A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft
A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft, and How Persons Guilty of that Crime may be Convicted: And the means used for their Discovery Discussed, both Negatively and Affirmatively, according to Scripture and Experience.
When they say unto you, seek unto them that have Familiar Spirits and unto Wizards, that peep, etc., To the Law and to the Testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah VIII. 19. 20. That which I see not teach thou me, Job 3
Boston in N. E. Printed by B. Green and J. Allen, for Benjamin Eliot under the Town House. 1702
Any general Custom against the Law of God is void. St. Germans, Abridgment of Common Law. Lib. 1. C. 6.
Omnium legum est inanis censura nisi Divinæ legis imaginem gerat. Finch, Common Law. Lib.
Where a Law is grounded upon a Presumption, if the Presumption fail the Law is not to be holden in Conscience. Abridgment of C. Law. Lib. 1. C. 19.
“No law hath any validity unless it bear the image of divine law.”
An Epistle to the Reader
It hath been said of Old, That Time is the Mother of Truth, and Truth is the Daughter of Time. It is the Prerogative of the God of Truth, to know all the truth in all things at once and together: It is also his Glory to conceal a matter, Prov. 25. 2, And to bring the truth to light in that manner and measure, and the times appointed, as it pleases him; it is our duty in all humility, and with fear and trembling, to search after truth, knowing that secret things belong to God, and only things revealed belong to us, and so far as they are revealed; for in many things it may be said, what God is doing we know not now; but we, or others that succeed us, shall know hereafter. Omitting other Examples, I shall Instance only in the matter of Witchcraft, which on the Humane side, is one of the most hidden Works of Darkness, managed by the Rulers of the darkness of this World, to the doing of great spoil amongst the Children of men: And on the Divine side, it is one of the most awful and tremendous Judgments of God which can be inflicted on the Societies of men, especially when the Lord shall please for his own Holy Ends to Enlarge Satan’s Commission in more than an ordinary way.
It is known to all men, that it pleased God some few years ago, to suffer Satan to raise much trouble amongst us in that respect, the beginning of which was very small, and looked on at first as an ordinary case which had fallen out before at several times in other places, and would be quickly over. Only one or two persons belonging to Salem Village about five miles from the Town being suspected were Examined, etc. But in the progress of the matter, a multitude of other persons both in this and other Neighbor Towns, were Accused, Examined, Imprisoned, and came to their Trials, at Salem, the County Town, where about Twenty of them Suffered as Witches; and many others in danger of the same Tragic End: and still the number of the Accused increased unto many Scores; amongst whom were many Persons of unquestionable Credit, never under any grounds of suspicion of that or any other Scandalous Evil. This brought a general Consternation upon all sorts of People, doubting what would be the issue of such a dreadful Judgment of God upon the Country; but the Lord was pleased suddenly to put a stop to those proceedings, that there was no further trouble, as hath been related by others. But it left in the minds of men a sad remembrance of that sorrowful time; and a Doubt whether some Innocent Persons might not Suffer, and some guilty Persons Escape. There is no doubt but the Judges and Juries proceeded in their Integrity, with a zeal of God against Sin, according to their best light, and according to Law and Evidence; but there is a Question yet unresolved, Whether some of the Laws, Customs and Principles used by the Judges and Juries in the Trials of Witches in England (which were followed as Patterns here) were not insufficient and unsafe. As for my Self, being under the Infirmities of a decrepit Old Age, I stirred little abroad, and was much disenabled (both in body and mind) from Knowing and judging of Occurrences and Transactions of that time: But my Reverend Brother Mr. Hale, having for above Thirty Years been Pastor of the Church at Beverly (but Two Miles from Salem, where the Trials were) was frequently present, and was a diligent Observer of all that passed, and being one of a Singular Prudence and Sagacity, in searching into the narrows of things: He hath (after much deliberation) in this Treatise, related the Substance of the Case as it was, and given Reasons from Scripture against some of the Principles and Practices then used in the Trials of Witchcraft; and said something also in a Positive way, and shewing the right Application that is to be made of the whole, and all this in such a pious and modest Manner, as cannot be offensive to any, but may be generally acceptable to all the lovers of Truth and Peace.
I am the more willing to accompany him to the Press, because I am persuaded such a Treatise as this is needful and useful, upon divers accounts. As,
- That the Works of God may be known; and that God may be more acknowledged and adored, in his Justice, and in his Mercy: in his Justice, by letting loose Evil Angels, to make so great a spoil amongst us as they did, for the Punishment of a declining People: And in his Mercy, by Countermanding of Satan’s Commission, and keeping of him in Chains of restraint, that he should proceed no further. Psalm. 83, last.
- That the Truth of things may be more fully known, so far as God shall please to reveal the same in the use of lawful means; for the Judgments of God are a great deep, and he is wont to make known truth by degrees; and Experience teaches us, there is need of more to be said than hath been yet, for the clearing up of difficulties about the matter of Witchcraft. We ought to be fellow helpers to the truth. 3 Epistle of John, 8. v.
- That whatever Errors or Mistakes we fell into, in the dark hour of Temptation that was upon us, may be (upon more light) so discovered, acknowledged and disowned by us, as that it may be a matter of Warning and Caution to those that come after us, that they may not fall into the like. 1 Cor. 10. 11. Fælix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum.
Verily whosoever shall by the Grace of God be enabled to Contribute further light in this matter, will do good Service to God and Men in his Generation.
I would also propound and leave it as an Object of Consideration to our Honored Magistrates and Reverend Ministers, Whether the equity of that Law in Leviticus, Chap.
Now the Father of Lights and Mercies grant unto us, that Mercy and Truth may meet together, that righteousness and peace may kiss each other, that the Glory of God may dwell in our Land; and that it may be said of New England, The Lord Bless thee, O Habitation of Justice and Mountain of Holiness.
Finally, That the Blessing of Heaven may go along with this little Treatise to attain the good Ends thereof, is, and shall be the Prayer of him who is daily waiting for his Change, and looking for the Mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto Eternal Life.
John Higginson, March 23, 1697, Pastor of the Church of Salem. ætatis 82
The Preface to the Christian Reader
The Holy Scriptures inform us that the Doctrine of Godliness is a great Mystery, containing the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven: Mysteries which require great search for the finding out: And as the Lord hath his Mysteries to bring us to Eternal Glory; so Satan hath his Mysteries to bring us to Eternal Ruin: Mysteries not easily understood, whereby the depths of Satan are managed in hidden ways. So the Whore of Babylon makes the Inhabitants of the Earth drunk with the Wine of her Fornication, by the Mystery of her abominations, Rev. 17. 2. And the man of Sin hath his Mystery of iniquity whereby he deceives men through the working of Satan in signs and lying wonders, 2 Thes. 2. 3, 7, 9.
