The Puritans of 17th and 18th century America were famous for the legalistic, puritanical judgment, and their forms of punishment for people who did not keep the Sabbath.
For example, two lovers – John Lewis and Sarah Chapman – were tried for sitting together on the Lord’s day under an apple tree; and put in the stocks. When another man who had fallen into some water absented himself from church to dry his only suit of clothes, he was found guilty and publicly whipped.
Punishments were almost always public, for the aim was to humiliate the wayward sheep and teach him/her a lesson so that he/she would repent and be eager to find his or her way back to the flock. Nothing made a colonial magistrate happier than public confessions of guilt and open expressions of remorse – followed by public shaming, or BRANDING, or cutting off ears and noses, or extreme whipping, or possibly hanging.
And, just like today’s puritanical Christians, Sex was given special attention.
The records tell of hundreds of colonial sinners forced to sit in the stocks in public view for sexual immorality. On more than one occasion, the missiles thrown at the heads of those being shamed in the stocks, resulted in their death.
In 1642, Edward Preston was sentenced to be publicly whipped at both Plymouth and Barnstable – 20 lashes each, “for his lewd practices.” Whipping sentences usually stipulated that the stripes be “well laid on,” as the phrase went. That meant whipping until the blood ran freely – and the flesh was hanging off in ribbons.
Often the ears of the punished were nailed to the wood on either side of the head hole in the pillory Crowds loved a good ear nailing. In 1648 in Maryland, John Goneere, convicted of perjury, was “nailed by both ears to the pillory – 3 nails in each ear and the nails to be slit-out, and then he was whipped 20 severe lashes.”
CW Journal : Spring 03 : Colonial Crimes and Punishments / Colonial Crimes and Punishments; by James A. Cox for Colonial Williamsburg Journal
For followers of Jesus, there must be more than mere legality. WHEN LEGALISM ENTERS THE PICTURE, we form an obsession with law. At the heart of these religious errors is a misunderstanding of the Lord of the Sabbath — Jesus is NOT supposed to be “SHERIFF JESUS!”
As Saint Paul has told Christians, Christ came to set us free from the law, not to make us slaves to the legalism of the Pharisees – OR THE PURITANS.