On Spreading Diseases and Plagues

“Thus they provoked Him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.  Then stood up Phineas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.”

Ps. 106:29-30

“If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.”

Ex. 15:26

“And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight.”

Lk. 7:21

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Subsection

On Social Distancing & the Adaptation of the Church

On the Civil Magistrate’s Just Authority for Restraining the Congregating of Citizens, even the Church, and Quarantining, etc., with Sufficient Natural Warrant, according to God’s Moral Law

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Order of Contents

Spiritual Prevention of Plagues  6
Articles  35+
Books  32
.       The Great Bubonic Plague of London (1665-6)  12
Historical Fiction  2
Prayers  8+
Spiritual Literature during Plagues  25+
For Pastors & Elders
On Maintaining Public Worship  4
On the Relations Between the 1st & 2nd Tables of the Law
For Civil Magistrates  1
After Plagues  4+
On Mourning  4+
Historical  15+
Experimental Quotes
Latin  16+


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On the Spiritual Prevention of Plagues

England, 1600’s

Reynolds, Edward – Sion’s Praises. Opened in a sermon preached before…  [the] common council of London: on the day of solemn thanksgiving unto God for his long and gracious preservation of that great city, from pestilence, fire, and other dangers  (London, 1657)  on Ps. 147:12-15  This was preached during the end of Oliver Cromwell’s ‘Protectorate’.

Reynolds (1599-1676) was a conforming English puritan and bishop.  

New England had an epidemic of Measles in 1657, which apparently did not come over into England.  It appears that the last time England had a major epidemic of disease was that of the bubonic plague in 1736.

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England, 1721-22

From 1720-22 there were plagues in France (the Great Plague of Marseille) and in New England, but not in England.

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Presbyterian

Hughes, Obadiah – The Good Man’s Security in Times of Public Calamity: a sermon preached…  on occasion of the Plague in France…  (London, 1722)  on Isa. 26:20-21

Hughes (1695–1751) was an evangelical, English presbyterian minister.

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Mainstream Anglicans & Irish

Wilcocks, Joseph – ‘The Increase of Righteousness the Best Preservative Against National Judgments…  being the day appointed…  for beseeching God to preserve us from the Plague with which several other countries are at this time visited’  (London, 1720)  on Gen. 18:32

Wilcocks (1673-1756) was an Anglican bishop and chaplain to the king.

Boulter, Hugh – ‘A Sermon [On Isa. 55:6-7]…  for beseeching God to preserve us from the Plague with which several other countries are at this time visited’  (London, 1720)

Boulter (1672-1742) was the Church of Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh, and a chaplain to the king.

Greene, Thomas – ‘The End and Design of God’s Judgments: a sermon preached…  averting those heavy judgments we have most justly deserved, and particularly the plague, with which several other countries are at this time visited’  (London, 1721)  on Isa. 26:9

Greene (1658-1738) was an Anglican bishop and academic.

Newlin, Thomas – ‘God’s Gracious Design in inflicting National Judgments…  for beseeching God to preserve us from the plague with which several other countries are at this time visited’  (Oxford, 1721)  on Ps. 78:50

Newlin (1688–1743) was an Anglican cleric, known as a preacher.

Saunders, Erasmus – ‘A discourse of the dangers of abusing the divine blessings: showing, that national calamities are the sure consequences of public and national iniquities, a sermon preach’d…  averting…  the plague, with which several other countries are at this time visited’  (London, 1721)  on Isa. 5:4-5

Saunders (1670–1724) was a Welsh cleric and writer.


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Articles on Plagues

1500’s

Luther, Martin – ‘Whether one may Flee from a Deadly Plague’  (c. 1527)  in Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald & Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43  (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 119–38.

For contextual background to this piece, see pp. 275-6 of Henry Jacobs, Martin Luther the Hero of the Reformation… (NY: Putnam’s Sons, 1898).

Osiander, Andreas – How and Whither a Christen man ought to flee the horrible plague of the pestilence, A Sermon out of the Psalm [91], Qui habitat in adsutorio altissimi  ([Southwarke] 1537)

Osiander (1498–1552) was a German Lutheran theologian and Protestant reformer.

Hooper, John – ‘A Homily to be Read in the Time of Pestilence, Containing the True Cause of the Same; and Likewise a Most Present Remedy for as many as be already, or hereafter shall be infected with disease’  (1553)  in Later Writings of John Hooper  d. 1555

Hooper (c. 1495-1500–1555) was a proponent of the English Reformation, an Anglican Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, and a martyr at the stake under Bloody Mary.  He is known as the ‘Father of Non-Conformity’.

Grindal, Edmund – ‘Occasional Services for the Plague’ (1563)  in The Remains of Edmund Grindal…  (Cambridge: Parker Society, 1843),  pp. 75-121

Grindal (c. 1519–1583) was an English Protestant leader who successively held the posts of Bishop of London, Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth I of England.  He was sympathetic to the puritans.

On the 1592 London Plague

Cupper, William – Certain Sermons Concerning God’s Late Visitation in the City of London and other parts of the land, teaching all men to make use thereof, that mean to profit by God’s fatherly chastisements…  (London, 1592)  373 pp.  10 sermons  ToC

Cupper was a preacher at a church in Cripplegate.  We have not found further bio info.  This work appears to have been reprinted for the 1603 & 1625 London plagues, the latter instance under another title (below).  The 10th sermon includes a section on the duty of the civil magistrate during plague, starting on p. 341.

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1600’s

On the 1603 London Plague

Clapham, Henoch – An Epistle Discoursing upon the Present Pestilence, Teaching what it is, and how the people of God should carry themselves towards God and their neighbor therein…  (London, 1603)

Clapham (fl. 1600) was an English puritan who was a pastor of a congregation in Amsterdam.  He may have been a Brownist (separatist).

Andrewes, Lancelot – ‘A Sermon of the Pestilence Preached at Chiswick, 1603’  on Ps. 106:29-30  (London, 1636)

Andrewes (1555–1626) was an English bishop and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.  He oversaw the translation of the King James Version of the Bible.

Wilson, John – ‘1603’  in A Song of Deliverance for the lasting remembrance of God’s wonderful works never to be forgotten…  with poems both Latin and English, and the verses of that learned Theodore Beza  (Boston, 1680)

Wilson (c.1588–1667), was a puritan minister in England who moved to New England in 1630 with Winthrop.  He was the minister of the First Church of Boston from its beginnings in Charlestown in 1630 until his death in 1667.  He is most noted for being a minister at odds with Anne Hutchinson during the Antinomian Controversy from 1636 to 1638.

Balmford, James – A Short Dialogue Concerning the Plague’s Infection, Published to Preserve Blood through the Blessing of God  (London, 1603)  ToC  This work looks good.

Balmford (1556- after 1623) was an English minister at Southwark, who appeared to be presbyterian insofar as he affirmed the office of ruling elder (pp. 22-23), unlike episcopal anglicans.  He disputed with Thomas Gataker about casting lots.  Here are some other of Balmford’s works.

This work is really good.  On pp. 54-59 he discusses the issues: ‘An absolute faith touching deliverance from the Plague, is not required,’ and ‘Why godly men die of the Plague’. 

He also discusses: ‘Who may fly into the country from the Plague, and with what cautions’ (pp. 70-74) and ‘God’s people are to come to Church, notwithstanding the plagues contagion’ (75-77).  The latter subject is highly qualified throughout the treatise.

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Dod, John & Robert Cleaver – Sermon 1 & 2  on 2 Sam. 24:10-17  in Four Godly and Fruitful Sermons: Two preached at Draiton in Oxford-shire, at a Fast, enjoined by authority, by occasion of the pestilence then dan­gerously dispersed…  (London, 1611)

Dod & Cleaver were English puritans.

Draxe, Thomas – ch. 6, ‘Of the Plague or Pestilence’  in The Christian Armory, wherein is contained all manner of spiritual munition, fit for secure Christians to arm themselves withal against Satan’s assaults, and all other kind of crosses, temptations, troubles, and afflictions…  (London, 1611), pp. 38-45

Draxe (d. 1618) was a conforming English puritan.

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On the 1625-6 Plague in London & France

A National Synod of the Reformed Churches of France

‘An Act for a Public National Fast’  in John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata  (London, 1692), vol. 2, the Synod of Castres, ch. 26, pp. 197-8

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English Puritans

Crashaw, William – London’s Lamentation for her Sins and complaint to the Lord her God. Out of which may be picked a prayer for private families, for the time of this feareful infection. And may serve for a help to holiness and humiliation for such as keep the fast in private: together with a sovereign receipt against the plague  (London, 1625)

Crashaw (1572–1626) was an English cleric, academic, and poet, and is listed as a reformed, puritan by PRDL.

Wilson, John – ‘1625’  in A Song of Deliverance for the lasting remembrance of God’s wonderful works never to be forgotten…  with poems both Latin and English, and the verses of that learned Theodore Beza  (Boston, 1680)

Wilson (c.1588–1667), was a puritan minister in England who moved to New England in 1630 with Winthrop.  He was the minister of the First Church of Boston from its beginnings in Charlestown in 1630 until his death in 1667.  He is most noted for being a minister at odds with Anne Hutchinson during the Antinomian Controversy from 1636 to 1638.

Hildersham, Arthur – Sermons 1-2  of The Doctrine of Fasting and Prayer, and Humiliation for Sin. Delivered in Sundry Sermons at the Fast appointed by Public Authority, in the year 1625  (London, 1633)

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Anglicans

Cupper, William – Ten Profitable and Godly Sermons concerning the Pestilence. Very fitting to be read, especially in these dangerous times…  Ref  (London, 1625)  This appears to be a reprint of Cupper’s 1592 book of ten sermons: Certain Sermons Concerning God’s Late Visitation in the City of London…  (London, 1592)  ToC  which was also reprinted for the 1603 London plague.

Cupper was a preacher at a church in Cripplegate.  We have not found further bio info.  His sermons are excellent.  The 10th sermon includes a section on the duty of the civil magistrate during plague, starting on p. 341.

Crawshaw, William – London’s Lamentation for her Sins, and Complaint to the Lord her God, out of which may be picked a Prayer for Private Families, for the time of this fearful Infection, and may serve for a help to Holiness and Humiliation for such as keep the Fast in Private: Together with a Sovereign Receipt against the Plague  (London, 1625)

Crawshaw (1572-1626)

Donne, John – ‘A Sermon Preached at St. Dunstans January 15. 1625;  The First Sermon after our Dispersion, by the Sickness.’  on Ex. 12:30

Donne (1572-1631) was an English scholar, poet, soldier and secretary born into a catholic family, who reluctantly became a cleric in the Church of England.  He was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London (1621-1631) and was noted for his sermons.  He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.

Hastler, Thomas – An Antidote Against the Plague. Or Panchrestōn: a salve for all sores which applied and practised, will soon awaken the Lords mercy, and suddenly cause the storms of his just judgments to vanish away. Delivered in a sermon, preached within the Cathedral Church of Saint Pauls, London  (London, 1625)  on Mt. 8:25

Fuller, Thomas – A Sermon Intended for Paul’s Cross, but Preached in…  1625 upon the late Decrease and withdrawing of God’s heavy Visitation of the Plague of Pestilence from the said City  (London, 1626)  on Ps. 107:17 ff.

Fuller was a Master of Arts at Cambridge, to be distinguished from the more well-known reformed, divine, T. Fuller (c.1607-1661). 

Price, Sampson – London’s Remembrancer: for the staying of the contagious sickness of the plague by David’s memorial. As it was followed in a sermon preached in Christs-church in London, the 22. of January, 1626. Upon occasion of the public thanksgiving, enjoined by his majesty’s proclamation  (London, 1626)  on Ps. 42:4

Price (1585-1630) was a doctor of divinity and a chaplain to the king.  He graduated from the stoutly Calvinist, Exeter College, Oxford, was a noted preacher in Oxford, and he earned the title ‘the maul of heretics’ for his sustained criticisms of papists.

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Jones, William – The True Inquisition or The Sad Soul’s Search, Preached at Newport, May 29, 1632  (London, 1633)  on Lam. 3:40  This is listed as a plague sermon by EEBO.

Jones (b. 1581 or 2) was an Anglican clergyman.

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On the 1636 London Plague

Andrewes, Lancelot – ‘A Sermon of the Pestilence Preached at Chiswick, 1603’  on Ps. 106:29-30  (London, 1636)

The the next large-scale plague visitation in London after 1626 was ten years later in 1636, for which this work was reprinted.

Andrewes (1555–1626) was an English bishop and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.  He oversaw the translation of the King James Version of the Bible.  In 1603 he had debated Henoch Clapham (a Brownist) on church attendance during the plague, even for ministers.

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On the 1641 London Plague

Burton, Henry – A Most Godly Sermon…  showing the necessity of self-denial and humiliation by prayer and fasting before the Lord in regard of the present plague we now lie under: which God in his good time remove from amongst us  (London, 1641)

Burton (bap. 1578-1648) was an English, Independent puritan.

Anon. – London’s Lamentation, or, A Fit Admonishment for City and country wherein is described certain causes of this affliction and visitation of the plague, year 1641, which the Lord hath been pleased to inflict upon us: and withal what means must be used to the Lord to gain his mercy and favor: with an excellent spiritual medicine to be used for the preservative both of body and soul  (London, 1641)

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Hall, Joseph – ‘Comforts Against Public Calamities’  in The Balm of Gilead, or, Comforts for the Distressed, both moral and divine most fit for these woeful times  (London, 1650)  Section 7, p. 173 ff. provides comforts against the pestilence.

Durham, James – pt. 3, ch. 4, ‘How it is that gross delusions may come to such height, as they often do’  in The dying man’s testament to the Church of Scotland, or, A treatise concerning scandal... (Edinburgh, 1659), pp. 170-177

Durham asks, “What hand the Lord can have in such a [spiritual] plague?”  He gives and expounds on 6 answers:

1. “There are spiritual plagues, wherewith God justly punisheth the ingratitude and other sins of people, as well as there are external and corporal plagues…”

2.  “…the Lord is no less just, holy and pure in punishing men with such plagues, than when He maketh use of some other rods or judgments, neither is there any thing in this to be attributed to Him, that is unbecoming His absolute purity and holiness.”

3.  “…although the Lord be not, neither can be accessory to this delusion, as it is sinful, (for this impossibility belongeth to His infinite and blessed perfection) yet hath He a just hand in the complexed design, which doth add exceedingly to the strength of the delusion.”

4. “In such a case also, the Lord doth justly deprive men, whom He mindeth to plague with that delusion, of these means, which might be useful to discern and resist the same.”

5. “When men are in the Lord’s justice thus deprived, and being set upon with the tentation [trial], which he hath letten loose upon them, the Lord may in His providence tryst [bring together] many things that may be abused, for the carrying on of this judgement…”

6. “Beside these, the Lord hath a judicial upgiving of proud, corrupt men, u•…to the ha•…ds of such tentations: so that when as it were, the devil setteth on by such a blast of wind, and seeketh to winnow such and such persons, the Lord doth as a just judge sentence them to be committed thereto, as to the executioner of His justice; in this sense, He is said to give them up: and in this respect, such defection, as it is a punishment, is judicially permitted and ordered by Him, who willingly and purposely sentenceth such persons to be so given up, because of former sins, whereas others whom He doth not so sentence, are not so carried away with that same tentation.”

“Also the Lord, who is wonderful in counsel and whose ways and judgments are past finding out, may have many other wonderful and inconceivable ways in the carrying on of this judgement; for, if all His judgments be a great depth, much more are his spiritual judgments.”

