I’ve been building a website about Old Regular Baptists, and putting up a lot of information that I wish I had more time to study myself. As I was adding some history about Baptists, I ran across a passage about the Waldenses that describes an attitude towards life very different from what is common today:
The celebrated president and historian, Thuanus, says: “Their clothing is of sheep skins, they have no linen; they inhabit (1540-1590) seven villages; their houses are constructed of flint stone, having a flat roof covered with mud. In these they live with their cattle, separated, however, from them by a fence. They have also two caves set apart for particular purposes, in one of which they conceal their cattle, in the other themselves, when hunted by their enemies. They live on milk and venison, being, through constant practice, excellent marksmen. Poor as they are, they are content, and live in a state of seclusion from the rest of mankind.
“One thing is very remarkable, that persons, externally so savage and rude, should have so much moral cultivation. They know French sufficiently for the understanding of the Bible, and singing of Psalms. You can scarcely find a boy among them who cannot give an intelligent account of the faith which they profess. In this, indeed, they resemble their brethren of the other valleys. They pay tribute with good conscience, and the obligation of this duty is particularly noted in their confession of faith. If, by reason of the civil wars, they are prevented from doing this, they carefully set apart the sum, and, at the first opportunity, pay it to the king’s tax-gatherers.” This man was a candid enemy. [emphases added]
Today we would consider the life of the Waldenses miserable, mired in grinding poverty, something to cry out against and to avoid at all costs. But was it? How little could we get by with in material terms if we were content to meet our basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) and devoted the rest of our energies to cultivating godliness?