AN ACCOUNT OF THE BEHAVIOUR OF JOHN MATTHEWS, the Printer ; AS ALSO Of John Constable and James Moore, the other two Persons Executed with him at Tyburn, on Friday the 6th of Nov last. WITH AN Abridgement of the Sermon Preach’d at the Chapel of Newgate, in the Afternoon of the Sunday preceding the Time of their Death
By THOMAS BROWNE, A.M . and Minister of Woodstreet Compter: Being the Person appointed (by an Order from the Right Honourable the Lord-Mayor and Court of Aldermen) to attend the Condemn’d Prisoners at the Place of Execution.
LONDON, Printed for, and Sold by W. Boreham, at the Angle in Paternoster Row. 1719. Decemb.Price Three-half-pence.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE Behaviour, &c.
AMONG many Reasons which might be offered for not Publishing this Account sooner, this may suffice, That, as there was at that time no Ordinary, so (I presum’d) no Paper of this Kind would be expected from the Minister who Officiated. But the many Importunities of my Friends, and the Expectation, I perceived, in most People whom I have since conversed with, of having a True and Genuine Relation of the last Dying Words and Actions of these Criminals, have, in a manner, forc’d from me (though at this distance of Time) this present Account.
ON Sunday, November the First, in the Afternoon, I Preached to the Prisoners on these Words, taken out of the Third Chapter of the Second Epistle General of St. Peter, and the Ninth Verse;
The Lord is not slack concerning his Promise (as some Men count Slackness) but is Long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to Repentance.
After a short Preface upon the Words, and having shewa their proper Import and Design, I proceeded to enlarge upon them in such a manner as I conceiv’d most pertinent for the Occasion.
First, I observ’d to them the reason which the Apostle here assigns, of the Long-Suffering of God towards Sinners, viz, That he is not willing that any should Perish, but that all should come to Repentane.
Secondly, I shew’d that this Goodness of God ought to win them to Repentance, by laying before them the irresistable Power God is arm’d with, and his absolute Dominion over the whole Creation: and how, that (notwithstanding Men’s great and repeated Provocations against him) he still exercises his Patience towards them; cuts them not off in the Acts of those many damning Sins they have committed, but, for a long time, forbears his Judgments that their Amendment might prevent the Execution of his Justice.
For the truth of this Observation, I appeal’d to themselves.
You are living and signal Instances of God’s great Forbearance and Long- Suffering; and now that at length, Vengeance has laid hold of you, and your Sin found you out; God even still waits for your Repentance, and upon a deep Sorrow and Humiliation for your Transgressions, is ready to reach out the Arm of his Mercy to save you.
I earnestly then press’d them not to neglect this their Day, for now was the accepted time, now, now, (in the most emphatical Sense) was their Day of Salvation, for their Night hasted swistly on, wherein it was impossible for them to work: and therefore, that it was of the utmost Importance for them instantly to think on this, to fly to the Merits of a crucisy’d Saviour; and with a holy Vehemence, nd Importunity, bg the good Spirit of God, (the Purchase of his most precious Blood) to work in them a hearty Contrition for their Sins, that their Souls might be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus.
I proceeded, in the Third Place to shew the infinite Danger and Hazard Men run, in standing out against the many Overtures of Grace and Mercy ; that abus’d Goodness wou’d at length turn into Fury; and that every despis’d Call of the holy Spirit, and the rejected Admonitions of God’s Ministers would, in the great solemn Hour of Accounts, aggravate their Guilt, and enhance their Punishment.
On Fryday, the Day of Execution, pursuant to an Order from the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, and Court of Aldermen, I went about Nine in the Morning to Newgate, where I found the Reverend Mr. Skerret in Mr. Matthews’s Chamber, and desired him, as he had constantly attended Mr. Matthews from the time of his Condemnation, so he wou’d be pleas’d to continue his Attendance to his Execution. He answer’d me, That he was very ready to do Mr. Matthews all the Service that lay in his Power, and came then to visit him, with a Resolution to be with him in his last Moments. I then left Mr. Skerret with him (who was so well
satisfied with his Repentance, that he made no scruple to admit him to the Sacrament) and went my self to the other two Persons under Sentence of Death. Upon my entrance into the Chappel with them, Constable desired me to spend as much time as I possibly could, in Prayer, and other Religious Duties, that his Friends might have the more time to procure him that Pardon, or at least Reprieve, which from their Number and Interest they had given him great reason to expect. Thus finding him to lay too great a Stress on the Endeavours of his Friends, I desired him to recollect, how little reason he had to expect Mercy, who had so much, and so lately abus’d that Mercy he had receiv’d, when under Condemnation before. And therefore I told him, It would be much greater Wisdom to suppose the worst, and make the best Provision he could for Eternity. This, I believe, had a very good Effect upon him ; for he appear’d very devout and attentive during the Prayers, but full of Sorrow and Contrition upon receiving the Sacrament, and afterwards express’d himself to this purpose, That, he hoped God had hear his Prayers, and that his Sins were now pardon’d and indeed, continu’d in this good Disposition to the Moment he was turn’d off.
When I came to discourse with Moor, I first ask’d, if he was able to give me any Account of the Sermon I had so lately preach’d; Constable answer’d for him, that he could repeat it almost word for word : Accordingly he began, and the Account he gave me of it was surprizirg, and I believe, had time permitted, could have repeated it. He was of a grave and thoughtful Deportment, never spoke, unless ask’d a Question, and was continually at his Devotion. He was destitute of Friends, and expected nothing but Death. He (as well as Constable) enreared me to administer to him the Holy Sacrament,which they receiv’d with great Devotion.
It was by this time past 12 a Clock, and the Prisoners were demanded away: Constable desir’d he might first see Mr. Matthews, but was refused him, and they were carried to the Place of Execution (Mr. Matthews on a Sledge, Constable in a mourning Coach, and Moor in a Cart) when they came thither, Constable shook Hands with Moor, and kist Matthews, hom (after his Friend had gratify’d his Request, so take care of his Body) I ask’d, Whether he had any thing more to say: And finding be he had not, I proceeded to recommend them so that Almighty Being before whole awful Tribunal, in a few Minutes, they were to appear, in order to give a strict and solemn Account of all the Actions of their past Lives. During the whole time of the Service, they were earnest with God for the pardon of their Sins; nor did they seem to have any Terror or Distraction in their Minds at the Apprehensions of their fatal End.
After having continued above an Hour with them in the Cart, I took my Leave of them.
It cannot be expected, I should be particular in my Account relating to Mr. Matthews, having had no private Conference with him , but I could not but observe and admire his Deportment at the Place of Execution, which (in a Youth indeed) was remarkably Grave and Serious. He renew’d his former Request to his Friend concerning the Interment of his Body, but made no Speech, notwithstanding some have confidently affirmed he did. Soon after this the Sentence was executed upon them.
I have nothing further to add, but, that Mr. Skerret has assur’d me, that he has deliver’d to Mr. Secretary Craggs a Paper sign’d by Mr. Matthew’s own Hand, which (among other Articles) contained these 3.
1. An hearty Acknowledgment of his dying in firm and true Allegiance to his present ajesty King GEORGE 2. His being a Member of the Church of England. And 3. His departing in fracere Love and Charity with all Men. This is a full Account of all I know relating to these dying Persons, T. Browne, appointed to Officiate aS Ordinary .