The Newgate Calendar - JACK SHEPPARD

JACK SHEPPARD

A Daring Housebreaker, who made Ingenious Escapes from Prison and even tried to foil his Executioner at Tyburn on 16th of November, 1724

Illustrations:
Portrait of Jack Sheppard

A shoemaker freeing Sheppard from his irons

 ALTHOUGH only in the twenty-third year of his age when he was executed at Tyburn, on the 16th of November, 1724, Jack Sheppard had become so notorious as a housebreaker and prison-breaker that his exploits were the talk of all ranks of society. A great warrior could not have received greater attention than this famous criminal. Books and pamphlets were written about him; a pantomime at Drury Lane, called Harlequin Sheppard, was based on the story of his adventures, and so was a three-act farce, called The Prison-Breaker. Dozens of songs and glees referred to his prowess, and clergymen preached sermons about him. Sir James Thornhill, the celebrated painter who decorated the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, painted his portrait, from which engravings in mezzotinto were made. On this subject a poet, whose name is not given, wrote the following lines: —-

"Thornhill, 'tis thine to gild with fame
The obscure, and raise the humble name;
To make the form elude the grave,
And Sheppard from oblivion save.

Though life in vain the wretch implores,
An exile on the farthest shores,
Thy pencil brings a kind reprieve,
And bids the dying robber live.

This piece to latest time shall stand,
And show the wonders of thy hand:
Thus former masters graced their name,
And gave egregious robbers fame.

Apelles Alexander drew,
Caesar is to Aurelius due;
Cromwell in Lely's works doth shine,
And Sheppard, Thornhill, lives in thine."

 John Sheppard was born in Spitalfields in the year 1702. His father, who was a carpenter, bore the character of an honest man; yet he had another son, named Thomas, who, as well as Jack, turned out a thief. The father dying while the boys were very young, they were left to the care of the mother, who placed Jack at a school in Bishopsgate Street, where he remained two years, and was then put apprentice to a carpenter. He behaved with decency in this place for about four years, when, frequenting the Black Lion ale-house, in Drury Lane, he became acquainted with some abandoned women, among whom the principal was Elizabeth Lyon; otherwise called "Edgworth Bess," from the town of Edgworth, where she was born.

 While he continued to work as a carpenter, he often committed robberies in the houses where he was employed, stealing tankards, spoons and other articles, which he carried to Edgworth Bess; but not being suspected of having committed these robberies, he at length resolved to commence housebreaking. Exclusive of Edgworth Bess, he was acquainted with a woman named Maggot, who persuaded him to rob the house of Mr Bains, a piece-broker in White Horse Yard; and Jack, having brought away a piece of fustian from thence (which he deposited in his trunk), went afterwards at midnight, and taking the bars out of the cellar window entered, and stole goods and money to the amount of twenty-two pounds, which he carried to Maggot. As Sheppard did not go home that night, nor the following day, his master suspected that he had made bad connections, and searching his trunk found the piece of fustian that had been stolen; but Sheppard, hearing of this, broke open his master's house in the night and carried off the fustian, lest it should be brought in evidence against him. Sheppard's master sending intelligence to Mr Bains of what had happened, the latter looked over his goods and, missing such a piece of fustian as had been described to him, suspected that Sheppard must have been the robber, and determined to have him taken into custody; but Jack, hearing of the affair, went to him and threatened a prosecution for scandal, alleging that he had received the piece of fustian from his mother, who bought it for him in Spitalfields. The mother, with a view to screen her son, declared that what he had asserted was true, though she could not point out the place where she had made the purchase. Though this story was not credited, Mr Bains did not take any further steps in the affair.

