An Account of the Fourteen late Popish Malefactors
An Account of the Behaviour of the Fourteen late Popish Malefactors whilst in Newgate. And their Discourses with the Ordinary, viz. Messrs. Staley, Coleman, Grove, Ireland, Pickering, Green, Hill, Berry, Whitebread, Harcourt, Fenwick, Gawen, Turner, and Langhorn. Also a Confutation of their Appeals, Courage, and Cheerfulness, at Execution. By Samuel Smith, Ordinary of Newgate, and Minister of the Gospel.
“He who is first in his own cause, seems just; but his neighbour comes, and searches him,” Prov. xviii. 17.
“It is not probable, that such who will perjure themselves, to calumniate Protestants, should be capable of giving any real testimonies for themselves.”
It being desired of me by a worthy divine, that I should publish what I said to Staley, who was condemned for treasonable speeches: likewise my discourses with the other twelve Jesuitical and popish conspirators, before their being drawn out to their execution: I could not (though with some reluctancy at first) but grant him his request; hoping that this narrative may be of public use and benefit to all, into whose hands it shall come; to acquaint them with the truth of what I spake to them, by way of advice, to prepare them for their approaching death, and that I may give some satisfaction, to such as are apt to be; staggered in the belief of their abominable crimes, because they frequently avowed their innocency. Which satisfaction I shall perform in order as they suffered.
I. Mr. Staley.
The first person executed, was Mr. Staley, who spoke treasonable words against his majesty, which expressly threatened to take away his sacred life. I did frequently, after the sentence of death was past on the said Staley, visit him in order to prepare him for his execution. In my first address to him, I told him, I came not to insult over him, but out of conscience to discharge the duty of my office: He received me with great willingness, and said, He had great terror upon his conscience for the guilt of his many and great sins; yet utterly denied the speaking of those words for which he stood condemned.
I told him that the readiest way to be free from those terrors, was to make an ingenuous penitent acknowledgment; and that for tongue-sins or secret heart-sins formerly indulged, God might justly desert him to ensnare himself by such treasonable words. He said, He never had any thought of mischief against the king’s person. I replied, that words were the natural product of thoughts, and a frequent prologue to the most abominable actions.
He persisted in denying, that he spoke any words tending to that sense; but when I told him, that his friend, who was drinking with him, could, or had deposed upon oath, that he spoke those very words: He replied, Nay, if my friend will swear so much, it is probable I might (in the heat and extra urgency of passion) utter them, though they never were intended in my heart. He had great remorse for the sinfulness of his life, and expressed some particulars which I shall not mention.
I told him, if he expected any settlement of true serenity in conscience, that he must not seek it in adhering to the Romish religion; for false and loose principles can never produce solid and lasting comfort; then I undertook to convince him from the sacred scriptures, of the many absurdities which are maintained by Popish doctors, that it is a presumption not to doubt of salvation, and yet that a person may merit it, which is utterly inconsistent; for if any man doubt of his future happy estate, how can he merit it? and if he may merit it, what need he doubt, when by works of a self-righteousness, he can create a title, or may lay claim to eternal life?
I judged it necessary, in order to the removing his terror in conscience, to inform him aright; that although it were impossible to fulfil the covenant of works, or to attain any perfection in this life; yet there is a foundation of hope, for degenerate mankind as restored to the image of God by Christ; whose satisfaction to divine justice, is of infinite value and virtue: so that Christ being the only mediator by redemption, it is blasphemy, and the highest sacrilege to constitute or invocate any saint or angel as a mediator of intercession. For this is equivalent to Christ’s infinite satisfaction, as grounding the right of his intercession, especially considering, that mediatory intercession is only the representing and pleading the merit of infinite satisfaction.
Upon this, he expressed an assent to what I had affirmed, by bowing his head; and applying his hand to his breast, he said, Sir, go on. Then I unfolded the nature and necessity of faith and repentance in order to the justification of a sinner; how they were the conditions of the covenant of grace, so required of us, for pardon of sin, and eternal life; as that they could not he extracted out of the power of free-will in man, but were the sole purchase of Christ’s free love, who by his spirit, infusing the principle of faith and repentance, doth regenerate, and actually reconcile a sinner to God; and so redeem, or set him free from the slavery of his corrupt will, which he cannot shake off by any improvement of natural reason, or moral resolutions.
I stated also the difference betwixt true saving faith and repentance, from that which is false: And that the office of faith, is not only to rely on the mercy of God, and merits of Christ, but also to give back the whole man, in an hearty resignation, to the conduct and government of Christ’s word and spirit in all things. That saving repentance was not an act of mere attrition, which only effects a legal consternation in conscience, from the apprehension of guilt, and divine wrath: but true repentance is evangelical, wrought deep in the heart by sound contrition for sin as sin, chiefly for offending the holy God: so that it is the result of an holy filial ingenuity, and is encouraged by the hope of mercy, attended with an hatred of all sin, and a studious resolution to walk in all holy obedience.
Here I told him, what an unsound dangerous opinion that was of the Romish doctors, who maintain attrition only with the receipt of the Eucharist, and the sacrament of absolution at the very point of death to be a sufficient passport for a comfortable exit out of the world, or ticket to claim salvation: after this, and some other discourse, he thanked me for my advice, and said, he was much benefited, supported, and comforted thereby: And desired me, as frequently as I could, to renew my visits to him; so I promised I would, and then I prayed with him; and he was very intentive, and much affected with what I prayed.
When I came again, he complained, that his heart was not so thoroughly contrite for sin as he desired; that he was much perplexed that he had no more assurance of a future happy state. I stated the nature of true saving faith, that it was an adherence to free grace of God in Christ, for pardon and eternal life, joined with an obedient self-resignation; and where this was wrought, the soul-state was safe, though assurance of God’s love might be wanting. For this was not an essential privilege, absolutely necessary to salvation, but only a peculiar favour given to strict walking christians; and that only at some set times, in great extremity and need of such hidden manna.
That it was rather of the nature of a rational short sensation, than the ground of settled comfort; which is the result of an heroical strain of faith, to trust in God, when he seems to reject and slay us; and that the Lord doth more esteem this resolute dependency, in the midst of seeming contradictions, than the most multiplied acts of external worship. Upon this he was somewhat more serene in his mind: and I told him, that in praying and seeking the Lord more fervently, comfort would gradually be obtained.
