Advice to Magistrates During a Plague: the Reformed Treatise of von Ewich, 1582


Order of Contents

Book & Table of Contents




Johann von Ewich (1525-1588) was a reformed, German reformer, educated in law, and was a physician and professor of medicine.  He came to hold the civil office of city-physician under the mayor of the increasingly reformed city of Bremen.  He outlines in this work a plan for Bremen and other cities to implement upon an outbreak of a plague.

This was his main work on the topic, in which he specialized, though he wrote other tracts on the topic as well.  The work was first written in Latin in 1582 and translated by John Stockwood, a school master, in 1583.  Stockwood had previously translated Beza’s tract on the plague in 1580.

von Ewich’s advice is, generally speaking, really good.  Book 1, ch. 2 is entitled, ‘That the Magistrate before all things proclaim a public repentance’.  Ch. 6 is on prudent measures to be taken in assemblies of the Church.  Bk. 2, ch. 3 is entitled, ‘Whether it be lawful for Christians in the time of the Plague to fly, and to leave their City with a safe conscience’.  Book 2, ch. 10 is a summary rehearsal of the contents of the book.

On p. 27, he says this about the ordering of church assemblies:

“And first concerning Church meetings, this counsel is to be given, that they come not by heaps, or by throngs, neither in, nor go out, and that they flock not by great numbers into one church, where they shall be driven to sit straightly and near together, especially in one city: whereas there are more places fit for this purpose, in the which the divine service, that is, the expounding of the word of God, and administration of the sacraments may be done.

For albeit these things may peradventure seem unto some to be but small, and of little importance, yet nothing is to be omitted, which by any means may make for the turning away of the infection.  And that which Cicero said, that when as we ought to do for the benefit of men, and do service to the fellowship of mankind, nothing is to be kept close, whatsoever commodity or store we have, the same especially ought to have place at this time.”



Table of Contents

The Duty of a Faithful and Wise Magistrate in Preserving and Delivering of the Commonwealth from Infection in the Time of the Plague or Pestilence, Two Books  trans. John Stockwood  (London, 1583)

To the Mayor of London  EEBO
To the Christian Reader  EEBO
Preface, of the Causes of the Pestilence  EEBO
To the Magistrates of Bremen, etc.  EEBO

Book 1

1.  That the Care and Charge of the Commonwealth Belongs unto the Magistrate  EEBO
2.  That the Magistrate Before All Things Proclaim a Public Repentance  EEBO
3.  Of Ordaining Preservers of Health  EEBO
4.  Of Physicians, Chirurgians [Surgeons], and Apothecaries [Pharmacists]  EEBO
5.  Of the Ministers of the Church  EEBO
6.  Of Order to be Appointed among the Citizens, and of Leaving of Public Meetings and Assemblies  EEBO
7.  Of Order which is to be Kept in the Buying and Selling of Things Necessary  EEBO
8.  Of Purging the Air, Cleansing the Streets, Putting away of Kine, Hogs Geese, etc.  EEBO
9.  Of the Driving Away, or Keeping at Home of Dogs, Cats and Other Tamed Household Beasts, which are wont [accustomed] to Run up and Down  EEBO
10.  Of not Receiving of Travelers and Strangers into the City, nor of Bringing in of Things Without a Testimonial of the Health of that Place from Whence they Come  EEBO

Book 2

1.  Of those into whose House the Plague is Gotten  EEBO
2.  Of Building of Certain Public Houses, called Plague Houses  EEBO
3.  Whether it be Lawful for Christians in the time of the Plague to Fly and to Leave their City with a Safe Conscience  EEBO
4.  Of Carrying Forth of the Dead and Accompanying the Course to the Burial  EEBO
5.  Of a Churchyard to be Placed Without the City, and of the Manner of Building of the Same  EEBO
6.  Of the Cleansing of Houses and Things Infected  EEBO
7.  Of Keeping of Those which have been in Infected Houses  EEBO
8.  An Admonition unto every Subject of the Commonwealth to Employ his Service to Keep Away the Common Danger of Infection by the Plague  EEBO
9.  Of the Punishment of such as Rashly Offend  EEBO
10.  A Register or Brief Rehearsal Containing the Orders set Down in these Two Books  EEBO

A [Poetic] Prayer





To the Mayor & Magistrates of London  EEBO

John Stockwood, Schoolmaster of Tunbridge, wishes a most plentiful increase of the spirit of wisdom and all necessary graces for the government of so great a people, as may be most to the glory of God, the profit of his Church and welfare of the commonwealth.

As mankind naturally ever since the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve (right honourable and worshipful), has not ceased in itself, and forsaken of God’s Spirit, to grow from bad to worse, and from evil to start nought, or (as the Psalmist speaks very properly) to walk in the counsel of the wicked, to stand in the way of sinners and (which is a thing most lamentable and fearful) to sit in the seat of the scornful, that is, to climb those stairs and scale that ladder whose steps being sin and staves iniquity, cannot choose but fail them coming once to the top and to cast them down to that horrible downfall of perpetual ruin and everlasting condemnation: so God a most just Judge, and yet with all a most gentle and loving Father to such as are his, has used and tried from time to time all manner of means and ways to bring the same out of thralldom to liberty, out of prison to enlargement, out of misery to joy, out of pain to pleasure, out of ignorance to truth, out of darkness to light, out of wretchedness to happiness, and out of Hell to Heaven.

He has proved and assayed all kinds of remedies, wearying as it were Himself for our amendment, and has nothing at all in a manner prevailed: He has mildly entreated us in the dealing of a Father, He has severely handled us in the person of a Judge.  The heavens have burnt above us in strange manner with fires, new stars, comets and unwonted [unaccustomed] lights: the earth beneath us has trembled and quaked at the judgments of God, as not able any longer to bear the burden of our sins, yet man has nothing at all been moved.  He has plentifully sent forth his Word; and great have been the number of his preachers: but his people have stopped their ears like the deaf adder and will not hear the voice of the charmer, charm He never so wisely.  He has piped unto us, and we have not danced: He has mourned unto us, and we have not lamented.  He has blessed us in the city, and blessed us in the field: he has blessed the fruit of our body and the fruit of our ground, the fruit of our cattle, the increase of our kine, and the flocks of our sheep.  He has blessed our basket and our dough: He has blessed us coming in, and blessed us going out.  He has caused our enemies that have risen against us, to fall before us, they have come out against us one way and have fled before us seven ways, insomuch that all the nations of the earth see this and wonder at the same: yet cannot all this make our realm of England thankful.

What then remains, but that if we go on still wallowing in our sins, adding contempt unto unthankfulness, as drunkenness unto thirst, the Lord will turn all these his former blessings unto new and unwonted curses: cursing us in the town and cursing us in the field, cursing our basket and cursing our store, cursing the fruit of our body and the fruit of our land, the increase of our kine and the flocks of our sheep, cursing our coming in and cursing our going out, sending upon us trouble and shame in all that we put our hand unto, making the heaven over our head brass; and the earth that is under our feet, iron; smiting us with a consumption, with the fever and with a burning ague, and with fervent heat, making the pestilence to cleave unto us until He has consumed us from the land which we possess and dwell in.

For we are not so wity and cunning in committing daily and hourly new sins, but the Lord is as expert and skilful in ordaining new plagues to correct and chastise the same withal.  We see how amongst other [of] his scourges, sent no doubt for the amendement of his chosen and for the warning of the reprobate, that these are but flea-bitings unto the torments that are reserved for them in the life to come, how the plague and pestilence now furiously rages almost in every corner of this land, a sickness that every man so greatly trembles at, and no man fears to deserve the same: a disease so usual, especially in your most honourable city of London, that albeit it were somewhat feared at the first, yet use has now at length made it unto many so familiar that there is little more regard had of it than of any other common and light malady.

A great number, and among the same some also of no small account (at leastwise in their own judgment), contrary to reason, philosophy, physic, divinity, yea, experience itself, absurdly and fondly both by word and example, maintaining the same not to be infectious or that it may be taken one of another, which makes them so indiscretely and unadvisedly, nay, so unchristianly and rashly, where there is no need, without any fear of themselves or regard of others, to resort and keep company with such as are infected under a pretence of christian charity, but indeed of a blind zeal without knowledge: yea and many times to win the commendation and glory of not fearing, or rather, contemning death, this way procuring untimely death (I speake not of the uncharitible determination of God, but as may be guessed by the ordinary course of nature) both unto themselves and also many others, to the displeasure of God and the loss of the commonwealth: not that I think it unlawful for one Christian in this kind of sickness to visit another (whereunto godliness, religion and Christian duty does bind), but that I would have all needeless resort restrained, being (although not the only, yet in my judgment) the chiefest cause of the spreading and scattering abroad of the same.

But hereof (I mean whether the plague be infectious or no, and whether and how far it may of a Christian be shunned and avoided) there is a very notable and profitable treatise written by that famous and godly divine Theodore Beza in Latin and not many years since by me turned into English for the benefit of my countrymen, whither for shortness sake I send the reader that is not already satisfied.

As for you (right honourable and worshipful, whom in the Lord with all humilitie I reverence, and on whose shoulders lies the heavy charge of governing this noble city), I am fully resolved that you are otherwise persuaded, thinking the plague not onely to be infectious, but that it is also your parts and duties so far as in you lies, and by the wisdom and policy of man, not contrary unto the Word of God, may be attained unto, to labor to stop, prevent and hinder the contagion of the same.

To the furtherance and forwarding of which, your godly purpose, I have taken pains to English this very excellent and singular treatise, the father of it being a Dutch man, the child a Roman, not by country, but by education: the which being committed unto my tuition, I have taught in fourteen days space to speak this mother tongue of ours in such rude and homely manner as you see; hoping that the plainness and simpleness of his speech may be pardoned and born with in regard of his short time that he had to learn, not that he would win praise for his quick capacity, but seeing the occasion of God’s so general visitation, he thought, that if he might be heard speak before your H. & W. he might happily say some thing that might turn to the common benefit, having meant ere this time to have presented himself unto you under his master’s simple dedication, saving that I know not how it falls out of a preposterous and overthwart course that good things can hardly pass the press when as unprofitable and hurtful pamphlets have very quick and too, too speedy passage.

Whatsoever good and wholesome counsel he shall give, he trusts shall at your hands not only be friendily accepted, but diligently followed and put in practise, as occasion and opportunity shall be offered, craving pardon for his wants and imperfections, nothing doubting but they shall be supplied either by your own grave wisdoms, or else by the learned advice of godly and skilful physicians.

It is enough for him to have broken the ice and to have showed the way for others, ministering matter of further deliberation what manner course ought to be taken for the taming and mastering of this so fierce and cruel a dragon (for so I read this sickness of the plague by some very singular physicians to be termed) before he be suffered to approch too far within your borders.

We see what preparation is used of every man to withstand his own private enemy: what care every good husband has for the fortifiyng of his house against the lawless attempts and breakings in of thieves: what public diligence is showed, and strong munition had always in a readiness to keep out the power of the foreign soldier: how much more then stands it you upon, and all other godly and faithful magistrates, to employ all your endeavors to communicate and impart all your counsels, to bend all your devices to stop in time the dangerous assaults of this bloody lion that ranges so fiercely in most places of this realme at this time?

If delay in all perils be dangerous, it cannot choose but in this disease, which like a swift devouring fire consumes all things before it as it goes, but be very perilous and hurtful.  Meet with, therefore, the beginning, lest remedy come too late: when the disease by tract of time is grown to such strength that it can very hardly, and not without much trouble, be cured.  A little break in a wall made to keep out water, taken at the first, may quickly be stopped, which being suffered but for a small time to have its course, makes such a breach as often turns to the drowning of an whole country.  The fire that is espied when it first takes hold in the thatch or timber of some house in a town, may easily at the beginning with a little help be quenched, which catching strength by spreading, causes sometimes the pitiful desolation and utter burning to ground of all the houses and buildings in the same.

