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“Although from the commencement of the Christian dispensation, the care of the sick had been an object of attention to its professors, yet, the extensive prevalence of a disease termed Leprosy was the chief cause of separate edifices, some of them on a most extensive scale, being erected. These houses were called in France léproseries and maladreries; in England leper-houses or lazar-houses; and in Italy lazarettos, owing to a fanciful resemblance in the disease to that with which Lazarus in the parable is said to have been afflicted: he was declared to be the tutelary saint of those struck with leprosy, while the receptacles for lepers in Britain and Italy were named after him."-ANONYMOUS.
E had climbed the hill overhanging the town
of- and had paused on its crest to take
a glimpse of the general presentment of the place, when my companion turned from the wayside into a small field that lay on our left hand, and said, “Here, in olden times, existed the Lazar-House, or Receptacle for leprous persons. It stood on that little green knoll yonder. This field was denominated The 'Spital Land. You will find the name continually occurring in the patents and grants of James I.; and you need not doubt the identification of the locality, for the lore-mongers of the district frequently introduce it into their legends, and tell woful tales about it.”
I was glad to have the site of this Institution (which probably arose in the thirteenth century)
pointed out to me; for, in the course of compiling a Parochial History, I was seeking out, one after another, all the time-honoured spots of the district. But other feelings arose, when I remembered what had been here enacted. I thought of the human agony that had been endured in this place. My fancy brought up, in array, the plague-stricken sufferers, who had here herded together in an everlasting separation from their fellows. I thought of their tears and their trouble. I thought of their sighs, that had hence ascended (might I so hope ?) into the heavens. I tried to recollect what I had read in the old Annalists about the ravages of leprosy in these isles, cen
And as I gazed on the site of the PestHospital, my thoughts brought sensibly before me the terrible malady that yet infests our shores; and, after a while, they moulded themselves into shape and form in the fashion following:
Methought I saw a vast Lazar-House, choked with suffering. The disease that was raging in it was mortal. It had been so from its commencement. Millions upon millions had been the successive tenants of that abode of misery. They took the disease in various forms; but they all took it, and they all died. The epidemic spared none. It attacked the infant in its cradle. It slew the strong man in his might. It blighted the face of Beauty. It swept away Old Age, like the sere forest leaves. longer in its desolating process with some; and in some its type was more virulent than in others; but it was the very same pestilence in all. It had been originally received (men said) by contact with an
impure and guilty Spirit, who, having in himself the contagion, communicated it to a pair of beings, from whom all that ghastly multitude proceeded.
At length a restorative was made known. The diseased could not have invented it, for the ingredients were beyond their reach; neither were they willing to believe in its efficacy, even when it was brought to their hand. A Benefactor, who had been announced from the first outburst of the malady, came in person to the house of the plague, to show men the nature of the cure, and to instruct them in its use. When it was expedient for Him to go away, He left behind Him twelve persons; (who had been dying, but were healed by Him ;) and He commissioned them to go into each ward of this huge receptacle of misery, and, wherever they went, to make known to its occupants this heaven-sent remedy. Beginning at one particular place, which He Himself pointed out, they were to scatter themselves over the whole building. They were not to leave any spot untrodden, neither were they to pass by unnoticed any of the afflicted inmates. When received and listened to, they were to teach others how simple, yet efficacious, was the medicine provided by the good Physician; and, instructing them in its use, they were to proceed on their way, leaving these behind them to minister to the sick in that quarter.
Only, their Master bade them take heed, that they administered the same remedy which he had originally given them. He warned them that there was healing virtue in no other. He told them that imposition would be attempted, and when attempted would be successful. He showed them that false healers and false teachers would arise, and would deceive many. And, as a preservative against error, He gave them a Book in which, He said, they would find His prescription, written with His own hand. He laid on them the injunction not to publish the marvellous cure in any place, without first looking into that volume for His instructions; and then He directed them to leave the Book, along with the cure, in order that men, who sought healing, might be always satisfied that the remedy proposed was the very same He had Himself introduced.
What the Healer foresaw, came to pass. Crafty men devised another remedy; and, that they might draw attention to their spurious drug, they insisted that the knowledge of the true specific was possessed only by themselves. To defend this prerogative, they averred that it had come down to them through many generations, by tradition; and they had even the hardihood to affirm that the medicine was now improved by the infusion of additional ingredients. Men generally believed them; and for a long while swallowed this human invention, mistaking it for the heavenly cure, until the disease it was designed to counteract grew worse and worse. Some few saw that the pretended healers were physicians of no value, and the remedy recommended by them only an imposture; but the voices of such were drowned in the clamour of the multitude, who were bewitched with sorceries. And so, despite of the providing of the remedy, the deceivers maintained their hold over the imaginations and superstitions of the people.
The Book ! The Book would have told it all! But the plotters fully comprehended how unmistakably its records would testify against them; and they therefore locked it up, and informed inquirers that the authority of the medicine rested solely with themselves, the dispensers of it.
But the providence of God would not suffer things so to continue. A German monk, of studious habits, was alone one day in the library of his monastery; and the Book, the precious Book, fell into his hands. With trembling touch he unclasped it; and, as its pages fell open, in them he found, yet fresh and potent as ever, the specific brought from heaven by the Messenger of the Covenant. He saw, as in the light of the sunbeam, the excellency of this, the true remedy. He saw, how essentially it differed from the daring imposition attempted by men with whom he had been associated. He saw, how far astray he and others had gone, when recommending the traditionary restorative. From that hour, LUTHER devoted himself to expose the deception; and with an earnestness of purpose that no fear of man could influence, he lived now only to make known the truth.
The surest mode was to publish the Book. It was written in a foreign tongue, and the version he had himself studied was unintelligible to the mass of the people. But the remedy was revealed in its pages; and any labour of translation would be, for the blessing imparted, abundantly compensated. Besides, when men possessed the Book themselves, and could read it in their own tongue, the old deception could