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· My dear heart !
"This dark night and black shade, which God hath drawn over his
eminent degree attainable before our dissolu. tion, and the putting off our earthly tabernacle. It shall be so far attained by the power and glory of Christ, that is to be revealed in us, that it shall not much fall short of a very transfiguration. And the state of the then glorious church will be no less than a heaven upon earth, in the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
°Nor would I have it thought, that I have already attained the powerful practice of this holy duty and perfection, but it is much in my desire, aim, and hope. The Lord grant me and mine to be content, if he deny us to live of our own, and will bring us to the daily bread of his finding, which he will have us wait for fresh and fresh from his own table, without our knowing any thing of it beforehand. Peradventure there is a greater sweetness and blessing in such a condition than we can imagine, till we have tried it. This may add to my help, even our making little haste to get out of our troubles, patiently waiting till God's time come, wherein he will open the prison doors
, either by death, or some other way, as he please, for the magnifying his own great name, not suffering us to be our own choosers in any thing, as hitherto hath been his way with us.
· And why should such a taking up sanctuary in God, and desiring to continue a pilgrim and solitary in this world, whilst I am in it, afford still matter of jealousy, distrust, and rage, as I see it doth, to those who are unwilling that I should be buried and lie quiet in my grave, where I now am. They that press so earnestly to carry on my trial, do little know what presence of God may be afforded me in it, and issue out of it, to the magnifying of Christ in my hody, by life or by death. Nor can they, I am sure, imagine how much I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, which, of all things that can befal me, I account best of all. And till then I desire to be made faithful in my place and station, to make confession of him before men, and not deny his name, if called forth to give a public testimony and witness concerning him, and to be herein nothing terrified. What then will the hurt be, that I can or shall receive by the worst that man can do unto me, who can but kill the body, and thereby open my prison door, that I
ascend into the pleasures that are at the right hand of
Christ Jesus. If the storm against us grow still higher and higher, so as to strip us of all we have, the earth is still the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: he hath a good storehouse for us to live upon.
God can, and if he think fit, will chalk out some way, wherein he may appear by his providence to choose for us, and not leave us to ur own choice. And being contracted into that small compass, which he shall think fit to reduce us unto, we may perhaps meet with as true inward contentment, and see as great a mercy in such a sequestration from the world, as if we were in the greatest outward prosperity.
I know nothing that remains to us, but like a tossed ship in a storm, to let ourselves be shaken and driven with the winds, till He that can make these storms to cease, and bring us into a safe haven, do work out our deliverance for us. I doubt not but you will, accord. ingly, endeavour to prepare for the worst.'- Upham, pp. 319–321; Forster, pp. 208–210.
That worst soon arrived. He was arraigned before the Court of King's Bench, on the 2nd of June, 1662: and whoever may wish to see the depths of treachery and falsehood, or the cruel labyrinths of law, amidst which, judges, juries, and counsel, were accustomed to torment, and then legally murder their victims, under Charles the Second, will find ample satisfaction in both the volumes now before us. The accused so conducted himself throughout the monstrous ordeal, as to command the sympathies even of his bitterest enemies. But, alas! it was virtue in the den of lions, with no messenger from heaven to shut their mouths; because they were the appointed liberators, to release from his agonies below, a magnanimous servant of the Most High. Vane had been excepted from the act of indemnity at the restoration, upon a solemn promise from the king that his life at all events should be spared. His Majesty proved as faithless to this pledge, as the Stuarts generally were to whatever engagements they might incur. The profligate monarch wrote a few lines to Lord Clarendoni, admitting, though obscurely, that his conscience felt fettered, yet observing also that the prisoner was too dangerous 6 a man to let live, if he could honestly be put out of the way !! Royal revenge had been awakened and whetted by some remarks during the trial: so that both sovereign and minister panted for his blood. In considering the transaction, it is impossible to dissent from the judgment of Serjeant Heywood ; that 'no single act of Charles the Second has left so foul a stain upon his memory, as his having sought the execution of Sir Henry Vane. • However valid his justification may seem to be in the ethics of tyrants, the want of feeling, with which he makes the detestable
proposal to the chancellor, admits of no palliation.' But we hasten forward to the final catastrophe!
