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Saint David Lewis

The Last Words of Father David Lewis S.J.
Executed at Usk on Wednesday 27th August 1679

“Here is a numerous assembley I see: the great Saviour of the world save every soul of you all. I believe you are here met not only to see a fellow-native die but also with expectation to hear a dying fellow-native speak. If you expected it not at least I intended it; I hope the favour will not be denied me, it being a favour so freely granted to several late dying persons in London itself. I shall endeavour to speak inoffensively, I hope the same favour will not be denied me.”

“Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief; but if as Christian, let him not be ashamed.” Saint Peter’s words 1 Peter 4: 15-16. I hope by God’s Holy Spirit now whispered to my memory; and that to my abundant consolation, for I suffer not as a murderer, thief, or such-like malefactor, but as a Christian, and therefore am not ashamed.”

“I distinguish two sorts of life on earth; life-moral and life-natural, life-moral is that by which we live with good repute in the esteem of other men of integrity, life-natural is that by which we breath: in the first sort or kind, I thank God I have suffered lately, and exceedingly, when maliciously, falsely and most injuriously I was branded for a public cheat; in pamphlet; in ballad, on stage, and that in the head city of the Kingdom, yea, and over the whole nation, to the huge and great detriment of my good name, which I always was as tender of, as the other I am now quitting.” “The pamphletical story; believe my dying words, had no truth in it, neither to substance nor circumstance of the thing, a story so false that I could have easily defied the face that had attempted to justify it to my face, so sordid a business, a story so ridiculous, that I wonder how any sober Christian, at least who knew me, could as much as incline to believe so open an improbability; who that Protestant young man there mentioned was, I know not, who that Popish young woman, who the father dead a year and a half before, in what country, what parish, were all transacted, I know not, none of all these there particularized, and when in the face of the country at last Lent-Assizes, I vindicated my innocency herein, to the satisfaction of the Judge himself, why appeared not there then some one to make good the charge, and disable my defence? But none of this offered a plain demonstration to all candid minds, the whole was a mere fiction of some malicious person against me.” “God forgive them or him, I heartily do. How forward my endeavours always have been to my power to relieve the poor; and not directly to defraud them, impartial neighbours that know me can tell you. Besides this, during my nine months imprisonment, several foul and false aspersions were cast out against me, and that by those unto whom, for full thirty years, I had been charitably serviceable.” “God forgive them; I heartily do. Yet notwithstanding all these calumniations; I hope, I still retain the character of an honest man amongst gentlemen of worth, with whom I conversed, and with all neighbours of honesty, with and amongst whom I lived.”

“And now I am parting with the other life by which I breathe, behold that within these few moments of time is to unbreathe me; but why thus sledged to this country Tyburn? Why this so untimely death of mine? Have patience; and I’ll tell you, not for any plotting, I assure you, and what I shall now say, as to that, God is my witness, I shall speak without any equivocation, mental reservation, or palliation of truth whatsoever.”

“By all that is sacred in heaven and earth; I here solemnly protest, that I am as innocent from any plot whatever against his majesty’s person or government, as the infant that left the mother’s womb but yesterday, neither did I ever hear or know any thing directly or indirectly of any such plot, till public fame had spread it over the country between Michaelmass and All-Saints Day last. This is true; as God shall judge and save my soul, neither was there any guilt of any such black crime found in me by Mr Oates, Mr Bedlow, Mr Dugdale and Mr Praunce, when by them I was strictly examined on that point, last May in Newgate, London. Nay; had I had the least knowledge or hint of such Plot, I had been as zealously nimble in the discovery of it, as any the most loyal subject his majesty hath in his three kingdoms. Wherefore; when I am dead and gone, if some malevolent gives out, I lose my life for plotting, by charity strive to disengage him of his mistake; do that right to my dead ashes.”

“I was never taught that doctrine of King-Killing; from my soul I detest and abhor it as execrable and directly opposite to the principles of the religion I profess, what that is, you shall know by and by, it being the positive definition of the Council of Constance. That it is damnable for any subject or private person; or any subjects in council joined, to murder his or their lawful king or prince, or use any public or clandestine conspiration against him, though the said king or prince were a Turk, apostate, persecutor, yea or a tyrant in government. Never tell me of Clement the murderer of Henry the 3rd of France; never tell me of Ravilliac, murderer of Henry the 4th of France, they did so, but wickedly they did so, and for it they were punished to severity, as malefactors, and for.” “I hope you will not charge the whole Roman Catholic body with the villainies of some few desperadoes. By that rule; all Christianity must be answerable for the treason of Judas; for my part I always loved my king, I always honoured his person, and I daily prayed for his prosperity, and now with all unfeigned cordiality, I say it, God bless my gracious king and lawful prince, Charles 2, King of England and Prince of Wales. God bless him temporally and eternally, God preserve him from all his enemies, God direct him in all his councils, that may tend to the greater glory of the same great God, and whatever late plot hath been or is, the Father of lights bring it to light; the contrivers of it, and the actors in it, that such may be brought to their condign punishment, and innocence preserved.”

