I have been writing a novel based upon the Puritans and the witch hunts for NaNoWriMo. It's sort of scary stuff to be thinking about late at night when all I really want to do is get some sleep. But, as I write read about the period, a lot of things go through my head that I think we, as Christians, can relate to today.
One of the reasons that the Puritan people were so gung ho on the witch hunts, trials, and executions is that they were afraid. They had just come out of the Dark Ages and a lot of horrible things had taken place during that era. For one thing, some of the things that the Catholic Church had been doing were just plain wrong, hence the need for Martin Luther to revolt and lead Christians to the Reformation. People were mass murdered for believing on Christ. It was unbelievable and I doubt that we can truly understand horrors of that time.
Only a short 100 years later, the Puritans still remembered the corruption of the Church and the trials through which their forefathers had gone. They were deeply suspicious of anyone or any creed that appeared to be less than the strict doctrines they had begun to follow with the lead of men like Luther and John Calvin.
To top it off, people often held onto their superstitions and rituals that should have been abandoned altogether. This too caused many of the firm Christian believers to be uncomfortable.
Then, along come some girls in Salem, Mass. who display strange seizures. They say that they are under a witch's spell. They have unexplained pinch marks and bruises on their bodies. Hysteria breaks out.
Out of the people who were accused, convicted, and executed for witchcraft, only one was a known professing witch. This woman had voodoo dolls in her cellar which she used for inflicting pain on others.
The other people who hung (except for Giles Corey who was pressed to death), were probably innocent.
The Bible says to watch out for those who are wolves in sheep's clothing in Matthew 7:14.
Deuteronomy 13:1-3 (AMP) says:
IF A prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,
And the sign or the wonder he foretells to you comes to pass, and if he says, Let us go after other gods--gods you have not known--and let us serve them,
You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being.
The Puritans were overcautious to the point that they went too far. Sometimes our fears can blind us of the truth. That is when we need to get down on our knees and pray - and let the Holy Spirit guide us and show us the truth.