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On the Great London Plague in 1665-66

Puritans

Shaw, Samuel – ‘A Welcome to the Plague’ (on Amos 4:12) & ‘A Farewell to Life’ (on 2 Cor. 5:6) in ed. William Vent, The Suffering Christian’s Companion, containing: a Token for Mourners…  (Idle, 1830)

Shaw (1635–1696) was an English presbyterian minister who suffered under the Great Ejection of 1662.  Shaw lost two children from the London bubonic plague of 1665.

Ness, Christopher – Peace-Offerings and Lamentations: being Tears of a Compunctionated and Compassionate Spirit, shed over the Pale and Consumptive Face of Heart-Sick England, issuing as from the bleeding heart of a son over his languishing mother, expressed in an antidote against her present plague, in an Alexipharmacum against her too too epidemical pestilence…  by way of a letter to his friend…  (London, 1666)  26 pp.

Ness (1621-1705) was ejected at the Great Ejection of 1662 and continued as an Independent, puritan minister.  He wrote a book commended by John Owen against Arminianism.  Ness accepted the indulgence of 1672, but was excommunicated four times thereafter.

Reynolds, Edward – ‘A Sermon preached before the peers in the Abby Church at Westminster, November 7, 1666 being a day of solemn humiliation for the continuing pestilence’  (London, 1666)

Baxter, Richard

Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, or, Mr. Richard Baxter’s Narrative of the most memorable passages of his life and times…  (London, 1696)  See especially Pt. 3, §8 and surrounding regarding natural and moral obligations of ministers during a spreading plague.

Pt. 2, p. 448, § 445

Pt. 3, §1-13, 28, 34, 109, pp. 1-4, 15, 17, 48

Dyer, William – ‘Christ’s Voice to London.  And the Great Day of God’s Wrath.  Being the Substance of 2 Sermons Preached (in the City) in the Time of the Sad Visitation.  Together with the Necessity of Watching and Praying.  With a Small Treatise of Death.’  (1666)

Dyer (1632-1696) was a puritan, non-conforming minister who was deposed in the Great Ejection of 1662.  Here are some of his works.

Anon. – A Voice to the City, or, A Loud Cry from Heaven to London setting before her her sins, her sickness, her remedies  (London, 1665)

While anonymous, the work has a puritanical character to it, especially in its prescribed remedies regarding worship, etc.

Anon. – A Pulpit to be Let [Filled]. With a Just Applause of those Worthy Divines that Stay with Us.  (London, 1665)

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Others

Allestree, Richard – Sermon 11, Christ’s Church in Oxford, Nov. 8, 1665, being the Monthly Fast-day for the Plague  on Lk. 16:30-31  in Eighteen Sermons whereof fifteen preached [before] the King, the rest upon public occasions  (London, 1669)

Allestree (c.1621-1681) was a royalist Anglican and professor of divinity at Oxford.

Rawlet, John – ‘A Consolatory letter of that Reverend and Pious Man, Mr. Rowlett, the Author of the Christian Monitor, to his mother, upon his apprehension of dying by the plague’  1665  24 pp.  in Thomas Bray, A Brief Account of the life of the Rev. Mr. John Rawlet…  Together with a valuable remain of his, never before printed, viz. his consolatory letter to his mother, written on occasion of his apprehension of dying by the Great Plague, 1665  (London, 1728)

Hall, George – A Fast-Sermon, preached to the Lords in the High-Court of Parliament assembled on the day of Solemn Humiliation for the Continuing Pestilence, Oct. 3, 1666…  (London, 1666)  on Ps. 7:9

Hall (c. 1613–1668) was an Anglican bishop of Chester.

Tabor, John – ‘Reflections on the Pestilence’  in Seasonable thoughts in sad times being some reflections on the war, the pestilence, and the burning of London, considered in the calamity, cause, cure  (London, 1667), pp. 11-18  on Jer. 9:9, in verse

Hunter, Josiah – The Dreadfulness of the Plague, or a Sermon Preached in the Parish-Church of St. John the Evangelist, Dec. 6th, being a day of public fasting  (York, 1666)  on Num. 16:46

Quarles, John – London’s Disease, and Cure: being a Sovereign receipt against the plague, for prevention sake  (London, 1665)  This is a spiritual poem.

Quarles (1624 or 1625–1665) was an English, royalist, poet.  He died in the Great Plague of London.

Owen, John – ‘Perilous Times’  on 2 Tim. 3:1  unknown date, mentions public plagues numerous times

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1700’s

Patrick, Symon – as appended to The Heart’s Ease, or a Remedy Against All Troubles: a Consolatory Discourse, particularly Directed to those who have lost their friends and dear Relations…  (London, 1707)

‘A Brief Exhortation to those who are shut up from our Society, and deprived at present of Public Instruction…’

‘A Consolatory Discourse, Persuading to a Cheerful Trust in God, in these Times of Trouble and Danger’  (London, 1707)

Patrick (1626-1707) was an Arminian, Latitudinarian, Anglican bishop.

“About the middle of August [1665] I set myself to write a short exhortation to those who were shut up because of the plague, and just when I had finished it, heard the melancholy news of my father’s death, on the 16th; upon which I wrote a letter to comfort my mother, wherewith I much comforted myself; and on the 24th sent abroad my little exhortation to those who were shut up, beseeching God that it might do good to all.  And on the 30th I thought of writing a little treatise of comfort in this sad time, which I finished and sent to my bookseller September the first, praying the blessing of Heaven might attend upon these my little labors for the good of souls.” – Autobiography

Grosvenor, Benjamin – Preparation for Death, the Best Preservative Against the Plague, being the substance of 2 Sermons  (London, 1721)

Grosvenor (1676–1758) was originally an English, primitive baptist, but was excommunicated when he became a presbyterian.  He then served as a dissenting presbyterian minister and was a ‘moderate Calvinist’.

From 1720-22 there were plagues in France (the Great Plague of Marseille) and in New England.  England prepared for it, but apparently never got it.

Barnard, John – ‘2nd Sermon, The Fatal Consequence of a People’s Persisting in Sin: Preached…  on a Public Fast in the Time of the Measles, Jan, 14, 1713/14’  in Two Sermons: The Christian’s Behavior under Severe and Repeated Bereavements, and The Fatal Consequence of a Peoples Persisting in Sin  (Boston, 1714)

Clarke, Samuel – Sermons 7-9  in XVII sermons on several occasions…  (London, 1724)  on Isa. 26:9; Lk. 13:2-3 & Mt. 24:7

Clarke (1675-1729) was a latitudinarian, Anglican clergyman and English philosopher.  He is considered the major British figure in philosophy between John Locke and George Berkeley.

Emerson, Joseph – ‘A Word to those that are Afflicted very much; Mr. Emerson’s sermon on the mortal sickness at Malden; Essay to preserve the memory, and improve the affliction, of the late mortal sickness at Malden; a sermon preached at the lecture in Malden, October 20th 1738, on occasion of the repeated and multiplied deaths of children in many families in said town, by the throat distemper’  (Boston, 1738)

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American Presbyterians

Davies, Samuel – ‘This Very Year You Are Going to Die!’  (1761)  A sermon on Jer. 28:16, “This year thou shalt die.”

There had been an epidemic of small pox in America in 1755-6, an epidemic of measles in 1759 and an epidemic of the flu in 1761.

This sermon was preached at Princeton College on Jan. 1, 1761.  Davies died shortly after, on Feb. 4, at the age of 37.

“Jonathan Edwards, among his first acts as President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), preached a New Year’s Sermon in 1758 on Jer. 28:16 (“This year thou shalt die”), while Princeton, New Jersey was in the midst of a smallpox epidemic.  He later received an inoculation, which led to his death two months later.  (His predecessor, Aaron Burr, Sr., and successor, Samuel Davies, and his own son, Jonathan Edwards, Jr. all preached on the same text in the same year in which they died.)” – Andrew Myers

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On the 1799 Yellow Fever

Miller, Samuel – A Sermon, delivered May 9, 1798: recommended by the president of the United States to be observed as a day of general humiliation, fasting, and prayer  Ref  (New York, 1798)

For background to this, see Andrew Myers, ‘Samuel Miller and the Yellow Fever’ (2020).  Miller’s second sermon, after the epidemic, is in the subsection below, ‘After Plagues’.

Green, Ashbel – A Pastoral Letter, from a Minister in the Country, to those of his Flock who remained in the city of Philadelphia during the Pestilence of [Yellow Fever in] 1798  (Philadelphia, 1799)  15 pp.

Ashbel Green, who wrote the heartfelt, A Pastoral Letter…  encouraged his flock during a yellow fever epidemic not to assemble for public worship.  He lost a dear friend to the disease, John Blair Smith, in 1799, and his concern was to protect his flock as a shepherd.  The pestilence visited Philadelphia several times while he ministered there and in surrounding parts.  His diary entry for November 6, 1802, records this joyful note: “Thanks to God who has preserved us all from the pestilence, shown us many favours, and returned us again to our home. O let us live to his praise; I hope this day I have had some freedom at the throne of grace.”” – Andrew Myers

“If ever I preached with fervour, like a dying man to a dying man, it was during the time of this calamity.” – Ashbel Green, Life of Ashbel Green, p. 280

See Ch. 16, ‘Pestilence’ & Ch. 17, ‘Influenza and Nephritic Complaints’ in ed. Joseph Jones, The Life of Ashbel Green, V.D.M. (New York, 1849)

Marshall, William – A Theological Dissertation, on the Propriety of Removing From the Seat of the Pestilence: Presented to the Perusal of the Serious Inhabitants of Philadelphia and New-York  (Philadelphia, 1799)  22 pp.

Marshall was an Associate Presbyterian minister in Philadelphia.  The title page bears the verse, Jer. 38:2, “He that remaineth in the city shall die by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth shall live.”

To the question: “What is the duty of those who live in a place where the pestilence is spreading?  Should they not remove to a more healthy situation if it is in their power?”  Marshall argues for the affirmative, particularly based on 6th Commandment, which requires that we engage in “all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.”

“As he was leaving the city at this time, because of the yellow fever, a friend on the other side of the street accosted him, saying: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”  He immediately replied: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”” – James Scouller, Manual of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, p. 486

See more background info in Andrew Myers, ‘William Marshall on an Age-Old Questions: ‘Should I Stay or Should I go?’

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1800’s

Proudfit, Alexander – ‘Our Duty & Danger: Two Sermons…  being a Day Appointed by the Presbytery of Washington for the Exercises of Fasting, Humiliation & Prayer on Account of the Alarming Aspect of Divine Providence to our Country’  (Salem, NY: 1808)  59 pp.

Proudfit (1770-1843) was an American, Associate Reformed minister in New York.  These two sermons were preached in the midst of great national tribulation, in the form of fire, drought, crop failure and an epidemic of influenza, as well as disunity and discord both in church and state.  For more background on Proudfit and this piece, see Andrew Myers, ‘Alexander Proudfit on our National Danger & Duty’.

Strong, Paschal N. – ‘The Pestilence: a Punishment for Public Sins: a Sermon, preached in the Middle Dutch Church, Nov. 17, 1822: after the cessation of the yellow fever, which prevailed in New-York in 1822’  (New York, 1822)

Strong (1793-1825) was a reformed Dutch minister in New York.  There was an epidemic of yellow fever in America from 1820-23.

Begg, James A. – The True Cause of the Prevalence of Pestilence, and other judgments of God; with the Divinely Appointed Means of Deliverance and Safety  (Paisley, 1832)

This Begg (1800-1868) was not the later Free Churchman, but a contemporaneous Seventh Day Adventist and prophecy writer in Paisley at the 1832 cholera outbreak in Scotland, where James Begg the Free Churchman also happened to be at the same time. 

The following historical events are related in the biography of Begg the Free Churchman: 

“Dr. Begg’s ministry in Paisley began under most trying circumstances, as much so as any with which a young minister ever had to contend. In 1832 there was a fearful outbreak of cholera, which visited many parts of the country, carried off many of all classes, and produced terror in the hearts of multitudes who escaped its actual attack. 

Probably on account of overcrowding and the want of sanitary arrangements, Paisley was one of the places which suffered most severely. The greater portion of the victims were of the destitute, enfeebled, and dissipated classes. But not all. The mansions of the higher classes were not exempt from the visitation. The strong and the fair were among the victims. The virtuous and the pious did not escape. In all faces were traces of deepest sorrow, mingled with the expression of anxiety and alarm. And there was more than simple sorrow, comfortless weeping for the dead because they were not.

A strange madness took hold of the minds of the most ignorant portion of the people, and in some cases extended even to some of whom better things might have been expected. The medical men, who battled with the fell disease with all the courage and energy which are nobly characteristic of their profession, were regarded as its abettors. Every case which baffled their skill was regarded as a murder perpetrated by them. This strange and wicked delusion was, unhappily, not confined to Paisley, but it seems to have found there a peculiarly congenial soil.”

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Anon. – No. 81, ‘The Blood Upon the Door Posts; or Means of Safety in the Time of the Pestilence’  in A Series of Tracts on the Doctrines, Order & Polity of the Presbtyerian Church in the United States of America...  vol. 5  (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1842)

On the 1849 American Cholera Epidemic

McMaster, Erasmus Darwin – ‘Impending Judgments Averted by Repentance:  A Sermon, at Oxford, Ohio, Fri., Aug. 3, 1849, the Day of the National Fast’  (Cincinnati, 1849)

McMaster (1806-1866) was a notable, American minister in the PCUSA who was raised a Reformed Presbyterian. 

“In 1849, a cholera epidemic was raging throughout the United States.  Not long after former President James K. Polk died of the disease in June, President Zachary Taylor declared a national day of fasting and prayer to be observed on August 3, 1849.  E.D. McMaster, in his final days as President of Miami University in Ohio, preached a sermon that day titled Impending Judgments Averted by Repentance.” – Andrew Myers, ‘National Judgments Call for National Repentance: E.D. McMaster’; see here for more background info.

Henry, Symmes C. – The Pestilence, a Divine Visitation: a Sermon preached August the Third, 1849, the Day of the National Fast  Ref  1849

Symmes was a presbyterian minister in New Jersey.

On the 1855 epidemic of Yellow Fever in America

Armstrong, George D. – ‘The Lesson of the Pestilence’  (1855)  on Heb. 12:10  About the yellow-fever epidemic in 1855 in Norfolk, Virginia, and in America generally.

Armstrong was a presbyterian pastor.

Cummins, George David – ‘The Pestilence: God’s Messenger and Teacher’  (1855)  on Num. 16:46  About the yellow-fever epidemic in Norfolk, Virginia.

Cummins (1822-1876) was an American Anglican Bishop and founder of the Reformed Episcopal Church.  He was a staunch evangelical of reformed doctrine and he opposed the influences of ritualism and the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement.

Storrs, Richard S. – ‘Terrors of the Pestilence’  (1855)  on Eccl. 9:12

Storrs (1821-1900) was a conservative, congregational minister of the Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn, NY.

Handy, Isaac W.K. – ‘The Terrible Doings of God’  (1855)

Handy was a confederate, presbyterian pastor who was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.  He preached this sermon in a baptist church upon the occasion of 28 members of a Masonic Lodge dying in the recent epidemic in Virginia.  A book of his, about his being imprisoned by the Union in the North, has been reprinted by Sprinkle Publications.

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Breed, William P. –  II. ‘The Great Plague’  in Under the Oak  (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1866), pp. 19-85

Under the oak refers to Rev. Breed (1816-1889) sitting and talking with children on Sabbath afternoons under an oak.  This story is for children, but contains much spiritual help on the topic.  “A good many years ago, in a town in India, a hundred miles north of Calcutta, a man suddenly fell sick…”

Palmer, Benjamin Morgan

pp. 298-9  in Thomas Cary Johnson, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer (Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1906)

‘Never Too Late’  in ed. C.N. Wilborn, Selected Writings of Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Articles Written for the Southwest Presbyterian in the Years 1869-70  Buy  (Banner of Truth, 2014)  from Southwestern Presbyterian 1, no. 6 (April 1869): 1 ff.

