THE TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE BEHAVIOUR AND CONFESSION Of the Criminals Condemned, on Monday the 14th. 15th. and 17th. of January, 1687. These Nine Persons Received Sentence of Death, viz. Richard Roberts, Elizabeth Fuller, J--C--, Sarah Vince. Margaret Stephenson, John Reeves, John Jennings, Elizabeth Bamfield and Arabella Reeves.
Of Which, Margaret Stephenson, was in the Dead-Warrant to be Executed at TYBURN. On Thursday, the 27th. of this Instant January, 1687. The other Condemned Criminals, were by His Majesty Graciously Reprieved.
ON Tuesday, being the next after Condemnation of the afore said Criminals, the Ordinary visited them, and having Prayed with them, he endeavoured to convince them of their sinful and deplorable Condition: To describe which, he drew up some Proportions of Similitude, betwixt the Possession of the Damoniack Child in the Ninth Chap. of St. Mark's Gospel, from the 17 Verse to the 18 Verse; and such wilful-sinners, who are held under the Tyranny of Satan, and the precipitant hurry of their Lusts, to the over-throw of their Souls integrity, Peace and Eternal Safety.
By sin, the Image of God is defaced, the Beauty of it distorted, and the strength of vertuous Resolutions over power’d and quite defeated. Dumbness and Deafness were joined in the Possession of this Child. So such, whole Lips are Sealed up from Praying, turn a Deaf Ear from Sacred Council, which contempt makes their very supplications in Distress, to become an Abomination. Some sinners at first, admit Satan to possess their Hearts more mildly, yet fall at last into the precipitant excess of sinning, against the Laws of Common Reason, and the Dictates of Natural Modesty.
They have no feeling in Conscience to Cry out of their Slavery, under the Prince of Darkness. Therefore, if we are not possest as deeply and irresistable as others, we owe this to Gods Free Grace, and not to the Goodness of our Nature. This Child was strangely listed tip from the Ground, afterward thrown flat and bruised, till he did tear himself, and Foam at the Mouth. No sinners are more inraged against God, than such who fall from high presumptious Hopes of Heaven, into fell-torturing Desperation.
Some sinners at times, are not vex’d with Satans Assaults, they seem to be in an healthy found State of mind, by resolving to do well, and lead a Reformed Life; yet these purposes being fickle and false, they are suddenly vex’d with more violent and desperate Relapses, into their former flagitious Course
There is no Truce nor Terms of Cessation to be made with Satan, while he is a Lyon Couchant, and retires for a Season: Nothing less than a total and firm Ejection of him, and the abounding love of sublunary Vanities out of our Hearts, can establish our Peace or Safety. All attemps to dispossess the Devil, by the help of Moral Rules, unless we seek to Christ, to Bless them by his Divine Efficacy, will but the more awaken the Devils Malice, to baffle any means as separate from Christs power. Therefore, the Father of the Lunatick, brought his Child to Christ himself, when the Disciples could give no Relief.
The Truth is, Satan hardly departs out of the Heart, without many bitter Agonies and Convulsive Fits of Terror in the Conscience. Yet let sinners thorowly made Contrite take Courage from Satans vexatious Assaults, because he turns most furious when ready to be cast out. He rent the Lunatick, insomuch, that the Spectators said he is Dead. But Faith in Christs Almighty word, can put the common-Enemy of Man's Salvation to flight, when he grows most Rampant; but then it must be our great Care, to watch, that he may hot get an Advantage of deeper and firmer re-entrance by our Security and Presumption.
After this Discourse, they seemed very Penitent, and confess’d that Satan had much prevailed upon them by his Temptations to get the possession of their Hearts, yet they hoped they were now convinced of their Evil Courses, and begg'd of God that he would give them Repentance, and an hatred of their sins that they might turn to Him; I replyed that if this Frame were truly wrought in them they should find Mercy at the Hands of God, whither they lived or dyed, and after praying with them, I dismist them.