The next day he distrusted his heart, as to the truth of his faith and repentance, which I told him, was a good sign that he was in a hopeful way of making his peace with God. That he must wait in believing that he should obtain comfort promised to the penitent. He desired me to pray with him, and for him; and to prepare to speak somewhat of the sufferings of Christ, when I should next visit him. Accordingly, from that text, “I am crucified with Christ,” I treated of many parts of his bitter passion, and of his soul-agonies, inferring matter not only of comfort from thence, but also of instruction, for our imitation and conformity. I left him afterward in a frame more willing and fit to die: and coming to him on the very morning he was to suffer, he told me, that “now he had more comfort, and an hope of his future happy state: yet renouncing all opinion of worth in his own tears, prayers, and humiliation.”
He was solicitous, if the executioner should deal with him according to the strictness of the sentence, lest feeling any pain (if cut down, and ripped up alive) he should curse, or use any unchristian word: which rather than to do, said he, I would bite my tongue in pieces; for I dread sin now, more than death.
I told him, that I hoped the manner of his execution would be mitigated: however, that God would prevent sin in him at the time of his suffering, because he was so anxious as to distrust himself, and cautious to avoid all unbecoming words or gestures. After some farther discourse, I prayed with him, and he was much pleased with my attendance about him; yet he spared me from going with him to the place of execution for some reasons.
I cannot say how he declared himself there, because I was not present: but upon my whole observation of his behaviour in prison, I do charitably judge, he was a real penitentiary. It was doubtful to some, whether he died in the Roman or Protestant religion; because, as I think, be did not at last declare himself either way: yet this I am sure of, that if he had solid and true comfort in dying, this could not proceed from such a sandy foundation as his old popish principles, but only from self abhorrency in the sense of his great sinfulness, and the defectiveness of his best repentance and obedience, that he might build his hope on Christ, and his righteousness only, as the rock of eternal life.
II. Mr. Colemam.
I come now to Coleman, of whom I can say very little, because he had an arrogant opinion of his own abilities; and out of an hope to be canonized for a saint, despised and rejected any assistance from me, either by discourse or prayer. I offered him both on the next day after the sentence of death passed upon him; hut he returned me this answer (by the messenger I sent to him, to know if he would admit me) “That he had but a very short time to prepare himself for death, and would not be hindered in the loss of any part of it;” thanking me for my offer of visiting him, but desired me to forbear.
I put a fair construction on the message brought me at the first, thinking he might be very busy at that time, about some extraordinary emergency, or indisposed to be visited; and therefore told the messenger, that I would attend on him on some other fit time. The officer told me, that Mr. Coleman would never admit me; and he inferred it from his manner of speaking that message which he sent by him; he observed his countenance and gestures in the delivery of it.
So I totally desisted. Yet when he was brought down from his chamber in the Press-yard side, to go to the sledge, I stayed him a little, saying, Mr. Coleman, you did not think well of admitting me, yet know, I have earnestly prayed that God would give you true and great repentance for your great crimes, stand not out in your denying of them. Some other words I used, to which be replied in short and quick tone, “Thank you, thank you.”
As I moved nearer with him towards the gate, he said, “Sir, I must beg your pardon.” It being a strange word to drop from him, I asked him for what? He replied, “That I did not admit you; but truly, it was not in any contempt of your office; but when you sent to me, I was under some perplexed thoughts; and for other considerations, thought it not convenient.” Then I told him, that I would pray for him as a dying man, which he took well, and so we parted.
III. Mr. Grove.
Mr. Grove was executed on Friday the 24th of January, 1678. I spake to him in the chapel these words (before he was carried down the stone-stairs unto the sledge:) Sir, I earnestly desire you, now that you are going to appear at the tribunal of Christ, that you would clear your conscience and speak the truth, that you may die in peace: and I do exhort you, that you would beg of God great repentance for your great sins.
He replied, “That he did understand his duty.” Yet I persisted, to exhort him not to trust to the merits of any saint or angel, but wholly to go out of himself, not grounding any confidence of his salvation of any prayers, tears, nor the deepest humiliation of his own heart. That even cardinal Bellarmine said, when dying, “It was safest to rely wholly and solely on the all-sufficient merits of the blessed Jesus.”
Mr. Grove replied, “That Thomas à Kempis had said the same: ” To which I replied, Do you consider of it, and act accordingly: for you must not hazard your soul’s eternal welfare by any presumptious mixing of your own good works with Christ’s infinite satisfaction and merits. For the Apostle St. Paul saith, “If justification be of works, it is altogether of works; but if of free grace, it is altogether of grace.”
So I took leave of Mr. Grove, desiring him to consider well of what I had said, praying that the Lord would in much mercy look upon his soul to pardon him, and fit him for his approaching death. Mr. Grove seemed to take in good part what was said to him. After which, he was conducted down to the sledge.
IV. Mr. Ireland.
Mr. Ireland was executed on the same day with Mr. Grove, to whom I had not time to say more than these few words; viz. Sir, I do earnestly beg of God to grant you mercy and pardon for your great sins. Trust alone in the righteousness and merits of Christ Jesus: compose yourself in your passage, and fix your heart upon the Lord, till you expire. Which words Mr. Ireland seemed tn take kindly from me: and so we took leave of each other.
Here I cannot forbear to give some account of Mr. Ireland’s perverting of a woman who was burnt in Smithfield for clipping his majesty’s coin.
This seduction of the said woman from the Protestant Religion, was before Mr. Ireland was apprehended for the late conspiracy. An officer in Newgate did assure me, when Ireland was committed for the plot, that he was able to take his oath, that Ireland perverted that woman some time before; for he well knew him upon a second review, but knew him not to be a Papist or priest at first; for he was admitted to her as friend. Ireland’s stratagem in turning the woman to become a Papist, was thus discovered. Early on the morning on which she was executed, I asked her, what hope she had of a future happy state? she huffed at me, telling me, “I need not trouble myself about her, for she was sure of her salvation.” I wondered at her confidence, but suspected not the grounds of her malapertness.