““Never Too Late,”…  gives a sample of his ministerial endeavors during the epidemic of 1867.  A man on his death-bed was converted by means of the prayers and earnest supplications of Palmer, thus affirming an old maxim found in Matthew Henry’s commentary: “While there is life there is hope.”” – Andrew Myers

Candlish, Robert – ‘Security in the Midst of Danger’  in The Gospel of Forgiveness  on Ps. 91:1-2

Candlish was a leading minister in the Free Church of Scotland.

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1900’s

Grimke, Francis – ‘Some Reflections, growing out of the recent epidemic of influenza that Afflicted our City’  (Washington D.C., 1918)  12 pp.  Grimke was a presbyterian pastor in Washington, D.C.

See also Andrew Myers, ‘Reflections by Francis J. Grimke on the 1918 ‘Spanish Flu”.  Between 1918-20, there was a worldwide pandemic of the Spanish Flu.

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2000’s

Groves, Alasdair – ‘Anxiety, Waiting and the Coronavirus’  2020  12 paragraphs  on Josh. 3


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Books on Plagues

1500’s

On the 1563 London Plague  (the worst London plague, with 24% of the population dying)

Bullein, William – A Dialogue both Pleasant and Pietiful [full of Piety], wherein is a goodly regiment against the fever pestilence with a consolation and comfort against death  (London, 1564)

Bullein (c.1515–1576) was an English physician and puritan cleric.

The work “combines eloquence with humorous anecdotes and satire. Bullein aimed to prescribe remedies against the sweating-sickness, imported from Le Havre [France] in 1564…  to encourage his countrymen in their affliction.” – Wikipedia  See Thomas Brasbridge below for another work regarding this same epidemic.

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On the 1564-69 Scottish Plague

Skeyne, Gilbert – A Brief Description of the Pest, wherein [is] the causes, signs, and some special preservation and cure thereof are contained  (Edinburgh, 1568)

Skeyne was a physician; this is Scotland’s first printed medical work.  It was written in old Scots (not easy to read).  This plague has been estimated to have killed about one fifth of the inhabitants of Edinburgh during 1568-9, and was one of the severest up till this time for the city.  See the website, A Scots Buik on the Plague! for more.

Skeyne deals with the prevention of the disease.  Apart from repentance, he advocates proper sanitation, a healthy regimen and cleanliness.

“Certan it is, the first and principal cause may be called, and is a scourge and punischment of the most just God, without whose disposition in all things, other second causes work no thing.  So the Heaven, which is the admirable instrument of God, blows that contagion upon the face of the Earth.”

“The principal preservative cure of the pest is, to return to God.”

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On the 1577 London Plague

Brasbridge, Thomas – The Poor Man’s Jewel, that is to say, A Treatise of the Pestilence unto the which is annexed a declaration of the virtues of the herbs Carduus Benedictus, and angelica, which are very medicinable, both against the plague and also against many other diseases, gathered out of the books of diverse learned physicians  (London, 1578)

Brasbridge (1536/7–1593) was an English divine and author.  At Oxford he studied both divinity and medicine, and remained to tend the plague-stricken during the severe epidemic of 1563–64.  See Bullein above for another work about this same epidemic.

White, Thomas – A Sermon preached at Paul’s Cross on Sunday the third of November, 1577, in the time of the plague…  (London, 1578)

White (c.1550–1624) was an English clergyman, founder of Sion College, London, and of White’s professorship of moral philosophy at the University of Oxford. He was noted in his lifetime for charitable gifts.

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Beza, Theodore – A Short Learned and Pithy Treatise of the Plague, Wherein are Handled These Two Questions: the One, Whether the Plague Be Infectious, Or No: the Other, Whether and How Far it May of Christians Be Shunned by Going Aside  trans. & preface by John Stockwood  (London, 1580)  70 pp.  EEBO  Stockwood is the same person that translated von Ewich’s book below.

“When as I myself…  was sick of the plague at Lausanne [France], and that both others of my fellow ministers, and amongst the rest, that singular man of blessed memory Peter Viret was prepared to come unto me: and that John Calvin himself also sending a messenger with letters offered unto me all kind of courtesy; I suffered none of them to come unto me, lest I might have been thought to have provided for myself with the loss of the Christian commonwealth, which was manifest would have been very great by the death of so worthy men: neither doth it repent me to have done so, although peradventure in the like case of theirs they should not have obtained the same at my hand.

But if in such calamities the magistrate in time do provide, as much as may, both by such lawful means as are not repugnant unto Christian charity, that the infection may be letted, and also that the sick of the plague lack nothing, he shall take away a great many questions which in this argument are wont to be made.  But this especially must be agreed upon, that as our sins are the chief and the true cause of the plague: so that this is the only proper remedy against the same, if the pastors dispute not of the infection (which belongeth unto the physicians) but both by words and example of life stir up they’re flocks unto earnest repentance and love and charity one towards another, and that the sheep themselves hearken unto the voice of their shepherds.” – pp. 68-70

For Calvin’s response to hearing of Beza being taken with the plague, see Letter 280 in Letters of John Calvin (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication), vol. 2, pp. 314-5.

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On the 1592-3 London Plague

The About 20,000 people died in London (which had 150,000 people) and the surrounding area in the 1592-3 Plague.  It was the last major plague outbreak in London in the 1500’s.

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Holland, Henry – Spiritual Preservatives against the Pestilence. Or Seven Lectures on the 91st Psalm…  published, as generally for the instruction of ignorant people: so specially for the confirmation of the weak servants of Jesus Christ; describing the most divine and most sovereign preservatives against the pestilence  (1593; London, 1603)  The year of this reprint, 1603, was one of plague in London.

Holland (d. 1604) was a reformed Anglican clergyman who edited works by Richard Greenham and Robert Rollock.

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1600’s

On the London Plague of 1603

Puritans

Clapham, Henoch – Henoch Clapham, His Demands and Answers touching the Pestilence: Methodi­cally handled, as his time and means could permit  (1604)

Clapham (fl. 1600) was an English puritan who was a pastor of a congregation in Amsterdam.  He may likely have been a Brownist (separatist).  Clapham mentions (no page number) his dispute with ‘Dr. Androes’, that is Lancelot Andrewes (above).

Bownde, Nicholas – Medicines for the Plague: that is, Godly and fruitful Sermons upon part of the Twentieth Psalm…  more particularly applied to this late visitation of the Plague  Ref  (London, 1604)

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Anglicans

Godskall the younger, James – The Ark of Noah for the Londoners that remain in the city to enter in, with their families, to be preserved from the deluge of the plague. Item [the same], an exercise for the Londoners that are departed out of the city into the country, to spend their time till they return. Whereunto is annexed an epistle sent out of the country, to the afflicted city of London  (London [1604])  Godskall was a preacher.

Dekker, Thomas

The Wonderful [Astonishing] Year, 1603, wherein is showed the picture of London, lying sick of the plague. At the end of all (like a merry epilogue to a dull play) certain tales are cut out in sundry fashions, of purpose to shorten the lives of long winters’ nights, that lie watching in the dark for us  (London, 1603)

The Seven Deadly Sins of London drawn in Seven Several Coaches, through the Seven Several Gates of the city bringing the Plague with them. Opus Septem Dierum [a work of seven days]  (London, 1606)

Dekker (c. 1572–1632) was an English Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer, a versatile and prolific writer, whose career spanned several decades and brought him into contact with many of the period’s most famous dramatists.

“Dekker’s first spate of pamphleteering began in 1603, perhaps during a period when plague had closed the theaters.  His first was The Wonderfull Yeare, a journalistic account of the death of Elizabeth, accession of James I, and the 1603 plague, that combined a wide variety of literary genres in an attempt to convey the extraordinary events of that year…  It succeeded well enough to prompt two more plague pamphlets, News From Gravesend and The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinary…  The Seven Deadly Sins of London (1606) is another plague pamphlet.” – Wikipedia

See also ed. F.P. Wilson, The Plague Pamphlets of Thomas Dekker  (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925).  Other dramatic, English, plague writers similar to Dekker from around the same time, which can be found on EEBO-TCP, are George Wilkins and John Davies.

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On the London Plague of 1625

Roborough, Henry – Balm from Gilead, to Cure all Diseases, Especially the Plague. Four and Twenty Sermons on 2 Chron. 7:13-14. And two sermons of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance of London from the plague  ToC  1625

Roborough (d. 1649) was a reformed Anglican.

Wither, George – Britain’s Remembrancer, Containing A Narration of the Plague lately past; A Declaration of the Mischiefs present; And a Prediction of Judgments to come; (If Repentance prevent not)…  (1628)

Wither (1588-1667) was a prolific English poet, pamphleteer, satirist and writer of hymns.  Wither’s long life spanned one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of England, during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, the Civil War, the Parliamentary period and the Restoration period.

Wither was in London during the plague of 1625, and in 1628 published Britain’s Remembrancer, a voluminous poem on the subject, interspersed with denunciations of the wickedness of the times, and prophecies of the disasters about to fall upon England.  It reflects on the nature of poetry and prophecy, explores the fault lines in politics, and rejects tyranny of the sort the king was denounced for fostering.

Taylor, John – ‘The Fearful Summer, or London’s Calamity, the Country’s Courtesy, and Both their Misery’  (Oxford, 1625)  in All the Works of John Taylor, the Water-Poet Being Sixty and Three in number. Collected into one volume…  (London, 1630)

Taylor (1578–1653) was an English poet who dubbed himself ‘The Water Poet’.  He appears to have expressed a sincere Christian faith (p. 59).

“Some Citizens at Church prepar’d to pray;
But (as they had been excommunicate)
The good Church-wardens [lay grounds-keepers, regulated by Church and State] thrust them out the gate.

Another country virtue I’ll repeat,
The people’s charity was grown so great
That whatsoever Londoner did die,
In Church or Church-yard should not buried lie.
Thus were they scorn’d, despised, banished,
Excluded from the Church, alive, and dead,
Alive, their bodies could no harbor have,
And dead, not be allow’d a Christian grave:
Thus was the Country’s kindness cold, and small,
No house, no Church, no Christian burial.

Oh Thou that on the winged winds dost sit
And seest our misery, remedy it,
Although we have deserv’d thy vengeance hot,
Yet in thy jury (Lord) consume us not.
But in thy mercies sheath thy slaying sword,
Deliver us, according to thy word,
Shut up thy quiver, stay thy angry rod
That all the world may know Thou art our God,
Oh open wide the gate of thy compassion
Assure our souls that thou art our salvation.

Then all our thoughts and words, and works, we’ll frame
To magnify thy great and glorious Name,
The ways of God, are intricate, no doubt
Unsearchable, and pass man’s finding out,
He at his pleasure worketh wond’rous things
And in his hand doth hold the hearts of kings,
And for the love, which to our king he bears,
By sickness He our sinful Country clears,
That he may be a Patron, and a guide
Unto a people purg’d and purified.” – pp. 61-2

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Gouge, William – God’s Three Arrows: Plague, Famine, Sword, in Three Treatises. I. A Plaster for the Plague. II. Dearth’s death. III. The Church’s Conquest over the Sword  (1631)

For background on this treatise, see the two prefaces to Gouge’s commentary on Ps. 116.

Shute, Josias – Judgement and Mercy: or, the Plague of Frogs Inflicted, Removed.  Delivered in Nine Sermons  (1645)  on Ex. 8:1-2  Shute was invited to the Westminster Assembly but did not attend.


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On the Great London Plague of 1665-66

The 1665-1666 Great (Bubonic) Plague of London killed an estimated 100,000 people in a period of 18 months.  It was the last major outbreak of bubonic plague in England.  During this time the Great London Fire also broke out.

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Puritans

Blake, Thomas – Living Truths in Dying Times: Some Meditations (upon Lk. 21:36) Occasioned by the Present Judgement of the Plague  (London, 1665)  220 pp.

Blake (c.1596-1657) was an English, presbyterian puritan.

Doolittle, Thomas

A Serious Inquiry For a Suitable Return for Continued Life, in and after a Time of Great Mortality by a Wasting Plague  1665  on Ps. 91:3-7  English puritan

A Spiritual Antidote Against Sinful Contagion in Dying Times, a Cordial for believers in dying times with a corrosive for wicked men in dying times, at first written as a letter to private friends in daily expectation of death by the plague  ToC  1665

Bridge, William – The Righteous Man’s Habitation in the Time of Plague and Pestilence, being a Brief Exposition of the 91st Psalm  (1665; rep. Derby, 1835)  121 pp.

Mead, Matthew – Solomon’s Prescription for the Removal of the Pestilence, or, The Discovery of the Plague of our Hearts, in Order to the Healing of that in our Flesh  Buy  1665  on 1 Kings 8:37-39

Vincent, Thomas – God’s Terrible Voice in the City: Wherein are set forth the sound of the voice, in a narration of the two dreadful judgments of plague and fire, inflicted upon the city of London; in the years 1665, and 1666  (Lockwood & Backus, 1811)  236 pp.

Vincent (1634-1678) was an English presbyterian who ministered to those dying of the plague in London at great risk to himself.  Seven members of his household died from the plague, though he was not affected by it.  See the poignant details on. pp. 4-6 of ‘The Life of the Author’ in The True Christian’s Love of the Unseen Christ (New York, 1812).

Brooks, Thomas – A Heavenly Cordial for all those Servants of the Lord that have had the Plague: (and are recovered) or that now have it; also for those that have escaped it, though their relations and friends have been either visited, or swept away by it…  (London, 1666)  81 pp.

Brooks (1608-1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author.

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Reformed Anglicans

Edwards, John – The Plague of the Heart, its nature and quality, original and causes, signs and symptoms, prevention and cure: with directions for our behaviour under the present judgement and plague of the Almighty (Cambridge: 1665)

Edwards (1637-1716) was a reformed Anglican.

Harvey, Gideon

A Discourse of the Plague containing the nature, causes, signs, and presages of the pestilence in general, together with the state of the present contagion : also most rational preservatives for families, and choice curative medicines both for rich and poor, with several ways for purifying the air in houses, streets, etc.  (London: 1665)

Harvey (c.1640-c.1700) was reformed.

Morbus Anglicus [the Anglican Sickness]: or, The Anatomy of Consumptions, containing the nature, causes, subject, progress, change, signs, prognostics, preservatives; and several methods of curing all consumptions, coughs, and spitting of blood. With remarkable observations touching the same diseases. To which are added, some brief discourses of melancholy, madness, and distraction occasioned by love. Together with certain new remarks touching the scurvy and ulcers of the lungs…  (London, 1666)

The City Remembrancer: being Historical Narratives of the Great Plague at London, 1665; Great Fire, 1666; and Great Storm, 1703. To which are added, observations and reflections on the plague in general; considered in a religious, philosophical, and physical view: with historical accounts of the most memorable plagues, fires, and hurricanes  (London, 1769)  355 pp.

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Writers

Wither, George – A Memorandum to London Occasioned by the Pestilence there begun this present year, 1665, and humbly offered to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and commonality of the said city…  (London, 1665)

Wither (1588-1667) was a prolific English poet, pamphleteer, satirist and writer of hymns.  Wither’s long life spanned one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of England, during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, the Civil War, the Parliamentary period and the Restoration period.

