth and holds it to his breast. Standing like this he repeats the words our Lord used at the Last Supper. Then he makes the sign [of the cross] over the bread and wine, and breaks the bread. While he does this, the congregation stands, but when he finishes they seat themselves at the table, every member in proper order [from the oldest to the youngest]. As every one receives the bread and wine from the brother in charge he says, “Benedicité, Senher” (bless me Lord). The brother in charge replies, “Deus vos benedicat” (God will bless you). Then their service is over and they believe this to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”7

Not only at formal meetings, but day after day in their homes the Albigenses enjoyed quiet times of communion together. Before every meal they stood in silence for twenty to thirty minutes. Then, in an audible voice, everyone said together: “Lord have mercy on us! Christ have mercy on us! Lord have mercy on us!” The oldest one present asked for the blessing: “May the Lord, who blessed the five loaves and two fishes in the wilderness, bless this table with everything on it—and everything yet to come—in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Then they all sat down.

After eating, everyone held and lifted their hands in a circle. They turned their faces toward heaven and the oldest one would say: “May God reward and give food to all who benefit and bless us. May God who gives us earthly food bless us with spiritual food as well. May God be with us and we with him forever.”

The meal ended when all said “Amen.”

After the evening meal in Albigensian homes someone passed a hand-written copy of a Gospel or another Scripture around for everyone to read from. Those who could not read, or who had no copies of Scripture, quoted by memory. Then the older ones among them—parents, grandparents, or visiting perfecti—shared an instructive message.

Family Life

Even though the perfecti—complete members—did not marry in imitation of Christ, believing members of the Albigensian church lived and worked in exemplary family settings. Children learned the way of truth at an early age and considered hard work a virtue. Women occupied an important place in the congregation, as well as the men, but never in teaching or leadership positions. Those who remained single could (and usually did) become complete members.

The Albigenses’ Roman Catholic enemies accused them of Manichaeism (the belief that matter is evil and spirit is good). No doubt they had reasons for their charge. Some of the Albigenses’ practices appear to fall in line with this oriental, third century, teaching. But the very accusations of state church inquisitors shed more light on the matter.

Roman Catholics accused Albigensian believers of forbidding to eat meat. At the same time they accused them of eating meat on holy days. They also accused Albigenses of forbidding to marry. Yet they blamed them for forcing priests and monks to take wives.

The truth, no doubt, lies somewhere in between. Many Albigenses, perhaps all complete members, lived as vegetarians. To live as lightly “in the flesh” and as close to heavenly freedom as possible, already in this life, was their goal. The same feeling led them to prefer the unmarried state. Even Paul wrote of greater freedom for the unmarried. But where men and women could not live single lives productively, or if they developed affections for the opposite sex (as many priests or monks had), the Albigenses definitely preferred marriage above living in hypocrisy or sin.

Pierre Valdes

While Albigenses multiplied among the vineyards of Languedoc and Provence, others sought Christ in the east, in lands north of the Alps, and in the great cultural centres of Italy itself. In Milan a deacon named Arialdo began to gather with his friends in the pataria (a low class sector of the city). People called them patarini. Disgusted with the priests' low living, Rome’s wealth and greed, and above all with the pope himself, they turned to Christ’s teaching for direction.

Through Switzerland and the Rhein valley, itinerant weavers carried the convictions of the patarini to Alsace, Belgium, and beyond—growing in witness and reputation until the words tisserand (weaver) and heretic became interchangeable. By the 1180s their work had produced such widespread results in the Netherlands that fierce persecution broke out against them.

Far to the south in Gascony (the land of the Basques) between France and Spain, another movement of believers emerged. Like the Albigenses they did not baptise infants or believe the sacrament of communion took away sins. They loved Christ and followed him in simplicity, poverty, and chastity. In 1160 a group of these believers, thirty men and women travelling together, appeared at Oxford in England. The English stripped them to the waist and drove them from town in mid-winter, to freeze.

In 1191, in Corazzo on the island of Sicily, a Cistercian abbot suddenly renounced his position and turned to the mountains. His name was Gioacchino. Surrounded by friends in the wilderness, he saw the ages of the Father (the Old Testament period) and of the Son (the time of the institutional church) as nearly over, and the age of the Spirit about to begin. Gioacchino envisioned this final period in God’s plan to be one of great peace between heaven and earth, and community among men. But the only ones to take part in it, he believed, would be those who followed Christ and completely denied the world.

During Gioacchino’s time8 the fun-loving son of a rich merchant in the mountain town of Assisi, north of Rome, also renounced his wealth and began to pray. His name was Francis. A group of friends joined him to become the order of friars minor (lesser brothers).

All these men, the women who followed them, and the movements that took shape around them, deeply affected the search for Christ in mediaeval Europe. But none, perhaps, affected it more than a new voice from France.

“In 1173, at Lyon in France,” begins an anonymous account written forty-five years later, “there lived a man, Pierre Valdés by name, who had made himself a fortune by wicked usury. On a certain Lord’s Day he joined a crowd gathered to hear the words of an itinerant preacher. He was smitten by what the preacher said. He took him to his house and heard more. The next morning he hurried to the priests’ school to ask what he should do for his soul. The priests told him many things. Finally he asked their teacher what the most safe and certain way was to God. The teacher told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you have and give your things to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven.’”

The old chronicle describes what happened afterward:

Pierre Valdés went to talk with his wife, at once. He gave her the choice of staying with him or of staying with his possessions he had decided to abandon: his ponds, orchards, fields, houses, rents, vineyards, mills, and fishing rights. She was much displeased at having to make this choice, but decided to keep the real estate.

With some of his money Pierre made restitution to everyone he had treated unjustly. He gave another part of it to his little daughters he placed in the care of the sisters of Font Everard. But the greatest part of his money he gave to the poor. A very great famine oppressed France and Germany at that time. Pierre Valdés gave bread, vegetables and meat to every one who came to him. He did this three days a week, every week from Pentecost to the feast of St. Peter's bonds.

On the day of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin, while Pierre was in the middle of town throwing money to the poor, he cried, “No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Some men of the town came running up to take him, thinking he had lost his mind. But stepping up to where all could hear him he said, “Fellow-citizens and friends, I am not insane, as you think. I am only avenging myself on my enemies—money and created things—who kept me their slave this long. All this time I have been more concerned about money than God. All this time I have served created things instead of the Creator. Now I know that many of you will accuse me for doing this openly. But I do it for my own good and for yours. I do it so any who see me have money in the future may accuse me with reason of being crazy. I do it so you may learn to put your hope in God and not in riches.”9

Another writer of the early thirteenth century, Pierre de Pilichdorf (a man not in sympathy with Pierre’s decision), described what happened when Pierre followed Christ:

A wealthy citizen [Pierre de Valdés] of the southern frontier of France heard how the Lord said to a youth, “If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give it to the poor.” He also heard the Lord’s words to the youth (who went away sad, because he was rich and had many possessions): “It is nearly impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. . . . It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Then he heard of Peter who told Christ, “Look, we have left all things and followed you.”

When he heard these Scriptures, Pierre de Valdés, concluded that no one on earth followed Christ anymore. But he resolved to do so. He sold everything he had and gave it to the poor. Then he lived in poverty himself. Some who saw what he did were touched in their hearts, and did the same. . . . After a time of living in poverty, these people remembered that Christs’ disciples were not only poor. They also preached. So, in like manner, they began to go among the people and preach the Word of God. When this was reported to the Lord Bishop [Bishop Jean de Lyon] he commanded them to stop, because ignorant and uneducated people have no right to preaching of the Word of God. But they refused to obey and thought the bishop and his court were only jealous of their success. Then the [Roman Catholic] church excommunicated them. But they persisted in their activities and earned for themselves official condemnation.


 2008/6/2 20:03Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 3 Goats And Sheep continued:

The Poor

The Spirit of Christ—never as powerful as when unleashed among the poor—found an open door to Europe in the 1100s. Poor people everywhere, in crowded urban misery, on feudal estates, serving corrupt churchmen that oppressed and abused them, turned in amazing numbers to the Gospel.

They could understand the Gospel of Christ—especially in southern France.

After Pierre’s conversion a great number of Albigensian believers of the region (many of whose own leaders had become lukewarm and careless) identified with him at once. But Roman Catholic authorities became furious. “What might the church come to,” they stormed, “if unlearned men throw the Scriptures before the masses in their own language? Why, any farmer or housewife will do with them what they want!”

