Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/372

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craft and sorcery. It seems a dreadful thing to say, but I believe it is true: all the heathen persecutions of Christians put together are nothing in comparison with the horrors of the crusade against witches set on foot by members of the Christian Church and by civil rulers in sympathy therewith.

Nor is any single church entirely exempt from this charge. "The Roman Church proclaimed in every way in her power the reality and the continued existence of the crime. She taught, by all her organs, that to spare a witch was a direct insult to the Almighty; and to her ceaseless exertions is to be attributed by far the greatest part of the blood that was shed." Bulls were issued by Pope Innocent VIII, who commissioned the inquisitor Sprenger, whose book was long the standard authority on witchcraft, and who (Sprenger) condemned to death hundreds every year. Bulls were issued also by Pope John II, by Adrian VI, and by many another occupant of the chair of St. Peter. "The universal practice was at service to declare magicians and sorcerers to be excommunicated, and a form of exorcism was inserted in the ritual of the church. . . . Ecclesiastical tribunals condemned thousands to death; and countless bishops exerted all their influence to multiply the victims." The same was the case—although not to so great an extent—with the non-Roman churches. Luther said: "I would have no compassion on these witches: I would burn them all." In England the Reformation was marked by a large increase in the number of persecutions; the prominent theologians, both within and without the established Church, holding firmly to the belief in witchcraft. In Scotland persecution was carried on with peculiar atrocity, while the executions in Puritan Massachusetts form one of the darkest pages in the history of America.

Now, the remarkable thing about witchcraft is that it was believed in not only by the ignorant, but also by the learned; not only by the clergy, but also by the laity. "The defenders of the belief maintained that no historical fact was more clearly attested. . . . The subject was examined in every European land by tribunals which included the acutest lawyers and ecclesiastics of the age, on the scene and at the time of the alleged acts, and with the assistance of innumerable sworn witnesses. The judges had no motive whatever to desire the condemnation of the accused; indeed, they generally had the strongest motive to proceed with caution and deliberation," in view of the awful penalties attached to conviction. Cudworth, one of the most learned theologians the Anglican Church has ever produced; Bacon, one of the acutest lawyers and philosophers of the age; Sir Matthew Hale, chief justice toward the end of the seventeenth century—these are only three from a host of names that might be cited of those who believed in