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take this opportunity of rendering his most grateful acknowledgments.
If life and health are spared, a second volume, containing an exposition of Mark, Luke, and John, will be published early in the next spring
KEENE, N. H., May, 1841.
The New Testament is the received collection of books written by the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ. The more appropriate title would be, the New Covenant, as it contains the covenant or compact made with mankind by God through his Son, and designed to supersede the preliminary and partial covenant with the Jews. These books are also called canonical, from canon, a rule, because they are believed to contain the authoritative rule of faith and practice. At what time, or by whose authority, they were first collected together, cannot now be determined. Probably no formal step was taken to effect it; but gradually those works that found most favor among the early Christians, because they were known to have been written by inspired apostles and disciples of Christ, were admitted into the Canon by common consent.
Those that were rejected fell into a class called Apocryphal, which bears the same relation to the New Testament that the books of Esdras, Maccabees, and others, do to the Old.
The writings of the New Testament all date back to the first century, between A. D. 40 and 98, or even narrower limits. They were composed in the Greek language, which was then generally spoken in the East. One or two books, however, have been conjectured by many critics to have been written in a dialect of the Hebrew tongue; but if so, they were very early translated, and no copies in the original now remain. Catalogues of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, with their present titles and authors mainly, are given by the Christian Fathers of the second and third centuries. Numerous quotations are also found in their writings, by which the text may often be corrected or verified. The Scriptures were generally read in the churches, diffused through different countries, and translated into foreign languages; by which means their authority was more fully substantiated, and their uncorrupted preservation insured.
But for fifteen centuries, copies were only multiplied by the long and laborious process of writing. A very high degree of accuracy, however, as well as elegance, was in general attained by the ancient copyists, as is evinced by the manuscripts extant in our day. The monks of the first and middle ages were not without their use in preserving and extending, amid violence and darkness, the lights of classic antiquity, and the immortal records of the Gospel. But the people were so sunk in ignorance, and the price of manuscripts was so high, that comparatively few owned the Scriptures. In the fourteenth century, a copy of Wickliffe's New Testament cost about eighty dollars.
When the art of printing was invented in the fifteenth century, one of the first publications was the Bible. Its extensive diffusion by this means powerfully accelerated the Reformation of Luther, and placed in his hands an engine by which he was more than a match for all the wealth and terrors of Rome. The ignorance of the times was so gross, however, that he was accused, in his active exertions with his fellowreformers to circulate the Scriptures, of being the author of a pernicious work, entitled the New Testament.
The Sacred Books were not originally divided into chapters and verses, and agreeably to the ancient mode of writing, were destitute of any marks of punctuation. Cardinal Hugo, in the thirteenth century, arranged the Latin Vulgate in chapters, which have been essentially retained in our English Bibles. The division into verses was made by Robert Stephens of France, in an edition of the New Testament issued in 1551. He performed the operation at leisure moments, while on a journey from Lyons to Paris, and therefore under circumstances precluding much reflection or accuracy. Yet his arrangement has been always adhered to, and the sense of Scripture has been not a little marred by its being printed, as if crumbled up into independent fragments, or consisting of unconnected propositions and maxims, instead of a continuous composition. In the present work, as in the Common Version conformed to the Standard Text of Griesbach by Dr. Palfrey, and as in the Bibles of Nourse and Coit, this evil has been shunned by throwing the verses into the side margin, and printing the page in a solid column, with paragraphs, divided according to the sense.
Early translations were made into the Saxon and English, as well as other languages. About A. D. 706, the Psalms were translated into Saxon by a bishop called Adelm. Bede, “the venerable,” who flourished in the beginning of the eighth century, made a Saxon version of the whole Bible. One of the earliest efforts at an English translation was commenced in the latter part of the ninth century, by King Alfred the Great, the patron of learning and religion among his rude people, but he died in the
midst of the work. Others entered the same field ; but the most successful step was taken by Wickliffe, who rendered the whole Bible into English, about 1380.* He was called, on account of his commanding influence at that benighted period, the Apostle of England, and the Morning Star of the Reformation. The opposition against him rose, however, to such a pitch, because he labored to enlighten the great mass of the people, that he was obliged to flee into foreign parts. But he finally returned and died in peace. Forty years after, the old papal hatred broke out afresh ; his bones were dug up and burnt, and the ashes thrown into the nearest brook. The people were forbidden to read the Bible in English, and many were persecuted, and some were put to death, because they were guilty of doing it.
