Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Different Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Many years ago, I visited the town of Barnard Castle in Northern England. Little did I know that it had once been the site of such a careful ministry. This is from The Nonconformist’s Memorial 1:380-381:

Mr. John Rogers, M. A. Of Wadham Col. Oxf. The eldest son of Mr. John Rogers, minister of Chacomb in Northamptonshire. Born April 25, 1610. He was for some time preacher at Middleton Cheyney in that county, and afterwards at Leigh in Kent. Thence he was sent, by order of parliament, to Bernard Castle, in the bishopric of Durham, where he settled in 1644, and continued till March 2, 1660, when he removed to Croglin, where the Act of uniformity found and ejected him. He often spoke with great pleasure of Mr. Wheatly of Banbury, as his spiritual father. When he came to Barnard Castle he made out a list of the number of souls in his parish, which were about 2000. He took an exact account who of them were persons of knowledge, and who were ignorant; who were fit or unfit for the Lord’s table, &c. Those who were ignorant he conversed much with, gave them good books, catechized and instructed them, till he thought them qualified for that sacred solemnity. He took great care of poor children, that they might live usefully, and not be trained up in ignorance and idleness. He was much respected by Sir Henry Vane, father and son, whose seat at Raby Castle in that neighborhood gave opportunity for frequent conversation. As an old acquaintance he afterwards waited upon young Sir Henry when imprisoned in the Tower, for his concern in the death of Charles I. and found him resolute, and not sensible of any crime. In those times of confusion, when soldiers were preachers, an officer of note then quartering in the town, sent for Mr. Rogers to demand the use of his pulpit, bidding him refuse at his peril. But Mr. Rogers, instead of complying, desired to know who gave him authority to preach? saying, “that the ministerial office was very distinct from the military; and that therefore, though the soldiers kept the town, he resolved to guard the pulpit.” He was a zealous observer of the Lord’s-day, and always opposed the driving of cattle through the town on that day. He had some difficulty with the Quakers, who much increased thereabouts; but his carriage was so engaging, that even many of them could not forbear giving him a good word. He was given to hospitality, and was indeed the Gaius of those parts, entertaining all ministers and Christians, who passed that way, with great openness and freedom. His removal to Croglin, after he was ejected at Barnard Castle, was by the procurement of the Lord Wharton. And though he was ejected there also, yet he kept his temper and moderation. He was of a catholic spirit, and a great enemy to narrow and uncharitable principles or practices. He had always a good correspondence with the neighboring clergy, and was treated very respectfully by those of the greatest eminence, viz. Dr. Stern, Abp. of York; Dr. Rainbow, Bp. of Carlisle; and the Bp. of Durham; on the latter of whom he often waited, and by reason of his acquaintance in his younger days with the old lord Crew, was always received in a manner peculiarly obliging.

He continued the exercise of his ministry, after his being ejected, without fear. He licensed a place or two in 1672 at Darlington and Stockton in Durham. When the indulgence expired, he preached in his own house at Startford, one Lord’s-day; and the other, either in TeesHale, or in Waredale, among those who wrought in the lead-mines. Many a troublesome journey hath he taken to those poor people through very deep snows, and over high mountains, when the ways have been extremely bad, and the cold very severe. But he made nothing of the fatigue through his love to souls; especially being encouraged by the mighty eagerness of those honest people to hear the word. He used to preach frequently on the week-days also. And yet for all his pains he did not receive above 10L. per annum, but lived upon what he had of his own, with which he was both generous and charitable. He used to embrace all occasions for good discourse. It being customary in the North after a funeral to have an Arval, (as they call it) or dinner, he would speak so suitably, even in the midst of the entertainment, of divine things, that some bitter malignant people would refuse to be present there, when they knew he would be one of the company; because (said they) we shall find Rogers preaching there.—He died with great calmness and resignation, at Stanford in Yorkshire, Nov. 28, 1680. His funeral sermon was preached by Mr. Brakill of Barnard Castle, where he was buried. Mr. Tim. Rogers, of Wantage, Berkshire, was his son.

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