Sunday, August 28, 2011

JW visits clergyman under death sentence for rape

Sun. 28 Aug 1743. I preached at seven to a handful of people. The sermon we heard at church was quite innocent of meaning; what that in the afternoon was, I know not; for I could not hear a single sentence. From church I went to the Castle, where were gathered together (as some imagined) half the grown persons in the city. It was an awful sight. So vast a congregation in that solemn amphitheatre! And all silent and still, while I explained at large and enforced that glorious truth, ‘Happy are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’
I went thence to poor Mr. V [hanged at Exeter for rape], the clergyman, lying under sentence of death. He had for some time acted the lunatic; but I soon put him out of his play, and he appeared to have wit enough in his anger. I designed to close in with him immediately; but two cruelly-impertinent gentlemen would needs come into the room, so that I could say no more, but was obliged to leave him in their hands.
The lad who was to die the next day was quite of another spirit. He appeared deeply affected while we were speaking, and yet more during our prayer. And no sooner were we gone than he broke out into a bitter cry. Who knows but he might be heard by him that made him?

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