Great Plague of London and Sir Isaac Newton

American Minute with Bill Federer

In 1331,a plague originated in China, where millions died.

It was spread by fleas in caravans traveling the Silk Road, and by rats on ships from the Orient and Middle East.

Referred to as the Second Plague Pandemic, it reached Constantinople in 1347.

Christians cared for the sick following the example of St. Sampson the Hospitable, who centuries earlier ministered to the poor in his home, then founded one of the first hospitals, funded by the Byzantine Emperor.

The Bubonic Plague, or Black Death, reached Italy in 1348.

In 1360-1363, it reached London, where it killed 20 percent of the population. In 1369, it killed an additional 15 percent.

The death toll in Ireland and British Isles was close to 3 million.

The Catholic Benedictine Order cared for the sick in infirmaries and medical clinics in monasteries.

In Paris, Catholic sisters founded the Hôtel-Dieu, one of Europe’s oldest hospitals, staffed by the nuns following the Rule of St. Augustine, and in 1633, by Sisters of Charity.

The Plague spread throughout Europe, where it killed an estimated 75 million people.

A Catholic order of men, called “Alexian Brothers,” gave hospice care to the dying and collected bodies of the dead to give them a Christian burial.

Tragically, recurrences became a normal:

Plague in Paris (1466), killing 40,000;

Plague of San Cristóbal de La Laguna (1582-1583), killing 9,000, almost half the population;

Plague in France (1628-1631), in which, according to historian Geoffrey Parker: “France alone lost almost a million people to plague”;

Amsterdam’s plagues of 1623–1625, 1635–1636, 1655, and 1664, killed 10 percent of its population;

Venice had 22 outbreaks of plague from 1361 to 1528, with its plague of 1576–1577 killing 50,000, a third of its population;

Italian Plague (1629–1631), killing 280,000;

Andalusia Plague (1637), killing 20,000;

Plague of Seville (1647–1652), killing 30,000;

Plague of Naples (1656), killed 150,000, half of the city’s population;

Plague of Vienna (1679), killing 76,000;

Plague of Marseille (1720–1722), killing 200,000;

Plague of Balkans & Eastern Europe (1738), killing 50,000;

Plague of Russia (1654) killing 700,000, and (1770–1772), killing nearly 100,000;

Plague of Persia (1772), killing 2 million.

The City of London was ravaged numerous time by the Plague:

1563,
1593,
1603,
1625,
1636,
1665.

The Great Plague of London 1665-1666 killed over 100,000, a quarter of the city’s population, in just 18 months.

Daniel Defoe, author of the Three Musketeers, compiled a chronology “A Journal of the Plague Year.”

Samuel Pepys described in his diary, June of 1665:

“This day, much against my will, I did in Drury-lane see … houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and ‘Lord have mercy upon us’ writ there – which was a sad sight to me, being the first of that kind that to my remembrance I ever saw …

Houses infected by the Plague had to have a red cross one foot high marked on their door and were shut up – often with the victims inside …”

Pepys continued:

“It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll tobacco to smell to and chaw – which took away the apprehension …

Tobacco was highly prized for its medicinal value, especially against the Plague …

There to my great trouble hear that the plague is come into the City … which … troubles me mightily …

To the office to finish my letters, and then home to bed – being troubled at the sickness, and my head filled also with … how to put my things and estate in order, in case it should please God to call me away – which God dispose of to his own glory.”

The children’s nursery rhyme “Ring-o-ring a rosie,” has many possible origins postulated, one of which is that it contains an oblique reference to the Plague.

On the heels of the Plague was the Great Fire of London in 1666.

During this time, Issac Newton was studying at Cambridge, but the university shut down as a precaution against the Plague.

Being in a sense self-quarantined, he left London for the country. John Conduitt, husband to Newton’s niece, wrote:

“In the year 1666, Newton retired again from Cambridge to his mother in Lincolnshire.

Whilst he was pensively meandering in a garden it came into his thought that the power of gravity (which brought an apple from a tree to the ground) was not limited to a certain distance from Earth, but that this power must extend much further than was usually thought.

‘Why not as high as the Moon’ said he to himself & if so, that must influence her motion & perhaps retain her orbit, whereupon he fell a calculating what would be the effect of that supposition.”

The Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, written by William Stukeley, contained a similar story:

“Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself; occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood.

Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the Earth’s center? Assuredly the reason is, that the Earth draws it.

There must be a drawing power in matter. And the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the Earth must be in the Earth’s center, not in any side of the Earth.

Therefore does this apple fall perpendicularly or towards the center? If matter thus draws matter; it must be proportion of its quantity. Therefore the apple draws the Earth, as well as the Earth draws the apple.'”

Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642, the same year Galileo died.

Newton’s mother was widowed twice, resulting in him being raised by his grandmother.

He was sent off to grammar school and then to Trinity College, Cambridge, 1661.

Newton became a renown mathematician and a natural philosopher.

