Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

mon interest in such solemn announcements as these:—“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be danıned.” No eminence of gifts, no splendor of reputation, can shelter from the wrath of an offended God, the soul that goes unpardoned into eternity. He has provided salvation for our race at an infinite cost, and offered it to us without money and without price.” Our happiness, not less than our duty, requires us to accept of it. For we can have no solid peace of mind while in a state of alienation from God. He is the only adequate portion of the soul. It is not possible for avarice or ambition to satisfy its cravings. The entire resources of the globe, if placed at its disposal, would no more meet its demands than an April shower would convert the desert of Zahara into a verdant and fruitful province. A monarch, as illustrious for his wisdom as for the prosperity of his kingdom and the glory of his reign, once tried the experiment which men in humbler spheres have been trying since the apostacy of Adam, of seeing how far the world would go in satisfying the instincts of a rational being; and after levying a tribute upon universal nature, and putting art to its loftiest achievements, to furnish whatever could charm the senses or gratify the taste, he surveyed the whole, and, with a frankness worthy of his rank and station, exclaimed—“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" So it must always be. It is no less the law of our intellectual constitution than the law of revelation, that man shall find true and substantial happiness in God only. He that “sinneth against God wrongeth his own soul.” And they who forsake the fountain of living waters, for broken cisterns, must suffer the pangs of an eternal and quenchless thirst. Religion claims the attention of medical men, then, in common with the rest of mankind, because it is indispensable to the forgiveness of sin, and the salvation of the soul.

It has been often said that medicine, as a profession, was favorable to infidelity. And the very phrase Religio Medici, was once synonymous with irreligion. This imputation has been repelled with great energy by many medical writers. “Medicine," says Dr. Gregory, “of all professions, should be the least suspected of leading to impiety. An intimate acquaintance with the works of nature elevates the mind to the most sublime conceptions of the Supreme Being; and at the same

a

9

а

a

time dilates the heart with the most pleasing prospects of Providence. The difficulties that must necessarily attend all deep inquiries into a subject so disproportionate to the human faculties, should not be expected to surprise a physician, who in his daily practice is involved in perplexity and darkness, even in subjects exposed to the examination of his senses.” Thus we should all reason à priori on the subject. If

“ An undevout astronomer is mad," so, one would think, must be an undevout physician. Galen, it is said, was converted from atheism by the sight of a human skeleton. The dead man's frame weighed more with him than the arguments of the living. He must be a stubborn skeptic who can hold out against a skeleton. Still more stubborn must be he who can explore the mysteries of the entire animal economy, under the guidance of modern science, without seeing every where the impress of a God. This à priori presumption is, to a gratifying extent, confirmed by fact. Infidelity is far less prevalent among physicians than it was formerly: and no inconsiderable proportion of the names which grace the recent records of the profession, are adorned with the lustre which genuine piety alone can impart.

It has, however, been admitted, that there are facts in the earlier annals of the science, which seem to countenance the charge under consideration, that medical studies involve a lurking tendency to infidelity. I use the expression “seem," because in so far as the science itself is concerned, the imputation must be groundless. The principles of every science were established by the Divine Author of Christianity, and cannot, therefore, conflict with any of its doctrines or requirements. The legitimate tendency of all scientific investigations, is to lead the mind up to the Great First Cause, and to predispose it to bow to His mandates, whenever and howsoever they may be communicated. But that these studies are often perverted from their appropriate end, no one can deny. And this has perhaps happened as frequently in medicine as in any other science. Various reasons have been assigned for this fact.

1. There is the absorbing nature of the demands the profession makes upon the time and attention of its votaries, who are thereby deprived (as they suppose of the opportunity for examining the subject of religion, and indeed rendered averse to it.

2. Successful scientific researches are apt, unless regulated

6

by religious considerations, to inspire men with inflated views of the sufficiency of human reason on all subjects; and thus, from questioning the necessity, they may easily come to deny the fact, of a Divine revelation.

3. The habit of reasoning from induction and analogy which belongs to every scientific physician, may unfit them, in a measure, for examining with impartiality the argument from miracles which constitutes so material a portion of the external evidences of Christianity.*

4. Isay it with regret, but nothing has impressed my own mind more unpleasantly, in the little attention I have given to medical works, than the want of a distinct recognition of the Crea

а tor's power and agency, on occasions when it would not only be natural for the writer to refer to the Deity, but even when the idea was evidently in his own mind, and could not be suppressed without an effort. “The student of medicine," says an ingenious writer," is often called on to bring his gift and deposit it, like the Athenian, on the altar of an “unknown god.' A cloudy image, entitled 'nature,' is raised in the mind, to which high attributes of power, wisdom and goodness are often ascribed.”+ He might have added that the tendency of this habit, if persisted in, must be, in minds peculiarly constituted, to create a vague impression which may ultimately grow into a conviction, that this obscure divinity, "nature,” is really the only Deity.

