Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER IV.

THE AGE OF SPENSER, SHAKSPEARE, BACON, AND

MILTON.

A. D. 15584A. D. 1660.

SECTION SECOND: THE SCHOLASTIC AND ECCLESIASTICAL

LITERATURE.

ERUDITION, CLASSICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL. 1. General State of Ecclesiastical

Learning—Eminent Names-Raynolds—Andrewes— Usher – Classical Studies Camden and Selden-Latin Prose and Verse.-TRANSLATIONS OF THE HOLY BIBLE. 2. The Geneva Bible-Whittingham-The Bishops' Bible-Parker.-3. King James's Bible-Its History-The Translators—Its Universal Reception.-ORIGINAL THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS. 4. The Elizabethan Period-Hooker's Ecclesiastical PolityReign of James-Sermons of Bishop Andrewes-Sermons of Donne.-5. Reign of Charles-Hall and Taylor compared.—6. Bishop Hall –His Sermons-His other Works.—7. Jeremy Taylor-His Treatises-His Sermons-Character of his Eloquence.-8. The Commonwealth and Protectorate-Controversial Writings—The Puritans-Richard Baxter–His Life and Works.

ERUDITION, CLASSICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL.

1. THE Prose Literature of the illustrious period with which we are busied, is equally vast in amount and various in range. Our ambition must limit itself to the acquiring of a little knowledge, in regard to a few of the most distinguished names, and very few of the most valuable or characteristic sorts of writing.

The successive changes having already been traced hastily in the order of time, our task will now be easiest if the phenomena are regarded according to their kinds. Theology and its contributory sciences will first present themselves : philosophy will be followed by history; and, afterwards, from a varied and interesting mass of miscellaneous compositions, there may be selected and arranged the most remarkable specimens.

The study of the Oriental Languages, and other pursuits bearing immediately on Theology, flourished largely throughout our period, or, at any rate, from the middle of Elizabeth's time. Several of those churchmen whose English writings will soon call for notice, were honourable examples of the high professional knowledge possessed by their order. Hooker, however, is said to have been the first divine of the Reformed Church who was both remarkably learned and remarkably eloquent. The credit of having been the most erudite among the theologians of the great

queen's reign, is assigned to Thomas Raynolds, whose opinions tended to puritanism, and whose works are very little known. The path of learning in which he and other ecclesiastics were most highly distinguished, was that which was called Patristic Theology, that is, the study of the early Fathers of the Christian Church. The reputation which Raynolds had enjoyed in this field, devolved, in the time of James, on Bishop Andrewes, whose celebrity as an orator will present him again to our view. He may here be described as having been one of the best and wisest of those who held the ecclesiastical views, developed afterwards so uncompromisingly by Archbishop Laud; indeed, if not the founder of this High Church party, be is said to have been certainly the earliest of its literary advocates. In the next reign, the Low Church party, and the Irish nation, possessed the man most famous of all for Patristic learning; one indeed who, while his knowledge extended widely beyond the studies of his profession, has been declared to have been in these the most profound scholar whom the Protestant Church of our country has ever produced. This learned man was Archbishop Usher, who was at the same time one of the most pious and devoted of ministers.

While Theological erudition prospered thus signally, the study of the Pure Classics was by no means prosecuted with so much success. It could not boast of any very celebrated name,

either in the more exact school which had formerly prevailed, or in that historical method of philology which was followed so actively on the continent throughout the first half of the seventeenth century. When it is said that the times of James and Charles were learned, what is meant is this : that the literary men were deeply read in classical books, but not that they were deeply versed in classical philology. Greek, likewise, was not so well known as Latin. Probably the most correct and profound of our scholars were such laymen as Camden and Selden: and they, as it has already been remarked, were far from bounding their studies by the limits of the ancient world. Among those men whose pursuits were chiefly classical, Gataker was eminently distinguished. The name of the industrious Farnaby will sometimes come in the way

of the Latin reader : and Sir Henry Saville, eminent for his own learning,

was still more so for the munificence with which he aided the studies of others.

Many of the philosophical and polemical writings of the times were couched in Latin : so likewise were some of its histories. In the last stage of the period, poetry was composed elegantly in that tongue by May and Cowley, and still more finely by Milton.

THE TRANSLATIONS OF THE HOLY BIBLE.

2. Oriental learning and Classical, a love of goodness, and a zeal for national enlightenment, co-operated in producing the most valuable of those efforts which present themselves in the field of Theology. We have to mark a second series of Translations of the Holy Scriptures: and, to reach its beginnings, we look back, for the last time, to the middle of the sixteenth century.

