Page images
[ocr errors]

The translation of the Bible at present in use in England was undertaken by the authority of King James I. of England. He came to the throne in 1603. Several objections having been made to the “ Bishop's Bible," then in general use, he ordered a new translation to be made. This work he committed to fifty-four men; but before the translation was commenced, seven of them had either died, or had declined the task, so that it was actually accomplished by forty-seven. All of them were eminently distinguished for their piety, and for their profound acquaintance with the original lariguages. This

company of eminent men was divided into six classes, and to each class was allotted a distinct part of the Bible to be translated. • Ten were to meet at Westminster, and to translate from Genesis to the end of the second book of Kings. Eight assembled at Cambridge, and were to translate the remaining historical books, the Psalms, Job, Canticles, and Ecclesiastes. At Oxford, seven were to translate the four greater Prophets, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the twelve minor Prophets. The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation, were assigned to another company of eight at Oxford ; and the Epistles were allotted to a company of seven at Westminster.

Lastly, another company at Cambridge were to translate the Apocrypha."

To these companies the king gave instructions to guide them in their work, of which the following is the substance:

The Bishop's Bible, then used, to be followed, and to be altered as little as the original would permit.

The names of the sacred writers to be retained as they were commonly used.

When a word had different significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the fathers, and most eminent writers.

No alteration to be made in the chapters and verses. No marginal notes to be affixed, except to explain the Greek and Hebrew words that could not be briefly and fitly explained in the text. Reference to parallel places to be set down in the margin.

Each man of a company to take the same chapters, and translate them according to the best of his abilities; and when this was done, all were to meet together and compare their translations, and agree which should be regarded as correct.

Each book, when thus translated and approved, to be sent to

every other company for their approbation.

Besides this, the translators were authorized, in cases of great difficulty, to send letters to any learned men in the kingdom to obtain their opinions.

In this manner the Bible was translated into English. In the first instance, each individual translated each book alloted to his company. Secondly, the readings to be adopted were agreed upon by that company assembled together. The book thus finished was sent to each of the other companies to be examined. At these meetings one read the English, and the rest held in their hands some Bible, of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, etc. If they found any fault, says Selden, they spoke ; if not, he read on.

The translation was commenced in 1607, and completed in about three years. At the end of that time, three copies of it were sent to London. Here a committee of six reviewed the work, which was afterwards reviewed by Dr. Smith, who wrote the preface, and by Dr. Bilson. It was first printed, in 1611, at London, by Robert Barker.

From this account, it is clear that no ordinary care was taken to furnish to English readers a correct translation of the sacred Scriptures. No translation of the Bible was ever made under more happy auspices; and it would now be impossible to furnish another translation in our language under circumstances so propitious. Whether we contemplate the number, the learning, or the piety of the men employed in it; the cool deliberation with which it was executed ; the care taken that it should secure the approbation of the most learned men, in a country that embosomed a vast amount of literature; the harmony with which they conducted their work; or the comparative perfection of the translation, we see equal cause of gratitude to the great Author of the Bible that we have so pure a translation of his word.

From this time the English language became fixed. More than two hundred years have elapsed, and yet the simple and majestic purity and power of the English tongue is expressed in the English translation of the Bible, as clearly as when it was given to the world. It has become the standard of our language ; and nowhere can the purity and expressive dignity of this language be so fully found as in the sacred Scriptures.

The friends of this translation have never claimed for it inspiration or infallibility. Yet it is the concurrent testimony of all who are competent to express an opinion, that no translation of the Bible into any language has preserved so faithfully the sense of the original as the English. Phrases there may be, and it is confessed there are, which modern criticism has shown not to express all the meaning of the original; but as a whole, it indubitably stands unrivalled. Nor is it probable that any translation can now supply its place, or improve upon its substantial correctness. The fact that it has, for two hundred years, poured light into the minds of millions, and guided the steps of generation after generation in the way to heaven, has given to it somewhat of the venerableness which appropriately belongs to a book of God. Successive ages may correct some of its few unimportant errors; may throw light on some of its obscure passages ; but, to the consummation of all things, it must stand, wherever the English language is spoken, as the purest specimen of its power to give utterance to the meaning of ancient tongues, and of the simple and pure majesty of the language which we speak.

Albert Barnes. 1. By the command of what king, was 11. How did the king's instructions run the translation of the authorized English with regard to each man's, and each com

pany's duty ? 2. When did he accede to the English 12. When was the translation comthrone?

menced, and when completed ? 3. What was the bible then in use called? 13. Who wrote the preface to it? 4. To how many learned men was the 14. Name the first printer of it.

15. Is it not evident that the greatest 5. But what was the actual number of care was taken in making this translation? translators ?

16. Is not the Christian world greatly 6. State the qualifications of these men more divided now, than it was in those for the duty.

days? 7. Into how many classes was this com- 17. Will any boy tell me why a translapany of distinguished men divided ? tion of the bible could not now be made so

8. Into how many portions was the happily as it was then ? bible divided for the purpose of being 18. Should we not be thankful to God translated ?

that we have so faithful a translation of 9. Tell me the books in the first portion, His Word ? the second, the third, &c.

19. Of what glorious personage do the 10. Within what limits were they kept Scriptures mainly speak? by the king's instructions ?

