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MEMOIR

OF

WILLIAM TYNDALE,

The Martyr.

Though I am olde, clothed in barbarous wede
Nothynge garnysshed with gaye eloquency,
Yet I tell the trouth, yf ye lyst to take hede
Agaynst theyr frowarde, furious frenesy
Which recken it for a great heresy,
And vnto laye people greuous outrage,
To haue goddes worde in their natyfe langage."

TYNDALE's COMPENDIOU'S OLDR TREATISE.

CHAPTER I.

ERA

IN WHICH

HE

LIVED-DESCENT-BIRTH-EDUCATION-ORDINA

TION-TAKES THE VOWS AT GREENWICH-TRANSLATES PORTIONS or

THE NEW TESTAMENT,

THERE is no period of British history more deeply interesting than the reign of Henry the Eighth. Nor is there any historical event upon record, calculated to excite our feelings so intensely as the first publication of the Sacred Scriptures in the English language; which took place during that extraordinary era.

Portions of the holy oracles in manuscript, veiled with glosses, had been permitted by the Romish Church to be read in English; but this was under restrictions which nearly amounted to a prohibition, except to a favoured few of the nobility and clergy; so that, instead of a free and honest circulation of divine truth, like the water of life, flowing to invigorate the virtues, and ameliorate the sorrows of the people, such selections, glossed and limited, produced a niggard stream, and that basely polluted.

The struggle to throw off the unholy domination of the Romish church over conscience, which commenced with the origin of papal usurpation, had, in later years, become strong and determined. The language of Milton, when alluding to this epoch, is peculiarly impressive : “ When I recall to mind, at last, after so many dark ages, wherein the huge overshadowing train of error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful Reformation, by divine power, struck through the black and settled night of ignorance and anti-christian tyranny; methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him who reads or hears, and the sweet odour of the returning Gospel, imbathe his soul with the fragrancy of heaven. Then was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners, where profane falsehood and neglect had thrown it; the schools opened ; divine and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues ; the princes and cities trooping apace to the new erected banner of salvation; the martyrs with the unresistible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon."* The overbearing pride and pomp of the prelates, and the open debaucheries of the monks, hastened their downfall. So notorious was this, that when Tyndale pressed upon Sir Thomas More the wretched immorality of the Pope and clergy, while it excited his anger, the only reply he made was : “Our mater is not of the lyuynge but of the doctryne.”+ In addition to the influence of this profaneness upon public opinion, the seed sown by Richard of Hampole, and Wickliffe, in their attempts to circulate scriptural knowledge, was secretly producing a rich harvest, and the effects extended to every class of society.

* On the Reformation in England, B. I.
+ Confutacyon of Tyndale, Vol. II. p. 364.

# I possess a beautiful English manuscript on vellum of Hampole's translation of the Epistles and Gospels, with a comment; and although it abounds with scholastic sophistries and “old wives' fables," it exhibits occasionally some bright rays of Gospel light.

In vain were promulgated canons, acts, and proclamations, to limit or stay the progress of inquiries after present happiness and that all important object, future felicity. Absurd and despotic laws to chain the mind and enslave the conscience, although accompanied with an awful train of terrors, tortures, and death, appeared to excite, instead of repressing, the spirit of free and serious inquiry.

Conscience, pressing upon the mind a solemn sense of personal obligation to answer for our faith and conduct, how feebly soever enlightened, can never be extinguished by human power. The burning of a martyr, known to have been a good and a godly man, excited among the spectators of those horrors, the inquiry, Can Christianity sanction such cruelties? while the avidity with which the translations of the New Testament were destroyed, led the populace to believe that the Church of Rome was opposed to the Gospel, and was endeavouring to conceal those sacred truths in a language known only to some of the prelates and monks. They were sufficiently enlightened to see that the influence of the moral and spiritual sun was obscured from them, instead of shining forth in its splendour, equally to guide and comfort man, whether the inhabitant of a palace, of a cloister, or of a cottage.

A general discontent prevailed in England against a pompous cardinal and a corrupt clergy, when Luther, supported by some of the German princes, boldly threw off his allegiance to the Pope; and, by the publication of the Bible in German, laid the basis of that immortal structure, the Protestant Reformation. The cause of truth spread with rapidity. In January, 1525, the aged Lè Fevre printed the New Testament in French. And, about the same time, William Tyndale, a man whose memory will ever be dear to the British Christian, prepared to publish a translation of the Sacred Scriptures in his vernacular language, an object which had occupied his mind with intense anxiety for many years.

