Translators to the Reader

Topic:   KJV Type:   Articles Translator: A.Allison Lewis

The Translators to the Reader

Preface to the King James Version 1611


Zeal to promote the common good, whether by producing any thing ourselves, or revising that which has been labored on by others, certainly deserves much respect and esteem, however it finds but cold reception in the world. It is welcomed with suspicion instead of love, and with envious dislike instead of thanks. If there is any imperfection left for trivial faultfinding, (and faultfinding, if it does not find an imperfection, will make one) the work is sure to be criticized and be in danger of condemnation. This will easily be granted by as many as know history, or have any experience. For was there ever any thing produced, that showed in any way traces of newness or renewing, but the same endured many a storm of opposition?

A man would think that [1] civility, [2] wholesome laws, [3] learning and eloquence, [4] synods, and [5] Church-maintenance, (we speak here of no more things of this kind) should be as safe as a church sanctuary, and above reproach. No man would lift up his heel, no, nor even a dog move his tongue against the makers of improvements. By the first [1] we are distinguished from brute beasts led with sensuality. By the second [2] we are bridled and restrained from outrageous behavior and from doing harm, whether by fraud or by violence. By the third [3] we are enabled to inform and reform others by the light and feeling to which we have attained. By the fourth [4] being brought together to a conference face to face we reconcile our differences sooner than by writings that are endless. By the fifth [5] the Church is sufficiently provided for as is so agreeable to good reason and conscience. Those mothers who kill their children as soon as they are born are considered to be less cruel, than those nursing fathers and mothers who withdraw the necessary livelihood and support from those who hang upon their breasts. In like manner is the need of those who spiritually hang upon the breasts to receive the spiritual and sincere milk of the Word. Thus it is apparent, that these things that we speak of are most necessary. Therefore no one can speak against or criticize these points without being absurd or having a wicked intent.

Yet for all that: [1] The learned know that certain worthy men have been brought to untimely death for no other fault than for seeking to give their countrymen good order and discipline. [2] In some states or nations it was made a capital crime, even to make a motion for the making of a new law to repeal an old one, though the old were most evil. [3] Certain ones who would be counted as respected leaders of the State and patterns of virtue and prudence, could not be brought for a long time to use good writing and refined speech. No, they even stubbornly persisted in opposing being truly good role models. [4] He was no baby, but a great Clerk [one of the early Church Fathers, Gregory the Divine], who said (perhaps in passion and that in writing to be recorded for all future generations) "That he had not seen any profit to come by any synod or meeting of the Clergy, but rather the contrary." And [5] last, there has been opposition to Church support in a manner as is becoming the ambassadors and messengers of the great King of kings. It is known that a fiction or fable was devised to harm the Church, saying, "That when the professors and teachers of Christianity in the Church of Rome (being still a true Church) were liberally supported, a voice no doubt was heard from heaven, saying, ‘Now is corruption poured down into the Church.’"

Thus not only as often as we speak, as one says, but also as often as we do any thing of note or consequence, we subject ourselves to every one’s censure. And happy is he who is least exposed to languages, for it is utterly impossible to escape the critics sudden attack. If any man think that this is the lot and portion of the common man only, and that princes are privileged by their high estate, he is deceived. The sword devours as well one as another [2SA 11:25], as it says in Samuel. No, as the great commander charged his soldiers in a certain battle to strike at no part of the enemy, but at their face; and as the king of Syria commanded his chief captains, to fight neither with small nor great, save only against the king of Israel [1KI 22:31]: so it is too true, that envy strikes most spitefully at the fairest, and at the chiefest. David was a worthy prince, and no man to be compared to him for his first deeds; and yet for as worthy an act as ever he did, even for bringing back the ark of God in solemnity, he was scorned and scoffed at by his own wife [2SA 6:16]. Solomon was greater than David, though not in virtue, yet in power; and by his power and wisdom he built a temple to the Lord, such as was the glory of the land of Israel and the wonder of the whole world. However in all his magnificence was he liked by all? We doubt it. Otherwise why do they confront his son and call for him to ease their burden? Make, say they, the grievous servitude of your father, and his sore yoke, lighter [1KI 12:4]. Probably he had increased their taxes, and troubled them with other burdens; so for this affliction they wished in their heart that the temple had never been built. Even when we please God first of all and sincerely seek to approve ourselves to everyone’s conscience, it is impossible to please everyone.

As we come to later times, we shall find many examples of such kind, or rather unkind, acceptance. The first Roman Emperor never did a more pleasing deed for the learned, nor more profitable for future generations, for making the record of times accurately, than when he corrected the Calendar, and ordered the calendar year according to the course of the sun. Yet he was charged with novelty and arrogance, and for his efforts received great verbal abuse. So the first Christian Emperor, (at least, the first to openly profess the faith himself and allowed others to do the same) for strengthening the empire and providing for the Church, as he did, got for his efforts the name Pupillus, (i.e.) a wasteful Prince, who had need of a guardian or overseer. So the best Christian Emperor, for the love that he had for peace, thereby to enrich both himself and his subjects, and because he did not seek war, but found it, was judged to be no man in battle. Though truly he excelled in noble deeds, and showed so much patience when he was provoked yet he was only condemned for giving himself to ease and pleasure. In short, what thanks did the most learned Emperor of former times (at the least, the greatest politician) for his removing unnecessary laws, and putting the rest into some order and method? This, that he has been disgraced by some as an Epitomist, that is, one who destroyed worthy unabridged books, by ordering their replacement by abridgments. This is the treatment that has been rendered to excellent Princes in former times, even, "For their good deeds to be evil spoken of." Neither is there any likelihood that envy and animosity died and were buried with the ancients. No, no, the reproof of Moses takes hold of most ages, You are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men [NUM 32:14]. What is that that has been done? that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun [ECC 1:9], said the wise man. And Stephen said, As your fathers did, so do you [ACT 7:51].

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This Page Last Updated: 12/08/98 A. Allison Lewis