THE Ordinary of NEWGATE HIS ACCOUNT OF The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Dying Words of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn on Wednesday the 13th of April. 1720.
ON Sunday April 10, in the Afternoon, I preach'd to the 6 Persons that were executed the Wednesday following, from these Words;
Let me dye the Death of the Righteous, And let my last End be like his! (Numb. 23. latter part of the 10th ver.)
I first drew an Observation from this Exclamation of Baalam the false Prophet, viz. That there cannot be in the World any real, but only pretended, Atheists. Was there such a Monster in Nature as a speculative Atheist, The very Stones, on which the Being of a God is impress'd, would sure arise and proclaim him accursed. We feel the Deity moving in our Breasts; and he who denies a God, as he would dye like the must surely be form'd like them, This is a Truth, rather written in our Hearts, than discover'd by our Reason; rather presented to Us by Nature, than instill'd by Instruction.
Men therefore must pretend to be Atheists, to show that they have Sense enough to dissent from the vulgar Opinion: But this may be call'd, going wisely to Hell. Or else they strive to disbelieve a God, because their Conscience bids them be desirous there should be none: But this is as if a Man should take a Dose of Opium, then lay him on the Sands to sleep where the Tide was to flow. By how much Hell is more dangerous than the Sea; by how much the Soul is more valuable than the Body; by so much is the Sinner more foolish than the Sluggard.
In illustrating the Text, I went over the following Particulars.
1st. We consider'd what Reason all Men have to covet the Death of the Righteous.
For let a Man have Solomon's Wisdom, and the Grandeur of Nehuchadnezzar, would he not slight it all on his Death-bed for a Moments ease of Mind? Let a Man raise Piramids to his Name, and Temples to his Glory; yet if he dies not the Death of the Righteous, poor Comfort alas! to have his Name in Renown upon Earth, while his Soul is in Tortures in Hell.
I beleive the very Greatest wicked Man, at the Hour of Death, reflected on the Happiness that lives in the Homely Dwellings of the Peasant; Happy the Beggar, who can think of Heaven with Peace, Happy
the Labourer, who can lye down in the silent Grave, as to his Nights Repose.
But what need I evince the difference between the Righteous and the Sinners, at the Hour of Death? Your own Observations will speak more loud than my words. Whoever has seen the Exit of a wicked Man, must know that the Debauchee, at such a Moment, is in Tremblings and Agonies, while the Good Man is compos'd and serene; One fancies the Furies are snatching at his Soul, the other is ready to give up his Spirit into the Arms of his Saviour, and crys out in tender Groanings, Why is thy Chariot so long in coming? The Debauchee can no longer continue in this World, yet dare not look forward to the next: The virtuous Man, can gaze at another Life with Pleasure and leave the present Scene with Joy.
Second Head, was to consider more particularly, The Insignificancy of earthly Possessions for the gaining this Death of the Righteous. As soon as Man enters the Meridian of Life, and Ambition has got the better of softer Passions; with what eagerness launches he forth to the Paths of Preferment! Was the Voyage of Life for Five Hundred Years: I must own I am at a Loss to know what we could do more in providing for the Passage: Was our Part on the Stage, in the Acting to take up Five Thousand Years, could we lay the Scheme with a deeper Design? or project the Machinery with greater Fatiegue? Man hurries by Day, and watches by Night; his Interest is first in his Thoughts when he rises, and the last takes leave when he goes to Repose; he hurries, sweats, labours, and still the Mark and Goal is Interest.
But wherefore are Riches thus amiable to Us? 'Tis sure against Nature to be in love with Dross; 'tis monstrous for a rational Being to be subject to Dirt. But perhaps Riches can buy Us The Death of the Righteous? No! They cannot ease Us of one single sting of Conscience. They cannot purchase Us one Moment from the Arrest of Death. The Hero who had rang'd the Earth, must be lok'd in the Limits of a Tomb; the Miser who had gain'd huge Acres of Land, must yeild up all for six poor Foot of Earth. Go to now ye Rich Men, weep and howl for your Miseries that shall come upon you: Your Riches are corrupted, and your Garments are Motheaten: Your Gold and Silver is canker'd, and the Rust of them shall be a Witness against You, and shall eat your Flesh as it were Fire: Ye have heaped up Treasure against the Last Days. Jam. 5. 1, 2, 3.
