John Rogers Of England
A Life Lived to the End for the Glory of God and the Spread of the Gospel
John Rogers, of whom the world was not worthy, was burned at the stake in the year 1555 in Smithfield, England. He was 55 years old, only 4 years older than I am. What was he like? Why did he die such a death? What choices, priorities, and perspective led this man to such an end?
Very little is known or recorded concerning the first 30 years of his life. After his conversion, he was ordained to the ministry and became a scholar at Oxford, then settled on the European continent for a greater part of the next 22 years, after which he returned to England.
Rogers then gave himself to the English translation of the Bible and perhaps ought to be given rank along side William Tyndale and Coverdale as being one of the authors of the first English translation.
In 1547, Edward VI came to the throne of England. Being a Protestant, Edward afforded freedom of worship which the land enjoyed for a season. It was during this period that Rogers gained prominence in the leadership of the English Reformation.
But things changed with the death of Edward VI and the coming of Queen Mary, “Bloody Mary”, as she came to be known. Her sentiments were just the opposite of Edward’s, being a devout Catholic who hated the Protestants and freedom of worship.
Rogers was made a prisoner, first at home and then in the jail at Newgate in England in January of 1553. His wife was not allowed to visit him at all and apparently he suffered severe treatment from the jailers. Rogers was pressured to compromise and renounce the Protestant faith, but he affirmed that he would not. His death was soon to follow. It happened in this way.
When the time came for his execution, he was brought by the sheriffs of Newgate to Smithfield, where the following conversation took place.
One of the officers ask Rogers if he would revoke his abominable doctrine and his evil opinion of the sacrifice of the mass. “That which I have preached, I will seal with my own blood,” Rogers replied.
“Then,” said Clergy Woodroofe, “Thou are a heretic.” “That shall be known,” said Rogers, “at the day of judgment.”
Rogers was then brought to the stake, quoting a Psalm as he came, with the people who witnessed his testimony wonderfully rejoicing at his constant firmness in the face of the fire. His own wife and 11 children met him on the road as he went to the stake, the youngest of the children being a nursing infant in its mother’s arms.
When he was attached to the post, the fire was put under him, and when it had taken hold of his legs and shoulders, he, as if feeling no pain, washed his hands in the flame, as though it were cold water. So says recorded history.
After lifting up his hands to heaven, not removing them from the fire until the flames had devoured them, mildly and firmly this happy martyr yielded up his spirit into the hands of his Heavenly Father. Even a few moments before his death, a written pardon was brought to him if he would recant, but he refused.
John Rogers was the very first of the English martyrs who died under the reign of Bloody Mary. J. C. Ryle says that before Roger’s death, there was no example of a Protestant of the Church of England enduring death rather than recanting his convictions. Rogers was the first in England to “break the ice” for the gospel and prove that the grace of God was sufficient to sustain a believer even in the fire.
On the day Rogers was burned, Noailles, the French Ambassador to England, wrote to Montmorency these words: “This day was performed the public and solemn sacrifice of a preaching doctor named Rogers, who has been burned alive because he persisted in his opinions. As he was conducted to his death, the greatest part of the people were not afraid to make him many exclamations to strengthen his courage. Even his children assisted him, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if Rogers was being led to a wedding.”
It makes me long to love the Saviour and treasure the gospel more and more. May God work in all of us the grace that He worked in the heart of John Rogers, so that we may both live for Him and die for Him as well, regardless of how that death may come.
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