Medica Sacra - or a Commentary on on the Most Remarkable Diseases Mentioned - in the Holy Scriptures
by Richard Mead
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MEDICA SACRA; OR, A COMMENTARY On the most remarkable DISEASES, Mentioned in the HOLY SCRIPTURES.


Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians at LONDON and EDINBURGH, and of the Royal Society, and Physician to his Majesty.

Translated from the Latin, Under the AUTHOR's Inspection, By THOMAS STACK, M.D.F.R.S.


Printed for J. BRINDLEY, late Bookseller to his Royal Highness the Prince of WALES, in New Bond-street. M DCCLV.


Memoirs of the life and writings of the learned author

The preface

I. The disease of Job page 1

II. The leprosy 13

III. The disease of king Saul 28

IV. The disease of king Joram; Jehoram 34

V. The disease of king Ezekias; Hezekiah 36

VI. The disease of old age 38

VII. The disease of king Nebuchadnezzar 57

VIII. The paralysy, palsy 62

IX. Of demoniacs 73

X. Of lunatics 93

XI. The issue of blood in a woman 103

XII. Weakness of the back, with a rigidity of the spine back bone 104

XIII. The bloody sweat of Christ 106

XIV. The disease of Judas 108

XV. The disease of king Herod 113

[Greek: Panta dochimazete to kalon katechete]

D. Paul. 1 Ep. ad Thessal. v. 21.

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

BOOKS wrote by the late learned Dr. MEAD, and sold by J. BRINDLEY, Bookseller, in New Bond Street.


I. A Mechanical Account of Poisons in several Essays, 4th Edition. Price 5s. 1747

II. A Discourse on the Plague, 9th Edit. Price 4s. 1744

III. —— on the Small Pox and Measles; to which is annexed, a Treatise on the same Disease by the celebrated Arab. Phys. Abubeker Rhazes. Price 4s.

IV. —— on the Scurvy; to which is annexed, An historical Account of a new Method for extracting the foul Air out of Ships, &c. with the Description and Draught of the Machines by which it is performed: In two Letters to a friend. By Samuel Sutton, the Inventor. Price 3s 6d 1749

V. —— on the Influence of the Sun and Moon upon human Bodies, and the Diseases thereby produced. 4s 1748

VI. Medical Precepts and Cautions. Price 5s. 1751

VII. A Commentary on the Diseases mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. Price 4s. 1755

The above seven Discourses are all translated under the Author's Inspection, by Dr. STACK, M.D.F.R.S.


VIII. De Variolis & Morbillis Liber, huic accessit Rhazes Medici inter Arabas celeberrimi, de iisdem Morbis Commentarius. Price 4s. 1747

IX. De Imperio Solis ac Lunae in Corpora Humana, & Morbis inde Oriundis, Editio Altera, Auctior. & Emendatior. Price 4s. 1746

X. Medica Sacra; sive de Morbis Insignioribus qui in Bibliis memorantur Commentarius. Price 3s 6d 1749

XI. Monita & Precepta Medica. Price 4s 6d 1751

N. B. The above are to be had either in Sets, uniformly bound, or separate.


It is a natural, nor can it be deemed an illaudable curiosity to be desirous of being informed of whatever relates to those who have eminently distinguished themselves for sagacity, parts, learning, or what else may have exalted their characters, and thereby entitled them to a degree of respect superior to the rest of their cotemporaries. The transmission of such particulars, has ever been thought no more than discharging a debt due to posterity; wherefore it is hoped, that what is here intended to be offered to the publick, relative to a gentleman, who is universally allowed to have merited so largely in the republic of letters, and more particularly in his own profession, a profession, not less useful than respectable, will not be judged impertinent or disagreeable.

Our learned author was descended from a distinguished family in Buckinghamshire, and born at Stepney the second of August 1673. His father, Mr. Matthew Mead, was held in great esteem as a divine among the presbyterians, and was possessed, during their usurped power, of the living of Stepney; from whence he was ejected the second year after the restoration of king Charles the IId. Nevertheless, tho' he had fifteen children, of whom our Richard was the seventh, he found means, with a moderate fortune, to give them a compleat education. To this purpose he kept a tutor in his house to instruct them, and they were taught latin rather by practice than by rules.

Party-rage perhaps never run higher than about the latter end of Charles the IId's reign; hereby this little domestic academy was dispersed in 1683. The king, or rather his ministers, were determined to be revenged on those, whom they could not prevail on to concur with their measures. Mr. Mead (the father) was accused of being concerned in some designs against the court; wherefore being conscious that even his being a presbyterian, rendered him obnoxious to those in power, he chose rather to consult his security by a retreat, then to rely upon his innocence; to this purpose he sought and found that repose in Holland, which was denied him in his own country; having first placed his son Richard at a school, under the tuition of an able master of his own principles: under whose care our young gentleman, by a ready genius, strong memory, and close application, made a great proficiency. At seventeen years of age he was sent to Utrecht, to be further instructed in liberal knowledge, by the celebrated Graevius, with whom he continued three years.

Having determined to devote his attention to medicine, he removed from Utrecht to Leyden, where he attended Dr. Herman's botanical lectures, and was initiated into the theory and practice of physick, by the truely eminent Dr. Pitcairn, who then held the professorial chair of this science in that university: here our young student's assiduity and discernment, so effectually recommended him to the professor, who was not very communicative of his instructions out of the college, that he established a lasting correspondence with him, and received several observations from him, which he inserted in one of his subsequent productions.

His academical studies being finished, Mr. Mead sought further accomplishments in Italy, whither he was accompanied by his elder brother,[1] Mr. Polhill, and Dr. Thomas Pellet, afterwards president of the college of physicians.

[1] Mr. Nathaniel Mead, who was at first destined to the service of religion, and preach'd two or three times at the meeting house at Stepney, built by his father, after his ejection from the parish church: but taking a dislike to theological studies, he applied himself to the law, and made as great a figure at the bar, as his brother did in physick.

In the course of this tour, Mr. Mead commenced doctor in philosophy and medicine at Padua, the twenty-sixth of August 1695, and afterwards spent some time at Naples and Rome: how advantageous to himself, as well as how useful to mankind he rendered his travels, his works bear ample testimony.

About the middle of the year 1696, he returned home, and settled at Stepney, in the neighbourhood where he was born: the success, he met with in his practice here, established his reputation, and was a happy presage of his future fortunes. If it be remembered, that our author was, when he began to practise, no more than twenty-three years old, that only three years, including the time taken up in his travels, were appropriated to his medical attainments, it may be, not unreasonably, admitted, that nothing but very uncommon talents, join'd to an extraordinary assiduity, could have enabled him to distinguish himself, at this early a period of life, in so extensive, and so important a science.

In 1702, Dr. Mead exhibited to the public, a manifest evidence of his capacity for, as well as application to medical researches, in his mechanical account of poisons; which he informs us was begun some years before he had leisure to publish it. These subjects, our author justly observes, had been treated hitherto very obscurely, to place therefore the surprizing phoenomena, arising from these active bodies in a more intelligible light, was his professed intention; how well he succeeded, the reception this piece universally met with, even from its first publication,[2] sufficiently declares. In 1708 he gave a new edition of it, with some few additions, the principal of which consists in some strictures on the external use of mercury in raising salivations. He has considerably further explained his sentiments upon the same head, in the edition of this work printed in 1747.

[2] An abstract of this work was thought deserving a place in the philosophical transactions (No 283) for the months of January and February 1703.

This last edition has received so many additions and alterations, as might almost entitle it to the character of a new performance.——A stiffness of opinion has been but too commonly observed, especially among writers on science; and age has been seldom found to have worn out this pertinacity: a favourite hypothesis has been defended even in opposition to the most obvious experiments, with a degree of obstinacy ever incompatible with the real interests of truth. On the contrary, our ingenious author has set before his literary successors, an example of sagacity and fortitude, truely worthy of imitation, in the victory he obtained over these self-sufficient pre-possessions; length of years was so far from rivetting in him an inflexibility of sentiment, that, joined to a most extended experience, it served only to teach him, that he had been mistaken: his candid retraction of what he thought to have been advanced amiss by himself, cannot be better expressed than in his own words. "Neither have I, says he,[3] been ashamed on some occasions, (as the Latins said) caedere vineta mea, to retrench or alter whatever I judged to be wrong. Dies diem docet. I think truth never comes so well recommended, as from one who owns his error: and it is allowed that our first master never shewed more wisdom and greatness of mind, then in confessing his mistake, in taking a fracture of a skull, for the natural suture;[4] and the compliment, which Celsus[5] makes to him on this occasion, is very remarkable and just;" nor is it less applicable to Dr. Mead at present than it was to the Coan sage in his day. "More scilicet, inquit, magnorum virorum, & fiduciam magnarum rerum habentium. Nam levia ingenia, quia nihil habent, nihil sibi detrahunt: magno ingenio, multaque nihilominus habituro, convenit etiam simplex veri erroris confessio; praecipueque in eo ministerio, quod utilitatis causa posteris traditur."

