« AnteriorContinuar »
creased, as well in the knowledge of tongues, and other liberal arts, as especially in the knowledge of the Scriptures; insomuch that he read privily to certain students and fellows in Magdalen College some parcel of divinity, instructing them in the knowledge and truth of the Scriptures." Thus early did William Tyndale's love for the Holy Scriptures display itself. Our Translator also appears to have made full use of the advantages presented, both at Oxford and Cambridge, for the acquirement of scholastic learning, At no time does he seem to have possessed a patron; but his strong mind, and his inflexible perseverance, rendered unnecessary those minor aids which an inferior character might have required.
Returning to his native county, we find Tyndale residing as a tutor in Little Sodbury Manor-house, and preaching on Sundays in the towns and parishes in the neighbourhood. The house is still standing, and forms an interesting relic, as the scene where Tyndale discussed and defended the word of God, in the family of Sir John Walsh. Here, too, was formed the grand design of translating the Scriptures. The priests and monks, of course, disliked the doctrine of Sir John Walsh's tutor, and raised an outcry against him. Tyndale at once detected their sophistries, and has left on record his own reflections as to the blessed result which their perversions of Scripture unwittingly brought about. "Which thing," he says, only moved me to translate the New Testament. Because I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth, except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might
see the process, order, and meaning of the text for else, whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again,—partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit (whereof thou readest in Apocalypse, chap. ix.), that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry, and traditions of their own making; and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such a sense as is impossible to gather of the text itself." Well has Mr. Anderson said, that “the halls of our colleges, wherever they stand, have never given birth to a design so vitally important in its origin, so fraught with untold benefit to millions, and now so extensive in its range, as that which ripened into a fixed and invincible purpose, in the dining-hall of Little Sodbury Manor House." The county of Gloucester was now becoming too dangerous ground for Tyndale to remain in it. Italian influence was paramount, and he saw that, by staying, he would only fall into “the hands of the spirituality." One significant burst of his zeal has been happily preserved. A reputed learned divine, with whom he was one day conversing, being worsted in argument, exclaimed,— "We were better to be without God's laws than the Pope's!" To which Tyndale boldly replied, "I defy the Pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do!" Our Translator afterwards proceeded to the metropolis, where he passed the year 1523; but, finding no means of accomplishing the purpose of his heart in England, he sailed at length for Hamburgh, having first received praise as a Greek scholar from the learned Bi
dicted from proceeding further in that work. The two English apostates, snatching away with them the quarto sheets printed, fled by ship, going up the Rhine to Worms, where the people were under the full rage of Lutheranism, that there, by another printer, they might complete the work begun. Rinck and Cochlæus, however, immediately advised by their letters the King, the Cardinal (Wolsey), and the Bishop of Rochester, that they might, with the greatest diligence, take care lest that most pernicious article of merchandise should be conveyed into all the ports of England."
shop Tunstal, who little thought that, in giving such praise, he was helping forward a translation of the Scriptures, and one moreover that would shake his corrupt Church to her very
Tyndale now entered, with vigour, on the most important years of his existence. He translated and printed, first, an edition of the Gospel of St. Matthew, then another of the Gospel of St. Mark; and at Cologne, in 1525, he commenced the printing of his New Testament. The printers of the Testament, however, had only proceeded as far as the tenth sheet, when an alarm was raised, the authorities of the place were informed, and the work was interdicted. That determined enemy to the translation of the word of God into any vernacular tongue-John Cochlæus-did his utmost to strangle the attempt of the "two English apostates," as he styles Tyndale and his assistant, William Roye. Actuated not only by a blind zeal, but also by the hope of gain, he wormed out of the printers the secrets of their employment, and dexterously contrived to stop the work for a time. As he himself tells us, "being inwardly affected by fear and wonder" at the design," he disguised his grief, under the appearance of admiration. But another day, considering with himself the magnitude of the grievous danger, he cast in mind by what method he might expeditiously obstruct these very wicked attempts. He went, therefore, secretly, to Herman Rinck, a patrician of Cologne and military knight, familiar both with the Emperor and the King of England, and a counsellor, and disclosed to him the whole affair. He went to the senate, and so brought it about, that the printer was inter
At Worms, Tyndale not only completed the quarto New Testament, but printed an octavo edition; and copies of these precious books were being read in England early in 1526. The octavo edition was without notes, and forms a conspicuous instance of the assertion of the principle of adherence to the Scripture without note or comment. "I assure you," said Tyndale, some time afterwards to the King's ambassador, then in pursuit of him, "if it would stand with the King's most gracious pleasure to grant only a bare text of the Scriptures to be put forth among his people, I shall immediately make faithful promise never to write more.' Tyndale's Testament was translated, not, like Wycliffe's MS. version of the Bible, from the Latin Vulgate, but from the Greek original, and displays consummate skill. It was the first printed English Testament, and several editions were published.
