1. – VALENTINE GENTILIS, GEORGE BLANDRATA, AND BERNARD OCHINO. – 34.-Valentine Gentilis; his impious doctrine. 35.-He is punished in Geneva, and retracts. 36.-Relapses, and is beheaded. 37.-George Blandrata perverts the Prince of Transylvania; disputes with the Reformers; is murdered. 38.-Bernard Ochino; his life while a Friar; his perversion, and flight to Geneva. 39.-He goes to Strasbourg, and afterwards to England, with Bucer; his unfortunate death in Poland.

 

  1. Valentine Gentilis was a native of Cosenza, in Calabria, and a disciple of Servetus. He was astonished, he said (1), that the Reformers would trouble themselves so much in disputing with the Catholics about Sacraments, Purgatory, Fasting, &c., matters of such little importance, and still agree with them in the principal mystery of their Faith, the Trinity. Although he agreed in doctrine with Servetus, he explained it differently (2). Three things, he said, concur in the Trinity the essence, which was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the one only true God, the Essenciator; the Son and the Holy Ghost are the Essensiati. He did not call the Father a Person, because, according to his opinion, the essence was in itself true God, and therefore he said, if we admit the Father to be a Person, we have no longer a Trinity, but a Quaternity. He thus denied that there were three Persons in the same essence, as we believe. He recognized in God three external Spirits (3); but of these, two were inferior to the Father, for he had given them a Divinity indeed, but inferior to his own. In the book which he presented to Sigismund Augustus, King of Poland (4), he complains that many monstrous terms have been introduced into the Church, as Persons, Essence, and Trinity, which are, he says, a perversion of the Divine Mysteries. He admitted that there were three holy and eternal essences, as the Athanasian Creed teaches, but in all the rest he says it is ” a Satanical symbol.”

(1) Van Ranst, p. 326. (2) Gotti, c. 115; Nat. Alex. t. 19, ar. 14; Jovet, t. 1, p. 296. (3) Jovet, loc. cit. (4) Van Ranst, loc. cit.

  1. Valentine, and some Antitrinitarian friends of his, being in Geneva (5), in 1558, and the magistracy, having a suspicion of his opinions, obliged them to sign a profession of Faith in the Trinity. Valentine subscribed it, and swore to it, but not sincerely, for he immediately after began to teach his errors, so he was taken up and imprisoned for perjury. He presented another confession of Faith while in prison, but as his heresy appeared through it, Calvin strenuously opposed his release. Fear then drove him to a more ample retractation, and from his prison he presented the following one to the magistrates : ” Confiteor Patrem, Filium et Spiritum Sanctum esse unum Deum, idest tres Personas distinctas in una Essentia, Pater non est Filius, nec Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus, sed unaquæque illarum Personarum est integra ilia Essentia. Item Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus quantum ad Divinam Naturam sunt unus Deus cum Patre, cui sunt coæquales et coæterni. Hoc sentio, et corde ac ore profiteer. Hæreses autem contrarias damno, et nominatim blasphemias quas descripsi,” &c. It would have been well for him had he never changed again this profession; he would not then have made the miserable end he did.
  2. Notwithstanding his retractation, the Senate of Geneva, in 1558, condemned him to be brought forth, stripped to his shirt, to kneel with a candle in his hand, and pray to God and the state for pardon for his blasphemies, and then to cast his writings into the fire with his own hands. He was led through the principal streets of the city, and the sentence executed (6). He was prohibited, likewise, from leaving the city; indeed, at first he was kept in prison, but afterwards was allowed out, promising on oath that he would not make his escape. He fled, however, at the first opportunity, and took refuge in the house of a lawyer of Padua, who lived in Savoy, and held the same opinions as himself, and began writing again in opposition to the Trinity. He was again put into prison, and escaped to Lyons, where he published a Treatise against the Athanasian Creed. From Lyons he went to Poland, and when Sigismund banished him from that kingdom, he took up his residence in Beam. He was here accused by Musculus, in the year 1556, and imprisoned.

(5) Gotti, s. 2, 3; Nat. Alex, cit, (6) Gotti, loc. cit.