Called the pauperes de Lugdunum (the poor of Lyon) Pierre de Valdés and his friends went out to tell the world what they had found. An English theologian, Walter Map, who came to know them on a trip to Italy, wrote in 1179:

These people have no fixed residence. They go around two by two, barefooted and dressed in woollen tunics. They own nothing. Whatever they use they hold in common, after the manner of the apostles. Naked, they follow a naked Christ. As of now their impact is still negligible, because their following is small. But if we were to leave them alone, I do not doubt they might yet be the ruin of us all.10

An inquisitor, sent by Roman Catholic authorities to suppress the Poor remarked. “Not one of them, old or young, man or woman, by day or by night ever stops learning and teaching others.” He also quoted one of the Poor brought before him: “In our homes, women teach as well as men, and one who has been a student for a week teaches another.”11

Unlike Gioacchino’s movement in the mountains of southern Italy, the Poor of Lyon lived in the city. Giorgio Tourn, a Waldensian historian, writes:

They wished to be part and parcel of the life of the city. They were not hermits seeking the solitude of the desert. Their calling was to be present in churches, public squares and homes where their message could be heard. They were and wished to remain citizens of Lyon, one of the great cities of western Europe, on the route of the crusades where St. Bernard had preached, where a great cathedral, St. John’s, was under construction. This urban environment was their world. To it belonged the promise of transformation. Here they chose to live out their discipleship.12

The Poor in Lombardy

Across the Cottian Alps, in the city of Milan and plains of Lombardy around it, messengers from Lyon found prepared soil. The Patarini still met in Milan. Among them—as among others who prayed to Christ—their teaching took root and grew into a healthy plant of its own. In fact, it grew into an expression of Christian living unlike anything the Poor had known. Giorgio Tourn writes:

The witness given by the Poor in Lombardy very soon became independent of the Lyonese pattern. The Lombards tended to see the apostolic calling as one rooted in community (societas), and not necessarily implying itinerant preaching. They felt that to travel across the countryside preaching was one way of living “like the apostles,” but not the only way. Another was to share commitment unselfishly with one’s sisters and brothers in the faith. In other words, the Lombard Poor reflected the emphasis recorded in Acts 1-4 on Christian community, while their counterparts from Lyon honed in on the missionary message of the Jesus they found in Matthew 10.

It was not by accident that the main point of discussion between the two groups was on the way they should regard work. According to the Lyonese, labour was an impediment to witness and a temptation to accumulate wealth. For the Lombards one’s daily task was an instrument of service, the opportunity for concrete witness. The Poor of Lyon tended to be pilgrim preachers, bards of conversion not greatily dissimilar from the wandering minstrels of the time. The central figure for the Lombard Poor, on the other hand, was the artisan, the woolcarder in a textile shop, the labourer, the worker.

A deep sense of social solidarity was found among the Lombard Poor. They possessed considerable organizing ability. Their life and witness were well structured, and not, as in Lyon, somewhat euphoric and spontaneous.


Whether settled in Christian communities or out on the road preaching, all the Poor drew the clouds of Europe’s wrath down on them, sooner or later. A hundred years before Pierre Valdes’s time, European authorities already burned non-Roman-Catholics at the stake—fourteen at Orleans in 1022, more at Aachen in Germany, and after 1100 a great many Albigenses in Arles, Toulouse and Narbonne (cities of the Languedoc region) and neighbouring Gascony. But the storm did not break loose until a young man from Spain, Domingo de Guzmán, appeared.

After his mother died, Domingo’s wealthy father sent to him to study in southern France. There, at his uncle’s home, he came to know the Albigenses (still strong in numbers even though fallen, somewhat, from their early principles). He observed the Waldensian movement rapidly growing out of it. He learned of the Patarini, the Tisserands, and “poor” Christians like them that captured the imagination of Europe, and felt discouraged. “What shall become of our mother, the Catholic church,” he wondered, “if all this goes to seed?”

Sitting outside the Languedoc village of Fanjeaux on the summer evening of July 22, 1206 (the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene) the solution suddenly came to Domingo de Guzmán. The poor, it dawned on him, must be conquered by the poor!

The “heretical” Poor multiplied so rapidly, Domingo reasoned, because they saw nothing but wealth and corruption in the state church. But if Roman Catholics—even just a few—would turn to living in simplicity, poverty, and chastity like Christ, what would they have to say? With an option for real Christian living within the Catholic church, wouldn’t many seekers prefer it and not “go astray”?

Looking out across the wide and fertile plains of Languedoc, where the steeples of Carcassonne, Castelnaudary, and Montreal stood in the glow of sunset among ripening grain, Domingo sat lost in thought. Then, scarcely believing his eyes, he jumped to his feet. What was it! The heavens opened, not once, but three times, for a burning orb to appear and descend on an abandoned church at Prouille, a village between Fanjeaux and Montréal in the very heart of the Albigensian region.

Domingo could wait no longer. He took the vision as a sign of God’s approval on his idea and asked the Bishop of Toulouse for the abandoned church. With the friends who joined him there—all devout Catholics—he shed his wealth and comfort to begin living like Pierre Valdes. He put on rough clothes and sandals, and walked with his friends from village to village preaching the message of Christ—and more.

Unlike the “heretics” Domingo and his friends (who became the “Dominican” order) swore a solemn oath to remain true to the “holy Roman church.” They taught people to follow Christ where it suited, but that no one could hope for salvation outside of going to mass, confessing to a priest, and belonging to the state church.

By the time they had worked ten years in southern France and abroad, the pope recognised the Dominicans as “Christ’s invincible athletes” and a wealthy nobleman, Simon de Montfort, gave them the feudal estate of Casseneuil for their headquarters.

Blood and Smoke

Less than a year after Domingo’s vision the pope (who supported him) sent a letter “to all prelates, counts, and barons and to all people in the kingdom of France” calling on them to “avenge the insult of the Crucified One” by cleansing the land of heresy. To whoever would take part in this “crusade” he promised forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Domingo de Guzmán found himself surrounded with loyal supporters at once. The Bishop of Toulouse (monk, songwriter, and professional clown) took it upon himself to make the crusade even more attractive. “Not only will your sins be forgiven,” he promised the people. “If you lose your lives in this campaign you will die as martyrs and bypass Purgatory!”

From all over France and other European countries the “crusaders” came. Responding to pleas of the Abbot of Citeaux, the Duke of Narbonne, and the Archbishops of Reims, Sens, and Rouen, counts and noblemen came with around twenty thousand knights on horseback and two hundred thousand foot soldiers, followed by innumerable priests and common people. Religious fanatics, highwaymen, thieves, or simple peasants looking for adventure—all found their way to southern France. The pope put their families and the homes they left behind under special protection. He absolved them from paying debts for the time being, and with the Bishop of Toulouse prayed blessings on their swords and spears.

The deluge of fire and blood began in Languedoc in 1208. After the Bishop, in full pontifical attire, had blessed the crusaders and told them, “Up to now you have fought for the earthly. Now you may fight for the eternal!” they fell on Chasseneuil (a town with a large percentage of Albigensian residents) and Béziers.

At Béziers the crusaders told city authorities to give up the “heretics” among them so the rest might be spared. But the authorities (even though Catholic) could not do so in good conscience and perhaps twenty thousand died as crusaders lit the city and put all who escaped to the sword. During the massacre—a deliberate attempt at terrorising other Languedoc towns—the Abbot of Citeaux encouraged crusaders confused as to who was a heretic or not: “Kill them all! The Lord will know his own!”

From here the crusaders swept like a tornado westward, burning one hundred and forty Albigenses at Minerve, hanging eighty at Lavaur, burning another four hundred at that place several months later, and eighty at Castres, between Albi and Carcassonne. Wherever they went on their wild and bloody rampage they left a trail of destruction behind—burnt buildings, homeless orphans, and entire villages in ruins. So outrageously did they treat their victims, violating the women and mutilating men, gouging out eyes and slitting noses, that thousands who were not Albigenses resisted crusading troops and the region erupted in civil war.

