His SPEECH on the SCAFFOLD.
Gentlemen, fellow-Countrymen, and Christians,
VVHen Mr. Sheriff came to me this morning, and told me he had received a Command from the King, that I should say nothing reflecting upon his Majesty or the Government; I answered, I should confine and order my Speech, as near as I could, so as to be least offensive, saving my faithfulness to the Trust reposed in me, which I must ever discharge with a good Conscience unto Death; for I ever valued a man, according to his faithfulness to the Trust re∣posed in him, even on his Majesties behalf, in the late Controversie. And if you dare trust my discretion, Mr. Sheriff, I shall do nothing but what becomes a good Christian and an Englishman; and so I hope I shall be civilly dealt with.
When Mr. Sheriffs Chaplain came to me last night about twelve of the clock, to bring me, as he called it, the fatal Message of Death, it pleased the Lord to bring that Scripture to my mind, in the third of Zechary, to intimate to me, that he was now taking away my filthy garments, causing mine iniquities to pass from me, with intention to give me change of raiment, and that my mortal should put on Im∣mortality.
I suppose you may wonder when I shall tell you that I am not brought hither according to any known Law of the Land. It is true, I have been before a Court of Justice, (and am now going to appear before a greater Tribunal, where I am to give an account of all my actions) under their Sentence I stand here at this time. When I was before them, I could not have the liberty and priviledge of an English∣man, the grounds, reasons, and causes of the Actings I was charged Page 87 with, duly considered: I therefore desired the Judges, that they would set their Seals to my Bill of Exceptions; I pressed hard for it again and again, as the Right of my self, and every free-born English-man, by the Law of the Land; but was finally denied it.—
Here Sir John Robinson (Lieutenant of the Tower) interrupted him, saying, Sir, you must not go on thus, and (in a furious manner, generally observed, even to the dis-satisfaction of some of their own attendants) said, that he railed against the Judges, and that it was a lye, and I am here (sayes he) to testifie that it is false.
Sir Henry Vane replied, God will judge between me and you in this matter. I speak but matter of Fact, and cannot you bear that? 'Tis evident, the Judges have refused to sign my Bill of Exceptions—Then the Trumpets were ordered to sound or murre in his face, with a contemptible noise, to hinder his being heard. At which Sir Henry (lifting up his hand, and then laying it on his breast) said, What mean you Gentlemen? is this your usage of me? did you use all the rest so? I had even done (as to that) could you have been patient, but seeing you cannot bear it, I shall only say this, That whereas the Judges have refused to seal that with their hands, that they have done; I am come to seal that with my Blood, that I have done. Therefore leaving this matter, which I perceive will not be born, I judge it meet to give you some account of my Life.
I might tell you, I was born a Gentleman, had the education, tem∣per and spirit of a Gentleman, as well as others, being (in my youth∣full dayes) inclined to the vanities of this world, and to that which they call Good-fellowship, judging it to be the only means of accom∣plishing a Gentleman. But about the fourteenth or fifteenth year of my age, (which is about thirty four or five years since) God was pleased to lay the foundation or ground-work of Repentance in me, for the bringing me home to himself, by his wonderful rich and free Grace, revealing his Son in me, that by the knowledge of the onely true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, I might (even whilst here in the body) be made partaker of Eternal Life, in the first-fruits of it.
When my Conscience was thus awakened, I found my former course to be disloyalty to God, prophaneness, and a way of sin and death, which I did with tears and bitterness bewail, as I had cause to do. Since that foundation of Repentance laid in me, through Grace I have been kept steadfast, desiring to walk in all good Conscience towards God and towards men, according to the best light and understanding Page 88 God gave me. For this, I was willing to turn by back upon my Estate, expose my self to hazards in Forreign parts; yea, nothing seemed difficult to me, so I might preserve Faith and a good Consci∣ence, which I prefer before all things; and do earnestly perswade all people rather to suffer the highest contradictions from men, than dis∣obey God, by contradicting the light of their own Conscience. In this, it is, I stand with so much comfort and boldness before you all this day, and upon this occasion; being assured, that I shall at last sit down in Glory with Christ, at his right hand. I stand here this day, to resign up my Spirit into the hands of that God that gave it me. Death is but a little word, but 'tis a great work to die, it is to be but once done, and after this cometh the Judgment, even the Judgment of the great God, which it concerns us all to prepare for. And by this Act, I do receive a discharge, once for all, out of Prison, even the Prison of the mortal body also, which to a true Christian is a burdensom weight.
