University of Virginia Library

The Epistle to the Reader, And more especially to the Noble Bereans[159] of this Age, wherever Residing.


You that are freed from the Slavery of a corrupt Education; and that in spite of human Precepts, Examples and Presidents,[160] can hearken to the Dictates of Scripture and Reason:


For your sakes I am content, that these Collections of mine, as also my Sentiments should be exposed to publick view; In hopes that having well considered, and compared them with Scripture, you will see reason, as I do, to question a belief so prevalent (as that here treated of) as also the practice flowing from thence; they standing as nearly connext as cause and effect; it being found wholly impracticable, to extirpate the latter without first curing the former.

And if the Buffoon or Satyrical will be exercising their Talents, or if the Biggots wilfully and blindly reject the Testimonies of their own Reason, and more sure word, it is no more than what I expected from them.

But you Gentlemen, I doubt not, are willing to Distinguish between Truth and Error, and if this may be any furtherance to you herein, I shall not miss my Aim.

But if you find the contrary, and that my belief herein is any way Heterodox, I shall be thankful for the Information to any Learned or Reverend Person, or others, that shall take that pains to inform me better by Scripture, or sound Reason, which is what I have been long seeking for in this Country in vain.

In a time when not only England in particular, but almost all Europe had been labouring against the Usurpations of Tyranny and Slavery, The English America has not been behind in a share in the Common calamities; more especially New-England has met not only with such calamities as are common to the rest, but with several aggravations enhansing such Afflictions, by the Devastations and Cruelties of the Barbarous Indians in their Eastern borders, etc.

But this is not all, they have been harrast (on many accounts) by a more dreadful Enemy, as will herein appear to the considerate.

P. 66.[161] Were it as we are told in Wonders of the Invisible World, that the Devils were walking about our Streets with


lengthned Chains making a dreadful noise in our Ears, and Brimstone, even without a Metaphor, was making a horrid and a hellish stench in our Nostrils,

P. 49. And that the Devil exhibiting himself ordinarily as a black-Man,[162] had decoy'd a fearful knot of Proud, Froward, Ignorant, Envious and Malitious Creatures, to list themselves in his horrid Service, by entring their Names in a Book tendered unto them; and that they have had their Meetings and Sacraments, and associated themselves to destroy the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, in these parts of the World; having each of them their Spectres, or Devils Commissionated by them, and representing of them, to be the Engines of their Malice, by these wicked Spectres siezing poor People about the Country with various and bloody Torments. And of those evidently preternatural Torments some to[o] have died. And that they have bewitched some even so far, as to make them self destroyers, and others in many Towns here and there languish'd under their evil hands. The People thus afflicted miserably scratch'd and bitten; and that the same Invisible Furies did stick Pins in them, and scald them, distort and disjoint them, with a Thousand other Plagues; and sometimes drag them out of their Chambers, and carry them over Trees and Hills Miles together, many of them being tempted to sign the Devils Laws.

P. 7[0]. These furies whereof several have killed more People perhaps than would serve to make a Village.[163]

If this be the true state of the Afflictions of this Country, it is very deplorable, and beyond all other outward Calamities miserable. But if on the other side, the Matter be as others do understand it, That the Devil has been too hard for us by his Temptations, signs, and lying Wonders, with the help of pernicious notions, formerly imbibed and professed; together with the Accusations of a parcel of possessed, distracted, or lying Wenches, accusing their Innocent Neighbours, pretending they see their Spectres (i. e.) Devils in their likeness Afflicting of them, and that God in righteous Judgment (after Men


had ascribed his Power to Witches, of Commissionating Devils to do these things) may have given them over to strong delusions to believe lyes, etc. And to let loose the Devils of Envy, Hatred, Pride, Cruelty, and Malice against each other; yet still disguised under the Mask of Zeal for God, and left them to the branding one another with the odious Name of Witch; and upon the Accusation of those above mentioned, Brother to Accuse and Prosecute Brother, Children their Parents, Pastors and Teachers their immediate Flock unto death; Shepherds becoming Wolves, Wise Men Infatuated; People hauled to Prisons, with a bloody noise pursuing to, and insulting over, the (true) Sufferers at Execution, while some are fleeing from that call'd Justice, Justice it self fleeing before such Accusations, when once it did but begin to refrain further proceedings, and to question such Practises, some making their Escape out of Prisons, rather than by an obstinate Defence of their Innocency, to run so apparent hazard of their Lives; Estates seized, Families of Children and others left to the Mercy of the Wilderness (not to mention here the Numbers prescribed,[164] dead in Prisons, or Executed, etc.)

