John James

28. James, John. Rev. John James was one of the first if not the first, pastor of the Seventh-day Baptist Church worshipping in Bull Stake Alley, Whitechapel Road, London, (since known as the Mill Yard Church). He was born of poor parents, and became a ribbon weaver, afterwards a small coal man; but finding this business too much for his health, he returned to ribbon weaving. Sabbath-day, October 19, 1661, while preaching to his people at their meeting place, he was twice rudely interrupted by officers of the law and commanded to come down. He was then dragged out of his pulpit. The charge of uttering treasonable words against the king was made by a journeyman tobacco-pipe maker, named Tipler; but so disreputable a person was Tipler that the justice refused to commit Mr. James on his testimony unless it was corroborated; this was done, and the good pastor was sent to Newgate prison. On the I4th of November he was brought before Chief Justice Forster, and three other judges, at Westminster Hall, where he was charged with "endeavouring to levy war against the king, with seeking a change in government, with saying that the king was a bloody tyrant, a blood sucker and a bloodthirsty man, and that his nobles were the same; and that the king and his nobles had shed the blood of the saints at Charing Cross, and in Scotland." But there was no show of evidence to substantiate any of the charges. Mr. James was remanded to Newgate for four days, when his trial came off. Previous to this he received a letter from a friend of distinction, informing him that for many years there had not been such efforts to pack a jury, and that his only hope of safety lay in challenging them, or "most of the chief men of them."

When Mr. James was brought into court, the chief justice exclaimed, "Oh, Oh, are you come?" and this was a specimen of the way in which his trial was conducted. He was condemned in accordance with the plot of those who planned his murder, and was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn, near Hyde Park, and while still alive to have his entrails drawn and his heart taken out and burned; his head to be taken off and placed first on London Bridge, and afterward set up on a pole in Whitechapel Road opposite to the meeting place in Bull Stake Alley; his body to be cut in quarters and placed on four of the seven gates of the city. The next day after sentence was pronounced against him, his wife presented a petition to King Charles 11, proving his innocence and appealing for mercy; but the only reply of his majesty was, "Oh! Mr. James, he is sweet gentleman!" and the door was shut against her. The next morning she made another appeal to the king, and his cruel response was, "He is a rogue, and shall be hanged." When asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not pronounced against him, he said:- "As for me, behold, I am in your hands: do with me as it seemeth good and meet unto you. But know ye for certain that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of this saints. He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye." And when Mr James heard his sentence, he immediately added, "Blessed be God: whom man hath condemned, God hath justified." The sentence was executed November 26, 1661. He was bound to a sled and drawn through the slush of the streets to Tyburn where he spoke with such power and prayed with such fervor that the hangman would not execute the full sentence, but permitted life to be fully extinct before he was drawn and quartered. On the same sled which brought him to the place of execution, his quarters were taken back to Newgate and then upon Aldgate, Bishopgate, Moorgate, and Aldergate - the four gates nearest to the meeting-place in Bull Stake Alley, in front of which his head was exposed upon a pole. Elder James gained great sympathy and respect for his devotion and submission to God. At the place of execution his remarks were gentle and loving, and his soul brave and full of hope. He was an inoffensive and benevolent man, free from any blemish in his character, and guiltless of every charge in the indictment. He was savagely murdered by Charles 11, his courtiers and his tools (the judges) to terrify the Dissenters, and especially the Baptists, into loyalty. And undoubtedly the vengeance of God, invoked by the innocent blood of John James hadsomething to do with driving the Stuarts from the throne of England.

Reprinted from "Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America" Vol 1 (pp. 78-79) Published by the American Sabbath Tract Society, Plainfield, New Jersey 1910.

Cover page of a Narrative of the Execution of John James - Published 1662