Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590): Should the doctrine of predestination be taught and preached?



Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) thought that it was dangerous to propagate the doctrine of predestination either by preaching or writing, since it may discourage Christians from assurance of their salvation and encourage the wicked to sin. In his work The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination, Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) replied to such objections by employing the insights of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Bucer (1491-1551). Zanchi’s argument in favour of the preaching and teaching of predestination, which can be found in p. 97-107 of his work, has been neatly summarized by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones in their work A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, on p. 131:

  • God teaches us predestination in His Word, and we must not be ashamed of His doctrine but proclaim it with reverence and trust in His wisdom.

  • This doctrine humbles our pride and magnifies God’s grace, for it shows us that we can do nothing to save ourselves – God alone saves sinners.

  • Faith by nature receives doctrines of God that it cannot see and fully comprehend by human reasoning.

  • Election comforts and sustains the saints with God’s unchangeable love for them when Satan attacks with doubts and accusations.

  • Predestination reveals the infinite glory and sovereignty of the eternal and unchangeable God so that we know Him and worship Him.

  • Predestination guards the gospel of salvation by grace alone.

  • This doctrine brings us a vibrant vision of God’s special love for His people in Christ Jesus, which is the joy of His people and fuel of their love to Him.

  • Predestination moves God’s people to diligent holiness of life.

Girolamo Zanchi (1516–1590) on definite/limited atonement



“As God doth not will that each individual of mankind should be saved; so neither did he will that Christ should properly and immediately die for each individual of mankind; whence it follows, that though the blood of Christ, from its own intrinsic dignity, was sufficient for the redemption of all men, yet, in consequence of his Father’s appointment, he shed it intentionally, and therefore effectually and immediately, for the elect only.
This is self-evident. God, as we have before proved, wills not the salvation of every man: but he gave his Son to die for them whose salvation he willed; therefore his Son did not die for every man. All those, for whom Christ died, are saved; and the divine justice indispensably requires that to them the benefits of his death should be imparted; but only the elect are saved; they only partake of those benefits; consequently, for them only he died and intercedes. The apostle, Rom. viii. asks, ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? it is God that justifies,’ i.e. his elect, exclusively of others: ‘who is he that condemned? It is Christ that died’ for them, exclusively of others. The plain meaning of the passage is, that those whom God justifies, and for whom Christ died, (justification and redemption being of exactly the same extent,) cannot be condemned. These privileges are expressly restricted to the elect: therefore God justifies and Christ died for them alone.
In the same chapter, Paul asks; ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, (i. e. for all us elect persons) how shall he not, with him, also freely give us all things ?’ i.e. salvation, and all things necessary to it. Now, it is certain that these are not given to every individual; and yet, if Paul says true, they are given to all those for whom Christ was delivered to death; consequently, he was not delivered to death for every individual. To the same purpose St. Augustine argues, in Johan. tract. 45. col. 335. Hence that saying of Ambrose, ‘si non credis, non tibi passus est,’ i.e. if you are an unbeliever, Christ did not die for you. Meaning, that whoever is left under the power of final unbelief, is thereby evidenced to be one of those for whom Christ did not die: but that all for whom he suffered, shall be, in this life, sooner or later, endued with faith. The church of Smyrna, in their letter to the diocese of Pontus, insist every where on the doctrine of special redemption. Bucer, in all parts of his works, observes, that ‘Christ died restrictively for the elect only; but for them universally’.”

– Girolamo Zanchi (1516–1590), The Doctrine of Absolute PredestinationChapter “Observations on the Divine Attributes,” Position 9

Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) on the Gospel


Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) was an Italian Protestant Reformer. Below is his definition of the gospel:

“Concerning the gospell therefore, according to the signification received and used in the church, we beleeve that it is nothing else but the heavenly doctrine concerning Christ, preached by Christ himselfe and the apostles, and contained in the bookes of the Newe testament, bringing the best and most gladsome tidings to the world, namely, that mankinde is redeemed by the death of Iesus Christ, the onely, begotten Sonne of God. So that there is prepared for al men, if they repent and beleeve in Iesus Christ, a free remission of al their sinns, salvation, and eternall life. Wherefore it is fitlie called of the Apostle: ‘The gospel of our salvation’.”

– Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590), De religione christiana Fides (Confession of the Christian Religion), 253