After like manner it fares with this unruly stream of the plague and unmerciful flame of the pestilence, if you give it leave by spreading and scattering abroad once to gather force and power, it many times makes riddance of whole towns and clean sweeps away huge and mighty cities, whereas being wisely looked unto at the first, after such order as in this short treatise is prescribed, it often passes away without any great hurt or harm doing.  You have heretofore felt of the inconvenience that has grown by delays in this kind of calamity.  Let therefore your former harms make you beware against time to come in recompansing the former slackness with new and speedy diligence.

And above all things have especial regard to make sharp laws for the punishment of such as needlessly resort to those that are infected and for such as having been taken with the sickness presume to come abroad and to thrust themselves into the company of others, before they be throughly cured.  For these two ways this disease may wonderfully be increased, whereof in this small discourse you shall read very strange and wonderful examples.

I know there be that reason that the days of man are numbered: that the time is set and the hour limited in which we shall all die, and hereof [persons] infer that albeit we never so much, nor so often haunt the company of the infected, yet it kills not, we shall not die before our time, etc.  But this devil’s argument (so I call it because the Devil uses the very like reason in the tentation of our Savior Christ) shall find no countenance before your H. and W. as I trust.  For it is a very bad kind of reason from the eternal and secret decree of God known only unto Himself, to go about to take away all ordinary means to be used by man.

True it is that no man shall die before the time which God has appointed, which time because it is unto us most uncertain, we are to use the lawful means which God has ordained for us to sustain our life withal.  Otherwise, if all ordinary means are to be refused, let us eat no meat [food], for we shall not die before God has appointed: let us wilfully destroy ourselves: for we shall not die before God has appointed: yea let the robbers and murderers by the highway-side, that lay violent hands to take away the life of man, escape unpunished, because they have not killed any man before his time by God appointed.  Which reasons look how vain, foolish, wicked and ungodly they are: even so vain, foolish, wicked and ungodly is this: I shall not die before the hour appointed by God; therefore I will without all regard either of myself or others, when there is no cause or need, go unto such as are infected to the hazarding not only of mine own life, but also the life of many others.

Christ, when as the Devil (the father of such kind of arguments) alleged the charge of God given to his angels over Him to keep Him from hurt, to persuade Him to cast Himself down headlong from the pinnacle of the temple, whereas he might use the ordinary means of going down by the stairs, told Him that so to do was indeed to tempt God.  The heathen mariners, in whose ship Jonah was, at the strange rising of the tempest, threw all their goods into the sea, for the safeguard of the ship and saving of their own lives, which they needed not to have done if they had been of the same opinion with these odd fellows, but thus to have determined the matter: we shall not die before our time, we will therefore use no means at all to save ourselves, but let God work.

I am ashamed to stand so long herein, but that I know that this fond reason carries away great multitudes, not only into the inconveniences aforesaid, but also to the utter contempt and despising of the most commendable art of physic, as a thing unprofitable and needless, the which, God, notwithstanding, has given for the singular help, profit and comfort of mankind, which question is by occasion handled at large in this selfesame treatise, the which I have presumed to offer unto the gentle acceptation of your H. & W. as the meetest patrons for such a work, who, as you have the charge of government of this most worthy city, so I persuade myself that you will very carefully seek in all respects the welfare of the same and so far forth allow of the good advice of this author, as you by your wisdoms shall judge to be most meet and expedient.

The principal and chief course is to begin at true and hearty repentance (which is the first thing that the maker hereof persuades in such a case) bewailing every man his former wicked life with prayer and fasting, renting your hearts and not your garments, and commending most humbly your afflicted estate unto the merciful consideration of our heavenly Father: and then to use all other lawful remedies that may be thought necessary for the avoiding of infection in so dangerous a disease.  To which end I commend and commit this litle book to your thorough insight and near consideration to be followed where it is profitable, to be supplied where it wants to be corrected, where it is faulty, and to be refused in what point soever it shall unto your wisdoms seem not profitable or convenient for your state and government.

The Lord bless your H. and W. with the true fear of his name and a careful desire as well of the health of the souls, as the welfare of the bodies, of the people committed to your rule and direction.

From Tunbridge the 19th of May, 1583

Your H. and W. most humble in Christ,

John Stockwood
Schoolmaster of Tunbridge


A Short Admonition unto the Gentle & Courteous Christian Reader  EEBO

His small treatise (right gentle and courteous Reader) coming unto my hands at such time as God began afresh to visit the City, and many other places of the land with the fearful and dangerous sickness of the plague: after the diligent perusing and viewing of the same, thinking it as well in respect of the matter, as in regard of the present time and occasion, a profitable discourse for such my godly country men as understood not the Latin tongue: according as my leisure best served from my school charge, I have occupied myself in turning the same into our English and mother language, which being communicated with diverse of my godly, worshipful, and learned friends, both divines, gentlemen, and physicians, they have thought it a work very well worthy the publishing and setting abroad, to the benefit and profit of all such places, as it should seem good unto God to punish with this kind of visitation.

I have therefore consented to let it pass the press, and come under thy godly view, and diligent examination, giving thee before to understand, that in some places and names of fishes which thou shalt meet withal in this discourse, I have retained still the Latin name without any Englishing of the same at all.  This thing I have chosen to do purposely, that thou mightest resort unto some learned physician, herein to use his skillful advice, rather than by my guessing at all adventures at the Englishing of the same (which I could neither learn out of any author, nor come to understand by conference with others, albeit very godly and learned physicians) to bring thee into an error, having more regard unto thy right instruction herein, than unto mine own estimation, judging it better in this behalf to be counted ignorant, than by bold adventuring, like blind bayard [a blind, blundering, magic bay horse], to be worthily deemed fool hardy.


Thy loving brother in Christ,
John Stockwood


Preface, of the Causes of the Pestilence  EEBO

To the Magistrates of Bremen, etc.  EEBO



Book 1


Ch. 1, ‘That The Care and Charge of the Commonwealth Belongs unto the Magistrate’

“Isaiah the divine prophet (Isa. 49:23) and Homer the chief of poets (Illiad 1; Plato, Republic, 4) the one enlightened with the heavenly law, and the other with the law of nature, have adorned and set out princes and magistrates with an excellent title, whilst the one in his tongue [Hebrew] calls them Omenim, that is to say, ‘Nurses’, to wit of the Church: and the other tearms them [in Greek] Poimênos Laôn, that is, ‘Pastors’, or ‘Shepherds of the people’: to wit for this cause, that they ought with wholesome laws, and good discipline, to govern, and defend their subjects, and also after a sort provide for them such things as are necessary for their food and living.

For albeit they do not as parents to their children, put in every one his hand, what to eat and drink: albeit they nourish not us being idle, yet when as by wise policy they bring this to pass, that nothing be wanting, what every man labors either by traffic, or travel, or goods to get, and that what by honest means is gotten, the same he may in safety possess, and with gladness enjoy, they have not without a cause given unto them this honorable title and commendation.

And as it is not sufficient for a diligent nurse and faithful pastor to have provided for his nurse child and flock, such things as are requisite and needful unto the necessary uses of life, but also they be careful to turn away the things which might endammage their health, and to provide wholesome remedy for them being in danger:  So also the wise and faithful Magistrate ought not only to have care and diligence for those things which concern the trade of lawful traffic, and diligent practice of handy crafts, the preserving of peace, and keeping of quiet among the citizens, but also he ought to prohibit or let those things which may either take away the same, or greatly weaken, or infect the whole society and fellowship with daily contagion or infection, and assail and destroy with miserable ruin, the life of every particular member: judging the looking unto the common safety to be the chiefest part of his rule and office.

For if they be ‘gods’ (and as the Psalmist himself both king and ruler terms them [Ps. 81]) the sons of the Most Highest, certain it is their parts to know that they in this point are with all diligence to imitate and follow God, of whom we daily crave both things needful, and also pray to be kept from things not needful or hurtful: that they furnish the City, not only with profitable, necessary, and wholesome things, but preserve and deliver it from things also unprofitable and hurtful.

Neither in this case ought the authority of certain worthy and most learned men to move us, who seem too indiscreetly for to deny that this care appertains unto the Magistrate, whose office (say they) it is not to rid men from diseases, but only to maintain the safety and peace of our life and goods.

For it may even out of their own words be proved sufficiently, that albeit the magistrate ought not to cure the diseases of every several man, or preserve them from such as do not openly ravage, nor have common causes (for this is the proper duty of the physicians), yet when as they hold it to be belonging to their charge, by their service and authority to perform, that their subjects may live commodiously: who sees not that this commodiousness does also appertain unto the health of the body? Which thing he that believes not, the same has never seen how miserably all the duties of men are cumbered, the order of the churches, the exercises of godliness, the instruction of youth, the traffic of citizens, whereupon must needs ensue a most grievous destruction of particular persons, when the plague troubles a city or country.

Wherefore, I appeal unto thyself, whosoever thou art that art of this opinion, that thou thinkest not it to be the duty of the Magistrate to preserve the commonwealth from diseases (and especially common diseases) do not such sicknesses seem unto thee to be numbered amongst other incommodities? And can men live together commodiously when as these diseases do rage? Doubtless this canst thou not affirm if ever thou hast had experience before what the plague is, or what it may work, where it once has prevailed? Why then, say I, doest thou think it a thing not appertaining unto the duty of the magistrate, to deliver men from such diseases, that is with public care to defend?

I pray thee, hast thou not seen that which is usual in all well ordered commonwealths, how diligently in cities the Magistrate provides and stores up such things as serve for the use of war? How carefully he prepares weapons? How busily he retains garrisons set in a readiness? Especially when he is in fear of some hurt to ensue? and to what end? but that men should live commodiously. Wherefore are horses kept; ships built; walls repaired, trenches dug, towers set up and banks cast: but that the citizens should live more commodiously in safety against the invasions or assaults of the enemies?

Dogs are maintained for the like cause, nets are pitched, hunters are hired and troops of country people draw together if at any time wolves or such like beasts do trouble a country. I remember in the kingdom of France that certain leopards, which the king uses to keep, did break out of ward, and in every place slew the countrymen. The whole country was mustered and neither cost nor labor spared until they had rid the land from that fear. How much more justly then in this calamity and misery also ought there some provident course to be taken whereby this so mighty an enemy and cruel beast may be kept away from our throats, which in a very short time is wont to ravage very far, and as it were a canker, eat up every thing that is next [to] it?

To the end that the clean in the Old Testament should not keep company with the unclean lepers, by the authority of the Magistrate, there was made a separation, neither were they received among the other people before that they were by the priests appointed to this office, judged cleansed after they were viewed naked.”



Ch. 2, ‘That the Magistrate Before All Things Proclaim a Public Repentance’

“…it is manifest, that in all things which we do, we ought to set God before, that we may make proof of all things with more safety and boldness.  I answer: when as I speak of the duty of a faithful Magistrate, and being myself a Christian, deal with Christians, that my meaning is, to have these two things, that is to say, the grace of God, and travail [laborings] of man, so linked together, that the one be not void of the help of the other.

For Hippocrates hath said (de Insom., bk. 1) both very well, and very godly: It is indeed seemly, and very good to pray unto the gods, but yet man himself ought to do something, and withal to call upon the gods?  Why so?  Because man without God can do nothing, and God without man will not do all things.  God indeed is bounteous, and man very poor and needy, when as he hath nothing which he has not received at his hand, but God loves to be asked, and that men by this mean should acknowledge their need: whereby we should be driven to obey Him in whom all our happiness does lie.  If (say Moses and Aaron):

“Thou shalt diligently hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and shall obey his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will send no grief upon thee, which I have sent upon the Egyptians, because I am the Lord that healeth thee: but if ye shall not hear Me, saith God, and shall not do all these commandments, and if ye shall refuse my statutes, and fulfill not all my precepts, but shall rather make void my covenant, I also will do this unto you: I will visit you with fear, swelling, and a burning fever, which shall consume your eyes, and make your life to pine away.” (Lev. 26)

Likewise in many other places there is especial mention made of the plague, which God either threatens unto the disobedient, or from the which He promises to deliver the godly (Num. 14; Deut. 28; Ezek. 5:14; 2 Kings 2): so that there is no doubt, that albeit we understand that every plague is not the peculiar and proper punishment of God, nor yet always immediately sent of God (which is a thing chiefly to be observed and marked) but sometimes comes either by the course of nature (as has been said before) or through the fault and negligence of men: yet whatsoever original and beginning it has, always and before all things, we must fly unto the help of God, unto whose mighty hand we most assuredly believe all, both sickness and health, life and death to be subject.