And among Satan’s Mysteries of iniquity, this of Witchcraft is one of the most difficult to be searched out by the Sons of men; as appears by the great endeavors of Learned and Holy men to search it out, and the great differences that are found among them, in the rules laid down for the bringing to light these hidden works of darkness. So that it may seem presumption in me to undertake so difficult a Theme, and to lay down such rules as are different from the Sentiments of many Eminent writers, and from the Presidents and practices of able Lawyers; yea and from the Common Law itself.
But my Apology for this undertaking is;
- That there hath been such a dark dispensation by the Lord, letting loose upon us the Devil, Anno. 1691 and 1692, as we never experienced before: And thereupon apprehending and condemning persons for Witchcraft; and next acquitting others no less liable to such a charge; which evidently shew we were in the dark, and knew not what to do; but have gone too far on the one or other side, if not on both. Hereupon I esteemed it necessary for some person to Collect a Summary of that affair, with some animadversions upon it, which might at least give some light to them which come after, to shun those Rocks by which we were bruised, and narrowly escaped Shipwreck upon. And I have waited five years for some other person to undertake it, who might do it better than I can, but find none; and judge it better to do what I can, than that such a work should be left undone. Better sincerely though weakly done, then not at all, or with such a bias of prejudice as will put false glosses upon that which was managed with uprightness of heart, though there was not so great a spirit of discerning, as were to be wished in so weighty a Concernment.
- I have been present at several Examinations and Trials, and knew sundry of those that Suffered upon that account in former years, and in this last affair, and so have more advantages than a stranger, to give account of these Proceedings.
- I have been from my Youth trained up in the knowledge and belief of most of those principles I here question as unsafe to be used. The first person that suffered on this account in New-England, about Fifty years since, was my Neighbor, and I heard much of what was charged upon her, and others in those times; and the reverence I bore to aged, learned and judicious persons, caused me to drink in their principles in these things, with a kind of Implicit Faith. Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem, Testa diu. A Child will not easily forsake the principles he hath been trained up in from his Cradle. But observing the Events of that sad Catastrophe, Anno 1692, I was brought to a more strict scanning of the principles I had imbibed, and by scanning, to question, and by questioning at length to reject many of them, upon the reasons shewed in the ensuing Discourse. It is an approved saying Nihil certius, quam quod ex dubio fit certum; No truth more certain to a man, than that which he hath formerly doubted or denied, and is recovered from his error, by the convincing evidence of Scripture and reason. Yet I know and am sensible, that while we know but in part, man is apt in flying from a discovered error, to run into the contrary extreme. Incidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdim. The middle way is commonly the way of truth. And if any can shew me a better middle way than I have here laid down, I shall be ready to embrace it: But the conviction must not be by vinegar or drollery, but by strength of argument.
- I have had a deep sence of the sad consequence of mistakes in matters Capital; and their impossibility of recovering when completed. And what grief of heart it brings to a tender conscience, to have been unwittingly encouraging of the Sufferings of the innocent. And I hope a zeal to prevent for the future such sufferings is pardonable, although there should be much weakness, and some errors in the pursuit thereof.
- I observe the failings that have been on the one hand, have driven some into that which is indeed an extreme on the other hand, and of dangerous consequences, viz. To deny any such persons to be under the New Testament, who by the Devils aid discover Secrets, or do work wonders. Therefore in the latter part of this discourse, I have taken pains to prove the Affirmative, yet with brevity, because it hath been done already by Perkins of Witchcraft. Glanvil his Saducismus Triumphatus, Pt. 1. p. 1 to 90 and Pt. 2. p. 1 to 80. Yet I would not be understood to justify all his notions in those discourses, but acknowledge he hath strongly proved the being of Witches.
- I have special reasons moving me to bear my testimony about these matters, before I go hence and be no more; the which I have here done, and I hope with some assistance of his Spirit, to whom I commit myself and this my labor, even that God whose I am and whom I serve: Desiring his Mercy in Jesus Christ to Pardon all the Errors of his People in the day of darkness; and to enable us to fight with Satan by Spiritual Weapons, putting on the whole Armor of God.
And though' Satan by his Messengers may buffet Gods Children, yet there's a promise upon right Resisting, he shall flee from them, Jam.
John Hale. Beverly, December. 15th, 1697
The Angels who kept not their First Estate, by Sin against God, lost their primitive purity, and glorious Excellency, as to their moral qualifications, and became unclean, wicked, envious, liars, and full of all wickedness, which as Spirits they are capable of. Yet I do not find in Scripture that they lost their natural abilities of understanding or power of Operation.
- As for their Understanding, they are called Daemon (which we Translate Devil) because they are full of wisdom, cunning, skill, subtlety and knowledge. He hath also the name of Serpent from his subtlety, 2 Cor. 11. 3. And his knowledge in the Scriptures, and wittiness to pervert them, appears by his quoting Scripture to our Savior when he tempted him. Mat. And as there be many Devils, and these active, quick, swift and piercing Spirits, so they going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, have advantages to know all the actions of the Children of men, both open and secret, their discourses, consultations, and much of the inward affections of men thereby; though still its Gods prerogative immediately to know the heart. Jer. 17. 10.
- As to their natural power as Spirits, its very great, if not equal to that of the Holy Angels: For,
- They are called Principalities and Powers. Rom. 8. 38. Eph. 6. 12. Col. 2. 1
- They are called, Rulers of the darkness of this world, the Prince of the power of the Air. Eph. 6. 12 and 2. 2.
- Such was their power that they contended with Michael and the Angels about the Body of Moses. 2 Pet. 2. 11. Jude 9. That is, as I conceive, about preventing the Burial of the Body of Moses: For it's said, Deut. 3 That is, he did it by the Ministry of Angels (for the Lord gave the Law, Exod. 20. 1, and that it was by the Ministry of Angels, see Gal. 3. 19. so probably was the burial of Moses's Body) and the Devils endeavor if possible, to discover Moses's Body, or place of its burial, that they might draw Israel to commit Idolatry in worshipping at his Tomb (as our Popish Fore-fathers did at Thomas Beckets in Kent) from the Veneration they had to him as their Law giver.
- The Devils actings against Job, Chap. 1 and 2, and what he did to the Gadarene Swine, etc., Shew his great power. So that we may conclude, had the Devils liberty to reveal all that they know of the affairs of mankind, or to do all that is in their power to perform, they would bring dreadful confusions and desolations upon the World.
