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Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Richard Byfield

Puritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers

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The life and death of Mr. Richard Byfield.

MR. BYFIELD was born in Worcestershire about 1599. He was educated at Queen’s college, Oxford, where, having taken his degree in arts, he left the college, and was for some time “curate or lecturer of Isleworth. After this he became rector of Long littoh, in the county of Surrey; where he labored, with unremitting assiduity, in teaching his people the truths of the gospel, and enforcing the duties thence arising. He was a zealous reformer, a strenuous opposer of all superstition in the worship of God, and an able and courageous defender of the morality of the Sabbath. He refused to read the Book of Sports, and seems to have been suspended and sequestered for his disobedience, for four years and four weeks. When the authority of the king, and the power of the bishops, were greatly on the decline, he was chosen one of the assembly of divines, of which he Was a very respectable member, “and a zealous covenanter. In 1654 he was appointed an assistant to the commissioners of Surrey, for ejecting scandalous ministers and schoolmasters. A difference once took place between him and his patron, Sir John Evalyn, concerning the reparation of the church. Mr. Byfield complained to Oliver Cromwell, the protector, who brought them together, with the view of endeavoring to effect a reconciliation. Sir John charged Mr. Byfield with reflecting upon him in his sermons. Mr. Byfield solemnly declared, that he had never intended the least reflection against him. On which Oliver, turning round to Sir John, said, “I am afraid, sir, there is something indeed amiss. The word of God is powerful and penetrating, and has found you out—search your ways.” He spoke these words so pathetically, and with tears, that all present also wept. The protector succeeded in restoring them to their former friendship; and to bind it the more securely, he ordered his secretary to pay Sir John one hundred pounds towards the repairs of the church.

Mr. Byfield was the oldest minister in the county in 1662, when he was ejected by the act of uniformity. After this he retired to Mortlake, a pleasant village on the banks of the Thames, a few miles from London, where he spent the residue of his days, with a view to his approaching dissolution. In the meantime, he preached, for the most part, twice every Sabbath in Ms own house, and did so the last Sabbath of his life. The next day he intimated to his friends, that he considered his departure was at hand, and gave many pious exhortations to his wife and children, relative to their conduct in life, and their preparations for death; particularly he admonished his children to live in love one with another, that the God of love and of peace might dwell among them. On the Thursday following, a friend desiring his opinion on Rev. viii. 1., he spoke on the verse for a considerable time, when, rising from his seat, he was taken with an apoplectic fit, in which he expired in 1664, aged sixty-seven years.

His works are, 1. The Light of Faith, and the Way of Holiness.—2. The Doctrine of the Sabbath Vindicated.—3. The Power of the Christ of God.—4. Zion’s Answer to the Ambassadors of the Nation.—5. Temple Defilers Defiled.—6. The Glory of the Gospel without prejudice to the Law.—7. The real Way to Good Works.—8. A Treatise on Charity.

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