John Rogers (c. 1500 - 1555) was a minister, Bible translator and commentator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England. He was born in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham, was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge University, where he graduated B.A. in 1526. Six years later he was rector of Holy Trinity, Queenhithe, London, and in 1534 went to Antwerp as chaplain to the English merchants of the Company of the Merchant Adventurers.
Here he met William Tyndale, under whose influence he abandoned the Roman Catholic faith, and married Adriana, a native of Antwerp. After Tyndale's death Rogers pushed on with his predecessor's English version of the Old Testament, which he used as far as 2 Chronicles, employing Myles Coverdale's translation (1535) for the remainder and for the Apocrypha.
Tyndale's New Testament had been published in 1526. The complete Bible was put out under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew in 1537; it was printed in Paris and Antwerp by Adriana's uncle, Sir Jacobus van Meteren, and Richard Grafton published the sheets and got leave to sell the edition (1500 copies) in England.
Rogers had little to do with the translation, but he contributed some valuable prefaces and marginal notes -- often cited as the first original English language commentary on the Bible. Rogers also contributed the Song of Manasses in the Apocrypha which he found in a French Bible printed in 1535. His work was largely used by those who prepared the Great Bible (1539-40), out of which in turn came the Bishops' Bible (1568) and the Authorized Version of 1611.
After taking charge of a Protestant congregation in Wittenberg for some years, Rogers returned to England in 1548, where he published a translation of Melanchthon's Considerations of the Augsburg Interim.
In 1550 he was presented to the crown livings of St Margaret Moyses and St Sepulchre in London, and in 1551 was made a prebendary of St. Paul's, where the dean and chapter soon appointed him divinity lecturer. He courageously denounced the greed shown by certain courtiers with reference to the property of the suppressed monasteries, and defended himself before the privy council. He also declined to wear the prescribed vestments, donning instead a simple round cap. On the accession of Mary he preached at Paul's Cross commending the "true doctrine taught in King Edward's days," and warning his hearers against "pestilent Popery, idolatry and superstition."
Ten days after (16th August 1553), he was summoned before the council and bidden to keep within his own house. His emoluments were taken away and his prebend was filled in October. In January 1554 Bonner, the new Bishop of London, sent him to Newgate Prison, where he lay with John Hooper, Laurence Saunders, John Bradford and others for a year, their petitions, whether for less rigorous treatment or for opportunity of stating their case, being alike disregarded. In December 1554 parliament re-enacted the penal statutes against Lollards, and on January 22nd, 1555, two days after they took effect, Rogers with ten others came before the council at Gardiner's house in Southwark, and held his own in the examination that took place. On the 28th and 29th he came before the commission appointed by Cardinal Pole, and was sentenced to death by Gardiner for heretically denying the Christian character of the Church of Rome and the real presence in the sacrament. He awaited and met death (on the 4th of February 1555 at Smithfield) cheerfully, though denied even an interview with his wife. Noailles, the French ambassador, speaks of the support given to Rogers by the greatest part of the people: "even his children assisted at it, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding."
The following divines of the same name may be distinguished:
- JOHN ROGERS (c1572-1603), Puritan vicar of Dedham, Essex, " one of the most awakening preachers of the age."
- JOHN ROGERS (1610-1680), ejected vicar of Croglin, Cumberland, and the founder of Congregational churches in Teesdale and Weardale, where he evangelized the lead miners.
- JOHN ROGERS (1679-1729), one of George II.'s chaplains, famous for his share in the Bangorian controversy (1719), his Vindication of the Civil Establishment of Religion (1728), and his Persuasives to Conformity, addressed to Dissenters (1736) and to Quakers (1747).
- JOHN ROGERS (c.1748-1814), leader of the Irish seceding divines, minister of Cahans, Co. Monaghan.
- JOHN ROGERS (1778-1856), rector of Mawnan, Cornwall, and the owner of the Penrose and Helston estates; a good botanist and mineralogist, and a distinguished Hebrew and Syriac scholar.