The way God governs Devils is by Chains. 2 Pet. 2. 4. Jude 6 ver. Rev. 20. 1, 2, 7, 8, whereby they are kept Prisoners. Men are governed by Laws, by convictions of Conscience. Rom. 2. 12, 13, 14, 15. By Scripture Rules, Humane Laws, and also by Gods Spirit. 1 John 2. 20. But Devils have no such Laws, or tenderness of Conscience to bridle or restrain them. But the Lord hath his Chains, which are called Everlasting, and are always lasting; so that they are never wholly without a Chain. This Chain is sometimes greater and shorter, other times lesser and longer, as the Lord pleaseth, for his own Glory, Rev. 20. 1, 2, 7, 8. For as the wrath of man praiseth the Lord, and the remainder of wrath he doth restrain, Psal. 76. 10, So may we say of the Devils wrath.
The Devil is full of malice against man, and frames his designs against him, chiefly to destroy his Soul, as, 1 Pet. 5. 8, 2 Cor. 11. 3, and other Scriptures abundantly testify. Hence probably at sometimes he doth not all the hurt to man’s Body that he could, lest thereby he should awaken man to repentance and prayer; he seeks to keep men in a false peace. Luke. 11. 21. Yet at other times he disturbs and afflicts men in Body and Estate; as Scripture and experience shew. Among the Devices Satan uses to urine man, one is to allure him into such a familiarity with him, that by Sorceries, Enchantments, Divinations, and such like, he may lead them Captive at his pleasure. This snare of his we are warned against, Deut. 18. 10, 11, and in other Scriptures. This Sin of men hearkening after Satan in these ways, is called Witchcraft; of which it is my purpose to treat: But first I shall speak something Historically what hath been done in New England, in prosecution of persons suspected of this Crime.
Several persons have been Charged with and suffered for the Crime of Witchcraft in the Governments of the Massachusetts, New Haven, or Stratford and Connecticut, from the year 1646 to the year 1692.
The first was a Woman of Charlestown, Anno 1647 or 48. She was suspected partly because that after some angry words passing between her and her Neighbours, some mischief befel such Neighbours in their Creatures, or the like: partly because some things supposed to be bewitched, or have a Charm upon them, being burned, she came to the fire and seemed concerned.
The day of her Execution, I went in company of some Neighbors, who took great pains to bring her to confession and repentance. But she constantly professed herself innocent of that crime: Then one prayed her to consider if God did not bring this punishment upon her for some other crime, and asked, if she had not been guilty of Stealing many years ago; she answered, she had stolen something, but it was long since, and she had repented of it, and there was Grace enough in Christ to pardon that long age; but as for Witchcraft she was wholly free from it, and so she said unto her Death.
Another that suffered on that account sometime after, was a Dorchester Woman. And upon the day of her Execution Mr. Thompson Minister at Braintree, and J. P. her former Master took pains with her to bring her to repentance, And she utterly denied her guilt of Witchcraft: yet justified God for bringing her to that punishment: for she had when a single woman played the harlot, and being with Child used means to destroy the fruit of her body to conceal her sin and shame, and although she did not effect it, yet she was a Murderer in the sight of God for her endeavors, and shewed great penitence for that sin; but owned nothing of the crime laid to her charge. === Sect. 7 === Another suffering in this kind was a Woman of Cambridge, against whom a principal evidence was a Water-town Nurse, who testified, that the said Kendal (so was the accused called) did bewitch to Death a Child of Goodman Jennings of Watertown; for the said Kendal did make much of the Child, and then the Child was well, but quickly changed its color and dyed in a few hours after. The Court took this evidence among others, the said Jennings not knowing of it. But after Kendal was Executed (who also denied her guilt to the Death,) Mr. Rich. Brown knowing and hoping better things of Kendal, asked said Jennings if they suspected her to bewitch their Child, they answered No. But they judged the true cause of the Childs Death to be thus, viz. The Nurse had the night before carried out the Child and kept it abroad in the Cold a long time, when the red gum was come out upon it, and the Cold had struck in the red gum, and this they judged the cause of the Childs death. And that said Kendal did come in that day and make much of the Child, but they apprehended no wrong to come to the Child by her. After this the said Nurse was put into Prison for Adultery, and there delivered of her base Child, and Mr. Brown went to her and told her, It was just with God to leave her to this wickedness as a Punishment for her Murdering goody Kendal by her false witness bearing. But the Nurse dyed in Prison, and so the matter was not farther inquired into. There was another Executed, of Boston Anno 1656. for that crime. And two or three of Springfield, one of which confessed; and said the occasion of her familiarity with Satan was this: She had lost a Child and was exceedingly discontented at it and longed; Oh that she might see her Child again! And at last the Devil in likeness of her Child came to her bed side and talked with her, and asked to come into the bed to her, and she received it into the bed to her that night and several nights after, and so entered into covenant with Satan and became a Witch. This was the only confessor in these times in that Government.
Another at Hartford, viz. Mary Johnson, mentioned in Remarkable Providences, p. 62, 63, Confessed herself a Witch. Who upon discontent and slothfulness agreed with the Devil to do her work for her, and fetch up the Swine. And upon her immoderate laughter at the running of the Swine, as the Devil drove them, as she herself said, was suspected and upon examination confessed. I have also heard of a Girl at New Haven or Stratford, that confessed her guilt. But all others denied it unto the death unless one Greensmith, at Hartford.
But it is not my purpose to give a full relation of all that have suffered for that Sin, or of all the particulars charged upon them, which probably is now impossible, many witnessing Viva voce, those particulars which were not fully recorded. But that I chiefly intend is to shew the principles formerly acted upon in Convicting of that Crime; which were such as these.
- The first great principle laid down by a person Eminent for Wisdom, Piety and Learning was; That the Devil could not assume the shape of an innocent person in doing mischief unto mankind: for if the Lord should suffer him in this he would subvert the course of humane Justice, by bringing men to suffer for what he did in their Shapes.
- Witchcraft being an habitual Crime, one single witness to one Act of Witchcraft, and another single witness to another such fact, made two witnesses against the Crime and the party suspected.
- There was searching of the bodies of the suspected for such like teats, or spots (which writers speak of) called the Devils marks; and if found, these were accounted a presumption at least of guilt in those that had them.
- I observed that people laid great weight upon this; when things supposed to be bewitched were burnt, and the suspected person came to the fire in the time of it. Although that Eminent person above said condemned this way of tryal, as going to the Devil to find the Devil.