After I had exhorted and prayed with her at the place of execution, and was taking my farewell of her; she entreated me to give her some time to pray for herself, which she did: in her prayer she mixed these words, “Lord grant, that the offering up of my body to the flames may expiate the guilt of all my sins, and save my soul.”
I told her, when she had finished her prayer, that the foresaid expression smelt rank of Popery; and therefore asked what Religion she came to die in? She replied, “she was a Roman Catholic.” I asked her, how long she had been such? She said, “that a good minister had told her, that if she died in the Protestant Religion, she was sure to be damned.” And that he proved it by this scripture, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church.”
So that, he assured her, that the religion of the Romish Bishop, who was St. Peter’s Successor, was the Rock there meant; and so there was no salvation to those who are separatists from that church, and the profession of it. I told her, that the priest had deceived her. For the Rock was not St. Peter’s person, nor is verbal confession of Christ; for if so, where was the rock, and, what became of the Church, when St. Peter so shamefully denied his Lord thrice? But the only true Rock on which the Church is built, is the very person, offices, and merits of Christ, the son of God, who was the object of St. Peter’s Confession.
She was attentive to what I said, and seemed somewhat sensible of her being deceived. Saying, “She was willing to be saved betwixt us both.” But I told her, she must not halt betwixt two religions, so opposite to each other; and that it was very dangerous to die in the Roman persuasion. She toid me, “She could not renounce it, in as much as the said priest had obliged her by the blessed sacrament, that she should never recant or depart from the Popish Religion, as the best and safest to die in.” I convinced her with arguments to the contrary; yea, she herself was not credulous of their absurd affirming of the transubstantiation of the sacramental bread and wine, into the very body and blood of Christ: for she said, “She neither tasted any flesh or blood.” She also declared, “That she had no good works of her own, which she durst trust to, as meritorious of heaven; but relied wholly and solely on Christ’s Righteousness.”
Whereupon I told her, she denied the grand points of Popery; and therefore, was a Papist to get a pretended absolution or upon some design. But, fearing to die in the Romish opinions, she asked me, “If she should not be perjured, if she renounced them, having taken the sacrament, to persist in them?” I told her, that she must not cleave to an unlawful wicked oath; but beg repentance of God, that she so easily suffered herself to be seduced. I told her, that the Lord saith by the prophet, “That an oath must be taken in truth, righteousness, and judgment.”
Now, she did not, neither could swear in truth, because it was to a false religion; nor in judgment, in wisdom and discretion, because she swore rashly and inconsiderately: therefore, this oath was void in its own nature; and it could not bind her, the matter of it being unlawful and wicked.
At last, being convinced of her error, she was willing to retract it: but I told her, that what she did, she must do willingly, and from a sincere penitent frame of heart. She said, “She could and would freely (out of conviction of her duty) renounce all Romish opinions and practices;” which she did openly, with an audible voice; affirming, That she died a true Protestant. So I took her by the hand, and prayed again with her, that God would pardon her former levity, and give her perseverance in the true faith, which she had so solemnly reimbraced.
This was the first discovery of proselyting condemned malefactors at Newgate: to prevent which seduction, captain Richardson, since this came to his knowledge, is very watchful, and gives all his officers a charge to suffer none to come to condemned persons, but only such whom they know to be Protestant-Divines; and that always, an officer be present to hear what passes in discourse.
V. Mr. Pickering.
I had discourse with him before his execution; but he would not permit me to pray with him, only desired my prayers at home for him; which I promised him, and he thanked me. I was present at his execution, because he was hanged after three other ordinary malefactors.
When he came out of the sledge into the cart, he had a great flushing in his face; I apprehended by his words and gesture, that he had elevated his artificial courage; or rather sunk himself into a sullenness, by taking cordial spirits: for he was unconcerned at the approach of his own death, and no way affected with his monstrous crime. With an impudent face, a lying tongue, and antic carriage, he denied what he was condemned for, and asserted his innocency. He was reproved by the sheriffs, for such impudent lying; having had a fair trial, and found guilty of the whole indictment charged upon him: yet so seared are the consciences of these grand traitors, and enemies to all order, and well-established government, as well as the true and pure religion, that they will hazard the eternal loss of their souls, as to a future happy state, rather than declare any remorse for their abominable designs and practices. Yea, they stick not to justify themselves, as if perjury could change the heinous nature of treason, and wash it into a perfect innocency.
Sir Richard How told Pickering, that he should have a considerable time to prepare for his instant death, if he would improve it well and not misspend it in extravagant, and false pretences. He likewise called unto him, to put him in mind of praying for himself; alledging, that it was reported, that he was a priest, therefore he ought to be able to pray, in expressions, and with affections suitable to his present distress: Yet Pickering neither warned the people, to take heed of an ill life, nor confessed any sin to God, of which himself was guilty; but with a kind of rude smiling, denied himself to be a priest but only a religious brother. Sir Richard asked him, if he were ashamed of his religion, or that the people should hear him pray? For some of his fraternity, executed before, only muttered a few private Ave-maryes, or other Popish prayers, to themselves.
Then Pickering repeated the Lord’s-Prayer, and the Apostolical-Creed; and said no more as to any religious concernments. Then the ordinary, being in the cart with him, exhorted him to express himself more fully and pathetically in prayer, suitable to the distress of a dying man, which he refused to do.
Then I asked him, that I might pray for him, because he might be uncomposed or indisposed himself: But he said, that he did not matter it; he had rather I should let it alone. So after a strange, unbecoming, stupid, and sullen behaviour of himself, when he desired no longer time, his face was vailed, and he was turned off: he hung about half an hour, and then was cut down and quartered.
VI. Mr. Green.
Green was one of the murderers of sir Edmundbury Godfrey. He was born in Ireland of a protestant father, (as himself said) but his mother being a papist and his father dying, she committed the son to his uncle (her brother) for education, in the popish religion.
Green could neither read nor write, yet his uncle had so trained him up in the popish principles, that he was a fitter subject (when grown up) for popish priests to work upon, and make him an engine for their destructive practices.
