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SUGGESTIONS ON THE DEFECTS AND MONOPOLY OF THE
AUTHORIZED VERSION OF THE BIBLE.
At the present moment, when the public mind is strongly directed to the question of the Bible monopoly, we do not feel ourselves at liberty to withhold from our readers the following long, but interesting and able letter on that subject. The questions our gifted correspondent discusses are not, however, new to our readers. A revision of the authorized version was first entertained in our pages twelve years ago, and as many papers have appeared in this Magazine on that part of the subject.* The state of the version, and of the monopoly, has been also considered in several papers, † and we think the time has fully come when, to use a Scottish phrase, “action should be taken in this matter.” We do not, of course, pledge ourselves to an approval of the mode our friend suggests, but submit the whole to the consideration of our intelligent readers.-EDITOR.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL MAGAZINE.
MY DEAR FRIEND,-Perhaps the subject upon which I now write may have already attracted your attention, or been suggested to it by others, and be among the plans which the committee of the Congregational Union have it in contemplation to propose, for the benefit of our denomination, and the advancement of scriptural knowledge. But in ignorance of this being the case, I put down my thoughts upon a point which I think it important and desirable for us to entertain, and place them at your disposal, to be consigned to oblivion, or otherwise treated, as your judgment may determine. The topic I wish to moot is, the
* Vide Cong. Mag. 1828, p. 302—1830, pp. 79, 120, 176, 179, 237, 242, 5261831, p. 76—1837, pp. 355, 431.
+ Cong. Mag. 1832, pp. 24, 93—1833, pp. 229, 334, 665.
feasibleness and advantage of an edition of the New Testament being executed under the auspices of the Congregational Union, as a preliminary step to an edition of the whole Bible; and let me beg you will suspend an opinion upon this project until I have fully explained myself respecting it. For this purpose a few introductory observations are necessary.
I. I think it impossible for two opinions to exist among impartial persons, as to the gross impropriety of the dedication to King James, prefixed to the present authorised version. I am willing to believe that the divines who drew it up, and those who sanctioned it, were not so fully acquainted with the character and daily habits of that monarch as we are; and that James, at that period of his life, was not so completely addicted to vicious practices, as it is now notorious he was, during the greater part of his English reign. The character of monarchs is not so fairly estimated by the men of their own generation, or even those of the succeeding one, as at a remoter era. Their public acts divert attention from their private conduct; while tenderness to their memory, and to the good fame of survivors intimately connected with their criminalities, leads to a careful concealment of their misdeeds. But time, in general, deals out a merited retribution to royal offenders. After an interval of years, the mere name loses the charm with which it was invested, when the individual was a living actor upon the world's stage, having patronage to bestow, and power to chastise; the sympathies excited by his retirement from the scene of human glory fade away with the remembrance of the event; contemporaries too die off, and their descendants, in proportion as the space between them widens, become less jealous of the exhibition of their follies ; until the way
is completely open for the faithful historian to unveil to the public eye the records of a state-paper office, or a scattered correspondence. Thus has time dealt with James; and the British Solomon, as courtly prelates termed him,—the wisest fool in Christendom, as he was called by the more honest Sully,--the merry, grotesque, and ridiculous monarch, as he was usually considered a century ago,—must now be deemed a thorough profligate by every informed and unprejudiced judge, as bad as any of the Roman Cæsars in shameless and vụlgar vices, but without their courage. I dwell not upon his equivocal conduct to his unfortunate mother, before and after her execution. I also pass by the Gowry conspiracy, the death of Prince Henry, and the protection afforded to Somerset with the infamous Countess of Essex, because, though it is impossible to screen James from the suspicion of being directly accessory to crimes of the deepest dye in these events, they are invested with too much mystery to admit of a positive opinion being pronounced. I wish only to notice his character and habits in daily life. In the book of instructions which James drew up for his eldest son, the Basilicon Doron, he states, that every kind of wickedness was avoided by himself in his early years, and contrasts his own conduct with that of his