Wherefore, when as it is manifest, that this cause also, which we now have in hand, doth especially concern the Magistrate, according to his power to preserve his people from the danger at hand, and from the infection of sickness, or to deliver them from the same when it is come:

First of all let them have this care, that they themselves turning earnestly and unfeignedly unto God, proclaim unto their subjects universally, and proclaimed, execute a public repentance, which is wont [accustomed] to be showed by prayers made both privately, and also in the solemn assembly, and by alms and abstaining, not only from meat and drink, but from all riot, dancing, and banqueting: after the example of the people of Nineveh, unto whom when as the Lord by his prophet threatened punishment for their sins, the king enjoined a fast of three days, not only unto the men, but also to the brute beasts, besides other works of repentance, that by this means they might reconcile God being angry, unto them.

When as David had transgressed the commandment of the Lord, there was sent upon the people so fierce a pestilence, that in the space of three days there died 70 thousand persons (2 Chron. 20).  With the which plague David being moved, confessed unto the Lord his sin, and by prayer obtained at his hand, that forthwith all that affliction ceased.

The like is read of king Hezekiah, when death was threatened unto him, yet through earnest turning unto God, and bitter weeping, his life was prolonged by the space of fifteen years.  It is also read that in the days of Elijah, when as the heavens had been shut up three years and more, and that it reigned not a drop, whereupon followed a miserable dearth of victuals [food], that at the prayer of Elijah, this scarcity was recompensed with sudden plenty.

Last of all, of a like testimony of godliness, and love towards his citizens, our Magistrate, also in the year [15]65, when as our City was visited with the plague, gave commandment unto all the ministers of his Church, that they should often call the people to repentance, to the duties of charity one towards another: to be short, that they should diligently and daily exhort them to the looking unto the health of them and theirs, according to the rule prescribed and published by me at his commandment.  For they did acknowledge that which the apostle said to be most certain and true: God is faithful, and will[s] not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn and live.  The which thing He plainly proved, when as He gave his only begotten Son unto death, and that unto the death of the cross for our sakes.  Also St. John teaches us, that we should not sin: and that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, who makes intercession for the whole world [1 Jn. 2:2].

In these most praise worthy examples shine forth, and are showed not only a true care of the magistrate towards his subjects, but also especial godliness towards God, and fruits of the truth of the Gospel.  Through the following and steps of the which, everyone for his part also ought to be stirred up and strengthened to pray unto God, and undoubtedly believe, yet it appertains also unto him, which Christ said unto the sick of the palsy: ‘Son be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee’: Also to the leper, ‘I will that thou be healed; be thou clean.'”



Ch. 3, ‘Of Ordaining Preservers of Health’

“Being now fortified with these preparatives, and as it were spiritual weapons: namely with a good conscience towards God, and sure trust of the forgiveness of our sins (which are the first and chief causes of all miseries) showed us, and grace promised, the faithful and wise Magistrate ought to follow the usual and commendable custom of commonwealths in the time of war.  And what is that?  When there comes news, that some mighty tyrant, whom we suspect for to bear us ill will, is in arms, hath gathered a power, and lies lingering about our borders, and that it is not well known upon whom first he will make assault, they use[d] to appoint their generals and captains, which are bound unto them, and with these when as the whole Senate, or Council are without power and victuals, they take advice how they may peradventure go against their enemy, that betimes they may drive him from their coasts.  The like we do when as council is to be taken at the same time for public munition, for walls, for banks, for guns, and all kind of armor, that search and notice may be taken by calling together the ediles [civil superintendents], carpenters, and artificers, what they have already, what is wanting, what time and charge is needful for the furnishing of such things as lack, that laying their strength together, and deducting or taking out the charges from the whole sum, we may know how long we are able to wage battle.  So surely, and with no less carefulness, in the rifeness of such infectious diseases breeding, ought the Magistrate for to do, that calling together the physicians, provision with all diligence be had, how, after the calling upon God, and the commending of us and our affairs faithfully unto him, so far as by the travail and power of man, may be, we may meet with the disease as it is in coming, and look not for this: Too late the medicine is prepared, when tract of time the grief hath ripened: nor, when the steed is stolen, that then we shut the stable door: Which is not only a point of great foolishness and madness, but also against the duty of a faithful and wise Magistrate, which we have taken in hand to set forth.  Unto which matter, albeit there be required more wisdom and experience of things than I acknowledge to be in myself: yet because this argument has been thoroughly handled of none before this time (so far as I know) and published in writing, if I bring to pass nothing else, yet I shall procure thus much at least wise, that I shall stir up either such as are better learned, to supply with more skill, that which in me is wanting, or that they unto whom this charge shall be committed for to execute, may perform that indeed, which shall be lacking in my words.  For me it shall be sufficient to have made proof, if not of any singular labor, yet at the least of a notable goodwill to benefit men.  For this cause is not such as contents itself with fine speech, but which being wisely and well advised upon, ought speedily to be put in practice: and that which Plato has said of all virtue, that it is begun of understanding, whereby is inquired what is to be done, and ended in fortitude, whereby it is finished in act, the same doubtless in this matter is especially needful.

Where then at length or from whence shall we take our beginning? namely, from the very same persons by whose appointment in a manner all things which hereafter are to be ordained, must be done and ordered: and these also as in name, so likewise indeed shall be preservers of health: not many in number (for nature has ordained a few to bear rule, and many to obey) but only three, chosen out of the whole company, partly of the Senate, or as it were the Bench, and partly of the other citizens, as they shall be thought most meet for that purpose, sound in manners, fearing God, endued with experience of things, and reasonable knowledge in learning (if it may be) beloved of the citizens, careful for the public health, faithful, grave, yielding nothing to their private gain, glory, love, hatred, envy, or any affection.  If anything fall out, that they are not able to deal withal, the same they shall bring to the whole Senate or Bench, and from thence as from a common head spring, shall ask what is needful to be done.  And they are to consider, and most certainly to persuade themselves, that the way to remove for the most part so great an evil, does next after the help of God, consist and lie in their travail and diligence.  For as it belongs unto the Physicians to provide that the bodies of particular persons fall not into the plague through the constitution of the air: so shall it be the duty of these preservers, to let, or take away the public and outward infection.

Now if it, which I say, shall seem new unto any man, let him understand that I here go about a new indeed, but yet very necessary point of policy.  For it follows not, that if a thing be new, it is therefore also hurtful: for all things which now are old, were sometime new: and such new things as notwithstanding with advice and reason are now taken in hand, and ordained, may with good success receive age, and become old.  And whereas in all parts of the commonwealth, there are certain with wisdom made rulers, which take charge of the same as the ediles for buildings, the tribunes for war, the masters of schools for places of learning, the viewers of drugs for medicines.  Moreover, when as in all things order is better than disorder always, and that God Himself is the Author and defender of order, I hope that wise men will easily grant, that commonwealths may admit and receive this newness.”



ch. 4, Of Physicians, Chirurgians [Surgeons] and Apothecaries

“These therefore appointed Preservers (as I termed them) by the common consent of the Senate or Bench, and by the assent of the citizens (if need be), the first thing of all that they shall think they ought to see unto shall be that they provide the commonwealth of physicians, chirurgians [surgeons] and such as they commonly call apothecaries [pharmacists], such as for years, fame, experience, honesty of manners, virtue and the fear of God, they shall judge to be best liked and fit.

Which conditioned men, if haply the commonwealth have not or cannot have (for it is an hard thing to find such, and so perfect, especially in so dangerous times), yet at least that they be careful to have them in the next degree and that they may be commended and excel for faithfulness, temperancy, painfulness [taking pains and labor in their work], and reasonable experience.  And these being hired for a convenient stipend and bound by oath unto the commonwealth that they take no occasion to start away for fear of the sickness greatly increasing (such is man his weakness), they must severally everyone of them be put in mind of their office:

Namely that, manfully shaking off the fear of death, they lustily employ themselves to approve their faithfulness and service both unto God and man: considering that God is the beholder and judge of the things which they do, howsoever they may be hid from the common people unskillful in the art.  If they do anything through error or deceit, that it shall not be unpunished: but if they shall behave themselves in their office diligently and faithfully, that then they shall receive a far greater reward after this life than can of men in this world be paid unto them.  Well shall it go (says the Psalmist) with that man which faithfully deals with the sick: for at what time he himself shall suffer any trouble, the Lord in like manner will help him. (Ps. 41; Eccl. 7)”



ch. 5, ‘Of the Ministers of the Church’

“Those [physicians] now being chosen and allowed which have the charge of the body, hereafter provision must be made for spiritual ministers, who may instruct the sick in faith towards God and comfort them up with hope of salvation, and take care of their souls, whom the Preservers [specially appointed civil officials for the plague] shall so choose in every parish, that they take not to so weighty a matter whosoever comes first to hand, but such as they shall have known to be singularly given unto godliness, holiness, sobriety, and chastity.

For they that hitherto have had no care of true godliness cannot profitably exhort any man thereunto.  And the intemperate [ministers] will bestow most of the time upon their [own] cups and will be unprofitable unto themselves, much more unto others: especially seeing this opinion is settled in the hearts of many, that they think drunkenness and plenty of wine to be a notable remedy against this sickness.  As for the incontinent, there will be great peril, when as in these times many occasions of sinning are offered and that without punishment, lest they commit some such heinous wickedness for the which God being rather provoked, increase the punishment, them knowing it: keep the same away.  And further, they must not be covetous: for in this state of things, no otherwise than in war or burnings of houses, many things lie open unto the spoil: for which kind of fact I saw five hanged at Padway [in Italy] in the year 1556, after whose execution the sickness in short time ceased, as if the wrath of God through the punishment of so lewd a part had been assuaged.

They must besides be upright men, courageous, endued with [some] mean [little] learning, but not with mean [little] charity: let them be wary, not rash, and let them consider that they have every day death before their eyes.  Wherefore let them put their hope and trust in God alone, and look for at his hands rather an heavenly than an earthly reward of their labors.

But if, peradventure, there can no such be found among the ordinary ministers, out of the rest of the people there must be chosen such which come unto the next degrees of the foresaid virtues.  For in this miserable time the things of most perfection come not always to be had.  Therefore, as they say, ‘As we can, when as we would we may not.’

When such at length are chosen, whom the Preservers shall have judged meet and sufficient for every parish, it may not by any means be suffered that they go to any other than such as being taken with the plague, require their help.

For I have said before, and say still, that not only the outward and common infectious air, but also contagious breaths and infectious breathings, or blowings, which are gathered and afterwards imparted to the whole: and others that are sick by the keepers, by such as sit by them, by the ministers of the church going hither and thither and standing by the infected, yea many times also by them that are dead, ought specially to be avoided.  Which thing, when as by daily experience we are taught, and have proved also unto us to be true, by all means we have to take heed, lest that we leave the cause of this so great a disease in others, whom with all diligence we have, for fear of infection, put apart.

Hereunto you may add, which we have oftentimes no less experience of, that many sick persons also (I speak not of such as are infected with the plague), albeit they be not infected with the company of such ministers, yet they will nevertheless refuse their presence for fear of the infection. Whereupon also this inconvenience will arise, yet they had rather receive never so simple comfort at the hands either of some of their own household, who for the most part are unmeet for this purpose, or else die alone than to undergo a double mischief, or receive the usual sacraments of the Church.

Which thing [privately receiving the sacraments], whether otherwise it be godly or not godly done, albeit it be not greatly material here to discuss, yet upon the occasion offered, I will set down certain reasons on both sides whereby the students in divinity may be stirred up to examine the reason of this known practice of our elders, and how far it may be allowed, and is needful for the sick persons, they themselves may judge: lest any man might think that I would forejudge or prescribe the skillful and learned Divines.

