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of the millions which have since covered her thankful sons and daughters, when the cold day has been succeeded by the colder night. A parlour within the common dining-hall, where the gentleman might have his meals apart from his dependants, was a refinement of these times, and much complained of for its unsocial tendency. Langland, in his popular poem, Piers the Ploughman, denounces the "privy parlours with chimneys,"—these last being a novel substitute for the old hole in the roof. Chairs and stools, too, in well-furnished houses, began to supersede the rude bench and the roomy locker.
Among the great events of this century was the terrible Pestilence which wasted England from end to end, just as its course was half run. The famous plague of Athens, described by Thucydides,—the plague of London, in Charles the Second's time, of which the horrors are portrayed with equal vividness by Defoe,-the fearful visitation of 1720, at Marseilles, seem all to have been outdone by this widewasting scourge. It is not safe, perhaps, to rely implicitly upon reported numbers relating to a period when rumour would be very busy, when men's fears would dispose them to believe the worst, and when there was so little power of sifting evidence on the spot; but, putting together all the information which seems tolerably authentic, we have a scene of misery depicted which is perfectly appalling and heart-sickening. The churchyards of London proved quite inadequate for the armies of the dead which were poured into them. A large piece of ground, near the Charter-house, was bought by Sir Walter Manny, and dedicated to the use of the poor; a stone cross was afterwards erected on one part of it, bearing an inscription to the effect that more than fifty thousand persons had been buried there in the single year 1349. In some of the
provincial towns a still greater mortality is described:-at Yarmouth, seven thousand in the year; at Norwich, the incre-, dible number of fifty-one thousand. Markets were deserted. Men fled in terror to desert places, or shut themselves up where no infected person could approach them. Parliament suspended its sittings for two years. The Courts of Law were shut up. The inferior Clergy fled, or fell at their posts, so that churches were silent as the grave, without Matins or Vespers, Mass or Sacrament, and the dead were buried without a prayer. "And yet," says the historian, "to all these evils there was added one more; for there arose a certain rumour that there were many poisoners, and especially the Jews, who infected the waters and fountains, from whence the aforesaid pestilence began. Whereupon, in many places, thousands of Jews, and some Christians also, though innocent and blameless, were burnt, slain, and cruelly handled; whereas, indeed, it was the hand of God which wrought all this for the sins of the world. To resist which unreasonable fury of the Christians against the Jews, Pope Clement twice wrote his Encyclical Letters to all Archbishops, Bishops, and other Prelates of the Church, to stop this fury of the people. But all his endeavours could not prevent the unjust persecution of this miserable nation; and particularly in Germany, where the plague reigned, this false rumour made them so odious, that it is said, twelve thousand of them were put to death in the city of Mentz."
Another sore evil was of more frequent occurrence. Famine pressed heavily sometimes on the poorer classes. When it was deemed a sin for a man to hoard corn, bad harvests, of course, were followed with scarcity, and the rapid alternations of prices show how much the regulating power of open markets and an unrestricted trade was
wanted. We read of the price of corn rising and falling so suddenly, that wheat would fetch three times as much at market in one week, as in the succeeding one. Every now and then, particular districts would be reduced almost to the condition of a besieged city. Horses and dogs were greedily devoured; parents, it was reported, did not spare the bodies of their dead children; and, at the worst, little ones were kidnapped and murdered to feed the savage appetite of those in whom Hunger had deadened pity and, shame and conscience.*
Of course, a subject like this is not half exhausted with a single Lecture. One can but touch on some subjects of special interest, or seize a few particulars which illustrate rather strikingly the progress of events between two distant eras. Certainly the England we see differs very much from the England of Wiclif and Chaucer and Wat Tyler and the Black Prince. Politically, socially, religiously, there have been mighty changes; and step by step, and stage by stage, we may trace the march of events which have made us what we are. Marvellously has God's Providence sheltered our land, enriched it with Commerce, ennobled it by Freedom, made us witnesses to other nations for Christ's pure Gospel, and let us lead the van in the blessed work which the Apostles began, and eighteen centuries have left unfinished. We have a Roll of Worthies which we may read with honest pride, and challenge the world, ancient and modern, to produce the like. We have a History stored with precious lessons for the Statesman and the Philosopher, showing how the problem of Civil Government has been worked out with singular success, and presenting, in its later chapters, a
specimen of well-balanced Powers and well-regulated Liberty which other nations are beginning to admire and envy. Best of all, we see no signs of decrepitude. The Throne was never more esteemed and loved and honoured; Parliament never sought the public good more faithfully; the ruling classes, more than ever, feel the responsibilities of stewardship; Legislation was never more habitually referred to the Supreme and only perfect Law; Christian Teachers, called by many names, never pervaded the country so thoroughly, and never, we believe, did their work so faithfully.
Shall we boast, therefore, of the past, or build our hopes on our own might and wisdom for the future? Shall mechanical skill, Commercial enterprise, popular Institutions, Anglo-Saxon nerve and pluck and hardihood of nature and love of toil, be our favourite themes, and shall self-vaunting phrases about all or any of them be the music that we love? Here, at least, I hope we are better taught. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name, be the praise." What we have is given, not earned; great and good men in past ages have left us a legacy which we are bound to put out to interest; He, by whom Kings reign, and who lifts up nations and casts them down at pleasure, has put us in trust with large opportunities of advancing His Kingdom of righteousness among men. Our faithfulness to this high calling will be our best security, and our truest greatness. The height already gained is a vantage ground for aggression on the Powers of Evil. Our national pre-eminence and social blessings will bring guilt upon our heads, if, like the commercial cities of old, we think only of turning them to profit, in a low vulgar sense, and cheapening or multiplying the means of luxurious enjoyment. Thank God! we do move more freely, speak more freely, read and write more freely, think more freely, than our ancestors. Our laws are more just,―our Courts more pure,-our homes
more convenient,- our fields more fruitful,-our temples hallowed with a more spiritual service, and filled with more intelligent worshippers. What a debt, then, do we owe to our own age, and to posterity! What large tribute ought the men who possess and rule England to be paying to the Great Lord of All! Side by side with all that we can sum up of good transmitted to us, or wrought by us, there is much of Evil to be corrected, much of suffering to be alleviated, much of ignorance to be enlightened, much of wilderness ground, all about us, to be sown with the incorruptible seed. Legislators and private citizens, the Ministers of Religion, men of wealth and leisure, employers of every name, from the mill-owner with his thousand hands to the householder and shopkeeper, all have their special duties, and should be doing their part to make our nation yet freer, yet happier, richer in God's blessing, more loyal to the King of Saints. We have been speaking of the day when the Bible came forth from its hiding-places, and shone into our English homes. O for the day when it shall leaven all hearts! May God speed it in His mercy! and as we tread our pilgrim's path, may we speak some words, and do some deeds, which shall bear fruit in the future time of harvest!