Sunday, August 30, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
Preached at Boston in New-England, March 11th 1685/6 (Together with the confession, Last Expressions, and Solemn Warning of that Murderer, to all Persons; especially to Young Men, to beware of those Sins which brought him to his Miserable End.)
Deut. 19:20,21 - And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity, but life shall go for eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Prov. 28:17 - A man that doth violence to the blood of any person, shall flee to the Pit, let no man stay him.
Num. 35:16 - And if he smite him with an instrument of iron (so that he die) he is a murderer, the murderer shall surely be put to death.
A great part of this Chapter is taken up in declaring who should have benefit by the City of Refuge; and who might not expect advantage thereby. There are two sorts of Man-slayers, (1) One may kill his Neighbor accidentally, though he had no design of hurt to him - nor any displeasure against him. The City of Refuge was for such. (2) A Man may in hatred or in passion kill another, and then the City of Refuge could not secure or save him from the hand of Justice; To intimate which is the scope of the Words which have been now read: wherein we have two things: 1. A Criminal. 2. The Punishment to be inflicted on such a Criminal.
1. A Criminal. He is a Murderer: there are three Particulars mentioned, which if they concur the person is guilty of Murder. If he smites another man, h.e. if he does so, not accidentally but designedly. 2. If the Instrument which he smites him with be of Iron, that makes the Murder to be the more evident. In the verses following it is added, That if he smite him mortally with a Stone, or with Wood, he shall be accounted a Murderer. The Jewish Writers tell us, That if a Man were slain, there was diligent enquiry made concerning the Instrument whereby he was killed. If it was with a Stone, or with Wood, they examined whether the Stone or Wood were of that bigness as that the dead man might probably receive his deaths Wound thereby: But (they say) if it were with an Instrument of Iron, no enquiry was made as to the greatness of it, because the least nail of Iron might easily kill. And it is to be presumed, that a man will not strike another with an Instrument of Iron, except Blood and Murder be in his Heart. 3. If the Wound prove mortal, then the striker is guilty of Murder. Though a Man should smite another, and that with an Instrument of Iron, if death does not follow, he is not guilty of that high degree of Murder which the Text speaks of but if he smite his Neighbour so that he die, then he is a Murderer.
2. Here is the punishment to be inflicted on such a Criminal. The Murderer shall surely be put to death. Only Gods Order was to be observed. The Murderer was to be put to death in a judiciary way. Amongst the Jews; the avenger of blood was to be the Executioner, as the nineteenth verse in this Chapter shows, where it is said, that the avenger of blood himself shall slay the Murderer The Hebrew Word for the Avenger of Blood is GOEL, which is sometimes translated as Redeemer. The Word properly signifies one that is near a kin. The next kinsman had right to Redeem, he also was to be the Avenger of blood. Only before Execution could be done, the Magistrate was to pass a Judgment. The Man-slayer was sent from the City of Refuge whither he fled, unto the place where the Fact was done, there to have his Trial. If the Magistrates of that place found him not Guilty, he was returned to the City of Refuge, there to be in safety till the death of the High Priest, and then to be set at liberty: But if he was found guilty of Murder, he was to be put to death publicly by the hand of Justice.
The Doctrine then before us, as suited to the present Occasion is,
That Murder is a Sin so great and heinous as that whoever shall be found Guilty guilty must be put to Death by the hand of Public Justice.
The Explication and Confirmation of this Doctrine may be set before us in three Propositions.
Propos. I. Murder, is when a Man does voluntarily and unjustly take away the lift of another person.
So that there are three things implied in Murder:
1. The Object slain must be one of man-kind. To take away the life of another Creature is not Murder. The eighth Commandment saith, You shall not Kill. The Hebrew words are LO TIRTZACH, i.e. Thou shalt not Murder. It was vain opinion of the Manichees, whom Austin confutes, That the Life of no Creature might be taken away, because the Commandment of God saith, Thou shalt not kill God has given express leave to all the Sons of Noah, i.e. to Mankind, that they should take away the lives of other Creatures, as they should see cause; only Man being a more Divine Creature, his Life is to be Sacred. It may not be meddled with, except in cases where the Great and Sovereign God, who has an absolute Power of Life and Death, has appointed.
2. Capital Murder is willful. There is a difference between Murder, and Casual Homicide, or Accidental Man slaughter. If a Man shoots an Arrow, or throws a Stone, or the like, not thinking that any one will be hurt thereby; in case it should happen to kill a man, it is not Murder. If that he did it ignorantly unawares, and no way sought the harm of the slain Man, he is not to be punished as a Murderer: This we see in the Context. Ver. 15, 23, 24., 25. The City of Refuge was for such an one; Deut. 19:4,5. And this is the case of the Slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: whosoever killeth his Neighbor ignorantly whom he hated not in time past; as when a man goes into the Wood with his Neighbor to hew wood, and his hand fetched a stroke with the Ax, to cut down the Tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighted upon his Neighbor that he die, he shall flee unto one of those Cities and live. Not but that a man may be guilty of Murdering his Neighbor though he did not intend to kill him; namely, if he did smite him in anger, or intend to harm him, as the expression is in the Twenty Third Verse of this Chapter. And it is here expressly declared, not only that he who shall lie in wait, or watch for an opportunity to destroy his Neighbor, or that did formerly hate him, shall be judged a Murderer, but if he smite him in enmity that he die, verse 21. i.e. in an hostile way; though he had no quarrel with him before, if he fall out with him, and in his passion smite him a mortal blow, he hath murdered his Neighbor, and is guilty of death. This is presumptuous Murder, the heart was in it, nor can it be said to be done ignorantly. There is another clear Scripture, which proves, that if persons fall out, and in the strife one shall strike the other a deadly blow Life shall go for Life, See Ex. 21:14., 21, 22.
