Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

studied in both Universities, and had long attracted notice by his avowed attachment to the new opinions. The great work which he projected for the benefit of his country, was, in imitation of what Luther had done in Germany, to TRANSLATE THE SCRIPtures into the English Tongue?. Finding ng conveniency for the performance of this blessed task in England, he retired into Germany, at first into Saxony, where he conversed with Luther; afterwards he resided at Antwerp, and there published a translation of the New Testament about the year 1527. He next began with the Old Testament, and finished off the five books of Moses, writing prologues to each, as he had done to the books of the New Testament. “ The books of William Tindal,” says Fox, “ being compiled, published, and sent over into Britain, it cannot be spoken what a door of light was opened to the whole English nation, which was before many years in darkness." Tindal's translation of the Scriptures also reached Scotland with his other books.

of the Bible or of the New Testament, supplied several families. At the dead hour of night, while others were asleep, they assembled in one house. The sacred volume was brought from its concealment; and while one read, the rest listened with mute attention. In this way the knowledge of the Scriptures was diffused, at a period when it doth not appear that there were any public preachers of the truth in Scotland."

Miles Coverdale, afterwards the first protestant bishop of Exeter, assisted Tindal in these labours abroad. He, for some time, occupied the office of chaplain to the English merchants at Antwerp, till at length, by the procurement of the popish prelates in England, he was seized by the emperor's authority; and after lying some time in prison, in virtue of the decree of the diet of

One copy

i We have a curious document to shew that Wickliff's translation of the scriptures, though in a measure antiquated by the change which the language had undergone, was still in partial circulation : “ John Tyball, a Lollard, in his confession before the bishop of London, taken in the year 1528, states, • The sayd Thomas Hilles and this respondent shewyd the frear Barons' one of the secret circulators of Tindal's works of certayn old bookes that they had : as of iiij Evangelistes, and certayn epistles of Peter and Paule in Englishe; which bookes the sayd frear dyd litle regard, and made a twyte of it, and sayd, a poynt for them, for they be not to be regarded toward the new printed Testament in Englishe; for it is of more cleyner Englishe. And then the sayd frear Barons delyverid to them the sayd New Testament in Englishe; for which they payd iijs. ijd., and desyred them that they wold kepe yt close," &c.STRYPE's Mem. Appendix. No. xvii.

? M'Crie's Life of Knox.

Augsburg, this eminent servant of Christ was strangled at the stake, and his body afterwards consumed with fire. When led to execution, he prayed aloud : “ Lord, open the eyes of the king of England !”

John Fryth, the friend and coadjutor of Tindal, had, by his means, been brought to the knowledge of the truth. He was of Cambridge, and on account of his great learning had been selected by Cardinal Wolsey for the new college, which he had founded with such magnificence at Oxford. At this place, Fryth, and others of the students, suffered very severe treatment from falling under the suspicion of heresy. He, at length, escaped beyond the seas, but soon returned secretly to England. After many sufferings, he was at last apprehended by the vigilance of the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Moore, and committed to the Tower, where he lay for several years. Tindal wrote to him in his prison, and encouraged him with very suitable exhortations. “ Two have suffered in Antwerp, in the day of the Holy Cross, unto the great glory of the Gospel; four at Rysels, in Flanders; and at Inkehoth, there one at least suffered, and all the same day. At Rouen, in France, they persecute; and at Paris, are five doctors taken for the gospel. See, you are not alone; be cheerful, and remember that among the hard-hearted in England, there is a number reserved by grace, for whose sakes, if need be, you must be ready to suffer. Sir, if you may write, how short soever it may be, forget it not, that we may know how it goeth with you for our hearts' ease. The Lord be with you yet again with all his plenteousness, and fill you that you may flow over.” Bilney was also of Cambridge, and had early embraced the reformation. He had been blessed as the instrument to bring others to the knowledge of Christ, and among them the afterwards celebrated Hugh Latimer. When he was apprehended by the cardinal's orders and brought before him, Bilney at first was overcome, and was brought to make a public recantation in St. Paul's church; but he was again brought back, by the most heartfelt penitence, to the confession of the truth, and was faithful unto death. His severe grief for his fall, and his recovery, are strikingly described by bishop Latimer, in a sermon preached before king Edward : “ I knew a man, Bilney, little Bilney, that blessed martyr of God, what time he had borne his faggot and was come again to Christ, had such conflicts within himself, beholding the image of death, that his friends were afraid to let him be alone, and would fain to be with him day and night, and comfort him, if they could,

but no comforts would serve; and as for the places of Scripture, to bring them unto him, was like as if a man would run him through with a sword. However, he was revived, and took his death patiently against the tyrannical see of Rome!.” “God gave him such strength and perfectness of faith, that he boldly confessed his faith in the gospel of our Saviour Christ; and also suffered his body to be burnt for that same gospel which we now preach in England.”

He suffered in the year 1531, under Nix, bishop of Norwich, a prelate infamous for his persecuting zeal.

