AT the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old Baily, on Wednesday the 28th, and Friday the 30th of May last past, James Hacket, who was found guilty of four several Burglaries, receiv'd Sentence of Death, and three Women that had formerly received the like Sentence, and were then repriev'd on account of their Pregnancy, were call'd to their former Judgment, and order'd to prepare themselves for Death. But being now repriev'd again, Hacket only is appointed for Execution.
On Thursday the 29th of May, being a Day of Publick Service and Thanksgiving, viz. the Anniversary of King Charles 2d's Nativity and Restauration, I took that opportunity to preach to them, and other Prisoners in Newgate; which I did both in the Morning and Afternoon, upon these Words, 1. Peter ii. 17, the latter part of the Verse. Fear God: Honour the King. Shewing them.
I. That by the Fear of God is meant the Performance of all Religious Duties and Service to God; the doing of all that He commands, and avoiding what He forbids.
II. That by the Honour here enjoin'd to be paid to the King, is to be understood the Discharge of all due Civil Submission and Obedience both to the Supream Authority and Subordinate Ministers, whether in Church or State, whom the Providence of God has made our Superiours and set over us, for the Punishment and Restraint of Evil-doers, and for the Reward and Protection of Honest Men.
III. That our Submission and Obedience to Persons in Authority, must be in the Fear of God, which, as it has in the Text, so in our Practice it should have, the first Place: Which Divine Fear is the only sure Foundation of that Honour; for they honour Kings best, and are most Faithful and loyal Subjects, and most Obedient to all their Superiors, who truly fear God.
IV. and lastly, That those who have not the Fear of God before their Eyes, and consequently fall into Disobedience, and break all Rules of good Government, are to be accounted Rebellious against God and their Brince. So that all Thieves and Murderers, (and they are so before God, whose Design is to kill, though they don't actually do it) In a Word, all wilful Offenders and Transgressors of those Humane Laws, which are conformable, or at least not repugnant to the Laws of God: All such Transgressors may come under the Denomination of Rebels.
After I had enlarged on these Heads, I concluded (at both times) with a particular Application and Exhortation to the Persons condemned: Who were (while under this Condemnation) daily attended by me.
And on the last LORD's DAY, the 1st instant, I again preach'd to them, both in the Forenoon and Afternoon, upon 1. John ii 3. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his Commandments.
In my first opening of the Text, having shew'd in general, That all the Evils which Men commit, and all the Troubles and Calamities which they thereby bring upon themselves, arise from their not knowing Christ by this sure Token here mention'd, viz. The keeping of his Commandments: I then proceeded to consider in particular.
I. What is really meant by knowing of Christ.
II. What Assurance is to be gotten of this Knowledge.
III. ult. What are the Means wereby we may come to this Certainty of Knowing Christ, and to an Assurance of Salvation. This I illustrated by these following Observations.
1st, That though every good thing comes from God; yet He will have us to use the Means that He has appointed for our Attainment of those good things, which He dedesign for us.
2ndly, That a true and unfeigned Faith in Christ, brings forth Obedience to his Commands.
3dly, That the Act of justifying Faith is the receiving of Christ, or knowing Him aright.
4thly and lastly, That he that walks in the Ways of God, and makes Conscience to keep his Commandments, may hereby infallibly know, That he knows Christ; That his Faith is a true and lively Faith; and, That he shall be saved everlastingly.
Having largely discoursed upon these Particulars, I then apply'd my self to the Persons Condemned; telling them, That if they had been concern'd to know JESUS CHRIST for their Redeemer, by this infallible Rule, viz. the keeping of his Commandments, they should not have come to know the Shame and Misery brought upon them in this World by their presumptuous Sins; nor be (as they were) in danger of falling into infinitely greater and endless Miseries in the World to come. I thereupon exhorted them seriously to consider the dismal State of the Damn'd on the one hand, and the happy State of the Blessed on the other, which (according to my small Ability) I laid open to them; earnestly desiring them, that they would strictly examine themselves, as to their past Lives, present Condition, and future Expectation in relation to those two States; that so by Faith and Repentance, they might avoid the terrible Condemnation of Hell, and obtain the unconceivable Felicity of Heaven.
This was what I constantly set before them; whom (to that purpose) I had up to Prayer twice every day in the Chappel; where (as well as in private) I endeavour'd to instruct them in their Duty to God, to their Neighbour, and to their own Souls.
