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In the seventeenth century, cases of witchcraft were rampant among New Englanders leading to the accusations of approximately three hundred people of witchcraft. There was a belief in the New Englanders that witches had the ability to use their occult powers to cause misfortunes to people. To the New Englanders witches were in the same category as the devil and in a sense, they were like the devils agents. The most monumental accusations of witchcraft were in the year 1962, in Salem that saw the origin of the testimony against Bridget Bishop. At the time of the convictions, Bridget was married and was a church member together with her husband (Susan, Castillo & Schweitzer, 88).
The trial of this middle-aged woman- Bridget took place in the Terminar and Court of Oyer. Her accusations were bewitching her neighbors to which Bridget pleaded not guilty. Bridget’s neighbors who testified in the case revealed some of the experiences they had undergone most of them being torturous experiences because of her witchcraft. Some had these experiences in their dreams some saw them in their daily lives, and they claimed that these experiences had caused them exceptionally torture. In their testimonies, they claimed that only Bridget’s power could redeem them from their suffering. One testifier- Deliverance Hobbs even claimed that Bridget’s shape was responsible for beatings received for having left the domain of witchcraft.
In the Puritan community, the courts had several functions one of them being the obligation of sustaining a godly and piety order. One example of such courts is the Suffolk county courts, which has records of several cases that took place in the 1670 period. The rulings in the Suffolk County courts, which were found in the Puritan community, were highly influenced by the Arbella sermons (Winthrop 115).
The two cases- the rulings of Suffolk county courts and the testimony against Bishop Bridget were significantly influenced by the ideals of the Arbella sermon. The Arbella sermon was by John Winthrop, a passenger on board of a ship full of Puritans who were on a mission to spread the reformed message of the Church of England. His speech, which was later to be named the Arbella sermon, spoke of several ideals that the church had as their goals. The message in the speech was of creating a close community and by close, it means that the community should be ready to suffer, thrive, and serve together. There was an emphasis on the actions of the Puritans stressing that their actions need to reflect the beliefs they uphold and the new people to their followings will follow their example (Johnson 76).
These ideals had considerable influence on the testimony against Bridget as the neighbors were all Puritans and their belief was in living a community. The jury believed the testimonies of the people because the Puritans practiced honesty and could not accuse their neighbor without basis. The members of this community had the obligation of doing well and in the testimonies; it was evident that Bridget was causing suffering to this community. The main basis for the rulings of Suffolk county courts was the same belief of doing well and maintaining a godly order. This was the message in the Arbella sermon, which called for people to observe their actions and live according to the word of God. The courts in the Suffolk County had the obligations of guarding the community against criminal issues. To the Puritans criminal acts and ungodly matters were equivalent in the eyes of God and disobeying these rules of doing right deserved similar convictions in the courts of law. The Arbella sermon had powerful messages that the Puritan community put to use in all their undertakings. It was a form of guidance to their way of living as they spread the word of God through their churches.