ON Saturday the Ordinary Visited the Condemned, in order to the fitting them for their latter End, and for the Duties of the ensuing Lord's Day.
On which was preach'd unto them, in the Forenoon, a Sermon on this Text, Romans 6. ver. 21. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. The Conclusion of which Discourse was thus directed to those under Sentence of Condemnation.
And now may I bespeak you Sentenced Persons in the words of St. Paul to his newly Coverted Romans; What fruit had ye in those things, whereof ye are now, I hope penitentially ashamed? Bitter fruits I'll warrant you, you account the sad Effects of your Vicious Practices, which have exposed you to this Extream, though Condign Punishment. Are you not at last ashamed of your evil ways, now that you eat of the Distateful Fruits of them, and wish a thousand Wishes you had never committed them? For do their past momentary Pleasures or Profits any thing Compensate the lasting Troubles of Mind, and amazing Terrors of approaching Death, which ye at present undergo?
O Sin! Where is thy profit? when as thy loss is that of our Immortal Souls, that of Peace of Mind, and Eternal Happiness: where thy Pleasure? when as thy Torment is that of a Disquieted Conscience, that of an afflictive Sense of having no share in the Love and Enjoyment of God, an Infinite Good!
Let me appeal to your own sad Experience for a Proof of the unfruitfulness of Sin.
When you Robbed and committed Violence, were not your Hearts afraid of a Discovery, of an Apprehension? When your Feet ran to evil, and you made haste to shed Blood, were you not under Terrors of Resistance from those you Assalted? When you lurked privily for the Innocent, did you not lay wait for your own Blood, and lurk privily for your own Lives, as the fatal Event hath proved you did? What's now become of all your unjust acquirements? of your filling your Houses with other Mens Spoils? Do they Help and Relieve you, in the Day of your Distress? Are they not rather miserable Comforters, giving you Trouble and Disquiet of Mind in the remembrance of them?
O better had it been for you, had you been Beggers all your Lives time, than by undue treasuring up of Gain, to have treasured up to your selves Wrath against the Day of Wrath, unless your Repentance prevent it; better were it to have wanted here with Poor Lazarus, than to want with Dives in the other World a Drop of cool Water, to allay the Schorchings of Fire Everlasting! O fly those Infernal tormenting Flames, by a timely and sincere Repentance! Escape for your Lives, for your future eternal Lives; and look not back (as the Angel's Charge was to Lot) unless it be with Grief and Hatred on your past evil Courses: the end of those things is to be Death Temporal unto you; O may they not prove you Death everlasting!
Let then God's Chastisements drive you who would not suffer his Mercies to lead you to Repentance; be thankful to him for this Correction of you in your outward Man, that the inner one, your Souls, may be saved in the Day of our Lord: Run to him by a speedy Change of Heart and Manners; lay hold on God's Septer of Grace and Salvation while 'tis yet extended towards you: Confess and bewail, abhor and detest, and in firm purposes of Heart so forsake every wilful sin, as that you would never, by Divine Grace preventing you, return again to your former Impiety; take heed that the end of your Lives be not the beginning of a never-ceasing Death unto you; be fit to Dye, and then you will be the fitter to Live, should any of you find sparing Mercy; which I would not have you expect, so as to hinder your Preparation for Dying: O get but your Pardons sealed in Heaven before you go hence, and then whether you obtain your Pardons on: Earth it matters not much; get but Holy Tempers of Soul which may qualifie you for a seeing God with Delight, and whether you are much longer seen in this World, it will little import you. Spend the short remainder of your time, in making Provision for Eternity, in continual Good Works; 'twas too much to have hazarded your Souls once: O endanger them not again through your Impenitent Carelessness, but be employed in pious Meditation, in good Reading, in Self-examination and Prayer, in humble confessing of your sins unto God, in Penitent Deprecation of his Wrath and Vengeance, in earnest Imploration of his Mercy and Forgiveness. Dye in Charity with all the World, forgive as you would be forgieen by your Heavenly Judge; and what injuries you have done to others, beg both theirs and God's Pardon for them; and seek to make them all the amends you can before your depart hence: and after you have done all, after you have mourned for, and hated, and resolved against sin your utmost, yet acknowledge your selves unprofitable Servants; that you still deserve Hell and Damnation, were not God the Father's Mercies infinite, and God the Son's Satisfaction and Atonement all-sufficient. In a word; so prepare for Death, that it may be an Introduction of you into Life Everlasting.
The Ordinary preacht in the Afternoon on this Text, viz. Acts 3. ver. 19. Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the time of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
On the Monday the Ordinary Visited the Condemned, and inquired of them what Impressions the Prayers and Sermons, on the Lord's Day, made upon their Hearts. Several of them replyed, That they were under greater Convictions of their sins, and they hoped more Penitent than before: He stated the nature of true saving Faith and Repentance, and exhorted them not to deceive themselves with mistakes concerning the due qualifications for a future happy Estate, because nothing less than a thorough change of Heart, in converting to God, could Intitle them to his pardoning Grace and Mercy, which purifies as well as pacifies the Conscience: where God passes an Act of Oblivion, upon the account of Christ's Priestly Merits, he renews a Corrupt Nature, in turning it from the Love and
Dominion of its Lusts, by his Kingly Power, otherwise a meerly pardoned Sinner, would be instated only in the half Salvation of the Gospel.
Here were stated those mistakes whereby Men presume their sins are pardoned, when they stand in full force against them.
Also signs of being truly pardoned, with its genuine Consequents and Effects. The clearest Evidence of the Remission of sins, is the grateful improvement of it, in Conformity to God's Laws, which is only the true State of Blessedness.