They therefore which hold that the private receiving of the Lord’s Supper may or ought to be left undone of the sick, give council that whatsoever such rites ought to be done, be done in time and in the public assembly:

[1.] That in that same extreme necessity there be no need of this carefulness which they say proceeds partly from the ignorance of the common people, partly of distrust, and not to be without suspicion of a kind of superstition.

Secondly, when as amongst other things, the Supper is as it were a certain joyful and solemn confession and calling to remembrance of the death and benefits of Christ, that it cannot conveniently and comely be done of such as are half dead and stricken with the fear of death.

Thirdly albeit they doubt not that it was ordained for the strengthening of faith: yet that there are remaining other remedies for such as are in this case: namely the preaching of the word, of the which there is the like power and like effect which is of the Sacraments.

Fourthly, when as the Church many times is uncertain of the repentance and trial of the sick, especially such as are taken with this deadly disease, when as she knows not whether they be moved hereunto rather through fear of death, or trust in the work done (as they term it) or custom, rather than of a right mind, which reason also in some place is observed as touching malefactors or evil doers, they think it with more safety to be left undone than to be given.  For albeit every man is not bounden to examine others, but themselves, according unto the counsel of the apostle: yet that the church ought to do nothing rashly, but to have diligent regard, what, who, with what fellows, wherefore, how, when the sacraments are to be ministered, lest she cast roses and pearls unto swine and give that which is holy unto dogs.

Fifthly, that always the receivers themselves are not this way benefited, but that many times damnation is ministered unto them instead of salvation, and judgment instead of life; not only the apostle himself being witness, but also Hypocrates himself, who has said of unwholesome or unclean bodies that the more they are nourished, the more they are hurt.  Which Plato and Galen in like manner affirm of unclean souls, unto which if you offer wholesome and nourishable speeches: that is, admonish them of virtues or vices, they wax not only not the better, but also the worse.  Wherefore wise physicians, when as they doubt of a disease or of strength of the sick body, and therefore what will be the issue, they are wont [accustomed] to follow the more safe and easy medicines, and not such as may bring into danger.

Lastly, they say that not so much as the form which gives unto everything its being, is observed and kept in that private ministration unto the sick.  For Christ unto his apostles, that is, unto the Church present and gathered in one, and not to one particular person, divided the Supper, and said not ‘take’, but ‘take ye’ [plural]: nor ‘eat’, but ‘eat ye’: [and] finally, not ‘drink’, but ‘drink ye’: wherefore St. Paul in rehearsing the ordinance of Christ, bade not every man to eat his own Supper, but one to tarry for another, that it might truly be called a Communion, and that by the breaking and partaking of one loaf might be showed a lively growing together in charity to be made, and also an incorporation, into Christ and our neighbor’s and the receiver’s present.

And these things are so liked of the one side that they would never have this sacrament ministered to any but in the public assembly.

For whereas it seems unto some that as the Word may be preached everywhere and set forth to men alone, either sick or whole: so also this sacrament of our communion may privately be rightly ministered unto one [person]: they [those who are against private Communion] think that the comparison is not alike.  For that every kind of ministry has its manner and form as it were, without the which they cannot be the thing that they are called, albeit all things tend unto the same end.  What that properly it is no part of the ministry unto sick men or unto others privately without the public assembly, to have the Word read, preached, and with the same, others to be admonished, instructed and comforted.  For that this may be done of any, and so is wont to be, yea even of women, unto whom notwithstanding the public ministry is not permitted; wherefore they think that here is a dislikelihood [in the former argument], and that their cause as yet stands: namely, that the receiving of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ought not to be private, but public, and common unto many.

On the contrary side, others contend that this use and custom of private receiving of the Supper of the Lord ought to be retained, if not at all times, yet at least wise when the whole congregation receives it in the Church…

These things I minded to say here by the way, the which albeit they do but smally appertain hereunto, and have been spoken as it were besides the cause, and that I myself leave the matter in suspense to be determined by my masters, the Divines and governors of the Church: yet hereof would I have our diseased people to be admonished, that touching this matter they quiet themselves and be not troubled in mind, if happily either through the cruelty of sickness, or for other causes, they cannot at that time be partakers of this sacrament, as concerning the outward ceremony.

For if the heathen poet have judged it sufficient, so far as able you shall be, the immortal gods to serve: why should not rather we Christians, who by the Son of God are delivered from all bondage, persuade ourselves the same and believe that God, who searches the hearts and reigns, and requires not so much the fact as the mind, will as well be present with us by his Spirit, as if in the very deed we had fulfilled all the ceremony?  For this is that spiritual eating, or Communion, which our elders also believed to be done in mind and faith, and to make us no less partakers of the body of Christ bringing salvation than they are which use the outward ceremony:

If so be we can say with a constant and steadfast faith: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under the roof of my house, but only say the word, and my soul shall be whole.’  The Lord Himself in John says, ‘I stood before the door and knocked, if a man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with Me, etc.’  And St. Augustine bids us believe, and says that in believing we have eaten. (Of the City of God, bk. 21, ch. 25)  Also in another place he says, He that is in the unity of Christ’s body, that is, in the joining of the members of Christians, the sacrament of the which body the faithful receivers are wont to take at the altar (by ‘altar’ he means the table of the Communion), he indeed is to be said to eat the body of Christ, and to drink his blood.  Let Christians therefore persuade themselves of this, if they cannot by lawful means be partakers of the earthly part of the sacraments, that the heavenly may abundantly suffice, the which at any time by faith to receive is no hard matter.

The same also I dare pronounce of the comforting and strengthening, which by the ministers of the Church is wont to be made unto the sick, that it is sufficient, when as it cannot be had otherwise, if they be used by private persons.  Which thing that it is not diligently done, the cause is in the shameful slothfulness of the common sort of Christians, who always learn and never come unto the knowledge of the truth.  For many so carelessly hear the public sermons that they bring not so much profit from thence, as that in the extreme necessity of sickness or death they can be able in any point according to the will of God to instruct, or with godly consolations to strengthen either themselves or their household, who truly ought to know this, that as it is not lawful for scholars in the school to be idle hearers: so also that it becomes them not to come unto the Church as it were to behold some play of runners about the country, but as it were unto that place whereas both Christ Himself, the Son of God, sits as ruler, and the angels mark the hearers, within a little while after as it were to take an account of every one of the fruits of their diligence, and severely to punish the negligent.  I pray you, if we saw these things with our eyes, would we not promise to deal earnestly and diligently, and in no case negligently and carelessly?

In the lives of the fathers we read, that a certain religious man, when as he diligently marked the monks according to their manner singing, that he saw the evil spirits to creep into some of their throats and to provoke them to coughing, and to slide into the noses of others and make them to sneeze, to enter into others ears and pull them, to shut up the eyes of others and to cause them to sleep.  Which things although they be fabulous or but a tale, yet they plainly signify, that our reckless negligence and slothfulness comes from the Devil, the father of laziness and sloth, and that it is wicked carelessness.  But hereof [there is] more than peradventure I ought.  Wherefore, now I return unto the matter in hand.



ch. 6, ‘Of Order to be Appointed Among the Citizens, and of Leaving of Public Meetings & Assemblies’

“There must also an order be set down among the citizens, to avoid public assemblies, games, feasts, drinkings, marriages, dancings, fairs, schools, churches, and public baths; for besides that in many of these there is great offence committed, not only against the body, but also against the soul, there is also no small danger of getting and scattering the infection.  Wherefore, wise men give counsel that at such times we should very seldom come into great companies of men.

For there is no man so unskillful but he knows that where as all things are done without consideration, as it were in a mingle mangle, that there the infection is spread farthest and infects many.  As when the taverns and typling houses, whether they go to drink, are open unto all daily, the market also, the shambles, public places also in which linen is washed, and diverse sorts of people are wont to be mixed together, are haunted [frequented by the plague].  In this case, therefore, laws must be made by the Preservers [civil health officials appointed specifically for the plague] whereby such meetings may be forbidden, or else severed into divers places and times.

And first concerning Church meetings, this counsel is to be given, that they come not by heaps or by throngs, neither in, nor go out, and that they flock not by great numbers into one church where they shall be driven to sit straightly and near together, especially in one city: whereas there are more places fit for this purpose, in the which the divine service, that is, the expounding of the Word of God and administration of the sacraments, may be done.

For albeit these things may peradventure seem unto some to be but small and of little importance, yet nothing is to be omitted which by any means may make for the turning away of the infection.  And that which Cicero said, that when as we ought to do for the benefit of men and do service to the fellowship of mankind, nothing is to be kept close; whatsoever commodity or store we have, the same especially ought to have place at this time.

If marriages are to be made (albeit whom can these contracts like in such an estate of things, in which if at any time else, the counsel of the apostle ought to prevail, that for the present necessity it were better to remain single) let them be kept with a very small number of persons and without all pomp.  As for drunkenness and gormandize, dancings and other not necessary or rather dangerous and hurtful ceremonies and fashions, which for the most part are wont to be used: let them be sent packing far away, lest (as it is in the proverb) this sweet meat have sour sauce (Tob. 2; Amos 8; 1. Mach. 1; Prov. 14), and lest they bewail the next day the oversight committed the day before.

But chiefly drunkenness is such a vice, which does not only greatly offend God where it is left unpunished, but also draws with it other most horrible sins, as blasphemy, perjuries, bawdries, wrongs, murders, incests, adulteries, fornications (all which for the most part are wont to issue out of the ugly serpent, and do provoke the wrath of God against the whole nation).  I will not say that those which daily use this customable glutting and quaffing are more subject to this sickness and harder to be cured.

Histories report of Socrates, for that he lived temperately, that he always was of sound health, although he lived in many great plagues, which reigned at Athens.  For (as Aristotle and Galen say) there is such a constitution in sound bodies that they seldom be infected with the plague, or if they be, yet they die not.  On the other side, it is manifest by the examples of many newly taken with the plague, that when as they have plentifully filled themselves with wine, they have come into great danger and miserable present death.  For in this case, if at any time else, the counsel of Galen is most profitable where he says that the body must be pure and sound winded.

Wherefore, it is not only the duty of the magistrate to make a law and set a sharp punishment against such gluttons, but they themselves also, if they will seem Christians and not rather altogether pagans, must take heed, that they run not into the sharp saying of St. Paul, in which is pronounced that drunkards shall be shut out from the kingdom of God, and let them remember always the commandment of Christ, where He says: ‘Take heed that your bodies be not overladen with surfeiting and drunkenness.’  Which commandment ,they which so carelessly dare set themselves against and stir up others unto the like riot, I cannot judge how they should not be plain antichrists.  For what is more Antichristian than directly to cast off the commandment of Christ and to command the which Christ forbids?  But I will not here more largely rake up this puddle, when as such offences ought not so much to be kept under with arguments as by laws.

Now concerning houses of learning and schools in which children come together, what shall I say?  Else than that it seems very convenient, and in manner necessary, if we will avoid the spreading of the infection, that those which cannot be brought unto a place more commodious, be for a time shut up and that the youth be rather taught at home, albeit with never so small profit, and give themselves to private readings than with so great danger by heaps to come together.  For the age of children and lads, as being given to feeding, intemperate, tender, thin, unwary, is wont to be more subject unto this sickness than it that is [those] elder and of more years.  Wherefore, Rhases, the chief of the Arabian physicians, and after him Franciscus Valleriola, physician of Arles, give counsel that infants and children be with speed removed from infectious places into another country where they need fear no danger of infection,

The like may be judged of common and yearly fares, also of funerals or burials, whereof in their place shall be entreated more at large.

Unto this chapter, let the Preservers add this, and earnestly advise upon it with all the magistrates, namely, whether it were better for certain poor people, which get their living by begging from door to door, and by reason of their needy life feeding on everything, are more in danger of this disease than others, go unto and run about all streets, and chiefly such houses where dead corpses are, and seek unto all men (for cruel necessity drives them out of their own poor cottages); let them I say consider whether it were better to send them some whither else, or to maintain them by the common charge at their own houses so long until the sickness slack, that by this means occasion may be taken from them of running up and down, of receiving and scattering the infection.  For it can scarce be said how great and present danger does hereby grow unto the whole city.

