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ascusation of occasioning the plague by poisoning the wells.
It is impossible to give even a faint idea of the horrors of that awful period, when, it is believed, that one fourth of the whole population of Europe were suddenly cut off. An awful disease, originating in Asia, spread over the whole of Europe, and raged during the years from 1348 to 1351. From the character or effects of this plague it was called, THE BLACK DEATH.”
The Destroyer appeared first in Avignon, in January, 1348, and in other cities in the south of France, and north of Italy, as well as in Spain. It passed through France and Germany, where however, it did not make its ravages until the following year. It did not break out in England until August; here it advanced so gradually, that it did not reach London for three months. The northen kingdoms were attacked in 1349. Sweden not until November of that year, almost two years after its eruption in Avignon. Poland received the plague in 1349. In Russia it did not make its appearance till 1351.
It is impossible to ascertain the numbers of those who perished in this terrible visitation. The most probable estimate is that Europe lost by this one plague—the black death—25,000,000 of inhabitants. In England the loss in
towns was incredible. In London 50,000 were interred in one burial ground alone, and in the whole country it is said scarce a tenth part remained alive. This statement is doubtless too high. The most credible accounts relative to European cities state that there died of the black plagueIn Florence
60,000 In Venice
In Marseilles, in one month
16,000 In Siena
70,000 In Paris
50,000 In St. Deny's.
14,000 In Avignon..
60,000 In Strasburg
16,000 In London, at least
100,000 In Norwich
57,000 There were no Jews resident in England at this period. They had been banished by Edward I. in 1290, and on one day, Oct. 9th, about 16,000 left the British shores.
"In every destructive pestilence the common people ” says Hecker“ at first attribute the mortality to poison. No instruction avails; the supposed testimony of their eyesight is to them a proof, and they demand the victims of their rage. On whom then was it so likely to fall as on the Jews, the usurers and the strangers who lived at enmity with Christians.
"They were everywhere suspected of having poisoned the wells, or infected the air. They alone were considered as having brought this fearful mortality upon the Christians. They were in consequence pursued with merciless cruelty, and either indiscriminately given up to the fury of the populace, or sentenced by sanguinary tribunals, which, with all the forms of law, ordered them to be burnt alive.
“ The persecution of the Jews commenced in September and October, 1348, at Chillon, on the Lake of Geneva, where the first criminal proceedings were instituted against them, after they had long before been accused by the people of poisoning the wells ; similar scenes followed in Bern and Freyburg, in January, 1349."
The most excruciating tortures were inflicted on Jews ;
and, under these, some confessed themselves guilty, in the vain hope of escaping with their lives. It was affirmed that poison was found in a well at Zoffingen, and this was deemed a sufficient proof to convince the world, and the persecution of the abhorred culprits thus appeared justifiable.
* In those places where no Jews resided, as in Leipsig, Magdeburg, Brieg, Frankenstein, &c., the grave-diggers were accused of the crime" of poisoning the wells, probably that they might profit by being paid for the funerals of their victims !
Already in the autumn of 1348, a dreadful panic, caused by this supposed poisoning, seized all nations. In Germany the springs and wells were built over, that nobody might drink of them; and for a long time, the inhabitants of numerous towns and villages used only river and rain water. The city gates were guarded with great caution: only confidential persons were admitted; and if medicine or any other article, which might be supposed to be poisonous, was found in the possession of a stranger, he was forced to swallow a portion of it. By this trying state of privation, distrust and suspicion, the hatred against the supposed poisoners became greatly increased, and often broke out in popular commotions, which only served still further to infuriate the wildest passions.
“The noble and the mean fearlessly bound themselves by an oath, to extirpate the Jews by fire and sword, and to snatch them from their protectors, of whom the number was so small, that throughout all Germany, but few places can be mentioned, where these unfortunate people were not regarded as outlaws, and martyred and
burnt. Solemn summonses were issued from Bern to the towns of Basle, Freyburg in the Breisgan, and Strasburg, to pursue the Jews as poisoners. The Burgomasters and Senators, indeed, opposed this requisition; but in Basle, the populace obliged them to bind themselves by an oath to burn the Jews, and to forbid persons of that community from entering their city, for the space of two-hundred years. Upon this all the Jews in Basle, whose number could not have been inconsiderable, were enclosed in a wooden building constructed for the purpose, and burnt together with it, upon the mere outcry of the people, without sentence or trial, which indeed would have availed them nothing. Sone after, the thing took place at Freyburg. A regular diet was held at Bermefield, a sanguinary decree was resolved upon, of which the populace, who obeyed the call of the nobles and superior clergy, became but the too willing executioners. Wherever the Jews were not burnt, they were at least banished; and so, being compelled to wander about, fell into the hands of the country people, who without humanity, and regardless of all laws, persecuted them with fire and sword.
(To be continued.)
MISSIONS TO THE JEWS.
BERLIN. In a letter of June 28, Mr. Bellson gives the following interesting account of the
Hopeful death of an aged Jewess. “ A Jewish widow, sixty-two years of age, s. H-, was in constant communication with a Christian family, members of our congregation, Do you
and friends of Mr. Ludwig, who often met the old woman there, and had an opportunity to speak to her about her salvation. This was the more easy as she frequently stayed for evening prayers, which moved her to tears, and afforded an opportunity to talk to her about the Saviour of sinners. On the 11th instant, she sent for Mr. Ludwig ; he found her very ill in bed. She told him that she thought her end was approaching, and was very anxious to see him. She begged him to excuse her, but she was very desirous to ask him a few questions. really believe, said she, that Jesus Christ is the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved ? Having explained to her as simply as possible, that by nature and practice we are all sinners and come short of the glory of God, that God requires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live—that he has sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life—that nothing on our part is required but contrition of heart, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, she replied, I have long since loved and adored the Lord Jesus Christ, and believed that through him I shall be saved.' And when she was again told that Jesus will not reject nor cast out any that come to him, she replied, "My only care and desire is to be saved, my path in the world has been one of tribulation.' And when she was asked whether she believed herself to be a great sinner, she replied, “Yes, I know and confess it in deep contrition ; I know that my heart is vile and wicked, and that I have done no good; and yet, I humbly desire to be saved.' Upon which she was assured that nothing could