Austin, William – The Anatomy of the Pestilence, a Poem in Three Parts: describing the deplorable condition of the city of London under its merciless dominion, 1665: what the plague is, together with the causes of it: as also, the prognostics and most effectual means of safety, both preservative and curative  (London, 1666)

Austin (fl. 1662), was an English writer of verse and classical scholar.  The poem was written at the request of “very worthy persons in the country at the time of the sickness when the mortality in London” reached “seven or eight thousand a week with some hundreds over and above.” 

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Books on Plagues After 1665-66

1600’s

Thacher, Thomas – A Brief Rule to Guide the Common-People of New-England how to Order Themselves and Theirs in the Small Pocks, Or Measles  (Boston, 1677; rep. Baltimore, 1937)

Thacher (1620-1678) was born in England, though he became a New England, puritan, congregationalist minister, scholar and physician.  This work is supposed to have been the first work on medicine that was published in Massachusetts.

Willis, Thomas – A Plain and Easy Method for Preserving (by God’s blessing) those that are well from the infection of the Plague, or any Contagious Distemper, in city, camp, fleet, etc., and for curing such as are infected with it (London: 1691)

Willis (1621–1675) was an Anglican and an English doctor who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry.  He was a founding member of the Royal Society.

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1700’s

Bryant, Jacob – Observations upon the Plagues Inflicted upon the Egyptians. In which is shown the peculiarity of those judgments, and their correspondence with the rites and idolatries of that people…  (1794; new ed., London: 1810)  400 pp.  ToC

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1800’s

English

Kingsley, Charles – Who Causes Pestilence?  Four Sermons with a Preface  (London, 1854)  These sermons were preached after an outbreak of cholera in England; see Wikipedia, ‘Broad Street cholera outbreak‘.

Kingsley (1819–1875) was a broad-church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian and novelist.  He is particularly associated with Christian socialism, the working men’s college, and forming labour cooperatives that failed but led to the working reforms of the progressive era.  He was a friend and correspondent with Charles Darwin.

Kingsley in these sermons presses for sanitary reform and has some helpful things to say.  Charles Spurgeon also spoke in this context; see Geoff Chang, ‘Spurgeon and the Cholera Outbreak of 1854’ (2020).

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American Presbyterian

Armstrong, George Dodd – The Summer of the Pestilence: A History of the Ravages of the Yellow Fever in Norfolk, Virginia  (1856)  190 pp.

Armstrong was a presbyterian pastor and made the decision to stay and serve his suffering flock during the 1855 epidemic, for which he would pay a price.  For background see Barry Waugh, ‘George D. Armstrong, 1813-1899’ at Presbyterians of the Past.  See also the 34 min. video interview with the historian, Dr. Miles Smith IV, about this book, ‘The Colporteur #1: George Armstrong’s The Summer of the Pestilence (Conversation with Miles Smith)’, at Log College Press.

“…home is my place, come what may.  The physician and the Christian pastor are, by their profession, called to minister to the sick, the dying, and the afflicted; and, certainly, a time of pestilence, when their services are most needed, is no time for them to flee.  Not that there may not be, in particular instances, circumstances which may render it the duty of a physician or a pastor to leave home, even at such a time; but the presumptions are, in both cases alike, all against their leaving.” – Armstrong, pp. 28-9


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Historical Fiction  (Well researched)

On the Great Plague of London in 1665-6

Defoe, Daniel – A Journal of the Plague Year: being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665  (London: G. Routledge, 1884)

Defoe (1660-1731) was an English, dissenting presbyterian, trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer and spy.  He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, which is second only to the Bible in its number of translations.  He has been seen as one of the earliest proponents of the English novel, and helped to popularise the form in Britain.

Oliphant, Margaret – Caleb Field: a Tale of the [English] Puritans [during 1665]  (New York, 1851)  Near the whole work relates the actions of the characters amidst the plague.


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Prayers

1500’s

Calvin, John – ‘Almighty God, heavenly Father, we acknowledge and humbly confess…’  in Forms of Prayer for the Church  in ‘Forms of Prayer’ in Tracts, vol. 2

One of the most moving prayers ever written; it has been used as the opening prayer in the weekly Lord’s Day service in the Dutch Reformed Church through much of her history, giving their services an acutely solemn and grave tone.

“…we are unworthy to lift up our eyes unto heaven and appear in thy presence, and that we ought not to presume to hope that thou wilt listen to our prayers if thou takest account of the things which we lay before thee; for we are accused by our own consciences, and our sins bear witness against us, while we know thee to be a just Judge, who justifiest not sinners and wicked men, but inflictest punishment on those who have broken thy commands. Hence it is, Lord, that when we reflect on the state of our whole life, we are ashamed of ourselves, and can do nothing but despond, just as if we were plunged into the abyss of death.

And yet, Lord, since thou hast deigned, of thy boundless mercy, to command us to call upon thee, and that from the lowest hell, and the more devoid of strength we see ourselves to be to flee the more to thy supreme goodness ; since, moreover, thou hast promised that thou wilt listen to our prayers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, (whom thou hast appointed to be our advocate and intercessor,) and for his merit, without looking to what we have deserved, we here, renouncing all human confidence, and trusting solely to thy goodness, hesitate not to come into thy sight, and call upon  thy holy name, in order to obtain mercy.”

The Scottish Book of Common Order –

Bull, Henry

Christian prayers and holy meditations as well for private as public exercise: gathered out of the most godly learned in our time  (London, 1578)

A psalm to be said in the time of any common plague, sickness, or other cross and visitation of God.

A psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from the plague, or any other kind of sickness, trouble or affliction.

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1600’s

Anon. – ‘Private Prayers appropriated to the Present Perplexed Times’  in Lachrymæ Londinenses: or, London’s Lamentations and Tears for God’s heavy visitation of the plague of pestilence...  (London, 1626)

There was a plague in London in 1625.

Evans, John – ‘A Prayer in the Time of Plague, or other Extraordinary Sickness’  in The Sacrifice of a Contrite Heart in Tears, Meditations, and Prayers  (London, 1630)

Evans was a minister.

Bolton, Robert – Certain Devout Prayers of Mr. Bolton upon Solemn Occasions  (London, 1638)

‘A Prayer in Time of Plague’, p. 186 ff.

‘A Prayer when any Draws Near unto Death’, p. 176 ff.

Taylor, Jeremy – ‘For all that lie under the rod of war, famine, pestilence: to be said in the time of plague, or war, etc.’  in The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living…  (London, 1650)

Reading, John

A Guide to the Holy City, or, Directions and helps to an holy life containing rules of religious advice, with prayers in sundry cases, and estates…  (Oxford, 1651)

‘A Prayer for the Sick of the Plague’

‘A Thanksgiving at the Ceasing of the Plague’

Reading (c.1587-1667) was a reformed Anglican.

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Latin

Prayer Against the Plague; Prayer-Book  c. 1500  250 pp.  A Flemish prayer book from Flanders; some headings are in Itallian.


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Spiritual Literature Written and/or Published during Plagues

God our Refuge

Downame, George – The Christian’s Sanctuary whereinto being retired, he may safely be preserved in the midst of all dangers. Fit for all men to read at all times, especially for those that are exercised in the school of affliction in the time of God’s present visitation. Described in two books or treatises: I. Of the Christian exercise of fasting. II. Of holy invocation [prayer] on Gods name  (London, 1604)  1603 was a plague year, which Downame mentions on p. 54.  He makes application to the current plague in numerous places.

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On Praying

Gouge, William – A Guide to Go to God: or, an Explanation of the Perfect Pattern of Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer  (London, 1626)  1625 was a plague year in London.

“Yea al­so according to public extremities and necessities must our prayers be ordered, as in time of drought, for when fair weather is seasonable, for fair weather (1 Kings 18:42; Jam. 5:18): in time of plague (2. Sam. 24:25), etc. famine (Joel 1:14), war (Ex. 17:10-11), or any other like di­stress, for succor against those messengers of death: that thus so long as God hath appointed us to live in this world, we may comfortably pass over that time of life.” – p. 118

Brooks, Thomas – The Privy [Secret] Key to Heaven, or 20 Arguments for Closet Prayer  (1665)  This was written during the Great London Plague.

Brooks (1608-1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author.

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On Sin, Christ & his Covenant

Bridge, William

The Sinfulness of Sin and the Fullness of Christ, Delivered in 2 Sermons  (London, 1667)

Christ and the Covenant; The Work and Way of Meditation; God’s Return to the Soul, or Nation; together with his Preventing Mercy, Delivered in Ten Sermons  (London, 1667)

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On Conversion

Smith, Henry

‘The Sinner’s Conversion’  (London, 1594)  on Lk. 19:1-5

Smith (c.1560-1591) was an English puritan clergyman who was widely regarded as “the most popular Puritan preacher of Elizabethan London.”  He was known as ‘Silver Tongued’ Smith.  Smith contracted in an illness in 1589 and spent his remaining years preparing his sermons for publication.  While this sermon must have been given before the 1592-3 plague in London, it may (or may not) have been preached while Smith was sick, and it was published in the year after the end of the plague, in 1594.

“The common people in the time of Christ, were so desi­rous to follow Christ, that neither lame­ness, nor blindness, nor sickness, could stay them from coming to Him: but the com­mon people in our time, are more ready to follow their sport and pastime, than to come to the church to hear of Christ.  And as for our rich men, who seeth not that they will make great haste to see a commodity, but will scarce come out of doors to hear a sermon?” – no page number

Zaccheus desired only to see Christ, but now Christ calleth him by name, and offe­reth his own self unto him.  This was more then Zaccheus expected, and yet no more than Christ vouchsafeth, namely, to give more than is desired.  The sick of the palsy that asked health, obtained also forgiveness of sins (Lk. 5).  Solomon desired wisdom, and the Lord gave him wisdom and abundance of wealth beside (1 Kings 3:12-13).”

‘The Sinner’s Confession’  (London, 1593)  on Lk. 19:6-9

‘The Sinful Man’s Search’  (London, 1592)  on Job 8:5-7

“In a sick and evil af­fected body (dearly beloved) we usually see preparatives mi­nistered, that the ma­ladies may be made more fit and pliable, to receive whole­some medicines.  The like, yea and greater regard ought we to have of our souls, which being not crasie on­ly, or lightly affected with sin, but sick even unto death, had need to be prepared with threats and exhortati­ons, comforts and consolations, one way or other, that they may be made fit not to receive the preparative, but the perfection of happy salvation.”

“Can there be any more willing to help us than Christ? whose whole head was sick, and whose heart was heavy for our sakes? yea, in whose body, from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, was nothing but wounds and swel­lings, and sores? but alas this was nothing to that He suffered for our sakes.

He was compassed about with fears and horrors, till his sweat was drops of blood, and his bones bruised in the flesh: he was whipped, and scourged, and chastised with sorrows, till He cried out in the bitterness of his soul: ‘O Lord, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me.’  The heavy hand of God was so grievous upon Him, that it bruised his very bones and rent his reigns asunder: he could find no health in his flesh, but was wounded, yea, wounded to the death, even the most bitter death upon the cross.  His tender fingers were nailed to the cross, his face was wrinkled with weeping and wailing, his sides em­brued and gored with his own blood. spurting and gushing fresh from his ribs, the shadow of death was upon his eyes.

O what grief could be like to this, or what condemnation could be so heavy, since there was no wickedness in his hands? since He was the brightness of his father’s glory, and the son of righ­teousness that shined in the world: as to see his days at an end, to see such throbing, sighs, and careful thoughts (without cause of his) so deeply engraven in the tables of his breast.  But was this all?  No my brethren, since his excel­lency was such above all creatures, that the world was not worthy to give Him breath, it was a greater grief unto Him, to see Himself made a worm and not a man, a shame of men, and contempt of the people; to see his life shut up in shame and reproaches, how could it but shake his bones out of joint, and make his heart melt in midst of his bowels: who was ever so full of woe? and whoever been brought so low into the dust of death?  upon whom did the malice of Satan ever get so great a conquest?

This though it were exceeding, yet it was not all, no, it was but a taste of grief in comparison of the rest: be­hold therefore (if your watery eyes will suffer ye to behold) the depth of all miseries yet behind: the sin that he hated he must take upon his own bo­dy, and bear the wrath of his Father poured out against it.  This is the fullness of all pains that compassed Him round about, which no tongue is able to utter, nor heart conceive: the anger of the father burneth in Him, even to the bottom of hell, and deep sink of confusion: it wrapped Him in the chains of eternal death: it crucified Him, and threw Him down into the bottomless pit of calamity, and made his soul by weeping and wailing to melt into these bitter tears trickling from his eyes: “O God my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

O that my head were a well of wa­ters, and a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night at the re­membrance hereof…  Since Christ hath suffered these, and an infinite number such like torments for our sakes: it is blasphemous once to dream or imagine any to be more willing to help us than He.”

Baxter, Richard

‘The Grand Question Resolved, what we must do to be Saved?  Instructions for a Holy Life’  (London, 1692)

‘Directions and Persuasions to a Sound Conversion, for prevention of that deceit and damnation of souls, and of those scandals, heresies, and desperate apostasies that are the consequents of a counterfeit, or superficial change’  (London, 1658)

“Yet after, when the Plague began [in 1665] I sent three single sheets to the Archbishop of Canterbury‘s chap­lain (without any name, that they might have past unknown, but accidentally they knew them to be mine) and they were licensed [to be printed]:  The one was Directions for the Sick: The second was Directions for the Conversion of the Ungodly; and the third was Instructions for a Holy Life: for the use of poor families that cannot buy great­er books, or will not read them.” – Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, p. 441

The above works may not be exactly the sheets that were distributed at the time of the plague; see the larger context of the Reliquiae for more details.  Directions for the Sick is under the Pastors & Elders subsection.

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On the Godly Life

Bolton, Robert – Some General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God…  (London, 1626)  1625 was a plague year.

“For who in his right wits will run upon a man which he clearly sees hath the plague sore running upon him?  What Christian in his right mind spiritually, having any fear of God in his heart, life in his soul, or tenderness in his conscience, will delightfully thrust him­self into the company of swearers, drunkards, scorners, filthy talkers, profane jesters, or any fellows of such in­famous rank?  especially since the soul is a thousand times more capable of the contagion of sin, than the body of any infectious disease?” – p. 67

“Besides these three causes of unsatisfiable­ness, God Himself doth justly put that property and poison into all worldly things doted upon, and desired immoderate­ly, that they shall plague the heart that pursues them; by fil­ling it still with a furious and fresh supply of more greedi­ness, longings, jealousies, and many miserable discontent­ments: So that they become unto it, as drink unto a drun­kard, a man in a hydropicus, dropsy, or burning fever, serve only to inflame it with new heat, and fiery additions of insatiable thirst and inordinate lust.” – pp. 226-7

Watson, Thomas – The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil  (London, 1666)

“It was a greater plague for Pharaoh to have his heart turned into stone, than to have his Rivers turned into blood.” – p. 75

“A wicked man’s prayer is sick of the plague, and will God come near him?” – p. 122

“A spiritual prayer is accompanied with the use of means…  When Hezekiah was sick, he did not only pray for recovery, but he laid a lump of figs to the boil, Isa. 38:21.  Thus it is in case of the soul, when we pray against sin, and avoid temptations; when we pray for grace, and improve opportunities, this is the laying a fig to the boil, which will make us recover: To pray for holiness, and neglect the means, is like winding up the clock, and pulling off the weights.” – p. 125

“Afflictions are a friend to grace.  They beget grace; Beza acknowledged God laid the foundation of his conversion in a violent sickness at Paris.” – pp. 174-5

Allestree, Richard – The Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety, or, An Impartial Survey of the Ruins of Christian religion, undermined by unchristian practice  (London, 1667)

Allestree (c.1621-1681) was a royalist Anglican and professor of divinity at Oxford.

