Byfield, Nicholas

, a puritan divine of considerable eminence in the beginning of the seventeenth century, was the son of Richard Byfield, minister of Stratford-uponAvon, and was born in Warwickshire about the year 1579. He became a servitor of Exeter college, Oxford, in Lent term 1596, and remained at the university upwards of four years, but left it without taking a degree. He was admitted, however, into holy orders, and was soon after invited to be pastor of St. Peter’s church, Chester, which he gladly accepted, and continued there for several years, “much followed and admired,” says Wood, “by the precise party, who esteemed his preaching profitable, and his life pious.” He was a strict observer of Sunday, on which subject he preached and wrote, and this involved him in a controversy, particularly with Edward Brerewood the mathematician. (See Brerewood.) The observation of the Sabbath was at this time a subject of much controversy, and many pamphlets were written on both sides, with the warmth natural at a period of increasing religious dissension. From Chester Mr. Byfield removed, in 1615, to the vicarage of Isleworth, where he died in 1622, leaving behind him an excellent character for learning, success in his ministry, and a pious and peaceable disposition. He was the author of many popular works, which are enumerated by Wood. Of these, his “Commentary | on the First Epistle of St. Peter,” 1637, fol. and “on Colossians,” 1628, fol. are held in the highest estimation, and confirm the character which Wood, somewhat reluctantly, gives of him. Dr. Gouge, of Blackfriars, who drew up an account of his death, informs us that on his body being opened, a stone was taken out of his bladder that weighed thirty-three ounces; and was in length and breadth about thirteen inches, and solid, like a flint. A print of him was published by Richardson, in 1790, with an account of this very remarkable case. The noted Adonrram Byfield, a zealous adherent to the commonwealth revolution, was his son; and Richard Byfield, another ejected non-conformist, was his half brother; but neither had his meek, loyal, and submissive spirit. Adoniram is one of the few persons who have been, by name, stigmatized by Butler in his “Hudibras.” He was the father of Dr. Byfield, the noted Sal volatile doctor, who in his epitaph is said to be “Diu volatilis tandem Jfcms.1


Ath. Ox. vol. I. Ward’s Lives of the Gresham Professors. Fuller’s Worthies. Pref. to his Commentary on St. Peter. Lysons’s Environs, vol. III.