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The Death of John Rogers


According to J. C. Ryle, the last four years (1555–1558) of Queen “Bloody” Mary’s reign saw the execution by burning of 288 English Christians, including fifty-five women and four children, whose only crime was refusing to recant their faith and submit to the Papist religion. The first of these Marian martyrs was John Rogers (c. 1500–1555). Of his death, Ryle writes,


On the morning of his martyrdom he was roused hastily in his cell in Newgate, and hardly allowed time to dress himself. He was then led forth to Smithfield on foot, within sight of the Church of St Sepulchre, where he had preached, and through the streets of the parish where he had done the work of a pastor. By the wayside stood his wife and ten children (one a baby) whom Bishop Bonner, in his diabolical cruelty, had flatly refused him leave to see in prison. He just saw them, but was hardly allowed to stop, and then walked on calmly to the stake, repeating the 51st Psalm. An immense crowd lined the street, and filled every available spot in Smithfield. Up to that day men could not tell how English Reformers would behave in the face of death, and could hardly believe that Prebendaries and Dignitaries would actually give their bodies to be burned for their religion. But when they saw John Rogers, the first martyr, walking steadily and unflinchingly into a fiery grave, the enthusiasm of the crowd knew no bounds. They rent the air with thunders of applause. Even Noailles, the French Ambassador, wrote home a description of the scene, and said that Rogers went to death ‘as if he was walking to his wedding.’ By God’s great mercy he died with comparative ease. And so the first Marian martyr passed away.

—J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 19–20.

I don’t expect to die a martyr, but I can think of no better, or appropriate, way to face death than “as if he was walking to his wedding.” May God grant each of his redeemed such confidence in the face of death.

Posted 2017·05·03 by David Kjos
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