Extended Biography of Matthew Poole
REV. MATTHEW POOLE, A.M. This learned annotator was the son of Francis Poole, Esq., of York, and was born there in 1624. His education was in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, under Dr. John Worthington, where he took his degree of Master of Arts, in which he was incorporated at Oxford, June, 1657, at the time that Cromwell resigned the chancellorship, and was succeeded therein by his son Richard. He became rector of St. Michael le Querne, London, in 1648. In 1654 he published “The Blasphemer Slain with the Sword of the Spirit; or, a Plea for the Godhead of the Holy Ghost, against the Cavils of John Biddle.” In 1655 the excellent Richard Vines, minister of Lawrence Jury, London, died suddenly, having preached and administered the sacrament during the day. Mr. Poole wrote a poem on the occasion, which commences thus:
But why so soon? why mak'st such haste away?
Couldst thou not brook a little more delay,
And give some warning of so sad a blow;
No private but a common overthrow?
As when the fabric of some stately tower
Comes near the period of its final hour;
Here shrinks a rafter, there a pillar groans,
And all the parts breathe out their farewell moans;
That so some just and seasonable fear
May the indwellers for the stroke prepare.
And was it thine intent to verify
What we thought false, that seraphims can die?
Sure could they die, just so they’d lose their breath,
Nor would they pray against a sudden death.
What was the cause thou wast so hurried hence,
Nor with a moment's stay would death dispense?
Was it because that restless, hellish crew,
Did with good angels their dispute renew
'Bout Moses body? And th’ archangel chose
Thee for his second, to confound his foes?
In 1658 Poole published a “Model for the Maintaining of Students of Choice Abilities in the University, and principally in order to the Ministry.” He exerted himself so successfully, that in a short time 900l. per annum was procured for that purpose. Dr. Sherlock was one of those who were educated on this foundation. The scheme, however, was abandoned at the Restoration. In 1659 he published a letter to Lord Charles Fleetwood in reference to the affairs at that time; and also with the view of supporting the Presbyterian interest, he published his Quo Warranto. On August 16, 1660, he preached before the Lord Mayor a sermon on Evangelical Worship, or against re-establishing the Liturgy of the Church of England, which was printed. In it he says, “Better all the organs in the world to be broken than one soul lost. The more inveiglements there are to sense, the more disadvantage to the spirit. To instance in one thing: I appeal to the experience of any ingenious person whether curiosity of voice and musical sounds in churches does not tickle the fancy with a carnal delight, and engage a man's ear and most diligent attention unto those sensible motions and audible sounds, and therefore must necessarily, in great measure, recall him from spiritual communion with God, Seeing the mind of man cannot attend to two things at once with all its might; and when we serve God we must do it with all our might.” By the Act of Uniformity he lost his rectory; on which occasion he published a piece in Latin, entitled Vox Clamantis in Deserto. However, he submitted to the law with a noble resignation; and being unmarried, and enjoying a paternal estate of 100l. per annum, he devoted himself to his studies. In 1666 he published—The Nullity of the Romish Faith; in 1667, Dialogues between a Popish Priest and an English Protestant; in 1673, A Seasonable Apology for Religion, on Matthew 11:14.
But Mr. Poole's great work was the Synopsis Criticorum. It was undertaken by the advice of the learned Bishop Lloyd; Dr. Tillotson, Dr. Patrick, Dr. Stillingfleet, and some others, undertook the management of the moneys subscribed for its publication, and the king granted a patent for the privilege of printing it, October 4, 1667. The object of the Synopsis was to condense, methodize, and exhibit at one view the interpretations of Scripture dispersed through the Critici Sacri, previously published under the direction of Bishop Pearson, John Pearson, Anthony Scattergood, and Francis Gouldman. To the writers in the Sacred Critics Mr. Poole has added several others of equal note, and he refers also to the most important versions, both ancient and modern. It contains the views of not less than one hundred and fifty critics on the Scriptures. Ten years of indefatigable labor were spent in compiling this very useful work. The printing of it began in 1669, and was finished in 1674, five volumes folio. Granger says that “the plan of the work was judicious, and the execution more free from errors than seems consistent with so great a work, finished in so short a time by one man.”