But then Thirdly, In Murder the Life of a Man is taken away unjustly. In some cases it is lawful to take away the Life of another. Yea, matters may be so circumstanced, as it would be a great sin not to do it: There are Three Cases, wherein the Life of a Man may be taken away, and yet no Sin, no Murder committed.
1. In case of a Just War. There is a great difference between Blood shed in War, and in a time of Peace. Joab was guilty of Murder, because he Shed the Blood of War in Peace, I Kings 2:5. Had he Killed Abner and Amasa in the Wartime, before David had made Peace with them, he had not been guilty of Murder; but because he shed Blood after a Peace was concluded, he was a Murderer. Sometimes in War, they that take away Lives do an Acceptable Service to God. Abigail told David, that God would certainly bless him, because he fought the Battles of the Lord, I Sam. 25:28. And we know that Abraham was blessed, after he returned from the Slaughter of the Kings with whom he had a just War, Heb. 7:2. In these Cases the not shedding of Blood may possibly expose to a Curse. Jer 48:10. Cursed be he that does the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keeps back his Sword from Blood.
2. They that are in Civil Authority may and ought to take away the lives of Men, that shall commit Crimes by the Law of God worthy of Death. The Apostle therefore saith concerning the Magistrate: He is the Minister of God to thee for good: But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid for he beareth not the Sword in vain for he is the Minister of God a Revenger, to execute Wrath upon him that does Evil Rom. 13:4. Private Revenge is evil, but public Revenge on those that violate the Laws of God, is good. The Magistrate is God’s Vice regent. As none can give life but God, so none may take it away, but God or such as he has appointed. It is their work to see that the Lives of Men be taken from them, when God has said, That they shall surely be put to Death. Hence David speaks, as in Ps. 101:8. I will early destroy all the Wicked of the Land, that I may cut off all the Wicked Doers from the City of the Lord. God had put the Sword into his hand for that end, that so he might clear the Land of wicked Malefactors, who were worthy of Death, and he was resolved to see Justice done. But private persons are not to arrogate to themselves that which is the Magistrates proper work. Men must have lawful Authority for what they do, else in taking away life, they become guilty of Murder. Suppose a person to have committed never such Capital Crimes, if a private person, or one that has no Legal Authority, shall take away his life, he is guilty of Murder.
Except 3. In case of a mans own defense. So a private person may take away the Life of another: The light of Nature teaches men self preservation. If a Murderer assault him he may kill rather than be killed. We cannot say that Abner was guilty of Murder when he slew Asahal in his own defense. If a man be contrary to Justice, invaded or set upon by another in an hostile manner, and there be no other way for him to preserve his own life, but by killing the Assailant: The Law of Nature, and of all Nations acquit him from the guilt of Murder. But he that has shed Blood causeless; or that has Avenged himself is a Murderer. I Sam. 25:31.
Propos. II. Murder is an exceeding great Sin. It is an expression in the Scriptures, he is as if he slew a man, Isa. 66:3. Implying, that to slay a man is a thing most horrid and hateful; it is indeed the greatest Sin against the Second Table of the Moral Law, and is therefore set in the first place, amongst negative Precepts therein. God forbids the greatest Sin in the first place: It is a Crying Sin. The Lord said to Cain, The voice of thy Brothers Blood cryeth to me from the ground, Gen. 4:10. In the original, the word is in the Plural Number, the voice of thy Brothers Bloods. Every drop of Abel’s Blood had as it were a voice, a tongue in it, crying for Vengeance against his Brother, that had Murdered him. But that this is a grievous Sin is manifest: 1. In that it is a most unnatural thing. Creatures of the same kind are not wont to destroy one another. Naturalists observe concerning Wolves, that though they be cruel creatures, they will never kill one another; therefore if men do so, they are worse then Wolves and Tigers; so that Murder is an unnatural and a monstrous wickedness. 2. The Vengeance which is wont to follow this Sin, proveth that it is an horrid and heinous Transgression. There is a peculiar Vengeance that does pursue this Sin at the heels of it. The Gentiles had the notion of this fixed in their minds: Hence those Barbarians could say, No doubt this Man is a Murderer whom though he escaped the Seas; yet vengeance suffèreth not to live Act 28:4. The Heathen Esteemed δικη (which is the Word there used for Vengeance) as a Deity that would not suffer great Sinners, and in special Murderers to go unpunished. Temporal Vengeance pursues this sin. Hence they that have been guilty of it seldom live long in quiet. Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; Ps. 55:23. Either they are cut off by the Sword of Civil Justice, or if their Murders happen to be undiscovered, a secret Curse of God follows them: oftentimes they are themselves Murdered, as both Divine and Humane Records do abundantly declare: Nay, though men should truly Repent of this sin, and are then through the merit of Christ saved from everlasting punishment, yet not from temporal Judgment. I cannot tell whither ever any Man that was found guilty of this sin did escape temporal Judgment at last. When David had caused Uriah to be Murdered, he did repent of it most deeply and unfeignediy, yet God punished him severely as to outward Judgments; he saw but few comfortable days after that, the Sword never departed from his House. I have read of a Man that fought a Duel & Murdered his Adversary, who afterwards was very penitent, and for several years an eminent