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There is, however, in conclusion, one other inquiry to be made; and this, to some minds, may be not the least important. It is this. By whose influence or authority was it, that our present version of the Sacred Volume came to be read, not in England alone, but in Scotland and Ireland? This too, is a question the more interesting to millions, as it is now the Bible of so many distant climes—read not only in the Americas and Canada, but in all the wide-spread and daily extending British colonies.
The reigning King had indeed signified his approbation of the undertaking, and when the Bible was published it bore on its title-page, that the version had been “ newly translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesty's special commandment.” In a separate line below, and by itself, we have these words, “ Appointed to be read in churches.” Now as the Book never was submitted to Parliament, never to any Convocation, nor as far as it is known, ever to the PrivyCouncil ; James, by this title-page, was simply following, or made to follow, in the train of certain previous editions. As for Elizabeth, his immediate predecessor, we have already seen, that under her long reign, there was another version, beside the Bishops', and that the former enjoyed the decided preponderance in public favour: so, in the present instance, that there might be no mistake or misapprehension, in regard to the influence or authority by which our present Bible came to be universally received, a result somewhat similar took place.
Thus, for seven or eight years after the present version was published,
said Lord Chief Justice MANSFIELD, on another occasion, “has no property in the art of printing. The King has no authority to restrain the press. The King cannot, hy law, grant an exclusive privilege to print any book, which does not belong to himself. The copy of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek Testament or the Septuagint, does not belong to the King; they are common. But the English translation he bought, therefore it has been concluded to be his property! His schole right rests upon the foundation of property in the copy by the common law !!" In a former part of this history we had occasion to quote the language of Solicitor-General York, in the case of Baskett v. the University of Cambridge, who absolutely went so far as to assert that “ the translation of the great English Bible under Grafton was performed at the King's expense," meaning Henry VIII., “which gave him, the reigning monarch, another kind of right!!" Both the Bench and the Bar, the reader must be aware, here proceed on the delicate principle, that the King dever dies; he only demises, and so the right, according to the popular fancy, remained. It is certainly passing strange, that no pleader once thought of denying that either Monarch ever paid one farthing. Going into his proof, he might have followed it up by a second, that after all, our version of the Scriptures is not an original work. In point of fact, however, no historical assumptions seem to be greater than these. On the contrary, if we only look at certain fines imposed by Henry in connexion with the Scriptures, and to these patents granted by James, as far as evidence goes, it rather appears that both their Majesties have been brought in AS DEBTORS TO THE BOOK, BUT NEVER THE BOOK TO THEM.
we find Barker, or Norton and Bill, still printing the Geneva Bible, at least in ten editions, besides four of the New Testament separately. The fact is, that the royal patentee went on to print both versions to the year 1617 or 1618.21 After that the Geneva Bibles, so frequently printed in Holland, were imported and sold, without the shadow of inhibition during the entire reign of James the First, and longer still. As for Scotland, from whence the King had come, that Bible continued to be as much used there, as the present version, for more than twenty years after James was in his grave. The influence or authority of James, therefore, cannot once be mentioned, when accounting for the final result.
The Bible was indeed first published in 1611, and being still farther corrected in 1613 ; but did James, as a king, take one step to enforce its perusal ? Not one ; a fact so much the more notable, when the overweening conceit of that monarch, and the high terms in which he so frequently expressed himself as to his prerogative, are remembered. “We can assign,” says one of the best living authorities in the kingdom, can assign no other authority for using the present version of the Bible, except that of the conference at Ilampton Court."22 But that conference has been already described, and, in the circumstances, it actually amounted to no authority at all in point of law ; James was not then King of England ; though had it been otherwise, that conference certainly had not the slightest influence in recommending the version to which it gave rise. However, immediately after his Majesty had been recognized by Parliament, he had spoken once, as we have heard ; and his solitary letter we have given at length. It was in part abortive, and after that, it seems, he must speak no more ; a circumstance more worthy of notice, as James was notoriously so fond of speaking officially, and especially by proclamations. In the first nine months of his reign, he had issued at least a round dozen, but here there was nothing of the kind. “ After this translation was published,” says one writer, others all dropt off by degrees,” that is, in about forty years," and this took place of all, though I don't find that there was any canon, proclamation, or act of parliament, to enforce the use of it."23
“ The present version,” says Dr. Symonds, “ appears to have made its way, without the interposition of any authority whatsoever ; for it is not easy to discover any traces of a proclamation, canon, or statute published to enforce the use of it."
