Refections on the convictions of Manicheism, which were said to be proved upon the Albigenses.


ONE of the most plausible objections that can be made against the purity of the faith of the Albigenses, is the testimony of the Inquisitors, who have filled their trials with plain confessions, which several Albigenses, judged and condemned by them, have made of sundry errors of the Manichees. I shall produce an extract of the Acts of the Inquisition of Toulouse, which are in the hands of Mr. Wetstein, bookseller at Amsterdam, as it was sent me out of Holland, and which was made by a man of great reputation.

“The Albigenses,” saith he, “held some opinions in common with the Vaudois: as, that to a Christian all oaths are unlawful; that the confession of sins, made to the Priests of the Church of Rome, is wholly unprofitable; and that neither the Pope, nor any one else in the Romish Church, can absolve any man of sin: but that they have power to absolve all those from their sins, who will join themselves to their sect, by the laying on of hands. This last clause is also laid to the charge of the Vaudois, viz. that they have power from God alone, as the Apostles had, to hear confessions both of men and women that believe them; and of imposing penance upon such as confess to them, as fasting, and several repetitions of the Lord’s Prayer, whereupon they absolve their penitents: and that this absolution and penance is as available to the salvation of their souls as if they had been confessed to their own Priest. (That here is some wresting or mutilation of the opinion of the Vaudois, is manifest from the confession of a certain woman, who, as we read, declared her faith to this purpose; that God alone forgives sin; and that he to whom confession of sins is made gives only his advice what the person ought to do, and so enjoins penance, which any wise and prudent man may do, whether he be a Priest or no.) That the opinions of the Albigenses that were proper to them were, that there be two lords; the one good, and the other evil: that the body of Christ is not in the Eucharist, but only mere bread: that baptism is of no use. One of the Albigenses was said to believe, that the baptism of water, celebrated by the Church, stands infants in no stead, because they did not consent to the sacrament, but cried at the receiving of it. (I believe, saith he who examined these Acts, that they denied baptism to be the instrument of regeneration; or perhaps they might be against infant baptism.) That an external anointing of the sick with material oil was of no use. That the orders of the Church of Rome had no power of binding and loosing; since they themselves, who conferred them, were great sinners. That marriage is always joined with sin, and never can be without sin; and that it could never have been instituted by the good God. That our Lord did not assume a real human body and true flesh of our nature; and that he did not truly, but only in likeness, rise again in the same, and perform the other works of our salvation; and that he never really ascended to the right hand of the Father. They deny the resurrection of the body; (but in the declaration of Petrus Anterius, a chief teacher amongst them, this is more clearly and distinctly explained; that they feign that certain spiritual bodies, and a certain internal man, should rise again in such sort of bodies. And elsewhere they express themselves, that though the souls of men shall come to judgment, yet they shall not come in their own bodies.) They said, that the souls of men were spirits which fell from heaven for their sins; so that they seem to have believed the pre-existence of souls. Man (they say) must not worship what he eats. Moreover, it is ascribed to them, that they believe man is saved by the laying on of hands, which they confer on their believers; and that by the same means all sins are forgiven without confession and satisfaction. That they can bestow the Holy Ghost, for salvation, upon those whom they receive. That the Virgin Mary never was a carnal woman, but their Church, which they say is true repentance; and that this is the Virgin Mary. (The very obscurity of these words shews that this opinion is wrested; because it is better expressed in another place thus; That God never entered the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary; and that he only is the mother, brother, and sister of God, who keeps the commandments of God the Father.) These are said to be the doctrines of the Albigenses, whereof none are ascribed to the Waldenses, but others different from these, whereof we find no mention made in the opinions of the Albigenses; and they are these; That all judgment is forbid by God, and that it is contrary to the Divine prohibition for any judge, in any cause whatsoever, to judge or sentence any man to punishment of death. That indulgences granted by the Prelates or the Church of Rome are of no use or efficacy. That there is no purgatory for souls after this life; and that consequently the prayers and suffrages of believers for the dead are of no use to them. That the soul, when it departs from the body, goes either to paradise or hell. That there are no more than three orders in the Church, of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.”

