« PreviousContinue »
towards those who depend upon the Saviour for their salvation, and the unconquerable virtue of the Saviour's undertaking on their behalf, are most conspicuous in the case of this sinner, who first became a supplicant when his life's blood, shed by the hand of civil justice, was pouring out upon the cross. Here was the highest triumph of grace; here the loudest rebuke that could possibly be given to all cruel suspicions, that a real application to Jesus, and a heart-felt dependance upon Him, may ever come too late.
Thirdly. It is a capital doctrine of the Gospel, that Christ came to subdue iniquity, as well as to atone for it; that none can be so miserably enslaved, so fast tied and bound by the chains of their sins, but that, upon immediate application to Him, the captive should be set at liberty, and be made a new creature. This is hard to believe. It is the grand obstacle with sinners who are often stung with guilt; but finding their corrupt appetites so strong, they think it impossible for them to live a godly and a Christian life, impossible to conquer lusts which have long held dominion over them. Hence they are led to palliate what they cannot approve, and at length to conclude their transgressions necessary. To such the dying thief speaks, and his address to them is most forcible, admitting of no reply. For where can evil habits be more confirmed than in such a criminal? Where more strongly riveted the fetters of iniquity, than on one whom justice suffered not to live? Where could hardness and blindness of heart, stupidity and profaneness, in short a mind more truly awful, be found, than in one who had called down destruction upon his own head; and when nailed to his cross, at first wicked and blasphemous as his companion, only has so much life left as to utter his request for pardon and salvation before he gave up the ghost. Here sin, if ever, existed in its utmost degree of virulence and malignity. Here, if ever, Satan must have been able to keep his goods, and look upon the prisoner as his prey, no less than if he already had been damned. Yet behold, no sooner did even this poor man cry, than he was heard. He asks, and he receives; he seeks, and instantly he finds redemption. “Out of the deep” of guilt, corruption, and slavery to sin, he lifts up his voice for mercy to the Redeemer; and, according to the “working of His mighty power,” this most abominable sinner is washed, and cleansed, and justified, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by His Spirit. In the self-same day, the thief was at one time under the curse of the Law, void of every thing savouring of holiness, replete with all evil; and at another, ransomed from the hand of all enemies, a Saint with Christ in glory. In what a striking manner does this proclaim that there is liberty for the captive; that nothing can withstand that merciful arm,
which is ready to bring salvation to the chief of sinners, whenever they cry for it, and depend on Christ wholly and solely.
I remember, about twenty-seven years ago, the virtue of salad oil as an antidote against the bite of a viper was discovered, and laid before the College of Physicians ;* the power of this medicine was to be proved by experiment before their eyes. Accordingly the viper-catcher was bit by two of the most venomous adders at once. The poison was suffered to mix with his mass of blood so long, that his face grew black, his tongue swelled to a great size, a delirium seized his head, and the whole man was a frightful spectacle. When things were at this extremity, the oil was applied, first outwardly and then inwardly, and to the full conviction of every one present, and the praise of the glorious medicine, all the effects of the poison were speedily wrought off.
Behold the thief on the cross ! The venom of sin was running in his blood, and had corrupted him from head to foot,
-no one favourable symptom was found about him, when death had already begun to seize upon his body,-his soul was in all appearance as near eternal perdition, as he was near the end of his natural life, when in a moment the power of the grace of Christ, the virtue proceeding forth from Him, recovered the thief, and carried him up to heaven as His trophy, the very first fruits of His own death on the cross; and placed him before Himself in glory. O sing unto the Lord, for He hath done this excellent thing, that it might be known on all the earth that He will do the same for every humbled sinner. “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Sion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee."