This appeared by their inveigling of him into the horrid murder of the said sir Edmund: Green had some time before been preferred to be chapel-keeper at Somerset-house. Hereupon the chief contrivers of that murder, took their opportunity to draw him in, to be an actor in that bloody tragedy. Green was very ready at hand for that purpose, and was the easier induced thereunto, because sir Edmund being one of his majesty’s justices of the peace, was very active in discovering and committing popish priests to custody: his life was laid wait for several times, not only for the reason aforesaid, but chiefly because he had taken some examinations upon oath, concerning the late horrid popish conspiracy, which they thought (if sir Edmund were killed) would be lost, or not so valid in their credibility.
But in this they were infatuated, for the murder of this worthy patriot confirmed the belief of the plot. The manner of contriving sir Edmund’s death was thus. As he passed by Somerset-house, he was importuned by some of the complices in the murdering of him, to turn in at the gate, under pretence that there was a fray within the court; and that he being a justice of the peace, might (as he was bound) do a great good office in appeasing the scuffle. Sir Edmund went, in not mistrusting their design, on him: But these cruel enemies to the Protestant religion, had no sooner got him into the back part of Somerset-house, but they jostled him into a private room, and there set upon him with their fury.
The narrative is in print, and too tedious to relate. Therefore in sum, as to Green’s part, who acted in that bloody tragedy, it was proved upon oath, that he strangled sir Edmund; aud farther acted, in conveying his dead body to the place where it was afterwards found.
Green being condemned to be hanged for this barbarous murder, I preferred myself (as Ordinary) to visit, and fit him lor his approaching death. He accepted of it, and I went to him several days, to make him sensible of so great a crime. He stiffly denyed it, as also did Hill and Berry to the last. I urged Green with various arguments, to adore the sovereignty of divine providence, which had thus wonderfully brought to light such a secret mystery of iniquity, hardly to be parallelled, in any age.
Yet Green was very obstinate, in standing out to deny, that he knew any thing of this murder more or less, which I told him proceeded from some or all of these reasons following; either because he had taken an oath of secrecy, or counted it no sin, but rather a meritorious act, to destroy such a grand heretic as sir Edmund was accounted. Or had received a popish absolution from the guilt of that murder, and so looked upon himself as innocent as the child unborn. Or would not confess that horrid crime, to decline calling a great reproach upon the popish party.
Yet however, I did not cease for many days to exhort him to unburthen his conscience of this particular guilt. I aggravated in many particulars, the heinousness of the sin of murder, especially of this, committed with such perfidious and cruel circumstances. Yet no arguments prevailed with him to acknowledge it.
I found him ignorant in the principles of the Christian faith; therefore I took the more pains to inform him of the danger of dying in the Romish persuasion, which is grossly opposite, by the mixture of many absurd traditions, to the saving fundamentals of Christianity. He said, that he did not believe many points of popery; viz. The power of priestly absolution nor the merits of good works to claim salvation by: Nor that it was lawful to pray to any saint or angel: And that no sin was venial in its own nature, though it were never so small.
I much wondered, that he should say, he believed not any of these popish points; and yet, that he should wear a crucifix at his girdle. I desired him, not to put any religion in looking on it, nor in kissing of it. He said he put no confidence of salvation in it; only, It was a remembrance of his blessed Saviour.
I told him, that Christ had left no such, nor any other memorials of himself, but only in the scriptures of sacred truth, and in the sacraments: That it is the office of the holy spirit, to bring every truth necessary for salvation, to our remembrance: And that Christ, his offices and merits, were only to be believed in; and were sufficient to put us in mind of our duty, and to quicken holy affections in us.
I said moreover, That it was a more refined piece of idolatry, to conceive otherwise of God in our thoughts, than as he had revealed himself by the scriptures of truth, in his infinite excellencies. And therefore to relieve us, in preventing any gross mistakes in our absurd imaginations of God, we were bound to fix our thoughts and conceptions in prayer, upon God in Christ, as incarnate; who is the only express image of the Deity; and not any corporeal, dishonourable misrepresentations of God, by the help of pictures or crucifixes.
I found also, that his Popish education had strongly prevailed on him, to adhere to the false and absurd dotages of the Romish church: for when I told him, That it was not safe to die in that religion;he replied, “That he was resolved to hold and persevere in it, because he had been bred up in it.” I said, That could not be a solid Argument; for then he might be as peremptory to die in a sinful state, because the principles of a corrupt nature were riveted in his heart, and were grown familiar to him by custom.
He was sometimes pettish; yet when the fit was off, he hearkened to my advice, and joined with me in prayer. I desired him not to mock God, either by any deliberate wandering in his thoughts, while I should pray; nor by saying any Ave Marias or Popish petitions secretly to himself. He promised me, he would not. He was troubled for his sinful course of life: Yet I told him, That was not repentance deep enough.
David’s heart was the centre of his remorse; and that not only his heinous crimes of murder and adultery were his burden, but the sense of his vile corrupt nature, which was the poisonous spring of all scandalous impieties. And that, as we are in our thanksgivings for divine mercies, to ascend to the free-grace of God, in giving Christ to redeem us, as the spring-head of all spiritual benefits; so, in a penitent confession of sin, we must likewise ascend to the guilt and defilement of original sin, whence all actual abominations flow.
That this is is a great relief to us, when we cannot make a distinct particular enumeration of our sins: And that no hypocrite can be truly humbled for the sin of his corrupt nature, nor for Gospel-unbelief, which is the direct damning sin, as being against the very remedy of our recovery from a state of sin and misery.
Every day, after suitable advices given to him, I prayed with him. He had not been grammared in that strange distinction, which most of those Popish malefactors had learned, That a Papist may lawfully desire a Protestant’s prayers at home; yet that his joining in prayer, is an owning of their reputed heresy; whose breath is infectious, when poured out in the solemnity of praying mutually in each others’ presence. Hill had learned this evasion, though Staley and Berry, as well as Green, had not. I believe, the true reason why all the other criminals denied me liberty to pray with them, was lest I should touch too distinctly upon the right sore (which they palliated, yea denied) and so dreaded that trouble and perplexity, which might thereby be raised in their consciences.
