[ABOVE—Waldensian Gospel peddlers from J.A. Wylie’s History of the Waldenses (Washington, DC: Review and Herald).]
The Waldenses arose as a reform movement in the thirteenth century. They based their practices on a French translation of the Bible and were cruelly persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. Despite persecution, they survived to greet and sometimes join the Protestant Reformation, often finding refuge in the Alps. Their merchants spread the gospel into other regions of Europe.
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In 1560 several of their number were imprisoned in the Italian region of Calabria. Here is a letter written by their pastor, Giovan Paschale. He was hanged in Rome that same year.
Excerpt from Giovan Paschale’s Letter to the Brethren of San Sisto
… we are 80 to 100 persons held in this dark place, and although we may escape being devoured by the lice, we are at the same time near to death by hunger. Who will doubt that all of us would willingly forego all that we possess in this world rather than to be condemned forever to this misery? …
Some will say that they do not sense in themselves the strength to die for Jesus Christ. I reply to them that those who fear to be overcome ought at least to struggle and to achieve a fleeting victory. For to flee is permissable, but to bow the knee before Baal is forbidden under the penalty of eternal punishment. …
I can testify that with a little bread and water the body can be satisfied, whereas the soul will never find satisfaction until it finds food which nourishes the hope of eternal life. And what is that if it is not the preaching of the Holy Gospel, of which you may be deprived? If, therefore you desire satisfaction, prepare yourselves to go to the place where your soul is peaceful. Thus you will quieten your conscience, you will find rest, you will confess Jesus Christ, you will edify the Church, and you will confound your enemies.
Your brother in Jesus Christ,
Giovan Luigi Paschale