THE Inqusition and the
devastating wars which the popes and the Councils directed against the
Albigenses and Waldenses during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
had scattered some of them over Europe, where they settled mostly in
Germany, Poland, and Bohemia. "Others turning to the west obtained
refuge in Britain."*16
Everywhere these God-fearing people
worked quietly for the salvation of souls, and thus prepared the way for
the Reformation. But the books of heaven alone contain the true record
of the work done by these humble Waldenses.
"John Wycliffe was the
herald of reform, not for England alone, but for all Christendom. The
great protest against Rome which it was permitted him to utter, was
never to be silenced. That protest opened the struggle which was to
result in the emancipation of individuals, of churches, and of
nations." –" The Great Controversy," pp. 79, 80.
In Bohemia, Huss and Jerome were,
in their labor, animated by the writings of Wycliffe, so that the light
of truth, which the Papacy had quenched in the "Vallies" was
flaring up in England and Bohemia. Dr. Fr. Nielsen, of Denmark, says of
the papal opposition'
"The struggle against the
Waldenses . . . was as nothing compared to the trouble that broke out
in the Bohemian church when Wycliffism had taken root in that country
.... About the year 1400 Jerome, M.A., of Prague had been at Oxford,
and from thence had brought with him to Prague Wycliffe's 'Dialogus'
and 'Trialogus,' and in 1403 John Huss stepped out openly as one of
Wycliffe's disciples"–"Haandbog i Kirkens Historie"
(Handbook of Church History), Vol. II, p. 874, ed. of 1893. Copenhagen.
After Huss was burned, July 6,
1415, and Jerome, May 30, 1416, their work of reform was carried on by
their followers. But they were divided into two camps, the conservative
of Prague, and the radical of Tabor.
Dr. Nielson continues:
"All Hussites were agreed
upon yielding obedience to the 'law of God.' . . . Those of Prague . .
. rejected only that which conflicted with the law of God, [while the]
Taborites . . . would acknowledge only what was expressly mentioned in
the Scriptures The Taborites read the Scriptures with their own eyes
The radical party rejected all holidays, even Sunday Some longed for
the condition of the apostolic times The religious enlightenment among
the Taborites was great, and their women had a better knowledge of the
Scriptures than the Italian priests .... In Germany the Waldenses had,
without doubt, as in Bohemia, several places prepared the way for the
"If any one after the middle
of the fifteenth century wanted to find genuine disciples of Wycliffe
and Huss in Bohemia he had to go to the eastern border where the
remnant of the Taborites, as' the quiet in the land' in strict
discipline endeavored to follow the law of God. At the close of the
fifteenth century there were in Bohemia and Moravia about two hundred
churches of the 'Brethren,' who rejected all connection with the Roman
church and had their own ministers and bishops, who through a
Waldensian Bishop from Austria believed they had preserved the
apostolic succession .... Time and again they were subject to bloody
persecutions"–Id., pp. 886-888, 896, 897.
We shall now show that these
Waldensian and Hussite brethren were Sabbath-keepers. Dr. R. Cox
"I find from a passage in
Erasmus that at the early period of the Reformation when he wrote,
there were Sabbatarians in Bohemia, who not only kept the seventh day,
but were said to be . . . scrupulous in resting on it." Erasmus'
statement follows' "Now we hear that among the Bohemians a new
kind of Jews has arisen called Sabbatarians, who observe the
Sabbath."–"Literature of the Sabbath Question," Cox,
Vol. II, pp. 201,202.
Bishop A. Grimelund of Norway
speaks of them as
"the anciently arisen, but
later vanished sect of Sabbatarians in Bohemia, Moravia, and
Hungary"–"Sondagens Historie" (History of Sunday),
pp. 46, 47. Christiania:1886.
About the year 1520 many of these
Sabbath-keepers found shelter on the estate of Lord Leonhard, of
"as the princes of
Lichtenstein held to the observance of the true
Sabbath"–"History of the Sabbath," J. N. Andrews, p.
649, ed. 1912.
Lord Leonhard asked the
Sabbatarians to submit to him a statement of their belief, which was
sent to Wolfgang Capito, a leading Strassburg Reformer, and to Caspar
Schwenkfield. This document is lost, but Schwenkfield's answer to it
(printed in 1599) contains several quotations from it, showing that
their arguments for the seventh day were much the same as those used by
Seventh-day Adventists today. In 1535 they were driven from their homes
by persecution, but "once more they were granted respite."
Finally in 1547 the king of Bohemia, yielding to the constant urging of
the Roman church, expelled them.
