Obrazy na stronie

that the judges proceeded too far, and were chargeable with mistakes, particularly in respect to the kind of evidence which they admitted, and on which they more or less relied.* And if, as we have seen, the judges were not vindictive, it is impossible that Mr. Mather should have excited them to persevere in their vindictiveness.”+

There is another fact in the life of Cotton Mather, which is worthy to be mentioned here, and which shows that he did not altogether sympathize with the course pursued, in reference to those who were thought to be bewitched. “He offered, at the beginning, that if the possessed people might be scattered far asunder, he would singly provide for six of them; and he, with some others, would see whether (without more bitter methods) prayer and fasting would not put an end unto these heavy trials. But his offer was not accepted.”I Had this method been taken, in the case of the sufferers, it is probable that the country had

* Vol. II. p. 414.

+ The treatise referred to by President Quincy, entitled “Wonders of the Invisible World," was drawn up at the command of his excellency Gov. Phipps, with the recommendation and thanks of the Lieut. Governor, and with the consent and approbation of Dr. Increase Mather, and the other ministers in and near Boston. Also two of the judges, Stoughton and Sewall, appended a written certificate, as to the truth of the statements. It contains an abridgment of several English works on witchcraft, particularly of the trials of the two women who were condemned by Sir Matthew Hale, in 1664; also a full account of several of the principal trials at Salem. Speaking of these trials, Mr. Mather says: "I was not present at any of them; nor had I ever any prejudice against the persons thus brought upon the stage ; much less at the surviving relations of those persons, with whom I would be as hearty a mourner as any man living in the world. The Lord comfort them! But having received a command so to do, I can do no other than relate the chief matters of fact, which occurred in the trials of some that were executed, in an abridgment collected out of the court papers put into my hands. You are to take the truth, just as it was; and the truth will hurt no good man. These may serve to illustrate the way of dealing, wherein witchcrafts use to be concerned. I report matters, not as an advocate, but as an historian." p. 81.

# Life by his Son, p. 45.

not been disgraced, and that not one of the accused had lost his life under the charge of witchcraft. i

But it is further urged against Cotton Mather, that, not satisfied with the tragedy at Salem, he tried to renew the same scenes in Boston, and actually succeeded in getting up a case of witchcraft there the following year. “To cover his confusion,” says Mr. Bancroft,“ he got up a case of witchcraft, in his own parish, in 1693."* “He succeeded, the next summer," says Mr. Upham,“ in getting up a wonderful case of witchcraft, in the person of one Margaret Rule, a member of his congregation in Boston.”+ The only circumstance adduced as evidence that Cotton Mather had any instrumentality in causing the alleged witchcraft of Margaret Rule, is a certain private letter, addressed by him to Stephen Sewall, Esq., of Salem, dated Sept. 20th, 1692, and requesting of him“ a narrative of the evidences given in at the trials” of some of the principal witches, which had then been recently condemned. His object in requesting such a narrative was, that he might be the better able to meet objections against witchcraft, and defend (so far as he might find them defensible) the proceedings of his friends at Salem. “I am willing,” says he, “ that when you write, you should imagine me as obstinate a Sadducee and witch adrocate, as any among us. Address me as one that believed nothing reasonable. And when you have so knocked me down, in a spectre so unlike me, you will enable me to box it about among my neighbors, till it come, I know not where, at last.”| Mr. Upham, and after him Mr. Peabody, seem to understand from this letter, that Mr. Mather, having collected all the witch stories he could find, intended to color and magnify them, and box them about among his neighbors, till they came at last to something, he could hardly tell what.-Now, taking it for granted that the above is the right interpretation of the letter, is it certain that these stories, after they had been boxed about, were the cause of the sickness, or the derangement of Margaret Rule? I think it would be hard to substantiate any such connection.But is the above the right interpretation of the letter? I am fully satisfied that it is not; and I am astonished that the gentlemen above named should have so blundered upon it, as they seem to have done. What was it that Mr. Mather pro

* Hist. of U. States, Vol. III. p. 97.
+ Lectures on Witchcraft, p. 289.

# Ibid. p. 286.

posed to “ box about among his neighbors ?" Not the witch stories that his friend Sewall might send him, but the fallen spectre of Sadduceeism, which Sewall had knocked down. " When you have knocked me down, in a spectre so unlike me, you will enable me to box it (the fallen spectre)“ about, among my neighbors, till it (the spectre) come, I know not where at last.” This is the strict and proper meaning of the sentence; and it is very different, as every one sees, from the forced, perverted meaning of Messrs. Upham and Peabody. Mr. Mather was a firm believer in the reality of witchcraft, and, like most men of that age, he regarded the disbelief of it as a sort of Sadduceeism, which was little better than infidelity. This unbelieving spirit he saw working around him, and he sought the means of counteracting and overthrowing it. It was with this view that he wrote to his friend at Salem, for" a narrative of the evidences given in at the trials of some of the principal witches which had just been condemned.”