Feudal lords of the region did what they could to protect the Albigenses but one after another their castles fell. New crusaders kept pouring in from Germany, Italy, and faraway Slavic lands until Languedoc lay devastated and attention shifted to the Poor. In 1221, Conrad, bishop of Portuis, founded the Military Order of the Faith of Jesus Christ. Three years later, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Holy Roman Emperor, ordered the Poor of Lombardy rounded up, burned at the stake, and their property confiscated. This, within a short time, became standard procedure in Roman Catholic lands. Then, in 1231, Pope Gregory IX established the Holy Office of Inquisition.

Hounds of Heresy

In the late 1220s the crusaders left southern France and returned home. Of the Albigensian community they had nothing left to destroy. But what disappeared from sight by no means disappeared from memory or soul.

What believers in southern France had treasured for a thousand years—the joy of living with Christ, untrammelled by state church controls—could not be quickly extinguished. In fact, the crusade against the Albigenses did little else than confirm true seekers in their belief that the church of Rome was the “devil’s horde.” For every Albigensian believer that lost his life in southern France, three more joined movements of the Poor in other parts of Europe, and worried authorities scurried to find new tactics of suppression.

Once again Dominicans took the lead, followed closely by Francis of Assisi’s by now thoroughly catholicised and “orthodox” Friars Minor. Fratres praedicatores (preaching brothers) fast became fratres persecutores (persecuting brothers) as the mendicant orders became Rome’s hounds to sniff out the “heresies” of Europe. In nearly all important cities Dominicans took charge of the pope’s Holy Office.

Their technique was simple.

Dominican Inquisitors moved into an area. They proclaimed a period of grace during which “heretics” could voluntarily recant and receive pardon. Then, after a few weeks, they began to accept denunciations. All those accused, even anonymously, by two or more informers, they arrested and tried, often under torture.

A solemn oath to speak the truth, requested when Inquisition trials began, more often than not settled the case at once. Neither the Albigenses nor the Poor that followed them would swear. Therefore, accused men or women who refused the oath, invited Dominican suspicion and torture to extract more evidence. Believers had their toes and fingers pinched. Professional torturers pulled them up with ropes (often upside down), stretched their limbs on racks and wheels, burned them with coals, or poured boiling water down their throats. “Ou non valsenhe agols, val bagols,” (where kindness fails, sticks will succeed) the Inquisitors believed, and when “heretics” refused to recant they brought them before church and state officials to hear their sentence in an auto-da-fé (act of faith).

Following excommunication and the Roman church’s official curse, civil authorities led “heretics” promptly to the site of execution, usually a stake where they burned them alive. All their property fell into the hands of their persecutors that used the money they got from it to build new churches and monasteries, equip more crusades, and make the life of the upper hierarchy ever more luxurious.

Under powerful and gifted men, the Holy Office of Inquisition became Rome’s long shadow hanging over Europe.13 But the flower of faith, once blooming in Languedoc, had gone to seed and no amount of determined effort could exterminate it again.

The Witness Spreads

No matter how great the power of Roman Catholic armies and kings, no matter how glorious their churches, their music, or religious pageantry, those who sought rest for their souls kept looking elsewhere for direction. More often than not they looked to the Poor.

Unlike wealthy churchmen and conniving monks, the Poor led godly lives. Love for Christ drew them out of worldly comforts to set an example of honesty and justice for all. For this reason it did not take long, after their dispersion from southern France and Lombardy, until new groups of seekers formed around them.

From Lyon the Poor fled north through Toul and Metz into the Rhein valley. So numerous did they become in Toul by 1192 that the city published an edict against them. Nineteen years later, in 1211, authorities burned eighty in Strasbourg.

From Lombardy’s Christian communes—scholae like those of Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, and Pavia—messengers found their way north into Switzerland and beyond. So thoroughly did the witness of Lombardian brothers like Ugolo and Algosso, penetrate the region that by the mid-1200s one could travel from Florence in Italy to Cologne on the Rhein, lodging in believers’ homes every night along the way. Refugees followed the messengers north and scholae sprang up far more rapidly than Inquisitors could keep track of them.

Wherever they met, the Poor—or Waldenses, as they became known—learned from handwritten copies of the Scriptures they passed from place to place. Young people memorised them and the Scriptures became a guide for their life together. As persecution increased it became impossible to preach on street corners and in public meetings, but the strength of the movement only grew. In the words of one historian:

It was a clandestine world throughout, one that made the most of night meetings in stables and back rooms of little shops. Each generation was careful to transmit the faith to the succeeding one, the young sitting at the feet of elders, who in turn had received instruction from their parents. . . .

The Poor were constrained to keep the faith alive within the walls of their homes—indeed within the recesses of their own hearts. Yet if the streets were closed to them, they still had their gatherings in the kitchen, at their washing places by the streams, and in their shops. The Lombard schola thus lived again in the Waldensian home, a secure place where teaching and mutual strengthening in the faith could be carried on.14

Not only did brothers and sisters draw closer one to another in adversity, they drew closer to Christ, the living Word. An anonymous reporter from Passau on the Danube wrote in the thirteenth century:

All those men and women from Lyon, young and old, keep learning all the time, by day and by night. Tradesmen work by day and study by night. . . . Newly converted ones, after a few days, are already drawing others into the sect.”15

Believers wrote instructive letters one to another and met when they could for encouragement. But nothing did more for them than personal hunger for truth. Studying the Scriptures themselves (an illegal act in France after 1229 and in other countries soon afterward), they discovered what to believe and why, making it possible for a Roman Catholic Inquisitor to report of a “heretic”:

With wonderful liberty he told the court that he would not swear oaths, he did not believe in auricular confession, in the infallibility of church councils, the ceremony of the mass, blind obedience to the church, university degrees and titles, the use of worldly force by church leaders, and worldly rule by Christians.

With such clarity, nothing could stop the witness of the Poor from exploding through German lands.

The Poor in German Lands

Nothing, of what is left today, testifies more powerfully to the Waldenses’ activity in northern Europe than the records of the Inquisition itself. Dammbach in Austria, St. Michael am Bruckbach bei Seitenstetten, Rabenbühel, Derfl, Unterwölfern, Holzapfelberg, Weistrach, Schwamming—village after village, Hof after Hof, produced its convinced believers, and more often than not, its martyrs.

Like the Albigenses, years earlier in southern France, these German believers were common people, most of them illiterate. They were busy wives in wimples with children clinging to their skirts, farmers threshing their wheat or making hay together, and young people anxious to please God. In fact, many of them were people on whom the Roman Catholic church had made slight impressions.

Long before arrival of the Poor, the rulers of German lands had accepted Christianity. Counts and nobles had ordered the people baptised and forced them to attend mass. But for many in rural areas the Christian religion remained a matter of state and high society. Beneath their “Christian” obligations (getting their children baptised and attending mass several times a year) rural Germans kept many beliefs of their pagan ancestors alive. They feared the dark. They feared the great forests around them (believing them inhabited by strange spirits) and lived in frequent violence and misery. Men mistreated women and children grew up to lead wild, unhappy lives. Then came the Poor, not only teaching, but living like Christ.

Was this the real church? Unlike what they had heard before, the Gospel taught by the Poor called for drastic changes from sinful to holy living and brought rich and poor, high and low, men and women, onto the same level in Christ. It separated the sincere from the light-hearted like Alpine farmers separated their sheep from the goats. And even the brothers that came with the message stood in sharpest contrast to black robed priests from Rome. Like the people they spoke to they were tradesmen and farmers with common names: Ulrich a shoemaker from Hardeck, Johann a wool spinner from Dichartz, Hans, a smith from the valley of the Enns. . . .

Because it spoke to their hearts, Germans from the Alps to the North Sea, and from the Netherlands to Austria, listened gladly to the message of the Poor and passed it on. Hermann, a brother from the Mistelgau, and a man named Johann travelled up the Danube valley and through Swabia. Nikolaus, a miller’s son from Plauen, and Konrad, from Sachsen, carried it through Hessen, Thüringen, and the German lowlands past Hannover to Bremen. By the mid-1200s the Inquisition reported large concentrations of the Poor in Württemburg and Bavaria, in Sachsen and the Low Countries, and an estimate of eighty thousand in Austria—an alarming situation it could by no means leave unchallenged.

Already in the 1230s—while the crusade against the Albigenses in southern France tailed off—German princes organised massive Ketzerjagde (heretic hunts) with the help of the Dominican order. They burned Waldensian believers in Vienna, in Hamburg, in Bavaria, in Erfurt, and in towns of the Brandenburg region around Berlin. Four hundred died in Stettin (Szczecin) on the Baltic, and untold others in Flanders, the Alsatian region, and Switzerland.

