THE TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE BEHAVIOUR AND CONFESSION Of the Criminals Condemned, on Saturday the 11th. of December, 1686. At Justice-Hall in the Old-Bayly. And in the Second Year of His Majesties Reign.
Six of which Received Sentence of Death, viz. John Culverwell, Jonathan Parsons, Thomas Powel, Nicholas Jones, Elizabeth James, and James Deale, Of Which, Jonathan Parsons, Thomas Powel, and were in the Dead-Warrant to be Executed at TYBURN. On Friday the 17th. of this Instant December, 1686. The other Condemned Criminals, were by His Majesty Graciously Reprieved.
ON Saturday in the Afternoon, the Ordinary visited the Condemned Criminals, having observed that the sooner he discourses them after Sentence past, the deeper Impressions are made upon them; how deplorable their Condition is: After he had prayed for them, he endeavoured to awaken them from their Security and Presumption in a course of sinning, and that they would look back to their former Omission of their Duty to God and Men, for which, the Lord justly had left them to harden their Hearts by the deceits of sin. The Ordinary considering also, how frequently Roberys have been Committed of late, endeavoured to make them sensible of the greatness of the Crime of stealing, from that Sacred Admonition in the 62 Psalm, and the 10 ver. viz. Become not vain in Robery. There is much Vanity and Presumption in this Sin, when a False Hope is conceived, that God will not Enquire after it, to discover and punish it; yet there is no Darkness so thick, and seemingly impenetrable, wherein the workers of Iniquity can lie hid. The Omniscient Lord strangely brings such Malefactors to Light, that they may be convinced and ashamed of their Atheism and Presumption of impumity. He often breaks their Confederacies, and causes some to Accuse their Fellows.
Persons become vain in Robery when they plead Poverty or Necessity in the Excuse of it. This can be no Apology, for Theft is against the Dictates of the Natural Conscience, which is first violated in its convictive impressions, before any inroad can be made upon the Propriety of another. It were more Eligible to Dig or Beg, than to Adventure to steale: Let Persons be Honest, and God who Commands all Hearts, will move some
X. The excellency of Faith in Christ, both in respect of its high acceptation with God, its prevalency with Him, together with the Beneficialness and comfortableness of it to our selves.
Lastly, The Application of the whole Discourse to the condemned Criminals.
1st. John Culverwell, of the Parish of St. Sepulchres, Condemned for stealing one black Mare, value 6 l. 2s. 6d from Mr. John Howard on the 29th. day of October last past. He is Aged 17 Years, or thereabouts, Born at Huntspill in Somersetshire. His Employment formerly was Husbandry : But (as he said) work not coming in, to his desire, he came to London, and there put himself an Apprentice to one Mr. Simmonds, a Lighter Man in Brooks-street near Queen-Hith, after whose decease, he was turned over to Richard Brooks of the same Employment. He left the Service of his last Master, out of a giddy Humour and forwardness of Spirit; afterward being in want, he went into the Country to visit his Mother, who relieved him with Money. Upon this, he returned to London, but fell into bad Acquaintance, so having spent the Money aforesaid he adventured to steal the Mare, and Sold it to an Horse-Courser, after which he was seized on by the owner of the Mare. He doth not deny the Fact, but told the Ordinary, that he must not expect any longer Account from him, of his fitness to dye, because he was an ignorant person in the matters of Religion. The Ordinary replyed, that ignorance was no Excuse, either for his sins, or for want of being duly sensible of them. Persons who have no mind to know their duty, are usually as unwilling to perform it. Yea, many hate the Light, Because their Deeds are Evil, and themselves loth to come under any Conviction of their wicked Courses. To this he answered, that he had led an ill Life, that the did on the Week Day, sometimes drink in excess, and was Guilty of Cursing, but not much used to it yet; he now prays that God would pardon his many sins in his great Mercy. I found him ignorant, who Christ was, and what his undertaking is, to work out Mans Redemption; also, what true Faith and Repentance are; therefore I took time to instruct him, and to make him sensible of his Misery, without an interest in Christ and unrules, he be made a new Creature in him. He said if he might escape Death at this time he hoped that he should Reform his Life, and not Commit any Crime, to bring himself into Prison again. This is all the Account which I could get from him.
2dly. James Deale alias Reynolds, was Condemned for breaking the House of Thomas Harrison Esq; on the 28th. of October last past, He is Aged 17 Years, was Born in St. Andrews Parish in Holbourn: He was put forth an Apprentice to a Butcher , who, (as himself said) was too severe to him, so he left his Service. I told him that his Duty was, to have continued with him, and to have express’d all good Behaviour, notwithstanding his Masters Morose Disposition, and that the forsaking his Service, had exposed him to Idleness, which is the Devils Pillow, on which, he suggests all his Temptations, till he prevail with persons wanting Employment, to join themselves to bad Company. He could not deny this in his own Case, for he said that he had been in Newgate formerly, for the space of 14 Weeks. After his Releasement thence, he went to his Friends who look’d angerly upon him; so being in want, he Committed this Crime, for Which he is Condemned. He Confess’d he did not keep the Sabbath, which drew on the Guilt of many more sins, and did not deny but he had been unchast. He gave some tollerable Account of his Christian Belief, yet profess’d that he was sorry that he had not lived up to his Knowledge. He was not willing to discourse more concerning his preparation for Death, and the Hopes of a Blessed State after it, because he told me that he had a Reprieve: I replyed that this ought to make him more penitent and willing to be instructed, how to improve so great a Mercy. Upon this he desired my Prayers, that God would make him express his Thankfulness, in taking warning by his present escaping death, to amend his Life, and nothing more.
