17th Century New England, with special emphasis on the Salem Witchcraft Trials

This is a more accurate rendering of the text of this 17th century publication than is posted at the University of Virginia website, where the images of the original pages are available. Authorship is attributed to Samuel Willard. "S." and "B." refer to Salem and Boston respectively. "P.E." is Phillip English and "J.A." is John Alden.

Some Miscellany


On our present Debates respecting

Witchcrafts, in a Dialogue

S. & B.

By P.E. and J.A.

Philadelphia, Printed by William Bradford, for Hezekiah Usher


S. I understand that you and many others are greatly dissatisfied at the Proceedings among us, in the pursuance of those that have been Accused for Witchcraft, and have accordingly sought to obstruct them; which I am afraid will prove pernicious to the Land; and that for more reasons than one; principally in the hazzard of Breaches and Divisions among us, which tend to force unhappy Change; and somebody will be to blame.

B. Sir, the Peace of a Place is earnestly to be sought, and they that sinfully cause Divisions, will be guilty of all the miserable effects of them but whether this blame will truly fall upon you or us, is to he considered there is an earnest contending for the Truth requisite, and that is not to be parted with for Peace.

S. No doubt every one will justifie himself in his own way; but men are not for that Innocent: yea, the most blameworthy are for the most part carried out with the greatest Confidence.

A. True, I could reflect here; but I spare. Only give me leave to tell you. that we have more reasons to plead our integrity by, than possibly you know of or will easily believe.

S. I would gladly hear them.

B. I confess, the Animosities on both sides have been sinful, and much obstructive to the coming at the Truth: but if you will promise placidly to argue the Case with me, you shall hear what we have to say; and I will as readily entertain anything from you: and if we can come to a better understanding between us, it will be well.

S. The proposal is fair, and I shall endeavor to comply with it; only give me leave first to Catechise you in a few things.

B. I shall freely give you my sense of anything you will ask.

S. Do you believe that there are any Witches?

B. Yes, no doubt; the Scripture is clear for it; and it is an injurious reflection that some of yours have cast upon us, as if we called that Truth in question. Whether anything we attest doth undermine it, is to be considered.

S. And ought not these Witches to be Punished?

B. Without question: the Precept of Gods Word is for it: only they must be so proved.

S. But may not Witches be so Detected, as to be liable to a righteous Sentence and Execution?

B. I believe it, though I think it not so easy as some make it, yet God often righteously leaves them to discover themselves.

S. Ought not the Civil Magistrate to use utmost diligence in the Searching out Witchcraft, when he is directed by Gods Providence to grounds of a just suspicion of it?

B. Doubtless: yet ought he to manage the matter with great Prudence and Caution, and attend right Rules in the Search. But now give me leave to take the like liberty of propounding two or three questions to you?

S. With Freedom.

B. Taking it for granted that there are Witches in NEW ENGLAND, which no rational man will dare to deny; I ask whether Innocent Persons may not be falsely accused of Witchcraft?

S. I verily believe it, and hope none of you suppose us so uncharitable as to think the contrary.

B. Do you not think it an hard lot for an Innocent Person to have the aspersion of Witchcraft cast upon him?

S. Without scruple; there being no Crime more scandalous and abominable; nor any that is with more difficulty wiped off.

B. All of you are not so minded on my Knowledge: but ought there not to be good grounds of suspicion, before a person (especially of honest Conversation) be brought on to the stage to be examined for such a Crime?

S. I see no danger in owning the Affirmative; I am not yet convinced that there is any Reflexion in it upon us.

B. That is not my business: but did you think that every suspicion is enough to commit a man to Prison for such a Crime?

S. Why not, if the suspicion be built on just Presumptions! for this is only in order to a fair Trial, which is to pass through two Juries, where he will have the liberty to Vindicate his Innocence openly.

