« ForrigeFortsæt »
and all who follow him have but to enlarge and complete the edifice.
The great want of the profession in ancient times was a Christian principle in the community, in the general tone of thought and feeling, to fall upon for support and guidance. How could the profession be highly esteemed when idolatry embruted the ignorant, and philosophy justified to the intelligent infanticide, suicide, and unnatural vices, and questioned the propriety of rearing the feeble or making any effort to remove chronic complaints! A Christian civilization alone prizes human life. This also is the true basis of the healing art. The prime Christian idea, manward, is: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" and Christianity alone recognizes in every human being a neighbor, a person so precious that his life must never be sacrificed unless he has forfeited it by crime to the demands of general justice. This faith alone renders the medical profession a necessity. Let the doctrines of Malthus on population, and of Darwin on the struggle for existence, prevail, and physicians, as a whole, become a pest to the world. Of course physicians should not be influenced by this selfish consideration to decide against atheism, or a belief in a lifeless, soulless divinity, but should indorse only. the truth; still it may be worthy of note that the test of Christ, "By their fruits ye shall know them," in this as in all other respects, demonstrates the truth of his religion.
Heathenism may have had her temples of Esculapius thronged by the sick who could afford to reach them, supported by the voluntary offerings of the people; but if so, the benevolence was spasmodic, intermittent, and so inefficient as to be scarcely noticed in all her literature; and there can be no doubt that her feeble children were generally, as among savages, left to perish; old age was not tenderly provided for; the insane wandered about or were confined without systematic care; and the average length of human life was far lower than In these days, through medical science and the information of the people, and the tone of thinking and belief on these subjects due to the teachings of Christ, life is both improved and lengthened; human beings live more in the same time and also more time; and thus each one has a better and longer probation. The gigantic physical evils of society are exposed
and attacked; and though much remains to be done, the era of hope has succeeded the reign of despair.
The modern improvements of the profession are due principally to those modern institutions, medical schools. A thoroughly trained body of physicians cannot be obtained in any other way.
Solitary study would only betray the imbecility of one who should depend upon it. Study with a single preceptor will not usually make a full scholar. Single teachers are necessarily limited in views, and opinionated. Besides, every district of country has its peculiar nosology and therapeutics. What is applicable in one place is injurious in another. Nor can books supply the place of living teachers. Books are the petrified voices of past thoughts. They are at best photographic portraits; not men. They have but one expression. They make no reply when questioned. They are far more suggestive to friends, who have heard the voice, than to strangers. The mature mind may gather profit from them, by supplying deficiencies, correcting errors, rejecting falsehoods; but the immature are as often led by them into error as into truth. A book alone is a feeble thing without a living ministry.
The medical literature of modern times is rich and full, mostly the product of professors in medical schools, and of great use to those properly trained to understand it. Human life in all its stages, from conception to death, in all its infinite diversity and conflicts, has been studied more within the past one hundred years, in Christian countries, than ever before. While due credit is given to ancient times, it is only the truth to claim that the severe science of modern times and the enlightened Christian benevolence of the last two-centuries, have together elevated the medical profession more, if possible, than the general average of society.
The medical profession in America has been compelled to struggle with peculiar evils, which it has creditably mastered, principally through the influence of medical schools. political institutions of all Christian countries may be grouped into three grand divisions, each of which exerts a specific influence on the profession of medicine: Absolutism, Aristocracy, and Freedom. The first may be seen in such nations as Russia and Austria, the second in Great Britain and Germany, and
the last in our own country. Where absolutism prevails the training, character, privileges, and duties of a physician are fixed, and cannot be disregarded. Under the mixed system of aristocracy the power of the law is nearly as strong, and any deficiency is supplied by the omnipotent pressure of caste; and though quackery may be allowed to exist and even thrive, as in Great Britain, it must ever have the disgrace of open irregularity and vulgarity.
In the perfect freedom of the profession America stands alone among the great nations. The profession has therefore in this country peculiar obstacles and peculiar advantages. Whether on the whole it is better situated or not, is a question that will be answered largely according to the temperament of the inquirers. Viewed however in the serene light of impartiality, there can be little doubt that those who have the strongest faith in truth will decide that the greatest amount of liberty that men will properly use, and a little more to discipline them, is the best.