When I visited them on Thursday, I required of them, what grounds they had, to believe that God was reconciled to them in Christ, that the Terror of Death might be taken away; they replyed, that they Prayed and did what they could, to obtain so great Mercy; but they found it hard to Repent and Believe, because of the greatness of their sins. I told them that Satan did not quit the Possession of sinners Hearts without many Agonics in Conscience; yet Christ is able to Bind him and eject him, therefore they must seek unto him r as an Almighty Redeemer. Then I stated some signs of Satans being Ejected, viz.. That they will be restored to a found mind, as able to prove, and willing to approve, the Good and perfect will of God in Christ; that they will wonder that they could he content to have remained, so long under the Power of the Prince of Darkness. That they will have all Bonds of Restraint taken off, which hindred their Obedience to Gods Laws. That the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Spirit being cast out, they will fit at Christs Feet to Receive Instructions from him, what to believe and practice, that they will labour to free others out of Satans Vassallage, and be shye how they give any opportunity for the unclean Spirit to re-enter, by their security or presumptions; that whereas before, they were not ashamed of the sinful Nakedness of their Souls, they would be cloathed. with the Garments of Righteousness, which they would be very Circumspect to keep undefiled, that they would be very tractable to the motions of Christs Holy Spirit, tho' they had before, broak all Cords of Restraint from sinning, and could not be bound to their good Behaviour, by the Laws of God and Men.
They replyed, that they hoped some of these signs were wrought in them, because they found their Hearts grieving for their fins, and desire (if they might be spared) to serve the Lord for the future: I replyed that this is a good Frame, if it be sincerely in them; but many have under the Terror of Death, profess’d their Resolution to amend their lives if they might obtain the Grant of them, as forfeited by the Laws, who when set at liberty, returned to the Folly of sinning with more greediness. Therefore I Prayed to them, that all good dispositions wrought in them, in order to a thorow Conversion with God might be confirmed in them, and so dismist them.
I visited them every day, and on the Lords Day Preach'd on this Text, viz. The 9 Chap. of St. Mark’s Gospel, the 22, 23, 24. Verses, from whence I drew these Observations, Verse the 22. If thou can do any thing, have Pity on us, and help us.
I We ought to implore the power of Christ, and to depend on Him only, tho’ we are not sure of Success.
II. (If thou ) unbelief is of such a degenerate Nature, that it degrades the Power and Good Will of Christ himself, to relieve us in Distress.
III. (Canst do any thing) the least degree of Relief from Christ, is worthily to be prized and esteemed. True Faith also, tho’ it be humble and very modest in its desires, yet it is very fervent and importunate.
IV. (have Compassion.) Christ Sympathizes with Men in distress, as being of the same Nature, and therefore sets his power on work, to shew them Pity and Kindness.
V. The Argument for this, is drawn from the Tenderness of Christs own Bowels. If we would have our Request granted, we must not plead merit in our selves, but meer Mercy and Pity in God through Christ.
VI. (On us.) The Well-fare of Parents and Children is mutually twisted. Children are afflicted for the Parents fins: Therefore it is the Parents interest to train them up in the fear of God, and the vertuous course of Life, from the 23d. V. If thou canst Believe.
First, The habit of Faith must be drawn out in actual Exercise, with relation to that particular Mercy which we seek. here, I shewed five Reasons, why little or weak Faith was reputed by Christ as no Faith; and why God suffers Doubtings to conflict with Faith in the Hearts of Weak, Christsans.
Secondly (Canst thou believe) it is not an easie thing to believe aright. This was demonstrated in five Respects, yet to alleviate and sweeten the difficulty, all things are possible to him that believes. This was explained by certain Limitations. One was, all things which it is lawful to ask of God, as having a Warrant to believe in respect of his preceptive Direction, and promising Encouragement.
Thirdly, Instances were given. True Faith makes things doubtful most certain, difficult things easie, and all things possible, though they seem impossible to carnal Reason, and the sad abodings of unbelief.
The 24 Verse, Christ having put the Lunaticks Father in hopes of its cure, he immediately cryed out with Tears, Lord I believe, help mine unbelief. From which ingenious acknowledgment; several Observations were raised.