Tho' this was directed, I think, particularly to the Jewish Misers, whose Gold would excite the Romans to destroy them; we may yet extend it to Christians; and if the Rust of their Treasure does not corrode and eat their Flesh like Fire, in this Life, 'twill certainly hereafter bring upon them the Fire of Hell. The Simily is very Circastical, as Fire if once encourag'd and encreas'd, devours all before it, so Gold if once gather'd together by unlawful Usury will bring on its Owner Destruction. For with submission, I cannot easily think that The excellent Dr. Hammond had altogether sufficient Reason for altering here, our Translation in Use. He places the stop after Flesh: The Rust of them shall be a Witness against you And shall eat your Flesh: As it were Fire, ye have heaped up Treasure, against the Last Days. The Phraze seems more natural, to say, The Rust of your Money shall eat and destroy your Flesh, as Fire eats away and destroys Fuel; than to say, Ye have treasured up Gold as a Man should hoard and
treasure up Fire. Besides, our common Translation best answers the Apostle's Design: The Terrour and mischievous Effects of the hoarded Gold; which was the Apostle's Design to illustrate and evince, is more strongly evinc'd and illustrated by the Image our vulgar Translation gives Us, than that which by the Doctor stands corrected: It is, I say, a stronger Image to say The Rust of your Gold shall eat your Flesh, as Fire corrodes and consumes where it seizes; than to say, Ye have hoarded up Treasure as if ye had hoarded up Fire. Those words also, make for the vulgar Translation; which must either signify, against the Hour of a Man's Natural Death, or else, against the Destruction of Jerusalem. But the Truth is, The two Meanings are so very near alike (if any real Difference can be discern'd) That it might have perhaps been about as well for this judicious Commentator to have omitted the finding this Fualt in our vulgar Translation; among other Reasons, because he Nation is already so inclin'd to dislike, despise and ridicule it.
Nothing more shows the Insignificancy of Riches, than that God so seldom bestows them on his Favourites.
When Death was now the Portion of the wicked Zedekiah, groaning under the weight of Nebuchadnezzar's Chains, what did all his former Pomp and Grandeur avail? He desired to dye the Death of the Righteous, tho' He had liv'd the Life of the Wicked: It may not be: They slew the Sons of Zedekiah, before his Eyes; And put out the Eyes of Zedekiah. 2 Kings, 25, 27. Give me then (with Agur) Neither Poverty nor Riches, feed me with Food convenient for Me: Lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or Lest I be poor and steal, and take the Name of my God in vain, Prov. 30. 8, 9.
In the Third Place, I propos'd to show, How every One may attain to this happy Death of the Righteous. What stain so black, that the Blood of Christ is unable to wash away? What Crime so mighty, as to conquer the Merits of Jesus?
But, among other things, there are three Requisites that must lead Us to this blessed Exit. 1st. We must repent in time. SUCH is our Folly, that we would of Vice Here, and the Pleasures of Virtue Hereafter; we would be Sinners on Earth, and Saints in Heaven. To-morrow (says the Debauchee) I will repent; as if 'twould be easier To-morrow to repent than Today. God says, My Spirit shall not always strive with Man; and how will our Regeneration be wrought without the Holy Ghost? This therefore, is, hazarding Immortal Glory, for a Moments Pleasure: 'Tis risquing the Soul, to indulge the Body. But will the Body thank the Soul for this at the Great Day of Accounts? How will they accuse Each other, when they are drove together into the Flames of Hell!
2d. Requisite, was, To rely wholly on the Merits of Christ. If the best Men, after They have done all, must say, we are unprofitable Servants; then much more You, The badness of whose Lives your present Conditions too loudly alas proclaim. Yet God is a tender and indulgent Father; who looks down with Pleasure from Heaven 'ore his Children on Earth. The Lord is my Shepherd (said David) I shall not want. He maketh Me to lye down in Green Pastures, he leadeth Me beside the still Waters. Psal. 23. 1 and 2. This Reliance on Christ, or, This Faith, is inseperable from Good-works; and where Works are not, it is a false and declusive Faith: If Piety is not necessary to Justification, to Sanctification it is. 'Twas unneedful for Christ to have left the Realms of Glory; If our Merits, without his leaving those Joys, could have carryed Us to Them.
3dly, To obtain this Death of the Righteous, We must beware that we depend not too much on the Mercies of God. The many tender Promises of God, that he will embrace the returning Prodigal, lulls many Men in a Supine security. But this is cheating our own Souls; 'tis triffling with Eternity. Expect Ye to live with the Wicked, and to dye with the Righteous? Vain Expectation! God, you will say, is Merciful; but ought We therefore to abuse his Mercies: God is slow to Anger, but shall We therefore provoke his Anger? If ye will not turn, he will whet his Sword, he hath bent his Bow and made it ready.
