The ORDINARY of NEWGATE his Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Speech of John Harman Brian, who was Executed in St. James's-Street near S. James's-House, Westminster, and hang'd in Chains at Acton-Gravel-pits beyond Tyburn, on Friday the 24th day of October 1707, for Robbing and Burning the House of Peter Persaude Esq ; on the 28th day of August last.
AT the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Baily, on Wednesday the 15th, Thursday the 16th, and Friday the 17th Instant; two Persons, viz. John Harman Brian, a Swisser , and Thomas Smith, being try'd and found guilty of their several Indictments, did accordingly receive Sentence of Death.
On the LORD's DAY the 19th Instant, I preached to them and others in the Chappel, both in the Morning and Afternoon upon Levit. chap. 19th, part of the 18th verse. - Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thy self. -
In discoursing upon which Words, I explain'd;
I. What is meant here in the Text, and other Places of the Scripture, by the Word Neighbour, i. e. every Man, whosoever is of our own Nature and Kind, and does or may stand in need of us. This I illustrated from the Parable of the good Samaritane, who took care of the Man that fell among Thieves, and was by them stript and wounded, and left half-dead upon the place. Luke 10. 36.
II. What is to be understood by Loving our Neighbour as our selves. This Signifies, That we ought to have a real Affection for him: Not that we should love him in the same degree, but as truly and sincerely as we love our own selves; doing him all the good we can, and being careful not to wrong him in any thing, as we would not have him to wrong us: And when it has happen'd, that we have done him any injury, then to make him all the amends and satisfaction we are able, and which in the like Case we might justly expect from him. Here I shew'd;
1st. The Nature and Importance of this Command in the , which [Mat. 22. 39.] Our Blessed Saviour compares to the greatest of all (viz. that which injoins our Love to God;) and the Beloved Disciple [1 John 4. 20, 21.] makes inseparable from it.
2dly. Our indispensable Obligation to this great Duty, and the right Manner of our discharging it: How we ought to extend it to all Men, even our greatest Enemies.
3dly. The strong Motives we have to it, and the excellent Benefits that will accrue both to our selves and others from it.
4thly, and lastly, I shew'd, That all the Desires and Acts of Revenge, and all manner of Injuries and Mischiefs, of which some Men are highly guilty, proceed from the Want of this Love, which we are so strictly commanded to have for our Neighbour.
Having inlarg'd upon these, I apply'd my self in a particular manner to the two Persons Condemned, and explain'd in French to the Swisser, some part of what I had deliver'd in English; and added such Exhortations, as I thought most proper for his Case; thereby endeavouring to make him sensible of his most heinous Crimes, to confess them freely, and repent of them sincerely.
While they were under this Condemnation I constantly visited them, and had them both brought up to the Chappel twice every day: Where I read and expounded the Word of God to them, and pray'd with them; and shewed them what was fit for them to do (under those their dismal Circumstances) in order to be reconciled to God and their Neighbour, whom they had offended, and to receive Spiritual Comfort in their Souls; and prevent the dreadful Torments, and obtain the unspeakable Felicity of another World.
With this, Brain did not seem to be much affected; but Smith all along express'd a great deal of Contrition and Humility, with a desire to improve both the time he had to live here in this World, and the means laid before him of making his peace with God, to his Glory, the Edification of Mankind, and the Good of his own Soul. This Temper he appear'd to be in when there was little hope of his Life. And when a gracious Reprieve came for him, I found him still continue in the same good Disposition; being thankful to GOD and HER MAJESTY for the opportunity he had now to shew, that he sincerely resolves (by the assistance of the Divine Grace) to become a New Man. Which I heartily wish he may. And then let the World call him my Disciple, and they will say right. But while he was taken to be in a wicked Course, it lookt very strange that he should then be call'd my Disciple, as he was by a certain Person, who (I suppose) has no great good will towards me. But God forgive him, and still bless my sincere Endeavours of reforming some of the worst part of Mankind. Wherein Men (both High and Low) who love God and Goodness, ought to give me all the Assistance and Countenance they can. But some there are in the World, that are ready upon all Occasions (or rather without any Occasion) to do whatever they can to render the Ministers of Christ contemptible; and to call Thieves their Disciples, as if instead of Preaching the Doctrin of the Gospel to Men, they taught them to rob and steal, or do any other wicked thing.