For which cause I have seen in the most famous city of Padway, after this same manner meat daily by the common charge allowed, not only unto the poorer sort, but also unto them of reasonable wealth, which either had been with the sick or were themselves infected, that so much the more easily they might be kept within their own walls at home.  And it were a thing highly to be wished, that not only in these times in which especially necessity does require the same, but continually and always, care were had of all commonwealths that the poor might be otherwise maintained than by this shameful, and unto Christians reproachful, running up and down, by which they inure themselves unto nothing but idle life and all kind of naughtiness.  Which thing, that it is not done, I see no other let [prevention] but our own gross negligence.

For in our part of Christendom there is scarce any village so mean but that it were able in some reasonable sort to maintain their poor, if so be the magistrates did mind the matter and that wisdom and order were used.  The which, after what manner it might and ought to be, albeit I have this good while been in devising, yet after I saw that the most godly and in all kind of learning, the most skillful divine, Andreas Hyperius, diligently and sufficiently to have set down the same, there is no need of my declaration.

This also in this place I have thought good to call into counsel, because that oftentimes there are many fearful, many weak by nature and unfit to do service in the common necessity, whom it were better to live somewhere else, that it might be both more commodious for them and the commonwealth also less charged, whether it may be ordained to set these at liberty to get themselves for a time unto some other place.  For although that some either for religion’s sake, or for shame dare not to leave their city oppressed with common misery, and will not seem willing to fly the hand of God: yet if by the advice of the magistrate it shall be thought good, and that it be done for the end which I have said, I doubt not but that with a good conscience it is lawful.

For this way it shall come to pass that the less multitude of people there is, so much the less infection there shall be: and the less infection there is, so much less dying and more speedy deliverance is to be hoped for.  For like as when the rot is gotten into an heap of apples, the more lie gathered together, the more it increases and the longer the rotting endures: so also here it comes to pass that if once the plague be crept into a city that is populous, we see the sickness daily to be increased and cherished a great while, which thing is not wont in such sort to happen in a place less peopled, if the other things which we have said already, and mean to say hereafter, be observed.



ch. 7, ‘Of Order which is to be Kept in the Buying and Selling of Things Necessary’

“And thus much of order to be kept among the citizens: hereafter we must see concerning the selling and buying of things necessary: that as before care was had of medicines for the body, and of sacrifices and sacraments for the soul: so also provision be made for the citizens of nourishments, vitals, meat and drink.  For if Diogenianus have said truly, that by the things wherewith we live, by the same also we get sickness, it is a thing doubtless greatly material that not only things hurtful be not brought into the city, but also the things good and profitable should be brought, but with such a proviso that the things that are to be brought in be set abroad and sold with least danger.  Here therefore laws are to be made, what kinds of meats may be lawful to be sold, and what not: also for what price: and lastly, in what places, and a certain penalty by the Preservers, to be set upon the offenders.

First, therefore, must straightly be forbidden that none of the country or indwellers set to sale or sell sweet cherries, prunes (except ungary and damask), new grapes, and figs, peaches, pears, mellow and sweet apples, melons, pippins, and least of all cucumbers, the which (as Galen witnesses) have great store of juice apt to putrifying.  Marcil. Ficinus permits gourds, and rhazes (who dwelled in Egypt, where there is much drought in a season very hot), grants herbs and summer fruits, such as are cold and moist: which is scarce lawful for us in this country to follow.

Secondly, diligent heed must be taken, that no man sell openly corrupt or ill dressed fish and flesh, amongst which also must be numbered, although it can hardly be forbidden, to young lamb and veal, which in certain great cities is wont very ill to be done: also fish that are not scaly, soft, taken in rotten pools, as eels, lāprous, lāpreies, and the fishes called albuli and bustomi.  For it can scarce be told what apt matter all these do minister unto rottenness.

In the stead, therefore, of all these, are not only to be admitted, but also to be desired, and by the Preservers procured such as are wholesome and engender good blood, and may be some let [hindrance] unto the sickness growing: as are among the summer fruits, damask and ungary prunes dried: raisins, and corinths, sour peaches and pears, which are wont to be laid up against winter, quinces, bitter almonds, capers, walnuts, sour cherries and especial pomegranates, oranges, lemons and citrons.  Among the herbs are lettuce, succory, milk-thistle, purslane, orach, spinach, sperache, carduus benedictus, baum, sorrel, burrage, burnet, rue, betomy, rosemary, sage, isop, chervil, parsley, fennel, and such like.  The which when as all men have not, neither can have, it shall not be unprofitable to buy them daily of the gardeners that bring them to market.

Fishes which at that time may be eaten (albeit every country may measure this according unto the nature of the place, for all lands bring not forth all things) shall be chiefly such as be amongst stony places or gravelly, as gougeons, lochs, pearches, pickerels, breams, trouts, soles, sticklebags, bleaks, barbels, carps.  To teach that these should be sod in vinegar or small wine, albeit it be no small remedy to preserve health, yet does it not pertain to our present purpose.  For here is set out the duty of the magistrate and not the diet of particular persons.

Wholesome flesh are chickens, capons, hens, partridges, pheasants, wood doves, turtles, pigeons, the attagen, thrushes, starles, sparrows, chaf-finches, and all small birds that live in woods, bushes and vines: also kids, fat calves and of reasonable age, roes, hares, harts, cunnies, oxen, wethers.

Neither are spices altogether to be overpassed, the use whereof the richer sort (for the poor make hunger and labor a sauce) may use as preservatives in saucing their meats.  And they are these, cinnamon, saffron, nutmegs, mace, cloves, whole pepper, for the strength thereof, being of a thin light substance, is easily dissolved by seething and does heat overmuch.  And thus much concerning meats.

There must no less care be used concerning drink, that none at all be suffered which may in any respect be a nourishment unto rottenness: and again such must be provided as is wholesome by the counsel of the physicians according unto the custom of the place.  I would not speak anything unto the prejudice or fore-judging of others: yet can I not allow of all kind of drinks alike.

Manardus a very learned and famous physician of our time dislikes all beer in this sickness: but because he was an Italian and accustomed only unto wine (for Italy scarce knows our beer), his judgment in this point is not greatly to be accounted of.  For I dare certainly affirm that our double and single bream beer, and also the beer of other cities adjoining, is not unwholesome, especially if it be clear, well sodden, reasonably hopped and not too high colored, for so it may dry the bodies and strengthen the powers, clear the spirits and after a sort, like unto wine, make glad (as the psalmist speaks) the heart of man.  He that is desirous to know the virtues of every kind of beer, let him read the treatises of some written of this matter and examine them according to the rule now set down, which is applied unto the state of time, in respect whereof we have directed this our whole advice.

I have spoken first of beer because this has the first and chief use with us: yet in the mean season, I deny not but that wine deserves especial commendation and is far better than beer or any other kind of drinks, if it be pure and not too strong.  The chief praise is given to white wine, pure, ripe, well-smelling, old, austere, rather than sweet: neither is claret wine disliked of a thin substance, of reasonable age, and not striking the head.  Let the same judgment be concerning made wines of wormwood, cardus benedictus, betony, sage, rosemary: but of whom, when and in what quantity these are to be used, pertains not unto this place.  Thus far therefore of drinks and meats; other things concerning food, as not necessary, I purposely pass over lest I might seem scrupulously to deal with every small matter.

For the price of these things, which was the second thing set down, this only I am to counsel, that there be used by the Preservers reasonableness, not only as Aristotle requires in the exchange and price of things, and equal unto the wares, but also such as have regard unto the poverty and ability of the chapmen, according unto the estate of the persons and the same in such sort, that whilst the one is had care of, the other be not burdened.

And because the judgment in this case is hard, this equity is to be left unto the discretion of the sellers, with this caveat and Christian remembrance, that they have not so much their minds greedily set upon gain (which in this state of things is in no case seemly) as upon that saying of the apostle: ‘Love seeks not the things which are her own.’  Again, They that will be rich fall into tentations [temptations]: again, let no man beguile his brother in bargaining.  For what shall it avail thee so greedily to scrape together that thing from which thou oughtest to fear, lest thou be taken every moment?  ‘Thou fool’ (says Christ unto the rich man in the gospel, which here I may say unto thee, O whosoever thou art with in this common misery hunts after thy private lucre) ‘this night shall thy soul be taken from thee,’ and then whose shall they be which thou hast gathered together?

Wherefore, thus rather we ought to determine with ourselves, that we in this world possess nothing as our own, but only are stewards of another man’s goods.  If we have gotten any thing to our master with our labor honestly, the labor will end, but the reward remain: but if contrariwise, we shall have burdened our neighbor with dishonest and unlawful taking, the iniquity will remain and the gain have an end.  Besides this, my request is also in this case that princes and such as have customs and tolls would yield somewhat of their right unto these cities and people, which being visited with this sickness are both overladen with their own charges and also cannot use their wonted traffic.

Lastly, also as touching the place wherein all things pertaining unto meat and drink are to be sold, something must be added.  For it seems not convenient that all things should be brought into one market.  For so it must needs be that a mighty multitude of people should come together and that the savors of diverse things, many times also filthy and strongly smelling, must be mixed together, which thing doubtless will give no small occasion of rottenness; which, if we will avoid, the infection must with all diligence be shunned, as has been often said already.  There must therefore be ordained many places in sundry parts of the city where those things must be set which pertain unto food and are needful for everyone.  Let there also be a several market for flesh and fish, for herbs and fruits, that all discommodities which may arise by the mingling together of a multitude of people and bringing of things sellable, may with all diligence be avoided.



ch. 10, ‘Of not Receiving of Travelers and Strangers into the City, nor of Bringing in of Things without a Testimonial of the Health of that Place from Whence they Come’

“But truly the Preservers shall in vain altogether with this travail and diligence look unto their commonwealth if they use not like wisdom in the receiving in or shutting out of either men or things that come from other places when as this sickness is now rife everywhere and is at this time in a great part of Germany.  For what shall it avail to have removed the filth of our own places, if we will receive again the corruption from others?

For as this is a commendable travail [labor] of the physicians, that when as by purging medicines they have first cleansed the bodies of the sick, they afterwards wisely take heed that they gather not again like superfluities: also that no remnants of the disease remain, the which might cause it to come again: even so also this magistrate of ours (whom in this case we have said must be a general physician [by metaphor]) must do his diligence in the universal and common body of the commonwealth and orderly provide for all, that not so much as the least piece of infection be received or left behind whereupon new wracks and dangers are to be feared.  For (as the poet says) the flame that is not looked unto does straight again recover.

And who is ignorant that the plague (as has often been noted already) is a disease very infectious, and not only in men and beasts, but also in diverse things, as in cloth, old iron, wood, vessels, bedstedles, packs, linen, warres, household stuff, money, and most of all in woolen garments (unless you take marvelous great heed) may lie a long time enclosed, and upon occasion offered, with great destruction far abroad to spread his infection?  For as a mad dog carries about his poison oftentimes many days, yea, in the judgment of some, many months sometimes, and also years, before he feel any hurt, so it is apparent by almost infinite histories, which partly I myself and partly others have observed, being physicians of credit, that it happens also in this disease.

For I remember certain years ago, when as Colony was visited with a sore plague, that a certain maiden of a worshipful house, with her mother and another of her sisters, fled out of the city and sought health by going aside into another air: the which maiden, albeit she went out whole and came into an healthy place, yet, within three days after, she was infected and died: whereof there was no other cause but that the plague infection did stick still either in the garments of them that fled, or in the open ways of the skin, or veins not so near the heart, and did not trouble her before that it touched the very heart.  For it is a light and small vapor, or reek, which is not at such deadly feed with the other members as with the heart.

For which cause Marsill Ficinus is not afraid to affirm that it may lie hid in a man sometimes two months without hurting them, which, if it be true as it is very likely, some do too far of and too darkly caste off this cause upon the influence of Saturn staying the influence of Mars.  And Bern. Cronenburgius, otherwise a most expert physician, might have more plainly and effectually answered certain prattlers and of ignorance blaming such as fly away from places infected with the plague, than by finding I know not what fault with humors [fluids of the body] and unorderly diet: by which means indeed some ague or small sickness, but very seldom the plague uses to grow.