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Biography

Bunyan, John – Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, or, A brief and faithful relation of the exceeding mercy of God in Christ, to his poor servant John Bunyan, wherein is particularly showed, the manner of his conversion, his fight and trouble for sin, his dreadful temptations, also how he despaired of God’s mercy, and how the Lord at length through Christ did deliver him from all the guilt and terror that lay upon him…  now published for the support of the the weak and tempted people of God  (London, 1666)

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On Contentment & Patience

Article

Vogan, Matthew – ‘What if the Coronavirus Comes to your Home?’  2020  15 paragraphs  This article adapts material from Jeremiah Burroughs.

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Books

Norden, John – A Pathway to Patience in all manner of crosses, trials, troubles, and afflictions: inwardly for sin, or outwardly by sickness, poverty, enemies, imprisonment, banishment, slanders, disobedience of children, household-crosses between man and wife, etc.  With necessary prayers for every of them; as also for diverse other necessary purposes  (London, 1626)  1625 was a plague year in London.

Norden (c. 1547 – 1625) was an Anglican and a cartographer, chorographer and antiquary.  He was also a prolific writer of devotional works.

Taylor, Thomas – A Treatise of Contentment, Leading a Christian with much Patience through all afflicted conditions by sundry rules of heavenly wisdom: whereunto is annexed first, A Treatise of the Improvement of time, secondly, The Holy War, in a visitation sermon  (London, 1641)  1641 was a plague year in London.

Goodwin, Thomas – Patience and its Perfect Work, Under Sudden and Sore Trials  (London, 1666)  on James 1:1-5  This was written during the Great London Plague, and mentions afflictions throughout.

Goodwin was an English, Independent puritan.

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On Self Examination

Forbes, John – ‘A Fruitful Sermon made by the reverend and learned Mr. John Forbes. Pastor of the English company of merchants’ adventures at Delft. Published by some of his flock out of sincere affection for common good’  on 2 Cor. 13:5

This Forbes (c.1568-1634) was an English puritan and pastor at Middleburgh, to be distinguished from the not always orthodox, Scottish Aberdeen professor, John Forbes (d. 1648).

“…but this apostle earnestly invites us to judge and examine ourselves, and showeth to the Corinthians that if we judged ourselves, we should not be judged of the Lord with his temporal plagues; as infirmities, sickness, and tempo­ral death (1 Cor. 11:30,38), by which the Lord did chastise the Corinthians, for not judging and examining them­selves before they did eat of the Lord’s body.”

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On the Curse of God

Willet, Andrew – ‘A fruitful and godly sermon preached at Paul’s Cross before the Honorable audience and assembly there, this present year 1592, upon the 5th chapter of the prophesy of Zachariah, vv. 1-5’  (London, 1592)

“…the Lord’s judgment, it shall enter in, no secret corner into the which it shall not pierce: it shall also tarry there, they shall not be rid of the plague, when it hath once taken hold of them.”

“Let us do as Jacob did, who sent a pre­sent and gift before to his brother: for as the wise man saith, a man’s gift enlar­geth his steps, and leadeth him before great men (Prov. 18:16).  So let us present the Lord, with contrite hearts, humble and sorrowful spirits, bring forth wor­thy fruits of repentance, which are the most acceptable gifts unto God.  As Aa­ron took a censor and censed before the Lord, and so stayed the plague (Num. 16:48).  So let us cense up unto God the sighs and groanings of our hearts.”

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On Calamities & God’s Judgments

Primerose, Gilbert – The Righteous Man’s Evils and the Lord’s Deliverances  (London, 1625)  on Ps. 34:19

Primerose was the reformed minister of a French church during this plague year. 

Taylor, Thomas – The Second Part of the Theatre of God’s Judgments collected out of the writings of sundry ancient and modern authors  (London, 1642)  1641 was a plague year in London.  This work is a collection from history of God’s judgments on various categories of people.

Calamy, Edmund – ‘England’s Looking-Glass, Presented in a Sermon, Preached before the Honorable House of Commons at their late solemn Fast, Dec. 22, 1641’  (London, 1642)

“…He deals with a nation, as a physician with his patient.  If a lesser potion will not work, the physician will prescribe a stronger.  God hath sent many lesser judgments, the small-pox, unseasonable weather, the plague in a mode­rate way; but these judgments have been slighted and contemned…” – p. 14

Keach, Benjamin – Zion in Distress, or, The Sad and Lamentable Complaint of Zion and her children wherein are demonstrated the causes of her miserable calamities, and her faith in God…  (London, Printed in that Fatal Year [1666])  This is an extended poem.

Keach was a particular baptist.

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On the Fear of Death

Bradford, John – A Fruitful Treatise and full of heavenly consolation against the Fear of Death, whereunto are annexed certain sweet medi­tations of the Kingdom of Christ, of life everlasting, and of the blessed state and felicity of the same  (1564)

Bradford (1510–1555) was an English Reformer, prebendary of St. Paul’s, and martyr under Bloody Mary, known for his words to John Leaf at the stake: “Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!”  This was reprinted the year after the 1563 plague in London.

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On the Final Judgment

Wigglesworth, Michael – The Day of Doom; or A Description of the Great and Last Judgment, with a short discourse about Eternity  (London, 1666)  This is an extended poem, and was written during the Great London Plague.

Wigglesworth was a puritan.  Stanzas 139, 142, 211 & p. 91:

“It’s now high time that every crime
be brought to punishment:
Wrath long contained, and oft refrained,
at last must have a vent.
Justice severe cannot forbear
to plague sin any longer;
But must inflict with hand most strict
mischief upon the wronger.

Eternal smart is the desert
ev’n of the least offence;
Then wonder not if I allot
to you this recompence:
But wonder more that, since so sore
and lasting plagues are due
To every sin, you liv’d therein,
who well the danger knew.
..

Die feign they would, if die they could
but death will not be had;
God’s direful wrath their bodies hath
for ev’r immortal made.
They live to lie in misery.
and bear eternal woe:
And live they must whil’st God is just,
that He may plague them so.

O love the Lord, all ye his saints, who hath
Redeemed you from everlasting wrath:
Who hath by dying made your souls to live,
And what He dearly bought doth freely give.
Give up your selves to walk in all his ways,
And study how to live unto his praise.
The time is short you have to serve Him here:
The day of your deliverance draweth near.
Lift up your heads, ye upright ones in heart,
Who in Christ’s Purchase have obtain’d a part;
Behold!  He rides upon a shining cloud,
With angel’s voice, and trumpet sounding loud.
He comes to save his folk from all their foes,
And plague the men that holiness oppose.
So come, Lord Jesus, quickly come we pray,
Yea come and hasten our Redemption Day.”

Ward, Seth – ‘A Sermon preached before the Peers, in the Abby-church at Westminster, Oct. 10, 1666’  (London, 1666)  Preached just after the Great London Fire and Plague.

Ward (1617-1689) was an Anglican bishop, a professor of astronomy at Oxford and a mathematician.


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For Pastors & Elders

“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth…  and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep…”

Jn. 10:11-13

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.  If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve Me, him will my Father honor.  Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?  Father, save me from this hour? but for this cause came I unto this hour.  Father, glorify thy name.”

Jn. 12:24-28

“For I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you…  great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.”

2 Cor. 7:3-4

“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life…”

Phil. 2:29-30

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The Scottish minister, David Dickson, in seeking to balance the Scriptural ethics of a lawful care for our own health with the responsibilities of overseers of the Lord’s flock, and the love they ought to have for their people and their spiritual good, said this:

“All the epistles written by the apostles are a breathing out of love to their flock, not caring to be spent upon them for their good, that they might get them brought forward and present them as chaste virgins to their bridegroom.  Therefore, they style their people ‘dearly beloved,’ not using words of office or flattery, but of truth and affection.

The hireling will flee, but the true shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep [John 10:11,15].  And if the pest [plague] were in the congregation, he would not leave them, but would go as near them as the Lord’s law, or preservation of his own life, would permit.”

– Sermon 10 of Sermons on Jeremiah’s Lamentations (RHB & Naphtali Press)

The French Synod of Vitre (1583) gave some more specific advice when the question was posed to them, “Whether it were expedient that ministers should visit persons sick of the plague?”:

“This Assembly leaves the decision of this case unto the prudence of the respective consistories [local sessions]: only judging, that if it be done at all, it must be upon a very urgent cause, that so a whole Church be not exposed to danger for the sake of a single person: Unless the visit may be so managed as to be without danger of infection, he speaking at a distance to the diseased party.

However, we give it as our counsel unto the minister, who foreseeth the approaching danger, that in the ordinary course of his preaching he do prepare his Church to a patient submission unto this terrible providence, and that by proper and pertinent texts of Scripture he do in his sermons comfort and revive their drooping and desponding spirits.”

– John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata…  (London, 1692), vol. 1, p. 146

More pastoral counsel may be gleaned from much of the material above on this webpage.  See especially the biographical info on Thomas Vincent, as well as that on George Armstrong, Ashbel Green, Richard Baxter and Benjamin M. Palmer.   Be sure also to peruse:

Andrew Myers, ‘When the Plague Comes – Pastoral Compassion in Centuries Past’  2020  10 paragraphs

If you are acquainted with Latin, Gisbert Voet discusses whether some of the faithful, and especially pastors, may expect, in continuing in their labor of love, to be immune from plagues due to the spiritual promises of God, in his Disputations, vol. 4, disp. 22, ‘Of the Plague, or on the Spiritual Antidote of a Plague’, Ch. 7, pp. 311-313.

Also, if you are in need of help for public prayer in a desperate situation, consider John Calvin’s prayer above.

In caring for those that mourn, the works of John Flavel, Benjamin M. Palmer and Theodore Cuyler below will be helpful and have been reprinted as cheap, small paperbacks which may be handed out to people.

Be sure also to see our webpage On Sickness, which has a subsection with guides on pastoral visitation of the sick.  Here is an example of a pastoral letter to an afflicted and distressed soul during a plague year in London:

Sibbes, Richard – ‘A Consolatory Letter to an Afflicted Conscience: Full of pious admonitions and Divine Instructions’  (London, 1641)

Sibbes (1577-1635) was a conforming, non-presbyterian, English puritan.

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On Maintaining Public Worship

The question of holding and attending public worship in a time of spreading disease or plague will vary with the natural circumstances, risks, severity, reasonably available precautionary measures and adaptations available in each situation.

The public worship of God is of primary importance insofar as it flows out of the First Table of the Law¹ and the 2nd Commandment, God’s things normally coming in importance before our own things.  Hence we are to “seek…  first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,” and, when we do so, the Lord specially promises to fulfill all our temporal needs in return (Mt. 6:33).

¹ See Rev. Rob McCurley’s sermon, ‘First Things First’ on Mt. 22:36-38.

The Lord also delights in his public worship even more than that of private worship.  Ps. 87:2 teaches this with synecdoches, where the parts referred to stand for the whole of what goes on there, including worship: “The Lord loveth the [public] gates of Zion more than all the [private] dwellings of Jacob.”  Balanced with this, however, we must keep in mind the teaching of Westminster Shorter Catechism #68:

“The sixth commandment [“Thou shalt not kill,”] requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life,[c] and the life of others.[d]

[c] Eph. 5:28,29
[d] 1 Kings 18:4

As God’s moral law is spiritual (Rom. 7:14), so it may be truly said with Larger Catechism #99.6:

“That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.[z]

[z] Matt. 5:21,22,27,28Matt. 15:4-6Heb. 10:24,251 Thess. 5:22Jude 23Gal. 5:26Col. 3:21

In light of this, natural precautionary measures may be taken, and ought likely be taken during times of spreading disease.  Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6 says that:

“…there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.[o]

[o] 1 Cor. 11:13,141 Cor. 14:26,40.”

Especially in situations of a spreading, severe disease, we ought not to tempt the Lord our God (Mt. 4:7), and we ought to have a due regard to our own health as well as that of others (Larger Catechism #135-6).  While we are to love God first and keep his commandments (Mt. 22:36-38), the Church ought to remember that one of those commandments is that she love her neighbors, and have a view towards them. 

As “to obey is better than sacrifice,” (1 Sam. 15:22) it is clear that there may be circumstances in which public worship ought not to be held, in order to uphold the moral law of God.  This is in accordance with Westminster Larger Catechism #99.5, which teaches that, “every particular duty,” including that of holding and attending public worship, “is not to be done at all times (Mt. 12:7).”  In the proof-text given, Jesus says, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.”

The Biblical injunctions unto public worship are not absolute and unqualified:

Moral law precedes, and may supersede at times, positive obligations, ordinances and laws.  Samuel Rutherford, following many Medieval theologians, taught a common place of ethics, that “a positive law may yield, in case of necessity, to the good of the Church…”†  While nature sufficiently teaches this (as David intuitively understood), it is also confirmed by Scripture.  Rutherford cites Mt. 12:3-4, where the moral necessity of David and his men fleeing for their lives overrode the positive ordinances of worship, as Christ so taught (Mt. 12:1-2, 5-7).

Due Right of Presbyteries, pt. 1, ch. 1, sect. 1, prop. 1, p. 8

Self-preservation, enjoined explicitly when man was made on the 6th Day of Creation (Gen. 2:16-17) came before the positive institution of the Sabbath on the 7th Day (Gen. 2:1-3; WCF 21.7), and before the redemptively, positively instituted sacrifices after the Fall (Gen. 3:21 & ch. 4).  Natural and moral self-preservation also came before the arising of the regular keeping of public prayer in the earth, which did not come about till a few generations later (Gen. 4:26).

Salvation, the life and good of the creature, for which there is a moral necessity, can occur without the keeping of outward, public, worship ordinances (e.g. the thief on the cross).  Hence the good of the creature in salvation is in a key way more fundamental than public worship ordinances, which, though not essentially necessary to salvation, are yet for the good, edification, benefit and spiritual health of people.  The administration of particular public worship ordinances has changed in the past through and since the Old Testament, cannot be the same in Heaven (where God is adored face to face in the Beatific Vision, Jer. 31:34), and will be different in the New Heavens and New Earth (1 Cor. 15:24); the promotion of the life and health of God’s people, however, will continue through the ages unabated forever.

Nonetheless, it is yet affirmed that worship is natural to man and is a design of his creation, even eternally so.  Man’s life, in a significant respect, is subservient to the end of worship.  However, spiritual worship, arising from the individual’s spirit, and the gathering and ordinances of public worship (which is more positive in nature) are two different things.  The first is an engrained moral duty (the 2nd Commandment); the second is only a duty conditioned upon certain societal factors making it possible:

Jonah could, and must, call out to God in worship from the depths of the ocean in the great fish’s belly (Jonah 2) though he was not morally required in that situation to hold public worship (being a prophet), or attend it.

Job worshipped God in his ash heap as he scraped boils off of himself and was shunned by society (Job 1:20-21; 16:20; 19:14); however it does not appear that in those many months he sought to attend public worship.

David, in fear of his life (self-preservation), fled from the public Temple worship into the wilderness, where he penned many spiritual psalms unto God.  While David yet longed for praising the Lord with the saints again publicly, as the dear pants for the water-brooks (Ps. 42:4-5), yet he would have to wait till God’s providence allowed that to come about in a moral way.

The Levitical laws, upon finding a person to have symptoms of a communicable disease, pronounced him unclean: his physical recovery, and health of his neighbors, were deemed more morally important than his attendance at public worship.

There was a time, under the necessity of the plague of sin, when our Savior, voluntarily (Ps. 40:6-8), left off the public worship of God on that Friday (when the people were flocking into the Temple on the First Day of Unleavened Bread) to carry his cross outside the camp and to offer to his Father a sacrifice of obedience of infinite worth.  Scripture testifies that this was well-pleasing to Him (Isa. 53:10).

