Joseph Mede, B. D. — This celebrated scholar was bom at Burdon in Essex, in the month of October, 1586, and descended from a respectable family in that county. He received his grammar learning first at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, then at Wethersfiela in Essex. While at the latter place, he bought Bellarmine's Hebrew Grammar, and, without the assistance of a master, obtained considerable knowledge of the Hebrew tongue. In the year 1602, he was sent to Christ's college, Cambridge, where he became pupil to Mr. Daniel Rogers, took his academical degrees, and was afterwards chosen fellow of the house. He gained a most distinguished reputation, and became one of the most celebrated scholars of the age. He was an acute logician, an accurate philosopher, a skilful mathematician, a good anatomist, a great philologist, an excellent textuary, and particularly happy in making the scripture expound itself. He is said to have been " as deeply versed in ecclesiastical antiquities, and as accurately skilled in the Greek and Latin fathers, as any man living." When the famous Archbishop
Baker's MS. Collec. rot. xxxviii. p. 445, 446.
Usher was compiling his " Chronologia Sacra," he applied to Mr. Mede for assistance, saying, " I have entered upon the determination of the controversies which concern the chronology of sacred scripture, 'wherein I shall in many places need your help."*
Mr. Mede, furnished with these endowments, was a most accomplished tutor. It was his constant custom to require the attendance of his pupils in the evening, to examine them relative to the studies of the day; when the first question he proposed to each was, 4« What doubts have you met with in your studies to-day ?" For he supposed that to doubt nothing, and understand nothing, was nearly the same thing. Before he dismissed them to their lodgings, after having solved their questions, he commended them and their studies, by prayer, to the protection and blessing of God. Some of his pupils afterwards became distinguished ornaments both for piety and good literature. He was a most laborious student; and, on account of his habitual propensity to be among his books, he called his study his cell. Yet he was far from affecting an unprofitable solitude. No man was more free and open in conversation, especially among ingenious and inquiring scholars. In such company, he would with the greatest pleasure, and to the utmost of his ability, communicate whatsoever was useful.
He was a person of most exemplary candour and moderation. He would not love a person the less, who differed from him in matters of sentiment. These were some of his favourite expressions: " I never found myself prone to change my hearty affections to any one, for mere difference of opinion. There are few persons living who are less troubled than I am, to see others differ from them. If any man can patiently suffer me to differ from him, it doth not affect me how much or how little he may differ from me." Though he was a most celebrated scholar, and his writings were highly admired among learned men, both at home and abroad, he had a very low opinion of himself and his own performances. He was always troubled to hear himself or his productions extolled. He would merely own some diligence, and a portion of study, with freedom from prejudice, as his best endowments.
He was a man of a most amiable and peaceable spirit; and his thoughts were much employed on the generous design
• Life of Mr. Mede prefixed lo his " Works."
of effecting an universal pacification among protestants. He was, however, a friend to free inquiry. " I cannot believe," said he, " that truth can be prejudiced by the discovery of truth; but I fear that the maintenance thereof by fallacy or falsehood may not end with a blessing." He discovered a strong aversion to popery, and abhorred all idolatry and superstition. He led the way in shewing that papal Rome was one principal object of the Apocalyptic visions; and was the first who suggested that the daemouiacc in the New Testaments were not real possessions, but persons afflicted with lunacy and epilepsy. By the recommendation of Archbishop Usher, he was elected provost of Trinity college, Dublin, but declined accepting the preferment; as he did also when it was offered him a second time. On the small income of his fellowship, he was extremely generous and charitable; and by temperance, frugality, and a care to avoid unnecessary expenses, he constantly appropriated a tenth part of it to charitable uses.*
Mr. Mede loved peace, unity, good order, and whatever promoted the beauty, the honour, and safety of the protestant reformation. Though he was certainly more conformable than many of his brethren, he did not so decidedly approve of the discipline and government of the established church, as the writer of his lite has endeavoured to represent. He was suspected of puritanism; and having united himself with the puritans in the university, he is justly denominated one of them.t He maintained a constant friendship with several eminent nonconformists, and kept up a regular correspondence with them; among whom were Dr. Ames and Dr. Twisse, many of whose letters are preserved in his works. His sentiments relative to the established church, and its persecuting severities, are, indeed, sufficiently manifest from his own writings. In one of his letters to a learned friend, though expressed in very modest language, he discovers his puritanical opinions. Addressing his friend on the subject of a universal pacification among protcstants, which he was particularly desirous to see accomplished, he says, " But our church, you know, goes upon differing principles from the rest of the reformed, and so steers her course by another rule than what they do. We look after the form, rites, and ceremonies of antiquity, and endeavour to bring our own as near as we can to that pattern. We suppose the reformed churches have departed
• Life or Mr. Mede.
