That it doth not appear from the conference of Alby, that the Albigenses were Manichees.


HAVING thus justified Peter de Bruys, Henry, and his disciples, from the imputation of Manicheism, which the Bishop of Meaux has endeavored to fasten upon them, we will yet further endeavor to clear this point, by examining the conference of Alby, from whence the Bishop thinks that he has drawn a solid argument to confirm his imputation. Let us see how this conference is related by Roger Hoveden, in his Annals upon the year 1176.

“It was in this year that the Arian heresy was condemned, which had well nigh infected all the province of Tholouse. There were,” saith he, “certain heretics in the province of Tholouse, who called themselves The Good Men; they were supported by the militia of Lombez, and preached and taught the people contrary to the Christian faith, professing themselves not to own the Law of Moses, nor the Prophets, nor the Psalms, nor any part of the Old Testament, nor the doctors of the New Testament, save only the Gospels, and the Epistles of St. Paul, with the seven Canonical Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation.”

“Being questioned concerning their faith,” proceeds he, “and concerning the baptism of infants, and whether they were saved by baptism; and concerning the body and blood of our Lord, where it was consecrated, or by whom, and who were those that received it; and whether it were more or better consecrated by a good man than by a wicked man; and concerning marriage, if a man and woman could be saved, that knew one another carnally. They answered, that they. would say nothing of their faith nor of the baptism of infants; neither were they obliged to say any thing of those matters. Concerning the body and blood of our Savior they said, that he who received it worthily was saved; and that he who received it unworthily procured his own condemnation. Concerning marriage they said, that a man and woman join themselves together to avoid fornication, as St. Paul saith. They also declared many things, without being questioned; as that they ought not to use any oaths whatsoever, as St. John said in his Gospel, and St. James in his Epistle. They said also, that St. Paul had foretold that they ought to ordain Bishops and Priests in the Church; and that if these orders were not conferred upon such as he there commands, that then they were neither Bishops nor Priests, but ravening wolves, hypocrites, and deceivers, who loved the salutations in the marketplaces, the first places, and the first seats at feasts: who love to be called masters, against the commandment of Jesus Christ; who wear white and shining garments; who wear rings of gold and precious stones on their fingers, which their Master never commanded them. Accordingly they maintained, that since the Bishops and Priests were like to those Priests who betrayed our Saviour Jesus Christ, they ought not to obey them, because they were wicked.”

“After divers reasons alleged on both sides in presence of the Bishop of Alby, they chose and settled judges on both sides, with consent of the Bishop of Alby. After this, Roger Hoveden observes, that the Prelates cited divers authorities out of the New Testament, (for these heretics, saith he, would not be determined but by the New Testament,) and that afterwards the Bishop of Lyons pronounced the definitive sentence, drawn from the New Testament, in these terms; I Gislebert, Bishop of Lyons, at the command of the Bishop of Alby and his assessors, do judge that they are heretics; and I condemn the opinions of Oliver and his companions, wherever they are: and we judge this from the New Testament: I bring therefore, for this reason, proofs to confirm the divinity of the Old Testament, drawn from the New, and thereby oppose these heretics, because they owned that they received Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, only in those particulars which Jesus and his Apostles had by their testimony approved, and not in others: whereupon he maintains with reason, that if an instrument or testimony in writing is allowed of in one part, the whole must needs be owned, or else wholly cast aside.”

In the second place, saith he, we convict them, and judge them to be heretics, by the authorities of the New Testament; for we say, that he has not the Catholic faith who doth not confess it when he is required, and when it is exposed to any danger; whence it is that our Lord, in the Acts of the Apostles, saith to Ananias, speaking of Paul, For he is to me a chosen vessel, to carry my name, etc. These heretics also boast themselves that they do not lie; whereas we maintain that they lie manifestly, for there is deceit in holding one’s peace, as well as speaking; wherefore also Paul boldly resisted Peter to his face, because he gave way to the circumcised.”

In the third place, saith he, we convict and judge them to be heretics by the authorities of the New Testament; for we say that God will have all men to be saved, etc. After which he produces the proofs for infant baptism, and solves the objection taken from infants wanting faith, without which it is impossible to please God: we say that it is by the faith of the Church, or of their godfathers, as the man sick of the palsy was healed by the faith of those who presented him, and let him down through the tiling of the house.”

In the fourth place, saith he, we do convict and judge them as heretics by the authorities of the New Testament, because the body of our Lord cannot be consecrated but by a Priest, be he good or bad; which he proves, because consecration is made by the words of Jesus Christ. Moreover, he proves that the consecration of the body of our Lord must be celebrated in the church, and by the ministers of the church only, whose authority he asserts from passages of Scripture.”

