Wonders of the Invisible World

Cotton Mather

Preview: Issue 1 of 27

Being an Account of the TRYALS OF Several Witches, Lately Excuted in NEW-ENGLAND: And of several remarkable Curiosities therein Occurring.

Together with,

I. Observations upon the Nature, the Number, and the Operations of the Devils.

II. A short Narrative of a late outrage committed by a knot of Witches in Swede-Land , very much resembling, and so far explaining, that under which New-England has laboured.

III. Some Councels directing a due Improvement of the Terrible things lately done by the unusual and amazing Range of Evil-Spirits in New-England.

IV. A brief Discourse upon those Temptations which are the more ordinary Devices of Satan.

By COTTON MATHER.

Published by the Special Command of his EXCELLENCY the Govenour of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England.

Printed first, at Bostun in New-England ; and Reprinted at London , for John Dunton , at the Raven in the Poultry. 1693.

THE AUTHOR'S DEFENCE.

'Tis, as I remember, the Learned Scribonius , who reports, That one of his Acquaintance, devoutly making his Prayers on the behalf of a Person molested by Evil Spirits , received from those Evil Spirits an horrible Blow over the Face: And I may my self expect not few or small Buffetings from Evil Spirits, for the Endeavours wherewith I am now going to encounter them. I am far from insensible, that at this extraordinary Time of the Devils coming down in great Wrath upon us , there are too many Tongues and Hearts thereby set on fire of Hell ; that the various Opinions about the Witchcrafts which of later time have troubled us, are maintained by some with so much cloudy Fury, as if they could never be sufficiently stated, unless written in the Liquor wherewith Witches use to write their Covenants; and that he who becomes an Author at such a time, had need be fenced with Iron, and the Staff of a Spear. The unaccountable Frowardness, Asperity, Untreatableness, and Inconsistency of many Persons, every Day gives a visible Exposition of that passage, An evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul; and Illustration of that Story, There met him two possessed with Devils, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. To send abroad a Book, among such Readers, were a very unadvised thing, if a Man had not such Reasons to give, as I can bring, for such an Undertaking. Briefly, I hope it cannot be said, They are all so: No, I hope the Body of this People, are yet in such a Temper, as to be capable of applying their Thoughts, to make a Right Use of the stupendous and prodigious Things that are happening among us: And because I was concern'd, when I saw that no abler Hand emitted any Essays to engage the Minds of this People, in such holy, pious, fruitful Improvements, as God would have to be made of his amazing Dispensations now upon us. Therefore it is, that One of the Least among the Children of New-England , has here done, what is done. None, but the Father, who sees in secret , knows the Heart-breaking Exercises, wherewith I have composed what is now going to be exposed, lest I should in any one thing miss of doing my designed Service for his Glory, and for his People; but I am now somewhat comfortably assured of his favourable acceptance; and, I will not fear; what can a Satan do unto me!

Having performed something of what God required, in labouring to suit his Words unto his Works, at this Day among us, and therewithal handled a Theme that has been sometimes counted not unworthy the Pen, even of a King, it will easily be perceived, that some subordinate Ends have been considered in these Endeavours.

I have indeed set myself to countermine the whole PLOT of the Devil, against New-England , in every Branch of it, as far as one of my darkness , can comprehend such a Work of Darkness. I may add, that I have herein also aimed at the Information and Satisfaction of Good Men in another Country, a thousand Leagues off, where I have, it may be, more, or however, more considerable Friends, than in my own: And I do what I can to have that Country, now, as well as always, in the best Terms with my own. But while I am doing these things, I have been driven a little to do something likewise for myself; I mean, by taking off the false Reports, and hard Censures about my Opinion in these Matters, the Parter's Portions which my pursuit of Peace has procured me among the Keen. My hitherto unvaried Thoughts are here published; and I believe, they will be owned by most of the Ministers of God in these Colonies; nor can amends be well made me, for the wrong done me, by other sorts of Representations.

In fine: For the Dogmatical part of my Discourse, I want no Defence; for the Historical part of it, I have a Very Great One; the Lieutenant-Governour of New-England having perused it, has done me the Honour of giving me a Shield, under the Umbrage whereof I now dare to walk abroad.

