Saturday, April 21, 2018

Diverse corners of my heart

‘It is an other thing that I desire, to know mine owne hart better, where I know that much is to be gotten in understaunding of it, and to be acquainted with the diverse corners of it and what sin I am most in daunger of and what dilig[ence] and meanes I use against any sin and how I goe under any afflic[tion].’ This is from a religious diary kept by Richard Rogers, an English nonconformist clergyman who died 400 years today. The diary was not published until the 1930s, but is now considered an important source of information on the puritan clergy at the time.

Rogers was born in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1551. He was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1571, being ordained the same year. He served as curate in Radwinter, Essex, for William Harrison, author of Description of England. In 1577, he was appointed lecturer at Wethersfield, also in Essex. He travelled frequently, and became well connected with other puritan clergy in the area. In 1583, he was suspended, along with other ministers, for petitioning against the so-called Three Articles, introduced by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, to bring nonconformists into line. After eight months, he was re-instated due to the intervention of the politician Sir Robert Wroth.

During the 1580s, Rogers joined an association of clergy, the presbyterian movement under Thomas Cartwright. He continued to run foul of the ecclesiastical authorities, but was again re-instated thanks to influential friends. For a short while when Richard Vaughan was bishop of London, between 1604 and 1607, Rogers enjoyed more tolerance of his non-conformity, and it was during this period that he published the work for which he is most famous: Seven Treatises Containing such Directions as is Gathered out of the Holie Scriptures. Rogers married twice. His first wife, Mary Duckfield, bore him several children, two of whom became well known ministers (one in New England). After Mary’s death, he married Susan Ward. Rogers died on 21 April 1618. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, Bible Study Tools, or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB - log-in required).

Roger kept a religious diary, some pages of which survived to be unearthed in the 20th century, and edited by Marshall Mason Knappen for his book Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries. This was published in 1933 by The American Society of Church History (Chicago) and Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (London) - see also Looking after damsens for more on the other diarist, Samuel Ward, in the same book. The Rogers diary, according to Knappen’s preface, consists of forty-one leaves of an anonymous unbound book with numbering that indicates several pages are missing. The diarist left his papers to his sons and to a cousin, and by the end of the 17th century these had fallen into the hands of the Puritan historian Roger Morrice. It was not until the mid 19th century that the antiquarian W. H. Black confirmed the diary’s author as the Cambridge minister Richard Rogers. A review of the book can be read online in The Journal of Religion.

According to Francis J. Bremer’s entry on Rogers in the ODNB, the Rogers diary ‘is an important source, revealing both of puritan piety and of the activities of the puritan clergy at the time.’ But, he adds, ‘the diary shows that Rogers was not comfortable with every aspect of his pastoral ministry, revealing his frustration with the lack of Christian piety of members of his congregation and his impatience with catechizing the young people who studied in the town school located in his home.’

More recently, the Rogers diary was re-published in Seeking a Settled Heart - The 16th Century Diary of Puritan Richard Rogers - some pages of which can be read at Googlebooks. Here are several extracts, though, taken from the 1933 edition.

22 July 1587
‘This month, tor all the gracious intraunce into it, which I made mention of before, a sweet seasoninge of my minde with sensible sorow for mine unnwoorthiness and wants, hath been much lik unto the former, for though I began well, yet I by litle and litle fell from the strenghth which I had gotten and became unprofitable in study, and praier and med[itation] were not continued privatly of me with such ioy as the first week, yet not broken of. But I felt not how the frut of them did sweetly accompany me all the day after. And study was better folowed the first and 2 week then since, but setled at it I cannot feele my self, which is my sorow. And among other thinges I cannot feele use of that which I know, nether have any freshe remembr[ance] of it for that I doe not still increase it. What strugglinges and yet apparent hindraunces I feele about it, it is merveilous. In the other 3 thinges about the which and this I am especially occupied, as I cannot say that there hath passed much against me to accuse me, so I count that to have been becaus I have not had such occasions offred me as might have proved me. And for that the lord hath kept these from me in great measure, let me geve glory to the lorde allwayes.

I thanck god at the setting downe hereof I was well affected, and mine hart since yesterday was greeved to see such a decay of grac as partly now I have set downe. And in deed I am glad that I may see with grief when there is any declineing in my lif, seing it cannot be avoided but such shalbe, but yet that thei are so often, and that so few times of grace may be redde in these papers to have been inioyed of me, it is no meane grief unto me.

I escaped a great peril of the disfiguring of my fac, if no greater, under a tree at the commencment. Where, to see how their ordrelynes in other places creepeth in also, it may iustly greev a Christian hart. We mett at B. also this week and conferred. I visited 2 sick persons this time, not without profit. I have also been well affected at the doctrine of exod[us] 16 for the most part this month, weeping once or twice.’

4 August 1587
‘I cannot yet setle my selfe to my study, but through unfitnes of mind, weaknes of body, and partly discontinueing of diligenc thereat am holden back, and in every kinde of it so behinde hande, more then some yeares agone, that I am much discouraged. I doe not see, but that if it pleased the lorde to graunt me that benefite I were many waves to count mine estat good above many men. For some recovery of strength and freedome this way I doe purpose to intreat the lorde more specially this day, hopeing for blessing not onely in that behalf but also against some corruption which I see break foorth by occasions, although it seme not so before trials come, as to be soone stirred when any thing goeth otherwise with me then I woulde: also wandring and fonde desires, though not strongue, and sometime too longe dwellinges in them, which I know to be condemned by the law. Further, though I doe not much feele my self disquieted about the worlde nor hurtful to any, yet I am not so profitable and painfull through love to procure the good of others as I have been, though I study litle. But most occupied about an entring in to it, and heavy for that I attaine not to it. For in deed when I obteine grace that way and gather strenghth of matter by reading I am the fitter after to be ether in company with others with doinge good or to be solitary by my self with comfort. I pray god send me frut of my request herein.’

