Richard Glossip was scheduled to die September 30, but the Governor of Oklahoma issued a stay that very afternoon. She did not indicate any concern about the validity of his conviction. Instead, the issue was that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, failing to follow its own rules, had collected the wrong mix of chemicals for the lethal injection. This is the third time Richard Glossip's life has been spared on the day of his scheduled execution. He has already had three "last meals."
I am re-reading a biography of Charles Wesley, and it described the week he spent ministering to convicted felons at Newgate prison in London. The following excerpts are taken from his journal. I am not sure what this narrative might tell us about the death penalty, but it tells us something important about how we look at condemned criminals.
Wed., July 12th. I preached at Newgate to the condemned felons, and visited one of them in his cell, sick of a fever; a poor black that had robbed his master. I told him of one who came down from heaven to save lost sinners, and him in particular; described the sufferings of the Son of God, his sorrows, agony, and death. He listened with all the signs of eager astonishment; the tears trickled down his cheeks while he cried, "What! was it for me Did God suffer all this for so poor a creature as me" I left him waiting for the salvation of God.
Fri., July 14th. I received the sacrament from the Ordinary; spake strongly to the poor malefactors; and to the sick Negro in the condemned hole, moved by his sorrow and earnest desire of Christ Jesus.
Sat., July 15th. I preached there again with an enlarged heart; and rejoiced with my poor happy Black; who now believes the Son of God loved him, and gave himself for him.
Sun. July 16th. Metcalf and Savage came: the latter received faith on Friday night, in prayer, and is now filled with comfort, peace, and joy. I took coach with Metcalf; preached the threefold state with boldness; gave the sacrament. I went thence to Mrs. Claggett's; sang, rejoiced, and gave thanks, in behalf of both the maids, now added to the church by true divine faith. Mr. Claggett coming in by mistake, we laid hold on and carried him with us to Black-Friars. Very weak and faint, yet was I strengthened to preach for above an hour. I was carried to bed full of pain, expecting my fever; yet believing it could not return, unless it were best.
Mon., July 17th. I rose free from pain. At Newgate I preached on death (which they must suffer the day after to-morrow). Mr. Sparks assisted in giving the sacrament.
Another Clergyman was there. Newington asked me to go in the coach with him. At one I was with the Black in his cell; James Hutton assisting. Two more of the malefactors came. I had great help and power in prayer. One rose, and said, he felt his heart all on fire, so as he never found himself before; he was all in a sweat; believed Christ died for him. I found myself overwhelmed with the love of Christ to sinners. The Black was quite happy. The other criminal was in an excellent temper; believing, or on the point of it. I talked with another, concerning faith in Christ: he was greatly moved. The Lord, I trust, will help his unbelief also.
I joined at Bray's with Hutton, Holland, Burton, in fervent prayer and thanksgiving. At six I carried Bray and Fish to Newgate again, and talked chiefly with Hudson and Newington. He declared he had felt, some time ago in prayer, inexpressible joy and love; but was much troubled at its being so soon withdrawn. The Lord gave power to pray. They were deeply affected. We have great hopes of both.
Tues., July 18th. The Ordinary read prayers and preached. I administered the sacrament to the Black, and eight more; having first instructed them in the nature of it. I spake comfortably to them afterwards.
In the cells, one told me, that whenever he offered to pray, or had a serious thought, something came and hindered him; was with him almost continually; and once appeared. After we had prayed for him in faith, he rose amazingly comforted, full of joy and love; so that we could not doubt his having received the atonement.
At night I was locked in with Bray in one of the cells. We wrestled in mighty prayer. All the criminals were present; and all delightfully cheerful. The soldier, in particular, found his comfort and joy increase every moment. Another, from the time he communicated, has been in perfect peace. Joy was visible in all their faces. We sang, "Behold the Saviour of mankind, Nail'd to the shameful tree! How vast the love that him inclined To bleed and die for thee," &e.
It was one of the most triumphant hours I have ever known. Yet on
Wed., July 19th, I rose very heavy, and backward to visit them for the last time. At six I prayed and sang with them all together. The Ordinary would read prayers, and preached most miserably. Mr. Sparks and Mr. Broughton were present. I felt my heart full of tender love to the latter. He administered. All the ten received. Then he prayed; and I after him.
At half-hour past nine their irons were knocked off, and their hands tied. I went in a coach with Sparks, Washington, and a friend of Newingten's (N. himself not being permitted). By half-hour past ten we came to Tyburn, waited till eleven: then were brought the children appointed to die. I got upon the cart with Sparks and Broughten: the Ordinary endeavoured to follow, when the poor prisoners begged he might not come; and the mob kept him down.
I prayed first, then Sparks and Broughton. We had prayed before that our Lord would show there was a power superior to the fear of death. Newington had quite forgot his pain. They were all cheerful; full of comfort, peace, and triumph; assuredly persuaded Christ had died for them, and wanted to receive them into paradise. Greenaway was impatient to be with Christ..
The Black had spied me coming out of the coach, and saluted me with his looks. As often as his eyes met mine, he smiled with the most composed, delightful countenance I ever saw. Read caught hold of my hand in a transport of joy. Newington seemed perfectly pleased. Hudson declared he was never better, or more at ease, in mind and body. None showed any natural terror of death: no fear, or crying, or tears. All expressed their desire of our following them to paradise. I never saw such calm triumph, such incredible indifference to dying. We song several hymns; particularly, "Behold the Saviour of mankind, Nail'd to the shameful tree ;"
and the hymn entitled, "Faith in Christ," which concludes, "A guilty, weak, and helpless worm, Into thy hands I fall: Be thou my life, my righteousness, My Jesus, and my all."
We prayed Him, in earnest faith, to receive their spirits. I could do nothing but rejoice: kissed Newington and Hudson; took leave of each in particular. Mr. Broughton bade them not be surprised when the cart should draw away. They cheerfully replied, they should not; expressed some concern how we should get back to our coach. We left them going to meet their Lord, ready for the Bridegroom. When the cart drew off, not one stirred, or struggled for life, but meekly gave up their spirits. Exactly at twelve they were turned off. I spoke a few suitable words to the crowd; and returned, full of peace and confidence in our friends' happiness. That hour under the gallows was the most blessed hour of my life.