A Brief Treatise of Election and Reprobation

Anthony Gilby

Originally Printed In 1556

Posted On December 24, 2019

A Brief Treatise of Election & Reprobation, with certain Answers to the Objections of the Adversaries of this Doctrine. Written by Anthony Gilby.

Biographical Sketch: Anthony Gilby, 1510–1585, was an English clergyman, known as a radical Reformer and Translator of the Geneva Bible. He was born in Lincolnshire, converted to Protestantism in his younger years, and was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1535, being renowned there for his skill in the biblical languages of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Upon graduation he soon entered the ministry of the Gospel, and joined the early ranks of those that would later be called Protestant Reformers. Besides translating Commentaries of John Calvin, {John Calvin, upon the Prophet Daniel, 1570,} and Theodore Beza, {Psalms of David truly opened and explained by Theodore Beza, 1580,} he wrote two original Commentaries on Micah, {1551,} and another on the Prophet Malachi, {1553.} His first controversial work was a reply to Gardiner’s work on the sacrament of the altar, entitled, “An Answer to the Devilish Detection of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, &c., London, 1547.” Fuller, {Church History, 1655,} called him, “a fast and furious stickler against church discipline.” Gilby constantly laboured to promote a more thorough reformation; and having published his sentiments regarding the corruptions in the church more openly than many of his brethren, he is represented by some historians, as a fiery and furious opposer of the discipline of the Church of England. Upon Queen Mary’s accession to the throne, and the commencement of her bloody persecutions, Gilby fled from England with his wife and children, and was one of the first of the exiles who took refuge at Frankfort, Germany, {1554,} where he later would lodge the martyrologist John Foxe, and become intimate with such reformers as John Knox, also exiled, and living at Frankfort. In September of 1554, Christopher Goodman and Knox were made pastors of a new English Congregation in Frankfort, and as Knox was often absent in France, Gilby was chosen to fill his place. Sometime in 1555 he settled in Geneva, Switzerland. In Geneva, Gilby, along with Christopher Goodman were received as ministers of the Word of God for the English inhabitants of Geneva. Shortly thereafter he assisted William Whittingham, Myles Coverdale, Thomas Sampson, and other learned men, in the translation of the Bible, which became to be known as the Geneva Bible, {based on Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and a revision of William Tyndale’s New Testament, which first appeared in 1526,} one of the most historically significant translations of the Bible into the English language, preceding the King James Version by 51 years. It was Gilby who oversaw the translation of the Old Testament, being the first English translation in which all of the Old Testament was translated directly from Hebrew manuscripts. It also contained an extensive collection of marginal notes, with numerous contributions by Gilby, along with other Reformers like Calvin, Knox, Coverdale, Whittingham and Beza, in attempts to more clearly explain the text. After the accession of Queen Elizabeth, Gilby returned to England, where he acquired many influential friends, some of which, like the Earl of Huntingdon, would keep him in relative safety, as High Churchmen, and others who opposed his teachings were continually seeking his removal. At some point he settled in Leicestershire, where he would spend the remainder of his days, ministering the Gospel, and contending most earnestly for a more comprehensive reformation. Besides the works mentioned he also wrote, ‘A brief Treatise of Election and Reprobation,’ London, 1556; reissued, along with a treatise on the same subject by John Foxe, as an appendix to Beza’s ‘Treasure of Truth,’ translated by Stockwood in 1576. According to Gilby, the doctrines concerning God’s predestinating purpose in Christ, must be preached, despite, or rather because of, the offense it would cause. Not preaching on election and reprobation, Gilby asserted, would be to hide comforting doctrine for those for whom it was intended, and to imitate the Papists by hiding the true revelation of God’s sacred truth from the people. The fact that “some poisoned spiders had gathered poison from these doctrines did not warrant keeping silent about them, for by the same reason Christ should not be preached at all, because he is a stumblingblock unto many, and the savour of death unto death.” This worthy servant of Christ appears to have lived well into his seventies, and was laid to rest some time around 1585. Taken mostly from Brooks, “Lives of the Puritans, Volume 1.”

Excerpts: The nature of sin being defined by the authority of scriptures, to be a thought, word, or deed, contrary to the will of God; for such things only defile the man, as Christ our Master saith, “are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man,” Matt.15:15-18, and therefore are only to be reckoned sin. No such thought can be attributed or ascribed unto God, as can be against his will, therefore no sin can be his work. Neither can he be the author of evil, which therefore is called God, because he is the Author and Doer of all good, and so far from evil, that he turneth all our evil to some good, all our sin to the uttering forth of his grace, our lies to the declaration of his truth. No, this is the perfect Work Master which worketh all things without fault or trespass according to his eternal purpose. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28. All others do fail, fault, and trespass, and sin in all their works, that he may be justified in all his doings, and all creatures fall down before his face and presence. Who though he do work all in all things, yet doth he work the same to such godly end and purpose, known only to his majesty, that though we be compelled to say, God is the author of the fact, yet must we answer, but not of the crime. Because he is the Master of the house, and Lord over the family, and therefore may do anything without the blame of his servants. And like as that which is no fault in the master of the house, is a great fault many times in many of his servants, because it is the breaking of their master’s commandment; even so doubtless the selfsame work is sin in his servants and creatures, which to God is no sin, but an ordinary work appointed for some special purpose, either for the manifestation of his power, as was the hardening of Pharaoh, or for the declaration of his mercy, as was the fall of David, of Peter, of Mary, and all other repentant sinners. And wherefore, I pray you, may not this Lord thus use his own servants, without any blame of sin, seeing that he hath created and made them all only to serve his glory, his justice, and his mercy. Or how can he be unjust, or the author of any sin, by whom all the world must be judged and brought to the balance of justice and equity.

We define sin to be the affection, motion, or operation of any reasonable creature, against the law of God. His majesty must needs be exempted and excused, who is the Law Maker and the Creator of all. There is no creature, having any evil motion, nor led with any bad affection, which might make his work evil. Like as the creature is for the most part blame worthy, because even when it doth the best of all, it is subject to some evil affection, either self-love, or hatred of some other, yea the Lord God may use any of his creatures in any work, without the blame of any evil, as well as the smith may make his coals to flame, or to quench them, either the same piece of iron, sometimes his hammer, sometime his tongs or chisel. Wherefore, though very much might be said in this part, that as the potter may make of one piece of clay what him liketh, the smith may make of his iron divers instruments, yet following the godly wisdom of Paul, I think it more meet to beat down man’s subtleties, with the contemplation of the Majesty of the Mighty God, pronouncing boldly that such as say, {if my lies and sin set forth his glory, why am I then judged as a sinner, let us do evil that good may come, and so in their wicked words dare make God the author of evil,} have their worthy damnation already, as Paul saith, Romans 3, for of necessity, which their eyes cannot see, such a diversity of sin and grace, of righteousness and unrighteousness, of the contrary and change of things, must be in this wonderful creation of heaven and earth, by the high Majesty of God appointed and ordained. For what needed the goodly creature of light, if there had been no darkness; or how should this benefit have been felt or perceived? What matter or cause of uttering justice might have been found without sin and unrighteousness? How should grace have been showed, if no wrath had been deserved? No, the mighty God thereby most evidently sets forth his majesty, in that he sheweth how the heavens fall into darkness without him, the earth into dust, the angels into devils, men into sin, and so finally without him all things to come to nought, that he might be magnified creating all things for himself; yeah, even the wicked for destruction. If the earth fall into dust, if man fall into sin, that all things may be known to be nothing without God; what blame deserveth God, or who dare accuse him? No, let all flesh fall down before his Majesty and confess the Glory of God!