- If after anger between Neighbors mischief followed, this oft bred suspicion of Witchcraft in the matter. In fine, the presumptions and convictions used in former times were for substance the same which we may read of in Keeble of the Common Law, and in Bernard, and other Authors of that subject.
About 16 or 17 years since was accused a Woman of Newbury, and upon her trial the Jury brought her in Guilty. Yet the Governor Simon Bradstreet Esq. and some of the Magistrates reprieved her, being unsatisfied in the Verdict upon these grounds.
- They were not satisfied that a Specter doing mischief in her likeness, should be imputed to her person, as a ground of guilt.
- They did not esteem one single witness to one fact, and another single witness to another fact, for two witnesses, against the person in a matter Capital. She being reprieved, was carried to her own home, and her Husband (who was esteemed a Sincere and understanding Christian by those that knew him) desired some Neighbor Ministers, of whom I was one, to meet together and discourse his Wife; the which we did: and her discourse was very Christian among us, and still pleaded her innocence as to that which was laid to her charge. We did not esteem it prudence for us to pass any definitive Sentence upon one under her circumstances, yet we inclined to the more charitable side.
In her last Sickness she was in much darkness and trouble of Spirit, which occasioned a Judicious friend to examine her strictly, Whether she had been guilty of Witchcraft, but she said No: But the ground of her trouble was some impatient and passionate Speeches and Actions of hers while in Prison, upon the account of her suffering wrongfully; whereby she had provoked the Lord, by putting some contempt upon his word. And in fine, she sought her pardon and comfort from God in Christ, and dyed so far as I understood, praying to and resting upon God in Christ for Salvation.
The next that Suffered was an Irish Woman of Boston, suspected to bewitch John Goodwin’s Children, who upon her Trial did in Irish (as was testified by the Interpreters) confess herself guilty, and was condemned out of her own mouth; (as Christ says, Luke. 19. 22. Out of thine own mouth will I Judge thee.) The History of which is published by Mr. Cotton Mather, (and attested by the other Ministers of Boston and Charlestown.) in his Book, Entitled, Memorable Providences, Printed Anno 1689. Thus far of the History of Witches before the year, 1692.
I. In the latter end of the year 1691, Mr. Samuel Paris, Pastor of the Church in Salem-Village, had a Daughter of Nine, and a Niece of about Eleven years of Age, sadly Afflicted of they knew not what Distempers; and he made his application to Physicians, yet still they grew worse: And at length one Physician gave his opinion, that they were under an Evil Hand. This the Neighbors quickly took up, and concluded they were bewitched. He had also an Indian Man servant, and his Wife who afterwards confessed, that without the knowledge of their Master or Mistress, they had taken some of the Afflicted persons Urine, and mixing it with meal had made a Cake, and baked it, to find out the Witch, as they said. After this, the Afflicted persons cried out of the Indian Woman, named Tituba, that she did pinch, prick, and grievously torment them, and that they saw her here and there, where nobody else could. Yea they could tell where she was, and what she did, when out of their humane sight. These Children were bitten and pinched by invisible agents; their arms, necks, and backs turned this way and that way, and returned back again, so as it was impossible for them to do of themselves, and beyond the power of any Epileptic Fits, or natural Disease to effect. Sometimes they were taken dumb, their mouths stopped, their throats choked, their limbs wracked and tormented so as might move an heart of stone, to sympathize with them, with bowels of compassion for them. I will not enlarge in the description of their cruel Sufferings, because they were in all things afflicted as bad as John Good-wins Children at Boston, in the year 1689. So that he that will read Mr. Mather’s Book of Memorable Providences, page 3, etc., may Read part of what these Children, and afterwards sundry grown persons suffered by the hand of Satan, at Salem Village, and parts adjacent, Anno 1691, 2. Yet there was more in these Sufferings, than in those at Boston, by pins in-visibly stuck into their flesh, pricking with Irons, (As in part published in a Book Printed 1693, viz. The Wanders of the Invisible World). Mr. Paris seeing the distressed condition of his Family, desired the presence of some Worthy Gentle-men of Salem, and some Neighbor Ministers to consult together at his House; who when they came, and had enquired diligently into the Sufferings of the Afflicted, concluded they were preternatural, and feared the hand of Satan was in them. II. The advice given to Mr. Paris by them was, that he should sit still and wait upon the Providence of God to see what time might discover; and to be much in prayer for the discovery of what was yet secret. They also Examined Tituba, who confessed the making a Cake, as is above mentioned, and said her Mistress in her own Country was a Witch, and had taught her some means to be used for the discovery of a Witch and for the prevention of being bewitched, etc. But said that she herself was not a Witch. III. Soon after this, there were two or three private Fasts at the Ministers House, one of which was kept by sundry Neighbor Ministers, and after this, another in Public at the Village, and several days afterwards of public Humiliation, during these molestations, not only there, but in other Congregations for them. And one General Fast by Order of the General Court, observed throughout the Colony to seek the Lord that he would rebuke Satan, and be a light unto his people in this day of darkness.
But I return to the History of these troubles. In a short time after other persons who were of age to be witnesses, were molested by Satan, and in their fits cried out upon Tituba and Goody O. and S. G. that they or Specters in their Shapes did grievously torment them; hereupon some of their Village Neighbors complained to the Magistrates at Salem, desiring they would come and examine the afflicted and accused together; the which they did: the effect of which examination was, that Tituba confessed she was a Witch, and that she with the two others accused did torment and bewitch the complainers, and that these with two others whose names she knew not, had their Witch-meeting together; relating the times when and places where they met, with many other circumstances to be seen at large. Upon this the said Tituba and O. and S. G. were committed to Prison upon suspicion of acting Witchcraft. After this the said Tituba was again examined in Prison, and owned her first confession in all points, and then was herself afflicted and complained of her fellow Witches tormenting of her, for her confession, and accusing them, and being searched by a Woman, she was found to have upon her body the marks of the Devils wounding of her. IV. Here were these things rendered her confession credible. (1.) That at this examination she answered every question just as she did at the first. And it was thought that if she had feigned her confession, she could not have remembered her answers so exactly. A liar we say, had need of a good memory, but truth being always consistent with itself is the same today as it was yesterday. (2.) She seemed very penitent for her Sin in covenanting with the Devil. (3.) She be-came a sufferer herself and as she said for her confession. (
V. I observed in the prosecution of these affairs, that there was in the Justices, Judges and others concerned, a conscientious endeavor to do the thing that was right. And to that end they consulted the Presidents of former times and precepts laid down by Learned Writers about Witchcraft.
