Lady Joan Barrington, a puritan matriarch esteemed among the godly as a “lady elect,” experienced a profound spiritual crisis in 1628. She felt anxiety and melancholy over the prospects for her own salvation after the death of her husband Francis. Among those attempting to provide her comfort and counsel was the puritan divine Ezekiel Rogers, her former chaplain. Holding a Barrington living in Yorkshire, Rogers wrote regularly to his benefactress and friend in Essex. In years past he had sought the benefit of her counsel and prayers. Now, in February 1630, he advised Lady Barrington to consult not only her minister but also “the society of God's saints.” He warned against her tendency to keep to herself: among her neighbors were “such as coulde helpe…by telling what God had done for their soules.” This refrain—the importance of mutual help and edification among the godly—Rogers repeated in subsequent correspondence. In January 1632, he suggested various methods to reach understanding and assurance, including the telling postscript: “I much advise you to seeke helpe by the communion of the saintes.”
Ezekiel Rogers was recommending a practice common among the godly. Laity often turned to one another for mutual support, spiritual advice, and constructive criticism in order to cope with the great burdens imposed by the obligation of godliness and the desire for assurance. Owen Watkins identifies such “mutual exhortation” as one of the features of the puritan way of life.