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Anthony Gilby

Anthony Gilby.—This pious and zealous nonconformist was born in Lincolnshire, and educated in Christ's college, Cambridge, where he obtained a most exact knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. He constantly laboured to promote a further reformation ; and having published his sentiments of the habits, ceremonies, and corruptions in the church, more openly than many of

• St»ype*s Parker, p. 4SI, 427.

-r See Art. John More. t Ibid.

S MS. Register, p. ,437.

his brethren, he is represented by some of our historians, as a fiery and furious opposer of the discipline in the church of England.*

Upon the accession of Queen Mary, and the commencement of her bloody persecution, he became an exile in a foreign land. He was among the first who retired to Frankfort, where he was deeply involved in the troubles occasioned by the officious interference of Dr. Cox and his party. When the order of church discipline, highly esteemed by many, was presented to the whole congregation, and rejected by the zealous episcopalians, " Mr. Gilby, with a godly grief, as was openly manifest, kneeled down before them; and with tears in his eyes, besought them to promote the desired reformation, solemnly protesting, that, in this matter, they sought not themselves, but the glory of God only : adding, that he wished the very hand which he then held up, might be struck off, if godly peace and unity could thereby be promoted."+ Such was his truly generous spirit; and such his fervent zeal for the peace and unity of the church! Upon the unkind usage at Frankfort, Mr. Gilby removed to Geneva. Afterwards, he united with his brethren in writing a letter to those who still remained at Frankfort, defending the lawfulness of their departure, against the slanderous reports of those who stigmatized them as schismatics. This letter, signed by eighteen persons, among whom was the famous Mr. John Fox, breathes a most condescending, humble, and healing spirit.t During Mr. Gilby's abode at Geneva, he assisted Coverdale, Sampson, and other learned divines, in the translation of the Bible. *

After the accession of Queen Elizabeth, our divine returned from exile, and was greatly admired and beloved by all who sought a thorough reformation of the English church. He is, indeed, exceedingly reproached by several of our bigotted historians. Dr. Bancroft says, that Mr. Gilby, with the rest of the Geneva accomplices, urged all states by degrees, to take up arms, and reform religion themselves by force, rather than suffer so much idolatry and superstition to remain in the land.J Another peevish writer, with an evident design to blacken his memory, says, " That in obedience to John Calvin, the supreme head of Geneva,

• Fuller's Worthiei, part ii. p. 167.

+ Troubles al Frankeford, p. 30. t Ibid- P- *7.

I) Bee Art. Coverdale.

|| Bancroft's Dangerous Positions, p. 62. Edit, 1640.

doth his dear subject and disciple Anthony Gilby, and others of that fraternity, shoot their wild-fire against the statutes of England; by which they shew their schism and madness, more than their christian prudence."* Thi6 is wholly the language of misrepresentation and abuse.

Notwithstanding these calumnies, Mr. Gilby enjoyed the favour of several of the nobility, men of excellent character and high reputation. The Earl of Huntington, who was his constant friend and patron, presented him to the vicarage of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire; where, through the blessing of God on his ministry, he was made exceedingly useful. Here he obtained a distinguished reputation, when the worthy earl used to style him Father GilbyA Bishop Hall, who probably had some acquaintance with him, denominates him " a reverend and famous divine;"{ and he is said to have lived at Ashby " as great as a bishop." He was highly esteemed by some of the learned prelates, as well as many of the most celebrated divines of the age, with whom he held a friendly correspondence. The following is the copy of a letter, which he received from the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry

" To my loving friend and brother in Christ, Mr. Gilby, 'iat Ashby.

u With my hearty commendations to you Mr. Gilby. I " received your letter but now and heretofore, to the which " I proposed to have made some answer by this time; but <l either lack of convenient messenger, or some other present " business, have stayed; and, therefore, these are in few *' words to signify to you, that such reports as you have " heard of me, touching Stretton, were untrue, (I thank u Almighty God) and so saying to my brother. Augustin " added these words, that I marvelled much if you did " judge as you wrote. Notwithstanding, I was not dis'* pleased with your writing, but accepted the same as " friendly and lovingly as I can any man's writing.

" It is plain that many enormities remain uncorrected, " either for lack of knowledge thereof, or else through the " corruption of mine officers, or otherwise through negli" gence or forgetfulness of myself; yet when I have proof * of them, I either call the offenders myself, or charge mine

• Foulis' Hist, of Plots, p. 36.

