Pillars of Salt (Cotton Mather)

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Pillars of Salt by Cotton Mather

On March II. 1686 was Executed at Boston, one James Morgan, for an horrible Murder. A man, finding it necessary to come into his House, he Swore he would Run a Spit into his Bowels; and he was as bad as his word.

He was a passionate Fellow; and now, after his Condemnation, he much bewayl'd, his having been given to Cursing, in his passions.

The Reverend Person who Preached, unto a great Assembly, on the Day of this poor man[']s Execution, did in the midst of his Sermon take occasion, to Read a Paper, which he had Received from the Malefactor, then present in the Assembly. It was as followeth.

“I James Morgan, being Condemned to Dye, must needs own to the glory of God, that He is righteous, and that I have by my sins, provoked him to destroy me before my time. I have been a great Sinner, guilty of Sabbath-breaking, of Lying, and of Uncleanness; but there are especially two Sins whereby I have offended the Great God; one is that Sin of Drunkenness, which has caused me to commit many other Sins; for when in Drink, I have been often guilty of Cursing and Swearing, and quarrelling, and striking others: But the Sin which lies most heavy upon my Conscience, is, that I have despised the Word of God, and many a time refused to hear it preached. For these things, I believe God has left me to that, which has brought me to a shameful and miserable death. I do therefore beseech and warn all persons, young men especially, to take heed of these Sins, lest they provoke the Lord to do to them as He has justly done by me. And for the further peace of my own Conscience, I think my self obliged to add this unto my foregoing Confession, that I I own the Sentence which the Honoured Court has pass'd upon me, to be exceeding just; inasmuch as (tho' I had no former Grudge and Malice against the man whom I have killed, yet) my Passion at the time of the Fact was so outragious, as that it hurried me on to the doing of that which makes me justly now proceeded against as a Murderer.”

After the Sermon, a Minister, at his Desire, went unto the place of Execution with him. And of what passed by the way, there was a Copy take; which here Ensueth.

The DISCOURSE of the MINISTER with JAMES MORGAN, on the way to his Execution.

MIN. I'm come hither to answer your desires which just now you exprest to me in the Publick, that I would give you my company at your Execution.

MOR. Dear Sir, how much am I beholden to you! you have already done a great deal for me. Oh who am I that I have been such a vile wretch, that any Servants of God should take notice of me!

MIN. I beseech you to make this use of it, I believe there is not one Christian this day beholding you, who would not willingly be at the greatest pains they could devise to save your precious Soul: How merciful then is that Man who is God as well as man! how unspeakably ready is the Lord Christ to save the Souls of sinners that affectionately Look unto him! The goodness and the pitifulness of the most tender-hearted man in the world is but a shadow of what is in Him. The compassions of any man compared with the Bowels of a merciful JESUS are but as the painted Sun, or the painted Fire in comparison of the real.

MOR. Oh that I could now look unto Him as I ought to do! Lord help me.

MIN. Well, you are now a dying man, the last hour or two of your life is no running. You know your self now to stand just on the brink of Eternity; you shall presently be in a state of wonderful happiness or of horrible misery which must endure forever: which of those estates do you now count yourself stepping into?

MOR. Oh Sir, I am afraid, but not without hope that God may have mercy on me.

MIN. What's your ground for that hope? O see that your confidences been't such as God will by and by reject.

MOR. I don't know well what to say, but this I hope is a good sign, I have lived in many grievous sins, in Lying, Drinking, Sabbath-breaking, and evil Company-keeping; God has made now these so bitter to my soul, that I would not commit them again, might I have my life this afternoon by doing it.

MIN. That's a great word, God grant it may not be a word only, the good word of a good pang, without such a thro' change of heart, as you must have if you would not perish everlastingly. You are not like to have any longer time in this world to try the Sincerity of your Profession.

MOR. I know it, and I beseech you Sir to help me what you can: I hope the means used with me since my Condemnation ha'n't been lost.

MIN. I would not have the sence of the pain and shame which your body is about to undergoe, any ways hinder your mind from being taken up about the Soul matters which I shall endeavour to set before you.

MOR. Sir, as for the pain that my body must presently feel, I matter it not: I know what pain is, but what shall I do for my poor Soul? I'm terrify'd with the Wrath of God; This, this terrifyes me, Hell terrifyes me: I should not mind my Death, if it were not for that.

MIN. Now the Lord help me to deal faithfully with you, and the Lord help you to receive what he shall enable me to offer unto you. Mark what I say: You were born among the enemies of God, you were born with a soul as full of enmity against God, as a Toad is full of poison. You have liv'd now, how many years?