[3] Advertisement prefixed to the last edition of the essay on poisons, p. 4.

[4] Epidem. lib. iv. Sec. 14.

[5] Medicin. lib. viii. c. 4.

The insertion of additions and improvements in the title of new editions of books, has been too generally, though sometimes justly, understood as little else than a contrivance of the bookseller, to animate a languishing sale; but this is far from being the case in respect to the works of our author, whose maturer sentiments on many of the subjects, he had before treated of, cannot be well comprehended, unless by a careful perusal of his later corrections, seeing the alterations he has thought fit thereby to make in his earlier productions, are not less necessary to be attended to by the prudent practitioner, than they are really interesting to the unhappy patient: the truth of which cannot be more manifestly evinced, than by his last publication of his essays on poisons; wherein he entirely subverts his former hypothesis, and builds his reasonings upon a new foundation; he also tacitly admits his former experiments to have been too precipitately made, and the conclusions deduced from them, to have been too hastily drawn.

To illustrate what has been advanced upon this head, it will not be improper to observe, that when Dr. Mead first wrote these essays, he was of opinion, "That the effect of poisons, especially those of venemous animals, might be accounted for, by their affecting the blood only: but the consideration of the suddenness of their mischief, too quick to be brought about in the course of the circulation, (for the bite of a rattle snake killed a dog in less than a quarter of an hour)[6] together with the nature of the symptoms entirely nervous, induced him to change his sentiments,[7]" and to conclude, that the poison must be conveyed by a medium of much greater quickness, which could be no other than the animal spirits.

[6] Philosophical transactions No 399.

[7] Introduction to the last edition of the essays on poisons, page 12.

From hence our author is led to prefix to the last edition of this performance, an inquiry into the existence and nature of this imperceptible fluid, with which we have been but very imperfectly acquainted. He has also added several new experiments, tending to confirm this theory, and explain the properties of the viperine venom, particularly by venturing to taste it; at the same time he has likewise contradicted some of those he had formerly made, whereby he had been induced to believe, this poison partook of a degree of acidity: for instance, he formerly asserted that he had seen this sanies, "as an acid, turn the blue tincture of heliotropium, to a red colour;[8]" whereas his more modern trials convinced him, it produced no alteration at all.

[8] Second edition of those essays, page 10.

The essays on the tarantula and mad dog, are likewise considerably enlarged in the last impression; especially the latter, in which is now comprehended a regular and elegant history of the symptoms attending the bite of this enraged animal, the reason of the consequent hydrophobia, and more extensive directions for the cure: also an accurate description of the lichen cinereus terrestris, its efficacy, and manner of acting. A composition of equal parts of this plant and black pepper, was inserted, at our author's desire, into the London dispensatory, in the year 1721, under the title of pulvis antilyssus, which he afterwards altered by using two parts of the former, and only one of the latter, as it now stands: in 1735 he also recommended the use of this medicine in a loose sheet, intitled, a certain cure for the bite of a mad dog.

In treating of poisonous minerals, exclusive of what is added concerning mercurial unctions, our author has given a new analysis of the antient and modern arsenic; and his essay on deliterious plants, has afforded him an opportunity of enquiring into the cicuta, so much in use of old for killing, especially at Athens, and which is said to have been administered to Socrates in consequence of his condemnation. To this he has likewise subjoin'd an appendix, concerning the mischievous effects of the simple water distilled from the lauro-cerasus, or common laurel, which were first observed some years since in Ireland, where, for the sake of its flavour, it was frequently mixed with brandy.—His observations upon venemous exhalations, are not less extended, nor ought the, as well useful as ornamental, plates added to this last edition, to pass unnoticed, particularly, "The anatomical description of the parts in a viper, and in a rattlesnake, which are concerned in their poison," by our great anatomist the learned and ingenious Dr. Nichols.

In 1703 Dr. Mead communicated to the royal society, a letter published in Italy in 1687 (a copy of which he met with in the course of his travels) from Dr. Bonomo to Seignor Redi, containing some observations concerning the worms of human bodies;[9] whereby it is intended to prove, that the disease, we call the itch, proceeds merely from the biting of these animalcules: this opinion is espoused by our author in one of his latest performances,[10] wherein therefore he directs only topical applications for the cure of this troublesome disease.

[9] An abstract of part of this letter was inserted in the before-cited number of the philosophical transactions. Vid. supra p. 10.

[10] Monita & praecepta medica, p. 211, &c.

The proofs our young physician had already given of literary merit, recommended him soon after the above-mentioned communication, to a seat among that learned body; in the same year he was also elected one of the physicians of St. Thomas's hospital, and was employed by the surgeons company to read anatomical lectures at their hall, which he continued to do for some years.

In 1704 appeared his treatise de imperio solis ac lunae in corpora humana, & morbis inde oriundis. At this time the Newtonian system of philosophy, from whence our author had chiefly deduced his reasonings upon this abstruse subject, were neither thoroughly understood, nor universally received: nevertheless whatever cavils were raised against his hypothesis, it was generally admitted, that his observations had their uses in practice.

The doctor thought proper to revise this juvenile production, and to give a new edition of it in 1748; when he not only altered the disposition of some of the old, but also introduced more than a little new matter into that work: particularly he has placed some mathematical points in a clearer light, than they before appeared; he has entered into the discussion of "a difficult question, which has raised great contention among philosophers: viz. whereas water is more than eight hundred times heavier than air, how does it happen, that the latter when replete with watery vapours, depresses the mercury in the barometer; so that its fall is an indication of rain?[11]" he has also enquired into "the weight of the atmosphere on a human body, and its different pressure at different times;[12]" and he has illustrated and confirmed the medicinal part by several additional observations and cases, that promise real utility to the practice of physic. To the whole is now first adjoined a corollary tending to strengthen his reasonings upon the subject, by observations of the effects of storms on the human body; wherein, from the case of a lady who was seized in an instant with a gutta serena, (that rendered her totally blind) on the night of the great storm which happened in 1703, he is led to give a distinct account of the cause and cure of that melancholly distemper. This work is also remarkably distinguished by many curious observations our author received from his ingenious preceptor in the art of healing, Dr. Pitcairne.

[11] Stack's translation of the influence of the sun and moon, p. 21.

[12] Ibid. p. 30.

Our author's distinguished genius for, and sedulous attention to the interests of his profession, procured him an acquisition of farther honours, as well as recommended him to the patronage of the most eminent of the faculty: in 1707 his Paduan diploma for doctor of physick, was confirmed by the university of Oxford; in 1716 he was elected fellow of the college of physicians, and served all the offices of that learned body, except that of president, which he declined when offered to him in 1744. Radcliff, the most followed physician of his day, in a particular manner espoused Dr. Mead, and in 1714, upon the death of the former, the latter succeeded him in his house, and the greater part of his practice; some years before which, he had quitted Stepney, and had resided in Austin Fryars.

Party-principles were far from influencing his attachments; though he was himself a zealous whig, he was equally the intimate of Garth, Arbuthnot, and Friend: his connections, more especially, with the latter, are manifested not only in their mutual writings, (of which, more hereafter) but in that when Dr. Friend was committed a prisoner to the Tower in 1723, upon a suggestion of his being concerned in the practices of Bishop Atterbury against the government, Dr. Mead became one of his securities to procure his enlargement.