As Keeble on the Common Law, Chapter Conjuration, (an Author approved by the Twelve Judges of our Nation.) Also Sir Mathew Hales Trial of Witches, Printed Anno 1682. Glanvil’ s Collection of sundry trials in England and Ireland, in the years 1658, 61, 63, 6 VI. But that which chiefly carried on this matter to such an height, was the increasing of confessors till they amounted to near about Fifty: and four or six of them upon their trials owned their guilt of this crime, and were condemned for the same, but not Executed. And many of the confessors con-firmed their confessions with very strong circumstances: As their exact agreement with the accusations of the afflicted; their punctual agreement with their fellow confessors; their relating the times when they covenanted with Satan, and the reasons that moved them thereunto; their Witch meetings, and that they had their mock Sacraments of Baptism and the Supper, in some of them; their signing the Devils book: and some shewed the Scars of the wounds which they said were made to fetch blood with, to sign the Devils book; and some said they had Imps to suck them, and shewed Sores raw where they said they were sucked by them. VII. I shall give the Reader a taste of these things in a few Instances. The Afflicted complained that the Specters which vexed them, urged them to set their Hands to a Book represented to them (as to them it seemed) with threatening of great torments, if they signed not, and promises of ease if they obeyed.
Among these D. H. did as she said (which sundry others confessed afterwards) being overcome by the extremity of her pains, sign the Book presented, and had the promised ease; and immediately upon it a Specter in her Shape afflicted another person, and said, I have signed the Book and have ease, now do you sign, and so shall you have ease. And one day this afflicted person pointed at a certain place in the room, and said, there is D. H., upon which a man with his Rapier struck at the place, though he saw no Shape; and the Afflicted called out, saying, you have wounded her side, and soon after the afflicted person pointed at another place, saying, there she is; whereupon a man struck at the place, and the afflicted said, you have given her a small prick about the eye. Soon after this, the said D. H. confessed herself to be made a Witch by signing the Devils Book as above said; and declared that she had afflicted the Maid that complained of her, and in doing of it had received two wounds by a Sword or Rapier, a small one about the eye, which she shewed to the Magistrates, and a bigger on the side of which she was searched by a discreet woman, who reported, that D. H. had on her side the sign of a wound newly healed.
This D. H. confessed that she was at a Witch Meeting at Salem Village, where were many persons that she named, some of whom were in Prison then or soon after upon suspicion of Witchcraft: And the said G. B. preached to them, and such a Woman was their Deacon, and there they had a Sacrament.
VIII. Several others after this confessed the same things with D. H. In particular Goody F. said (Inter alia) that she with two others (one of whom acknowledged the same) Rode from Andover to the same Village Witch meeting upon a stick above ground, and that in the way the stick brake, and gave the said F. a fall: whereupon, said she, I got a fall and hurt of which I am still sore. I happened to be present in Prison when this F. owned again her former confession to the Magistrates. And then I moved she might be further questioned about some particulars: It was answered, the Magistrates had not time to stay longer; but I should have liberty to Examine her farther by myself; The which thing I did; and I asked her if she rode to the Meeting on a Stick; she said, yea. I enquired what she did for Victuals; she answered that she carried Bread and Cheese in her pocket, and that she and the Andover Company came to the Village before the Meeting began, and sat down together under a tree and eat their food, and that she drank water out of a Brook to quench her thirst. And that the Meeting was upon a plain grassy place, by which was a Cart path, and sandy ground in the path, in which were the tracks of Horses feet. And she also told me how long they were going and returning. And some time after told me, she had some trouble upon her spirit, and when I enquired what? she said, she was in fear that G. B. and M. C. would kill her; for they appeared unto her (in Specter, for their persons were kept in other Rooms in the Prison) and brought a sharp pointed iron like a spindle, but four square, and threatened to stab her to death with it; because she had confessed her Witchcraft, and told of them, that they were with her, and that M. C. above named was the person that made her a Witch. About a month after the said F. took occasion to tell me the same Story of her fears that G. B. and E. C. would kill her, and that the thing was much upon her Spirits. IX. It was not long before M. L. Daughter of said F. confessed that she rode with her Mother to the said Witch Meeting, and confirmed the substance of her Mothers Confession. At another time, M. L. junior the Grand Daughter, aged about seventeen years, confesses the substance of what her Grandmother and Mother had related, and declares, that when they with E. C. rode on a stick or pole in the Air, She the said Grand-Daughter with R. C. Rode upon another; (and she said R. C. acknowledged the same) and that they sat their hands to the Devils Book. And (inter alia) said, “O Mother, why did you give me to the Devil?” twice or thrice over. The Mother said, she was sorry at the heart for it, it was through that wicked one. Her Daughter bid her repent and call upon God. And said, “Oh Mother, your wishes are now come to pass! for how often have you wished that the Devil would fetch me away alive?” And then said, “Oh! my heart will break within me”; Then she wept bitterly, crying out, “O Lord comfort me, and bring out all the Witches.” And she said to her Grandmother, “O Grandmother, why did you give me to the Devil? Why did you persuade me, O Grand-mother do not deny it.” Then the Grandmother gave account of several things about their confederates and acts of Witch-crafts too long to rehearse.
Next I will insert the Confession of a man about Forty years of Age, W. B., which he wrote himself in Prison, and sent to the Magistrates, to confirm his former Confession to them, viz.
God having called me to Confess my sin and Apostasy in that fall in giving the Devil advantage over me appearing to me like a Black, in the evening to set my hand to his Book, as I have owned to my shame. He told me that I should not want so doing. At Salem Village, there being a little off the Meeting-House, about an hundred five Blades, some with Rapiers by their side, which was called and might be more for ought I know by B and Bu. and the Trumpet sounded, and Bread and Wine which they called the Sacrament, but I had none; being carried over all on a Stick, never being at any other Meeting. I being at Cart a Saturday last, all the day, of Hay and English Corn, the Devil brought my Shape to Salem, and did afflict M. S. and R. F. by clutching my Hand; and a Sabbath day my Shape afflicted A. M. and at night afflicted M. S. and A. M. E. I. and A. F. have been my Enticers to this great abomination, as one have owned and charged her to her Sister with the same. And the design was to Destroy Salem Village, and to begin at the Ministers House, and to destroy the Church of God, and to set up Satan’s Kingdom, and then all will be well. And now I hope God in some measure has made me something sensible of my sin and apostasy, begging pardon of God, and of the Honorable Magistrates and all Gods people, hoping and promising by the help of God, to set to my heart and hand to do what in me lies to destroy such wicked worship, humbly begging the prayers of all Gods People for me, I may walk humbly under this great affliction and that I may procure to myself, the sure mercies of David, and the blessing of Abraham.
