THE ERA OF THE FORMATION OF THE UNITED STATES
I was extremely troubled writing this for it is not my intention to disparage any Christian, Religious Organization, Christianity, etc., It is simply my intention to give people a greater understanding of why this country was founded with the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, et.al. It is my intention to break through the misinformation, lies, misrepresentation of how, why and by whom [Christians] this great nation was founded.
Benjamin Franklin said to the French ministry in March, 1778, “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.” He made a prediction to Condorcet and others, which to some of them became fatally true: “You perceive Liberty establish herself and flourish almost under your very eyes: I dare to predict that by and by you will be anxious to taste her blessings.”
When looking into what the founding fathers had in mind by separation of church and state, you have to take into consideration what they had known the church to be, and the history they knew of it. The organized “Christian” religious institutions they knew, are not the organized Christianity that we know of today. Where they came from it had always been the State in control of the church, or the church in control of the state. Whether it be the Catholic church of Rome, the Protestant church of England, or the different Orthodoxy’s in other parts of Europe, including the Islamic states that existed.
In America they did not want the church to run the civil government, and they certainly did not want the civil government to run the church. While they wanted separation between the religious [i.e. moral] and the civil; the organization of the civil government was based on those ideas and principles they learned from the Bible and particularly those taught by Jesus Christ, and they wanted those principles to be taught and expected them to be a part of every child’s education. They felt the moral education of a child was, as important as, or more important than any other part of their education. They had no concept of a completely secular society, for it was something they had never known, nor could have known.
Whether it were pagan states before Christ came and Christianity [or what people knew to be Christianity] became widespread, they all incorporated their ‘religious’ beliefs into their civil and social affairs. There was no such thing as a secular civil society for them to base the new system of government on. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s”, they followed that principle in the Constitution. They had seen far too often the abuse of the people, whether it was the church working through the state, or the state working through the church.
They had no intention however, the leaders that people elected would not be good, moral individuals, and would not rule in the fear of God. The idea of a secular society was as foreign to them as the idea of a theological government in America is to us. All of them believed in God, the majority of them believed themselves to be Christian in some form. The idea of an immoral government bureaucracy, or the people’s representatives in government being immoral were reprehensible to them, that is why they came to America to escape immorality in the Church (organized religion) and State (Government, in whatever form it was where they immigrated from).
These people came from area’s where they had been taught for centuries the “Divine Right of Kings” (1) to speak against the king was to speak against God himself, for the Monarch was the representative and under the direct protection of the Almighty, if they did anything against or even spoke against the Monarchy, Bishopric, or Popery, they were in fear of losing their souls and being sent to hell or purgatory. They were taught the fear of God in every corruptible sense, and could only gain absolution through a Priest, Cardinal, Bishop, i.e. the church. They were not taught to go straight to Jesus for repentance and the forgiveness of sin, as we know to do today, to have been taught thus would have taken power away from the ecclesiastical authorities, who taught the people the divine right of kings, even the nobility under the king were taught to believe in his (or her if it were a queen) absolute and divine right to be ruler.
A liberal education to them was not the “liberal” indoctrination that we see in government run schools today, liberal education meant an education in all things, including the Bible. Every college of higher learning they created, were started to among, the arts, sciences, etc., mainly teach the Bible and to further the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where do you think the term “higher education” came from?
Religion provided an impetus for the creation of colonial colleges. As the First Great Awakening of the 1730’s to 1770’s initiated growth in a wider variety of Protestant churches, each denomination often desired its own seminary. Furthermore, each colony tended to favor a particular denomination and so the new colleges took on an importance for regional development as well. Presbyterians in New Jersey founded the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton). Harvard and Yale were originally Puritan. The College of William and Mary in Virginia maintained a strong Anglican orientation, reflecting that colony’s settlement by landed gentry from England. The Baptists, who had been expelled from Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in Rhode Island, established their own college but in an unusual move did not require religious tests for admission. Other dissenting religious groups, such as the Methodists and Quakers, became enthusiastic college builders after facing hostility in many colleges.