Seeking a place to escape, some believers dug underground catacombs, earning for themselves the name of Grubenheimer (cave dwellers) or turilupini (those who live among wolves). Others fled east to Latvia and Russia. But none, perhaps, made a more significant decision than the Poor that fled, in the 1480s, to the Czech territories of Bohemia and Moravia.

1 From a letter recorded by Eusebius (AD 263-339) in his history of the Church.
2 From Short History of Bosnian Bogomils, Mediaeval Cathares History
3 Catholic Encylopedia: Petrobrusians
4 ibid.
5 Ephesians 4:25
6 From a sermon preserved in a hand-written copy of a Provençal New Testament at the St. Pierre palace library in Lyon.
7 From the records of the Inquisition in Languedoc, early 1300s.
8 Gioacchino entered English histories as Joachim of Fiore.
9 From a translation by J. H. Robinson, in Readings in European History, Ginn, Boston, 1905, pp. 381-383
10 From De nugis curalium quoted in Beiträge zur Sektengeschichte des Mittelalters
11 Tourn, Giorgio, and Associates, You Are My Witnesses: The Waldensians across 800 Years, Claudiana Editrice, Torino, 1989
12 ibid.
13 Nowhere did the Holy Office of Inquisition become a more dreaded and powerful force than in Spain and its colonies, where it monitored all of life until the nineteenth century. In 1908 the pope renamed it the “Congregation of the Holy Office,” and in 1965 it became the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” with increasing emphasis on promoting Catholic doctrine and less on combating heresy. Its offices are in Vatican City.
14 Tourn, Giorgio, You are my Witnesses
15 ibid.

Continued with chapter 4:

 2008/6/3 17:45Profile

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 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 4 The Lamb On The Throne

“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain. . . . After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. . . . These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7: 9-14).

Seized with a vision of God’s Lamb standing good for them in heaven, those who sought him in mediaeval Europe could do nothing other than fall at his feet and worship him. Every word he spoke, recorded in the Gospels, was for them a word from heaven. They took everything they knew of his earthly walk as their pattern, and lived on his promise of eternal life.

Eager for the words of Christ and the first Christians’ testimony about him, the Poor copied, read, and memorised the New Testament zealously. Paper and ink were scarce, but young believers with keen minds abounded. In the scholae they formed teams for scripture memorisation. By two and threes they learned alternate portions so that whenever they met they were sure to have the entire New Testament, and more, ready for recital on call.

The earliest hand written Scriptures used by the Poor followed Jerome’s Latin text, adjusted to the dialects of Italy and southern France. But as their witness spread north and east, they undertook translations of their own. Flemish, German, and Czech scriptures appeared, followed by others in Hungarian and Baltic languages. Already in the 1300s state authorities discovered a complete New Testament in German, along with a translation of Paul’s letter to the Laodicaeans. Soon afterward Plattdeutsch scriptures came to light in the lower Rhein valley, Lübeck, and Halberstadt. Heinrich Eggestein, a Waldensian believer, printed a German Bible only eleven years after Johann Gutenberg, in 1466.

Most Waldensian translations were imperfect, often incomplete works, the product of teachers writing and studying on the run. But the Spirit brought their words to life and those who sought Christ understood his message clearly. “The rule and discipline we accept is to live in every way according to the teaching of the Gospels and to be diligent in keeping them,” a group of Albigensian leaders had declared in AD 1025. “This teaching is to deny the world, to restrain the flesh and its desires, to work with one’s hands to support oneself, to cause no one harm, to care for the poor, and understanding these rules to put them into practice.”1

Pierre de Valdés, writing one hundred and fifty years later, shared their conviction:

According to the Apostle James, faith without works is dead. For that reason we have renounced this world and have distributed to the poor all that we possessed, according to the will of God, and we have decided that we ourselves should be poor in such a way as not be to be anxious for tomorrow, and as not to accept from anyone gold, silver, or anything else, with the exception of clothing and daily food. We have set befroe ourselves the objective of fulfilling the gospel purposes.

We believe also that anyone in this age who gives alms, does other good works with one’s own possesssions and observes the Lord’s commandments will be saved. Brothers, we make this declaration in order that if anyone should come to you affirming to be one of us, you mayknow for certain that that person is not one of us if that person does not profess the same faith.2

In no area did the Poor identify more clearly with the Lord Christ than in his teaching on economics. Even though they left little in writing on the subject, the testimony of their enemies is unanimous. Etienne de Borbonne, a Dominican from Burgundy wrote in the 1200s:

Among other errors, they condemn every person possessing earthly goods. . . . They are called the Poor of Lyons because they began to profess poverty there. They call themselves Poor of Spirit because our Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”
Pierre de Pilichdorff wrote in 1395:

They say that their sect has lasted from the time of Pope Sylvester, namely, when the church began to have possessions of her own. The heretics think that this is not lawful, as the Apsotles of Christ were commanded to live without any possession of their own. “Take with you neither gold nor silver. . .”3

Free of the burden of earthly goods, messengers of the Poor travelled continually. Young brothers, after spending several years in silence and seclusion (an experience considered necessary to become spiritually mature) found their way from village to village, usually in the company of an experienced messenger. Often they carried goods with them for sale, or practised common trades, to camouflage their work. But wherever they went, they brought the fragrance of Christ with them, and a continual stream of new believers asked for baptism at their hands.

Baptism was to the Poor a public declaration of one’s decision to follow Christ. But they did not believe that water baptism, in itself, has saving power. In 1124 an informer told the Inquisitorial court:

Everyone that is to be baptised, must first believe and confess, and not until then be baptised into the death of Christ, and be buried with him by baptism in order to arise. . . . They (the teachers) can visibly administer water baptism, but they cannot give the Holy Spirit, in whom, nevertheless, all the virtue of baptism consists.4

Two years later, Pierre, abbot of Cluny in southern France, wrote in a tract against the Poor:

They deny that infants who have not yet attained the years of understanding can be saved by the baptism of Christ and say that the faith of another cannot help those who cannot use their own faith. According to their view not the faith of another but each one’s own faith saves with baptism, because the Lord says: “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

The same abbot, writing against Henri of Toulouse, declared:

He teaches that children may not be baptised or saved through the faith of another, but they must be baptised and saved through their own faith, for baptism without individual faith saves no one. Children who have not yet reached the years of understanding cannot be saved by the baptism of Christ. Those who have been baptised in infancy must, when they become older, be rebaptised for this, he says, is not rebaptising but much rather, baptising right.

Even though it brought them outward trouble the Poor pursued the blessing of Christ through baptism into spiritual communion around bread and wine. One of them, when questioned about their practice described it like this:

After nine o’clock when the supper has been prepared, it is the leader who washes the feet of his companions and dries them with a towel that he wears like an apron. Having done this, the leader sits at the table with the others. Then taking bread, fish and wine, he blesses them, not as an offering or sacrifice, but as a remembrance of the first supper. While he does this he prays: “May Jesus Christ who blessed the five barley loaves and two fishes in the desert and who turned water into wine, bless, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, this bread, this fish, and this wine. . .” After this he eats and drinks, then gives to all his companions, who in turn eat and drink.5

The joy of fellowship in Christ and with one another prepared the Poor to face the host of Christ’s opponents, gathered against them. In a writing called A Treatise on the Antichrist, probably of the late 1100s, one of them wrote:

The Antichrist teaches men that spiritual new birth comes about through the dead outward act of baptism, that is, the baptism of children. . . . He tries to make unity, not through the Holy Spirit but through worldly power. For this reason he hates and persecutes the members of the body of Christ. He hunts them down, robs them and tries to destroy them. This he does, and many other things, to cover up his hypocrisy. But all idolatry comes from his false teaching on grace through the sacraments, from his abuse of authority, and from the idea of praying to saints rather than to God himself. . . . For a long time the Antichrist has already reigned in the church.

Seeing nothing but the Antichrist raging around them, and the Lord Christ smiling on them from above, the Poor came to hold a drastically “detached” outlook on life. What mediaeval Europeans held in high esteem lost, for them, its attraction. Pleasures of time and sense gave way to the higher pleasure of waiting in the presence of Christ. Another writing circulated among them, La Nobla Leyczon, puts this feeling to words:

We should always watch and pray because the world is coming to its end. For the same reason we should strive to do good works. . . . We must desire little, for we are at the very end. We see the signs of the end every day--the increase of evil and the decrease of good. These are the dangers to which the Gospels and the letters of Paul refer. No one can know when the end will be. Therefore we should be the more vigilant, not knowing if death will seize us today or tomorrow.