The first of the three versions whose appearance is now to be recorded, came from the same little knot of exiles, English and Scottish, who had sought refuge in Geneva, and had there already published a revised edition of the New Testament. Their entire Translation of the Bible was printed at the cost of the congregation, one of the most active of whose members was the father

of the founder of the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Being completed soon after the accession of Elizabeth, it was published in 1560 : it was accompanied by a dedication to her, and a prefatory epistle “ To our beloved in the Lord, the brethren of England, Scotland, and Ireland.” Coverdale, John Knox, and several others, have been said to have had some share in the work; but three only can positively be named, all of whom were afterwards ministers in the Church of England. Whittingham, Calvin's brother-inlaw, who had edited the New Testament, was for nearly twenty years Dean of Durham, though troubled by his metropolitan for his Genevese tendencies ; Gilby died at a good old age as Rector of Ashby-de-la-Zouch ; and Sampson, refusing a bishopric, became successively Dean of Christ Church, and a Prebendary of Saint Paul's, losing the first office by being a non-conformist in the matter of costume. The Geneva Bible became, and long continued to be, the favourite version among the English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians.

It was not, indeed, adopted by the Church of England. But Cranmer's version, which had been restored to public use, was admittedly open to improvements; and measures were quickly taken for the purpose. The chief promoter of the good work was 6. 1504. Į Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the

most eminent among the fathers of the English Church. He had the honour, in early life, of declining to become a professor in Oxford, under the patronage of Wolsey; and, attaching himself to the Protestant party, and losing valuable preferments on the accession of Queen Mary, he improved his knowledge still further in his enforced leisure, and was held to be, both in theology and history, one of the best informed men of his day. Now placed at the head of the church, he conducted its organi

d. 1575.

zation with great ability and skill, though not always to the satisfaction of those among the clergy who had inclinations towards Puritanism.

It seems to be generally allowed, that his great undertaking, of revising the version of the Scriptures, was executed by men furnished with ampler resources of learning, theological, classical, and oriental, than any that had yet been applied in England to the sacred task. His version, which was published in 1568, is usually called the Bishops' Bible, a majority of the fifteen translators having been selected from the bench. Those of them whose names are most widely known were probably the following: Grindal, Parker's energetic successor in the Primacy; Bentham, who was esteemed as a commentator; the despotic and learned Sandys; and Cox, the venerable bishop of Ely, who had been the tutor of Edward the Sixth. Thenceforth, till our last step, the two new versions were,

with hardly any exception, the only ones that issued from the press. We are told that, in the course of Elizabeth's reign, there appeared eighty-five editions of the English Bible, and forty-five of the New Testament; sixty of the former being impressions of the Geneva version.

It is right also to note, in passing, the dates of the Roman Catholic version, commonly known as the Douay Bible. The New Testament appeared in 1582, and the Old Testament in 1610.

3. Our current translation, as every one knows, belongs to the reign of James. The first movement towards it was made in the celebrated Conference at Hampton Court, when the learned Raynolds, the leader of the puritanical party, and then president of Corpus Christi College in Oxford, proposed to the king that there should be a new version. In 1604, a royal letter, addressed to the Primate Bancroft, announced that the sove

overeign had appointed fifty-four learned men for translating the Bible, and ordered that measures should be taken, by securing the co-operation of eminent Greek and Hebrew scholars, and otherwise, for the commencement and progress of the undertaking. The la bours of these persons, however, did not begin till the spring of 1607; they lasted about three years; and the version which was the fruit of them was published in 1611. Among the other instructions issued to the translators, are articles directing, that the Bishops' Bible “ shall be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit;” but that the translations of Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, Cranmer, and the Geneva Bible, shall “ be used when they agree better with the text than the Bishops' Bible,"

Of the forty-seven translators whose names are recorded, there were many in regard to whom enough is known to show, that, in the kinds of knowledge qualifying for such a task, they were among the most learned men in a learned age. Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster, supplied their most eminent scholars, who were distributed into sections, varying in number from ten to seven; the work being apportioned among these, and provision made for an exchange of corrections among the several companies, and for a final revision by a committee. Perhaps Bishop Andrewes was the most famous man among the translators, Raynolds the most profound theologian, and Sir Henry Saville the most distinguished for classical and general accomplishment. The array of Oriental and Rabbinical erudition seems to have been particularly strong

The Geneva version still for a time retained its popularity; and a new version was one of the abortive schemes of the Long Parliament. A committee of the Protector's Parliament of 1657 consulted several profound scholars, among whom were the philosophical Cudworth, the celebrated Orientalist Brian Walton, and Edmund Castell, his chief coadjutor in the Polyglott Bible. On the evidence of these competent judges, they reported to the House that, taken as a whole, King James's is “the best of any translation in the world.” Its reception may be considered as having thereafter been universal.

It is needless to say how nobly simple are the style and diction of this, the book in which all of us read the Word of Truth. Just as little does any one require to be informed, that it has had a wide influence for good on the character of our language. But it may be well that we call to mind the manner in which it was concocted: and that we remember how, as a necessary consequence of this, its phraseology is considerably more antique than that of the time in which it appeared. It was well for the purity of the English tongue, that the history of the English Bible took the course it did.

b. 1553. d. 1600.

ORIGINAL THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS, 4. Our brief memoranda of original writings, produced by the Old English Divines, open auspiciously with the venerable name

of Hooker. His great work, the “ Ecclesiastical Polity,”

is highly valued as an exposition and defence of those views of the relations between church and state, according to which the Reformed Church of England was organized; but it is also a noble effort of philosophical thinking, which is conducted with especial force and mastery in the ethical disquisitions making up

« PreviousContinue »