Jonathan Parsons, Condemned for four Burglarys, is Aged 40 Years. He was Born of credible Parents as he said. He was put Apprentice to a Broad-Weaver, and set up that Trade upon his own Account, which he followed for many Years, and said that he lived comfortably upon it, so that he payed sometimes 30 l. sometimes 40 l. per the Week to Journeymen and others helpful in his Employment; that at last, Gods Providence frowned on him, and he susteined many losses in Trading, and grew deep in Debt. His Relations he said were persons of Estate, yet deserted him in Adversity. After he obtained his Liberty, his Creditors being compassionate toward him, he wanted Employment, and despairing of a Subsistence to his Mind, he fell into bad Company, and by degrees took a course of stealing; for which, he received lately a Mark of Infamy in his Hand.
He Confess'd that the Lord is Righteous, in permitting him to fall now into the Snares of Death, because he took no warning by a more Gentle Punishment. I found him every day improving in his Preparation for death, and bewailing with Tears the vileness of his Corrupt Nature, as breaking forth into so many Repeated Crimes, that he says, if such a sinner as he be saved, it will be a Miracle of Mercy from God. It much troubles him that his Return to him is so late, and that be hath presumed upon so much Divine Patience extended to him. Yet he said that the Lord is not Limited in his time, and manner of working Grace in the Heart. Therefore he is not out of Hope that he will yet accept him in Christ upon Free Grace, framing him to Re
pentance and a Resolution to have amended his Life, might he have been spared. But said he, I submit to the will of the Lord, who only knows with what Temptations I might meet, and be over born, were I to Live: And I had rather now Dye than to Multiply sin, by the Abuse of sparing Mercy. These Expressions will be look’d upon as very unusual from such a Criminal; yet, this I must say of him, that he was a knowing Person, I wish that he had lived up to his Notions in Religion, as it is his Grief that he did not.
4thly. Thomas Powel, Condemned for joining with Jonathan Parsons in the aforesaid Burglarys. He is Aged betwixt 30. and 40. Years. He faith that he was put Apprentice to a Stone-Cutter , and set up that Trade for a time in Yarmouth; afterward some Accidents befell him, which drew some ill Reflections upon him, so that he left his Trade of Stone Cutting, and withdrew himself to a private Life. After this, some Friends furnishing him with Money, he kept a Tavern in Yarmouth; but it was his foolish Curiosity to leave that Employment also: So growing Poor, he tryed unlawful ways to furnish himself for vain Expences. Coming to London Ten Years since, he was about that time Marked in the Hand for a Felony; he Repents that he took not warning thereby to amend his Life, as at that present he resolved. He says, that he hath but lately renewed his dishonest way of subsisting. But God is just (said he) for secret sins, to leave me to commit this Crime, for which I must suffer a publick Death.
I observed him on the Sabbath Day, very Attenntive to Praying and Preaching, and that some Degrees of Contrition were then upon him, but much more since.
I visited them every Day, and on the Morning also before their Execetion.
Upon Wednesday I ask’d them, what preparation they were in for Death? They replayed that this did not so much afflict them that they must Dye for their Crimes, as the offending God, and giving scandal by their ill Life to the Honour of the Christian Religion: Yet, they hoped, that having by Gods Assistance, done their utmost to make their peace with God, he would for Christ’s sake pardon them, and receive them in to his heavenly Kingdom.
Thomas Powel professed that he was weary of living in the World, as a place of Temptations, and abonnding with sin and Misery. He said, might he be spared, possibly he should not be in so well a disposed mind and fitness to Dye, as now he hoped he is. I ask’d him the grounds of that Hope; to which he made me a very Penitent, Modest and Satisfactory Answer. It would be too tedious to set down every particular Discourse betwixt my self and them.
Upon considering their Humble Demeanour and willingness to be directed by me, I hope both these Criminals were Penitent for their mispent Life.
Yet, I do admonish all Men, not to stand out against the Offers of Gods Grace and Mercy, so long as these Criminals did, because late Convictions and Humiliations for an ill spent Life, seldome are attended with sincere Conversion to God; notwithstanding, I do wish as good Effects of my Ministry, in the other Criminals who are Reprieved, because such usualy grow secure and ocund, when the fear of Death is blown over. As for Nicholas Jones, being early Reptrieved, he was absent from my Week-Days Instructions,
And Elizabeth James refused to come to me, being of another Religion. Thus I cannot give any Account of them. Nor more than I have of the other Condemned Crimiminals. God Grant that such who think they stand, may take head least they fall.
About Ten of the Clock, on Friday Morning, they were put into a Cart at Newgate, and conveyed to the place of Execution, were the Ordinary prayed with them, and exhorted the Spectators to take warning by them; after which the Ordinary Sung part of a Psalm, and so concluded with a prayers, after which they were turned off.
This may be Printed, R.P. December the 17th. 1686.
LONDON; Printed by D.Mallet, next Door to Mr.Shipton's Coffee House, near Fleet-Bridge, 1686.