B. You must give me leave to diffent from you here, before I Proceed in my Queries. I am informed that in a Legal Warrant made for the Commitment of a Person, his Crime may not be mentioned under the Lenefying term of suspicion; but the Act or Acts are to be Expressly Charged; E. G. you are to take into your Custody, &c. for several Acts of Witchcraft Committed on the body of, &c. now certainly, there is more than a meer suspicion upon fallacious Presumptions, necessary for the doing of this Honestly. Our statute Laws therefore have provided great Cautions against the Committing of persons without Substantial grounds: Besides, it is certain, that on lighter suspicions of Capital Crimes, Bail may be taken; so that if the person be committed to Goal, his Mittimus goes for want of Bail, and doth not directly charge the Crime on him; yea and Bail may still be taken after Commitment. Moreover, Reason it self saith, that when a man is Committed without Bail, and may not come off without a Jury; and in order to that an Indictnent must be formed against him, where the Acts are again to be Positively & Particularly charged upon him, and Witnesses to be Examined, which exposeth him to open Ignominy, there ought to be something Substantial against him. Yea Conscience will tell a Justice, that if he verily believes that a Grand jury ought not, or cannot Legally find Billa vera against such a man, he doth him an ineparable wrong in so committing him; since hereby, his Credit is Steined, his Liberty Restreined, his Time Lost, and great Charges and Damages come upon him; which, who shall repair?

S. These things seem to have some weight in them, but I think them aliene from our Case: please then to Proceed.

B. I believe them not so aliene; but for the present let me ask: Do you think that a less clear Evidence is sufficient for Conviction in the Case of Witchcraft, than is necessary in other Capital Cases, suppose Murder, &c.

S. We suppose it necessary to take up with less, how else shall Witches be detected and punished according to Gods Command? Witchcraft is then esteemed Capital, when the person is Guilty of being in Combination with the Devil; which must be proved by Presumptions; for who saw or heard them Covenanting?

B. This is a dangerous Principle, and contrary to the mind of God, who hath appointed that there shall be good and clear proof against the Criminal; else he is not Providentially delivered into the hands of Justice, to be taken off from the earth. Nor hath God exempted this Case of Witchcraft from the General Rule. Besides, reason tells us, that the more horrid the Crime is, the more Cautious we ought to be in making any guilty of it.

S. But how then shall Witches be detected and executed? must the Land grown under the burden of them, and is there no relief?

B. Witches (as other Criminals) are not to be executed till detected; nor are they detected, till indubitably proved to be so: for which we are to use Gods way, and wait his time: and his will in his providence is, that some mens sins shall go before hand to Judgment, and others shall come after.

S. But Divines and Lawyers put great weight on Presumptions as Perkins, Bernard, Dalton, &c. and you seem to make them insignificant.

B. So we are indeed charged, but injuriously. As for Dalton, he only prescribes Rules for Justices in their private Capacity, for the Examining, or at most the Commitment of the Persons suspected; and his Rules are given so Confusedly, that I think no Justice can understand his Duty by them. As for Perkins and Bernard, whom you instance in; I presume that either you have not read them, or mistake them. They rightly distinguish between Presumption and Conviction; and tell us that some Presumptions, are stronger than others; some only sufficient for Examination, others enough for Commitment: but they confidently aver, that all presumptions, which are no more but so, are short of being Conviction; and where are you then? and indeed they say nothing but what hath good reason in it; for to put a man to death by bare Presumptions, is to do it by guess, and that is something hard.

S. You seem to be very nice and critical in this point.

B. And why not? there is Life in the case; betides a perpetual infamy on the person, and a ruinous reproach upon his Family.

S. But what then will you allow for a clear Conviction?

B. I will tell you my thoughts in several Particulars, Against which if you please you may object: and First, there must be a matter of fact evidently done, and proved: for, where there is no fact, there is no ground of accusation against any person.

S. I shall make no reply against this.

B. Secondly; this matter of fact must carry in it the Evidence of the Crime which it is brought to prove.

S. What do you mean by evidence?

B. I mean, that it be infallibly, or if you will, indubetably certain, that he who did that fact, rendered himself by it Guilty of the Crime, for the proof whereof it is alledged; otherwise, the Crime is not found out by the fact.

S. Why may not a strong Presumption do here, especially if there be many facts which look that way?

B. Good reason; for if the fact may be done, and yet the person doing it be innocent of the Crime, the Verdict is meerly conjectural, and the man dyes by will and doom: whereas God hath not granted to men such a power over one anothers Lives. If the Hypothesis be not necessary, there can be no Evidence or Demonstration drawn from it: and if the artificial argument fail, the Testimony cannot affect the party.