instance of exemplary piety; but at last he was smitten by the immediate hand of God, so as that Blood gushed out of all the passages of his Body, and he died suddenly. The Relator notes upon it, that though God forgave him as to Eternal, yet not as to Temporal Vengeance. But especially Spiritual Vengeance follows this Sin: The Murderers Soul is filled with hellish horror of heart; so that he is as it were Damned above ground, and in Hell whilst he is yet alive. The Avenger of Blood pursues his Soul; Murderers have confessed, that as soon as ever they had committed the Bloody Fact, they felt the Flames of Hell-fire in their Consciences, and this we see in Cain. Therefore after he had murdered his Brother, he cried and roared out, that his sin was greater than could be forgiven, his punishment greater than could be endured. And some think that the mark which the Lord set upon Cain, was a ghastly, guilty Countenance, that he had Hell and Horror in his Countenance as well as in his Conscience. And without Repentance, everlasting Vengeance will follow that Sin. It is said, No Murderer has Eternal Lift, I John 3.15 that is, without true Repentance. And if he has not Eternal life, then I am sure he has Eternal Death and Damnation. If the Murderer were only to have the life of his Body taken from him, though in a painful, shameful and accursed way, that were a light matter; but there is an eternal curse, a weight of everlasting vengeance, heavier than Mountains of Lead, that shall press his immortal Soul to death, world without end. Murder then is a fearful Sin.
Propos. III. The Murderer is to be pat to death by the hand of Public Justice. And this confirms the former Proposition concerning the greatness of this Sin: Men may not pardon or remit the punishment of that Sin. Among the Jews there was no City of Refuge for a wicked or willful Manslayer; and it is said in the one and thirtieth verse of this Chapter, You shall take no satisfaction for the life of a Murderer, which is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to Death. This Sin shall not be satisfied for, with any other punishment, but the death of the Murderer: There are some Crimes, that other punishment less then death may be accepted of as a Compensation for the wrong done; either some mulct or Fine in their Estates, or some other corporal punishment less than death, but in case of Murder, no Fine or Imprisonment, or Banishment or Corporal Punishment less than death can be accepted: You shall take no satisfaction for the Life of a Murderer And indeed equity requires this; by the Law of Retaliation, it is meet that men should be done unto, as they have done to others; and that as limb should go for limb,so life for life. But besides that, there are two Reasons mentioned in the Scripture, why the Murderer must be put to death.
Reas. I. That so the Land where the Murder is committed. may be purged from the guilt of Blood. For Murder is such a Crime as does pollute the very Land where it is done; not only the person that has shed blood is polluted thereby, but the whole Land lies under pollution until such time as Justice is done upon the Murderer; thus in the thirty third verse of this Chapter; this is given as the reason why no satisfaction might be taken for the life of a Murderer, so shall ye not pollute the Land wherein you are; for blood it defileth the Land and the Land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein but by the blood of him that shed it One Murder unpunished may bring guilt and a Curse upon the whole land, that all the Inhabitants of that Land shall suffer for it; so that mercy to a Murderer is cruelty to a people. Therefore is it said concerning the Murderer, Thine Eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent Blood from Israel that it may go well with thee. If the Murderer be not punished, it may go ill with the whole, all may fare the worse for it; if the sin be not duly punished there is a partaking in the guilt of it.
Reas. II. Because Man is made in the image of God. This Reason is mentioned Gen. 9:6. Whosoever sheds mans blood by man, h.e. by some man in Authority, proceeding in an orderly way of Judicature, as the Hebrew Expositors do rightly interpret the words, shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he him. Hence there is sacrilegious guilt in this sin; Amongst the Romans if a man did but strike his Servant near the place where one of their Emperors lay, he was to die for it, because that was looked upon as an affront put upon his Imperial Majesty; so he that shall kill a man that is made after the image of God, puts a Contempt upon the Divine Majesty, there is Treason against God contained in the bloody bowels of this Sin. Upon this account it is indeed a greater sin to kill a good man that has the Image of God renewed in him, then to kill a wicked man. Nevertheless, that also is a Capital Crime; for all men have something of Gods Image remaining in them, not only in that every man has an immortal Soul, and is in that respect more like the Immortal God than any other Creature in the world, and in that men have a dominion over the Creatures, which is one part of Gods image; on that account does the Apostle say; That Man is the Image and Glory of God, I Cor 11:7. But also, in that the Law is written in the hearts of men by nature; though God has executed spiritual death upon mankind for Adams Apostacy, after a dreadful manner, yet he has moderated that punishment; hence men in a natural estate, yet close with some Practical Principles of Piety and Righteousness, as that God ought to be worshipped, that men should do as they would be done by, and the like; and many natural men, yet have an Image of virtue, they have something like Grace; a shadow of it, they hate flagitious Crimes, and approve of a morally honest Conversation; these things shew that there are some remainders of the Image of God in men: Therefore he that shall murder such a Creature is worthy of death.