He formulated the three laws of motion, which aided in advancement of the discipline of dynamics.

Newton was honored to occupy the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, 1669, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1672.

He was given the position of Master of the Mint, 1699, and in 1701, entered Parliament.

In addition to discovering the laws of universal gravitation, Newton was a discoverer of calculus.

He helped develop it into a comprehensive branch of mathematics.

He constructed one of the first practical reflecting telescopes.

Using a prism, Newton demonstrated that a beam of light contained all the colors of the rainbow.

He laid the foundation for the great law of energy conservation and developed the particle theory of light propagation.

In 1703, Sir Issac Newton became the President of the Royal Society, and served in that position until his death.

Contemporaries of Newton during the era of Scientific Revolution were:

Edmund Halley, English astronomer – “Halley’s Comet”;

Robert Boyle, English chemist;

Christopher Wren, English architect;

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician;

Montesquieu, French philosopher;

King Louis XIV, Sun King of France;

Johann Sebastian Bach, German composer;

Rembrandt, Dutch painter;

Abel Tasman, Dutch navigator – “Tasmania”;

John Bunyan, English Baptist author;

Cotton Mather, Puritan Massachusetts leader;

William Penn, Quaker Pennsylvania founder; and

Edward Teach – the pirate “Blackbeard.”

Isaac Newton lived during tumultuous times in England:

English Civil War, 1642-1651;

beheading of King Charles I, 1649;

English Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, 1649-1658;

Richard Cromwell, 1658-1659;

Restoration of the Monarchy with King Charles II, 1660-1685;

King James II, 1685-1688;

King William and Queen Mary, 1689-1702;

Queen Anne, 1702-1714;

King George I, 1714-1727.

Newton wrote one of the most important scientific books ever, Principia, 1687, in which he stated:

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being …

All variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the ‘Lord God’ …

… This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of His dominion He is wont to be called ‘Lord God’ …

The supreme God exists necessarily, and by the same necessity He exists always and everywhere.”

Newton wrote in the last query of Optics, or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light (1704, London, 1730, 4th edition, quoted in Sullivan, p.125-126):

“Now by the help of these principles, all material things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid particles, above-mentioned, variously associated in the first creation by the counsel of an intelligent agent.

For it became him who created them to set them in order.

And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other origin of the world, or to pretend that it might arise out of a chaos by the mere laws of nature; though being once formed, it may continue by those laws for many ages.”

Newton wrote in Principia, 1687:

“From His true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent and powerful Being; and from His other perfections, that He is supreme, or most perfect.

He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity; He governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done.”

Newton was quoted in Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton by Sir David Brewster (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable and Co., 1855, Vol. II, 354):

“God made and governs the world invisibly, and has commanded us to love and worship him, and no other God; to honor our parents and masters, and love our neighbors as ourselves; and to be temperate, just, and peaceable, and to be merciful even to brute beasts.

And by the same power by which he gave life at first to every species of animals, he is able to revive the dead, and has revived Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who has gone into the heavens to receive a kingdom,

and prepare a place for us, and is next in dignity to God, and may be worshiped as the Lamb of God, and has sent the Holy Ghost to comfort us in his absence, and will at length return and reign over us.”

Sir Isaac Newton wrote in Optics, 1704:

“God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them.”

Sir Isaac Newton devoted more time to the study of Scripture than to science (as cited in Tiner 1975):

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

Newton stated:

“We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever …

Worshiping God and the Lamb in the temple: God, for his benefaction in creating all things, and the Lamb, for his benefaction in redeeming us with his blood.”

The Treacherous World of the 16th Century and How the Pilgrims Escaped It: The Prequel to America’s Freedom

Captivated by Bible prophecy, Newton wrote Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (published in 1733), in which he stated:

“Daniel was in the greatest credit amongst the Jews, till the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

And to reject his prophecies, is to reject the Christian religion.

For this religion is founded upon his prophecy concerning the Messiah.”

He concluded his introductory chapter:

“Daniel is most distinct in order of time, and easiest to be understood, and therefore in those things which relate to the last times, he must be made the key to the rest.”

In his Preface to The Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse (Published 1733), Sir Isaac Newton quoted a letter to Richard Bentley, dated December 10, 1692:

“When I wrote my treatise about our System I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”

Sir Isaac Newton wrote in Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (published 1733):

“The Book of Revelation exhibits to us the same peculiarities as that of Nature …

The history of the Fall of Man — of the introduction of moral and physical evil, the prediction of the Messiah, the actual advent of our Savior, His instructions, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, and the subsequent propagation of His religion by the unlettered fishermen of Galilee, are each a stumbling-block to the wisdom of this world …

… But through the system of revealed truth which this Book contains is, like that of the universe, concealed from common observation, yet the labors of the centuries have established its Divine origin, and developed in all its order and beauty the great plan of human restoration.”

In Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (published 1733), Sir Isaac Newton wrote:

“The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretell times and things, by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets.

By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy also into contempt.

The design of God was much otherwise.

