Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

must have been highly profane, to allow of their attempting to perform such an act of shocking mockery before him.*

Now, comparing James's unquestionably irreligious, not to say foully depraved character, with the dedication of the Bible to him by our translators, I cannot conceive of a greater violation of truth and soberness than in the language and spirit of that dedication.

“But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God's sacred Word among us, which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in Heaven.

"Then not to suffer this to fall to the ground, but rather to take it up, and to continue it in that state, wherein the famous Predecessor of Your Highness did leave it; nay, to go forward with the confidence and resolution of a man in maintaining the truth of Christ, and propagating it far and near, is that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all Your Majesty's loyal and religious people unto You, that Your very name is precious among them : their eye doth behold You with comfort, and they bless You in their hearts, as that sanctified Person, who, under God, is the immediate author of their true happiness. And this their contentment doth not diminish or decay, but every day increaseth and taketh strength, when they observe that the zeal of Your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in the defence of the Truth, (which hath giren such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,) and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father.

There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in Your Majesty.

I know that it was the fashion of the age for dedications to be fulsome in the extreme, but I know of no reason why the absurdities of our fathers should be bound as a burden about our necks. I am aware also, that James was not so debased at the time when the translation was made as he afterwards became, but he had contracted those habits of sottishness and profanity, which make it an act of delusion or hypocrisy to speak of him as a religious person. It may, however, be pleaded, that the dedication only eulogises him for promoting the

* I refer to this scene from memory. The particulars are given by Mr. Jesse, but I have not his book at hand to quote from it. The best account of James's private life will be found in his “ Memoirs of the Court of England under the Stuarts," 2 vols.

translation, and celebrates his pious zeal on the ground of that commendable action ; but it is impossible to read it without perceiving its adaptation solely to the character of an enlightened and highly accomplished Christian ; its entire unfitness therefore in relation to one, who respected not the sanctities of religion in his life, but offended openly and habitually against the first principles of morals.* Even in promoting the translation, I cannot think that James cared a fig for the honour of God's word, or the religious welfare of his people, but was actuated chiefly by his self-conceit, and concern for the royal prerogative. It is observed by Messrs. Orme and Thomson, that he was “perhaps induced to favour this undertaking by the high notions he entertained of his literary and religious attainments; by his inveterate prejudices against the version made by the exiles at Geneva, then in common use, which was not so favourable to kingcraft as his majesty thought desirable; he was probably also ambitious of the glory which would accrue to his reign from the execution of such a work as a new translation of the Bible.”+ That political considerations had their influence in the matter, is evident from Dr. Barlow's statement, the dean of Chester, who was present at the Hampton Court Conference. He remarks, that the king “ gave his caveat, (upon a word cast out by my Lord of London,) that no marginal notes should be added, having found in them which are annexed to the Genevan translation, which he saw in a Bible given him by an English lady, some notes, very partial, untrue, seditious, and savouring too much of dangerous and traiterous conceits. As, for example, the first chapter of Exodus, and the nineteenth verse, where the marginal note alloweth disobedience unto kings ; and 2 Chron. xv. 16, the note taxeth Asa for deposing his mother only, and not killing her; and so concluded this point, as all the rest, with a grave and judicious advice.” I But whatever were the motives of James, the dedication to him must be regarded as a marvellous instance of voluntary blindness, or wilful hypocrisy, on the part of those who wrote it; in no degree can the expressions,

" that sanctified person,” and “enriched” by “his heavenly hand” with “ many singular and extraordinary graces,” be applied to him, if religious qualities are intended, as they must have been ; and he who declared of the Puritans,

* James's profanity was often noticed in the pulpit in the earlier part of his life. In a manuscript written by Robert Trail, a minister, it is related that the king stood much in awe of a celebrated preacher named Welch; and when he happened to be swearing in a public place, would turn round, and ask if Welch was near. ... Lord Herbert tells us in his Memoirs, that when the Prince of Condé lamented that his majesty was “much given to cursing, I answered, that it was out of his gentleness. The prince demanding how cursing could be a gentleness, I replied, “ Yes, for though he could punish men himself, yet he leaves them to God to punish ;' which defence of the king, my master, was afterwards much celebrated in the French court."