He said, he was about 24 years of Age, born in Exeter street in the City of Westminster: That he was a Ship-Carpenter by his Trade, which he had exercised for some years while he liv'd at Blackwal near London; That he had also been at Sea in HER MAJESTY's Service , and intended to have gone to it again, after he had been (as he lately was) made an Evidence against some of his Accomplices, whom he convicted. He freely confess'd that he had made very ill use, and express'd very little sense of the Mercy lately shew'd him, by returning so soon after it, as he did, to his old wicked Trade of Thieving; and, That he was guilty of breaking and robbing the Houses of Mrs Battersby, Mr Churchil, Mr Hays, and Mrs Yalden, for which he stood now condemn'd. Here he acknowledg'd the Justice of his Sentence, though he thought much to be served by his Companions, as himself had served others, and would hardly be brought into a Temper of Charity with them: There was another thing or two which likewise stuck very much in his Stomach, and that was the Constable's taking two Rings from off his Fingers, and refusing to return them him, though no Body laid claim to them; they being his own lawful Goods. And above all he exclaim'd mightily against a certain Gentleman, who took 9 l. out of 20 l. which Esquire Sambrook was pleas'd to give him for his Encouragement to become an honest Man; which was then his Intention. But being depriv'd of that 9 l. and low in the World, and finding no present Employment (such as he desir'd) by reason that the time of fitting-out for the Sea was then past, he was therefore soon brought to Poverty, and (as he pretended) to the Necessity of committing those ill things, which otherwise he would not have done. Upon all which Accounts I found it very difficult to compose him to a Spirit of Charity towards those Persons, especially the last, whom he look'd upon as the Cause of his present Troubles. But being at length made sensible of the Hurt he would do to his own Soul, if he went out of the World with Rancour and Malice in his Heart, he then declar'd, that he dy'd in Charity with them all, and with all Mankind besides. He told me, that he had given Mr Joseph Billers a true Information of all the Robberies by him committed; saying that he was very sorry he had spent his Life so ill, and had (besides those things that deserve Death here) done so many Acts of Debauchery and Wickedness, as might justly bring him to Eternal Death hereafter, were not God more Merciful, than he had been a Sinner. He also owned it was a great Folly and Fault in him to behave himself so rudely, as he did, at his Trials, and particularly at the last of them: But for his Excuse he said, he was hardly sensible of anything he then did. I found him for the most part of a hard Nature, and very much tainted with Pride; so that in publick he was loth to appear daunted or concerned at his approaching Death; thinking it a gallant and honourable thing for him to bear it out stoutly, and shew a bold and undejected Countenance: But in private he seem'd to me of another Disposition; he then appear'd more humble and more contrite. And (what I must con
fess I did not altogether dislike in him) when I was alone with him, either in my Closet or in the Condemn'd Hold, where I also visited him, I observ'd, that the Representation of Hell-Torments, tho they made some, yet made less Impressions upon him, than did my setting forth to him the Love and Mercy of God towards Mankind, which he had most ungratefully abus'd: This sometimes did, when no other Consideration would draw Tears out of his Eyes, and constrained him to acknowledge, that God was Good and Merciful indeed, and he a most wretched Sinner; so powerful is the Love of God upon the Hearts of Men, unless they be Reprobates.
Being ask'd whether he was a Roman Catholick, as some reported; he told me, that he ever was a Protestant, brought up by some of his Relations in the Profession of the Church of England; but to his great Sorrow, had not liv'd answerably to it. When he was approaching to the Day of his Death, a certain Prisoner for Debt in Newgate, who is (as I take him) a Gentleman of Piety and of good Parts, was so charitable to this poor Sinner, as to spend two whole Nights in reading and praying with him in the Condemn'd Hold; a Place of no pleasant Abode; but Love makes all things easy. 'T was out of such Christian Love to his Soul, that within a few days of his Execution, the Reverend Doctor Woodward, Minister of Poplar in the County of Middlesex, wrote to him a Letter, which (it seem'd) made a deep Impression upon his Heart, and further'd him in the great Work then before him. As this Letter did to him, and may also to others, prove of good use; so I have here inserted a Copy of it; which is as follows.
' THO' you have liv'd but a little while in our Hamlet, ' yet I am exceedingly troubled that you have liv'd ' so ill a Life, as to bring you to such a shameful and untimely End. You have now but a little while to live in this ' World: I beseech you lose no Minute of it: Drink no strong ' Liquors, except for necessity: But fast and Pray. Retire ' from Company, and cry mightily to God for Mercy. God ' has ordain'd a Saviour for Sinners; his Son Jesus Christ, ' who is able to save the worst of Sinners, and will not cast ' out any that come to him in a penitent manner, with a ' lively Faith in him. This is the only way of Salvation: ' Here spend all that little remaining part of your Time: ' And I pray God grant you Mercy through the Merit of ' his Son, and Sanctification of his holy Spirit.
' It is but a few hours and you will appear before your ' Judge: Wherefore bend all the Powers of your Soul to seek ' Reconciliation with Him through the great Peace-Offering, ' the Sacrifice of our Saviour on the Cross.
' I shall only add one thing more, which is, That it is necessary to true Repentance, That you discover your Partners in your Sins, that they may not do further Mischief; ' and that you do what you can to warn them to leave off their ' wicked way of Life. For other things I leave you to the ' Direction of the Ordinary; recommending you in my Prayers to the Mercy of Almighty God through his Grace.
' I am ' Your Friend,
Directed thus, ' For Mr Hacket in Newgate,
At the Place of Execution, where I attended him for the last time, he persisted in what he had told me before, and said he had nothing more to add to his Confession. I exhorted him more and more to stir up his Heart to God, and implore his Divine Assistance in this his last hour, that so he might make a happy End, die in Peace with God, and be admitted into the Regions of Bliss and Peace. Then I pray'd and sang Penitential Psalms with him, and he rehearsed the Apostles Creed with me; declaring that he dy'd in that Faith, and hop'd for Salvation through the Merits of Christ. He desired the Standers-by to take warning by him, and pray for his Soul. When I had pray'd with him, he read by himself a Prayer prepar'd for his use, which is too long to be inserted in this Paper.
After this I pray'd again; and having recommended him to the Mercy of God through Christ, I left him to his private Devotions; for which he had sometime allow'd him. When that was over, the Cart drew away, and he was turn'd off; he all the while calling mightily upon God in these and the like Ejaculations. Lord have mercy upon me! O let thy Servant depart in peace! Lord Jesu receive my Spirit! &c.
This is all the Account here to be given of this Dying Person, by
Friday, June 6th. 1707.
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