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Miles Coverdale

Miles Coverdale, D. D.—This celebrated puritan was born in Yorkshire, in the year 1486, and educated in the university of Cambridge. Being brought up in the popish religion, he became an Augustine monk at the place of his education, where Dr. Barnes was prior, who was afterwards burnt for pretended heresy. He took his doctor's degree at Tubingen, in Germany, and was incorporated in the same at Cambridge. At an early period in the reign of Henry VIII., he cast off the shackles of popery, and became a zealous and an avowed protestant. When the king quarrelled with the pope, and renounced the authority of Rome, he is said to nave been one of the first who preached the gospel in its purity, and wholly devoted himself to promote the reformed religion. + In the year 1528, he preached at Burnsted in Essex, when he declared openly against the popish mass, the worship of images, and auricular confession. He maintained that contrition for sin, betwixt God and a man's own conscience, was sufficient of itself, without any confession to a priest. His zealous and faithful labours at this place were not in vain: It is preserved on authentic record, that he was the honoured instrument of turning one Thomas Topley, afterwards a martyr, from the superstitions and errors of popery, to the true protestant faith, t

Coverdale having espoused the same opinions as Dr. Barnes, and finding himself in danger of the fire, fled, not long after the above period, beyond sea, and lived for some time in Holland, where he chiefly applied himself to the study and translation of the holy scriptures. ^ In the year 1529, the famous Mr. William Tindal having finished his translation of the Pentateuch, wished to have it printed at Hamburgh; but in crossing the sea, the ship was wrecked, when he lost all his money and papers: and so had to begin the work afresh. Upon his arrival at Hamburgh, his friend Coverdale, who was waiting for him, assisted him in writing

• Wood's Athens Oxon. vol. i. p. 693.

+ Clark's Lives annexed to Martyrologie, p. 3.

{ Fox's Martyrs, vol. ii. p. 267.

^ Lewis's Hist, of Translations, p. S3. Edit. 1731.

a new translation.* In the year 1535, (some by mistake say 1532,) Tindal and Coverdale translated and published the whole Bible, the first that was ever printed in the English language. It was printed at Hamburgh, by Grafton and Whitchurch, when Mr. John Rogers, afterwards the protomartyr, corrected the press. This first English translation was called Matthew's Bible, a fictitious name, and was dedicated by Coverdale to King Henry. + The form of dedication is preserved by Mr. Strype ;t in which our reverend author expressed himself in the following manner :

" Unto the moost victorious prynce and our moost gra" cyous soverygne lorde Kynge Henry eyghth, kynge of " Ehglande and of Fraunce, lorde of Irelande, &c. defen" dour of the fay th; and under God the chefeand suppreme " heade of the church of Englandc. The ryght and just " administracyon of the lawes that God gave unto Moses and " Josua: the testimonye of faythfulness that God gave to " David: the plenteous abundauncc of wysdome that God " gave unto Solomon: the lucky and prosperous age with " the multiplicacyon of sede which God gave to Abraham " and Sara his wyfe, be given unto you, moost gracyous " prynce, with your dearest just wyfe and moost vertuous u pryncesse Quene Jane. Amen.

" Your graces humble subjecte and daylye oratour,

" Myles Coverdale."

In this dedication he tells his majesty, that the blind bishop of Rome no more knew what he did when he gave this title, Defender of the Faith, than the Jewish bishop Caiaphas when he taught, that it was better to put Christ to death, than that all the people should perish : that the pope gave him this title, only because his highness suffered his bishops to burn God's word, and to persecute the lovers and ministers of it; whereas, he openly declared, that by the righteous administration of his majesty, the faith ought to be so defended, that God's word, the mother of faith, should have its free course through all christendom, but especially in these realms: and that his majesty should, indeed, defend the faith ; yea, even the true faith of Christ, not dreams, not fables, not heresy, not papistical inventions, but the uncorrupt faith of God's most holy .word, to set forth which, his highness, with his most honourable council, applied all study and endeavour.

• Fox's Martyr», vol. ii. p. 303. + Ibid. p. 434.

X Annals, vol. ii. Appen. p. 43.