of Historical Sketch of the Translation and Circulation of the Scriptures, p. 61. * Barlow's Summe and Substance of the Conference. London, 1661. Not paged.

that he would “make them conform themselves, or else herry (Scoticè, dispossess) them out of the land, or do worse," acted as a tyrant, rather than as "a most tender and loving nursing father,” of whose "right Christian and religious affection” “there are infinite arguments.” For my part, I have long since torn the dedication out of my Bible, as a revolting specimen of ecclesiastical profligacy; and I think that it must be offensive to Him who is "holy and true,” to have it associated with the " testimony of the Lord which is sure.”

II. The translators of the authorised English version, considering the comparatively limited critical apparatus within their reach, must be allowed to have accomplished their work with singular success. They have seized the spirit and manner of the original text in many

instances with peculiar felicity; and have expressed its meaning in Saxon phraseology with great pathos and energy. An accomplished lady, a Papist, Miss Freeman Shepherd, has observed, “God enabled them to stand as upon Mount Sinai, and crane up their country's language to the dignity of the originals, so that, after the lapse of two hundred years, the English Bible is, with very few exceptions, the standard of the purity and excellence of the English tongue.” With great justice Messrs

. Orme and Thomson have remarked of the version, "it has few rivals

, and no superior; it is in general faithful, simple, and perspicuous; it seldom descends to meanness or vulgarity, but often rises to elegance and sublimity; it is level to the understanding of the cottager, and fit to meet the eye of the critic, the poet, and the philosopher; its phraseology is now familiar to us from our infancy; it has had the most extensive influence upon the style of religious works of every description, and has contributed much to fix the standard of the English language itself.”* Still, while bestowing this praise, and remembering the maxim of its being easier to blame than to imitate, Mwueloba pqov COTUY N Myelodai, there is no hazard in affirming that, like all human productions, it is imperfect. Ainsworth, among the Puritans, was one of those who thought that it might have been executed with greater fidelity and propriety; and the year after its publication, in 1612, he printed his version of the Psalms, with the Pentateuch soon afterwards, and the Song of Solomon, in which some important emendations occur. Calamy also speaks of Henry Jessey, a learned nonconformist minister, as having written an “Essay towards an Amendment of the last Translation of the Bible," and labouring in connexion with the Hebrew professor at Aberdeen, Mr. John Row, in making a new and more correct version. I am not aware whether the Essay was ever printed, but in it Mr. Jessey is said to have remarked, upon the authority of Dr. Hill, that the archbishop, Bancroft, who was a supervisor of King James's Bible, “would needs have it speak the prelatical language, and to that end altered it in fourteen several places ” and that “ Dr. Smith, who was one of the

* Historical Sketch, &c. p. 62.

translators, complained of the archbishop's alterations, but,” said he, “he is so potent that there is no contradicting him.” It is