“Clerks therefore and laymen, pursues he, must be obedient for God’s sake to these Priests, Bishops, and Deacons, be they good or bad, according to what our Lord saith, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Mosess chair: whatsoever therefore they say, do ye; but do not according to their works: for they say, and do not.”

In the fifth place, we convict and judge them to be heretics by the authority of the New Testament, because they will not own that man and wife, if carnally joined, can be saved; and yet they are wont to preach in public, that man and wife cannot be saved, if they know one another carnally: by striving to preach up the study of virginity, saith he, they seem to derogate from the state of marriage, and to condemn it; which he refutes by the common proofs.”

In the sixth place, saith he, we convict and judge by the authorities of the New Testament, that they are heretics, and separated from the unity of the Church; for we say that the Lord hath given the power to St. Peter, of binding and absolving, saying, Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound, etc. and St. James say, If any one among you be sick, let him call for the Priests of the Church, etc. and again, Behold, I send unto you wise men and scribes; but as our Lord saith, All men cannot comprehend this saying.”

“Moreover, we say, that they ought to have stood up, in answering and disputing concerning the Gospel, because all Christians stand when the Gospels are read; now if we ought to stand when they are read, much more ought we to stand when they are read and expounded together. Neither ought they to have sat down, after that they had once chosen to stand. Besides, we have many authorities, by which it plainly appears that we ought to be standing when the Gospel is reading, as that where it is said, And Jesus stood in the plain; and again, Jesus stood and cried, saying; and again, There stands one in the midst of you, whom ye know not.

Moreover, Jesus was in a standing posture, when, after his resurrection, he confirmed his disciples, and preached unto them; as it is written, Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples, and said, Peace be with you. And as for them, saith the Bishop, they have no right to judge, but only to answer; for the Lord ought to sit, to whom all judgment is committed by the Father. But as for them, they judge not, but are judged, and it is not permitted to them to preach in the churches. These heretics are such as St. Paul foretells of, when he saith, that there shall be wicked men and seducers, who will go on to grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; for the time shall come, that they will not bear sound doctrine, but will turn their ears away from the truth to fables. And again, From which some going astray, have given themselves to vain things, who desiring to be teachers of the law, understand not what they say or affirm. He maintains, that they ought to punish the disobedience of those heretics, and to give them public correction, according to St. Paul’s saying, that sinners should be reproved openly in the presence of all for their amendment. St. Paul also, speaking to Bishops, saith, Being always ready to reprove every disobedience, and having power to confute those that gainsay; and again, Exhort, rebuke, and reprove with all authority; and again, I have delivered them to Satan, etc. Moreover, Being absent, I have already judged, etc. And lastly, Whoever shall preach any other thing, let him be accursed.”

In the seventh place, the said Bishop questioned them concerning repentance, whether it were saving when performed at the last gasp, or whether soldiers mortally wounded may be saved, if they repent at last; or whether every one ought to confess their sins to the Priest and Ministers of the church, or to some layman, or to those of whom St. James says, Confess your sins one to another? To which they answered, that it was sufficient for those that were sick to confess to whom they would. As for soldiers, they would answer nothing, because St. James there speaks only of the sick. It was also asked them, whether one single act of contrition of heart, and one confession of the mouth were sufficient, or whether satisfaction were necessary, after penance had been enjoined, in deploring their sins by fasting, alms, and affliction, if they had opportunity. To which they answered, saying, that St. James said, Confess your sins one to another, that you may be healed: so that by these words they knew that the Apostle did not enjoin any thing else, but only to confess to one another; and that so they should be saved; and that they would not be better than the Apostle, by adding any thing thereto of their own, as the Bishops do.”

“The heretics added besides, that the Bishop who pronounced sentence was an heretic, and not they; and that he was their enemy, and a ravening wolf, a hypocrite, and an enemy of God; and that he had not judged rightly, and that they would not answer any thing concerning their faith, because they mistrusted him, as our Lord had commanded them in the Gospel; Beware of false prophets, who come unto you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves: and that he was their malicious persecutor; and they were ready to make it appear from the Gospels and the Epistles, that he was not a good Pastor, neither he, nor all the rest of the Bishops and Priests, but rather hirelings.”

“The Bishop answered, that the sentence had been duly pronounced against them, and that he was ready to verify the same, either in the court of Lord Alexander the Catholic Pope, or in the court of Lewis King of France, or of Raimond Earl of Tholouse, or of his wife who was present, or in the court of Frenkwel who was there present; that he had passed a right judgment; and that they were evidently heretics, and branded as such. He promised also that he would indict them for heresy, and that he would denounce them to be such in all Catholic courts.”

