A Waldensian Confession of Faith

This confession of faith, from 1655, is found on pages 112 to 114 of Jean Léger’s, Histoire Générale des Vaudois (1669). Here is my rough translation, taken from the old French.

We Believe:

I. That there is only one God, who is a spiritual essence, eternal, infinite, all wise, all merciful, and all just; in one word, perfect. And that there are three Persons in that one and simple essence: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

II. That this God manifested himself to man by his works, such as Creation, such as Providence, and by his Word, revealed in the beginning by diverse strong Oracles, and then composed by writing in Books which we call the Holy Scripture.

III. That just as we must receive the Holy Scriptures as Divine and Canonical, for the rule of our life and Faith, [so also we receive] that it is filled with Books from the Old and New Testament. From the Old Testament only those Books which God committed to the Judean Church, and those that have always been recognized as Divine: to receive: the five Books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles or Paralipomenon, 1 of Esdras,1 Nehemiah, Esther, Job, the Psalms, the Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the four major prophets and the twelve minor. And in the New [Testament]: the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of Paul, one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, the epistle of Hebrews, one of St. James, two of St. Peter, three of St. John, one of St. Jude, and the Apocalypse [Revelation].

IV. That we recognize the Divinity of the Sacred Books, not only by the testimony of the Church, but primarily by the eternal and indubitable truth of the Doctrine which are therein contained, [by the] excellence, sublimity, and majesty of everything Divine which are therein, and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, who makes us receive with respect the testimony which the Church gives us, who open our eyes to discover the rays of celestial light which burst in Scripture, and who rectifies our taste in order to discern this meat by the Divine savor that it is.

V. That God made all things from nothing, by his entirely free will, and by the infinite power of his Word.

VI. That he leads and governs all by his Providence, ordaining and addressing all that comes about in the world, that without being neither the author nor the cause of evil done by the creatures, or that culpability be able, or ought in any way to be imputed [to him.]

VII. That the Angels having been created holy and pure, some fell in a corruption and irreparable perdition, but that the others persevered by an effect of Divine goodness, which supported and confirmed them.

VIII. That man, who was created pure and holy, in the Image of God, deprived himself by his own fault of this happy state, giving his sentiments to the captivating discourse of the Devil.

IX. That man lost, by his transgression, the justice and holiness that he had received, incurring, with the indignation of God, death and captivity, under the power of him who has the empire of death, that is to say the Devil, to the point that his free will2 became serf and slave of sin, so much that by nature all men, Jews and Gentiles, are the Children of Ire, all dead in faults and sins, and consequently incapable of having any good movement towards salvation, no even [able] to form any good thought without grace; all their imagination and thought are but evil at all times.

X. That all the posterity of Adam is guilty, in him, of his disobedience, infected by his corruption, and fallen in the same calamity, all the way to little Children, starting from the womb of their Mother, from where comes the name of Original Sin.

XI. That God withdraws from this corruption and damnation those persons whom he elected by his grace, in his Son Jesus Christ, leaving the others [in their corruption & damnation] by an irreproachable right of his liberty and justice.

XII. That Jesus Christ, having been ordained by God in his eternal decree to be the only Savior and the only Head of his Body, that is the Church, bought by his own Blood, in the accomplishment of time, and offers and communicates to us all his benefits by the Gospel.

XIII. That there are two natures in Jesus Christ, the Divine and the human, truly in one person, without confusion, without division, without separation, without change; each nature keeping its own distinct natures, and that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man all together.

XIV. That God so loved the world that he gave his Son to save us by his very perfect obedience, namely by that [obedience] which he showed by suffering the damned death of the Cross, and by the victories that he won over the Devil: sin and death.

XV. That Jesus Christ having accomplished the entire expiation of our sins by his very perfect sacrifice, once offered on the Cross, it [that expiation] cannot, nor should be reiterated under any pretext whatever.

XVI. That the Lord Jesus having fully reconciled us to God by the Blood of the Cross, it is by his merit only, and not by our works, that we are absolved and justified before him.

XVII. That we have union with Jesus Christ, and communion to his benefits by Faith.

XVIII. That this Faith comes from the gracious and effective operation of the Holy Spirit, who enlightens our souls, and brings them [our souls] to press upon the grace of God, in order to apply the merit of Jesus Christ.

XIX. That Jesus Christ is our true and only Mediator: not only of Redemption, but also of Intercession, and that by his merits and mediation we have access to the Father, in order that we might invoke with the holy confidence of being answered, without needing to have recourse to any other intercessor than him [Christ.]

XX. That since God promised regeneration in Jesus Christ, those who are united to him by a lively Faith, ought to give themselves, and give themselves indeed, to good works.

XXI. That good works are so necessary to the faithful, that they cannot reach the Kingdom of Heaven without doing them, being true that God prepared them in order that we might progress in them, that therefore we ought to flee vices and give ourselves to the Christian virtues, employing fasts and all other means which can serve us to a thing so holy.

XXII. That just as our works cannot merit [Eternal Life], our Lord will not let go [forget] to recompense them with Eternal Life, by a gracious continuation of his grace, and in virtue of the immutable constancy of the promises that he made in our regard.