But thus for the Doctrinal handling of the Truth before us. I proceed to make some Application.
1. By way of Information.
2. For Exhortation.
Infor. 1. This Doctrine justifies the Authority here, in respect of the Sentence of death which has been passed on the Murderer, who is this day to be executed.
There is a man standing before the Lord, and amongst his people this day, who has done just as my Text expresses, He has smitten his Neighbor, and that with an Instrument of Iron too, with a cruel Spit made of Iron; the thing proved by several Witnesses, and the man that was hurt dyed by that wound; therefore he that has smitten him is a Murderer, and must surely be put to death; though for a long time he denied it, nevertheless since his Condemnation he has acknowledged it, and yesterday he confessed to me, that he had in his rage murdered the man, whose death and blood has been laid to his charge; he told me that the other gave him some ill language whereby he was provoked, and that he said to him, if he came within the door, he would run the Spit into his bowels, and he was as wicked as he said he would be, so that he is guilty of Murder. Therefore none ought to blame those in Authority for causing the Murderer to be put to death; conscience to God, and to the people under their charge, and to their own Souls also, has necessitated them to do what they have done in this matter. Let every one remember that Scripture, Prov. 28:17. A man that doth violence to the blood of any person, shall flee to the Pit let no man stay him; if he has shed blood, to the Pit let him go, and flee thither, let all convenient speed be used in the execution of Justice; that so the land may be cleared from blood, and let no man in Authority stay him, let no private person Solicit for him. But let us be thankful to God, that we are under such Magistrates, as will do Justice, and Execute Judgment, and punish Sin according as the Word of God requireth that it should be done.
Infor. 2. Hence those things which have a tendency to, and a degree of Murder in them, must needs be evil. e.g. Rash sinful anger is an evil thing, Murder begins there. It was said of those Brethren in iniquity, Simeon and Levi, That Instruments of Cruelty were in their Habitations for in their anger they slew a man, Cursed be their wrath, for it was cruel, Gen. 49:5,6. And our Lord Jesus Christ in his Exposition of the sixth Commandment, sheweth that rash anger is a degree of Murder, Matt 5:21,22. You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill, and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the Judgment but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his Brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the Judgment There is Man’s Judgment-seat, and God’s Judgment seat: murder makes a man be in danger of the former; sinful anger exposeth him to the latter; not that all anger is sinful, there is an anger that is good, when a man is angry in God’s Cause, moved with zeal and indignation, because God is dishonored; that’s very good; and a man may sometimes be angry in his own Cause too and yet not sin. Be angry and sin not, but when men are angry without a just cause, that’s evil. When they are angry more than they have cause for, that they are all on a Flame for a mere trifle, when (as one well expresses it) Man shall suffer the Beacon of his Soul to beset all on fire at the landing of every small Boat, that’s a foolish and evil thing, or when men shall be angry longer than they ought to be; an implacable Spirit is a vile Murderous Spirit Anger rests in the bosom of Fools; sinful anger is poison, which as soon as ever a man has taken it into his mouth, he should put it out again. And when anger shall break out into Curses and wicked imprecations, that’s wicked Anger. This Condemned man that stands here, confesses that he was wont in his passion to Curse all near him. He murdered many a man with his bloody tongue, before he was left of God to murder any with his hand. His mouth was full of Cursing and bitterness before he shed blood; and when men in their rage imprecate and curse themselves, it is a very evil thing; there are some that will say, They wish they may be hanged, if such a thing be so, and many times the Righteous Judgment of God brings that very evil upon them.
There is a Printed Relation concerning a person of Quality that was hanged for a Crime laid to his charge; and when he came to die, he confessed that he had been much addicted to that sinful Recreation of Card-playing and that many times when the Game went otherwise than he wished for, he should in his Passion, wish that he might be hanged if it were so, and once he wished he might be hanged if ever he played again; and therefore (said he) God is just in bringing me to such a death as that. And when anger shall break out into blows, quarreling and fighting between Neighbors that ought to live in peace, there is great evil in it. This miserable Creature before us, acknowledges that it was so with him. In his mad passions he cared not whom he did strike or hurt. It is not good for them that have lawful power to strike others, to do it in passion. It is not good for Parents to strike their Children, or Masters their Servants, or School masters their Scholars in heat of anger, lest they become guilty of breaking the sixth Commandment. A moral Heathen, when his Servant had committed a fault that greatly incensed him, said to him, If I were not angry with thee I would strike thee; but I will stay till my passion is over before I punish thee. Again, a spirit of Revenge is an evil thing: it is Murder in Gods sight, I Job. 3:15. He that hates his Brother, is a Murderer. Hatred never rests but in the destruction of the thing hated. To say no more here; Cruelty is a degree of Murder and a great Evil. And most of all for men to be cruel to those that stand in nearest relation to them (as this Malefactor owns that he has been) whom they ought to love dearly; is an high degree of inhumanity. No man that acted like a man, ever hated his own flesh. To be cruel, though to a Servant or Slave, is a very sinful thing. Nay Cruelty though to a Beast argued is a murderous, bloody disposition. The Scripture saith that a good man is merciful to his Beast. They then that make themselves sport with putting dumb creatures to misery, do very sinfully. Yet that has been practiced here of later years in the open Streets, especially on one day of the Year. To do it at such a time is vanity and Heathenish Superstition; besides to make sport with exercising cruelty on dumb Creatures, which had never been miserable had not the sins of men made them so; it is a wicked thing, and ought not to be amongst those that call themselves Christians.
