AT the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Baily, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, being the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th instant, Nine Persons, (viz. five Men, and four Women) were found Guilty of such Crimes as deserv'd Death, and so the Sentence of it was pass'd on them accordingly; and another Woman, namely, Deborah Churchill, formerly condemn'd for Murther, and then respited, was now call'd to her former Judgment, and order'd with the rest to prepare for Death. Of these ten Persons, Churchill only is appointed to die, and the rest have (by Her Majesties gracious Reprieve) a further opportunity to shew to the World their Repentance and Amendment of Life. I hope they will take great Care (and God give them Grace) so to do.
As soon as they had receiv'd Sentence, and I could conveniently come at 'em, I visited 'em, and had them twice a day (while under this Condemnation) in the Chapel of Newgate; where I pray'd with them, and read and open'd the Word of God to them; endeavouring to make them sensible of the miserable condition their wilful Sins had brought them into, and of the necessity of their earnest Application to God for Mercy and Pardon. I did to that purpose constantly represent to them how infinitely Happy, or how infinitely Miserable they should be, according as they did or did not improve this their short time. I gave them Rules and Instructions from the Word of God, that might (thro' his Divine Grace) direct and guide them in the great Work of Repentance, which was now before them, and on the due performance of which in this World, depended their Eternal Life and Felicity in the next.
On the Lord's Day, the 12th instant, I preach'd to them both in the Morning and Afternoon, upon part of the Gospel for the Day, viz. Matt. xi. 10. the Words being these: For it is written, Behold, I send my Messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
In speaking to which Words, I shew'd;
I. Who that Messenger was, and what Life he led, viz. a Life of Austerity and strict Piety; shunning all the vain Pomps and sinful Delights of the World, as it became one that was to preach Humility and Repentance to Men, in order to the preparing their Hearts to receive the Grace of the Gospel of Christ. And here I observ'd by the by, how necessary it is for Men to read the Scriptures, and make themselves well acquainted with them; inasmuch as they contain the Mysteries of God's holy Religion and the Means of our Eternal Salvation; and were therefore often quoted and referr'd to by our Blessed Saviour himself, as we see here in the Text, and several other places of the Gospel, and likewise by his Evangelists and Apostles, in their Divine Writings.
Then I proceeded to shew;
II. What that Message was, of which the Text speaks, viz. the Preaching of Repentance and Amendment of Life.
On those two Heads I inlarg'd, and particularly on the latter; shewing,
1. The Nature
2. The Necessity
3. The Means
4. The Advantages
of Repentance; which is,
1st, The sure
2ly, The only
Way to Happiness: And,
3dly, That without Repentance God's Pardon cannot be obtain'd; and without God's Pardon, there is no Salvation: So that if we neglect to repent in this World, we can expect nothing else but Eternal Death and Misery in the World to come.
Having largely and distinctly discours'd upon these Particulars, I concluded at both times with suitable Exhortations and Applications to the Condemn'd; who (as far as I could observe) behav'd themselves as it became Persons under such unhappy Circumstances. And when I was with them in private, they (i. e. some of them) express'd a great deal of Sorrow for their past Sins, and seem'd to be resolv'd upon a new Life, if God would be pleas'd to spare them a longer continuance in this World. I hope those of them who have obtain'd their Desire herein, will remember their Promise, and be so considerate and so just, as to perform it.
And as to her who is now order'd to suffer that Death she has been condemn'd to, she acknowledg'd the Justice of God in it, and her Desert of it; as having by her lewd Conversation brought it upon her self. She gave me the sad Account of her former wicked Life; of which the substance here follows.