The translation of William Tyndale, the first New Testament in English ever printed, came out in 1525. This possesses great merits. The author was martyred by the Romish power, near Brussels, in Sep
1536. A accurate edition of this work, enriched with " the essential variations of Coverdale's, Thomas Matthews' (supposed to be a fictitious name for John Rogers, the Smithfield Martyr), Cranmer's, the Genevan, and the Bishops' Bibles, as marginal readings,” has been issued in this country, by Mr. Dabney. In general, the versions just mentioned, which came out after Tyndale's, were of a high order, and contained some of the fruits of the best learning of their day.
In the commencement of the seventeenth century, James the First, king of England, committed the work of a new translation to fifty-four learned men of his kingdom, seven of whom died, or declined the labor. The result of their studies was published in London, in 1611, and constitutes our present received version of the Holy Scriptures. They followed, in many cases, their predecessors, above mentioned, and where they varied from them, they did not always vary for the better. Criticisms upon, and amendments of, their renderings have been made not unfrequently in the subsequent Notes. For, since the work was executed, the
* A specimen of Wickliffe's Version Matt. v. 1-5.
" And Jhesus seynge the people, went up into an hil; and whanne he was sett, his disciplis camen to him. And he openyde his mouthe, and taughte hem; and seide, Blessid be pore men in spirit; for the kyngdom of hevenes is hereun. Blessid ben mylde men ; for thei schulenweelde the erthe. Blessid ben thei that mournen; for thei schal be comfortid."
+ A specimen of Tyndale's Version. Matt. v. 1-5. “When he sawe the people, he went vp into a mountayne, and when he was set, his disciples cam vnto hym, and he openned his mought, and taught them saynge: Blessed are the povre in sprete : for theirs is the kyngdome off heven. Blessed are they that morne : for they shalbe comforted. Blessed are the meke ; for they shall inheret the erth.”
English tongue has undergone some changes, and words then current are now obsolete. The ancient languages and sacred antiquities have been more profoundly investigated, and the light of new researches and discoveries has since their day been shed upon the pages of inspiration. Strong. ly bound as they were to a peculiar, and, as is believed, now waning system of theology, they occasionally let their doctrinal biases appear in the work. There is also a want of uniformity in the phraseology of different portions, attributable to the employment of many translators. But, consecrated as this version has been by the antiquity of its use, its acknowledged excellence on the whole, and the unanimity of its adoption by all sects of Christians, it has commanded a respect but little short of that paid to infallibility and inspiration. Its rhetorical merits are undoubtedly great, and no book has been a richer or purer repository of the sound old Saxon virtues of our tongue. But the imperfect Greek text on which it was grounded, together with the reasons above stated, obviously suggests the need of its revision, or of a totally new translation in its stead, if we would possess the Word of God in its greatest uncorruptness and simplicity.
For, since King James' day, besides the invaluable results of philology, sacred antiquities, and history, as explanatory of the Scriptures, the most fruitful and important critical researches have been carried on by Mill, Bengel, Wetstein, Matthäi, Alter, Birch, and especially by the celebrated Griesbach. But while their patient collation of manuscripts, versions, and fathers, has yielded many thousands of various readings of the Greek original, yet, as almost all of them are of minor consequence, they have materially strengthened the pillars of our faith in the Christian Scriptures. They have demonstrated that the sacred records have been preserved with an uncommon freedom from gross corruptions, more so than the classic works of antiquity, and in a purity, indicating that the providence of God, through the instrumentality of man, has watched over their preservation under the most disastrous circumstances, and brought out of dark and distant ages this great light of truth, to shine with undimmed splendor, and to spread over all coming generations.