A Further Confutation of Witches' Miraculous and Omnipotent Power

Reginald Scot,The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584)

If witches could do any such miraculous things as these and other which are imputed to them, they might do them again and again, at any time or place, or at any man's desire, for the Devil is as strong at one time as at another; a busy by day as by night and ready enough to do all mischief, and careth not whom he abuseth. And insomuch as it is confessed -- by the most part of witchmongers themselves -- that [the Devil] knoweth not the cogitation of man's heart, he should (methinks) sometimes appear unto honest and credible persons in such gross and corporeal form as it is said he does unto witches -- which you shall never hear to be justified by one sufficient witness. For the Devil indeed entereth into the mind, and that way seeketh Mans' confusion.

The art always presupposeth the power, so as -- if they say they can do this or that -- they must show how and by what means they do it, as neither the witches nor the witchmongers are able to do. For to every action is required the faculty and ability of the agent or doer, the aptness of the patient or subject, and a convenient and possible application.

Now the witches are mortal and their power dependeth upon the analogy and conscience of their minds and bodies. But with their minds they can but will and understand, and with their bodies they can do no more but as the bounds and ends of terrene [physical] sense will suffer. Therefore, their power extendeth not to do such miracles as surmounteth their own sense and the understanding of others who are wiser than they, so as here wanteth the virtue and power of the efficient. And in reason there can be no more virtue in the thing caused than in the cause, or that which produceth of or from the benefit of the cause. And we see that ignorant and impotent women, or witches, are the causes of incantations and charms, wherein we shall perceive there is no effect, if we will credit our own experience and sense unabused, the rules of philosphy, or the word of God. For alas, what an unapt instrument is a toothless, old, impotent, and unwell woman to fly in the air? Truly, the Devil little needs such instruments to bring his purposes to pass.

It is strange that we should suppose that such persons can work such feats, and it is more strange to imagine that we will imagine that to be possible to be done by a witch, which to nature and sense is impossible, especially when our neighbor's life dependeth upon our credulity therein, that we may see the defect of ability, which is always and impediment both to the act and also to the presumption thereof. And because there is nothing possible in law that is in nature impossible, therefore the judge does not attend or regard what the accused man saith or yet would do, but what is proved to have been committed and naturally falls within Man's power and will to do. For the law saith that to will a thing impossible is a sign of a mad man or of a fool, upon whom no sentence or judgement taketh hold. Furthermore, what jury will condemn -- or what judge will give sentence or judgement against one for killing a man at Berwicke -- when they themselves, and many other, saw that man at London that very day wherein the murder was committed? Yea, even though the party confesses himself guilty therein and twenty witnesses depose the same? But in this case also I say the judge is not to weigh their testimony, which is weakened by law. The judge's authority is to supply the imperfection of the case and to maintain the right and equity of the same.

Seeing, therefore, that some things might naturally be the occasion and cause of such calamities as witches are supposed to bring, let not us that profess the gospel and knowledge of Christ be bewitched to believe that they do such things as are in nature impossible and in sense and reason incredible. If they say it is done through the Devil's help -- who can work miracles -- why do not thieves bring their business to pass miraculously, with whom the Devil is as conversant as with the other.

Such mischiefs as are imputed to witches happen where no witches are; yea, and continue when witches are hanged and burnt. Why, then, should we attribute such effect to that cause, which being taken away, happeneth nonetheless?