« PreviousContinue »
lowed in former reigns were incorrect; and in 1604, the king commissioned fifty-four learned men of the universities and other places to make a new and more faithful translation of the Bible, according to rules which he himself prescribed. Seven of those who were appointed either died before the work was begun, or declined to engage in it; and the other forty-seven were divided into six companies, who met at Cambridge, Oxford, and Westminster, and translated the books respectively assigned to them. This work was begun in the spring of the year 1607, and at the end of three years it was finished. Two persons selected from the Cambridge translators, two from those of Oxford, and two from those of Westminster, then met at Stationers Hall in London, and read over and corrected the whole. Lastly, it was reviewed by Bilson bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Myles Smith, who prefixed arguments to the several books (a). Dr. Smith wrote the preface, and the person alluded to in it as "the chief overseer and task-master," is supposed to have been Bancroft bishop of London. This translation was published in 1611; and the improvements
(r) The chronological index and marginal references were afterwards added by Bishop Lloyd, one of the seven bishops imprisoned in the reign of James the Second.
improvements made in it were such as might have been expected from the judicious care with which it was conducted, and the joint labours of so many distinguished men :-" It is a most wonderful and incomparable work, equally remarkable for the general fidelity of its construction, and the magnificent simplicity of its language (y)." This is the translation now in use (z). Since that time there has been no authorized translation of any part of the sacred volume.
Happy, thrice happy, hath our English nation been, since God hath given it learned translators, to express in our mother tongue the heavenly mysteries of his holy word, delivered to his
(z) It may, perhaps, be useful to state, under one point of view, the different printed translations which have been noticed, with their dates:
Tindal's first translation of the New
The Great Bible -
- 1582, &c.
his church in the Hebrew and Greek Languages; who, although they may have in some matters, of no importance unto salvation, as men, been deceived and mistaken, yet have they faithfully delivered the whole substance of the heavenly doctrine contained in the holy Scriptures, without any heretical translations or wilful corruptions. With what reverence, joy, and gladness, then ought we to receive this blessing! Let us read the Scriptures with an humble, modest, and teachable disposition; with a willingness to embrace all truths which are plainly delivered there, how contrary soever to our own opinions and prejudices; and in matters of difficulty, readily hearken to the judgment of our teachers, and those that are set over us in the Lord; check every presumptuous thought, or reasoning, which exalts itself against any of those mysterious truths therein revealed; and if we thus search after the truth in the love of it, we shall not miss of that knowledge which will make us wise unto salvation (a).”
(a) Johnson's Hist. Acc. If the reader wishes for more minute information upon the subject of this chapter, he may consult Johnson's Historical Account of the several English Translations of the Bible, and an Historical View of the English Biblical Translations, by Dr. Newcome, late primate of Ireland.
CHAPTER THE SECOND:
LITURGY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
BEFORE the Reformation, the public service of our church was performed only in Latin, and different Liturgies were used in different parts of the kingdom. These liturgies consisted of prayers and offices, some of which had been transmitted from very antient times, and others were of later origin, accommodated to the Romish religion, which was then the established religion of this country. It is well known, that the renunciation of the Pope's Supremacy by Henry the Eighth paved the way for introducing the reformed doctrines and discipline into the church of England; but that great and glorious event was accomplished by slow degrees. Our ancestors did not at once pass from the various errors in belief, and from all the superstitious practices of
of the church of Rome, to that purity of faith and simplicity of worship by which the church of England is now distinguished; and we shall find that it required the labours of the pious and learned of several successive periods to bring our Liturgy to its present state of excellence.
Though Henry himself was by no means a sincere and uniform friend to the cause of the Reformation, yet his resentment against the Roman pontiff induced him to authorize many publications (a), which were calculated to expose the abuses and corruptions that had so long prevailed; and the several translations of the Bible into English, mentioned in the last chapter, contributed greatly to enlighten the minds of men, and to prepare them for that important change which took place immediately after his death.
In the first years of Edward the Sixth, who was firmly attached to the principles of the reformed religion, in which he had been educated, the King and his council nominated Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, Ridley, afterwards bishop of London, and other eminent divines, to draw up a Liturgy
(a) The King's Primer; the Godly and Pious Institution of a Christian Man; a necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Christian Men, &c. &c.