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HE two events which were of greatest moment in familiarizing the
English people with the forms of their language, and in making these forms permanent, were the introduction of printing and the translation of the Bible.
To William Caxton belongs the credit of setting up the first printing press in England. In 1455 Gutenberg had printed a
Latin Bible in Germany, but the first book to issue from Caxton's press was entitled the “Game and Playe of Chesse," and was published in 1491. Caxton printed ninety-nine books, most of them in English, partly translations and partly original works. He wrote a great many prefaces and translated a number of books, and may fairly be said to hold a real place in the history of English literature, aside from the unique service which he rendered it in establishing printing in England.
As soon as the inauguration of printing made it easy for the general public to be possessed of books there was a great and general demand for the English Bible. More than a century had elapsed since John Wyclif had translated the Book of Books into his mother-tongue. This remarkable man, who was the first to open the whole Scriptures to those of his countrymen who could not read Latin, was of almost equal importance in the literary and political history of his country. He attained to a position of considerable influence, but, being abandoned by his great friends, lost all his preferments. It was now that he began his translation of the Bible, which he completed about the year 1380.
A hundred years later such changes had been wrought in the language that few Englishmen could read the Wyclif version. The nation was agitated upon religious subjects, and The Reformation was about to dawn, when William Tyndale, an Oxford graduate of great learning, undertook to provide a translation of the Bible, not from the Latin, as was Wyclif's, but from the original Hebrew and Greek.
The spirit of the English clergy and Tyndale's determination are well shown in the story of his encounter with a popish divine. His argument in favor of a Bible which could be read by the common people was so conclusive that, unable to answer him, his opponent exclaimed, “We had better be without God's law than the Pope's.” Tyndale's indignant reply was, “I defy the Pope and all his laws; and if God gives me life, ere many years the ploughboys of England shall know more of the Scriptures than you do." And he kept his word. He was compelled to become an exile to accomplish his task, and in 1526 he printed in Antwerp a New Testament in English. Great numbers of copies were imported into England, though the importers were prosecuted, and the author, after being compelled to remain in hiding while he prepared a new edition of his great work, especially adapted to agricultural laborers and other ignorant classes, was finally betrayed by spies of Henry VIII, and sentenced to the dreadful penalty of burning at the stake. The prayer embodied in his last words, “ O Lord, open the King of England's eyes,” met with early fulfilment, for almost immediately the capricious tyrant ordered that the Bible should be placed in every church for the free use of the people.
Besides the New Testament, Tyndale had translated the five books of Moses and the book of Job.
The battle was now won. In 1535 Miles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter, published the first printed edition of the whole Bible in English. John Rogers, who had been a co-worker with Tyndale, was the real translator, though a fictitious name was given in the book. In 1540 this same Bible, bearing a preface by Archbishop Cranmer, and hence known by his name, was authorized as the only version of the Scriptures to be used in the English Church. From "Cranmer's Bible” were taken the passages of Scripture used in the English prayer-book. It lacked the simplicity and energy of Tyndale's version, but continued in general use until, early in the following century, King James I assembled a company of forty-seven of the greatest scholars in the land, who prepared the most remarkable of all Bible translations, the “Authorized Version,” which holds its place in the hearts of the English-speaking people until the present time.
Scholars have not ceased to frame new translations, and the “Revised Version,” published, the New Testament in 1881 and the Old Testament in 1885, although correcting many manifest errors, has not yet been able to displace the great work which has been the main text-book for the spiritual instruction of the English-speaking people for nearly three centuries.
MATTHEW, CHAPTER V.
FROM W'yclif's BIBLE. ND Jhesus seynge the peple, went up into an mournen ; for thei schal be coumfortid. Blessid
hil; and whanne he was sett, his disciplis be thei that hungren and thirsten rightwisnesse :
camen to him. And he openyde his for thei schal be fulfilled. Blessed ben merciful mouthe, and taughte hem; and seide, Blessid be men : for they schul gete mercy.
Blessed ben pore men in spirit; for the kyngdom of hevenes thei that ben of clene herte: for thei schulen se is herun. Blessid ben mylde men: for thei God. Blessid ben pesible men: for they schulen schulenweelde the erthe. Blessid ben thei that be clepid goddis children. Blessid ben thei that
sufften persecucion for rightwisnesse : for the it give light to alle that ben in the hous. So, kyndgom of hevenes is hern. Ye schul be blessid schyne your light bifore men, that thei see youre whanne men schul curse you, and schul pursue gode workis, and glorifie your fadir that is in you: and schule seye al yvel agens you liynge for hevenes. Nyle ghe deme that I cam to undo the me. Joie ye and be ye glade: for your meede is Lawe or the prophetis, I cam not to undo the plenteous in hevenes : for so thei han pursued also lawe but to fulfille. Forsothe I sey to you tili prophetis that weren bifore you. Ye ben salt of hevene and erthe passe, oon lettre, or oon title, the erthe, that if the salt vanishe awey wherynne schal not passe fro the Lawe til alle thingis be don. schal it be salted ? to nothing it is worth over, no Therefore he that brekith oon of these leeste but it be cast out, and be defoulid of men. Ye maundementis, and techith thus men, schal be ben light of the world, a citee set on an hill may clepid the Leest in the rewme of hevenes: but not be hid. Ne men teendith not a lanterne and he that doth, and techith, schal be clepid greet in puttich it undir a bushel : but on a candilstik that the kyngdom of hevenes.
PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
FROM TYNDALE'S NEW TESTAMENT.
IND marke' A Certayne Lawere stode vp' | hym' and passed by. And lyke wyse a levite
and tempted hym sayinge : Master what when he was come neye to the place' went and
shall I do' to inheret eternall lyfe? He loked on hym and passed by. Then a certayne savd vnto him: What ys written in the lawe? Samaritane as he iornyed cam neye vnto hym and Howe redest thou? And he answered and sayde: behelde hym and had compassion on hym and Thou shalt love thy lorde god wyth all thy hert' cam to hym and bounde vppe hys wondes and and wyth all thy soule' and with all thy strengthe poured in wyne and oyle and layed him on his and wyth all thy mynde; and thy neighbour as beaste and brought hym to a common hostry and thy sylfe. And he sayd vnto hym: Thou hast drest him. And on the morowe when he departed answered right. This do and thou shalt live. he toke out two pence and gave them to the host He willynge to iustifie hym sylfe' sayde vnto and said vnto him, Take care of him and whatsoJesus: Who ys then my neighbour?
ever thou spendest above this when I come agayne Jesus answered and sayde: A certayne man de- I will recompence the. Which nowe of these thre scended from Jerusalem into Jericho' And fell thynkest thou was neighbour unto him that fell into the hondes off theves' whych robbed hym off into the theves hondes ? And he answered: He his rayment and wonded hym' and departed lev- that shewed mercy on hym. Then sayd Jesus ynge hym halfe•deed. And yt chaunsed that there vnto hym, Goo and do thou lyke wyse. cam a certayne preste that same waye' and sawe
HEN Jesus was come downe from the moun- leprosy was clensed. And Jesus said vnto him.
tayne, moch people followed him. And Se thou tell no man, but go and shewe thysilf to
lo, there cam a lepre, and worsheped him the preste and offer the gyfte, that Moses comsaynge, Master, if thou wylt, thou canst make me | maunded to be offred, in witness to them. When clene. He putt forthe his hond and touched him Jesus was entered in to Capernaum, there cam saynge: I will, be clene, and immediatly his vnto him a certayne Centurion, besechyng him
And saynge: Master, my servaunt lyeth sicke att them that followed him: Verely y say vnto you, home off the palsye, and is grevously payned. I have not founde so great fayth : no, not in And Jesus sayd vnto him. I will come and cure Israell. I say therfore vnto you, that many shall him. The Centurion answered and saide: Syr I come from the eest and weest, and shall rest with am not worthy that thou shuldest com vnder the Abraham, Ysaac and Jacob, in the kyngdom of rofe of my housse, but speake the worde only and heven : And the children of the kingdom shalbe my servauntshalbe healed. For y also my selfe am cast out in to the vtmoost dercknes, there shalbe a man vndre power, and have sowdeeres vndre wepinge and gnasshing of tethe. Then Jesus said me, and y saye to one, go, and he goeth; and to vnto the Centurion, go thy waye, and as thou hast anothre, come, and he cometh: and to my ser- believed so be it vnto the. And his servaunt was vaunt, do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus healed that same houre. herde these saynges : he marveyled, and said to
THE TWO MASTERS OF ARTS.
TOLD BY CAXTON AT THE END OF Æsop's FABLES. OW then I will finish all these fables with parish.” And then that other vailed [lowered]
this tale that followeth, which a wor- his bonnet, and said, “ Master Parson, I pray you
shipful priest and a parson told me late : to be not displeased ; I had supposed ye had not He said that there were dwelling at Oxenford two been beneficed. But, master,
said he, “I pray priests, both Masters of Arts—of whom that one you what is this benefice worth to you a year ?” was quick and could put himself forth ; and that “Forsooth,” said the good simple man, “I wot other was a good simple priest. And so it hap- never; for I never make accompts thereof, how pened that the master that was pert and quick was well I have had it four or five years. " And anon promoted to a benefice or twain, and after know ye not,” said he, “ what is it worth ?-it to prebends, and for to be a dean of a great prince should seem a good benefice.” "No, forsooth,' o'chapel, supposing and weening that his fellow, said he, “but I wot well what it shall be worth the simple priest, should never be promoted, but to me." Why,” said he, “what shall it be be always an annual, or, at the most, a parish worth?” “ Forsooth," said he, “if I do my true priest. So after a long time that this worshipful dealing in the cure of my parishes in preaching man, this dean, came running into a good parish and teaching, and do my part belonging to my with five or seven horses, like a prelate, and came cure, I shall have heaven therefore. And if their into the church of the said parish, and found there souls be lost, or any of them, by my default, I this good simple man, sometime his fellow, which shall be punished therefore.
shall be punished therefore. And hereof I am came and welcomed him lowly. And that other sure." And with that word the rich dean was bade him “Good morrow, Master John," and abashed: and thought he should be the better, took him slightly by the hand, and axed him and take more heed to his cures and benefices than where he dwelt. —And the good man said, “In he had done. This was a good answer of a good this parish,” · How," said he, “ are ye here a priest and an honest. And herewith I finish this sole priest, or a parish priest?" "Nay, sir,"
Nay, sir,” | book, translated and imprinted by me, William said he, “ for lack of a better, though I be not Caxton. able nor worthy, I am parson and curate of this