After this Information and Prayer, the Ordinary required an account how they had spent their Lives, and what Remarks of true Repentance they could produce.
I. Mary Sharp, Condemned for Clipping the Currant Mony of this Nation. She said, that she is a Taylorys Wife , and that she help'd him to work at his Trade; but utterly denied the Crime: I told her, that the Clippings were found in her Pocket, and how hainous a Sin it is to diminish the King's Coin, much more to deface the Image of God in a reasonable Soul. She replied, That she had not lived so strickly as she ought, for which God might justly suffer her to fall under the Sentence of Death; but that she never Clipt in her own Person, nor knew any such, otherwise she would discover them. She confest that she had been overcom with violent Passions, which caused her to utter ungodly Speeches, of which she heartily repents. Also for the Omission of her Duty to God, and the neglect of making Provision for her Soul's Happiness. She wept much, pray'd for her self fervently in my hearing, and I hope she was truly penitent.
II. Anne Butcher, Condemned for a Robbery: She was reprieved upon her being with Child, some Months since, and now ordered to suffer Death. The Respite from which produced no signs of Repentance. For, tho she denied not the Crime, yet her Heart was obdurate, so that she cared not to receive any Instruction in order to fit her for Death.
III. Elizabeth Hancock, Condemned for stealing twenty Pounds in Mony from her Master, after she was suspected for taking away a Silver Spoon. Her Husband died , as she says, six Years since; after that she lived in several Services , and never till now, did any dishonest Action. She confest, with much Grief, that she had not pray'd to God to keep her from the Wickedness of her own Heart, and therefore was overcome with this Crime: But resolved, if she might be spared, that she would amend her Life.
V. Humphrey Malice, Condemned for robbing on the High-way, Aged 25 Years. He was a Gardiner , but neglecting that Employment, he grew very poor, whereupon Edward Booth drew him into this Crime, for which he repents. He confest that he had slighted the observation of the Sabbath, which led him to be guilty of excessive Drinking, Swearing, and other Sins, for which he expressed Sorrow. But Edward Booth, his Companion in the Robbery, and whom he accused to his Face, to have draw him to it, was very obstinate, and regarded not a due Preparation for his Death.
VI. John Davis, Condemned for Burglary, being 18 years of Age. He denied not the Fact: He was Apprentice to a Victualer , his Master died, and then he joined with bad Company, which brought him to Robbing, Drukenness, Swearing and frequent prophaning the Sabbath. He wept much; I told him, that Tears were not a sign of true Repentance, if they proceeded meerly from Horror of Conscience; and that he had exposed himself to shame, rather than for grieving God's holy Spirit, who could only comfort him in Distress. He much lamented that he had aggravated his Crime, because he took not warning, being burnt in the hand sometime since. I hope he was penitent.
VII. Francis Bluck, Condemned for stealing a Gelding. He says that he was a Poulterer in Brook-street, that he had several times stoln Cocks and Hens to sell them in the Market. That he had been tempted three times before his Imprisonment, to poison himself, out of Horror in his Conscience for his wicked Life. He confest that he had been guilty of Uncleanness, Swearing, Drukenness, and Sabbath-breaking, but now he repents. He said, that since his Condemnation, he dream'd that an Evil Spirit came to him, and would have haled him out of his Bed: But upon praying that God would preserve him, he grew more quiet in his Mind. He wept and said, that he could not bring his Heart to be willing to forgive his Accuser. I told him, that if he persisted in his Rancor, he did not repent in Sincerity, nor could he be in any fit disposition for God's pardoning Mercy. Upon this he said, that he did forgive him, and that he was more composed in his Mind upon hopes of God's Mercy in Christ.
I Visited the Condemned every day, yet observed little Remorse in them till Thursday, when much time was spent with them to fit them for their Death. Then they grew more sensible of their sinful State, and wept, being undeceived of some hopes they fancied of a Repreive, because of the King's safe return.
I could not bring John Johns to any Confession of his Crime, nor a Discovery of any who Robbed a Goldsmith lately, to the value of 500 pounds; yet he acknowledged that he saw some of the Goods sold, but would not Discover where or to whom. I reproved him for abusing his Wife, who came in kindness to see him, for he violently took from her two Ear-rings and gave them to his Whore, which he deny'd not. I must leave him, Booth, and Adderton to the ultimate Judgment of God upon their Souls State.
This is all the Account I can give of this Session.
Dated this 22d of October, 1691.
On Friday the 23d Instant, John Johns, John Davis, Anne Butcher, and Mary Sharp, were all convey'd to Tyburn, the latter of which was drawn on a Sledge, where being brought, she was exhorted by the Ordinary to make an Ingenuous and Free Confession of the Fact for which she was Condemned; to which she answered, That she never Clipt any Coyn whatsoever; but she said, That Richard Whiting and his Wife, who were her Lodgers, were undoubtedly Guilty of Diminishing the King's Coyn, for that she had reason to suspect them, Major Whiting himself (as she call'd him) being fled for it. She prayed fervently for the Pardon of all her former sins, not denying but that she had been a great sinner, &c but would not own the Fact. After which, the Ordinary prayed with her, and then she was ty'd to the Stake, and her Body committed to the Flames
The other Three being ty'd up, were Admonished to call upon God for Pardoning Mercy, of which Pious Counsel and most seasonable Excitements, John Johns and Anne Butcher took but little notice, especially Butcher, she utterly declining all Advice, &c. But truly John Davis, the Youth, was extreamly Penitent, confessing that he had been a great sinner, though Young; and desired that all Young Men and Boys would be warned by his untimely End, &c. After which they sang a Psalm, and then were turned off.