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WILLIAM TYNDALE is celebrated among our writers as a translator of the New Testament into English. What Wycliffe had done for his countrymen in the fourteenth century, Tyndale undertook during the troubled reign of the eighth Henry.
Of Tyndale's birth and boyhood we know positively nothing beyond the statement of Fox, that he was born on the borders of Wales, and brought up from childhood at Oxford. Graduating at that university, he went to spend some time at Cambridge. His powers as a linguist and his great love for the Scriptures are specially noted by his early biographer. The next scene of his life was the house of Sir John Welsh, a knight of Gloucestershire, who employed him as tutor to his children. This honourable but troublesome office was most creditably filled by the Oxford man, who met at the hospitable board of the good knight most of the leading country clergymen. The talk naturally turned very often upon the religious opinions of such men as Luther and Erasmus; and in these conversations Tyndale took a most conspicuous part, freely declaring his sympathy with the Reformers, and his desire—nay, his purpose—that every English ploughboy should soon know the Scriptures well. Iesigning his tutorship to seek a safer place, he preached for some time at Bristol and through the surrounding country, and then went to London, his big brain bursting with a glorious thought. He would translate the New Testament from the original Greek, and thus feed the hungering English people with the bread of life.
TYNDALE'S NEW TESTAMENT.
Wycliffe's Bible had become, in the changes which more than one hundred stirring years had brought upon the English language, a book unreadable but by a learned few. Disappointed in his attempt to secure the protection of Tonstal, the learned Bishop of London, Tyndale found a refuge in the house of Alderman Humphrey Monmouth, a rich London merchant, whose heart was in the good work. This honest man, keeping the poor scholar in his house for six months, would gladly have seen his friend fare better than on sodden meat and small single beer. But Tyndale would, if given his own way, take nothing else. The kindness of Monmouth did not stop here, for he made Tyndale an allowance of £10 a year, which enabled him to set in earnest about his grand design. Travelling into Germany, Tyndale saw and talked with Luther, and settled finally at Antwerp. There he finished his Translation of the New Testament. The first edition, printed probably at Wittenberg, was published in 1525 or 1526. An improved and altered version appeared in 1534.
The run upon the book, both on the Continent and in England, was very great. Copies poured by hundreds from the foreign presses into England. In vain the terrors of the Church were threatened and inflicted upon the sellers and owners of Tyndale’s Testament. The translator's brother and two others were sentenced, for distributing copies, to pay a fine of £18,840, Os. 10d. ; and, moreover, had to ride, facing the horse's tail, with many copies of the condemned volume tacked to their clothes, as far as Cheapside, where a fire blazed to burn the books. Conscious how utterly feeble such exhibitions were as a means of checking the new doctrines, Tonstal applied to Sir Thomas More for help ; and More, a devoted member of the Romish Church, dipping his pen in gall,—with which, however, the honey of his better nature often mingled, wrote many fierce and bitter things of Tyndale and Tyndale's works.
The Five Books of Moses, translated from the Hebrew partly by Tyndale, were printed at Hamburg in 1530; and in the following year the same industrious pen produced an English version of the Book of Jonah. Such work, added to the composition of many English tracts for sale in England, written in defence of his re
MARTYRDOM OF TYNDALE.
ligious opinions, filled the days, and many of the nights too, of this good man. Nor was the wear and tear of body and brain by night and day all that Tyndale gave to the service of his Master. Without straining the figure far, we can truly say that his Bible was written with his blood. One Henry Philips, English student at Louvain, by the basest treachery betrayed him in 1534 into the hands of the Emperor's officers at Brussels ; near which city, in
the Castle of Vilvoord, he was kept a close prisoner for
eighteen months. Then, tried and condemned for heresy, 1536 he was strangled at the stake, and his dead body was burned to ashes. His dying words were,
O Lord, open the King of England's eyes !"
Tyndale's English is considered, by the best authorities, to be remarkably pure and forcible. His New Testament ranks among our best classics. Tyndale also possessed such a knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew tongues as was rare in his day; and this, securing the fidelity of the translation, stamps his books with no common value.
