To the most Illustrious, Powerful and Serene Princess Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the True and Apostolic Faith, etc. Ever grace and benediction in the Lord.
THERE are ample and clear proofs, most noble Sovereign, how great a debt your Majesty owes to the Good and Most High God for His gifts to you. To speak nothing of your wealth, power and wonderful dower of mind and character, consider not only your grace which is so rare a quality in most people, and your learning which in its many sided character is so pre-eminently equipped, and the peace which in greater degree than your neighbours you propitiously enjoy, and the source of the same, never to be too highly admired, in that cruel enemies were recently put to flight,1 and a way of safety was always happily found out of many and great dangers,consider not only these, but also that highly estimable piety of yours, so well known throughout the world, with which God Himself endowed and adorned you together with that most ready zeal burning within you to propagate and defend true religion. For (that I may pass for the present both other nations, and also your other pre-eminent deeds) what affectionate care your Majesty has for your British subjects, this one thing alone will for all time be sufficient to testify it was not only graciously permitted but also it was carefully ratified by the authority of the High Parliament of this most famous realm that the Testaments of the most holy words of God (that is to say, the Old as well as the New) with that other book which prescribes the Form of Public Prayers, and the Order for the administration of the Sacraments be translated into the British tongue. Which indeed at the same time exposes our carelessness and indolence because we neither were able to recognize the gravity of the necessity nor the opportunity of the law, which so long delayed we left untouched, (which matter was of the greatest possible importance). For it was the Liturgy with the New Testament alone that the Reverend Father Richard of pious memory, Bishop of Menevia, (with the assistance of William Salesbury, who above all men deserved well of our Church) translated into the British tongue some twenty years ago. How greatly he benefited our countrymen it is not easy to tell. For besides the fact that our common people were then comparing together the Welsh and English versions of the Scriptures, they became of late more conversant with the English tongue. And farther, he gave by that labour of his, the greatest impulse to the teaching as well as the learning of the truth. For at that time scarcely any one was able to preach in the British tongue, because the terms in which the sacred mysteries which are in the Holy Scripture should be explained, had either entirely disappeared, swept away as if in Lethian waters, or laid on one side, buried and hidden in a measure in the dust of disuse, so that neither were the teachers able to set forth satisfactorily what they wished to teach, nor the hearers to understand clearly what they did set forth. Besides which so little accustomed were they to the Scriptures, that they were unable to distinguish between the testimony of the Scriptures and their explanation, so much that when they crowded eagerly to hear sermons and paid good heed to them, yet for the most part, they departed in uncertainty and doubt, like men who had found a great treasure which they were not able to dig out, or who had been to a sumptuous feast of which they were not allowed to partake.
But now by the exceeding goodness of Almighty God and your very kind interest and the watchful solicitude of the Bishops and by the labours and industry of this your translator this has been accomplished so that we may have both more numerous and better prepared preachers, and hearers more apt to learn. And dear as both these objects are to the pious, yet, up to the present, neither has even in a moderate degree fulfilled their wishes. For inasmuch as that earlier testament, a veiled prediction, a dim figure, and a certain witness of the other, has so far been wanting to our country men, how many examples, alas, lie concealed to them ? how many promises lie hidden away? how many consolations are obscured? and finally how many admonitions, exhortations, warnings, and testimonies to the truth are missed unwillingly by our people whom Your Majesty governs, cares for and loves, they whose eternal salvation, hateful to Satan alone, and his satellites, has so far been grievously endangered, since everyone lives through faith, and faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God which hitherto lying hid in a foreign tongue had scarcely sounded into the ears of our countrymen. When therefore I saw that the translation of the rest of the Scriptures was so useful, nay so necessary (though long deterred by the sense of my weakness, and the magnitude of the work, as well as the evil disposition of certain people) yielding to the wishes of the pious, I allowed myself to be persuaded to undertake this most important, troublesome and to many, unacceptable task. But I had scarcely taken it in hand, when overwhelmed by the difficulty of the work and the greatness of the expense, I should have succumbed (as they say) on the very threshold and issued only the Pentateuch from the press but that had it not been that the Most Reverend Father in Christ, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that most-excellent patron of learning, most keen champion of the truth, and the most prudent guardian of order and decorum (who from the time2 when he presided under Your Majesty, with so much prudence and justice over your British subjects, noticing the obedience and intelligence of our fellow countrymen, has ever after regarded them with favour, just as they also always sing his praises) prevailed upon me to continue and assisted me with his purse, his influence and his counsel. And following his example, other good men have given me very great assistance.
