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A Study of the King James Version of the Bible

Lecture 2
EARLY in January, 1604, men were making their way along the poor English
highways, by coach and carrier, to the Hampton Court Palace of the new English
king. They were coming from the cathedral towns, from the universities, from the
larger cities. Many were Church dignitaries, many were scholars, some were
Puritans, all were loyal Englishmen, and they were gathering in response to a call
for a conference with the king, James I. They were divided in sentiment, these
men, and those who hoped most from the conference were doomed to complete
disappointment. Not one among them, not the King, had the slightest purpose
that the conference should do what proved to be its only real service. Some of
the men, grave and earnest, were coming to present their petitions to the King,
others were coming to oppose their petitions; the King meant to deny them and
to harry the petitioners. And everything came out as it had been planned. Yet the
largest service of the conference, the only real service, was in no one's mind, for
it was at Hampton Court, on the last day of the conference between James and
the churchmen, January 18, 1604, that the first formal step was taken toward the
making of the so-called Authorized Version of the English Bible. If there are such
things as accidents, this great enterprise began in an accident. But the outcome
of the accident, the volume that resulted, is "allowed by all competent authorities
to be the first, [that is, the chief] English classic," if our Professor Cook, of Yale,
may speak; "is universally accepted as a literary masterpiece, as the noblest and
most beautiful Book in the world, which has exercised an incalculable influence
upon religion, upon manners, upon literature, and upon character," if the Balliol
College scholar Hoare can be trusted; and has "made the English language," if
Professor March is right. The purpose of this study is to show how that accident
occurred, and what immediately came from it.
With the death of Elizabeth the Tudor line of sovereigns died out. The collateral
Stuart line, descending directly from Henry VII., naturally succeeded to the
throne, and James VI. of Scotland made his royal progress to the English capital
and became James I. of England. In him appears the first of that Stuart line
during whose reign great changes were to occur. Every one in the line held
strongly to the dogma of the divine right of kings, yet under that line the English
people transferred sovereignty from the king to Parliament.[1] Fortunately for
history, and for the progress of popular government, the Stuart line had no
forceful figures in it. Macaulay thinks it would have been fatal to English liberty if
they had been able kings. It was easier to take so dangerous a weapon as the
divine right of kings from weak hands than from strong ones. So it was that
though James came out of Scotland to assert his divine and arbitrary right as
sovereign, by the time Queen Anne died, closing the Stuart line and giving way to
the Hanoverian, the real sovereignty had passed into the hands of Parliament.