Page images

as of his popular, reputation; and scorn to extend his practice by conniving at quackery, or catering to the empirical vagaries of his patients. Instead of attempting to supplant his competitors by artifice or fraud, by malign insinuations, or sneers at their mistakes, he will treat them, on all occasions, with the respect that is due to them, and rely for success not so much upon subverting their reputation, as upon his own assiduity and skill. Where he has perpetrated a wrong, he will not be ashamed, on discovering it, to acknowledge the offence, and make every reparation in his power.* He will be careful to observe the established etiquette of the order; and avoid infringing that code of ethics which, though unwritten, is well understood, and the inflexible maintenance of which, even in its apparently trivial provisions, is of vital importance to the dignity and success of the profession. All this, and much more than this, a physician under the predominant influence of true piety will do, not because his interest will be promoted by it, nor simply because it is his duty to do it, but also because it is the very course to which his feelings prompt him, and which he finds his happiness in pursuing. That a physician of this character will ordinarily escape many of the annoyances and grievances which others encounter, and that when they do occur he will be better prepared to endure them, is too evident to stand in need of argument. I do not hesitate, therefore, to adduce the salutary influence of religion upon the temper, as a reason why medical men should give their early attention to it.

A still weightier motive may be found in the fact, that religion imparts the spirit and fosters the habit of prayer; and no class of men stand in more need of Divine illumination than physicians.

*There is a striking illustration of this recorded in the life of the celebrated Dr. Cheyne. He describes his "Fluxionum Methodus Inversa," which had procured his election to the Royal Society, in 1705, as having been brought forth in ambition and bred up in vanity. "My defence of that work," he adds, "against the learned and acute Mr. Abraham De Moivre, being written in a spirit of levity and resentment, I most sincerely retract, and wish undone, so far as it is personal or peevish, and ask him and the world pardon for it; as I do for the defence of Dr. Pitcairn's Dissertations and the New Theory of Fevers, against the late learned and ingenious Dr. Oliphant. I heartily condemn and detest all personal reflections, all malicious and unmannerly terms, and all false and unjust representations, as unbecoming gentlemen, scholars, and Christians; and disprove and undo both performances, as far as in me lies, in every thing that does not strictly and barely relate to the argument."



The Supreme Being challenges the power of healing as one of his prerogatives: "I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal." (Deut. xxxii. 39.) "Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases." It were well for physicians to bear this in mind-to remember that without God's blessing they may be baffled by the simplest diseases; with it, they may cope with the most intricate and malignant. It derogates nothing from the dignity and utility of the science, to assert its dependence upon Him in whom all creatures "live, and move, and have their being." Who should invoke the Divine guidance, if not they to whose guardianship the lives and health of communities are entrusted? How delicate, how arduous, how responsible, their duties! Consider the endless idiosyncrasies of the human constitution—the variety and subtlety of diseases the haste with which, in many instances, it is necessary to determine upon the treatment—and the consequent liability even of the most accomplished practitioners, from these and other causes, to fall into fatal mistakes. The life of a fellow-being, and the earthly happiness of a family, may be suspended upon their decision of a question so nicely balanced that they shrink from deciding it either way. The load of anxiety they sometimes feel in these circumstances must well nigh crush them to the earth. The image of their patient follows them like their shadow; it puts them upon a reexamination of the authorities in their libraries; it throws a gloom over their fire-side enjoyments; it sits beside their couch at night; it makes them feel, for the time, that all the emoluments and honors of the profession are no equivalent for its trials. Now what saith the Scripture? "If any man lack wisdom, LET HIM ASK OF GOD, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." A physician, in the exigency supposed, will hail the least glimmer of light from any earthly source; shall he shut his mind to the light that comes from Heaven? Is not the wisdom from above as good as the wisdom of this world? Or does he who drinks with such eagerness from the turbid streams, compromise his dignity by going to the fountain?—It is gratifying to know that there are so many in the profession in the present day who fully appreciate this duty. I shall cite only a single example, that of a man whose celebrity as a physician, a scholar, and a Christian, entitles his opinions to the highest respect-I mean,

the late Dr. John Mason Good. His biographer, Dr. Olinthus Gregory,a man of kindred spirit, and equally distinguished in the literary world,-makes this statement respecting him: "The sympathy he manifested for his patients was of the highest order. When he prescribed, he was in the habit of praying for Divine direction; on administering a medicine himself, he was often known to utter a short, ejaculatory prayer; and in cases where a fatal issue was inevitable, he most scrupulously avoided the cruel delusion too common on such occasions, but with the utmost delicacy and feeling announced his apprehensions." Among his papers there was found, under date of July 27th, 1823, a Form of Prayer, 'which,' he says, 'I purpose to use, among others, every morning, so long as it may please God that I shall continue in the exercise of my profession, and which is here copied out, not so much to assist my own memory, as to give a hint to many who may perhaps feel thankful for it when I am removed to a state where personal vanity can have no access, and the opinion of the world can be no longer of any importance. I should wish it to close the subsequent editions of my Study of Medicine.' This prayer is as fol


"O thou great bestower of health, strength, and comfort! grant thy blessing upon the professional duties in which this day I may engage. Give me judgment to discern disease, and skill to treat it; and crown with thy favor the means that may be devised for recovery: for, with thine assistance, the humblest instrument may succeed, as, without it, the ablest must prove unavailing.