The overwhelming evidence behind the [First Amendment] Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses reaches far back into American colonial history. In the colonies, dissident Christians, such as the Baptists and Quakers, suffered much persecution because their religious conscience ran contrary to the beliefs sanctioned by colonial governments, some of which were tied to religious institutions. After the Revolutionary War, religious dissenters were concerned that the federal government would charter or create a national church. In fact, their concern was more like dread. Justice Joseph Story pinpoints the origin and nature of the trepidation:
“We are not to attribute this prohibition [on the federal government] of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity, (which none could hold in more reverence, than the framers of the Constitution,) but to a dread by the people of the influence of ecclesiastical power in matter of government; a dread, which their ancestors brought with them from the parent country, and which, unhappily for human infirmity, their own conduct, after their emigration, had not, in any just degree, tended to diminish…Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State, so far as such encouragement was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation” [Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States 2d ed, 1859]
The points already presented in this piece are perhaps sufficient to illustrate the principle announced in the word of Christ; and, although that principle is plain, and is readily accepted by the sober, common-sense thought of every man, yet through the selfish ambition of men, the world has been long in learning and accepting the truth of the lesson. The United States is the first and only government in history that is based on the principle established by Christ. In Article VI of the national Constitution, this nation says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” By an amendment making more certain the adoption of the principle, it declares in the first amendment to the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This first amendment was adopted in 1789, by the first Congress that ever met under the Constitution. In 1796 a treaty was made with Tripoli, in which it was declared (Article II) that “the government of the United Slates of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” This treaty was framed by an ex-Congregationalist clergyman, and was signed by President Washington. It was not out of disrespect to religion or Christianity that these clauses were placed in the Constitution, and that this one was inserted in that treaty. On the contrary, it was entirely on account of their respect for religion, and the Christian religion in particular, as being beyond the province of civil government, pertaining solely to the conscience, and resting entirely between the individual and God. It was because of this that this nation was constitutionally established according to the principle of Christ, demanding of men only that they render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and leaving them entirely free: to render to God that which is God’s, if they choose, as they choose, and when they choose; or, as expressed by Washington himself, in reply to an address upon the subject of religious legislation:—
“Every man who conducts himself as a good citizen, is accountable alone to God for his religious faith, and should be protected in worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.”
Father of American History: George Bancroft to this principle said, as embodied in the words of Christ, and in the American Constitution:—
“In the earliest States known to history, government and religion were one and indivisible. Each State had its special deity, and often these protectors, one after another, might be overthrown in battle, never to rise again. The Peloponnesian War grew out of a strife about an oracle. Rome, as it sometimes adopted into citizenship those whom it vanquished, introduced in like manner, and with good logic for that day, the worship of their gods. No one thought of vindicating religion for the conscience of the individual, till a voice in Judea, breaking day for the greatest epoch in the life of humanity, by establishing a pure spiritual and universal religion for all mankind, enjoined to render to Caesar only that which is Caesar’s. The rule was upheld during the infancy of the gospel for all men. No sooner was this religion adopted by the chief of the Roman Empire than it was shorn of its character of universality, and enthralled by an unholy connection with the unholy State; and so it continued till the new nation, —the least defiled with the barren scoffings of the eighteenth century the most general believer in Christianity of any people of that age, the chief heir of the Reformation in its purest forms,—when it came to establish a government for the United States, refused to treat faith as a matter to be regulated by a corporate body, or having a headship in a monarch or a State.
“Vindicating the right of individuality even in religion, and in religion above all, the new nation dared to set the example of accepting in its relations to God the principle first divinely ordained of God in Judea. It left the management of temporal things to the temporal power; but the American Constitution, in harmony with the people of the several States, withheld from the Federal Government the power to invade the home of reason, the citadel of conscience, the sanctuary of the soul; and not from indifference, but that the infinite Spirit of eternal truth might move in its freedom and purity and power.”— History of the Formation of the Constitution, last chapter.