“The heretics seeing themselves convicted and confounded, turned themselves towards all the people, saying, Good people, the faith which we now confess, we confess for your sakes. The Bishop answered, You say, that you speak for the sake of the people, and not for Godsake. And they said, We believe that there is one only God, in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that the Son of God hath taken our flesh upon him, that he was baptized in Jordan, that he fasted in the wilderness, that he hath preached our salvation; that he suffered, died, and was buried; that he descended into hell, that he rose again the third day, that he ascended into heaven, that he sent the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, that he shall come at the day of judgment to judge both the quick and the dead, and that all shall rise again. We know also, that what we believe with our heart, we ought to confess with our mouth. We believe, that he is not saved who doth not eat the body of Jesus Christ, and that the body of Jesus Christ is not consecrated but in the church, and by the Priest, be he good or bad; and that it is no better consecrated by a good than by a bad one. We believe also, that none can be saved but those that are baptized, and that little children are saved by baptism. We believe also, that man and wife are saved, though they be carnally joined; and that every one must repent with his mouth and heart, and be baptized in the church by a Priest; and that if they could shew them more from the Gospels and Epistles, they would believe and own it.”

“The said Bishop told them also, that if they should swear, they would be obliged to keep the faith; and if there were any thing else, that they ought to confess it, because before they had maintained wicked opinions, and had spoken ill. They answered, that they could not swear at all, because in so doing they should sin against the Gospel and the Epistles. Whereupon, they produced against them authorities out of the New Testament; and after they had been cited and heard on both sides, one of the Bishops, standing up, passed his judgment in this manner:”

“I Gozelin, Bishop of Lodeve, by permission and command of the Bishop of Alby and his assessors, do judge and declare openly, that these heretics are in a wrong opinion concerning the matter of oaths: they must swear, if so be they desire to be received, for in matters of faith men ought to swear: and forasmuch as they are infamous, and stained with heresy, they must clear their innocence; and returning to the unity of the Church, they must confirm their faith by an oath, as the Catholic Church holds and believes; that so the weak ones that are in the Church be not corrupted, and that the infected sheep may not spoil the whole flock. Neither is this contrary to the Gospel, or to the Epistles of St. Paul; for though it be said in the Gospel, Let your communication be Yea, yea, Nay, nay; and, Thou shalt not swear, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, etc. yet it is not forbidden to swear by God, but only by the creatures: for the heathens worshipped the creature; and if it were permitted to swear by creatures, we should give to the creatures the respect and honor which is due to God alone; and thus idols and creatures would be adored as God.”

“After several arguments to prove the lawfulness of swearing, he added; Or it may be, those expressions in the Gospel and the Epistle of St. James are only by way of advice, and not by way of precept, because if men did not swear, they would not be forsworn; and whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil, that is, of sin or of the Devil, who persuades men to swear by creatures. Finding therefore that they were convicted in this point also, they said that the Bishop of Alby had agreed with them that he would not force them to swear; which the Bishop of Alby denied, and standing up, said, I confirm the sentence which Gozelin, Bishop of Lodeve, hath pronounced, which was given by my order; and I give notice to the militia of Lombez not to protect them. This was signed by the nine Bishops, Clerks, Abbots, and laymen, with this conclusion, We approve this sentence, and we know they are heretics, and we reject their opinion.”

This is the substance of what passed at the conference of Alby, according to the relation of Roger Hoveden. One sees that he represents to us these three things: First, the accusations laid to the charge of the Albigenses: they are accused of several articles which are pure Manicheism. Secondly, the arguments they brought to convict them. Thirdly, the confession of faith of the Albigenses, in opposition to their accusations.

As for their accusations, we are to observe, that they are only consequences of their being looked upon as heretics, such as they pretended had been long since condemned in the councils held against the Manichees; and accordingly they make a recapitulation of the errors, either defended by the Cathari, or commonly attributed to them; and with these they charge the Albigenses without further ceremony.

They produce indeed some witnesses who accuse them, and maintain that they have heard some of them maintain Manichean propositions. But the manner of their justifying themselves confounds this accusation and these witnesses.

1. They declare, that the silence they kept was like that of Jesus Christ, who sometimes held his peace without answering the questions of the Pharisees.

2. They called the persons appointed to confront them false witnesses and impostors, in as handsome a manner as could be shown to persons of their quality who appeared against them.

3. They propound their confession of faith in terms wholly orthodox; addressing themselves to the people who had been witnesses of these horrid accusations.

Probably some will say, Here is a company of men actually accused of abominable heresies, and here are persons produced to prove it really upon them. To this I have three things to answer.

1. That we have this conference from the hand of their enemies only.

2. That what is insisted on concerning the authority of their witnesses is overthrown by a very natural reflection; which is, that the integrity of the Waldenses was so well known, and their adversaries so much noted for their inclinations to calumny, that the princes and all the people favored them. This is observed by Puylaurens in his Chronicle, and it is taken notice of by Ribera in his Antiquities of Tholouse; and yet their enemies have still gone on to accuse them of Manicheism.


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