MOR. I think about Thirty.

MIN. And all these thirty years have you been sinning against the Holy God. Ever since you knew how to do any thing, you have every day been guilty of innumerable sins; you deserve the dreadful wrath and curse of the infinite God. But God has brought you here, to a place where you have enjoy'd the means of Grace. And here you have added unto your old Sins, most fearful Iniquities: you have been such a matchless, prodigious Transgressor, that you are now to Dy by the stroke of civil Justice; to Dy before your time, for being wicked overmuch. There is hardly any sort of Wickedness which you have not wallowed in. That Sin particularly which you are now to Dy for, is a most monstrous Crime. I can't possibly describe or declare the sins whereby you have made your self an astonishing Example of Impiety and punishment.

MOR. O Sir, I have been a most hellish Sinner. I am sorry for what I have been.

MIN. Sorry, you say: well, tell me, which of all your sins you are now most sorry for, which lies most heavy.

MOR. I hope I am sorry for all my sins, but I must especially bewail my neglect of the means of Grace. On Sabbath dayes I us'd to lye at home, or be ill imploy'd eleswhere when I should have been at Church. This has undone me!

MIN. And let me seriously tell you, your despising of Christ is a most dreadful sin indeed. You have for whole years together had the Call of Jesus Christ to seek an Interest in him, and you would now give all the world for that Interest, but you would take no notice of him. The Jews of Old put him to a worse death than yours will be this afternoon; and by your contempt of Christ you have said, the Jews did well to do so. How justly might he now laugh at your Calamity? And for these sins of yours, besides the direful woes and plagues that have already come upon you, you are now expos'd unto the Vengeance of eternal fire. You are in danger of being now quickly cast into these exquisite amazing Torments, in comparison of which, the anguishes which your body ever did feel, or shall feel before night, or can ever feel, are just nothing at all; and these dolorous torments are such as never had an End; as many sands as could lie between this earth and the Stars in Heaven would not be near so many as the Ages, the endless Ages of these Torments.

MOR. But is there not Mercy for me in Christ?

MIN. Yes, and its a wonderful thing that I have now further to tell you. Mind, I entreat you. The Son of God is become the Son of Man; the Lord Jesus Christ is both God & Man in One Person, and he is both sufficiently able & willing also, to be your Saviour. He live a most righteous life & this was that such as you and I might be able to say before God, Lord, accept of me as if I had lived righteously. He dyed at length a most cursed death, and this was that we might be able to say unto God, Lord, let me not dye for Sin, since thy Son has dye in my room. This glorious Redeemer is now in the highest Heaven, pleading with God for the Salvation of His Chosen ones - And he pours out his Spirit continually upon them that do believe on him: might you then be enabled by his Grace to carry your poor, guilty, condemned, enslaved, ignorant Soul unto Jesus Christ, and humbly put your trust in him for deliverance from the whole bad state which you are brought into. Oh then his voice is to you the same that was to the penitent Thief, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

MOR. Oh that I might be so! Sir, I would hear more of these things: I think I can't better fit my self for my Death than by hearkening to these things.

MIN. Attend then: The never-dying Spirit that lodges within you, must now within a few minutes appear before the Tribunal of the Great GOD: in what, or in whose Righteousness will you then appear? will you have this to be your Plea, Lord, I experienced many good Motions & Desires in my Soul, and many sorrows for my sin before I dy'd: or will you expect to have no other Plea but This, Lord, I am vile, but thy Son is a Surety for the worst of Sinners that believe on Him; for his sake alone, have MERCY on me.

MOR. I thank God for what He has wrought in my Soul. —

MIN. But be very careful about this matter: if you build on your own good Affections instead of Jesus Christ the only Rock, if you think they shall recommend you to God, He that made you will not have mercy on you.

MOR. I would be clothed with the Righteousness of JESUS CHRIST.

MIN. But you can't sincerely desire that Christ should justify you, if you don't also desire that He should sanctify you: those two always go together. Is every lust that has hitherto had possession of your heart become so loathsome to you, that it would fill your Soul with joy to hear Jesus Christ say, I will subdue those Iniquities of thine; I will make a holy, an heavenly, a spiritually minded person of thee.

MOR. I would not Sin against God any more.

MIN. But I must deal plainly with you: You have made it sadly suspicious that your repentance is not yet as it ought to be: when men truly & throughly repent of sin, they use to be in a special manner watchful against that Sin which has been their chief Sin: one of your principal sins which has indeed brought you to the Death of a Murderer, is Passion, unmortifi'd and outrageous Passionateness: Now I have been this day informed, that no longer since than the last-night, upon some Dissatisfaction about the place which the Authority hath ordered you by and by to be buried in, you did express you self with a most unruly Passionateness.

