The True ACCOUNT of the Behaviour and Confessions OF THE Condemned Criminals IN NEWGATE, VIZ. William Hainsworth, William Davis, John Holland, Agnes Wearing, John Banwell, Zachariah Thomson, Leonard Bate, and Alice Garret.
WHereas at the sessions of Peacel,Oyer and Terminer, and Goal delivery of Newgate, held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Bayly, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Fryday, being the 9th. 10th. 11th Dayes of December 1685. These following persons Received Sentence of Death viz.
The Ordinary proceeds to give an Account of the Behaviour and Confession of so many of them who were put into the dead Warrant, most of the other being reprieved.
On the Lords Day, they were brought to the Chappel and were placed about the Table, at the upper end, and were Solemnly put in minde, how they ought to Reflect on their former slagicious Courses which had provok'd the Lord to leave them most justly to these Crimes, which had drawn upon them the snares of Death. It is very deplorable to consider that frequent examlples of publick Justice do not restrain vicious Persons from their Excesses in Sinning, but rather an Atheistical mind prompts them to presume they shall carry their Sins secretly, and never come to any Shame, nor condign Punnishment for them. Hereupon they adventure to tempt the Lord to withdraw his retraining Grace; and being left to the hardness of their Hearts, they perpetrate the most daring Impieties, which even Heathens abstain from Committing.
Thus, tho the Lord bring every Sessions his Judgment to Light, yet the Prophane know no Shame. Tho he give them a space for Repentance, yet they make their Repenting time an occasion perversely to abuse the Long-suffering of God; stifling not only the convictions of an awakned Conscience, but violating all Vows and resolutions of Reformation, if they obtain sparing Mercy.
To convince them of so great a presumption, the Minister, in the Forenoon of the Lords Day, Preach’d on this Text, the 2d. of the Revelation of St. John and the 21 ver viz. I gave her a space to Repent in, yet she Repented not. On which Words many Arguments were used, to excite the Condemned Criminals, to improve their short time in this Life, in order to a Blessed Eternity; otherwise they would Aggravate and bind on the guilt of all their Sins, by an inexcusable Presumption
In the Afternoon of the Lords-day there was another sermon Preach’d on the 14th ver. of the 5th Chap. to the Ephestans, viz. Awake thou that Sleepest, and arise from the Dead, and Christ shall give thee Light. The Prisoners seemed more Affected with their sinful State than they did in the Forenoon, and some of them were very desirous that they might be Visited on the Monday, so they were. After Prayer for them, by an earnest Exhorration they were desired to give Glory to God, and satisfaction to those whom they had Wronged, by a free and full Acknowledgment thereof; and that without Confession of their Crimes, and those sinful Courses which led them to them, they could not be accounted real Penitentiaries.
Some were very much desired to unburthen their Consciences as aforesaid; yet could not be prevailed with to declare what Employment they followed, before they betook themselves to an Idle course, or were drawn away by bad Counsel: Yet they were Obstinate and would not give any ingenuous Account of themselves; so that their seeming Relenting on the Lordsday, was in a manner quite Vanished, to the great discouragement of future Ministereal Endeavours, to prepare them for an happy departure out of this Life.
Yet the Minister appointed (who had a tender consideration of the worth of their Souls, and that it is his Duty to instruct with Meekness, even those who oppose themselves,) was not tired out by their present Pevishnesses; but renewed his earnest Prayer and Exhortations, that the Lord would turn them from Darkness to Lights; and that by the powerful convictions of his Spirit, they might be brought to Repentance, and so escape that Wrath which will otherwise be ever pouring out on all obstinate Sinners.
They were Visited again, (tho with small hope to prevail with them) because they generally had hopes of a Reprieval: And altho there was no ground for it besides their own fond love of Natural Life, and the slavish fear of Death, yet they usually delay to make any Acknowledgment of the Crime they are condemned for, but utterly to stand out in a denial of it, till the day of their Execution appears; and then they say, Horrour over whelms them, because they have dallied with God, and they are not in a fit temper or preparation for Death.
The Ordinary desires that this may be observed by all such who defer their Repentance, till they are upon the very precipice of Desparation, then they be Lock’d up in a state of total Unbelief and obduration of Heart.
