A scourge is a type of whip with multiple thongs, sometimes knotted at the ends so as to inflict extra pain. They have long been used as an instrument of religious penance: the miserable sinner would atone for his transgressions by repeatedly lashing himself on the back. This practice was seen as a realisation of Paul the Apostle's injunction to “Mortify..your members which are upon the earth” and thereby annihilate “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness” (Colossians 3:5). It was also associated with the flogging which Jesus underwent at Calvary. Though Dimmesdale practices this mortification privately, some religious groups, such as the Flagellants, made it an institutional practice.