He was allowed from Wednesday, when sentence was pronounced, until Saturday, to prepare for his execution. In this
awful interval he calmly composed his 'Exhortation to his Children,' of which the substance amounted to an irrefragable axiom, that they were to resolve to suffer any thing from men, rather than sin against God. In parting from bis friends, he comforted himself and them with the assurance, that to depart and be with Christ was far better : for he said, " In heaven there • is an innumerable company of angels, with the spirits of just men made perfect, and Jesus, the blessed mediator of the new
covenant: there are holy and just laws, a pure government, • blessed and good society, every one doing their duty; whilst • here we want all these. Yet it was when his children took their leave, that the shinings of the furnace shone upon his inmost soul. Paternal fondness grew warmer and warmer, so as that the struggle would have appalled even the jailers themselves, had not his Christian principle enabled him to triumph over the temptation which assailed his fortitude, through the dearest affections and ties of nature. With a strength above his own, he at length embraced them tenderly, and with deep emotion; observing that, through the eye of faith, he could bless God for being enabled to look beyond the relations of earth to that glorious Mount Zion, where he would need none of them! Then kissing them, he exclaimed, The Lord bless you: He will be a • better Father to you: I must now forget that I ever knew you! • I can willingly leave this place, and outward enjoyments, for
those I shall meet with hereafter in a better country. I have * made it my business to acquaint myself with the society of • heaven. Be not you troubled, for I am going home to my • Father. Subsequently he prayed with them, that “as his hour
glass was now turned up, and the sand running out apace,' he might be permitted so to honor his Saviour in the presence of many witnesses, that a blessing might descend upon the three kingdoms. Then followed a heart-rending farewell, respecting which, as his family withdrew, he was heard to whisper, « There ' is some flesh remaining yet; but I must cast it behind me, and
press forward to my God. When the fatal hour arrived, he was drawn on a sledge out of the Tower, amidst enormous multitudes of people; so that even the roofs of the adjacent houses were covered with spectators, expressing by their tears and gestures how much love and respect they bore him. “The Lord,' they cried, go with you, the Great God of heaven and earth appear ' in you and for you! He acknowledged their sympathy with cheerfulness, uncovering his head, and bowing to them several times. When asked how he felt, he replied, Never better,—
never better in my whole life.' Having arrived within the rails, he ascended the steps with alacrity, and showed himself to the immense concourse, in front of the scaffold, with such nobleness of deportment, equally removed from levity and gloominess, that
persons present could hardly be persuaded, that the “gentleman
in a black suit and cloak, with a scarlet silk waistcoat,' was to be the sufferer. After the sheriff had commanded silence, Sir Henry addressed the crowd. He assured them, that when the warrant had reached his keepers at midnight, a passage in the prophet Zechariah came home to his mind, that the garments of mortality, defiled with his iniquities, were about to be taken from him, that he might be clothed with change of raiment, and a robe washed white in the blood of the Lamb. He then pressed upon public attention the injustice of his arraignment and trial, upon which the trumpeters were ordered to approach, and sound their instruments so loud, that no human voice should be heard. Yet nothing daunted, he proceeded to relate the outlines of his life and conversion; showing, moreover, that in his political career, he was in no degree connected, either directly or indirectly, with the death of King Charles, nor with the blood or estate of any other individual, dead or alive. And now did it appear, as though the whole metropolis 'responded to his appeal. Every eye ran down with tears, and every breast heaved with indignation. The sight of his noble countenance, the serene and almost divine composure of his entire deportment, heightened by the recollection of his services and sufferings, and inflamed by an eloquence the admiration of his ablest contemporaries,-began to produce their inevitable consequences. The fame of his defence before corrupt judges, when he had vindicated not merely his own cause, but that of popular freedom, had rung far and wide through the city: but now the assembled thousands beheld a yet more marvellous spectacle, in his conquest over any fear of an ignominious and violent dissolution, as well as his magnanimity towards antagonists, less placable than the grave. Royalism listened and trembled. Once again the trumpets sounded, to drown the words of the patriot, and the sobs of his audience. Sir Henry, preserving his usual firmness, only declared his readiness to endure the most bitter treatment, since that of his Divine Master had been far harder. A third time the trumpets were blown; for the multitudes waved to and fro, deepening in their excitement. Sir John Robinson, with two or three others, inhumanly rushed upon the prisoner, and endeavored to seize his papers. The subalterns also thrust their rude hands into his pockets : amidst such brutal violence on their part, and such patient dignity on his, that even a zealous loyalist denounced their brutalism towards a man, who was dying like a prince.' Order at last being restored, he prayed with deep pathos and fervid earnestness. The following were a few of his expressions: “Bring us, O Lord, into the true mystical • Sabbath, that we may cease from our own works, rest from our • own labours, and become a meet habitation of thy Spirit, through • the everlasting covenant. Thou knowest, that in the faith of
• Jesus, and for the truth as it is in Jesus, thy servant desires to • die. When his blood is shed upon the block, let it have a voice * afterward, that may speak his innocency, and strengthen the * confidence of thy people in the truth. Let an abundant entrance be administered into the house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens, that when this tabernacle is dissolved, • we may have peace and joy everlasting. We desire to give no • just cause of offence, nor to provoke any, but in meekness to . forgive our enemies. Thy servant, that is now falling asleep, • doth heartily desire of thee, that thou wouldest forgive them, 6 and not lay this sin to their charge. He then adjusted his person to receive the final stroke; and looking up, he said, I
bless the Lord, who hath accounted me worthy to suffer for his ' name. Blessed be the Lord, that I have kept a conscience void • of offence unto this day. I bless the Lord, that I have not
deserted the righteous cause, for which I suffer.' As he bowed his head to the block, he uttered these words : · Father, glorify • thy servant in the sight of man, that he may glorify thee, in
the discharge of his duty this day to thee, and to his country. In an instant, and at a single blow, the executioner discharged his office !
We are told that an ancient traveller, unknown to the world by name, whose extraordinary taste it was to attend public executions, that he might observe the demeanor of the victims, always examined each countenance, whenever he could, immediately as it fell on the scaffold. He was present on this occasion, and observed that, whereas the heads of all he had ever before seen, • did some way or other move after the severance, as if arguing • some natural reluctancy to die, the noble head of this sufferer • lay perfectly still and composed, from the very moment of sepa‘ration.' The moral effect of the tragedy is described by Burnet and Pepys as having almost shaken the throne as well as the nation. Ludlow enrolled the sufferer amongst the most heroic martyrs. Such rapturous and glowing sensations appear to have been excited, that his family, through the mere force of public opinion, recovered their estates and honors. These have multiplied down to our own days; as if to mark the blessing of Providence as attached to departed excellence; although, undoubtedly, the present world is seldom a scene of reward to those individuals themselves.
But so passed into eternity the holy and patriotic Sir Henry Vane. It has been observed, that in his death, the first age of English liberty reached its termination. It commenced and it closed in blood. Strafford was the earliest victim of the incensed genius of freedom, and Vane was the last great sacrifice offered up to the vengeance of restored despotism; until that movement began under Russel and Sydney, which resulted in the enthrone