“But why again this untimely death? My religion is the Roman Catholic religion; in it I have lived above this forty years, in it I now die, and so fixedly die, that if all the good things in this world were offered me to renounce it, all should not move me one hair’s breadth from my Roman Catholic faith. A Roman Catholic I am, a Roman Catholic priest I am, a Roman Catholic priest of that religious order called the Society of Jesus I am, and I bless God who first called me, and I bless the hour in which I was first called both unto faith and function.”

“Please now to observe; I was condemned for reading Mass, hearing confessions, administering the sacraments, anointing the sick, christening, marrying, preaching. As for reading the Mass, it was the old, and still is the accustomed and laudable liturgy of the Holy Church, and all the other acts, which are acts of religion, tending to the worship of God, and for this dying, I die for religion. Moreover, know that last May I was in London under examination concerning the Plot, a prime examinant told me that to save my life and increase my fortunes, I must make some discovery of the Plot or conform; discover Plot I could not, for I knew of none, conform I would not, because it was against my conscience. Then by consequence I must die, and so now dying, I die for conscience and religion, and dying upon such good scores, as far as human frailty permits, I die with alacrity, interior and exterior from the abundance of the heart, let not only mouths, but faces also speak.”

“Here; methinks, I feel flesh and blood ready to burst into loud cries. ‘Tooth for tooth, eye for eye, blood for blood, life for life.’ ‘No.’ crieth Holy Gospel, ‘Forgive and you shall be forgiven, pray for those that persecute you, love your enemies.’ “And I profess myself a child of the Gospel, and the Gospel I obey.”

“Whomever present or absent; I have ever offended, I humbly desire them to forgive me, as for my enemies, had I as many hearts as I have fingers, with all those hearts would I forgive my enemies.” “ At leastwise, with all that single heart I have, I freely forgive them all, my neighbours that betrayed me, the persons that took me, the justices that committed me, the witnesses that proved against me, the jury that found me, the judge that condemned me, and others whoever, that out of malice or zeal, covertly or openly have been contributive to my condemnation.” But singulary and especially, I forgive my capital persecutor who hath been so long thirsting after my blood, from my soul I forgive him, and wish his soul so well, that were it in my power, I would seat him a seraphim in heaven, and I pray for him in the language of glorious St. Stephen the protomartyr, ‘Lord, lay not this sin unto them,’ or better yet, in the style of our great master, Christ himself, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.’

“And with reason I love them also; for though they have done themselves a vast soul-prejudice, yet they have done me an incomparable favour which I shall eternally acknowledge.” “But chiefly I love them for his sake; who said, ‘Love your enemies,’ and in testimony of my love I wish them, and it is the best of wishes from the center of my soul, I wish them a good eternity.” “O eternity; eternity!” How momentanean are the glorious riches, and pleasures of this world! And how desirable art thou, endless eternity!”
“And for my said enemies attaining thereunto, I humbly beseech God to give them the grace of true repentance, before they and this world part.”

“Next to my enemies; give me leave to lift up my eyes, hands and heart to heaven, and drop some few words of advice unto, and for my friends as well those present as absent. Friends; fear God, honour your king, be firm in your faith, avoid mortal sin; by frequenting the sacraments of holy church, patiently bear your persecutions and afflictions, forgive your enemies: your sufferings are great, I say be firm in your faith to the end, yea, even to death, then shall ye heap unto yourselves celestial treasures in the heavenly Jerusalem, where ‘no thief robbeth, no moth eateth, and no rust consumeth’, and have that blessed saying of the blessed St. Peter, prince of the apostles, always in your memory, which I heartily recommend unto you, viz.”

‘Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief; but if as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but glorify God in his name.’

“Now it is high time I make my addresses to heaven and supplicate the divine goodness on my own behalf, by some few short and cordial ejaculations of prayer.”

Then he prayed aloud:

“Sovereign Lord God, Eternal Father of Heaven, Creator of all, Conserver of all, sole Author of Grace and Glory, with prostrate heart I adore Thee, and Thee only I adore as God; the Giving of Divine Honour to any Creature of highest degree, I abhor and detest as damnable Idolatry.”

“Incarnate Son of God, True God, Thou hast purchased a Church here upon Earth with Thy Sacred Blood and planted it with Thy Sacred Labours, a Church, One, Holy, Catholick, and Apostolick, a Church to continue to the consummation of the world. Whatever that Church of thine hath by revelation from thee, whatever that Church of thine hath taught me, and commanded me to believe, I believe it to an iota.”

“God, Holy Ghost, who maketh Thy Sun to shine upon good and bad, thy rain to fall on just and unjust, I praise thy Holy Name and thank thee for the innumerable benefits thou hast been pleased to bestow and confer upon me, thy unworthy servant, the three-score and three years I now have lived on earth. The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Charity of God, and the Communication of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen.” (2 Cor. 13 Chap. 14 Verse)

“The Peace of God that passeth all understanding, keep your Hearts and Minds in the knowledge and Love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ Our Lord; and the Blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, be among you, and remain with you all, and always, Amen.”

“Holy Trinity, three Persons and One God, from the bottom of my Heart, I am sorry that ever I offended Thee, my good God, even to an idle word; yet through the Mercy of thee, my God, and Merits of my Redeemer, I strongly hope for an Eternal Salvation.”

“Sweet Jesus, receive my soul.”



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