S. You may please to proceed.

B. Thirdly; a full and clear Legal discovery, that the party accused hath done the fact by which the Crime is evidenced. For it is one thing to be certain that there is Witchcraft in the thing, and another to know who is concerned in it: nor are we to fix it upon conjectures, be they never so probable.

S. We shall agree in this Doctrine of a Legal discovery, and if we can do so in the Application, I hope there will be no further difference between u

S. Please then to interpret your mind in this matter.

B. There are two things whereby this Conclusion may be made evident; and any one of them is sufficient: and they are both of them well known, and plentifully spoken to by Authors: it will there be needless now to insist on them.

S. Let us a little Discourse on it, for possibly we are not of one mind about them.

B. The first is, A free and full Confession made by the Accused person, of the Fact, being in his right mind, and not frightened or forced into it.

S. But may not a person falsely accuse himself. and so dy of a Crime of which he is Innocent?

B. He may: nevertheless, if all due means be used, his Blood is on his own Head, and the Civil Authority will be blameless.

S. What mean you by a person in his right mind?

B. One that is neither distracted nor discontented; and so may not be supposed either to confess he knows not what; or to do it to rid himself of life, and to distraction I account deep Mellancholy expressed by the prevalency of strange Imaginations, apt to lead him into a belief of anything against himself or others. In these cases much tenderness is to be used.

S. But how shall this be known?

B. Enquiry is to be made of those that converse with them: and if there be nothing appear but that they are in their right mind, the Case is clear against them.

S. But you talk of a free and voluntary Confession; Do you condemn the Examining of them by Civil Authority, and strictly proving them by questions, which are proper to bring them to such a Confession.

B. By no means, provided it be fairly done.

S. When is that?

B. First when there are strong Presumptions against the Person; and that is the main use of Presumption, viz. to bring the person upon Examination; and to do it without such, is a breach of the Rule of Charity, which is to think no evil.

S. And when else?

B. Secondly, As I before said, when means are not used to force or fright their into it. Extorted Confessions are not fair.

S. You talk of Spanish Inquisitions; I hope none of ours are chargeable with it, and yet I know there are some who plead for Examination by Torture?

B. See you to that; I am not accusing, but arguing; and let me tell you, there are other ways of undue force and fright, besides, Racks, Strappadoes and such like things as Spanish Inquisitors use.

S. What are they?

B. I may tell you another time: but I now pass to the second ground of Conviction, which is The Testimony of two sufficient Humane Witnesses, to one and the same Individual Fact, as done by the Party Accused.

S. You are too streight Laced in expressing of this, and I am dissatisfied with it.

B. I am willing to be convinced by Reason.

S. I see no reason why it is necessary that there should be two Witnesses to the same Individual Fact: I thought it had been enough, if it were to the same Fact in Specie: I know Judicious and Learned Men are of this mind, and tell us, that it is enough to gain Humane Credit; if one man say that he saw Lions in Africa last year, and another comes and says that he saw Lions there this year; though it was not at the same time, nor likely the same Individual Lions: why then may it not do in this Case?

B. The case is vastly different. I may give an Historical Credit to Reports, upon probable grounds, because, if they should prove false, no man is hurt by it, and therefore, one good credible Author may suffice here. But to take away the Names and Lives of Persons on so easy a belief, is not so light a matter. The mistake doth a mischief irreparable. Besides, the moral reason of appointing two Witnesses at least to confirm a matter by, is properly referrible to Individual Facts: for, it is by such that a man is proved guilty: now my denial challengeth as much credit as anothers affirmation against me: and every particular Fact, having my particular denial against him that chargeth me: there is but one to one in that Individual: and the Law of Equity and Charity requires that I be believed in my own Defence, where there is nothing to preponderate.

S. If this Rule be always followed, it will be hard to punish Wickedness.

B. If it be not carefully followed, there will be no Security for Innocence.

S. I am not clear what you mean by Humane Witnesses; I have understood that you deny the Afflicted Persons to be such. .

B. That is one of your mistakes; and you labour of a great many to your judging of us: We acknowledge the Afflicted Persons to be Humane; and if they are Witnesses at all, they must be Humane Witnesses; but I trust you will see your Error anon.