"Save me from all sordid motives; and endow me with a spirit of pity and liberality towards the poor, and of tenderness and sympathy towards all; that I may enter into the various feelings by which they are respectively tried; may weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice.

"And sanctify thou their souls, as well as heal their bodies. Let faith and patience, and every Christian virtue they are called upon to exercise, have their perfect work: So that, in the gracious dealings of thy Spirit and of thy Providence, they may find in the end, whatever that end may be, that it has been good for them to have been afflicted.

"Grant this, O Heavenly Father, for the love of that adora

ble Redeemer, who while on earth went about doing good, and now ever liveth to make intercession for us in heaven. Amen."*

Happy would it be for themselves and for society, if all physicians were in the habit of maintaining this daily and intimate communion with Heaven.

I have repeatedly hinted at the value of religion to a physician, as greatly enhancing his means of usefulness; but this point is too important to be passed over in an incidental way. My remarks upon it, however, must necessarily be brief.

The social position of the medical profession presents us with one aspect of this subject. In this view the elements of power are largely accumulated in the hands of physicians. They have, as a class, numbers, education, popular respect and confidence, and maintain that kind of intercourse with society which affords the best opportunities for acquiring and exerting a potent influence for good or evil. While this observation holds true as to large cities, it is still more applicable to those who reside in small towns and villages; and it is among these that the great body of the profession are scattered. The influence of a physician in a situation of this sort, is not simply that of one respectable and intelligent citizen. It is the influence, frequently, of the leading man in the place as to literature and science, and of one who enjoys the confidence and affection of the community beyond any other individual in it, unless it may be the clergyman, and he is by no means an exception in all cases. It is highly honorable to the profession, that they are usually disposed to employ their great influence on the side of virtue and the general good. No class of citizens are more prompt, generous, or efficient in abating social evils, establishing public charities, fostering schools, and promoting judicious schemes for the substantial improvement of society. Instances of an opposite kind sometimes occur, it is true. There are not wanting examples of physicians who have combined with the genius of Paracelsus, his drunkenness and debauchery, and whose capabilities of mischief have furnished an apt illustration of the sentiment, publicly uttered some sixteen years ago, in the hearing of the preacher, by a distinguished professor of chemistry and geology, at the eastward, that, while "no man, except a clergyman, can do so much

*Good's Life, pp. 273, 4.

good as a physician, no man whatever can do as much harm." Instances of this kind, however, are excrescences upon the profession,-its wens and carbuncles,-which are not to be taken into the account in forming a general estimate of its worth. But while the high character of the profession for humanity, public spirit, liberality, and other noble attributes, is cordially conceded, it will not be denied that true piety would establish all these virtues upon a firmer basis, and impart others of a still more benign and elevated character. This is its peculiar and godlike prerogative-to enhance whatever is honorable and praiseworthy, and to supply endowments which neither nature nor education can confer. One of the biographers of the late Dr. Ramsay says of him:-"The great concerns to which he constantly directed his reflections were, the improvement of the moral, social, intellectual, and physical state of his country. To disseminate the doctrines of the Bible, to promote public schools and colleges, and to carry commerce to every man's door by means of artificial roads and canals, and the channels which nature formed, were objects that lay near his heart.. For forty years the press teemed with the productions. of his pen, designed exclusively to elevate the spirit, taste, and virtues of his fellow-citizens, and to improve, beautify, and feli-citate their common country."* I shall not attempt to show how far the character of this accomplished historian and physician was moulded by religion, and how far by other agencies. It may be safely left to your candor to decide whether religion did not impart an additional lustre to his character, and furnish a powerful incentive to his patriotic and self-sacrificing exertions for the good of his country. So it will usually be. The man who loves to "disseminate the doctrines of the Bible," will not be backward in "promoting public schools and colleges, carrying commerce to every man's door," and assisting in every suitable plan designed to "elevate the spirit, taste, and virtues of his fellow-citizens." And it is on this ground precisely, to wit, that religion is adapted to enlarge to such a degree their means of usefulness as citizens, that I am now urging its claims upon the medical profession.

[ocr errors]

But we may contemplate the physician's opportunities of doing good, in another and much more important aspect..

*Rees' Cyclopedia.


« EelmineJätka »