He next observes to his majesty, that as the word of God is the only truth that driveth away all error, and discovereth all juggling and deceit; therefore, is the Balaam of Rome so loath to have the scriptures known in the mother-tongue, lest by kings and princes becoming acquainted with them, they should again claim and challenge their due authority, which hath been falsely usurped for many years : and lest the people, being taught by the word of God, should renounce their feigned obedience to him and his disguised apostles, and observe the true obedience commanded by God's own mouth, and not embrace his painted religion.

As to the present translation, Coverdale observes here, and in his epistle to the reader, that it was neither his labour nor desire to have this work put into his hand, but that being instantly required to undertake it, and the Holy Ghost moving other men to be at the cost thereof, he was the more bold to take it in hand. He considered how great pity it was, that the English should want such a translation so long, and called to his remembrance the adversity of those, who were not only endowed with right knowledge, but would, with all their hearts, have performed that which they had begun, if no impediment had been in the way. Therefore, as he was desired, he took the more upon him, as he said, to set forth this special translation, not as a reprover or despiser of other mens' labours, but lowly and faithfully following his interpreters, and that uuder correction. Of these, he said, he made use of Jive different ones, who had translated the scriptures, not only into Latin, but also into Dutch. He made this declaration, that he had neither wrested nor altered so much as one word, for the maintenance of any manner of sect, but had with a clear conscience, purely and faithfully translated out of the foregoing interpreters, having only the manifest scriptures before his eyes.

This translation was divided into six tomes or parts, and Coverdale prefixed to every book the contents of the several chapters, and not to the particular chapters, which was done afterwards. It is adorned throughout with wooden cuts, and in the margin are scripture references. In the last page it is said, " Prynted in the yeare of our Lprde M.d.xxxv. and fynished the fourth day of October." This Bible was reprinted in 1550, and again.in 1553.*

In the year 15#7, the Bible was published a second time in English, entitled " The Bible, which is all the Holy

* Lewis's Hist, of Translations, p. 23—25.

Scripture, in which are contayned the Old* and Newe Testament, truelyc and purelye translated into English." The translators were Tindal and Coverdale. John Rogers is said to have had a share in it; but this appears incorrect. From the end of the Chronicles to the end of the Apocrypha was Coverdale's, and the rest was TindaTs. This was called " The Great Bible,"* but it did not come forth till after TindaTs dcath.t

The New Testament was afterwards printed in Latin and English in quarto, with the following title: " The Newe Testament both in Latine and Englishe eche correspondent to the other after the vulgare Text communely called St. Jerome's. Faithfully translated by Johan Hollybushe anno M.cccccxxxviii." This was Coverdale's translation, which he gave liollybushe leave to print. It was dedicated " To the inoost noble, moost gracious, and "our moost dradde soveraigne lord Kynge Henry the " eyght, kynge of England and of Fraunce, defender of *' Christ's true fayth, and under God the chefe and supreme " heade of the church of Englande, Irelande, &c." In the dedication, he tells his majesty, " that oon of the chiefest causes why he did now with moost humble obedience dedicate and offre thys translation of the New Testament unto his moost royall majesty, was his highnesse's so lovingly and favourably taking his infancy and rudeness in dedicating the whole Bible in Englysh to his most noble Grace."

This translation, as Coverdale says, was sinislraUy

year, 1539, published" another edition in 8vo., which he dedicated " To the right honourable Lorde Cromwell lorde " prevye seale, vicegerent to the kynge's hyghnesse concer" nynge all his jurisdiction ecclesiasticall within the real me " of Englande."t

In the year 1538, Lord Cromwell procured letters from

* Lewis's Hi>t. of Translations, p. 36.—Strype's Cranmcr, p. 83.

+ William Tindal, deservedly styled " Toe Apostle of England," was the first who translated the New Testament into English, from the original Greek. This translation was printed at Antwerp, in 1536; when Bishop Tonstal and Sir Thomas Moore purchased all the impression, and burnt them at Paul's cross. The sale of this impression enabled the translator to print a larger, and more correct edition. Tindal was burnt for an heretic at Wilford, near Brussels, in 1536, cm rig at the stake, " Lord, open the King of England's eyes."— Fox's Iforfyrs, Toi. ii. p. 301—306.—Sfrysw'J Cranmtr, p. 81.

t Lewis's Hist, of Translations, p. 27, 28.