The medical profession in this country are obliged to depend upon their own merits. This has rendered them alert, energetic, enterprising. It has led them to the establishment of medical schools and associations and periodicals of a high character. That they have met with extraordinary success is universally conceded. The standard of the profession, and the character of original medical works in this country, are of the first rank.
It is questionable, however, whether the profession has not hitherto been too dignified and retiring, and has not neglected the proper means to make its claims understood by the whole community, and particularly by the other professions. Were they understood, could it be possible that clergymen, and in a very few instances lawyers, with their titles appended to their names, would recommend secret medicines-the most of which are either alcoholic mixtures seducing many into drunkenness, or dangerous drugs, or mere innoxious mixtures, to cheat the ignorant and suffering out of their money? The recommendation of quack medicines is a breach of courtesy to one of the most ancient, honorable, and philanthropic of the professions; a profession as old as that of the clergy, into which every irregular practitioner "has climbed up some other way" if he
claims connection with it; a profession bound by a traditional code of observances rigidly honorable to protect innocence and relieve suffering. When a true physician discovers, or thinks he has discovered some new remedy, or the hitherto latent cause of any malady, or any fact or principle bearing on his science or art, he does not, like an alchemist of the dark ages, bury his discovery in an anagram, nor, like an inventor, enter his caveat in the Patent Office and obtain exclusive right to use it, nor send out a mixture mysteriously labeled in bottles or boxes, to be swallowed indiscriminately by human beings irrespective of age, ailment, or temperament, but he publishes it to all the profession, and makes it a part of the common stock by which pain is to be alleviated and life prolonged. Thus has the profession been raised to its present glory. There is not a discovery or an invention made in or out of the profession that by any way becomes known to an honorable member of it, that is not converted into common property. All new methods, regular and irregular, are fairly tested. A profession based on such a foundation should take the proper means to make its character known; it should not avoid the light, for its deeds are good.
The medical and theological professions have a natural bond of union. They were once united; they should always be friendly and co-operate with each other. In the investigation of science it is first necessary to divide, but ultimately necessary to recombine. The physician deals primarily with the body, but also necessarily with the soul. With the clergyman the conditions are simply reversed. Both are together attracted toward the broad field of metaphysics. Neither should be ignorant of the other. Either studied alone leads inevitably to erroneous theory and to dangerous practice.
The present success and vitality of medical study and practice is not therefore primarily nor chiefly due to the cultivation of science. Science alone is based only on curiosity and the love of truth. Curiosity alone might even lead to reckless experimentation with man, individually and in organized bodies, to test some of the innumerable theories of social life suggested to the fruitful imagination. The love of truth leads. merely to a thorough investigation of the facts and laws of existence. Nor is the personal wish for longevity and dread
of death, superadded to the above, sufficient to afford a reasonable basis to the immense efforts made in modern times for the improvement of the condition of man. There must be a native profound regard for the welfare of man, as a thing essentially and always desirable. This is furnished alone by Christianity.
Nothing therefore so triumphantly illustrates the fortunes of Christianity as the invisible, all-permeating spirit of modern times toward progress and improvement. It seems to be a recognized axiom that evils must be exposed and combated and annihilated. Whether in the form of servitude, ignorance, error, feebleness of body or mind, it is instinctively felt to be an enormity that must be removed. The insane must be made rational, the idiotic must be enlightened, the ignorant must be educated, slaves, though contented, must be emancipated, licentiousness must be prevented, the feeble must be reared into strength, and the superstitions of ages must be exposed and removed. It is the spirit of Christ that is the unseen cause of this mighty upheaval. It is the Gospel that promises "the tree of life for the healing of the nations." Thus the missionary spirit operates far wider than through its own acknowledged agencies, and it will yet be found the only one principle competent to animate the whole man.
Medicine, therefore, must embrace in its investigations the laws of mind as well as of matter; it must deal with the soul as well as with the body, and in so doing it will continue to advance in modern times much more rapidly than in the past. A horizon far broader, and aims much higher than those of Hippocrates, are now presented to every devotee of the healing art.