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John James

John James.—This unfortunate man was minister to a baptist congregation which assembled in Bulstake-alley, Whitechapel, London, observing the seventh day as the sabbath. October 19, 1661, being assembled for public worship, with the doors of their meeting-house open, they were interrupted by Justice Chard and Wood theheadborough, as Mr. James was preaching, whom they commanded in the king's name to be silent and come down, charging liiin with treason against his majesty. As Mr. James proceeded in his discourse without noticing their summons, the headborough approached him, and commanded him again to come down, or he would pull him down. The disturbance then became so great that he could not proceed, but told the headborough he would not come down except he was pulled down; upon which he pulled him down and dragged him away. Mr. James was charged by one Tipler, a man of base character, with uttering certain treasonable words in his sermon. The men and the women who were at the meeting were carried at the same time, by sevens, before four justices, then sitting at the Half-moon tavern; to whom they tendered the oath of allegiance, and committed those who refused, some to Newgate, and some to other prisons.t

Afterwards the justices assembled in the meeting-house, and sent for Mr. James. In the mean time the lieutenant of the Tower, pulling a paper out of his pocket, said, he would inform them what doctrine had that day been preached in that place. Upon the reading of this paper, certain women belonging to the meeting, and still detained, were asked how they could hear such things delivered; to which they, in the fear of God, unanimously replied, " That they never heard such words, as they should answer it before the Lord, and they durst not lie." Nevertheless, upon the evidence of this

Saper, taken from the mouth of Tipler, the prosecution of lr. James was founded. When he was brought before the justices he underwent an examination; and among other questions put to him were the following: When the lieutenant asked him whether he had not been before him before, he answered, that he had. "And," said the lieutenant,

f Wood's Athente, vol. ii. p. 169.

+ Narrative of the Condemnation and Execution of Mr. James, p. 7, S.. Edit. 1662.

"were you not civilly used?" "Yes," replied Mr. James, "and I thank you for your civility." "And were you not counselled," said the lieutenant, " to take heed in future:" "Yes," said Mr. James, "I have taken heed, so far as I could with a good conscience." <Jpon this, the lieutenant said," You shall stretch for it; and if you be not hanged, I will be hanged for you." To which Mr. James meekly replied, " I am not careful in that matter: you can do no more than the Lord shall permit you to do." Then said the lieutenant," I think you are not careful; for you have a mind to be hanged, as some of your holy brethren have before you." Mr. James being asked whether he owned the Jiflh kingdom, and signifying in the affirmative, they laughed at him, and said, now they had it from his own mouth. He was also charged with having learned to sound a trumpet, in order to a rising with Venner's party; when he said, there was a friend of his who lodged in his house, and who, designing to go to sea, and wishing to learn the sound, desired that he might have liberty to be taught in his house: but he never learned himself, neither was he at all concerned in that rising, judging it to be a rash act. The lieutenant of the Tower then called in Captain Hodgskin, who commanded the party of soldiers standing at the door, and said, " Take this man, be careful of him, and commit him close prisoner to Newgate," and gave him a warrant for that purpose.*

November 14th, Mr. James was brought to the bar in the King's-bench, Westminster, and was indicted, 1. " For compassing and imagining the king's death.—2. For endeavouring to levy war against the king.—8. For endeavouring a change of government." In compassing, imagining, and contiiving the king's death, he was charged with having maliciously, traitorously, and by instigation of the devil, not having the fear of God before his eyes, declared these words: "That the king was a bloody tyrant, a blood-sucker, and a "blood-thirsty man, and his nobles the same.—That the king

• This warrant was as follows:—" To the keeper of the goal of Newgate, "or bis deputy, Middlesex.

"These are in the king's majesty's name, to require yon to receive into "your enstody, the body of John James, whom we send you herewith; "being taken this present day at a conventicle, or private meeting, in the "parish of Whitec'napt-I; and there speaking in the audience of the people "present, treasonable words against his majesty's royal person; you shall "therefore keep him close prisoner until further order, and this shall be "your warrant. Given under our hands this 19th day of October, 16(11, "John Robinson, Lieutenant of the Tower, Edward Chard, Thomas Bide, Thomas Swallow."

Narrative, p. 9, 10.