Reverend and Dear Sir,

You very much gratify'd me, as well as put a kind Respect upon me, when you put into my hands, your elaborate and most seasonable Discourse, entituled, The Wonders of the Invisible World. And having now perused so fruitful and happy a Composure, upon such a Subject, at this Juncture of Time; and considering the place that I hold in the Court of Oyer and Terminer , still labouring and proceeding in the Trial of the Persons accused and convicted for Witchcraft, I find that I am more nearly and highly concerned than as a meer ordinary Reader, to express my Obligation and Thankfulness to you for so great Pains; and cannot but hold myself many ways bound, even to the utmost of what is proper for me, in my present publick Capacity, to declare my singular Approbation thereof. Such is your Design, most plainly expressed throughout the whole; such your Zeal for God, your Enmity to Satan and his Kingdom, your Faithfulness and Compassion to this poor People; such the Vigour, but yet great Temper of your Spirit; such your Instruction and Counsel, your Care of Truth , your Wisdom and Dexterity in allaying and moderating that among us, which needs it; such your clear discerning of Divine Providences and Periods, now running on apace towards their Glorious Issues in the World; and finally, such your good News of The Shortness of the Devil's Time , that all Good Men must needs desire, the making of this your Discourse publick to the World; and will greatly rejoyce, that the Spirit of the Lord has thus enabled you to lift up a Standard against the Infernal Enemy, that hath been coming in like a Flood upon us. I do therefore make it my particular and earnest Request unto you, that as soon as may be, you will commit the same unto the Press accordingly. I am,

Your assured Friend,

William Stoughton.

I live by Neighbours that force me to produce these undeserved Lines. But now, as when Mr. Wilson beholding a great Muster of Souldiers, had it by a Gentleman then present, said unto him, Sir, I'll tell you a great Thing: Here is a mighty Body of People; and there is not _Seven of them all, but what loves Mr. Wilson. That gracious Man presently and pleasantly reply'd: _Sir, I'll tell you as good a thing as that; here is a mighty Body of People, and there is not so much as _One among them all, but Mr. Wilson loves him. Somewhat so: 'Tis possible, that among this Body of People, there may be few that love the Writer of this Book; but give me leave to boast so far, there is not one among all this Body of People, whom this _Mather would not study to serve, as well as to love. With such a Spirit of Love , is the Book now before us written: I appeal to all this World ; and if this World will deny me the Right of acknowledging so much, I appeal to the other , that it is not written with an Evil Spirit : for which cause I shall not wonder, if Evil Spirits be exasperated by what is written, as the Sadduces doubtless were with what was discoursed in the Days of our Saviour. I only demand the Justice , that others read it, with the same Spirit wherewith I writ it.

ENCHANTMENTS ENCOUNTERED.

Section I.

