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the author poured out the vials of his wrath upon all those who caused Tyndale's translation of the New Testament to be destroyed, saying that they burned it because it destroyed the Mass. “By this,” adds More, “ you may see that the author accounted the translation very good for the destruction of the Mass.” Moreover, in a book called The Wicked Mammon, published by Tyndale himself shortly after this, although he blames the style of the author of The Burying of the ivi ass, he tacitly accepts his assertion that his translation of the New Testament was intended to bring about the abolition of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
In later times, after the experience of the religious changes in the reign of Edward VI., some writers pointed to the evils, religious and social, as evidence of the harm done by the promiscuous reading of the Scriptures. In their opinion, what More had feared and foretold had come to pass. “In these miserable years now past," says Standish of Mary's reign, in this tract on the vernacular Scriptures : “ In these miserable years now past, what mystery is so hard that the ignorant with the Bible in English durst not set upon, yea and say they understood it: all was light! They desired no explanation but their own, even in the highest mysteries.... Alas! experience shows that our own men through having the Bible in English have walked far above their reach, being sundry ways killed and utterly poisoned with the letter of the English Bible.”
The spirit in which the study of Sacred Scripture was taken up by many in those days is described by the Marian preacher, Roger Edgworth, already referred to. “Scripture,” he says, “is in worse case than any other faculty: for where other faculties take upon them no more than
'English Works, p. 223. ? Ibid., p. 223.
* Standish, ut supra, sig. E. iiij.
chatterselves and fomen and wom Scripture al
pertaineth to their own science, as (for example) the physician of what pertains to the health of man's body, and the carpenter and smith of their own tools and workmanship the faculty of Sacred Scripture alone is the knowledge which all men and women challenge and claim to themselves and for their own. Here and there the chattering old wife, the doting old man, the babbling sophister, and all others presume upon this faculty, and tear it and teach it before they learn it. Of all such green divines as I have spoken of, it appeareth full well what learning they have by this, that when they teach any of their disciples, and when they give any of their books to other men to read, the first suggestion why he should labour (at) such books is because of this,' say they, “thou shalt be able to oppose the best priest in the parish, and tell him he lies.'”1
The result is patent in the history of the religious confusions which followed, for this much must be allowed, whatever view may be taken of the good or evil which ultimately resulted. Dr. Richard Smith, in 1546, then states the position as he saw it : “In old times the faith was respected, but in our days not a few things, and not of small importance, but (alack the more the pity) even the chiefest and most weighty matters of religion and faith, are called in question, babbled about, talked and jangled upon (reasoned, I cannot and ought not to call it).” ?
Although the cry for the open Bible which had been raised by Tyndale and the other early English reformers generally assumed the right to free and personal interpretation of its meaning, no sooner was the English Scripture put into circulation than its advocates proclaimed the need of expositions to teach people the meaning they should attach to it. "In fact, the marginal notes and glosses, furnished by Tyndale chiefly from Lutheran sources, are evidence that even he had no wish that the people should understand or interpret the sacred text otherwise than according to his peculiar views. Very quickly after the permission of Henry VIII. had allowed the circulation of the printed English Bible, commentators came forward to explain their views. Lancelot Ridley, for example, issued many such explanations of portions of the Sacred Text with the object, as he explains, of enabling “the unlearned to declare the Holy Scriptures now suffered to all people of this realm to read and study at their pleasure." For the Bible, “which is now undeclared (i.e., unexplained) to them, and only had in the bare letter, appears to many rather death than life, rather (calculated) to bring many to errors and heresies than into the truth and verity of God's Word. For this, when unexplained, does not bring the simple, rude, and ignorant people from their ignorant blindness, from their corrupt and backward judgments, false trusts, evil beliefs, vain superstitions, and feigned holiness, in which the people have long been in blindness, for lack of knowledge of Holy Scripture which the man of Rome kept under latch and would not suffer to come to light, that his usurped power should not
· Roger Edgworth, Sermons, f. 31.
