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this fire from one who actually witnessed it, so I will give you another extract from the Diary of Evelyn, from which, you remember, we have already quoted. He wrote thus. "The con
flagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, they hardly stirred to quench it; so that there was nothing heard or seen but crying out and lamentation; running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their own goods, such a strange consternation was there upon them; so it burned, both in breadth and length, the churches, public halls, exchanges, hospitals, monuments, and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house, and street to street, at a great distance from one to the other; for the heat, with a long set of fair and warm weather, had even ignited the air, and prepared the materials for the fire, which devoured houses, furniture, and everything. Here we saw the Thames covered with goods floating; all the barges and boats laden with what some had time and courage to save; and carts carrying out to the fields, which for many miles were strewed with moveables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both people and what goods they could get away. Oh, the miserable calamitous spectacle! such as haply the world had not
seen since the foundation of it, nor to be outdone till the conflagration of it. All the sky was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven; and the light seen for about forty miles round for many nights. God grant mine eyes may never see the like, who now saw above ten thousand houses all in one flame; the noise, and crackling, and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches, was like a hideous storm, and the air all about so hot and inflamed that at last one was not able to approach it; so that the people were found to stand still, and let the flames burn on, which they did for nearly two miles in length, and one in breadth.”
Can you imagine, after reading such an account as this, that any good could arise from such a fearful evil? that there could be any blessing in disguise here? Yes, there was indeed. The city had been so completely destroyed by the fire, that it was necessary to rebuild it almost entirely; and now, for the wooden houses, which had so easily ignited, were substituted houses of brick; and instead of narrow confined streets, which were so unhealthy as to favour the progress of disease whenever it appeared, were built wide and airy ones; and then, besides this, the fire itself acted as a purifier, removing any remains of
infection which the Plague of the previous year might have left behind; and everything now was new and clean; so that, from that time, London became more healthy, and less likely to suffer from disease, than at any former period of its history. You see therefore, that in this, as in other cases of calamity, there was not unmixed evil, but a large portion of good also. It is well to notice this, in every kind of suffering or trouble, whether it is of a kind to affect one or many, and if we look carefully, we shall always find some blessing to be grateful for, something to remind us of the truth. of the verse which tells us that God, in the midst of judgment, remembers mercy.
XXXIII. A TIME OF OPPRESSION.
Thee, I account still happy, and the chief
But, once enslaved, farewell! I could endure
You may perhaps suppose, that the people of England at this time were in general thoughtful and serious people, and that the many trials and calamities they had suffered had made them more attentive to religion than formerly. But this was far from being the case. There never probably had been a period in which the inhabitants of this country were so fond of vain amusements, or so careless about sacred things, as during the reign of Charles II. Now I do not mean to infer, that religion necessarily makes people dull and grave, or that it forbids them to be joyous, and cheerful, and happy. Nor do I mean to say, on the other hand, that all those who are melancholy and austere,
must necessarily be religious; for this is very far from being the case. On the contrary, it is only truly religious people who are, or can be, really happy; and if, at any time, they appear to be otherwise, the cause is not to be traced to religion, but to some other circumstance. Had the mirth and gaiety of Charles's time been such as is consistent with the word of God, connected with thankfulness for mercies bestowed, and with a sincere desire to serve Him, and to be active and useful in the world, then we might well rejoice to hear of the gladness of heart which England once more enjoyed after her long years of sorrow and trial. But those who formed the court, and the chief favourites of Charles II, were, most of them, not only gay and mirthful, but irreligious persons, who had not God in all their thoughts, and some of them were even infidels, who disbelieved God and the Bible altogether. And the people, in general, were but too ready to follow the example of the king and the court. They became thoughtless and extravagant; devoted to follies and amusements; and as to religion, which had been at all events outwardly respected in the days of Cromwell, it was now either entirely set aside, or used only for a mockery and a jest. Some good men indeed there still were, who bitterly lamented the sad state of things in their be