He, therefore, the next Henry VIII. to the King of France, soliciting his license and allowance for printing the English Bible in the university of Paris, since it could be done there to much greater advantage than in England. The King of France granting the privilege, the work was immediately undertaken; and as Coverdale was a person eminently qualified for the office, he was appointed to superintend the press. He also compared the former translations with the original Hebrew and Greek, making the requisite alterations and amendments. When the work was nearly completed, the printer was convened before the tribunal of the Inquisition, and charged with heresy. Coverdale and others were sent for; but, aware of the approaching storm, they fled for their lives, and left their Bibles behind them, to the number of two thousand five hundred. Thus, he narrowly escaped the rack, the fire, or some equally cruel torture.

As the heretical translator could not be found, the Bibles were all seized, and committed to the care of one Lieutenant Criminal, to be burnt at Paris ; but instead of casting the whole of them to the flames, he, through covetousuess, sold four great fats full of them to an haberdasher, as waste paper, of whom they were afterwards purchased. All the rest were publicly burnt at Paris. Afterwards Lord Cromwell* went himself to Paris, when he procured the printingpress, and brought the servants of the printer to London, where the remaining part of the Bible was printed, though not without much opposition from the bishops.t

The first publication of the Bible in English roused the malice and ill-will of the bigotted prelates. Their anger and jealousy being awakened, they laid their complaints before the king; who, in compliance with their suggestions, ordered all the copies to be called in, and promised them 9 new translation. And when the translation in 1537, called Coverdale's translation, came forth, the bishops told Henry,

* Thomas Lord Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith at Putney, and some time served as a soldier in Italy, under the Duke of Bourbon. He was afterwards secretary to Cardinal Wolsey; and recommended himself to Henry VIII. by discovering that the clergy were privately absolved from their oath to him, and sworn anew to the pope. This discovery furnished the king with a pretence for the suppression of monasteries, in which Cromwell was a principal instrument. The king, whose mercies were cruel, raised him to a most envied pitch of honour and preferment, a little before bis fall. He first amused him with an agreeable prospect, and then pushed him down a precipice. Cromwell, as vicegerent, had the precedence of all great officers of state; but lost bis head July 28, 1540.— Grangtr't Biog. Hitt. vol. i. p. 86.

+Foz'i Martyrs, vol. ii. p. 434,435,—Lewis's Hist, of Trans, p. 29.

that there were many faults in it. His majesty asked them whether it contained any heresies; and when the bishops said they had found none, the king replied, " Then in the name of God let it go abroad among the people."*

Coverdale's immense labours in publishing the various translations of the scriptures, exposed him to the wrath of the English bishops, by whom he was most severely persecuted for his pains. The angry prelates hunted him from place to place, which obliged him to flee from the storm, and continue many years in a foreign land. While in a state of exile, he printed the Bible, and sent it to be sold in England, by which means he obtained a comfortable support. This, however, could not long be concealed from the jealous eye of the Bishop of London ; who no sooner found what Coverdale was doing, than he inquired where the Bibles were sold, and bought them all up : supposing by this means he should be able to suppress their circulation. But God so ordered it, contrary to the prelate's expectations, that the merchant of whom the Bibles were purchased, sent the money to Coverdale; whereby he was enabled to print more, and send them over to England. + This, indeed, roused the fury of the angry prelates, who, by their outstretched arms, reached him even in Holland; and to escape their potent malice, he was obliged to retire into Germany. He settled under the palsgrave of the Rhiene, where he found much favour. Here, upon his first settlement, he taught school for a subsistence. But having afterwards learned the Dutch language, the Prince Elector Palatine conferred upon him the benefice of Burghsaber, where his faithful ministry and holy life were made a blessing to the people. During his continuance in this situation, he was maintained partly by his benefice, and partly by Lord Cromwell, his liberal and worthy benefactor.}

Upon the accession of Edward VI. the tyrannical cruelties of King Henry began immediately to relax; the prison

* Strype's Cranmer, p. 444.—Burnet's Hist. Abridged, vol. iii. p. 31. + Clark's Lives, p. S.

