Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/624

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Gradually it dawned both upon Catholic and Protestant countries that, if any sin be punished by pestilence, it is the sin of filthiness; more and more it began to be seen by thinking men of both religions that Wesley's great dictum stated even less than the truth; that not only was "cleanliness akin to godliness," but that, as a means of keeping off pestilence, it was far superior to godliness as godliness was then generally understood.[1]

The recent history of sanitation in all civilized countries shows triumphs which may well fill us with wonder, did there not rise within us a far greater wonder that they were so long delayed. Amazing is it to see how near the world has come again and again to discovering the key to the cause and cure of pestilence. It is now a matter of the simplest elementary knowledge that some of the worst epidemics are conveyed in water. But this fact seems to have been discovered many times in human history. In the Peloponnesian war the Greeks asserted that their enemies had poisoned their cisterns; in the middle ages the people generally declared that the Jews had poisoned their wells; and as late as the cholera of 1832 the Parisian mob charged the water-carriers who distributed water for drinking purposes from the Seine, polluted as it was by sewage, with poisoning the water, and in some cases murdered them for it; so far did this feeling go, that locked covers were sometimes placed upon the water buckets. Had not such men as Roger Bacon and his long line of successors been thwarted by theological authority—had not such men as Thomas Aquinas, Vincent de Beauvais, and Albert the Great been drawn or driven from the paths of science into the dark, tortuous paths of theology, leading nowhither, the world to-day, at the end of the nineteenth century, would have arrived at the solution of great problems and the enjoyment of great results which will only be reached at the end of the twentieth century, and even in generations more remote. Diseases like pulmonary consumption, scarlet fever, diphtheria, pneumonia, and la grippe, which now carry off so many most precious lives, would have long since ceased to scourge the world.

Still, there is one great cause for joy: the law governing the relation of theology to disease is now well before the world, and it is seen in the striking fact that just in proportion as the world progressed from the sway of Hippocrates to that of the ages of faith, so it progressed in the frequency and severity of great pestilences; and, on the other hand, just in proportion as the world has receded from that period when theology was all-pervading and all-controlling, plague after plague has disappeared, and

  1. For Boyle's attempt at compromise, see Discourse on the Air, in his works, vol. iv, pp. 288, 289, cited by Buckle, vol. i, pp. 128, 129, note.