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In A Brown Study, 2

May 3, 2016

In my brown study I can retreat to the 19th century, when girls practiced the art of needlework. Amy Kelleridge embroidered a sampler that read, “Amy Kelleridge is my name. Salem is my dwelling place. New England is my nashun. And Christ is my salvation.” She could not know that her testimony, innocently labored on linen, would be preserved 200 years, and still in existence.

A name, a dwelling place, and faith in God exists for all of us, pinned into a frame that is here one moment in time. What do we make of it? What small part of our labor endures? What makes our history relevant?

Salem, Massachusetts has a unique history. Settled by Puritans who desired religious freedom, the small town was beset with a cold climate, rocky terrain, and hostile Indians, encouraged to rampage by the French. They believed in a severe  God who punished the wicked without mercy. They also believed that the devil was close by, present and active, straining to take the wicked and unbelievers to his underworld.

An ocean away from the mother country, the colonists began to establish their own rules in the new world. They needed local courts to maintain law and order, and so they began to form a judiciary system of their own, and those seekers of justice were eager to put the fear of God into the colonists who were beginning to frequent taverns and gaming, and even prostitutes. Drinking and carousing were acts of the devil, and detrimental to a religious society. Offensive thoughts and acts of impiety needed to be curtailed.

The society began to watch closely the behavior of individuals who seemed to be acting or thinking strangely. Their strong faith became onerous and hysterical  as they sought to curtail wickedness, and individuals were accused of witchcraft. In 1692 to May, 1963 in Salem twenty people were executed for the mistaken belief that they were witches. Fourteen women were tried in Salem, and thirteen hangings ensued. The supernatural became part of everyday life.

Bridget Bishop was the first person to be tried on June 2, 1692. She was executed eight days later. A trial against Martha Corey has the judge, John Hathorne, brow-beating Martha, acting more prosecutor, biased and vindictive, than an impartial judge.

In a brown study I wonder if false accusations ever brought anyone closer to God? Calling people sinful, or liars, or unrighteous makes the accuser seem unprincipled and cowardly. Do false accusations make a mockery of truth? I wonder.

to be continued

 

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