To the names of Tindal, Fryth, and Bilney, may be added that of Dr. Barnes, prior and master of the house of the

gustines in Cambridge, who owed to Bilney his instructions in the gospel of Christ. He was soon accused of heresy; but numbers belonging to the university flocked around him, and openly espoused his sentiments. The place where they assembled for religious exercises was, in contempt, called “ Germany.” The consequence was, an order and messenger from the cardinal for the arrest of Dr. Barnes, and for a search to be made suddenly for Luther's works, and all German books. Barnes's courage also failed him before the cardinal; but he too, like Bilney, was restored, and afterwards suffered martyrdom. Fox also mentions Thomas Hitton of Maidstone, who was burnt in that town in the year 1530, “ for the constant and manifest testimony of Jesus Christ and of his free grace and salvation.” He also records the martyrdom of Tewksbury, a tradesman of London, of James Bainham, and of Thomas Benet, burnt at Exeter ; and numbers, he observes, would be found, could all the registers of the kingdom be searched, both of men and women, who were brought to the fire, or compelled to abjure ; and Mr. Strype, in his Memorials of the Reformation, has given some very interesting extracts from the register of the diocese of London.

“ Heresy,” he observes," as it was then called, that is, the gospel, had already spread considerably in this diocese of London, and especially about Colchester and other parts of Essex, as well as in the city. The New Testament in English, translated by Hotchyn (that is Tindal,) was in many hands, and was read with great application and joy. The doctrines of the corporeal presence, of worshipping images, and going on pilgrimages

I Serm. vii.

2 Serm. vii.

to saints, were rejected; and they had secret meetings wherein they instructed one another out of God's word.”

From all these documents, preserved by Mr. Strype, it appears that the translations and writings of Tindal had a very great influence in the revival of the Gospel in England. We learn also from the writings of this blessed martyr which are extant, and from the writings of his companions, that England had received a very full manifestation of Gospel truth, equal in distinctness and brightness to any that had been vouchsafed to the most favoured reformers on the Continent'. Tindal thus states the order of man's salvation. .“ So goeth it with God's elect. God chooseth them first, and not they God, as thou readest, John xv. And then he sendeth forth and calleth them, and sheweth them his good will which he beareth unto them, and maketh them see both their own damnation in the law, and also the mercy that is laid up for them in Christ's blood, and thereto what he will have them to do; and then when we see his mercy, we love him again, and please him and submit ourselves to his laws to walk in them; for when we err not in wit, reason, and judgment of things, we cannot err in will and in choice of things. The choice of a man's will doth naturally and of her own accord, follow the judgment of a man's reason, whether he judge right or wrong: so that in teaching only riseth the pith of a man's living. Howbeit there are swine that receive no learning but to defile it; and there are those that rend all good learning with their teeth; and these are popeholy, which following a righteousness of their own feigning, resist the righteousness of God in Christ.” “ God giveth me light to see the goodness and righteousness of the law, and mine own sin and unrighteousness; from which knowledge springeth repentance. Now repentance sheweth me not that the law is good and I evil, but this is a light which the Spirit of God hath given me, out of which light repentance springeth : then the same Spirit worketh in my heart trust and confidence to believe the mercy of God and his truth, that he will do as he has promised; which belief saveth me. And immediately out of that trust springeth love towards the law of God again; and whatsoever a man worketh by any other love than this, it pleaseth not God, nor is that love godly.” Now love doth not receive

1

See the Edition of the Works of Tindal, Fryth, and Barnes; printed by John Daye, London, 1573.

this mercy, but faith only, out of which faith love springeth; by which love I pour out again upon my neighbour that goodness which I have received of God by faith. Hereof you see that I cannot be justified without repentance, and yet repentance justifieth me not; and hereof you see that I cannot have a faith to be justified and saved, except love spring thereof immediately: and yet love justifieth me not before God.”

“ Christ standeth us in double stead, and serveth us two manner of ways. First, he is our Redeemer, Deliverer, Reconciler, Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Attorney, Solicitor; our hope, comfort, shield, protection, defender, strength, health, satisfaction, and salvation; his blood, his death -- all that he ever did, is ours: and Christ himself, with all that he is or can do, is ours. His blood-shedding, and all that he did, doth me as good service as though I myself had done it; and God (as great as he is) is mine with all that he hath, as a husband is his wife's, through Christ and his purchasing. Secondarily, after that we be overcome with love and kindness, and now seek to do the will of God (which is a Christian man's nature), then have we Christ an example to counterfeit.” Whatsoever, therefore, faith hath received of God through Christ's blood and deserving; that same must love shed out every whit, and bestow on our neighbours unto their profit, yea, and that though they be our enemies. By faith, we receive of God, and by love we shed out again; and that must we do freely, after the example of Christ, without any other respects than our neighbour's weal only, and neither look for reward in earth nor yet in heaven for the deserv: ing and merit of our deeds — as friars preach, though we know that good deeds are rewarded both in this life and in the life to come,” &c. “ If my merits obtained me heaven, or a higher place in heaven, then had I whereof I might rejoice besides the Lord.

Though the elect of God cannot so fall that they rise not again, because that the mercy of God ever waiteth upon them to deliver them from evil” — " yet they forget themselves ofttimes, and sink down into trances, and fall asleep in lusts for a season; but as soon as they are awaked, they repent and come again with out resistance. God now and then withdraweth his hand, and leaveth them unto their own strength, to make them feel that there is no power to do good but of God only, lest they should be proud of that which is none of theirs."

I cannot but regret that the nature of this work forbids longer extracts from this"" apostle of Christ to England.” In doctrinal and experimental knowledge of the Christian system, he may

в в

« VorigeDoorgaan »