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stories of malefactors, as occasionally published by what are termed evangelical ministers of religion, of various communions, and the ordinary newspaper articles communicated from Newgate. Had the writer of The Gamester entrusted the completion of his story to a regular reporter for the periodical press, we imagine that the latter would too certainly have introduced into the chamber of the dying reprobate, a clergyman ready to administer the consolations of religion, and the solemn sacrament of the eucharist. We would be told of the devout behaviour of the reci pient during the ceremony, his resignation, his last affecting interview with his family, his pious expressions; and we should probably be favoured with extracts from a letter written on the morning of his death to former companions, warning them against their infatuation, and its consequences, and expressing the satisfaction he felt himself in having seen his errors, and having repented of them. The phrases in italics, as the reader must be well aware, may, alas! be ready stere otyped for most of the paragraphs which appear in articles of intelligence on the day of an execution? There is also and we state the matter here, in order to preserve the connexion of events-another most singular circumstance brought to our consideration in Newgate practice; we mean the custom, while leading felons to the gallows, of the Ordinary reading the burial service! How far he proceeds in it we are not aware. It cannot be that he actually says, "We give thee hearty thanks that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world......beseeching thee, that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom!"-Now if the service be curtailed, what parts are omitted? If omitted, on what plea? who regulates the omission? There is such
a mixture of the incongruous with the awful, in asking these questions, that we should have avoided all allusion to the subject, except that, as public attention has been frequently and recently attracted to the religious ceremonies of our prisons, we beg to contribute something, on a passing occasion, towards an inquiry into the propriety of the practices once more offered to our notice. Delusion in some form must certainly exist; and we wish, among other things, to know, whether it is the established routine for the chaplains of any gaol to administer, indiscriminately, the eucharist to all under sentence of death; and to thank God for their deliverance, by an executioner, from a wicked world? Several of our correspondents have already alluded to the subject in our pages.
We have mentioned the similarity between some well-meant and some Old-Bailey accounts of the last days of notorious offenders. In both instances, it is, practically, the tale of a sudden conversion. A man is executed at the age of thirty-five, having consumed the last fifteen of his years in habits of fraud and violence; and in the last fortnight of life becoming, according to these statements, "a new creature." This. is the essence of an account which will sometimes occupy two columns of a newspaper, drawn up and authenticated by Newgate chroniclers; and which, under certain technical forms of religious phraseology, and prepared by a very different class of writers, will appear in the next number of some religious magazine. Yet the chronicler and the magazine move in entirely opposite divisions of the Christian world.
The chronicler, on other occasions, would be the first to deride the doctrine of sudden conversion; and would write many a long paragraph to expose the temerity and foolishness of a teacher who should countenance a system so perilous. He might also search the journals of the primitive Methodists
for examples to his purpose; and record, with triumphant exultation, the ultimate confessions of Whitfield and Wesley, respecting the relapse of many of their early converts. Yet where is the definable distinction between men transiently impressed by the sermon of a fieldpreacher, and men who repent, believe, and become happy, within sight of the gallows? These inconsistent divines seem to be perfectly unconscious of their own practical adhesion to "the dangerous delusions of sectarianism."
We may reasonably complain, on the other hand, of some narrators, who ought to know better, when they virtually echo back the statements delivered by chroniclers whom they themselves would also, on other occasions, denounce as children of ignorance, -and yet forming a junction with this very party on the platform of the gibbet. We know very well, that each party has meanings, expressions, inferences, cautions, and illustrations of its own: but we are only contending that, in point of fact, each ar. rives at the same conclusion, and tells the same tale: and here we leave this portion of the discussion. The writer of The Gamester, as we calculate, would support our remonstrances.
It may be well, perhaps, to give a specimen of what has actually, and very recently, appeared in the newspapers, relative to the last days and deaths of criminals.-"John Orchard," says the Exeter Alfred of April 16, "was executed to-day at the new drop of the Devon County Gaol. His case excited very general attention, and, from his large family and respectable connexions, produced a considerable degree of sympathy in the public mind; so that motives of curiosity attracted a vast assemblage of persons to witness the awful spectacle of his death; and the more so, from the consideration that this unhappy victim to the laws of his country had for many years borne an ir
reproachable character, and was even instrumental, as an occasional preacher, in the Methodist connexion, of disseminating those important truths and precepts which, we lament to say, did not sufficiently impress his own heart with the real duty he owed to God and to his fellow-men. In the moment of delusion he committed the act which rendered him amenable to the punishment he has undergone. Since the sentence of condemnation was passed upon him, he became gradually more and more resigned to his fate; and in addition to the unremitting attention of the Rev. Mr. Chave, chaplain of the gaol, who daily visited him, he has been in the constant habit of also having religious advice given him by Mr. Burges, the Burges, the Methodist minister officiating in this city. During the whole of the melancholy preparations, he was engaged in prayer, and on ascending the fatal ladder, and after the rope was adjusted round his neck, he still continued to supplicate for mercy, apparently unconscious of every thing around him. It was almost one o'clock when the drop fell, and his struggles were not violent, though several seconds elapsed before life was totally extinct. His wife and family, consist ing of four small children, and a daughter by a former wife, have been constant in their visits to him ; and yesterday his wife, daughter, with his wife's aunt, took their last and sad farewell. Every interest that could possibly be made was exerted in his favour, and up to Friday last hopes were entertained that he would be reprieved; but on Thursday his brother had an audience with Mr. Peel, who informed him that his case had been duly considered; but the circumstances attending it were of a nature too aggravated to entitle him to recommendation for mercy. The following lines, written by him, were sung by the congregation at the gaol yesterday and to-day, at his request, he leading the choir.