Mr. Poole also wrote annotations on the Bible as far as the 58th chapter of Isaiah, which abound with good sense and sound judgment. They were finished by his Nonconformist brethren. The 59th and 60th chapters of Isaiah were done by Mr. Jackson, of Moulsey. On the rest of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, Dr. John Collings furnished the annotations. Ezekiel and the minor prophets were supplied by Mr. Hurst; Daniel by Mr. Cooper; the four Gospels by Dr. Collings; the Ephesians by Mr. Veal; the Philippians and Colossians by Mr. Adams; the epistles to the Thessalonians by Mr. Barker; those to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, by Dr. Collings; the Hebrews by Mr. O. Hughes; the epistles of James, Peter, and Jude, by Mr. Veal; the epistles of John by Mr. Howe; and the Book of Revelation by Dr. Collings.
While Poole was engaged in these laborious works, it was his custom to rise at three or four o'clock and take a raw egg about eight or nine, and another about twelve; then to continue his studies till the afternoon was far advanced. He spent the evening in some friend's house, particularly Alderman Ashurst's, and would be exceedingly but innocently facetious; when it was nearly time to go home, he could give the conversation a serious turn, saying, “Let us now call for a reckoning.” In 1679, when the Deposition of Dr. Titus Oates, concerning the Popish plot, was printed, Mr. Poole's name was found in the list of persons who were to be assassinated. This gave him not the least concern, till, one night, returning from the Alderman's, in company with Mr. Chorley, when they came to the narrow passage which leads from Clerkenwell to St. John's-court, two men stood at the entrance, one of whom cried up, “Here he is;” upon which, the other said, “Let him alone, for there is somebody with him.” Mr. Poole asked his friend, if he heard what those men said; and upon his answering that he had, “Well,” replied he, “I had been murdered tonight, had not you been with me.” This incident gave him such an apprehension of his danger, that he thought proper to retire into Holland. He died at Amsterdam, October, 1679, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. It was generally suspected, that he was poisoned. Calamy says, “That he was faithful in his friendship, strict in his piety, and universal in his charity.” Wood acknowledges that, “He has left behind him the character of a celebrated critic and casuist.”
Poole published a preface to Nalton's Sermons, with some account of his character. But we have not yet spoken of his own sermons in the Exercises. The sermon against Popish Infallibility, is as valuable in 1844, as it was, when delivered in 1674. The one in the first volume is inserted in Wesley's Christian Library. A delicate subject is there judiciously treated. Ministers and others, whose duty it is to visit the sick, will do well to attend to the following directions: Job 33:23, 24, “If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.” 1. Endeavour to understand the state of the sick person. 2. To bring him to a true sight of his state and condition. 3. Take great heed lest, while you avoid one extreme, you run upon another; some, for the prevention of despair, have made such unseasonable application of comfort, as have begotten presumptuous hopes. 4. The same methods are not to be used to all sick persons. There is a difference of tempers—of education and conversation—and of guilt. 5. It is a very bad guide to follow the counsels or desires of sick persons, or their carnal friends. 6. The same course for substance, is to be taken for the conversion of sick and healthful persons. 7. The greatest care must be, to keep sick persons from those errors, whereby such persons commonly miscarry: such as, insensibleness of their danger — willingness to be deluded—carelessness and listlessness—resting in generals—the concealment of some hidden way of wickedness. 8. Take heed of healing the souls of sick persons slightly. This we are apt to do: from the sick man's greedy desire of comfort—from the expectation and desire of carnal friends—from our own careless hearts, that love not to put ourselves to any trouble or reproach, which we shall meet with, if we be faithful in this case. His sermons in the Morning Exercises are:—How ministers or Christian friends may and ought to apply themselves to sick persons for their good, and the discharge of their own conscience. —How may detraction be best prevented or cured?—The satisfaction of Christ.—Pope and councils not infallible.
Source: Samuel Dunn. Memoirs of the Seventy-Five Eminent Divines whose Discourses form the Morning Exercises at Cripplegate, St. Giles in the Fields, and in Southwark. London: John Snow, 1844.