5. Physicians are conversant with those scenes of suffering which, above any others, appeal to our sympathies. These scenes do not necessarily blunt their humane feelings, but they can hardly fail of producing a decisive effect, for good or evil, upon their moral sensibilities. It may be worthy of consideration, whether familiarity with such spectacles has not sometimes assisted in fortifying them against the requisitions of Christianity, and even hastening them into infidelity.

6. The exposure of young men, while in training for the profession, to the temptations of large cities, and the consequent formation of dissolute habits, has, no doubt, been a hot-bed of skepticism.

7. The neglect of divine worship on the Sabbath, and of the

* See Gisborne on Men, vol. ii, 194.

“Is Medical Science Favorable to Skepticism ?" An Essay, by James W. Dale, M. D.

66

other means of grace, has, it is to be feared, contributed in no small degree to foster infidelity among physicians. I shall enter into no argument on this point. It will probably be conceded, on all hands, that physicians frequently absent themselves from the sanctuary when no call of necessity or mercy pleads for it; that the occasional neglect of the house of God easily glides into a habit; and that this habit tends, by a natural process, to impair all suitable sense of religion, and to generate infidelity.

Such are some of the grounds on which the prevalence of skepticism among medical men has been explained. They show that however guiltless the science itself may be of the infidel tendency ascribed to it, there is real danger in the path of the physician. They certainly furnish a strong argument in favor of an early and persevering attention to the claims of religion, on the part of the profession. This would not only secure them from the ruinous illusions of infidelity, but furnish a triumphant vindication of their art from the stigma which has been unjustly affixed to it.

In estimating the value of true religion to medical men, we must take into account its salutary influence upon the temper. I design no reflection upon the profession by this remark; it is poets, not physicians, who, according to the proverb, constitute the “genus irritabile.” The profession, as such, is probably not more infested with evil tempers than the other learned professions; and, if the fact were otherwise, it could excite no surprise; for physicians are certainly subjected to very great trials of temper. These proceed mainly from two sources—their patients and their professional brethren. The whims and caprices of the sick, and their officious relatives and neighbors, are brought to bear upon the physician in full force. He is blamed for his tardiness in responding to their call, when, perhaps, he stopped to prescribe for a patient whose life was in imminent peril. He comes too early or too late-too often, or not often enough; he gives the wrong medicines, or in wrong doses; he orders phlebotomy where calomel would answer, and administers a bolus where he should apply a cataplasm; his treatment differs from that of his predecessor—or, perhaps, accords with it-and in either case it is erroneous; his patient recovers, but he owes his recovery less to his skill than to a good constitution-or he dies, and then, by common consent, he has put him

1

in his grave. I am not denying that physicians may, and often do err in all these ways, nor that complaints like these may, in many cases, be too well founded; but it is no less true that people are apt, in dealing with them, to be unreasonable, capricious, unfeeling and reckless of their professional reputation. It is trials of this sort to which I am alluding in this connection.

And yet even these are not always their worst trials. David, in speaking of the treachery of his confidential counsellor, Ahithophel, says—"For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then could I have borne it; neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: but it was thou, a man, mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.” (Ps. 55: 12, 13.) So it is

( with physicians often. Their “worst foes are those of their own household.” They have to encounter not merely an open and generous rivalry; not merely the assaults of avowed and, perhaps, malignant hostility; the former of which no liberal mind would deprecate, while the latter usually neutralizes itself, but the arts of a secret envy, which no sagacity can foil and no merit withstand. What these arts are it is not my place to specify. The fact is all that is essential to my argument. And I adduce the fact that physicians are exposed to peculiar trials of tempor, as well from the unprofessional conduct of their brethren, as from the inconsiderateness, caprice and resentment of their patients, as a proof of the great importance of personal religion to them. Religion, it is true, cannot secure them an exemption from these vexations; although, by its various influences upon the character and reputation, it may contribute to lessen their number. But it can greatly enlarge their capacity of endurance, and fit them to bear what, without its aid, would be intolerable. The temper föstered by religion -the meek, patient, forgiving, benevolent, ingenuous temper everywhere inculcated in the Bible, not simply as a graceful appendage of Christianity, but as one of its essential elementsis the best safeguard a physician can have against the wrongs we have been contemplating, and his best antidote to them when they are inflicted. A man with this temper will be uniformly just to his brethren and his patients. He will be slow to give, and equally slow to take, offence. He will be free from envy and suspicion, and will put the best construction upon all doubtful passages. He will be as jealous of his professional

« EelmineJätka »