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(FROM "THE INDUCTION.")
We have already seen how the first English Bible grew,
sentence by sentence, in the quiet study of Lutterworth Rectory, where John Wycliffe sat among his books; how William Tyndale dared death and found it in a foreign land, that he might spread God's word freely among his awakening nation; how Miles Coverdale published in 1535 a version of the whole Bible, translated from the Hebrew and the Greek; and how in 1540 Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, superintended the issue of a new translation, which was called Cranmer's, or the Great Bible.
The reign of the eighth Henry was a strange era in the history of the Book, evidencing perhaps above all other modern days the everlasting life of Truth. If the Bible were not immortal, it would surely have perished then.
One Sunday in February 1526, the great Wolsey sat in old St. Paul's under a canopy of cloth of gold. His robe was purple; scarlet gloves blazed on his hands; and golden shoes glittered on his feet. A magnificent array of satin and damask-gowned priests encircled his throne; and the grey head of old Bishop Fishersoon to roll bloody on a scaffold-appeared in the pulpit of the place. Below that pulpit stood rows of baskets, piled high with books, the plunder of London and the university towns. These were Tyndale's Testaments, ferreted out by the emissaries of the cardinal, who had swept every cranny in 1526 search of the hated thing. None there fresh from the printer's hand-all well-thumbed volumes, scored with
THE CRYPT OF OLD ST. PAUL's.
many a loving mark, and parted from with many bitter tears! Outside the gate before the great cross there burned a fire, hungering and leaping for its prey like a red wild beast. On that day no blood slaked its ceaseless thirst, no crackling flesh fed its ravenous maw—this was to be but a prelude to the grand performance of later days. Bibles only were to burn; not Bible readers. When the sermon was over, men, who loved to read these books, were forced, with a refinement of cruelty, to throw the precious volumes into the flames, while the cardinal and his prelates stood looking at the pleasant show, until the last sparks died out in the great heaps of tinder; and then the gorgeous crowd went home to supper, rejoicing in their work of destruction. Poor misguided men! to think that the burning of a few shreds of paper and scraps of leather could destroy the words of eternal Truth!
Scenes like this occurred more than once at St. Paul's Cross; yet the Bible lived—was revised and translated with more untiring industry than ever.
Fifteen years after the burning thus described, and five years after the body of Tyndale had perished like his books in the flames, a royal order was issued, commanding a copy of the Bible to be placed in every church, where the people might read or hear it freely. Gladly was the boon welcomed; young and old flocked
in crowds to drink of the now unsealed fountain of life. 1541 Then was often beheld, within the grey crypt of St. Paul's,
a scene which a distinguished living artist * has made
the subject of a noble picture. The Great Bible, chained to one of the solid pillars which upheld the arches of the massive roof, lay open upon a desk. Before it stood a reader, chosen for his clear voice and fluent elocution; and, as leaf after leaf was turned, the breathless hush of the listening crowd grew deeper. Grey-headed old men and beautiful women, mothers with their children beside them and maidens in the young dawn of womanhood, merchants from their stalls and courtiers from the palace, beggary and disease crawling from the fetid alleys, stood still to hear; while, in the dim back-ground, men who, if they had dared,
* George Harvey, Esq., of the Royal Scottish Academy.
THE CONFERENCE AT HAMPTON COURT.
would have torn the sacred Book to tatters and trampled it in the dust, looked sourly on.
This dear privilege of hearing the Bible at church, or reading it at home, so much prized by the English people then, was snatched from them again by their cruel and fickle king. But in 1547 the tyrant died, and during the reign of the gentle boy Edward Bible-reading was restored.
Under Elizabeth the Bible was finally established as the great standard of our national faith. Two editions, appearing before that translation which we use, may be noted, the Geneva Bible, so dear to the Puritans, finished in 1560 by Miles Coverdale and other exiles who were driven from England by the flames of persecution; and the Bishop's Bible of 1568, a translation superintended by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was aided by the first scholars of that learned age.
Then came the translation which we still use, and to which most of us cling with unchanging love, in spite of the occasional little flaws which the light of modern learning has discovered. How tame and cold the words of that Book, entwined as they are with the memory of earliest childhood, would fall upon our ear if rendered into the English in which we speak our common words and read our common books!
Within an oak-panelled and tapestried room of that splendid palace which Wolsey built at Hampton by the Thames, King James the First, most pedantic of our English monarchs, sat enthroned among an assembly of divines, who were met in conference upon the religious affairs of the kingdom. It was then little more than nine months after his accession to the English throne, and he took his seat, resolved to teach the Puritan doctors Jan. 14 that in him they had to deal with a prince of logicians 1604 and a master in theology. There were present, to back the wisdom of the British Solomon and applaud his eloquence, some twenty bishops and high clergy of the Church of England, the lords of the Privy Council, and many courtiers; while, to speak in the cause of needed change there were only four--two doctors from Oxford, and two from Cambridge. It
PUBLICATION OF KING JAMES'S BIBLE.
would be out of place here to describe how, during the three days of conference, amid the titters of the courtiers and the gratified smiles of the clergy, the conceited king called the Puritan doctors “dunces fit to be whipped,” and indulged in other similar flights of his peculiar, knock-down style of oratory. The scene, ridiculous in most respects, is memorable to us, because it led to the publication of our English Bible. During one of the pauses of the fusilade, when the royal orator was out of breath, Dr. Reynolds proposed a new version of the Scriptures; and James saw fit, by-and-by, to yield his gracious consent.
Fifty-four scholars were appointed to the great work, but only forty-seven of these actually engaged in the translation. Taking the Bishop's Bible as the basis of the new version, they set to their task in divisions, Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster being the centres of their labour; and, often meeting to compare notes and correct one another's manuscripts, they completed their transla
tion in about three years. Our Bible was therefore pub1611 lished, with a dedication to King James, in the year 1611.
Of late years there has been some talk of a new trans
lation. No doubt, a revisal, by which manifest misprints or inaccuracies in translation might be remedied, would be a good thing; but a completely new translation would so utterly destroy those solemn associations which, rooted in every heart, are twined, closer than the ivy around its elm-tree, round the antique English of our Bibles, that to attempt it would be dangerous and wrong. During the ascendency of the Puritans in Cromwell's day, the same scheme was mooted, for the Puritans long preferred the Geneva Bible to that of King James; but on the proposal being laid before the leading scholars of that time, they pronounced the translation of 1611“ best of any in the world;" and so the matter dropped.
Hallam reminds us that, even in the days of King James, the language of this translation was older than the prevailing speech. “It may,” this great critic says, “in the eyes of many, be a better English, but it is not the English of Daniel, or Raleigh, or Bacon, as any one may easily perceive. It abounds, in fact, especially in