 Sheppard's master seemed willing to think well of him, and he remained some time longer in the family; but after associating himself with the worst of company, and frequently staying out the whole night, his master and he quarrelled, and the headstrong youth totally absconded in the last year of his apprenticeship and became connected with a set of villains of Jonathan Wild's gang. Jack now worked as a journeyman carpenter, with a view to the easier commission of robbery; and being employed to assist in repairing the house of a gentleman in Mayfair he took an opportunity of carrying off a sum of money, a quantity of plate, some gold rings and four suits of clothes. Not long after this Edgworth Bess was apprehended and lodged in the roundhouse of the parish of St Giles's, where Sheppard went to visit her, and the beadle refusing to admit him he knocked him down, broke open the door, and carried her off in triumph —- an exploit which acquired him a high degree of credit with the women of abandoned character.

 In the month of August, 1723, Thomas Sheppard, the brother of Jack, was indicted at the Old Bailey for two petty offences, and being convicted was burned in the hand. Soon after his discharge he prevailed on Jack to lend him forty shillings and take him as a partner in his robberies. The first act they committed in concert was the robbing of a public-house in Southwark, whence they carried off some money and wearing apparel; but Jack permitted his brother to reap the whole advantage of this booty.

 Not long after this the brothers, in conjunction with Edgworth Bess, broke open the shop of Mrs Cook, a linen-draper in Clare Market, and carried off goods to the value of fifty-five pounds; and in less than a fortnight afterwards stole some articles from the house of Mr Phillips, in Drury Lane.

 Tom Sheppard, going to sell some of the goods stolen at Mrs Cook's, was apprehended and committed to Newgate, when, in the hope of being admitted an evidence, he impeached his brother and Edgworth Bess; but they were sought for in vain.

 At length James Sykes —- otherwise called "Hell and Fury" —- one of Sheppard's companions, meeting with him in St Giles's, enticed him into a public-house, in the hope of receiving a reward for apprehending him; and, while they were drinking, Sykes sent for a constable, who took Jack into custody, and carried him before a magistrate, who, after a short examination, sent him to St Giles's Round- house; but he broke through the roof of that place and made his escape in the night.

 Within a short time after this, as Sheppard and an associate named Benson were crossing Leicester Fields, the latter endeavoured to pick a gentleman's pocket of his watch, but, failing in the attempt, the gentleman called out: "A pickpocket!" —- on which Sheppard was taken and lodged in St Ann's Roundhouse, where he was visited by Edgworth Bess, who was detained on suspicion of being one of his accomplices.

 On the following day they were carried before a magistrate, and, some persons appearing who charged them with felonies, they were committed to New Prison; and as they passed for husband and wife they were permitted to lodge together in a room known by the name of Newgate Ward.

Sheppard being visited by several of his acquaintances, some of them furnished him with implements to make his escape, and early in the morning, a few days after his com- mitment, he filed off his fetters and, having made a hole in the wall, he took an iron bar and a wooden one out of the window; but as the height from which he was to descend was twenty-five feet he tied a blanket and sheet together, and, making one of them fast to a bar in the window, Edgworth Bess first descended, and Jack followed her. Having reached the yard, they had still a wall of twenty- two feet high to scale; but climbing up by the locks and bolts of the great gate, they got quite out of the prison, and effected a perfect escape.

 Sheppard's fame was greatly celebrated among the lower order of people by this exploit; and the thieves of St Giles's courted his company. Among the rest, one Charles Grace, a cooper, begged that he would take him as an associate in his robberies, alleging as a reason for this request that the girl he kept was so extravagant that he could not support her on the profits of his own thefts. Sheppard did not hesitate to make this new connection; but at the same time said that he did not admit of the partnership with a view to any advantage to himself, but that Grace might reap the profits of their depredations.

 Sheppard and Grace making acquaintance with Anthony Lamb, an apprentice to a mathematical instrument-maker, near St Clement's Church, it was agreed to rob a gentleman who lodged with Lamb's master, and at two o'clock in the morning Lamb let in the other villains, who stole money and effects to a large amount. They put the door open, and Lamb went to bed to prevent suspicion; but notwithstanding this his master did suspect him, and had him taken into custody, when he confessed the whole affair before a magistrate, and being committed to Newgate he was tried, convicted, and received sentence to be transported. On the same day Thomas Sheppard (the brother of Jack) was indicted for breaking open the dwelling-house of Mary Cook and stealing her goods; and, being convicted, was sentenced to transportation.