While numerous pastors on this webpage felt a special calling to hazard their lives in their pastoral duties during a time of plague (such as Thomas Vincent and George Armstrong above), not everyone is called to this,¹ and Ashbel Green (above) is one that recommended to his dearly loved church not to meet during the worst of a yellow-fever epidemic.  The Sabbath, after-all, was made for man (Mk. 2:27) and life (Mk. 3:3-5); and works of necessity and mercy may be done on it (Mt. 12:1-13; WCF 21.8).

¹ See especially Baxter’s Reliquiae, Pt. 3, section 8 regarding the factors weighed by ministers during the Great London Plague of 1665-6.

*  *  *

In a time of spreading disease, how should the Church act in relation to the dictates of the civil magistrate?

According to the Reformation doctrine of the Establishment Principle, while the magistrate does not have a determining power in religion by his office (such as in determining doctrine, administering the Word and sacraments, exercising the spiritual keys, etc.), he does have a lawful power and prerogative about (circa) religion with regard to its outward circumstances insofar (and only insofar) as it promotes the good of the commonwealth.  As the magistrate is to protect and promote the outward welfare of his citizens, and has governance over large meetings in its lands insofar as societal safety and order is concerned, so the magistrate has some legitimate outward governance of assemblies of the Church in a time of spreading disease insofar as public health is concerned.

It should be remembered that, in accordance with standard, historic, reformed doctrine,º as God’s act to redeem men out of the earth by Christ (which entailed the building up of the Church and her governance) was not necessary, but free, so it is entirely possible¹ that God could have created the earth, allowed the Fall, and yet not chosen to redeem any human sinners.

º See Gillespie on the Early Church and Reformation Origins of Christ’s Two Kingdoms.

¹ On the historic, reformed doctrine of possibilities contrary to fact, see our webpage, On Possibilities & Hypotheticals.

In that case there would be no church, and yet civil governance would have naturally arisen in human society, with the attendant authority of God from nature.²  Even in these conditions, the magistrate would be responsible in serving the collective will of the commonwealth (the natural root of civil power and authority),³ and hence, from the natural law of self-preservation and self-defense, would be responsible to protect the outward welfare of the commonwealth against spreading diseases.

² See Rutherford, Lex Rex, Questions 1-2 and following.

³ Rutherford, Lex Rex, Questions 3-8 and throughout.

As all of this arises from nature apart from the Church, so it is more basic than her, and is a presupposition of her existence and functioning.  As the puritans taught, grace (and the Church’s functions) are built upon nature, and perfect nature.  With this in mind, we are to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 22:21)  Sometimes, when an ungodly magistrate cares not for the things of God, these lines must be spliced very closely.

As Rutherford taught in Lex Rex, every positive law or ordinance of the magistrate is to be founded upon some natural or moral law of God, and must be obeyed insofar as, and to the degree that it reflects that law of God (especially as the magistrate is the vice-regent of God, Rom. 13, though fallible, who is to uphold God’s Moral Law by his civil jurisdiction).

To be pressured to obey positive laws that are not founded upon, and do not reflect the natural or moral law of God, or go beyond that Law, is to become the servants of men and to dethrone God as the only Lord of the conscience (Rom. 14:8-12; Gal. 5:1; WCF 20.2,4).  While we ought to show respect for those who hold authority, give deference where we can and seek to prevent scandal (this being a moral duty, Rom. 14:13,15-16), yet it should be remembered, as Calvin taught,† that no human laws can bind the conscience; only God can, by his Law.

† See his quote on our webpage, On the Conscience.

With all of this said, here are some resources on the importance and priority of public worship that ought to be weighed in the light of Scripture and natural duty.

Articles

1600’s

Pierson, Thomas – On Ps. 87:2, pp. 152-6  in Excellent Encouragements Against Afflictions, containing the Great Charter of the Church on Ps. 87  d. 1633

“Pierson was not the richest or most overflowing of the old divines, but yet one who stood in the front rank.” – Spurgeon

Clarkson, David – ‘Public Worship to be Preferred before Private’  on Ps. 87:2  in Practical Works, vol. 3, p. 187 ff.

Clarkson (1622–1686) was an English puritan that was ejected in the Great Ejection of 1662.  After that he was an Independent minister and succeeded John Owen in his pulpit.  William Bates preached at Clarkson’s funeral.

Allen, James – ‘Neglect of Supporting and Maintaining the pure worship of God, by the professing people of God, is a God-provoking and land-wasting sin. And repentance with reformation of it, the only way to their outward felicity: or, The cause of New-England’s Scarcity: and right way to its Plenty.  As it was discovered and applied in a sermon preached at Roxbury on a fast-day: July 26, 1687’  (Boston, 1687)  on Mal. 3:9-12

Allen (1632-1710) appears to have been a faithful, New England, puritan minister.  Here are about 15 or so other works of his.

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1700’s

Horne, George – Discourse 15  on Ps. 87:2  in Discourses on Several Subjects & Occasions  (Oxford, 1794), vol. 3, p. 311 ff.

Horne (1730–1792) was an English bishop, academic, writer, and university administrator, who wrote a classic, full length commentary on the Psalms that has been reprinted.  As a vice-chancellor of Oxford, he fought against any relaxation of the law that required entrants to subscribe to the beliefs of the Church of England.  Horne also actively defended the high church tendency in Anglicanism against Calvinism.

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1800’s

Summerfield, John – Sermon 1, ‘The Lord Loveth the Gates of Zion’  in Sermons and Sketches of Sermons  (Ne York, 1842)

Summerfield (1798 – 1825) was an Irish, methodist, episcopal, evangelist preacher who toured in New York and helped found the American Tract Society.

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In the case where public worship cannot be had, nor any earthly pastor found, Richard Baxter gave some helpful advice to Christ’s poor sheep during the Great London Plague:

Short Instructions for the Sick: Especially who by Contagion, or otherwise, are deprived of the Presence of a Faithful Pastor  (London, 1665)  9 paragraphs

“§ 209. 52. When the grievous plague began at London, I printed a half-sheet (to stick on a wall) for the use of the ignorant and ungodly who were sick, or in danger of the sickness: (for the godly I thought had less need, and would read those large books, which are plentifully among us).  And I the rather did it, because many well-winded people that are about the sick, that are ignorant and unprepared, and know not what to say to them, may not only read so short a paper to them, but see there in what method such persons are to be dealt with in such a case of extremity, that they may themselves enlarge as they see cause.”Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, p. 121

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On the Relations Between the 1st & 2nd Tables of the Law

On the Relations Between the 1st & 2nd Tables of the Law


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For Civil Magistrates

von Ewich, Johann – 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)  This was originally written in Latin in 1582.  Stockwood is the same person that translated Beza’s piece above.

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.  This was his main work on the topic, in which he specialized, though he wrote other tracts on the topic as well.

von Ewich’s advice is, generally speaking, really good. 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.”

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. 

von Ewich offers this poetic prayer at the end:

“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.
Amen.


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After Plagues

Article

Miller, Samuel – Ps. 2:11, A Sermon Observing a Day of Thanksgiving, Humiliation and Prayer, on Account of the Removal of a Malignant and Mortal Disease, Which has Prevailed in the City of New York Some Time Before  (1799)

For background to this, see Andrew Myers, ‘Samuel Miller and the Yellow Fever’ (2020).

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Books

Gouge, William – The Saint’s Sacrifice, or, a Commentary on the 116th Psalm, which is a Gratulatory Psalm for Deliverance from Deadly Distress  (1632)

Gouge says in the two prefaces to this work that this commentary was written after God had removed a plague from the land.  The plague appears to have occurred in 1631.  The two prefaces also give background to Gouge’s work above, God’s Three Arrows.

** “Gouge’s method of cutting up his exposition into sections and discussing everything in proportions, is very tedious to the reader, but we judge it to be advantageous to the preacher.  At any rate Gouge has often given us a hint.  He was a man of great learning.” – Spurgeon

“Who are they that are now best settled to give praise to God for this admirable decrease of the sickness?…  But they who conceiving themselves to be in as great danger as others, perceived a special care of God over them in preserving them…  Search therefore narrowly wherein Gods benefits have been towards thee in special.  Do this daily and hourly, not only about common benefits which the maker of all confers on all, but about private and daily blessings, and thou wilt diligently inquire what thou mayest render to Him.” – Gouge, section 82

Squire, John – A Thanksgiving, for the Decreasing, and Hope of the Removing of the Plague…  being a sermon preached at St. Paul’s in London, upon the 1st of Jan., 1636  2nd ed., rev.  (London, 1637)

Doolittle, Thomas – A Serious Inquiry For a Suitable Return for Continued Life, in and after a Time of Great Mortality by a Wasting Plague  1665  on Ps. 91:3-7  English puritan

Blake, Thomas – Eben-Ezer [Stone of Help]: Or Profitable Truths After Pestilential Times  (London, 1666)  190 pp.  After the Great London Plague.

Blake (c.1596-1657) was an English, presbyterian puritan.

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Quotes

Samuel Rutherford

Christ Dying, p. 61

“Nor is it enough after pestilence and the sword to sit down, and say, ‘Now I’ll die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand’. [Job 29:18]”

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On Zwingli

William M. Blackburn, Ulrich Zwingli: the Patriotic Reformer. A History  (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication), pp. 95-100

“The great death had appeared in Zurich…  It was proving ‘the scourge of God’; the terror of Europe, and where could he be safer from it than amid the spray of the Jamina?  But the unselfish pastor thought chiefly of his flock.  He must hasten home, likely as he was to be the victim of the plague.  If Chateaubriand [in western France] had known of this and thousands of similar cases, he would have given a better turn to his eloquent period than to say, ‘The Protestant pastor abandons the necessitous on the bed of death, and never risks his life in the midst of the pestilence.’

Zwingli found his house deserted by all the young men who had lived and studied with him, except his youngest brother Andrew, who had waited for his return.  He sent Andrew immediately to Wildhaus, that he might escape ‘the death’.

With heroic courage he went from house to house, devoting himself entirely to the victims of the frightful scourge.  Everyday he proclaimed the messages and consolations of Christ to the sick arid the dying.  In the pulpit he so preached that he raised the hearts of the terrified congregation with the invitations of Jesus to the heavy-laden and the promises treasured up in the Word of life.  His faithful parishioners trembled for their pastor, as they saw him moving about among the shafts of death and bearing to them the cup of salvation.  His devotion was talked of by friends at a distance.

Two thousand five hundred people were swept away in a short time, and they were alarmed for him.  Conrad Brunner of Wesen, soon to die of the plague, wrote to him from Basle, saying, ‘Do your duty, but at the same time remember to take care of your own life.’  The caution came too late: Zwingli was attacked by ‘the great death’.  Switzerland seemed about to lose her mightiest preacher, Zurich her patriotic Reformer, his flock their best earthly friend.  Dr. Hedio of Basel was thinking sadly of the possible result of ‘the murderous disease; for who would not grieve if the saviour of his country, if the trumpet of the gospel, if the courageous herald of the truth should be stricken down in the prime of life, high in hope and in the midst of his usefulness.’

The thoughts of Zwingli were turned inward; his eyes upward to heaven.  His meditations and prayers were afterward recorded in poetry, whose rhythm and quaintness D’Aubigne has preserved in his version:

Lo! at the door
I hear death’s knock!
Shield me, O Lord,
My strength and rock.
Thy hand once nailed
Upon the tree,
Jesus, uplift,
And shelter me.

Willest thou then,
Death conquer me,
In my own noon-day?
So let it be!
Oh! may I die,
Since I am thine:
Thy home is made
For faith like mine.


Day and night were prayers ascending to God from the distressed believers for their pastor’s recovery…  But the Lord heard the prayers of his people, the plague forsook its victim…

Zwingli went into his pulpit still feeble and scarcely able to preach.  ‘The plague has so weakened my memory and intellect,’ he wrote to Myconius, ‘that in preaching I sometimes altogether lose the thread of my discourse.  All my members are oppressed with a languor that I cannot describe.’  This was not all; his salary was so small that he was under a burden of embarrassments.  He could not support himself and his two assistants.  Gifts might have poured in, but he would not accept them…

The Lord had led his servant nearer to himself that he might
have the privileges of a son.  D’Aubigne says: ‘This pestilence of 1519, which committed such frightful ravages in the north of
Switzerland, was, in the hands of God, a powerful means of converting many souls.  But on no one did it exercise so powerful an influence as on Zwingli.

The gospel, which had hitherto been too much regarded by him as a mere doctrine, now became a great reality.  He arose from the darkness of the sepulchre with a new heart.  His zeal became more active, his life more holy, his preaching more free, more Christian, more powerful.  This was the epoch of Zwingli’s complete emancipation; henceforward he consecrated himself entirely to God.  But the Reformation of Switzerland received a new life at the same time as the Reformer.

The scourge, the great death, as it swept over these mountains and descended into the valleys, gave a holier character to the movement that was taking place.  The Reformation, as well as Zwingli, was baptized in the waters of affliction and of grace, and came forth purer and more vigorous.  It was a memorable day in the counsels of God for the regeneration of this people.'”


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On Mourning

1600’s

Flavel, John – A Token for Mourners  in ed. William Vent, The Suffering Christian’s Companion, containing: a Token for Mourners…  (Idle, 1830)

“In 1674, two years after his second wife’s death, John Flavel published A Token for Mourners…  the author helps the reader to think about grief, distinguishing ‘moderate’ sorrow from ‘immoderate’.  He spells out what is appropriate for a Christian mourner and what is not.  This book is full of Scripture, counsel, warning, and wisdom gained from prayerful reflection on the personal experience of affliction in loss and grief.” – Banner of Truth

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1700’s

Patrick, Symon – The Heart’s Ease, or a Remedy Against All Troubles: a Consolatory Discourse, particularly Directed to those who have lost their friends and dear Relations…  (London, 1707)  285 pp.  ToC

Patrick (1626-1707) was an Arminian, Latitudinarian, Anglican bishop.

Barnard, John – ‘Sermon. The Christian’s Behavior Under Bereavements: Preached To the very Rev. Dr. Mather’s Church in the Time of the Measles’  in Two Sermons: The Christian’s Behavior under Severe and Repeated Bereavements, and The Fatal Consequence of a Peoples Persisting in Sin  (Boston, 1714)

Emerson, Joseph – ‘A Word to those that are Afflicted very much; Mr. Emerson’s sermon on the mortal sickness at Malden; Essay to preserve the memory, and improve the affliction, of the late mortal sickness at Malden; a sermon preached at the lecture in Malden, October 20th 1738, on occasion of the repeated and multiplied deaths of children in many families in said town, by the throat distemper’  (Boston, 1738)

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1800’s

Cuyler, Theodore – God’s Light on Dark Clouds  (New York, 1882)  This has been reprinted by Banner of Truth.

Cuyler (1822-1909) was an American, conservative, presbyterian minister, who went through much sorrow.  The work is very moving and poignant from the opening pages.

Palmer, Benjamin Morgan – The Broken Home, or, Lessons in Sorrow  2nd ed.  (New Orleans, 1891)  170 pp.

“This central motivation of Palmer’s life is illustrated in self-sacrificial actions during perilous circumstances in both New Orleans and Columbia.  In 1858 the pestilence of yellow fever struck New Orleans, and large numbers of people left the city.  While this included many pastors who abandoned their flock, Dr. Palmer remained in order to visit the sick and dying, and in the words of his biographer, ‘to offer the consolation of the Gospel, and any other service which it was in his power to give…’  During that year, some 4,858 people in that city died of the fever and Palmer not only visited his own people, but others, particularly those who had no pastor.  Indeed, it was his custom, while on his beneficent rounds, ministering to his own people, to enter every house on the way which displayed the sign of fever within; to make his way quietly to the sick room, utter a prayer, offer the consolation of the Gospel, and any other service which it was in his power to give, and then as quietly to leave.’