Now, having been moved by their encouragement, and often helped by their industry and labour, and having not only translated the whole of the Old Testament, but also revised the New by correcting certain unamended faults of orthography (which greatly abounded) I very much doubt to whom it would be right and proper to dedicate the work. And when I think of my own great unworthiness, or I view the extreme splendour of Your Majesty or I contemplate the majesty of God Himself (whose vicegerent you are) which in a certain measure shines in your own, I dread to approach a brilliance so sacred. But on the other hand the dignity of the matter itself (which by its own right as it were claims your patronage) inspires me with a new courage. Then when I see that you condescended with such a righteous, gracious and royal will to take under your own charge the other Testament in its British garb, to my mind it would be unwise, wrong, and ungrateful to seek a different patron. Besides which, these subjects, I think, cling together and agree so closely that they should not be separated, but that really being the same, they should be placed in the same library. That Your Majesty may concur I humbly ask and entreat, and I plead with most earnest prayers that you will graciously recognize my efforts, inasmuch as they lean upon the authority of your law, they are serviceable to the salvation of your people, and they aim at the glory of your God, and I trust that they are such as will serve for an abiding monument not only to your zeal for the truth and for the British, but also in consequence be a token of the most devoted affection of your British subjects for Your Majesty.
If there are any who maintain that in order to retain agreement our countrymen had better learn the English tongue than that the Scriptures should be translated into our own, I would wish that while they study unity, they would be more cautious not to hinder the truth, and while they are most anxious to promote concord they should not put religion on one side. For although it is much to be desired that the inhabitants of the same island should be of the same speech and tongue, yet it is to be equally considered that to attain this end so much time and trouble are required, that in the meantime God's people would be suffered to perish from hunger of His word which would be barbarous and cruel beyond measure. Further there can be no doubt that similarity and agreement in religion rather than in speech much more promotes unity. To prefer unity to piety, expediency to religion, and a certain external concord among men to that extraordinary peace which the word of God impresses on the souls of men, show but little piety. Finally how unwise are those, who are of opinion that the prohibition of the Divine word in the mother tongue makes for the learning of another. For unless religion is taught in the vulgar tongue, not knowing its sweetness and value, no one will undergo any trouble for the sake of acquiring it. Wherefore I implore Your Majesty that no reason whatever will prevent you (which I know nothing will) from increasing your benefits, so that to those whom you have begun to bless by enriching them with the one Testament, you will be gratified to give the other, that they who have received the one pap of truth, may obtain the other, and what it was your anxiety to effect, may it be their endeavour to perfect, namely, that all your people may hear the wonderful works of God in their own language, and that every tongue may praise God. May that heavenly father Who is perceived to have adorned with such heroic virtues in the person of Your Majesty both the weakness of human nature, and the female sex, and the natural qualities of the virgin that you hitherto have stood forth as a comfort to the miserable, a terror to your enemies, and a very Phoenix to the world, may He, I say, graciously grant that you may be so governed by the heavenly spirit, adorned with Divine gifts, and ever hereafter protected under the wings of the most High, that you may be a long-lived mother in Israel, a pious nurse of the Church, and being always safe from your enemies may continue the enemy of every vice, to the eternal glory of Almighty God, to Whom be dominion, honour and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
Your most serene Majesty,
With all reverence,
The names of those who more especially have endeavoured to promote this work. The Reverend Fathers, the Bishops of St. Asaph and Bangor, who have both of them lent me the books for which I asked, and have condescended to examine, weigh and approve of this work.
Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster, truly a good man in name and in deed, and most devoted of all in piety, when I was translating, paid such attention when I read it over to him, that he greatly assisted me by his labour and advice, gave me a large number of his own books, and for a whole year while the book was in the press (with the most kindly consent of the College) afforded me hospitality, which kindness the Most Reverend Archbishop, of whom I made mention before in this epistle, offered me most generously, but I had to refuse on account of the river Thames which keeps apart and separates his house from the printers.
So also no little help was given by these,
David Powel, Doctor of Divinity
Edmund Price, Archdeacon of Merioneth
Richard Vaughan, of St. John's College, which is Rector of Lutterworth."