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in the way
the innocent.' He mentions a resolution unanimously adopted by the General Court, nearly fifty years afterwards, for the appointment of a committee to make inquiry into the condition and circumstances of individuals and families, that might have suffered from the calamity of 1692'; and that there was a strong desire expressed to compensate them, either by money or by a township of land. He speaks of the inhabitants of Salem as doing the utmost in their power of reparation ; and borrows from Dr. Bentley the following touching account of the penitent and generous conduct exhibited by the Rev. Mr. Noyes, who had been active beyond most others in the work of destruction.
• Mr. Noyes came out and publicly confessed his error; never concealed a circumstance; never excused himself; visited, loved, blessed the survivors, whom he had injured ; asked forgiveness always, and consecrated the residue of his life to bless mankind.'
It is unusual to find bodies of men uniting, in their official capacity, in an act of special penitence. Yet this was done in the most humble manner by the Twelve Jurors, upon
whose verdict many of the unhappy victims had been condemned. In a declaration signed with the names of all of them, they exhibit the utmost tenderness of conscience, and ask forgiveness of God and men in terms of humility, that might disarm the anger of a demon.
We hereby signify to all in general (and to the surviving sufferers in special) our deep sense of, and sorrow for, our errors, in acting on such evidence to the condemning of any person; and do hereby declare, that we justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken; for which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds; and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness, first of God, for Christ's sake, for this our error; and pray that God would not impute the guilt of it to ourselves,, nor others; and we also pray that we may be considered candidly, and aright by the living sufferers, as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with, and not experienced in matters of that nature.
We do heartily ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have justly offended; and do declare, according to our present minds, we would none of us do such things again, on such grounds, for the whole world.'
And though we have dwelt so long upon this subject, loving to linger on this only fair spot in a region of desolation, we
- p. 128.
cannot refrain from quoting the eloquent and beautiful tribute, which Mr. Upham pays to Judge Sewall in the conclusion of the first Lecture, both as an exhibition of moral grandeur, and of the power of real goodness to overcome the evils of a tem
* The conduct of Judge Sewall claims our particular admiration. He observed annually in private a day of humiliation and prayer, during the remainder of his life, to keep fresh in his mind a sense of repentance and sorrow for the part he bore in the trials. On the day of the general fast, he rose in the place where he was accustomed to worship, the Old South in Boston, and, in the presence of the great assembly, handed up to the pulpit a written confession, acknowledging the error into which he had been led, praying for the forgiveness of God and his people, and concluding with a request to all the congregation to unite with him in devout supplication, that it might not bring down the displeasure of the Most High upon his country, his family, or himself. He remained standing during the public reading of the paper.'
There never was a more striking and complete fulfilment of the Apostolic assurance, that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, than in this instance. God has been pleased in a remarkable manner to save and bless New England. The favor of heaven was bestowed upon Judge Sewall during the remainder of his life. He presided for many years on the very bench where he committed the error so sincerely deplored by him, and was regarded by all as a benefactor, an ornament, and a blessing to his generation. While his family have enjoyed to a high degree the protection of Providence from that day to this, they have adorned every profession, and every department of society; they have occupied the most elevated stations, have graced in successive generations the same lofty seat their ancestor occupied, have been the objects of the confidence, respect, and love of their fellow citizens, and in this vicinity, their name is associated with all that is excellent in the memory of the past, and the observation of the present.
'Your thoughts, my friends, have been led in the course of this lecture, through scenes of the most distressing and revolting character. I leave before your imaginations one that is bright with all the beauty of Christian virtue. In the picture that exhibits Judge Sewall standing forth in the house of his God and in the presence of his fellow-worshippers, making a public declaration of his sorrow and regret for the mistaken judgment he had coöperated with others in pronouncing, and praying that it might be forgiven, - that it might not be followed by evil consequences to himself, his family, or his country; in this picture you have a representation of a truly great and magnanimous spirit, a spirit to which the divine influence of our religion had given an expansion and a lustre, that Roman or Grecian virtue never knew; a spirit that had achieved a greater victory than warrior ever won, a victory over itself; a spirit so noble and so pure that it felt no shame in acknowledging an error, and no humiliation in atoning for an injury. If the contemplation of this bright example shall have imparted a glow of emulation to your hearts, your patience in listening, I am sure, will not go unrewarded.'
