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To the Puritan mind, the sins of one member of the community, no matter how marginal or recently arrived, affected all. Their transgressions would inevitably become the causes of the community's "calamities." The Rev. John Williams preached this sermon to Sarah Smith and the congregation on the evening of her execution. She had been tried and found guilty for the murder of her newborn child, born while her husband was in captivity in Canada. Smith's husband, Martin, had been seized by Indians while walking from the fort to his house in the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, in October 1693. Martin, aged 42, had brought Sarah, his much younger, newly wedded second wife, from New Jersey just months before. He was held captive until June 1698. In the interim, Sarah was raped in July 1694. Several years later, she became involved with one of the soldiers brought to protect the community. She became pregnant and had the child alone on the evening of January 11, 1698. The baby died and she hid the body under her bed. Smith was charged with smothering the child and held in jail in Springfield. In June, 1698, Martin was at last released from captivity in Canada and began traveling south to Deerfield where he arrived arrived several weeks later. Sarah's trial began August 18 and she was convicted that day; one week later she was hung. Martin Smith continued to live in Deerfield. He was killed during the 1704 raid when the home he was hiding in was set afire. In this sermon, Williams accuses the community as a whole being guilty not only for the "fall" of Sarah Smith' but of sins of their own. He ends this excerpt with an admonition to Smith, cataloging her many slights and failings. However, according to Puritan doctrine, if she repented, God's wrath would be lessened. As recorded at the time, Sarah's reaction was "the most unconcern'd of any," that she "slept both at the prayer and the sermon."


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"Warnings To The Unclean": In A Discourse From Rev. XXI. 8. Preacht at Springfield Lecture, August 25th.1698.

printer   B. Green and J. Allen
author   Reverend John Williams (1664-1729)
date   Aug 25, 1698
location   Boston, Massachusetts
height   8.25"
width   13.5"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Books/Booklet - Sermon
accession #   #L99.064

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See Also...

Complaint against John Evans by Sarah Smith

"History of Deerfield"

"New England Primer"

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