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One of the New-English ministers, beholding vice besieging his country as an enemy, singl’d out a company of dead wretches to set upon the walls, in hopes that the horrible sight would cause that worst enemy to fly before it. He publish'd unto the countrey "An History of Criminals," which may be here over-again publish'd, as a fit appendix to "An History of Remark. able Judgments :" For indeed in these criminals, the "remarkable judgments of God” were wonderfully exemplify'd.
PILLARS OF SALT.
It hath been thought, that the dying speeches of such as have been executed among us, might be of singular use to correct and reform the crimes wherein too many do live: and it has been wish'd that at least some fragments of those dying speeches might be preserv'd and publish d. Upon this advice from some good persons, I have stollen an hour or two, wherein I have collected some accounts of several ill persons, which have been cut off by the sword of civil justice in this land; and this collection I suffer to go abroad, in hopes that, among many other essays to suppress growing vice, it may signifie something with the blessing of Heaven thereupon, to let the vicious understand what have been the cries of our miserables when passing into another world. Behold, an history of criminals, whom the terrible judgments of God have thunder-strook into pillars of salt
(I.) About the year 1646, here was one Mary Martin, whose father going from hence to England, left her in the house of a marry'd man, who yet became so enamour'd on her, that he attempted her chastity.
Such was her weakness and folly, that she yielded unto the temptations of that miserable man; but yet with such horrible regret of mind, that begging of God for deliverance from her temptations, her plea was, “That if ever she were overtaken again, she would leave herself unto his justice, to be made a publick example.”
Heaven will convince the sinful children of men, that the vows which they make, relying on the stability and resolution of their own hearts, are of no significancy. A chain of hell was upon her, and the forfeited grace of Heaven was with-held from her; she fell a third time into the sin against which her vows had been utter'd.
Afterwards going to service in Boston, she found herself to have con ceiv'd; but she lived with a favourable mistress, who would admit and allow no suspicion of her dishonesty.
A question (like that convincing one of our Saviour's unto the woman of Samaria) was once odly put unto her: "Mary, where is thy husband?" And one said also, “Did I not think thou wert an honest and sincere creature, I should verily think thou wert with child!" These passages which were warnings from God unto her guilty soul, did serve only to strike her with amazement-not with any true repentance.
She conceal'd her crime till the time of her delivery; and then being deliver'd alone by her self in a dark room, she murdered the harmless and helpless infant; hiding it in a chest from the eyes of all but the jealous GOD.
The blood of the child cried, when the cry of the child it self was thus cruelly stifled. Some circumstance quickly occurr'd which oblig'd her friends to charge her with an unlawful birth. She deny'd it impudently. A further search confuted her denial. She then said, the child was dead born, and she had burn'd it to ashes. With an hypocritical tear, she added, “Oh, that it were true, that the poor babe were any where to be seen!" At last, it was found in her chest; and when she touch'd the face of it before the jury, the blood came fresh into it. So she confessed the whole truth concerning it.
Great endeavours were used that she might be brought unto a true faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for the pardon of her blood-guiltiness; and, it may be, none endeavour'd it more than that reverend man, old Mr. Wilson, who wrote several sheets of pathetical instructions to her while she was in prison. That renown'd man, old Mr. Cotton also, did his part in endeavouring that she might be renew'd by repentance; and preach'd a sermon on Ezek. xvi. 20, 21: "Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children ?" Whereof great notice was taken. It was hoped that these endeavours were not lost: her carriage in her imprisonment and at her execution was very penitent. But there was this remarkable at her execution: she acknowledged her twice essaying to kill her child before she could make an end of it: and now, through the unskillfulness of the executioner, she was turned off the ladder twice before she died.