In 1719, an epidemic fever made great ravages at Marseilles; and tho' the French physicians were very unwilling to admit, this disease to have been of foreign extraction or contagious; yet our government wisely thought it necessary, to consider of such measures as might be the most likely to prevent our being visited by so dangerous a neighbour; or in failure thereof, to put an early stop to the progress of the infection. Dr. Mead, whose deserved reputation may not unjustly be said to have merited that mark of distinction, was consulted on these critical and important points, by command of their excellencies, the lords justices of the kingdom, in his majesty's absence: how equal he was to this momentous talk, sufficiently appears from the discourse he published on that occasion: the approbation this performance met with, may be estimated from the reception it universally found; seven impressions were sold of it in the space of one year, and in the beginning of 1722, the author gave an eighth, to which he prefixed a long preface, particularly calculated to refute what had been advanced in France, concerning the absence of contagion in the malady that had afflicted them: he also now added a more distinct description of the plague, and its causes; and confirmed the utility of the measures he had recommended, for preventing its extension, from examples of good success, where the same had been put in practice: to these he has likewise annexed, a short chapter relating to the cure of this deplorable affliction.—In 1744, this work was carried to a ninth edition, wherein, to use the doctor's own expression, he has "here and there added some new strokes of reasoning, and, as the painters say, retouched the ornaments, and heightened the colouring of the piece." Here it may not be improper to take notice, that it is in this last impression of his discourse on the plague, that our author appears to have first adopted his theory of the properties and affections of the nervous fluid, or animal spirits, upon which he has also founded his latter reasonings on the subject of poisons, as well as in respect to the influence of the sun and moon on human bodies.

In 1723, Dr. Mead was appointed to speak the anniversary Harveian oration, before the members of the college of physicians, when, ever studious of the honour of his profession, he applied himself to wipe off the obloquy, thought to be reflected upon it, by those who maintained the practice of physic at Rome, to have been confined to slaves or freed-men, and not deemed worthy the attention of an old Roman: which oration was made publick in 1724, and to it was annexed, a dissertation upon some coins, struck by the Smyrnaeans, in honour of physicians.[13]

[13] Dissertatio de nummis quibusdam, a Smyrnaeis, in medicorum honorem, percussis.

This publication was smartly attacked by Dr. Conyers Middleton in 1726,[14] who was replied to by several, and particularly, as it is said, by Dr. John Ward, professor of rhetoric in Gresham College. This gentleman was supposed by his opponent, to have been employed by Dr. Mead, who did not chuse to enter personally, into this little-important debate; upon which presumption, Dr. Middleton published a defence of his former dissertation in the succeeding year;[15] wherein he treats his respondents with no little contempt.[16] The merits of this dispute are not intended to be here discussed, but it may not be amiss to observe, that however displeased Dr. Middleton may have been with his antagonists; in a work published several years after, he speaks of our author in the most respectful manner. In treating of an antique picture, he says, he believes it to be the first, and only one of the sort ever brought to England, "donec Meadius noster, artis medicae decus, qui vita revera nobilis, vel principibus in republica viris, exemplum praebet, pro eo, quo omnibus fere praestat artium veterum amore, alias postea quasdam, & splendidiores, opinor, Roma quoque deportandas curavit."[17]

[14] In a piece entitled, De medicorum apud veteres Romanos degentium conditione dissertatio; contra viros celeberrimos Jac. Sponium & Rich. Meadium, M.D.D. Servilem atque ignobilem eam fuisse ostenditur, published in the fourth volume of his works, p. 179.

[15] Dissertationis, &c. contra anonymos quosdam notarum brevium, responsionis atque animadversionis auctores, desensio, ibid. p. 207.

[16] Speaking of the answer ascribed to Dr. Ward, Dr. Middleton says, quamvis enim nomen suum celavisset, sensi tamen hominem e rhetorum turba conductum esse oportere; cui scilicet generi concessum novimus, omnia tragice ornare, augere, ementiri: is mihi solum scrupulus restabat, quod in ejus quidem sermone, nihil plane, quod rhetorem oleret, nihil venustatis, nihil ornatus, sed inculta potius omnia nec satis latina invenirem.

Hujusmodi itaque scriptorem, haud magis quam alterum illum (cui neutiquam sane eum anteserendam censeo) cogitatione ulla mea aut animadversione dignum judicassem; ni hanc potissimum hominem a clarissimo Meadio ad hoc respondendi munus delectum; librumque ipsum ejusdem cura & sumptibus in lucem emissam; amicisque suis manu propria inscriptum & dono a Meadio ipso missum intellixissem.

[17] Germana quaedam antiquitatis erudita monumenta, &c. first published in 1745, and inserted in the before-cited volume of his works, p. 2.

In respect to this controversy, our author's eulogist[18] takes notice that there is reason to believe, that Dr. Mead himself had some thoughts of more determinately explaining or confirming his sentiments upon this subject, in a work which he left unfinished, and which was designed to have been intitled, medicina vetus collectitia ex auctoribus antiquis non medicis.

[18] The ingenious Dr. Maty, who in his journal britannique (a work not less useful than entertaining) for the months of July and August 1754, has inserted a piece, which he titles, eloge du docteur Richard Mead, composed, as himself takes notice, from materials communicated to him by Mr. Birch; to which piece these memoirs are obliged for some anecdotes relating to our learned author.

However, this literary altercation, did not in the least affect our author's medical reputation, for in 1727, soon after his present Majesty's accession to the throne, whom he had the honour to serve in the same capacity while prince of Wales, he was appointed one of the royal physicians, and he had the happiness to see his two sons-in-law, Dr. Willmot and Dr. Nichols, his co-adjutors in that eminent station.

After having spent near fifty years in the constant hurry of an extensive and successful practice; after having lived (truely according to his own motto, non sibi sed toti) beyond that period assigned by the royal psalmist for the general term of mortality; when the infirmities of age would no longer permit him the free exercise of those faculties, which he had hitherto so advantageously employed in the service of the community, far from sinking into a supine indolence, or assuming a supercilious disregard of the world, he still continued his application, even in the decline of life, to the improvement of physic, and the benefit of mankind.

When he was grown unequal to the discharge of more active functions, and a retirement was become absolutely necessary, he took the opportunity of revising all his former writings: to this retreat therefore, and the happy protraction of so useful a life, the world is indebted for the improvements that appear in the latter editions of those works, which have already been taken notice of. It was not till now that our author could find leisure to perfect his discourse on the small pox and measles,[19] which had been begun by him many years before.

[19] De variolis & morbillis 1747.

As it was the principal design of these memoirs, to lay before the public a concise and comprehensive history of Dr. Mead's writings, the occasion of this universally admired performance, cannot be better given than from the author's own account, contained in the preface to it, in which also his connections with, and attachment to Dr. Friend, are further illustrated.

It appears that Dr. Mead, from having observed in the year 1708, that some of his patients in St. Thomas's Hospital, recovered from a very malignant sort of the small pox, even beyond expectation, by a looseness seizing them on the ninth or tenth day of the disease, and sometimes earlier, first took the hint to try what might be done by opening the body with a gentle purge, on the decline of the distemper; finding the success of this experiment in a great measure answerable to his wishes, he communicated this method of practice to Dr. Friend, and met with his approbation.

The latter being, soon after, called to a consultation with two other eminent physicians, on the case of a young nobleman who lay dangerously ill of the small pox, proposed our author's method; this was opposed till the fourteenth day from the eruption, when the case appearing desperate, they consented to give him a gentle laxative draught; which had a very good effect: Dr. Friend was of opinion to repeat it, but was over-ruled, and the patient died the seventh day after.[20]

[20] Friendi opera, p. 263.

From the result of this case, the gentlemen of the faculty were greatly divided in opinion, as to the rectitude of this practice, insomuch that Dr. Friend thought himself under a necessity of vindicating it; and therefore sent to our author for the purport of their former conversation upon this topic, desiring it might be reduced into writing. Such was the friendship that mutually subsisted between these learned men, that this request was granted without hesitation, and Dr. Mead's letter was shewn to Dr. Radcliffe, who prevailed upon our author to consent, that the same might be annexed to Dr. Friend's intended defence; which, however he was advised by some friends, to drop at that time; whereby this letter lay by till the latter's publication of the first and third books of Hippocrates's epidemics, illustrated with nine commentaries concerning fevers. Of these the seventh treats of purging in the putrid fever, which follows upon the confluent small pox: to which are annexed, in support of this opinion, letters from four physicians on that subject, and among them that from our author, which he had translated from the english into latin, enlarged and new modelled to serve this purpose.

This work gave rise to a controversy, maintained with an unbecoming warmth on both sides: among Dr. Friend's principal opponents, may be reckoned Dr. Woodward; who, not contented with condemning a practice, experience has since evinced not only salutary in general, but in many cases absolutely necessary; likewise treated its favourers with contempt and ill-manners, and more particularly our author;[21] whose resentment upon this occasion, appears to have been carried to a justly exceptionable length, seeing it had not subsided twenty years after the death of his antagonist.[22]

[21] The state of physic, by John Woodward, M.D. printed in 1718.

[22] "In the front of this band stood forth Dr. John Woodward, physic professor at Gresham College, a man equally ill-bred, vain, and ill-natured; who, after being for some time apprentice to a linnen-draper, took it into his head to make a collection of shells and fossils, in order to pass upon the world for a philosopher; thence getting admission into a physician's family, at length, by dint of interest, obtained a doctor's degree." Preface to the discourse on the small pox, &c. p. 8, &c.

