Page images




By Geoffrey Oldcastle, Gent.



No. 6.]


[Vol. I.



The execution of Harrison took place within two days of his conviction, namely, on the 13th October, 1660. There are several accounts of his demeanour in prison, after sentence had been passed upon him, and on his way to the scaffold, from which what follows has been collected. The false energy, inspired by fanaticism, sustained him throughout. With the same infatuation that he pleaded the authority of heaven for the crime itself, he underwent its penalty; believing, to the last, that as God had required at his hands the regicidal act, so he now, for mysterious purposes of his own, suffered him to seal it with his blood. No martyr for the true faith, ever laid down his life with a more holy persuasion of the sanctity of the cause which consecrated the sacrifice, than did Harrison submit himself to his fate, in the full assurance that as he had done right in bringing his Sovereign to the scaffold, so it was also right he should himself ascend it. The delusion was perfect; ascribing every thing to the will of providence, and regarding himself as its chosen instrument, both in the prosperous career of crime, and in its penal consequences.

Such a delusion, however, is equally adapted to make a midnight assassin and a political incendiary. A man has only to persuade himself that he is elected to work out the designs of omnipotence, to seek, by prayer, revelations of the divine will, to find what he seeks, (which will never be difficult to minds thus warped,) and then to set at defiance all human laws, every principle of moral conduct, upon the insane plea of fulfilling duties appointed by heaven.

It was in accordance with this feeling that Harrison, when sentence of of death was pronounced upon him, exclaimed, “whom men have judged, God doth not condemn. Blessed be the name of the Lord !" And when the people hooted and reviled him, as he was being conducted back to prison, he looked calmly at them, while with a firm voice and exulting air he said,


“ God is the Lord, for all this. I have no cause to be ashamed of the cause that I have been engaged in.” A friend standing near him inquired how he felt. “ Well," he replied, “very well; I could not be in a better condition if I had the desires of my heart : we must be willing to receive hard things from the hand of our father, as well as easy things.” While the fetters were being rivetted on his feet, he smiled ; and addressing himself to those who stood around, as he pointed to the chains, “Welcome, welcome!” he cried. “Oh! this is nothing to what Christ hath undergone for me; this is out of his great loving kindness and faithfulness; and my God is all-sufficient in all conditions."

Among other things it is related, that a poor woman, employed to light a fire in his cell, and clean it out for him, being questioned as to how he carried himself, by persons who would have been pleased to learn that he was full of terror and anguish at his approaching fate, replied, “I know not what he has done to deserve to be there, but sure I am, he is a good man, and that never such a man has been there before: he is full of God : there is nothing but God in his mouth; it would do any one good to be near him or with him; his discourse would melt the hardest heart."

He was visited by three ministers of the city, sent, as we are told, by the Sheriffs, to bring him to a proper sense of his condition, and prevail upon him to acknowledge his guilt in these four particulars. 1. As to the King's death : 2. As to the death of Mr. Love*: 3. As to “ breaking of the old parliament:" 4. As to being “loose in family duties and the observation of