J Coverdale was almoner to Queen Katharine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII., and a great friend to the reformation. In the month of September 1548, he officiated at her funeral, and preached a sermon on the occasion; in which he declared, "That there shulde none there tbinke, " saye, or spread abrode, that the offeringe which was there don anye thing " to proSyth the deade, bat for the poore onlye; and also the lights which " were carried and strode abowte the corps, were for the honnour of the *' person, and for none other intente nor purpose; and so wente throughe " with his sermonde, and made a godlye prayer,'' &c.—Biographia Brita*. vol. iv. p. 310, 311. Edit. 1778.

doors were set open ; and those who had been driven into a state of exile, returned home. Among the last, was Dr. Miles Coverdale. Not long after his return, he became chaplain to Lord Russe), in his expedition to suppress the insurrection in Devonshire. For his excellent labours and behaviour on this occasion, he was highly extolled by the famous Peter Martyr.* In the year 1551, he, though a married man, was made Bishop of Exeter, being promoted " on account of his extraordinary knowledge in divinity, and his unblemished character." His consecration was performed at Lambeth, by Archbishop Cranmer. + The following is King Edward's letter patent nominating him to the bishopric:

'' The king to all to whom the presents shall come " greeting. Whereas the bishopric of Exon is without a " bishop, and is destitute of a fit pastor, by the free resigu nation of John late bishop of that place, and doth by " right belong to our collation and donation. We willing " to collate another fit person to the bishopric aforesaid, u and judging our well-beloved Miles Coverdale, professor " of divinity, for his signal learning in the scriptures, and " for his most approved manners, wherewith he is endowed, " to be a fit man for the place and office aforesaid. Know ** ye, therefore, that we of our special grace, and certain " knowledge, and mere motion, have conferred, given, and " granted, and by these presents do confer, give, and grant, " to the aforesaid Miles Coverdale, the said bishopric of M Exeter: and we translate the same Miles to the bishopric " of Exon, and we nominate, ordain, and constitute by these *' presents, the same Miles, Bishop of Exon, and of Exeter " diocese; to have and to hold, execute and enjoy the said " bishopric of Exon to the same Miles, during his natural "life."*

The diocese of Exeter, on account of the late insurrection, and the prevalence of popery, was in a most lamentable state; and some wise, courageous, and excellent preacher, was extremely necessary for that situation. Therefore Coverdale was judged a most fit person to be invested with the above charge. Archbishop Cranmer had the highest opinion of him; was intimately acquainted with him ; and was ever ready to do him acts of kindness.^ Though

• Burnet'i Hist. Abridged, vol. Hi. p. 148. + Clark's Lives, p. 3.—Burnet's Hist, of Refor. vol. ii. p. 166. t Huntley's Prelates' Usurpations, p, 13?. . ^ Btrype's Cranmer, p. 266, 267.

Coverdale had submitted to wear the habits, in the late reign, he now, with many other celebrated divines, laid them aside.*

At this early period, there were many persons in the kingdom, who, besides the papists, were nonconformable to the established church. They refused to have their children baptized, and differed in some points of doctrine from the nalional creed. These, out of reproach, were denominated anabaptists. Also, there were many others who administered the sacraments in other manner than as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer, set forth by public authority. Therefore to prevent these persons from propagating their opinions, and to bring them to conformity, a commission was issued to thirty-one persons, empowering them to correct and punish these nonconformists. Among those in the commission weTe Cranmer, Latimer, Parker, and Coverdale ; but it does not appear whether any of the nonconformists were prosecuted by them.t Coverdale being ever celebrated for peace and moderation, would undoubtedly disapprove of all such measures.

1 his excellent divine, while he was Bishop of Exeter, conducted himself in a manner worthy of his high office. Like a true primitive bishop, he was a constant preacher, and much given to hospitality. He was sober and temperate in all things, holy and blameless, friendly to good men, liberal to the poor, courteous to all, void of pride, clothed with humility, abhorring covetousness and every scene of vice. His house was a little church, in which was exercised all virtue and godliness. He suffered no one to abide under his roof, who could not give some satisfactory account of his faith and hope, and whose life did not correspond with his profession. He was not, however, without his enemies. Because he was a constant and faithful preacher of the gospel, an avowed enemy to all superstition and popery, and a most upright worthy man, his adversaries sought to have him disgraced: sometimes by secret backbiting; sometimes by open raillery; and sometimes by false accusation. Indeed, their malice is said to have been carried to so great a length, that they endeavoured at last to poison him; but through the good providence of God, their snares were broken, and he was delivered out of their hands, }

