HOME > Library > Books > "The Benefit of Christ's Death: or, The Glorious Riches of God's Free Grace, Which Every True Believer Receives by Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified." Originally Written in Italian by Aonio Paleario; and Now Reprinted from an Ancient English Translation. With an Introduction by John Ayre, Minister of St. John's Chapel, Hampstead. by Aonio Paleario (Originally published in 1543 in Italian, 19th Century Update of the 1638 English Edition)
The Benefit of Christ's Death
The Glorious Riches of God's Free Grace, Which Every True Believer Receives by Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified
Aonio Paleario (Antonio della Paglia)
1500 - 1570, Italian Reformer
Paleario was taken by the Inquisitor Angelo di Cremona, removed to Rome and imprisoned for three years under Pope Pius V. After he was tried and condemned by the Roman Catholic Inquisitors, he was burned in 1570 for his steadfast faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was originally preached.
Originally published 1543 in Italian
19th Century Update of the 1638 English Edition
Reprinted by HAIL & FIRE 2009
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2009
The work here republished is the translation of a treatise which appeared originally in the Italian language. There are some interesting circumstances connected with it. But, before adverting to these, it will be proper to give a brief account of the Author.
Antonio dalla Paglia, or, as he more generally called himself, Aonio Paleario, was born about the year 1500, at Veroli, in the Campagna di Roma. He studied under eminent masters, and was soon noticed as an accomplished scholar. He acquired the friendship of many of the learned of his age and country, and also of those dignified ecclesiastics whose religious views were esteemed the most moderate. Among these may be named the Cardinals Sadolet and Pole, who were thought- the last of them particularly - to favour the Reformation.
After passing several years in Rome, Paleario removed to Sienaa, where be married a lady by whom he left two sons and two daughters. By the senate of Sienna he was appointed public teacher of Greek and Latin, and he also lectured on philosophy and the belles-lettres. His diligent study of the Scriptures, and of the works of the German divines, imbued his instructions with a spirit very different from the lectures of his colleagues; and this, while it gratified his pupils, provoked the anger of the authorities. Cardinal Sadolet represented to him the danger he incurred, and advised him to yield to the times, and at least clothe his notions in more cautious language. But such advice little suited the zealous mind of Paleario; and he continued to assert his opinions with the greatest freedom. His conduct was therefore watched, and every stratagem employed to fasten the crime of heresy upon him. Thus, because he had exposed the hypocrisy of an ecclesiastic assiduous in his prostrations at the shrine of a saint while evading the payment of his debts, Paleario represented as an impious wretch, who dishonoured the blessed saints. A remarkable proof is afforded, in one of his letters, of the real ground of opposition to him. "Cotta," says he, "asserts that, if I am allowed to live, there will not be a vestige of religion left in the city. Why? Because, being asked one day what was the first ground on which men should rest their salvation? I replied 'Christ!' Being asked what was the second, I replied 'Christ!' and, being asked what was the third, I still replied 'Christ!'"
The charges against him were brought to a point by the publication, in 1543, of his treatise of the "Benefit of Christ's Death." The vast reputation which it had, and the eagerness with which it was read, being in the Italian language, increased the virulence of his opponents. Otho Melius Cotta, above mentioned, was his most determined enemy; and with this person three hundred leagued themselves in a resolution to destroy Paleario. And, in order to ensure his condemnation, twelve of these were selected to bear witness against him. He had, in consequence, to defend himself before the senate of Sienna, which he did with so much spirit, that for the moment his defence was successful. "There are some" said he, "so censorious as to be displeased when we give the highest praise to the author and God of our salvation, Christ, the King of all nations and people. For writing in the Tuscan language to show what great benefits accrue to mankind from his death, a criminal accusation has been made against me. Is it possible to utter or conceive anything more shameful? I said that, since he in whom Divinity resided has poured out his life's blood so lovingly for our salvation, we ought not to doubt the good-will of heaven, but may promise ourselves the greatest tranquillity and peace. I affirmed, agreeably to the most unquestionable monuments of antiquity, that those, who turn with their souls to Christ crucified, commit themselves to him by faith, acquiesce in the promises, and cleave with assured faith to him who cannot deceive, are delivered from all evil, and enjoy a full pardon of all their sins. These things appeared so grievous, so detestable, so execrable, to the twelve, I cannot call them men, but inhuman beasts, that they judged that the author should be committed to the flames. If I must undergo this punishment for the aforesaid testimony (for I deem it a testimony, rather than a libel), then, senators, nothing more happy can befall me. In such times as these I do not think a Christian ought to die in his bed. To be accused, to be dragged to prison, to be scourged, to be hung up by tbe neck, to be sewed up in a sack, to be exposed to wild beasts, is little: let me be roasted before a fire, provided only the truth, be brought to light by such a death," (Prat. pro seipso ad Patr. Conscript. Reip. Senens).