Concerning this Confession. (1) Note it was his own free act in Prison. (2) He says the Devil like a Black. This he had before explained to be like a Black man. (3) That on a certain day was heard in the Air the sound of a Trumpet at Salem Village nigh the Meeting-House, and upon all enquiry it could not be found that any mortal man did sound it. (Note also that these Confessors did not only witness against themselves, but against one another; and against many if not all those that Suffered for that Crime. As for example, when G. B. was Tried, seven or eight of these Confessors severally called, said, they knew the said B. and saw him at a Witch-Meeting at the Village, and heard him exhort the Company to pull down the Kingdom of God, and set up the Kingdom of the Devil. He denied all, yet said he justified the Judges and Jury in Condemning of him; because there were so many positive witnesses against him: But said he died by false Witnesses. I seriously spoke to one that witnessed (of his Exhorting at the Witch Meeting at the Village) saying to her; You are one that bring this man to Death, if you have charged anything upon him that is not true, recall it before it be too late, while he is alive. She answered me, she had nothing to charge herself with, upon that account. M. C. had to witness against her, two or three of her own Children, and several of her Neighbors that said they were in confederacy with her in their Witchcraft.
A. F. Had three of her Children, and some of the Neighbors, her own Sister, and a Servant, who confessed themselves Witches, and said, she was in confederacy with them: But alas, I am weary with relating particulars; those that would see more of this kind, let them have recourse to the Records.
By these things you see how this matter was carried on, viz. chiefly by the complaints and accusations of the Afflicted, Bewitched ones, as it was supposed, and then by the Confessions of the Accused, condemning themselves, and others. Yet experience shewed that the more there were apprehended, the more were still Afflicted by Satan, and the number of Confessors increasing, did but increase the number of the Accused, and the Executing some, made way for the apprehending of others; for still the Afflicted complained of being tormented by new objects as the former were removed. So that those that were concerned, grew amazed at the numbers and quality of the persons accused and feared that Satan by his wiles had entrapped innocent persons under the imputation of that Crime.
And at last it was evidently seen that there must be a stop put, or the Generation of the Children of God would fall under that condemnation. Henceforth therefore the Juries generally acquitted such as were Tried, fearing they had gone too far before. And Sir William Phips, Governor, Reprieved all that were Condemned, even the Confessors, as well as others. And the Confessors generally fell off from their Confessions; some saying, they remembered nothing of what they said; others said they had belied themselves and others. Some brake Prison and ran away, and were not strictly searched after, some acquitted, some dismissed and one way or other all that had been accused were set or left at liberty.
And although had the times been calm, the condition of the Confessors might have called for a melius inquirendum, yet considering the combustion and confusion this matter had brought us unto; it was thought safer to under do than over do, especially in matters Capital, where what is once completed cannot be retrieved: but what is left at one time, may be corrected at another, upon a review and clearer discovery of the state of the Case. Thus this matter issued somewhat abruptly.
Here was generally acknowledged to be an error (at least on the one hand) but the Query is, Wherein?
- . I have heard it said, That the Presidents in England were not so exactly followed, because in those there had been previous quarrels and threatening of the Afflicted by those that were Condemned for Witchcraft; but here, say they, not so. To which I answer.
- . In many of these cases there had been antecedent personal quarrels, and so occasions of revenge; for some of those Condemned, had been suspected by their Neighbors several years, because after quarrelling with their Neighbors, evils had befallen those Neighbors. As may be seen in the Printed Trials of S. M. and B. B. and others: See Wonders of the Invisible World, Page 105 to 137. And there were other like Cases not Printed.
- . Several confessors acknowledged they engaged in the quarrels of other their confederates to afflict persons. As one Timothy Swan suffered great things by Witchcrafts, as he supposed and testified. And several of the confessors said they did so torment him for the sake of one of their partners who had some offence offered her by the said Swan. And others owned they did the like in the behalf of some of their confederates.
- . There were others that confessed their fellowship in these works of darkness, was to destroy the Church of God (as is above in part rehearsed) which is a greater piece of revenge then to be avenged upon one particular person.
- . It may be queried then, How doth it appear that there was a going too far in this affair.
- . By the numbers of the persons accused which at length increased to about an hundred and it cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small a compass of Land should so abominably leap into the Devils lap at once.
- . The quality of several of the accused was such as did bespeak better things, and things that accompany salvation. Persons whose blameless and holy lives before did testify for them. Persons that had taken great pains to bring up their Children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: Such as we had Charity for, as for our own Souls: and Charity is a Christian duty commended to us. 1 Cor. 13 Chapter Col. 3. 1
- . The number of the afflicted by Satan daily increased, till about Fifty persons were thus vexed by the Devil. This gave just ground to suspect some mistake, which gave advantage to the accuser of the Brethren to make a breach upon us.
- . It was considerable that Nineteen were Executed, and all denyed the Crime to the Death, and some of them were knowing persons, and had before this been accounted blameless livers. And it is not to be imagined, but that if all had been guilty, some would have had so much tenderness as to seek Mercy for their Souls in the way of Confession and sorrow for such a Sin. And as for the condemned confessors at the Bar (they being reprieved) we had no experience whether they would stand to their Self-condemning confessions, when they came to dye.
- . When this prosecution ceased, the Lord so chained up Satan, that the afflicted grew presently well. The accused are generally quiet, and for five years since, we have no such molestations by them.
- . It sways much with me that I have since heard and read of the like mistakes in other places. As in Suffolk in England about the year 1645 was such a prosecution, until they saw that unless they put a stop it would bring all into blood and confusion. The like hath been in France, till 900 were put to Death, And in some other places the like; So that N. England is not the only place circumvented by the wiles of the wicked and wisely Serpent in this kind.
Wierus de Prœstigiis Demonum, p. 678, Relates, That an Inquisitor in the Subalpine Valleys, enquired after Women Witches, and consumed above an hundred in the Flames, and daily made new offerings to Vulcan of those that needed Hellebore more than Fire, Until the Country people rose and by force of Arms hindered him, and refer the matter to the Bishop. Their Husbands, men of good Faith, affirmed that in that very time they said of them, that they played and danced under a tree, they were in bed with them.
R. Burton of Witches, etc. p. 158, Says, That in Chelmsford in Essex, Anno 1645, were Thirty tryed at once before Judge Coniers, and Fourteen of them hanged, and an hundred more contained in several Prisons in Suffolk and Essex.