He refused to retract, and was sentenced to death. Just before laying his head on the block, he said : ” Others died Martyrs for the Son; I die a Martyr for the Father.” Unfortunate man ! dying an enemy of the Son, he died an enemy of the Father, likewise (7).

  1. George Blandrata was another of the disciples of Servetus. He was born in Piedmont, and was a physician, and the writings of Servetus having fallen in his way, he embraced his errors. The Inquisition was very strict at that period in Piedmont, so he consulted his safety by flying, first, into Poland, and, afterwards, in 1553, into Transylvania (8). He here succeeded in getting himself appointed physician to the Sovereign, John Sigismund, and to his Prime Minister, Petrowitz, a Lutheran, and by that means endeavoured to make them Arians. There were a great many Lutherans and Calvinists in the country, and they all joined in opposing Blandrata’s doctrines, so the Sovereign, to put an end to the dispute, commanded that a public conference (9) should be held in his presence, and acted himself the part of judge. The conference took place in his presence, in Waradin, between the Reformers and Blandrata, and several other Arian friends of his. They began by quoting the various passages of the Scripture used by Arius to impugn the Divinity of Christ. The Reformers answered, by quoting the interpretation of these texts by the Council of Nice, and by the Holy Fathers, who explained them in their proper sense. This doctrine, they said, we should hold, otherwise every one might explain away the Scriptures just as he pleased. One of the Arians then stepped forward and cried out : ” How is this ? When you argue with the Papists, and quote your texts of Scripture to defend your doctrine, and they say that the true meaning of these texts is only to be found in the Decrees of Councils and the works of the Fathers, you at once say that the Holy Fathers and the Bishops composing the Councils were men subject to be deceived, like anyone else that the Word of God alone is sufficient for understanding the Articles of Faith that it is clear enough in itself, and requires no explanation; and now you want to make use of the same arms against us which you blame the Catholics for having recourse to.”

(7) Spondon. ad Ann. 1561, n. 34; Van Ranst, sec. 16, p. 327; Gotti, c. 115 (8) Jovet, His. Rel. p. 291; Gotti, s.2, n. 6; Nat. Alex. t. 19, art. 14.. (9) Jovet, p. 294.

This answer was applauded by the Prince and the majority of the meeting, and the preachers were confounded, and knew not what reply to make. Arianism then became the most numerous sect in Transylvania, and the impious doctrine of Arius was resuscitated after a lapse of nine hundred years. It is worthy of remark, as Jovet (10) tells us, that the first who embraced it were all Lutherans or Calvinists, and that all their Chiefs came to an unhappy end. Paul Alciatus, their companion, at last became a Mahometan, as Gotti informs us. Francis David, as Noel Alexander tells us, was killed by a house falling on him; another of them, called Lismaninus, drowned himself in a well, and Blandrata (11) was killed by a relative of his, to rob him.

  1. Bernard Ochino was also an Antitrinitarian. He was a Capuchin Friar, and the heretics even make him founder of that Institute; but the Capuchin Chronicle, and the majority of writers, deny this, and say he was only General of the Capuchins for a while (12). Their real founder was Matthew de Basso, in 1525, and Ochino did not enter the order until 1534, nine years after, when the Order already had three hundred professed members. He lived as a Religious for eight years, and threw off the habit in 1542. At first, while a Religious, he led a most exemplary life (13), wore a very poor habit, went always barefooted, had a long beard, and appeared to suffer from sickness and the mortified life he led. “Whenever he had occasion, in his journeys, to stop in the houses of the great, he eat most sparingly, and only of one dish, and that the plainest scarcely drank any wine and never went to bed, but, extending his mantle on the ground, took a short repose. With all this, he was puffed up with vanity, especially as he was a most eloquent preacher, though his discourses were more remarked for ornament of diction than soundness of doctrine, and the Churches were always crowded when he preached. The Sacramentarian Valdez, who perverted Peter Martyr (Chap, xi, art. ii, sec. iii, n. 57), was also the cause of his fall. He perceived his weakness; he saw he was vain of his preaching, and (14) he used frequently go to hear him, and visit him afterwards, and under the praises he administered to him for his eloquence, conveyed the poison of his sentiments.