From these Acts it appears how much the rites and ceremonies of the Albigenses differed from those practiced by the Vaudois. “Besides,” saith the author of the extract, “the rites and institutions of them both were very different. Of the Albigenses there were two sorts: some who professed their faith and rites, and they were called Perfect, or Comforted; others, who had entered into a covenant with the former sort, called Perfect, which they call la Convenenza, the Agreement, that at the end of their life they should be received by them into their sect. This reception is frequently called by them Exercise, and is performed in this manner; The Benedicite, or the Blessing conferred upon one Molinerius when he was sick. Bernard Goes, one of the Albigenses, held the hands of the sick person between his own hands, and besides held a certain book over him, wherein he read the Gospel of St. John, In the beginning was the Word; and delivered to the sick person a fine thread, to tie about him as a mark that he was admitted into their heresy: upon some others it is said that they laid a white linen cloth, and besides, that many genuflections were performed by the bed-side. This reception was supposed to save the soul of him who was received, and was called a spiritual baptism or consolation, a reception, and a good end, and sometimes a melioration, by means of which they believed that the person was sanctified; so that it was not lawful for a woman to touch any one that was thus received. Now, because it might sometimes happen that the person thus received, after his recovery, might relapse into his former defilements, therefore they always deferred this reception till the extremest weakness, when there was no longer hopes of life, for fear they might afterward lose the good they had received. For which reason also some sick persons amongst them, though the person who thus initiated them was already come, yet were not received, because they were not believed to be at the point of death. But they who were thus received in their sickness were commanded to put themselves upon hardship; that is, to hasten their own death, by abstaining from all meat: and there are several examples of those who are said to have killed themselves, not only with fasting, but by opening of a vein, wounding of themselves, yea, and sometimes too by drinking poison. But others, who had no mind to submit themselves to so hard a law, refused to be received, though this their teacher was come for that purpose. They had also a peculiar way of saluting, by way of embracing one another, laying their hands on each side of one another, and turning their head to both shoulders, saying each time, Benedicite: which kind of salutation seems to have been usual amongst them, because it is to be met with in several accounts of their opinions; and sometimes it was performed with bended knees, sometimes with their hands let down to the ground. Which salutation was sometimes called melioration. Neither did they only require this salutation from those who were received, but from them also who were called Perfect amongst them, and received others, observed the same way of salutation. We read also in many of their books, that such a one did eat of the blessed bread of the heretics; and in some it is added, and saw the manner of blessing it: but what that manner was, is no where described, neither is any circumstance added, from whence it might be gathered, whether they blessed the common bread at their dinners and suppers, or whether this was only a ceremony used by them at the celebrating of the Lord’s supper: though it is added in one place, that they call this blessed bread the Bread of Prayer. Three days in the week they keep a fast with bread and water. But we do not read that any of these things were observed by the Waldenses, but what was vastly different: as, that they had some elders of their own; that even laymen bless the table before and after meat; they pray kneeling, and bowing themselves to the ground. It is usual for them to bless the table. They profess to observe apostolical poverty. And besides, they are said to differ from the common conversation of other believers in their life and manners. These are the chief things we meet with in this book concerning the Albigenses and Waldenses; for there is no mention made of the opinions of any other party.”

This is the extract which was sent me, with some passages wherein the author gives his own judgment.

One would think, that nothing could be of greater force to convict the Albigenses of Manicheism, especially if we consider, that Emericus, in his Directory for the Inquisitors, ascribes almost the very same opinions to the Manichees of Italy.

But I have three things to say, to take off this prejudice: the first is, That nothing ought to be more suspected by us than these Acts of the Inquisition; for he that is a murderer is certainly a liar and a knave. I have shewed, in my Remarks upon the History of the Valleys of Piedmont, that nothing can be conceived more false than the carriage of the Inquisitors, and that they never pretended to any thing less than to faithfulness in their accounts of things.

This appears from the trials of the Waldenses, whom the Monks have endeavored to make the most infamous heretics; and yet, in the mean time, if we will believe the Bishop of Meaux, they were very far from being Manichees. What authority therefore can the testimonies of the Inquisitors have against the Albigenses, since the Bishop himself acknowledges that they can be of no authority against the Waldenses, who have been no less accused of Manicheism than the Albigenses themselves?

