Richard Bylt: Now Silent

In Holy Trinity Church, Hull, is an old brass plaque which was fastened to the floor 568 years ago. It depicts two well-dressed, though expressionless, figures. One is male, the other female, their hands clasped in prayer. The accompanying text states: 

Here O Richard Bylt, thou liest, full of virtue,

Once possessor of fame, thou art now silent, closed in earth.

Thou wast a merchant and Alderman of this town.

Beloved wast thou, since thou wast bountiful to the people.

Falling in the plague, smitten by the sword of destruction. On the second day of the month of October, thou didst pass to the happy realms, in the year 1451.

Mayst thou live forever with the Blessed

I’m always intrigued by such items. Like most eulogistic records, does it gush about the deceased’s virtues for politeness’ sake? Was he really loved for his generosity? We can be sure of some of the statement’s veracity: once famous, he’s now only known to us as a floor piece; though once his opinions mattered in the great port of Hull, his voice cannot now be heard. Like Dives in Luke 16, ‘he died and was buried.’ 

Oddly, Commonwealth soldiers damaged and removed most funerary monuments at Holy Trinity, but left this one intact. Had he influential descendants? Did the penultimate line’s overlooking of purgatory offer assurances to those puritan vandals that this one might have been a good egg after all? We cannot be sure. Yet I would urge you to learn this lesson from good Master Bylt. You and your virtue will one day lay beneath the sod. Your opinions, though frequently shared and explained, will count for nothing. The only thing that matters is where you stand with Christ, for only He can offer access to ‘the happy realms’. 

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25