Nor has the recent history of the United States been less fruitful in lessons. Yellow fever, which formerly swept not only Southern cities but even New York and Philadelphia, has now been almost entirely warded off. Such epidemics as that in Memphis a few years since, and the immunity of the city from such visitations since its sanitary condition was changed by Mr. Waring, are a most striking object lesson to the whole country. Cholera, which again and again swept the country, has ceased to be feared by the public at large. Typhus fever, once so deadly, is now rarely heard of. Curious is it to find that some of the diseases which in the olden time swept off myriads on myriads in every country, now cause fewer deaths than some diseases thought of little account, and for the cure of which people therefore rely, to their cost, on quackery instead of medical science.
This development of sanitary science and hygiene in the United States has also been coincident with a marked change in the attitude of the American pulpit as regards the theory of disease. In this country, as in others, down to a period within living memory, deaths due to want of sanitary precautions were constantly dwelt upon in funeral sermons as ``results of national sin,'' or as ``inscrutable Providences.'' That view has mainly passed away among the clergy of the more enlightened parts of the country, and we now find them, as a rule, active in spreading useful ideas as to the prevention of disease. The religious press has been especially faithful in this respect, carrying to every household more just ideas of sanitary precautions and hygienic living.
The attitude even of many among the most orthodox rulers in church and state has been changed by facts like these. Lord Palmerston refusing the request of the Scotch clergy that a fast day be appointed to ward off cholera, and advising them to go home and clean their streets, - the devout Emperor William II forbidding prayer-meetings in a similar emergency, on the ground that they led to neglect of practical human means of help, - all this is in striking contrast to the older methods.
Well worthy of note is the ground taken in 1893, at Philadelphia, by an eminent divine of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Bishop of Pennsylvania having issued a special call to prayer in order to ward off the cholera, this clergyman refused to respond to the call, declaring that to do so, in the filthy condition of the streets then prevailing in Philadelphia, would be blasphemous.
In summing up the whole subject, we see that in this field, as in so many others, the triumph of scientific thought has gradually done much to evolve in the world not only a theology but also a religious spirit more and more worthy of the goodness of God and of the destiny of man.