Dr. Mead's daily acquisition of knowledge and experience, enabled him to enlarge to many beneficial purposes, this performance, which, in all probability, was at first designed only to illustrate and vindicate the sentiments contained in the aforementioned letter; and it is but justice to say, the applause it has found among the learned, as well for the elegance of its diction, as the perspicuity of its precepts, is no more than what is truely due to it.——To this discourse is subjoin'd a latin translation, from the arabic of Rhazes's treatise on the small pox and measles, a copy of the original having been obtained for this purpose by Dr. Mead, from the celebrated Boerhaave, between whom there had long subsisted an intimate correspondence, nor did their reciprocally differing in some opinions, diminish the friendship they mutually manifested for each other.

The year 1749, furnished two new productions from our author; a translation of one of which follows these memoirs. The other is entitled, a discourse on the scurvy, affixed to Mr. Sutton's second edition of his method for extracting the foul air out of ships.

It is more than possible that, but, for the patronage of Dr. Mead, this contrivance, which confers no less honour to the inventor, than utility to the public, might have been for ever stifled: our author, than whom no one more ardently wished for, or more zealously promoted the glory and interest of his country, being thoroughly convinced of its efficacy, so earnestly, and so effectually recommended it to the lords of the admiralty, as to prevail over the obstinate opposition that was made against its being put into practice. To the same purpose in 1742, he explained the nature and conveniencies of this invention to the royal society,[23] and with the same view he confessedly wrote the last mentioned discourse, of which he made a present to Mr. Sutton.

[23] In a paper read before the royal society, Feb. 11, 1741-2, and published in Mr. Sutton's account, page 41. He also presented a model of this invention made in copper to the royal society, which cost him 200l.

His medical precepts and cautions, which appeared in 1751, and was his last publication, affords an indisputable testimony, that length of years had not in the least impaired his intellectual faculties. Our author has herein furnished the public, with the principal helps against most diseases which he had either learned by long practice, or deduced from rational principles.[24] Who could with the same propriety take upon himself to be an instructor and legislator in the medical world, as he who had been taught to distinguish truth from falsehood, in the course of so extended an experience, protracted now to almost threescore years? to this may be added, that he has so contrived to blend the utile dulci, by embellishing his precepts with all the delicacy of polite expression, as to render them at the same time not less entertaining than instructive.

[24] Preface to the monita & praecepta medica, p. 1.

However, this work was productive of two other little pieces, from two gentlemen of the faculty: one by Dr. Summers; who in a pamphlet on the success of warm bathing in paralytic cases, controverts Dr. Mead's assertion, that "hot bathing is prejudicial to all paralytics" ... "calidae vero immersiones omnibus paralyticis nocent[25]."—Some reflections upon the advocates for Mrs. Stephens's medicines, in the cure of the stone and gravel, by our author, occasioned a letter to him on that subject by Dr. Hartley of Bath. The former expressed himself in the following manner; "Neque temperare mihi possum, quin dicam in opprobrium nuper medicis nonnullis cessisse, quod insano pretio redimendi anile remedium magnatibus auctores fuerunt.[26]" ... "Nor can I forbear observing, tho' I am extremely sorry for the occasion, that some gentlemen of the faculty a few years since acted a part much beneath their characters, first in suffering themselves to be imposed on, and then in encouraging the legislature to purchase an old woman's medicine at an exorbitant price."[27] Of this the latter complains as an unmerited indignity, "Illud interea (inquit) tanquem inopinatum, & ab aequitate tua alienum queri liceat, TE, qui in obvios quoscunque comis & urbanus esse, bene autem merentibus de re medica, vel etiam literaria quavis, summa cum benignitate favere soleas, in lithrontriptici fautores acerbius invectum fuisse; & non potius laudi illis dedisse, quod arcanum sine pretio vulgatum, virorum dignitate, fide, ingenio, artis nostrae peritia illustrium examini subjecerent, neque aliam viam ad praemium reportandum aperiri voluerint, quam quae, veris licet rerum inventoribus facilis & munita, jactatoribus tamen & falsiloquis esset impervia.[28]" ... In the mean while, I cannot but complain of it as a thing unexpected, and greatly inconsistent with your usual candour, that YOU, who are so courteous and humane to all mankind, and so remarkably the patron of those who excel in the profession of physic, or indeed in any branch of learning, should so severely reproach the favourers of this lithontriptic medicine; and not rather have commended them, for submitting a secret, communicated to them without fee or reward, to the examination of some worthy physicians, eminent for integrity, ingenuity, and learning: and for endeavouring to excite the munificence of the publick in such a manner only, as to render it accessible to the true authors of an important discovery, but impervious to boasting impostors.

[25] Monita & praecepta, p. 62, and Stack's translation of the same, p. 69.

[26] Our author's disapprobation of this medicine and its favourers, is no less severely express in his treatise concerning the influence of the sun and moon upon human bodies, p. 100.

[27] Monita, &c. medica, and Stack's translation, p. 174 and 197.

[28] Ad virum clarissimum Ric. Mead, M.D. Epistolae, varias lithontripticum, Joannae Stephens exhibendi methodos indicans. Auctore Davide Hartley, A.M. p. 3.

In enumerating the obligations the republic of letters is under to Dr. Mead, it would be injustice to omit taking notice, that to his generosity and public spirit, it is farther indebted for the first complete edition of the celebrated history of Thuanus.[29]

[29] Published in seven volumes folio 1733, by Samuel Buckley, under the sanction of an act of parliament.

To enlarge upon his literary collections, and other curiosities, would at present be useless, seeing the world will soon be apprized of their value and contents from the catalogues that are already, and are yet about to be published of them; it may therefore suffice to say, that he did not shew more assiduity and judgment in collecting them, than he did candour and generosity in permitting the use of them to all that were competent judges, or that could benefit themselves, or the public by them.

It may, perhaps not unjustly, be said no Subject in Europe had a cabinet so richly and so judiciously filled; to which the correspondence he maintained with the learned in all parts of Europe, not a little contributed; nor can there be an higher instance given of his reputation in this respect, than in the king of Naples having sent him the two first volumes of M. Bajurdi's account of the antiquities found in Herculaneum, with the additional compliment of asking in return, only, a compleat collection of our author's works, to which was adjoined, an invitation to visit that newly discovered subterraneous city: an invitation that could not but be greatly pleasing to a genius so inquisitive after knowledge, and which he declared, he should very gladly have embraced, had not his advanced years been an insuperable impediment, to the gratification of his curiosity. In short, his character abroad was so well known and established, that a foreigner of any taste, would have thought it a reproach to him, to have been in England without seeing Dr. Mead.

As his knowledge was not limited only to his profession, the deserving in all sciences had not only free access to him, but always found a welcome reception, and at his table might daily be seen together the naturalist, the antiquarian, the mathematician, and the mechanic, with all whom he was capable of conversing in their respective terms; here might be seen united the magnificence of a prince, with the pleasures of the wise.

His munificence was conspicuous in that there was no remarkable publick charity to which he was not a benefactor, particularly he was one of the earliest promoters of, and subscribers to the Foundling hospital.

Let these specimens of his superior abilities and merit suffice for the present, nor let envy or detraction attempt to sully so exalted a character.—Soon after the publication of his monita & praecepta medica, this ornament of his profession, and delight of his acquaintance, grew more and more sensible of the natural infirmities attending his length of years; and with the utmost tranquillity and resignation, quietly sunk into the arms of death on the 16th of February 1754. To whom may, with the greatest propriety, be applied a part of the epitaph inscribed to the memory of the celebrated Guicciardini, at Florence;

Cujus Otium an Negotium Gloriosius incertum: Nisi Otii Lumen Negotii Famam Clariorem reddidisset.

The END.


My declining years having in a great measure released me from those medical fatigues, in which, for the publick good, (at least as I hope) I have been employed about fifty years, I have determined to pass the short remains of life in such a sort of leisure, as may prove neither disagreeable to myself, nor useless to others. For good men are of opinion, that we must give an account even of our idle hours, and therefore thought it necessary, that they should be always well-spent.

