When King Charles II died, his brother James II ascended to the British throne. James was an avowed Catholic and was ready to re-establish Catholicism in England. It was during his short three-year reign that Benjamin and William Hewling surrendered their lives to fight for religious liberty. Benjamin, aged 22, and William, 19, had lost their father as boys. They were taken in by their grandfather, one of the most notable names in English Baptist history, William Kiffin.
The story of William Kiffin is filled with miraculous, divine providence. For example, starting with nothing he became one of the wealthiest men in England, while at the same time standing firmly on Baptist doctrines for which he often suffered persecution from both Catholics and Protestants as well as political enemies and jealous businessmen.
Kiffin’s “sons,” Benjamin and William joined the army of the Duke of Monmouth in an unsuccessful struggle for civil and religious liberty. They were captured and imprisoned at Newgate. When their grandfather failed to garner their release, they were condemned to death. One day, their sister managed to locate and visit with the young men, later recounting in her strange grammar, “They with great cheerfulness professed that they were better and in a more happy condition than ever in their lives, from the sense they had of the pardoning love of God in Jesus Christ to their souls; wholly referring themselves to their wise and gracious God to choose for them life or death…” She added, “As for the world, there is nothing in it to make it worth while to live, except we may be serviceable to God therein. Oh! God is a strong refuge: I have found Him so indeed.”
William was the first to be executed. Just before his death, he wrote a note to his family expressing his faith in Christ and his willingness to suffer for His name.
Then on this day in 1685, Benjamin Hewling was carried to the place of his execution, which was surrounded by spectators. His cheer and heavenly joy gave evidence of the presence of the Lord. Even the soldiers, whose job it was to execute him, were greatly affected by the composure and strength of the young martyr. God’s grace was certainly sufficient for that particular day.