Infor. 3. If, Murder be such a crime as has been shown, it is then a sorrowful thing that so many of the Children of’ men should be found guilty of this evil.
There are some places of the World where Murder is a common Sin. The dark corners of the Earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. And there are many in the World that call themselves Christians, who nevertheless delight in shedding innocent Blood. Persecutors are Murderers. Bloody Papists are in the Scripture charged with Murder on this account: It is said of them, they repented not of their Murders; Rev. 9:21. namely of their Murdering the Saints of God for their Religion, for the truths sake; and because they would not comply with their Superstitions and Idolatries. That Mother of Harlots the Church of Rome, she has made her self drunk with blood; many millions of Saints have been murdered by her. Persecuters are Cains Children. O how many are there going up and down the World with Cain’s bloody Club in their hands to this day! It was Luther’s sayings, Cain will kill Abel to the end of the World. But besides this, that which the Civil Laws of Nations make to be Murder is frequent in some places. A late Historian reports, that in the Kingdom of France, within the space of ten years, there were known to be no less than six thousand Murders committed. And in Popish Countries, they have Sanctuaries for Murderers. A man that has been guilty of a willful Murder, if he does but run into a Church (as they call it) or into a Monastery, he is protected in those bloody places of Refuge. Their Writers plead for this. And though no convicted Murderer did ever escape the stroke of Justice in this Land (which is matter of rejoicing) yet it is a very sad thing, that any in such a place as this should be found guilty of such a Crime. That men should do so wickedly in a Land of uprightness: but so it has been. Divers have been Executed for this sin formerly, and one that is to be put to death for it this day. And there have been several Murders committed amongst us, the Authors of which are not as yet known. Some that have been so monstrously Wicked and Unnatural, as to embrew their hands in the Blood of their own Children: who they are God knoweth, and will find a time to judge them; and one day we and all the World shall know who they are. Besides these, several others have been under vehement suspicion, and tried for their lives, on the account of this Sin. We have all cause to Pray for New-England as the Lords People of old were directed for to do, in case of an uncertain Murder, Deut. 21:7,8. They shall Answer and say, our hands have not shed this Bloo4 neither have our eyes seen it; merciful O Lord to thy People Israel whom thou host Redeemed, and lay not innocent Blood unto the people of Israel’s charge and the blood shall be forgiven them. Be merciful O Lord, to thy People in New-England and lay not innocent Blood to their charge.
USE II. For Exhortation:
There is a double Exhortation before us.
1. Hence men should beware that they do not become guilty of this Sin. It is in Man’s corrupt nature. Nothing is more natural than a spirit of Revenge, as we see in little Children, which discovers that the Children of Men bring murderous Natures into the World with them. Hence the Apostle declaring, what men by nature are, saith, That their feet are swift to shed blood Rom 3:15. because there is a marvelous propensity in mans Nature unto this sin. Should not the Lord either by special or common Grace restrain them, how many would soon become guilty of Murder it self? Yea, and those too that do not believe any such thing concerning themselves. When the Prophet Elisha told Hazael what a prodigious Murderer he would be, what (said he) Am I a Dog, that thou should have such thoughts of me? But in a little time he appeared to be as curst a Blood hound as ever the Prophet had said to him. O then beware of this sin. And therefore take heed of giving way to wicked passions. Lesser sins make way for greater. And especially take heed of great Sins: For many a Man by being guilty of other great sins, has provoked the Holy God to leave him unto this Sin too. The poor condemned Malefactor who stands here in the sight of this Congregation, does acknowledge, that he has by living in other sins provoked God to leave him unto this, which he must now die for, and warns others especially Young men to take heed of those Sins as they love their lives or souls. I know not but that it may be fur edification, and tend to Gods Glory, if I should read in this great Assembly, what I received in Writing from this dying and distressed Creature. It is this which follows;
I James Morgan, being Condemned to die must needs own to the glory of God, that he is Righteousness and that I have by my Sins provoked him to destroy me before my time. I have been a great sinner guilty of Sabbath-breaking of Lying and of Uncleanness but then are especially two Sins whereby I have offended the Great God; one is, that Sin of Drunkenness, which has caused me to commit many other Sins, for when in drink, I hare been often guilty of Cursing and Swearing, and quarreling, and striking others: But the Sin which lies most heavy upon my Conscience, is, that I have despised the Word of God, and many a time refused to hear it preached. For these things, I believe God has left me to that which has brought me to a shameful and miserable Death. I do therefore beseech and learn all persons, young men especially, to take heed of these Sins, lest they provoke the Lord to do to them as he has justly done by me. And for the further peace of my own Conscience, I think myself obligated to add this unto my foregoing Confession, That I own the Sentence which the Honored Court has passed upon me, to be exceeding just, in as much as though I had no former grudge and malice against the man whom I have Killed, yet my passion at the time of the fact was so outrageous, as that it hurried me on to the doing of that which makes me justly now proceeded against as a Murderer.