Having from my earliest childhood entertained a strong passion for learning, after I had chosen the art of medicine for my profession, I still never intermitted my literary studies; to which I had recourse from time to time, as to refreshments strengthening me in my daily labours, and charming my cares. Thus, among other subjects, I frequently read the holy scriptures, as becomes a christian; and next to those things which regard eternal life, and the doctrine of morality, I usually gave particular attention to the histories of diseases, and the various ailments therein recorded; comparing those with what I had learnt either from medical writers or my own experience. And this I did the more willingly, because I had remarked that divines, thro' an unacquaintance with medicinal knowledge, frequently differed widely in their sentiments; especially on the subject of daemoniacs cured by the power of our saviour Jesus Christ. For it is the opinion of many, that these were really possessed with devils, and that his divine virtue shone forth in nothing more conspicuous than in expelling them. I am very far from having the least intention to undermine the foundations of the christian doctrine, or to endeavour, by a perverse interpretation of the sacred oracles, to despoil the Son of God of his divinity, which he has demonstrated by so many and great works performed contrary to the laws of nature. Truth stands no more in need of the patronage of error, than does a natural good complexion of paint. And it is certain, that the opinion which has been prevalent for many ages, of the power granted to devils, of torturing human bodies and minds, has been several ways made subservient to the subtle designs of crafty men, to the very great detriment and shame of the christian religion.

What sensible man can avoid justly deriding those solemn ceremonies, practised by the roman priests, in exorcising, as they are fond of terming it, daemoniacs: while proper persons (hired and) taught to counterfeit certain gestures and fits of fury, such as are believed to be caused by evil spirits, pretend that they are freed from devils, and restored to their senses by holy water, and certain prayers, as by inchantment. But these juggling tricks, how grosly soever they may impose on the eyes and minds of the ignorant multitude, not only scandalize, but also do a real injury to, men of greater penetration. For such, seeing into the cheat, often rush headlong into impiety; and viewing all sacred things in the same light, after they have learnt

Relligionibus atque minis obsistere vatum:[30]

[30] Lucret. Lib. i. ver. 110.

they advance farther, and by an abominable effort, endeavour thoroughly to root out of their minds all sense and fear of the supreme deity. In which proceeding they act as if a person doubted of the existence of the Indies, because travellers relate many falshoods and fictions concerning them. Hence it comes to pass, that, in countries too much given up to superstition, very many atheists are to be met with even among the learned, whom their learning and knowledge ought to secure from these errors. Therefore to be free from this folly, is the principal part of wisdom; next to which, is not to corrupt truth with fictitious opinions.

And indeed it is frequently to me a matter of wonder, why our spiritual guides so strenuously insist on exhibiting devils on the stage, in order to make the divinity of Christ triumph over these infernal enemies. Is Christ's divine power less manifested by the cure of the most grievous diseases, performed in an instant at his command; than by the expulsion of evil spirits out of the bodies of men? Certainly all the wonderful things done by him for the good of mankind, such as restoring sight to the blind, firmness and flexibility to relaxed or contracted nerves, calling the dead to life, changing the properties of the elements, and others of the same kind, are testimonies of the omnipotence of the creator of the world, and demonstrate the presence of God; who alone commands all nature, and at his pleasure changes and inverts the order of things established by himself. Wherefore it cannot be doubted, that He, who has perform'd these things, had the devils subject to him, that they might not obstruct his gracious resolution of revealing the will of his father to men, and correcting their depraved morals.

But to resume the subject of daemoniacs, the opinion, which I propose in this treatise, is not purely my own, but also of several other persons, before me, eminent for piety and learning. And indeed among our own countrymen, it was in the last century defended in an excellent dissertation, by that treasure of sacred knowledge, the reverend Joseph Mead. Wherefore as I have the honour to be of the same family with him, and am the son of Matthew Mead, a very able divine, I always thought I might lay some claim to these studies, by a kind of hereditary right.

I am not insensible of the difficulty of removing vulgar errors, especially those which relate to religion. For every body knows the power of education, in imprinting on the mind notions, which are hard to be effaced even in adult age. Children in the dark, fear ghosts and hobgoblins; and hence often quake with the same fear through the whole course of their lives. Why then do we admire, if we can hardly unlearn, and clear our minds of, some false notions, even when we are advancing to old age? Nor will this be deemed indeed a matter of little importance by him, who considers the serious evils, into which mankind are often led, by things that to some may appear trifling, as being nothing more than bugbears of children and women. My soul is seized with horror on recollecting, how many millions of innocent persons have been condemned to the flames in various nations, since the birth of Christ, upon the bare suspicion of witchcraft: while the very judges were perhaps either blinded by vain prejudices, or dreaded the incensed populace, if they acquitted those, whom the mob had previously adjudged guilty. Who would believe that any man in his right senses could boast, as a matter of merit, that he had capitally condemned about nine hundred persons for witchcraft, in the space of fifteen years, in the sole dutchy of Lorraine?[31] And yet from many histories, which he relates of those who suffered, it manifestly appears, that every individual of these criminals, had no compacts with devils, as they themselves imagined, but were really mad, so as openly to confess that they had done such feats as are impossible in the nature of things. But so it happens, that error generally begets superstition, and superstition cruelty. Wherefore I most heartily rejoice, that I have lived to see all our laws relating to witchcraft entirely abolished: whereas foreign states still retain this barbarous cruelty, and with various degrees of obstinacy in proportion to their ignorance of natural causes. And it is but too true, that the doctrine of daemons is so understood by the vulgar, as if the devil was to be esteemed a sort of deity; or at least, that, laying the fear of him aside, no divine worship can well subsist; altho' the apostle has expresly said; For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.[32]

[31] See Nic. Remigii Daemonolatreia.

[32] John. Ep. i. Chap. iii. ver. 8.

And here it may not be improper, once for all, to inform the reader, that I have generally made use of Sebastian Castalio's version of the bible, because, upon collating it in many places, I found it to be not only excellent Latin, but also very accurate, and particularly well adapted to the sense and meaning of the words in the Hebrew and Greek.

Nor can I refrain from declaring, that I have not writ these essays for the profane or vulgar; but for those only who are well versed, or at least initiated in theological or medical studies: and for this reason I chose to publish it in Latin; which language has for many ages past been made use of by learned men; in order to communicate to each other, whatsoever might seem to them either new, or expressed in a different manner from the common notions. Wherefore if any person should intend to publish an English version of this book, I give him this timely notice, that he will do it, not only against my will; but likewise in direct opposition to that equitable law, whereby every man is allowed to dispose of his own property according to his pleasure.[33]

[33] This declaration seems to have been intended only to prevent any surreptitious translation of this performance from appearing, seeing most of the works of our learned author have heretofore been greatly disgraced by attempts of that kind. Nevertheless the public may be assured, that Dr. Mead not only approved, but inspected what is now offered to them.

But to bring this preface to a conclusion; it is manifest that the christian religion requires of all its members in a most especial manner, to practice every act of humanity and benevolence towards each other. Wherefore the utmost care ought to be taken, that this beneficent disposition of mind be not corrupted by any means whatsoever: and nothing contributes more towards bringing on this corruption, than opinions derogatory from the divine goodness. Upon this account, as such is the misfortune of our times, that it is not only allowed, but even by many deemed a commendable action, to oppugn, and by every method to invalidate, the doctrine and authority of the christian religion; no interpretations of the histories of miracles ought to be look'd upon as out of season, provided they appear neither improbable, nor repugnant to the nature of the facts related.

In fine, it was not my intention to treat of every disease mentioned in holy writ; but to confine myself more particularly to those, the nature of which is generally but little known, or at least to such as I had some peculiar medicine for, or method of cure, to offer to the public; and to perform this task, in the same order, in which they occur in those sacred writings: excepting only Job's disease, to which I have given the first place, on account of the great antiquity of that book. The Saviour of the world, in order to make his divine power manifest to mankind, cured many other diseases, both of the body and mind, besides those which I have mentioned in this work: the nature and causes of all which diseases, whosoever would intend to enquire into, must of necessity compile a body of physic, which was not my present design. But if providence protract my life, I am not without hopes of laying more of my thoughts on this subject before the public, for the honour which I bear to my profession, unless

Frigidus obstiterit circum praecordia sanguis.

In the mean time, whatever be the fate of these essays with my readers, I shall rest satisfied from a consciousness of the rectitude of my intention, in having thus employ'd some of my hours of leisure.

A COMMENTARY ON THE DISEASES Mentioned in Scripture.


The Disease of Job.

Job's disease is rendered remarkable by some uncommon circumstances and consequences; such as the dignity of the man, the sudden change of his condition, his extraordinary adversity, his incredible patience under them, his restoration to a much happier state than he had ever before enjoyed, and lastly the singular nature of the illness with which he was seized.