"When guilt distracts my labouring breast,
No angry storms, no raging sea
My hope is fixed, O Lord, in thee.
Affrighted nature dreads to see-
My faith a wreck can never be ;
And sing my hope, O Lord, in thee."
Of the subject of this account, or even of his crimes, we have not the slightest knowledge, but have merely copied the statement from a provincial paper*. But what will
In the same print we noticed the following anecdote:
"A Penitent.-At the last Salisbury Assizes, sentence of death was passed on Raymond Read, for horse-stealing; and from that moment, up to the time of his reprieve, no one could be more devout, or apparently penitent; but immediately on hearing that mercy had been obtained for him, he returned the Bible and Prayer Book which had been lent him, saying
'that he had now no further occasion for them.'"-What an example is this of the popular irony so perpetually furnished by the periodical press on serious subjects! Not one in a thousand loungers over a newspaper will read such a statement without thinking it an excellent jest. The circumstance of its being headed A PENITENT bespeaks, and ensures, a laugh from every one who looks no further than amusement. Others may be awakened to the inquiry, whether the victims of the law, who now die so happily, and, as their biographers would persuade us, so secure from the terrors of eternity, would not in many cases, dismiss their confessors and ministerial attendants, as soon as they were released from the dread of an execu
tion; and thus, John Orchard might have crossed over to the party of Raymond Read. A heathen poet said
'Oderunt peccare mali, formidine pœnæ ;' and in Christian countries, not only the same preventive of crime exists, but, we might add, bad men believe in the prospect of an ignominious death: let the executioner retire, and they believe no longer.-We are reminded at this point of the embarrassment and distress often occasioned to pious clergymen, when requested to administer a death-bed sacrament. We have known
men think, who think at all, of a reporter who talks of a criminal having committed an act of felony, in the moment of delusion-and yet, by his own account, under circumtances of a nature too aggravated to entitle him to recommendation for mercy. All sin, it is true, is delusion; and we are warned to exhort one another, lest any one be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. But the climax of an atrocious crime is not reached by a process repente fuit turpissimus, said a theoproperly called delusion. Nemo logian of the pagan world, and so far he was certainly orthodox; for we cannot concede that, according to the general economy of the Divine government, any man is, as it were, so taken by surprise as to reprobate. Extreme cases we do be instantaneously degraded into a not touch. When it is asserted, in party had for many years borne an the example before us, that the irreproachable character, all that can be meant is, that his exterior was ostensibly respectable. But we know how easily the world is satisfied; and how negative may be the goodness which passes current in society. Many a person is irreproachable in general estimation, who, like the young ruler, goes away sorrowful from the requisitions of the Gospel, because he has great possessions.
His treasures may
not, indeed, be silver and gold, but things quite as dear to him, such as the love of fame or of money; or indulgence in any other occult and insidious passion, which may be
instances where the visits of a private led by the plea-Oh, sir, it's quite needless, for Christian to a sick person have been repelmy brother was yesterday made up for death; minister of religion who did not scruple that is, he received the eucharist from a at once indicates in what manner the ceto be a party to the delusion. The repulse also the necessity of a mild firmness in remony is valued by the ignorant, and refusing to administer the sacrament indiscriminately on the part of a pastor, whose senses are exercised to discern good and evil. Be not thou partaker of other men's sins. Keep thyself pure.
always undermining his spiritual prosperity, though unseen by human eye. Had the Exeter Alfred delivered a detailed and faithful account of Orchard, telling of the individual all that he knew of himself, it is very possible that we should have had confessions on the part of the felon, of his having arrived at a capital crime at last, whether it was forgery, violation, murder, or treason--for we are quite ignorant on this point - as an overt act of sin, the first properly discernible by his fellow-creatures, but the result of concealed habits of guilt, such as he had contrived to hide from every witness, except from God and himself. It appears that he had once been a teacher of others. Perhaps he mistook a knowledge of religion for the possession of it; or he might have been dazzled by some degree of popularity into a persuasion of his own sincerity. Or he was, to a certain extent, successful, and assumed that he really valued the boon he communicated to others. But, was he conscientious in private prayer-in the study of the Scriptures in vigilance against the intrusions of animal appetite-in trying to keep himself unspotted from the world in maintaining family religion-in pastoral fidelity, and simple adherence to the doctrines of the cross of Christ-and in so exercising himself unto godliness, as to be a living sermon of the truths he delivered from the pulpit? If the reply to these inquiries be conveyed in the form of a suspicious, hesitating, half-consent; or if there be a dubious and qualifying negative, uttered with embarrassment and blushes, we have a solution of this man's delusion. It was no surprise, but the bitter fruit of a course of hypocrisy. He sowed to the flesh, and of the flesh reaped corruption and death. "We are surprised," said Mr. Newton, in his table talk with his biographer, "at the fall of a famous professor; but, in the sight of God, the man was gone CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 305.
