It was a slow start, but then picked up the pace. The author does a great job of giving insight into the average Puritan mind. And I think it gives a good overview of the witch trials. Which is why I picked up this book in the first place. I have several direct ancestors who were accused as witches. They were imprisoned and eventually acquitted. George Jacobs Sr, however, was hung alongside the Rev. George Burroughs, John Procter, John Willard, and Martha Carrier.
This book also gives us a peek into the life of Cotton Mather. He had so much power and influence and will to keep the colonies under spiritual control that he was unwilling to listen to common reason. Yes, this was a pre-enlightenment era, but it didn't mean people were unable to think straight. There were those who tried to reason with Mather and the judges and wrote reasoned appeals. But all these went unacknowledged.
Especially chilling were Mather's words at the scene of the hanging on August 19. Of Martha Carrier he declared her to be a "rampant hag" and "The Devil promised her she should be the Queen of Hell." Really He had a special conversation with Devil
Mather also yelled out from the crowd, "Burroughs is not minister!"Is that because Burroughs leaned more towards a Baptist view and had stopped performing infant baptisms Where is Mather's humility Yikes.
In contrast, Sewall pursued the rest of his life atoning for his part in the trials. He ended up publicly repenting and wore a shirt of goat hair under his clothes for the remainder of his life--including upon his death bed.
Also super interesting to me were his writings. He published the first anti-slavery book in the colonies. His main argument, Africans are made in the image of God. And the infamous descendant of Ham curse claim made by white Europeans was untenable. All this to say, I have heard so many times that Puritans and evangelicals were victims of their times and were blind to the truth because of their culture. But this shows that no, in fact, there were those who were able to see the truth. It is just that it was inconvenient economically for church leaders to do anything about it. Sewall was criticized for his views.
Another thing I learned is that Puritans, such as Mather, did not believe women would be resurrected bodily and would not be in Heaven. That was because there would not be any babies in heaven, and therefore there was no need to have wombs. So women were non-essential. Sewall wrote to the contrary that he couldn't imagine Mary, the mother of Jesus not being in heaven. And how women in his life gave him such a sweet company he couldn't imagine Heaven without them.
I also learned that Puritans liked to drink good beer, wine, and rum. I enjoyed La Plante's picture of Sewall pouring himself a cup of Madiera and opening up the Scriptures to ponder God's love while watching the sunset. Sewall is Puritan I'm glad I got to know better.