Thus does this miserable man confess: but how many are there in the Congregation, that this may strike terror and trembling into their Souls.
O Lord, how many are there in this great Assembly, who have lived and do live in those very Sins, for which this man confesses that God has been provoked to destroy him! Let Sinners hear and take warning this day; this man now that the Terrors of God have awakened his distressed Soul bitterly complains of two Sins especially; one is that of Drunkenness. And indeed, Drunkenness has been a bloody Sin; it has been the cause of many a Murder. The man here who is now flying to the Pit, confesses that in his drink, he was wont to curse and swear, and to quarrel, and strike those near him; and he acknowledged to me, that he had made himself grievously drunk the day before he was left of God to commit the Murder which he now must dye ftr; yea, and that he had that very night been drinking to excess, and that lie was not clear of drink at the time when lie did the bloody Fact? And does not the Scripture say, Who has Wo, Who has Sorrow, Who has Contentions! who has Babbling? who has Wounds without Cause! They that tarry long at the Wine – Prov. 23:29,30. Wicked men when they are in drink, will fall to quarreling; words will bring on blows, and those blows will cause wounds, and those wounds may perhaps prove mortal. And then what Wo and Sorrow followed: Oh how many have by means of this in, been guilty of Interpretative Murder! They have caused others to die by making them drunk; There has been an horrible thing done in this place; some wicked persons (who they are God knows) have given or sold Strong Liquors to the Indians, and made them drunk also, and several of them have dyed in that condition; let such know, that the Lord will judge them; yea, he will judge them as men that have shed blood shall be judged; they must answer for the blood of Souls and Bodies too. Most wicked and miserable Creatures they are, that to gain a few pence, will bring upon themselves the guilt of the blood of Souls and Bodies too. And this bloody sin of drunkenness has been the cause of many a self Murder; how many have made themselves the woeful Martyrs of Bacchus thereby: by Drunkenness and intemperance, they have brought their Bodies to the Grave, and their Souls to Hell before their time. It is an unhappy thing that of later years, a kind of Strong Drink has been common amongst us, which the poorer sort of people, both in Town and Country, can make themselves drunk with, at cheap and easy rates. They that are poor and wicked too (Ah most miserable Creatures!) can for a penny or two pence make themselves drunk: I wish to the Lord, some Remedy might be thought of, for the prevention of this evil. It is a very sad thing, that so many Bodies and Souls should be eternally ruined, and no help for it. How few are there, that if once they be addicted to this vice, do ever truly repent of it, or turn from it. There was a man, who hearing that his Son took evil courses, and that he followed such a vice, well (said he) I hope he’ll leave that; and that he was given to another vice, I hope (said he) he’ll leave that too; hut it was told him his Son was given to Drunkenness also: Nay, then (said he) I have no hope of him. I will not say (as he did) there is no hope that ever a Drunkard should repent, but I say, there have been but few such instances in the world. How rarely have any of you known a man that has been addicted to this Body-destroying, and Soul-murdering iniquity, that has truly repented of it, or turned from it again. 0 then, let men that have any love for their Lives or Souls, beware of this bloody Sin.
But the other evil which this undone man, does especially cry out of, and which now that he seeth his Soul going into Eternity, he saith, lieth most heavy upon his Conscience, is his despising the Word of God. I do not wonder to hear him speak so, for I have known several Condemned Persons, who have made the same out-cry. O nothing terrifies our Consciences, like the thought of this; that we have neglected the means of Grace! And what think you of Sinners in Hell, who are wailing for this with tears of Blood for ever and ever; whose doleful and bitter cry, is, 0 the Sermons which we once heard, or might have heard but would not Ten Thousand Worlds would we give for an opportunity, to hear one of those Sermons again with any hope (finding mercy with God! O you that have lived under the Gospel, but despised it, think of this. Verily I say unto you, all the sins in the world will not Damn like this: Suppose a man to have been guilty of Adultery or Murder, or the most horrid Transgressions against the Law of God, these will not Damn his Soul like that of despising the Word of God. For this is the Condemnation that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light. And how shall we escape; if we neglect so great Salvation: They that shall be found guilty of neglecting the great Salvation offered in the Gospel, cannot escape the Wrath of God to the utmost of it. And this is true, not only concerning such as have lived under the constant preaching of the Gospel, and yet remain, and live and dye in a natural unconverted estate; but of them also, that might hear the Word of God, but will not; concerning such Christ saith, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah at the day of Judgment, than for them, Matt. 10:15. This dying man, now that his Conscience is awakened, saith, it is a terror to him to think, I might have heard the Word of God Preached many a time, but refused it he neglected to hear Sermons, not only on Lecture-days, but on Lords-days too; when he was a Servant, he was wont (as himself saith) on the Sabbath-days, to go out into the Fields, and there to profane the Lords-day, at the very time when he might, and ought to have been hearing the Word of God; and since he had a Family his custom was to keep at home, when others were attending the Public Worship of God; and he told me, that he did foolishly please himself, and think he had a sufficient reason to stay at home, because he had not Clothes - enough to appear publicly in; when as the money that he misspent in drink, would have procured him clothing. Let others then by his example, be warned against this evil, lest they provoke God, and feel sorrow for it, as he has done. I doubt there are very many in this great Town guilty of his Sin in this particular, perhaps some that are Professors of Religion, which is dreadful to think on. I hear some say, that there are many hundreds, nay, some thousands in this place, that seldom hear a Sermon Preached, from one end of the year to the other; if that be so, it is very lamentable. What is like to become of the Souls of such profane persons? if they that are in place of Power (be they Superior, or inferior Officers) can possibly redress this evil, they will certainly do a Service acceptable to God, and to the Lord Jesus Christ.
