17: The Waldenses—Our First Reformers—Not Slave-Keepers

I never read in history of the Waldenses,[1]—our first reformers from popery—that they kept any slaves. I have understood they were very temperate, not eating flesh, milk, or eggs. 

Something like John’s locusts and wild honey; and Daniel and his three friends’ pulse and water; Israel’s 40 years eating manna; and I think James our Lord’s brother, according to Josephus, ate no flesh; and many thousands more, I believe: good men and women.

William Penn, in his No Cross, No Crown, that excellent book, mentions the Waldenses with great esteem, as they are worthy.

Acts 17:26–29: I suppose the pure, holy, eternal Being, which made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the earth, did not make others to be slaves to us, any more then we to be so to them. If God has appointed the bounds of their habitations, what man fearing God dare to remove or receive them when they are removed?

How did many dear Friends like to be banished from their native countries—from wives, children, and friends, although but for a few years—both from Old and New England especially? Are all these things forgotten by us, and a thousand times more? Are the progeny in this age doing the same things themselves which their progenitors so greatly complained of, and justly too? But this progeny have been and are acting a thousand times worse, and more cruelly. For our dear and worthy Friends and progenitors were banished from England but for a few years, and where they might and did preach and help forward the gospel of Christ. But the poor slaves and their progeny have been stolen, banished, tortured, and tormented forever more—to the great unutterable hindrance of the blessed gospel of peace and salvation, for which our dear progenitors suffered so deeply by their persecutors.

And this now is carried on, encouraged and done by them that profess to be led by the same pure Holy Spirit as their progenitors were.

But my dear and tender Friends, you that are clear of this vile practice, I pray and beseech you especially: that you keep so, and have no fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness. But rather, I say, rather reprove them—as being worthy, wherever you come, for the Lord, the Truth’s sake.

[1] The Waldenses or Waldensians are a pre-Reformation movement—originating in Lyon and organized by Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant who gave away his property around 1173—promoting apostolic poverty, the preaching of the laity including women, and that prayer is just as effective whether offered in a church or a barn. The Waldenses were declared heretical by the Roman Catholic Church.