(II.) There was a miserable man at Weymouth, who fell into very ungodly practice; but would particularly signalize his ungodliness by flouting at those fools (as he call d 'em) who would ever confess any sins laid unto their charge. This man liv'd in abominable adulteries; but God at length smote him with a palsie. His dead palsie was accompany'd with a quick conscience, which compell’d him to confess his crimes: but he confess'd them so indiscreetly that, by their divulgation, they reach'd the ears of the authority; and in this confession there was involv'd and concern'd the wretched woman who chiefly had been concern'd with him in the transgression.
By the law of this countrey, adultery was then a capital transgression, as it hath been in many other countries: and this poor adulterer could not escape the punishment which the law provided.
(III.) On June 6, 1662, at New-haven, there was a most unparallel'd wretch, (one Potter, by name, about sixty years of age,) executed for
damnable bestialities; although this wretch had been for now twenty years a member of the church in that place, and kept up among the holy people of God there a reputation for serious Christianity. It seems that the unclean devil which had the possession of this monster, haul carry'd all his lusts with so much fury into this one channel of wicked. ness, that there was no notice taken of his being wicked in any other. Hence 'twas that he was devout in worship, gifted in prayer, forward in edifying discourse among the religious, and zealous in reproving the sins of the other people; every one counted him a saint; and he enjoy'd such a peace in his own mind, that in several fits of sickness, wherein he seein'd "nigh unto death," he seem'd "willing to die;" yea, “death,” he sail. "smiled on him.” Nevertheless, this diabolical creature had liv'd in most infandous buggeries for no less than fifty years together; and now at the gallows there were kill'd before his eyes a cow, two heifers, three shepp, and two sows, with all of which he had committed his brutalities. His wife had seen him confounding himself with a bitch ten years before; and he then excused his filthiness as well as he could unto her, but conjurid her to keep it secret: but he afterwards hang'd that bitch himself
, and then return'd unto his former villanies, until at last his son saw him hideously conversing with a sow. By these means the burning jealousie of the Lord Jesus Christ at length made the churches to know that he had all this while seen the cover'd filthiness of this hellish hypocrite, and expos'd him also to the just judgment of death from the civil court of judicature. Very remarkable had been the warnings which this hell hound had receiv'd from Heaven to repent of his impieties. Many years before this he had a daughter, who dreamt a dream, which caus'd her in her sleep to cry out most bitterly; and her father then, with much ado, obtaining of her to tell her dream, she told him she dreamt that she was among a great multitude of people to see an execution, and it prov'd her own father that was to be hanged, at whose turning over she thus cry'd out. This happen'd before the time that any of his curs'd practices were known unto her.
At another time, when there was a malefactor adjudg'd in those parts to die, for the very same transgressions which this rotten fellow was guilty of, the governour, with some of the magistrates, most unaccountably, with: out any manner of reason for their so doing, turn'd about unto this fellow, and said, “What think you?—is not this man worthy to die?" He now confessed, that these warnings did so awaken his conscience, as to make him for a time leave off his infernal debauches; and so, he said, "he thought all was pardoned—all was well with him." Nevertheless, he return'd unto his vomit and his quagmire, until the sentence of death at last fell upon him; and then he acknowledged that he had lived in the sin of bestiality ever since he was ten years old, but had sometimes intermitted the perpetration of it for some years together. During his imprisonment, he continu'd in a sottish and stupid frame of spirit, and marvellously
secure about his everlasting parilon and welfare; but the church whereto he belonged kept a solemn day of huiniliation on this occasion, wherein Mr. Divenport preach'd on Josh. xxii. 20: "Did not Achan commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on the congregation of Israel ?" And in the close of the fast, that faithful people of God excommunicated this accursed Achan from their own society. But, as I have seen bewitch'el self-poisoners, under a singular energy of some devil, obstinately refuse all offer'd relief until the poisons had prevail'd so far that all relief was too late, and then with roaring agonies they would have given ten worlds for it; so this bewitch'd beast, that had not been afraid of dying till he came to the " place of execution," when he came there, he was awaken'd into a most unutterable and intolerable anguish of soul, and made most lamentably desperate out-cries; among which out-cries, he warn'd men particularly to "take heed of neglecting secret prayer;" which, he said, “had been his bane.” He said, he never used secret prayer in his life, and that he frequently omitted family prayer too; yet, he said, he had pray'd and sinn'd, and sinn'd and pray'd; namely, by ejaculations, with which he contented himself, throwing set prayer aside. But so he perish'd!
