Saturday, February 4

Bloody Mary’s Reign of Terror

Early in the morning on this day in 1555, John Rogers was burned at the stake in the center of London. He was the first martyr during the malevolent reign of Queen Mary Tudor—and thus, his was the opening chapter of that torturous period immortalized in the remarkable chronicle, Foxes Book of Martyrs.

Roger's scholarly youth certainly did not suggest his cruel fate. Born in 1500, he was educated at Cambridge, becoming a Master of the university. Afterward, he surrendered to a call to the ministry and became an orthodox catholic priest. He served first in the great commercial center of Antwerp where he ministered to English merchants. It was at that time that he befriended the reformer William Tyndale who was at that time working on his translation of the Bible into English. Their friendship ultimately led Rogers to convert to Protestantism. In short order, Tyndale suffered martyrdom and Rogers returned to England to pastor a small Reformed congregation.

Determined to see Tyndale's work into print, Rogers obtained a license to print a full English language Bible. Utilizing the text Tyndale completed—the entire New Testament and half the Old—as well as Miles Coverdale’s emendations, Rogers set the work to type and added his own interpolary notes. The work constituted not only the first English language Bible but also the first English language commentary on the Bible. Fully cognizant of Tyndale's fate, Rogers cautiously printed the work under the pseudonym Thomas Matthews. To this day it is known as the Matthews Bible. Later it became the basis of the Bishop's Bible and through it of the Authorized Version of 1611.

Eventually, the official acceptance of Protestantism in England under Henry VIII and Edward VI brought Rogers new prominence. He was awarded high church positions and he preached the doctrines of grace with great fervor and effect. But when sickly Edward VI died, his bitter half-sister Mary, ascended the throne. A staunchly fanatical Roman Catholic, she was determined to stamp out Protestantism altogether. Three days after she entered London, Rogers preached a message urging his congregation to remain faithful to the doctrines they had been taught. For this sermon he was questioned and placed under house arrest. A few weeks later he was transferred to the notorious Newgate prison where he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Rogers begged to be allowed to speak a few words to his wife before his execution. This was denied him—though he did meet her and his eleven children in the street as he was marched—singing psalms all the while—to the site of his execution. At the stake he was offered a pardon if he would only recant and return to Catholicism. He refused, the fire was lit, and so began Bloody Mary’s Reign of Terror.


covenantpromise said...

WOW! What a remarkable story of faith. Truly humbling and awe inspiring. It reminds me of the latter half of Hebrews 11:

"And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of rightousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and other experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins,in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill treated MEN OF WHOM THE WORLD IS NOT WORTHY ......

Now that Rogers and Tyndale have joined that "great cloud of witnesses" I am indeed inspired to lay aside the sin which so easily entagles me and to set my eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of my faith.

Thank you for your blog Dr. Grant. These people in the history of the church are a powerful provocation to faith and faithfulness unto our God and King The Lord Jesus Christ.

Jason Parolini

Mike Godfrey said...

Hello Dr Grant,
I have bookmarked your blog after seeing your comments regarding Francis Schaeffer-whos writing,tapes and films have helped me for over twenty years.
Although I struggle greatly with Christianity, more than ever -it is inspiring that such men as John Rogers existed, steadfast in there faith even in the face of such a dreadful death.
Thankyou for sharing your thoughts
Mike Godfrey (UK)

gileskirk said...

Mike: Dr. Schaeffer has continued to be of enormous help to me through the years as well. I will pray that the mercy and grace of Christ will continue to draw you--using such means as Dr. Schaeffer's work to bless, encourage, and establish you in faith.