+ Nichols's Hist, of Leicestershire, vol. ii. p. 626.

t Life of Bp. Hall prefixed to his Works.

S Baker's MS. Collec. vol. xxxM. p. 434.

" officers with the same. Concerning that evil man, Sir " William Radish, I engage to have him called as soon as

" I can, to answer his doings and such sayings as .

u Touching the person of Stretton, I will do that which " lieth in me to displace, for the which I have given charge " divers times to mine officers. I would not have my " brother Dawberry to do any thing touching the same ; for u the matter will not pass through at Lichfield. I will then u send you word, and use your counsel. And thus omitting " all other matters, till we shall have occasion to meet u together, I commit you and good Mrs. Gilby (whose " health and happiness I wish) to the goodness of Almighty " God; this 12 day of Nov. 1565. At Eccleshall-castle. " Your loving friend and brother in Christ,

" Thomas Coven, and Lichfield."

The above letter, justly deemed a curiosity, shews at once the great intimacy and familiarity which subsisted betwixt Mr. Gilby and the bishop, and the high esteem and respect in which our divine was held by his learned diocesan. Mr. Gilby was a celebrated scholar, and a most profound and pious divine, and admirably qualified for the translation of the holy scriptures. The famous Dr. Lawrence Humphrey, with whom he held a frequent correspondence, had the highest opinion of him. Several of the doctor's letters to Mr. Gilby are now before me, one of which, though very short, it will be proper here to insert; which is as follows :•

" To his worshipful and good friend Mr. Ant. Gilby.

" Salutation in Christ Jesus. Albeit your days are evil u and your time short; yet I pray you be occupied in the " gift which God has betowed upon you, in translating the " prophets, and conjoin somewhat also out of the Rabbins " or Chaldee Paraphrast, that may be a testimony of your u industry, and an help for your son. We must do what we u may, and what we cannot must leave to God. The Lord " be merciful to us. Commend me to your good wife. " Oxon. March 5.

•" Yours in the Lord,

" Lawrence Humphrey."

This letter appears to have been addressed to our divine towards the close of life, but there is no particular year

specified in the date. Several other letters from Dr. Thomas Sampson, Mr. Thomas Wilcocks, and other celebrated divines, addressed to Mr. Gilby, are now before me. Such of them as are particularly illustrative of the history of the times, will be found inserted in their proper places.

The high respect in which Mr. Gilby was held, was no screen against the persecution of the tyrannizing ecclesiastics. Therefore, in the year 1571, Archbishop Parker binding the clergy to a more exact conformity, by wearing the habits and observing the ceremonies, commanded Archbishop Grindal of York, to prosecute him for nonconformity. But Grindal, who, towards the close of life, was averse to all severe measures, signified to his brother of Canterbury, that as Mr. Gilby dwelt in Leicestershire, and out of his province, he could not proceed against him; and so referred his case to the commissioners in the south. Hence it is extremely probable that he was now summoned, with several other learned divines, before Parker and his colleagues at Lambeth ; but of this we have no certain information.* It appears, however, prettv evident, that he was silenced from his public ministry, either at this, or at some other time.t

Mr. Gilby, according to Fuller, stands first on the list of learned writers, who received their education in Christ's college, Cambridge. He was author of a work, entitled " A Viewe of Antichrist, his Lawes and Ceremonies in our English Church unreformed," 1570. The first part of this humorous piece is called " The Book of the Generation of Antichrist the Pope, the revealed Child of Perdition and his Successors;" and is so singular'and curious, that, for the satisfaction of the inquisitive reader, the substance of it is here transcribed. The ecclesiastical genealogy is expressed as follows:

The devil begat darkness. Darkness begat ignorance. Ignorance begat error and his brethren. Error begat freewill and self-love. Free-will begat merit. Merit begat forgetfulness of the grace of God. Forgetfulness of the grace of God, begat transgression. Transgression begat mistrust. Mistrust begat satisfaction. Satisfaction begat the sacrifice of the mass. Sacrifice of the mass begat popish priesthood. Popish priesthood begat superstition.

* Strype's Parker, p. 320.—Grindal, p. 170.
+ Nichols's Defeoce, p. 21. Edit. 1740.
t Fuller's Hist, of Cam. p. 92.

