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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


The Inquisition:

The Worst of the Persecutions

M. Gavins

From The Protestant, 1835


Note from the Editor: Any good Baptist knows that Baptists are not Protestant. In the old history books, Protestants are not necessarily those that came out of the Catholic Church but ones who gave protest to it.


The holy Inquisition is a tribunal established for the very purpose of taking cognizance of heresy, that is, any departure from the standard of faith which the church of Rome has established, and of punishing to the uttermost all Who shall be found guilty, or even suspected, of such deviation, it will not be considered impertinent to introduce the subject with a few remarks on persecution for conscience sake.


There can be nothing more certain, than that the genius of Christianity is hostile to persecution in every form. The gospel is addressed to the understanding, and to the heart of man, with this very solemn intimation, "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned." The condemnation of unbelief, which is the only deadly heresy, is not committed to fellow-creatures for the purpose of being executed upon the persons of unbelievers in the present life.


Unbelief is not a sin against men, but against God, whose testimony it rejects, and whose veracity therefore it impeaches. He reserves the judgment in this case to himself. He has commanded no man to interfere in the matter; and no man, and no church, has a right to interfere in it, farther than, to declare, that he who rejects the divine testimony, can have no part in any divine ordinance. He is therefore, with propriety, excluded from the fellowship of the visible church, but he ought not to suffer damage either in his person or property.


But there are persons who do not reject the divine testimony, but who really receive it, and who ought to be acknowledged as belonging to the household of faith, whose minds are but partially enlightened, with regard to many things connected with the faith and obedience of the gospel. Now it was never meant by Christ, or taught by his apostles, that such persons should be compelled, by force, to think rightly upon. every religious subject.


The thing is absurd and impossible, for mind will not yield to any external pressure; and the word of God authorizes no means for removing mistakes from the human mind, but instruction and persuasion; and these have often been found successful,, while the world may be challenged to produce an instance of conviction of truth, having been effected by brute force.


The use of compulsion, in relation to religious opinion, originated with the enemies of the truth, who, conscious that they could not maintain their ground by fair argument, had recourse to the power which they possessed in the strength of their arm, or the number of their adherents. Cain stands at the head of the black catalogue of persecutors. He was sadly mistaken with regard to the character of God, and the way of approaching to him with acceptance.


Abel thought rightly on this most important subject; but it does not appear that he ever thought of compelling his elder brother to adopt more just ideas, or of murdering him if he did not. It was then, as in all subsequent ages: He that was after the flesh persecuted him that was after the Spirit. Every false religion excites its adherents to persecute the true religion, or to oppose it by force; but the spirit of Christianity is most remote from this; and, if any real Christian ever thought of promoting truth, or opposing error by other means than instruction and persuasion, he had learned his lesson, and taken his example, from antichrist.


The primitive Christians suffered much from the Jews and the heathens, especially the former, were also the most furious persecutors of his disciples. After the subversion of their nation, and their being deprived of the power of persecuting to any great extent, the work of wholesale murder was taken up by the Roman emperors, by whom many thousand Christians were destroyed for no crime but that of being Christians, which in Roman reckoning was enough to incur the sentence of being thrown to be devoured by wild beasts.


It was not long after Constantine had taken Christianity under his protection, that persons, called Christians, began to persecute one another; but by this time the glory was departed. The word Christian had acquired a different meaning from that which it bore when first applied to the disciples at Antioch.


Augustine and other early fathers strongly condemned violence on account of religion; but their voice was not heard. Heresy was considered a crime of the first magnitude; this was often a mere nickname of the truth, and the abettors of it were devoted to destruction. But persecution in every, hideous form was never so completely reduced to a system, as after the pope was seated upon his throne, showing himself as a god, having all power in heaven and in earth.


In the following ages," says Limborch, speaking of a period subsequent to the age of Augustine, " the affairs of the church were so managed under the government of the popes, and all persons so strictly curbed by the severity of the laws, that they durst not 'even so much as whisper against the received opinions of the church.