S. But what then do you mean by the Testimony of Humane Witnesses?

B. I mean, that the Testimony it self be Humane, as well as the Witnesses; or, to speak more plain, that the Thing Testified be that which he came to the knowledge of, after the manner of men.

S. What do you mean by that?

B. I intend, That which one man can know concerning another by his Senses, and that according to the true nature, and use of them; whatsoever comes in any other way, is either by extraordinary Revelation from God, or by the insinuation of the Devil; and what Credit is legally to be given to a thing which an Humane Person swears, meerly upon the Devils Information?

S. It seems then you would altogether invalidate the Testimony of our Afflicted?

B. I have many things against it, which I shall reduce to two Heads. First, I cannot think them to be competent Witnesses.

S. It may be you run away with the common vogue, that they are scandalous persons, liars, and loose in their Conversation, and therefore not to be believed: but you are mistaken: and if they- were, yet they may by this affliction be made better; but however; they are not upon a Record for any of these things, and are therefore without any legal exception.

B. I have heard many things of that nature, and I do believe, if they be true, and made so to appear, it ought to weaken their Testimony, although they do not stand upon Record; so that if such things be proved before a Jury (who are Judges of Witnesses, and of the weight of their Evidence) they are in Conscience to count them insufficient, and I am sure that utmost care ought to be had about the qualifications of such whose Testimony is taken against mens lives; that they be according to the Rules, which Moral Heathen, by the light of nature have acknowledged to be necessary. But here is not my great stick.

S. Why? They are Humane Persons as well as you.

B. True; and yet there may be that which will render them incompetent. As, suppose them to be possessed persons. I know you stiffly deny it, because you fore see that if you grant it, their Witness is thereby rendered invalid.

S. Yea, and we have sufficient reason to deny it.

B. Be not over confident, you may be mistaken. What are your reasons?

S. They are bewitched, and therefore not possessed; there are seven signs of one bewitched, and six of these agree in them.

B. I dispute not that; though I find some to be very confused in this point: but supposing them bewitched, they may be possessed too: and it is an ordinary thing for a possession to be introduced by a bewitching, as there are many instances in History do confirm.

S. But they have their fits by times and are out of them again.

B. And yet they may be possessed. Such as were possessed by Devils, on the records of the Gospel History, were so.

S. But there is no Symptom on them, which may not well agree to one that is bewitched, and not possessed.

B. I believe you are mistaken. I could name many things, which I think must either prove them Witches or possessed; and I charitable believe the latter of them.

S. I could never be convinced of that.

B. It may be so: and I could give a reason for it. But what do you think of their extraordinary sight, which you make so much use of to the astonishment of some of us? and what of their telling of things done at a distance, their Predicting of things future! and (if you may be Credited) their discovering of things Secret, and done before they were born, and telling the names of perfons whom they never heard of; and many things of like nature.

S. I believe these may be the effects of Witchcraft.

B. Not of meer Witchcraft; nor yet are infallible evidence of Witchcraft: they may be without it, immediately from the Devil; and cannot be without either some possession, or some unlawful commerce with the Devil.

S. You will hardly perswade ours to believe you in this point.

B. It maybe so: but I have further to object against their being sufficient Witnesses. Viz. Their incapacity to give a full and clear Testimony, to the face of the Prisoner at the Barr; and yet that is requisite by Law and Reason.

S. That is because the Witches smite them down with their poisoned Looks.

B. That is more than you can prove: but suppose it; they are hereby Providentially prevented of doing that which is requisite in a Legal Witness.

S. It is indeed an Obstruction for a time: but with much Patience there is at length a Testimony gained of them.

B. A poor one too: for you say that the Devil somtimes takes away their memory, and it must be refreshed, by putting things to them, and that is enough: somtimes also there must be a great many parcels in the Evidence, and that must make it confused.

S. But somtimes they are as well as you are, and are they not competent Witnesses now?

R. I doubt that; for whiles they have their spectral sight, I cannot suppose them to be clear from the Charm. But this is not the thing I mainly insist upon; But the second thing I would plead to is, their Testimony is not Convictive.