This apostolic man was descended of an ancient and honourable family, who for several centuries were settled on the banks of the Tyne, in Northumberland. His ancestors were the Barons de Tynedale, whose seat was Langley Castle, a small but strong fortress, the ruins of which have resisted the ravages of time: they are beautifully situated on a rising gronnd in Tyndale. *

During those intestine commotions which desolated this country, the wars between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, Hugh Baron de Tyndale joined the weaker party, and escaping from the field of battle, fled for refuge into Gloucestershire, under the assumed name of Hytchins. Thus stripped of his honours, possessions, and even of his name : the distressed fugitive could not have conceived that these troubles would lead him to an alliance, the issue of which was destined to immortalize the name that he had concealed, and

upon our memories as one of the most illustrious of all the noble names which have so richly adorned our nation. The concealed Baron married Alicia, daughter and sole heiress of Hunt, Esq., of Hunt's Court, Nibley, Gloucestershire. This property descended to John Tyndale, alias Hytchins, his son and heir ; † who had three sons; John who became a distinguished merchant in London, Thomas, f and William, the subject of this memoir. Several branches of the family were honoured with knighthood : Sir John Tyndale attended at the coronation of Queen Ann Boleyn, as a Knight of the Bath.

engrave it

* Thomas Tyndale, writing to his cousin, February 3, 1663, gives this account of his family :-"I have heretofore heard that the first of your familie came out of the north, in the times of the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, at what time many of good sort (their side going down) did fly for refuge and succor where they could find it. That it was your predecessor his fortune to come into Glocestershire, changing his name to that of Huchins, and that afterwards he married there, and so having children, he did before his death declare his right name, and from whence, and upon what subject he came thither, and so taking his own name, did leave it unto his children.”-Rudder's Gloucestershire, p. 757.

+ MSS. and Pedigree in possession of J. Roberts, Esq., Temple. See an extract placed before p. 1 of this Memoir.-Rudder's Gloucestershire, p. 757.

# One of his descendants, Lydia, married John Roberts, of Siddington near Cirencester in 1646; a man of distinguished piety, and the head, in those parts, of the Quakers, who, with his son, suffered severe persecution for his conscientious adhe. rence to those religious principles. An interesting memoir of this is published by the Society of Friends.

William Tyndale was born at Hunt's Court,* about the year 1477. At a very early age, he became a diligent student in the University of Oxford, having been instructed from a child in grammar, logic, and philosophy:t he continued there until his proficiency in the Greek and Latin languages enabled him to read the New Testament to his fellow students in St. Mary Magdalen Hall, and to those of Magdalen College. I

Oxford was, at this time, the most celebrated seat of learning in the world. Erasmus, who was a student in St. Mary's, thus writes to a friend in Italy :-“ Here I have met with humanity, politeness, learning not trite and superficial, but deep, accurate, true old Greek and Latin learning, and withal so much of it, that, but for mere curiosity, I have no occasion to visit Italy: in Grocyn I admire an universal compass of learning; Linacre's acuteness, depth, and accuracy are not to be exceeded.” Here Tyndale took his degrees, upon which, by indefatigable study, he acquired and laid a solid foundation--that profound knowledge of the learned languages, which so highly distinguished and so eminently qualified him for his important biblical translation. The honour of preparing this singularly gifted man for his great work was not limited to Oxford. Dissatisfied with his attainments in literature, he entered as a student in the University of Cambridge, and became there “ well ripened in God's word.” His memory sheds an equal lustre on both those ancient seats of learning, in the latter of which, it is said, that he also took a degree. It was here he formed a friendship, uninterrupted until death, with John Frith, a student much younger than himself, but of extraordinary attainments and deep piety, a determined reformer, and in manners most amiable and unassuming. Both were alike eminent for an unspotted life and virtuous disposition. The ordination of William Tyndale took place at the conventual church of the priory of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield, on the eleventh day of March, 1502, by Thomas, suffragan Bishop of Pavaden, by authority of William Warham, Bishop of London, and was ordained priest to

Atkin's Gloucestershire, p. 304. i Wood's “ Athenæ Oxon.” + The painting from which the portrait is engraved, is preserved in Magdalen Hall,

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