« PreviousContinue »
treme of our religion, I mean the fanatics, or schismatics, of the English church. Since the Bible has been translated into our tongue, they have used it so, as if their business was not to be saved, but to be damned, by its contents. If we consider only them, better had it been for the English nation, that it had still remained in the original Greek and Hebrew, or at least in the honest Latin of St Jerome, than that several texts in it should have been prevaricated to the destruction of that government, which put it into so ungrateful hands. ×
How many heresies the first translation of Tyndal* produced in few years, let my Lord Herbert's
* The passage in Lord Herbert's history, referred to by Dryden, seems to be that which follows:
"For as the Scriptures began then commonly to be read, so out of the literal sense thereof, the manner of those times was, promiscuously to draw arguments, for whatsoever in matter of state or otherwise was to be done. Insomuch, that the text which came nearest the point in question, was taken as a decision of the business, to the no little detriment of their affairs; the Scriptures not pretending yet to give regular instructions in those points. But this is so much less strange, that the year preceding, the Scriptures (heretofore not permitted to the view of the people) were now translated in divers languages, and into English, by Tindal, Joy, and others, though, as not being warranted by the king's authority, they were publicly burnt, and a new and better translation promised to be set forth, and allowed to the people; it being not thought fit by our king, that, under what pretence or difficulty soever, his subjects should be defrauded of that, wherein was to be found the word of God, and means of their salvation. Howbeit not a few inconveniences were observed to follow. For as the people did not sufficiently separate the more clear and necessary parts thereof, from the obscure and accessory; and as again taking the several authors to be equally inspired, they did equally apply themselves to all; they fell into many dangerous opinions. Little caring how they lived, so they understood well, bringing religion thus into much irresolution and controversie, while few men agreeing on the same interpretation of the harder places, vexed each others conscience, appro
History of Henry the Eighth inform you; insomuch that, for the gross errors in it, and the great mischiefs it occasioned, a sentence passed on the first edition of the Bible, too shameful almost to be repeated.* After the short reign of Edward the
priating to themselves the gift of the spirit. Whereof the Roman church, (much perplext at first with these defections) did at last avail itself; as assuming alone the power of that decision, which yet was used more in favour of themselves, than such an analogy, as ought to be found in so perfect a book. So that few were satisfied therewith, but such as, renouncing their own judgment, and submitting to theirs, yielded themselves wholly to an implicit faith; in which, though they found an apparent ease, yet as, for justifying of themselves, the authority of their belief was derived more immediately from the church, than the Scripture, not a few difficulties were introduced, concerning both. While the more speculative sort could not imagine, how to hold that as an infallible rule, which needed humane help to vindicate and support it; nevertheless, as by frequent reading of the Scripture at this time, it generally appeared what the Romish church had added or altered in religion, so many recovered a just liberty, endeavouring together a reformation of the doctrine and manners of the clergy, which yet, through the obstinacy of some, succeeded worse than so pious intentions deserved."
* William Tyndal, otherwise called Hitchens, was born on the borders of Wales, and educated at Oxford. He was one of the earliest Protestants, and so boldly maintained the doctrines of the Reformation, that he was obliged to leave England. He employed himself, while abroad, in executing a translation, first of the New Testament, and afterwards of the Pentateuch, with prologues to the different books. But as he was a zealous Lutheran, and as it had not pleased King Henry VIII. that his subjects should become Protestants, though they had ceased to be Papists, Tyndal's version of the New Testament was publicly burned, and prohibited by royal proclamation, as tending to disturb the brains of weak persons. This grossly indecorous expression was not altogether without foundation. A rule of faith, containing the most sublime doctrines both of faith and moral practice, and which had long been acknowledged the only guide to heaven, could not be exposed at once to the vulgar, who had been bred up in the grossest ignorance of its nature and contents, without dazzling and confounding them, as the beams of the
Sixth, (who had continued to carry on the Reformation on other principles than it was begun,) every one knows, that not only the chief promoters of that work, but many others, whose consciences would not dispense with Popery, were forced, for fear of persecution, to change climates; from whence returning at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, many of them, who had been in France, and at Geneva, brought back the rigid opinions and imperious discipline of Calvin, to graft upon our Reformation;* which, though they cunningly concealed at first, (as well knowing how nauseously that drug would go down in a lawful monarchy, which was prescribed for a rebellious commonwealth,) yet they always kept it in reserve; and were never wanting to themselves, either in court or parliament, when either they had any prospect of a numerous party of fanatic members in the one,
sun suddenly let in upon the inmates of an obscure dungeon. It was not till the sacred Scriptures, with the expositions of judicious pastors, became a part of the regular education of the people, that their minds were duly prepared to make the proper use of that inestimable gift.