The introduction into England of a Testament in the vernacular tongue, caused no little alarm to the hierarchy of a Church opposed to the plain declarations of the word of God. The
book was publicly burned by prelates: it was at the same time read with avidity by many thirsting for the knowledge of the truth. Even from the fact of its being burned amid all the pomp of ecclesiastical authority, much good resulted; "for," says Burnet, "people from thence concluded there must be a visible contrariety between that book and the doctrines of those who handled it; by which both their prejudice against the clergy, and their desire of reading the New Testament, were increased." Among the denunciations of Tyndale's labours is one issued by Bishop Tunstal, who stigmatizes the "wicked and perverse interpretations" as "profaning the majesty of Scripture." And here it must be observed, that the ire of the Popish hierarchy was not limited to the notes of the quarto edition, but was equally levelled against the text itself. Tunstal, in his denunciation, expressly refers to some of the Testaments being with glosses, and some without.
Tyndale also translated from the original, and printed, parts of the Old Testament, being acquainted with the Hebrew, as well as the Greek and Latin tongues; and, in 1534, issued a revised translation of the New Testament. Seeing that he had so warm a love for the Holy Scriptures, it excites no surprise when we find him the object of the direst persecution. His persevering labours were terminated by his being plunged into prison, and undergoing martyrdom, in a foreign land, unbefriended by the government of his own country, and "chased up to Heaven" under the decree of a German potentate. Mr. Anderson justly remarks, in reference to these peculiar circumstances:— "There was no other martyrdom
with which the councils of England, and of a continental kingdom were both concerned; no other in the guilt of which both our own country and a foreign power were alike involved. The eyes of Henry VIII., and those of his ministers, were wide open, when the martyr fell under a decree of the Emperor Charles V. Considered as an event, amidst all the wide-spread and long-continued violence of the times, his martyrdom rises up to view, and appears like a conspicuous solitary column. If there be any memento inscribed, it is a double one,-German on one side, but English on the other."
Of this calamitous event we proceed to give a few particulars, which will serve as an accompaniment to our engraving. After a chequered course, we find our Translator residing, in 1535, at the city of Antwerp, where he was apprehended by enemies who were thirsting for his blood. The English bishops had leagued together, under Warham, in 1527, and contributed to the fruitless project of buying up the New Testaments to burn them; and now, though Warham was gone, several survivors of the same temper were eager to consign Tyndale to the flames. King Henry had no share in the matter in this stage of the persecution. Two men were now despatched to Antwerp to betray our great Reformer; and one of them, we learn from Foxe, "did so much" at the court of Brussels, "that he procured to bring from thence with him to Antwerp that Procurer-General who is the Emperor's attorney." Tyndale was accordingly apprehended, and placed in close confinement at Vilvorde, a castle situated about twenty-four miles from Antwerp. Here this apostolic man con
tinued a prisoner until the time of his martyrdom, a period of about a year and a half. His labours were conferring, at the very time, untold blessings upon his native country; but he was almost alone in his extremity. One solitary, noble-hearted English merchant, named Poyntz, in whose house Tyndale had lived at Antwerp, strenuously exerted himself on behalf of his illustrious countryman, and only left him, at the risk of his own life, when he could do no more. Neither Cromwell, nor King Henry, nor yet Cranmer, made any determined effort to rescue the prisoner of Vilvorde; and as to the government of Flanders itself, the reigning princess, Mary, was but a vassal of the priests. Erasmus, writing some time before, in 1534, draws a graphic picture, which serves to show the state of things: "These animals (the monks) are omnipotent at the Emperor's court," in the Low Countries. " Mary is a mere puppet, maintained by our nation. Montigni, a man of authority, is a tool of the Franciscans. The Cardinal of Liege is an ambitious friend, and when he takes offence, a violent enemy. The Archbishop of Palermo is a giver of good words, and nothing else." We are thus prepared to expect the martyrdom at Vilvorde.