I can give no further account of Green, but only this, That upon the day before his execution, he told me, That he had received much information by my discourses, and benefit by my prayers, in order to fit him for his death: He thanked me for my visits, but discharged me from farther attendance upon him; so I went not with him to the place of execution to observe what end he made.
VII. Mr. Hill.
This Hill was one of the murderers of sir E. Godfrey. He was born and bred a Papist. He was not a shoemaker, as was reported; but the son of a shoemaker. He said, That he had been servant to a Recusant lady, and managed some of her concernments; and went over sea sometime, to give her an account thereof. That he had lately hired an house for himself to dwell in; but was not present at the aforesaid murder: Yea, that he knew nothing of it, more or less, neither before nor after.
This he often averred with so many self-imprecations, that I was afraid to urge him for the present, to any farther acknowledgment; lest I might thereby give him an occasion to aggravate his sin, and seal up his damnation with greater obduration and impenitency. I unfolded to him, the wide difference betwixt the Protestant and Popish religion; and that the latter could not be a religion instituted by Christ, because it was founded in blood, and propagated by artifices of cruelty, injustice, violence, equivocations and perjuries: Yea, even by fake appeals to the omniscient Judge of innocency, when crimes were juridically proved against the appellants.
I said, That this was the deepest policy of Papists, fetched from the conclave of hell: for such daring and atheistical appellants, are not only possessed with the spirit of lying, and strongly deluded, while living, to believe a false, absurd religion; but also do as strangely, out of an obstinate, impenitent heart, palliate bloody crimes with a flat denial of them, after conviction thereof by due process of law.
Surely such a violation of the sentiments of conscience, must needs proceed from an atheistical denial of God’s omniscient inspection, or a prophane doubting of the future judgment. As if false appellants had not souls capable of damnation, or studied how to seal it up more firmly to themselves: but such studied evasion of their crimes, render them blacker and more horrid, while they would make credulous persons suspect their accusers to be perjured; which is a sin of that deep die and malignity, that it rarely admits of any repentance in the sinner, or pardon from God.
Yet so hardened are some, that they will stand out in the denial of their crimes, though proved against them, to the last breath. They are not afraid to look the Almighty Judge in the face, with a lie in their mouth.
But then such frontless stupid sinners presume, they shall have this relief as a shield, to keep off their damnation; that their self-imprecation was for the promoting of a greater good; viz. That the Romish religion may not lie under the reproach of a blood-thirsty disposition, in its professing party; lest, being hindered its propagation, if this were credited, it should gradually become so abominable as to be rooted out.
Papists think, that they may lawfully, safely, yea commendably perjure themselves, to promote their fake religion; especially, if in a transport of zeal, they imprecate themselves, that they may sit higher in the good opinion and implicit faith of their blinded proselytes. Such was Hill! Who was not more subtilly moulded unto, than deeply confirmed in all Popish principles.
Hence it was, that he would not admit of any information which might beget the least suspicion of their falsity: Yet this was very commendable in him, that when I exhorted him to take a strict review of his sins; that so, being deeply humbled for them, he might obtain some hopeful prospect of their pardon: He replied, “That he had endeavoured to search out whatever might provoke the Lord to desert him, and suffer him to fall under the fatal sentence pronounced upon him.” He said, “He had been guilty of sins enough, for which he was thus severely punished.”
Among the rest, he instanced in this; “That he had wronged one in a twelvepenny matter; but he was now so troubled about it, that he had made restitution since his condemnation; although he was in extreme want of necessaries for his present subsistence.” I commended this in him; but withal told him, That there was one crime committed by him, for which he could never make any satisfaction; viz. the murdering of sir Edmund: yet, that upon his true repentance, Christ’s bloodshed was all-sufficient to wash away the stain and reproach of this most prodigious wickedness.
He still stood out in a peremptory denial. “That he knew any thing of it, more or less.” And in the usual canting language, affirmed, “That he was as innocent of it, as the child unborn.” Which words may admit of an equivocation: For the child unborn is innocent, as not being capable of committing or declaring the heinousness of such a crime. But though Hill was capacitated for it, with all imaginable principles of Jesuitical subtilty; yet his deepest sophistry appeared, in pretending to be as innocent as the child unborn; viz. In this sense, innocent, as not able to declare his guiltiness of the said murder: for so he might be unable, in respect of an oath of secrecy, which was the seal of his impenitency.
Or, he might think to evade the confession of it by this equivocation, viz. I am as innocent of the fact as there is truth in this, that the child unborn is here present, referring this supplement of the assertion unto himself. And then it being unriddled in plain English, it comes to this much, “I am as innocent of the fact laid to my charge;” that is, there is as much truth in affirming this, as there it in the child’s being present, which is yet unborn: For there is not truth in either.
I did fear, that some such equivocation might shroud itself under Hill’s flat denial of the said murder: Therefore, I told him, that his ingenuity in confessing a pecuniary wrong, and making restitution, could not demonstrate any sound repentance, unless he took the shame of this murder upon himself, by a free confession of it. For a sincere penitentiary dares not conceal any sin, though of never so ignominious a nature.
He replied, “That he had taken shame to himself, in confessing his doing wrong, and that he had violated the integrity, and peace of his conscience, for a very trifle: Therefore, I could not think, he denied the murder laid to his charge, that he might maintain his reputation.”
But to confute this plea: I knew a felon, who denied the robbery for which he was condemned; yet probably to insinuate into me a good opinion of him, he confest that he once robbed a poor man going to market, but being afterwards troubled in his conscience for so doing, he enquired out where the person wronged lived, and sent him double restitution; “because happily,” (said he) “the poor man losing of his market, might have gained as much as I sent him, by selling the provisions which he was carrying thither.”
Thus some will pretend to be ingenuous in confessing hidden crimes, and yet will stand out in denying such which are proved against them. This is but a counterfeit remorse.
On the day before Hill’s execution, he discharged me of farther attendance, because he said, he would be in greater retirement, to fit himself for his death, now so nearly approaching: whereupon I took leave of him; and he prayed God to reward me for all my visits of him.
VIII. Mr. Berry.
Berry the porter of Somerset-house, was one of the murderers of sir Edmundbury Godfrey, and was executed some time after Hill and Green. He willingly admitted me to visit him for many days, sometimes twice in the same day. I found him dejected at the first, yet afterwards he was reduced to a more composed frame.
