A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft
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A discourse of the damned art of witchcraft, William Perkins, 1608 AD
William Perkins (1558-1602)
MA Cantab., fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge; theological writer
A discourse of the damned art of witchcraft; so farre forth as it is revealed in the scriptures, and manifest by true experience. Framed and delivered by M. William Perkins, in his ordinarie course of preaching, and now published by Tho. Pickering Batchelour of divinitie, and minister of Finchingfield in Essex, 1608 Cambridge, Legge pp. 190-4
DEVILS NOT HUMORS
Witches of our times (say they) are aged persons, of weake braines, and troubled with abundance of melancholie, and the devill taketh advauntage of the humor, and so deludes them, perswading that they have made a league with him, when they have not, and consequently mooving them to imagine, that they doe, and may doe strange things, which indeed are done by himselfe, and not by them.
This reason is a meere melancholike conceit, without ground. And the contrarie is a manifest truth, that they are not so, as is affirmed, parties deceived by reason of their humors. For first, our Witches are as wise and politike, yea as craftie and cunning in all other matters, as other men be; whereas brainsicke persons troubled with melancholy, if their understanding be distempered in one action, it will be faultie likewise in others, more or lesse. Againe, our Witches know that they sinne in their practises of Witchcraft, and therefore they use subtill meanes to cover them, and he that would convict them, must have great dexteritie to goe beyond them. Now if they were persons deluded, through corruption of any humors; Tooke what humour caused them to doe a thing, the same would urge them to disclose it. Thirdly; they are also of the same stamp, they take the same courses in all their practises, their consent in word and action is universall. Men of learning have observed, that all Witches through Europe, are of like cariage and behaviour in their examinations, and convictions: they use the same answers, refuges, defenses, protestations. In a word, looke what be the practises and courses of the Witches in England, in any of these particulars, the same be the practises of the Witches in Spaine, Fraunce, Italie, Germanie, &c. Wherefore the case is cleare, they are not deluded by Sathan, through the force of humour, as is avouched; for such persons, according as they are diversly taken, would shewe themselves diversly affected, and varie in their speeches, actions, and conceipts, both publike and private. Fourthly, our Witches are wont to communicate their skill to others by tradition, to teach and instruct their children and posteritie, and to initiate them in the grounds and practises of their owne trade, while they live, as may appeare by the confessions recorded in the Courts of all countries. But if they were persons troubled with melancholie, their conceipts would die with them. For conceits, and imaginarie fancies, which rise of any humour, cannot be convayed from partie to partie, no more then the humour it selfe. Lastly, if this sleight might serve to defend Witches under pretence of delusion through corrupted humours, then here were a cover for all manner of sinnes. For example : a fellon is apprehended for robberie or murther, and is brought before the Judge : Upon examination he confesseth the fact, beeing convicted the law proceeds to condemnation. The same mans friends come in, and alledge before the Judge in this manner; This man hath a crazie braine, and is troubled with melancholy, and though he hath confessed the fact, yet the truth is, it was not he, but the devill, who himselfe committed the murther, and made him thinke he did it, when he did it not, & hereupon he hath confessed. Would any man thinke, that this were a reasonable allegation, and a sufficient meane to moove the Judge to acquite him ? Assuredly if it were, upon the same ground might any sinne be laid upon the devills backe, and all good lawes and judiciall proceedings be made voide.
Therefore howsoever the patrons of Witches be learned men, yet they are greatly deceived in fathering the practises of Sorcerie upon a melancholike humour.
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