Benefield, Sebastian (DNB00)


BENEFIELD, SEBASTIAN, D.D. (1559–1630), divine, was a native of Prestbury (or Prestonbury), Gloucestershire, where he was born on 12 Aug. 1559. Of his school education nothing has been transmitted, but he proceeded to the university while still very young, having been admitted scholar of Corpus Christi, Oxford, on 30 Aug. 1586. He is found probationer-fellow of the same college 16 April 1590. Shortly afterwards he took his degrees of B.A. and M.A., and, obtaining license with holy orders, soon came to be known as a frequent and eloquent preacher. In 1599 he was appointed rhetoric reader of his college, and m 1600 was admitted as reader of the sentences. In 1608 he proceeded D.D. In 1613 he was chosen Margaret professor of divinity in the university. He confirmed his early repute as a scholar by publishing 'Doctrinae Christianae sex Capita totidem Praelectionibus in Schola Theologica Oxoniensi pro forma habitis discussa et disceptata,' 1610. An appendix entitled 'Appendix ad Caput secundum de Consiliis Evangelicis . . . adversus Humphredum Leach,' annihilates his antagonist. As examples of his force of reasoning in the pulpit, there remain 'Eight Sermons publicly preached in the University of Oxford, the second at St. Peter's in-the-East, the rest at St. Mary's church. Began 14 Dec. 1595,' 1614. By the latter date, in Anthony à Wood's quaint words, he had resigned his professorship and 'receded to the rectory of Meysey-Hampton, near to Fairford, in Glostershire, which he had long before obtained by his predecessor's guilt of simony' (Athenae Oxon.. ed. Bliss, ii. 487-9). The first-fruits of his welcome leisure at Meysey-Hampton was a treatise, 'The Sin against the Holy Ghost discovered, and other Christian Doctrines delivered in Twelve Sermons upon part of the Tenth Chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews,' 1615. His most scholarly work, issued in three successive quartos, is his commentary on the minor prophet Amos (1613, 1620, 1629). It is somewhat scholastic and dry, but suggestive and practical. The commentary was translated into Latin by Henry Jackson (Oppenheim, 1615), who ultimately succeeded him at Meysey-Hampton. Benefield is Calvinistical in his 'Praelectiones de Perseverantia Sanctorum' (Frankfort, 1618). He also published other 'Occasional Sermons.' Anthony à Wood says that he spent 'the remanent part of his years' (about four years) 'in great retiredness and devotion.' He was 'a person,' he continues, 'for piety, strictness of life, and sincere consecration, incomparable ... he was also so noted an humanitarian, disputant, and theologist, and so well read in the fathers and schoolmen, that he had scarce his equal in the university.' Wood concludes: 'Some have blamed him (I know not upon what account) for a schismatic, yet Dr. Ravis, sometime bishop of London, and of honourable memory, approved him to be free from schism, and much abounding in science. The truth is, he was a sedentary man, and of great industry, and so consequently (as 'tis observed by some) morose and of no good nature. Also that he was accounted a no mean lover of the opinions of John Calvin, especially on the point of predestination.' He died in his parsonage-house 24 Aug. 1630, and was buried in the chancel of his church the 29th of the same month.

[Local researches; Brook's Puritans, ii. 865; Middleton's Evang. Biography, ii. 490-1; Le Neve's Fasti, iii. 618; Wood's Athenae Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 487-9; Benefield's.Works.]

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