But I proceed to the second Exhortation.
If Murder be such a Crime as has been declared, then, let whoever has been guilty of this sin, be humbled for it and repent of it. As for Interpretative Murder, many are guilty of that. O how many that have by debauchery and intemperance, shortened the lives of themselves or others; let such repent, and turn from their sins unto God. But I hope there is none in this vast Assembly that has been guilty of that Murder which is by the Law of God, and of the Land a Capital Crime, excepting one man, and one such person where is here present, unto whom I shall now particularly apply my self. Do you then hear, that your Soul may live: This is the last Sermon that ever you shall hear. Tune was when you might have heard Sermons, but would not; and now you shall not hear them, though you would. For, as God said to him, This night thy Soul shall be required of thee so I say to you in his Name, This night thy Soul shall be taken from thee: This night your Soul shall be either in Heaven or in Hell for ever. You are appointed to die this day and after death, cometh the Judgment; as soon as your Body is dead, your immortal Soul shall appear before the Great God and Judge of all, and a Sentence of Everlasting Life, or Everlasting Death shall be passed upon you. Are you willing when those Chains, which are about you, shall be taken off, that your immortal Soul should be hanged in Everlasting Chains? Are you willing that when your Body is removed from the Prison, your Soul should go to the Spirits that are in Prison: You have complained that you have been in a Dungeon, and had little light there; but are you willing to go where you shall never see light? Are you willing that when your Body is delivered from this Dungeon, your Soul should go into that Dungeon, where is blackness of darkness for ever? if not, I charge you in the Name of God to hear and obey his Word: Yea, that Word which you have many a time despised: I have spoken so often to you in private, since your being Apprehended, that I shall not need to say much now, only a few words.
1. Consider what a Sinner you have been: The sin which you are to die for, is as red as Scarlet; and many other sins has your wicked life been filled with. You have been a Stranger to me, I never saw you, I never heard of you, until you had committed the Murder, for which you must die this thy; but I hear by others, that have known you, how wicked you have been and you have your self confessed to the world, that you have been guilty of Drunkenness, guilty of Cursing and Swearing, guilty of Sabbath-breaking, guilty of Lying, guilty of secret Uncleanness; as Solomon said to Shimei, Thou knowest the wickedness which thine own heart is privy unto; so I say to you. And that which aggravates your guiltiness not a little, is, that since you have been in Prison, you have done wickedly; you have made your self drunk several times since your Imprisonment; yea, and you have been guilty of Lying since your Condemnation: It was said to a Dying man Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art under Condemnation. O what a sinner have you been! for since you have been under Condemnation, you have not feared God. And how have you sinned against the Gospel? What Unbelief? What Impenitency have you been guilty of?
Consider 2. What misery, you hare brought upon yourself on your body, that must die an accursed death; you must hang between Heaven and Earth, as it were forsaken of both, and unworthy to be in either; and what misery have you brought upon your poor Children, you have brought an everlasting reproach upon them. How great will their shame be, when it shall be said to them, that their Father was hanged, not for his goodness, as many in the world have been, but for his wickedness: Not as a Martyr, but as a Malefactor, truly so? But that which is ten thousand times worse then all this, is, that you have (without Repentance) brought undoing misery upon your poor, yet precious Soul: Not only death on your Body, but a second death, on your never dying Soul: It is said in the Scripture, that Murderers shall have their part in the Luke, which burns with fire and Brimston4 which is the Second Death: Rev 21:8. O tremble at that! I remember a man that was Condemned and Executed in this place some years ago, that had been a Soldier, and as stout a spirited man as most in the world, who when he came to die, thus expressed himself to a Minister, that treated with him about his Soul, I (said he) never knew what fear meant; though I have been amongst Drawn Sword and before the Canons mouth; I flared not death but now you tell me of a Second Death, it makes my Soul to shake within me. That’s a death, the thought whereof may make the Soul of the stoutest Sinner in the world to tremble; for that’s a death which is eternal: The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal The death of the body, that’s seen, and it is soon over; but what becomes of the Soul when a sinner dies, they that stand by him do not see, but if he die impenitent, the death which is not seen takes hold on him, and it is eternal: The God against whom he has sinned, lives for ever to punish him. And a fearful thing it is, to fall into the hands of the everliving God: O run not into the mouth of the Second Death; into the wide mouth of the fiery Pit, which has devoured millions of millions of immortal Souls; and know you for certain, that if you die impenitent, your Damnation will be no ordinary one; for you have not only transgressed against the Law of God, with an high hand, but sinned against the Gospel too. The Sermons which you have heard formerly, or might have done, will be as so many witnesses against you, before the Judgment seat of Christ: the three Sermons which have been Preached to you in Public, since your Condemnation; the pains which has been taken with you in private, by one or other of the Lords Servants; all these will aggravate your Condemnation, when you shall be Judged again before all the world, at the last day if you die impenitent.