Many Arguments were urg’d upon them, that they would fly from the Wrath to come, by delaying no longer; to consider their Ways, and turn to the Lord while there is any hope of Divine Mercy, and a striving with them by the Spirit of Christ, to overcome their stubbornness with his Goodness. Upon this they were more Awakned in the general, and confess’d they had been great Sinners,; but very sparing to declare in what particulars. He who was condemned for Murder, declared that his passion was raised to a great degree of Fury. He denied not the fact of Killing the Person, yet he somwhat extenuated the Crime, saying he had no prepensate Malice in it.
He was exhorted to deal clearly in the Cafe, as he would answer the truth of his Repentance, before the searcher of every Heart; And being told how great a Soulhardning Sin Murder is, he replied, that he hoped the Lord would make him so sensible of all his Vicious course of Life, that he should be wash’d clean from the Guilt and defilement thereof, through the Infinite Mercy of God, and the Meritori
ous Righteousness of christ.
There was another Person Condemned for a Felonious Act in taking from a Person seven Pounds in Money. He was informed that Stealth and Robbery is a great Sin; because no extremity of Poverty can excuse it; as being not only against the express prohibition of the Divine Law, but also against the dictates of Natural Conscience, and the restraint of pnal Laws, which had made it a capital Crime, because it is grown common, and counted but a Trifle; tho it be very prejudicial to the Propriety, Safety and Welfare, yea the industry of Mankind; Yet many become Vain, Psa. 62, v. 10. in Robbery, who tho they be not driven to it by deep pressing Wants, yet chuse to persue such a wicked Course out of a customary Delight, tho they endanger Soul and Body only for a Trifle. He replied, that he could not excuse such an injurous Fact; and wished that he had lived in any mean Calling, and wrought hard at it, rather than to have been drawn away by bad Compay to break the sabbaoth, and proceed in Idleness and vain Courses till now he was snared so Fatally. Yet he hoped, that upon a serious calling his former Excesses in Sin to mind, and deep Humiliation for them, the Lord would pity and Pardon him, for that satisfaction which Christ had made to Gods Offended Justice, by his Bitter Death and Passion. He desired that his Heart might be made throughly sensible of all his Sins, that he might hate them as much as at any time he delighted in them; and then Christ being his Redeemer, he hoped his Death would not be Terrible, but a passage to Eternal Life.
Upon Tuesday in the Forenoon they were visited again. They who were reprieved came not to the Chappel, neither to hear Prayers, nor to receive any Instruction; and the Ordinary whishes, that they may not by sparing Mercy grow secure and impenitent in a state of Sin, and return to their former vicious Courses, forgetting that Advice which our Saviour gave to the man healed of his long Insirmity, Behold, thou art made whole, Sin no more left a worse thing come upon thee.
The Minister who supplied the Ordinary's Office, (he being not able to himself to visit them, by present Sickness ) acquainted the Ordinary, That Davis, who was joyned with one Holland and the MaidServant in Robbering her Master, the Rector of St. Dionis Back church, after much Prayer and Exhorration, were all of them very insensible of the Crime they were condemned for; neither would any of them three declare what had been their former course of Life.
Davis hoped for a Reprieve, because Holland had acquainted him, that he had an assurance of his own; this intimation in all probability made Davis the more fly and Reserved not to consess the Robbery. This was observed, that Davis, before he had the knowledge of Hollands Reprieve, was more Relenting than afterward. This begat in him a presumtious hope of being spared himself. So soon are the initials of Repentance stifled or Vanishing, upon the least groundless prospect of a Reprieve only in self flattery. Who would trust his own deceitfull heart, upon solemn Vows of Reformation, in a present distress, which no sooner wears off, but secure Sinners immediately return to their former excesses with more greediness, but less remors in Conscience.
As for the Maid-servant who Consented to the Robbery of Mr. Gatford the Minister, with whom she dwelt, she was importunately desired by him to unburn then her Conscience by a free Consession of the Fact, and wherein she contributed in giving any Advice to carry it on; but she was very reserved, and would not reveal to him what aim or direction she gave to so treacherous a Design, which probably was, that by Secrecy in the whole Intrigue she might not obstruct the hope of her Reprieve.
Yet this declared the impudent hardning of her Heart to the aggravation of her Crime, that she would rather adventure upon the eternal ruine of her Soul, than take the ingenuous shame of a real Penitent to her serlf.