1 The assertion and defence of the Sacrament of the Altar (1546), f. 3. The amaieur theologians and teachers who sprung up so plentifully with the growth of Lutheran ideas in England seem to have been a source of trouble to the clergy. There was no difficulty in Scripture so hard which these “barkers, gnawers, and railers," as Roger Edgworth calls them, were not ready to explain, and even women were ready to become teachers of God's Word, “and openly to dispute with men.” Speaking in Bristol, in Mary's reign, he advises his audience to stick to their own occupations and leave theology and Scripture alone, “for when a tailor forsaking his own occupation will be a merchant venturer, or a shoemaker will become a grocer, God send him help. I have known,” he says, “ many in this town that studying divinity has killed a merchant, and some of other occupations by their busy labours in the Scripture hath shut up the shop windows, and were fain to take sanctuary, or else for mercery and grocery hath been fain to sell godderds, steaves, pitchers, and such other trumpery."
here temevery day at their pleasu
have been espied, his worldly glory diminished, and his profit decayed."
Again, in another exposition made eight years later, the same writer complains that still, for lack of teaching what he considers the true meaning of Scripture, the views of the people are still turned towards the “old superstitions” in spite of “the open Bible.” “ Although the Bible be in English,” he says, " and be suffered to every man and woman to read at their pleasures, and commanded to be read every day at Matins, Mass, and Evensong, yet there remain great ignorance and corrupt judgments ... and these will remain still, except the Holy Scriptures be made more plain to the lay people who are unlearned by some commentary or annotation, so that lay people may understand the Holy Scripture better." Commentaries would help much, he says, in another place, “ to deliver the people from ignorance, darkness, errors, heresy, superstitions, false trusts, and from evil opinions fixed and rooted in the hearts of many for lack of true knowledge of God's Holy Word, and expel the usurped power of the bishop of Rome and all Romish dregs.'8
It is interesting to find that from the first, whilst objecting to the interpretation of the old teachers of the Church, and claiming that the plain text of Scripture was a sufficient antidote and complete answer to them and their traditional deductions, the "new teachers ” found that without teaching and exposition on their part, the open Bible was by no means sufficient to wean the popular mind from what they regarded as superstitious and erroneous ways. Their attitude in the matter is at least a confirmation of the contention of Sir Thomas
1A Commentary in Englyshe upon Sayncte Paulè's Edistie to the Ephesians, 1540.
? An Exposition in Englysh upon the Epistie of St. Paule to the Colossians, 1548. • An Exposition &c., upon the Philippians, 1545.
More and other contemporary Catholic writers, that the vernacular Scriptures would be useless without a teaching authority to interpret their meaning.
A brief word may now be said as a summary of the attitude towards the vernacular Bible taken up by the ecclesiastical authorities on the eve of the Reformation. The passages quoted from Sir Thomas More make it evident that no such hostility on the part of the Church, as writers of all shades of opinion have too hastily assumed, really existed. In fact, though those responsible for the conduct of affairs, both ecclesiastical and lay, at this period objected to the circulation of Tyndale's printed New Testament, this objection was based, not on any dread of allowing the English Bible as such, but on the natural objection to an obviously incorrect translation. It is difficult to see how those in authority could have permitted a version with traditional words changed for the hardly concealed purpose of supporting Lutheran tenets, with texts garbled and marginal explanations inserted for the same end. Those who hold that Tyndale's views were right, and even that his attempt to enforce them in this way was justifiable, can hardly, however, blame the authorities at that time in England, secular or lay, who did not think so, from doing all they could to prevent what they regarded as the circulation of a book calculated
| As an example of the open way in which the reading of the Bible was advocated, take the following instance. Caxton's translation of the Vita Patrum, published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1495, contained an exhortation to all his readers to study the Holy Scripture. “To read them is in part to know the felicity eternal, for in them a man may see what he ought to do in conversation ... oft to read purgeth the soul from sin, it engendereth dread of God, and it keeps the soul from eternal damnation." As food nourishes the body, “in like wise as touching the soul we be nourished by the lecture and reading of Scripture. . . . Be diligent and busy to read the Scriptures, for in reading them the natural wit and under. standing are augmented in so much that men find that which ought to be left (undone) and take that whereof may ensue profit infinite” (p. 345).