« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
from the windows; or rush, if they could make their escape from the house, into the river. But their sufferings did not last long. The Plague did its work of destruction with fearful rapidity. In the course of only a few hours, those who had before been well, and strong, and active, sickened, died, and were buried ! ,
Many perished in the streets, cut off in the very midst of their daily occupations. It might truly be said, that “there was not a house in which there was not one dead; " and often many more than one.
Whole families were, in many instances, swept away, without leaving a single survivor to tell the sad news to their neighbours or their friends.
When we think of London as it is now, with all its bustle, and its action, its crowded streets and shops, so full of business and of life, we can hardly imagine what its appearance must have been then. There were rows of houses, all empty, with the red cross still glaring on the door. The chief streets desolate and forsaken, and overgrown with grass. The shops closed; no business going on, no joy, no merriment to be heard," the doors were shut in the streets.” Or if two or three persons were seen walking along here and there, they
seen together; but on opposite sides of the way, as far apart as possible; for fear had estranged people from their nearest
neighbours, and made every one unsocial and selfish ; each thought only of his own safety, and dreaded the approach of his fellows, lest they should bring infection with them.
And then at night,-sounds were heard then indeed, but what sounds ? There was the rumbling of the death-cart, as its wheels rolled heavily along the streets. Presently there was a pause. The cart stopped, and the tinkling of a bell was heard; and then there was a call made at the door of each house,
Bring out your dead, bring out your dead." And the doors opened, and the dead bodies, uncoffined as they were, were brought out, and hastily and in silence cast into the cart. Again it moved on, and again it stopped ; and the bell sounded, and the call was heard,
Bring out your dead.” And more were car. ried out, and thrown in; and at last the dreadful load was complete, and the cart conveyed the bodies to some neighbouring churchyard, where a large deep pit had been dug to receive them, and they were cast in there! No knell was tolled, no service was read, no minister was there to speak a word of comfort to the living, or to commit the dead to the grave, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." No-all was done in haste, and in silence, in the gloom of night; and those who were thus employed to-day in burying others, might, ere
to-morrow's dawn, be themselves numbered among the dead!
All felt that to be a solemn time : even those who had never known what it was to feel or think before.
And now, though all the other public places were empty, the churches were filled and crowded. On the sabbath-day, and on other days too as often as there was opportunity, people came flocking to the house of God. They worshipped, and prayed, and heard then, as though they expected they should never pray nor hear again. And from Sunday to Sunday, as the weeks passed, oh, what changes, what sad changes, there were in every church and congregation! The minister looked around, and he missed one and another from their accustomed places, where, but one short week before, they had sat or stood listening to his words, and joining with him in the service. Then they were in full health and vigour,—but where were they now ? He well knew. The Plague had come, and carried them away; their bodies had been cast into the deep grave-pit, and their spirits were gone to the God who gave them! But we may hope that many thoughtless people in the city of London then, were led by that fearful pestilence not only to think, and to feel, and to fear, but really to repent, and to begin to serve that God whom they had hitherto for
gotten or despised. We are told that such was tbe case in some instances ; and so we see, that even in “this severe affliction " there was mercy still ; and that, “ oftentimes, celestial benediction ” accompanied it, though in “ dark disguise" indeed.
But you may like to know whether there were any persons at that awful time who were without fear, and who could see others dying around them, and feel death coming upon themselves, and yet be calm, and peaceful, and happy. There were such; and to show you that there were, I will now give you the history of one family, during the week in which the Plague visited their house. The account is given by an excellent man, a minister of the gospel in those days, who was himself a member of that household. The family consisted of eight persons of various ages. Some were young, some old, some in middle life; but they all appear to have been truly religious persons;—they were a Christian family. During the first months in which the Plague raged, they escaped. They continued, through God's preserving care, in their former health and strength. But though they were thankful for this mercy, they did not presume upon it; they did not grow careless, and insensible of their danger during that time. No, they endeavoured to live each day as if it were to be their last; ready to die, if God in His Providence should call them away; but actively engaged in their appointed duties until that time should come. That was the way, the best, the only way to be calm, and peaceful, and happy then. At last the time came. One day, the good minister whom I mentioned, was called to visit a friend whose husband was dead of the Plague. He went, and returned, and was again requested to visit another whose wife was dead of the Plague, and who expected that very soon he should himself be smitten too. When the minister returned, he found that the fatal disease had meantime entered his own abode,—the Plague had begun there! The servant was the first who sickened ; in three days she died. This was on the Thursday. The following day, one of the young people was taken ill; on the Sunday he too was dead. That same day, another sickened, a lad seventeen years
and he died on the succeeding Wednesday. The next night, the master of the house was himself seized with the same dreadful malady. He believed that, like the others, he too should die ; and he sent for that good minister, who, without fear for himself, went from one to another, comforting the sick and the dying, and desired him to pray with him. He talked calmly of his own death; he said that he was