I observed that he had some books in his chamber; of all which I took an inspection, and found no popish author among them. I told him, that I, much approved of his care in the choice of those books, especially of the Bible, to be his associates and guides in his solitary confinement. Then I advised him, to search his heart-state God-ward, and to consider for what special sins God had deserted him, to fall into so shameful and notorious a crime, as the murder of sir E. Godfrey; who had demonstrated himself to be a worthy patriot of his country.
He replied, that he knew nothing of it, neither before, nor after; and that he was no ways accessary to the guilt of it. I said, I could not give credit to him in that; for the crime was clearly proved against him.
I did not much urge him to confess it, at that time, fearing I might provoke him to be more shy of embracing any future visits or advice. I bent my discourse, to fit him for his approaching death; and from Scripture demonstrated, that immediately after the soul’s expiration, every one is presented by angels good or evil, (according as their state is, in which they die) before the dreadlul tribunal of Christ, the most impartial righteous judge of all men.
And that of what nature the sentence which then passed was of, it was irrepealable: Therefore he could not be too circumspect in trying his heart-frame, which is naturally deceitful; for if his faith and repentance, (the only qualifications and evidences of a future happy state) were not solidly built on Christ, as the rock of salvation, after his being adjudged, there could not be any retrieval of the sentence, though it were to the eternal banishment of his soul from the bliss-making vision, and fruition of the God of glory.
This awakened him to some remorse for the sins of his life. I then proceeded to advise him, not to venture to die in the Romish persuasion; for this could not produce solid nor lasting tranquillity in any conscience, perplext and defiled with the guilt of the least sin. In as much as papists build their hopes of future happiness on corrupt principles, viz. they mix the belief of the falsities of the Apostatical-Trent-council with the articles of the Apostolical creed; which can never cement into any consistency of truth, either in matters of faith, or practice.
I did undertake to discover the notorious absurdity of some popish opinions; in doing which, he was not only very attentive, but said, he did not believe many things which the doctors of the Romish church teach, as necessary to be embraced for articles of the true faith.
I told him, I hoped that he was not stubborn in that heresy, having declared himself better informed. Yet he did not deny that he was a papist. After much discourse, I drew out a little Treatise of one Mr. Bradshaw’s, which states in short, but very solid theses, or propositions, the true nature of justification by faith in Christ; and oppugns, yea, overthrows the popish doctrine of good works, as meritorious of salvation: I lent it Mr. Berry, who having read it, liked it, and said, He was much settled and confirmed in the belief of that sound and comfortable doctrine.
He often admitted me to pray for, and with him; he was not afraid to be infected with the breath of an heretic, as Mr. Coleman and others of the fraternity in conspiracy were. I doubt not but wholesome counsel, and fervent prayer, wrought much on Mr. Berry, to bring him to some remorse for his sinfulness; for he gave an eminent signal of this in declaring that God had justly left him to fall under the sentence of so shameful a death, for his notorious dissimulation; which was this, viz. That he had for his private interest, and to supply some wants he was in, changed his protestant profession, and turned papist, against the dictates of his conscience, to get into employment by favour of that party.
This he affirmed more wounded his conscience, than all the sins which he had committed in the whole course of his life. Yet still he was very shy and reserved, as unto any acknowledgment of the notorious murder of sir Edmundbury Godfrey. But take notice, that a sincere conscience doth not content itself with the confession only of some particular sin, but is most free and ready to take the shame of every sin, especially of such a crime as wilful murder, clearly proved against him. And that none are such proper objects of God’s just condemnation, as such, who to cover any one sin, though never so small, will study evasions, to deny, conceal, or extenuate it.
Thus to cover sin, is to add sin to sin. The obligation to punishment takes faster hold, the guilt remains uncapable of being pardoned: the sin not confest, rankles and festers in the conscience, haunts the sinner as an affrighting ghost, yea, the contagious poison spreads, till it grow so strong in the malignity of it, that it damns eternally.
This alarm (or awakening consideration) I gave to Berry, that I might excite him to an ingenuous confession of the murder of sir Edmundbury Godfrey; and beside, I told him, that there was this danger in not confessing a crime, that it hardens the heart insensibly, to an impudent and impenitent peremptory denial of it. And that this was the blackest mark of a reprobate.
Afterward I prayed with him, that the Lord (who is the searcher of all hearts, and the just avenger of all lying and false appeals) would incline him to an hearty and free acknowledgment of this very crime; that he would grant him true and deep repentance, and strengthen his faith in the merit of Christ’s blood, for expiation of so great guilt. Berry had a reprieve for some time to fit himself for death, and I hope he made good use and improvement of it.
For when the morning came, wherein he was to he executed, I found him in a more penitent, melting frame than before. I prayed with him at his execution. I must do him this right, as to say, that be was in a very serious composed temper; for I have seldom heard any malefactor (at the public place of suffering) express himself in such suitable and heart-broken petitions for divine pardon, and renewing grace, as Berry did: he needed not a prayer book in his hand; his soul-agonies taught him to pray; nor did he let fall any thing, which smelt in the least of popish leaven.
His prayer was fervent and very composed, though death stared him in the face; yet was he not under any consternation or dejection. He said not any thing, either in asserting his innocence as to the murder of sir Edmundbury Godfrey, neither as to the religion he died in.
He fixt his eye upward, and looked not upon the people, being very intentive on the great work he was about. I gave him a large time to prepare and fit himself to die: He made some secret ejaculations of his heart Heaven-ward: then taking a solemn farewell, I desired him to resign himself up to the mercies of God in the alone and all-sufficient merits of Christ, and so I went out of the cart; and after a little time of consideration with himself, the sentence of death was executed upon him.
An Account of Five Jesuits
An Account of the Five Jesuits, condemned to be drawn, hanged, and quartered, on Saturday the 14th of June, 1679, viz. Whitebread, Harcourt, Fenwick, Gawen, and Turner.
These five Jesuits having received the aforesaid sentence, for conspiring the death of the king, and the subversion of the Protestant Religion, I did on the Monday following (because the duty of my office as ordinary obliged me,) offer to them my assistance to prepare them for their execution; but they did not admit me to their chambers: Thereupon, I desisted from any farther offer to visit them. Yet upon the day of their execution I waited for an opportunity to speak with them before they were conducted to the sledges.