Thus the Constitution of the United States as it is, stands as the sole monument of all history, representing the principle which Christ established for earthly government. And under it, in liberty, civil and religious, in enlightenment, and in progress, this nation has deservedly stood as the beacon light of the world.
History Leading Up To The Foundation of The United States: The Protestant Reformation forms an epoch in history, second in importance only to that of the introduction of Christianity itself. It is the point of time at which the darkness of the Middle Ages begins to be lost in the arising light of religion and philosophy. With the details of this great event, so far as they relate to the agency of Luther and his associates in producing it, most of you are probably familiar. But it may not be uninteresting briefly to review the character of the times immediately preceding those of the great Reformer, to note the progress of events which so largely contributed to his success, and to pause for a few moments on the devotedness of some of the illustrious martyrs to the truths which he afterwards inculcated.
Until the commencement of the fourteenth century, the authority of the popes had continued to increase. Abroad, their legates dictated in the courts of the most imperious monarchs; at home, their interdicts (2) and excommunications appalled the boldest of the warlike and restless spirits who led the councils of that cluster of republics among which Italy was divided. It is true that even during the most flourishing period of papal domination, strenuous resistance was frequently made to its usurpation of temporal power; and it was not uncommon to find men arrayed against the church, yet yielding scrupulous obedience to its spiritual mandates; and armies endangering the life of the pope, who would have been happy, at almost any sacrifice, to have received his benediction.
So long as Rome continued to be its seat of government, the authority of the church was respected and supported by the people the most enlightened of Europe. But when, in the year 1305, through the influence of France, the papal court was removed to Avignon, in that kingdom, its Italian subjects soon learned to regard with contempt, and even hatred, a government which was effective only for their ruin.
The morals of the prelates had not certainly been distinguished by their purity, but in the luxurious indulgences of their new residence, the pontiffs themselves were accused of the grossest licentiousness. Prevented, to-a great extent, by the jealousy of France, from the exercise of power, they sought in sensuality forgetfulness of their degradation; and their example was followed by their whole court, until the town which they occupied became distinguished by the epithet of the Western Babylon. Their Italian states, in the mean while, were left to be the prey of legates, whose moral code was worthy of the source whence their authority was derived. Treachery and oppression provoked resistance, and success was followed by contempt, since men soon learn to despise that which they have no longer reason to fear.
But perhaps nothing so much contributed to destroy the illusion by which the authority of indulgence for the future could be obtained on human inventions have been substituted for the sublime truths of the Bible, when men began to be sensible of the absurdity of the dogmas which they had been taught, they rejected all religious systems, and infidelity succeeded to superstition,
The direct influence of learning was, it is true, necessarily confined to a comparatively small number; yet, among a people so singularly excitable, the increased freedom with which the tenets of the church were discussed would give a new direction to public opinion, and prepare men to reject the spiritual, as they had already discarded the temporal authority of the pope. If at home opinions prevailed so unfavourable to the influence of the holy see, abroad, sentiments of the same kind, added to the extortions of its ministers, were not less injurious to its interests. It was about the beginning of the fifteenth century that the in famous traffic in indulgences was commenced by one of the rival popes, as a means of recruiting his exhausted treasury. His emissaries caused tables to be erected by the side of the altars, where remission of sins for the past and the church had been sustained, as the great western schism, which was produced, in the year 1378, by the election of Clement VII. to supplant Urban VI., who, but a few months before, had received a majority of votes in the sacred college. While the two popes thundered forth their excommunications against each other, in doubt which to obey, men soon lost the habit of obedience. The rival pontiffs, unable to sustain their pretensions by their own resources, were protected by rival princes; and they who had arrogated to themselves the impious title of vicegerents of God upon earth, were become objects of the pity or derision of their subjects.