Lastly. The whole company of the faithful are exceedingly prone to fall into unbelief; to doubt and to fear they shall not be accepted ; and often they pass their days without lasting and solid comfort, not able firmly to trust either in the righteousness of Christ, or His grace. To refer such, for their reproof, instruction, and consolation, to the prophets, the apostles and martyrs; to propose to them the examples of Abraham, and Moses, and other saints of the first rank, would be to discourage them. But when they are bid to go to the thief on the cross, and there satisfy their doubts,—when those who are daily praying to Christ, daily looking up to Him for help, are sent for instruction to that scandalous transgressor, who only once prayed, “Lord, remember me,” and was eternally saved,-conviction of their unbelief must flash into their minds. They must feel what dishonourable thoughts of Christ's undertaking, truth, and love they have entertained. They must see that the great sin and the principal disease which they are to pray against, is a mean, low way of thinking of the adorable Immanuel. And the more any one compares himself with the thief saved on the cross, supposing he has indeed made application himself for salvation to Christ, the more he will perceive what a contradiction it is to his principles, and to Scripture, not to be confident that his warfare is accomplished, his iniquity pardoned, and his sin covered.
* An account of this experiment, M.D., Secretary of the Royal Society, which was made June 1st, 1734, be- will be found in the Philosophical fore several members of the Royal Transactions, vol. xxxix., p. 313, for Society and others, on a man named 1735-36 ; and in the Gentleman's William Oliver and upon several ani. Magazine for 1738, p. 416. mals, drawn up by Cromwell Mortimer,
I cannot conclude without remarking upon the extreme depravity of our nature, visible in the general manner in which the case of the thief saved on the cross has been treated. We can overlook every thing it was recorded to teach us; we can pervert it most horridly to a purpose it was never designed to answer. Instead of collecting, from this instance, that salvation is all of grace; that the chief of sinners are encouraged by it to come immediately to Christ; and that the utmost strength of sin or corruption must fall before His power,proud corrupted man can deny that any such glorious lessons are taught by it, whilst he can strengthen himself in his wickedness from this instance, and presume he shall have time enough, even upon a bed of death, to secure his eternal salvation. Was there the least trace of this presumption in the thief hinted at? No; by no means. Is it the doctrine of Scripture, that those who put off their repentance to the last shall then find their profane purpose succeed ? Quite the contrary. To deter men from yielding to such an accursed imagination of their evil hearts, our Lord and Judge has expressly declared that when that evil servant shall say in his heart, “ My Lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to eat and drink and to be drunken; the Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” In another place He saith, “If thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief.”
May these, and all the other Scriptures of God, be rightly understood and duly improved by you and Lady Smythe ; and, however odd it may sound, I can wish you to die in no other frame of mind, and with no other hope or ground of confidence towards God, than what this once infamous malefactor, but now glorified saint, departed this life in. By the power of true faith may Christ, crucified for you, be manifest before your eyes; and when your flesh is utterly failing, may you feel what this thief did when he said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”-I am, Sir, your much obliged and most humble and obedient servant,
in a day wiatre, and he unbelieve ti come ptures of suy the other
of thunders in recite the att
HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION IN ENGLAND.
(Concluded from page 416.) Sketch of the Reformation in England. By the Rev. J. J.
Blunt, Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. London :
John Murray, 1832. The Reformation of the Church of England. Its History, Principles, and Results. A.D. 1514-1547. By the Rev. John Henry Blunt, M.A., F.S.A., Vicar of Kennington, Oxford. Rivingtons. 1868.