For I do know concerning this maiden that for the godliness of her mind and singular knowledge and fear of God, hereunto being adjoined the ripeness of her age and the especial care of her mother being present, principally in such an estate of time, that she offended a little or nothing at all in her diet, nor was cumbered with no ill humor.  But if this notwithstanding seem hard to be credited of a maiden, whose sex is fleeting, I am able to affirm the same of both the daughter and also the wife of a most skillful physician, both the which after the same sort in another place whither they went aside for safety sake, were taken with the plague and died, whom it is likely, neither by the means of unwary diet, nor by the nature of the unwholesome place, to have taken there the infection, but to have carried it thither with them.

But if yet now these things cannot make you fully to believe so that you can allow that which I say, I will bring more strong reasons.  I remember that Padway a noble city of Italy on this side the Alps (which now they call Lombardy), subject unto the dominion of the Venetians, was almost wholly infected by one scholar (whose house was not far from mine) which came from Venice infected with the plague.  How fierce, cruel and strange a plague raged at Hamborow a few years ago and had its beginning by the infection of one man which came from Dansk thither, men of credit and citizens of the same city have reported.  At length to come unto our own home, our commonwealth also, through the fault of one infected person, which was brought from Hamborowe unto us sick at the same time, within a very few days was infected, so that no street almost was free from that sickness: albeit again so few died therein, that none of all the sea cities (when as everywhere they were visited with the plague) lost so few men, through the singular mercy of God no doubt and the wisdom and travail of the magistrate and physicians: which two God Himself would have joined together and does not at all adventure bestow upon us his help without the service of men.  This therefore may suffice of the infection scattered and gotten by men.

In the which we have understood this to be most profitable and necessary for the common safety of all, if the common people be not so rashly (as usually is wont to be done) mixed together, nor leave be granted for every man at his pleasure, without order or consideration, to go whither he will.

But if any man shall think that it is against charity for that I hold that men and such as are our brethren are to be shut out, of the which many fly unto us as unto a sanctuary, as it were from a deadly enemy: unto him I must make this answer, that I would have no man forsaken or in any case to be destitute of our help, but yet there ought to be a set and steadfast way and order in using of help.  True charity begins at itself, but ends not in it self alone: But rather it stretches out itself as far as it can to every neighbor, and according unto her power, imparts her help with every man; and as Ambrose says of liberality, [it] is commended of her faith: cause, place and time.  For what a kind of charity should this be, to receive one sick sheep into the fold and to bring the scab unto the whole flock?

If charity be a virtue (as no doubt it is a singular and a divine virtue), it cannot be void of wisdom, which does as it were give the shape unto true virtue, whilst (as it is manifest out of Ambrose) she has her eye set upon necessary circumstances, with the which every virtue is perfected and finished.  For albeit charity have no end, as it is also usually said, true love can skill no end to have; yet will she not be carried away with rashness, and as I said even now, will not be void of wisdom.  But after what way and order I think this duty of charity to be handled, shall in that which follows be spoken more at large.  Here therefore let be the end of this first book.”



Book 2


ch. 1, Of Those into whose House the Plague is Gotten

“That part being finished which rather concerns those which are whole than those which are sick (and therefore may be called a certain public preservative), it remains that following the practice and order of excellent physicians we treat in the same sort of that part of physic which is called pharmaceutica, that is, of the way to heal and deliver from sickness: if peradventure, either immediately from God or upon some other cause, this fierce disease and cruel dragon (as Galen calls it) has assaulted the house of any man.  And yet let not any man look here to have particular medicines for every private man set down, but that which in this case the faithful and wise magistrate by public duty is bound to do: that a general way being found out and ordained whereby regard may be had both of the sick and also of those which are conversant with them, the whole infection may be the sooner quenched and bring less hurt to the city.

Wherefore in the time of such sickness reigning and infecting, in the first kind we have said already at the beginning that we must fly unto God alone and crave pardon of Him for all our sins: in the latter kinds after the calling upon of God, the Preservers must first of all and forthwith have care of this, that the house infected be noted and marked out by certain signs and tokens, as by setting of torches before the door, which after the manner of the gentiles use to be carried before the dead, or by clubs betokening punishment, or rolls of straw, or hanging up a black, white or red sheet, signifying sickness or death: and with all that the whole household be charged that they venture not to go abroad unto others, nor to receive any unto them for the space of six or seven weeks at the least [this regards the bubonic plague], if also in the mean season they have used sufficient cleansing of the house and other things which shall hereafter expressly be spoken of.  If any of his own accord shall come in unto them, let him be bound by the same charge, but for a shorter time.  In the mean season if they have anything to do abroad, they must cause it to be done by others.  For there ought greater care to be had of a whole society and fellowship than of a private family or household.

But if any man shall think it an unreasonable and cruel law to have sound men shut in so straightly and for so long time, especially in houses infected with such deadly poison, and would also suppose this proverbial chief medicine to be better for them: ‘With all speed, far off, long ere you return again’: and finally, that it is not convenient for the sick themselves, especially if the house be not commodious that they should remain so shut up and not sometimes to use a more free air (for all keep not their beds), truly they which say this seem to say neither nothing, nor all things.  For I myself think it to be nothing safe often to use the company of the infected and daily to draw the corrupted air.  Therefore in the chapter following we will consider by what means we may find remedy for these straightnesses and discommodities, the which, whilst they can be hurtful unto none, they may be greatly profitable unto many.  For to grant them free liberty to keep company among others should be too rash and barbarous, and in a manner that which Luther also says in this case, we should seem to follow them which would put lice into skins, or flies into a chamber, or keep fire in their bosom, saving that these things are lighter than that they may be compared with this evil.  And when as we manifestly find that this only disorder is the cause, that the infection many times is so speedily and so far and wide scattered abroad, we must not by any means use the matter so that through our own default and negligence we ourselves increase our own wounds.  Not that I deny the plague sometimes to come by the corruption of the common air (which notwithstanding is very rare or seldom, and a thing that many old men have had no experience of) and forthwith to take very many, and scatteringly, without infection: neither also that I am ignorant that God being angry with our sins does sometimes use this whip against us and to drive us unto amendment of life and to put us in mind of our obedience and service towards Him (for this is apparent both by profane and also holy histories); I do not (I say) deny this, neither do I affirm that in this case the remedies of man do any great good, but we ought to hope well that these things will fall out but seldom, and when they do fall out, they bewray themselves by very evident and especial tokens, as it is plain concerning Ethiopia, by the testimony of Thucydides: also when as God punished the army of Maximinus persecuting the Christians, with so great a multitude of them that died that the carcasses were everywhere left unburied.  Which also the history of the kings reports of the host of David.  Who would deny these things?  but I say once again that these things are seldom seen and not agreeable unto the plague of our countries, whose beginning, cause and proceeding be that we may many times evidently enough lay down; therefore so much the more diligence and care ought we to use, that the evil which through our own fault and blame we have gotten unto us, or through our slothfulness received, the same also with like endeavor and travel we should amend and drive away.

Wherefore, when a house is so marked, and, as it were, condemned for an infectious lepri, the household either of their own accord and private charges, if they be able to pay, or by the persuasion and charges of the Preservers if they be poor, must by and by send for the help of the physicians appointed for that purpose, and making their prayers unto God, not grudgingly, but cheerfully, and with good hope admit them and receive them in all things that shall be needful.  For it is to be thought, that the benefit which God herein will show, the same oftentimes He gives by the physicians as his ministers, no otherwise than the good man of the house is wont by his stewards to give and point out meat and drink unto his household.  For physicians and physic are the good creatures of God and his ministers, the which by the commandment of the apostle we ought to use with thanksgiving [1 Tim 4:4-5].  The which cause (albeit besides the cause), let it be lawful for me with the good leave of the reader, because of the unjust judgment of some unlearned persons, somewhat more at large in this place to handle.



ch. 2, ‘Of Building of Certain Public Houses, Called Plague Houses’

“I promised in the chapter aforegoing, that I would set down a way, whereby such as had rather go out of the infected houses, or the sick that are desirous to change the air, may be profitably provided for.  The which, that it may fitly and wisely be done, our Preservers must go about a work something greater and more chargeable. For I will yt two houses large enough, & in every point fit for that purpose, which shall be called, Plague houses, be built of matter convenient, in a place and air, good, both for thē that shall use the same, and also for the City in such sort notwithstanding that not so much gorgeousness as commodiousness be sought, and that the charges be reasonable, and the use necessary: of the which severally we must briefly entreat.

And first of all concerning the matter, the same must not be clay, lome, turfs, or straw, but wood, stone, lime, because that putrifying does more easily happen, and the infection hang more longer in them, then in these.

Secondly, touching the place and situation whereunto the air is also annexed or knit, this is to be observed, that it be either in some out corner of the city, or (that which I had rather) without the City: not low, but open unto the sun, and high, and by a river side, if it may be. For the farness from others will further the let of infection: the highth will yield a more wholesome air, and make the sun, which refreshes all things, to have more passage unto it: the river shall receive all the filth and excrements, which in such houses is wont in great abundance to be heaped together. Hitherto also pertain large orchards within the precincts and compass of the same: also green walking places, gardens, in which are wholesome trees, pleasant grass, sweet herbs, flowers giving forth pleasant savors far and wide, and finally there must be springing waters.

Now the manner and form of building is after such sort to be thought upon and devised, as the commodity and necessity,* and not gorgeousness does require, as I have said before. That largeness there∣fore must be kept, which is agreeable unto the City not in Geometrical, but Arithmetical proportion. Let the height be twice as great as the breadth. Let the Chambers also within be of a reasonable largeness, furnished with Chimneys, such as the wind may blow through, not dark nor close, the windows, as also the whole building, opening rather to the North, and East, then unto the South or North: there must also be baths there, of the which in this our cause there is great use. And this whole manner of building appertains unto many things, and plainly shews, how great their error is, which doe so build the common Hospitals, that the wind cannot pearse into them, then the which, especially in this disease, nothing can be thought and devised more hurtful.  Neither is it any meruayle, if oftentimes the poor soul that is brought hither, die so much the sooner.  For albeit he be not sick of this disease, but of any other lighter sickness, or also of a simple fever: yet being received in that impure air, laid upon foul and stinking beds, he shall seem to be choked, and to die violently.  I will not now speak, how indiscretely they which are sick in these houses, are oftentimes provided for of meat and drink, and other necessaries. Of which negligence they one day shall give an account unto God, who being rulers in these offices, deal so unfaithfully, when as they are no small cause of the death of the miserable sick persons. Diligence therefore must be used, that all such houses, if it may be, be builded by some Brooke, and in a place (as hath been said) open unto the wind and air, that they may be thorowe blown, and things defiled may be often washed and cleansed. For the impure air may very much hurt even them that are whole, the which daily experience shews.  Also I said, that they are to be builded in an high place, with many windows, especially towards the North, from whence the air is more healthy.  That the windows also ought often to be opened, I need not tell, for the thing itself doth teach it.  All which things, if they be not diligently observed, they will bring more hurt than profit, and they were better to be burned (I speak of many common hospitals) in such a time of the plague, then with hurt to be suffered, as it is the counsel not only of physicians, but also of philosophers, and wise men in commonwealths. Marcus Varo being sometimes at Corcyra and seeing folk lye sick commonly in every house, bringing in the North wind at new windows, and shutting up the South windows, and altering the gate of the house, is reported to have preserved his companions and all his family in health.



Ch. 3, Whether it be Lawful for Christians in the Time of the Plague to Fly, and to Leave their City with a Safe Conscience?

[See also on this topic von Ewich’s Preface to Beza’s A Shorte Learned and Pithie Treatize of the Plague…  (London, 1580).]


“Now albeit I may seem already to have spoken much in this matter of the severing of the infected: yet because of the affinity or kindred of the cause and diversity of opinions, I will join hereunto a very common question, disputed not only by the divines, but also by the learned and Christian physicians: namely, whether in the time of the plague it be lawful for a man for a season to forsake his city and to flee with a good conscience.  Of the which matter, because there are sundry opinions, I will briefly and plainly rehearse the reasons on both sides and in the end also will set down my judgment, which shall be a mean between both and gathered out of the foundations and grounds of the parties at variance.

