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"An Historical Defence of the Waldenses or Vaudois, Inhabitants of the Valleys of Piedmont"

by Jean Rodolphe Peyran

(1752-1823, Late Pastor of Pomaret, and Moderator of the Waldensian Church)

London, 1826 Edition


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An Historical Defence of the Waldenses or Vaudois, Inhabitants of the Valleys of Piedmont (1826 Edition)


"The writer of the following French treatises - Jean Rodolphe Peyran - was a native of the valleys of Piedmont; where both his father and grandfather had been raised to the office of Moderator of the Waldensian church. He studied at the University of Geneva; and for many years before his decease officiated as pastor of the church of Pomaret, and, agreeably to the office of Moderator which he also sustained, visited the other Vaudois churches, and exercised superintendance over his co-pastors.

In the above retired village he pursued his literary labours with unwearied assiduity, - intent upon deep investigation and research; the fruit of which he has bequeathed to his family, and to posterity, in numerous dissertations on theological, philosophical, historical, and philological subjects.

The extent and variety of profound topics thus embraced by an inhabitant of the rude recesses of the Alps, who has illustrated those topics in every instance by a mass of erudition, may well astonish any one who reflects that he had not that access to ample stores of literature, which those students enjoy who reside in universities, or in the polished circles of society.

The editor of the present volume first became acquainted with M. Peyran at his secluded abode in the year 1814; and on his second visit to Piedmont in 1823, the MSS. left at his decease were entrusted to his care by the children of M. Peyran, - two sons and a daughter, the latter of whom died lately, leaving a numerous family. With the advice of judicious friends, he will endeavour to ascertain in what way the publication of any or all of them will be most beneficial to the family of the deceased author. In the mean time, the following treatises are submitted to the public attention; namely,- Letters respecting the Vaudois addressed to his Eminence Cardinal Pacca; - A Reply to the Bishop of Pinerolo's charge; - The Moderator's charge to his co-pastors; - A Letter to M. Ferrary, a Roman catholic priest; - and a late Waldensian Confession of Faith; - the whole, from the nature of the subjects they include, forming an "Historical Defence of the Waldenses."

After an illness endured with exemplary patience, the learned Moderator closed his earthly career in the year 1823, at the age of 71. The stone that marks his grave, (what a contrast to the marble that bears a splendid but unmerited panegyric !) has but the following letters rudely inscribed upon it:

Né le llme. Decre 1752.
Mort le 26me. Avril, 1823.

The abilities and worth of M. Peyran, whilst honourable to the pastors and people with whom he was more immediately connected, did not escape the notice of the late governor of the province, and other persons in high civil and military stations; - more especially as he was firm in his attachment to the ancient line of princes of the house of Savoy; and when Napoleon once passed through the north of Italy, even that extraordinary man, who was so distinguished for his knowledge of men and things, and for an inquisitive disposition, proposed several questions to M. Peyran on one occasion, respecting the antiquity, and exploits of the Waldensian community.

It deserves also to be recorded as a fact honourable to the character of the Vaudois Moderator, and to the feelings of his Roman catholic neighbours, that great numbers of the latter, notwithstanding a prohibitory order, attended his remains to the grave, from the veneration they entertained for one whom they expressively termed " le Père des Vallées," - the Patriarch of the Valleys. This tribute of respect and gratitude they were the more solicitous to pay, because he had, on a former occasion, when an hostile army threatened to burn the small Roman catholic town of Pérouse, actually secured it from destruction, by his prompt and earnest intercession for the inhabitants to the French general.

This single fact will amply prove that the controversial writings of the learned pastor, in opposition to the errors of the church of Rome, were not the result of hatred and aversion to the members of that church; but of a paramount regard to truth, and what he believed to be "the faith once delivered to the saints." Whilst the advocate of primitive truth, he knew how to maintain "the truth in love." In this respect he was a model, that disputants both for and against the dominion of the church of Rome, will do well to imitate; and his writings are, on account of this temperate spirit, peculiarly worthy of the attentive perusal of persons of every party. It will be a happy result of the publication of the present volume, if those, - whether Roman Catholics or Protestants, - who read it, shall be led, instead of relying implicitly on the authority of others, to search more diligently for themselves on the momentous subject of religion; as well as to cherish sentiments of candour and forbearance towards each other.

To inculcate such sentiments of mutual kindness, - both for the honour of christianity and for the tranquillity of states, - is the more necessary, because many circumstances already indicate that a great discussion is at hand on all the leading questions that separate the church of Rome from the reformed churches. The revival of the order of Jesuits by the court of Rome, in opposition to the prevailing wish of other Roman catholics; - the attempt made by that highly-accomplished body of instructors to obtain a commanding influence in colleges and schools; - the protest against their influence in France, and in support of the dignity of the crown and the liberties of the Gallican church, by many distinguished individuals; - the generous determination of Roman catholics in Germany, and Ireland, to read the Holy Scriptures, notwithstanding recent decrees of the Vatican; - the resolutions of the South American states, by which the power of the Roman pontiff is circumscribed, even whilst the Roman catholic is acknowledged the religion of the state: - these, and other circumstances that might be mentioned, are not, like the hieroglyphics upon an obelisk, unintelligibly obscure, but "signs of the times," scarcely to be misunderstood; - a preface, it would appear, to extraordinary changes; - so many clear indications that a great crisis is approaching; and that questions of overwhelming importance, relative to the nature of true religion, will inevitably soon arise, to disturb the slumbers of those who indolently repose in error. Whilst such are the anticipations of reflecting men, a volume from the pen of the chief pastor of a church that professes to have preserved the christian religion from the earliest ages, as a sacred deposit, pure and unalloyed; - so far from being deemed undeserving of notice, will, it is hoped, be candidly perused by Christians of different parties, and consulted in their inquiries after, or defence of truth.

It was thought desirable, for several reasons, that the treatises should first appear in the more authentic form of the original French rather than a translation. Both French and English being languages very generally understood by literary persons, no serious obstacle will be found to the circulation of the volume, either in England, or in other countries of Europe, in which the Waldenses have recently, through the patronage of their respective sovereigns, obtained a share of the public sympathy and regard. Should another edition, however, be called for, the editor will cheerfully undertake the translation of the pieces that now appear in French; and devote the profits of that edition, as of the present volume, to the relief of M. Peyran’s family. The expediency of prefixing the Introduction, and of subjoining Appendixes, in English, the intelligent reader will at once perceive.

Upon revising the volume it is found that several slight errors, - a few grammatical, but principally typographical, - escaped the editor during its progress through the press; but as they are comparatively immaterial, this brief allusion to the circumstance is deemed preferable to a long list of errata: indeed in many instances, where the names of persons or places appear differently spelt in different pages, the incorrect spelling has been retained from regard to accuracy in the quotations. There is one peculiarity in the author’s MSS. however, which should be noticed. He uniformly adopted a instead of o in writing étoit, avoit, connoí tre, &c. thus adapting the spelling to the pronunciation of those words. It may be farther observed also, - that for Stenoranistes we should probably read Esperonistes, - Esperon having been a celebrated barbe; - that the name of De Vignaux another barbe, who collected MSS. and wrote “Mémoirés,” respecting the Vaudois, was omitted in the list of distinguished pastors; - that it was Renaud Lollard a martyr, not Walter Lollard, who visited England about the year 1217, in the reign of Henry III - and that the name of Philip Augustus should be substituted for that of Louis VIII."

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" 1 Peter 3:15 KJV
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