 Jack Sheppard not being in custody, he and "Blueskin," another notorious thief, who was executed a few days before Sheppard met his fate, committed a number of daring robberies, and sometimes disposed of the stolen goods to William Field. Jack used to say that Field wanted courage to commit a robbery, though he was as great a villain as ever existed.

 Sheppard and "Blueskin" hired a stable near the Horse Ferry, Westminster, in which they deposited their stolen goods till they could dispose of them to the best advantage, and in this place they put the woollen cloth which was stolen from Mr Kneebone; for Sheppard was concerned in this robbery, and at the sessions held at the Old Bailey, in August, 1724, he was indicted for several offences, and among the rest for breaking and entering the house of William Kneebone and stealing one hundred and eight yards of woollen cloth and other articles; and, being capitally convicted, received sentence of death.

 We must now go back to observe that Sheppard and "Blueskin" had applied to Field to look at these goods and procure a customer for them, and he promised to do so; nor was he worse than his word, for in the night he broke open their warehouses and stole the ill-gotten property, and then gave information against them to Jonathan Wild, in consequence of which they were apprehended. On Monday, the 30th of August, 1724, a warrant was sent to Newgate for the execution of Sheppard, with other convicts under sentence of death.

 It is proper to observe that in the old jail of Newgate there was within the lodge a hatch, with large iron spikes, which hatch opened into a dark passage, whence there were a few steps into the condemned hold. The prisoners being permitted to come down to the hatch to speak with their friends, Sheppard, having been supplied with instruments, took an opportunity of cutting one of the spikes in such a manner that it might be easily broken off. On the evening of the above-mentioned 30th of August, two women of Sheppard's acquaintance going to visit him, he broke off the spike and, thrusting his head and shoulders through the space, the women pulled him down, and he effected his escape, notwithstanding some of the keepers were at that time drinking at the other end of the lodge. On the day after his escape he went to a public-house in Spitalfields, whence he sent for an old acquaintance, one Page, a butcher in Clare Market, and advised with him how to render his escape effectual for his future preservation. After deliberating on the matter they agreed to go to Warnden, in Northamptonshire, where Page had some relations; and they had no sooner resolved than they made the journey: but Page's relations treating him with indifference, they returned to London, after being absent only about a week.

 On the night after their return, as they were walking up Fleet Street together, they saw a watchmaker's shop open, and only a boy attending. Having passed the shop, they turned back, and Sheppard, driving his hand through the window, stole three watches, with which they made their escape.

 Some of Sheppard's old acquaintances informing him that strict search was being made for him, he and Page retired to Finchley, in the hope of lying there concealed till the diligence of the jail-keepers should relax; but the keepers of Newgate, having intelligence of their retreat, took Sheppard into custody and conveyed him to his old lodgings. Such steps were now taken as were thought would be effectual to prevent his future escape. He was put into a strong-room called the "Castle", handcuffed, loaded with a heavy pair of irons, and chained to a staple fixed in the floor. Nonetheless, he contrived to escape from this durance. We here give his own account of the matter: —-

 "As my last escape from Newgate, out of the strong room called the Castle, had made a greater noise in the world than any other action of my life, I shall relate every minute circumstance thereof, as far as I am able to remember.