The fate of Tyndal was melancholy enough. By the influence of Henry, he was seized at Brussels; and, under pretence of his being a pragmatical incendiary, one of the first translators of the New Testament was strangled and burned, at Filford Castle, about twenty miles from Antwerp, in 1536. His last words were, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."
*Heylin says, the reformation would have rested with the first public liturgy, confirmed by act of parliament in the second and third years of Edward VI., " if Calvin's pragmatical spirit had not interposed. He first began to quarrel at some passages in this sacred liturgy, and afterwards never left soliciting the Lord Protector, and practising, by his agents, on the court, the country, and the universities, till he had laid the first foundation of the Zuinglian faction, who laboured nothing more than innovation both in doctrine and discipline."-Ecclesia Restaurata. Address to the Reader.
or the encouragement of any favourite in the other, whose covetousness was gaping at the patrimony of the church. They who will consult the works of our venerable Hooker,* or the account of his Life, or more particularly the letter written to him on this subject, by George Cranmer,† may see by what gradations they proceeded. From the dislike of cap and surplice, the very next step was admonitions to the parliament against the whole government ecclesiastical; then came out volumes in English and Latin in defence of their tenets; and im
*The learned and judicious Richard Hooker, one of the most eminent divines of the Church of England, wrote a treatise upon Ecclesiastical Policy, in which he vindicates that communion, both against the Puritans and Papists. It is in eight books; five were published during Hooker's lifetime, and the other three after his death. The last are supposed to be interpolated, as they bear some passages tending to impugn the doctrine of non-resistance, which at that time was a shibboleth of orthodoxy. Hooker died in 1600. His Life, to which Dryden refers, was written by the worthy Isaac Walton, better known as the author of the "Complete Angler ;" a delightful work, where the innocent simplicity, unclouded cheerfulness, and real worth of the author, beam through every page. His Life of Hooker was published about 1662. See HAWKINS's edition of the Complete Angler, Introduction, p. 19. Athena Oxon. vol. I. p. 302.
+ George Cranmer, whom Wood calls a gentleman of singular hopes, was grandson to Edmund Cranmer, Arch-deacon of Canterbury, brother to Thomas the Primate, who suffered martyrdom in the reign of Queen Mary. He was bred to state affairs under Secretary Davison; and after serving in various diplomatic capacities, became Secretary to Lord Mountjoy, Lieutenant of Ireland. On the 13th November, 1600, Cranmer was slain in a skirmish at Carlingford between the English and the forces of Tyrone. Camden thus records his death: "Cecidit tamen ex Anglis, præter alios, Cranmerus, Proregi ab epistolis, et ipsi eo nomine longe charissimus." He wrote to Hooker, under whom he had studied, the letter mentioned in the text concerning the new church discipline, which is dated February 1598. It is inserted by Walton in his Life of Hooker. Athena Oxon. Vol. I. p. 306.
mediately practices were set on foot to erect their discipline without authority. Those not succeeding, satire and railing was the next; and Martin Mar-prelate,† (the Marvel of those times,) was the first Presbyterian scribbler, who sanctified libels and scurrility to the use of the good old cause; which was done, (says my author,) upon this account, that their serious treatises having been fully answered and refuted, they might compass by railing what they had lost by reasoning; and, when their cause was sunk in court and parliament, they might at least hedge in a stake amongst the rabble, for to their ignorance all things are wit which are abusive; but if church and state were made the theme, then the doctoral degree of wit was to be taken at Billingsgate; even the most saintlike of the party, though they durst not excuse this contempt and vilifying of the government, yet were pleased, and
+ John Penry, or Ap Henry, better known by the name of Martin Mar-prelate, or Mar-priest, as having been a plague to the bishops and clergy of his time. He was a native of Wales, and originally a sub-sizer of Peter-house, in Cambridge. Afterwards he obtained the degree of Master of Arts in Oxford, and, having taken orders, was for some time a regular clergyman. But being a person "full of Welch blood, of a hot and restless head," Anthony Wood tells us, he became a furious Anabaptist, and the most bitter enemy to the Church of England that appeared in the long reign of Queen Elizabeth. He wrote a great number of pestilent pamphlets, with burlesque titles; such as, "Oh, read over John Bridges, for it is a worthy work. Printed over sea, in Europe, within two furlongs of a bouncing Priest, at the cost of Martin Mar-prelate, gent." All his writings were filled with the most virulent invectives against the Episcopal church. At length, being apprehended, and tried for writing and publishing infamous books and libels against the established religion, he was condemned and executed at St Thomas a Watering, 29th May, 1593. Dryden compares him to Andrew Marvel, the well known opposer of the court, during the reign of Charles II.