The quotation which follows is from Foxes Book of Martyrs, Chapter 16. The text is extremely biased towards Protestantism. However, it is included here because of its historical significance, being the vehicle by which the story of Rev. John Rogers has been most widely disseminated.
John Rogers, Vicar of St. Sepulchre's, and Reader of St. Paul's, London
"John Rogers was educated at Cambridge, and was afterward many years chaplain to the merchant adventurers at Antwerp in Brabant. Here he met with the celebrated martyr William Tyndale, and Miles Coverdale, both voluntary exiles from their country for their aversion to popish superstition and idolatry. They were the instruments of his conversion; and he united with them in that translation of the Bible into English, entitled "The Translation of Thomas Matthew." From the Scriptures he knew that unlawful vows may be lawfully broken; hence he married, and removed to Wittenberg in Saxony, for the improvement of learning; and he there learned the Dutch language, and received the charge of a congregation, which he faithfully executed for many years. On King Edward's accession, he left Saxony to promote the work of reformation in England; and, after some time, Nicholas Ridley, then bishop of London, gave him a prebend in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the dean and chapter appointed him reader of the divinity lesson there. Here he continued until Queen Mary's succession to the throne, when the Gospel and true religion were banished, and the Antichrist of Rome, with his superstition and idolatry, introduced.
The circumstance of Mr. Rogers having preached at Paul's cross, after Queen Mary arrived at the Tower, has been already stated. He confirmed in his sermon the true doctrine taught in King Edward's time, and exhorted the people to beware of the pestilence of popery, idolatry, and superstition. For this he was called to account, but so ably defended himself that, for that time, he was dismissed. The proclamation of the queen, however, to prohibit true preaching, gave his enemies a new handle against him. Hence he was again summoned before the council, and commanded to keep his house. He did so, though he might have escaped; and though he perceived the state of the true religion to be desperate. Heknew he could not want a living in Germany; and he could not forget a wife and ten children, and to seek means to succor them. But all these things were insufficient to induce him to depart, and, when once called to answer in Christ's cause, he stoutly defended it, and hazarded his life for that purpose.
After long imprisonment in his own house, the restless Bonner, bishop of London, caused him to be committed to Newgate, there to be lodged among thieves and murderers.
After Mr. Rogers had been long and straitly imprisoned, and lodged in Newgate among thieves, often examined, and very uncharitably entreated, and at length unjustly and most cruelly condemned by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord 1555, being Monday in the morning, he was suddenly warned by the keeper of Newgate's wife, to prepare himself for the fire; who, being then sound asleep, could scarce be awaked. At length being raised and awaked, and bid to make haste, then said he, "IKf it be so, I need not tie my points." And so was had down, first to bishop Bonner to be degraded: which being done, he craved of Bonner but one petition; and Bonner asked what that should be. Mr. Rogers replied that he might speak a few words with his wife before his burning, but that could not be obtained of him.
When the time came that he should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution, Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to Mr. Rogers, and asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the Sacrament of the altar. Mr. Rogers answered, "That which I have preached I will seal with my blood." Then Mr. Woodroofe said, "Thou art an heretic." "That shall be known," quoth Mr. Rogers, "at the Day of Judgment." "Well," said Mr. Woodroofe, "I will never pray for thee." "But I will pray for you," said Mr. Rogers; and so was brought the same day, the fourth of February, by the sheriffs, towards Smithfield, saying the Psalm Miserere by the way, all the people wonderfully rejoicing at his constancy; with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And there in the presence of Mr. Rochester, comptroller of the queen's household, Sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and a great number of people, he was burnt to ashes, washing his hands in the flame as he was burning. A little before his burning, his pardon was brought, if he would have recanted; but he utterly refused it. He was the first martyr of all the blessed company that suffered in Queen Mary's time that gave the first adventure upon the fire. His wife and children, being eleven in number, ten able to go, and one sucking at her breast, met him by the way, as he went towards Smithfield. This sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood could nothing move him, but that he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in the defence and quarrel of the Gospel of Christ."