grandsire, James V., whose debaucheries were notorious. One of his modern biographers, Mr. Robert Chambers, likewise remarks, that up to the time of his marriage with the princess of Denmark, " he seems to have been of singularly pure life," but singularly enough adds, that “ he was greatly addicted to the vice of swearing,” and “also inclined to indulge in drinking.' The fact is, that he was a sot before he went into Denmark, though he returned home again with his bride, more confirmed in his sottish propensities : one of his letters is dated from “ Chroneburg, quhaire,” says he, "we are drinking and dryving ower in the auld manner.” The morals of the English court rapidly deteriorated upon the accession of James ; that outward decency which had been observed during the reign of Elizabeth in the amusements of the courtiers was wholly laid aside ; and the king, with the ladies and gentlemen of his household, was often in a state of beastly intoxication. Sir John Harrington, after giving an account of a mask, in which the actors had got drunk, observes, “I have much marvelled at these strange pageantries, and they do bring to my recollection what passed of this sort in our Queen's days, in which I was sometimes an assistant and partaker, but never did I see such lack of good order and sobriety as I have now done. The gunpowder fright is got out of all our heads, and we are going on hereabout as if the devil was contriving every man should blow up himself by wild riot, excess, and devastation of time and temperance. The great ladies do go well masked; and indeed it be the only show of their modesty to conceal their countenance; but alack they meet with such countenance to uphold their strange doings, that I marvel not at aught that happens.”+ The following is the relation of the mask in Harrington, and is quoted by Dr. Lingard and Mr. Jesse, in their respective memorials of the king. It was given at Theobalds in 1606, by Cecil, in honour of the visit paid by Christian IV. of Denmark to James. “ After dinner the representation of Solomon, his temple, and the coming of the queen of Sheba was made, or, as I may better say, was meant to have been made. ... The lady who did play the queen's part did carry most precious gifts to both their majesties; but forgetting the steppes arising to the canopy, overset her caskets into his Danish majesty's lap, and fell at his feet, though I rather think it was in his face. Much was the hurry and confusion : cloths and napkins were at hand to make all clean. His majesty then got up and would dance with the queen of Sheba, but he fell down and humbled himself before her, and was carried to an inner chamber, and laid on a bed of state, which was not a little defiled with the presents of the queen.
The entertainment and show went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down; wine did so occupy their upper chambers. Now did appear in rich dress, Hope, Faith, and Charity. Hope did assay to speak, but wine did render her endeavours so feeble that she withdrew. Faith was then all alone, for I am certain she was not joyned with good works, and left the court in a staggering condition. Charity came to the king's feet, and seemed to cover the multitude of sins her sisters had committed : in some sort she made obeysance, and brought gifts. ... She then returned to Hope and Faith, who were both sick and se in the hall.”* Well might the writer of this account conclude his letter, saying, “I wish I was at home: O rus, quando te aspiciam ?" It is disgusting to recur to these details, but necessary in order to acquire a right conception of the character of James, for he must be held responsible for such scenes of coarse sensuality, encouraging them both by his presence and example. Winwood's Memorials, and Howel's Letters, abound with similar exhibitions of gross debauchery. Many attempts have been made to vindicate the character and palliate the conduct of the king, but of the best and most elaborate by D'Israeli, Sir Walter Scott, whose principles were in favour of the Stuart dynasty, is yet obliged to confess, that “ he has only succeeded in obtaining for himself the character of a skilful and ingenious advocate, without much advantage to his royal client.”+ His private correspondence with Steenie, alias Buckingham, betrays a mind in no common degree corrupt; and his colloquial discourse, it is well known, abounded with offensive and unchaste allusions. James's inveterate habit of profane swearing is noticed by all writers, some apologising for it, but none expressing a doubt as to his being constantly addicted to it. It was a ground of triumph to his Catholic enemies, but of deep regret to his Protestant allies; the Prince of Condé once referring to it with surprise in conversation with Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the ambassador to the French court. Even in public worship he could seldom behave with decorum. The following is the statement of one of his biographers, and a friend : “During the whole time of the sermon, he was ever and anon directing ordinary discourse to his courtiers, sometimes laughing outright at their sallies or his own. .. Whenever a preacher of uncommon piety held forth before him, Bishop Neale of Lincoln busied himself to divert his attention from the discourse by telling him ‘merrie tales,' at which the king, says Wilson, 'would laugh, and tell those near him that he could not hear the preacher for the old satyr bishop.'”I Sometimes, indeed, his courtiers speculated too far on their sovereign's irreverence, as when they invited him to attend a baptismal ceremony, and brought a sucking pig to the font, at which he expressed his displeasure ; but his general conduct
* Chambers' Life of James I. vol. i. pp. 144, 145. † Harrington's Nugæ Antiquæ, vol. i. p. 348. edit. 1804.