20. Who will quote to me the words of

bible made?

task committed ?

John v. 39 ?

IV.-ANECDOTES OF ALFRED THE GREAT. ALFRED, surnamed the Great, sixth king of England, of the Saxon dynasty, born in 849, ascended the throne in 871. at the age of 23. He at first conquered the Danes-by which term we ought to understand all the Scandinavian nations, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, indiscriminately, but having been defeated by them, he, concealing himself under the garb of a minstrel, entered their camp in order to gain such knowledge as might enable him to conquer them. This bold step was rewarded with success. Aided by the knowledge he had gained, he succeeded in overcoming his

formidable enemies. London, which was still in their power, he took (894); and, by his skill, secured the tranquillity of England. He civilized the country, established laws, introduced trial by jury, and divided the land into counties. He also revived arts, sciences, and letters; composed several works with his own pen; made commerce and navigation flourish, and laid the foundation of the maritime power of England. In his will it is written that the English ought to be as free as their thoughts.- Biographical Dictionary.

ALFRED the Great had reached his twelfth year before he had even learned his alphabet. An interesting anecdote is told of the occasion on which he was first prompted to apply himself to books. His mother had shown him and his brothers a small volume, illuminated in different places with coloured letters, and such other embellishments as were then in fashion. Seeing that it excited the admiration of her children, she promised that she would give it to the boy who should first learn to read it. Alfred, though the youngest, was the only one who had spirit enough to attempt obtaining it on such a condition. He immediately went and procured a teacher, and in a very short time was able to claim the promised reward. When he came to the throne, notwithstanding his manifold duties, and a tormenting disease, which seldom allowed him an hour's rest, he employed his leisure time either in reading or hearing the best books. His high regard for the best interests of the people he was called to govern, and the benevolence of his conduct, are well known. He encountered many difficulties in obtaining scriptural knowledge, which the people of the present day have never experienced, and manifested an attachment to the sacred volume not often seen now. In those dark ages learning was considered rather a reproach than an honour to a prince. In addition to which, his kingdom, for many years, was the seat of incessant war. Notwithstanding all this, Alfred found opportunity, not only to read the word of God, but actually to copy out all the Psalms of David : which book he constantly carried in his bosom. That he profited greatly from reading the Scriptures is no matter of surprise, when we learn, that, after the example of David, he earnestly sought divine teaching, and prayed that the Lord would open his eyes that he might understand his law. He frequently entered the churches secretly in the night for prayer; and there lamented, with sighs, the want of more acquaintance with divine wisdom. Having drunk into the spirit of the Bible, and experienced the rich consolation it affords, in setting before the


burdened sinner a free and full salvation in Jesus, he wished it published to all around; he therefore commenced a translation of the Psalms into Anglo-Saxon, though he did not, however, live to finish the work. He died in the year 900. During his retreat at Athelney, in Somersetshire, after his defeat by the Danes, a beggar came to his little castle, and requested alms.


queen informed Alfred that they had but one small loaf remaining, which was insufficient for themselves and their friends, who were gone in search of food, though with little hope of success. The king replied, "Give the poor

Christian one half of the loaf. He that could feed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, can certainly make the half loaf suffice for more than our necessity. The poor man was accordingly relieved, and Alfred's people shortly after returned with a store of fresh provisions !

1. To what dynasty of Kings did Alfred 12. What was the boy promised by his belong?

mother who should first learn to read the 2. When was he born, and when did he small volume ? ascend the throne ?

13. Which of the sons won this noble 3. How old was he when he ascended race, and claimed the prize ? the throne, and when he died ?

14. Of what book was Alfred particu4. What enemies had he to encounter? larly fond ?

5. What people are comprehended 15. What did he find time to do, besides under the term Danes ?

read the Bible ? 6. When defeated by them, how did he 16. Does not this reprove those boys obtain knowledge of their strength ? among us, who grumble at learning 16

7. With what success was this step at. lines only, on the Mondays ? tended ?

17. Who came to his little castle while 8. When became he master of London? he lay hid at Athelney?

9. What did he do for England when he 18. What quantity of food was in the rid it of its enemies ?

castle? 10. What noble statement is written in 19. Now give me correctly the beautiful his will?

christian answer he gave his queen. 11. How old was he before he knew his 20. Did God forget Alfred for his kind. letters?

ness to the beggar?


Pro-jec'tile, adj.........jacěre. Ve-loc'i-ties, n............

....., velox. Dex-ter'i-ty, n..... ... dexter. Mo-ment’um, n..........movēre, Im-ped'i-ment, n.... .pes. Di'al-plate, n............. dies.

As-cent', n...... .scanděre. Ex-trem'i-ties, n......... exter. Grav'i-ty, n.... gravis. Dis-cerned', part........cerněre. Magʻni-tude, n...........magnus. In-es'tim-a-ble, adj......aestimāre. Per-pen-dic'u-lar, adj...pendēre. Man'age-a-ble, adj. centrum.

GREEK. Cen-trip'e-tal, adj....

petěre. Me-chan'ics, n...........mechanē.

centrum. Cen-trif'u-gal, adj....

Hor-i-zon'tal, adj........ horos. fugěre.


« PreviousContinue »