Nicholas Byfield.—This pious and learned divine was born in Warwickshire, in the year 1579, and educated in Exeter college, Oxford. He was son to Mr. Richard Byfield, who became minister of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1596. He was a hard student; and having spent four years in the closest application, he left the university, entered upon the ministerial work, and intended to have gone into Ireland ; but preaching at Chester, on bis way thither, he received an invitation to be pastor of St. Peter's in that city, where he continued a number of years. He was much followed on account of his pious and profitable preaching, especially by all who had any relish for religion. The excellent and celebrated John Bruen, esq. was one of his hearers, from whom he received many acts of kindness.* In the year 1615, he removed from Chester, and became vicar oflsleworth in Middlesex,* where he continued the rest of his days. He was a divine of " a profound judgment, a strong memory, a quick invention, and unwearied industry."} He was a constant, powerful, and useful preacher; a thorough' Calvinist, a nonconformist to the ceremonies, and a strict observer of the sabbath. By his zeal for the sanctification of the Lord's day, his labours in the ministry, and his exemplary life, religion flourished, many were converted, and puritan ism gained ground. Yet he was a sufferer with his brethren in the cause of nonconformity. ^
Mr. Byfield, during the latter part of his life, was exceedingly afflicted with the stone in the bladder, most probably the effect of intense study and hard labour. And
* Mr. Bruen bad a servant, named Robert Pasficld, but commonly called Old Robert, who was " mighty in the scriptures," though he could neither write nor read. He was, indeed, as remarkable for remembering texts and sermons, as Judidiah Buxton for remembering numbers. For by the help of his memory, he invented and framed a girdle of leather, long and large, which went twice about him. This he divided into several parts, allotting every book in the Bible, in their order, to some of these divisions s then for the chapters, he affixed points or thongs of leather to the several divisions, and made knots by fives or tens thereupon, to distinguish the chapters of that book; and by other points, he divided the chapters into their particular contents or verses, as occasion required. This be used instead of pen and ink, in hearing sermons, and made so good a use of it» that, coming home, be was able by it to repeat the sermon, quote the texts of scripture, &c. to his own great comfort and to the benefit of others. This girdle Mr. Bruen kept after Old Robert's death, hung it up in his study, and would pleasantly call it " The girdle of Ferity."—Hi ode's Life of Bruen, p. 58, 135.—Granger's Biog. Hist. vol. i. p. 251.
+ Newcourt's Repert. Eccl. vol. i. p. 676.
1 Wood's Athens Oxon. vol. i. p. 402.
S MS. Chronology, vol. ii. p. 699. (8 )
having groaned for several years under the most excruciating pain, it brought him at length to his grave, in the year 1622, and the forty-third of his age. Fuller observes, that for fifteen yean together, he preached at Isleworth twice every Lord's day, and expounded tbe scriptures every Wednesday and Friday, till five weeks before his death. If this account be just, the lime of his removal from Chester, or the period we have given of his death, must evidently one of them be incorrect.* His body being opened after his death, a stone was taken out of his bladder, which weighed thirty-three ounces, and measured about the edges fifteen inches and a half, the length and breadth about thirteen incites, and of a substance like flint. " There are many eye-witnesses, besides myself," says Dr. William Gouge, in his account of this wonderful phenomenon, " who can justify the truth of what I say. + He meekly and patiently endured his torturing pains till death gave him perfect ease. Mr. By field published several books during his life, and others came forth after his death, shewing him to have been a person of good parts, great learning, and uncommon industry. Bishop Wilkins passes a high encomium upon his sermons, classing them with the most excellent in his day.t He was father to Mr. Adoniram Byfield, another puritan divine, of whom some account Will be given. Mr. Richard Byfield, the ejected nonconformist in 1662, was his half-brother. \
His Works.—1. An Essay on the Assurance of God's Love and Man's Salvation, 1614.—2. An Exposition on the Epistle to the Colossians, 1615.||—3. Directions for the private reading of the Scriptures, 1618.—4. A Treatise shewing how a godly Christian may support his Heart with comfort against all the Distresses which, by reason of any Affliction or Temptation, can befall him in this Life, 1618.—5. The beginning of the Doctrine of Christ, or a Catalogue of Sins, 1609.—6. The Marrow of the Oracles of God, 1620 —7. Commentary or Sermons on the second Chap, of the I Epis. of St. Peter, 1623.—8. Sermons on the first ten verses of the third Chap, of the 1 Epis. of St. Peter, 1626.—The two last were published, with additions, entitled, " A Commentary upon the whole First Epistle of St . Peter," 1637.—9. An Exposition of the Apostle's Creed, 1626.—
10. Answer to Mr. Breerwood's Treatise of the Sabbath, 1630.—
11. The Light of Faith and Way of Holiness, 1630.—12. The Signs of
• Fuller's Worthies, part Hi. p. 187.
f Ibid.—Evangel. Mag. vol. xvi. p. 416.
1 Wilkini on Preaching, p. 82, 83.
\ Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. iii. p. 301.
| This work is full of good sense and spiritual savour, and abounds with pertinent citations of scripture, without any pretensions to oratorial dress. irilUamt't Christian Prcaclur, p. 437.
Cod's Lore to as, 1630.—13. The Practice of Christianity j or, an Epitome or Mr. Rich. Rogers's Seven Treatises.—14. The principal Grounds of the Christian Religion.—15. Several Sermons.