All which Tragedies, tho begun in one Town, or rather by one Parish, has Plague-like spread more than through that Country. And by its Eccho giving a brand of Infamy to this whole Country, throughout the World,

If this were the Miserable case of this Country in the time thereof, and that the Devil had so far prevailed upon us in our Sentiments and Actions, as to draw us from so much as looking into the Scriptures for our guidance in these pretended Intricacies, leading us to a trusting in blind guides, such as the corrupt practices of some other Countries, or the bloody Experiments of Bodin, and such other Authors — Then tho our Case be most miserable, yet it must be said of New-England, Thou has destroyed thy self, and brought this greatest of Miseries upon thee.

And now whether the Witches (such as have made a compact by Explicit Covenant with the Devil, having thereby obtained a power to Commissionate him) have been the cause of our miseries,

Or whether a Zeal governed by blindness and passion, and


led by president, has not herein precipitated us into far greater wickedness (if not Witchcrafts) than any have been yet proved against those that suffered,

To be able to distinguish aright in this matter, to which of these two to refer our Miseries is the present Work. As to the former, I know of no sober Man, much less Reverend Christian, that being ask'd dares affirm and abide by it, that Witches have that power; viz. to Commissionate Devils to kill and destroy. And as to the latter, it were well if there were not too much of truth in it, which remains to be demonstrated.

But here it will be said, what need of Raking in the Coals that lay buried in oblivion. We cannot recall those to Life again that have suffered, supposing it were unjustly; it tends but to the exposing the Actors, as if they had proceeded irregularly.

Truly I take this to be just as the Devil would have it, so much to fear disobliging men, as not to endeavour to detect his Wiles, that so he may the sooner, and with the greater Advantages set the same on foot again (either here or else where) so dragging us through the Pond twice by the same Cat.[165] And if Reports do not (herein) deceive us, much the same has been acting this present year in Scotland.[166] And what Kingdom or Country is it, that has not had their bloody fits and turns at it. And if this is such a catching disease, and so universal, I presume I need make no Apology for my Endeavours to prevent, as far as in my power, any more such bloody Victims or Sacrifices; tho indeed I had rather any other would


have undertaken so offensive, tho necessary a task; yet all things weighed, I had rather thus Expose my self to Censure, than that it should be wholly omitted. Were the notions in question innocent and harmless, respecting the Glory of God, and well being of Men, I should not have engaged in them, but finding them in my esteem so intollerably destructive of both, This together with my being by Warrant called before the Justices, in my own Just Vindication, I took it to be a call from God, to my Power,[167] to Vindicate his Truths, against the Pagan and Popish Assertions, which are so prevalent; for tho Christians in general do own the Scriptures to be their only Rule of Faith and Doctrine, yet these Notions will tell us, that the Scriptures have not sufficiently, nor at all described the crime of Witchcraft, whereby the culpable might be detected, tho it be positive in the Command to punish it by Death; hence the World has been from time to time perplext in the prosecution of the several Diabolical mediums of Heathenish and Popish Invention, to detect an Imaginary Crime (not but that there are Witches, such as the Law of God describes) which has produced a deluge of Blood; hereby rendering the Commands of God not only void but dangerous.

So also they own Gods Providence and Government of the World, and that Tempests and Storms, Afflictions and Diseases, are of his sending; yet these Notions tell us, that the Devil has the power of all these, and can perform them when commission'd by a Witch thereto, and that he has a power at the Witches call to act and do, without and against the course of Nature, and all natural causes, in afflicting and killing of Innocents; and this is that so many have died for.

Also it is generally believed, that if any Man has strength, it is from God the Almighty Being: But these notions will tell us, that the Devil can make one Man as strong as many, which was one of the best proofs, as it was counted, against Mr. Burroughs the Minister;[168] tho his contemporaries in the Schools during his Minority could have testified, that his strength was then as much superiour to theirs as ever (setting aside incredible Romances) it was discovered to be since. Thus rendring the power of God, and his providence of none Effect.