Deborah Churchill, alias Miller, condemn'd the 26th day of February last, for abetting and assisting in the Murther committed in Drury-lane, by Richard Hunt, William Lewis, and John Boy, upon the Body of Martin Were, on the 12th of January, 1707-8. She deny'd her being concern'd in that barbarous Fact, or having set any Person upon it, as it was alledg'd: But she confess'd indeed, that she then was with Hunt, and that he was an Acquaintance of hers, and had kept company with her for Seven Years together, in a lascivious and adulterous way; during which time she had observ'd him to be a very passionate and dangerous Man, and was her self sometimes afraid of her Life, when he was in his Passion; and that when they went abroad together, he was always very quarrelsom, and ready to draw upon any-body that he fancied did affront him: But upon such occasions she always endeavour'd to prevent, and often restrain'd him from doing mischief. And tho' she was sensible that at some time or other he might in his Rage do mischief either to her self, whom he frequently threatned, or some others when he was in her company, and so she might (as it has prov'd) be involv'd in his Crime, and the dismal Consequences thereof; yet she was so bewitch'd, that she could not leave off his company. Now she was very much concerned and afflicted, and cried bitterly for her past Follies, and Abuse of the good Education which her Parents and Friends (Persons of great Worth) had given her, who in her younger years was by them carefully brought up in Religion and good Manners: But she had wickedly thrown off all those good things which were endeavoured to be fix'd in her, and abandon'd her self to all manner of Filthiness and Uncleanness with greediness; which now prov'd her Shame and Misery, and made her sometimes even despair of God's Mercy, when she sadly reflected upon her past Life, and consider'd how great and heinous an Offender she had been in those things which are so contrary to the Divine Purity, and the Profession of Christ's Religion and Virtue. Thus she grievously lamented and bewail'd her sinful and miserable Condition, and said, she heartily repented of all the Guilt she had contracted to her self by her soul Sins, and of the Dishonour which she fear'd she had thereby brought upon her Family, and particularly her poor Children, who were likely to suffer for her Faults, she having had two by her first Husband, whose Name she commonly went by, but seldom by her second's, who about two or three Years ago (she could not well remember the time) was married to her in the Fleet Prison, upon Agreement first made between them both, That they should not live together, nor have any thing to do with each other. Which Agreement was strictly perform'd; and so she continued freely to keep company with Hunt, as she had begun to do in her former Husband's time, who being a very unkind and bad Husband to her, had thereby given occasion to her going astray in this manner. She said she was about 31
years of age, born within six miles of Norwich, of good Parents, (as is mentioned before) but began very early to be loose and ungovernable, and so by degrees arrived to that pitch of Wickedness, which brought her to Ruin.
She was try'd and condemned in February last; since which time she remain'd a Prisoner in Newgate; and her Execution was respited till now, by virtue of a Reprieve given her upon account of her being thought to be with Child. But now she own'd she was not, but was willing to use any means to save her Life, or at least put off her Death for a time. Upon this I told her, That she had done very ill to induce those Women, who declared her to be with Child, to do (perhaps out of their misplaced pity) such a wicked thing, as to take a false Oath for her: To which she answer'd, That they only swore her being with Child to the best of their Knowledge and Judgment; and so they might swear true in swearing that, though she was not with Child; for no Body, no not herself, could certainly know at that time, whether she was really so or no. That's what she said as to this Matter. But when she again reflected on her past Sinful Life and approaching shameful Death, she freely acknowledg'd, that tho' she did not look upon herself to be guilty of Blood-shedding, yet she could not plead Innocence, but was a great Criminal before God, whose Pity and Compassion she implored.
Here she wept most bitterly, and shew'd great Signs of Repentance; saying, that she hoped God would be merciful to her, because she had ever since her Condemnation, endeavour'd to wean herself from the World in the abhorrence of her Sins, and preparing for a better Life. She wish'd all dissolute Persons would take Warning by her, and give up themselves no more to the foul Sin of Uncleanness.
