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ANN. 1530. JANUA. 17. FF2
WHEN I had translated the New Testament, I added an epistle unto the latter end, in which I desired them that were learned to amend if ought were found amiss. But our malicious and wily hypocrites, which are so stubborn and hard-hearted in their wicked abominations, that it is not possible for them to amend any thing at all, (as we see by daily experience, when both their livings and doings are rebuked with the truth,) say, some of them, that it is impossible to translate the scripture into English; some, that it is not lawful for the lay-people to have it in their mother-tongue; some, that it would make them all heretics; as it would, no doubt, from many things which they of long time have falsely taught; and that is the whole cause wherefore they forbid it, though they other cloaks pretend: and some, or rather every one, say that it would make them rise against the king, whom they themselves (unto their damnation) never yet obeyed. And lest the temporal rulers should see their falsehood, if the scripture came to light, causeth them so to lie.
And as for my translation, in which they affirm unto the lay-people (as I have heard say) to be I wet not how many thousand heresies, so that it cannot be mended or correct; they have yet taken so great pain to examine it, and to compare it unto that they would fain have it, and to their own imaginations and juggling terms, and to have somewhat to rail at, and under that cloak to blaspheme the truth; that they might with as little labor (as I suppose) have translated the most part of the bible. For they which in times past. were wont to look on no more scripture than they found in, their Duns, or such like devilish doctrine, have yet now so narrowly looked on my translation, that there is not so much as one i therein, if it lack a tittle over his head, but they have noted it, and number it unto the ignorant people for an heresy. Finally, in this they be all agreed, to drive you from the knowledge of the scripture, and that ye shall not have the text thereof in the mother-tongue, and to keep the world still in darkness, to the intent they might sit in the consciences of the people, through vain superstition and false doctrine, to satisfy their filthy lusts, their proud ambition, and unsatiable covetousness, and to exalt their own honor above king and emperor, yea, and above God himself.
A thousand books had they lever to be put forth against their abominable doings and doctrine, than that the scripture should come to light. For as long as they may keep that down, they will so darken the right way with the mist of their sophistry, and so tangle them that either rebuke or despise their abominations, with arguments of philosophy, and with worldly similitudes and apparent reasons of natural wisdom, and with wresting the scripture unto their own purpose, clean contrary unto the process, order, and meaning of the text; and so delude them in descanting upon it with allegories, and amaze them, expounding it in many senses before the unlearned lay-people, (when it hath but one simple, literal sense, whose light the owls cannot abide,) that, though thou feel in thine heart, and art sure, how that all is false that they say, yet couldst thou not solve their subtle riddles.
Which thing only moved me to translate, the new Testament. Because I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to establish the lay-people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother-tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text: for else, whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again, partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit, whereof thou readest in Apocalypse, chap. ix. (that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry, and traditions of their own making, founded without ground of scripture,) and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such a sense as is impossible to gather of the text, if thou see the process, order, and meaning thereof.
And even in the bishop of Londonís house I intended to have done it. For when I was so turmoiled in the country where I was, that I could no longer dwell there, (the process whereof were too long here to rehearse,) I this- wise thought in myself: This I suffer because the priests of the country be unlearned; as God it knoweth, there are a full ignorant sort, which have seen no more Latin than that they read in their portesses and missals, which yet many of them can scarcely read, (except it be Albertus de secretis mulierum, in which yet, though they be never so sorrily learned, they pore day and night, and make notes therein, and all to teach the midwives, as they say; and Linwode, a book of constitutions, to gather tythes, mortuaries, offerings, customs, and other pillage, which they call not theirs, but Godís part, and the duty of holy church, to discharge their consciences withal; for they are bound that they shall not diminish, but increase all things unto the uttermost of their powers;) and therefore, (because they are thus unlearned, thought I,) when they come together to the ale-house, which is their preaching-place, they affirm that my sayings are heresy. And besides that, they add to, of their own heads, which I never spake, as the manner is to prolong the tale to short the time withal, and accused me secretly to the chancellor and other the bishopís officers. And, indeed, when I came before the chancellor, he, threatened me grievously, and reviled me, and rated me as though I had been a dog; and laid to my charge whereof there could be none accuser brought forth, (as their manner is not to bring forth the accuser,) and yet all the priests of the country were the same day there.
As I this thought, the bishop of London came to my remembrance, whom Erasmus (whose tongue maketh of little gnats great elephants, and lifteth up above the stars whosoever giveth him a little exhibition,) praiseth exceedingly, among other, in his Annotations on the New Testament, for his great learning. Then thought I, if I might come to this manís service, I were happy. And so I gat me to London, and, through the acquaintance of my master, came to sir Harry Gilford, the kingís graceís comptroller, and brought him an Oration of Isocrates, which I had translated out of Greek into English, and desired him to speak unto my lord of London for me; which he also did, as he shewed me, and willed me to write an epistle to my lord, and to go to him myself; which I also did, and delivered my epistle to a servant of his own, one William Hebilthwayte, a man of mine old acquaintance. But God (which knoweth what is within hypocrites) saw that I was beguiled, and that that counsel was not the next way unto my purpose. And therefore he gat me no favor in my lordís sight.
Whereupon my lord answered me, his house was full; he had more than he could well find; and advised me to seek in London, where he said I could not lack a service. And so in London I abode almost a year, and marked the course of the world, and heard our praters, (I would say our preachers,) how they boasted themselves and their high authority; and beheld the pomp of our prelates, and how busy they were, as they yet are, to set peace and unity in the world, (though it be not possible for them that walk in darkness to continue long in peace, for they cannot but either stumble or dash themselves at one thing or another that shall clean unquiet all together,) and saw things whereof I defer to speak at this time, and understood at the last not only that there was no room in my lord of Londonís palace to translate the new Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England, as experience doth now openly declare.
Under what manner, therefore, should I now submit this book to be corrected and amended of them, which can suffer nothing to be well? Or what protestation should I make in such a matter unto our prelates, those stubborn Nimrods which so mightily fight against God, and resist his Holy Spirit, enforcing with all craft and subtlety to quench the light of the everlasting testament, promises, and appointment made between God and us, and heaping the fierce wrath of God upon all princes and rulers; mocking them with false feigned names of hypocrisy, and serving their lusts at all points, and dispensing with them even of the very laws of God, of which Christ himself testifieth, Matthew 5:1 <400501> , that ďnot so much as one tittle thereof may perish, or be broken;Ē and of which the prophet saith, Psalm 118 <19B801> , ďThou hast commanded thy laws to be keptĒ meod, that is, in Hebrew, exceedingly, with all diligence, might, and power; and have made them so mad with their juggling charms and crafty persuasions, that they think it a full satisfaction for all their wicked lying to torment such as tell them truth, and to burn the word of their soulsí health, and slay whosoever believe thereon?
Notwithstanding yet I submit this book, and all other that I have either made or translated, or shall in time to come, (if it be Godís will that I shall further labor in his, harvest,) unto all them that submit themselves unto the word of God, to be corrected of them; yea, and moreover to be disallowed and also burnt, if it seem worthy, when they have examined it with the Hebrew, so that they first put forth of their own translating another that is more correct.