First, Upon the command of Christ which hath vertue in it, to make us believe we must resign our selves with our case, tho’ seemingly desperate to his powerful Commiseration.
Secondly, (I do believe) True Faith may be known by its force and Efficacy of working. Instances given.
Thirdly, Help my unbelief, Observe, True Faith may consist with doubting.
Fourthly, It applyes to God in Christ, to remove those difficulties and prejudices, which strengthen unbelief.
Fifthly, The Sincere Believer is very sensible of, and deeply Laments the least degree of unbelief.
Sixthly, Such sence of doubting, is an Evidence of True Faith, and never goes away from Christ without cure.
Seventhly, True Faith Exercised, is so pleasing and prevalent with Christ, that it obtains more than is Begged. He cast out the Devil with a Charge, never more to disturb the Child.
I shall now give an Account of the Behaviour and Confessions of the Condemn’d Criminals.
Arabella Reeves, Aged 46 Years, or thereabouts, Condemned for High-Treason, in Coining 20 false pieces of counterfeit Mony, viz. Sixpences; She was taken in the very Act in her Chamber, with the Mettal boiling on the Fire, and the Mould in her hand, with a Sixpenny piece in it. Several other false pieces of Mony were found in her Custody, all which, were produced in Court as a further Evidence against her.
She was Born in Darby-Shire; she denys not the Crime; yet, says that she was exposed to it by Poverty; she says that she wrought as a Sempster for some time, but imployment not coming in to maintain her, she fell into the Acquaintance of a Woman, now Dead, who was very cunning and dexterous at this wicked Trade: She kept the knowledge of this Secret, for which, she had some snips of the profit. I told her that she must account to God for such a wicked practice, and that without Repentance, her Death could not expiate the Treason. She replyed, that she prayed to God, that he would soften her heart, and give her a due sense of the least sin, which could not be pardoned but by faith in the death of Christ.
I asked her what saving Faith is; she replyed, to believe in God's mercy through Christs merits: And said that she doth believe as far as her knowledge serves; that she relyed not on any sorrow for sin, but trusted to the promise of eternal life. This I told her was made through Christ, in whom all the promises are, yea, for their Truth in the making of them, and Amen for the certainty of fulfilling of them: That without an interest in Christ as a New Creature, she cannot have right to any promise; She said, that she was not sure that she was in Christ, but she hates sin out of love to Christ, and not only as it damns.
Sarah Vince, Aged 65 Years, Born in Cornhill, London, her Husband is a Marriner, and hath long absented himself. Upon she says, that she was put to he shifts for Maintenance, her imployment wasto sell Tripe in the Market . She denys not, but she hath been a sinner, viz., for neglecting to make good use of her time, which she now bewails, as unfit to dye, though she hath lived long: but she hopes that God will give her Repentance for all her sins, with the thorow change of her heart I asked her how she might know this, she said by the hatred and for saking of all sin; and Weeping said, that she resolves to continue prayings that she may not be drawn away by evil Company, to do any thing against her Conscience, but intends to live honestly if she may be spared.
Margaret Stephenson, Aged 35 Years, or thereabouts, Born in White-chappel,: her imployment was (as she faith) to wynde Silk in the Day time when it was Wet, and at Night also, but in fair-weather she went into Leaden-Hall Market to carry home Meat , or any Provisions bought by others for their Families. She said that God suffer'd her to be Prosecuted and Condemned, to bring her to himself, as having provoked him by her sinful Life. She said, that she is affraid her sins will Damn her. I bid her not despair, she said she doth not Totally, because she prays in hope, that God will pardon her. I ask’d her what sin is, she replyed, it is a Transgression of Gods Law, and that now she is convinced, that if she break the Sabbath to do any worldly business therein, it is sinful, much more to join with sinners in an open prophanation of it. She denyed not, but she had been neglectful of her Duty to God, in not praying to be kept out of Temptations; but she hopes if she might be spared, that she shall amend her Life.