If there were an Error in the proceedings in other places, and in N. England, it must be in the principles proceeded upon in prosecuting the suspected, or in the misapplication of the principles made use of. Now as to the case at Salem, I conceive it proceeded from some mistaken principles made use of; for the evincing whereof, I shall instance some principles made use of here, and in other Countries also, which I find defended by learned Authors writing upon that Subject.
I shall conclude this Discourse with some Application of the whole.
1. We may hence see ground to fear, that there hath been a great deal of innocent blood shed in the Christian World, by proceeding upon unsafe principles, in condemning persons for Malefic Witchcraft.
2. That there have been great sinful neglects in sparing others, who by their divinings about things future, or discovering things secret, as stolen Goods, etc., or by their informing of persons and things absent at a great distance, have implored the assistance of a familiar spirit, yet colored over with specious pretenses, and have drawn people to enquire of them: A sin frequently forbidden in Scripture, as Lev. 19. 31 and 20. 6, Isa. 8. 19, 20. and yet let alone, and in many parts of the World, have been countenanced in their diabolical skill and profession; because they serve the interest of those that have a vain curiosity, to pry into things God hath forbidden, and concealed from discovery by lawful means. And of others that by their enchantments, have raised mists, strange sights, and the like, to beget admiration, and please Spectators, etc., When as these divinations and operations are the Witchcraft more condemned in Scripture than the other.
3. But to come nearer home, we have cause to be humbled for the mistakes and errors which have been in these Colonies, in their Proceedings against persons for this crime, above forty years ago and downwards, upon insufficient presumptions and presidents of our Nation, whence they came. I do not say, that all those were innocent, that suffered in those times upon this account. But that such grounds were then laid down to proceed upon, which were too slender to evidence the crime they were brought to prove; and thereby a foundation laid to lead into error those that came after. May we not say in this matter, as it is, Psalm. 106. 6. We have sinned with our fathers? And as, Lam. 5. 7. Our fathers have sinned and are not, and we have born their iniquities? And whether this be not one of the sins the Lord hath been many years contending with us for, is worthy our serious enquiry. If the Lord punished Israel with famine three years for a sin of misguided zeal forty years before that, committed by the breach of a Covenant made four hundred years before that: 2 Sam. 21. 1, 2, Why may not the Lord visit upon us the misguided zeal of our Predecessors about Witchcraft above forty years ago, even when that Generation is gathered to their Fathers.
4. But I would come yet nearer to our own times, and bewail the errors and mistakes that have been in the year 1692. In the apprehending too many we may believe were innocent, and executing of some, I fear, not to have been condemned; by following such traditions of our fathers, maxims of the Common Law, and Presidents and Principles, which now we may see weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary, are found too light. I heartily concur with that direction for our publick prayers, emitted December 17, 1696, by our General Assembly, in an order for a general Fast, viz. “That God would shew us what we know not, and help us wherein we have done amiss, to do so no more: And especially that whatever mistakes on either hand, have been fallen into, either by the body of this people, or any order of men, referring to the late tragedy raised among us by Satan and his Instruments, through the awful Judgment of God: He would humble us therefore, and pardon all the errors of his Servants and People, that desire to love his Name, and be atoned to his land.” I am abundantly satisfied that those who were most concerned to act and judge in those matters, did not willingly depart from the rules of righteousness. But such was the darkness of that day, the tortures and lamentations of the afflicted, and the power of former presidents, that we walked in the clouds, and could not see our way. And we have most cause to be humbled for error on that hand, which cannot be retrieved. So that we must beseech the Lord, that if any innocent blood hath been shed, in the hour of temptation, the Lord will not lay it to our charge, but be merciful to his people whom he hath redeemed, Deut. 21. 8, And that in the day when he shall visit, he will not visit this sin upon our land, but blot it out, and wash it away with the blood of Jesus Christ.
5. I would humbly propose whether it be not expedient, that somewhat more should be publicly done then yet hath, for clearing the good name and reputation of some that have suffered upon this account, against whom the evidence of their guilt was more slender, and the grounds for charity for them more convincing. And this (in order to our obtaining from the Lord farther reconciliation to our land,) and that none of their surviving relations, may suffer reproach upon that account. I have both read and heard of several in England, that have been executed for Capital crimes, and afterwards upon sense of an error in the process against them, have been restored in blood and honor by some public act. My Lord Cook relates a story. A man going to correct a Girl his Niece, for some offence, in an upper room, the Girl strove to save herself, till her nose bled, and wiping it with a cloth, threw the bloody cloth out at the window, and cried Murder; and then ran down stairs, got away and hid herself. Her Uncle was prosecuted by her friends upon suspicion of Murdering her, because she could not be found. He declared that she made her escape, as above said. Then time was allowed him to bring her forth, but he could not hear of her within the time, and fearing he should die if she could not be found, procures another Girl very like her, to appear in Court, and declare she was his Niece that had been missing: But her relations examine this counterfeit, until they find her out, and she confesses she was suborned and counterfeited the true Niece. Upon these presumptions the man was found guilty of Murdering his Niece, and thereupon executed. And after his execution his true Niece comes abroad and shews herself alive and well. Then all that saw it were convinced of the Uncles innocence, and vanity of such presumptions. The Printing and Publishing of this relation Vindicates the good name of the Uncle, from the imputation of the crime of Murder. And this is one end of this present discourse, to take off (so far as a discourse of this nature can) infamy from the names and memory of such sufferers in this kind, as do not deserve the same.
6. Here it may be suitable for us to enquire, What the Lord speaks to us by such a stupendous providence, in his letting loose Satan upon us in this unusual way? Ans. 1. We may say of this, as our Savior said of his washing his disciples feet, John. 13. What I do thou knows not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. The Judgments of the Lord are a great deep, Psalm. 36. 6. How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. 2. Yet somewhat of his counsel at present for our instruction may be known, by comparing the Word and works of God together.
1. As when Joshua the high Priest though an holy chosen man of God, stood before the Angel, Satan stood at his right hand to resist him, or to be his adversary: And the advantage Satan had was by the filthy garments Joshua was clothed with before the Angels: That is, some iniquity which yet was not passed away, Zech. 3. 1, 3,
got advantage to stand at our right hand (the place of an Accuser in Courts of Justice) and there accuse us and resist us.