before; we only have now first discovered it. He that despiseth small things, shall fall by little and little." It is the same with persons occupying the lower, or lowest, walks of religion; and thus, individuals who pursue the ruinous path which, after numerous windings, terminates on a scaffold, may have measured many a league on their downward path, before their progress has been perceived by human vision.
We feel the solemn importance of adverting to these things, in order to disabuse inexperienced readers of the notion, that men sin as by a kind of irresistible impulse, as though they were stimulated onward by unfair and rude violence, and such as would destroy their moral responsibility. If this were really the case, temptation would not appear in the form of allurement, but of compulsion; and there would probably be no way of escape, that the tempted might be able to bear it.
But we are dealt with, in this relation, as creatures who may indeed have to struggle hard with the enemy, but with one who may be subdued. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Take the instance of Judas: an observant reader of his history will mark the traitor's approaches to his ultimate crime, and will also mark our Lord's consciousness of the false disciple's character. There were the betrayer's affected compassion for the poorhis hardihood at the paschal supper, when his treachery was prophetically disclosed-and other circumstances, indicative of something hollow and suspicious-altogether a proof that his sin was premeditated, and only the overt act of a man whose heart had long been estranged from his Master. Yet his character and project were a profound secret to his brethren. When Jesus declared the presence of a traitor, the rest of the disciples wondered of whom he spake. But to the divine prescience of his Lord he was already fallen. In the eyes of how many 2 P
at Jerusalem did Judas probably pass for an irreproachable cha racter, perhaps among the disciples themselves.
We will farther illustrate our views of this serious question, by an easily supposable case; similar to what frequently occurs in the annals of domestic delinquency in our own times. The house steward of a nobleman, high in his lord's confidence, is suddenly arrested and conveyed to prison, on a charge of forgery; and it is an imitation of his patron's signature. The family -and he has held a succession of situations in the household for twenty years-is thrown into grief and consternation; while the rest of the domestics, and the inhabitants of the village where the mansion is situated, are confounded as by the shock of an earthquake. Then come universal expressions of surprise from the surrounding district, since the accused party has borne " a most excellent character" during his whole service; and the general impression is, that some infernal agent of over-powering might has suddenly made him the passive victim of his malice. But, as the period of the assizes draws on, there also steal out numerous expressions of suspicion, that the steward's domestic treason was only one crime among many. It then comes out, that, of late years, he had clandestinely formed connexions which portended no good. He became a speculator in abortive schemes; and his savings were lost. But an appetite was created for fresh experiments; and as his own funds were exhausted, there was a necessity for resorting to those of another and so the links of fraud were rivetted together, till all were at length burst asunder. Yet the man's heart was perhaps not so seared, but that he intended to restore the money, when his last project had succeeded. This theory, however, was never realized. He had his moments of delusion, and they were numerous enough to con
stitute hours, and days, and months of the deceitfulness of sin; but of that species which is not imposed upon us; but allowed to operate without strenuous endeavours, on our part, to oppose its intrusions.
The uneducated people of this enlightened country, and some even of their superiors, find another, and an extraordinary, apology for sin, in the plea of their having been fated to defraud and destroy. The polytheism of the ancient world, which subjected even the gods themselves to the mystic influence of fate, the fatalism of the mosque, and the defence of sin as now described in our own island, illustrate the identity of human ignorance and superstition; as well as the universal efforts of fallen creatures to release their consciences from the burden of guilt, by transferring it to some unknown agent. The rustic thief will palliate his robberies, by pleading this same fate as at once the cause and the excuse for his dishonesty. And when certain divines account for the increase of crime, by the diffusion of Antinomianism, we are perfectly able to assure them, that there is no need to call in the aid of such allies. Our villagers and our manufacturers are already in possession of opiates to quiet the pangs of conscience; and they are too adequate to their intended effect.
He who would reform mankind has to define to them the distinction between voluntary and involuntary submission to the devices of the tempter. We always know enough, did we faithfully obey the inclinations of the monitor within our bosoms, to pause at the first suggestions of evil-enough to avoid the evil, if perceptible and tangible. When it is shewn indistinctly, and takes a shadowy and uncertain form, the case may be otherwise; but, without wandering into metaphysical subtleties, we must insist again, that sin is never so entirely delusive as to darken the mental vision of any man who