His habitation was in the land of Uz, which, according to the learned Friderick Spanheim,[34] was situated in the northern part of Arabia deserta, towards the Euphrates and Mesopotamia. He was a very illustrious man, the most opulent of all the Orientals, very happy in sons and daughters, of a most upright life and exemplary piety. Now it is related that God, in order to try his integrity and constancy, permitted Satan to afflict him by all means which he could devise, except the taking away of his life. "In pursuance of this permission, Satan brought the most dreadful calamities on him; for all his oxen and asses were driven away by the Sabeans; his sheep and servants were consumed by fire from heaven; his camels were carried off; his sons and daughters were crush'd to death by the falling in of the house upon them in a violent storm of wind; and soon after he himself was afflicted with scabs and foul ulcers all over his body; so that he sate down among the ashes, and scraped himself with a potsherd." Thus from a very rich man he became extremely poor, and from the heighth of prosperity he sunk into the depth of misery. And yet all these evils did not give the least shock to his firmness of mind, nor to his piety towards God:[35] wherefore the Lord, moved by his prayers, put an end to all his calamities; gave him twice as much wealth as he had lost, and made him more prosperous than he had ever been before.[36]

[34] Histor. Jobi, Cap. iv.

[35] See Job Chap. i and ii.

[36] The same, Chap. xiii.

Now the book of Job may justly be esteemed the most ancient of all books, of which we have any certain account: for some are of opinion that it was written in the times of the patriarchs; many others, that it was composed about the days of Moses, and even by Moses himself; and there are but few who think it posterior to him.[37] For my part, I embrace the learned Lightfoot's opinion, that it was composed by Elihu, one of Job's companions, chiefly because he therein speaks of himself as of the writer of this history,[38] and if so, it will appear to be older than the days of Moses. However this be, it is most certain that this book carries with it manifest tokens of very great antiquity; the most material of which seem to be these. In it there is not the least mention made of the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt, of Moses, or the Mosaic Law. After the manner of the Patriarchs, Job, as the head of his family, offered sacrifices in his own private house, for the sins of his children.[39] When he declares his integrity he scarcely mentions any other Idolatry, but that most ancient one, the worship of the sun and moon,[40] which we know to be very old, and to have first obtained among the neighbouring Chaldeans, and Phoenicians. In fine his own age, protracted far beyond the life of man in Moses's time, is a proof of its antiquity, for he lived a hundred and forty years after an end had been put to his calamities; so that it is reasonable to believe that he lived above two hundred years in all. For that he was aged, when his misfortunes crowded on him, may be hence inferred, that, altho' his three friends are stiled old men,[41] yet in his disputes with them, he does not seem to honour them for their age, as Elihu does. To avoid prolixity, I join with Spanheim in opinion, that Job's time coincides with the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt, so as to be neither posterior to their quitting that country, nor anterior to their entering it.

[37] See Spanheim's learned dissertation on this subject in the book above quoted, Chap. viii. and ix.

[38] His Works, tom. 1. page 24.

[39] Job, Chap. i. v. 5.

[40] The same, Chap. xxxi. v. 26, 27.

[41] Job Chap. xxxii. v. 6.

But there subsists a dispute of a different nature between very grave authors, and that is, whether this narrative be a fable or a true history: If I were allowed to interpose my opinion, I would say, that it is not a parable invented by [Greek: hypotyposis], but a dramatic poem composed upon a true history; and perhaps with this design, that from the example of this illustrious and upright, yet afflicted and most miserable man, the people of Israel might learn to bear with patience, all those evils and hardships, which they were daily suffering in their Egyptian captivity. That this book is metrical, as well as David's Psalms, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Solomon's Song, is generally allowed: and the persons of the drama are God, Satan, Job and his wife, his three friends, and Elihu. Wherefore it is, says Grotius, a real fact, but poetically handled.[42] Poetry was certainly a very ancient manner of writing, and poets were wont to embellish true histories in their own way, as we see in the most ancient among the Greeks and Romans. And among the Hebrews likewise, long after the time above-mentioned, Ezechiel comprised the history of the departure out of Egypt in a dramatic poem; upon which account he is called by Clemens Alexandrinus, the poet of Judaic tragedies.[43] Nor indeed, in my opinion, can there be found, in this kind of writing, any thing more admirable, and better adapted to move the passions than this piece; whether we regard the sublimity and elegance of style, the description of natural things, or in fine, the propriety of the characters ascribed to all the persons concerned in it; all which circumstances are of the greatest moment in a dramatic performance.

[42] Est ergo res vere gesta, sed poetice tractata. In locum.

[43] [Greek: Ho ton Ioudaikon tragodion poietes.] Stromat. book 1. p. 414 of the Oxford Edit. 1715.

... Quo propius stes Te capiet magis.

The nearer you behold, The more it strikes you.

Before I close this chapter, it may not be improper to offer my conjecture concerning the disease of this illustrious man. But previous to this, it is proper to remark, that it is not Job himself, or his friends, but the author of the book that attributes his calamities to Satan; for this author's intention seems to be, to shew, by a striking example, that the world is governed by the providence of Almighty God, and as the holy angels, whose ministry God makes use of in distributing his bountiful gifts, punctually execute all his commands; so Satan himself with his agents are under the power of God, and cannot inflict any evils on mankind without the divine permission. Thus, when the Sons of God (angels) came and presented themselves before the Lord, it is said that Satan came also among them. Now the word astare to present one's self, as Moses Maimonides[44] observes, signifies to be prepared to receive Jehovah's commands, but Satan came of his own accord and mixed with them without any summons.

[44] More Nevochim, Part. iii. Chap. xxii.

Now as to the disease, it is plain that it was cuticular, and as it is certain that the bodies of the Hebrews were very liable to foul ulcers of the skin from time immemorial; upon which account it is, that learned men are of opinion that they were forbid the eating of swine's flesh (which, as it affords a gross nourishment, and not easily perspirable, is very improper food in such constitutions) wherefore by how much hotter the countries were which they inhabited, such as are the desarts of Arabia, the more severely these disorders raged. And authors of other nations, who despised and envied the Jews, say that it was upon this account that they were driven out of Egypt; lest the leprosy, a disease common among them, should spread over the country.[45] But there is another much worse disease, so frequent in Egypt, that it is said to be endemial there,[46] though it may also be engendered in this hot country, I mean the Elephantiasis. Perhaps it was this, which is nearly of the same nature with the leprosy, that had affected the body of our righteous man: but on this subject we shall treat more largely in the subsequent chapter.

[45] Justin. Hist. Lib. xxxvi, C. 2. & Tacit. Hist. Lib. v. ab initio.

[46] Lucret. Lib. vi. v. 1112.

Est Elephas morbus, qui propter flumina Nisi. Gignitur Aegypto in media.


The Leprosy.

A most severe disease, to which the bodies of the Jews were very subject, was the Leprosy. Its signs recorded in the holy scriptures are chiefly these. Pimples arose in the skin; the hair was turned white; the plague (or sore) in sight was deeper than the skin, when the disease had been of long standing; a white tumour appeared in the skin, in which there was quick flesh; the foul eruptions gained ground daily, and at length covered the whole surface of the body. And the evil is said to infect, not only the human body, but also the cloaths and garments, nay (what may seem strange) utensils made of skins or furs, and even the very walls of the houses. Wherefore there are precepts laid down for cleansing these also, as well as the lepers.

Medical authors are of different opinions concerning the contagion of this disease. And whereas neither the Arabian nor Greek physicians, who have treated largely of the leprosy, have given the least hint of this extraordinary force of it, whereby it may infect cloaths and walls of houses; the Rabbin doctors dispute, whether that which seized the Jews, was not intirely different from the common leprosy; and they all affirm, that there never appeared in the World, a leprosy of cloaths and houses, except only in Judea, and among the sole people of Israel.

For my part, I shall now freely propose, what I think most probable on the subject. One kind of contagion is more subtile than another; for there is a sort, which is taken into the body by the very breath; such as I have elsewhere said to exist in the plague, small pox, and other malignant fevers. But there is another sort, which infects by contact alone; either internal, as the venom of the venereal disease; or external, as that of the itch, which is conveyed into the body by rubbing against cloaths, whether woollen or linnen. Wherefore the leprosy, which is a species of the itch, may pass into a sound man in this last manner; perhaps also by cohabitation; as Fracastorius has observed, that a consumption is contagious, and is contracted by living with a phthisical person, by the gliding of the corrupted and putrefied juices of the sick into the lungs of the sound man.[47] And Aretaeus is of the same opinion with regard to the Elephantiasis, a disease nearly allied to the Leprosy: for he gives this caution, "That it is not less dangerous to converse and live with persons affected with this distemper, than with those infected with the plague; because the contagion is communicated by the inspired[48] air."

[47] De morbis contagiosis. Lib. ii. Cap. ix.

[48] De causis diuturnorum morborum, et de curationibus eorundem, Lib. ii. Cap. xiii.

But here occurs a considerable difficulty. For Moses says, "If in the leprosy there be observed a white tumour in the skin, and it have turned the hair white in it, and there be quick flesh within the tumour; it is an old leprosy in the skin of his flesh. But if the leprosy spread broad in the skin, and cover the whole skin of the diseased from his head even to his feet, the person shall be pronounced[49] clean." But the difficulty contained in this passage will vanish, if we suppose, as it manifestly appears to me, that it points out two different species of the disease; the one in which the eroded skin was ulcerated, so that the quick flesh appeared underneath; the other, which spread on the surface of the skin only in the form of rough scales. And from this difference it happened, that the former species was, and the latter was not, contagious. For these scales, being dry and light like bran, do not penetrate into the skin; whereas the purulent matter issuing from the ulcers infects the surface of the body. But concerning the differences of cuticular diseases, I heartily recommend to the reader's perusal, what Johannes Manardus, equally valuable for his medical knowledge and the purity of his Latin, has written upon the subject.[50]

[49] Levit. Chap. xiii. v. 10 &c.

[50] Epist. Medicinal. Lib. vii. Epist. ii.

There is no time, in which this disease was not known; but it was always more severe in Syria and Egypt, as they are hotter countries, than in Greece and other parts of Europe; and it is even at this day frequent in those regions. For I have been assured by travellers, that there are two hospitals for the leprous alone in Damascus. And there is a fountain at Edessa, in which great numbers of people affected with this cuticular foulness wash daily, as was the ancient custom.

Moreover we read the principal signs, which occur in the description of the Mosaic leprosy, excepting only the infection of the cloaths and houses (of which by and by) recorded by the Greek Physicians. Hippocrates himself calls the [Greek: leuke] or white leprosy [Greek: Phoinikie nousos] the Phoenician disease.[51] For that the word [Greek: phthinike] ought to be read [Greek: Phoinikie], appears manifestly from Galen in his Explicatio linguarum Hippocratis; where he says that [Greek: phoinike nousos] is a disease which is frequent in Phoenicia and other eastern regions.[52] In the foregoing chapter I said that the Leprosy (Leuce) and the Elephantiasis, were diseases of great affinity:[53] in confirmation of which notion the same Galen observes, that the one sometimes changes into the other.[54] Now these two distempers are no where better described than by Celsus, who lived about the time of Augustus Caesar, and having collected the works of the principal Greek writers in physic and surgery, digested them into order, and turned them into elegant Latin with great judgment. Thus he describes the leprous diseases. Three are three species of the Vitiligo. It is named [Greek: alphos], when it is of a white colour, with some degree of roughness, and is not continuous, but appears as if some little drops were dispersed here and there; sometimes it spreads wider, but with certain intermissions or discontinuities. The [Greek: melas] differs from this in colour, because it is black, and like a shadow, but in other circumstances they agree. The [Greek: leuke] has some similitude with the [Greek: alphos], but it has more of the white, and runs in deeper: and in it the hairs are white, and like down. All these spread themselves, but in some persons quicker, in others slower. The Alphos and Melas come on, and go off some people at different times; but the Leuce does not easily quit the patient, whom it has seized.[55] But in the Elephantiasis, says the same author, the whole body is so affected, that the very bones may be said to be injured. The surface of the body has a number of spots and tumors on it; and their redness is by degrees changed into a dusky or blackish colour. The surface of the skin is unequally thick and thin, hard and soft; and is scaley and rough: the body is emaciated; the mouth, legs and feet swell. When the disease is inveterate, the nails on the fingers and toes are hidden by the swelling.[56] And the accounts left us by the Arabian physicians, agree with these descriptions. Avicenna, the chief of them, says that the Leprosy is a sort of universal cancer of the whole body.[57] Wherefore it plainly appears from all that has been said, that the Syrian Leprosy did not differ in nature, but in degree only, from the Grecian, which was there called [Greek: leuke]; and that this same disease had an affinity with the Elephantiasis, sometimes among the Greeks, but very much among the Arabs. For the climate and manner of living, very much aggravates all cuticular diseases.

[51] Prorrhetic. Lib. ii. sub finem.

[52] [Greek: He kata Phoiniken, ki kata ta alla anatolika mere pleonazousa.]

[53] Pag. 15.

[54] De simpl. medicam. facult. Lib. xi.

[55] De medicina, Lib. v. Cap. xxviii. Sec.. 19.

[56] Lib. iii. Cap. xxv.

[57] Canon, Lib. iv. Fen. 3. Tract. 3. Cap. i.

Now with regard to the infection of the cloaths, it has been found by most certain experiments, not only in the plague, and some other malignant eruptive fevers, as the small pox and measles, but even in the common itch; that the infection, once received into all sorts of furs or skins, woollen, linnen, and silk, remains a long time in them, and thence passes into human bodies. Wherefore it is easy to conceive, that the leprous miasmata might pass from such materials into the bodies of those, who either wore or handled them, and, like seeds sown, produce the disease peculiar to them. For it is well known, that the surface of the body, let it appear ever so soft and smooth, is not only full of pores, but also of little furrows, and therefore is a proper nest for receiving and cherishing the minute, but very active, particles exhaling from infected bodies. But I have treated this subject in a more extensive manner in my Discourse on the Plague.[58] And these seeds of contagion are soon mixed with an acrid and salt humor, derived from the blood; which as it naturally ought, partly to have turned into nutriment, and partly to have perspired through the skin, it now lodges, and corrodes the little scales of the cuticle; and these becoming dry and white, sometimes even as white as snow, are separated from the skin, and fall off like bran. Now, altho' this disease is very uncommon in our colder climate; yet I have seen one remarkable case of it, in a countryman, whose whole body was so miserably seized by it, that his skin was shining as if covered with snow: and as the furfuraceous scales were daily rubbed off, the flesh appeared quick or raw underneath. This wretch had constantly lived in a swampy place, and was obliged to support himself with bad diet and foul water.

[58] Chap. i.

But it is much more difficult to account for the infection of the houses. For it seems hardly possible in nature, that the leprous spots should grow and spread on dry walls, made of solid materials. But upon a serious consideration of the different substances employed in building the walls of houses, such as stones, lime, bituminous earth, hair of animals, and other such things mix'd together; I thought it probable, that they may by a kind of fermentation, produce those hollow greenish or reddish strokes in sight lower than the wall (or within the surface)[59] which, as they in some measure resembled the leprous scabs on the human body, were named the Leprosy in a house. For bodies of different natures, very easily effervesce upon being blended together. Wherefore we may reasonably suppose that this moisture or mouldiness, gradually coming forth and spreading on the walls, might prove very prejudicial to the inhabitants, by its stinking and unwholesome smell, without having recourse to any contagious quality in it. And somewhat analogous to this is pretty frequently observable in our own houses; where, when the walls are plaistered with bad mortar, the calcarious and nitrose salts sweat out upon their surface, of a colour almost as white as snow. The power of inspecting their houses was invested in the priests; who, when they observed this foulness, gave orders first to have the walls of the house scraped all around; and afterwards, if it continued to break out, to pull down the house, and carry the materials out of the city into an unclean place.

[59] Levit. Chap. xiv. v. 37.

I am well aware, that all this is related, as if God himself had struck the house with this plague. But it is well known, that that way of speaking is not uncommon in the jewish history; as in unexpected evils and dreadful calamities, which are sometimes said to be done by the hand of God, tho' they may be produced by natural causes. Nor can I be easily induced to believe, with some divines, that God, who commanded his people to be always free from every sort of uncleanness, would vouchsafe to work a miracle, in order to inflict this most filthy punishment on any person. Thus much is indubitable, that the precepts of the mosaic law were constituted particularly, to avert the people from idolatry and false religion, and at the same time to keep them clear of all uncleanness.[60] To this end conspired the prohibition of eating blood, carrion, or animals that died spontaneously, swines flesh, and that of several other creatures.[61] For all these meats yield a gross nutriment, which is improper and prejudicial in diseases of the skin.

[60] Mos. Maimonid. More Navochim, Part. iii. Cap. xxxiii. et xlviii.

[61] Levit. Chap. xi. et xvii.