Coverdale having continued in the episcopal office

• Neal's Puritans, vol. i. p. 65.

f Strype's Parker, p. 27. } Clark's Lives, p. 4.

betwixt two and three years, it pleased God to remove, by death, the excellent King Edward. Upon the accession of his sister Mary, the face of religion was soon changed; great numbers of the most worthy preachers in the kingdom were immediately silenced ; and this good bishop, together with many others, was cast into prison.* During the confinement of Coverdale and the other protestant bishops, they drew up and subscribed their confession of faith. This confession, with the names of those who subscribed it, is still preserved, but too long for our insertion.+ The malice of the papists designed Coverdale for the fire; but the Lord most wonderfully preserved and delivered him. During his imprisonment, the King of Denmark, with whom ne had become acquainted when he was in Germany, became his honoured friend, warmly espoused his cause, and wrote several letters to Queen Mary, earnestly soliciting his release.t By the king's continued importunity, yet as a very great favour, he was permitted to go into banishment. Unmet, by mistake, calls him a Dane; and observes, that on this account some allowance was made for him, and a passport was'granted him, with two of his servants, to go to Denmark.^ He retired first to his kind friend, the King of Denmark ; then to Wezel in Westphalia; and afterwards he went into Germany, to hi* worthy patron the Elector of the Rhiene, by whom he was cordially received, and restored to his former benefice of Burghsaber.il Here he continued a zealous and laborious preacher, and a careful shepherd over the flock of Christ, all the remaining days of Queen Mary.

Coverdale and several of his brethren, during their exile, published a new translation of the Bible, commonly called the Geneva Bible. The translators of this Bible were Coverdale, Goodman, Gilby, Whittingham, Sampson, Cole, Knox, Bodliegh, and Pullain, all celebrated puritans. They first published the New Testament in 1557. This was the first that was ever printed with numerical verses. The whole Bible, with marginal notes, was printed in

' * The two archbishops, Cranmer and Holgate, with the bishops, Ridley, Poind, Scory, Coverdale, Taylor, Harvey, Bird, Bush, Hooper, Farrer, and Barlow, and twelve thousand clergymen, were all silenced at this time, and many of them were cast into prison.—Burntt's Hist, of Rtf»T, vol. ii. p. 276.

+ Fox's Martyrs, vol. lit. p. 15, 83, 83.

t These letters are still preserved.—Ibid. p. 149-.-151.

S Hist, of Refor. vol. iii. p. 239.

|j Troubles at Frankeford, p. 158.

1560, and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. The translators say, " They were employed in the work night and day, with fear and trembling; and they protest from their consciences, and call God to witness, that in every point and word, they have faithfully rendered the text, to the best of their knowledge." But the marginal notes giving some offence, it was not suffered to be printed in England till after the death of Archbishop Parker; when it was printed in 1576, and soon passed through twenty or thirty editions.* This translation of the Bible has been lately published, under the title of " The Reformers' Bible."

During the rage of persecution in the reign of Queen Mary, every effort was made for the suppression of the reformation, and the re-establishment of popery. The frauds, and impositions, and superstitions of the latter being ashamed of an examination, the people were not allowed to read the writings of protestants. Therefore, in the year 1555, her majesty issued her royal proclamation for suppressing the books of the reformers. Among the works enumerated in this proclamation, were those of Luther, Calvin, Latimer, Hooper, Cranmer, and Coverdale.t

Soon after the accession of Queen Elizabeth, Dr. Coverdale again returned to his native country. His bishopric was reserved for him, and he was repeatedly urged to accept it; but on account of the popish habits and ceremonies retained in the church, he modestly refused. He assisted in the consecration of Archbishop Parker, in Lambeth chapel, December 17, 1559. The ceremony was performed in a plain manner, by the imposition of hands and prayer. Coverdale, on this occasion, wore only a plain black gown; and because he could not with a good conscience come up to the terms of conformity, he was neglected, and for some time had no preferment. J He had the plague in the year 1563, but afterwards recovered. He was commonly called Father Coverdale. But on account of the neglect with which he was treated, and the reproach which it brought upon the ruling prelates, Grindal, bishop of London, said, " Surely it is not well that he, who was in Christ before any of us, should be now in his age without stay of living. I cannot herein excuse us bishops.' Grindal therefore in the above year, gave him the living of St.