Elizabeth Fuller, Condemned for stealing Cloaths, Jewels, and Money, to the value of 130 l. the Goods of Mr. Robert Atkins. She is Aged 24 or 25 Years, was Born in Sussex. She made some General acknowledgment of her sinful Life, but did not express in what
kind. She faith that she doth her endeavour to Repent, nd be fit for Death, for tho' she be Reprieved upon pleading that she is quick with Child, yet she said that she had no reason to grow Careless of her Salvation, as not sure to live out one day.
I ask’d her what Repentance is? She said, to fear God and serve him. I told her, if she had done thus, she had not Robbed her Master and Mistress: And that some count Adultery no sin, but use it as an Artifice, pleading pregnancy with Child, to escape the stroke of Justice; but if she did not Repent sincerely of all her vicious Courses, the Justice of God would yet bring her to Condign Punishment. Therefore, I advised her to redeem precious time, and not to grow secure or careless of her Souls State, by this respeit from Death, and so dismist her.
Elizabeth Bamfield alias Carter, was Condemned for Felony. She is Aged 22 Years, Born in Devonshire: She exercised the Trade of Fringe-making . She acknowledged that she had been a great sinner, that she had mispent much precious time, in following the vanitys of her own heart, that she neglected to Pray that God would keep her from Evil Company: That till she received Sentence of Death she was not awakened, to consider the danger her Soul is in, by reason of her many provocations of God: But now she Prays that he would give her a New Heart, because her sins lies heavy upon her Conscience. Yet she hopes to be saved by Faith in Christ. I told her that many mistake the Nature of true Faith, restraining it to a very narrow Scantling, as if it were a bare assent to the Truth of Divine Promises, or a relyance meerly on Christ for Salvation, whereas this in the compleatness of it, consists in the turning us from the Love and Dominion of all sin, equally, as in turning away the Condemning Guilt, and defiling Guiles thereof, from being charged upon us, that true Faith Purifies as well, as Pacifies the Conscience, that together with relyance on Christ for Salvation; it resigns the whole Man to be Governed by the Law and Spirit of Christ.
John Jennings, Condemned for stealing a Bay Gelding, from Mr. Robert Pareson; he is a Taylor by Trade, but fell into Acquaintance with Bad Company, which was occasioned by breaking of the Sabbath, and immoderate drinking. He said that his knowledge is but small because he cannot Read, otherwise he had employed his time better; but now he will to the utmost of his power; for he hopes he Repents, because he finds he hates that sin most, which he loved before, and Prays heartily that together with Gods Forgiveness, he would inable him to forsake sin. He said his Heart sometimes is so full of sorrow, that his free Confessions are stop'd, that he dreads to think how sad a Condition his Soul had been in, if the Sentence of Dearh had not been taken off; but he Blesses God that he hath a space to Repent in.
I hope he will improve so great a Mercy, because he was very willing, when he knew that he was Reprieved, to take shame to himself, confessing particular sins whereof he was Guilty, and which, he said justly brought upon him the Sentence of Death.
J--C--, Condemned for Killing one Ann Parsons who, as he said was a Lew'd Woman. I told him that his sin was the greater, because he took upon him to revenge himself, and did not leave her to the Justice of God, and the Law of the Nation, and that she was surprised. so that she had little time to Repent of so vicious a Practice.
There are two other Condemned Prisoners, of whom I can give little Account. This is all I can publish relating to this Sessions.
On Wednesday, J--C-- and Margaret Stephenson were carryed to Tyburn, and the Executioner being absent, they were brought back to Newgate, and by a New Warrant, Margaret Stephenson was Ordered to be Executed on Thursday the 27th. of this Instant January, 1687. But J--C-- was Reprieved.
About Ten of the Clock on Thursday Morning she was put into a Cart at Newgate, and conveyed to the place of Execution, where the ordinary Prayed with her, and exhorted the Spectators to take waning by her; after which the Ordinary Sung part of a Psalm, and so concluded with a Prayer, and then turned off.
This may be Printed, R.P. January the 27th. 1687.
LONDON, Printed by D.Mallet, next Door to Mr.Shipton's Coffee House near Fleet Bridge, 1687.