Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

reign, but of a new dynasty, when our own venerated version of the Bible will engage notice; but as all that has been recorded had taken place before it was commenced, one parting glance is due to the past, before bidding adieu to the princes of the house of Tudor.

To every unprejudiced mind, the high purpose of the Almighty with regard to this nation had now become very apparent. And may we not inquire, whether, throughout the compass of four successive reigns, a period of seventy-seven years, any other movement is to be discovered, which can be either confounded with this extraordinary procedure, or once compared with it, in point of importance ? To convey His own Blessed Word to this island, now appears to have been God's one fixed purpose, but such a path had been chosen as for ever to defy any impartial pen from being able to identify the design with any mere partywith any peculiar or any private interest, within its shores. And precisely the same path we shall find to have been pursued in Scotland. We have mingled with the men, and with the rulers of successive governments. There had been different opinions throughout the land, and the volumes since written respecting these, cannot be numbered. Mental friction, in abundance, there had been, and so there was still : but in regard to the Sacred Scriptures in our native tongue, and the possession of them by the people, all along, if any mere circle, or any section of men, however privileged, or of whatever name, had put in its claim for exclusive, or even eminent honour and renown ; we can see now that it might with equal propriety have arrogated credit to itself, for the rain that came down, or the snow from heaven.

There had indeed been many changes, and there will be many more: but throughout all we have yet beheld, a contrast, by way of relief, has been presented to the eye of pos

, terity. It has been one continuous or unbroken design, nor is there one other vein of English history, of which, on the whole, as much can be said. Elizabeth is dead; but from the days

; of her father down to the close of her long reign, “ the trum

6 pet has given a certain sound.” If Providence had spoken at all, or rather had done so, from year to year, and to more than two successive generations, has not the voice been unambiguous ? the purpose invariable ? the object one! Such was the self-moved and unmerited favour of God.

The extraordinary number of the editions of the Sacred Volume, in whole or in part, having never before been marked or known, one is called away from every thing else, as of far inferior moment to us now. What signify to the present age, many other events, which have long since spent all their force or influence on posterity? But there is a voice here, which has never died

away in the ear of this country, nay, and one that is sounding louder than ever at the present hour. A part, then, from all the turmoil of these successive reigns, let the eye only now be turned to those venerated monuments of the entire period; for it is not the least remarkable feature in these volumes as a whole, that there should be copies still in existence, and, perhaps, without one exception, from the first edition to the last! At least we have no account to present of editions now no more. Now in such peculiar times as those of which we have read, for more than seventy-five years past, every fresh issue must be regarded as an event, while, upon an average, more than three times every year, the same event had occurred—the same voice was heard. And is there then no conclusion to be drawn from such a series of volumes! A series, printed and published amidst contradiction and blasphemy; preserved and read in the face of denunciation and the flames: a series, demanded and perused ever after, not by the voice, or through the encouragement, of human authority ; for, generally speaking, they were read, as we have witnessed, independently of all such influence: a series, not given away, or sold at reduced prices, as in modern times, but purchased by the people, and at such rates as at first remunerated the bookseller, and then the monopolist. When the

eye thus runs over the general current of these numerous editions, and sees them now occupy in the record of impartial history, a place so sacred and so high; we need not ask whether any thing else of human composition, is to be mentioned with decorum, at the same moment, much less placed by their side. This, it is presumed, would now appear to be profane. But the entire range, and especially in its historical character, puts the same inquiry to every reader—“ Whether there could have been given at the time, or left for the grave consideration of posterity now, a more pointed testimony to this one all-important truth—The All-SUFFICIENCY of the Scriptures."

Christianity, not an outward conventional form, being essentially a mental subject, addressing the heart and soul of man, this first and fundamental truth" the all-sufficiency of the Divine record,"—it was worthy of its Divine Author to repeat, so emphatically, in the ear of the people, from month to month, and from year to year, amidst all their wild confusion and the strife of tongues. This was a consideration, which, historically, had taken precedence of every thing else, whether of the Ministry itself, or the form of godliness. Nay, and it is a truth still, which if the heart and conscience of this nation were once fixed upon it, the consequences would surpass human foresight : Meanwhile this, and by way of eininence, seems to be one main instruction to be drawn from all that had yet occurred. By the man of mere party, it is true, of whatever class throughout the kingdom, from Oxford all round to the sea, the monition may not even yet be heard ; and that simply because the subject is one which happens to be above his customary sphere of judgment. But should the slightest hesitation remain in the mind of any reader, let him read on. Upon this subject there is no ambiguity awaiting him, in the sequel.

SECTION IV.

JAMES I. TO THE COMMONWEALTH.