He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testaments, not to gratify men’s curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event; and his own Providence, not the Interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the world.

For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence.”

In Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (published 1733), Newton wrote:

“For the prophets and apostles have foretold that as Israel often revolted and brake the covenant, and upon repentance renewed it, so there should be a falling away among the Christians, soon after the days of the Apostles, and that in the latter days God would destroy the impenitent revolters, and make a new covenant with his people.

And the giving ear to the prophets is a fundamental character of the true church …

… For as the few and obscure Prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were for setting up the Christian religion, which all nations have since corrupted, so the many and clear Prophecies, concerning the things to be done at Christ’s second coming, are not only for predicting but also for effecting a recovery and re-establishment of the long-lost truth, and setting up a kingdom wherein dwells righteousness.

The event will prove the Apocalypse, and this Prophecy, thus proved and understood, will open the old Prophets and all together will make known the true religion, and establish it …

An angel must fly through the midst of heaven with the everlasting Gospel to preach to all nations, before Babylon falls, and the Son of man reaps his harvest.” (referencing the Book of Revelation 14:6)

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy described Sir Isaac Newton:

“Newton himself was a student of Old Testament prophecies and believed in the Scriptures as inerrant guides.”

In his book Chronology, Newton studied the sequence of historical events and inserted a geometric diagram of Solomon’s Temple, giving the lengths of the Temple in relation to the measurement of time.

This was in accordance with the Renaissance view that the Temple was a microcosm of God’s creation embodying the order of the universe.

The Treacherous World of the 16th Century and How the Pilgrims Escaped It: The Prequel to America’s Freedom

Economist John Maynard Keynes purchased all of Newton’s known manuscripts and personal notes at auction.

After studying them, John Maynard Keynes wrote of Newton:

“He regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the Almighty, just as he himself wrapped the discovery of calculus in a cryptogram …

He looked on the whole universe and all that is in it as a riddle, as a secret which could be read by applying pure thought to certain evidence, certain mystic clues which God had laid about the world to allow a sort of philosopher’s treasure hunt.”

Newton (as cited in Tiner 1975):

“Atheism is so senseless. When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”

Newton wrote in a “Short Scheme of the True Religion” (Sir David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, Edinburgh, Thomas Constable and Co., 1855, Vol. II, p. 347-348):

“Opposite to godliness is atheism in profession, and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind, that it never had many professors.

Can it be by accident that all birds, beasts, and men have their right side and left side alike shaped, (except in their bowels); and just two eyes, and no more, on either side of the face; and just two ears on either side of the head; and a nose with two holes; and either two forelegs, or two wings, or two arms on the shoulders, and two legs on the hips, and no more?

Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel and contrivance of an Author?

… Whence is it that the eyes of all sorts of living creatures are transparent to the very bottom, and the only transparent members in the body, having on the outside a hard transparent skin, and within transparent humours, with a crystalline lens in the middle, and a pupil before the lens, all of them so finely shaped and fitted for vision, that no artist can mend them?

Did blind chance know that there was light, and what was its refraction, and fit the eyes of all creatures, after the most curious manner, to make use of it?

These, and suchlike considerations, always have, and ever will prevail with mankind, to believe that there is a Being who made all things, and has all things in his power, and who is therefore to be feared.

… We are, therefore, to acknowledge one God, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, the Creator of all things, most wise, most just, most good, most holy.

We must love him, fear him, honor him, trust in him, pray to him, give him thanks, praise him, hallow his name, obey his commandments, and set time apart for his service, as we are directed in the Third and Fourth Commandments, for this is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous (I John 5:3).

And these things we must not do to any mediators between him and us, but to him alone, that he may give his angels charge over us, who, being our fellow servants, are please with the worship which we give to their God.

And this is the first and the principle part of religion. This always was and always will be the religion of all God’s people, from the beginning to the end of the world.”

Sir Isaac Newton stated:

“There is one God, the Father, ever-living, omnipresent, omniscient, almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus …

To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him.

That is, we are to worship the Father alone as God Almighty, and Jesus alone as the Lord, the Messiah, the Great King, the Lamb of God who was slain, and hath redeemed us with His blood, and made us kings and priests.”

Sir Isaac Newton died MARCH 20, 1727.

He stated (as cited in The Religion of Sir Isaac Newton, Frank E. Manuel, editor, London, Oxford University Press, 1974, p. 112):

“And when you are convinced, be not ashamed to profess the truth.

For otherwise you may become a stumbling block to others, and inherit the lot of those Rulers of the Jews who believed in Christ, but yet were afraid to confess him lest they should be put out of the Synagogue.

… Wherefore, when you are convinced, be not ashamed of the truth, but profess it openly and endeavor to convince your Brother also that you may inherit at the resurrection the promise made in Daniel 12:3, that ‘they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.’

And rejoice if you are counted worthy to suffer in your reputation or any other way for the sake of the Gospel, for then, ‘great is thy reward!'”


Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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