Consider 3. There is yet a possibility that your Soul may be saved notwithstanding all that has been spoken to you, do not despair; repent but do not despair. I would not have you say as Cain did, My sin is greater than can be forgiven: The Lord is a merciful God; though men cannot forgive you, God can; and he will do it, if you unfeignedly repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus. There is infinite merit in the death of Christ; if your bloody Soul be washed in his blood, it shall be made whiter than the Snow: That sin which you must now dye for, God has forgiven to others upon their true Repentance: Manasseh filled the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood, but when he humbled himself; and besought the Lord for mercy; God was entreated of him. 0 therefore repent, and then tho your Body must die, your Soul shall live, and not die.
I have but two words more to say to you, and then I shall take my leave of you forever.
1. Be sure that you be sincere in your Repentance. Many times men under fears, will seem very penitent, when as they do but flatter God with their mouths, and lie unto him with their Tongues: Thus it was with Pharaoh, and with many a Sinner, whose hard heart was never broken nor changed; we see of-ten, that Sinners on sick-beds, when they behold Death and Eternity before their eyes, will confess their sins, and promise Reformation; but if the Lord spare and restore them, they are the same that they were before: And we have known instances among our selves, of men that when they have been Captives, and in Turkish slavery; they have pretended to a sense of those sins which provoked the Most High to bring that misery upon them, and have written seemingly pious and penitent Letters to their friends, but now God has delivered them, they are as vain as profane, as ungodly as ever in their lives before; nay, some of them worse: for the truth is, if men be not humbled and converted by such signal dispensations, many times they are judicially and everlastingly hardened. They never leave sinning until they have sinned themselves into Hell, past all hopes of mercy, or of recovery. To come nearer to you, I have known some, more than one, or two, or three, that have been Condemned to die, and whilst they remained under that Sentence, they seemed very penitent, but they were pardoned (for they had not been guilty of Murder as you have) and since that, have been as wicked as ever. O then look to yourself, that you do not dissemble with God and man, and your own Soul too. And let not the fear of punishment only, but the sense of mercy break your heart.
2. In this way of sincere Repentance, betake your self to the City of Refuge; go to Christ for life. The willful Manslayer had (as you heard but now) no benefit by the City of Refuge; so shall impenitent Sinners have no Salvation by Christ; but they that have a real sight of their sins, and flue from the Avenger of Blood, unto Christ for Life, he is ready to succor them. Poor man! has the fiery Serpent bitten and stung thy Soul; then look unto the Brazen Serpent, look unto the Lord Jesus, that you may live and not die for ever. Build your hopes of Salvation on Christ and his Righteousness alone: Do not think you shall be saved, only because Good Men have prayed for you, or for the Confession of your sins, which you have now made; or for the sake of any thing but Christ. And I pray the Son of God to have Compassion on you.
I Pray God that I may be a warning to you all, and that I may be the last that ever shall suffer after this manner: in the fear of God I warn you to have a care of taking the Lords Name in vain; mind and have a care of that Sin of Drunkenness, for that is a sin that leads to all manner of sins and wickedness: mind, and have a care of breaking the sixth Commandment, where it is said, Thou shalt do no Murder, for when a Man is in Drink he is ready to commit all manner of sin till he fill up the cup of the wrath of God, as I have done by committing that Sin of Murder: I beg of God, as I am a dying man, and to appear before the Lord within a few minutes, that you may take notice of what I say to you; Have a care of Drunkenness, and ill Company, and mind all good Instruction, and don’t turn your back upon the Word of God as I have done. When I have been at Meeting, I have gone out of the Meeting-house to commit sin, and to please the Lust of my flesh; and don ‘t make a mock at any poor object of pity, but bless God that he hath not left you as he hath justly done me to commit that horrid sin of Murder Another thing that I have to say to you, is to have a care of that House where that Wickedness was committed, and where I have been partly ruined by: But here I am, and know not what will become of my poor Soul which is within a few moments of Eternity; I, that have Murdered a poor Man, who had but a little time to Repent, and I know not what’s become of his poor Soul; O that I may make use of this opportunity that I have; Oh that I may make improvement of this little little time before I go hence and be no more: O let all mind what I am a saying now. I am a going out of this World; O take warning by me, and beg of God to keep you from this Sin which hath been my ruin. His last words were, O Lord receive my Spirit, I come unto thee O Lord, I come unto thee O Lord; I Come, I Come, I Come.