• Strype's Parker, p. 205, 206.—Neal's Puritans, vol. ii. p. 88. + Foi's Martyrs, tol. lit. p. 226.

} Strype's Parker, p. 58—60.—Annals, vol. i. p. 366.—Neal's Puritans, vol. i. p. 165.

Magnus, at the Bridge-fopt. But he being old and poor, petitioned Secretary Cecil and others, to be released from paying the first fruits, amounting to upwards of sixty pounds, adding, " If poor old Miles might be thus provided for, he should think this enough and as good as a feast." This favour was granted.*

Coverdale continued in the undisturbed exercise of his ministry a little more than two years;t but not coming up to the terms of conformity, he was driven from his flock, and obliged to relinquish his benefice.} Though he was laden with old age and infirmities, he did not relinquish his beloved work. He still continued preaching as he found an opportunity, without the habits; and multitudes flocked to hear him. They used to send to his house on a Saturday, inquiring where he was to preach on the following sabbath, and were sure to follow him. This, however, giving offence to the ruling prelates, the good old man was, at length, obliged to tell his friends, that he durst not any more inform them of his preaching, through fear of offending his superiors.^ He, nevertheless, continued preaching as long as he was able; and died a most comfortable and happy death, January 20, 1568, aged eighty-one years. He was a man of most exemplary piety, an indefatigable student, a great scholar, a celebrated preacher, a peaceable nonconformist, and much admired and followed by the puritans; but the Act of Uniformity brought down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. His remains were honourably interred in the chancel of St. Bartholomew's church, behind the Exchange, London; when vast crowds of people attended the funeral procession. A monumental inscription was afterwards erected to his memory, of which the following is a translation :||

In Memory
of the most reverend Father,

Miles Coverdale,
who died, aged eighty years.
This Tomb
contains the mortal Remains of Coverdale,
who having finished his labours,
now lies at rest.
He was once the most faithful
and worthy Bishop of Exeter,
a man remarkable for the uprightness of his life.

• Strype's Grindal, p. 91.—Parker, p. 148,149.—Annals, vol. i. p. S67. + Newcourt's Repert. Eccl. vol. i. p. 398.

t Strype's Parker, p. 149. § Parle of a Register, p. 25.

[) Stow's Survey of London, b. ii. p. 122.

He lived to exceed the age of eighty years,
having several times
been unjustly sent into banishment;
and after being tossed about, and
exposed to the various
hardships of life,
the Earth kindly received him into
her bosom.

His Works.—1. TheChristen Rule or State of all the Worlde from the highest to the lowest: and how every Man shulde lyve to please God in his Callynge, 1547.—2. The Christen State of Matrimonyc, wherein Husbands and VVyfes inaye lerne to kcepe House together with Love, 1547.—3. A Christen Exhortation to customable Swearers. What a ryght and lawfullOthe is: when, and before whom it oughte to be, 1547.—4. The Maner of sayenge Grace, or gyvyng Thankes to God, after the Doctrine of Holy Scrypture, 1547.—The old Fayth: an evident Probacion out of the Holy Scrypture, that Christen Fayth (which is the ryghtc, true, olde, and undoubted Fayth) hath endured sins the beginyng of the Worlde, 1547.—6. A faythful and true Prognostication upon the year M.cccc.xlix. and perpetualy • after to the Worlde's Ende, gathered out of the Prophecies and Scryptures of God, by the Experience and Practice of hys Workes, very comfortable for all Christen Hertes.—7. A Spiritual Almanacke, wherein every Christen Man and Woman may sec what they oughte daylye to do, or leave undone.—8. A Confutation of John Standish. .—9. A Discourse on the Holy Sacraments.—10. A Concordance to the New Testament.—11. A Christian Catechism.—12. Several Translations from Eullinger, Luther, and others.—The version of the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer, is taken from Coverdale's Bible*