"The Execution of Hugh Stone"
From Magnalia Christi Americana
Written @ 1698
by Cotton Mather, D.D.
ONE Hugh Stone, upon a quarrel between himself and his wife, about
selling a piece of land, having some words, as they were walking together
on a certain evening, very barbarously reachíd a stroke at her throat,
with a sharp knife; and by that one stroke fetchíd away the soul of her
who had made him a father of several children, and would have yet brought
another to him if she had lived a few weeks longer in the world.
The wretched man was too soon surprizíd by his neighbours to be capable
of denying the fact; and so he pleaded guilty upon his tryal.
There was a minister that walkíd with him to his execution; and I shall
insert the principle passages of the discourses between ëem; in which the
reader may find or make something useful to himself, whatever it were to
the poor man, who was more immediately concerned in it.
Minister: I am come to give you what assistance I can in your taking
of the steps, which your eternal weal or wo now depends upon the well or
ill taking of.
Hugh Stone: Sir, I thank you, and beg you to do what you can for me.
M: Within a few minutes, your immortal soul must appear before God,
the judge of all. I am heartily sorry you have lost so much time
since your first imprisonment: you had need use a wonderful husbandry of
the little piece of an inch which now remains. Are you now prepared
to stand before the tribunal of God?
H: I hope I am.
M: And what reason for that hope?
H: I find all my sins made so bitter to me, that if I were to have
my life given me the afternoon, to live such a life as I have lived heretofore,
I would not accept of it. I had rather die.
M. That is well, if it be true. But suffer me a little to search
into the condition of your soul. Are you sensible that you were born
a sinner? that the guilt of the first sin committed by Adam is justly charged
upon you? and that you have hereupon a wicked nature in you, full of enmity
against all that is holy, and just, and good? for which you deserved
to be destroyíd as soon as you first came into this world?
H: I am sensible of this.
M: Are you further sensible, that you have livíd a very ungodly life?
that you are guilty of thousands of actual sins, every one which deserves
the wrath and curse of God? both in this life and that which is to come?
H: I am sensible of this also.
M: But are you sensible that you have broken all the laws of God?
You know the commandments. Are you sensible that you have broken
every one of them?
H: I cannot answer yes to that. My answer may be liable to some
exceptions. . .
M: Alas, that you know yourself no better than so! I do affirm
to you that you have particularly broken every one of the commandments;
and you must be sensible of it.
H: I cannot see it.
M: But you must remember that the commandment is exceedingly broad;
it reaches to the heart as well as the life: it excludes omissions as well
as commissions; and it at once both requires and forbids. But, I
pray, make an experiment upon any one commandment, in which you count yourself
most innocent: and see whether you do not presently confess your self guilty
thereabout. I will not leave this point slightly passíd over with
H: That commandment, "thou shalt not make to thy self any graven image:"
how have I broken it?
M: Thus: you have had undue images of God in your mind a thousand times.
But more than so; that commandment not only forbids our using the inventions
of men in the worship of God, but it also requires our using all the institutions
of God. Now, have not you many and many a time turníd your back upon some
of those glorious institutions?
H: Indeed, Sir, I confess it: I see my sinfulness greater than I thought
M: You better see it. God help you to see it! there is a boundless
ocean of it. And then for that sin which has now brought a shameful death
upon you, ëtis impossible to declare the aggravations of it; hardly an
age will show the like. You have professed yourself sorry for it
H: I am heartily so.
M: But your sorrows must be after a godly sort. Not merely because
of the miseries which it has brought on your outward man, but chiefly for
the wrongs and wounds therein given to your own soul; and not only for
the miseries you have brought on your self, but chiefly for the injuries
which you have done to the blessed God.
H: I hope my sorrow lies there.
M: But do you mourn without hope?
H: I thank God that I do not.
M: Where do you see a door of hope?
H: In the Lord Jesus Christ, who has died to save sinners.
M: Truly, "there is no other name by which we may be saved." The righteousness
of the Lord Jesus Christ is that alone in which you may safely appear before
the judgment seat of God. And that righteousness is, by the marvelous
and infinite ìgrace of God,î offered unto you. But do you find that,
as you have no righteousness, so you have no strength?that you cannot
of yourself move or stir towards the Lord Jesus Christ? that it is the
"grace of God" alone which must enable you to accept of salvation form
the great Saviour? . . . Your crime lay in blood; and your help also,
that lies in blood. I am to offer you the blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ, as that in which you may now have the pardon for all your sins.
. . Well, we are now but a few paces from the place where you
must breathe your last. You are going to take a most awful step,
which has this most remarkable [quality] in it: that it cannot be twice
taken. If you go wrong now, it cannot be recalled throughout the
days of eternity. I can but commit you into the arms of a merciful Redeemer.
After this, he was, by the prayers of a minister than present, recommended
to the divine mercy. Which being done the poor man poured out a few broken
ejaculations, in the midst of which he was turned over into that eternity
which we must leave him in.