We must now direct the attention of our readers to a series of blunders in Mr. Blunt's account of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, unparalleled, probably, in so small a compass, in the pages of any History of the Reformation proceeding from the pen of a clergyman of the English Church, and especially of one who, though not educated in either of her two great seats of learning, might fairly be presumed to have profited by his opportunities of access to those literary treasures of one of them, to some of which the foot-notes of the volume under review direct the attention of his readers. “To the popular imagination," writes Mr. Blunt (p. 546), “Tyndale is a martyr who was burned at the stake for daring to translate the New Testament into English, in which language it is supposed to have been hitherto altogether unknown.” We have already had such convincing proof of Mr. Blunt's profound ignorance on the subject of early English versions of the Scriptures, that we were not altogether unprepared for any revelation which he might have occasion to make of the density of the literary atmosphere by which he has been surrounded. We were scarcely prepared, however, to find that there is any part of England, much less that part which is the seat of an University which “spectat in septentriones et orientem solem," wherein the reign of darkness is broken only by such meteor flashes of light, that persons, whilst ignorant of the very existence of Wycliffe's translation of the New Testament, are yet better acquainted than a learned historian of the Reformation with the occasion and the circumstances of Tyndale's death.
We shall now notice seriatim some of Mr. Blunt's assertions respecting the early editions of Tyndale’s New Testament, leaving it to our readers to decide for themselves how far the critical accuracy of Mr. Blunt's statements warrants his sweeping condemnation of the loose and incorrect notions which have been hitherto floating in “the popular imagination.”
I. Mr. Blunt informs us, as of a fact “well known,” that “Tyndale's translation of the New Testament was printed in 1525, at Cologne.” It is “well known” by all who have taken the trouble to examine the evidence which exists on this subject, that ten
sheets only of the quarto edition of Tyndale's New Testament were printed at Cologne; and that the smaller edition, which appeared in England simultaneously with the larger one, and is said to have been completed before it, was printed at Worms, at the press of Peter Schæffer.*
II. Mr. Blunt informs us that “the first edition obtained some circulation, but the whole of the second edition was bought up by Archbishop Warham, through Tunstal, Bishop of London, in 1529, before it had reached England.” Every particular contained in this paragraph is either suggestive of error, or is positively incorrect.
(1.) Whereas Mr. Blunt informs us that “the first edition” (i.e., according to him, the quarto edition, with the prologues and glosses) - obtained some circulation, but the whole of the second edition was bought up before it reached England,” it appears that both the edition with the “ glosses," and that without them, were simultaneously introduced into England early in the year 1526 A.D., and that both editions were eagerly purchased, and as eagerly proscribed.t
(2.) Whereas Mr. Blunt represents Archbishop Warham as buying up the whole of the second edition in 1529, through Tunstal, it appears that the Archbishop's purchase of a part of both the quartonand octavo editions (together with a portion, probably, of a third edition) was made in 1527; and in a letter written to him by Nix, Bishop of Norwich, dated June 14 of that year, he is congratulated on his zeal and success as regards both editions. | Tunstal's purchase, on the other hand, which was made two years afterwards, i.e. in 1529, appears to have been effected on his own account, and, in all probability, it was a later edition which was bought up by him.
(3.) Whereas Mr. Blunt states, in a footnote to this passage, that the sum paid by Archbishop Warham was £64. 9s. 4d., it appears that the actual amount was £66. 9s. 4d.; and whereas he cites as his authority Ellis's Original Letters, ij. 2. 87, he would, had he referred to the book, instead of quoting from it at second-hand, have found the blunders which he (in common with others) has made, exposed, the two purchases accurately distinguished, their respective dates stated, and also the sum paid by Archbishop Warham in 1527.9
* See the evidence adduced on this I Anderson, pp. 88, 89. subject in Mr. Francis Fry's interest. The words are as follows :ing Introduction to his Facsimile Re. “The world has been led to beprint of Tyndale's “ First New Testa. lieve, on the authority of Hall, Fox, ment.” Bristol, 1862
Burnet, Lewis, and others, that Bishop + So widely were both editions of Tunstal was the person who first the Testament now (i.e., March, 1526) bought the copies. The date they circulated, that even “ the Archbishop give to the purchase is 1529 and 1530. of Canterbury must examine his Pro The present letter from the Bishop of vince." Anderson's Annals of the Norwich to Archbishop Warham is English Bible, p. 70, 1862.
dated June 14th, 1527.” Ibid. p. 86,