It is very likely that the archbishop would be anxious upon this point, since the third of James's directions to the translators enjoined “the old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz. the word church not to be translated congregation,” &c. Some steps were taken towards improving the version by the long parliament, and during the protectorate of Cromwell. A committee met for that purpose at Whitelocke's house, the lord commissioner, when several mistakes in the translation were discussed, but political changes interfered to prevent any alteration being effected.* Corrections of a minor kind were made by Dr. Scattergood in 1683, Dr. Lloyd in 1701, and by Dr. Blayney, in 1769, the version was thoroughly examined. 1. The punctuation was revised. 2. The words printed in italics were corrected by the Hebrew and Greek originals. 3. The proper names, to the etymology of which allusions are made in the text, were translated, and entered in the margin. 4. The heads and running titles were corrected. 5. Some material errors in the chronology were rectified. 6. The marginal references were re-examined, and their number greatly increased. Another revision has frequently been recommended by men of distinguished name upon a more extended plan than that which was adopted by Blayney; and, if my memory serves me right, the subject of an entirely new translation has been discussed and advocated in the Congregational Magazine, though I have not the numbers at hand to ascertain the particular opinions expressed. It must be admitted, that the text in the hands of our translators was not so perfect as we now have it. There are many phrases employed by them which have become objectionable to a delicate taste, and are offensive in public reading. There are passages also which are plainly wrong constructions of the original, and many more in which the sense is given imperfectly. Yet, notwithstanding these defects, so completely has the translation acquired possession of the public mind, that another, materially differing from it in expression, if executed under the most favourable circumstances, would not be acceptable to the people. Such is the imperfect condition of scriptural knowledge at present, that even those alterations which fidelity demand would be a fiery trial to the faith of many devout persons—it would be like giving strong meat to babes.

The question may indeed be raised as a point of casuistry, whether we are justified in sanctioning the circulation of a passage as God's word, which is unquestionably not God's word. This is one of the practical difficulties of our position, which we are bound to grapple with, and overcome in the best way we can; and I think that a plan might be acted upon as a commencement, which, without altering the translation in the least, would contribute to correct its errors, and improve its character.

* Whitelock's Memorials, page 645. 1682. † Vide references in notes at the foot of the first page.-EDITOR.

3. The next point upon which I wish to remark, and to which public attention has been repeatedly invited, is less embarrassing. The printing of the word of God in this country is vested by patent with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the king's printers. Thus a monopoly is created, the effect of which is, to render the Scriptures more costly than if free competition was allowed. I will briefly notice the arguments by which the monopoly is usually defended.

It is supposed, that, by confining the right of printing the Scriptures to particular persons, a superior accuracy is thereby acquired.

Every one will admit the importance of accuracy being scrupulously preserved in printing the inspired volume. Now, in 1632, the king's printers, Barker and Lucas, sent forth an edition of a thousand copies, in which the serious mistake occurred of omitting the word not in the seventh commandment, thus causing it to be read, “Thou shalt commit adultery." For this they were fined by the court of high commission three hundred pounds, which was expended in the purchase of Greek type, and ordered by a letter from Charles I. “at their own proper eostes and charges of ink, paper, and workmanship, to print, or cause to be printed, in Greek, or Greek and Latin, one such volume in a year, be it bigger or less, as the right reverend father,” (Lyndsell, bishop of Peterborough,)“ or our servant Patrick Young,” (the king's hbrarian,) “or any other of our learned subjects shall provide and make ready for the press. In an edition also published at Cambridge by Buck and Daniel in 1638 an error was committed, and continued till 1685, the substitution of the word we for ye, a mistake which the controversies of the time respecting church government rendered important. The accumulation of typographical inaccuracies led to the labours of Scattergood, Lloyd, and Blayney; and that these have found their way into many subsequent editions, a circumstance to a certain extent almost unavoidable and of little consequence, has been affirmed by competent examiners. Dr. Adam Clarke observes, “I have found it necessary to re-examine all the italics. ... In these I found gross corruptions, particularly where they have been changed for Roman characters, whereby words have been attributed to God which he never spoke." I In the evidence of George Offor, Esq. before a committee of

Collier's Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. Collection of Records, No. cx. p. iii. † Lewis's History of English Translations, pp. 340, 341. In the thirty-fourth edition of the Bible printed by the Canstein, or Bible Institution, at Halle, the same error was committed in printing the same commandment, as by Barker and Lucas. The edition was suppressed, but a copy is in the Library of Wolfenbuttel. A slight error in the Polish Protestant version of 1563, the putting do for od in Matt. iv. 1, equivalent to to for by in English, led to Pope Urban's bull excommunicating those who used it.

General Preface to his Commentary.

"*

[blocks in formation]
« EdellinenJatka »