In all respects, wherein I have been concerned and engaged as to the Publick, my design hath been to accomplish Good things for these Nations. Then (lifting up his eyes, and spreading his hands) he said, I do here appeal to the great God of Heaven, and all this As∣sembly, or any other persons, to shew wherein I have defiled my hands with any mans Blood or Estate, or that I have sought my self in any publick capacity or place I have been in.
The Cause was three times stated.
1. In the Remonstrance of the House of Commons.
2. In the Covenant, the Solemn League and Covenant—Upon this the Trumpets sounded, the Sheriff catched at the Paper in his hand, and Sir John Robinson, who at first had acknowledged that he had nothing to do there, wishing the Sheriff to see to it, yet found himself something to do now, furiously calling for the Writers-Books, and saying, he treats of Rebellion, and you write it. Hereupon six Note-Books were delivered up. The Prisoner was very patient and composed under all these injuries and soundings of the Trumpets se∣veral times in his face, only saying, 'Twas hard he might not be suf∣fered to speak; but sayes he, my usage from man is no harder than was my Lord and Masters; And all that will live his life this day, must expect hard dealing from the worldly spirit—The Trumpets sounded again, to hinder his being heard. Then again Robinson and two or three others, endeavoured to snatch the Paper out of Sir Hen∣ry's hand, but he kept it for a while, now and then reading part of it; Page 89 afterwards, tearing it in pieces, he delivered it to a Friend behind him, who was presently forced to deliver it to the Sheriff. Then they put their hands into his pockets for Papers (as was pretended) which bred great confusion and dissatisfaction to the Spectators, seeing a Prisoner so strangely handled in his dying words. This was exceeding remar∣kable, in the midst of all this disorder, the Prisoner himself was ob∣served to be of the most constant, composed spirit and countenance, which he throughout so excellently manifested, that a Royallist swore, he dyed like a Prince.
The Prisoner, suspecting beforehand the disorder afore-mentioned, writ the main Substance of what he intended to speak on the Scaffold, in that Paper they catched at, and which he tore in pieces, delivering it to a Friend, from whom the Sheriff had it as above-said; the true Copy whereof, was by the Prisoner care∣fully committed to a safe hand before he came to the Scaffold, which take as followeth.
THe Work which I am at this time called unto, in this place, (as upon a Publick Theater) is, to Die, and receive a Discharge, once for all, out of Prison; to do that, which is but once to be done; the doing or not doing of which well, and as becomes a Christian, does much depend upon the life we have been taught of God to lead, before we come to this: They that live in the Faith, do also die in it: Faith is so far from leaving Christians in this hour, that the work of it breaks forth then into its greatest power; as if till then, it were not enough at freedom to do its office, that is, to look into the things that are unseen, with most steadfastness, certainty, and delight; which is the great Sweetner of Death, and Remover of its Sting.
Give me leave therefore in a very few words, to give you an ac∣count of my Life, and of the wonderful great Grace and Mercy of God, in bringing me home to himself, and revealing his Son in me; that by the knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, I might (even whilst here in the body) be made par∣taker of Eternal Life, in the first fruits of it; and at last sit down with Christ in Glory, at his right-hand.
Here I shall mention some remarkable passages and changes of my Life; In particular, how unsought for by my self, I was called to be a Member of the Long Parliament; what little advantage I had by it; and by what steps I became satisfied with the Cause I was en∣gaged in, and did pursue the same.
Page 90 What the Cause was, did first shew it self, in the first Remonstrance of the House of Commons.
Secondly, in the Solemn League and Covenant.