But in order to close these theological researches with somewhat medical, I am convinced from experience, that there is not a better medicine known against this filthy disease, than the tincture of Cantharides of the London Dispensatory. Its remarkable virtue in this case, is owing to the diuretic quality of these flies. For there is a great harmony between the kidneys and glands of the skin, so that the humors brought on the latter, easily find a way thro' the former, and are carried off by urine: and on the other hand, when the kidneys have failed in the performance of their functions, an urinous humor sometimes perspires thro' the cuticular pores. But such cathartics are to be interposed at proper intervals, as are most proper for evacuating thick and acrid humors.


The disease of king Saul.

When "King Saul was abandoned by the Spirit of God, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him; his courtiers persuaded him to command his servants to seek out somebody that was a good player on the harp, who might sooth or compose him by his music, when the evil spirit from God was upon him." Which when Saul had done, by sending messengers for David; "whenever it happened that Saul was seized with that evil spirit, David took his harp, and play'd on it; and thus Saul was refreshed and became composed, and the evil spirit departed from[62] him."

[62] See Samuel, or Kings, Book i. Chap. xvi.

Now to me it appears manifest, that this king's disease was a true madness, and of the melancholic or atrabilarious kind, as the ancient physicians called it. And the fits return'd on him at uncertain periods, as is frequently the case in this sort of disease. Nor could the cause of that disorder be a secret, seeing he had been lately deprived of his kingdom by God's express command. Likewise the remedy applied, to wit, playing on the harp, was an extremely proper one. For physicians have long since taught us, that symphonies, cymbals, and noises, were of service towards dissipating melancholic thoughts;[63] the power of which we have accounted for in another place upon geometrical principles.[64] Hence also it more plainly appears, that the disorder was owing to natural causes; for otherwise how could the music of a harp drive it away? Counsel and prudence in a man was, in the Hebrew language, usually stiled the Spirit of God; and a person deprived of these qualities, was said to be troubled with an evil spirit, that is, to be mad.

[63] See Cels. Lib. iii. Cap. xviii.

[64] Mechanical Account of Poisons, Essay ii. Ed. 4.

I am not ignorant that the Jews, by a manner of expression familiar among them, are wont to describe diseases of this kind, to the power of evil angels, as ministers of God; and that even at this day, some very learned men defend the same notion. But for my part, if I may be allowed to declare my thoughts with freedom, I cannot think it right to have recourse to the divine wrath for diseases, which can be proved to have natural causes; unless it be expresly declared, that they were sent down directly from heaven. For if they fall on us in punishment of our sins, the intention of the supreme lawgiver would be frustrated, unless a sure rule was given, whereby his vengeance might be distinguished from common events; in as much as the innocent may be equal sharers in such calamities with the guilty. Moreover, it seems reasonable to believe, that evils inflicted by the omnipotent judge, must be either incurable, or curable by himself alone; that the connection of his power with his equity, may the more brightly shine forth. By such a criterion, are miraculous works distinguished from the operations of nature. For it would be impiety to suppose, that the almighty creator of heaven and earth intended, that his works should be performed in vain. Wherefore it is worthy of our observation, that great care is always taken in the sacred histories, to make the divine power in such cases, appear most manifest to all. Thus when the Lord had infected Miriam (or Mary) with a leprosy, for a sin committed by her, and consented, on the supplication of Moses, to make her whole; it was not done till seven days afterward.[65] Gehazi's leprosy remained in him and his progeny for ever.[66] King Azariah was smote with the leprosy, for not having demolished the high places; and he was a leper unto the day of his death.[67] Ananias and his wise were struck dead suddenly by the miraculous power of St. Peter.[68] Elymas the sorcerer, was struck blind for a season by St. Paul, for his frauds and wickedness.[69] Therefore since threats and plain indications of diseases, inflicted in an uncommon manner, are always manifestly declared; whensoever these are wanting, why may we not say, that the event was by no means supernatural? And I desire, once for all, that this sentiment may hold good with regard to several other calamities.

[65] Numbers, Chap. xii. Verse 14.

[66] Kings, Book ii. (al. iv.) Chap. v. Verse 27.

[67] The same, Chap. xv. Verse 5.

[68] Acts, Chap. v.

[69] The same, Chap. xiii. Verse 11.


The disease of king Jehoram.

Of king Jehoram it is related, that, "for his wicked life, the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease, so that he voided his intestines daily for the space of two years, and then died of the violence of the[70] distemper." Two impious kings are recorded to have had the same end, Antiochus Epiphanes, and Agrippa; of whom it was said: [Greek: Eis ti ta splanchna tois ou splanchnizomenois].[71]

[70] Chronicles, Book ii. Chap. xxi. Verse 18.

[71] See the Notes of Grotius on this Place.

Of what avail are bowels to those who have no bowels?

Now this distemper seems to me to be no other than a severe dysentery. For in this the intestines are ulcerated, and blood flows from the eroded vessels, together with some excrement, which is always liquid, and slimy matter; and sometimes also some fleshy strings come away, so that the very intestines may seem to be ejected.


The disease of king Hezekiah.

"When Hezekiah lay sick of a mortal disease, and the prophet Isaiah went and declared to him, by God's express command, that he should die and not recover; the Lord moved by his prayer, commanded Isaiah to return, and tell him, that he would cure him in three days. Whereupon Isaiah ordered a mass of figs to be taken, and laid it on the boil; whereby he recovered[72]."

[72] 2 Kings, Chap. xx.

Now to me it seems extremely probable, that this king's disease was a fever, which terminated in an abscess: For in cases of this kind, those things are always proper, which promote suppuration; especially digestive and resolving cataplasms; and dried figs are excellent for this intention. Thus, the Omnipotent, who could remove this distemper by his word alone, chose to do it by the effect of natural remedies. And here we have an useful lesson given us in adversities, not to neglect the use of those things, which the bountiful Creator has bestowed on us, and at the same time to add our fervent prayers, that he would be graciously pleased to prosper our endeavours.


The disease of Old-age.

Old-age itself is a disease, as the poet has properly expressed it[73]. Wherefore as I have frequently read with pleasure, the very elegant description of it, given by Solomon the wisest of kings; I think it will not be foreign to my design, to attempt an explanation and illustration thereof. For it contains some things not easy to be understood, because the eloquent preacher thought proper to express all the circumstances allegorically. But first I will lay the discourse itself before my readers, which runs thus.

[73] Terent. Phorm. Act. iv. Scen. i. v. 9.

"Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil times come, and the years draw nigh, in which, thou shalt say, I find no pleasure: before the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars be darkened, and the clouds return after rain; when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the soldiers shall give way, and the diminished grinders shall cease; and those that look out thro' holes shall be darkened; and the doors shall be shut outwardly, with a low sound of the mill, and they shall rise up at the voice of the bird; and all the daughters of music shall be of no avail; also when they shall be afraid of high places, and stumblings in the way; and the almond tree shall flower, and the Cicadae shall come together; and the appetite shall be lost, man departing to his eternal habitation, and the mourners going about in the street: before the silver chain be broken asunder, and the golden ewer be dashed in pieces; and the pitcher be broken at the fountain head; and the chariot be dashed in pieces at the pit; and the dust return to the earth, such as it had been; and the Spirit return to God, who gave it[74]."

[74] Ecclesiastes, Chap. xii. Verse 1-7. translated from Castalio's latin version.

The recital of evils (and infirmities) begins from the aberrations of the mind. The sun, says Solomon, and the light, and the moon, and the stars are darkened. Perceptions of the mind are less lively in old men; the ideas and images of things are confounded, and the memory decays: whence the intellectual faculties must necessarily lose their strength or power by degrees. Wisdom and understanding are frequently called light in the sacred scriptures;[75] and privation of reason, darkness and blindness.[76] Cicero likewise says very justly, that reason is as it were, the light and splendor of life.[77] Hence God is stiled the father of lights.[78] Thus the virtues of the mind decaying, may be compared to the luminaries of the world overcast. I am conscious that this exposition is contrary to that of a number of learned interpreters, who take this obscuration of the lights in the genuine sense of the words, and think that the failing of the sight is here to be understood. But I am surprized, how they happened not to take notice, that every thing in this discourse, even to the most minute circumstances, is expressed in words bearing a figurative sense. For whereas, in describing the infirmities of Old-age, the injuries of the operations of the mind, as the most grievous of all, were not to be pretermitted; so these could not be more clearly expressed, than by the obscuration of the coelestial luminous bodies, which rule our orb, and cause the vicissitudes of times and seasons. Moreover it is particularly to be observed here, that the author mentions the defects of sight lower down, and most certainly he would have avoided repeating the same thing.

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