30 September 1587
‘Declineinges this first week I have sensibly found in my selfe from that staidnes in a godly life in the which I lately determined a new to continue. But I brak of. Ether now or at other times it were hard for me to sett downe the particulars. Sometime by unfitnes and iornying my study is intermitted, and except in place thereof my minde be well taken up some other way even that is cause suffic[ient] of hindring my purpose of proceedinge. For I am exceedingly cast downe when my studye is hindred. Other partic[ulars] I have noted at other times, as that sleape cutteth me of from some peece of study, or the inordinat love of some thinge in this lif maketh me dull and unapt to goe on as I desire.

In this time it cometh to my minde in what reverent account in many places I have been, whereas by the b[ishop’s] discountenaunceing of us who have refused subscription to the book we are more odious to all that company and to such as thei can perswade then the worst men liveinge, and such as the seeliest minister in giftes may not onely be hard against us, but may insult uppon us, and futher then with such as have taken good by our minist[ry] and who, god be thancked, in more soundnes of iudgment doe mak account of us, further, I say, we have no great cause to glory in our favour or credit which we have in the world. But I trust the lord will hereby acquaint us the more with the contempt of it. For mine owne part I freely confesse that it is the happiest time when I can sett least by it. But the cause whi I made mencion of this chaunge was that I may look for more of them, and count them no straunge thinges even till my lif be taken from me also, as well as credit, count[enance], and all hope of maintenaunce, if it were not by those few which have profited by my minist[ry].

This last week I staied with certaine of our friendes till the ende of it allmost, whereas through takeinge good I lost nothinge of any good thing which I caryed thither with me, save at the ende a litle speach of some unkindness betwixt me and him.’

30 October 1587
‘Among other medit[ations] this was one in this month: that I beholding how graciously the lord hath hedged me in on every side, what sweet knowledg of his will, in comparison of that which I was like to have attained to, he hath geven me, and other bless[ings], good will and a good name with the godlier sort, communion with them and such manifold comfort in my life and with his people, with liberty in my ministery, I looked back to the yeare 1570 and thereabout, how lik it was that all this should have been holden from me and I, before I had ether learning or goodnes, to have been drawen to mar[ry] and to have lived in that doungehil of abhominacion where I was borne, whereas by all liklehood I must have been undone both in body and soule.

Then this one thing much occupied me, that, as I and some other of us here have obtained mercy of the lorde to beleve in him, to be comforted exceedingly by him so that we might grow and that our profiting might appear to all men, that we might see in what partic[ulars] we were chaunged as well concerneing knowledge as pract[ise]. Somewhat in the right use of the world I seemed to my self to have gotten of my selfe, to determine in this great abomi[nation] not to be hunting, gapeing for more with discontent[ment], torment, or such affections as might hinder my course in godlines, wherein, since our last fast, I thancke god I may say with some comfort that I have been better in watchfullnes about my hart and lif more continual and stayed, more constant also in keepeing that my covenaunt of wary walkinge with the lord. And surely god hath been veary merciful to me in this time to awak me againe when I have been declineinge or growing weak or wearisome in well doeinge to offer me occasions many wayes of continuaunce by good company, as Cul[verwel]. So that I must needes with admiracion say, Oh lord how wonderfull are thy mercies.

Then also exceedinge free we have been from the biteinges of evil men, etc. Although this I must say with much grief that there breaketh out of me much corruption, though nether so often nor so strongue, yet by occasions, espec[ially] when I am not watchfull, before I perceive, some harde speaches, for I count them so which are not milde, some riseing of hart against m., and glaunceing at myne old sin, but in none of these abideinge. So that I thanck god for his goodnes which I have felt this month.

My studie as time hath suffred hath not been unpleasaunt to me nor much neglected, save that I have been much abroad in good company and visitinge the sick. Once in this while, to see mine untowarde hart to my study, it appeared so grose to me that I twitted myself thus: I who now in a maner doe want nothinge and yet am oft untoward to my book which is my calling would thinck that liberty and estat happy which I inioy if the lord should bringe me low as it might please him to do many wayes, in povertie, in continual trouble, abroad in all weather, whereas it would be dainty to have liberty to study, and, except I labour to maintaine a delight in me that way, I look for no other but that the lord shall cast uppon me some grose blindnes to imbrac the worlde or plundg me into many grevous calamities or notorious offences, as I may see with mine eies many to have been throwen downe because thei kept not in their place with humility. This I desire to feare so as I many never fall into it.

It is an other thing that I desire, to know mine owne hart better, where I know that much is to be gotten in understaunding of it, and to be acquainted with the diverse corners of it and what sin I am most in daunger of and what dilig[ence] and meanes I use against any sin and how I goe under any afflic[tion]. To conclude, I hope it shal somewhat further my desire and purpose to please god which I taught yesterday, Exod[us] 18:21, that it is the worck and occupation of a Christian to learne to understande the lawes of god and to walk in his wayes, and thus that should be the chiefest thinge which should be looked after and from thing to thinge practized.’

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