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now stands. But we cannot forget that both the poetical paraphrases, such as that of Cædmon, the actual translations, as that of Bede, had their effect upon the people of the time, formed a religious language, and cultivated healthy religious thought, and thus paved the way for that thirsting after Scripture, which we find springing up from time to time among the people of our country
Five hundred years ago, Wycliffe was busily at work upon the Scriptures, translating them into English as it was spoken in his time. What materials he had before him, we cannot tell, but certain it is that he and his friend Nicolas de Hereford completed the Bible between them before 1384. Probably all attempts at previous translation were made from the Vulgate ; certainly Wycliffe's, as also Purvey's, which was a revision of Wycliffe's, are simple reproductions in English of the Latin text.
Few things are more remarkable in the history of the Church of Christ, than the influence which Jerome's Latin Bible has had upon all the versions of the Scripture which have been made in Western Europe. We only know one thing to which it may be compared, namely, the influence which the Septuagint had, under God's Providence, upon the inspired writers of the New Testament. Just as, in this case, the Greek Testament is impregnated with Septuagintal expressions, and phrases, and sentences; so, in the other case, translators have never been able to divest themselves entirely of the influence of the Vulgate. Whether we turn to the early translations in Bohemia, Italy, Spain, France, or Germany, or whether we confine our obser. vations to our own country, the same holds true. Our own authorized version has been built up largely with the help of the Vulgate; and our translators do not hesitate to speak of Jerome's work in terms of almost unqualified praise. In the New Testament the text of the Vulgate is often more in accordance with the ancient MSS. than is our textus receptus; and in the Old Testament, although the text at times varies from ours, the meaning is practically the same, and Jerome, under the guidance of the Jewish rabbis at Bethlehem, has generally succeeded in hitting upon the sense, so that modern critics are seldom upanimous in rejecting his translation even in the most difficult passages.
We cannot wonder that, when the age of printing had begun, when editions of the Bible and translations of the Bible began to multiply on the continent, the Church of Rome should come forth on the Conservative side, and should declare that the Vulgate was to be regarded as the version which represented the Roman textus receptus, and which gave the correct meaning of the Scripture as a whole. That version was even then, i.e. at the time of the Council of Trent, eleven hundred years old, and had been quoted hitherto as the Bible in the multitudinous writings of the past ages of the Latin Church; it was therefore felt that to unseat it, or to make questions of text and translation open questions, would be to prodnce vast difficulties, and to kindle many dissensions in that body whose main virtue bas always been its uniformity and its compactness of organization.
But whilst an apology for the Church of Rome may be made to this extent, it must not be forgotten that a further motive prompted that body to authorize a Latin Bible, which can meet with no sympathy from Protestants; and that was the desire to keep the people from the reading of the Word of God. This is the real shield of Romanism as a system. It keeps its votaries in the dark. It knows too well that there is no popery in the Bible. It is well aware that even the Vulgate itself, when read with unprejudiced eyes, is mainly Protestant. The policy of Rome is to substitute the voice of the Church, which is uninspired, for the voice of the Scripture, which is inspired. What “ the Catholic Church" has always held, that must be true; and, lest it should seem inconsistent with Scripture, this must be kept in the back-ground. Rome treats all its adherents like children. It thinks for them, and forbids them to think for themselves. It appeals to the eye, and to the ear, and even to' the nose, rather than to the intellect. It uses exquisitely devotional language, and adopts, unhesitatingly, the most glorious truths of the Gospel ; but these things are fitted into the system, instead of being its foundation. The text of Scripture is not taken as the basis of truth, but is artfully cut up into little bits, and presented as part of the system, in such a way as to delude the hearers with the idea that the whole is Scriptural, whereas it is really quite the contrary.
In these respects Rome is but little changed from what she was when Wycliffe made his translation from the Vulgate; for, in 1408, in a Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, held under Archbishop Arundel, the following enactment was made : -“It is a dangerous thing to translate the text of this holy Scripture from one language into another, for in the translation the same sense is not easily kept; we therefore decree and ordain that no man hereafter, by his own authority, translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue, by way of a book, pamphlet, or treatise; and that no man read any such book, pamphlet, or treatise, now lately composed in the time of John Wycliffe, or since, or hereafter to be set forth in part or in whole, publicly or privately, upon pain of greater excommunication, until the said translation be approved by the Ordinary of the place, or, if the case so require, by the Council Provincial. He that shall do contrary to this shall likewise be punished as a favourer of heresy and error."
It is strange how often the fallacious objection has been repeated, which proclaimed that the Bible is a very difficult book to understand, and that the uncultivated mind is likely to get more harm from it than good. This theory, though truly Romish, and closely allied with sacerdotal pretensions, is by no means confined within the bounds of the Romish Church. Sixty years ago it was sometimes to be heard in the mouths of those of our own clergy, who were opposed to the principles of the British and Foreign Bible Society. There are difficulties indeed in the Bible,-deeps for the elephant to swim in,-but there are also shallows in which the lamb can wade. The ordinary reader of the Bible, who comes to it in simplicity to listen to the teaching of God, will be able to learn true wisdom from its pages, even though he may not understand all the oriental allusions, all the Jewish modes of thought, and all the minute links in the arguments. He will see the work of God, and will gather a right apprehension of the nature and character of God, and of his own duty, from its pages, far better than he would do from human compositions, however carefully and wisely composed. We sometimes forget the old proverb that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and that the book, the tendency of which is to bring the reader face to face with God, is infinitely superior to the catechisms, rules, compendiums, and other compilations to which many would have us resort. Well said the late Robert Hall, when dealing with this subject, “ For my part I am utterly at a loss to con. ceive of a revelation from heaven that must not be trusted alone; of a rule of life and manners which, in the same breath, is declared to be perfect, and yet so obscure and incompetent, that its tendency to mislead shall be greater than its tendency to conduct in the right path; of a fountain of truth more calculated, when left to its silent operation, to send forth bitter waters than sweet. ... The question whether the Scripture was designed to be communicated to mankind at large without distinction, or to a particular class, with a discretionary power of communicating it at such times and in such proportions as they might deem fit, can only be determined by itself. If it bear decisive indications of its being intended for private custody,-if it be found to affirm, or even to insinuate, that it is not meant for universal circulation, we must submit to hold it at the discretion of its legitimate guardians.” This, however, is not the case. The Bible is intended to be the book for all, and, as such, it is to be freely read by every man in his mother tongue.