Had any One amongst You affronted a Friend, who yet was of so affable a Temper that he would not resent the Indignity: Would you requite his Meekness by continuing to affront him? He must have the Heart of a Barbarian, who knew so little Gratitude, and be worse than Infidel who was so lost to Generosity. Therefore, Let the Wicked forsake his Way, and the Unrighteous Man his Thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord; (and upon those Conditions it follows) And He will have Mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. Esay. 55. 7.
IN the Fourth and last Place, I propos'd, more particularly to perswade those unhappy Persons, who were soon to have a Period put to their Lives, to covet this Death of the Righteous.
You are Men, who are speedily I fear to be hurried to a Death, that is called the Death of the Wicked; but I would have ye make it The Death of the Righteous: Let me assure Ye, 'Tis in all your Powers to do so: When your Souls shall appear Naked, before the Judgment-Seat, Yea will be found without Excuse; for the Favour of God was offer'd Ye: late tho' it is, yet is it not too late; but remember, There is no Repentance in the Grave.
We may suppose that God, and the holy Angels, have now their Eyes upon Ye: Does Christ desire that Ye should eternally inhabit Fire and Brimstone? As I live saith the Lord God, I have no Pleasure in the Death of the Wicked, But that the Wicked should turn from his way and live: Turn Ye, turn Ye, from your Evil ways! Ezek. 33. 11.
But consider, if Ye persist in Impenitence, but a Day, an Hour, how Ye will wish for that Day, that Hour, in Another World; why, now Ye enjoy it; use it, while it's yours, Or else own that your Damnation is Just. Finally (as says the Apostle) watch Ye! stand fast in the Faith! quit you like Men, be strong! and God of all Power, give you Power in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He confest in the general that he had been a very indifferent Liver, w was the most that he would ever say to Me; for to all my Questions he would answer in one word, either No, or Yes. I perceiv'd that he could not write or read, But I ask'd him if his Fellow-Prisoners were not ready and willing to read to him those Books I had lent Them for that Purpose? He told me They were. I desir'd he would tell whither he knew of what Consequence Eternity and his Soul were? to which he also answer'd, Yes. Before he went out of the World, he seem'd in some measure to attend to the other Condemned Persons when they read the Responses in the Publick Prayers, and the Verses alternately in the Psalms; and Afterwards also to regard them when they particularly read to him for his Benefit.
He freely confest the Crime which he stood convicted of; and said He had been Guilty of almost every Sin that could be named; for which he willingly suffer'd an ignominious Death in this World, and only hoped to find Pardon in the World to come. He said that Mr. Snow had accommodated him with several of those Books, which had by charitable Gentlemen been sent in for the Use of that Person; and that he had found great Advantage and Comfort in reading Them to Himself, and to the Rest of his unhappy Companions.
When I talk'd with him again, after the Dead-Warrant came down, he told Me he had two particular Robberies to communicate to Me, in order to their being publish'd to the World, being unwilling that any innocent Person should suffer by lying under the suspicion of committing what was by him perform'd. The first of these Robberies was in the Strand, about two Years ago, where they broke into a Cellar, and stole thence several wearing Cloaths, &c.
The other Robbery, he told me, was committed on Bagshot-Heath, where Himself, in Company with one Winship, rob'd 4 Stage Coaches; This was, he said, on the same Day on which the last Malefactors were executed, (viz. Friday the 29th of January Last past.) I ask'd him (as a certain elderly Woman had desir'd me) whether there was not a third Person in Company with him, when he committed that Robbery? He answer'd, That there was none present but Himself and Winship.
To outward Appearance, he seemed to be very sorry for his past wicked Life He was attentive to my Explications of those Chapters which I read in the New Testament, which I endeavour'd briefly to illustrate, for the Improvement of those among them who had little or no Knowledge of the Religion they were brought up in. And seem'd also to have an Earnestness in the Performance of his Last Duties before he left the World.
He said He had been before in Newgate, and had now no Expectation at all of Life. He told me that he had a Wife, and one Child three Years of Age; upon whose Account he was in some Measure concern'd, not only for his Sins, but also at his leaving the World: But he added, that he had been a Silk-Weaver , and his Wife had assisted in the Business, and he hoped was able to maintain Herself and his Babe.
He also said, that he had formerly left his Trade, and was bound 'Prentice to One at Sea , where he continued not long. After the Dead-Warrant was carried to Newgate ; A Gentleman desir'd Me to enquire of this Smith, if he did not about three Years ago, rob his Dining-Room of several Pieces of Plate, on which his Coat of Arms was mostly engraven: He confest that he knew of the Robbery, and that his Comrade (by Name David Smith) committed it; but said that he was not with him at that Time, neither did he pertake of the Profits. He added, That if I had not enquired after it, He had a full Intent to have communicated it to Me.