Now, that the reader may be thoroughly convinced of the justice of this our denying to admit these testimonies of the Inquisitors, and Emericus in particular, I might allege here what Emericus hath said of the Eternal Gospel, attributed commonly to John of Crema, the seventh General of the Cordeliers. This book contained the most horrid propositions imaginable; and yet now it is pretended, that he was overborne by a cabal of the Inquisition, and they endeavor to justify him against all the accusations of Emericus. But I can do more than this; for I have received from a friend of Mr. G. advocate of N. an extract of the Acts of the Inquisition of Toulouse, which may serve as a pattern to judge of their other trials which are found in that register, where there is scarce any thing of these accusations. The extract runs thus: Anno Domini 1283, 8 ldus Julii, Guilhelmus de Maunhaco, filius quondam Guilhelmi Arloyer de Maunhaco, diocesis Aniciensis, eductus de carcere Inquisitorum, constitutus in praesentia Fratris Joannis Vigorosi, ordinis Praedicatorum, Inquisitoris haereticae pravitatis, requisitus per dictum Inquisitorem quod juraret ad sancta Dei Evangelia, ut veritatem diceret de fide sua, respondit, quod non juraret: inquisitus, si erat ei licitum jurare super sancta Dei Evangelia, respondit, quod non. Inquisitus si Papa Ecclesiae Romanae Dominus Martinus qui nunc est, habet potestatem ligandi atque solvendi, respondit, quod non. Inquisitus si Ecclesia Romana, cui praest Papa, sit caput fidei, respondit, quod nec Papa, nec Ecclesia cui praest, est caput fidei, nec Christianitatis, nec agnoscit, nec credit aliquem hominem carnalem esse Papam, nisi Jesum Christum. Inquisitus si Archiepiscopi, Episcopi, et alii Ecclesiarum Praelati, per Romanam Ecclesiam ordinati, sunt veri Praelati, et si habent potestatem ligandi atque solvendi, respondit, quod non. Inquisitus si aliquis baptizatur, ita quod baptizans dicat, Ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen, valeat baptizato, et si per talem baptismum habet remissionera peccatorum, respondit, quod non credit quod aliquis carnalis homo possit baptizare, nisi solus Deus. Inquisitus si sacramentum confirmationis, quod confert Episcopus quando confirmat, valet confirmato, respondit, quod nihil valet ei, nec sacramentum est, nec ille qui confert sacramentum est Episcopus, nec aliquid potest. Inquisitus si sacramentum extremae unctionis valet infirmo, quando ei ministratur a Sacerdote, respondit, quod non credit quod valeat ei, nec quod sit sacramentum. Inquisitus si sacramentum ordinis collatum ab Episcopo valet aliquid, et si est sacramentum, respondit, quod nihil valet, nec est sacramentum, nec Episcopus potest aliquod sacramentum conferre. Inquisitus si panis, quem Sacerdos tenet in manibus suis dum celebrat, postquam Sacerdos protulit verba consecrationis, Hoc est corpus meum, remanet panis; respondit, quod panis erat ante, et panis remanet post, et quod magna injuria fit Deo, quod panis commuterut in corpus Christi. Inquisitus si verba Sacerdotis absolventis aliquem ei confessum de peccatis, dicendo, Ego te absolvo ab omnibus peccatis tuis, valent confesso; respondit, quod nihil valent confesso, nec est sacramentum. Inquisitus si est licitum jurare super sancta Dei Evangelia in aliquo casu, dixit quod non. Inquisitus si Rex Franciae qui nunc est comburit vel facit comburi aliquem pro crimine haeresis, vel facit suspendi aliquem pro aliquo crimine, peccet, respondit, quod peccat, nec est ei licitum facere vindictam nec justitiam. Item requisitus si vult credere sacramenta Ecclesiae Romanae sicut nos credimus, et sicut Ecclesia Romana praedicat et observat, respondit, quod nihil aliud crederet, nisi quod superius dixit. Haec deposuit Tholosae coram Fratre Laurentio Aurelianensi, et dicto Fratre Johanne Vigoroso, Inquisitore, in praesentia et testimonio Fratris Arnaldi Del Gras, Fratris Bertrandi Jacobi, et Fratris Raymundi Navarrii, ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum, et Juliani Vasconii, publici Tholosae notarii, qui haec scripsit.