 "After I had been made a public spectacle of for many days together, with my legs chained together, loaded with heavy irons and stapled down to the floor, I thought it was not altogether impracticable to escape if I could but be furnished with proper implements; but, as every person that came near me was carefully watched, there was no possibility of any such assistance, till one day in the absence of my jailers, looking about the floor, I spied a small nail within reach, and with that, after a little practice, I found the great horse padlock that went from the chain to the staple in the floor might be unlocked, which I did afterward at pleasure; and was frequently about the room and several times slept on the barracks when the keepers imagined I had not been out of my chair. But being unable to pass up the chimney and void of tools, I remained where I was, till being detected in these practices by the keepers, who surprised me one day before I could fix myself to the staple in the manner as they had left me, I showed Mr Pitt, Mr Rouse and Mr Parry my art and before their faces unlocked the padlock with the nail; and, though people have made such an outcry about it, there is scarce a smith in London but what may easily do the same thing. However, this called for a further security of me. Till now, I had remained without handcuffs, but a jolly pair was provided for me.

 "Mr Kneebone was present when they were put on. I with tears begged his intercession to the keepers to preserve me from those dreadful manacles, telling him my heart was broken and that I should be much more miserable than before. Mr Kneebone could not refrain from shedding tears himself and did use his good offices with the keepers to keep me from them, but all to no purpose. On they went, though at the time I despised them and well knew that with my teeth only I could take them off at pleasure. But this was to lull them into a firm belief that they had effectually frustrated all attempts to escape for the future. The turnkey and Mr Kneebone had not been gone down stairs an hour when I made an experiment and got off my handcuffs, and before they visited me again I put them on and industriously rubbed and fretted the skin on my wrists, making them very bloody, as thinking (if such a thing was possible to be done) to move the turnkeys to compassion, but rather to confirm them in their opinion; but, though this had no effect upon them, it wrought much upon the spectators and drew from them not only much pity but quantities of silver and copper. I wanted a still more useful metal, a crow, a chisel, a file and a saw or two, these weapons being more useful to me than all the mines of Mexico; but there was no expecting any such utensils in my circumstances.

 "Wednesday the 14th of October the sessions beginning, I found there was not a moment to be lost; and the affair of Jonathan Wild's throat, together with the business at the Old Bailey, having sufficiently engaged the attention of the keepers, I thought then was the time to push. Thursday the 15th at about two in the afternoon, Austin, my old attendant, came to bring my necessaries and brought up four persons, namely, the keeper of Clerkenwell Bridewell, the clerk of Westminster gatehouse and two others. Austin, as it was his usual custom, examined the irons and hand cuffs and found all safe and firm, and then left me; and he may remember that I asked him to come again to me the same evening, but I neither expected or desired his company; and happy was it for the poor man that he did not interfere while I had the large iron bar in my hand, though I once had a design to have barricaded him or any others from coming into the room while I was at work, but then considering that such a project would be useless, I let fall that resolution.

 "As near as I can remember, just before three in the afternoon I went to work, taking off first my handcuffs; next with main strength I twisted a small iron link of the chain between my legs asunder, and the broken pieces proved extreme useful to me in my design. The fetlocks I drew up to the calves of my legs, taking off before that my stockings, and with my garters made them firm to my body to prevent them shackling. I then proceeded to make a hole in the chimney of the Castle about three foot wide and six foot high from the floor, and with the help of the broken links aforesaid wrenched an iron bar out of the chimney, of about two feet and an half in length and an inch square: a most notable implement. I immediately entered the Red Room directly over the Castle, where some of the Preston rebels had been kept a long time agone; and as the keepers say, the door had not been unlocked for seven years; but I intended not to be seven years in opening it. I went to work upon the nut of the lock and with little difficulty got it off and made the door fly before me. In this room I found a large nail which proved of great use in my farther progress. The door of the entry between the Red Room and the chapel proved an hard task, it being a laborious piece of work; for here I was forced to break away the wall and dislodge the bolt which was fastened on the other side. This occasioned much noise, and I was very fearful of being heard by the Master Side debtors. Being got to the chapel, I climbed over the iron spikes and with ease broke one of them off for my further purposes, and opened the door on the inside. The door going out of the chapel to the leads, I stripped the nut from off the lock, as I had done before from that of the Red Room, and then got into the entry between the chapel and the leads and came to another strong door, which being fastened by a very strong lock, there I had like to have stopped, and it being full dark, my spirits began to fail me, as greatly doubting of succeeding; but cheering up, I wrought on with great diligence, and in less than half an hour, with the main help of the nail from the Red Room and the spike from the chapel, wrenched the box off and so made the door my humble servant.

