« AnteriorContinuar »
THE ELIOT BIBLE.
The history of the first Bible printed in America is the history of the devotion and persistence chiefly of one man. John Eliot was drawn to New England by the desire to relieve the minds of the Indian races from their spiritual darkness. He came when his mental faculties were keen and active, and lived to see the happy consummation of his hopes and plans, even to an honored old age. Eliot arrived in New England in the autumn of the year 1631.
. After a short time devoted to teaching, he became the pastor of the Roxbury Church. From the first his interest in the Indians had manifested itself, and he early took steps toward
giving them the Word of God. He was well fitted for the work, both by heart and intellect. His scholastic advantages had been ample, for he had received his education at Jesus College, Cambridge, from which institution he was graduated in 1623. He was well acquainted with the original languages of the Bible, and set about his work with confidence and enthusiasm. His first efforts at learning the language of the Indian tribes of Massachusetts were made through the assistance of an Indian who had been taken a prisoner in the Pequot Wars, who was employed in the neighborhood as a house servant. “ He was,” says Eliot, “ the first that I made use of to teach me words, and to be my interpreter.” Eliot made such progress in his knowledge of the language that in 1646 he was able to preach to the Indians in their native tongue. But, before he could place into the hands of these converts books of instruction, financial help was requisite.
In 1643 the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven entered
into articles of confederation to aid the Indians, and each colony was represented by two commissioners. This move received the approval of the mother-country, for in July, 1649, the Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England was formed by act of Parliament; and commissioners of the united colonies were appointed to receive and distribute the necessary funds for the education of the Indians. In 1653 Eliot wrote: “I have had a great longing desire, if it were the will of God, that our Indian language might be sanctified by the translation of the Holy Scriptures into it.” The Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and a few passages of the Bible, were first attempted. A primer, or catechism, appeared about 1654. The Book of Genesis and the Gospel of St. Matthew were in print in 1655, and a few Psalms in metre were added in 1658. The printing of these early productions was executed by Samuel Green at Cambridge. The first press used in this place was set up in 1639, and was
the property of the president of Harvard College, the Rev. Henry Dunster. It was worked by Stephen Daye until 1649, when the management of it was turned over to Samuel Green. A new press and new type were received in 1659, and in 1660 Green was joined by Marmaduke Johnson, who had been sent from England to aid him in his work. With these increased facilities Mr. Eliot became more and more anxious that the Indian tribes might have the Bible in their own tongue. He said: “I look at it as a sacred and holy work, to be regarded with much fear, care, and reverence.” Under the stimulus of such exalted motives as these the translation went on day by day, until under date of Dec. 28, 1658, Mr. Eliot with evident joy writes: “Bless the Lord, that the whole book of God is translated into their own language; it wanteth but revising, transcribing, and printing. Oh that the Lord would so move that by some means or other it might be printed !” His appeal was not in vain, for the funds were provided by the Corporation in
England. The New Testament in the Indian language appeared in 1661. The edition was about fifteen hundred copies. There are two title-pages, the first in English and the second in Indian. The English title-page reads
LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
Translated into the
Ordered to be printed by the Commissioners of the United Colonies
IN NEW ENGLAND,
AT THE CHARGE, AND WITH THE CONSENT OF THE
CORPORATION IN ENGLAND
For the propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians
IN NEW ENGLAND.
PRINTED BY SAMUEL GREEN AND MARMADUKE JOHNSON.