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IT can scarce be needed, for most of the readers into whose hands this volume may come, to commend a writer so well known as the Nonconformist worthy, Matthew Mead, or to bespeak respectful and devout perusal for a book, so long and widely circulated, and so greatly useful, as has been his treatise, “The Almost Christian.”

He was of the times of Owen, Bunyan, and Baxter. How high a place the man and his writings occupied, in the esteem of the eminent author of the “Call to the Unconverted,” and of the “Saint’s Rest,” a single reference may sufficiently prove. In the great work of Richard Baxter, on the morals and casuistry of the gospel, his “Christian Directory,” he furnishes lists of volumes suitable to form the library of a Christian. Classifying his catalogues according to the probable extent of the means, that vivarious classes of his readers would possess for the purchase of books, he begins with those purchasers of most limited resources. “I will name you, first,” (says Baxter) “the poorest or smallest library that is tolerable.” Enumerating as its basis, a Bible, Concordance, and Catechisms, he proceeds to name some scores of writers on practical religion. In some cases he commends but a single treatise of an author, and in others, his entire writings this latter and higher honor, he accords to his contemporary and fellow-confessor, Matthew Mead. Among the “affectionate practical English writers,” as he describes them, and of which he advises the poor man to secure “as many of them as you can get,”11   Baxter’s Practical Works, Orme’s Ed. vol. v. pp. 585, 586. he places “Mr. Mead’s works.” To those remembering the practised sagacity, the long and varied experience, the discursive reading, and the profound piety of the Kidderminster pastor, nothing need be said as to the value of his commendation, in favor of the character, or the compositions, to which it may be given.

But Mead had other and not less eminent friends, among the great and good men of the Commonwealth and Protectorate. By the appointment viiof Oliver Cromwell himself, he held the New Chapel at Shadwell, in Middlesex. On the fatal St. Bartholomew’s day, he was ejected thence, among those illustrious nonconformist confessors, whose praises even the poet Wordsworth, attached as he is to the English Established Church, could not forbear to sing. In one of his ministerial charges, he had been associated with Greenhill, the author of a commentary on Ezekiel, of high repute. After some liberty granted to the Dissenters, he was a preacher at Stepney, where a large congregation gathered around him; and where, in 1674, a spacious house of worship was erected for their use. Accused, with the excellent Dr. Owen and others, of some participation in that Rye House Plot, for which Lord William Russel suffered death, Mead retired for a time to Holland, though conscious of entire innocence; but returned to Britain, and continued his labors until his death, October 16, 1699, at the age of seventy. His funeral sermon was delivered by the great John Howe, with whom his friendship stretched over more than half a life-time, having, as Howe declared, continued through some forty-three years. When asked, in his last sickness, how he was, his reply had the quaint, but earnest simplicity of viiione to whom the New Jerusalem had long been the theme of familiar and habitual aspirations: “Going home, as every honest man ought, when his work is done.” One of his sons was Dr. Richard Mead, the contemporary of Addison and Pope, eminent in the medical annals of England, and author, amongst other works, of a book on the diseases named in Scripture, “De Morbis Biblicis;” a topic, to the selection of which the memory of his excellent parent, and of the pursuits of that father, may have first directed him. One of the sermons, in the collection often reprinted of Farewell Discourses by the Ejected Ministers of 1662, is by Matthew Mead.22   Calmay’s Nonconf. Memorial, Ed. by S. Palmer. 2d. Ed. vol. ii. pp. 461-467.

The age to which our author belonged, was one in which, for a time, religion made wide and. rapid progress. That in the days of its secular prosperity, many might be won but to a formal and even hypocritical assumption of its rites and profession, was to be expected. But neither in Scotland nor in England, nor in our own New England, was there any lack of fidelity in applying to the churches tests of fearless thoroughness. The work of Guthrie, “The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ,” produced north of the Tweed; ixMead’s “Almost Christian,” issued to the south of that boundary and the book by Shephard, of Cambridge, in Massachusetts, “The Parable of the Ten Virgins,” are volumes of kindred character and show that the eminent pastors of those times, were direct, and stern, and searching in the tests to which they would submit the hopes of the disciple of Christ.

The art of the husbandman, his field, his seed, his plough, and his flail, furnish, it is evident to the most heedless reader of the New Testament, a favorite class of illustrations to our Lord and Saviour, in explaining and enforcing the effects of true religion on the heart and conduct of men. May we not, from that same art, borrow a simple and kindred illustration of the object which such writers as Guthrie, Shephard, and Mead have sought, and of the uses which such works as the present volume may well subserve, in the hands of every serious reader? It is known, that in the agriculture of our own times, very much of advance is expected beyond the success of our fathers, in the greater depth to which the modern ploughman is expected to drive his ploughshare. Instead of stirring, merely, the upper surface of the earth, the instruments of the tiller are now contrived to force their way below the xroots of grasses and weeds; and the laborer is required to rely on faithful SUB-SOIL ploughing. In proportion as the possession of a religious hope becomes common, facile, and lucrative, in that same degree does self-delusion become more easy; and, in that same proportion, should this thorough scrutiny of our own motives and way, this sub-soil ploughing of the heart, be regarded as the more necessary. It has in its favor an authority from which there can be no appeal, when our Lord himself, the judge by whose scrutiny our hopes are to be finally tested, has, in allusion to the need of a religious trust, rightly planted and deeply based, commended the wan who “DIGGED DEEP.” (Luke vi. 48.)


New York, January, 1850.

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