Christopher Love, a presbyterian minister, was beheaded on Tower Hill, in 1651, together with Jobn Gibbons, for having conspired to procure the return of Charles II. by means of the Scots covenanters, with whom Love, Gibbons, Colonel Titus, and others, were in correspondence ; and it so happened that his execution took place on the very day (Aug. 22) that the King, at the head of the Scots army, entered Worcester. Great interest was made to save him, for be was a popular preacher, and though a young man, (not yet forty) looked up to as the head of the presbyterian party in London: but this latter circumstance determined the ruling powers to put him to death, hoping by the sacrifice of so distinguished a leader, to strike a salutary terror into the rest. It is mentioned by Kennet, Fachard, and other historians, that Cromwell yielded to the intercessions of his friends, and dispatched an order from the north, where he then was, for his reprieve; but that the bearer of the despatch being intercepted by some of the cavaliers, they examined bis papers, and finding among them this order to stay the execution of Love, detained the messenger till the day appointed for it was passed, on account of his conduct at Uxbridge during the memorable meeting of commis. sioners, to settle a treaty between the King and Parliament, 1644. It is probable, however, this story was fabricated, to throw odium on the King's friends, and exhibit Cromwell as more prone to mercy than be ever showed himself, where his own interests were concerned. “There happened a very odd accident,” says Clarendon, describing the proceedings at Uxbridge, “the very first morning the commissioners met at the house to agree upon the method to be observed in the treaty. It was a market day, when they used always to have a sermon, and many of the persons who came from Oxford went to the church to observe the forms, There was one Love, a young man, that came from London with the commissioners, who preached, and told bis auditory, which consisted of the people of the town, and of those who came to the market, the church being very full — that they were not to expect any good from the treaty : for, that they came from Oxford with their hearts full of blood ; and that there was as great distance between this treaty and peace, as between heaven and hell; and that they intended only to amuse the people with expectation of peace, until they were able to do some notable mischief to them. The noble historian, who probably related from memory what he had heard, has not given the words of the preacher faithfully; at least, they differ from what appears in the sermon as afterwards printed, and as they were quoted upon his trial, by the Attorney General. Love was also accused of having said, in a sermon which be preached at Windsor, in an early period of the civil war, “it would be never be well with England, till the King were let blood in the neck-vein"; but he solemnly denied, on the scaffold, having evor uttered such


the Lord's day.” A fifth object of the visit is stated ;-- to make him confess the justice of his doom, “ by reason of his iniquity.” This, however, might have been expected to follow as a necessary consequence, had success attended the mission in the other four. Get a man to the point of allowing that he is guilty of the crimes laid to his charge, and he is not very likely to dispute the equity of his punishment, whatever notions he may happen to entertain of his claims to its remission.

Harrison, however, would make no concessions. His vindication of himself

upon each of the four accusations, was strongly characteristic of the 1. As to the blood of the King, said he, I have not in the least any guilt lying upon me ; for I have many a time sought the Lord with tears, to know if I'bad done amiss in it; and was rather confirmed, that the thing was more of God than of men. Besides, what I did, I did by authority of Parliament which was then the only lawful authority; for God owned it by pleading their cause, and fighting their battles for them; the Lord's people owned it, by rejoicing in it, and praying for it; the generality of people, both in England, Scotland, and Ireland, owned it, by yielding ubedience to it; foreign princes owned it, by sending their ambas. sadors; therefore it was rather the act of the Parliament than ours that were their servants, Moreover I was very tender of the King, when I brought him out of the Isle of Wight; insomuch that he himself did confess, that he found me not such a person as I had been represented to bim, adding, he had some skill in faces, and that had he seen mine before, he should not have harbored such hard thoughts of me.

2. As to Mr. Love's death, I was in Scotland when he was condemned, and had no hand, not the least, in it.

Here Harrison was asked whether he had not said, “that if a godly man so transgressed, as to bring himself under the condemnation of the law, it would not be just that he should suffer for his sin ?" He replied he did not remember having ever held such a doctrine-but, added he, “ if a godly man so transgress a righteous law, he ought to suffer the same as any other." A convenient equivocation this. The interpretation of what is a words. He met his death with great composure, and both in bis defence before the court, and the speech which he delivered to the people when brought out to execution, evinced much power of mind, and even eloquence. There are some very fine touches of passion as well as of reasoning, in the latter. Whatever may bave been the offences of the man, it is impossible not to acknowledge the christian fervour and piety, of sentiments like the following :—"Beloved, I am this day making a double exchange, I am changing a pulpit for a scaffold, and a scaflold for a throne; and I might add a third, I am changing this numerous mul. titude, the presence of this numerous multitude, on Tower Hill, for the innumerable

company of saints and angels in heaven, the boly hill of Sion ; and I am changing a guard of soldiers for a guard of angels, which will receive me and carry me into Abraham's bosom. This scaffold is the best pulpit that ever I preached in ; in my church-pulpit, God through his grace made me an instrument to bring others to heaven; but in this pulpit he will bring me to heaven. I do not bring a revengeful heart to the scaffold. This day, before I came here, upon my bended knees, I bave begged mercy for them that denied mercy to me: and I have prayed to God to forgive them who would not forgive me ; I have forgiven from

