Gentilis Giovanni Valentino
Gentilis Giovanni Valentino, an Arian, was born at Cosenza, in Calabria, about 1520. Having becoame a convert to the Reformation, he was obliged to take refuge at Geneva, where several Italian families had already formed a congregation. Here he became dissatisfied with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, and, together with George Bilandrata, John Paul Alciati, and Matthew Grimebaldi, formed a society to discuss the sense of the passages of Scripture referring to the subject. "The result of their discussions was that the terms co- essential, co-equal, and co-existent, were improperly applied to the Son and Spirit, and that they were subordinate in nature and dignity to the Father. But however privately their meetings were held, such information was conveyed to the Italian consistory as led them to suspect that the associates had departed, from the orthodox creed; upon which they drew up articles of faith, subscription to which was demanded from all the members of their communion. These articles consisted of Calvin's confession of faith, which had been lately approved of by the ministers, syndics, councils, and general assembly of the people; to which a promise was annexed, never to do anything directly or indirectly that should controvert the doctrine of the Trinity as therein defined." Gentilis signed these articles, influenced, not improbably, by his recollection of the tragical fate of Servetus. In private, however, he still avowed and maintained his change of sentiment, which coming to the ears of the nesagistrates, they committed him to prison. At length he "declared his readiness to abjure whatever should be pronounced erroneous. Upon this he was sentenced to make the amende honorable, to throw his writings into the fire, and to take an oath not to go out of Geneva without the leave of the magistrates." He satisfied himself "that he was justifiable in breaking an oath which had been extorted from him by terror, and withdrew into the country of Gex, where he joined Grimbaldi; thus proving himself to have, with much obstinacy, very little true religion." He went to Lyons, thence to Savoy, and finally to Gex. As soon as he emas known there he was sent to prison, but was liberated within a few days, when, upon the bailiff's demanding from him a confession of faith, that he might cause it to be examined by some ministers, and sent to Berne, Gentilis printed the same, with a dedication to the bailiff. From Gex, Gentilis went again to Lyons, where he was imsprisoned, but soon obtained his liberty, and went to Poland, where he joined Blandrata and Alciati, who were very successful in propagating their opinions. In 1566, the king of Poland, at the instigation of the Calvinists as well as the Catholics, published an edict, by which all strangers who taught doctrines inconsistent with the orthodox notion concerning the Trinity were ordered to quit the kingdom. From Poland, Gentilis withdrew into Moravia, whence he went to Vienna, and then resolved to return to Savoy, where he hoped still to find his friend Grimbaldi, and flattered himself that he might be suffered to remain unmolested, as Calvin was dead. The bailiff of Gex seized him and delivered him to the magistrates of Berne. He was convicted of obstinately impugning the mystery of the Trinity, and was condemned to death. This sentence was carried into execution September, 1566. "Gentilis triumphed over his enemies by the fortitude with which he met his death, rejoicing, as he said, that he suffered for asserting and vindicating the supremacy and glory of the Father. His hypothesis concerning the person of Christ was that of the Arian school. His history affords a striking evidence that the first reformers, when they renounced the communion of Rome, entertained but imperfect and contracted notions of Christian freedom and toleration." Benedict Aretius wrote an account of his trial and punishment (1567, Lat. 4to). See also Beza, Val. Gentilis, Teterrimi Haeretici, etc. (Geneva, 15 §7); Hook, Eccl. Biog. 5:293; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. cent. 16, section 3, part 2, chapter 4, § 6; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gen. 19:948; Bayle, Dictionary, s.v.; Bock, Hist. Antitrisn. 1:369; 2:427 ; Trechsel, Antitrinitarier, 2:316; Christian Examiner, 1:206; Gieseler, Church Hist. (ed. Smith), 4:360.