Superstition begat hypocrisy the king. Hypocrisy the king begat lucre. Lucre begat purgatory. Purgatory begat the foundation of pensions, and the patrimony of the church. Pensions and patrimony begat the mammon of iniquity. Mammon begat abundance. Abundance begat fulness. Fulness begat cruelty. Cruelty begat dominion in ruling. Dominion begat ambition. Ambition begat simony. And simony begat the Pope, and his brethren the cardinals, with all their successors, abbots, priors, archbishops, lord-bishops, archdeacons, deans, chancellors, commissaries, officials, and proctors, with the rest of the viperous brood.

The pope begat the mystery of iniquity. The mystery of iniquity begat divine sophistry. Divine sophistry begat rejection of the holy scriptures. Rejection of the holy scriptures begat tyranny. Tyranny begat murder of the saints. Murder begat despising of God. Despising of God begat dispensation of offences. Dispensation begat license for sin. License for sin begat abomination. Abomination begat confusion in matters of religion. Confusion brought forth travail of the spirit. Travail of the spirit brought forth matter of disputation for the truth; by which that desolator, antichrist the pope, hath been revealed, and all other antichrists shall in due time be revealed. And they are antichrists, who make laws for the church, contrary to the truth, and deprive, imprison, and banish the members of Christ, both preachers and others, refusing obedience thereunto.—Most of the points in this curious genealogy, are supported by an appropriate portion of scripture.* Though Mr. Toplady styles the author, " a very acrimonious puritan;" yet he adds, " that as far as matters of mere doctrine were concerned, it is in perfect harmony with the creed of the church of England."+

As Mr. Gilby was a zealous opposer of the ecclesiastical corruptions, and constantly desirous to obtain a more pure reformation, he could not escape the severe animadversion of the contrary party. For having said, " that the habits and ceremonies used in the church of England, were carnal, beggarly, antichristian elements," Dr. Nichols has treated him with much scurrility and abuse. But, surely, if the apostle might call the Jewish ceremonies carnal, when God himself had appointed them; why might not Mr. Gilby say

• Parte of a Register, p. 56, 57.

t Toplady's Historic Proof, vol. ii. p. 356.

the same of the popish ceremonies, which he never appointed ? If the one called Jewish ceremonies, weak and beggarly elements ; why might not the other call the popish ceremonies, beggarly and antichrislian pomps ? The celebrated Bishop Ridley, once a zealous defender of the ceremonies, when the surplice was forced upon him, bitterly inveighed against it, calling it foolish, abominable, and not Jit for a player on the stage. The excellent Bishop Jewel called the garments, relics of popery. Why then is Mr. Gilby so bitterly censured for saying, they were popish fopperies, Romish relics, rags of antichrist, and dregs of disguised popery?* Mr. Gilby publicly declared, adds the above writer, " that if he was suffered to preach some time longer, being so conceited of his popular eloquence, he would shake the very foundations of the English church."+ Whether he was, indeed, thus conceited of his own superior eloquence, and whether he ever made any such declaration, it is not now very easy to ascertain. If Dr. Nichols had any authority for what he has asserted, he would certainly have done his own cause no injury, but have conferred a favour upon the public, by bringing it forwards. However, admitting the twofold charge, it reflects no great degree of honour upon the rulers of the church, that so eloquent, learned, pious and useful a divine, should be condemned to silence.

This worthy servant of Christ appears to have lived to a very great age, but we cannot learn the particular time of his death. The last of the letters addressed to him, that we have seen, is one from Dr. Sampson, dated March 8, 1584; when he must have been living.}

His Works.—1. An Answer to the Devilish Detection of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, 1547.—2. A Commentary on the Prophet Micah, 1551.—3. An Admonition to England and Scotland, to call them to Repentance for their Declension and Apostacy from the Truth, 1557.—4. A Viewc of Antichrist, &c. already mentioned. —5. A Godly and Zealons Letter written to Master Coverdale, M. Turner, M. Sampson, M. Doctor Humphrey, Mr. Lever, M. Crowley, and others that labour to roote out the Weedes of Poperie, 1570.—6. A pleasant Dialogue between a Soldier of Berwick and an English f Captain, wherein are largely handled and laid open such Reasons as are brought for Maintenance of Popish Traditions in our English Church.

* Peirce'a Vindication, part ii. p. 8, 9.
+ Nichols's Defence, p. 21. Edit. 1740.
% Baker's MS. Collec. vol. zxxii. p. 443.