A hundred years after the death of Wycliffe, Tyndale was hard at work at the Scripture. He perceived, as he tells us in his Preface to the Pentateuch,“how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were
plainly laid before their eyes in their mother-tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text." In 1525, the small octavo New Testament was printed at Worms. The only perfect copy of this book is in the library of the Baptist College at Bristol ; but it has been reproduced, word for word and letter for letter, in lithograph, through the patience and diligence of Mr. Fry. A quarto edition, which was begun at Cologne previously, is supposed to have been also finished at Worms; but we know not whether it was really finished at all. The work was twice revised by the author before his martyrdom.
Mr. Westcott, in his History, discusses at some length the internal history of Tyndale's Testament, and the materials which he had to aid him in its preparation. We almost wish that this discussion had been even longer than it is. There can be little doubt that the translation was made from the Greek, and that the Latin Vulgate was referred to throughout, whilst Luther's translation and the Latin version of Erasmus were consulted at times. The translation bears every mark of its originality and of the vigour and freshness of the author's mind. When we compare it with our own, we see how much we owe to it, whilst at times a feeling of regret may come over us that we have not adhered to it more closely.
One peculiarity in Tyndale's translation is its scrupulous avoidance of ecclesiastical words. In this respect we have gone back again to the old terms, a course which Mr. Westcott approves of, because it keeps up a sort of historic connection between our Bible and the Church of past ages. We differ, however, from the learned author on this point. The object of the translation of the Bible is to be intelligible, and there is a danger sometimes lest, as regards its language, it should be regarded as a museum of curiosities. The revision of the Bible is sometimes objected to on the ground that such a course would deprive us of several rare old words. But this is an absurdity. The Bible is to be the book for the people, not a repertory for the antiquarian. There may be other sound objections to the undertaking, but certainly this ground ought never to be taken. It was Sir Thomas More's main charge against Tyndale that he substituted “congregation” for “church," “ elder” for “priest," “ love” for a charity," and such like. We wish that the first and last of these were still retained throughout. They would save much misunderstanding. The case of “priest" is curious. We have abolished it from the New Testament ministry, and have thrust it upon the Old. The Latin “sacerdos" and the French “sacrificateurs are infinitely more satisfactory as a translation than our word “priest,” which is properly a contracted form of “pres
and a she word “ reifference in vede
byter.” Would it not have been better to have taken the Hebrew word “cohen," than to have thus confounded two words which have such a distinct meaning as “hiereus” and “presbyteros” ? Certainly here we have fallen far short of the Vulgate, which never applies the word “sacerdos" to the ministry of the New Testament. Our course with regard to another word has been curious. The word “penance" sounded popish, and was connected in the popular mind with all sorts of horrors, and particularly with the false doctrine that sins committed after baptism need special acts of self-mortification and a special process of absolution from a “priest.” Accordingly the word “repentance" has been substituted for it. But is there any real difference in the meaning of these words? No. Both are ultimately derived from the same Latin word “pæna,” and neither expresses the real sense of the Greek word “ metanoia.” Coverdale had no hesitation in using the word “penance” in his translation, and said that there was no more difference between “penance” and “repentance” than between fourpence and a groat. The truth is, that the meaning of the word must be gathered from its usage; and there is no fear that the ordinary reader of the Bible will be misled, by either one word or the other, into the false notion that any acts which we can do will atone for the sins committed after baptism.
After Tyndale came Coverdale, who had the honour of publishing the first complete English Bible in the year 1535. It is still, in some degree, a question how far Coverdale translated from the original. Mr. Westcott decides that his version was mainly based on the Latin translation by Pagninus, and on the Swiss-German version of Zwingli and Leo Juda. He also availed himself to some extent of Tyndale's New Testament and Pentateuch, and the Book of Jonah. How far he consulted the original in the Old Testament, has not been satisfactorily determined; nor is it known how long he had been employed upon the work before it saw the light. The Second Edition, which was published in 1537,“ with the King's most gracious license,” may be called our first authorised version.
This same year came forth Matthew's Bible, which was made up of Tyndale's translation from Genesis to 2 Chronicles and his revised New Testament, together with the remainder of the Old Testament, with the Apocrypha from Coverdale's Bible. Cranmer begged Cromwell to get it authorised “ until such time that we bishops shall set forth a better translation, which I think will not be till a day after doomsday.”
This Bible was revised, under the superintendence of Cover. dale, by the special order of Cromwell, and came out as the “Great Bible in 1539. This was the Bible ordered to be set