+ MS. Chronology, Voi. iii. A. P. p. (8.)
farther therefrom than they needed, and so we are not very solicitous to comply with them; yea, we are jealous of such of our own as we see over-zealously addicted to them, lest it be a sign they prefer them before their mother. This, I suppose, you have observed, and that this disposition in our church is of late very much increased. This, I have always feared, would be no small hinderance on our part, from the desired union, and I pray God it may fall out beyond my expectations." Thus he expressed his puritanical dissent from the spirit and principles of the ecclesiastical establishment. In the same connexion he also adds, " I live in the university, where we move only as we are moved by others; and that discretion is expected at our hands, who are of the inferior orbs, as not to move without our superiors. If any one transgress this rule, and offer to meddle in any thing that concerns the public, before the state and those in place declare themselves, he is taken notice of as factious and a busy-body; and if he be once thus branded, and it be objected to his prejudice, though many years after, all the water of the Thames will not wash him clean, as we see by daily experience."* Here he justly exposes and censures the intolerant proceedings of the ecclesiastical governors.
Mr. Mede was the first, says Fuller, who broached the opinions of the fifth-monarchy men; which, however, they afterwards carried to a greater extent than he ever intended.* He is classed among the learned writers and fellows of Christ's college, Cambridge, and is styled " most learned in mystical divinity."} The virtuosi abroad were pleased to rank him among the most learned men in the nation; and observing his want of preferment, they said, " that Englishmen deserved not to have such brave scholars, since they made no more of them."^ His numerous and learned writings were collected and published in one volume folio, entitled, " The Works of the Pious and Profoundly-learned Joseph Mede," 1672; and passed through several editions. In his last sickness, though his pains were very great, he discovered much christian meekness and quiet submission to the will of God. He possessed his soul in patience, and in him patience had its perfect work. He died October 1, 1638, aged fifty-two years. His remains were interred with great funeral solemnity,
• Mede's Works, p. 865. + Worthies, part i. p. 335.
t Fuller's Hist, of Cam. p. 92.
t Wood's Athene Oxon. vol. ii. p. 47.
in the inner chapel of University college. Mr. Alsop preached his funeral sermon to a crowded audience, at St. Mary's church, from Gen. v. 24. And Enoch zaa/ked with God, and he was not, for God look him. His monumental inscription, of which the following is a translation, is particularly descriptive of his character :•
Here are preserved
the remains of that humble man
Joseph Mede, B; D.
Fellow of Christ's college. Cambridge.
He was a friend of the muses,
and was interred in University college.
He studied all languages, cultivated all the arts,
and joined to philosophy and the mathematics
all the Egyptians concealed, or the Chaldeans discovered,
especially in chronology and history,
and above all things, theology,
the queen of all sciences.
In explaining of which, he entered into
the most secret reasons of prophesy,
' and dragged the Roman beast (the pope)
from the apocalyptical den.
He most persevcringly struggled with the
greatest difficulties, and became a most successful
interpreter of the sacred mysteries;
■o that the critics in the hieroglyphics
might readily perceive that Zaphnath Paaneath
lived again in our Joseph.
He was a bigot to no party,
but loving truth and peace,
he was just to all;
very candid to his friends, benignant to others:
holy, chaste, and humble
in his language, wishes, and habits.
But being very familiar with the prophets,
he foresaw the troubles
which then threatened the church and the state.
He reached the heavenly port,
in the year of our Lord 1038,
Mr. Mede's last will and testament, subscribed in the presence of John Pye, George Nixon, and Joane Serle, was as follows: " In the name of God, amen. I, Joseph Mede, fellow of Christ's college, being sick in body, but in health of mind, do constitute this my last will and testament. I commend my soul into the hands of God my creator, hoping at the last day to be raised in glory, through the merits of his Son and my Saviour Jesus Christ; and giving hearty
thanks for all his favours undeservedly conferred upon me, do thus dispose of my temporal goods which he hath given me: First, I bequeath to the master and fellows of Christ's college £ 100, to be employed towards the intended building. Secondly, I give to my sister we? 40, and to her children, and to the children of my sister deceased, to each of them £20, and to two of them who arc my godsons Jc?40 each. Thirdly, I give to the poor of the town of Cambridge, to be distributed among them, we? 100. Fourthly, I give to my pupil John Pye, we? 5, and to my sister Crouch we?4. Lastly, I give all the remainder of my goods to the master and fellows of Christ's college, to be expended toward the adorning of the college chapel. And of this my last will I do constitute my executor, John Alsop, fellow of Christ's college."*