Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Richard Rothwell

Richard Rothwell.—This learned and zealous paritan was born at Bolton in Lancashire, in the year 1563, and educated in the university of Cambridge. Having spent many years in academical pursuits, he entered upon the work of the ministry, and was ordained presbyter by Achbishop Whitgift. The archbishop, on this occasion, forbade him attempting any interpretation of the types of Moses, the book of Canticles, Daniel, and Revelation; and, at that time, he exactly agreed with his lordship. Though he possessed an amiable natural temper, great intellectual endowments, and other ornamental accomplishments, they were only as so many weapons in the hands of a madman. He continued several years a stranger to religion, when he preached learnedly, but lived in profaneness, addicting himself to hunting, bowling, shooting, and filthy and profane conversation. We are told, that in Lancashire there were two knights at variance with each other; one having a good park, with an excellent store of deer; the other good fish-ponds, with an excellent store of fish; and that he used to gratify himself by robbing the park of the one, and presenting his booty to the other, and the fish-ponds of the other, and presenting the fish to his adversary. On one of these occasions, it is added, the keeper caught him in the very act of killing a buck, when they fell from words to blows; but Mr. Rothwell, being tall and lusty, got the keeper down, and bound him by both his thumbs to a tree, with his toes only touching the ground, in which situation he was found next morning.* Such were the base follies by which he was gratified in the days of his vanity.

While in the midst of his career in sin, it pleased God, who separated him from his mother's womb, and called him by bis grace, to reveal his Son in him. This change was produced in the following manner: As Mr. Rothwell was

• Clark's Lives annexed to hit Martyrologie, p. 67,68.

playing at bowls on a Saturday, among papists and profane gentlemen, at Rochdale in Lancashire, Mr. Midgley, the grave and pious vicar of the place, came upon the green; and, calling him on one side, expressed his great regret that he was the companion of papists, even on a Saturday, .when he ought to have been preparing for the exercises of the sabbath: but Mr. Rothwell slighted what he said, and checked him for intermeddling. The good old man, being exceedingly grieved, went home, retired into his study, and prayed earnestly to God lor him. Mr. Rothwell had no sooner left the bowling-green than Mr. Midgley's words stuck fast in his conscience. He could find no rest. The day following he went to hear Mr. Midgley preach in Rochdale church, when it pleased God so to Bless the word, that he was thoroughly awakened to a sense of his sins. Under his painful convictions he went to Mr. Midgley after sermon, thanked him for his seasonable reproof, and desired his further instruction, with an interest in his prayers. Having continued under spiritual bondage for some time, he at length, by the instrumentality of Mr. Midgley, was made partaker of the liberty of the sons of God; the assurance of which he retained to the end of his days. Though he was often exercised by the severe assaults of Satan, his heavenly Father, in whom he trusted, always made a way for his escape. This important change being effected, Mr. Rothwell gave his worldly estates among bis friends, and devoted himself wholly to the ministry of the word, ever esteeming Mr. Midgley as his spiritual father.*

Mr. Rothwell, having tasted that the Lord was gracious, began to preach the gospel by the assistance of the Holy Ghost. He so unfolded the depths of Satan's devices, and the treachery of the human heart, that he was soon denominated the rough hewer. His zealous and faithful ministry was accompanied by the power and blessing of God. When he preached the terrors of the law, sinners trembled, and sometimes cried aloud; and when he preached the glad tidings of the gospel, sweet consolation was applied to their afflicted consciences.

He was chaplain to a regiment under the Earl of Essex, in his expedition against the rebels in Ireland. About the same time, he was induced to examine, with an unbiassed mind, the grounds of conformity to the established church. The result of his impartial investigation was, he became an

avowed puritan, and a conscientious nonconformist. He is said to bare soon become so deeply versed in this controversy, that he satisfied many, and silenced all who disputed with him. He was so thoroughly fixed in his principles, and in such constant expectation of troubles on account of his conscientious scruples, that he would never marry. His common observation was, persecution is the pledge of future happiness. On the same account he would never accept of any benefice, though many rich livings were offered him. He was many years a lecturer at a chapel in Lancashire, and afterwards domestic chaplain to the Earl of Devonshire. During the severe persecutions raised by the bishops, as he enjoyed no living, he had none to lose. He used pleasantly to say, my head is too big to get into the church. He was frequently called before the prelates, especially Bishop Neile, with whom he had several contests about nonconformity.*

By the recommendation of Lady Bowes, afterwards Lady Darcy, a person celebrated for piety and liberality,+ Mr. Rothwell removed to Barnard-Castle, in the county of Durham. When the good lady expressed her fears about his going among these rude and fierce people, he replied, " Madam, if I thought I should not meet the devil, I would not go: he and I have been at odds in other places, and I hope we shall not agree there." The worthy lady therefore consented, allowing him forty pounds a year; and the people, upon whom God wrought by his ministry, further contributed to his support; but he would not receive a farthing of any others. Being once on a journey, Sir Talbot Bowes made a collection for him among the people, amounting to thirty pounds; but when he came home, he caused it to be returned to the persons who had contributed, saying, " he sought not theirs but them."

Upon his first settlement among these rude people, he had many difficulties to encounter: he met with much opposition; and they even sought to take away his life. By faithful perseverance in the duties of his calling, his greatest enemies afterwards feared him; and the blessing of the Lord was so wonderfully poured forth upon his labours, that he seldom preached a sermon which did not bring some poor wandering sinner to God. Many vain gentlemen from a distance

* Clark's Lives annexed to his Martyrolngie, p. 69.

+ This excellent lady expended one thousand piiunds a year la support of destitnte ministers. Her preachers were all silrnred nonconformists. She obtained liberty for many of them w hen confined in prison i then sent them into the north, the Peak in Derbyshire, or those places where their labours were most wanted, allowing (hem a comfortable support.—IHi.

came to hear him, with a view to find fault, make sport, and accuse him; who returned home convinced of their sins, inquiring what they must do to be saved. His labours were so extensively useful, that the change wrought among the people, and the good order of his congregation, became the subject of universal admiration. He was commonly denominated The Apostle of the North.

During Mr. Rothwell's abode at Barnard-Castle, he was deeply afflicted with a complaint in his head; and though he obtained considerable relief, he never perfectly recovered. Having laboured at this place many years, he removed to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, where he continued preaching to the end of his days. After his removal to this place, he is said to have been concerned in casting out a devil, a curious account of which is given by our author. During his last sickness he was deprived of the exercise of his reason, when Mr. Britain, vicar of Mansfield, waited upon him, and inquired what he then thought of conformity. In their conversation, Mr. Rothwell sometimes said one thing, and sometimes another, evidently not knowing what he said. Mr. Britain, however, propagated a report that Mr. Rothwell recanted his nonconformity. This was a most notorious calumny.

At certain intervals during his sickness, his conversation was free, cheerful, and spiritual. His friends inquiring how he did, he said, "I shall soon be well. I shall ere long be with Christ."" A brother minister having prayed with him, he smiled and said, "Now I am well. Happy is he who hath not bowed his knee to Baal." He then requested those about him to sing a psalm; and while they were singing his immortal spirit took its flight to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb for ever. He died in 1627, aged sixty-four years. Mr. Rothwell possessed "a clear understanding, a sound judgment, a strong memory, and a ready utterance; and was accounted a good linguist, a subtle disputant, and excellent orator, and a learned divine."