There's a new television series out called, "Salem." It's about the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692, which resulted with nineteen people hanged, one crushed, hundreds imprisoned, all at the hands of Christians. No wonder atheists scoff at us. The methods that Cotton Mather and others employed to discover witches were taken not from Scripture, but from folklore. If your theology ever drives you to find witches by making cakes out of urine and feeding them to dogs, then you really should take a second look at your theology. It is certainly easy to criticize and attack someone like Mather, who was responsible for destroying so many lives. But, are we any different? The events that took place in 1692 in Salem were characterized by mass hysteria and politics, but eventually, witch-mania wore down and Christians went back on the attack against each other. In 1706, Cotton Mather wrote:
I considered, that the illustrious Doctrines of Grace have many Enemies in the World, and that the Enemies thereof increase among ourselves.1
And so, that year he wrote Free Grace Maintained & Improved in which he led people away from the Gospel of God's Free Grace to a message that requires man to look to his own works for assurance of salvation. Many Christians claim God's Free Grace, but given the chance, they will attack their Free Grace brothers. This Civil War of Grace has become the new witch-hunt and it is destroying us from the inside out.
We are called to something higher. The night before Jesus was betrayed, He prayed for His disciples, and He prayed for us:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:20-26)
We need to ask ourselves if we are living the way that Christ wanted. Are we one? Or are we living in the way of of Salem by becoming each others' enemies? Are we feeding each other with the Word of God? Or are we feeding each other pee-pee cakes in hopes of revealing a witch?
Keep it bold, brothers and sisters, but don't forget to keep it graceful.
1 From Cotton Mather's diary entry from April 1706 available here.