my heart the worst enemy I have in all the world; and this is the worst that I wish to my accusers and prosecutors, who have pursued my blood—that I may meet their souls in heaven.Love was successively minister of St. Anne's, Aldersgate, and St. Larwence, Jewry, in London. His sermons, in three volumes octavo, were published in 1652, 1654, and 1657, with his funeral sermon, which was preached by Thomas Manton, who attended him on the scaffold. Manton was, himself, a distinguished non-conformist minister, but enormously prolix. Archbishop Usher used to call him the “voluminous preacher,” and Swift, in one of his letters to Lord Bollingbroke, says,“ my next shall be as long as one of Dr. Manton's sermons, who taught my youth to yawn, and prepared me to be a high churchman, that I might never hear him read, nor read him more." Among bis other works, is a folio volume, containing 190 sermons, all of them written on a single psalm, the 119th : which contains, to be sure, 176 verses.


righteous law, would of course be left to those whose notions of righteousness would very much circumscribe responsibility to any temporal authority, except their own. Thus, laws which protected themselves, and favoured their own designs, would all be righteous ones, to transgress which would justly incur punishment : but laws that protected others from their tyranny, and the example of violating which they themselves had set, would be deemed to have no quality of righteousness; and to punish the infraction of such laws by “godly men,” would, according to this theory of obedience, be manifest injustice.

3. As to the breaking of the Parliament, that was the act and design of General Cromwell. I did know nothing of it. The morning before it was done be called me to go along with bim to the House ; and after he had brought all into disorder, I went to the speaker and said Sir, seeing things are brought to this pass,

it is not requisite for you to stay there. He answered be would not come down unless he were pulled out. • Šir,' said I, 'I will lend you my hand ;' and be, putting his hand into mine, came down without any pulling, so that I did not pull binn. Indeed, after the thing was done, I was glad it was done ; for I did see they did intend to perpetuate themselves without doing those desirable things which were expected and longed for by the Lord's people ; and apprehending that God had done his work by them, and that he had some more worthy persons to come upon the stage. The Lord is my witness, that I had no self-end in that action, but it was out of the integrity of my heart as to the Lord. Afterwards, when Cromwell and his party did set up themselves in their room, I abborred them and their ways, and suffered imprisonment by reason I would not join with them in that iniquity, and go against my conscience. T'here is nothing of this also that lies as guilt upon

The“ more worthy persons,” whom Harrison supposed the Lord intended to “ bring upon the stage,” were the saints, who were to reign upon eartha along with Christ.

Whether he considered that he should himself be employed under this sanctified authority, or that his function would end when he had assisted in bringing it to pass, we cannot pretend to say. With such wild notions as he entertained, however, it is extremely probable he looked to be one of the saints himself.

4. Concerning family duties, and the observance of the Lord's-day there stands my servant : let him speak: he bath lived with me about this eight years. The servant replied, that the reports were exceedingly false ; for his master was a man in a manner wholly devoted to religious exercises ; very frequent in prayer ; diligent in expounding the scriptures, to the great comfort and consolation of his whole family; and very zealous in observing the Lord's day.”

Having thus purged himself of all guilt in those things for which he was to die, according to his own notions of the necessity that was upon him to do them, he very naturally concluded the conference by declaring, that he felt assured it was not" by reason of his iniquity” that he had been brought into his present tribulation.

“ The Lord's spirit” said he,“ doth witness with my spirit, that all my sins are done away by Jesus Christ, and that I have peace with God.”

On the morning of his execution, when the sheriff entered his cell to announce that in half an hour he must be ready to go to the scaffold, he replied that he was then quite ready, and wished there might be no delay on his account. “I am going about a great work for the Lord, this day," said

“ and my support is, ihat my sufferings are for Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts. I look upon this as a clear answer to all my prayers; for many a time have I begged of the Lord, that if he had any bard thing, any reproachful work, any contemptible service to be done by his people, I should be employed in it.