“In the year of our Lord 1283, the 8th of the Ides of July, William of Maunhaco, formerly the son of William Arloyer of Maunhaco, of the diocese of Anecy, being brought out of the prison of the Inquisitors, and set in the presence of Brother John Vigorosus, of the order of Preachers, an Inquisitor of heretical pravity, being demanded by the said Inquisitor to swear by the holy Gospels, that he would declare the truth concerning his faith; he answered, that he would not swear. Being demanded, whether it were lawful for him to swear upon the holy Gospels? he answered, No. Being demanded, whether Lord Martin, the present Pope of the Church of Rome, hath the power of binding and loosing? he answered, No. Being demanded, whether the Church of Rome, over which the Pope presides, be the head of the faith? he answered, that neither the Pope, nor the Church he presides over, is head of the faith, or of the Christian world; neither doth he own or believe that any carnal man can be Pope, but only Jesus Christ. Being demanded, whether Archbishops, Bishops, and other Prelates of Churches, ordained by the Church of Rome, were true Prelates, and whether they have the power of binding and loosing? he answered, No. Being demanded, whether if any one be baptized, the baptizer saying, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen; whether this be of efficacy to the party baptized; and whether by such baptism he can obtain remission of his sins? he answered, that he did not believe that any carnal man can baptize, but God alone. Being demanded, whether the sacrament of confirmation, which the Bishop confers, be of any use to the person confirmed? he answered, that it was of no use at all; neither is it a sacrament; neither is he who confers it a Bishop, nor hath the power to do any thing. Being demanded, whether the sacrament of extreme unction be of any use to the sick, when it is administered to him by a Priest? he answered, that he did not believe that it did him any good, or that it is a sacrament. Being demanded, whether the sacrament of orders, conferred by the Bishop, were of any use, and whether it be a sacrament? he answered, that it is of no use; neither is it a sacrament; neither can a Bishop confer any sacrament. Being demanded, whether the bread which the Priest holds in his hands whilst he celebrates, after he hath pronounced the words of consecration, This is my body, still remains bread? he answered, that it was bread before, and continued bread still; and that it was a great injury to God to say, that the bread is changed into the body of Christ. Being examined, whether the words of a Priest, whereby he absolves one that hath confessed his sins, saying, I absolve thee of all thy sins, be of any use to the party confessed? he answered, that they were of no use, neither is it a sacrament. Being examined, whether it be lawful to swear upon the holy Gospels of God in any case? he answered, No. Being examined, whether the King of France that now is, by burning, or causing any one to be burnt for the crime of heresy, or by hanging any other criminal, doth sin? he answered, He doth; and that it is not lawful for him to execute vengeance, or do justice. Also being examined, whether he was willing to believe the sacraments of the Church of Rome as we believe, and as the Church of Rome preaches and observes? he answered, that he believes nothing but what he had said before. These things he deposed at Toulouse before Brother Laurence of Orleans, and the foresaid Brother John Vigorosus the Inquisisitor, in the presence of the witnesses Brother Arnold Del Gras, Brother Bertrand James, and Brother Raymond Navarr, of the order of Friars Preachers, and of Julian Vascon, public notary of Toulouse, who wrote this.”

The letter which Mr. G. writ to my friend concluded with these words: “I must not forget to tell you, that, according to my copy, the Albigenses said of themselves, that they were de illis qui non reddebant malum pro malo; (of those who did not render evil for evil;) that boni homines (good men) were their ministers. The formality they observed when they made a proselyte was this, Haereticaverunt eum, ponentes librum et manus super caput ejus, et interrogantes eum si volebat se reddere Deo et Evangelio: They made him a heretic by laying a book and their hands upon his head, and asking him, whether he were willing to surrender himself to God and the Gospel. I have observed from several passages, that on this occasion they were used to read more particularly the Gospel according to St. John, and that after these solemnities the proselytes adorabant dictos bonos homines, flexis ter genibus, dicendo, Benedicite; haereticis respondentibus, Deus vos benedicat: (paid their reverence to these good men, by thrice bending of the knee, saying, Give us your blessing; the heretics answering, God bless you.) The Inquisitors call the proselytes, and those that are born Albigenses, heretics.”

It is easy to judge by this specimen, that it is almost impossible to give any credit to the deposition of Inquisitors concerning the matters which, they say, they have made the Albigenses confess; and that therefore this pretended conviction of the Albigenses by the registers of the Inquisitors is absolutely null.

The second thing that I am to represent to the reader is, that the testimony of the Inquisitors cannot be set against the contrary confessions of the Albigenses, which those who have read find very conformable to the faith of the Protestants. This is that which Paradin affirms in his Annals of Burgundy, where he confesses that he has read some histories which excuse the Albigenses, with their princes and lords, of all those crimes which many have cast upon them, affirming them to be wholly innocent, as having never done any thing else but reprove the vices and abuses of the Prelates of the Church of Rome.

