Burning Tyndale's Testaments at St. Pauls London
Great was the commotion they created among the hostile clergy. Wycliffe's testaments had been troublesome enough, even though it took months to write out a single copy, and the cost prevented any but the rich buying it. but here were books pouring into the country which could be printed at the rate of hundreds each day, and at a price within the reach of all. Vigorous measures indeed were necessary.
The warning of Cochlaeus had set the clergy on their guard, and every port was carefully watched by officers appointed for the purpose. Thousands of copies were thus discovered in their hiding places, and were burned with solemn ceremony at St. Paul's Cross, in the city of London. This was called "a burnt-offering most pleasuring to Almighty God." But still other thousands supplied the places of those destroyed, for Tyndale was not discouraged at their efforts; he knew that the printing-press could defy them all. Said he, "In burning the book they burn me also, if it be God's will that it should be so."
It soon became clear tot he church officers, that they could not hinder the entrance of the book into England. And then a new idea occurred to the bishop of London. He sought out Augustine Pakington, a merchant trading to Antwerp and asked his opinion whether it would not be possible to buy up all the copies across the water and thus get them out of the way.
"My lord," replied Pakington, who was a secret friend of Tyndale, "if it be your pleasure I could do in this matter probably more than any merchant in England; so if it be your lordship's desire to pay for them--for I must disburse money for them--I will be sure to get for you every book that remains unsold."
"Good Master Pakington," said the bishop, "do your diligence and get them for me, and I will gladly give you whatever they may cost, for the books are naughty, and I intend surely to destroy them all, and to burn them at St. Paul's Cross."
A few weeks later Pakington entered the humble lodging of Tyndale, whose funds he knew were at a low ebb.
"Master Tyndale," said he, "I have found you a good purchaser for your books."
"Who is he?" asked Tyndale.
"My lord bishop of London."
"But if the bishop wants the books it must be only to burn them."
"Well," was the reply of the shrewd merchant, "what of that? The bishop will burn them anyhow, and it is best that you should have the money to print others instead."
And so the bargain was made: "The bishop had the books, Pakington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money."
"I am the gladder," guoth Tyndale, "for these two benefits shall come of it: I shall get money to bring myself out of debt, and the whole world will cry out against the burning of God's word. The overplus of the money that remains shall enable me to correct the said New Testament, and then newly to print the same again, and I trust the second will be much better than ever was the first that I printed."
After this the newly printed Testaments came thick and fast into England. The bishop then sent for Pakington again, and asked how it came that the books were still so abundant. "My lord," replied the merchant, "truly I think it were best for you to buy up the stamps too by which they are imprinted." That this advice was not followed it is needless to state.
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