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only through them. Originally, a church meant a society of believers: now the priests claimed the title to themselves; and they gave out their decrees as having infallible authority. In such circumstances, they had no use for the Bible. Infallible bodies, as general councils professed to be, could not be subject to any authority but their own. The original scriptures were suffered to be neglected. Happily there was a translation made into Latin, before the church had reached the summit of corruption; and this Latin version, called the Vulgate, was no doubt the means of preserving and communicating the knowledge of real Christianity to many individuals during the dark ages. But the Latin became a dead language, and ruas not understood by the common people in any country. It was the interest of the priests to keep the sacred word thus locked up from the sight of vulgar eyes; and for several centuries, there was no attempt made by the church of Rome to give a version of it, in the vulgar tongue of any nation. Thus, practically, the church was guilty of withholding the Bible from the people; and, therefore, guilty of cruelty and injustice, according to the declaration of the Rev. ANDREW Scott, as quoted in my last number.
There were, however. some individuals, whose names ought to be held in everlasting remembrance, who having derived the knowledge · of salvation from the Latin Bible, desired to communicate the contents of the blessed book to their countrymen, in their own language. Among these, John Wickliffe, of England, holds a distinguished place. Wickliffe found in the Bible a purer Christianity than that which he saw every where professed ; and he could not rest till he had given his countrymen a version of the word of God, in their vulgar tongue.
Now, what was the consequence? The church of Rome took the alarm. Of all the dreadful things in the world, the Bible was most to be dreaded. When Wickliffe published his translation, Pope Gregory sent a bull to the university of Oxford, in 1378, in which the translator, who was a professor of divinity in that university, was described
run into a kind of detestable wickedness, not only for openly publishing, but also vomiting, out of the filthy dungeon of his breast, diverse professions, false and erroneous conclusions, and most wicked and damnable heresies." The object of this bull was to excite a persecution against Wickliffe, for having translated the scriptures; and although he was preserved from it, during his lifetime, yet the malice of his persecutors continued, and they were not satisfied until they had dug up his bones and burnt them, many years after his death.
Afterwards, when a new translation was made, and printed by Tindal, a proclamation was set forth, in 1546, by the king, for the abolishing of English books, published under pretence of expounding and declaring the truth of God's scripture; and it was directed, that, from henceforth, no man, woman, or person, of what estate, condition, or degree soever he be, or they be, shall, after the last day of August next ensuing, receive or have, take or keep, in his possession, the text of the New Testament, of Tindal or Coverdale's translation into English." See Mr. For's Account of the Proceedings of the Lancasterian School Society in Glasgow, pp. 69, 70.
Whether Luther had commenced the glorious work of reforma
tion on the continent, and printed the scriptures in the German language, Pope Leo X. issued a bull against him, couched in the most violent and opprobrious terms, and, after having called upon the Lord io rise up, and the apostles Peter and Paul to rise up, against the foxes which had risen up, seeking to destroy the vineyard, lest these heresies should further increase, and these foxes gather strength against us, he adds, . Finally, let the whole universal church of God's saints and doctors rise up, whose true expounding of holy scriptures being rejected, certain persons, (whose hearts the father of lies hath blinded) wise in their own conceits, (as the manner of heretics is,) do expound the scriptures otherwise than the Holy Ghost doth require, following only their own sense of ambition and vainglory, yea, rather do wrest and adulterate the scriptures. So that, as Hierome saith, now they make it not the gospel of Christ, but of man; or, which is worse, of the devil. Let all the holy church, I say, rise up, and, with the blessed apostles together, make intercession to Almighty God, that the errors of all schismatics being rooted and stocked up, his holy church may be continued in peace and unity.'
* This bull farther condemned all persons who did not surrender Luther's books, and it was the forerunner of one of the most bloody persecutions which ever fell upon the earth. The time would fail me io record the histories of those of whom the world was not worthy, who were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; but I wish to produce two examples :-In 1514, Richard Hunne, of London, who was murdered in his prison, was charged with various religious offences, one of which was, that he had, in his keeping, divers English books, prohibited and damned by the law; as, the apocalypse, in English, epistles and gospels, in English,' &c.; and he was further charged, that he defendeth the translation of the Bible and holy scriptures into the English tongue, which is prohibited by the laws of our holy mother church.'” See Mr. Fox's pamphlet, as above.
From these facts it is perfectly evident, that it was understood to be a law of the church of Rome, that the Bible was, by all means, to be withheld from the common people. The scriptures in English, and, of course, the scriptures in the vulgar tongue of any nation, were prohibited, in most cases, absolutely prohibited, “ by the laws of our holy mother church."