When this Day of her Death was come, she was deliver'd out of Newgate, and carry'd in the Coach with me to the Place of Execution, where I attended her for the last time, and (according to my usual manner) pray'd and sung some Penitential Psalms with her, and made her rehearse the Apostles Creed. And after I had been a pretty while with her, exhorting her more and more to stir up her heart and mind to God, I took my leave of her; earnestly recommending her to the Divine Mercy, and wishing her a happy Passage out of this miserable World, and an endless Felicity in the next. Then she spoke to the Spectators to this effect: I desire all Persons, especially Young Women, to take Warning by me, and take care how they live; for my wicked Life has brought me to this shameful Death. I had a good Education, and was well brought up by my Parents; but I would not follow their good Advice and Instructions. I kept company with a Young-man, who committed the Murther for which I am here to suffer. I did not prompt him to it, nor was near him when he did it. But it was my misfortune to be concern'd with him: And God is just in bringing me to this Condemnation; for I have been a great Sinner, and very wicked. I desire those of my Acquaintance, that lead such a Life as I have formerly led, (and I see some of them here) I desire them, I beg of them, that they would take Warning by my Downfall, and amend their wicked Lives, lest they bring themselves to such an untimely End, and be undone for ever. These were her very Words, as far as I can remember; and she gave me a Paper containing the same; the substance of which I have (according to her desire) here deliver'd, whereby the Publick may avoid their being impos'd upon by any Sham-Papers relating to her Last Speech.
She desired the Standers-by to pray for her, That God would be pleas'd to be merciful to her Soul. And turning to one she call'd Nurse, she earnestly begged of her to take care of her poor Children, for whom she seemed to be very much concern'd.
Then she return'd to pray to God in these following Words, which she often repeated.
O God the Father, who hast created me, preserve and keep me. O God the Son, who hast redeemed me, assist and strengthen me. O God the Holy Ghost, who infusest Grace into me, aid and defend me. O Holy, Blessed, and Glorious Trinity, Three Persons, and One God, assist me in this my last Trial, and bring me into the way of Everlasting Life.
O Blessed Jesus, wash away my Sins in thy Blood, and receive my Soul, Thou art my Helper and Redeemer, make no long tarrying, O my God. Say now unto my Soul, I am thy Salvation. Into thy Hands, O Lord, I commend my Spirit; for thou hast redeem'd me, O Lord, thou God of Truth. Lord Jesus receive my Spirit. Amen. Amen.
When she had done speaking, she was allow'd some further time for her private Devotions. Then the Cart (into which she was put as soon as she came to that Place) drew away; and so she was turn'd off; she all the while calling upon God for Mercy, in these and the like Ejaculations: Lord, have mercy upon me! Lord, receive me! Make haste unto me, O Lord! Lord, save me! &c.
This is all the Account here to be given of this Dying Person, by me,
Decemb. 17. 1708.
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The Works of the Reverend Mr. Edmund Hickeringill, Late Rector of All-Saints, Colchester . In Two Volumes. Containing, 1. The History of the Whigs their Plots, Principles, and Practices, in two Parts; being the Secret History of the Whigs, from the time of the Civil Wars, &c. 2. The horrid Sin of Man-catching, or a true Idea and Character of wicked Magistrates, Apparitors, Bumms, and Catchpoles. 3. Curse ye Meroz, a Sermon, containing the Standard of Obedience to Soveraign Power, that Kings can do no Wrong with respect to the Doctrin of Passive Obedience and Non-resistance. 4. An Apology for Distress'd Innocence, a Sermon, Preach'd on the 30th of January setting forth the restless Spirit of Republican Principles and King-killing Practices. 5. The Lay-Clergy, or Lay-Elder, a short Essay on the Lawfulness of the Clergy's exercising Temporal Offices. 6. The Trimmer's friendly Debate with the Observator, concerning the Uniformity and Benediction of Charters; and the House of Commons not a House of Courtiers. The Second Volume Contains, 1. The Black Non-conformist. 2. The Postscript to the same. 3. Some Considerations on the Nature of Marriage. 4. The Author's Thoughts on Confirmation. 5. An Essay on the Vertue of Sequestration. 6. An Epistle to the Tories. 7. The Mushroom; in answer to Mr. Drydens Satyr against Sedition. 8. A Postscript to the same. 9. The Ceremony-monger. 10. The Good-Old-Cause: or, the Divine Captain.
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