As for the “ appointment,” noted on the title-page merely, it is to be borne in mind that this extended no farther than to public assemblies of the people, here indefinitely enough styled“ Churches ;” and taking the translators themselves for our guide, they, in their dedication, looked no
21 We suspect there may still be found a later date. 92 The Rev. Dr. Lee in 1824. Now Principal of the University of Edinburgh. 93 Bibliotheca Literaria, No. iv., p. 22. An. 1723.
farther than England. Now, even there, while there had been a proclamation and canons with regard to Matthew's and Cranmer's, and the Bishops' Bible, in 1538, 1571, and 1603, it becomes very observable that neither the one nor the other was ever issued as to our present version. It is true that in various “ Articles of Inquiry” on episcopal visitation, in succeeding reigns, such a question as—“ Have you a large Bible of the last translation ?” had been put to church-wardens. Such occasional inquiries however, proceeded, in all cases, simply in virtue of the King's personal authority over that Church of which he was recognized as Head; and they amount to nothing, as soon as we inquire for the cause of universal usage, whether in Scotland, or even in England throughout.
As royal authority, therefore, had no influence in accounting for the change, one circumstance, far more tangible, must be observed, and it is well worthy of special notice. Our present version, on the whole, was no doubt superior to its predecessors, but then besides, it had one mighty additional advantage in its favour. It was without note and comment. On the other hand the Geneva of 1560, though an excellent version, and, for the sake of comparison, well worthy of another fresh edition even now, had been almost always accompanied with these appendages. Whatever may be said of the notes, no intelligent person can speak lightly of the version itself; but these notes proved the dead weight which at last sunk the translation into an oblivion which, but for them, the version might have longer survived. Thus once more, or from Tyndale's down to our present version, was Divine providence marking out to this country the true and only path to universal usage of the Sacred Volume, whether in this or in every other land. It was the Bible, but it must be without note and comment.
To these Geneva notes Archbishop Laud inherited far more hatred than James had ever felt. The King after his one sally at the conference, seems to have let the matter alone ; not so the Prelate, and under his sway the history of the English Bible had assumed a very singular aspect. He comes before us in proof of the impotence of royal authority, and even of the royal patent, whether for correct printing, or supplying the public demand. This was about the year 1632, when Laud, and very properly, was fining his Majesty's printer, Barker, for incorrect printing of the Bible at home.2 But, at the same time, and with the strangest
24 Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, King's printers, having published a Bible this year, in which, among other errata, the word not was left out of the seventh commandment, the imprese sion was called in, and the printers fined £300, not £3000 as sometimes slated. With this money a fount of fair Greek types was provided. Robert Barker, sen., did not die till 1645, and could not have sunk into prison under such a sum as this. Indeed, when Charles I. referred 10 the amount, thus he expressed himself, -" And our further will and pleasure is, that the said Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, our patentees for printing, or those which either now are, or shall bereafter succeed them, being great gainers by their patent, shall, at their own proper cont and charges of ink, paper, and workmanship, print, or cause to be printed, in Greek, or Greck and Latin, one such volume in a year, be it bigger or less, as the Right Rev. Father aforesaid, (Augustine Lindsell, bishop of l'eterborough,) or our servant, Patrick Young, (King's Librarian,) or any other of our learned subjects, shall make ready for the press."
inconsistency, he was labouring with all his might, to prevent the importation of Bibles printed in Holland, chiefly on the acknowledged ground of their superior excellence in every point of view! When put on his trial, some years after, and called to account for many other things, it was one of the charges against him, that “one of the first books most strictly prohibited to be printed, imported, or sold by this Archbishop, was the English Geneva Bible, with marginal notes and prefaces, though printed here in England, not only without the least restraint, but cum privilegio regiæ Majestatis during all Queen Elizabeth and King James, their reigns, by the Queen's and King's printers ; and since our printers have neglected to print them, for fear of hindering the sale of the last translation, without notes, they have been sold without any contradiction till this Archbishop began to domineer.” The following was part of Laud's own curious reply, meant for defence.
