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There was now to be no Parliament or Convocation for three years, but at last, and without therefore having consulted either the one or the other, about midsummer or the autumn of this year we hear something respecting the Scriptures; and by virtue of Elizabeth's authority, certain injunctions were issued. Among these were the following, left with every parish visited.
“ To provide within three months after this visitation, at the charges of the parish, one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English, and within one twelve months the paraphrases of Erasmus also in English, and the same to be set up in some convenient place within the said Church, where the parishioners may most conveniently resort and read the same. All parsons under the degree of A.M., shall buy for their own use the New Testament in Latin and English with paraphrases, within three months. Enquiry was to be made whether any Parsons, Vicars, or Curates, did discourage any person from reading any part of the Bible, either in Latin or English.”
No intimation was given, here, or any where else, as to how or where such volumes were to be found, and hence it has been inferred by Lewis, that under the late reign they had not been destroyed or burnt to any very great extent. At the same time, it may be observed that this was nothing more than a royal injunction; buried too among not fewer than fifty others, some of which are strange enough; and if the effects resembled those which resulted from Henry's voice, then there would, in many instances, be a reluctant, in others, only a tardy compliance.
As for the preparation of more copies, Elizabeth said not one word, while the printing press, as we shall see presently, far from approaching its freedom in the days of Edward, has become more fettered than it had ever been, since the art was first introduced into England !
All this, however, will only render the progress in printing of the Sacred Volume still more remarkable. This was a cause in which neither the reigning Prince nor the Privy Council, the Parliament or Convocation, had ever been much consulted, and never with a view to its essential progress.
It had commenced contrary to the will of all these parties, and as certainly proceeded without taking orders from them. For the
progress, therefore, at this crisis, as we were accustomed to do in the days of Elizabeth's father, we must now look abroad. From thence the Queen requires to be put on her way, and in a manner not unlike to Henry's reception and sanction of the Bible at first, in 1537.
Before turning to her Majesty on the throne, however, we are met by an old acquaintance still alive, in perfect keeping with our narrative; a man who, as an instrument, at least in this history, occupies a place superior to that of any reigning Prince. We refer to no other than Richard Grafton, the printer of the parent Bible, and others following. Before Elizabeth had done any thing, nay, when, as Jewel informs Peter Martyr, she was “wonderfully afraid of any innovations,” Richard appears again in sight, and quite in character, as if summoning afresh to their work, the friends of Divine Truth. But before he called, they were answering, for they had been busy “ night and day.” Only, let it be observed, that as it happened in the days of Henry, the answer or echo will once more come from abroad. It was in 1559 that Grafton began by a reprint, first published at the accession of Edward in 1547, after his father had, only with his breath, ceased to frown. The title is,—“A godly invective in the defence of the gospel, against such as murmur and work what they can, that the Bible should not have free passage, very necessary to be read of every faithful Christian.” By Philip Gerrard, yeoman of King Edward's chamber."2 We are thus reminded of the “Supplication” which preceded the New Testament, under the Queen's father, as well as of the fine opening of King Edward's reign : but the reigning Princess is resolved to be as cautious as she was vigilant and powerful. We shall see, therefore, whether these can prevent her from being overruled, and to the end of her long sovereignty.
While Elizabeth was yet in jeopardy of her life, and under the guardianship of Sir Thomas Pope, we have already seen that an edition of the New Testament had been printed at Geneva—that copies were finding their way into England, in despite of all opposition,--and that an edition of the entire Scriptures was already commenced, in the same city. The exiles themselves inform us when this was begun. It was when “ the time was dangerous, and the persecution, in England, sharp and furious.” The fact is, that no sooner had the New Testament left the press, than Whittinghanı, with one or two others, were preparing for their larger undertaking, and, at the latest, by January 1558 they had commenced. These men tell us that “they thought they could bestow their labours and study in nothing more acceptable to
2 Maunsell's Catalogue, p. 53. Herbert's Ames, pp. 523-538.
God, and comfortable to his Church ;” and they add,—“ God knoweth with what fear and trembling we have been for the space of two years and more, day and night, occupied herein.” The space referred to, therefore, was from January 1558 to the 10th of April 1560, when the last sheet was put to press.
Considering the high character of this version, and the number of editions through which it passed, it would have been gratifying could we have fixed, with more positive certainty, on the individnals to whom the nation stood indebted. They were most probably not more than three in number, or four at the most ; but whether it arose from modesty or motives of prudence, we are left to find out the real parties. The revision has been often, it is true, and very loosely ascribed, to six, and even nine, individuals, as though engaged in one body: viz., William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Miles Coverdale, Thomas Sampson, Christopher Goodman, Thomas Cole, John Knox, John Bodleigh and John Pullain. This, however, is doing nothing else than numbering up certain men possessed of learning, who happened to be then living at Geneva. It requires but a little investigation to reduce the number to one-third, and then, we presume, the great burden, if not the entire responsibility, will appear to have fallen upon three of these scholars. It is true that all these men, with many others, were intimately and affectionately connected with each other. They were members of the same Christian church, and a church, be it observed, who as a body felt deeply interested in this edition of the Sacred Volume. The entire expense not only of this Bible, but of an edition of the Psalms by itself was to be, and was defrayed by “ such as were of most ability in that congregation." There was no application to their native country, no solicitation of one farthing from without. Amidst the storm that raged against the truth, they had been driven into a corner, and thus the Church was employed. In the fullness of their hearts, the sound learning of certain members, and the pecuniary substance of others, being devoted to the cause of their common Saviour, nothing could be a finer exhibition of Christian zeal for the highest interests of their native land. Thus, as the first translation of the Sacred Word, commenced in 1524, had sprung from the devoted zeal of a solitary Christian exile, whose heart had bled with pity for his country ; so
the next thorough revision of the entire Sacred text, must come from the bosom of a small Christian community, also in exile, “ for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."
