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observes that the verb, in Arabic, signifies to be laden, carry a burthen, and metaphorically to be wicked, or, as it were, laden with crimes. My author further remarks, that Solomon has used, in Wix aish vasar, in a most elegant (though in the common interpretation a most obscure) passage, Prov. xxi. 8, for a man laden with guilt and crimes : and that when it is said, “ the way of a man laden with crimes, is unsteady, or continually varying, there is a most beautiful allusion to a beast who is so overburthened, that he cannot keep in the straight road, but is continually tottering, and staggering, now to the right hand, now to the left.)
Ecclesiastes x. 11. “ Surely the serpent will bite without en chantments.” (Surely the serpent will bite unless he be charmed; literally, in default of incantations : this is in allusion to the practice of taming serpents, and rendering them harmless and docile. It was certainly mentioned by ancient writers; but modern travellers have entered more into the detail of an art, which is now very common in the East. The translators seem to have rendered the passage almost literally, without understanding it.)
Isaiah yii. 15. « Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” (Lowth reads, " When he shall know, &c.” and thus explains the verse, “ A clear and coherent sense is given to the passage, by giving another sense to the particle ), which never occurred to me till I saw it in Harmer's Observations, p. 299, Vol. I. See how coherent the words of the prophet run, and with how natural a connexion one clause follows another by properly rendering this one particle. • Behold, this Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel : butter and honey shall he eat, when he shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before this child shall know to refuse evil, and to choose good, the land shall be desolate, by whose two kings thou art oppressed.' Thus v. 16 subjoins a plain reason why the child should eat butter and honey, the food of plentiful times, when he came to a distinguishing age, because before that time the country of the two kings, who now distressed Judea, should be desolated, and so Judea should recover that plenty, which attends peace. Harmer has clearly shown that these articles of food are delicacies in the East, and such as denote a state of plenty.”
Isaiah liii. 8. « Who shall declare his generation?" (Lowth has it, “ And his manner of life who would declare? Who would attest his innocence and character ?" This learned expositor adds: My friend, Dr. Kennicott, has communicated to me the following passages from the Mishna,' and Gemara'
! Our translators might certainly have had access to the Mishna, and Gemara of Babylon ; but they had not the works of such men as 'Lowth and Kennicott to consult.
of Babylon, as leading to a satisfactory explanation of this difficult passage. It is said in the former, that before any one was punished for a capital crime, proclamation was made before the prisoner, by the public cryer, in these words, “ Quicunque noverit aliquid de ejus innocentia, veniat, et doceat de eo.”
In selecting these examples of the defectiveness of the common version, I have confined myself within a circumscribed space, and have studied rather to diminish, than to swell the number of them : many more having occurred to me, than those to which I have given insertion. I make this remark to anticipate the objections of such as may be inclined to say—What, then, are we to revise the authorised version, or to reject it, for the few faults which you have been able to point out ? I am not one of those who take pleasure in exposing the nakedness of the land," and have therefore proceeded no farther than was necessary. In addition to the examples under the last head, passages might have been adduced, which, from having occupied the exclusive attention of commentators, since the translation was completed, are more capable of illustration now, than they were two hundred years back; but they would have led me into too long a discussion.
My concluding argument in favor of a revision shall be borrowed from King James's translators, who, when they found themselves exposed to obloquy for attempting to mend what had previously received the seal of the Church's authority and approbation, thus defended themselves.
“ Many men's mouths have been open a good while, (and yet are not stopped) with speeches about the translation so long in hand, or rather perusals of translations made before, and ask, what may be the reason, what the necessity of the employment ? Hath the Church been deceived, say they, all this while ? hath her sweet bread been mingled with leaven, her silver with dross, her wine with water, her milk with lime? We hoped that we had been in the right way, that we had had the oracles of God delivered unto us, and that though all the world had cause to be offended, and to complain, yet we had none! We will answer them briefly, with St. Hierome: “ Damnamus Veteres ? Minime, sed post priorum studia in domo Domini, quod possumus, laboramus.” That is, Do we condemn the ancient? In no case; but after the endeavours of them that were before us, we too take the best pains we can in the house of God. --How many books of profane learning have been gone over and over again by the same translators, and by others ? Now if this cost be bestowed upon the gourd, which affordeth us a little shade, and which to-day florisheth, but to-morrow is cut down ; what may we bestow, nay, what ought we not to bestow on the vine, the fruit whereof maketh glad the conscience of men, and
the stem whereof abideth for ever? And this is the word of God which we translate.' What is the chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord; therefore let no man's eye be evil, because his Majesty's is good ; neither let any be grieved that we have a Prince that seeketh the spiritual wealth of Israel ; but let us rather bless God from the ground of our heart, for working this religious care in him, to have the translation of the Bible maturely considered and examined. For by this means it cometh to pass, that whatsoever is sound already, the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished: also, if any thing be halting or superfluous, or not agreeable to the original, the same may be corrected, and the truth set in its place.” See Translators' General Preface.
My Lord, I think it will be needless to add more, or to recapitulate. The sentiments which are expressed in this letter, are not my own only, but those of many learned and well-meaning divines of the established Church, whose opinions I consulted before I ventured thus to address your Grace, and who are most anxious to see your primacy farther distinguished by an undertaking, “ the expediency of which,” to use the words of bishop Lowth, " grows every day more and more evident.” A great and enlightened predecessor of your Grace, archbishop Secker, was most desirous of accomplishing that, which, I trust, will now devolve on you ;-—and his corrections of the English translation, and critical remarks on the llebrew text, not only constitute one of the most valuable manuscripts in the library of Lambeth Palace, but leave on record an irrefragable testimony of the zeal with which he would have promoted a revision, had he not been unexpectedly thwarted. It is believed, my Lord, that the illustrious personage who now holds the reins of government, predisposed in favor of the measure, would readily sanction it, if your Grace would signify your opinion of its expediency. Be yours then the honor of a work, which assuredly will not be left undone many years longer. The reputation which Dr. Reynolds obtained in 1607, by persuading King James to authorise a revision of the common translation, might now be transferred to you; and jealous, my Lord, would every good Churchman be, should any other person enjoy it, but the head of the Church.
I have the honor to be,
An Essex RECTOR.