That it is Lawful to Flee

The former [party], therefore, say that we read not of any of the saints and holy men which feared not death; and therefore that they feared sickness also, chiefly so deadly a sickness; and that if they could, they would have fled by all likelihood.  Nay that it is usual unto us by Nature’s law, and not learned by the teaching of men to fear death.

For the apostle says that no man ever hated his own flesh, but rather to nourish, cherish, and by all means to maintain and preserve the same (Eph. 5:29).  Abraham (say they), for fear of death, called his wife Sarah by the name of ‘sister’, and had rather to make a lie than to come in danger of his life (Gen. 20).  Jacob fled into Mesopotamia that he might not fall into the hands of his brother Esau.  The same does David whilst he flies from king Saul and his own son Absolom (Ps. 3).  Elijah, otherwise a most bold man and who with his own hand had slain the prophets of Baal but a little before, yet feared with the threatnings of Jezebel the Queen, conveyed himself aside into the wilderness.  Moses, when as he was sought after by the king of the Egyptians, fled into Midian.  Therefore (say they), it is not only lawful to flee death, but others also, the whips of God being angry, as hunger (Ruth 1), tyrants (Lev. 26), burnings (Eze. 5:4), overflowings of waters, cold, heat, captivity, wild beasts (Jer. 14; Dt. 28): to be short: all kinds of diseases, agues [fevers], dysenteries, uncleanness, the lepry, the french-pox [syphilis], etc.  Which things, since they are so, it shall be much more lawful to flee the plague and death.

Furthermore, all men are not endued with equal strength either of body or mind; they say, therefore, that it were not just to require the same things at the hands of all.  Strong faith drinks poison without hurt, wherewith a sucking or young faith would die.  Peter being bold and having trust walked in the sea without harm; the same a little after, doubting, began to be drowned.  And Christ will not have the weak to be despised.

Moreover, it is evident by the doctrine of all physicians that such is the nature of infection, that going from one subject and body into another, that is next and fittest to receive it by due and convenient distance, it does infect and corrupt the same: for two things are required, that there may be an impression, or printing and marking:* namely, aptness of the subiect and nearness.  *****

Therefore when as it is manifest by their own judgment and also daily experience, that the plague is a most infectious disease, as which is wont to be taken by the drawing in of the corrupted and poisoned air, they indeed give counsel that it be shunned, so much as may be, and amongst all kind of counsels they confess that none is better than is speedy flying away, long tarrying forth and slow returning again.  For there is no way more commodious to avoid the infected air, none more safe, when as the ayr must always be drawn yea even against our wills, and it is drawn, such as it is.  And they say that the same remedy is with so much the more speed to be used, by how much the evil is more hurtful and present.  That we ought to flee the further, to the end a more healthy air may be found.

Finally that we must return the more slowly, that we may be the more sure of the cleansing of the corrupted air.  Hereupon they think in time of the plague these three adverbs, (quickly, far, slowly) to bring more aid and safe remedy, than three of the best furnished apothecaries shops.  For the plague (as Galen unto Piso is autor) with an airy body is as it were a certain dragon, and no common dragon, but such a one who when as he is not seen with the eyes, does privily and by stealth, lying as it were in ambushment, everywhere breathe out his poison upon men, and no common poison, but such as increasing most speedily, may in a very short time devour the whole body of the commonwealth.*  For the ill quality of the air (says Galen) is made a ready change unto corruption: and when as men through the necessity of breathing cannot avoid danger, they do by the mouth draw unto them the air itself as a certain poison.

Wherefore the same Galen calls and praises Hypocrates, as a man many ways wonderful, for that no otherwise thea by the changing of the air, he cured that plague which out of Ethiopia had assaulted the Greeks.  For when as he had commaunded a fire to bee made throughout the whole Citie of Athens, hee cast into it not only a bare heape of wood, but flowers & garlands of most sweet sauour, also most fat smelling ointments, that the men might draw in vnto themselues the ayre thus purged as an aid and help for them.

Lastly (say [reason 5] they) do we not with great admiration and wonder see, sometimes a great family to die one after another, out of the which if any by the counsel of the physicians, flee in time, they remain alwayes for the most part in safety?  How few also of those die, which depart out of infected cities, we ourselves daily see: so that in this case they [reason 6] think that saying of Demosthenes to have place, the man that runs away, will fight again.  Now if it be unlawful and sin to shun such places, or by going aside to leave them, then to live also, the which notwithstanding is a singular gift of God, after a sort shall be sin.  But God will have us so long to have care of our life, which He has given us, until He take it away, which gave it unto us.

For we are in this world as it were his souldiers, and for the most part set in the fore front of the battaile, from whence we must then only retire, when as it shall please him for to call vs. And hee that either of negligence or rashnesse forsaketh his stan∣ding, shalbe counted giltie of treason. And these for the most part are the reasons of thē that holde it lawfull, as to flie death, so al∣so according to our power to flie sicke∣nesse.

On the other side the other with no less earnestness affirm the contrary.  For when as diseases (say they) especially uniuersal diseases,* are the punishment of God for our [reason 1] sins, we ought not to flee the anger of our Father, but rather to appear before him, and patiently to wait for stripes,* like unto boys, that have played some unhappy trick.  For they say that the examples alleadged by the adversary part, make mention, not of the plague, but of death, yea and of such a death as by the persecution of men is laid upon us (between which two things there is great difference and odds).  For that we may escape the hands of men, but not of God.  And that men oftentimes have unjust causes of persecuting, as tyranny, desire to reign, revenge, covetousness, ambition, envy, anger, hatred, reproach, quarrelling, letchery, incest, stealing away or desiring of another man his wife, which things are wont to stir up men to persecute others: but that God does punish no man save only lawfully.

Hereunto is added, that the punishment of men is not always taken in hand for amendment, but often for revenge of some lewd act: For the magistrate (says the apostle) bears not the sword in vain, but is a terror and fear unto the wicked, and such for the most part were the punishments of the Old Testament: But God who is made a father unto us in Jesus Christ his Son,* does not punish us for revenge, but for amendment.  For whom he loves, the same He chastises.  He is also faithful, and suffers us not to be tempted above our strength: But tempts to make it known,* whether we love Him or no.  And him that abideth this tentati∣on, the same doth Saint Iames pronounce happie, because when hee shall haue beene tryed (saith hee) hee shall receiue the crown of lyfe, which the Lorde hath promised vnto them that loue him. Hereupon says St. Peter, Well beloved, marvel ye not, when as you are tried by fire, for this thing is done for your trial.  And David calls God, the Savior of such as trust in Him: for there is a promise of his, in which it is said: Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee.*

These things cannot be said of men which persecute us: like as neither can that, whereas the book of wisdom calls God the lover of the soul: because when as we call for his help, He cannot forget his office and mind towards us: as he who has taken upon him the name of Father, as a most notable token of his goodwill towards his creature, and given it peculiarly unto himself, and does yet daily and bountifully by infinite benefits show his goodness poured out upon us, and by his prophet Ezekiel cries out: I will not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live.  Again by Isaiah, I the Lord thy God teach thee only profitable things. Again, by the apostle Paul, that he will have all men to be saved.  And can these things I pray you (say they) be spoken likewise of angry tyrants, and those that revenge themselves on us, such as are the examples alleged by the adversaries?  Wherefore who would distrust God so bounteous a Father, and driven as it were by despair, flee his chastisement taken in hand for our great profit.

They say further, especially such as are fullest of tongue among them, that it is [reason 2] no small token, that God is displeased with their running away, who by going aside in such sort goe about to seeke health for them∣selues, when as oftentimes they neuertheles die in another corrupted ayer euen of this sicknesse, whereof wee speake, or else of some other grief, and by flying, indeed do not flee.  As concerning the counsel of physicians, that they are not unto Christians of [reason 3] such weight, that therefore they ought not to regard the authorities alleadged out of the word of God and holy Scriptures: for that physicians seek the health of the bodies, not the health of the souls: of which duty being mindful, they leave unto every man the care [reason 4] of his own soul.

Last of all, this side preaches much of the band of charity,* wherewith we are bound one unto another: and especi∣cially of the charity of those which live in one citie, or that which is more, in one church, and being sworn together in one spiritual league and oath, are joined together as it were into one loaf and body.  For what a monster or strange thing (say they) were this, if some one member of our body have caught some harm, or shall peradventure catch hurt, shall it therefore be forsaken of the rest of the body? or shall it not rather by all means be holpen?  Or if some one part of the city burn with fire, shall it not therefore be succoured, but shall the town because of the danger be fled from and be forsaken?  If a man fall into the hands of thieues, and being wounded of them be left half alive, shall it beseem us after the example of the Levite and Pharisee to pass by him, and not rather with the Samaritan to come down from our horse, that is to say, to come down from our own commodity, to repair the hurt of our neighbor, and curteously according unto our power to help and use him?  That verily should be to Heathenlike, and beastly.  St. John says: Whosoever loves not his brother, is a manslayer: and how does he love him whom being left in great distress by flying away he forsakes?*  Is it not cast in the teeth of Sodom among her other sins, that they forsook and cared not for their neighbours?  And to speake at a word, what (I pray you say they) shall be the principall article of God his last accusation, and condemnation against us, saving for that we did not in time help those whiche stood in need of our help, did not do them good, did not aid them with our counsel, goods, and travel?*  For (say they) we must after a certain sort buy heaven, whilst we live on earth, if we will ever enjoy the possession thereof: we must buy (I say) not for so much money as it is worth, but by a singular good will and love towards God and our neighbor, through the only liberality of the Lord God, and the stepping in of the Suretiship of Jesus Christ his Son by his own blood, who undertook for us, and bound himself unto his Father.

To conclude, they which maintain this opinion (I speake of some, not of all, for many of them have more wit) will have us so far forth boldly to contemn and despise all both sickness and death, that they will scarce grant any use of phisic unto men, but contend that all things are to be committed unto God alone: following the Euchite heretics, of whom I haue spoken before, who iudged all things both troublesome and prosperous to be to be kept away, or obtained by only prayer, contemning and despising all other means.

We therefore, as we haue promised, will now set in between these two parts our judgment, the which if any man shall happily dislike, we willingly give him leave to appeal whither soeuer he will.  First therefore my meaning is not by any meanes to undermine charity and the love of our neighbor, the which no doubt ought to be more dear unto us than our own blood,* like as the Son of God Himself, whom we believe to be set forth unto us by the Father, not only for an atonement and ransom, but also for an example to follow, gave his life for us.

Further, in the former part I wish this, that they would more diligently consider and weigh, what it is to be bound unto some certain company, either by the common law of citizens, or by public duty.  For albeit peradventure that we owe more unto our wives, children, and kinsfolk, then unto others: yet that cannot be understood, when as the question is of the helping of the common necessity of the whole weale public, whereof thou art made a member and part to do service unto the uniuersal body, and the which also is far above all both affinities and kindreds. For, for this calling sake, the which is no doubt of God, every man is bound to follow the other.  ‘He that forsakes not father and mother for my sake, is not worthy of Me.’

Therfore the former law is corrected by the latter, and constrained to give place unto it: and he that before was bound unto his parents, so that he is compelled to obey them, he afterwards by a more general law ought to leave Father and mother, and to follow God, calling him another way, that is, that he either cleave unto his wife, or that which is of more weight, unto the whole commonwealth, or congregation of the Church.  Yet let no man understand this so, as if in the same degree we did not owe more unto our household than unto others, but I speak of diverse kinds and conditions of duties.  In the latter opinion I find want in this point, that they doe not plainely enough iudge a cause of so great weight.  For albeit it be a certain Stoical hardness and clubishness, with such steadfastness to tarry for and abide so great an evil and present danger: yet al men simply neither can nor ought to be bound unto one law.  For by what means otherwise, can so many holy fathers be justly excused, which are read somtimes to have shunned such dangers, I cannot see.