pp. 129 - 132. In taking a survey of this dark period in the history of our land, it seems but reasonable, so far at least as relates to the delusion itself, to number it with those times of ignorance,' which as in compassion for Pagan darkness, the Apostle tells us,
. God winked at.' And considering the bitter contrition, that followed, in which the judges and the accusers, the magistrates and the clergy alike partook, we may believe what is recorded of the penitent Israelites after a season of general reformation, that their cry went up to the holy place, and the Lord hearkened and healed the people.' But our wonder at the extent of this delusion of our ancestors will be greatly diminished, when we remember, — what indeed must never be overlooked in any impartial view of these times, that it was a delusion they shared with all ages and all nations, not only before but after them. And here, did our limits permit, we should gladly follow Mr. Upham in the interesting and instructive view of this subject, which chiefly occupies his Second Lecture. The reader may find there collected a multitude of curious and authentic facts, which will well reward his attention. Sir Walter Scott, in his work on Demonology, has also brought together from the vast stores of his reading a yet greater variety ; but they are less skilfully arranged, and not sufficiently distinguished from the legends and tales of romance, in which that celebrated writer delights, to furnish the same valuable instruction. In the brief and judicious summary of Mr. Upham, we see, that from the days of the Witch of Endor, through the fabulous periods of heathen antiquity to the commencement of the Christian era, and thence amidst the superstitions of the Romish Church, and under the influence of the perverted doctrine of devils,' almost to the present time, there have never been wanting
believers in witchcraft, or victims to its delusion. The number of these victims in Europe, at various periods, far exceeded, as did the spirit of persecution, any thing known or imagined in this country, in which, from the beginning to the end of the fanaticism, only twenty persons were actually put to death.* But in 1484, after Pope Innocent the Eighth had issued his bull for the punishment of persons suspected of witchcraft, multitudes became its victims. 'Forty-one aged females,' says Mr. Upham, 'were consigned to the flames in one nation, and, not long after, one hundred were burned in the devoted valleys of Piedmont; forty-eight were burned in Ravensburg in five years; and in the year 1515, five hundred were burned at Geneva, in three months !'— In 1576, seventeen or eighteen were condemned in Essex, in England,' while in France, it is affirmed, though the authority is not given, that a single judge, Remigius, condemned and burned nine hundred within fifteen years, from 1580 to 1595, in the single district of Lorraine; and as many more fled out of the country 'to escape the fury of the persecution, so that • whole villages were depopulated.' During the whole of the sixteenth century,' adds our author, “there were executions for witchcraft in all civilized countries. More than two hundred were hanged in England;' several only a few years before the proceedings commenced in Salem ;' but, it is worthy of remark, 'a considerable number in various parts of Great Britain some years after the prosecutions had entirely ceased in America.'
It has been said, that the first impulse to the prosecution of witchcraft in this country was given by certain passages selected and studiously circulated from the works of Richard Baxter. There is no doubt of his firm faith in the doctrine. Mr. Upham states, that he wrote his book, entitled The Certainty of the World of Spirits,' for the special purpose of confirming and diffusing the belief; and that he kept up a correspondence with the Mathers, both the father and son, stimulating and encouraging them in their proceedings against certain witches in Boston. We have also been told, on an authority entitled to respect, that the first effectual step to the checking of this delusion was the influence of an opinion of the excellent Dr. Edmund Calamy, who, alarmed at the dreadful extent to which the persecutions were carried, expressed his belief, that it was possible even for good men to be bewitched.'
* To those of our readers, who may not have read these Lectures, the following summary, given by Mr. Upham, of the exact extent of this calamity will be acceptable.
• During the prevalence of this fanaticism, twenty persons lost their lives by the hand of the executioner;'-'most of these persons were advanced in years, and many of them left large families of children;'eight, whose names and places of residence are also given, 'were condemned to death, but did not suffer. Besides these, fifty-five persons escaped death by confessing themselves guilty, one hundred and fifty were in prison, and more than two hundred others were accused. pp. 34, 35.
That good men, even the greatest and the best, may be deluded, the whole history we have been considering is one continued proof. And if in these imperfect remarks we have found ourselves compelled, however reluctantly, to concur with the writer in his censures of one so prominent as was Dr. Mather, it is not because he was deceived, for almost all others were deceived with him ; or because he was urgent for measures, from which few had the wisdom or the courage to dissent; * but because he was willing to convert a general delusion into an instrument of selfish ambition ; and because, after the delusion had past, and the injustice and cruelty of the whole proceedings were manifest, he neither seemed to repent of them, nor to share in the general solicitude to atone for them.
To us of the present day it may seem impossible, that such a delusion could again prevail ; or that, even if it should, it could be followed by such bitter persecutions on the one hand, or, on the other, by such appalling sufferings. Happily the advancing lights of philosophy and of religion leave us to good hopes. The phenomena of the physical world have been so fully explained, that what was once mysterious, or was ascribed to preternatural influences, is now easily understood,
Among the very few, who have vindicated their claims to this distinction, by publicly maintaining their dissent at the time, Mr. Upham mentions with deserved respect the truly revered and learned Samuel Willard, of the Old South in Boston, author of the Body of Divinity,' and one of the most esteemed ministers of his times; and Major Saltonstall, who publicly expressed his disapprobation by retiring from his seat on the bench. This noble conduct, however, was maintained at fearful hazards; for the accusers repeatedly cried out upon Mr. Willard, and seemed to experience a fiend-like satisfaction in the thought of bringing infamy and death upon the best and most honored citizens of the colonies. See Lectures, p. 31.