The George Burroughs incident proves that the Salem Witch Trials were not just about superstition.

It was believed that a wizard could not recite the Lord’s Prayer without making a mistake. Ann Putnam accused George Burroughs, the ill-liked minister of Salem Village prior to Samuel Parris, of being the head wizard over the Salem Coven. Before his hanging, he recited the Lord’s Prayer without error in front of a large crowd.  He was hung anyway. Was this a way of ridding the community of an undesirable?

The Puritans demonstrated a lack of true repentance and love.

One would think that those in jail would have been released with sincere apologies. On the contrary, these staunch Puritans refused to admit their grievous errors until years later. Those falsely accused and held captive had to find people to pay for their food and board while they were in jail; however, many could not do so. Also, those who had their property confiscated were without homes and a means to support themselves. One man successfully sought for redress of his situation but received barely enough money to survive. It took years for some of the accused to be allowed back in church or to have their excommunication lifted.

Interestingly, crop failures and disease were rampant in the community. In 1697 a Day of Fasting and Prayer for forgiveness was held. Cotton Mather began to express doubt over some of his pronouncements when his mother was accused. It should be noted that these “pure”itans only became concerned when the accusations affected them. Could it be that they were a self-centered bunch jut like us?

Only one of the accusers, Ann Putnam, Jr., humbly asked for forgiveness for her role in the trials (and that occurred years later). Cotton Mather’s only admission to wrongdoing was his acknowledgement that he wished he hadn’t relied on spectral evidence. He said nothing about his thoughts on witches’ ‘teats.”

We have been told that the Puritans were a misunderstood people and that they were Christians to be admired. Where, in all of this bedlam, was the love of Jesus Christ demonstrated? Did anyone use the Bible to condemn these proceedings? If the Puritans were “spirit-filled”, where was the Spirit in this situation? Oh, and to a few of you out there, where in the name of Pete was Matthew 18?


The Puritans were intolerant of anyone who did not believe as they did.

Roger Williams studied the Scripture and believed in the freedom of the individual to determine his/her faith. He was opposed to the government role in mandating religious practice. He did not support a state mandated faith. His ideas were met with great hostility.  For these views, he was thrown out!

Williams established a settlement that he called “Providence” which would become part of a new colony in a state to be called Rhode Island. He purchased the land from the Massasoit Indians whom he regarded as friends. In this area, he provided refuge for those of many faiths, including Jews. Of particular note, the Baptists sought refuge in Rhode Island after the Puritans booted them out because they (the Baptists) would not baptize their children. When invited to return to Massachusetts, he claimed, “, “I feel safer down here among the Christian savages along Narragansett Bay than I do among the savage Christians of Massachusetts Bay Colony”.


The Puritans stole land from the Native Americans and caused an irreparable rift in relationship between the two groups.

Roger Williams believed that increasing tensions with the Native American tribes in the area of Massachusetts was due to the land grab by the Puritans. He said that the Puritans should pay for the land they took from the Indians. The Indians were more than happy to work out a fair deal. The Puritans said the land belonged to the English settlers, not the Native Americans, and refused to renumerate them for land. These views would become a prevailing view of settlers in the years to come and be the source of terrible conflicts.

The Puritans believed that children should be able to act as adults in grown-up situations.

Although cared for lovingly as babies, Puritan children were strictly disciplined! They were admirably trained to read at a young age so that they could read the Bible. Obviously, the children were raised in a harsh, pioneering environment and needed to contribute to the day-to-day hardships of running a household. Many of them would not survive until adulthood.

Children were expected to sit still and remain silent for prolonged periods of time in church (two to three hours!) If the children got restless or fell asleep, they were whacked by the congregational “enforcer” with a stick brandishing a hard knob on its end. Interestingly, old men who fell asleep only got tickled with feathers by the “enforcer”, attached to the other end of his stick.

As proof of the belief that children should be viewed as tiny grown-ups, there was the horrible imprisonment of four-year-old Dorcas Good, who confessed to being a witch only so she could be near her jailed mother Sarah Good — one of the first to be accused of witchcraft. The blacksmith had to make a special set of shackles to hold her little hands.  It is said that Dorcas went insane.  Such cruelty reveals the true hearts of those in this Puritan community.  The Puritan leaders had hearts of stone.

The Puritan men viewed women in a restricted role.

Women were to tend to the home and the children. They had no say in the governance of the community. They were judged by the behavior of their children. Women were only allowed to speak once in their life within the walls of the church. That was when they gave a narrative of their Christian life in order to become a covenanted member of the church. Perhaps they could have tried a mime to keep things utterly silent.