When Jesus shall come on the day of judgement, all will receive payment in full, those who have done evil and those who have done good. The Scriptures tell us that all will go one of two ways: the good to glory and the wicked to torment. . . .

We must pray without ceasing that God give us strength against our enemies, to overcome them before our end--they are the world, the devil, and the flesh. God give us wisdom, along with goodness, so we may know the way of truth, keeping pure that spirit God has given us. . . .

After the apostles there were certain teachers who taught the way of Christ our Saviour, and who are found even to this day, known to very few, who would show the way of Jesus Christ. They are so persecuted that they are able to do but little. Many are the false Christians blinded with error who persecute and hate those who are good, and let those live quietly who are false deceivers. But by this we may know that they are not good pastors, for they love not the sheep, but only the wool. Scripture says, and we know it be to be true, that if anyone is good, loving Jesus Christ, that person will neither curse, nor swear, nor lie, will neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor steal, nor be avenged over the enemy. . . . One that is thus persecuted for the sake of the Lord takes courage in this, that the kingdom of heaven shall be inherited at death. . . .

All the popes from Sylvester on, the cardinals, bishops, abbots, and the like, have no power to absolve or pardon any creature so much as one mortal sin. It is God alone who pardons, and no other. This is what pastors ought to do: preach to the people and pray with them, and feed them with teaching from on high.

A young man, helper to a Bonne Homme, said in 1451:

There are only two ways open to all and which determine whether one will be saved or condemned. The one who does good will go to paradise, and the one who does evil will go to hell and damnation. Purgatory does not exist. 6

Such clarity, in the presence of God’s Lamb that takes away the sin of the world led the Poor into marvellous unity.

1 From the acts of the synod of Arras, AD 1025.
2 Enchiridion Fontium Valdensium, volume 1, Torre Pellice, 1958, G. Gonnet
3 Petri de Pilichdorf Sacrae Theologiae Professoris contra Haeresium Valdensium Tractatus
4 Rupert Tuiciensis, Beiträge zur Sektengeschichte des Mittelalters
5 From the court testimony of Raymond de la Cóte, 1320.
6 Processo di un Valdese nell’ anno 1451, Beiträge zur Sektengeschichte des Mittelalters

Continued with chapter 5:

 2008/6/4 17:09Profile

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 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 5 Unity

For as much as they would have liked to, no Inquisitors in France ever caught Pierre Valdés. They chased him instead to Czech Bohemia where, according to reports, he died in 1218 at Klaster near Nová Bystřice, in the Czech territory of Jindřichův Hradec.

He brought something with him.

In a few years of Pierre’s death, great numbers had joined the Poor in Czech Bohemia and Moravia. They threw out the images of Roman Catholic saints. They stopped swearing oaths, carrying arms in self-defence, and baptising infants. Here and there, in Plzeň (Pilsen), České Budějovice (Budweis), Prague, Bratislava, Ostrava, and Brno, they began to meet in Jesus’ name and new messengers went out from among them to Hungary and Poland.

Czech Prophets

In the face of unrelenting persecution the Waldenses prospered in Czech lands through a hundred years. But what persecution could not accomplish happened eventually through spiritual decline. Zealous messengers died and none took their place. Waldensian congregations quieted down and stopped attracting new members as their desire to please Christ grew faint. Then new voices made themselves heard.

Suddenly, in the mid-1300s, old Prague, the capital city of Czech Bohemia, woke up. A new king, named Václav (Wenceslas) for his good ancestor, made the city wealthy, modern, and famous. But wickedness thrived on its back streets after dark and Tomáš, a believer from the Czech village of Štítný, began to speak boldly against it. Taking courage from his bold witness, Konrád Waldhauser and Jan Milíč of Kroměříž (Kremsier) in Moravia also took the Gospels and began to teach from them.

Thousands felt in their hearts what these Czech prophets said was right. Eagerly, week after week, they gathered to hear Christ’s simple but revolutionary statements in the Sermon on the Mount. Along with this, they loved to hear from Paul, James, and the first Christians. So many crowded around Konrád, speaking in Prague, that no building could hold them, and he had to call meetings in the marketplace. A Moravian bishop described him:

His bearing was calm, his thoughts were set forth with great clearness, his language was plain but forcible and eloquent. With a boldness that came from God and feared neither man nor the devil he exposed the vices of the times and called sinners to repentance. The result was wonderful. Women who had been leaders of extravagant and immodest fashions laid aside their costly robes, glittering with gold and pearls, and devoted themselves to works of charity. Usurers fattening themselves on unrighteous gains made restitution. Notorious libertines set an example of holy living.1

In particular, Konrád called on the mendicant friars (Dominicans and Franciscans) to repent and change their ways. “If the men who founded your orders would see the worldliness in which you live,” he said, “they would be horrified.” But the monks did not like Konrád’s challenge and threatened to kill him. They made fun of Jan Milíč for teaching the people in Moravia’s Czech dialect and resented his work among the poor in Prague.

Neither Konrad or Jan worried about the angry clergy. They put their teaching to practice and a whole block of city brothels closed down when hundreds of prostitutes, thanks to their efforts, found Christ. Jan wrote a book De Antichristo, and with the help of city believers founded “Jerusalem,” a home for wayward girls.

Of all who listened to the capital city prophets, none, perhaps, let the words of Christ transform his life more drastically than a young man named Matěj, the son of a Czech nobleman from Janov.

No one expected Matěj to turn out different from his friends—riding horses, playing, dancing, and jousting on feast days. But after he discovered the joy of following Christ, nothing else attracted him anymore. Instead of seeking lively company, Matěj spent long periods out on the fields, and in the woods, alone. He spoke continually with Christ, and when his former companions met him, he warned them earnestly to “turn from images to the real person.” Like Jan, his teacher, Matěj spoke to the people in ordinary Czech. He believed Christians should take part in frequent (daily if possible) communion in bread and wine. He spoke against the exaltation of the clergy and identified the “many rules made by the church to take the place of Scripture” as the “chief cause of corruption” in mediaeval Europe.

In 1389 a meeting of bishops in Prague decided to stop Matěj’s influence at all costs. They ordered him to stop preaching on pain of death and forbade him to attend religious meetings outside his hometown. Five years later, suffering continual harassment, he died. But the seeds he had sown, lived on.

Czech Rebel

In 1382, four years after King Václav (the Emperor Charles IV) died, his daughter married Richard, the fifteen-year-old king of England. With this, even more people found their way to Prague.

English and Czech nobility came to know one another. Conversing in Latin they shared information—and ideas. Among them, they shared the ideas of the famous English theologian, John Wyclif, then translating the Bible at Oxford University.

John Wyclif and his admirers questioned the authority of the Roman Catholic church. Even though they strongly believed in the right of “Christian” popes, kings, and nobles to order the lives of “commoners,” they believed no rule is of God unless it follows the Bible. They also believed that everyone, both rulers and commoners, should know what the Bible says. When the rector of the university at Prague, a man named Jan Hus, heard of this idea, it captivated him completely.

Besides the lectures he delivered at the university (to its approximately seven thousand students) Jan Hus also preached at a private Catholic church in the city, the Bethlehem Chapel. He held Bible studies in Czech and wrote articles. For criticising the pope, and Catholic veneration of relics—particularly the shrine at Vilsnac on the Elbe, where a supposedly blood-soaked wafer found in a ruined church drew pilgrims from as far away as Scandinavia and the Netherlands—Jan suffered excommunication in 1407.

Not much happened right away. But when two men with chests and drums appeared in Prague in 1412, selling “certificates of pardon” to the highest bidder (to raise money for the pope to fight his enemies) Jan Hus protested even more vehemently. A riot broke out on the streets of Prague. Three young men lost their lives and many dipped their fingers or handkerchiefs into their blood, promising revenge—and leading the pope to put the city under an interdict (forbidding others to trade with it). Then, when a great council of the Roman Catholic church met at Konstanz in 1414, the pope ordered Jan Hus to appear.

