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Life of William Tyndale
A Pathway into the Holy Scripture
The affectionate anxiety of Tyndale to benefit his benighted countrymen led him to employ the press in a three fold capacity, as an editor, a translator, and an author; that he might make the most of the powerful instrumentality of the recently discovered art of printing, for the promotion of his labor of love.
It would not be suitable to the engagements of the Parker Society to comprehend treatises of which Tyndale was merely an editor in this reprint of his works. But Foxe’s ‘Acts and Monuments’ contain “The Prayer and Complaint of the Ploughman, concerning the abuses of the world, as the book was faithfully set forth by William Tyndale f1; ” and also “William Thorp’s account of his examination, when brought before Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, as corrected by master William Tyndale .” What he did as a translator of the works of uninspired christian writers, cannot be affirmed with any certainty; but whilst his translation of Erasmus’ Enchiridion militis Christiani has probably been entirely lost, his translation of Luther’s preface to the epistle to the Romans will be found incorporated in his own prologue to that epistle. On the other hand, though it is for being the father and founder of the authorised version of the Bible, the first person who translated the Scriptures from their inspired originals into the English tongue, that all who speak that tongue have reason to revere Tyndale’s memory; it is not proposed to reprint any more of his translation, in this edition of his works, than a chapter from each Testament, for the sake of enabling the readers to form some estimate as to the extent to which Tyndale’s translation, and choice of words, may be supposed to be under their eyes when they look at the text of their English Bibles.
As to the works of which Tyndale was properly the author, after striking off from Bale’s and Tanner’s lists such as they seem to have had no sufficient reason for ascribing to his pen , it will appear probable that but two of any general interest have been lost; namely, his ‘Treatise on Matrimony,’ and his ‘Exposition of 1 Corinthians 7 <460701> .;’ if indeed these two titles did not belong to the same work.
Very nearly the whole of what is still extant has been preserved in Day’s black-letter folio of the works of Frith, Barnes, and Tyndale, to which 1574 has been assigned as a date, and Foxe the martyrologist as its editor.
Where collation with ancient editions of the different treatises afforded no preferable reading, the text of Day has been followed in this reprint. But instead of Day’s immethodical arrangement of Tyndale’s works, the present editor has first placed together the doctrinal and hortatory treatises; then Helps to a right understanding of the Scriptures; and lastly, those polemical writings in which the author answers or exposes the adversaries of the Reformation. The second class, consisting of introductory prefaces, expositions of particular portions of holy writ, or notes upon them, will be arranged in the order of the Scriptures themselves; but in the other two classes each portion will be placed according to the date of its original publication, that the reader may see what were Tyndale’s earliest thoughts on the subject discussed, and trace the connection between his controversial writings and the events of their author’s life. Of those events Foxe knew so little, in consequence of Tyndale’s having been obliged to live abroad and in secrecy, that it would have been inexcusable to republish Foxe’s account of him, without giving that farther information respecting him which Mr.. Offer first discovered in the state papers of Henry the Eighth’s reign, and which the Rev. C. Anderson’s farther search into the same and other contemporary documents has recently enabled him to lay before the public .
To both those gentlemen the editor’s best thanks are due for the liberal manner in which they have given him permission to use the results of their labors; whilst he is still farther indebted to Mr.. Offer for the kindness with which he has allowed him to consult and collate his unique or rare specimens of the earliest editions of Tyndale’s works. The Revelation Thomas Russell has been equally liberal in permitting the editor to take advantage of the notes which accompanied the first volume of his edition of Tyndale’s works . The editor has also been favored with transcripts of family documents, elucidatory of Tyndale’s origin, by John Roberts, Esq., of the Inner Temple, who glories in being lineally descended from the reformer’s elder brother. It is also his pleasing duty to record his obligation to the master and fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge, for the loan of a copy of Bishop Fisher’s works; to the Revelation T. S. Crisp, president of the Baptists’ College, Bristol, for facilitating and aiding his examination of the very valuable collection of Tyndale’s Translations, in the library of that institution; and to the Revelation Edward Cureton and sir Henry Ellis of the British Museum; the Revelation Alfred Hackman, Precentor of Christ Church; Albert Way, Esq., director of the Antiquarian Society; and Henry Hallam, Esq., for their obliging readiness in satisfying his inquiries on different subjects, necessary for the elucidation of his author.