It was as long ago as the Year 1637, that a Faithful Minister of the Church of England , whose Name was Mr. Edward Symons , did in a Sermon afterwards Printed, thus express himself; 'At New-England now the Sun of Comfort begins to appear, and the glorious Day-Star to show it self; -- Sed Venient Annis Sæculæ Seris , there will come Times in after Ages, when the Clouds will over-shadow and darken the Sky there. Many now promise to themselves nothing but successive Happiness there, which for a time through God's Mercy they may enjoy; and I pray God, they may a long time; but in this World there is no Happiness perpetual.' An Observation , or I had almost said, an Inspiration , very dismally now verify'd upon us! It has been affirm'd by some who best knew New-England , That the World will do New-England a great piece of Injustice, if it acknowledge not a measure of Religion, Loyalty, Honesty, and Industry, in the People there, beyond what is to be found with any other People for the Number of them. When I did a few years ago, publish a Book, which mentioned a few memorable Witchcrafts, committed in this country; the excellent Baxter , graced the Second Edition of that Book, with a kind Preface, wherein he sees cause to say, If any are Scandalized, that _New-England , a place of as serious Piety, as any I can hear of, under Heaven, should be troubled so much with Witches; I think, 'tis no wonder: Where will the Devil show most Malice, but where he is hated, and hateth most: And I hope, the Country will still deserve and answer the Charity so expressed by that Reverend Man of God. Whosoever travels over this Wilderness, will see it richly bespangled with Evangelical Churches, whose Pastors are holy, able, and painful Overseers of their Flocks, lively Preachers, and vertuous Livers; and such as in their several Neighbourly Associations, have had their Meetings whereat Ecclesiastical Matters of common Concernment are considered: _Churches , whose Communicants have been seriously examined about their Experiences of Regeneration, as well as about their Knowledge, and Belief, and blameless Conversation, before their admission to the Sacred Communion; although others of less but hopeful Attainments in Christianity are not ordinarily deny'd Baptism for themselves and theirs; Churches, which are shye of using any thing in the Worship of God, for which they cannot see a Warrant of God; but with whom yet the Names of Congregational , Presbyterian , Episcopalian , or Antipædobaptist , are swallowed up in that of Christian ; Persons of all those Perswasions being taken into our Fellowship, when visible Goodliness has recommended them: Churches, which usually do within themselves manage their own Discipline, under the Conduct of their Elders; but yet call in the help of Synods upon Emergencies, or Aggrievances: Churches , Lastly, wherein Multitudes are growing ripe for Heaven every day; and as fast as these are taken off, others are daily rising up. And by the Presence and Power of the Divine Institutions thus maintained in the Country, We are still so happy, that I suppose there is no Land in the Universe more free from the debauching, and the debasing Vices of Ungodliness. The Body of the People are hitherto so disposed, that Swearing , Sabbath-breaking , Whoring , Drunkenness , and the like, do not make a Gentleman, but a Monster, or a Goblin, in the vulgar Estimation. All this notwithstanding, we must humbly confess to our God, that we are miserably degenerated from the first Love of our Predecessors; however we boast our selves a little, when Men would go to trample upon us, and we venture to say, Wherein soever any is bold (we speak foolishly) we are bold also. The first Planters of these Colonies were a chosen Generation of Men, who were first so pure, as to disrelish many things which they thought wanted Reformation elsewhere; and yet withal so peaceable, that they embraced a voluntary Exile in a squalid, horrid, American Desart, rather than to live in Contentions with their Brethren. Those good Men imagined that they should leave their Posterity in a place, where they should never see the Inroads of Profanity, or Superstition: And a famous Person returning hence, could in a Sermon before the Parliament, profess, I have now been seven Years in a Country, where I never Saw one Man drunk, or heard one Oath sworn, or beheld one Beggar in the Streets all the while. Such great Persons as Budæus , and others, who mistook Sir Thomas Moor's Utopia, for a Country really existent, and stirr'd up some Divines charitably to undertake a Voyage thither, might now have certainly found a Truth in their Mistake; New-England was a true Utopia. But, alas, the Children and Servants of those old Planters must needs afford many, degenerate Plants, and there is now risen up a Number of People, otherwise inclined than our Joshua's , and the Elders that out-liv'd them. Those two things our holy Progenitors, and our happy Advantages make Omissions of Duty, and such Spiritual Disorders as the whole World abroad is overwhelmed with, to be as provoking in us, as the most flagitious Wickednesses committed in other places; and the Ministers of God are accordingly severe in their Testimonies: But in short, those Interests of the Gospel, which were the Errand of our Fathers into these Ends of the Earth, have been too much neglected and postponed, and the Attainments of an handsome Education, have been too much undervalued, by Multitudes that have not fallen into Exorbitances of Wickedness; and some, especially of our young Ones, when they have got abroad from under the Restraints here laid upon them, have become extravagantly and abominably Vicious. Hence 'tis, that the Happiness of New-England has been but for a time, as it was foretold, and not for a long time, as has been desir'd for us. A Variety of Calamity has long follow'd this Plantation; and we have all the Reason imaginable to ascribe it unto the Rebuke of Heaven upon us for our manifold Apostasies ; we make no right use of our Disasters: If we do not, Remember whence we are fallen, and repent, and do the first Works. But yet our Afflictions may come under a further Consideration with us: There is a further Cause of our Afflictions, whose due must be given him.

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