Field, Richard

, an eminent English divine, was born Oct. 15, 1561, in the parish of Hempsted in the county of Hertford, of an ancient family of good repute in that county. The estate which came to him from his father and grandfather had been in the family many years before, and it is recorded as somewhat singular that out of his grandfather’s house, there had died but three owners of this estate in 160 years. He received his first education in the free school of Berkhampstead, and was afterwards admitted of Magdalen-hall, Oxford; and such was the character he left behind him, that his chambers and study there were shewn, for a long time after he quitted them. But according to Wood’s account, he was first admitted of Magdalen college in the year 1577, and proceeded A. B. before he went to Magdalen-hall, where he took his master’s degree, and was esteemed the best disputant in the schools. After some time spent in the study of divinity, he read the catechetical lecture in Magdalen-hall, which, though a private lecture, was in his hands rendered so inieresting as to be much frequented by the whole | university. Dr. John Reynolds, though greatly his senior, and either then or soon after Margaret professor, and president of Corpus Christi college, was a constant auditor. Field was well skilled in school divinity, and a frequent preacher while he lived in Oxfordshire, and is said to have been very instrumental in preventing the increase of nonconformity in the university. His father had provided a match for him, as being his eldest son; but his not taking orders being made an indispensable requisite, he thought fit to decline the choice, and returned to Oxford and after he had spent seven years there, he became divinity reader in Winchester cathedral.

In 1594 he was chosen divinity reader to the honourable society of Lincoln’s-inn, and soon after presented by Mr. Richard Kingsmill, one of the benchers and surveyor of the court of wards, to the valuable rectory of Burghclear in Hampshire, where Mr. Kingsmill lived, and refused the living of St. Andrew, Holborn, which was afterwards offered to him, preferring a retired life, and passing the greater part of his time at Burghclear to his death. On April 9, 1594, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Richard Harris, sometime fellow of New college, Oxford, and rector of Hardwicke in Buckinghamshire, with which lady, who had received a very liberal education, he lived happily upwards of twenty years. On Sept. 27, 1598, he was made chaplain in ordinary to queen Elizabeth, after having, on the 23d preceding, preached a kind of probationary sermon before her majesty; and he was soon after made prebendary of Windsor. He was also joined in the special commission with William marquis of Winchester, and Thomas Bilson bishop of Winchester, &c. for ecclesiastical causes within the diocese of Winchester; and in another to exercise all spiritual jurisdiction in the said diocese, with Whitgift archbishop of Canterbury, Charles earl of Nottingham, Thomas bishop of Winchester, and others, by James I. 1603, to whom he was also chaplain in ordinary, and sent to the conference at Hampton court concerning ecclesiastical causes, held Jan. 14, 1603. In 1605, when the king was to be entertained at Oxford with all manner of scholastic exercises, he was sent for out of the country to bear a part in the divinity act. Sir Nathaniel Brent, afterwards warden of Merton, used to say that the disputation between Dr. Field and Dr. Aglionby, before king James, was the best he ever heard in his life, and that | it was listened to with great attention and delight by all present. The question was, “An sancti et angeli cognoscant cogitationes cordium

