ON the Lord's Day, in the Forenoon, was preached a Sermon on this Text, Proverbs the 14th and the 9th ver. Fools make a mock at Sin. The Conclusion of the Discourse was thus directed to the Condemned.
And no doubt but the Opinion of you Condemned Persons concerning sin are now altered; no doubt but you account your former making a mock at sin folly, now that you suffer by it, now that you experience its evil and bitter Effects: Now you who in time of prosperity have set at nought wholsom Counsels, and would have none of Reclaiming Reproof; who have laught at all Vertuous living, and made a mock at the Professors of the same, cannot but be afraid lest God should laugh at your Calamity, and mock when your fear cometh; lest you, having refused to hear God's Calls, by his Word and by his Spirit, by his Afflictive Providences and by his Ministers, should in this your Distress, have him refuse to hear your Calls when you cry unto him for Mercy and Forgiveness, should refuse to be found by you, when you seek him earnestly with Tears and Supplications.
O Repent then your wicked folly in having made a Mock at sin, while such your folly is Retrievable, while the Door of God's Grace and Salvation stands yet open unto you; while you have Time, while you have Ability, while you have Will and Inclination to Repent and be converted: O reject not your own everlasting Mercies; pursue not sin to your endless Destruction; let not this my Exhortation become fruitless, let it not hereafter rise up in Judgment against you, through your impenitent obstinacy: seise Heaven by the sincerity and zeal of your Contrition, by the violent and devout importunity of your Prayers, by stedfastness and integrity of your good Resolutions; is God willing to receive you, and are you backward to return unto him? One would think the only doubt should be, whether after such long and often repeated Provocations as you have been Guilty of, God should at last be willing to admit ye into his favour; but since the Obstacles lies not in him, let it not, I beseech you, lie in your selves; in your impenitency and irreclaimableness, God has promised, That whensoever the Wicked Man turns away from his wickedness, and doth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his Soul alive. O plead, plead earnestly this his Promise in Prayer; say unto him, O thou who desireth not the Death of a sinner, have have Mercy upon us; perform but the Conditions of that Promise, Faith, Repentance and new Obedience, and then doubt not, God will be as good as his Word unto you: though you are late Penitents, yet be but compleat and hearty ones, and your late Conversion shall be accepted; become but capable of Divine Mercy, and assuredly you shall obtain it.
Your day of Grace and Salvation is but short, O make amends for its shortness, by your greater diligence and industry in Religious concerns for the time remaining; in the other Life there is no amending what was left imperfect in the Work of your Conversions, at your departures hence; and therfore see that you make your Callings and Elections sure: you work for an Eternity of Happiness, O therefore improve to the utmost your present time; double and treble your Religious Industry, cry mightily to God in Prayer; claim his Gracious Invitations and Promises made to Returning Sinners; invoke urgently his Mercy and Forgiveness; rely wholly on his Infinite Goodness, and his Son's All-sufficient Merits; comply with the Holy Motion of his Spirit; make use of his Grace offered, and implore larger Measures thereof; beseech him to sanctifie this your bodily Distresses, to the saving of your Souls in the day of our Lord; be more solicitous for the securing your Eternal, than your Temporal Pardons; be continual in Good Reading, in Meditation, in Prayer, in calling your past ways to remembrance, in abhoring and grieving for your sins, as much as formerly you delighted in them: The Joys above will amply recompense all your Penitential Sorrows here below; a time of Refreshment will come to all true Converts from the presence of their God: Prepare incessantly for your latter Ends and for an happy Eternity; Exhort and Assist those in the same Condemnation with your selves, unto the alike pious Exercises; and as by your evil Examples you have led many into the same Wicked Performances which you have practiced, so now by your free Confessions, deep Humiliations, godly Sorrows, and sincere purposes of Amendment, see that you endeavour to recover others from the Errors of their ways, to a sound Repentant Mind, and to a Vertuous Conversation; so shall you cause Joy both in Heaven and Earth at such your unfeigned Conversions.
In the Afternoon the Ordinary preacht on this Text, viz. John the 5th Chap. and 40th Verse, You will not come unto me, that ye may have Life. The Conclusion of the Discouse was thus directed to the Condemned.