 "A little further in my passage, another stout door stood in my way, and this was guarded with more bolts, bars and locks than any I had hitherto met with. I had by this time great encouragement, as hoping soon to be rewarded for all this toil and labour. The clock at St Sepulchre's was now going the eighth hour, and this proved a very useful hint to me soon after. I went first upon the box and the nut, but found it labour in vain; and then proceeded to attack the fillet of the door. This succeeded beyond expectation, for the box of the lock came off with it from the main post. I found my work was near finished and that my fate soon would be determined.

 "I was got to a door opening in the lower leads, which being only bolted on the inside, I opened it with ease and then clambered from the top of it to the higher leads and went over the wall. I saw the streets were lighted, the shops being still open, and therefore began to consider what was necessary to be further done, as knowing that the smallest accident would still spoil the whole workmanship, and was doubtful on which of the houses I should alight. I found I must go back for the blanket which had been my covering anights in the Castle, which I accordingly did, and endeavoured to fasten my stockings and that together, to lessen my descent, but wanted necessaries so to do and was therefore forced to make use of the blanket alone. I fixed the same with the chapel spike into the wall of Newgate and dropped from it on the turner's leads, a house adjoining to the prison.

 "'Twas then about nine of the clock and the shops not yet shut in. It fortunately happened that the garret door on the leads was open. I stole softly down about two pair of stairs and then heard company talking in a room, the door open. My irons gave a small clink, which made a woman cry, 'Lord, what noise is that?' A man replied, 'Perhaps the dog or cat.' And so it went off. I returned up to the garret and laid myself down, being terribly fatigued, and continued there for about two hours and then crept down once more to the room where the company were and heard a gentleman taking his leave, being very importunate to be gone, saying he had disappointed friends by not going home sooner. In about three quarters more, the gentleman took leave and went, being lighted down stairs by the maid, who, when she returned, shut the chamber door. I resolved at all hazards to follow, and slipped downstairs, but made a stumble against a chamber door. I was instantly in the entry and out at the street door, which I was so unmannerly as not to shut after me. I was once more, contrary to my own expectation and that of all mankind, a free man.

 "I passed directly by St Sepulchre's watch-house, bidding them good morrow, it being after twelve, and down Snow Hill, up Holborn, leaving St Andrew's watch on my left, and then again passed the watch-house at Holborn Bar and made down Gray's Inn Lane into the Fields, and at two in the morning came to Tottenham Court and there got into an old house in the fields where cows had sometime been kept, and laid me down to rest and slept well for three hours. My legs were swelled and bruised intolerably, which gave me great uneasiness; and, having my fetters still on, I dreaded the approach of the day, fearing then I should be discovered. I began to examine my pockets and found myself master of between forty and fifty shillings. I had no friend in the world that I could send to or trust with my condition. About seven on Friday morning, it began raining and continued so the whole day, insomuch that not one creature was to be seen in the fields. I would freely have parted with my right hand for a hammer, a chisel and a punch. I kept snug in my retreat till the evening, when after dark I ventured into Tottenham and got to a little blind chandler's shop and there furnished myself with cheese and bread, small beer and other necessaries, hiding my irons with a great coat as much as possible. I asked the woman for a hammer, but there was none to be had, so I went back very quietly to my dormitory and rested pretty well that night and continued there all Saturday. At night, I went again to the chandler's shop and got provisions and slept till about six the next day, which being Sunday, I began with a stone to batter the basils of the fetters in order to beat them into a large oval and then to slip my heels through.