MOR. Sir, I confess it, and I was quickly sorry for it, tho' for the present I was too much disturbed: Twas my folly to be so careful about the place where my body should be laid, when my precious Soul was in such a Condition. —

MIN. Truly you have cause to mourn for it. Secure the welfare of your soul, and this (now) pinion'd, hang'd, vile body of yours will shortly be raised unto glory, glory for evermore. And let me put you in mind of one thing more, I doubt you han't yet laid aside your unjust Grudges against the Persons concerned in your Conviction and Condemnations: You have no cause to complain of them: and you are not fit to pray, much less are you fit to dye, till you heartily wish them as well as your own soul: if you dye malicious, you die miserable.

MOR. I heartily wish them all well, I bear ill-will to none. What a lamentable thing is this? Ah this is that which has brought me hither!

MIN. What do you mean?

MOR. I over heard a man mocking and scoffing at me when I stumbled just now, he does very ill. I have done so my self. I have mock'd and scoff'd like that man, and see what it hath brought me to; he may come to the like.

MIN. The Lord forgive that foolish hard hearted creature. But be not too much disturbed.

MOR. Yonder! I am now come in sight of the place where I must immediately end my days. Oh what a huge Multitude of people s come together on this occasion. O Lord, O Lord, I pray thee to make my Death profitable to all this Multitude of People, that they may not sin against thee as I have done.

MIN. Amen, Amen, ten thousand times; the Lord God Almighty say Amen to this Prayer of yours! It would indeed be an excellent thing if you would now come to receive your death with some satisfaction of soul in this thought, That much Glory is like to come to God by it: I am verily persuaded God intends to do good to many souls by means of your Execution: This a greater honour than you are worthy of.

(After the Discourse had been intermitted about a minute or two by reason of the miery way.)

MOR. I beseech you Sir speak to me. Do me all the good you can: my time grows very short: your discourse fits me for my Death more than any thing.

MIN. I am sorry so small a thing as a plashy Street should make me loose one minute of this more than ordinary precious time; a few paces more bring you to the place which you have now in your eye, from whence you shall not come back alive. Do you find your self afraid to dy there?

MOR. Sir, if it were not for the Condition that my Soul must by and by be in, I should not fear my death at all; but I have a little comfort from some of Gods promises about that.

MIN. And what shall I now say? These are among the last words that I can have liberty to leave with you. Poor man, thou art now going to knock at the door of Heaven, and to beg & cry, Lord, Lord open to me! The only way for thee to speed, is, to open the door of they own soul now unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Do this, and thou shalt undoubtedly be admitted into the Glories of His Heavenly Kingdom: You shall fare as well as Manasseh did before you: leave this undone, and there's nothing remains for you but the Worm which dyeth not, and the Fire which shall not be quenched.

MOR. Sir, show me then again what I have to do.

MIN. The voice, the sweet voice of the lord Jesus Christ, (who was once hang'd on a tree, to take away the Sting and Curse of even such a Death as yours) unto all that close with him, His Heavenly voice now is, O that I and my saving work might be entertained, kindly entreated, in that poor perishing Soul of thine. Are you willing?

MOR. I hope I am.

MIN. His Voice further is, If I am lodged in thy Soul, I'le sprinkle my blood upon it, and on my account thou shalt find Favour with God. Do you consent to this?

MOR. This I want

MIN. But this is not all that he saith, His Voice further is, If I come into thy Soul, I will change it, I will make all sin bitter to it, I will make it an holy heavenly soul: Do you value this above the proffers of all the World?

MOR. I think I do,—and now Sir, I must go no further, Look here—what a solemn sight is this. Here lyes the Coffin which this Body of mine must presently be laid in. I thank you dear Sir, for what you have already done for me.

MIN. When you are gone up this Ladder, my last Service for you, before you are gone off, will be to pray with you: but I would here take my leave of you. Oh that I might meet you at the Right Hand of the Lord Jesus in the Last Dat. Farewell poor heart, Fare thee well. The Everlasting Arms receive thee! The Lord Jesus, the merciful Saviour of Souls take possession of thy Spirit for himself. The Great God, who is a great Forgiver, grant thee Repentance unto Life; and Glorify Himself in the Salvation of such a wounded Soul as thine for ever. With Him, and with His free, rich, marvellous, Infinite Grace, I leave you. Farewell.

Being Arrived unto the place of Execution, his Last Speech upon the Ladder, then taken in Short-Hand, was that which is here inserted.