S. How so?

B. For two reasons, because it is not Humane; nor doth it affect the person.

S. Why not Humane? they are Humane persons I suppose that give it.

B. True; but how came they by their Knowledge? it is not according to the way that is natural for then to know things by; but it is either Supernaturally, or Preter-naturally; and that must be Extraordinarily, either from God or Satan.

S. Many of us think it to be from God for the discovery of Witchcraft.

B. And one of yours tells me, he is confirmed in it, because the confessing Witches say so. But no more of that. I am sure, by your own concessions, the most of their information is from the Afflicting Spectres, and the Black man, (it may be somtimes he puts on white, to look like an Angel of Light) I believe when God raiseth up Prophets, he will reveale himself in some other way to them, than by Devils; and in some other sort of raptures than in Tormenting Fits.

S. But if it be of the Devil, it may be over-ruled by God to discover wicked persons, and bring them to deserved punishment.

B. I believe Devils are under the Government of Gods Providence, & may be by his ruling hand improved in such discoveries; but it is without their designing either the Glory of God or the good of men, but the contrary; and therefore whatever comes from them is to be suspected; and it is dangerous using or crediting them too far.

S. But what if God will Extraordinarily use Devils in this affair? shall we reject his Providence in it?

B. This is a thing which I am not ready to believe in this Case; and that because it is an insufficient Medium to attain the end, and that for the Second reason I named, Viz. it doth not affect the person accused.

S. You said so indeed; but it needs proof.

B. When I say it affects him not; I principally intend, it will not amount to an evidence against him; and if so, what discovery is there in it?

S. Do you not believe that his Spectre is seen afflicting by the person afflicted?

B. Supposing it; yet it doth not hence follow that he is the Witch.

S. We must grant that it is the Devil in the Spectre; but it is by the Parties consent, and therefore it proves him Guilty.

B. I know you all plead so; and tell us that the Devil cannot represent an Innocent person doing mischief, but never proved it; nor can we believe you.

S. Where then is the Rectoral Holiness of God in Governing the World?

B. Where was it when God suffered Naboths Life to be taken away, by false Witnesses? where was it when Solomon made that remarke in, Eccles. 8 . 14? It is not for such silly Mortals as you and I to prescribe to him who sits King for ever.

S. But how could the World stand if it might be so permitted?

B. There are some things now and then Evene; that if it were common, would subvert the World: and if Devils had their unrestrained Liberty, they would soon discover it: and yet for God when he pleaseth to suffer such things, to Evene in a way of judgment, is consistent with his Holiness, and is also Doctrinal to us.

S. But by this notion good mens lives might be exposed and lost.

B. That is your fault who give such credit to these things. I believe, if it were your lot to be thus accused, you would think it hard so to be so censured, or dealt by: you would either repent of your rashness, or turn Atheist.

S. I never fear it; God will never permit such a thing.

B. That makes you so censorious: and others have so said, but now they are accused, and eat their words.

S. Can you give an instance of any Godly Person so accused?

B. History supplies us with enough, and those not only Innocent, which were sufficient, but famous for extraordinary Piety.

S. Who knows but they were Hypocrites and Witches for all?

B. True, and so are you for ought I certainly know: but the Rule of Charity bids us to think well of them, till that appear which ought to remove this Charity.

S. We think so too, but suppose here is enough, presuming it necessary that there must be the content of the party.

B. And it is a presumption in you, and insufficient, till you can prove that the Devil cannot do it without their consent, which I believe you never will.

S. We do not yet see that you have proved that he ever hath so done

B. That's a wheedle: none knows anothers heart: let us produce the most eminent instances of that kind, and you reply, who knows but they were Hypocrites and Witches? But mean while you forget that it lies upon you to prove, that it cannot be; else how can you safely conclude the Evidence you would draw from it? it is a principle you practicse upon, and sure you should make it good: Besides, we have arguments to make it Rationally appear, that it may well be.

S. We are willing to hearken to Reason.

B. That's well: Do you really believe that all the persons accused are Witches.

S. God forbid that I should be so uncharitable.

B. This is a plain contradiction: for if you believe the former conclusion, you must either suspect the Accusers of Falshood, which you will not bear, or of a delusion, which you deny, or that all so Accused are Guilty.

