"I have since met with a considerable Number of these Africans, who all agree in one story; That in their countrey grandy-many dy of the small-pox: But now they learn this way: people take juice of smallpox and cutty-skin and put in a Drop; then by'nd by a little sicky, sicky: then very few little things like small-pox; and nobody dy of it; and nobody have small-pox any more. Thus, in Africa, where the poor creatures dy of the smallpox like Rotten Sheep, a merciful God has taught them an Infallible preservative. 'T is a common practice, and is attended with a constant success."
What has come down to us of the first century of medical practice, in the hands of Winthrop and Oliver, is comparatively simple and reasonable. I suspect that the conditions of rude, stern life, in which the colonists found themselves in the wilderness, took the nonsense out of them, as the exigencies of a campaign did out of our physicians and surgeons in the late war. Good food and enough of it, pure air and water, cleanliness, good attendance, an anaesthetic, an opiate, a stimulant, quinine, and two or three common drugs, proved to be the marrow of medical treatment; and the fopperies of the pharmacopoeia went the way of embroidered shirts and white kid gloves and malacca joints, in their time of need. "Good wine is the best cordiall for her," said Governor John Winthrop, Junior, to Samuel Symonds, speaking of that gentleman's wife,--just as Sydenham, instead of physic, once ordered a roast chicken and a pint of canary for his patient in male hysterics.
But the profession of medicine never could reach its full development until it became entirely separated from that of divinity. The spiritual guide, the consoler in afliction, the confessor who is admitted into the secrets of our souls, has his own noble sphere of duties; but the healer of men must confine himself solely to the revelations of God in nature, as he sees their miracles with his own eyes. No doctrine of prayer or special providence is to be his excuse for not looking straight at secondary causes, and acting, exactly so far as experience justifies him, as if he were himself the divine agent which antiquity fabled him to be. While pious men were praying--humbly, sincerely, rightly, according to their knowledge-- over the endless succession of little children dying of spasms in the great Dublin Hospital, a sagacious physician knocked some holes in the walls of the ward, let God's blessed air in on the little creatures, and so had already saved in that single hospital, as it was soberly calculated thirty years ago, more than sixteen thousand lives of these infant heirs of immortality. [Collins's Midwifery, p. 312. Published by order of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Boston, 1841.]
Let it be, if you will, that the wise inspiration of the physician was granted in virtue of the clergyman's supplications. Still, the habit of dealing with things seen generates another kind of knowledge, and another way of thought, from that of dealing with things unseen; which knowledge and way of thought are special means granted by Providence, and to be thankfully accepted.
The mediaeval ecclesiastics expressed a great truth in that saying, so often quoted, as carrying a reproach with it: "Ubi tres medici, duo athei,"--"Where there are three physicians, there are two atheists."
It was true then, it is true to-day, that the physician very commonly, if not very generally, denies and repudiates the deity of ecclesiastical commerce. The Being whom Ambroise Pare meant when he spoke those memorable words, which you may read over the professor's chair in the French School of Medicine, "Te le pensay, et Dieu le guarit," "I dressed his wound, and God healed it,"--is a different being from the God that scholastic theologians have projected from their consciousness, or shaped even from the sacred pages which have proved so plastic in their hands. He is a God who never leaves himself without witness, who repenteth him of the evil, who never allows a disease or an injury, compatible with the enjoyment of life, to take its course without establishing an effort, limited by certain fixed conditions, it is true, but an effort, always, to restore the broken body or the shattered mind. In the perpetual presence of this great Healing Agent, who stays the bleeding of wounds, who knits the fractured bone, who expels the splinter by a gentle natural process, who walls in the inflammation that might involve the vital organs, who draws a cordon to separate the dead part from the living, who sends his three natural anaesthetics to the over-tasked frame in due order, according to its need,--sleep, fainting, death; in this perpetual presence, it is doubtless hard for the physician to realize the theological fact of a vast and permanent sphere of the universe, where no organ finds itself in its natural medium, where no wound heals kindly, where the executive has abrogated the pardoning power, and mercy forgets its errand; where the omnipotent is unfelt save in malignant agencies, and the omnipresent is unseen and unrepresented; hard to accept the God of Dante's "Inferno," and of Bunyan's caged lunatic. If this is atheism, call three, instead of two of the trio, atheists, and it will probably come nearer the truth.
I am not disposed to deny the occasional injurious effect of the materializing influences to which the physician is subjected. A spiritual guild is absolutely necessary to keep him, to keep us all, from becoming the "fingering slaves" that Wordsworth treats with such shrivelling scorn. But it is well that the two callings have been separated, and it is fitting that they remain apart. In settling the affairs of the late concern, I am afraid our good friends remain a little in our debt. We lent them our physician Michael Servetus in fair condition, and they returned him so damaged by fire as to be quite useless for our purposes. Their Reverend Samuel Willard wrote us a not over-wise report of a case of hysteria; and our Jean Astruc gave them (if we may trust Dr. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible) the first discerning criticism on the authorship of the Pentateuch. Our John Locke enlightened them with his letters concerning toleration; and their Cotton Mather obscured our twilight with his "Nishmath Chajim."
Yet we must remember that the name of Basil Valentine, the monk, is associated with whatever good and harm we can ascribe to antimony; and that the most remarkable of our specifics long bore the name of "Jesuit's Bark," from an old legend connected with its introduction. "Frere Jacques," who taught the lithotomists of Paris, owes his ecclesiastical title to courtesy, as he did not belong to a religious order.
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