To what results the union of the two professions was liable to lead, may be seen by the example of a learned and famous person, who has left on record the product of his labors in the double capacity of clergyman and physician.
I have had the privilege of examining a manuscript of Cotton Mather's relating to medicine, by the kindness of the librarian of the American Antiquarian Society, to which society it belongs. A brief notice of this curious document may prove not uninteresting.
It is entitled "The Angel of Bethesda: an Essay upon the Common Maladies of Mankind, offering, first, the sentiments of Piety," etc., etc., and "a collection of plain but potent and Approved REMEDIES for the Maladies." There are sixty-six "Capsula's," as he calls them, or chapters, in his table of contents; of which, five--from the fifteenth to the nineteenth, inclusive--are missing. This is a most unfortunate loss, as the eighteenth capsula treated of agues, and we could have learned from it something of their degree of frequency in this part of New England. There is no date to the manuscript; which, however, refers to a case observed Nov. 14, 1724.
The divine takes precedence of the physician in this extraordinary production. He begins by preaching a sermon at his unfortunate patient. Having thrown him into a cold sweat by his spiritual sudorific, he attacks him with his material remedies, which are often quite as unpalatable. The simple and cleanly practice of Sydenham, with whose works he was acquainted, seems to have been thrown away upon him. Everything he could find mentioned in the seventy or eighty authors he cites, all that the old women of both sexes had ever told him of, gets into his text, or squeezes itself into his margin.
Evolving disease out of sin, he hates it, one would say, as he hates its cause, and would drive it out of the body with all noisome appliances. "Sickness is in Fact Flagellum Dei pro peccatis mundi." So saying, he encourages the young mother whose babe is wasting away upon her breast with these reflections:
"Think; oh the grievous Effects of Sin! This wretched Infant has not arrived unto years of sense enough, to sin after the similitude of the transgression committed by Adam. Nevertheless the Transgression of Adam, who had all mankind Foederally, yea, Naturally, in him, has involved this Infant in the guilt of it. And the poison of the old serpent, which infected Adam when he fell into his Transgression, by hearkening to the Tempter, has corrupted all mankind, and is a seed unto such diseases as this Infant is now laboring under. Lord, what are we, and what are our children, but a Generation of Vipers?"
Many of his remedies are at least harmless, but his pedantry and utter want of judgment betray themselves everywhere. He piles his prescriptions one upon another, without the least discrimination. He is run away with by all sorts of fancies and superstitions. He prescribes euphrasia, eye-bright, for disease of the eyes; appealing confidently to the strange old doctrine of signatures, which inferred its use from the resemblance of its flower to the organ of vision. For the scattering of wens, the efficacy of a Dead Hand has been out of measure wonderful. But when he once comes to the odious class of remedies, he revels in them like a scarabeus. This allusion will bring us quite near enough to the inconceivable abominations with which he proposed to outrage the sinful stomachs of the unhappy confederates and accomplices of Adam.
It is well that the treatise was never printed, yet there are passages in it worth preserving. He speaks of some remedies which have since become more universally known:
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