ACCESSION OF JAMES-HIS JOURNEY TO LONDON-HIS STRANGE PROGRESS

THROUGH THE COUNTRY—HIS HEEDLESS PROFUSION-CONFERENCE AT

[blocks in formation]

PAID, BUT NOT BE HIS MAJESTY, NOR BY ANY BISHOP, AFTER THE KING'S APPLICATION, BUT BY THE PATENTEE—THE PRESENT VERSION PUBLISHED-NO PROCLAMATION, NO ORDER OF PRIVY COUNCIL, OR ANY ACT OF THE LEGISLATURE UPON RECORD, ON THE SUBJECT-DID NOT BECOME THE VERSION GENERALLY RECEIVED THROUGHOUT ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, AND IRELAND, TILL ABOUT FORTY YEARS AFTERWARDS—THE LONDON POLYGLOT BIBLE PUBLISHED BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE

THE LAST ATTEMPT TO INTERFERE WITH THE ENGLISH BIBLE BY A COMMITTEE OF PARLIAMENT, REPRESENTING ENGLAND, IRELAND, AND SCOTLAND-UTTERLY IN VAIN--THAT ACQUIESCENCE OF THE PEOPLE AT LARGE IN THE EXISTING VERSION OF THE SCRIPTURES SOON FOLLOWED,

WHICH HAS CONTINUED UNBROKEN EVER SINCE.

p to the present moment, the history of the English

Bible had maintained a character peculiar to itself.

Originating with no mere patron, whether royal or noble, the undertaking had never yet been promoted at the personal expense of any such party. But now in regard to that version of the Sacred Volume, which for two hundred and thirty years has been read, with delight, from generation to generation, and proved the effectual means of knowledge, holiness, and joy to millions ; it may be imagined by some, as there was now another and a final change, that our history must, at last, change, or in other words, forfeit its character. If, however, the accounts frequently given of our present version have been involved in as much inaccuracy of statement, as they have been with regard to all the preceding changes, there is the greater necessity for the public mind being disabused ; and that, too, whether in Britain, or America, or the British foreign dependencies. This is a subject which alike concerns them all, as they all read, and prize, the same version.

If because that a dedication to James the First of England has been prefixed to many copies, though not to many others; and if because not only historians at their desks, but lawyers at the bar, and even Judges on the bench, have made most singular mistakes—it has therefore been imagined by any, or many, that the present version of our Bible was either suggested by this monarch ; or that he was at any personal expense in regard to the undertaking; or that he ever issued a single line of authority by way of proclamation with respect to it, it is more than time that the delusion should come to an end. The original and authentic documents of the time are so far explicit, that, just in proportion as they are sifted, and the actual circumstances placed in view, precisely the same independence of personal royal bounty, and, on the part of the people at large, the same superiority to all royal dictation, which we have beheld all along, will become apparent.

a

;

James himself, however vain, is certainly not so much to be blamed for any different impression, as some others who have misrepresented his Majesty. On the other hand, his character was such that to many writers it has occasioned some exercise of patience even to refer to it. But since his name occurs in connexion with this final revision of the English Bible, it is of the more importance to ascertain the exact amount of this connexion. From the moment in which he was invited to the throne, and to be King of Great Britain, his own favourite term, down to the year in which our present version was published, his “ royal progress” is forced upon our notice.

Elizabeth had expired on the 24th of March 1603, when the King of Scotlard succeeded as James the First, finally assuming the style of King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. Having left Edinburgh for England on Tuesday the 5th of April, James proceeded by way of Berwick and Newcastle, through York to London, where he did not arrive till the 7th of May. Throughout this journey he had already furnished a strong contrast, in point of character, to his predecessor. With regard to rewards, whether in point of honour or emolument, Elizabeth had been so sparing, that she has been charged with avarice. But James, having once procured from London such supplies as might enable him to advance in befitting style, actually hunted most of the way, scattering the honour of knighthood with such profusion along the road, that by the day he entered his capital, the number of his knights was about one hundred and fifty; and before one fortnight had passed, or by the 20th of May, they were « aecounted at two hundred and thirty-seven, or better, since the time he entered Berwick” on the 6th of April. The Queen, with her children, having followed in June, the coronation took place in July ; after which, his Majesty immediately returned, with great ardour, to his favourite sport of hunting. Though now entered into his thirty-ninth year, and having affairs to manage which had demanded all the talents of an Elizabeth, never was a boy let loose from school, more bent upon his amusement.

It was, however, but a few weeks, when matters all around began to assume a very grave aspect. From the beginning of the year, indeed, there had been symptoms of the plague in London, but in the summer it had raged with violence, and so far from abating afterwards, in one fortnight before the 13th of September, there had died in London alone 6385 persons. The disease, at the same time, was far from being confined to the city. One might have imagined that this was sufficient to have made any man slacken his rein ; but no, sixty miles distant from the metropolis, at Woodstock, one of the new made knights, Sir Thomas Edmonds, on the 13th of September, informs the Earl of Shrewsbury, “Since the time that your Lordship left us, we have wholly spent our time in that exercise” of hunting. The prevailing disease, however, paying no respect to persons, by this time had reached the Court. In the same letter, therefore, it follows, “ The Court hath been so continually haunted with the sickness, by reason of the disorderly company that do follow us, that we are forced to remove from place to place, and do infect all places where we come. We are now going within a few days to Winchester, to seek a purer air there;

« PreviousContinue »