Such was the fallen condition of the church, at the commencement of the fifteenth century. Other causes contributed to promote inquiry, and the doubts which began to be entertained of the divine authority of the holy see were strengthened by the more accurate habits of reasoning which accompanied the revival of ancient literature. Italy was then the seat of all the learning of the age. Its commerce, which extended over the civilized portions of| three continents, did not more add to its wealth than to its intellectual resources. The fourteenth century had been illustrated by three of the greatest poets of whom the languages can boast. Ardent, excitable, and imaginative, the Italians had listened with rapture to the productions of Dante, of Petrarch, and of Boccacio; and the system of religion which was associated with such names became the more deeply seated in their affections. But the recovery of the writings of many of the ancients during this century, and the greater circulation which had been given to them by the introduction of paper, the manufacturing of which had recently been brought to considerable perfection, had begun to turn the attention of literary men to other studies more laborious, less exciting, and perhaps less enervating. The philosophers of antiquity, and the doctors of the church, were found to be sadly at variance; and, as frequently happens when human inventions have been substituted for the sublime truths of the Bible, when men began to be sensible of the absurdity of the dogmas which they had been taught, they rejected all religious systems, and infidelity succeeded to superstition.
The direct influence of learning was, it is true, necessarily confined to a comparatively small number; yet, among a people so singularly excitable, the increased freedom with which the tenets of the church were discussed, would give a new direction to public opinion, and prepare men to reject the spiritual, as they had already discarded the temporal authority of the pope. If at home opinions prevailed so unfavourable to the influence of the holy see, broad, sentiments of the same kind, added to the extortions of its ministers, were not less injurious to its interests. It was about the beginning of the fifteenth century that the infamous traffic in indulgences was commenced by one of the rival popes, as a means of recruiting his exhausted treasury. His emissaries caused tables to be erected by the side of the altars, where remission of sins for the past and indulgence for the future could be obtained on easy terms. The gates of purgatory were opened for a set price, and a suspension of the moral law, as well as of the more important canons of the church, was a gift in the power of a priest. It was in vain that the German clergy exclaimed against this prostitution of spiritual favours. Those who dared to oppose the authority of the pontiff’ were subjected to anathema,[Hatred; or a formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church] until so intolerable had the evil become, that a reform of the church was demanded with one voice, by men of learning and piety in every part of Christendom. Alarmed at the increasing resistance which was opposed to their authority, and aware that concessions only could preserve them from the danger with which they were threatened, the popes,—for there were now three claimants of the chair of St. Peter,— agreed to submit to the decisions of a grand council to be held at Constance in the year 1414. The commencement of the reformation is unquestionably to be dated from this period; but it was not by the power of monarchs nor the decrees of councils that this great event was to he produced. The people who, of all others, had enjoyed the advantages of learning, but in whom infidelity had wrought a heartless and selfish indifference to the cause of truth, were not to be the instruments of that reform to which they had given the impulse. From England the voice was heard, which, echoed back from Bohemia, as yet scarcely emerging from the darkness of ignorance, was to unite the prince and the peasant in a common effort to restore the purity of that faith on which their common hopes relied.