FROM TYNDALE'S NEW TESTAMENT.
Jesus answered and sayde: A certayne man descended from Jerusalem into Jericho. And fell into the hondes off theves whych robbed hym off his rayment and wonded hym and departed levynge him halfe deed. And yt chaunsed that there cam a certayne preste that same waye and saw hym and passed by. And lyke wyse a levite wher he was come neye to the place went and loked on hym and passed by. Then a certayne Samaritane as he iornyed cam neye vnto him and behelde hym and had compassion on hym and cam to hym and bounde vppe hys wondes and poured in wyne and oyle and layed hym on bis beaste and brought hym to a common hostry, and drest him. And on the morowe when he departed he toke out two pence and gave them to the host and said unto him, Take care of him and whatsoever thou spendest above this when I come agayne I will recompence the. Which nowe of these thre thynkest thou was neighbour unto him that fell into the theves hondes? And he answered: He that shewed mercy on hym. Then sayd Jesus vnto bym, Goo and do thou lyke wyse.
AFTER some years of study, sporting, and teaching at Cambridge, Thomas Cranmer, a Fellow of Jesus College, born in 1489, at Aslacton in Nottinghamshire, went on a visit to Waltham Abbey in Essex, where lived a Mr. Cressy, the father of some of his college pupils. It happened that King Henry VIII., returning from a royal progress, stayed a night at Waltham; and, according to the custom of the day, his suite were lodged in the various houses of the place. Cranmer met Fox, the royal almoner, and Gardiner, the royal secretary, at supper in his friend Cressy's ; and when the table-talk turned upon the king's divorce, which was then the great topic of the time, he suggested that the question should be referred to the Universities of Europe. “The man has got the right sow by the ear," said Henry, next day, when he heard of the remark. And from that day Cranmer was a made man.
It is not our purpose here to trace the great career of Cranmer as a politician and a churchman. His literary character and works alone claim our notice. The part which he played in the shifting scenes of the English Reformation may be read in the annals of our Tudor Sovereigns. In March 1533 he was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, qualifying his oath of obedience to the pope with the statement, " that he did not intend by this oatlı to restrain himself from anything that he was bound to either by his duty to God or the king or the country.”
After escaping, in the reign of Henry VIII., the double danger
THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.
arising from the king's capricious ferocity and the insidious hatred of the anti-reform party, Cranmer became, during the reign of Henry's gentle son Edward, a leader of the English Reformation and a founder of the English Church. A few years later, under
poor, ill-tempered, misguided Mary, having been induced 1556 in the gloom of a prison cell to sign a denial of his ProtesA.D. tant belief,—a deed which he afterwards utterly repealed
he underwent at Oxford that baptism of fire which has purified his memory from every stain. Cranmer's great fault was a want of decision and firmness.
There is a book, which ranks with our Bible and the Pilgrim's Progress, as containing some of the finest specimens of unadulterated English to be found in the whole range of our literature. It is The Book of Common Prayer, used by the Episcopal Churches of Great Britain and Ireland. To Cranmer the merit of compiling this beautiful service-book is chiefly due. The old Latin Missal, used in various forms all over England, was taken to pieces; many parts of it were discarded, especially the legends and the prayers to saints, and what remained was re-cast in an English mould. The Litany, differing only in a single petition from that now read, was added as a new feature of the service. By an Act of Parliament, passed in 1548, all ministers were ordered to use the Book of Common Prayer in the celebration of Divine service. And ever since, that sweet and solemn music of King Edward's Liturgy has been heard in our lands, rising through the sacred silence of many churches when the Sabbath bells have ceased to chime.
A book of Twelve Homilies, or sermons, was also prepared under the superintendence of Cranmer, for the use of those clergymen who were not able to write sermons for themselves. The need of such a work shows us how far behind the lower clergy then were, even in the knowledge and use of their own tongue. Four of these Homilies are ascribed to the pen of Cranmer.
His third great literary work was his superintendence of a revised translation of the Bible, which is commonly called either Cranmer's Bible from his share in its publication, or the Great Bible from its comparative size. This edition, which