"and his nobles had shed the blood of the saints at Charing"cross, and the blood of the covenanters in Scotland.—That "the king was brought in to this end, to rill up the measure "of lu« iniquity; and that the king's cup of iniquity had "fillea more within the last year than in many years before. "— 1 hat he did bemoan they had not improved their oppor"tuuity when they had power in their hands, and he said it "would not be long before they bad power again, and then "they would improve it better; and that he did bewail the "apostacy of the people of God, and say, they had not fought "the Lord's battles thoroughly, but when the Lord should "give power to them again, and give his work into their "hands, they would do it better.—That the death and "destruction of the king drew very near."

The indictment being read, and Mr. James required to plead guilty or not guilty, he desired a copy of his charge, and time to consider of it; pleading, that he humbly conceived it to be his privilege as an Englishman, and till then he was unable to plead one way or the other. He alleged, that Chief Justice Cook and Judge Heath had declared it good law, and that the latter gave John Lilburn a copy of his charge, being arraigned for high treason. His request, however, was peremptorily denied; and he was told, that if he would not plead, they would proceed against him for contempt, and consider him as mute. Mr. James seeing he was overruled, pleaded Not guilty either in matter or form. Upon this he was sent to the King's-bench prison in Southwark, where he remained till November 19th, when he was again brought to the bar.

During this interval Mr. James received information from a person of respectability, that there was a jury picked on purpose to take away his life; and that if he did not except against them, or most of them, he was a dead man. Upon his appearance at the bar at Westminster before four judges, and still pleading not guilty, four witnesses were produced against him. John Tipler, the first witness, said, that he was, at the time mentioned in the indictment, in a yard adjoining the meeting-house, and, through a window, saw Mr. James preaching, and heard him repeat those words mentioned in the indictment. To this evidence Mr. James excepted, that it was difficult to swear that he was the person, when the witness was not in the place, and only saw him through the window, which might intercept the light. The second witness was Justice Chard, who said he could declare nothing of the words spoken, only he found Mr. James preaching in the place alleged in the indictment, and pulled him out of the pulpit. The next witness was a Yorkshireman, whose name does not appear, who said he was at Tipler's house, and heard one say, "That the Lord had a great work to do for his people, and that they were the people who must do it." The judge asked him, if he heard nothing concerning the king's cup of iniquity, and he answered, No. When he was asked whether the prisoner at the bar was the man, he said he could not say that he was. The last witness was one Bernard Osburn, who said he heard Mr. James say, "That King Charles was a blood-thirsty, tyrannical king, and that the nobles of England were blood-thirsty. That he had drunk pretty deep of the blood of the saints already, in that he had shed their blood twelve months ago at Chai ing-cross, and the blood of the covenanters in Scotland, and that God had brought him in to that end, to fill up the measure of his iniquity, and he had filled it up more in twelve month* than in many years before. That they should have power in their hands, then they should fight the Lord's battles more thoroughly. That the ruin of the king was very near." Upon this, Air. James being allowed to call his witnesses, four were produced in court, who gave evidence, "That this Bernard Osburn confessed to them, that upon a previous examination, he had sworn against Mr. James he knew not what: and one of them, a person whom Osburn was about to marry, further declared, that he told her, he did not only swear he knew not what, but that he was affrighted into what he swore." Osburn repeatedly refused to swear at all; nor would he take the oath as witness against Mr. James, till he was threatened to be sent to prison for refusal, and rewards were offered him for swearing against the prisoner." Mr. James then produced four other witnesses, all of whom swore, " That the words charged against him were not spoken."

After die examination of all the witnesses, Mr. James was allowed to speak for himself, but did little more than make a declaration of his own innocence. He denied the charge both in matter and form, and declared he had not any malicious thought against the king, but desired the salvation of bis soul, as he did his own; that he had never dealt maliciously against him; but that what he had done, he had done in the fear of God. He denied the various particulars of the charge, that he ever spoke any such things, and therefore desired they would clear him of ail such evil tilings. He then

t

* Narratire, p. 10—18.

said, " I have but one word for the Lord, and I have done: The Lord Jesus Christ is king of nations, as well as of saints, and the government of all kingdoms of right belongs to him. 'And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, 'I he kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.'" Having spoken these words, he was interrupted by Lord Chief Justice Foster, who said, " Hold sirrah, sirrah, you think you are preaching in the conventicle in Whitechapel." Aftewards, when his judges would not allow him to speak even to the jury, he replied, "If you will not suffer me to speak to the jury, you had as good have hanged me in 13ulstake-alley, before I came here, and not brought me hither to cover the matter over with the pretence of law."