(IV.) An English ship (in the year 1673) sailing from somewhere about the mouth of the Streights, was mann'd with some cruel miscreants, who, quarrelling with the master and some of the officers, turn'd them all into the long boat, with a small quantity of provisions, about an hundred leagues to the westward of the Spanish coast.
These fellows, in the mean time, set sail for New-England; where, by a surprising providence of God, the master, with his afflicted company in the long boat, also arrived; all, except one, who died of the barbarous usage.
The countenance of the master was now come terrible to the rebellious men, who, though they had escap'd the sea, yet “vengeance would not suffer to live a-shore.” At his instance and complaint, they were apprehended; and the ringleaders of this murderous piracy had a sentence of death executed on them in Boston.
Under that sentence, there was heard among them a grievous lamentation for this: “Their education had been under the means of grace, and the faithful preaching of the gospel in England; but they had sinned against that education." And one of them sadly cry'd out, "Oh! 'tis my drunkenness, 'tis my drunkenness, that hath brought me to this lamentable end!”
The horrors which attended the chief of these malefactors (one Forrest) in the last hours of his life, were such as exceedingly astonished the beholders. Though he were a very stout man, yet now his trembling agonies and anguishes were inexpressible. One speech, let fall by hir, was, “I have been among drawn swords, flying bullets, roaring cannonsamidst all which, I knew not what fear meant; but now I have dreadful
apprehensions of the dreadful wrath of God in the other world, which I am going into, my soul within me is amazed at it."
(V.) On March 18, 1674, two men, whose names were Nicholas Feavour and Robert Driver, were executed at Boston. The crime for which they were executed, was the murder of their master; whom, upon the provocation of some chastisement which he had given them, they knock'd him on the head with an axe in their bloody rage.
After they were condemn'd, they bestowed their lamentations not only on the particular crime which had now brought them to their untimely end, but also on some others, for which their consciences told them that the righteous God had left 'em unto this.
One of 'em said, "his pride had been his bane;" for he thought much of it that such a one as he should be a servant; and he would sometimes utter such words as these: “I am flesh and blood, as well as my master; and therefore I know no reason why my master should not obey me, as well as I obey him.”—“And now," said he, “ see what my pride has brought me to!"
One of them also said that his idleness had ruin'd him: he would not industriously follow his calling, but live an idle, slothful vagrant life. This, he said, had undone him.
And one of them said that his disobedience to his parents had brought this misery upon him. His father, he said, gave him good instructions when he was a child; but he regarded them not. He would not go to a school, when his father would have sent him to it. He would not go to a trade, when his father would have put him to one. After his father was dead, he would not be subject unto them that had the charge of him; he ran away from them; and after that he ran away from several masters. Thus he ran into the jaws of death.
These things are particulariz'd in the sermon preach'd just before their execution; and afterwards print'd under the title of, " The Wicked Man's Portion."
(VI.) On September 22, 1681, one W. C. was executed at Boston for a rape committed by him on a girl that liv'd with him; though he had then a wife with child by him, of a nineteenth or twentieth child.
This man had been “wicked overmuch." His parents were godly persons; but he was a "child of Belial.” He began early to shake off his obedience unto them; and early bad fornication laid unto his charge; after which, he fled unto a dissolute corner of the land, a place whereof it might be said, "Surely the fear of God is not in this place.” He being a youth under the inspection of the church at Roxbury, they, to win him, invited him to return unto his friends, with such expressions of lenity towards him, that the reverend old man their pastor, in a sermon on the day when this man was executed, with tears bewail'd it.