Setting out with thirty armed horsemen and three wagons, Jan Hus, agreed to meet the pope who swore not to injure him in any way. But he found the Council at Konstanz a hotbed of treachery and intrigue. Besides pope John XXIII—one of three rival popes then struggling for control of the church—the Holy Roman Emperor, thirty cardinals, four patriarchs, thirty three archbishops, one hundred and fifty bishops, several hundred doctors of theology, four electors, twenty four princes and dukes, seventy eight counts, six hundred seventy-six barons, and a multitude of retainers, visitors, and related officials had converged on the city of Konstanz. Numbering around fifty thousand people, most of them had camped around the city.

Shortly after Jan Hus arrived, smooth talking officials lured him into the pope’s quarters where they seized him and locked him into the dungeon of a Dominican monastery. There, after a stormy trial and a public burning of his books, they set a paper cap on his head with the words Hic est Haeresiarcha (This is the Chief of Heretics) and burned him too.


 2008/6/5 20:28Profile

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Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 5 Unity


Czech Revolution

When the news of Jan Hus’s execution drifted into Prague, the city burst out in violent revolution. Jan’s followers drove out the Roman Catholic archbishop, chased the priests away, and under the leadership of a rebel clergyman, Jan Rokycana, began holding mass in the Czech language. Because they used both bread and wine sub utraque specie (the mass in both forms) many Europeans called the Hussite rebels “Utraquists.”

In the country around Prague yet much greater changes took place. Czech people everywhere celebrated their liberty from Rome. Some did so with wild and drunken feasting. Bands of armed men destroyed churches and monasteries, smashing altars and tearing religious paintings from their frames. Others saw their chance to reform the church and society according to what they believed. On a mountain near Bechyně, in southern Bohemia, great crowds began to meet for communion and fellowship meals under the open sky. They called the mountain “Tabor” and set up a “holy government” for themselves, loosely patterned after Old Testament Israel.

Chaos ensued.

By July, 1419, more than forty thousand militant Hussites had gathered on “Mount Tabor” and riots broke out. King Václav IV, a heavy drinker (in spite of his initial support for Jan Hus), died in a fit of rage and King Zikmund, the Holy Roman Emperor who followed him, called a crusade to bring the situation under control.

By fall Bohemia stood in blood. Roman Catholic troops fighting against the Hussites won great victories. At the battle of Kutná Hora so many Hussites fell captive the Catholics grew weary of cutting off their heads and threw 1600 of them—the living with the dead—into an empty silver mine. Then Jan Žižka appeared.

Son of a poor Czech family, one-eyed Jan Žižka, in charge of a motley Hussite-Taborite army—peasants wielding iron tipped flails, clubs, and sickles—faced over one hundred thousand imperial troops at the Witkovberg, east of Prague, on July 14, 1420. Overwhelmed in numbers, but believing themselves on the Lord’s side, they fought like David against Goliath. They blocked the road with hay wagons and turned the Catholics back. Four other crusades against them failed. Joan of Arc’s dire prophecy—threatening them with divine punishment if they did not return to the Catholic church at once—did not come to pass, and after attacks on Austria, Silesia, Bavaria, Hungary, Franconia, and Saxony, the Czech Hussites stood established as the “terror of Europe.”

But they fought among themselves.

When the Utraquists in Prague agreed on a cease-fire with Catholic forces in 1432 (after driving back another 130,000 crusaders under the Margrave of Brandenburg), the Taborites called them traitors. Fierce fighting broke out between them at once, Czechs killing Czechs, all defending Jan Hus’s movement, all fighting “in the name of Christ,” but leaving the rest of Europe to look on in horror as Bohemia became a devastated land.

Under the leadership of a twenty-four-year-old nobleman, Jiří Poděbrady and their unordained archbishop, Jan Rokycana, the Utraquists finally overcame the Taborites and annihilated them by 1452.

Czech Revival

Unnoticed by the world, pushing up through the rubble of war in Bohemia’s dark and bloody Hussite Revolution, a seed planted by the Poor came back to life.

In southern Bohemia, not far from Nová Bystřice in the territory of Jindřichův Hradec—where they said Pierre Valdes had died 170 years earlier—a little plant grew and a flower began to bloom again.

For generations, descendants of the Poor in southern Bohemia had lived in quiet obscurity. But when civil war broke out in their midst (“Mount Tabor” sits only a short distance north of Nová Bystřice) they had to get involved on one side or the other—or else take a totally different way.

Not only the Poor, but others in whom events of the time had awoken their consciences, returned to seeking the way of Christ. In a former Benedictine monastery in the south Bohemian town of Vilemov a group began to meet to study the Bible. Vojtěch, the town priest, led their discussions and all made startling discoveries.

Christ’s way was neither Hussite nor Catholic, neither Utraquist nor Taborite. It was the way of peace. Letting loose from the world for eternal gain. Through the Gospels, earnest seekers in southern Bohemia rediscovered their spiritual ancestors: the Poor in Lombardy and southern France, the Albigenses, the Bogomili, and the first Christian church in Asia. Then, in the midst of war and chaos, everything began to make sense!

And Petr Chelčický joined them.

Hoof Doctor

For years Petr had pondered serious issues, at home on his farm near the village of Chelčice. Even though he spent his days working with cattle and hoeing turnips, his mind was not tied to common earthly things. He read much and listened to what people said. Books, all copied by hand in his day, were scarce. But he collected a considerable number and knew the Scriptures well.

Petr did not read to pass the time. He read eagerly, determined to find out what mattered and how things were for real. As he read he also drew conclusions.

In 1420, determined to find out for himself what was happening, he travelled to Prague and listened to the Hussites (the Utraquist group) defending their views in the Bethlehem chapel. What they said did not convince him. “You will not bring the kingdom of heaven to earth,” he told them, “as long as the hell of hatred burns in your hearts.”

Early in his encounter with Christ, Petr had become convinced that all bearing of arms (even arms for self-defence) was wrong. He believed soldiers guilty of “hideous murder” no matter what the war, and that worldly authorities could never be Christian. “Kings and Princes invade the church as wolves among a flock of sheep,” he said, and utterly rejected John Wyclif’s idea that God predestined men to three classes: rulers, clergy, and commoners.

The Hussites, whom Petr quickly identified as “raging locusts,” and the new rulers of Prague about whom he wrote as “red faced, full bellied lords, sitting smugly in their castles” did not take kindly to his criticism. In fact, they soon made it dangerous for him to remain in the capital city and he returned to his south Bohemian farm—but not before a friend had given him a copy of Matěj of Janov’s writings and the book of Dionysius.

Convinced by now that the “learned fools” of Prague had nothing to offer, and further strengthened in his beliefs by what Matěj wrote, Petr turned wholeheartedly to the new believers at Vilemov for fellowship and moral support. After Vojtěch, the converted priest, fell into Roman Catholic hands and was burned at the stake in Budějovice, he also became their leader.

Petr Chelčický did not take his responsibility lightly. As leader of the fellowship at Vilemov he spoke out against all use of force in the name of Christ. Working hard as a farmer, he condemned the laziness and wealth of the nobility, and called for justice for the poor. “One cannot improve society,” he believed, “without first destroying the foundations of the existing social order.”

Writing neatly on parchment, in thick black lines, Petr wrote what he believed in simple words. He wrote in Czech. Book after book appeared from his pen, and even though Hussites and Catholics joined in their condemnation, multitudes of common people begged to hear them read.

Petr wrote like a common man. Largely self-taught, his spelling was not always correct, and when he used the word kopyto (“hoof” in Czech) instead of kapitola (chapter) his enemies did not miss their chance. “Doctor Kopytarum” (hoof doctor) they called him, and made fun of his largest and most significant work The Net of Faith he wrote between 1440 and 1443.


 2008/6/6 18:30Profile

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Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 5 Unity


Community at Chelčice

After Petr’s writings became known through Czech lands, the community that formed around him and the brothers at Vilemov attracted many visitors. Peter Payne, a wandering Lollard from England seems to have spent time among them. So did Mikulᚠof Pelhřimov, a Taborite bishop, and Martin Húska, leader of a bizarre Hussite cult. Waldensian believers appeared “out of the woodwork” together with other non-Roman-Catholic believers. But no matter who came, or which way the winds of doctrine blew, the brothers resolutely continued with what they had begun.