You have heard that Spiritual and Eternal Life, with all the degrees of it, are centured and secured abundantly in Christ; yet what a wretched contumatious laziness hath possest your Hearts, that you have not put forth the least Moral endeavours in the lowest degrees of coming toward Christ? Instead of cherishing the Solicitations of God's Spirit, and the Convictions of Conscience, in order to the implanting of Saving Faith, you have despised and opposed the great Salvation of the Gospel, and herein have judged your selves unworthy of Eternal Life: you have forfeited your Natural Lives by your Crimes against the Laws, as if these were a trifle in Comparison of the short momentary pleasures of sin, &c.
I proceed to give an Acount of the Behaviour and Confessions of the Condemned Criminals.
I. James Bird, Condemned for the wilful Murthering of his Wife. He was sent by his Father to the University of Oxford, in order to prepare him for a Student at the Inns of Court , in Oxford he fell in Love with a Person of unequal Fortune and Married her; for which he incurred his Fathers Displeasure. Notwithstanding, he did not Reform his Irregular course of living. I prayed with him before his Tryal, and advised him not to be secure, and that if he grew careless to provide for a future happy State, his Death would be the more terrible, and himself inexcusable, for not making his Peace with God, upon a sincere Repentance. He reply'd, That he had been a very great sinner, and that God did justly withdraw his preventing restraining Grace, because he had abused that Talent of Knowledge wherewith he was intrusted, to the committing of many excesses in sinning; yet that he was Innocent as to the Murdering of his Wife. I urged upon him most of those Probabilities which
were proved upon him at his Tryal, but he waved them all, saying, That no Person could possitively prove it upon him. I reply'd, That his Conscience was a thousand Witnesses, and that it he did not Confess it before he Dyed, (being Conscious of it) there could not be any hope of his Salvation. After he had made some Asseveration of his Innocency, I told him that he should take heed how he falsly appealed to the Heart-searching God, for this would aggravate his Guilt. He said, That he had been a great sinner, and deserved exemplary Punishment from God; withal, expressing himself that he did expect to be Condemned by the Malice of his Prosecutors, and would prepare for Death. I asked him whither, upon his Fathers threatning to Disinherit him, he did not break up his Closet, seize on the Evidences for the Estate, and refused to deliver them. He reply'd, That it was a false Story raised of him. Upon some observation of him, I desired him to retire more into his Chamber, and to humble himself before God, that he might be fit to Dye, which he promised me to do. After his Condemnation, I prayed with him several times in his Chamber alone, and urged him not to trifle with God, but ingenuously to declare whither he Murthered his Wife: He would not answer directly, but waved that Inquiry. He came to the Prayer and Sermons at the Chappel, and seemed affected with those Preparitory Exercises for his Death. At times he spake in a careless manner, as from a disturbed Mind; whereupon I advised him to retire more, and to humble himself before God, that he might be sit to Dye. He replyed, That he was prepared for the worst. I told him that an ordinary Repentance could not unravel an habituated Custome in sinning, which he acknowledged. He said that he would make publick some Testimonies of his Repentance. I said that this would not be believed, if he concealed or denyed the Murthering of his Wife; yea, it would obstruct his Eternal Happiness.
II. Christopher Ashley, alias Browne, Condemned for Felony, Burglary and Sacriledge, in Robbing the Church of Great St. Bartholomew, London, in November, 1689. carrying away the Pulpit-Cloth, and all the Communion Plate, of very great value. He denyed it at his Tryal, but since with Tears hath confest the Crime, and that also he joyned with those who Robbed St. Saviours Church in Southwark; that he often broke the Sabbath, had been Guilty of excess in Drinking, of Swearing; and that he seldom prayed. He seemed the most Penitent.
III. Old Mobb, Condemned for Felony and Burglary. He said, That his Father left him and other Children destitute of a Subsistance; so that he was forced to serve as an Husbandman for some time; but finding that to be hard Labour, he fell into High-way-Robbing , and followed it many years: tho' he wounded several Persons, yet he affirmed that he never Murthered any: That he was addicted to excessive Drinking: That when he continued to Rob on the High-way, yet he prayed that God would forgive it. I replyed, That he could not hope to be heard. He said, but it eased his Mind. I told him that it aggravated his Guilt. He behaved himself very decently.
IV. Thomas Brcikill, Condemned for High-Treason, in Clipping the Currant Coyn of this Kingdom. He was a Felt-maker , and was now intending to set up his Trade. He confest that he had been addicted to excessive Drinking: That he kept not the Sabbath, and would swear when provoked; but would not confess the Crime he dyes for.