XXIII. That those who posses Eternal Life following their Faith and their good works, ought to be considered Holy and glorified, prayed for their virtues, imitated in all the beautiful actions of their life, but not adored, nor invoked, since we ought to pray to only one God through Jesus Christ.

XXIV. That God gathered one Church in the world for the salvation of men, that it has one Head and foundation, which is Jesus Christ.

XXV. That that Church is the company of the faithful, who having been elect of God, before the foundation of the world, and called by a holy vocation, unite to follow the Word of God, believing what he taught us, and living in his fear.

XXVI. That this Church cannot fail, or be destroyed, but that it must be perpetual.

XXVII. That all must put away3 and stand firm in their communion.

XXVIII. That God teaches us not only by his Word, but he also instituted the Sacraments in order to join them to his Word, as means to join us to Jesus Christ, and to communicate his benefits, and that there are but two common to all the members of the church under the New Testament, that is Baptism and the Holy Supper.

XXIX. That he instituted that of Baptism as a testimony of our adoption, and that we are all washed of our sins by the Blood of Jesus Christ, and renewed in holiness of life.

XXX. That he instituted that of the Holy Supper or Eucharist, for the food of our soul, in order that by a true and lively Faith, by the incomprehensible virtue of the Holy Spirit, we actually eat his Body, and drink his Blood, and we unite very closely and inseparably to Christ, in him, and by him, we have spiritual and eternal life. In order that all the world clearly sees our belief on this point, we add here the same terms which are embedded in our Prayer before Communion, in our liturgy, or manner of celebrating the Holy Eucharist, and in our public catechism, which are pieces that can be seen at the end of our Psalms: Here are the terms of our Prayer: Just as our Lord not only at one time offered his Body and his Blood for the remission of our sins, but also wants to communicate [these elements] for food into eternal life, give us this grace that from true sincerity of heart and of an ardent zeal we receive of him a benefit so great, that in a certain Faith we enjoy of his Body and of his Blood, or even of him entirely. The terms of our Liturgy are: First of all then, we believe in his promises that Jesus Christ who is truth itself pronounced of his mouth; know then, that he wants us to truly participate in his Body and his Blood, in order that we posses him entirely in such a way that he lives in us, and us in him. Those of our public Catechism are the same in Section 53.

XXXI. That it is necessary that the church has Pastors, judged to be well instructed, and of a good life, by those who have the right, as much to preach the Word of God, as well as administer the Sacraments, and to watch on the flock of Jesus Christ, following the ruled of a good and holy Discipline, together with the Elders and Deacons, according to the practice of the ancient Church.

XXXII. That God established Kings and Magistrates, for the conduct of the people and that the people must be subjected and obedient in virtue of this order, not only because of wrath, but because of conscience, in all things which are in conformity with the Word of God, who is the King of Kings, and Lord of lords.

XXXIII. Finally, that Apostles Creed ought to be received, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Decalogue, as well as the fundamental documents of our beliefs and our devotions.

And for a more ample declaration of our beliefs, we repeat here the protestation that we had printed in the year 1603. Know that we consent to the healthy Doctrine, with all the Reformed Churches of France, England, the Netherlands, Germany, of Switzerland, Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, and others, as well as is expressed en their Confession of Augsburg, according to the declaration that we gave to the Author. And promising to persevere with God’s help, inviolably in life and in death, being ready to sign this eternal truth of God with our own blood, as our predecessors have done since the times of the Apostles, particularly in these last centuries. And yet we very humbly pray all the Evangelical and Protestant Churches to consider us, with regards to our poverty and littleness, as true member of the mystical body of Jesus Christ, suffering for his Holy Name, and to continue to assist us in your prayer towards God, and all other good offices of your charity, as we have already abundantly experienced, for which we thank you in all humility which is possible to us, and beg from all our heart the Lord, that he be himself the remunerator, pouring on them [the churches] the most precious benedictions of his grace and his glory, in this life and in that which is to come.
Amen.

Translated by Daniel Foucachon in The Sectarized People of God, 2008. Originally a thesis in completion of a degree in Liberal Arts and Culture from New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. “Protestant writers, after the Geneva Bible, call I and II Esdras of the Vulgate respectively Ezra and Nehemiah, and III and IV Esdras of the Vulgate respectively I and II Esdras.” Source: Catholic Encyclopedia.
  2. Franc arbitre
  3. “ranger” – not sure about translation.

Milton on the Vaudois

This poem was written by John Milton concerning the persecution of the Vaudois (Waldenses). Milton, along with Sir Morland, used his gift of prose to try to stop the Duke of Savoy from massacring these French Huguenots.

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones

Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;

E’en them, who kept thy truth so pure of old,

When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones,

Forget not: in thy book record their groans,

Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold

Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that roll’d

Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans

The vales redoubled to the hills, and they

To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow

O’er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway

The triple tyrant; that from these may grow

An hundred-fold, who, having learnt thy way,

Early may fly the Babylonian woe!

John Milton, in The Waldenses: Sketches of the Evangelical Christians of the Valleys of the Piedmont, Alexis Muston