NEARLY 500 YEARS AGO
Nearly one hundred years before Columbus discovered America , there was a boy named John Gooseflesh, living in the old town of Mentz . His mother helped to make a living for the family by preparing parchment for the priests to write on. John liked very much to carve and cut with his knife. One day he was sitting beside the fire watching a pot of purple dye that his mother was heating and amusing himself by carving and cutting his name in wood. Suddenly one of the pieces of wood, with a letter cut on it, fell into the dye pot. He snatched at it, caught it, but dropped it again, this time onto a piece of parchment lying nearby. It fell upside down, and when he picked it up, there on the parchment, was the letter "h" clearly printed.
Years went by. The boy of Mentz did not forget what happened that day by the fire in his old home. It had given him an idea that some way could be found to make books more easily than to copy them all out by hand as had always been done. So he cut little wooden blocks and dipped them in dye, setting them this way and that, making forms for them to be placed in and he finally had the first printing press the world had ever seen. You will find his name in every history ever written, John Gutenburg, it is in German.
NO ENGLISH BIBLE
That happened in 1454. That very same year, a great battle was fought in Constantinople between the Christians (Catholics) and the Turks and the Catholics were driven out of the city, at that time the greatest city in the world, where most of the schools of learning were located. Greek scholars came to live in all parts of Europe . All at once these wise men became very much interested in the Greek New Testament and began to read it instead of the Old Latin one they had always read. They made many people think about how wonderful it would be to have the Bible in the language of the people, so everyone could read it. With the new study of the language and the new printing press, things began to happen.
It began first in an old school in England where a young man named William Tyndale was studying. He was a good Greek scholar and had read the New Testament in the very language in which it was written. It had come to mean so much to him that he wanted it to mean something to all the people around him.
One day some students were talking about all this new interest in the Bible, and one man said very positively: "The Bible is not necessary. It is all foolishness to talk about translating it into English for the people to read. All they need is the word of the pope. We had better be without God's laws than the pope's laws!"
William Tyndale rose from his chair, and striking his clenched fist on the table shouted, "I defy the pope and all his laws. And, if God spares me, I will one day make the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the pope does!"
NOT AN IDLE BOAST
It was not an idle boast. William Tyndale went right to work to make an English Bible that all the people could read. A rich merchant, Humphrey Monmouth, gave him his home to work in and day and night he worked, hoping some publisher would print it when he had it ready.
POPE - VERY POWERFUL
But Tyndale had forgotten that the pope was very powerful. A Bible in the English language was just what the pope did not want. Presently all the authorities of England turned against him and soon, even his friend Monmouth dared not help him. Tyndale sadly said, "In England there is no room for attempting the translation of the Scriptures."
Did he quit? No, William Tyndale was no quitter. He just left England and went to live in Hamburg , Germany . Here he could never be sure his life was safe, for the English Catholic bishops and priests were so angry with him for going on with his work that they hired spies to hinder him, to keep him from making friends and to prevent his ever getting his Bible printed.
There was a printing press at Cologne . So over there he went and found printers ready to go to work on his first English Bible. He tried to keep his work a secret for he knew the English Catholic bishops would arrest him, if they knew the book was nearly done. One day a warning came to him to flee for his life. A Catholic priest had found out from a drunken printer that his English Bible was nearly off the press, and had come to arrest him. He snatched his precious sheets of paper, and fled from the town, going to Worms , where Martin Luther lived.
PRINTED IN GERMANY
There the first English Bible was printed, two sizes being made, one large and one small, for he thought if the English Catholic bishops found the large one, he might be able to hide the smaller ones.
Now they must be gotten to England . In barrels all covered with cloth and articles for sale, in bales that looked like cloth, in sacks of flour, in every way that could be found to hide them, they were sent across to England.
Did they get across? They did, in large numbers, and the Catholic bishops found out they were being sold. Every seaport was carefully watched, and many a package of Bibles was found by the officers and burned. But more Bibles came. They could not stop them, and some of them would always get to people who wanted to read them.
Finally the Catholic bishop of London had a bright idea! He decided he would buy all the copies that were printed, through a merchant in Germany ! Then there would be no more Bibles to come across the water. He did not know that the merchant he asked to do this was a friend of Tyndale.
This friend thought he saw away to help Tyndale. He knew that right at that time Tyndale needed money more than anything eIse, to pay his printers for the work they had done, and start a new printing of the Bibles. So he said, "My Iord, I will be glad to attend to this matter. But it will take money to do it, for the men who have these books in Germany hold them at a high price."
"My dear sir," said the bishop, "do your best to get them for me, all of them, for they are very bad books. I will gladly pay you whatever they cost, for I intend to burn them all and end this matter."
What fun it was to the merchant! He went to Tyndale, bought his books at a good price and brought them over to England , while Tyndale went right to work on a new printing, for he now had plenty of money. The poor Catholic bishop thought when he burned all these Bibles there would never be another English Bible! Imagine how he felt when he learned that more Bibles than ever before were coming into England . So many came that the officers simply could not stop them.
"How can this be?" a man who had been arrested for helping Tyndale, was asked. "I will tell you truly, my lord," the man replied. "Tis yourself that gave us the money to print the Bibles!" That's a good one. Wasn't he mad, though?
TYNDALE, AN ANA-BAPTIST, IS HANGED AND
BURNED - FOR TRANSLATING THE WORD OF GOD!
He was so mad that he stirred up all England against Tyndale. All the great Catholic priests began to preach about it, most of them thinking it would do a great deal of harm to have the Bible in the language of the people. At last Tyndale won, for the Bible was everywhere. One old bishop said sadly, "lt passeth my power, or that of any man, to hinder it now!"
So the Bible came to England , and from England to all the world. But the man who gave it to the world never knew what a glorious victory he had won. Away in a little German town, afraid to walk in the street for fear some spy of the English Catholic bishops, or the pope of Rome should see him, working night and day that everybody might have the Bible, he longed for his home in England . He loved England better than his life. His enemies sent men to make him believe they were his friends, and persuade him to come home. But he knew what they wanted. He knew, once in England , they would arrest and kill him.
Not all his enemies were in England , however. There was a man named Phillips, whom he believed to be loyal and true. But Phillips was a spy sent by the pope to trap Tyndale. One night as Tyndale walked out from his home to enjoy the evening air, a band of men set upon him, bound him, and carried him away to a dark prison.
There was no trial. They knew they were going to kill him. He knew it, too. Gladly he laid down his life, for he had done the work he had set himself to do. The Bible was in England , in the language all the people could read. One day they led him out to a stake. They hanged him and then burned his body. He asked them if he might send a message to England and they told him no.
Then he closed his eyes and prayed earnestly, "Lord, open the king of England 's eyes."
Brave William Tyndale! No man ever gave more than he! The Bibles we read he made possible for us, for from that first translation, all the translations since have been made. I never think of him without thinking of Jesus' words about Himself, "He laid down His life for His sheep." Surely William Tyndale followed the footsteps of Jesus.
"The words of the LORD are pure words:
as silver tried in a furnace of earth,
purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD,
thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."
From Ashland Avenue Baptist