This person, who was largely occupied in the Bible translation, was born at Hereford. His father had made a good fortune as a fletcher, or maker of bows and arrows, which was once a prosperous trade in “merrie England.” The son was entered at Corpus Christi College, in 1568; but afterwards removed to Brazen Nose College, where he took his degrees, and “proved at length an incomparable theologist.” He was one of the chaplains of Christ’s Church. His attainments were very great, both in classical and oriental learning. He became canon- residentiary of the cathedral church of Hereford. In 1594, he was created Doctor in Divinity.
He had a four-fold share in the Translation. He not only served in the third company, but was one of the twelve selected to revise the work, after which it was referred to the final examination of Dr. Smith and Bishop Bilson. Last of all, Dr. Smith was employed to write that most learned and eloquent preface, which is become so rare, and is so seldom seen by readers of the Bible; while the flattering Dedication to the King, which is of no particular value, has been often reprinted in editions on both sides of the Atlantic. This noble Preface, addressed by “the Translators to the Reader,’ in the first edition, “stands as a comely gate to a glorious city.” Let the reader who would judge for himself, whether our Translators were masters of the science of sacred criticism, peruse it, and be satisfied.
Dr. Smith never sought promotion, being, as he pleasantly said of himself, “covetous of nothing but books.” * But, for his great labor, bestowed upon the best of books, the King, in the year 1612, appointed him Bishop of Gloucester. In this office he behaved with the utmost meekness and benevolence. He died, much lamented, in 1624, being seventy years of age, and was buried in his own cathedral.
He went through the Greek and Latin fathers, making his annotations on them all. He was well acquainted with the Rabbinical glosses and comments. So expert was he in the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, that they were almost as familiar as his native tongue. “Hebrew he had at his fingers’ ends.” He was also much versed in history and general literature, and was fitly characterized by a brother bishop as “a very walking library.” All his books were written in his own hand, an in most elegant penmanship.
In the great Bible-translation, he began with the first of the laborers,
and put the last hand to the work. Yet he was never known to speak of it as
owing more to him than to the rest of the Translators. We may sum up his
excellent character in the words of one stiffly opposed to his views and
principles, who says,--”He was a great scholar, yet a severe Calvinist, and
hated the proceedings of Dr. Laud!”