WYCKLIFFE. To one who cursorily reviews the moral condition of Europe, during the early part of the fourteenth century, it presents a picture of gloom scarcely relieved by a single virtue. In politics, probity and good faith were unknown; in private life, vice was encouraged by the example of the priesthood, and licensed by the church. Laws were no longer a security against rapine [the violent seizure of someone’s property]; and, in a word, the social compact was, to a great extent, at least in the south of Europe, virtually dissolved, since it had ceased to be efficient for any purpose of self-preservation. Whatever hope of reform might have been entertained from the inculcation of a purer system of religion, seemed to have been blasted, when the Albigenses(3) perished beneath the swords of the army of the cross, and the Vaudois(4) were driven from their last holds among the Alps. But the darkness which covered Europe when the light of these ancient churches was extinguished, was the precursor of a more enlightened age, as the deeper gloom which succeeds to the false dawn in the eastern deserts, is hailed as the herald of returning day. We have seen that, during this century, the oppressive government of the legates, the removal of the papal court, the schism in the church, and, above all, the restoration of ancient learning, had loosened the ties by which the Italians were connected with the holy see. In England, other causes tended to produce the same results. The orders of Dominican and Franciscan monks had been founded in the twelfth century, when the progress of heresy had endangered the safety of the church; and so successful had been their labours, that it became the favourite policy of the popes to cherish these institutions. Renouncing all worldly ambition, these men, at first, refused to possess any property, and relied for their support upon the alms of devotees. Barefooted, and in the meanest attire, they were to be found in every part of Christendom; preaching in the streets and highways, performing the office of confessors, (5) encouraging the faithful, absolving the guilty, and enforcing upon all the necessity of purifying the land from the taint of heresy. Their eloquence gave them influence; their numbers rapidly increased; and they soon found it convenient to possess, and easy to acquire ample revenues. Accomplished in all the arts by which wealth is to be obtained at the expense of ignorance, they secured to their orders the most lucrative benefices, and the control of the most popular seminaries. In England, the great increase of the friars, and the loss of that wealth of which they drained the kingdom, began to be felt as a serious evil. By the settled, or secular clergy, especially, they were looked upon with great jealousy, since they felt that their own influence was likely to be lost in the success of these rapacious intruders. It was in the disputes which arose between the friars and the clergy that Wyckliffe first distinguished himself; and the discussion of these questions led to that investigation of the doctrines of the church, which secured to him the title of the father of the reformation.
John de Wyckliffe was born about the year 1324. He was educated at Oxford, and seems to have been early distinguished by his skill in scholastic exercises, and by his intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures—at that time no ordinary accomplishment, and which afterwards acquired for him the title of “the gospel doctor.” In the year 1345, the plague, commencing its ravages in Tartary, spread over a large part of Asia and Europe, depopulated many cities, and, according to the exaggerated estimate of contemporary writers, destroyed during the two years of its continuance, one half of the human race. It was in the midst of this scene of desolation that the youthful reformer, impressed with the conviction that the corruption of the age had been the procuring cause of so dreadful a visitation, composed his first work, in which he censured, in no measured terms, the profligacy of the priesthood. In his subsequent attacks upon the mendicant friars, he was not unsupported by the clergy; and the acuteness which he displayed in this discussion, attracting the attention of the government, an opportunity was soon afforded him of promulgating his opinions under its sanction. Edward III, was, at that time, engaged in a dispute with the pope, whose claim to an annual stipend, as an acknowledgement of fealty to the holy see, was resisted by this haughty monarch. Wyckliffe was called upon to defend the measures of the king, and his labours were rewarded by appointing him to fill the chair of divinity at Oxford and by other preferments.[advancements or promotions in rank] Subsequently, he was sent by the king to confer with the commissioner of the pope, on the points in dispute between the two governments; and the more intimate acquaintance with the vices of the Roman court, which he thus acquired, confirmed him in the determination to attempt a reform of the church. He now boldly advocated the sufficiency of the Scriptures, denied the temporal authority of the pope, and proclaimed him to be antichrist. His preaching, eloquent, nervous, and full of fervour, soon procured him converts; and his disciples, imitating the humility of the friars, traversed the kingdom, clothed in the meanest attire, preaching the doctrines of the Bible, and obeying the injunctions of their master in dispensing charity to the indigent and consolation to the unfortunate. His success alarmed the pope, and orders were sent to have him arrested as a heretic. More than once, Wycklifle obeyed the summons, which cited