About 1610 the king bestowed on him the deanery of Gloucester, where he never resided long, but in order to preach four or 6ve times a year to a full auditory who respected and loved him. The greatest part of his time he spent at his parsonage, and the winter at Windsor, where his house in the cloister was the resort of all who were eminent for learning, to enjoy his conversation, and profit by his sentiments on ecclesiastical affairs, and on the parties and sects which divided the Christian world. Dr. Barlow, dean of Wells, and Dr. Crakenthorp were among his correspondents. He rejoiced when any man noted for learning was made prebendary of Windsor; and often visited sir Henry Savile at Eton college, and other eminent persons in that neighbourhood. He often preached before the king, who, the first time he heard him, said, “Is his name Field This is a field for God to dwell in” and Fuller, in the same punning age, calls him “that learned divine,whose memory swelleth like a field which the Lord hath blessed.” In the king’s progress through Hampshire, in 1609, the bishop of Winchester appointed him among those who were to preach before him; and in 1611, the king having a mind to hear the prebendaries of Winchester in their order, the dean wrote to him first, and he preached oftener than any of them, and to crowded audiences. The king, who delighted to discourse with him on points of divinity, proposed to send him into Germany to compose the differences between the Lutherans and Calvinists, but, for whatever reason, this appointment did not take place; and not long before his death, the king would have made him bishop of Salisbury, and gave him a promise of the see of Oxford on a vacancy. Bishop Hall tells us, that about the same time he was to have been made dean of Worcester. On Oct. 27, 1614, he lost his wife, who left him six sons and a daughter. After continuing a widower about two years, he married the only daughter of Dr. John King, prebendary of Windsor and Westminster, widow of Dr. John Spenser, some time president of Corpus Christi college, Oxford, but with her he lived not much above a month. She however bred up his only daughter, and married her to her eldest son, of which match there were three sons and five daughters. | Dr. Field had reached the beginning of his fifty-sixth year, when, on Nov. 15, 1616, he died of an apoplexy, or some imposthume breaking inwardly, which suddenly deprived him of all sense and motion. He was buried in the outer chapel of St. George at Windsor, below the choir. Over his grave was laid a black marble slab, with his figure in brass, and under it an inscription on a plate of the same metal, recording the deaths of him and his first wife. His whole life was spent in the instruction of others, both by precept and example. He was a good and faithful pastor, an affectionate husband and parent, a good master and neighbour; charitable to the poor, moderate in his pursuits, never aiming at greatness for himself or his posterity; he left to his eldest son very little more than what descended to him from his ancestors. He had such a memory that he used to retain the substance of every book he read; but his judgment was still greater. Although he was able to penetrate into the most subtle and intricate disputes, he was more intent on composing than increasing controversies. He did not like disputes about the high points of predestination and reprobation, yet appears rather to have inclined to the Calvinistic views of these matters. When he first set about writing his books “Of the Church,” his old acquaintance Dr. Kettle dissuaded him, telling him that when once he was engaged in controversy, he would never live quietly, but be continually troubled with answers and replies. To this he said, “I will so write that they shall have no great mind to answer me;” which proved to be nearly the case, as his main arguments were never refuted. This work was published at London in 1606, folio, in four books, to which he added a fifth in 1610, folio, with an appendix containing a defence of each passage of the former books that were excepted against, or wrested to the maintenance of Romish errors. All these were reprinted at Oxford in 1628, folio. This second edition is charged hy the Scots in their “Canterburian’s Self-conviction,1641, folio, with additions made by bishop Laud. The purport and merit of this work has reminded some of the judicious Hooker, between whom and Dr. Field there was a great friendship. Dr. Field published also a sermon on St. Jude, v. 3, 1604, 4to, preached before the king at Windsor; and, a little before his death, had composed great part of a work entitled “A view of the Controversies in Religion, which in these last times have caused the | lamentable divisions in the Christian world” but it was never completed, though the preface was written by the author, and is printed at large in the Life of him by his Son, together with some propositions laid down by him on election and reprobation. This Life was published from the original by John Le Neve, author of the “Monumenta Anglicana,” in 1617, 8vo, and from a copy of it interleaved with ms notes by the author, and by bishop Kennet, Mr. Gough, in whose possession it was, drew up a life for the new edition of the Biographia Britannica, which, with a very few omissions, we have here copied. It only remains to be mentioned that Dr. Field was nominated one of the fellows of Chelsea college in 1610, by king James, who, when he heard of his death, expressed his regret, and added, “I should have done more for that man” His son, who wrote his life, was the Rev. Nathaniel Field, rector of Stourton in the county of Wilts. Another son, Giles, lies buried, under a monumental inscription, against the east wall of New college Ante-chapel. He died in 1629, aged twenty-one. 1


Life as above, —Ath, Ox. vol. I.