"The Jesuits contrived to
publish this edict just before harvest and vintage .... They allowed
them only three weeks and three days for their departure; it was death
to be found even on the borders of the country beyond the expiration
of the hour .... At the border they filed off, some to Hungary, some
to Transylvania, some to Wallachia, others to
Poland"–"History of the Sabbath," Andrews, pp. 648,
Scattered and torn by
persecution, the old sect of Moravian Brethren wandered about till about
the year 1720 Count Zinzendorf invited them to his estate, later called
Herrnhut. He began to keep the Sabbath, and became the leader of these
Brethren and the head of a great missionary movement. Bishop A. G.
Spangenberg says of him:
"He loved to stick to the
plain text of the Scriptures, believing that rather simplicity than
art is required to understand it. When he found anything in the Bible
stated in such plain language that a child could understand, he could
not well bear to have one depart from it"–"Leben des
Grafen Zinzendorf" (Life of Count Zinzendorf), pp. 3, 546, 547,
In 1738 Zinzendorf wrote of his
keeping the Sabbath thus: "That I have employed the Sabbath for
rest many years already, and our Sunday for the proclamation of the
gospel–that I have done without design, and in simplicity of
heart." –"Budingsche Sammlung," Sec. 8, p. 224.
Spangenberg gives some of
Zinzendorf's reasons for keeping the seventh day holy:
"On the one hand, he
believed that the seventh day was sanctified and set apart as a rest
day immediately after creation; but on the other hand, and
principally, because his eyes were directed to the rest of our Saviour
Jesus Christ in the grave on the seventh day."–"Leben des
Grafen Zinzendorf" pp. 5, 1422, note.
In 1741 he journeyed to
Bethlehem, Pa., where some Moravian Brethren had settled. Of his work
there Spangenberg relates:
"As a special instance it
deserves to be noticed that he is resolved with the church at
Bethlehem to observe the seventh day as rest day. The matter had been
previously considered by the church council in all its details, and
all the reasons pro and con were carefully weighed, whereby they
arrived at the unanimous agreement to keep the said day as
Sabbath"–Id., pp. 5, 1421, 1422. (See also "Varnhagen yon
Ense Biographische Denkmale," pp. 5, 301. Berlin:1846.
The church records of the
Bethlehem Moravian Church (now in the Moravian Seminary archives, and
dated June 13 O.S., or June 24 N. S., 1742) has this paragraph:
"The Sabbath is to be observed in quietness and in fervent
communion with the Saviour. It is a day that was given to all nations
according to the law for rest, for the Jews observed it not so much as
Jews as human beings."
Persecution In The United
But even in the United States,
Sabbath-keepers had endured more or less persecution, and when, on the
second of October, 1798, a member of their Ephrata society was haled
into court for working on Sunday, the judge read a letter, which George
Washington wrote to the Baptists of Virginia, dated August 4, 1798, in
which he assured them of full religious liberty. It was not easy,
however, for the people to grasp the truth that religious liberty is an
inherent right, and that governments are instituted to protect the
individual in his God-given rights, and that church and state are to be
kept separate. (Luke 20:25.) The champions of liberty had a long, hard
fight to secure the adoption and ratification of the Federal
Constitution and its First Amendment, and it will take the utmost
watchfulness by the friends of freedom to retain the liberty there
When the Constitution was drafted
and made its appearance, the friends of religious liberty, especially
those who had been oppressed under the religious establishments of the
colonies, felt that liberty of conscience was not sufficiently secured
by the proposed Constitution. While Article 6 forbade religious tests as
a qualification for office under the government, there was no guaranty
against religious tests and religious intolerance to those not in
So on August 8, 1789, the United
Baptist churches of Virginia addressed a communication to George
Washington, in which they gave expression to the prevailing fears in
this matter. Washington replied as follows:
"If I could have entertained
the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed by the
convention where I had the honor to preside might possibly endanger
the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would
never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that
the general government might ever be so administered as to render the
liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no
one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers
against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of
religious persecution. For, you doubtless remember, I have often
expressed my sentiments that any man, conducting himself as a good
citizen and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions,
ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the
dictates of his own conscience"–" History of the
Baptists," Thomas Armitage, D. D., pages 806, 807.
About a month later, James
Madison, with the approval of George Washington, introduced in the first
Congress that met under the new Constitution, the first ten amendments,
commonly known as the Bill of Rights, the first of which enjoins
Congress from all religious legislation. It is as follows:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of
Thus the champions of liberty
secured for the citizens of the new republic full liberty of conscience
to worship, freedom of speech and of the press, and it will take eternal
vigilance to retain these rights unimpaired. See "American State
Papers," William Addison Blakely, pp. 152, 153, revised edition.
Washington, D. C.:1911.