him to answer for his doctrines before his superiors; and, at each appearance, his life would have been endangered, had he not been protected by the government and by some of the more powerful barons, influenced rather by their hostility to the pontiff than by conviction of the truths taught by the reformer. Emboldened by success, he at length ventured to attack the doctrine of transubstantiation. Here, however, he was no longer supported. The clergy, who were opposed to the friars; and the government, who resisted papal encroachments, had no interest in the discussion of questions of pure theology; and Wyckliffe, abandoned by the university and the parliament, was advised, by his most powerful protectors, to submit, on these points, to the church. When summoned to answer for his doctrines on this subject, he offered explanations, which have subjected him to the charge of recantation on the one hand, and of confirmed heresy on the other. Whatever constructions were put upon his defence, the judges seem to have deemed it most prudent to dismiss him; and he continued to teach, without molestation, the great truths of the reformation. To his success in these efforts, nothing so much contributed, and nothing has given so great an elevation to the fame of Wyckliffe, as his translation of the Old and New Testaments into English. There is little doubt that this was the first version of the entire Bible that had been made into our language, and the eagerness with which it was sought for is said to have been very great; for, “even then,” to quote the homely metaphor of the venerable Fuller, ” midnight being past, some early risers began to strike fire and enlighten themselves, by the Scriptures.” Retiring from the university, Wyckliffe continued assiduously to propagate his opinions, until he was seized with palsy, and died, while engaged in an act of devotion, and surrounded by his parishioners, in the sixtieth year of his j age. Of the private character of the reformer, I nothing is known, except from his own writings and from tradition. His enemies accused him of little more than heresy. His works show him to have possessed exemplary piety, to have been ardent and unceasing in his devotions; and tradition records that he sedulously practised that charity which he so warmly recommends. Of his doctrines, it is sufficient to say, that they were substantially those of Luther; not, indeed, unmixed with the superstitions which were so intimately connected with the religion of that age, but, in many points, surprisingly free from errors, which, even now, find numerous advocates. It is indeed a little singular, to find a confessor in the fourteenth century, and in the court of the third Edward, asserting the inconsistency of war with Christianity; yet this doctrine Wyckliffe inculcated; and, in defending his sentiments against the argument that force was necessary for self-preservation, he expressed his reliance upon the providence of the Almighty,] in language scarcely differing from that of Penn and Barclay. In relation to tithes and the efficacy of lay preaching, his opinions approximate equally to our own. He drew, indeed, his sentiments on these subjects, from the source whence our forefathers obtained theirs; and, like them, he was content to yield unqualified submission to the doctrines of the Bible. Signed P. Q.
1 The doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings was aimed at instilling obedience by explaining why all social ranks were religiously and morally obliged to obey their government. It is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including (in the view of some, especially in Protestant countries) the Church. According to this doctrine, since only God can judge an unjust king, the king can do no wrong. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute sacrilegious act.
The remoter origins of the theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power on the king, just as God had given spiritual power and authority to the Church, centering on the Pope. The immediate author of the theory was Jean Bodin, who based it on the interpretation of Roman law. With the rise of nation-states and the Protestant Reformation, the theory of divine right justified the king’s absolute authority in both political and spiritual matters. The theory came to the fore in England under the reign of James I of England (1603–1625, also James VI of Scotland 1567–1625). Louis XIV of France (1643–1715), though Catholic, strongly promoted the theory as well.
The theory of divine right was abandoned in England during the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89. The American and French revolutions of the late eighteenth century further weakened the theory’s appeal, and by the early twentieth century, it had been virtually abandoned.
Such doctrines are, in the English-speaking world, largely associated with the House of Tudor and the early House of Stuart in Britain and the theology of the Caroline divines who held their tenure at the pleasure of James I of England (VI of Scotland), Charles I and Charles II.
The Scots textbooks of the divine right of kings were written in 1597-98 by James VI of Scotland before his accession to the English throne. His Basilikon Doron, a manual on the duties of a king, was written to edify his four-year-old son Henry Frederick, who died young. According to the text, a good king “acknowledgeth himself ordained for his people, having received from the god a burden of government, whereof he must be countable”. The idea of the divine right to rule has appeared in many cultures Eastern and Western spanning all the way back to the first god king Gilgamesh.