The Minister who was with her afterward urged her to acknowledge her great Treachery to her Master, affirming to her, That her Crime could not be expiated by God's pardoning Mercy, without great Repentance; but she could not pretend to the least initial sign of this, unless she made a discovery of the whole Complotment of it, and Procedure in it; and that this was not sufficient, unless she revealed in whose
hands any part of the stoln Goods remained, and caused Restitution thereof to be made, as much as lay in her utmost power to effect it: yet she continued obstinate on Monday, and would not declare where she dwelt before she came into Mr. Gatford’s Service, nor what her former course of Life had been; only, That she was a Sinner, as others were. Thus giving no sign of Repentance, she must be left to the Judgment and Sentence of an higher Tribunal than she hath justly met with in this World.
Notwithstanding her present insensibility of her Crime, the Minister importuned her again, That as she desired and expected any Mercy from God in the saving of her Soul, not to trifle as she had done hitherto, with the Searcher of all Hearts, for this would ruine her eternally.
Nay, there was great danger of this if she remained careless in the working out of her Salvation.
But rather, that the Consideration of God’s affording her and the other Criminals a space for Repentance, might the more quicken them to an exact search of their hearts and ways, that so they might be capable of God’s converting Grace.
Moreover, that they would take special care not to be deceived, as unto any false hope of Heaven; that the important Work of Repentance was not slightly to be ordered, because there could not be any amendment of the false Steps in it, after this Life ended.
Therefore it concerned them to deal faithfully with themselves, and to take care that their Couversion to God be sincere and genuine.
Here were laid down the Signs and Qualifications, the Fruits and Effects of true Repentance, and that they should not trust to any work of Contrition, nor hopes of Amendment in themselves, which is Sacriledge from the Merits of Christ, but wholly cast themselves (when they have acted to the utmost of their power) on the free Mercy of God in Christ, who died to make Satisfaction not only for the Sins of true Penitents, but the defects also of their best Righteousness.
To this some were more attentive and affected with it than the rest.
Whereupon, he who was condemn’d for Murder, viz. John Banwell, declared, That he was Born of honest, tho mean Parents, who had given him good Instructions; but they dying while he was young, he was put out Prentice to an Hat-maker ; but Trading being dead, his Master had not Employment for him: after which, he was press’d into the Wars with the Dutch: he confess’d, with much sorrow, that he had not made good his Vows to God, that if he escap’d Death in the War aforesaid he would reform his Life; yet, after a very great Deliverance he returned again to the former foolish Vanities, not only of a remiss, but dissolute Conversation.
He is very sensible Guilt of the Crime of killing Daniel Walter on the 13th. of October last: for the manner of it the Ordinary refers to the Book of me Tryals. He said that it much troubled him that he should send a Person out of the World, for ought he knows unprepared for Death.
He magnifies the Mercy of God to himself, in allowing him any space for Repentance; whereas in Justice he might have taken him away with a sudden stroke in the Commission of his many Sins.
William Hainsworth was Condemned for stealing 7 l. in Money from the Person of Samuel Richardson, upon the Royal Exchange in London. As to his Confession, I refer you to what he declared abovesaid; only this is to be added, That he said his Father was a strong-Water-feller on Snow-Hill gave him good Education at St. Paul’s-School; but he had sinned against good Instruction, and against clear and strong Convictions in his Conscience, which now occasion’d his Repentance to be the more difficult: but he hoped his Heart by Prayer to God was made truly contrite.
As for Agnes Wearing and William Davis, who robbed Mr. Gatford the Minister to the value of 300 l. as is set forth in the Indictment, they remained not so sensible of their Crime as they ought to have been.
For the rest of the condemned Criminals, they being Reprieved would not give any Account of their former course of Life: and therefore I must here put a period to what I have to lay concerning the Prisoners condemned this Sessions.
Between 10 and 11 a Clock in the morning the Prisoners were put into Carts, and drawn to the Place of Execution, who seemed very penitent all the way they went, Mr. Ordinary praying with them. After which, they exhorted the Spectators to take warning by their untimely Ends of the Effects of Sin. Then they prayed earnestly by themselves, desiring the People to pray for them; after which they were all Executed.
This may be Printed, 1685. R.L.S.