The Appropriation of Joseph Mede: Millenarianism in the 1640s

  • S. Hutton
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 175)


In 1664 John Worthington published his magisterial edition of The Works of the Pious and Profoundly Learned Joseph Mede, B.D. Worthington’s edition was a labor of love: “toilsome” is the word he uses to describe it in the General Preface. He had worked on it throughout the period after his ejection from Cambridge in 1660. Convinced of “how advantageous” it would be to readers, he emphasized the scholarship that had gone into his edition. In his preface, he records his care in checking Mede’s text against the manuscript originals, not once but several times; his meticulous observance of the letter of Mede, to the point where he put words of doubtful legibility in square brackets; his scrupulousness in identifying Mede’s quotations from other sources and in printing them in full in the original language (even when Mede had quoted them in Latin) together with an English translation, “for the benefit of those Readers who had not the advantage of such Education as would have enabled them to understand words in those Tongues.”1 Worthington added materials which had not been published before and he made corrections to works that had seen print previously. He also included some of Mede’s correspondence in the edition. Worthington was very much a modern editor, and one with the best interests of his reader in mind, as he understood them. His edition was reprinted in 1673 and 1677 and it probably ensured the continuing interest in Mede as an interpreter of Scripture and especially of biblical prophecy. For Mede was to become one of the most influential of that kind in seventeenth-century England. He was cited as a principal authority on the Book of Revelation by such notable English students of that topic as Henry More and Isaac Newton. His reputation extended to Europe: the Protestant theologian Pierre Jurieu, the Dutch pastor Daniel van Laaren and the German Kabbalist scholar, Christian Knorr von Rosenroth are some of his continental admirers.2 He was still being cited in the eighteenth century — for example, by William Whiston — and he features as a key figure in that extraordinary believer’s history of millenarianism, Le Roy Edwin Froom’s The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, published last century.3


Radical Politics Modern Editor Meticulous Observance Protestant Theologian Synchronic Scheme 
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  1. 1.
    Worthington, General Preface to Mede, Works (London, 1677), sig. *. All quotations from the Worthington edition are from the 1677 edition.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    But there must have been many more. As Worthington observes, “The great acceptance and kind entertainment which his Writings found abroad among Learned persons might be confirm’d also from (not onely Mr. Hartlib’s, but) Sir William Boswell’s Letters, who professed, It was better then Musick to him to hear the innumerable commendations of so near a Friend…. Although he was Anonymus in what he had done upon the Apocalyps; yet when Foreiners travelling into England came to visit the University of Cambridge, they would carefully seek him out, and endeavoured to gain his acquaintance, as much as any others then more eminent in place.” “The Authour’s Life” in Works, I: vii. On Mede’s Millenarianism see Jan van den Berg, “Continuity within a Changing Context: Henry More’s Millenarianism Seen Against the Background of the Millenarian Concepts of Joseph Mede,” Pietismus and Neuzeit 14 (1988), 185–212.Google Scholar
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  5. 5.
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    The sorry story of Worthington’s misfortunes after his ejection from Cambridge is recorded in his Diary and Correspondence,eds., J. Crossley and R.C. Christie (Manchester: Chetham Society, 1847–86), Chetham Society Remains, vols. 13, 46, and 114.Google Scholar
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    Henry Wilkinson, Babylons Ruine, Jerusalems Rising (London, 1643), sig. A3. This sermon was delivered before Parliament on 25th October, 1643. Wilkinson cites Mede on p. 23. Wilkinson also cites Thomas Brightman.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
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  13. 15.
    Stephen Marshall, The Song of Moses the Servant of God and the Song of the Lambe (1643), 44.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Henry Burton, England’s Bondage (London, 1641), 20. (Preached 20th June 1641).Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Nathaniel Homes, The New World or the New Reformed Church (London, 1641), 7. (Preached 27th July 1641).Google Scholar
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    John Maynard, A Shadow of the Victory of Christ (London, 1646), 10. Maynard cites Mede on 217–8.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    The Declaration of the English Army in Scotland, 1st June 1650. Cited in Lamont, Godly Rule,137.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    Reported by John Finch to Leopoldo de’ Medici, Florence Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS GAL 281, f. 182v.Google Scholar
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    Lamont, Godly Rule. ( London: St Martins Press, 1969 ), p. 51.Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    The translation of Clavis apocalyptica (1627) was printed in 1643 and reprinted in 1649 and 1650. Altar,first printed in 1637, was reprinted in 1652. The Apostasy of the Latter Times, or, the Gentiles Theology of Daemons appeared in 1642, with a second edition in 1644. Paraphrase and Exposition of S. Peter was published in 1642, with a second edition in 1649 and a third edition in 1652. Daniels Weeks was printed in 1643 and again in 1652. Diatribae, Discourses on Several Texts of Scripture,parts one and two, appeared in 1642 with a second edition in 1652. Part three was printed in 1650 and part 4 in 1652, and Remains on Some Passages in the Apocalypse was published in 1650, Opuscula latina in 1652. There were also reprints of works that had been published in Mede’s lifetime: Clavis apocalyptica in 1649, and The Name of the Altar,in 1652.Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    Jeremiah Borroughs (1599–1646), Sions Joy (London, 1641) was a member of the Westminster Assembly.Google Scholar
  22. 24.
    In his The Personal! Reigne of Christ upon Earth,(London, 1642), p. 53, John Archer stated that the conversion of the Jews would take place in 1656 and that the seventh trumpet would begin sounding in 1666.Google Scholar
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    Henry Wilkinson (1616–1675), author of Babylon’s Ruine (see note 11 above) was a member of the Westminster Assembly and Queen Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford. In his Things Now A-doing or the Churches Travaile of the Child of Reformation Now A-bearing (London, 1644), sig. A3, Stanley Gower cites Mede along with Broughton and Brightman. Both Gower and Homes were members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines.Google Scholar
  24. 26.
    Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680) was also a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. He administered the last rights to Cromwell on his deathbed.Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    See note 22 above.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    Mede, Key (1643), page before title page.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    Ibid.,sig. A3v. This interpretative principle by analogy between the political and natural worlds was taken over by Isaac Newton. See S. Hutton, “More, Newton and the Language of Biblical Prophecy,” in James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin, eds., The Books of Nature and Scripture (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), 39–53.Google Scholar
  28. 35.
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    Worthington, Preface, sig. **2v. On Jackson, see S. Hutton, “Thomas Jackson, Oxford Platonist, and William Twisse, Aristotelian,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 34 (1978), 635–52.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England,ed. P.A. Nuttall, 3 vols. (New York: AMS Press, 1965). 1: 520.Google Scholar
  31. 42.
    Mede, Works,General Preface, sig. **.Google Scholar
  32. 46.
    In fact Gilbert Sheldon had great respect for Worthington’s scholarship. See Worthington, Diary and Correspondence.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Hutton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HertfordshireUK

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