Twenty years later, in 1878, Palmer was equally faithful and active in visiting those who were once again struck down by another outbreak of yellow fever.  Increasing age had not affected his activity in the least.  He wrote to his sister, Mrs Edgeworth Byrd, the following report on his pastoral work at that time: ‘You will form some idea of the trial, when I state that during three months, I paid each day from thirty to fifty visits, praying at the bedside of the sick, comforting the bereaved, and burying the dead; and that, too, without intermitting the worship of the Sabbath or even the prayer meeting in the week.’  Such actions prompted a famous Jewish rabbi of New Orleans to observe, ‘It was thus that Palmer got the heart as well as the ear of New Orleans.  Men could not resist one who gave himself to such ministry as this.’” – Douglas Kelly, Preachers With Power, pp. 99-100


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Historical

Many primary source, historical treatises are in the above sections.

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A Summary of the Pre-Modern Response to Mitigating a Plague Outbreak

Richard Pearson, A Brief Description of the Plague, with Observations on its Prevention and Cure  (London, 1813), p. 34

“The general means of suppression, after the contagion has been introduced into a country, consist in:

the establishment of lazarettos, or pest-houses; in the separation of infected persons from those who are in health; in cutting off all communication between an infected district and its neighbourhood, by means of a military cordon; in the purification of infected clothes, furniture, and houses; and in the immediate internment of the dead.

These and other measures constitute what is termed the medical police [as of the early-1800’s], in times of pestilence.  They fall under the cognizance of committees or boards of health, appointed by the government of the country.”

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Through History

Book

ed. George Kohn – Encyclopedia of Plague & Pestilence from Ancient Times to the Present  Pre  (Facts on File, 2008)

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Website

Harvard – Contagion:  Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics

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Ancient History

Hippocrates – The History of Epidemics  (London, 1780)  440 pp.

Hippocrates (c. 460–c. 370 BC) was a Greek physician who is often referred to as the “Father of Medicine” in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine.

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Middle Ages

Britain

Article

Ibeji, Mike – ‘Black Death [1317-1381]’  at the BBC website.

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Books

Creighton, Charles – A History of Epidemics in Britain, from A.D. 664 to the Extinction of the Plague [1666]  (Cambridge, 1891)  This only has a minimal coverage of Scotland (1495-1603), pp. 360-371.

Shrewsbury, J.F.D. – A History of the Bubonic Plague in the British Isles  Pre  (Cambridge, 1970)

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Since the Reformation

Myers, Andrew – ‘When the Plague Comes – Pastoral Compassion in Centuries Past’  2020  10 paragraphs

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On the Early Modern Era, 1500’s-1600’s

England

Creighton, Charles – A History of Epidemics in Britain, from A.D. 664 to the Extinction of the Plague [1666]  (Cambridge, 1891)  This only has a minimal coverage of Scotland (1495-1603), pp. 360-371.

Shrewsbury, J.F.D. – A History of the Bubonic Plague in the British Isles  Pre  (Cambridge, 1970)

Miller, Kathleen – The Literary Culture of Plague in Early Modern England  Pre  (Palgrave, 2016)

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Scotland

Articles

Session of Glasgow (1593-1658) – ‘Of the Leper-Houses, Alms-houses, Sick, Pestilence & Glengorr’, pp. 40-42  in Collections on the Life of Mr. David Weems  in Robert Wodrow, Collections upon the Lives of the Reformers and Most Eminent Ministers of the Church of Scotland, vol. 2  (Glasgow, 1845), pt. 2

At the beginning of this time-frame Glasgow only had one minister, David Weems, and one session.  This is a descriptive survey of the minutes of the records from that session relating to plagues.

Ritchie, John – ‘Quarantine for Plague in Scotland During the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries’  in Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1948, Nov; 55 (11): 691–701

Jillings, Karen – ‘Preventing Plague in Post-Reformation Aberdeen’  IRSS 30 (2005), p. 108 ff.

Oram, Richard – ‘”It cannot be decernit quha are clean and quha are foul”: Responses to Epidemic Disease in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Scotland’  Renaissance and Reformation, vol. 30, No. 4, Special issue, Transformative Disorder: Scotland, 1550–1650 (Fall 2006/2007), pp. 13-39

“The sting was in the tail of Scotland’s experience of epidemic disease, for the last major outbreak, in 1644-1649, was the most devastating since the 1430’s.  Contemporary accounts and modern assessments suggest that around one-fifth of the urban population perished.” – p. 21

ed. George Kohn – Encyclopedia of Plague & Pestilence from Ancient Times to the Present  Pre  (Facts on File, 2008)

‘Edinburgh Plague of 1530’
‘Edinburgh Plague of 1568-69’
‘Edinburgh Plague of 1585’
‘Edinburgh Plague of 1597’
‘Scottish Plague of 1600-08’
‘Scottish Plague of 1644-48’

Meikle, Maureen – ‘The Plague’, ‘Policing the Plague’, ‘Shipping & the Plague’, ‘Social & Political Consequences’ & ‘Other Epidemics’  in  The Scottish People, 1490-1625  Pre  (2013)

Meikle says that Scotland did not have a major occurrence of the plague after the 1640’s (unlike England).

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At the Reformation, 1500’s

Articles

Waugh, Barry – ‘John Calvin & Plagues’  2020  8 paragraphs

Killeen, Kevin – Ch. 4, ‘Hezekiah, the politics of municipal plague and the London poor’  in The Political Bible in Early Modern England  (Cambridge, 2016), pp. 76-104

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Book

Cohn, Jr., Samuel – Cultures of Plague: Medical Thinking at the End of the Renaissance  Pre  (Oxford, 2010)

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On the Puritan Era, 1600’s to early-1700’s

England

Articles

Hackenbracht, Ryan J. – ‘The Plague of 1625—26, Apocalyptic Anticipation, and Milton’s Elegy III’  Studies in Philology
Vol. 108, No. 3 (Summer, 2011), pp. 403-438

The Great Plague of London, 1665

Myers, Andrew – ‘Brethren in Tribulation’  2010  9 paragraphs  Gives historical snippets from the London plague of 1665.

Johnson, Ben – ‘The Great Plague, 1665 – The Black Death’  15 paragraphs  at Historic-UK.com

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Books

Totaro, Rebecca – The Plague Epic in Early Modern England: Heroic Measures, 1603-1721  Pre  (Routledge, 2012)

Delacy, Margaret – The Germ of an Idea: Contagionism, Religion, and Society in Britain, 1660-1730  Pre  (Palgrave, 2016)

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Scotland

Flanagan, Shaun – ‘Edinburgh Plague [1645]’  at Edinburgh-History.co.uk

McLean, David – ‘Lost Edinburgh: the Great Plague of 1645’  at The Scotsman

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New England

Articles

Vandenberghe, Marie Katrien – ‘Attitudes of New England Puritan Ministers towards Disease and Medicine: Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century’  (2001)

Cotton Mather

Breen, Luise A. – ‘Cotton Mather, the “Angelical Ministry,” and Inoculation’  Ref  Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol. 46, Issue 3, July 1991, pp. 333–357

Tindol, Puritan – ‘Getting the Pox off All Their Houses: Cotton Mather and the Rhetoric of Puritan Science’  Early American Literature, vol. 46, No. 1 (2011), pp. 1-23

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Books

Silva, Cristobal – Miraculous Plagues: An Epidemiology of Early New England Narrative  Pre  (Oxford, 2011)

Blake, John – Public Health in the Town of Boston, 1630-1822  Buy  (Harvard, 1959)  278 pp.

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On the 1700’s – 1800’s

Myers, Andrew – ‘Samuel Miller and the Yellow Fever’  (2020)

Chang, Geoff – ‘Spurgeon and the Cholera Outbreak of 1854’  2020  23 paragraphs

See Wikipedia: ‘1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak’.

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1900’s

Wikipedia – ‘Mary Mallon, or Typhoid Mary’

Typhoid Mary (1869-1938) was an Irish-born cook believed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died, with typhoid fever, and the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the disease.  Because she persisted in working as a cook, by which she exposed others to the disease, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly three decades in isolation.

It should be noted that the literature and practices of the Reformation and puritan era shows that they were very aware that asymptomatic people could, and often did, infect other people with diseases.

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Experimental Quotes

Durham, James

The dying man’s testament to the Church of Scotland, or, A treatise concerning scandal... (Edinburgh, 1659)

pp. 160-1

“…for, if error be such an evil that thwarteth 1. both with God’s holiness and truth; and, 2. that hazardeth so many souls (for, never a plague hath so destroyed the face of the visible Church, nor carried so many souls to hell as error hath done), then the suffering of it cannot but be hateful to Him who loveth His Church.”

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Rutherford, Samuel

Covenant of Life Opened… (Edinburgh, 1655), p. 219

“Such as stand against a strong and mighty tentation [trial], being pressed out of measure, above strength, as Paul was (2 Cor. 1:8-9) insomuch (saith he) that we despaired even of life.  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, do prevail to the being taught of God, not to trust in ourselves, but in God who quickens the dead: For here there comes real strength from fighting: As he who, by strength of nature, lives and convalesceth after a running botch and strong pestilence, goes through pest-houses [asylums for plague victims] and is never infected again.  So the worthies by faith who overcame strong temptations (Heb. 11 to the end), keep the fields and prevail till death.”

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A Sermon preached before the Right Honorable House of Lords, in the Abbey Church at Westminster, Wednesday the 25th day of June, 1645. Being the day appointed for a solemn and public humiliation.

p. 24

“Omnipotency with nine heavy plagues cannot get the people of God freed out of the hands of a tyrant.  God must step in with immediate omnipotence in the tenth plague to pull out his people with a stretched out arm.”

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p. 28

“The angels say unto Mary Magdalen, ‘Woman why weepest thou?’ she answereth with a because, [Greek] ‘Because they have taken away my Lord;’  Sword and pestilence, yea the civil sword are heavy plagues on a land, but this is heavier, God hath left us, O terrible! the Lord is not with us.”

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p. 40-41

“…green and raw deliverances are plagues of God, not mercies; the plague is nine times removed, but Pharaoh’s heart is neither softened nor humbled, the scum abideth in the bloody city, as the Lord complains, Eze. 24:6, ‘Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Woe to the bloody City, to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out;’ the prophet in Chaldea heard that Jerusalem had been boiled with the sword of the Lord, but the scum of their idolatry and blood remained in them; whilst the wicked of these kingdoms, malignants, bloody Irish, rotten hearted men, such backsliders and perjured apostates, as are in Scotland, delivered to Satan and excommunicated, while these taste of the gall and wormwood of the wrath of God in this war, the hand of God cannot be removed, and therefore that must be taken notice of, Jer. 6:29, ‘The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away;’  O that our Lord would boil out on the fire the scum of both kingdoms.  The whoredoms of Popish Egypt, and the ceremonies, the inventions of men are not mourned for by the pastors of the Lord, sure, I am, not by most of the ministers in Scotland…”

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p. 45

“Job, when God visited him, desired to know wherefore God contended with Him: it is a sad thing to lie drowned under unknown and fatherless plagues, we being ignorant of the causes of God’s judgement; so we suffer blind crosses like the ox that bears the yoke and knows nothing of the art of husbandry [farming], or the horse killed in the battle, and yet is ignorant of State-affairs, and of the causes of war, and of disorders in Laws, Liberties, Religion
in State and Church, we are like one smitten in the dark night by a spirit or a ghost, but he sees not who strikes.  Oh it were good we would inquire, as the prophet does, Isa. 42:24, “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to robbery?” and wherefore is all this come on us? why doth the Lord contend with us?  O make us know our iniquities.”

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.p. 58

2. Not only is the sword and the pestilence sent of God by special commission (Jer. 24:10), but it is his sword, it is not the sword of Papists and malignants [whom they were in fear of], but the sword of the Lord (Jer. 47:6).  The Lord saith, Eze. 14:21, that the sword, famine, noisome beasts and pestilence are his four sore judgments: we may go thorough these soldiers, we have the Lord’s passport, Isa. 43:2, for the sword is our Father’s sword.  The seas we are in, are our Father’s seas, and so cannot drown us.”

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Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself...  (London, 1647)

p. 37

“So when God layeth sin to the charge of the sinner, in punishing it, He is said to lay a burden on the sinner, 2 Kings 9:25.  And to remove this burden, is to pardon the sin.  2 Chron. 7:14, “If my people humble themselves, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land;” by removing the locusts and the pestilence. See, the pardoning of their sin is exponed [expounded] to be the removing of the locusts and pestilence [2 Chron. 7:13].”

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p. 40

3. Despair, and blasphemous expostulating and quarreling divine Justice, are the inseparable attendants of the flames and lashings of wrath in reprobates; in the godly there is a clearing of justice, a submission to God, and a silent Psalm of the praise of the glory of this justice, in this temporary hell, no less then there is a new Song of the praise of free grace in the eternal glory of the saints perfected with the Lamb.

Nor should this seem strange, that God punisheth the sins of his children with such spiritual plagues of unbelief, and jealousies, and lying mis-judgings of God in their sad desertions, more than that the Lord punished the lifted-up heart of Hezekiah with leaving him to fall on his own weight; and David’s idleness and security, with letting him fall in adultery; and Peter‘s self-confidence, with a foul denying of his Lord.  But its a sad dispensation, when God cleaveth a saint with a wedge of his own timber; and linketh one sinful mis-judging of God, in this fever of soul-desertion, to another: and justice soweth (in a permissive providence) one sin to another, to lengthen the chain, if free Grace, a link of Gold, did not put a period to the progress thereof.”

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p. 270

“The Lord must also now first deliver us, and shame and confound us in Scotland with mercy, and so humble us; for mercy hath more strength to melt hearts of iron and brass, than the furnace of fire hath, or a sea of blood, or a destroying pestilence.”

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pp. 332-3

“And so judgement-like is [men’s] withdrawing [from God], and smells so of vengeance, that God plagues withdrawing with withdrawing: Hos. 5:4, ‘They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God.’  And what is the issue of that?  ‘They shall go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, but they shall not find Him; for He hath withdrawn Himself from them.’  Prov. 1:24, ‘I called, and ye refused;’ Verse 26, then this must follow, verse 28 (as also Jn. 8:21, the like is) ‘they shall call upon Me, but I will not answer.’

Use 6.  It’s a terrible plague of God, which we would eschew as hell, to wit, provoking of God by such sins as may procure that God should in his judgement mar the lock of the heart, the will, that the door should neither shut nor open; and cast poison into the soul, so as angels and men, heaven and earth cannot help or cure it: Christ is good at opening hearts, and drawing sinners; and He is as good at judicial closing of hearts: If He but put his finger in the eye, and snap in pieces the optic nerves, all the world cannot restore sight, or open the heart.

He that is nearest to be drawn to Christ, and yet never drawn, is deepest in hell: An evangelic-fire of God’s fury is worse than a Sinai-fire, though it burn up to mid-heaven:

1.  Sinning against the light of nature and the known will of God, as idolatry and the principles of your own religion, true and known to be so, brings delivering up to judicial blindness, Rom. 1:21.

2.  If ye put your finger in nature’s eye, and blow out that candle, God will give you up to vile affections, Rom. 1:24 and a reprobate mind, vv. 26-28.  Some blow out the candle of nature, and God blows out the sun of the Gospel, that it is to them like sack-cloth of hair, and a moon like blood.