“ The restraint was not for the notes only; for by the numerous coming over of Bibles, both with and without notes, from Amsterdam, there was a great and just fear conceived, that, by little and little, printing would quite be carried out of the kingdom ; for the books that came thence, were better print, better bound, better paper, and for all the charges of bringing, sold better cheap! And would any man buy a worse Bible dearer, that might have a better more cheap? And to preserve printing here at home, as well as the notes, was the cause of stricter looking to these Bibles !”
To this the Commons replied, “ That the English Bible with the Geneva notes was not only tolerated, but printed and reprinted during Queen Elizabeth and K. James's reigns ; and in the 15th of James, (nay the sixteenth ?) there was an impression of them printed here by the King's own printer ; since which time the new translation, without notes, being most vendible, the King's printers forbearing to print them for their private lucre, not by virtue of any public restraint, the Geneva were usually imported from beyond the seas, and publicly sold without any inhibition or punishment, till this Archbishop's time, who made it no less than a high commission crime to vend, bind, or import them.”
Thus matters had gone on for a few years longer, till the last official interferences with our present version of the Bible took place. They become more worthy of regard, not only as being the last ; but on account of several circumstances connected with both the attempts.
Under the gradual disclosure of attested facts, in regular succession from Henry the Eighth down to this period; while establishing the high independence of the English Bible as a dis
a tinct undertaking, and not to be confounded with other things; the present history may seem to have borne hard upon some men in high places ; since it has bereaved the reigning prince, as well as some of his titled advisers, of an honour and influence which have too often been falsely ascribed to them. But in never soliciting their patronage, and in no vital point admitting of their control, it becomes a very observable circumstance, that, at this crisis, when the question of our present version of the Bible came to be settled for two centuries to come, the history will effectually redeem itself from all imputations as to anything invidious towards the Crown, as the Crown. The course it held under monarchical government, will not change when this is gone. Let executive human power be held by whomsoever it might, if put forth here, in the shape of control, it cannot be allowed, and like former attempts, it must come to nothing. The proposal may be hinted, but it
will die away.
It happened about eight years after the death of Laud, and four after that of Charles the First, that a Bill was introduced into the Long Parliament, on the 11th of January 1653, for “ a new English translation of the Bible out of the original tongues.” Such a bill, it must be remembered, had never before been laid before any previous Parliament in England. Once
upon a time indeed, under Edward VI., we have seen that a bill was brought before the Senate referring simply to the reading of the Bible, which was never mentioned a second time, or heard of more ; but respecting any version, or revision of the Scriptures, as the consent of Convocation had never been deemed necessary, so that of Parlianient had never been consulted. At a period, therefore, when there was no King upon the throne, no Primate in existence, nor any House of Lords, such a proposed Bill excites special notice; while as an attempt on the part of official power to interfere, it becomes the more striking, as being of a new character. The Bill was once mentioned, and only once; but the Parliament of the Lord-Brethren must no more invade the peculiar character of this cause, than the parliament of royalty ; nor must the sovereignty of the people be flattered, any more than the sovereiguty of the Prince. This Parliament had already sat for more than twelve years, retaining the supreme authority in their hands, so that this Bill sunk into oblivion by the well-known dissolution of the House soon after. On the 20th of April, Cromwell, surrounded by some of his officers and several hundred men, repaired to the Parliament, and after hearing them for a quarter of an hour discuss the question as to the form of their own dissolution, he rose and peremptorily