2 By the sentence of interdict, public worship and all the other rites of the church were either suspended altogether, or they were only suffered to be partially performed in the open air, “Even now,” says Southey, “it may be understood what an effect must have been produced upon the feelings of the people, when all the rites of a church, whose policy it was to blend its institutions with the whole business of private life, were suddenly suspended; no bell heard, no taper lighted, no service performed, no church open—only baptism was permitted, and confession and the sacrament for the dying. The dead were either interred in unhallowed ground, without the presence of a priest or any religious ceremony, or they were kept unburied till the infliction which affected every family in its tenderest and holiest feelings should be removed. Some little mitigation was allowed, lest human nature should have rebelled against so intolerable a tyranny. The people therefore were called to prayer and sermon on the Sunday in the church-yards, and marriages were performed at the church door.” Book of the Church, pg. 262.
3 From the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia online: (From Albi, Latin Albiga, the present capital of the Department of Tarn).
A neo-Manichæan sect that flourished in southern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The name Albigenses, given them by the Council of Tours (1163) prevailed towards the end of the twelfth century and was for a long time applied to all the heretics of the south of France. They were also called Catharists (katharos, pure), though in reality they were only a branch of the Catharistic movement. The rise and spread of the new doctrine in southern France was favoured by various circumstances, among which may be mentioned: the fascination exercised by the readily-grasped dualistic principle; the remnant of Jewish and Mohammedan doctrinal elements; the wealth, leisure, and imaginative mind of the inhabitants of Languedoc; their contempt for the Catholic clergy, caused by the ignorance and the worldly, too frequently scandalous, lives of the latter; the protection of an overwhelming majority of the nobility, and the intimate local blending of national aspirations and religious sentiment.
Doctrinal: The Albigenses asserted the co-existence of two mutually opposed principles, one good, the other evil. The former is the creator of the spiritual, the latter of the material world. The bad principle is the source of all evil; natural phenomena, either ordinary like the growth of plants, or extraordinary as earthquakes, likewise moral disorders (war), must be attributed to him. He created the human body and is the author of sin, which springs from matter and not from the spirit. The Old Testament must be either partly or entirely ascribed to him; whereas the New Testament is the revelation of the beneficent God. The latter is the creator of human souls, which the bad principle imprisoned in material bodies after he had deceived them into leaving the kingdom of light. This earth is a place of punishment, the only hell that exists for the human soul. Punishment, however, is not everlasting; for all souls, being Divine in nature, must eventually be liberated. To accomplish this deliverance God sent upon earth Jesus Christ, who, although very perfect, like the Holy Ghost, is still a mere creature. The Redeemer could not take on a genuine human body, because he would thereby have come under the control of the evil principle. His body was, therefore, of celestial essence, and with it He penetrated the ear of Mary. It was only apparently that He was born from her and only apparently that He suffered. His redemption was not operative, but solely instructive. To enjoy its benefits, one must become a member of the Church of Christ (the Albigenses). Here below, it is not the Catholic sacraments but the peculiar ceremony of the Albigenses known as the consolamentum, or “consolation,” that purifies the soul from all sin and ensures its immediate return to heaven. The resurrection of the body will not take place, since by its nature all flesh is evil.
Moral: The dualism of the Albigenses was also the basis of their moral teaching. Man, they taught, is a living contradiction. Hence, the liberation of the soul from its captivity in the body is the true end of our being. To attain this, suicide is commendable; it was customary among them in the form of the endura (starvation). The extinction of bodily life on the largest scale consistent with human existence is also a perfect aim. As generation propagates the slavery of the soul to the body, perpetual chastity should be practiced. Matrimonial intercourse is unlawful; concubinage, being of a less permanent nature, is preferable to marriage. Abandonment of his wife by the husband, or vice versa, is desirable. Generation was abhorred by the Albigenses even in the animal kingdom. Consequently, abstention from all animal food, except fish, was enjoined. Their belief in metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, the result of their logical rejection of purgatory, furnishes another explanation for the same abstinence. To this practice they added long and rigorous fasts. The necessity of absolute fidelity to the sect was strongly inculcated. War and capital punishment were absolutely condemned.