My meaning is, neither to have the one too fainthearted, and as it were distrustful, nor the other too hardy or rash: but there is a mean to be chosen of them both, in the which we are wont to go in most safety, and wherein all virtue does consist, and the common people uses to say very truly, which things being diligently considered,* thus I say: if at any time it may be gathered by certain tokens, that the plague or any other kind of general sickness, has grown through no gross negligence and sluggishness of men, or through any natural default (which in this point is diligently to be marked) but rather by the manifest and mere indignation and wrath of God, as sometimes it is apparant by the voices of the prophets, and other undoubted church histories of the time of our elders, then I think that the rod of God our Father ought in no case to be fled from.  For who is so rude, as to believe that his chastisement is a fighting in the night, which at all adventures strikes them that come first to hand? nay rather let the faithful persuade themselves assuredly of this, that albeit in the reigning of such a plague Noah, David,* and Job were present, yet through their righteousness they should but save their own souls.  For concerning such it is true, which useth to be said, that it is foremarked out by God, who and by what means must be spared.

But if, as in these times it chiefly comes to pass,* and as Luther says of the plague of Wittenburg, 1527, through our own unwariness and rashness, that I say not envy and despising of good counsel such common sicknesses do arise, and visit some certain city particularly and by little and little infect those especially wt are next, as pitch does those that touch it, I nothing doubt (I say) but that it is lawful for the godly and wise to flee and shun such places, especially having a decree of the Magistrate set down to that effect, as has been said before.

For why, if my neighbor will of purpose set a fire his house, shall not I fly from the flame thereof?  But if it be also ordained by the authority of the Magistrate, that he that has no stomach to tarry, may depart, setting his things in such order before hand, that nothing be wanting unto any body, which in these distresses should be greatly needful: his conscience in this case may be altogether free: but if he command it, there can be no resistance with a good conscience.  For the same in this behalf is behoveful oftentimes, which is in great fires and burnings of houses, to the quenching whereof, because all persons are not fit, some certain in some cities, are appointed, who only undertake this charge, and is not lawful for others to come run unto it: or that which is done in the besiegings of cities, that old men, women, children, weak persons, who may be only a cumbrance, and no help unto the commonwealth, be for a time put a side into a more convenient haven, until the city be delivered from the enemy.

And this way I both a Christian, and also a physician, leaning upon the grounds of Philosophy and divinity, without affection and love to the parties (as in other matters) the which has always done much harm to all truth: moreover diligently examining the reasons on both sides, with a well advised mind have judged, that the parties at variance may be made friends, unless of strivers they will become wranglers.

But yet if any man (that I may repeat this again) will peradventure complain as one not contented, I grant him the apostles, let him appeal unto what higher judge he will: or returning to the old fathers doubtles worthy men and famous for godliness, learning, and wisdom, let him renew and wage his law afresh.  I being dispatched out of these matters, return to mine own business.”



Ch. 9, Of the Punishment of Such as Rashly Offend

“Hearfore, because that hitherto we have set down what is needful to be done, neither have let pass anything that by reason might be said or is appertaining profitably unto the matter: and also have exhorted all men diligently and earnestly unto the observation or keeping of these constitutions or orders, it now follows that if any man be found slack or unfaithful in his office, that he, the cause being known, suffer punishment according unto the greatness of the fault.  For what shall it profit to have made many good laws, if they be not kept?  And they will not be kept, unless there be due punishment upon the offenders.  For such as are good, will of their own accord do all those things which are best.  For the law is not made for the just, but for transgressors or offenders.  The Magistrate also carries not the sword in vain, but is a fear unto those that do evil.

There is one [that] has said very well, that no commonwealth can stand without laws; that laws are worth nothing if there be no action: and that all action is in vain if there be no execution.  Let us therefore begin at the beginning and let us see what penalty is to be set down to everyone that shall rashly break the laws of these ordinances, the which I protest that I fear not to make if [even] I should be in danger to lose my life for the same.

First of all concerning the Preservers themselves, albeit they shall be the rulers and overseers of these laws, yet they ought not to claim unto themselves more liberty than the highest emperor, his majesty himself, would have unto himself: who although he confess himself to be above the laws: yet he says that he will obey and be subject unto the laws.  And truly equity does require that look [unto] what every man ordains unto others, the same also he bear himself.

It is the saying of Isocrates that the common people willingly follow the same which they see their rulers to be delighted withal.  Therefore let the Preservers by all means endeavor to maintain their authority and let them labor not only in name, but also in deed to be Preservers of health, and from their hearts to procure the common safety.  But if either they themselves shall do anything negligently, or of favor (which in the judgment of the very heathen becomes not a magistrate) bear with others: by the decree of the Senate or whole bench, which thing will procure them infamy, let them be put from their office and be brought into the order of common citizens.

Physicians, chirurgians [surgeons], apothecaries [pharmacists], if they commit any thing through oversight, which men never know of (for oftentimes such things may happen), let them know that they shall have God a revenger.  But if they shall be found guilty of some light fault, let them recompense it with greater diligence.  They which cannot do all things so handsomely and skillfully as only the most excellent physicians can do, they are cleared by the law itself.  For it is always a hard thing to attain unto that which is rightest, neither can we all be Hippocrateses or Galens.

As for such as have made an open fault, that is of gross and purposed ignorance, have offended in that the which for the most part all men of their calling would have done otherwise, and better, let them sustain some arbitrary [appointed] penalty according to the pleasure of the magistrate, which may consist either in putting them out of office or abridging of their stipend, or finally in impairing their estimation and good name.  Other faults are left to be punished according unto the imperial laws or constitutions and statutes of princes.  In the mean season, both these and the ministers of the Church that follow must abstain from the company of others, or else sustain an arbitrary punishment.

The ministers of the Church, who are the physicians of the souls, cannot easily offend in their office, if they be desirous from their heart to be that which they are called and show not themselves slow unto any, nor have respect of persons, which does at no hand beseem them.  Wherefore public crimes excepted, if they shall do any thing negligently, or not behave themselves godly, we will leave them to be punished unto God the uncorrupt Judge and searcher of things, and of the heart, or at the most suspend them from their office, and in the mean season take from them a month’s wages.

Among the citizens, whosoever shall be found a breaker or transgressor of the order appointed, let him have punishment according unto the nature of his fault.  If any man be found drunken, he is to be punished either by some public shame or forfeiture of money, observing the circumstance of person, occasion, oftenness and greatness.  They that shall dance, trim up or go unto public baths, or be married, shall have some small punishment: but if they get a special privilege [permit], no punishment at all.  For there may such causes fall out why some thing may be granted unto some, the which ought not commonly to be done unto all.

They that shall adventure to bring into the city and to sell things forbidden are worthily to be punished with the loss of the things themselves.  The same punishment is to be laid upon the buyers, if they yet now have with them the things whole and untouched: otherwise let the punishment be equal unto the price of the things.

He that is found selling of profitable things, as meats or drinks, in any other place than in the place appointed, let him bear the loss of all that he sets to sale.

Whosoever of his own private authority shall covetously increase the price of things sellable above that [which] is reasonable or above the appointed rate, let him be under the punishment of unlawful usuries, and for a time forbidden to occupy any more.

Whosoever shall not put away beasts forbidden, nor carry away the filth which they make, let him be punished with a certain sum of money: but if he throw it [the dung] into the public street, let him be punished double, and, nevertheless, compelled to carry it out of the city on his own charges.  If he shall foreslow it, let the punishment be increased according to the number of every day: or else let it be caused by the officers to be carried away upon his double charges.

Dogs, cats, goats, etc. which severally belong to every man, unless he keep them at home, let him pay an arbitrary sum of money: and let it be lawful for everyone that takes them, to kill or keep them, unless it may be proved to be done without the negligence of the owner.  Horses, if they break out of the stable and run away must be restored unto the owner.  For such are not wont to run up and down.

If any, either stranger or citizen, coming from infected or suspected places have not a testimonial of health and of the soundness of the things that he brings with him, let him be shut out: and if he shall privily come into the city, let him suffer the loss of his things; and concerning himself being punished, let him be put back for a time or else shut out for altogether.

The keeper of the gates, which shall receive any coming from a strange place without a testimonial of health, if he do it wittingly, let him for certain days be imprisoned: but if he do it unwittingly, as it may come to pass in a multitude passing by, yet he is to be punished with some money-penalty.  The same is to be ordained concerning innkeepers and such as lodge strangers.

Whosoever after the prohibition of the Preservers shall dare to go out of any house infected with the plague without an appointed mark, shall be punished with a money-punishment: but if noted with some mark, he shall rashly go into other folks’ houses, or thrust himself into the company of men, let him want [lack] liberty to go out afterwards, or let him be carried into the plague houses.  The same is to be ordained against them which go out of one plague house into another.

He that being in health or [is] sick, shall contemn physic, let him be condemned of stubbornness and counted as an heretic: unto whom also afterwards less benefit and duty is due from others, nay he shall be counted unworthy the fellowship of citizens.  For he has tempted God and with the rebellious Jews required miracles, when as without miracles he might have had experience of the grace of God.

Whosoever shall affirm that it is lawful for Christians in the time of the plague, without a lawful cause and consent of the rulers, to leave his city and church, he is worthy [of] the name of a schismatic: and if so be he so run away, he is to be deprived of the freedom of the city.  And he that shall hold every plague to be as an immediate punishment from God, is to be condemned of ignorance and to be despised as an evil speaker: as one that lays upon God his own rashness and blame of his own reckless negligence.

They that have charge about burials, grave-makers, cleansers and such as are put in office about carrying forth of the dead, if they refrain not themselves from the company of others, as those that in houses-infected have been of the household (if they offend after the same sort) are to be punished.  If they have at any time buried any that were not dead, as we have said that it does at sometime happen, if they have done it willingly, let them be held for murderers: but if they have done it ignorantly, let them ask God forgiveness for their fault.

If they shall steal away anything out of houses that they had to cleanse, let them be guilty of theft: but if they have given the same unto any other, let them be guilty of giving of poison and be punished with a bodily punishment.

If any man before the time prescribed shall go out of his house without license and thrust himself into the company of others, he shall be bound to begin afresh the time of shutting in and be punished beside[s] with an arbitrary [appointed] punishment.  But if the same part being infected before and yet scarce well recovered, or but meetly recovered, shall adventure to do the like, he is to be accused of great unthankfulness and to be deprived of all benefits usual to be done unto him, and besides [this] to be restrained with [a] longer keeping in.  But if being now in very deed infected with the plague, he shall be found to have committed this heinous offence upon notorious and wicked boldness, as a murderer after the loss of his goods [being set to die and having nothing further to lose], if he be without children, let him be delivered over unto the hangman.

Let these then be the punishments of such as offend rashly: the which according unto the circumstance of time, place, person, age, sex, greatness of the fault and often committing of the same, the preservers may either increase or alter.  Whatsoever penalties or forfeitures shall be gathered, the same must be bestowed partly upon the relief of the poor and partly employed upon the plague houses.”



A [Poetic] Prayer

“O God in all adversity the only hope and stay,
Th’assured help and certain aid of life of mine alway:
Unmindful of deserved ire, O Father help at need,
Spare and behold of people thine the tears which they do shed.

Regard us for thy Christ’s sake, with humble voice we crave:
And deal not with us guilty souls, as we deserve to have.
How sometime David for his sin committed, grievous pain
Did suffer, holy scripture doth report unto us plain.

When seven thousand ten times told (a miserable sight)
With rage of plague in three days space did loose this joyful light.
But when with tears he did again his sin confess and wail,
Of friendly pardon at thy hands forthwith he did not fail.

His wickedness, and also guilt of wickedness committed,
Which useth to provoke thy wrath, was by and by remitted.
We also now have made the like, or greater far offence,
To which of pain is likewise due as just a recompence.

But yet O God & father dear with humble suite we pray,
That us most wretched wights, in wrath so great thou wilt not pay.
Have pity Lord on us, on us that humbly sue to Thee:
And suffer not our prayers made, in vain or void to be.

Unmindful of deserved ire, O Father help at need,
Spare, and behold of people thine the tears which they do shed.
Behold I pray for Christ his sake, in name of whom who use
All prayers unto thee to make, thou cannest not refuse.

To whom, as co-eternal God with Thee, like laud and praise,
Like honor, equal glory, renown is due always.




Related Pages