2. When the Egyptians refused to let Israel go to sacrifice and keep a feast to the Lord in the Wilderness: The Lord cast upon the fierceness of his wrath, by sending Evil Angels among them, Psalm. 78. Egypts sins were (1.) Coveteousness; they would not let Israel go, because they gained by their labours. (2.) Contempt of God and his Instituted Worship, and Ordinances. They did not count them of such concernment, that Israel should go into the Wilderness to observe them. Both these sins have too much increased in our Land. (1.) Coveteousness, an inordinate love of the World gave Satan advantage upon us. (2.) Contempt of Gods Worship and Instituted Ordinances. The Errand of our Fathers into this Wilderness, was to Sacrifice to the Lord; that is, to worship God in purity of heart and life, and to wait upon the Lord, walking in the faith and order of the Gospel in Church fellowship; that they might enjoy Christ in all his Ordinances. But these things have been greatly neglected and despised by many born, or bred up in the Land. We have much forgotten what our Fathers came into the Wilderness to see. The sealing Ordinances of the Covenant of Grace in Church-Communion have been much slighted and neglected; and the fury of this Storm raised by Satan hath fallen very heavily upon many that lived under these neglects. The Lord sends Evil Angels to awaken and punish our negligence: And to my knowledge some have been hereby excited to enter into the Chamber of Gods Ordinances, to hide themselves, until the indignation be over past.
3. David when he removed the Ark from Kirjathjearim, had the Ark put into a new Cart, which should have been carried by the Kohathites. Numb. 3. 31. And David thought this was right, until the Lord slew Uzza for touching the Ark: But then he looked more exactly into the will of God; and confesses that the Lord made a breach upon them, because they sought him not after the due order, 1 Chron. 13. 5, 7, 9, 10, and 15. 11, 12, 13. Had not the Lord made that breach upon them, they had persisted securely in their error. So I may say in this case. In the prosecution of Witchcraft, we sought not the Lord after the due order; but have proceeded after the methods used in former times and other places, until the Lord in this tremendous way made a breach upon us. And hereby we are made sensible that the methods formerly used are not sufficient to prove the guilt of such a crime. And this I conceive was one end of the Lords letting Satan loose to torment and accuse so many; that hereby we may search out the truth more exactly. For had it not been for this dreadful dispensation, many would have lived and died in that error, which they are now convinced of.
4. The Lord delivered into the hand of Satan the Estate, Children, and Body of Job, for the tryal of Jobs faith and patience, and proof of his perfection and uprightness. So the Lord hath delivered into Satans hand mens Children and Bodies, yea names and estates into Satans hand for the tryal of their faith and patience, and farther manifestation of the sincerity of their professions.
7. From that part of the discourse which shews the power of Satan to torment the bodies, and disturb the minds of those, he is let loose upon, Chap. 6, I would infer, that Satan may be suffered so to darken the minds of some pious Souls, as to cause them to destroy themselves by drowning, hanging, or the like. And when he hath so far prevailed upon some, that formerly lived a Christian life, but were under the prevalence of a distracting Melancholy at their latter end, We may have Charity that their Souls are Saved, notwithstanding the sad conclusion of their lives. I speak not to excuse any that having the free use of their reason willingly destroy themselves, out of pride, discontent, impatience, etc. Achitophel who out of height of Spirit because his Counsel was not followed, and to prevent David’s executing of him, for his rebellion and treason, destroyed himself, hath left his name to stink unto all generations. And Judas who for his unparalleled treachery in betraying his Master, and the Lord of life, was justly left to hang himself; and the rope breaking or slipping he fell down head long, or with his face down ward, so that he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out, Math. 27. 5. with Act. 1. 13, left by his sin and punishment in the last act of his life the black character of a Son of perdition. But those that being out of their right minds, and hurried by an evil Spirit, as persons under a force to be their own executioners, are not always to be ranked with these.
8. Seeing we have been too fierce against supposed Malefic Witchcraft, let us take heed we do not on the contrary become too favorable to divining Witchcraft: And become like Saul who was too zealous against the Gibeonites, and at last turned to seek after one that had a familiar Spirit, to his own destruction. Let us not, if we can help it, suffer Satan to set up an ensuring office for stolen Goods. That after he hath brought the curse of God into the house of the thief, by tempting him to steal, he may not bring about the curse into the houses of them from whom the goods were stolen, by alluring them to go to the god of Ekron to enquire. That men may not give their Souls to the Devil in exchange, for his restoring to them their goods again, in such a way of divination. The Lord grant it may be said of New England, as is prophesied of Judah, Mic. 5. 12. I will cut off Witchcrafts out of thine hand, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers.
9. Another extreme we must beware of, is, viz. Because our fathers in the beginning times of this Land, did not see so far into these mysteries of iniquity, as hath been since discovered, Let us not undervalue the good foundations they laid for God and his people, and for us in Church and Civil Government. For Paul that eminent Apostle knew but in part; no wonder then, if our Fathers were imperfect men. In the purest times in Israel, there were some Clouds of ignorance over-shadowing of them. Abraham, David, and the best Patriarchs were generally ignorant of the sin of Polygamy. And although Solomon far exceeded Nehemiah in wisdom; yet Nehemiah saw farther into the evil of Marrying Outlandish Women, than that wisest of Kings, and mere fallen men. Neh. 13. 26. Josiah kept the Passover more exactly, than David, and all the Reforming Kings of Judah, 2 Chron. 35. 18.
All the godly Judges and Kings of Judah were unacquainted with, and so negligent of the right observation of the feast of Tabernacles, until it came to Nehemiah’s time: And he understood and revived an ordinance of God, that lay buried in oblivion, near about a thousand years. Now he that shall reject all the good in doctrine and practice, which was maintained, professed and practiced by so many Godly leaders, because of some few errors found among them, will be found to fight against God. A dwarf upon a giants shoulders, can see farther than the giant.
It was a glorious enterprise of the beginners of these Colonies, to leave their native Country to propagate the Gospel: And a very high pitch of faith, zeal, and courage that carried them forth, to follow the Lord into this wilderness, into a land that was not sown. Then was New England holiness to the Lord, and all that did devour them, or attempted so to do, did offend, and evil did come upon them. And the Lord did graciously remember this kindness of their Youth, and love of their Espousals; In granting them many eminent tokens of his favor; by his presence with them in his Ordinances, for the Conversion of Souls, and edifying and comforting the hearts of his Servants: By signal answering their prayers in times of difficulty: By protecting them from their Enemies; By guiding of, and providing for them in a Desert. And the Lord will still remember this their kindness unto their Posterity, unless that by their Apostasy from the Lord, they vex his Holy Spirit, to turn to be their Enemy: And thereby cut off the Entail of his Covenant Mercies; which God forbid. Oh that the Lord may be with us, as he was with our Fathers; and that he may not leave us, nor forsake us!