Billeder på siden

of the prelats and other men. Insomuch that some said he would on the morrow leave up the office of chancellor, and forsake the world, and give him to fulfill his pastorall office, for that hee had seene and read in those bookes. And then it had beene the best

sermon that ever they heard.—In the which sermon of Thomas Arundel, three points are to be considered. First, the laudable use of those old times received to have the scripture and doctours in our vulgar English tongue. Secondly, the vertuous exercise and also example of this godly lady, who had these bookes not for a shew hanging at her girdle; but also seemeth by this sermon to be a studious occupier of the same. The third thing to be noted, is, what fruit the said Thomas archbishop declared also himself to receive at the hearing and reading of the same bookes. of hers in the English tongue.-Notwithstanding, the same Thomas Arundel, after this sermon and promise made, became the most cruell enemy that might be against English books3, and the authors thereof.

5 Against English books.] Thus in his famous constitutions against Lollardy, A.D. 1408, when he was archbishop of Canterbury, he declares against the translation of the Scriptures. Constit. 7. "The translation of the text of holy Scriptures out of one tongue into another, is a dangerous thing, as St. Jerome testifies, because it is not easy to make the sense in all respects the same. Therefore we enact and ordain, that no one henceforth do by his own authority translate any text of holy Scripture into the English tongue, or any other, by way of book or treatise; nor let any such book or treatise now lately composed in the time of John Wickliffe aforesaid, or since, or hereafter to be composed, be read in whole or in part, in publick or in private, under pain of the greater excommunication." Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 317. Fox, p. 484.

It is remarkable that Fox, in this life of Wickliffe, has given no account of the labours of that great man in translating the Scriptures, which, no doubt, tended more to the introduction of the Reformation, than all his other efforts. To supply, in some degree, a remedy for this deficiency, I shall insert in this place an extract from his Life, written by the late Rev. William Gilpin. But the most ample and correct information on this subject must be sought for in Lewis's History of the English Translations of the Bible, which in its original state was prefixed to an edition of Wickliffe's New Testament, in the year 1731. See also his Life of Wickliffe, chap. 5.

"Some have contended, that Dr. Wicliffe was not the first translator of the Bible into English. The truth seems to be that he was the first who translated the whole together, of which it is probable others might have given detached parts. It does not however appear that Dr. Wicliffe understood the Hebrew language. His method was, to collect what Latin bibles he could find from these he made one correct copy; and from this translated. He

afterwards examined the best commentators then extant, particularly Nicholas Lyra; and from them inserted in his margin those passages, in which the Latin differed from the Hebrew.

"In his translation of the Bible, he seems to have been literally exact. In his other works his language was wonderfully elegant for the times in which he lived: but here he was studious only of the plain sense; which led him often through the confusion of idioms within the limits of nonsense. Quid nobis et tibi, Jesu, fili dei, we find translated thus, What to us, and to thee, Jesus the son of God.

"This work, it may readily be imagined, had no tendency to reinstate him in the good opinion of the clergy. An universal clamour was immediately raised. Knyghton, a canon of Leicester, and a contemporary with Wicliffe, hath left us upon record, the language of the times. Christ entrusted his gospel,' says that ecclesiastic, 'to the clergy and doctors of the church, to minister it to the laity, and weaker sort, according to their exigencies and several occasions. But this master John Wicliffe, by translating it, has made it vulgar; and has laid it more open to the laity, and even to women who can read, than it used to be to the most learned of the clergy, and those of the best understanding: and thus the gospel jewel, the evangelical pearl, is thrown about, and trodden under foot by swine.' Such language was looked upon as good reasoning by the clergy of that day, who saw not with what satyr it was edged against themselves.

"The bishops in the mean time, and mitred abbots, not content with railing, took more effectual means to stop this growing evil. After much consultation they brought a bill into parliament to suppress Wicliffe's bible. The advocates for it set forth in their usual manner, the alarming prospect of heresy, which this version of the Scriptures opened, and the ruin of all religion which must inevitably ensue.

"The zealots were answered by the principal reformers, who judiciously encountered them with their own weapons. It appears, says the Wicliffites, from the decretals, that more than sixty species of heresy sprang up in the church after the translation of the Bible into Latin. But the utility of that translation, notwithstanding its bad consequences, all parties acknowledge. With what face therefore, they asked, could the bishops pretend to discountenance an English translation, when they could not produce one argument against it which did not equally conclude against the Latin one? This reasoning silenced all opposition: and the bill was thrown out by a great majority.

Wicliff's bible, only made it, as is
They who were able among the

"The zeal of the bishops to suppress generally the case, the more sought after. reformers purchased copies; and they who were not able, procured at least transcripts of particular gospels, or epistles, as their inclinations led. In aftertimes, when Lollardy increased, and the flames were kindled, it was a common practice to fasten about the neck of the condemned heretic such of the scraps of Scripture as were found in his possession, which generally shared his fate."-Gilpin's Life of John Wickliffe, p. 37-40. edit. 1765.

The late Dr. Adam Clarke possessed a MS. copy of Wickliffe's Bible, which, from having in its illuminations the arms of England within a bordure



argent, he supposed to have belonged to Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, and that it was either "presented by Wickliffe to the duke, or written and illuminated by the duke's command for himself*." A contemporary copy would be, there is no doubt, of much value. The writing and illuminations of Dr. Clarke's MS. are of a much later date, however, than that which he assigns to them; and the arms upon which his supposition is founded were also borne by Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, who died in 1446, and for whose use we may, almost with certainty, say that it was written. This MS. is now in the British Museum.-Bibl. Egerton. 618, 619.

* Catalogue of the MSS. of the late Dr. Adam Clarke; by J. B. B. Clarke. London: Murray, 1835. 8vo. p. 18. Since the above was written, a complete edition of the Wicliffite version has been printed at the expense of the University of Oxford, 4 vols. 4to. 1850.


Quo maxime tempore artes cœlesti Veritati contrariæ regnum in Europa obtinebant, cœpit illa vim suam exerere: post longam siquidem malorum inerrabilium tolerantiam, post diuturnos gemitus, quos doloris justi magnitudo piis exprimebat, post expectatam per tot sæcula reformationem in capite et membris toties promissam, nunquam præstitam; reperti sunt ad ultimum, qui patientiam rumperent, et veritatem ex intimo pectore anhelantibus duces se præberent. Nihil jam dico, quales illi viri fuerint, quid spectarint, quid egerint: hoc dicam, quod negari omnino non potest, ex ipso rerum eventu, luce meridiana clarius constare, divinitus fuisse illos excitatos, si nihil aliud, certe ad hoc unum efficiendum; ut qui supremum in Ecclesia dominium, et plenitudinem potestatis sibi vindicabant, tandem si pote, evigilarent, in sese descenderent, seque Religionis Christianæ variis corruptelis, quas longa dies invexerat, et de queremoniis omnium tota Europa principum ac populorum serio inciperent cogitare.



« ForrigeFortsæt »