These are some of the destructive notions of this Age, and however the asserters of them seem sometimes to value themselves much upon sheltring their Neighbours from Spectral Accusations, They may deserve as much thanks as that Tyrant, that having industriously obtained an unintelligible charge against his Subjects, in matters wherein it was impossible they should be Guilty, having thereby their lives in his power, yet suffers them of his meer Grace to live, and will be call'd gracious Lord.

It were too Icarian[169] a task for one unfurnish'd with necessary learning, and Library, to give any Just account, from whence so great delusions have sprung, and so long continued. Yet as an Essay from those scraps of reading that I have had opportunity of, it will be no great venture to say, that Signs and Lying Wonders have been one principal cause.[170]

It is written of Justin Martyr, who lived in the second Century, that he was before his conversion a great Philosopher; first in the way of the Stoicks, and after of the Peripateticks, after that of the Pythagorean, and after that of the Platonists sects; and after all proved of Eminent use in the Church of Christ; Yet a certain Author speaking of one Apollonius Tyaneus[171] has these words, “That the most Orthodox themselves began to deem him vested with power sufficient for a Deity; which occasioned that so strange a doubt from Justin Martyr, as cited by the learned Gregory, Fol. 37.,[172] etc. If God be the Creator and Lord of the World, how comes it to pass that Apollonius his Telisms,[173] have so much over-ruled the course of things! for we see that they also have stilled the Waves of the Sea, and the raging of the Winds, and prevailed against the Noisome Flies, and Incursions of wild Beasts,” etc. If so Eminent and Early a Christian were by these false shews in such doubt, it is the less wonder in our


depraved times, to meet with what is Equivalent thereto: Besides this a certain Author informs me, that “Julian (afterwards called the Apostate) being instructed in the Philosophy and Disciplines of the Heathen, by Libarius[174] his Tutor, by this means he came to love Philosophy better than the Gospel, and so by degrees turn'd from Christianity to Heathenism.”

This same Julian did, when Apostate, forbid that Christians should be instructed in the Discipline of the Gentiles, which (it seems) Socrates a Writer of the Ecclesiastical History, does acknowledge to be by the singular Providence of God; Christians having then begun to degenerate from the Gospel, and to betake themselves to Heathenish learning. And in the Mercury for the Month of February, 1695, there is this Account, “That the Christian Doctors conversing much with the writings of the Heathen, for the gaining of Eloquence, A Counsel[175] was held at Carthage, which forbad the reading of the Books of the Gentiles.”

From all which it may be easily perceived, that in the Primitive times of Christianity, when not only many Heathen of the Vulgar, but also many learn'd Men and Philosophers had imbraced the Christian Faith, they still retained a love to their Heathen-learning, which as one observes being transplanted into a Christian soile, soon proved productive of pernicious weeds, which over-ran the face of the Church, hence it was so deformed as the Reformation found it.

Among other pernicious Weeds arising from this Root, the Doctrine of the power of Devils and Witchcraft as it is now, and long has been understood, is not the least; the Fables of Homer, Virgil, Horace and Ovid, etc., being for the Elegancy of their Language retained then (and so are to this day) in the schools, have not only introduced, but established such Doctrines to the poisoning the Christian World. A certain Author Expresses it thus, “that as the Christian Schools at first brought Men from Heathenism to the Gospel, so these Schools carry Men from the Gospel to Heathenism, as to their great perfection,” and Mr. I. M.[176] in his Remarkable Providences, gives an account that (as he calls it) an Old Counsel[177] did


Anathematize all those that believed such power of the Devils, accounting it a Damnable Doctrine. But as other Evils did afterwards increase in the Church (partly by such Education) so this insensibly grew up with them, tho not to that degree, as that any Counsel[178] I have ever heard or Read of has to this day taken off those Anathema's; yet after this the Church so far declined, that Witchcraft became a Principal Ecclesiastical Engine (as also that of Heresie was) to root up all that stood in their way; and besides the ways of Tryal that we have still in practice, they invented some, which were peculiar to themselves; which when ever they were minded to improve against any Orthodox believer, they could easily make Effectual: That Deluge of Blood which that Scarlet Whore[179] has to answer for, shed under this notion, how amazing is it.