 "In the afternoon, the master of the shed or house came in and, seeing my irons, asked me, 'For God's sake, who are you?' I told him 'an unfortunate young man who had been sent to Bridewell about a bastard child, as not being able to give security to the parish, and had made my escape'. The man replied, if that was the case it was a small fault indeed, for he had been guilty of the same things himself formerly; and withal said, however, he did not like my looks, and cared not how soon I was gone.

 "After he was gone, observing a poor-looking man like a joiner, I made up to him and repeated the same story, assuring him that twenty shillings should be at his service if he could furnish me with a smith's hammer and a punch. The man proved a shoemaker by trade, but willing to obtain the reward immediately borrowed the tools of a blacksmith his neighbour and likewise gave me great assistance, and before five that evening I bad entirely got rid of those troublesome companions my fetters, which I gave to the fellow, besides his twenty shillings, if he thought fit to make use of them.

 "That night, I came to a cellar at Charing Cross and refreshed very comfortably with roast veal, etc., where about a dozen people were all discoursing about Sheppard, and nothing else was talked on whilst I stayed amongst them. I had tied an handkerchief about my head, tore my woollen cap in many places, as likewise my coat and stockings, and looked exactly like what I designed to represent, a beggar fellow.

 "The next day, I took shelter at an alehouse of little or no trade in Rupert Street, near Piccadilly. The woman and I discoursed much about Sheppard. I assured her it was impossible for him to escape out of the kingdom, and that the keepers would have him again in a few days. The woman wished that a curse might fall on those who should betray him. I continued there till the evening, when I stepped towards the Haymarket and mixed with a crowd about two ballad-singers, the subject being about Sheppard. And I remember the company was very merry about the matter.

 "On Tuesday, I hired a garret for my lodging at a poor house in Newport Market, and sent for a sober young woman who for a long time had been the real mistress of my affections, who came to me and rendered all the assistance she was capable of afford ing. I made her the messenger to my mother, who lodged in Clare Street. She likewise visited me in a day or two after, begging on her bended knees of me to make the best of my way out of the kingdom, which I faithfully promised; but I cannot say it was in my intentions heartily to do so.

 "I was oftentimes in Spitalfields, Drury Lane, Lewkenor's Lane, Parker's Lane, St Thomas Street, etc., those having been the chief scenes of my rambles and pleasures.

 "I had once formed a design to have opened a shop or two in Monmouth Street for some necessaries, but let that drop and came to a resolution of breaking the house of the two Mr Rawlins brothers, pawnbrokers in Drury Lane, which accordingly I put in execution and succeeded, they both hearing me rifling their goods as they lay in bed together in the next room. And though there were none others to assist me, I pretended there was, by loudly giving out directions for shooting the first person through the head that presumed to stir: which effectually quieted them while I carried off my booty —- with part whereof on the fatal Saturday following, being the 31st of October, I made an extraordinary appearance and from a carpenter and butcher was now transformed into a perfect gentleman; and in company with my sweetheart aforesaid and another young woman her acquaintance went into the City and were very merry together at a public house not far from the place of my old confinement. At four that same afternoon, we all passed under Newgate in a hackney coach, the windows drawn up, and in the evening I sent for my mother to the Shears alehouse in Maypole Alley near Claremarket, and with her drank three quarterns of brandy; and after leaving her I drank in one place or other about the neighbourhood all evening, till the evil hour of twelve, having been seen and known by many of my acquaintance, all of them cautioning me and wondering at my presumption to appear in that manner. At length, my senses were quite overcome with the quantities and variety of liquors I had all the day been drinking of, which paved the way for my fate to meet me. When apprehended, I do protest, I was altogether incapable of resisting and scarce knew what they were doing to me, and had but two second-hand pistols scarce worth carrying about me."