We have been asked why we criticize the Puritans. Today’s Calvinistas are quick to provide a rosy view of the Puritan life and faith. Some Sovereign Grace churches hand out Puritan written tracts on childrearing. We wonder if they hand out the hard knobbed sticks as well (actually SGMers, we know all about the glue sticks that leave no marks…).

We believe that men and women, along with their chosen Christian faith group, are afflicted with sin. It is far more interesting to see the whole picture of their culture and to learn from their mistakes. Instead, it seems as though we are doomed to repeat them. In fact, that is precisely what we shall discuss on Monday. How are today’s churches repeating the errors of the Puritans? We may find that we are not very different from them after all.

Now, to prove that humor sometimes does a better job of conveying the issue, we are linking to an exceedingly funny clip on witches by the talented troop of Monty Python. Once again, our dear reader, Junkster, has provided us with humor that says it all. We are in awe, Junkster!



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    Love the video! It clearly demonstrates how ridiculous the Salem Puritans were. They made quite a name for themselves…

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    Your Puritan series reminds me that the pursuit of the world and flesh can lead to great evil. How many of us could/do fall into simular traps of wrong doing (sin). We should continually analyze our thoughts, motives, and relationship to Christ.

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    Dee & Deb,

    Great series!

    One question. You wrote, “Of particular note, the Baptists sought refuge in Rhode Island after the Puritans booted them out because they (the Puritans) would not baptize their children.” Do you mean “they (the Baptists) would not baptize their children”?

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    As today’s teenagers would say “My bad!” Thank you for your careful reading of this post. I can assure you it was MY editing blunder, and it has been corrected. Now it reads:

    “Of particular note, the Baptists sought refuge in Rhode Island after the Puritans booted them out because they (the Baptists) would not baptize their children.”

    Here’s what I don’t understand about the New Calvinists. They are so unbending on their reformed doctrine, yet when it comes to baptism, they appear to be accepting of viewpoints contrary to their own. Ligon Duncan, a PCA minister, believes in paedobaptism, yet his T4G buddies are proponents of believer’s baptism.

    As the Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians (PCA) become more aligned, there are signs that theological differences may come into play. Here’s the link to an article written by Mark Dever on paedobaptism.


    Dever also contributed the final chapter of a book entitled Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. On page 329, he writes:

    “The meaning and mode of baptism have already been written about admirably. We have been instructed about the NT background of the ordinance and its practice in the first century. We have seen something of its use in the early church and among the early Anabaptists. Arguments for paedobaptism have been summarized and rejected…”

    Is this a topic worth discussing in the future?

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    “Here’s what I don’t understand about the New Calvinists. They are so unbending on their reformed doctrine, yet when it comes to baptism, they appear to be accepting of viewpoints contrary to their own. Ligon Duncan, a PCA minister, believes in paedobaptism, yet his T4G buddies are proponents of believer’s baptism.”

    This has been a point of contention for some brave souls to mention at SBTS. It has been waved off as not that big of a deal. (baptizing infants) Seems the need for unity in the reformed movement is more important than the doctrine of Baptism or other sacraments.

    But it is a big deal to Baptists. Many were persectued for refusing to do this or for being ‘rebaptized’ as believing adults.

    Some Baptist history is being rewritten on account of this major schism of thought with the reformers. Where do Baptists come from is the question of the day.

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    Although this is from a while ago, I’d like toss in my .02.

    Calvin succeeded in getting Michael Servetus executed for daring to publicly disagree with him theologically.

    One of the legal accusations against Servetus was “That infant baptism is a diabolical invention, and a mere conjuration”

    Calvin approved the execution and watched as Servetus was burned at the stake.

    I can’t even imagine why anyone would gladly call themselves a “Calvinist”.

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    They (Calvinistas) are going at each other now. Mark Dever( a reformed Baptist) won’t give Ligon Duncan communion, even though they are friends, because Ligon is involved in sinful activity, namely…..ta dah! Infant baptism. Give them enough time. They will eat each other.

    I taught about the Sevetus incident when I taught on the reformers. You wouldn’t believe the knots they twist themselves into to justify this situation. Most claim that Calvin couldn’t do anything about it. Hogwash, is my retort. They need to accept that Calvin was a sinner. They often treat him as fully “sanctified.” They also treat each other the same way. The rest of us are sinners who can’t even think straight.