I. Mr. Harcourt.
Mr. Harcourt was first brought down from his chamber, to be carried up to the chapel, where a door opens to convey them down the stairs more conveniently to the sledges.
I thus spake to Mr. Harcourt, Sir, you did not think fit to admit me to any discourse in your chamber, but now that you are upon the very borders of death and must be judged to an eternal state in happiness or misery, consider well how heinous the crime is for which you are to suffer death. Beg of God to give you true repentance unto life eternal, and do not stand out in the denying or extenuation of your crime.
Mr. Harcourt made me this slight answer, “That I needed not to trouble myself concerning him, for he knew his duty;” and so past away from me.
II. Mr. Whitebread.
Then came Mr, Whitebread from his chamber; I said something of advice to him as a dying man, and told him withal, that I had earnestly prayed that God would give him repentance, in order to pardoning grace and salvation. This he resented with more calmness and modesty of spirit than Harcourt did, and put off his hat to me at parting.
III. Mr. Fenwick.
I had longer discourse with Fenwick in a little room alone by himself. I did address myself to him in more pathetic expressions, than to the two other, because I had more opportunity for it.
In sum, I wished him to search his heart, because every man’s by nature is as deceitful as it is corrupt. That he would pray to God to undeceive him, as to any false hopes of Heaven, and not build on any sandy foundation, by trusting to any humiliation for sin, or the merits of any saint or angel; and that he would not stand out in denying of his crime. That he would consider seriously of that sacred scripture in the twenty eighth of the Prov. of Solomon, the thirteenth verse, He who hides his sin shall not prosper in the attempting of it, but rather exposes himself to a curse. But whosoever confesses and forsakes his sin, shall obtain mercy. He said, that he had confest betwixt God and himself, and that was sufficient.
I told him, that in respect of the greater scandal he had given, and reproach he had brought upon religion, which obliges to all fidelity towards princes, and forbids the subversion of a lawful government, he ought to express great sorrow for, and detestation of such principles which destroy human society.
But he angerly replied, “What? Do you undertake to instruct me, or others of my order, as if we were not men of reason and learning?” I told him, that I was bound to assist him as a dying man, and to put him in mind of seeking his soul’s salvation, in aright way. And that, whereas he slighted my advice, he ought not to look, upon any Protestant divine, to be like their novices, whom they train up in ignorance, as if it were the mother of devotion.
I said, that I stood amazed, that any man of his learning should so far forfeit the repute thereof and all the sentiments of a good conscience, as to adhere to principles so destructive to all order, equity, and government established by light of nature, even among savages.
He was not pleased with my discourse, yet I did assure him, I would not desist praying for him, while I could rationally think that he was alive, and within the reach or benefit of my prayers. And so we parted.
IV, V. Mr. Gawen and Mr. Turner.
I could not speak with Gawen or Turner till they were placed in the sledge. I spake but little to them, time, and the noise of the people thronging me, would not permit me to say much. Only I told Mr. Gawen, that now death stared him in the face and his judgment to an eternal state was very near; therefore I advised him not to palliate or extenuate his great crime, much less to deny it; for, he would hazard his salvation, if he went out of the world with a falsity in his mouth.
I told him I had and would continue to pray for him and his fellow-criminal in the sledge with him. So wishing them a penitential frame of heart, that they might obtain eternal life in Christ, upon the drawing away of the sledge, Mr. Gawen shewed a public signal of civility to me, and thanked me. He seemed much more cheerful than the rest. And I hope he had better grounds for it.
After sentence of death past upon the said unhappy gentleman, as being involved in the Jesuitical Conspiracy against the king and nation; I addressed myself in a visit to him, which he accepted.
When I first came into his chamber, I told him, That I came not to upbraid a dying man, though of a contrary religion: that I pitied him, as a condemned criminal: yet was more troubled, that he should espouse the Popish persuasions so far, as to suspend, or renounce rather, the sentiments of right reason, in embracing and adhering to so corrupt and absurd opinions.
He answered me, “That he thought himself in a surer way for to attain salvation, than any of my opinion could set themselves in. For Protestants,” said he, “follow the mistakes of their private judgments; and then cry them up, for the genuine interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. But we,” said he, “who are Roman Catholics, have the conduct of an infallible guide, to interpret obscure ambiguities in the Scriptures; for no Scripture is of any private interpretation; otherwise, well-meaning persons may propose, and put off their fancies, for solid conclusions, drawn from the sacred Records of God’s word.”
He said, “That therefore, there was great need of an external, supreme, infallible judge on earth; whose decision upon appeals, can only state and determine all controversies about matters of faith and practice.” I replied, that the Divine Authority of God, as imprest upon the veracity of the Scriptures, was never separated from the same spirit, who did dictate them, as unto special guidance; so far, as not to desert sincere Christians, that should they fall into any damnable heresy.
But I feared, that the Romish opinions were such, though they be imposed to be believed and obeyed, upon the score of the Pope’s infallibility, equally with the sacred Scriptures. What blasphemy is this, for a sinful man to arrogate the title of Infallible, due only to God, the fountain and architype of all truth! That the Father of lights, gave mankind the best and safest conduct of his own holy, infallible spirit, in matters aforesaid. And that the Scriptures, being exemplified from his essential purity and veracity, were, not defective as human laws; which require an external judge and interpreter, distinct from themselves, in their original constitution. So that, in all things necessary to Salvation, the Scriptures were a perfect rule and standard, to dictate and determine matters of faith, and Christian obedience.
Yet so arrogant is the pope, as to challenge an authority to himself, to give the Scriptures a sanction; yea, to over-rule them by his corrupt traditions, which he declares infallible. Thus he exautorats, and invalidates their divine original, and superintendency; as if they received all the life of their interpretation, from his authoritative dilucidation, as the moon doth her light from the sun. Hence it is, that when the pope enters into any council, he hath the Bible placed under his feet, while singly himself over-rules the council; And exalts his sole determination above the sacred records of truth. Hence it is, that under a pretence, that the Scriptures are obscure, and a dead letter in themselves, that they must be animated with his traditions; though never so absurd and contradictory to their divine authority, certainty, and perfection.