 His fame was now so much increased by his exploits that he was visited by great numbers of people, and some of them of the highest quality. He endeavoured to divert them by a recital of the particulars of many robberies in which he had been concerned; and when any nobleman came to see him he never failed to beg that they would intercede with the King for a pardon, to which he thought that his singular dexterity gave him some pretensions. Having been already convicted, he was carried to the bar of the Court of King's Bench on the 10th of November, and the record of the conviction being read, and an affidavit being made that he was the same John Sheppard mentioned in the record, sentence of death was passed upon him by Mr Justice Powis, and a rule of court was made for his execution on the Monday following.

 He regularly attended the prayers in the chapel; but, though he behaved with decency there, he affected mirth before he went thither, and endeavoured to prevent any degree of seriousness among the other prisoners on their return.

 Even when the day of execution arrived Sheppard did not appear to have given over all expectations of eluding justice; for having been furnished with a penknife he put it in his pocket, with the view, when the melancholy procession came opposite Little Turnstile, of cutting the cord that bound his arms, and throwing himself out of the cart among the crowd, to run through the narrow passage where the sheriff's officers could not follow on horseback; and he had no doubt but that he should make his escape, with the assistance of the mob.

 It is not impossible that this scheme might have succeeded; but before Sheppard left the press-yard one Watson, an officer, searching his pockets, found the knife, and was cut with it so as to occasion a great effusion of blood.

 Sheppard had yet a further view to his preservation, even after execution; for he desired his acquaintances to put him into a warm bed as soon as he should be cut down, and try to open a vein, which he had been told would restore him to life.

 He behaved with great decency at the place of execution, and confessed having committed two robberies for which he had been tried and acquitted. He suffered in the twenty-third year of his age. He died with difficulty, and was much pitied by the surrounding multitude. When he was cut down his body was delivered to his friends, who carried him to a public-house in Long Acre, whence he was removed in the evening and buried in the churchyard of St Martin's-in-the-Fields.

 The Sunday following the parishioners heard the following sermon on the occasion of Sheppard's escape: —-

 "Now, my beloved, what a melancholy consideration it is, that men should shew so much regard for the preservation of a poor perishing body, that can remain at most but for a few years; and at the same time be so unaccountably negligent of a precious soul, which must continue to the age of eternity! Oh, what care! what pains! what diligence! and what contrivances are made use of for, and laid out upon, these frail and tottering tabernacles of clay: when, alas! the nobler part of us is allowed so very small a share of our concern that we scarce will give ourselves the trouble of bestowing a thought upon it.

 "We have a remarkable instance of this in a notorious malefactor, well known by the name of Jack Sheppard! What amazing difficulties has he overcome, what astonishing things has he performed, for the sake of a stinking, miserable carcass, hardly worth hanging? how dexterously did he pick the padlock of his chain with a crooked nail? How manfully did he burst his fetters asunder, climb up the chimney, wrench out an iron bar, break his way through a stone wall and make the strong doors of a dark entry fly before him, till he got upon the leads of the prison? and then, fixing a blanket to the wall with a spike he stole out of the chapel, how intrepidly did he descend to the top of the turner's house, and how cautiously pass down the stairs and make his escape at the street door?

 "Oh, that ye were all like Jack Sheppard! —- Mistake me not, my brethren, I don't mean in a carnal but in a spiritual sense, for I mean to spiritualize these things. —- What a shame it would be if we should not think it worth our while to take as much pains and employ as many deep thoughts to save our souls, as he has done to preserve his body.

 "Let me exhort ye, then, to open the locks of your hearts with the nail of repentance; burst asunder the fetters of your beloved lusts; mount the chimney of hope, take from hence the bar of good resolution, break through the stone wall of despair and all the strong holds in the dark entry of the valley of the shadow of death; raise yourself to the leads of divine meditation; fix the blanket of faith with the spike of the church; let yourselves down to the turner's house of resignation and descend the stairs of humility. So shall you come to the door of deliverance from the prison of iniquity and escape the clutches of that old executioner and devil, who goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

Previous Next