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FOR MARCH, 1858.
OUR first acquaintance with Rogers presents him as a diligent and successful student in the University of Cambridge; an accomplished and promising youth. Then we find him chaplain to the Merchant Adventurers at Antwerp, and discharging the duties of the office in a manner highly satisfactory to his flock. The little that we know of Rogers's character at this time gives the impression of an able, energetic man; honest, and as elevated in his tone and aims as could be expected in his position. That position was sufficiently unfavourable he was a Romish priest.
But he was a chosen vessel, an appointed witness to the truth of the Gospel, and in due time the knowledge of that Gospel was brought to him. At the period of Rogers's residence in Antwerp, Tyndale and Coverdale sought refuge there from the persecutions which oppressed their native land. The English chaplain came into contact with these men, and through their means was made acquainted with the truth, as taught in the Scriptures, which truth was speedily and joyfully embraced by him. He then became associated with his teachers in the English translation of the Scriptures, which is known as "The Translation of Thomas Matthews."
Henceforth he devoted himself to the service of that Gospel, which gives life and purifies the soul.
From Antwerp Rogers removed to Wittenberg, and became pastor of a German church in that city. Here he married and remained for many years. It is a pleasant thing to dwell on this period of the reformer's life. A state of mental darkness-the darkness of Romish superstition-came before, persecution and trouble followed. was an interval of holy and happy work, and of quiet enjoyment of the sweetest relations of life. There was the neat simple home under the loving care of a gentle wife, and dear little prattlers crowding round a fond father's knee; there were the hours of deep study and intellectual culture, in which he delighted, alternating with hours of active labour in feeding the flock of God, and in various works of faith and charity, all of which were still better loved. His home was one of the loveliest and brightest spots which this dark world can show, in which human affection is purified and intensified by Christian principle, and where the culture of the heart, the culture of the intellect, and the active practice of those good works which adorn the Christian character, are all found mingled in beautiful harmony.
Meanwhile, a change had come over his native land—the imperious Harry was laid in the grave of his fathers, and his son Edward reigned in his stead. The hearts of all enlightened and patriotic Englishmen beat high.
How bright their hopes for their country under the rule of this promising young monarch! Heartily, most heartily did John Rogers sympathize with this patriotic joy. Happy as he was in Germany, England still held the first place in his affections. And should he not now return and forward the good cause there? Obstacles stood in the way doubtless-serious obstacles. He had a wife and eight children to think of. In Germany he had a sure provision for them, in England his prospects would be all uncertain. Yet the baance fell on the side of England. He would go forth in faith, trusting Him who had said, "Cast all thy cares upon me." The German home was broken up, and the foot of John Rogers once more pressed his native soil.
At first all went on happily and prosperously-Rogers's learning, abilities, and worth were duly appreciated by those in high places. He was appointed a Prebendary of St. Paul's by Ridley, Bishop of London; the Dean and Chapter chose him for Divinity lecturer, and he also held the living of St. Sepulchre's. With men of like spirit he was engaged in clearing away, as speedily and effectually as their knowledge and circumstances permitted, the rubbish accumulated during centuries of Romish superstition and corruption. It was a most delightful work to these Christian patriots, and often would Rogers and his compeers thank God that they had lived to see this day, and were privileged to take part in such service.
But, in the inscrutable providence of Him whose ways are in the deep, the brightness was but brief, and terrible was the darkness which succeeded. Edward's death rung "for the time being" the knell of England's hopes. Sore were the hearts of her best and wisest sons, gloomy their forebodings. But their courage failed not; they had worked for the good cause in the sunshine, they would not desert it in
In the beginning of Mary's reign
Rogers was called to take his turn to preach at St. Paul's Cross, and took occasion earnestly to exhort the people to adhere to the truth, and to beware "of all pestilent popery, idolatry, and superstition." It was a bold deed, and the reformer was called before the Privy Council to answer for it. This time, however, he was dismissed. Then came the Queen's proclamation commanding that "none should preach or expound Scripture, or print any books without her special licence." While willing to
render all lawful obedience to the "powers that be," John Rogers was not the man to shrink from disobeying the lower authority when it contravened the commands of his Supreme Lord and Master. He must obey God rather
The result was what might have been anticipated. He was again called before the Council, and commanded to keep his house as a prisoner. This order he obeyed, although the temptations to break it were many and strong. Escape from his cruel persecutors was now easy, soon it might be impossible. Now he might secure in Germany a happy home for his wife and ten children; if he remained, their probable lot was such as must have wrung his tender heart with inexpressible anguish. But it seemed to him that he was called by his Master to witness for the truth in England, and, hazardous as the duty was, he would not fly from it.