And now, blessed be the name of God! he accounteth me worthy to be put upon this service for my Lord Christ! Oh! this is nothing to what Christ has suffered for me!"

He parted from his wife and friends with great cheerfulness, telling the former he had nothing to leave her but the Bible; but to “ be assured God would make up all her losses in due time." To his friends he said, those


[ocr errors]

that loved him, could not better manifest their love after his death, than by kindness and tenderness towards his wife.

When all was ready, and the time for his departure had arrived, he came, says one account, “ running down the stairs with a smiling countenance.”. A female, who was among the crowd, forced her way up to him, took him by the hand, and exclaimed in a loud voice,“ Blessed be the great God of Hosts that hath enabled you, and called you forth, to bear your testimony! The God of all grace and peace be with you, and keep you faithful to the death, that you may receive a crown of life!” One of the gaolers thrusting her rudely aside, saying “ away with this woman, she stands prating here,” Harrison replied, “ Be not offended with her-she speaks scripture language.” While they were binding his hands and arms with cords, he assisted them, and taking hold of the rope, said, “ Friends, take notice that God gives me power to receive this with thanksgiving.” One of his friends came up to him, and wept. “ Hinder me not,” said he, “ I am going about a work for my Master”--then, looking round, he added, " It is easy to follow God, when he makes a hedge about us, but it is hard, for most, to follow him in such a dispensation as this : yet, my Lord and Master is as sweet ard glorious to me now, as he was in the time of my greatest prosperity.”. One replying, that he did not know how to understand the mind of God in such a dispensation, he answered, “ Wait upon the Lord, for you know not what the Lord is leading to, nor what the end of the Lord will be.” Addressing himself to a person whom he knew, he said, “ I dare not, nor cannot, be a pleaser of men.” A friend replied, “ it appeared so, by his opposing Cromwell.” To this he intimated his assent, and observed, “ The manner of my speaking before the Court may have seemed strange to some; but my design was, not to approve myself before men but God, and what I uttered was according to my conscience.” When the rope was secured, he repeated Isaac's words to Abraham, “ Father! here is the wood, but where is the sacrifice ?”—then added_“ If the Lord see good, he can provide another sacrifice; he can deliver those that are appointed to die; but his will be done! Death is not terrible to me! yea, it is no more to me than a rush ; I have learned to die long ago."

He was now conducted to the sledge or hurdle, upon which he was to be conveyed to the place of execution, at Charing Cross, where a gallows was erected, looking towards the Banquetting House, Whitehall, the spot where Charles I. was executed. On his way to the scaffold, his eyes and hands were constantly lifted up to heaven ; a placid smile dwelt upon his features ; and an expression of joy which surprised the beholders. Frequently he exclaimed," I go to suffer upon account of the most glorious cause that ever was in the world !”—and when one of the mob, calling out to him in derision, asked," where is your good old cause now?”-Harrison placed his hands upon his breast and replied, with a smile, “Here it is—and I am going to seal it with my blood.” As the mournful procession came within sight of the gibbet, his servant, who was allowed to sit beside him, inquired how he felt ? “ Never better in my life," was his reply. “Sir," rejoined the faithful domestic, “ there is a crown of glory ready prepared for you." Oh, yes !” exclaimed Harrison, “I see it, I see it !” The executioner, in assisting him out of the sledge, desired his forgiveness. " I do forgive thee,” said he, “ with all my heart, as it is a sin against me. Alas!

poor man, thou dost it ignorantly! The Lord grant that this sin may not be laid to thy charge." Then giving him what money he had in his pocket, and embracing tenderly his servant, he ascended the ladder with an undaunted countenance.

* A similar sentiment, expressed with great simplicity and dignity, fell from Archbishop Laud, when making his defence before the Parliament. Whatever the world thinks,” said he, “ it is a torment to me appear in this place ; if I deserve death, I refuse not to die, for, thank God, I have so lived, as not to be afraid to die, or ashamed to live. But, seeing the malignity raised against me, I have carried my life in my hands for several years.”.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »