Henry Muddiman: A Remarkable Providence

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While researching the Great Plague of 1665-1666 that struck London, I dug into the UK National Archives and found this gem. It made me smile, and in times like these, we need to share things that make us smile.

“This letter [in header photo above] was written by Henry Muddiman, a journalist who published newsletters and also wrote for the newly founded ‘London Gazette’. The letter is to Joseph Williamson, an important politician in Charles II ‘s government, who was Under Secretary to the Secretary of State.”

Here’s the text of the letter. Bracketed insertions help explain the meaning of the terms therein.

“The total of the burials this week 8252, plague 6978, increase 756, parishes infected 118. This bill [the weekly mortality bill which was a printed list of the number buried in each parish who died of the plague and of other cause] had numbered one more but for a remarkable providence which was thus. A Butcher in Newgate Market being by the Searchers [officials appointed to view dead bodies and to make reports on the cause of death] given out to be dead of the Plague and by the neglect of the Boarders not carried away the same night was laid out in an upper room wither [where] his daughter going next day the father beckoned to her and bade her bring him ale for he was cold. The daughter called up her mother who giving him clothes, the man took a pipe of tobacco eat a rabbit and on Sunday went to Church to give God thanks for his preservation.”

Why recount this letter today? Three reasons.

The first thing that struck me was the numbers. Every day we see or hear the growing numbers of the afflicted or dead around the world. That has happened with every plague in every generation because every person counts, each one matters. In this case, it was the Butcher of Newgate Market. People bought their meat from him.

The second thing I appreciated the expression “a remarkable providence.” In the UK National Archive notes, they describe this as “an intervention from God.” It’s what the Butcher needed during the Great Plague of 1665-1666 and what we need today. We need God’s intervention and deliverance to save lives.

The last thing I loved about this excerpt was the response of the Butcher. See the last three lines of the header photo. He was cold so they gave him clothes. He was thirsty and asked for ale. Then he took his pipe, ate a rabbit, and on Sunday went to church to give thanks to God. His response to “a remarkable providence” was humble gratitude to God.

Since we can’t go to church today because we are on global lockdown, let’s reflect on a similar remarkable providence in Luke 8:49-55.

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

When He arrived at the house of Jairus, He did not let anyone go in with Him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

They laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead. But He took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.

Jesus can show up for us, just like He did for the daughter of Jairus and the Butcher of Newgate Market. He wants us to believe. He has the world’s attention though some are laughing in disbelief. Let us watch what He can do. May the whole world see and believe and respond with humble gratitude.