The jury having brought in a verdict of guilty, judgment was deferred till November 22d, and he was sent back to the place of his confinement. During the interval, his wife, by the advice of some friends, endeavoured to address the king, with the view of acquainting him with her husband's innocency, and the condition of those loose persons who had falsely accused him. This she put in writing, lest she should either want an opportunity, or not have courage enough to speak to him. With some difficulty, however, she at last met the king, and acquainting him who she was, presented him with the paper. To whom his majesty held up his finger and said, " Oh! Mr. James, he is a sweet gentleman;" but following him for some further answer, the door was shut against her. Not being discouraged, she attended again next morning; and an opportunity being soon presented, she implored his majesty's answer to her request. His majesty then replied, He is a rogue, and shall be hanged. One of the lords, who attended him, asking her of whom she spake, the king immediately replied, " Of John James, that rogue: he shall be hanged; yea, he shall be hanged."*

Mr. James was brought to the bar on the above day, and being asked what he had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, he answered, that he had not much to say, only two or three scriptures he would leave with them. As for me, said he, do as seemeth good unto you. But know ye for certain, that if you put me to death, you shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof'.Precious in the sight of' the Jjord is the death of his saints.He that toucheth the Lord's people, toucheth the apple of his eye.* He then told them he had no more to say for himself; only one word for the Lord, and then he had done: "Jesus Christ the Son of God, is King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of all the kingdoms of the world." He had no sooner spoken this, than he was silenced, and the judge immediately pronounced upon him the following sentence :—" John James, thou hast "been here indicted, arraigned, and tried, as a false traitor of "his majesty, his crown and dignity, and hast put thyself upon "the trial of God and thy country, and the country hath found "thee guilty; and therefore, John James, thou art to be "carried from hence to prison, and from thence to the place "of execution, and there to be hanged by the neck, and, being "yet alive, to be cut down, and thy bowels to be taken out, "and to be burnt before thy face, (a fire being prepared,) and "thy head to be severed from thy body, and thy body to be "quartered, and thy head and body to be disposed of accord"to the king's pleasure." This being done, Mr. James had only time to say, " Blessed be God, that he whom man hath condemned God hath justified," and so was immediately carried to Newgate, where he was confined in a dungeon. of which was as follows:—" Glorious and holy majesty, in whose eyes all the nations of the world are only as the drop of a bucket, or as the small dust of the balance; and therefore, O Lord, this mighty concourse of people are as nothing in thy sight. Thy eyes are open to the ways of thy people, and thy ears are open to their cries, and thou wilt one day ■hew thyself strong in behalf of them that fear thee. Sweet Father! blessed be thy dear and holy name, that such a poor worm as is now before thee can call thee Father, and come and take hold of thee through thy dear Son. O Lord, what mm I, or what was my father's house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? This, O Lord, has been but a small thing in thy sight, but thou hast spoken thy servant's welfare, even lo eternity. Dear Lord, in the audience of all this people, thy poor worm cannot but bless thee that thou didst ever call him, and wert ever pleased to engage his soul to walk in thine own paths; and, blessed be thy holy name, thy paths do not seem in the eyes of thy servant ever the worse because of this thing: but he can bless thee; he can rejoice before thee; he can say, ' Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.' Blessed be thy holy name, that thou hast hitherto been pleased to keep the soul of thy poor servant, and that he does not suffer as an evil doer; yea, blessed be thy name, thy poor worm can approve his heart unto thee evert note at the very giving up of the ghost, that he is not guilty. Dear Father, thy poor worm can now with much boldness lift up his face unto thee, and is assured that he whom man hath condemned God hath justified: and now, for thy dear name's sake, give thy poor worm leave, in integrity and godly simplicity, to beg one request at thy hands for the poor witnesses. O Lord, pardon them in that very thing they have done, and shew them as much grace as thou hast done to thy poor worm. As they have done their utmost to wash their hands in the blood of thy servant, O that thou wouldest thoroughly wash their souls in the blood of Jesus Christ. Be pleased, for thy tender mercy's sake, to deal graciously with every one, from the least to the greatest, from the first to the last, that hath had any hand against thy servant."* destroy the favourable impressions that many had received of his natural inclination to mildness and clemency."* It ought, however, to b.e observed, that the reputed author of this book was Marchmont Needham, and Mr. Barebone was only his agent in conveying it to the printer or bookseller.i

* Narrative, p. 19—24.

