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то тHE . . . EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE,
FOR THE YEAR 1810.
PHILIP PENITENCE; .. Containing his Serious Reflections, occasioned by seeing Eight Malefactors 'executed at Washwood-Heath, near Birmingham; April 19, 1802; : with a Continuation of his History to January, 1805';
; and Reflections on Infidelity.
[From this plain, but instructive Tract, we select a few pamages, earnestly
hoping that they may warn young men from pursuing the paths of India delity and Vice, from which the Writer was happily rescued, while some of his companions miserably perished. The reader will immediately perceive the propriety of the Author's concealing his true name, and adopting that of Philip Penitence.]
I was born in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, and was put to the button trade. During my apprenticeship, I was very steady and sober, and gave great satisfaction to my master, who often told me he meant to assist me in setting out in life, as a reward for my good conduct. These good beginnings were very pleasing to my parents, who always gave me good advice, and were very desirous to promote my welfare. After the expiration of my apprenticeship, I wroughi for some time as a journeyman; when, having more money at my disposal, I began to frequent a public-house, where it was customary for a considerable number of mechanics to meet every night, to read the newspapers, ‘Paine's Rights of Man,' and other publications of a similar nature.
I soon imbibed a love for politics; and, having naturally à ready utterance, could speak with a considerable degree of fluency on any political question that was agitated. In process of time, those who were first converted to Paine's political opinions, introduced his ' Age of Reason. At first, I had some XVIII,
ay, I belschemes, that
objections to hear it read; but they were soon over-ruled, and, I am sorry to say, I became as great an admirer of his theola gical as of his political scheme.
I must not forget to observe, that I was not at the pains to examine my Bible, but took for granted all that he said. The principal thing that determined me to adopt his system, was a wish that it might be true. I thought, if the Bible was false, it was very immaterial whether I was wicked or righteous, just or unjust. I frequently applauded myself on the victory which I had obtained over the prejudices of education, as I termed them. It is true, indeed, I was sometimes afraid lest Christianity should be true; especially in a fit of sickness wbich I once had, when I thought there was but a step bé. tween me and death. I began to ask myself, 'What if the Bible should be true?' I invariably answered, “I shall be miserable to all eternity;"_but my Deistical brethren coming to see me, soon laughed me out of my superstitious whims, as they called them.
On my recovery, I was more profligate than before; and as I worked but little, found myself very much embarrassed. On mentioning my situation to one of my companions, he told me he could relieve me, if I would engage to keep a secret ; which I proniising to do, he said, if I would give him half-aguinea, he would put me in possession of a box containing something of considerable value: though he did not inform nie what the box contained, yet I easily understood by his manner that it was base coin. It was delivered to me in the street, when it was quite dark. On returning home, I found it contained a considerable number of pieces of base coin, in imitation of half-crowns and shillings. I was much pleased with my bargain : it so much resembled the current coin of the kingdom, that I thought I should have but little difficulty in paying it away.
I found it needful, indeed, to use some precaution, and therefore frequently mixed a little good with my base coin; nor did I ever offer any unless I had some good in my pocket, that I might exchange it if it was objected to. Having soon passed all I had, I was desirous of obtaining another supply; which I soon did in the same way as before.
My confidants finding I was likely to be staunch in their cause, proposed to me a scheme much more lucrative, viz. to pass forged bills, which I was to have upon very advantageous terms. In putting off bad bills, I generally observed the same precaution as on putting off bad money; but notwithstanding this, I was sometimes in danger of being discovered.
At times I was so much alarmed with the fear of detection, that I could not compose myself to sleep for several nights together; and when nature was quite exhausted, and I was overpowered by sleep, I used to imagine myself pursued by justice, eönreyed to prison, arraigned, condemned, carried to the gallows, and suspended by the neck, when I have suddenly started awake, and been transported with joy on finding it was only a dream. The, agitation of my mind was sometimes visibly expressed by a pale countenance and a trembling hand; especially when any of my associates were arrested and brought to justice, fearing lest they should impeach me, and that my crimes would find me out. I often resolved to amend, and support myself by honest industry; but having been so long abandoned to vice and idleness, my resolutions proved ineffectuał.
In the beginning of the year 1802, I began to think again about religion; and one day in particular, my inind was powerfully impressed with this thought: 'Perhaps the Christian religion is true.' I then determined to act the part of a wise man, by being on the safe side of the question. The temptation which I felt to attend the execution at WashwoodHeath on Easter Monday, was too powerful to be resisted. I approached the awful spot with trembling steps. I arrived a considerable time before the unfortunate sufferers, when I began to reflect on the many and highly aggravated crimes of my past life. I felt what I cannot describe.' For some time I was unable to look upwards. I smote upon my breast, and said, 'God be merciful to me a sinner! When the approach of the malefactors was announced, I asked myself,
Why am I not one of them ? - for, surely, I deserve the gallows!' I said, “It is of thy mercy, O Lord, that I am not consumed!' I resolved to make all the reparation in my power to any whom I had injured, if I could do it privately.
After the awful scene was closed, I returned home with a heart deeply oppressed with grief. On my way I was overtaken by an old acquaintance, who asked me if I wanted any thing in his way. I knew what he alluded to, and told him I did not; that I had had enough, and too much, in that way already; that I was determined to reform; and, before I parted with him, exhorted him to do the same. He heard me very patiently, and said he thought it would be the best for us all. When I came home, I immediately burned all my bad bills, which amounted to more than 50l. I opened mny Bible, when my attention was arrested by these words : ‘Let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him;' which very much encouraged me in my good purposes. The next day I went to my work, and found myself more happy in my lawful employment than I had done for a considerable time before. - Soon after this, I went to a place of public worship; the subject of the minister's discourse was prayer :-he explained its nature, objects, and advantages. While speaking on the