I grant, that, after the reformation, the church of Rome began to permit the translation of the scriptures into modern languages, by popish translators; and generally with notes and annotations, to guard the faithful from the danger that might arise from reading the simple unadulterated word of truth. Yet even this was considered as a dan. gerous experiment; and it was judged best not to give the people the Bible, in their own language, except when there was danger of their receiving it from Protestants. The Rhemish translators, as we shall see by and by, plainly avow this as the motive of their undertaking.
It is worthy of remark, that, in one instance at least, the pope was more forward in granting the Bible to the people, in their own lan. guage, than most of his clergy were. It is recorded of Pope Sixtus V., (See his Life, 8vo. page 562.)" He had caused the Vulgate Latin edition of the Bible to be published, the last year, which occasioned a
good deal of clamour in the world; but nothing like what there was this year, (1589,) upon his printing an Italian version of it. This set all the Roman Catholic part of Christendom in an uproar. Count Olivarez, and some of the cardinals, ventured to expostulate with him pretty freely upon it, and said, it was a scandalous, as well as a dangerous thing, and bordered rery nearly upon heresy. But he treated them with contempt, and only said, we do it for the benefit of you that don't understand Latin. The most zealous of the cardinals wrote to the king of Spain, intreating him to interpose, and think of some remedy for this evil, as he was more interested in it than any one else, with regard to the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, and the duchy of Milan; for, if the Bible should come to be publicly read there, in the vulgartongue, it might raise scruples and uneasinesses in the consciences of those people: as it was, besides, one of the first principles of heretics to read the scriptures in the common tongue.
" Philip, who was a furious bigot, ordered his ambassador to use his utmost endeavours with the pope to suppress this edition, as it would give infinite offence; and said, if he did not, he should be obliged to make use of such means to prevent its being read, in his kingdoms, as his zeal for true religion suggested, and the Almighty had put into his hands. Olivarez, having received these orders, immediately demanded an audience of the pope, and represented to him, with much warmth, how disagreeable this new version was to his master, and what scandal it gave to his whole court. Sixtus suffered him to harangue, with great vehemence, for above an hour, and when he was come to the end of his career, made no answer. Upon which the count said, 'Won't your holiness be pleased to let me know your thoughts upon this matter ? •I am thinking,' says Sixtus, 'to have you thrown out of the window, to teach other people how to behare, when they address themselves to the pontiff';' and immediately made haste out of the apartment. The poor ambassador, who was sufficiently acquainted with the temper of Sixtus, made haste out of the Va. tican, expecting he would have been as good as his word; and when he got home, and had recovered his spirits a little, said, “Thank God, I have had a great escape 10-day.'"
This shows the manner in which the pope could speak to the ambassadors of the greatest monarchs in Europe. And it shows clearly that the feeling of the church, and of the cardinals, and the king of Spain, in particular, was so decidedly against giving the Bible to the people, in their own language, that the very head of the church incurred some danger, at least great opposition, when he was determined to publish an Italian version for the use of his own countrymen. Sixtus was extremely arbitrary in his administration, and sometimes whimsical in his actions. Of the latter, I suppose, his Italian version of the Bible, will be considered an evidence. It does not appear, from his history, that he cared much for the doctrine of the Bible, or for any thing else, human or divine, but as it might serve to promote the purposes of his own vanity and ambition. I believe his version of the scriptures, in Italian, was not extensively circulated. It is probable, his successors would take care to have it suppressed.
More lately, it was judged proper to give the Italians something that should pass for a Bible, in their own language. This was done, under the title of Storia del Vecchio e Nuovo Testimento, fo. This is a collection of stories taken from the historical parts of scripture, with what are called moral reflections; and the book is that which is, at this day, presented to a stranger in Italy, when he inquires for a Bible. The following translation of a part of the preface will show that, in the opinion of the editor, who no doubt spoke what he understood to be the doctrine of the church, the whole Bible was not to be given to the people, in their own language. After complaining of the evil of reading comedies, romances, &c., he says, “I believe that some excuse so pernicious an abuse with the vain pretext of the necessity of diverting themselves with the reading of delightful books, they not being permitted to find this entertainment in the historical books of the sacred scriptures, because they do not understand the Latin language; and for just reasons, the vulgar being forbidden them by the church, think themselves constrained to have recourse to profane books.
