Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/25

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NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

the Invisible World," thanking God for the triumphs over Satan thus gained at Salem; and his book received the approbation of the Governor of the Province, the President of Harvard College, and various eminent theologians in Europe as well as in America.

But, despite such efforts as these, observation, and thought upon observation, which form the beginning of all true science, began a new order of things. The people began to fall away. Justice Bradstreet, having committed thirty or forty persons, became aroused to the absurdity of the whole matter; the minister of Andover had the good sense to resist the theological view; even so high a personage as Lady Phips, the wife of the Governor, began to show lenity.

Each of these was, in consequence of this disbelief, charged with collusion with Satan; but such charges seemed now to lose their force.

In the midst of all this delusion and terrorism stood Cotton Mather firm as ever. His efforts to uphold the declining superstition were heroic. But he at last went one step too far. Being himself possessed of a mania for myth-making and wonder-mongering, and having described a case of witchcraft with possibly greater exaggeration than usual, he was confronted by Robert Calef. Calef was a Boston merchant, and appears to have united the good sense of a man of business to considerable shrewdness in observation, power in thought, and love for truth. He began writing to Mather and others to show the weak points in the system. Mather, indignant that a person so much his inferior dared dissent from his opinion, at first affected to despise Calef; but, as Calef pressed him more and more closely, Mather denounced him, calling him among other things "A Coal from Hell." All to no purpose. Calef fastened still more firmly upon the flanks of the great theologian; thought and reason now began to resume their sway.

The possessed having accused certain men held in very high respect, doubts began to dawn upon the community at large. Here was the repetition of that which set men thinking under similar circumstances in the German bishoprics when those under trial for witchcraft there had at last, in their desperation or madness, charged the very bishops and the judges upon the bench with sorcery. The party of reason grew stronger. The Rev. Mr. Parris was soon put upon the defensive, for some of the possessed began to confess that they had accused people wrongfully. Herculean efforts were made by certain of the clergy and devout laity to support the declining belief, but the more thoughtful turned more and more against it; jurymen prominent in convictions solemnly retracted their verdicts and publicly craved pardon of God and man. Most striking of all was the case of Justice Sew-