Though disappointed for the time, Paleario's accusers were not inclined to let him rest; he was, therefore, soon after obliged to quit Sienna. Being invited by the senate of Lucca, he repaired to that city, where he taught, and acted on solemn occassions as orator to the public. One of his former enemies, however, Machus,called Blaterone (the Babbler), followed him to this place, and, being anew confounded by the eloquence and noble bearing of Paleario, sought revenge on him through the Dominicans at Rome. But he had friends in the conclave, who for the present stifled the charges of his accuser.
The income of his post at Lucca appears to have been scarcely sufficient for the creditable maintenance of his family; and he had the trial of seeing his wife endure privations to which she had been unaccustomed. After remaining, therefore, for about ten years in his office, he accepted a more advantageous proposal from the senate of Milan. This was to become professor of eloquence, with a liberal salary and various privileges; and here he might have expected to spend the remainder of his life. But the toils of the persecutors were now fast thickening around the reformed; and Paleario, after several years of peril, was just, in 1566, deliberating about a removal to Bologna, when, on the accession of Pius V to the papal chair, the accusation against the author of "The Benefit of Christ's Death" was directed to be reheard. He was then seized by the inquisitor, Angelo di Cremona, conveyed to Rome, and committed a close prisoner to the Torre Nona.
The charges against him were disposed under the following four heads: That he denied purgatory; that he disapproved of the burial of the dead in churches, and preferred the ancient Roman mode of sepulture outside the walls of the cities; that he ridiculed the monastic life; and, lastly, that he ascribed justification solely to faith in the mercy of God forgiving our sins through Jesus Christ. In his examinations he appears to have manifested great firmness. When questioned by the cardinals of the inquisition, he addressed them (it is an enemy* who reports his words) (*Laderchius, the continuator of the Annuls of Baronius): "Seeing that your eminences have so many credible witnesses against me, it is unnecessary for you to give yourselves or me longer trouble. I am resolved to act according to the advice of the blessed apostle Peter, when he says, 'Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps, who did no evil, neither wag guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.' Proceed, then, to give judgment: pronounce sentence on Aonio, and thus gratify his adversaries and fulfil your office." Judgment was given, and he was condemned, after more than three years' imprisonment, to be suspended on a gibbet, and his body to be committed to the flames; though, according to some authorities, he was burned alive.
The Romanists, according to their frequent practice in such cases, pretended that Aonio was repentant, and died in the communion of their church. And there is a minute to this effect extant, which purports to be an official document of the Dominicans who attended him in his last moments (Article and Memorial, copied from a record belonging to San Giovanni de Fiorentini di Roma. This memorial, together with the letters which follow, are reprinted in the original Italian by Schelhorn, as referred to by Dr. M'Crie.). But this assertion is refuted by the author, Laderchius, who drew his materials from the records of the inquisition, and who says, "When it appeared that this son of Belial was obstinate and refractory, and could by no means be recovered from the darkness of error to the light of truth, he was deservedly delivered to the fire, that, after suffering its momentary pains here, he might be found in everlasting flames hereafter." Indeed, the last letters which Paleario wrote to his family on the morning of his death, sufficiently show that falsity of the preteded recantation. They would, we may readily conclude, have ecpressed his contrition, had he felt any, for opposing the popish doctrines. These letters to his wife and children are as follows:
"My dearest wife,
I would not wish that you should receive sorrow from my pleasure, nor ill from my good. The hour is now come when I must pass from this life to my Lord and Father and God. I depart as joyfully as if I were going to the nuptials of the Son of the great King, which I have always prayed my Lord to grant me through his goodness and infinite mercy. . . . click the link to read more...
"Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Hebrews 11:36-38 KJV
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