I just finished one of the most fascinating books I have read in quite sometime. It is a biography on the life of Samuel Sewall entitled, “Salem Witch Judge.” Sewall was a Puritan (at least made the cut in Beeke’s Meet the Puritans) in early colonial America and sat as one of the judges who presided during the Salem Witch Trials in New England where 20 people were executed in 1692 over the accusation and conviction of being a witch. As you can imagine, already an interesting topic if you like American History.
There were, however, a few other details that raises the interest of this account as Sewall was the only one of the Salem Witch Judges to later publicly repent over his role in the questionable executions of these accused witches. It was also written by his great, great, great, great, great, great-granddaughter who gives this account a very personal touch that is evident throughout the book. Sewall goes on after his repentance to become an advocate against slavery and for women’s rights, both way before the time these issues would become hot topics in America.
Although I love history and was intrigued by the story, I found my pastor’s heart moved in unexpected ways. This man was appropriately labeled a Puritan. He loved the gospel, hated his own sin, feared the Lord, and lived in that constant state of need for Christ Puritans modeled so well. To see this man’s devotion to walk with the Lord, love and instruct his children, daily sing Psalms, walk in a constant state of prayer, wrestle with the reality of his sin, and fear the judgment of God; all while trying to battle his regretful role in the witch trials and face the loss of 2 wives and several children, moved my soul. I was challenged afresh to walk more closely with the Lord.