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The name of Miles Coverdale is in He was educated in the convent of separably associated with the English the Augustines at Cambridge, of which Bible. It was his high privilege to be order he afterwards became a brother. the first to present to his countrymen Providence had placed his lot in solemn a version of the entire Scriptures in and perilous times. The work of the their own tongue. And in return, the German reformers was beginning to reverent gratitude of each succeeding bear fruit in England, into which their generation has gathered around his books had been introduced in considermemory. In regard to such a man, able numbers. Strange and wonderful the feeling is natural and seemly, doctrines were moving to their depths which leads us to desire to know some- the souls of thoughtful men, who had thing of his personal history—to look long fed on ashes, and now grasped at into his home, to listen to his conversa the divine nourishment offered them tion, to note his tastes and habits, in in the Word of God, with eagerness short, to number him amongst those and joy. No longer would they be conwhom we know,-it may be, amongst tent to take the stone which Rome gave those whom, from a community of feel to them, for the bread of life which ing, we reckon our friends. Unfortu- their Lord had provided. Outwardly, nately in the case of Coverdale, the indeed, there seemed little change from materials for such a study are extremely the unquestioning lethargy of ages, but scanty. Beyond the more prominent the calm was only on the surface; befeatures of his character, little is known low, currents were at work which told of his life, except as it is connected with of a coming tempest. his translation labours.
In the prior of his own convent, Dr. He was born in the county of York, Barnes, ultimately a martyr for the in the year 1488. Nothing is known faith, our young monk found a teacher of his parents, not even their name; for of the reformed doctrines. Several Coverdale is supposed to have been the learned members of the university had name assumed by the reformer on his embraced the same principles, and ere becoming a monk, it being customary long the little knot of Cambridge refor such persons to renounce the family formers dared to avow their principles name, with all other earthly ties. It has in the face of deadly peril. Coverdale been further conjectured, that Cover- was of the number. He abandoned his dale may have been the place of his convent and his monkish habit, assumed birth, and hence his choice of this name. the dress of a secular priest, and VOL. XXXVI.
travelled over the country, preaching! It was now felt by the authorities wherever he found opportunity. He that something besides mere prohibiwas early noted for his zeal. “While tion and persecution must be done, that others dedicated themselves in part some show of reason for their proceedonly,” says a contemporary, “he gave ings must be rendered. The king, himself wholly up to propagating the therefore, called together the principal truth of the gospel.” It so happened, bishops and a number of the learned that by-and-by an Augustinian friar, a men from the universities, and placing convert to the Reformation, was appre- the reprobated books in their hands, hended, and, succumbing before the desired their opinion regarding them, threat of being burned, abjured his and also, as to whether it were desirfaith, and named Coverdale as one of able that the people should possess the the teachers who had led him astray. Scriptures in the vulgar tongue. As
England was no longer a safe place might be expected, the decision was for the reformer, nor could he hope for adverse. Thereupon, a new royal profurther opportunity of exercising his clamation was issued, strictly prohibitvocation there in the meantime. He ing the works in question. It conaccordingly betook himself to the Con- tained, however, a promise that the tinent, where for some time he found | king would cause a translation to be congenial occupation in translating made of the New Testament, and gire parts of the Old Testament.