Before his Execution, he acknowledged that he had been an old Offender; and said, that he and the aforesaid David Smith, committed the Robbery at the Quaker's a Linnen-Draper, at Islington. For which two Men, he said, were wrongfully condemned, and one of them Executed; being unjustly sworn against by one Young, who is since gone over to the West-Indies. He seem'd desirous, before he Left the World, to make all the Discoveries he could.
I am inform'd, that he also confest that he did or knew of the Robbing the Jews Synagogue; which Confession he made to the Jews, who on Tuesday last apply'd themselves to him.
When I talk'd with him in private, He was very close, and cautious of discovering any Thing; being very Uneasy and diseased, either at the great Number of his Crimes, which must have displeas'd Almighty God, or else at the Miseries those Crimes had already brought upon him,
He said he was Eighteen Years of Age. That the Beginning of his Ill Courses were thus. He got a Note from his Father of Ninety Pounds, which he intended to turn to his own Use, and to that end, gave it to a Lawyer, who gave him in Return Fifteen Pounds, and kept the Rest to himself. He told me also that he disobliged his Father, by leaving a young Gentleman at Oxford (where he had an Opportunity of Studying with him) He afterwards attended another Gentleman to France; that Gentleman killing Another at Paris, and being obliged to flee, this Meakens was left alone with three Pounds in his Pocket: He stay'd too long at an English House, till his Money was mostly spent; Then travelling on Foot to the Sea-side, he got over (I think) from Diepe to Rye.
At the Tree, he told me, that his Name was not Meakin, but Ravenshaw; and that he had stole a Silver-spoon from the Duke of Leeds; and that he had gotten Money from near a Hundred different Persons of Honour, by pretending to be their Rinsman.
6. Samuel Snow) for Robbing the Bristol Mail. When he was first condemned, he desired me to explain to him the Nature of Hell Torments, whether I thought them Mental or Corporal; and also what my Opinion was of the State between Death and the Resurrection? I inform'd him to the best of my Capacity; but added withal that those were Questions that would little Advantage him, in his present Circumstances to know; but that I fear'd he wou'd soon more fully understand those things than I was able to inform him.
He afterwards told me, that his Misfortunes were occasion'd by his undertaking to buy Stock for a certain Gentleman; that Gentleman refusing to have it, 'twas return'd upon his Hands again, to wit Five Thousand Pounds; which he was able to pay, except Five Hundred Pounds, and to procure that, he took to ill Courses. As he had several Books sent in for his Use by Charitable Gentlemen, he wanted nothing for the furtherance of his Progress in his Duty, and was I hope a real and sincere Penitent.
When he was at the Tree, immediately before he suffer'd, he desired the Attention of the People, and spoke to them the following Words.
I Wish I could think of any Good that I could do before I leave this World; I ask Pardon of God for my Sins, which are many, and my Ill Courses deservedly have brought me to this Place of Shame. I freely confess the Fault for which I dye, and most heartily ask Pardon of King George and of the Nation. I am also to confess that I committed that Robbery, which Miller was try'd for at Allesbury; I ask Pardon of God and Him; and hope that I shall have all your Prayers that God will Pardon Me. Amen. So be it.
These Words he had writ down in a Paper; which he delivered into my Hand, as soon as he had done speaking.
N. B. Christopher Matthews) receiv'd a gracious Reprieve from His Majesty, immediately after I had administred the Blessed Sacrament to all the Malefactors: But He notwithstanding requested of Me, that I would say something of his Behaviour to the World; and chiefly in Vindication of his Parents, who live in very good Reputation in White-Chappel: He told me that the World had reflected upon them, as if they had been receivers of his stolen Goods, But aver'd that it was entirely False, for They were utterly ignorant of the IllActions he had unhappily perform'd. To all Appearance, he was sorry for his past Evil Life; and seem'd to be intent when he attended the Publick Prayers, repeating the Resposes after Me, and behaving himself with Decency and Reverence.
THE State of the Case between the Lord Chamberlain of His Majesty's Houshold, and Sir Richard Steele, as Represented by that Knight. Restated in Vindication of King GEORGE, and the most Noble the Duke of Newcastle. With a True Copy of King CHARLES'S Patent to Sir William D'avenant, for Erecting a Play-house, &c. S Ingratum dixeris Omnia dixeris.