Page images
PDF
EPUB

74

THE ALBIGENSES. had become schools of eastern theology and learning. No wonder, therefore, that for ages the power of the Romish church in this district had been on the wane, and that her assumptions and corruptions were regarded with no friendly or lenient eye ; indeed, as early as the year 1163, the archbishop of Narbonne complains in an address to Louis vii. of France,“ that the Catholic faith is extremely shaken in this our diocese, and St. Peter's boat is so violently tossed with waves, that it is in great danger of sinking." How completely this statement was in accordance with facts, may be gathered from the notices of the author of the “Belgian Chronicle.” (1208 A. D.) “The error of the Albigenses," says he, "prevailed in this district to that degree, that it had infested as much as a thousand cities; and if it had not been suppressed by the swords of the faithful, I think it would have corrupted the whole of Europe." Whether, in spite of the swords of the faithful, the whole of Europe did not become corrupted, we shall presently see.

Our business is with the progress and influence of the Bible, or we might notice that, long before the period of which we are speaking, a purer faith had found refuge in this district. Here was born Vigilantius, who opposed the erroneous observances which were becoming numerous in the Romish church ; and here, after he had been condemned by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he laboured, leaving behind him in the neighbourhood of the Alps, a naine

[blocks in formation]

that was long fragrant. . Indeed, it is expressly admitted by one of the Romish authorities, " that the city of Narbonne had never been clear of the detestable pestilence of heresy,” by which he meant the rejection of the dogmas of the church of Rome, and an adherence to the teaching or Scripture as the only rule of faith. But our business is with the Bible and its versions.

It was in this region, then, where the people first emerged from barbarism, where a vernacular tongue was first used in modern times for literary purposes, where the connexion with Switzerland, Italy, France, and Spain was most direct, that we find some of the most eminent of the precursors of the reformation. Here, in the twelfth century, Peter de Bruys, Henry of Toulouse, P. Waldo of Lyons, and his friend Arnold of Albi, all laboured. Though not the originators of the movements which were sometimes called by their names, they undoubtedly gave to those movements a force and impetus which were crowned with the most happy results. Their efforts had singular success. The secret of that success Reimer, an inquisitor of the thirteenth century, explains. "It is owing," he says, “to the great zeal of these people: all of them, men and women, by night and by day, never cease from teaching and learning. It is owing to their practice of translating the Old and New Testament into the vulgar tongues, and their teaching and speaking according to them.” “I have heard,” he adds, “that there are many who perfectly know the New Testo

FG

THE FIRST CONCORDANCE. ment." He complains that their numbers were so increased, that there was no country free from them, and that in the diocese of Paris alone their schools amounted to one and forty. To these Albigenses Spain owes her earliest version of Scripture. Perhaps, too, to their influence we owe some of the earliest French translations. In the British Museum there is a beautiful ms, on vellum of a French version of the Bible, which was found in the tent of king John, father of Charles, V., after the battle of Poictiers, where he was taken prisoner by. Edward the Black Prince.*

It was probably owing to the influence of the same body that the clergy of the south of France resolved, at a council held at Vienne, in Dauphiné, to have the oriental languages, Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, and Greek, taught in the public schools, and that the sacred Scriptures in those languages should be applied to the conversion of the Saracens.t

To a, native of the same district we owe the first concordance of the Scriptures ever compiled. It was the work of Hugo di Caro, or cardinal Hugo, as he is commonly, called. He was born at Vienne, and studied at Paris in 1225. His concordance was in Latin, and he is said to have employed five hundred monks in preparing it. He divided the Bible into chapters, and those chapters again he subdivided by putting in the margin the letters

• Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. ill. p. 204.
† Apthorpe's Discourses on Prophecy, vol. ii. p. 368.

77

PETER WALDO. A. B. C, etc. To these divisions his concordance refers. The first English concordance was much later, and was made by Marbecke, organist at Windsor, and dedicated to the pious king Edward vi., in 1550; but it referred only to chapters and sections, not to verses.* It would not be easy to say how much we owe in our times to the care and pains bestowed by the authors of Scripturé concordances. [They began with a native of the country of the Albigenses.] The first English concordance cost the compiler his liberty, and wouiủ háve cost him his life, but for the consideration of Henry VII., who pardoned him “for his ingenuity and diligence."

The conversion and labours of Peter Waldo carry us into other countries. He was himself a wealthy merchant of Lyons, and living in a careless way like most of his neighbours. Á sudden attack of illness brought him to the borders of the grave, and produced a deep impression upon his mind of his mortality and sinfulness. Being a man of education, he read, on his recovery, the Latin Vulgate ; there he found the peace he sought, and became a decidedly Christian man. He then began to make efforts on behalf of his countrymen. He abandoned his mercantile pursuits, and consecrated his property to the poor as their necessities required. Finding the people generally ignorant of Scripture, he translated the four Gospels, and afterwards the Epistles of

* See Townley's Illustrations, vol. iii. p. 118.

78 THE FIRST FRENCH TESTAMENT. Paul, into French, “and being somewhat learned," says the Roman inquisitor, when speaking of him, “ be taught the people the text of the New Testament in their own tongue." “ His kindness to the poor," says one of the authors of the “ Centuries of Magdeburgh," “ being diffused, his love of teaching and their love of learning grew stronger and stronger, so that great crowds came to him, and he explained the Scriptures to them all.” To Peter Waldo, therefore, Europe owes the first trans lation of a part of Scripture into a modern vernacular language. I

We obtain a brief but instructive insight into the mode of teaching adopted by Waldo and his followers from the reports of the inquisitor Pieronetta. A widow is examined, and confesses, “That there came to the house of Peter Formerius, her husband, two strangers, in grey clothes, who, as it seemed to her, spake Italian, or the dialect of Lombardy, whom her husband took into his house for the love of God. That whilst they were there, at night, after supper, one of them began to read a godly book, which he carried about with him, saying, that therein were contained the gospel and other precepts of the law, and that he would explain and speak the same in the presence of all who were present: God having sent him to go up and down the world like the apostles, to reform the Catholic faith, and to preach to the good and simple, showing them how to worship God and keep his commandments."*

* Allix's Remarks, pp. 277, 322.

« PreviousContinue »