This is also acknowledged by James de Ribera, in his Collections concerning the city of Tholouse.

“In these times there were frequent disputes held with the heretics several times at Viride Folium and at Pamiers; but the famous disputation was at Montreal, where two noblemen were chosen arbitrators, Bernardus de Villa Nova and Bernardus Arrensis; and two of the commons, Raimond Godius and Arnoldus Ribera; but they who were accounted heretics could not agree about any thing: the names of the chiefest of them were these; Ponticus Jordanus, Arnoldus Aurisanus, Arnoldus Othonus, Philibertus Casliensis, Benedictus Thermus. They all constantly affirmed, that the Church of Rome was not the holy Church, nor the spouse of Christ, but a Church that had imbibed the doctrine of devils; that she was that Babylon which St. John describes in the Revelation, the mother of fornications and abominations, covered over with the blood of the saints; that what the Church of Rome approved of was not approved by the Lord; that the mass was neither instituted by Christ, nor by his Apostles, but was merely a human invention.”

The same hath been owned by Carolus Molineus, the glory of the bar of France, who declares that the Albigenses of Provence taught this very thing expressly, in the reign of Lewis XII. which was afterwards taught by those of the reformed religion in France. This testimony is alleged by Camerarius, in his Historical Account of the Brethren of Bohemia. This obliged Vignier, in his Historical Library, to contemn all the calumnies cast upon the Albigenses. In his account of the year 1206, he relates, that a Gascon, a man of reputation, assured him, that he had read one of their confessions in the old Gascon language, which was preached before the late Chancellor de l’Hospital, a little before the second troubles of France, which had not one word of these opinions, but only those articles which we formerly ascribed to the Waldenses. Amongst which they expressly declared that they received the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, and that they rejected every doctrine that was not grounded upon, or authorized by them, or was contrary to any one point of doctrine that may be found there. According to which maxim, they confessed that they rejected and condemned all the ceremonies, traditions, and ordinances of the Church of Rome, which they declared to be a den of thieves, and the whore that is spoken of in the Revelation. Upon which account also, the colloquies, disputes, and conferences, which the legates of the Pope and their commissioners had together, were only upon these points, as we shall prove by the testimony of James de Ribera, in his book, entitled, his Collections about the city of Tholouse.

The third thing that we are to observe is, that this conformity of faith between the Waldenses and the Albigenses has made many people take them for the very same.

I suppose there is no reader that is ever so little just, but will allow me to make a very great difference between the accounts of the Inquisitors and the truth. The Inquisitors make the Albigenses guilty of the errors of the Cathari and Manichees, as if they had been all one, and that they had exactly answered the description which is given us of them in the Directory of the Inquisitors, by Emericus. But we have other ways of knowing, from their own confessions of faith, that they were not at all polluted by Manicheism; and the most part of those authors that have writ with any degree of honesty, call them Waldenses, because they held the same faith and opinions.

The same authors acknowledge, that it was against the Waldenses that St. Bernard preached in Languedoc; and that it is with them, whom they promiscuously call Albigenses, that those conferences were held, which the Bishop of Meaux owns to have been held with the Albigenses. This is acknowledged by James de Ribera, Counsellor of State, in his Collections concerning the City of Tholouse, that are set down in the catalogue of the Witnesses of the Truth. This is owned by Gretzer the Jesuit, in his Prolegomena to the authors who have written concerning the sect of the Waldenses; where he acknowledgeth that the Waldenses and Albigenses were the same, and were called insabbatati, because of their shoes; and that the Albigenses and Waldenses differ only in their names. Cardinal Hosius also had the same notion of them, in his book concerning the sacrament of the Eucharist, where he speaks of the Henricians and Petrobusians. This was the opinion of Andrew Favin, in his History of Navarre; where he saith, that the heresy of the Albigenses is otherwise termed the heresy of the Waldenses. Genebrard, in his Chronology, saith expressly, that the Fathers of the Calvinists were the Petrobusians, the Henricians, and the Albigenses; and it is well known, that the Calvinists are no Manichees. Catel, in his History of Tholouse, acknowledgeth that the Henricians were the forerunners of the Albigenses, and that they had not this name till after the Council of Alby, in the year 1178.


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