During his confinement in the dungeon, one of his friends visiting him, and weeping over him, he, with a smiling countenance, said, " 1 beseech you, let me not see any of this, for all is well. I beseech you forbear such carriage, which will encourage the Lord's enemies. I pray you let me not see a sad countenance from any of you." To others of his friends he said, " This poor weak body has often been near the gates of death, and now the Lord chooses to take it off in such a way as this. Oh! blessed be God! let him take it." He spoke much of the goodness of God, who supported and comforted him under so great a trial; and added, " 1 have got the start of my brethren, and am going to the place 'where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.' God hath delivered me from all my fears. My good Lord hath helped me over two of my steps, and I have only one more to get over: I am going to a place where my sins will trouble me no more." Being asked how he did, he replied, " I bless God I am well; never better in all my life. No poor creature ever dreaded thia condition more than I have done. I have been so much afraid of a prison, that I have trembled to think of it, and

* Jer. zzti. 14, 15.—Psalm csvi. 15.—Zech. ii. 8.

would have fled out of the land to have escaped it; but now my fears are all gone, every cloud is blown over. I bless God, I no more fear this death, than to lie down upon this bed. Oh! how good the Lord is." At another time, being asked how he was, he answered, " Very well, I bless the Lord, never better in my life. My wife and I have had the best morning diat we ever enjoyed. We have been giving up one auodier to the Lord; and, I bless the Lord, he hath made us as willing to part as ever we were to come together." To his friends, who urged him to petition the king for his life, he said, " I have discharged my duty and conscience in clearing myself already, and to the king I have done no wrong; therefore I will submit myself to die Lord, and rest satisfied in his good pleasure." The night before he suffered, being at supper with some of his friends, he said to them, " I sup with you to-night, but you would be glad to sup with me to-morrow night." When the messenger brought him tidings of the time of his execution, he said, " Blessed be God, that is good news."*

Upon die morning of his execution, Mr. James was carried from Newgate to Tyburn on a sledge; and having leave from Mr. Sterling the sheriff, he delivered a speech of some length to the people. In this speech, after giving an account of his parentage, clearing himself of some foul aspersions, and relating his religious sentiments, he said, " I am ndt come here to sow sedition: the Lord knoweth I have it not in my heart. This hath not been my practice, though it be the pretended cause of bringing me hither; but the Lord knows, before whom I now stand, and with whom I shall shortly be, that I am free from those things of which I am accused; and I desire you may hear and remember, that the things charged upon me are notoriously false. I speak this as my last words; and the Lord, who knows all hearts, and will call all men one day to an account, knows I speak the truth, both in respect of the manner and matter of the things charged against me. 1 do, in the fear of the Lord, also tell you, that I bless the Lord I have not the least hard thought of those who swore against me, nor the least rising of spirit against the judge, the jury, or any other, the Lord knoweth: but have sought their pardon upon my bended knees, and I hope to do it again, if God permit."

Mr. James having finished his speech, fell upon his knees, and offered up a prayer to God at considerable length, part

* ^armtive, p. SA—«7.

Having finished his prayer, and being very much exhausted, he said he had done. The hangman then said, " The Lord receive your soul." Mr. James replied, / thank you. A friend saying, " This is a happy day," he added, / bless the

* Narrative, p. 38—44.

Lord, it is indeed. His friend adding, " The Lord make your passage easy;" he said, / trust he will. Being asked if he had any thing to say to the sheriff, he said, No, but only to thank him for his civility. The hangman then preparing him for death, and drawing away the cart, Mr. James cried aloud, with his hands lifted up towards heaven, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.

The sheriff and hangman were so civil to him in the execution, that they suffered him to be dead before his body was cut down. The hangman then took out his heart and bowels, and burned them in a fire prepared for the purpose. He then cut off his head, and cut his body into four quarters; and, by the appointment of the king, the quarters were fixed upon the gates of the city, and his head first upon Londonbridge, then upon a pole opposite the meeting-house in Bulstake-alley.*

This tragic and brutal scene was transacted upon the remains of this humble and holy man, November 26, 1661. But if there were any undue combination against him; and if he suffered for some reason of state, rather than for any crime that he was guilty of, his blood w ill God require at the hands of his enemies. Several remarkable judgments befell those who were active instruments in promoting his sufferings, or expressed their delight in them.t