The first in England that I have read of, of any note since the Reformation, that asserts this Doctrine, is the famous Mr. Perkins,[180] he (as also Mr. Gaul,[181] and Mr. Bernard,[182] etc. seems all of them to have undertaken one Task, they) taking notice of the Multiplicity of irregular ways to try them by, invented by Heathen and Papists, made it their business and main work herein to oppose such as they saw to be pernicious. And if they did not look more narrowly into it, but followed the first, viz. Mr. Perkins whose Education (as theirs also) had


forestall'd him into such belief, whom they readily followed, it cannot be wondered at: And that they were men liable to Err, and so not to be trusted to as perfect guides, will manifestly appear to him that shall see their several receits laid down to detect them by their Presumptive and Positive ones. And consider how few of either have any foundation in Scripture or Reason; and how vastly they differ from each other in both, each having his Art by himself, which Forty or an Hundred more may as well imitate, and give theirs, ad infinitum, being without all manner of proof.

But tho this be their main design to take off People from those Evil and bloody ways of trial which they speak so much against, Yet this does not hinder to this day, but the same evil ways or as bad are still used to detect them by, and that even among Protestants; and is so far Justified, that a Reverend Person has said lately here, how else shall we detect Witches? And another being urged to prove by Scripture such a sort of Witch as has power to send Devils to kill men, replied, that he did as firmly believe it as any article of his Faith. And that he (the Inquirer) did not go to the Scripture, to learn the Mysteries of his trade or Art. What can be said more to Establish there Heathenish notions and to villifie the Scriptures, our only Rule; and that after we have seen such dire effects thereof, as has threatned the utter Extirpation of this whole Country.

And as to most of the Actors in these Tragedies, tho they are so far from defending their Actions that they will Readily own, that undue steps have been taken, etc., Yet it seems they choose that the same should be Acted over again inforced by their Example, rather than that it should Remain as a Warning to Posterity, wherein they have mist it. So far are they from giving Glory to God, and taking the due shame to themselves.

And now to sum up all in a few words, we have seen a Biggotted Zeal, stirring up a Blind and most Bloody rage, not against Enemies, or Irreligious Proffligate Persons, But (in Judgment of Charity, and to view) against as Vertuous and Religious as any they have left behind them in this Country, which have suffered as Evil doers with the utmost extent of rigour (not that so high a Charactor is due to all that Suffered)


and this by the Testimony of Vile Varlets as not only were known before, but have been further apparent since by their Manifest Lives, Whordoms, Incest, etc. The Accusations of these, from their Spectral Sight, being the chief Evidence against those that Suffered. In which Accusations they were upheld by both Magistrates and Ministers, so long as they Apprehended themselves in no Danger.

And then tho they could defend neither the Doctrine, nor the Practice, yet none of them have in such a publick manner as the case Requires, testified against either; tho at the same time they could not but be sensible what a Stain and lasting Infamy they have brought upon the whole Country, to the Indangering the future welfair not only of this but of other places, induced by their Example; if not, to an intailing the Guilt of all the Righteous Blood that has been by the same means Shed, by Heathen or Papists, etc., upon themselves, whose deeds they have so far justified, occasioning the great Dishonour and Blasphemy of the Name of God, Scandalizing the Heathen, hardning of Enemies; and as a Natural effect thereof, to the great Increase of Atheism.

I shall conclude only with acquainting the Reader, that of these Collections, the first, containing more Wonders of the Invisible World, I received of a Gentleman,[183] who had it of the Author and communicated it to me,[184] with his express consent, of which this is a true Copy.[185] As to the Letters, they


are for Substance the same I sent, tho with some small Variation or Addition. Touching the two Letters from a Gentleman, at his request I have forborn naming him. It is great Pity the matters of Fact, and indeed the whole, had not been done by some abler hand better Accomplished and Advantaged with both natural and acquired Judgments, but others not Appearing, I have inforc'd my self to do what is done, my other occasions Will not admit any further Scrutiny therein.

R. C.