That Mr. Mather had no agency in producing the strange appearances in Margaret Rule, is evident from the fact that Calef does not charge him with it, or so much as intimate it ;also from the consideration, that he seems to have had no acquaintance with Margaret Rule, or knowledge of her, before her troubles commenced. But especially is this evident, from the obvious nature of her disease. Her case, though regarded by Mr. Mather at the time, and by many others, as one of witchcraft, was clearly of a very different character. It seems to have been no other than a protracted case of delirium tremens, and other mental sufferings, occasioned by the habitual use of rum. For nine days together, she swallowed little or nothing, “ except an occasional spoonful of rum.” When her attendants were asked : “ What does she eat and drink ?" they answered: “She eats nothing at all, but drinks rum.” · No wonder she saw the spectres around her, and seemed to persons not acquainted with such appearances, to have been bewitched. If this is the right explanation of her case, as I have no doubt it is, and as Mr. Peabody himself seems to understand it, then Mr. Mather will stand clear of having produced it, unless it can be shown that he persuaded her to drink rum, and become intoxicated.

In concluding this discussion of Cotton Mather's connection with the excitement respecting witchcraft, the following points seem to me to be well supported. Like most of the learned men of that age, Mr. Mather was a sincere believer in the reality of witchcraft; and that the witch, on due and proper conviction, was worthy of death. He had no concern in getting up cases of witchcraft, in Boston, or Salem, or anywhere else; nor when they occurred, did he rejoice in them ; but they were to him, as they were to most others at that day, events of solemn and painful interest. In regard to the cases at Salem, he was not in favor, at the first, of legal proceedings, put preferred that the bewitched persons should be separated, and that religious means should be used for their recovery. And when judicial proceedings had been instituted, he was opposed to the admission of “ the spectral evidence,” or any other evidence which could be regarded as resting on the devil's authority. He privately wrote to the judges, beseeching them not to proceed on such evidence, and drew up cautions and restrictions, in the advices of the ministers, which, had they been duly regarded, would probably have saved the lives of all the accused. Nevertheless, believing the judges to be sincerely intent on doing right, he did not think it his duty to oppose and vilify them, though he disapproved of some of their proceedings. After the executions were past, at the command of Gov. Phipps, he prepared and published a volume, containing, with other things, an attested history of the trials of some of the principal witches. · Such are, in brief, the facts, in relation to Mr. Mather's opinions and doings, with reference to the subject of witchcraft; and for one I find little to censure, which may not be resolved into the peculiarity of his natural disposition, and the solemn belief which, in common with most at that day, he cherished, as to the reality of diabolical agency in the case. I would not, of course, undertake to defend every word he uttered, and every action he performed, during the whole of this perplexing business; but, forgive him the wrong of his belief, (if it be a wrong,) and admit him to have been sincere and honest in his convictions ; and I see little in what he did which does not, at least, appear consistent, and which, if it cannot be fully justified, may not readily be excused.

[To be continued.*] * We regret that we cannot include in the present article the author's consideration of other objections against Cotton Mather, which to us is the most interesting portion of his vindication of the character of that New England Father. But the lack of space compels us to defer it. Eds. SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. I.




By Rev. Leonard Woods, D. D. Prof. of Theology, Theul. Sem. Andover, Mass.

[Continued from Vol. VI. p. 383.] In the last number of the Repository, I made several remarks in relation to what has appeared to be a very difficult point; namely, if wrong affections and desires arise in the mind spontaneously, or, of their own accord, whether we previously choose them or not, then how are we culpable for them?

In regard to this question I have one thing further to say, which does, I think, by itself, settle the matter at once. We are, without doubt, under perfect obligation to obey the first and great command, and the second, which is like unto it. Now if, in conformity with these commands, we love God with all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, wrong affections will be excluded. There will be no place for them, because the mind will be occupied and filled with those which are holy. In the pure and holy inind of Jesus no sinful emotions were ever found. Now it is very clear, that we must be blameworthy and inexcusable for those wrong mental acts which take place in consequence of our neglecting a great and obvious duty. If our loving God and man as we ought would keep all right in the movements of our hearts, and would effectually exclude all improper feelings; we are most certainly answerable not only for neglecting that primary duty, but for all those improper feelings which rush into the mind in consequence of our neglect. Is not a man answerable for the noxious weeds which grow in his garden, when he might have prevented them by preoccupying the ground with useful plants ?

Inquirer signifies that desires after forbidden objects, burning unawares in the minds of men, may be evidences of their “having been very wicked, or their having inherited a constitution greatly vitiated.” But he sees not“ how they can be proof of

« PoprzedniaDalej »