But to return to this harden'd Sinner, John Harman Brian, who was condemn'd for Robbing and Burning the House of Mr. Persaude, as it is mention'd in the Title: He obstinately deny'd his being guilty of either of these Facts. And as to the Account he gave of his former Life, which he pretended (and by some Certificates appear'd) to have been vertuous; He said, that he was about 24 Years of Age, born of honest Parents, at Dully, a Village belonging to the Bayliwick of Morge, in the Canton of Bern in Switzerland; That he was brought up in the Protestant Religion, and ever continu'd in that Profession; That when he remov'd out of his own Native Place, he went to Geneva, where he liv'd 4 or 5 Years in the Service of an honest Gentleman ; and afterwards travell'd with another into Italy: That from thence he came into England, where (in the space of three Years) he was at respective times, entertain'd in the Service of divers honourable and good Families, and last of all in Mr. Persaude's; in which he continued two Months, and was then dismiss'd from it, for the reason, and in the manner mention'd at his Trial; viz. for his Carelesness in his Service, and Peremptoriness in asking to be discharg'd. He said, that for the most part of his Life he had been a Valet or Domestick ; and that in his younger years, having for about a Fortnight's time try'd to learn the Art of Lapidary, and not liking it very well, he lived afterwards with a Joyner for the space of a Twelvemonth or thereabouts; but that Trade being too hard for him, and he not strong enough for it, because of some Bodily Infirmities he was afflicted with, he left that also, and went to Service, in the Capacity aforesaid, and liv'd by that, and by buying and selling of Goods . But he deny'd he ever meddled with any that he could suppose might be stoln; and would fain have perswaded the World, that he had bought the Goods found in his possession, belonging to Mr. Persaude, of two Persons, one a Soldier, and the other a Seaman, whom he accidentally met with, viz. the former in Moor-fields, who sold him the Linnen, the Gold-Watch and Gold-Tweezer, &c. and the latter on Tower-Hill, of whom he bought the two Pistols and Fowling-Piece, mention'd in his Indictment. All this he said; and being ask'd, Who those two Persons were, he answer'd he never saw them in his life before, neither knew what became of them afterwards, nor where they might be found. And yet he express'd a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Proceedings against him, and thought much to be found Guilty; though he could alledge nothing that was any ways available to his Justification; he only saying that which is the Common Plea of those who can make no Defence; viz. That he did buy those
Things (prov'd to be stoln) that were found upon him. And so full he was of his pretended Innocence in this Matter, that (notwithstanding all that could be said to him) instead of confessing his Crimes, as a Thief and Incendiary, and begging Pardon of God and Man for them; truly he could not forbear his unworthy Reflections upon the Prosecutor, Witnesses, and Justice. There was no Admonition, or Exhortation; no Argument fetch'd from Scripture and Reason, no Representation of a future State, either of Endless Bliss, or Eternal Misery, that could prevail with him, and awake him to a due Consideration of what he ought to do before he left this World. So opiniatre and resolv'd he was in his Denial, that he so much the more hard'ned himself in it, by how much he was press'd to give Glory to God, and Satisfaction to Men, and Ease to his own Conscience, as once a notable Thief, viz. Achan, was perswaded to do before his Death; of which we have an Account in the 7th Chap. of Joshua. Some worthy French Divines, who had the Charity to come and visit this Malefactor Brian in Newgate, found and left him in this his unaccountable Obstinacy, and uncharitable Temper, both with respect to his Neighbour and his own Soul; he not only denying his Facts, for which he was condemned, but charging them with Injustice, who had brought him under this Condemnation; when at the same time he was desir'd to consider, his Sins were the Cause of it; and that if he did not confess and repent in this World, he should find no Mercy in the next. All this did work no visible good upon him. He persisted in his obstinate humour and wilful resisting all that was offer'd to him for his Soul's good. He protested that he was innocent of any thing he was accus'd of, and condemn'd for. And in this Protestation of his Innocence he persisted even to the very last. All the time he was under Condemnation, he seem'd to mind nothing more, than to make his Escape; having attempted it, by unscrewing and filing off his Irons, several times: And when he was told, That he should think of something else, and not spend, in vain Contrivances, the few and (therefore) precious Moments he had to live here; but should carefully employ them in the thoughts of, and preparation for, Eternity, - &c. He answer'd, That Life was sweet, and that any other Man, as well as himself, would endeavour to save it if he could. Upon this, I offer'd many things to his serious Consideration, which I thought seasonable and proper for him under his present Circumstances: But they made no visible Impression upon his heart: He would obstinately follow his own deluded Imagination; and receive and comply with none of those wholesome Advices that were given him, not only by my self, but other Ministers, and some (or at least One) of them, of his Acquaintance; I mean One he had sometimes been conversant with, before he came to this Calamity.
At the Place of Execution I press'd him all I could to make an ingenuous Confession, to clear his Conscience, to give Glory to God, to satisfy the World; and to consider, that he was now upon the very brink of Eternity. Instead of giving me that full Attention which so great a Matter requir'd, he turn'd his Eyes towards some Persons at a Window in a House at a little distance, and fell a reflecting upon them; while at the same time I was labouring to perswade him, rather to look upon the Ruins of that House just over against him, which he burnt; that so the Sight thereof might revive in him the Memory of his Crimes, and raise in his heart a just abhorrence, and force him to a sincere acknowledgment of them. At this Discourse he shew'd himself very uneasy, and by no means would own his Guilt, though as plain as the Sun that was then shining upon us. I pray'd for him, I exhorted him more and more; I admonished him of the great danger his Soul was in, of being cast away and lost for ever. Yet he remain'd obstinate. I made him pray after me, That God would please to touch his harden'd heart, and melt and soften it into Contrition, Confession and true Repentance: I desired him to rehearse the Apostles Creed, and Sing with me some Penitential Psalms, which he did. And all this (except a short English Prayer which I made for him, and desired those about me to joyn with me in) was performd in French; being the Language which (it seems) he understood best. Here I recommended him to God for his Grace to convert his Heart and save his Soul: And exhorted him over and over again, Not to go out of this World with a Lie in his Mouth; but lay all things open, and be reconciled to God, through JESUS CHRIST, and make his Peace with his Neighbour, and with his own Conscience, that I perceiv'd was sear'd to the highest degree; which (I told him) was cause of grief to me, and all other good Christians; though he said (but I believ'd untruly) that he saw some Persons there, laughing at his Calamity. Having spent much time, and used all the Endeavours I could, to turn him the right way, I left him with my last Advice to him to take care how he dy'd in his Sins, by his Stubborness and Obstinate Denial of what he was so justly, and upon so plain an Evidence, condemn'd for. Then I withdrew from him; and (after some small time allow'd him for his Private Devotions) he was turn'd off, without Confessing any thing. So that, I am afraid, be is gone with the Guilt of his unconfest Crimes into his everlasting State in the other World. Let other Sinners take Warning by him; and avoid such a dismal End.
This is the Melancholly Account he has left to be given of him, by
Friday Oct. 24th 1707.
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