" There is nothing more established by common consent of all the holy fathers, than the respect that Christians are bound to have for the word of God, and the care with which they ought to seek the rule of good living for salvation. And as these saints perfectly knew the profundity of the sacred scripture, which is filled with mysteries, veiled under various figures and parables, they have made some distinction in this work, although divine, which although it is all equally holy, is not therefore equally intelligible. Therefore, they have thought that the historical books, which represent the lives of the patriarchs, and of the admirable men who had an apostolical charity, so many ages before the apostles, were more proper than others to instruct with example, proportioned to the light which the unlearned faithful usually have. Si. Basilius, when reflecting upon this, says, that the scriptures, in describing the lives of these early saints, place before us so many living and animated pictures for our rule and regulation.
" You will find there admirable examples for kings, for princes, for those who govern states, for ministers of the church, for virgins consecrated to God, and finally for all those who desire to live Christianly in the world, and in the matrimonial state, with which the lives of the saints of the Old Testament have greater agreement; because then, they knew almost no other chastity, excepting the conjugal, and of widowhood; the state of virginity being reserved for the new law. Therefore, as Pope St. Gregory says, the ancient patriarchs were astonished at any other virtue. Abel, says he, taught innocence; Enoch, purity of heart; Noah, perseverance in justice; Abraham, perfection of obedience; Isaac, chastity in marriage; Jacob, constancy in labour; Joseph, the forgetting of injuries; Moses, mildness towards persons the most contumacious; in fine, Job, invincible patience under a load of afflictions."
With such arguments, the compiler of stories from the Old and New Testament endeavours to satisfy his Italian readers, that such a compilation is much better for them than the real and entire Bible, as it was given by God himself, by the ministry of prophets and apostles. We are told that, for just reasons, the Bible, in the vulgar tongue, is forbidden by the church. We are told that the saints, who drew up
such stories, “perfectly knew the profundity of sacred scripture ;" and, I suppose, they knew also the capacity of every layman's understanding, and how much he was able to receive of the truths contained in the Bible. As I mentioned in a former number, they took great care that nothing should appear in these stories, or the moral reflections upon them, that could injure the holy mother church, or teach a sinner the way of salvation by Christ alone, without the aid of a priest. While the book continues to be circulated under the authority of the church, especially while it is sold as the Bible, it will furnish the clearest evidence that the church of Rome does not generally permit the reading of the holy scriptures; that, in fact, she with holds the word of God from the people, and, therefore, is both cruel and unjust.
With regard to the translation of the scriptures into English, we have seen how violently the pope was enraged against Wickliffe for his undertaking such a work. Had the pope had his will, the translator and his version of the Bible would have been burnt in the same fire; and, indeed, it was no uncommon thing, previous to Luther's reformation, to burn heretics with the Bible about their neck. The reading of the Bible was understood almost invariably to produce heresy; and there were many who suffered death for no other crime.
I was about to quote the doctrine of the Rhemish translators, on the subject of giving and withholding the Bible from the common people ; but lest it should be thought disrespectful to these doctors to bring them in at the end of a number, I shall fill up what remains of this sheet with something more modern, though perhaps less venerable.
My great opponent, W. E. ANDREWs, has a correspondent who writes four long letters, in derision of the Bible society, and against the plan of distributing Bibles, which he declares to be absolutely useless, if not extremely pernicious. He winds up the subject, in his fourth letter, in the following words :-"I would, therefore, suggest to the Bible men, in order to render their work complete, to give the book, when they distribute it, a new title, namely, 'Every man his own parson. For, as the general distribution of the Bible must infallibly expose that sacred volume to contempt, abuse, and profanation, in meeting with its tattered contents on the public stall, or in the trunk, I would much rather find it exhibiting the above title, than calling itself the word of God. Our Catholic favourers of the Bible scheme, I would advise to turn their donations to real charity; and one truly consistent with the principles which they profess, the gratuitous distribution
poor of your excellent school book, one single reading of which will convey to the minds of the ignorant a knowledge of religion, with which a whole life spent in the reading of the Bible would never furnish them. I mean not to flatter you, Mr. Editor, but I speak from experience and conviction; and I hesitate not to assert, that, if you had published nothing else but your school book, you would be deserving of the praise and encouragement of every member of the true church of Christ.” Orth. Jour. Vol. II.
142. Thus Mr. ANDREws is declared by one of his correspondents to have composed a book much better than the Bible. It imparts, at a single reading, more knowledge of religion than one will gather from the Bible in a whole life. Anxious to see this wonderful book, I sent to London, and procured a copy from the shop of Mr. ANDREWS him.