I Pray God that I may be a warning to you all, and that I may be the last that ever shall suffer after this manner: In the fear of God I warn you to have a care of taking the Lords Name in vain. Mind and have a care of that Sin of Drunkenness, for that Sin leads to all manner of Sins and Wickedness: (mind, and have a care of breaking the sixth Commandment, where it is said, Thou shalt not do no Murder) for when a man is in Drink, he is ready to commit all manner of Sin, till he fills up the cup of the wrath of God, as I have done by committing that Sin of Murder. I beg of God, as I am a dying man, and to appear before the Lord within a few minutes, that you may notice of what I say to you. Have a care of drunkenness, and ill Company and mind all good Instruction, and don't turn you back upon the Word of God, as I have done. When I have been at meeting, I have gone out of the Meeting-house to commit sin, and to please the lust of my flesh. Don't make a mock at any poor object of pity, but bless god that he has not left you as he had justly done me, to commit that horrid Sin of Murder. Another thing that I have to say to you is to have a care of that house where that wickedness was committed, and where I have been partly ruined by. But here I am, and know not what will become of my poor soul, which is within a few moments of eternity. I have murder'd a poor man, who had but little time to repent, and I know not what is become of his poor soul; Oh that I may make use of this Opportunity that I have! O that I may make improvement of this little time, before I go hence and be no more. O let all mind what I am a saying now, I'm giongout of this world. O take warning by me and beg of God to keep you from this sin which has been my ruine. (His last words were) O Lord, receive my Spirit, I come unto thee, O Lord, I come unto thee O Lord, I come, I come, I come.


On June 8, 1693 Two Young Women (the one English, t'other Negro) were Executed at Boston, for murdering their Bastard Children.

The English Young Woman, gave to the Minister, who Preach'd that Afternoon, the following Paper of Confessions; which he took occasion, in the Sermon, to publish unto the Congregation, where she also was then present before the Lord.

I am a miserable Sinner; and I have justly provoked the Holy God to leave me unto that Folly of my own Heart, for which I am now Condemned to Dy. I cannot but see much of the Anger of God against me, in the Circumstances of my woful Death; He hath Fulfilled upon me, that Word of His, Evil pursueth Sinners. I therefore desire, Humbly to Confess my many Sins before God, and the World: but most particularly my Blood Guiltiness. Before the Birth of my Twin-Infants, I too much parlyed with the Temptations of the Devil, to smother my Wickedness by Murthering of them: At length when they were Born I was not unsensible, that at least, One of them was alive; but such a Wretch was I, as to use a Murderous Carriage towards them, in the place where I lay, on purpose to dispatch them out of the World. I acknowledge that I have been more Hard hearted than the Sea Monsters, and yet for the Pardon of these my Sins, I would Fly to the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the only Fountain set open for Sin and Uncleanness. I know not how better to Glorify God, for giving me such and Opportunity as I have had to make sure of His Mercy, than by advising and entreating the Rising Generation here, to take Warning by my Example; and I will therefore tell the Sins, that have brought me to my shameful End. I do Warn all People, and especially, Young People, against the Sin of Uncleanness in particular; 'tis that Sin that hath been my Ruine: well had it ben for me, if I had answered all Temptations to that Sin as Joseph did, How shall I do this Wickedness, and Sin against God?—But, I see, Bad Company is that, which leads to that, and all other Sins; and I therefore beg all that Love their Souls to be familiar with none but such as fear God. I believe, the chief thing that hath brought me into my present Condition, is my Disobedience to my Parents. I despised all their Godly Counsels and Reproofs; and I was always of an Haughty and stubborn Spirit. So that now I am become a dreadful Instance of the Curse of God belonging to Disobedient Children. I must Bewayl this also, that although I was Baptised, yet when I grew up, I forgot the Bonds that were laid upon me to be the Lords. Had I given my self to God, as soon as I was capable to consider that I had been in Baptism, set apart for him, How happy had I been! It was my Delay to Repent of my former Sins, that provoked God to leave me unto the Crimes, for which I am now to Dy. Had I seriously Repented of my Uncleanness the First Time I fell into it, I do suppose, I had not been left unto what followed. Let all take it from me; the little think, what they do when they put off turning from Sin to God, and Resist the Strivings of the Holy Spirit. I fear, 'tis for this, that I have been given up to such Hardness of heart, not only since my long Imprisonment, but also since my Just Condemnation. I now know not what will become of my Distressed, perishing Soul. But I would humbly Commit it unto the Mercy of God in Jesus Christ; Amen.