Wearing long grey robes with cords tied around their waists, they shared their belongings and worshipped Christ in simple services around bread and wine. People called them Pikarts (heretics), but the witness of their lives far outshone the slander circulated about them, and even in Hussite Prague some became seriously interested in what they believed.

No one became more interested than Řehoř, son of a Czech nobleman and nephew to Rokycana, the Hussite archbishop.

Community at Litice

Řehoř, after leaving a monastery in disgust, had begun to meet with a circle of friends in Prague. Not content with the Hussites’ reforms, they longed to go all the way with Christ. When they spoke to Rokycana about it he told them, “You appear to be of the mind of Petr Chelčický!” And to be sure, in the writings of the south Bohemian farmer they discovered a gateway to Christ. Step by step, as their understanding grew, Řehoř and his friends separated themselves from Prague’s ungodliness to live like the first Christians. Řehoř wrote and spoke well. As the vision of a Christ-like community took shape in his mind, he discussed it with his friends and they searched ever more diligently for a way and a place to live it out.

An unexpected door opened for them.

In the mountains of Moravia, south of the road from Hradec Králové (Königgrätz) to Breslau in Silesia, the Hussite general, Jiří Poděbrady, owned a large estate called Litice (Lititz). During the revolution it had suffered neglect. Most of the peasants who lived there moved away. Now Jiří looked for new people to work the estate, and when he learned what Řehoř and his friends looked for, he offered it to them.

They arrived in 1457.

Under the shadow of the old Litice castle they found the peasant village of Kunvald almost deserted. But the few who lived there received them kindly, and the young men and women set to work with a will. On steep fields above the Orlice, roaring and foaming down the canyon, they began to plant crops. They cared for cows and tended bees. From forests high above them they brought wood to repair the houses and build more. Fruit trees in the village began to bear again, after careful pruning, and vegetables thrived in the fertile soil.

But the new settlers at Kunvald set their goal on far more than material prosperity. Slowly, peacefully, they returned to following Christ. One by one they dropped the superfluous ceremonies of the mediaeval church and worked out a brotherly agreement on how to worship. At first they called themselves Fratres Legis Christi (brothers in the law of Christ). But the Czech name Jednota Bratrska (meaning “unity of brothers,” Unitas Fratrum in Latin) eventually became more common.

The believers at Kunvald did not intend to begin a “new group.” They believed the Lord wanted them to let their light shine within Christianity at large. But following the pattern of the community at Chelčice they agreed on a way of life that led to profound ethical separation.

In their “brotherly agreement” they decided not to testify in court, swear oaths, do civil service of any kind, manage inns, or get involved in buying or selling anything more than the bare necessities of life. They also decided that no one among them could hold worldly rank or privilege. No one should make dice, attend or work in a theatre, paint pictures or play music for a living, go to fairs or celebrations of feast days, take interest on money, or be involved with astrology, witchcraft, or alchemy. A very modest type of dress was agreed on, and all were expected to take part in daily prayers and the care of the sick.

Soon after their arrival in Kunvald the community chose twenty-eight men for its leaders. “At that time,” a member wrote, “friend longed for friend and brother for brother, so that more persons continually joined the group and their numbers increased.”2 In 1459 a small group led by an ex-Taborite priest, Štěpánek, joined at Klatov in Moravia. Řehoř travelled continually, visiting interested seekers. Then the quiet Poor—descendants of Waldensian families in southern Bohemia and Moravia’s mountain regions—began to find their way into the new movement, and it grew rapidly to include several thousand members.

Brothers Unite

With the coming of the Waldensians, Řehoř and his friends at Kunvald, acquired a wealth of practical information on how to operate a Christian community. Even though they had languished for years in spiritual decline,3 the Waldensians remembered how their forefathers had lived. They still treasured what they wrote, and here and there, functioning scholae survived.

This led the believers at Kunvald to an idea.

Little by little, as their walk with Christ matured, their hopes of functioning as a spiritual “church within the church” faded. They saw less of a future all the time for the Czech Hussite movement and began to think seriously of doing things another way. (Up to this point, a Hussite priest had served them communion.)

In 1467, at a general meeting of the brothers near Rýchnov (Reichenau), a day’s journey west of Kunvald, everyone felt the time had come to elect their own leaders and detach themselves from the Hussite church. After prayer and earnest exhortation, they chose their candidates. Then they put twelve slips of paper into a clay pot. Nine of the slips were blank. Three said jest (it is). A little boy pulled them out and gave them to the brothers.

Matěj, a twenty-five-year-old farmer of Kunvald, Tůma Přeloučský, a book keeper, and EliᚠChřenovický, a miller drew the jest slips. But who would lay hands on them and give them their charge? The brothers knew if anyone of them did it, the Hussites would accuse them fiercely. After considerable discussion they decided to send the three chosen brothers, along with a Waldensian as guide, to the south. There, just across the Austrian border from Nová Bystřice in the territory of Jindřichův Hradec, an old bishop of the Poor, a man named Stefan, ordained them for service in the Lord’s church.

Three cords, coming from Languedoc and Lombardy, from Chelčice, and from Hussite Prague (by way of Kunvald), united—and the test to see how much they would hold together came quickly.

Brothers Endure

When Rokycana, the Hussite archbishop, and Jiří Poděbrady, the landlord of Litice and Kunvald, heard of the ordinations at Nová Bystřice they were furious—both with the Waldensians and the Unity of Brothers.

In his earlier years Rokycana had spoken in favour of New Testament methods. He had shared many of Řehoř’s concerns about the Hussites. But now that a vigorous new movement, in every way more Christ-like than his own, sprang up around him, he hated it. Preaching against the “new heretics” he stirred up the rulers of Bohemia and Moravia against them.

Old Stefan, the Waldensian bishop, fell into the hands of Roman Catholic authorities that burned him alive in Vienna, in 1467. In Bohemia, the Hussites tortured Jakob Hulava in front of his family and burned him, along with four peasants on the estate of the Baron Zdenek Kostka at Richenburg. Throughout other Czech regions they seized the brothers’ possessions and drove them, with their families, from their homes. But none suffered more than the community at Kunvald itself.

Beginning with the arrest of some of its leaders, left to suffer in the Litice castle dungeons, the settlement built up with so much joy disintegrated in untold grief. Driven from their homes in the middle of winter, many perished in the fields from hunger and cold. Some whom the authorities captured had their hands cut off. Others they dragged along behind horses until they died, or burned at the stake. Hunted like deer, the brothers hid in mountain forests, daring to make fires only at night. When it snowed they moved from place to place in single file, the last one with a branch to obliterate their tracks.

Feeling sorry for them, but not daring to help, residents of the area called them jamnici (cave men). But the brothers did not lose heart. In the forests at night they read from precious Scriptures and prayed. Whenever possible they returned good for evil, and when invited, they even dared make trips to visit seekers in Czech towns.

On a secret trip, of this nature, to Prague, Řehoř finally walked into a trap laid for him by his enemies. Rokycana, determined to “convert” him, had him severely tortured and kept in jail. In response, the brothers wrote him a letter:

Have we deserved the persecutions you have brought upon us? Have we not been your disciples? Have we not followed your own words in refusing to remain in connection with the corrupt church? Is it right to invoke the civil power against us? Civil power is intended for the punishment of those who have broken the laws of society and must be coerced within proper bounds. But it belongs to the heathen world. It is absolutely wrong to use it in matters of faith. . . . Are you not of the world and bound to perish with the world?4

In 1471, within a short time of one another, Rokycana and Jiří Poděbrady died, and persecution let off. Then, cautiously reappearing out of the woods, the believers who survived returned to Kunvald.

More Brothers and Sisters

Not only did the survivors return. Nine years after Rokycana’s death and the end of persecution under the Hussites, the Czech Unity of Brothers received a most significant group of new members. Arriving penniless—hungry children with big eyes, widows in rags, old men pulling carts or pushing wheel-barrows—they were German Waldenses from Königsberg (Chojna) and Angermünde in the province of Brandenburg. In Czech lands they settled in and around Lanškroun east of Litomyšl and around Fulneck on the lands of Jan of Zerotin, between Olomouc (Olmütz) and Moravska Ostrava (Mährisch-Ostrau).5

Through these immigrants and the ordination under old Stefan, the Unity established its “apostolic succession.” Of much greater importance, two hundred and fifty years later, it was through their descendants (who never lost their German language and culture) that the Unity of Brothers survived to burst into magnificent bloom.