it to the people, when he judged them Meanwhile, the struggle went on infit to receive it. In another proclamaEngland. Tyndal's translation of the tion, issued shortly after, this promise New Testament was widely circulated, is modified, and it was evident that and likewise many of the works of the much reliance could not be placed upon German reformers. Great was the wrath it, whereas the threats held over the of the bishops thereat, and severe the readers of the Scriptures were too sure measures they adopted to prevent the to be executed to the full. reading of these books, and the discus- To the reformers this state of affairs sion of their contents, in "alehouses ) was sufficiently discouraging, but they and taverns,” and other places of public were far from yielding to despair. They resort. Eager for the word of God, the regarded the proclamation as far more people would have it, and edition after the bishops' than the king's, and, moreedition of the New Testament was pub over, Henry's capricious temper left lished abroad, and sold in England. ground to hope, that what he forbade
And thus, in spite of “a grievous to-day he might permit to-morrow. persecution and slaughter of the faith- | And, ere long, the course of events gare ful,” the Reformation went on. At first more and more cause for hope. its converts were chiefly, as an oppos It was in these circumstances that ing bishop says, to be found among Coverdale undertook his great work of “the merchants, and such as have their translating the whole Bible. It was abiding not far from the sea ;” but the finished, and the first entire English “gentry and common people," who, Bible published, in 1535. It is in the he asserts, were not then “greatly in- form of a small folio. It exhibits the fected," soon became so, and from the name neither of printer nor place of castle to the cottage, from the English publication, but, from the appearance of “ Cæsar's household” to the home of the the type, it is supposed to have issued artisan and the husbandman, the taint from the press of Christopher Froschof Lutheranism was found. And the over, at Zurich. It contains a dedicry of the people virtually expressed, cation to the king, more servile in tone if not directly uttered, became more than is altogether seemly, according to and more urgent, "Give us the Scrip. | our present habits of thought and modes tures."
of expression, but in which occur pass
ages of much beauty, as, for instance, Rogers, from, it is supposed, the transthe following description of the Bible : lations of Tyndal and Coverdale. The It “is the cause of all felicity, it bring prologues and notes of this version gave eth all goodness with it, it bringeth great offence to the clergy, who imporlearning, it gendereth understanding, tuned the king to have another version, it causeth good works, it maketh chil- prepared free of all such accompanidren of obedience; briefly, it teacheth ments. The matter was committed to all estates their office and duty. Seeing, Lord Cromwell, who put it into the then, that the Scripture of God teach- hands of Grafton, and with him we find eth us everything sufficiently, both Coverdale again at work on this new what we ought to do and what we ought | edition. It was published in the form to leave undone, whom we are bound to of a large folio, in April, 1539. obey, and whom we should not obey ; The Bible was now ready for the therefore (I say), it causeth all prospe- people, and there seemed reason to hope rity, and setteth everything in frame: that it would be permitted free course and where it is taught and known, it amongst them.
Lord Cromwell, as lighteneth all darknesses, comforteth vicar-general, had, in the September of all sorry hearts, leaveth no poor man 1538, commanded the clergy to provide unhelped, suffereth nothing amiss un that “one book of the whole Bible, of amended, letteth no prince be dis- the largest volume in English, should obeyed, permitteth no heresy to be be set up in each church, in some conpreached, but reformeth all things, venient place.” “It was wonderful to amendeth that is amiss, and setteth see,” says Strype, “ with what joy this everything in order.”
book of God was received, not only The volume has also a prologue to the among the learneder sort, and those reader, in which are to be found, clothed that were noted for lovers of the in quaint words, not a few thoughts Reformation, but generally all England worthy to be remembered.
over, among all the vulgar and common It is doubtful whether Coverdale's people ; and with what greediness God's Bible received the sanction of the king word was read, and what resort to or not. It seems probable that it re- places where the reading of it was. ceived his countenance for a short time, Everybody that could, bought the book, while Anne Boleyn was in favour. A or busily read it, or got others to read contemporary says, that “through the it to them, if they could not themselves, intercession of Queen Anne, the king at and divers more elderly persons learned last granted that English Bibles might to read on purpose.” be printed and placed in every church, Presently, however, complaints were where the people might read them.” heard that evil-disposed persons were “Which concession of the king," he endeavouring to deprive the people, as adds, "did not then take effect, because, far as they could, of the boon bestowed shortly after, Queen Anne was be- upon them. Many of the priests were headed." On the death of the queen, accused of reading the word of God it is likely that the friends of Cover- “ confusedly," and so “humming and dale feared to bring his Bible under the hawing,” that the people could not unfurther notice of the king, lest it should derstand them. And as to the Bible, be positively forbidden, knowing the which in each church should be within dislike of the imperious monarch to reach of any one who wished to read, it everything associated with the memory was complained that “many would of his unfortunate wife.
pluck it either into the quire, or else In 1537, the Bible, known into some pew, where poor men durst Matthew's, was printed, and received not presume to come." Greater grievthe king's approbation. The work was ances followed. Henry, ere long, withprepared under the superintendence of drew the privilege he had granted, and