Deserted by England, and persecuted abroad, William Tyndale was led forth on Friday, the 6th of October, 1536, to be put to death,
"In confirmation of the noblest claim,Our claim to feed upon immortal truth, To walk with God, to be divinely free, To soar, and to anticipate the skies."
Before leaving the castle, he delivered a letter to the keeper, addressed either to Mr. or Mrs. Poyntz, of Antwerp; but no copy of it remains.
Having reached the fatal spot, the noble martyr was fastened to the stake; upon which, "crying with a fervent zeal and a loud voice, 'Lord! open the King of England's eyes,' he was first strangled, and his body afterwards consumed to ashes. His work was done. Hitherto Providence had preserved his life for the accomplishment of a magnificent task; but now he was removed, to "rest with the glorious company of Christ's martyrs,-blessed in the Lord." That his entrance upon bliss was, to flesh and blood, an agonizing one, the reader can easily imagine; nor is it difficult to conceive the fiendish delight with which the perpetrators of the deed gazed upon his expiring frame. Our artist has depicted the scene with no little spirit; and we do not suppose that the horrors of Tyndale's martyrdom, or the exultation of his blood-thirsty persecutors, are at all exaggerated in the telling lines of our frontispiece. It may be well for our readers to allow the eye to rest awhile on this delineation of an event in the history of a Church which at this moment eschews toleration as a weakness, and strives to hide the revealed will of God among the corruptions of tradition and infallible interpretations.
But, it may be asked, does Rome now regard the Bible with suspicion ? We might answer in the words of recent popes, denouncing Protestant Bible Societies, and limiting the reading even of Romish translations. But, having extended our notice of William Tyndale to a greater length than we had intended, we simply confine ourselves to one or two extracts from a recent publication, forming the latest instances of opposition to the Bible which have come to our knowledge. The following passages are taken from
an article in the December number of the London City Mission Magazine, containing an account of the labours of an Italian missionary, once a popish priest, who was placed last autumn beside the stand of Bibles in the Great Exhibition :
"Among the enemies of the word of God (writes the missionary), the person who shewed himself the most opposed was an English Roman Catholic priest. I accosted him one day, pointing out to him in a polite manner the case of Bibles. He stopped for a moment to observe them from a little distance; and while he was looking, I offered him one of our papers. He took it, but after having read one or more passages of Scripture printed upon it, he threw it on the ground, saying, '1 have nothing to do with the Bible.' .
"One day I met an Italian Jesuit in disguise. I accosted him, and in the most respectful manner pointed out the depository of Bibles. He stopped to look at them. While showing him the different types, I spoke to him of the Christian zeal of the Bible Society, and of the love among its members in co-operating to circulate Bibles through every part of the known world. On hearing these observations, he interrupted me by asking,• Do you believe that the Bible produces good to religion and the cause of humanity?' I answered, ' Yes!' and gave reasons drawn from the Bible itself. He replied, Sir, before men had the license of reading the Bible, the Christian religion flourished in its unity, and all lived in quietness, under the direction of one only shepherd, which is the Pope, the supreme head of the universal Church; but when the people wished to emancipate themselves from the head of the Church to
follow the Bible, opinions were divided and infinite sects were formed, which warred in turn against each other. The Bible therefore produces more harm than good, and it is on this account the Pope prohibits the reading of it, much more than because from its obscurity it cannot be understood by all.'. . . .
"Another day I had a short but curious conversation with a Portuguese priest, who spoke Italian pretty well. Finding that I was an Italian, he said, 'Are you a Catholic?' 'Yes,' I replied, 'by the grace of God.' • Then if you
are a Catholic, how is it you are here selling Bibles?' 'Precisely because I am a Catholic, I love and desire that the Bible be read by all.' 'But,' replied the priest, 'I want to know if you are a Roman.' 'No, Sir; not Roman, but Neapolitan.' But how is this?' said he, somewhat irritated, 'you say you are Catholic, you say you are Italian, and that you are not Roman ?' He meant to ask me if I were Roman Catholic? • Rather would I say that I am now English, because I live in English dominions. But I am, Sir, a Catholic Christian,-in other words, I am a Protestant.' At this word the priest became more enraged than ever."
Here we must quit the subject. With such facts as these continually transpiring, we do urge upon our readers the duty of cherishing a devout abhorrence of a system which so dishonours the word of God, and the equally imperative duty of labouring for the enlightenment of the poor victims of so unscriptural an organization as the Church (so called) of Rome.