V. Edgerton Brett, Condemned for Murthering of a Journy-man Shoe-maker, in his Drunken Inhumanity. He denyes not the Crime. He was bred up to the Studying of the Law , but did not follow his Employment in a late Office, which exposed him to many irregularities. He said that for three days he did drink with Friends to excess, as taking his leave of them, intending to go into the Country; but losing the exercise of his Reason, in his way home, he met with the Person whom he kill'd, and flapt him with his Gloves in the Face, because he did not give him ready passage. He doth not extenuate the Crime, but rather thinks that his Drunkenness was an aggravation of it. He says, that he never did wrong to any Person before: but it deeply troubles him that he should thrust a Man out of the World, it may be not prepared to Dye. But he resolves, if he may be spared, to lead a more circumspect and sober strickt Life, saying, that he could never be sufficiently Penitent for this so unmanly and wicked an Act. He constantly was at the Religious Exercises of the Chappel, and seemed very penitent in my private Discourses with him; hence I conclude, that being tractable to my Advice, he was not Popishly affected, as some suspected him to be.
VI. Edward Biggs, Condemned for Felony and Burglary with Old Mobb. He was an Oyl-Leather-Dresser , but Employment not coming to hand as he expected, he left off his Trade, and fell into High-way-Robbing , to get Money for his Excesses. He wept and said, That he had been a great sinner; That it much troubles him, that his Brother would freely have Dyeted him, during the want of Trading, but he refused his Kindness, to joyn with bad Company, and that this was the first Crime that he committed to deserve Death. I hope he was Penitent.
VII. Matthew Earsell, Condemned for Felony and Burglary. he was lately in Military Employment , and left it a little before he committed this Crime: He confest it, and said he had been a great sinner, viz. in breaking the Sabbath, in swearing and excessive drinking, and of many other sins, and seemed Penitent.
VIII. George Bird, Condemned for Robbing in the Street: he was lately a Soldier , but said this was the first Crime; that he had committed many gross sins, but hoped that God had given him a Penitent Heart, because he was freely willing to Dye.
IX. Lawrance Dadson, Condemned for Felony and Robbery: he denyed it not; he said that he had sinned against good Education; his Parents left him a Subsistance which he mispent, and lived an Idle Life, which exposed him to the committing of much sin, for which he is now Penitent, chiefly for offending God.
The Ordinary Visited the Condemned every day, and on the Fast-day Two Sermons were preached, with which they were much affected; and Visiting them on Thursday, every one gave an Account of the hope of their future happy State.
This is all the Account I can give of this Session.
Dated this 17th of Sept. 1691.
On Friday the 18th Instant, these Eight Persons were convey'd to Tyburn, in order to be Executed, whose Names are these, viz. Thomas Brickill, Old Mobb, Lawrence Dadson, Christopher Ashley, George Bird, Edward Biggs, Elizabeth Eaton, and James Bird, who was carry'd in a Coach, the others in Carts. Mr. Bird said, That he thought himself obliged to let the World know, that whereas it was deposed that his Father should desire him to get his Wife made away, yet he protested solemnly, as a Dying Man, and as ever he hoped to obtain Salvation in and through the Merits of Christ, that his Parents were no ways concerned in the Murther, neither was any other Person Accessary to it, and that his Parents knew nothing of his being Married to her, till the day he was apprehended for the Murther; moreover, desiring that no farther Pursuit of Vengeance might be made against any others, for that he hoped his Blood alone would satisfie all Persons whatsoever. He prayed very pensively for himself, and was very attentive to the additional helps of those Ministers about him, behaving himself in the general as one who was concerned how he might Reconcile his Soul to God, and to be at Peace with him; relying only on the Merits of Christ for Salvation, most earnestly requesting all the Spectators to pray for him to the last Breath.
As for the rest they had but little to say, only lamented their sad and dismal fall, crying out for Pardon, wringing their Hands, sighing and bemoaning themselves, &c. The most affected was Old Mobb, Christopher Ashley and Edward Biggs, who all desired Prayers; but the rest were not so much concerned, especially Dadson, who seemed to have but little sense of his Misery, casting his Eyes abroad upon the Multitude more than upon the Ordinary and the other Minister who prayed with him and the rest, giving them all heavenly Advice congruous to dying Men, and pertinent to their Eternal Salvation.
Then a Penitential Psalm was sung, and the Ordinary having recommended them to the Mercy of Allmighty God, they were all turned off.
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