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AJA Review 1: Satan’s War against the Covenant in Salem Village, 1692
I have chosen to write a review about an article called “Satan’s War against the Covenant
in Salem Village, 1692” by Benjamin C. Ray because I believe that the spiritual world is real and
am interested in learning how the forces of evil are being manifested in the lives of people.
Therefore, it gives me a different perspective on the events in history and the way they are
similar or different to present-day life.
The purpose of the author writing this article was to investigate the cause of the outbreak
of witchcraft and what factors and people have impacted that. He was trying to figure out the
connections between the controversy and the outbreak of the witchcraft accusations. The thesis
of this article is stated at the beginning of it: “A chronological and geographical analysis of this
pattern and its significance will, I believe, appreciably advance our understanding of the early
phase of the nine-month witchcraft episode, the three and a half months from February 1692
through mid-May, when the accusations began to spread beyond Salem village to twenty-two
other towns in the Bay Colony.”(Ray 71) Some of the primary sources of this article include
declarations and teachings of Samuel Parris, official court records, letters written by the various
people involved in the trials, etc. For instance, Cotton Mather goes on to say that the absence of
The Halfway Covenant was the cause of the conversion of people into witchcraft: “I have seen
that the Divels have been Baptising so many of our miserable Neighbours, in that horrible
Witchcraft… I cannot be well at Ease, until the Nursery of Initiated Beleevers ... bee duely
Watered, with Baptism… I would mark [with baptism] as many as I should, that the Destroying
Angels may have less claim to them." (Ray 93)
This article challenges me to be aware that church leaders, like Samuel Parris who put
restrictions on the people who can or cannot become members of a church, is not following the
simple biblical truths and therefore disobeying God himself. In the book of Galatians, it is
written very clear:” There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no
male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28) From this, it is easy to
conclude that Samuel Parris was not rooted in the scripture and was not fulfilling his call as a
pastor and head of the church. Another interesting detail that surprised me was the order of
rituals that had to be performed to become a member of the congregation of the Salem village
church, which included “public confessions of “faith and repentance wrought in their souls”. I
find it unnecessary to do this publicly because it is not the people who decide whether to forgive
the person’s transgressions and whether that person is worthy of forgiveness, but God does. The
reason why Parris’s church stopped growing and people were eager to drive him from his post
was that he wanted to be the main focus of attention. He was desiring to be in authority, rule over
people, and possess property. The most ridiculous thing is that he was using scripture out of
context to manipulate the people of Salem village to join his congregation: “If you are ashamed
to own Christ now, to profess the World… hereafter Christ will be ashamed of you”. (Ray 77)
The people of Salem village were not ashamed to own Christ. They turned away because of
Parris’s greed and lack of leadership skills. “Never before, however, had the minister been so
intransigent nor the village so unwilling to support him. As Boyer and Nissenbaum characterize
it in Salem Possessed”. (Ray 79) The thing that I found very disturbing was the fact that Parris
beat his slave Tituba because of what she did to his daughters: “Whether reacting to Parris's
supposed beating or not, Tituba had aligned her testimony with Parris's cosmic vision of a
struggle between God and Satan”. (Ray 83). However, later on, Tituba recanted and told the
magistrate that she had made up everything after her master beat her.
This article gives a lot of information on the geographical and chronological analysis of
the pattern of the events in the Salem village and what has impacted the witchcraft outbreak. It
was really helpful to see the maps of the village chronologically change over time. Also, the use
of primary sources like the sermons of Parris or the testimonials of the accused people made the
article more credible. However, if this article had more analysis, personal thoughts from the
author, and images, it would be easier to trace the ideas and events of the story.
Puritan New England is fundamental to understanding American culture and identity.
Puritanism in Colonial America helped shape American culture, politics, religion, society, and
history well into the 19th century. The people who should read the information in the article are
theologians or anyone interested in the early history of puritanism.