Also I said, That where the Scriptures were obscure in one place, they explained that ambiguity in another: so that, there was no need of any external judge. And that Protestant Divines did not give out their private sentiments, and interpretations of the Scriptures, for laws, to supersede the innate authority of the Scriptures; or to oblige Christians to an implicit faith and obedience, as the Pope doth; who over-rules the very Scriptures themselves: so that, no part of them is canonical, but only those books, which he declares to be such.
Thus a sinful man judges that sacred law, by which himself, and all men must be judged; though he claim a power to pardon sin, and dispose of the eternal rewards of virtue, or vice; Accordingly as himself pleases to determine the nature and circumstances of both. Hence I said, It proceeded, that the opinions of the Romish Church were so corrupt, as moulded and adapted to serve and promote the carnal interest of his ambition, and the licentiousness of his followers.
Then he asked me, Whether I did not think, that; the Popish and Protestant religion might not be reducible into a coalition or unity? I answered, No; because they were so contrariant, that they could never cement, so as to yield a safe conduct to eternal life. Inasmuch, as Christ himself averred, That in vain do all such worship him, who teach for divine doctrines, the traditions of men: that whosoever adds or diminishes from Scriptural-fundamentals, despises, and seeks to nullify the wisdom and authority of God himself. That Popish principles undermine, and subvert the all-sufficiency of Christ, in the execution of his offices. That as Socinians cannot he accounted Christians, who deny the divinity of Christ’s person: so Romanists, who invalidate his offices, are Anti-Christian, in their spirits, and in their misbelief.
Therefore, there is no more hope, that two religions so opposite, should ever cement in one, according to the analogy of faith, prescribed by Christ; than that light and darkness should agree, or have fellowship.
Nor can there be any colour of right reason, for that distinction; that Popish traditions are rather beside the rule and dictates of the Scriptures, than directly contrary to them. For, whatever is not agreeable to the revealed, perfect will of God, either directly, or by natural consequence, or by right deduction, it is a sin. Consider, There is as little hope and comfort for that person, who falls into a river, by slipping betwixt, or beside the bridge; as for him, who directly casts himself into it, Both may be drowned irrecoverably. The one, out of the inadvertency, or mistake of drunken giddiness: the other, out of the presumption of a sullen obstinacy. There are more ways which lead to death, than the direct stabbing of one’s self. So, transgression on the right-hand, in a superstitious zeal, may ruin a man’s soul, as certainly, as atheism and prophaneness.
After these discourses, I asked Mr. Langborne, That I might pray with him? He answered me, No; yet, I desire your prayers at home. He said, That prayer in presence, was an Act of Communion; but it was unfit, to join with one, who was not a member of the Roman Church. I replied, That I thought, there was little or no difference in such distinct praying: however, it could not be any unlawful act. He would not admit me to pray with him: therefore, to root out such a scruple, I shall state now, more at large, what I then spake more succinctly. Is not prayer an universal duty, and a testification of Christian charity? Therefore, to limit it only to such, who are adopted into any faction, is to look on all others, as excommunicated from Christ, and the hope of salvation by him, as the only head; who influences the Universal Church, with the spirit of faith, unity, and concord.
Can any Papist think to receive benefit by prayer, himself being absent; who hath not so much charity, as to bear Protestants’ presence, in praying together? What proud singularity is this? What inconveniency can happen, from a Protestant’s joining with a Papist in prayer, if they do not mix their private opinions (which are fitter for a disputation) in the time of praying together? Such imprudence would turn prayer, which is the badge of Christian Communion, into an occasion of reproach; and imbitter each others spirits, to remain at a farther distance.
To prevent such a mischief, let them consent, that they will keep close to Scripture-matter, and phrases in prayer; because in these, they are agreed. So shall they not grieve each other, by an uncharitable exagitating and venting of their private opinions. Yet I deny not, but that they ought to desire of God, that he would clear up to them his truth and ways more fully; and that, in whatever they dissent, by way of mistake about opinions foreign to the essential parts, and fundamentals of Christian Religion, they may come to a right understanding of each other; and may recede from any false mixtures, super-added to Christ’s pure religion.
Therefore, to deny any Protestant Divine, to pray with Popish persons condemned, when they cannot have the relief thereof, from any of their own persuasion; lest they should confirm them in their corrupt principles, or join wicked counsels, to diffuse their treasonable designs, by messages, to put Plots in execution, is a warrant to deny them the assistance of their own party. Yet they stick not, to grow sullen and insolent, in rejecting the prayers of Protestant Divines.
How careless of, and cruel to their own souls, are such, who will not by all lawful helps, secure and promote their souls everlasting blessedness! Is not this such a breach of charity, as to make void their own prayers for themselves? and to limit Christian Religion, only to the Roman Church, which is but a corner of the Christian world; and cannot be properly Catholic, unless it embrace an universal charity for all Christians, who profess the same Christ, and the same fundamentals of Christianity: But Protestants have not so departed from the Church of Rome, as to hate all persons of her society; but only, their corruptions in doctrine and practice.
We deny not to them, the duties of common charity; or such requisite assistances at the time of extreme sickness, or death, which may safely consist with their not being confirmed in Popish principles, too deeply rooted in them already; and the consistency of the established government, in the English Church, and state.
After these conferences with Mr. Langhorn, I asked him, whether he were the very person accused before the committee of parliament, in 1666; for being conscious, at least, of the conflagration of London, by treachery: because Mr. Richard Langhorn, counsellor at the Temple, is said in a deposition upon oath, to have cast out threatening words about the said conspiracy? He answered me, That he was the person then accused; but knew no more of the firing of London, than he did of this Plot.
But what he knew of this, is sufficiently demonstrated, by his being condemned, and executed for a well-wisher to it, and agent in it. I offered a second visit to him, on the Thursday before his execution; but he sent me thanks, and desired to he wholly retired to himself. So being in the country when he was executed, I cannot give any further account concerning him.
Printed for T. Parkhurst, D. Newman, T. Cockeril, and T. Simmons, 1679