April 6 (March 27, o.s.)

Massachusetts: Samuel Parris, responding to his predecessor Deodat Lawson’s sermon on March 24 condemning the use of countermagic, admonishes his neighbor Mary Sibley in church for having persuaded his Indian slave Tituba to bake a “witch cake” out of urine and rye flour and feed it to his dog in order to identify the witch who was afflicted his daughter and niece, resulting in the ironic accusation of Tituba herself. He describes this sort of countermagic as going “to the Devil for help against the Devil,” which is “diabolical” and completely contrary to Protestant theology. Sibley is suitably shamed by this and publicly apologizes for her actions. Her apology is accepted by her fellow church members.

Parris also gives a sermon on John 6:70, a verse so obviously chosen with the recent witchcraft troubles in mind that when Sarah Cloyce, sister of the accused witch Rebecca Nurse, hears that Parris has chosen it she storms out of the meetinghouse and slams the door behind her. Indeed, Parris explicitly mentions in the sermon itself that he intends to address the witchcraft outbreak, particularly the accusations against church members Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse. He affirms confidently that there are devils among the members of the church, and that Christ knows who they are. He even claims that there is no middle ground provided in scripture between “saints” and “devils.” He warns his parishioners to be wary of the witches in their midst, and warns those witches not to take communion, as doing so will only increase God’s anger with them for forsaking him and tying themselves to Satan. He also specifically addresses the defenses offered by Corey and Nurse against their accusers, dismissing out of hand Corey’s insistence that her membership in the church ensured that she could not be a witch, since, he says, there are indeed witches in the church, and responding to Nurse’s suggestion that the Devil had appeared in her form without her knowledge by arguing that, while theoretically possible, this is unlikely to actually happen because God, who has ultimate control over what Satan can do, is unlikely to allow him to misrepresent the godly in this way.

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Published in: on April 6, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on April 6 (March 27, o.s.)  
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