4 From the Encyclopedia Britannica Online: Waldenses, also spelled Valdenses, French Vaudois, Italian Valdesi, members of a Christian movement that originated in 12th-century France, the devotees of which sought to follow Christ in poverty and simplicity. In modern times the name has been applied to members of a Protestant church (centred on the Franco-Italian border) that formed when remnants of the earlier movement became Swiss Protestant Reformers.
Early Roman Catholic and Waldensian sources are few and unreliable, and little is known with certainty about the reputed founder, Valdes (also called Peter Waldo, or Valdo). As a layman, Valdes preached in Lyon (1170–76), but ecclesiastical authorities were disturbed by his lack of theological training and by his use of a non-Latin version of the Bible. Valdes attended the third Lateran Council (1179) in Rome and was confirmed in his vow of poverty by Pope Alexander III. Probably during this council Valdes made his Profession of Faith (which still survives); it is a statement of orthodox beliefs such as accused heretics were required to sign. Valdes, however, did not receive the ecclesiastical recognition that he sought. Undeterred, he and his followers (Pauperes: “Poor”) continued to preach; the archbishop of Lyon condemned him, and Pope Lucius III placed the Waldenses under ban with his bull Ad Abolendam (1184), issued during the Synod of Verona.
Thereafter, the Waldenses departed from the teaching of the Roman Catholic church by rejecting some of the seven sacraments and the notion of purgatory. Their views were based on a simplified biblicism, moral rigour, and criticism of abuses in the contemporary church. Their movement, often joined to and influenced by other sects, spread rapidly to Spain, northern France, Flanders, Germany, and southern Italy and even reached Poland and Hungary. Rome responded vigorously, turning from excommunication to active persecution and execution. Though the Waldenses confessed regularly, celebrated communion once a year, fasted, and preached poverty, they repudiated such Roman practices as prayers for the dead and the veneration of saints, and they refused to recognize secular courts because they did not believe in taking oaths.
In the early 13th century a number of Waldenses returned to orthodoxy; by the end of the century persecution had virtually eliminated the sect in some areas, and for safety the survivors abandoned their distinctive dress. By the end of the 15th century they were confined mostly to the French and Italian valleys of the Cottian Alps.
A second period in their history began when the French reformer Guillaume Farel introduced Reformation theology to the Waldensian ministers (barbes) in 1526. The Waldenses raised questions concerning the number of sacraments, the relationship between free will and predestination, and the problem of reconciling justification by faith with the scriptural emphasis on the necessity of good works. At a conference at Cianforan in 1532 most Waldenses accepted secular law courts and celibacy for their barbes and agreed to accept only two sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) and the doctrine of predestination as presented by the Protestants in attendance. By further adapting themselves to Genevan forms of worship and church organization, they became in effect a Swiss Protestant church. Years of persecution continued, however, before they received full civil rights in 1848.
5 A priest who hears confessions and sometimes acts as a spiritual counselor.
Recommended reading for further information on this subject and one of the sources used, surprisingly from a recent author; “The Historical Test: The Judicial Standard Emerging From Colonial Political And Religious History To Be Applied To Constitutional Challenges Based On The Religion Clauses Of The First Amendment” by Tayra de la Caridad Antolick © May 2002
Other Sources: The Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia online:
The Rights of the People: Or, Civil Government and Religion By Alonzo Trévier Jones; 1895
The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal, Volume 2; 1828
History of the United States of America, From the Discovery of the Continent By George Bancroft; 1875