S. We are indeed astonished at the thing; especially since the number of the accused is so formidably encreased.

B. Nor is there a prospect of an end of those accusations in this way. But will you admit of a little reasoning in this case? I suppose you believe that the Devil can do this, and will too, should God permit him so far.

S. No doubt.

B. That God may permit him, consistent with his Rectoral Holiness, is (I think) undeniable. He can make a scourge of it to punish a Backsliding People by: he can humble his own Children by it, and make it turn to their good in the end; he hath clone things as unaccountable as this; and who hath limited him in this only case.

S. But if the Afflicted Persons Testifie that they see such an one afflicting them personally, must not this be Convictive? shall he excuse himself by saying the Devil did it in his likeness, without his consent? may not men make this excuse in all other Crimes that are witnessed against them? and where is the course of Justice then?

B. I have heard much such insignificant talk: Supposing the Afflicted capable of giving a Testimony, we still say; that if two Witnesses aver such a thing concerning a person, and he cannot prove himself to be in another place at the same time, he is legally convicted, and (if innocent yet) he must adore God's Sovereign Providence, and acquit the Judges and Juries: But what do you say, when they do it whilst the Accused is in presence, and many Witnesses must say it is not he? for he cannot be in two places at once.

S. That is the Witchcraft in the case, which is hereby discovered for it is the Devil who doth all the mischief, only it is by their consent, otherwise they could not be suposed to be Witches.

B. But when it is so, it still remains to prove their consent, which they deny; and your argument is not valid to evince it; it being a conclusion which you draw at least from uncertain premises, how then should it be certain! where the Word of God requires that the thing be certain.

S. Witches then must not be known but by their personal Confession: and this is to prevent the finding out of such abominations.

B. Otherwise Innocent Persons may be condemned for Witches: and what a fearful thing is that? and know it, that God never intended to bring to light all hidden works or workers of Darkness in this World; nor will it be imputed as a Sin, that men did not punish secret sins without clear discoveries: but if in a precipitant zeal, they should cut off any for Crimes not proved, it will be imputed. Nevertheless, there are other ways to find out Witches besides their own Confession.

S. But I hope you will allow this, with some other weighty Circumstance, to make up an Evidence against the Accused.

B. I think not: and my reason is, because there must be at least one Fact proved against the person, for which he ought to dy: and that is it which his Guilt is to be found upon; and it is enough: but if there be no one such thing, all the Suspicious Circumstances will not make it up, because the thing is not made certain by them. Besides, wise men tell us, that never so many meer Presumptions will not do it.

S. But suppose the person accused cannot prove himself in another place at the time, will not the Accusation then suffice.

B. No, not in case of Witchcraft, when only the Afflicted accuse, and By-standers can neither see nor feel any thing: for that sight is Spectral, and that is preternatural, and so not convictive; because, as I before told you, witness to matter of Fact, must be of things that come under our Senses, as they are Humane: this therefore proves nothing distinctly, or individually, but only disjunctively, viz. that it is either by Witchcraft, or more immediately from the Devil.

S. I hope you will allow this to be enough to commit persons to Prison upon suspicion; which may be an introduction to bring in other things against them.

B. The Law provides that persons committed for Capital Crimes, be without Bayl; and they must at least pass a Grand-jury ere they can have a delivery: and for that Reason, it also provides that no person shall be so Committed but for somthing which hath at least the value of one clear Testimony to prove it such a Crime: Besides, the name, and Life of the person is hereby exposed; and reason tells us, there must be somthing Testifiable against him for such a thing: this is no light matter to have mens names for ever Stigmatized, their Families ruined, and their Lives hazarded.

S. But by this means have many been discovered, and other things brought in against them, which have detected them and they have suffered justly.

B. I have nothing to say on that account; I never saw their Trials. But I know, an error in the First Concoction is not Rectified in the Second. Evil is not to be done that good may come of it. You cannot tell how many Innocent persons may be by it ruined for this World. However, good events do not justify unwarrantable actions.

S. Sure you will grant it to be enough to bring persons upon Examination.

B. Do the Afflicted persons know personally all whom they cry out of?

S. No; some they never saw, it may be never heard of before.

B. And upon whose information will you send for the accused?

S. That of the Afflicted.

B. And who informed them?

S. The Spectre.

B. Very good, and that's the Devil, turned informer: how are good men like to fare, against whom he hath a Particular malice.

S. For the most part they are known by them, at the least one or other of them.

B. It is but a Presumption; and wise men will weigh Presumptions against Presumptions. There is to be no Examination without grounds of suspicion. Some persons Credit ought to be accounted too good to be undermined so far as to be suspected on so slight a ground; and it is an injury done them to bring them upon Examination, which renders them openly suspected. I will not deny but for persons already suspected, and of ill fame, it may occasion their being Examined; but if nothing else comes in, nor a Confession be made; the use of such a Presumption any further ceaseth: but if other things of moment appear, a further Legal proceeding may be made.

S. That is enough for me; we never imprisoned any on a meer Spectral Evidence, or the bare accusation of the Afflicted.

B. Nor Examined any Publickly, who were before of good reputation for Piety? Some think other wise; but what is that to me? I would fain know what the other thing is:

S. When they have been brought before the Afflicted, they have struck them down with their Eyes, and raised them again with a touch of their hands.

B. You are very uncharitable to say they did it, because there have been such things in concomitancy.

S. The very poison of the Witches eyes hath knock't them down.

B. I see you are no Philosopher: I am satisfied that there is Illusion in this as well as the other; I pray do these effects follow meerly on their coming in their sight, or by using of it as an Ordeal?

S. It was first discovered occasionally, but sence hath been used for an experiment, and is found never to fail.

B. The use of this as a Trial, is utterly unlawful, as will ere long be made to appear to the World: and besides, the thing is not evidential, when it is clone; but exceedingly fallacious: yea indeed, it is not any whit more a Presumption than the former, if so much.

S. But it never fails,

B. The more awful the Judgment of God, and the greater the Trial of our sincerity, if, though the thing comes to pass, yet we will not be drawn from our obedience to God.

S. We have old presidents for the using of such a course.

B. No president will Justify that which is sinful, the older an error the worse: besides, it was borrowed from Popish Exorcists originally.

S. Some tell us that there is a natural cause for it.

B. And you believe them! The effect is preternatural, and the thing unaccountable: and mens wild guesses in such an affair, ought not to pass for Maxims, where life is concerned. I know not how you stand affected; but I profess I should be loth to dy upon a meer point of Philosophy that is at most disputable.

S. You are an admirable Advocate for the Witches.

B. This is not the first time. But if you thus Reflect, we had as good break off at present.

S. I would willingly before we part ask you what you think of the accusation of the Confessors, who say they have seen such in their Meetings, and diverse Baptized by the Devil. I have heard that you make light of this too; whereas we thought it would have put all out of question.

B. I have already told you my Judgment of the Confessors against themselves: but there is enough (I think) to invalidate their evidence against others.

S. The Law provides that Accomplices confessing are valid against their Associates.

B. There are disputes about that, and I am not so good a Lawyer as to determine it: only I have to except in this Case.

S. I would gladly hear what you can say to it.

B. First, the persons confessing are Witches by their own confession: and have therefore abjured God and Christ, and given themselves up to the Devil, the Father of Lies; and what Credit is to be given to the Testimony of such against the Lives of others?

S. But what if they have openly renounced that Covenant, and testified repentance, why are they not now valid?

B. Less Crimes require a long probation of persons repentance: and their bare say so, is but a poor evidence for them; nay though they shed tears and ask forgiveness. Furthermore, some things ought to be a perpetual infamy to persons, and for ever disable them for giving Testimony in this World; to be sure, till they are restored plentifully to the Charity of all good men.

S. This seems harsh Doctrine.

B. But I think it good Doctrine. Yet, Secondly, The things themselves which they Testifie are liable to many Illusion

S. The Witches themselves do not know when they go in Spectre, and when in Body, and how should they then tell, whether the other be the person bodily or only in Spectre? instances enough may be produced of such as confidently averred they were carried away in Body, when many Witnesses knew the contrary.

S. I see the difference between us and you is very wide; and I fear the confequence.

B. God is able to clear up these things, and let us herein agree to seek him for it, in the ways of his Appointment.


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This page was last updated 05/02/21 by Margo Burns, My email address.