Thirdly, in the more refined pursuit of it by the Commons House, in their Actings single: with what Result they were growing up into, which was in the breast of the House, and unknown; or what the three Proposals, mentioned in my Charge, would have come to at last, I shall not need now to say; but only, from all put together, to as∣sert, That this Cause which was owned by the Parliament, was the CAUSE of GOD, and for the Promoting of the Kingdom of his dear Son, JESUS CHRIST; wherein are comprehended our Liberties and Duties, both as Men and as Christians.
And since it hath pleased God, who separated me from the womb to the knowledge and service of the Gospel of his Son, to separate me also to this hard and difficult service at this time, and to single me out to the defence and justification of this his Cause, I could not consent by any words or actions of mine, that the innocent Blood that hath been shed in the defence of it, throughout the whole War, (the Guilt and moral evil of which, must and does certainly lye some∣where) did lye at my door, or at theirs that have been the faithful Ad∣herers to this Cause. This is with such evidence upon my heart, that I am most freely and chearfully willing, to put the greatest Seal to it I am capable, which is, the pouring out of my very Blood in witness to it; which is all I shall need to say in this place, and at this time, having spoken at large to it in my Defence at my Tryal, intending to have said more the last day, as what I thought was reasonable for Arrest of the Judgment, but I was not permitted then to speak it; Both which may with time and God's providence, come to publick view.
And I must still assert, That I remain wholly unsatisfied, that the course of proceedings against me at my Tryal were according to Law, but that I was run upon and destroyed, contrary to Right, and the Li∣berties of Magna Charta, under the form only of Justice: which I leave to God to decide, who is the Judge of the whole World, and to clear my Innocency; Whilst in the mean time, I beseech him to for∣give them, and all that have had a hand in my Death; and that the Lord in his great mercy will not lay it unto their charge.
And I do account this Lot of mine no other, than what is to be expected by those that are not of the World, but whom Christ hath chosen out of it; for the Servant is not greater than his Lord; And if they have done this to the green tree, they will do it much more to the dry.
Page 91 However, I shall not altogether excuse my self. I know, that by many weaknesses and failers, I have given occasion enough of the ill usage I have met with from men, though, in the main, the Lord knows the sincerity and integrity of my heart, whatever Aspersions and Reproaches I have or do lye under. I know also that God is just, in bringing this Sentence and Condemnation upon me, for my sins; there is a body of sin and death in me, deserves this Sentence; and there is a similitude and likeness also, that, as a Christian, God thinks me worthy to bear with my Lord and head, in many circumstances in reference to these dealings I have met with, in the good I have been endeavouring for many years to be doing in these Nations, and especially now at last, in being numbred amongst transgres∣sors and made a publick Sacrifice, through the wrath and contradictions of men, and in having finished my course, and fought the good fight of Faith, and resisted in a way of suffering (as you see) even unto blood.
This is but the needful preparation the Lord hath been working in me, to the receiving of the Crown of Immortality, which he hath prepared for them that love him, The prospect whereof is so chearing, that through the Joy (in it) that is set before the eyes of my Faith, I can, through mer∣cy, endure this Cross, despise this Shame, and am become more than Con∣querour, through Christ that hath loved me.
For my Life, Estate and all, is not so dear to me as my Service to God, to his Cause, to the Kingdom of Christ, and the future welfare of my Country; and I am taught according to the Example, as well as that most Christian saying of a Noble Person that lately died after this publick manner in Scotland;
That Noble Person, whose Memory I honour, was with my self at the beginning and making of the Solemn League and Covenant, the Matter of which, and the holy Ends therein contained, I fully assent unto, and have been as desirous to observe; but the rigid way of prosecuting it, and the oppressing Uniformity that hath bin endeavored by it. I never approved.
This were sufficient to vindicate me from the false Aspersions and Ca∣lumnies which have been laid upon me, of Jesuitism and Popery, and al∣most what not, to make my Name of ill savour with good men; which dark mists do now dispel of themselves, or at least ought, and need no pains of mine in making an Apology.
For if any man seek a proof of Christ in me, let him reade it in his action of my Death, which will not cease to speak when I am gone; And henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Page 92 I shall not desire in this place to take up much time, but only, as my last words, leave this with you: