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LAST CONFESSION, PRAYERS, AND MEDITATIONS
LIEUTENANT JOHN STERN,
Delivered by him on the Cart immediately before hit Execution) To Dr. Burnet:
Together with the last Confession of George Borosky, signed by him in the prison, and sealed up in the lieutenant's pacquet. With which an account is given of their deportment both in the prison and at the place of their execution, which was in the Pali-Mall, on the tenth of March, in the same place in which they had murdered Thomas Thynn, Esq. the twelfth of February before, 1681-2. Written by Gilbert Burnet, D. D. and Anthony Horneck, D. D. London: printed for Richard Chiswell, at the Rose and Crown, in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1682. Folio, containing twenty-eight pages.
An account of the deportment of Captain Vratz, Lieutenant Stern, and George Borosky, the murderers of Thomas Thynn, Esq. both in the prison, and at their execution.
FOUR days after the barbarous murder of Mr. Thynn, which filled all people's minds with a just horror at so vile and inhuman a fact, I was desired to go and visit the prisoners. I carried Dr. Horneck with me, because I heard that Borosky the Polonian spoke no other language, but Polish and High Dutch. We waited on the captain, but he was unwilling to enter into much discourse with us; and adhered to what he had confessed before the council, that he only intended to fight with Mr. Thynn, and that the Polonian had mistook his orders, when he shot him. The Lieutenant said at first nothing, but that he was in the company of those that committed the fact, without intention to murder any; and if, for that, he should be condemned to die, then said he, Fiat voluntas tua, thy will be done. The Polonian was free and ingenuous in his confession, and expressed great sorrow for what he had done. But, within a few days, I went again, and found the lieutenant wonderfully touched: he told me, that the morning after he was first taken, he awakened full of horror for what he had done, and the first thing that came in his mind was the ninth verse of Psal. xxxii. 'Be ye not as the horse and the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridie.' This, he applied to the irons in which he was, and then began to reflect what a beast he had been, and that it was fit he should
be shut up in a prison, and fettered as he then was; upon that he looked back with horror, on what he had done, and began to cry earnestly to God, for mercy.
He continued some days in doubt whether he ought to confess or not, and was in that anxiety, when I saw him first, which made him say nothing at that time; but he said afterwards, he found such inward compunction in his mind, that he wished to die; he grew weary of life, and hated himself so much, that he was glad to do every thing that was lawful, which might be a means to bring him to be a publick example, and to suffer in this world for his sin. Upon that, he made his confession to the justices of peace, and found himself much at ease, when that was done. He turned him. self after that wholly to God, and found that, then, he was in. tirely out of the snares of satan, and the hold which the devil had of him. All the rest of the time of his imprisonment, except a few hours of sleep towards the mornings, he spent in reading the bible, and some other good books, particularly Dilheren's Way to Happiness, in High Dutch, which he valued highly; and Thomas a Kempis's book of the Imitation of Christ, and some other books of devotion. He thought it was also fit for him to leave, in writing, a warning behind him toothers, to learn by his example; he was not bred to letters, and so, he said, he knew what he should write, would appear simple to those that delighted in learning, or polite language; but he said, he would write from his heart, and prayed God, it might have a good effect upon others. He had travelled up and down Europe, three and twenty years, being then in the forty-second year of his age, and he had observed many things, though he had no literature; so, he said, he would leave an exhortation to all sorts of people, with whom he had conversed, and touch those sins which he himself had known many of them guilty of; and he said, that, if his writing should become publick in Germany, or in other places where he had been, he was confident that many might read it, who would know, for what reason he had writ many passages in it, and might, perhaps, be moved to reflect on those sins, of which they knew themselves guilty, and would understand his meaning, better than any others could. When he had writ it, he gave it to me four days before his execution; he had dashed and changed it in many passages, which he said he writ at first, when there was yet too much of the spirit of the world in him, but he had reviewed it, and had cor. rected it in the best manner he could. He said, he had never writ so much in his whole life, and so he did not doubt, but there would appear great weakness in some parts of it, but he had writ it in the simplicity of his heart. To this he added a short account of his life, and a confession of the crime, for which he was to suffer.
He often wished that, from him, all that stood might take heed lest they fell; for once he thought himself as little capable of committing such a crime, which should bring him to such an end, as any man was. He was the son, by the left-hand, of a Baron of Sweden, who was made a Count, before he died; but he did not carry his name, because he was not legitimate, and he would not hate hit father's name to be published, because he was now such a reproach to it. He applied himself to the war, but in all these twenty-three years, in which he had been travelling up and down the world, he had led a much more innocent life, than might be guessed, from such a conclusion of it. He had early a sense of the fear of God, before he came abroad into the world, which never left him quite, till a few days before this fact; but was al. ways such a curb on him, that he never fell into those sins, that are too common among those that follow the war. He was so little guilty of plunder and oppression, in his quarters, that he said, he was sure, less than twenty crowns would pay all, that had been ever taken by him. He was never guilty of any act, either of cruelty or treachery, of rapes or blasphemies, was never false at play, had not the custom of swearing, nor did he fail daily to pray to God. He had always a compassionate nature. He was not a little lifted up with the courage that he had shewed on many occasions, and had been very sensible of all those things which are called paints e>f honour. He was, for many years, a papist, when he served in Flanders; but he said, he was never perfectly satisfied in his own mind, with that religion, and detested the idolatry that he saw in it. But he was much corrupted with that principle, which is too common in the world, that, if a man was honest and good, he might be saved in any religion; and that it was fit to be of the religion of the country where one lived: Yet, he said, he could never look on popery, but as a contrivance of priests, for governing the world. About a year ago, he changed his religion, and returned to be of the Augsbourg confession. Last summer he came to England, being then out of employment, and intended to have got into the guards; he grew acquainted with (or found) Captain Vratz here, for I do not remember well, whether he knew him first here, or not.
For the particulars of his confession, I refer the reader to his own paper; only one passage, which he has not mentioned, will shew clearly the temper of his mind, when he writ it: he told me, that after the captain and he had talked of sundry poniards, for giving Mr. Thynn the fatal stroke, the captain spoke to him one day of a musquetoon, and told him they were now resolved to do it by that: he answered, that he thought that was by no means a proper instrument for it, since it would be seen in a man's hand, before it could be discharged, and so they might be catched, before the business should be done; therefore he thought a pistol was much better: but the captain answered, that the count's council were of another mind; and when the lieutenant asked, who they were, he named three outlandish men. But, three or four days after that, he told me, that, though that passage was very true, yet he did not know, but the captain might only name those persons to amuse him, and he did not believe it was true of one of the three; and, if it was not true of him, then there was reason to doubt, if what he said of the other two was true; and therefore, since it might have been said only to deceive him, and since his naming them would1 cast a slur upon them, he thought he ought to be so tender of their reputation, as not to publish their names. This will shew both the strictness of his conscience, and the soundness of his judgment; and that he would not say a thing, though it was true, in so far as he said it, unless he had believed it was true in itself. He told me, that for some weeks before the fact was done, he fell under a darkness and stupor in his mind, which he could com. pare to nothing, but the sense a man has when he is half asleep: he continued to say his prayers, but it was only as a child repeats a lesson by rote, for he had no sense of God all that while, and he la. mented much, that he had not read any thing in that book of Dilheren's, written much like our Practice of Piety, which he had carried about with him two or three years.
He was so little able to judge of things aright, that he thought he would be free of the crime, if he did it not with his own hand; and, because he abhorred the acting it himself, he fancied he would not be guilty, if he only went in the company of those that were to do it. When the fatal day came, in which it was done, he said, though he was not drunk, yet he was like one drunk, for he was almost stupid; it was on a Lord's day, which he had much and often prophaned, and on that day,in particular, he had not worshipped God neither in publick or private. The captain desired him to go with him, and fight with Mr. Thynn (I think it was near six o'clock at night, but am not sure as to the hour.) He confessed, he believed it was designed to act what followed, for he saw the musquetoon in the hand of the Polander, and he remembered well the use for which it was bought; but he still resolved, that he would do nothing, but fight, if there should be occasion for it. He had delighted much in horses, and had a great opinion, that there was some sagacity in them; so the dulness of his horse in following Mr. Thynn's chariot, all along Pali-Mall, made some impressions on him; for, though he used the spur pretty smartly, yet he could not get him to follow close. That, and a disorder in his own mind, made that he was al. most twenty paces behird, when the fire was given, which had that deplorable effect on that unfortunate gentleman. He told me, even that did not awaken him, but his stupor continued so, that some little time past, before he offered to fly away; and then his horse, without the spur, was quick enough. He was not after that affected with it, but spent that night almost as ill as he had done the day • nor was he recovered of that stupidity, till the second day of his imprisonment.
He said he would have writ nothing concerning the fact, if his whole confession had been read at his trial; but, that not being done, he thought it fit for him to leave it behind him to the world, that the whole truth of that matter might appear; but he professed often, that he did it not out of any resentment to any person what, soever; and, though he looked on the captain, as the fatal instrument that had drawn him into this sin, and this misery that followed it, yet he ceased not every day to pray for him. When sentence was pronounced, the captain reproached him, and called him with some scorn a murderer: he said, that it touched him very sensibly to see him, that was the cause of his ruin, insult over him; yet he often asked news of him, whether he was touched with a sense of his sin, or not? And, when he understood that he continued still to deny all, but only an intention to fight with Mr. Thynn, he de. sired, that he might be suffered to go to him, and speak with him; for, he said, though others might speak much better, yet he hoped he might say somewhat that would be more effectual: so, on Wednesday the eighth of March, he was carried to him. I warned him beforehand, that the captain would, perhaps, use him roughly; for he was often upbraiding him, for his ingratitude, and for having accused him falsely; but he answered me, that he went to see if he could be a means to do him any good, and not to dispute a matter of fact with him, which he knew in his conscience was true; and, if he saw there was no appearance of doing any good to him, he would soon leave him. In his way to him, he was to go up some stairs, and pass through the chapel, and then to go down; so he told me he was going up to the house of God, but he should go high. er within two days, to a house not made with hands. Dr. Horneck was then with the captain, and prepared him for his coming. There was no other witness of what passed between them in that short in. terview, but he only. He told me afterwards, that the lieutenant spoke to the captain with great humility; he told him, he heartily forgave him all the injury he had done him by drawing him into this business; he knew he had said nothing but the truth; he exhorted him to repent, that so he might find mercy at God's hands. But the Captain fell in some passion, and said, he lyed, and gave him other reproachful words; upon which he left him. When he came back to his chamber, he told me how sorry he was to see the captain in such a condition; but he said, though at another time he could not have endured such reproaches from the greatest man in the world, yet he felt no resentment in his mind, at what he had said to himself; and added, that, by bearing this in such a manner, he hoped he had got two steps higher in his way to heaven. When I replied, that it was a good sign, that he had learned to be like his Saviour, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, he said: Ah! Such a miserable criminal, as I am, must not be in any thing compared to my blessed redeemer. He desired that the Polonian might be suffered to stay all the day long in his chamber, for he found he had a mind well disposed, but was ignorant: so he took great pains to instruct him. They were together the last night of their life, in which, as the one slept, the other watched and prayed; for the lieutenant said to me, he thought it was not fit that both should be together asleep that night, but that, all night long, either the one, or the other of them should be constantly calling upon God. He expressed not the least desire of living any longer: He never once asked me, if I thought a pardon might be obtained: On the contrary, he said he deserved to die, and desired it as much as he had deserved it: He only wished, that, if it could be obtained, his head might be cut off; but he easily acquiesced, when I told him