(10) Jovet, cit. p. 300. (11) Nat. Alex. s. 3; Gotti, s. 2, n. 6; Jovet, cit, (12) Varill. Hist. t. 2, p. 109; Gotti, 115. (13) Varill. p. 111. (14) Varill, cit. p. 100.

Ochino had a great opinion of his own merits, and hoped, when he was made General of his Order, that the Pope would raise him to some higher dignity; but when he saw that neither a Cardinal’s Hat, nor even a Mitre, fell to his lot, he entertained the most rancorous feeling against the Roman Court, and Valdez made him an easy prey. Being now infected with the poisonous sentiments of Zuinglius and Calvin, he began in the pulpit to speak derogatory of the Pope and the Roman See, and preaching in the Archbishopric of Naples, after Peter Martyr, he began to deride the doctrines of Purgatory and Indulgences, and sowed the first seeds of that great revolution, which afterwards, in 1656, convulsed the city. When the Pope received information of this, he commanded him to come to Rome, and account for his doctrine. His friends advised him to go; but, as he felt himself hurt by the order, he was unwilling to obey. While he was thus wavering, he went to Bologna, and called on the Cardinal Legate, Contarini, to solicit his protection and interest. The Cardinal was then suffering from sickness, of which, in fact, he died soon after; so he received him coldly, hardly spoke to him, and dismissed him. He now suspected that the Cardinal knew all, and would have him put in prison; so he threw off the habit, and went to Florence, where he met Peter Martyr, and concerted with him a flight to Geneva, then the general refuge of apostates. In fact, he arrived there even before Peter Martyr himself, and, though sixty years old, he brought a young girl of sixteen along with him, and married her there, thus giving a pledge of his perpetual separation from the Catholic Church. He then wrote an Apology of his Flight, and abused, in the most violent terms, the Order of St. Francis, and the Pope, Paul III. The Pope for a while entertained the notion of dissolving the Capuchin Order altogether, but relinquished it on finding that Ochino had made no perverts among that body.

  1. Calvin received Ochino most kindly on his arrival in Geneva, but he soon perceived that the Capuchin had no great opinion of him, and leaned more to the doctrines of Luther, and he, therefore, began to treat him with coolness; so, having no great affection for the doctrines of either one or the other, he determined to establish his fame by founding a new sect. He then took up the opinions of Arius, and published some tracts in Italian, in which he confounded the personality and properties of the Three Divine Persons, so Calvin procured a sentence of banishment to be passed on him by the Senate of Geneva. He then went to Basil, but as he was not safe even there, he went to Strasbourg, to Bucer, who protected heretics of every shade, and he received him kindly, appointed him Professor of Theology, and took him, along with himself and Peter Martyr, to England afterwards. They were both banished from that kingdom, by Queen Mary, on her accession, together with thirty thousand others, so he went first to Germany and then to Poland. Even there he had no rest, for all heretics were banished from that country by the King, Sigismund; and so, broken down by old age, and abandoned by every one, he concealed himself in the house of a friend, and died of the plague, in 1564, leaving two sons and a daughter, their mother having died before. Cardinal Gotti, Moreri, and others, say that he died an apostate and impenitent; but Zachary Boverius, in the Annals of the Capuchins, proves on the authority of other writers, and especially of the Dominican, Paul Grisaldus, and of Theodore Beza himself, that he abjured all his errors, and received the Sacraments before his death. Menochius and James Simidei follow the opinion of Boverius, I do not give an opinion either on one side or the other, but, with Spondanus and Graveson, leave the matter between them (15).

(15) Gotti, cit. sec. 2, n. 8; Varillas, p. 112, & seq.; Nat. Alex. t. 19, a. 14, sec. 3; Van Ranst, sec. 16, p. 328; Bern. t. 4, sec. 16, c. 5; Berti, Brev. Hist. Eccl. sec. 6, c. 3; Bover. in Ann. Capuccin. 1543; Menoch. Cent. p. 2, c. 89; Paulus Grisald. Decis. Fid. Cath. in Ind. error. & Hærat. Simid. Comp. Stor, degli Hæresiarchi, sec. 16; Graveson, t. 4, Hist. Eccl. coll. 3.