3. Resisting of the call of God, brings on the plague of hardness of heart; Pro. 1:24-27; Acts 28:23-27; Jn. 8:21.”

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p. 460

“Now when Christ is burnt up with love, and sick of tender kindness; to cast water on this love by resisting it, is the highest Gospel-sin that can be, except despiting of the holy Ghost; and a third ground of aggravating to the full, this sin of resisting Christ’s drawing, I take from the judgement and the plague and Gospel-vengeance on such as Christ draweth, and they will not be drawn, and is the sin of the times;”

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pp. 461-2

“Profession [of faith] looketh like Paradise and the rainbow; its big in its own eyes, and the fairest for variety of colors; but its a self-plague and doth carry millions of souls to hell without din and noise of feet; its Christ acting judicially on the hypocrite within pistol shot of a besieged soul, making fire-works under the earth; and when all within are sleeping, Christ springeth a powder-mine, and burneth up all forward: Gospel-fire-works maketh more than ordinary fury in the soul; open, open to Christ; multiplied fastings, and taking Christ’s crown from Him are dreadful.”

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The Trial and Triumph of Faith  (London, 1652), p. 443

p. 443

“So in judgments, David’s choice fell upon the pestilence rather than the Sword.  Why?  God’s hand is sweeter and softer than the devils, than the Malignants hard hand…”

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Baxter, Richard

A Christian Directory, or a Sum of Practical Theology…  (London, 1673)

p. 245

“Pride is as a plague-mark on the soul.”

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p. 248

“Paul made himself a servant unto all, that he might gain the more, though he was free from all men (1 Cor. 9:19).  They submitted themselves to all the in­juries and affronts of men; to be accounted the plagues and troublers of the world, and as the scorn and off-scouring of all things, and a gazing stock to Angels and to men (1 Cor. 4:12-15; Acts 24:5).  And are you better than they?  If you are, you are more humble, and not more proud.”

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p. 343

“§. 8. Direction 8.  Yea, ordinarily avoid much talk, or disputes, or business with angry men, as far as you can without avoiding your duty: and avoid all other occasions and temptations to the sin: A man that is in danger of a fever, must avoid that which kindles it.  Come not among the infected, if you fear the plague.  Stand not in the sun, if you are too hot already.  Keep as far as you can from that which most provokes you.”

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p. 430

“4. The sin of receiving and spreading false reports of others upon hearsay, is now so common among those that do profess sobriety and religion, that all men should take heed of it in all company, as they would do of the plague in an infectious time: And now it is so notorious that false news and slanders of others are so common, neither good men’s words, nor common fame, will allow you (or excuse you) to believe or report any evil of another, till you are able to prove that it is your duty: But all Christians should join in lamenting and reproving this common uncharitable sin.”

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p. 467

“2. And you will hinder the great benefit which the world may get, by their vain attire: For (though it be no thanks to them that intend it not) yet it is a very great commodity that comes to mankind by these people’s sin: that fools should go about in fools-coats, and that empty brains, and proud and wanton hearts should be so openly detected in the streets and churches: that sober people may avoid them; and that wise, and chaste, and civil people may not be deceived by such in marri­age to their undoing:

As the different clothing of the different sexes is necessary to chastity and or­der; so it is a matter of great convenience in a commonwealth, that sots, and swaggerers, and phrenetics, and Idiots, and proud, and wanton lustful persons should be openly distinguished from others: As in a plague-time the doors of infected houses are marked with a ‘Lord have mercy on us’: And the wisest magistrate knew not how to have accomplished this himself by a law, as the wretches themselves do by their voluntary choice:

For if it were not voluntary, it would be no distinguishing badge of their profession. Now for any honest civil people to join with them and take up their li­very, and the habit of their Order, is to profess themselves such as they, and so to encourage and approve them, or else to confound the proud and humble, the vain and the sober, the wanton and the chaste, and destroy the benefit of distinction.”

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p. 623

“§. 44. Direction 5.  Make haste away from the occasions of thy sin, and the company which ensnares thee in it.  If thou knewest that they were robbers that intended to murder thee, thou wouldst be gone: If thou knewest that they had plague sores running on them thou wouldst be gone: And wilt thou not be gone when thou knowest that they are the servants of the Devil, that would infect thee with sin, and cheat thee of thy salvation?  Say not, Is not this company lawful, and that pleasure lawful? etc.  If it be like to entice thy heart to sin, it is unlawful to thee, whatever it is to others: It is not lawful to undo thy soul.”

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p. 778

“6. But as fewer that have leprosies, or plagues, or that take poison escape, than of other men, so we have great cause to believe, that much fewer Papists are saved, than such as escape their errors. And therefore all that love their souls should avoid them.”

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Pt. 4

p. 79

§. 63. Direction 40.  Remember death, and live together as men that are near dying, and must live together in another world.  The foolish expectation of prosperity and long life, is it which sets men together by the ears: When [Nicholas] Ridley and [John] Hooper were both in prison, and preparing for the flames, their contentions were soon ended, and Ridley repented of his persecuting way.  If the persecutors and persecuted were shut up together in one house that has the plague, in the time of this lamentable contagion, it’s two to one but they would be reconciled.

When men see that they are going into another world, it takes off the edge of their bitterness and violence, and the apprehensions of the righteous judgement of God, does awe them into a patience and forbearance with each other: Can you persecute that man on earth, with whom you look to dwell in Heaven?  (But to restrain a man from damning souls, by heresy or tur­bulency or any such course, my conscience would not forbid it me if I were dying.)

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p. 135, on Travel

“Direction 6.  Study before you go, what particular temptations you are like to meet with, and study well for particular preservatives against them all: As you will not go into a place infected with the plague, without an antidote.  It is no small task to get a mind prepared for travel.”

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pp. 196-7

“15. In times of extraordinary necessities of the Church, or State, or poor, there must be extraordi­nary bounty in our contributions; As if an enemy be ready to invade the land, or if some extraor­dinary work of God (as the conversion of some heathen nations) do require it, or some extraor­dinary persecution, and distress befall the pastors, or in a year of famine, plague, or war, when the necessities of the poor are extraordinary: The tenths in such cases will not suffice, from those that have more to give; Therefore in such a time, the primitive Christians sold their possessions, and laid down the price at the feet of the Apostles.”

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T.D. Witherspoon

‘Not One Forgotten’  in Southern Presbyterian Pulpit  (1896), p. 377  on Lk. 12:6  For background to this sermon, see Andrew Myers, ”Not One Forgotten’ – A Sermon by T.D. Witherspoon’.

“Many persons are willing to admit that the hand of God is in the great events of nature and of human history.  When the pestilence is on the air and thousands are falling victims, when some great earthquake has engulphed cities, or some furious tempest at sea has carried down strong ships with their hardy seamen and their terror-stricken passengers, there are few who believe in a God at all who do not recognize his hand, and say, “Surely God is here.”

But that the God who kindled the blaze of the sun supplies also the glow-worm’s lamp; that he who ”rides upon the stormy wind” fans also the cheek of the invalid with the gentle zephyr’s breath; that he who upholds the stars in their courses guides also the sparrow in its flight; these are the things reckoned incapable of belief.  And yet the Scriptures do not more clearly teach the one than the other.”

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Latin

Articles

1500’s

Peucer, Caspar – An Oration Containing a Common-Work on the Pestilence that is Going Through Europe  (Wittenburg, 1565)

Peucer (1525–1602) was a German reformer, professor at Wittenburg, physician, astronomer and scholar of Sorbian (Slavic) origin.  As of 1574 Peucer was accused of Calvinism by the Lutheran Government and imprisoned, though he denied the accusation.

Beza, Theodore – Of Pestilence, Two Questions Explained…  (Geneva, 1580)  This is translated above.

Lavater, Ludwig – A Sermon on the Pestilence…  (Zurich, 1586)

Lavater (1527-1586) was a Swiss Reformed theologian working in the circle of his father-in-law, Heinrich Bullinger.  He served as Archdeacon at the Grossmünster in Zurich and briefly Antistes of the Zurich church as the successor of Rudolf Gwalther.

Pelargus, Christoph – A Thanksgiving Song for Liberation from that Strong Pestilence  (Frankfort, 1586)

Pelargus was reformed.

Moller, Heinrich – ‘On Ps. 91’  in A New Edition of the Commentary on the Psalms of David Pulled out of the Lectures of Dr. Henry Moller of Hamburg in the Academy of Wittenburg…  (d. 1589; Geneva, 1610)

This piece is referenced by Voet, who speaks of Moller (1530-1589) as one of ‘our’ men, though he was Lutheran.

Zanchi, Jerome – On Phil. 2:29-30  in Commentaries of the Divine Apostle Paul on the Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians...  2nd ed.  (d. 1590; Neustadt, 1601), pp. 212-227.  See also his whole discussion of Epaphroditis on v. 25 ff.

Zanchi specifically discusses flight from the plague and defends the lawfulness of it.  Voet references this section. 

For a poignant example from Zanchi’s life regarding being around the plague, and his actions thereabout, see his quote under the subsection, ‘On Fleeing’ on our page, On Social Distancing.

Tossanus, Daniel – Theses on Pestilence, even on These Three Questions: 1. Why the Pestilence is so Formidable…  2. Why even the Pious Enter into that Death when Scripture Testifies it to be one of the most Grave Scourges of God by which He Punishes the Impious of the World, 3. Whether it Becomes a Christian to Flee or Secede to Another Place in a Time of Pestilence?  (Heidelberg, 1596)   13 pp.

Tossanus (1541-1602) was a French reformed theologian and a professor of New Testament at Heidelberg, Germany.

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1600’s

Grynaeus, Johann

A Helper for Establishing Orders in the Oversight of the Church, the Republic, the Academy & of Pious Families during a time of Circulating Pestilence…  (Basil, 1611)

Grynaeus (1540-1617) was a reformed professor of O.T. & N.T. at Basel and Heidelberg.

A Theological Admonition About those Faithful Persons, which, in a Time of Pestilence, so Considering their Life & Health, Having Left their Seats, they Remove to Other Places  (Basil, 1611)

Henzi, Niklaus – A Life-Giving Oration: Whether the Pestilence of the Time Constrains unto Death, or…  (Bern, 1612)

Henzi (1571-1635) was reformed.

Abbot, George – ‘Of the Flight of a Minister in Persecution or Pestilence’  on Acts 9:23-25  in An Explication of Six Questions… (Frankfurt, 1616), ch. 5, pp. 129-151

Abbot (1562-1633) was a reformed, Anglican bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

Voet, Gisbert – 22. ‘Of the Plague, or on the Spiritual Antidote of a Plague’  in Disputations, vol. 4, pp. 292-325

At the beginning of the piece, Voet gives the common places where discussions of this topic may be found. 

Ch. 6, pp. 306-311 discusses whether one should flee the plague or not.  He gives 7 principles and then discusses specific problems. 

Ch. 7, pp. 311-313 discusses whether some of the faithful, and especially pastors, may expect, in continuing their labor in love, to be immune from plagues due to the spiritual promises of God.  

Maresius, Samuel – A Theological Oration on Two Extremes in Avoiding Pestilence…  to which material is adjoined of a like kind: a Diatribe which Investigates, Whether a Christian Man is Able & Ought in his Sicknesses to Call for Medical Personnel and to Commit Himself to Their Care?  (Groningen, 1656)

Schoock, Isaac – The First Historical-Medical-Careful Disquisitions on the Wretched Pestilence  ([Frankfurt, 1680])

Schoock (1681) was a reformed professor of moral philosophy, ethics and politics at Frankfurt, Germany.

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1700’s

Heidegger, Johann Heinrich – Theoretical-Practical Dissertation 3, ‘On Pestilence’  in Biblical Exercitations  (Zurich, 1700), Appendix, pp. 60-94

Heidegger has a very full discussion, with an outline of the questions he treats at the beginning. 

In Section 37, Query 5, ‘Whether Holy Assemblies in the Churches are to be Dissolved or Ommitted Lest they be Infected from Those that are Shut Up?’ (pp. 85-87), Heidegger strongly argues for continuing Church assemblies during a time of contagion, but in point 5 on p. 86, he allows that in some circumstances church assemblies may be dissolved, and that they may need to be dissolved:

“If in a time of contagion, assemblies will need to be dissolved, it shall not be a work such that the Church be called back from repentance, being confirmed in faith, being summoned to prayer, or in being prepared for death, etc.”

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Books

1500’s

de Serres, Jean – A Commentary on Pestilence…  (Geneva, 1589)  ToC

de Serres (c.1540-1598) was reformed and was a major French historian and an advisor to King Henry IV during the defensive French battles of the Huguenots against Papal oppression.  He was educated in Switzerland and became a reformed pastor, humanist, poet, polemicist, and diplomat.

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1600’s

Goclenius, Sr., Rudolph

A Perspicuous & Methodical Tract on the Different Causes, Signs & Subject of the Pestilence & Feverish Pestilence, with Prophylactic Counsel and Care, and a Declaration of Most Grave Questions…  (Marburg, 1607)

Loimographia, in which is Explicated Some Grave & Hard Questions of Medicine, Exposing a Ceratin Ignorance & Error in Attending to the Pestilence, All the Symptoms…  being Ennumerated…  (Frankfurt, 1613)

Goclenius (1547-1628) was a professor of philosophy at Marburg, Germany, as well as a medical doctor.

Beza, Rivet, Voet, Hoornbeek – Various Theological Tracts on Pestilence  (Leiden, 1655)  380 pp.  The tracts by Beza and Voet are the same as those above.

Rivet, Andrew – ‘An Epistle to a Friend’, pp. 61-138

“It [the doctrine of providence]  became urgent in times when epidemic plagues struck everywhere in the Dutch Republic and raged most fiercely in the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions in large towns.  Especially the catastrophic bubonic plague that struck the Low Countries around 1635 was for Rivet–already court preacher in The Hague–the immediate cause to publish a letter to a friend under the title De Pestis contagio et fuga (On the contagion of the plague and its avoidance).ª

ª See Riveti Opera Theologica, 2:405-410 and an addition ‘De sepulturis in templis,’ [Of Burials in Churches] 410-413, which is preceded by a meditation on Psalm 90 and a prayer (also regarding the plague).

In it, he argued that the plague is a scourge from God and that the only remedy against it is penance and humility before God.  Therefore, he vehemently rejected the (un-Protestant) habit of burying the dead in the church, especially in times of epidemics.

This, however, does not imply that one should flee infected places and persons.  Because of their indispensable office, magistrates and ministers should stick to their posts.  Appealing to Calvin, Beza, and Zanchius, Rivet recommended the Genevan custom of appointing by lot one of the ministers for visiting the sick and leading funerals with the assistance of ziekentroosters (comforters of the sick).  Above all, the magistrate must be supported by every means in taking measures against infection such as sewage purification, making stagnant waters flow, and disinfecting houses.” – Willem van Asselt in Theology of the French Reformed Churches (RHB, 2014), p. 265

Hoornbeek, Johannes – ‘A Theological Dissertation on Pestilence’, pp. 250-380

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“The frequent sight of Death’s most awful face,
Rebuked my sloth, and bid me mend my pace!…

I preached as never sure to preach again,
and as a dying man to dying men!”

Richard Baxter
Poetical Fragments, p. 40

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“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands…”

Rev. 9:20

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  Surely he shall deliver thee from the…  from the noisome pestilence.  Thou shalt not be afraid…  for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

Ps. 91:1-7

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”

Hos. 13:14

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Related Pages

On Sickness

Church History

Pastors

Prayer

Historicist Commentaries on Revelation

Sin

Repentance

Death

Heaven

Hell