1 De Schweinitz, The History of the Church Known as the Unitas Fratrum, pg. 21.
2 Jan Jaffet, in Goliath’s Schwerdt.
3 In southern Germany and Switzerland they had departed even more drastically from Christ’s way than in Czech lands. Under Hussite influence during the 1400s, many of them returned to Italy to reclaim what had been their historic home. There they joined with others of their background in the Cottian Alps and resisted Catholic troops sent to subdue them. Fierce fighting, beginning in 1450, lasted off and on through the remainder of the century. By the 1530s, only a small number survived in fortified mountain strongholds. They made contact with Geneva’s Calvinist Reformers and, in 1532, adopted a confession of faith stating Christians may swear oaths, take interest on money, own private property, hold civil office, and go to war, without sinning. They also accepted Calvinist teaching on predestination and the sovereignty of God. Conflict with the Catholic governments of Italy and France continued, however, until 1848 when they received full civil rights. In the latter part of the nineteenth century some Waldensians from Italy formed a colony in Uruguay. From there they spread to North Carolina and elsewhere. The Waldensian Church today, with headquarters at Torre Pellice in Italy, co-operates closely with other Protestant groups.
4 De Schweinitz, op. cit.
5 Since 1458 the Waldenses of Brandenburg had suffered heavy persecution. In 1479 they sent their leader, a brother named Peter, to establish contact with believers in Bohemia. The following year, four brothers of the Unitas Fratrum set out to visit them, in return. At Kladsko in Bohemia, Hussite officials detained them, but one, a German citizen named Tomáš, from the district of Lanškroun, was allowed to continue on his way. Through this contact the Waldenses of the Brandenburg lowlands decided to move to Czech lands.

Continued with chapter 6:

 2008/6/7 10:12Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406

 Re: Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb

The Story of the Moravian Church
by Peter Hoover

Chapter 6 Sheep Among Wolves

On his visit to Prague in 1420 Petr Chelčický met the Hussite theologian, Jakoubek of Stříbro in a back room of the Bethlehem chapel. Their conversation, under Petr’s direction, turned quickly to the Sermon on the Mount. They discussed what Jesus taught on wealth, on speaking the truth (without swearing), and on returning good for evil.

“Our faith compels us to bind wounds,” Petr explained, “not to make blood run.” With sharp but honest words, he rebuked the Hussites for using worldly power. He told them how war comes from a desire to own things, and how Christ sets us free from that desire.

Jakoubek did not accept Petr’s rebuke. Like John Wyclif and Jan Hus he defended the use of the sword, saying war is necessary and Christians must fight against Turks and infidels, “but with great love toward God and with nothing other in mind than that God would be glorified.” For this reason, he explained, Christian soldiers must “avoid all brutality, excessive greediness, and other irregularities.”

Petr had no time for such talk. “How your master Jakoubek would rage against someone for eating a blood sausage on Friday,” he wrote to the archbishop Rokycana in a letter soon afterward. “Yet he does not make the shedding of blood a matter of conscience!” Pointing to more inconsistencies he continued:

You would not allow an individual to chase others and kill them. But if a nobleman gathers a great army of peasants and makes of them warriors who can kill others with the power of an army, you do not consider them murderers. Neither is it held against their conscience, but they boast and think of themselves as heroes for murdering the godless! This is the poison poured out among Christians by learned men who do not follow our meek Lord Jesus, but the counsel of the Great Whore of Babylon. And for this reason our land is filled with abominations and blood!

I do not want to make light of the preaching and good works done by men like Jan Hus, Matěj, and Jakoubek, in the name of God. But I say that they too have drunk the wine of the Great Whore, with which she has besotted all nations and people. . . . They have written things that contradict God’s laws, especially where Master Hus has written about bearing the sword, swearing oaths, and venerating images.1

That the Hussite, Catholic and Taborite “Christians” of Bohemia had lost sight of Christ, Petr Chelčický did not doubt. On another occasion he wrote:

For over fifteen years one side has risen up against the other in wrath and savagery. What one side has proclaimed as truth, the other has condemned as error. And of them all, none has been able to put out the fires they have lit. Everywhere murder, destruction, and poverty have multiplied and great numbers have perished. Every town in the land has girded itself to battle. Every town has enclosed itself with walls and surrounded itself with moats. . . .

Everyone, at home or in the field, in the forest or on the mountains, stands in danger of getting imprisoned, robbed, or killed. Nowhere can one hide from the other. In towns and castles every man must be ready for battle. Nowhere may one find rest and peace. Labouring people are stripped of everything, downtrodden, oppressed, beaten, and robbed, so that many are driven by want and hunger from their homes. Some pay taxes to castles or towns three or even four times, now to one side, now to the other. And what is not taken from them like that, is eaten up by armies that prey on the land. . . .

In the midst of this, can it be said that Christians are any more honest, any more disciplined or patient, than the world? Not at all. In fact, nothing is more clear than that Christians have abandoned God. They have gone out into the world and become one with it. Whatever the world considers praiseworthy—vanity, comfort, wealth, fancy notions, blasphemies—all Christians praise with one accord, openly and without conscience or shame. It has become virtually impossible to find one in a thousand that does not conform himself to the world. . . .2

The only way to escape the wicked world headed for destruction, Petr believed, is to follow Christ. “True God and true man, perfect and complete,” he wrote, “Christ taught us masterfully how to please God in everything. Not only did he give us a perfect example, he also makes it possible for us to follow it. We only sin when we go after the things Christ condemned, or when we turn our backs on his way of life. His whole life on earth was an example and a lesson for us.”

Using Christ’s imagery of a net cast into the sea, Petr described what happened when two dreadful sharks, the pope and the Roman emperor, slipped into the church. Thrashing about in the net, they gobbled up the good fish and burst it. From their adulterous union sprang evils without number—above all, the evil of force in Christ’s name—until only a few strands of the net (Christ’s true church) remained. “Since that time,” Petr wrote,

all live in hypocrisy, from the least to the greatest, figuring out how to be Christian while doing everything their flesh desires. Everyone seeks the honour of the world and flatters it with pleasant talk. Everyone wants peace with the world to avoid suffering its persecution in any way—so to compare today’s Christianity with that of the early church is like comparing night to day.

Christ and Power

The church, both Petr Chelčický and the Unity of Brothers believed, loses sight of Christ when it confuses the Old with the New Testament way. In one of its earliest statements the Unity declared:

The Jews did right to follow the law in their day, as it was given, but when Christ came he brought a higher and better law than “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth.” He brought the law of love that neither condemns to death nor forces anyone to obey its commandments. Rather, with loving patience, it calls for repentance, leaving the impenitent to the last judgement. Only false Christians cannot distinguish between these two revelations.3

Nowhere does the mixing of Moses’ law and Christ’s Gospel cause more confusion than in the use of power. “Civil authorities,” Petr Chelčický wrote, “may not direct the life of obedience to God because they rely on cruel compulsion.” For this he gave an example:

Not all tools can be used for every trade, and every trade has tools of its own. A blacksmith cannot hold a horseshoe in the fire with a spindle and a woman cannot spin with a blacksmith’s tongs. Therefore, just as tongs pertain to the blacksmith and a spindle to the woman, civil authority is suitable for some things and religious authority for others.

Christ’s rule is perfect. Therefore it is free of compulsion. The virtue he expects from every Christian springs from a free will. Everyone must choose for good or evil. Both these choices stand before men, the Lord Jesus calling us to the good, the devil and the world calling us to evil. Therefore choose joy or hell. The choice is in your hands.

Řehoř wrote about rulers and the sword:

God gave the kings of the earth a sword, but only to preserve order in the world according to his will, and to control those who would disturb the common good. . . . When, through the treachery of the priests, the rulers’ sword is turned against people on account of their faith, they no longer use it for God. No earthly ruler can put faith into people’s hearts without their assent, or bring them to faith by force.4

With this teaching alive in their hearts, the believers at Kunvald, like those of Chelčice, could not take part in civil government. They could not serve as masters of guilds, judges, or town councillors because they felt those positions belonged to the god of this world, not to the Kingdom of Heaven. Řehoř wrote:

Christ sent his messengers into the world to preach the good news without the help of civil powers, magistrates, hangmen, and soldiers. . . . True Christians, like sheep among wolves, suffer unto death before calling pagan authorities to their defence.5


 2008/6/8 16:34Profile

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