The accession of Queen Elizabeth, however, in November 1558, naturally filled this entire circle with joy, and the men we have named, as well as others, were as naturally separated; but then this was with the exception of those who had devoted themselves to the revision and printing of the Bible. The good news had reached Geneva in December, and at that moment, we are informed, that the greater part of the book was not finished; but Whittingham, with one or two more, did tarry at Geneva an year and a half after Queen Elizabeth came to the Crown, being resolved to go through with the work.3 Le Long has affirmed that “ the chief and most learned” of the men already mentioned, were Coverdale, Whittingham, and Gilby; but Coverdale, now seventy years of age, cannot be traced as at Geneva sooner than December 1558, and it is certain that he returned in 1559; how early we cannot tell. He was preaching at Paul's Cross on the 12th of November. In short, Knox had left Geneva as early as January 1559; Goodman followed him to Scotland, where we find him in September; while it is as certain that Coderdale and Cole, Pullain and Bodleigh, returned to England in the same year. The only three left, therefore, were Whittingham, Gilby and Sampson, and with their names only the translation should have been associated ; since the men who completed “ the greater part,” must have been those by whom it had been begun. Many of their brethren, indeed, they tell us,
3 Wood's Athenæ, 4to, i., p. 447.
4 Strype's Life of Grindal. 5 Wood's Athenæ, &c. That COVERDALE and Knox, the most conspicuous of those who now left Geneva, could not bave been engaged with this translation, may be made more evident. COVERDALE, as already mentioned, had left England in February 1555, and went direct to Denmark, where the King would have sustained him ; but bent on being useful, he went first to his expatriated countrymen at Wesel in the duchy of Cleves. Being, however, acquainted with German, and having formerly ministered to a church at Bergzabern, in Bavaria, there he sojourned; the first time his name is to be found any where else is at Geneva, on the 15th of December 1558. Now, as the Bible was begun nearly a year before this, and as he 90 soon took his departure for England, some casual or passing advice was the utmost that his time afforded. The same thing is equally evident with regard to John Knox. He had gone to Frankfort from Geneva in 1554, where he first met with Whittingham, when by the unanimous suffrages of his brethren he was chosen pastor of the church. It was in March following, that he was unceremoniously ejected by Dr. Cox and his supporters, just arrived from England. By the 12th of June 1565, Knox had returned to Geneva. It was then only, and on the borders of 50, that he first began to study Hebrew; but in August he left Geneva for Scotland, and was in Edinburgh by November. In the spring of 1556 we find him in Ayrshire, at Edinburgh again in May, which he left, with his family, in July, for France, proceeding by Dieppe to Geneva. But by March 1557, he was anxious to return to Edinburgh, and had gone to Dieppe in October, where he remained two months, returning, however, to Geneva early in 1558, when the Geneva Bible was already undertaken. The English Church at Geneva had chosen two pastors. Knox was one of them, and Anthony Gilby had ministered in his place when absent. But even now, throughout 1558, Scotland still dwelt on his mind, as it was in this year he penned his letter to the Queen Regent, as well as his Appellation and Exhortation. By November of this year, indeed, letters from his native country had arrived, urging his return, and he left Geneva for the last time in January 1559; Whittingham having been ordained as his successor.
, “ put them on this work by their earnest desire and exhortation;" while others encouraged them“ not to spare any charge for the furtherance of such a benefit and favour of God toward his Church."
Although we cannot now notice every edition here, but refer to our list, yet as the only English Bible distinctly pointed out in any patent, from Elizabeth downwards, and especially as the basis of so many editions for above eighty years to come, this demands some farther notice.
Title._" THE BIBLE AND HOLY SCRIPTURES conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament. Translated according to the Ebrue and Greke, and conferred with the best translations in divers langages. With moste profitable annotations upon all the harde places, and other thinges of great importance as may appeare in the Epistle to the Reader.” Beneath is a wood-cut, of the Israelites passing through the red sea. “ At Geneva. Printed by Rouland Hall, MDLx.” Collation.–After a dedication to the Queen, and an Epistle to the Readers, about to be noticed, we have the text from Genesis to 2d Maccabees, fol. i., 474. “ The Newe Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ,” &c., with the same woodeut and imprint as before. “ The Holy Gospel,” &c., fol. ii., cxxii. A table of interpretation of proper names of principal things—the years from Adam to Christ—and the years from Paul's conversion. There is no Colophon. The Sacred text is in Roman, the contents of chapters in Italic type. A full page contains 63 lines.
Not at all aware, perhaps, of the cautious expediency by which the Queen of England was now guided, they subjoined a dedication to her Majesty, remarkably free from that fulsome adulation, which had been far too common, and expressing with great frankness their zeal for further progress in the cause of truth and righteousness. But there was a second address or “ Epistle,” still more worthy of notice. In what they had done, the translators now fixed an eye of sympathy and love, not upon England alone, but, taking a nobler flight, upon all those to whom the English language was vernacular. Such was the happy effect of adversity and travel ; the one softening, the other enlarging their minds. Their epistle of explanation, therefore, as to this version, is addressed to no
Returning by Dieppe, he landed at Leith on the 2d of May. To say nothing, therefore, of Knox's but recent attention to Hebrew, it is evident from these movements, that, however interested, he could never have been engaged with this new version of the Bible.