For six months he continued a prisoner in his own house, and then he was removed to Newgate, where he lingered out a weary year.
By this time Parliament had reenacted the old sanguinary laws against heretics, and the bishops, nothing loth, proceeded to put them in execution. Rogers was a man of mark, and he was selected for the first victim.
On the 22nd of January, 1555, he was examined by the Lord Chancellor and Council. "How say ye?" he was asked. "Are ye content to unite and knit yourself to the faith of the Catholic Church with us, in the state in which it
now in England?
Will ye do the martyr wrote an account of the day's proceedings, the only record of
Rogers:-"The Catholic Church I the trial which remains. There is
never did nor will dissent from."
Lord Chancellor:-"Nay, but I speak of the state of the Catholic Church, in that wise in which we stand now in England, having received the Pope to be supreme head."
"I know none other head, but Christ, of his Catholic Church," was the undaunted reply of the reformer. Afterwards we find him saying to his judges, "Without fail I cannot believe that ye yourselves do think in your hearts that he is supreme head in forgiving sin, &c. (as is before said), seeing you and all the bishops of the realm have now twenty years long preached, and some of you also written to the contrary, and the Parliament hath so long agone condescended unto it."
Further examinations took place on the 28th and 29th of January, on which occasions, as on the first, he was through grace enabled to witness a good confession. When asked to submit to the authority of Rome, he had one unfaltering reply,-"I will find it first in Scripture." Regarding the doctrine of the Mass, he was questioned on this wise-" Then after many words he (the Bishop of Winchester) asked me what I thought concerning the blessed Sacrament; whether I believed in the Sacrament to be the very body and blood of our Saviour Christ, that was born of the Virgin Mary and hanged on the cross, really and substantially." "I cannot understand," was the martyr's reply, "really and substantially, to signify otherwise than corporally; but corporally Christ is only in heaven, and so cannot Christ be corporally also in your Sacrament." This was a testing question. Admit the real presence and we have a true sacrifice in the Mass; the fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, that Christ offered himself once a sacrifice for sin is contradicted, and the one all-sufficing sacrifice and the one Divine Priest practically superseded.
Each night on retiring to his prison,
something very affecting in the thought. of his devoting to this task the hours which he so much needed for repose, something grand in the spectacle of the calm self-possession with which he accomplishes his work, while brought face to face with death in one of its most dreadful forms. Nor is this the calmness of a cold, stern nature, it is the calmness of one suffering in a righteous cause, and sustained by Divine strength. Beautiful in the midst of it all, are the glimpses we obtain of the keen sensibility, the manly tenderness, and the warm sympathies of the persecuted man. With yearning pity and affection he thinks of his poor wife and children, and beseeches for them the kindly consideration of his fellow believers, as also their prayers for himself, that he may be sustained in this day of fiery trial. His report of the first day's examination closes with an earnest entreaty the hearty and unfeigned help of the prayers of all Christ's true members, that the Lord God of all consolation will now be my comfort, aid, strength, buckler and shield; as also of all my brethren that are in the same case and distress, that I and they all may despise all manner of threats and cruelty, and even the bitter burning fire, and the dreadful dart of death; and stick like true soldiers to our dear and loving Captain, Christ, our only Redeemer and Saviour, and also the only true head of the church, that doth all in us all; which is the very property of a head (and is a thing that all the bishops of Rome cannot do); and that we do not traitorously run out of his tents, or out of the plain field from him, in the most jeopardy of the battle; but that we may persevere in the fight (if he will not otherwise deliver us), till we be most cruelly slain of his enemies. For this I most heartily, and at this present, with weeping tears most instantly and earnestly, desire and beseech you all to pray and also, if I die, to be good to my