Besides this, so deep was the ignorance that had spread itself over the world, that men, without the least regard to knowledge and ,learning, received, with a blind obedience, every thing that the ecclesiastics ordered them, however stupid and superstitious, without any examination; and if any one dared in the least to contradict them, he was immediately to be punished ; whereby the most absurd opinions came to be established by the violence of the popes." Hist. Inq. chap. vii.


In the twelfth century it was found, that a numerous people inhabiting the valleys of Piedmont, held certain doctrines different from those which the pope commanded all men to receive, on pain of death. The people have been called Albigenses and Waldenses. The principal articles of their faith were substantially the same with those' of the reformation. It is not certain when or by whom such doctrines were first promulgated among them; but I think it is probable, that the truth of the gospel found an asylum among these mountains arid valleys after it had been banished from Rome, and from every other art of the world to which the pope could extend his influence.


Editor’s note: There is of little doubt that the good the Reformers did have was a result of the Anabaptists, such as, the Waldenses and others.


It is probable that the number of professors was very few for many ages; and, therefore, they escaped the notice of the holy see; but by the time mentioned they had become numerous; and they excited the utmost hatred of the pope and his adherents. It was with a view to extirpate them that the Inquisition was established, and that Saints Dominic and Francis, the first inquisitors, were set a-hunting after the precious lives of a simple and virtuous people, a thousand times more worthy than themselves.


It was the fashion, however, of the church of Rome then, as it has always been since, to represent those who dissented from her errors as monsters of one kind or another. They could not persuade the world that the Waldenses were monsters of wickedness; for all who knew' them, bare witness that they were a peaceable and harmless people; but they did succeed in their misrepresentations so far as to make the duke of Savoy, and perhaps many others believe, that they, or at least their children, were not formed like other human creatures.


At the instigation of the pope, a cruel and murderous war had been carried on against the Waldenses, many of whom were subjects of the duke of Savoy. He seeing his country in danger of being ruined by such; violent measures found means to put an end to the war:


"Nay," says the historian from whom I quote, "it pleased God so to touch his heart with compassion for that poor people, that he spoke it openly, that forasmuch as he had always found them to be most faithful and obedient subjects, he would not suffer them to be so dealt with, by force of arms in future: only for what was past, he ordered for formality's sake, that twelve of them should come to Pignerol where he then was, there to beg his pardon, for taking up arms in their own defense.


“The which they accordingly did, and his highness receiving them courteously, forgave them freely all that had passed during the time of the war, giving them to understand, that he had been misinformed, both as to their persons and their principles; and withal he desired to see some of their little ones, because there were some who had made him believe, that they were strange and monstrous creatures, having but one eye in their forehead, with four sets of black teeth, and many other such like fictions; whereupon some were brought before him, and he finding them, on the contrary, handsome shapen and well favoured, did openly profess, how ill satisfied he was with the calumnies and slanders of their malicious adversaries, and thereupon did not only confirm their privileges and liberties, but withal made them a gracious promise to settle and establish the same for the time to come.


“And this was undoubtedly the real intention and resolution of that prince at that time, however afterwards wrought upon (or at least deluded) by the subtle devices of the inquisitors, who took the boldness, notwithstanding all the gracious promises of their prince, to continue to persecute those poor Waldenses, laying violent hands on them, and delivering them up to the secular powers, who also, in most places, were not at all backward to lend them their helping hand."

 Moreland's History of the Evangelical Churches in Piedmont, folio, page 223.


Thus we see, that popish malice against the professors of true Christianity, showed itself not only in speaking evil of their character and principles, but also in misrepresenting their personal form, so as to make princes believe that they were not human creatures, but something worse than wild beasts, that ought to be run down and destroyed; and, indeed, they were run down, and murdered with a ferocity such as has never been equaled by any attempt to extirpate the most savage beasts of the forests. For which see Moreland's History above quoted, and Jones' History of the Waldenses.