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Some thirty years ago, after a period of laborious study, I became the House Surgeon of a large Infirmary. In that institution I was enabled to see the practice of seven different doctors, and to compare the results which followed from their various plans of treatment. I soon found that the number of cures was nearly equal amongst them all, and became certain that recovery was little influenced by the medicine given. The conclusion drawn was that the physician could do harm, but that his power for good was limited. This induced me to investigate the laws of health and of disease, with an especial desire to discover some sure ground on which the healing art might safely stand.
The inquiry was a long one, and to myself satisfactory. The conclusions to which I came were extremely simple—amounting almost to truisms; and I was surprised that it had required long and sustained labour to find out such very homely truths as those which I seemed to have unearthed.
Yet, with this discovery came the assurance that, if I could induce my medical brethren to adopt my views, they would deprive themselves of the means of living. Men, like horses or tigers, monkeys and codfish, can do without doctors. Here and there, it is true, that the art and skill of the physician or surgeon can relieve pain, avert danger from accidents, and ward off death for a time; but, in the generality of cases, doctors are powerless. It is the business of such men, however, to magnify their office to the utmost. They get their money ostensibly by curing the sick; but it is clear, that the shorter the illness the fewer will be the fees, and the more protracted the attendance the larger must be the “honorarium.” There is, then, good reason why the medical profession should discourage too close an investigation into truth.
But, outside of this fraternity, there are many men desirous of understanding the principles of the healing art. Many of these have begun by noticing the style of the doctor's education. They find that he is taught in “halls," “ colleges,” and “schools,” for a certain period of time; and then, at about the age of two-and-twenty, he is examined by some experienced men, and, if considered “competent,” he pays certain fees, and is then licensed to practise as physician, As all regular doctors go through this course, it is natural that all should think and act in a common way, and style their doctrines “orthodox.” It is equally certain that to such opinion the majority adhere through life. But it has always happened, that many men and women have aspired to the position of medical professors, without going through the usual career; or, having done so, they have struck out a novel plan of practice, which they designate a new method of cure. These have always been opposed by the “orthodox," and the contest is carried on with varying success, until the general public give their verdict on one side or the other. Into the motives which sway the respective combatants we will not enter; our chief desire being to show that each set is upheld by those who are designated “laymen,” whose education has not been medical. The most intelligent on the heterodox side have been clergymen; and many have been the complaints of “orthodox” doctors, that “the parsons” should patronize, so energetically as they do, medical “ dissenters."
As the “clerk” takes pleasure in examining the therapeu
tical doctrines of his physician, so the medical professor frequently inquires closely into his clergyman's theological views, and feels himself at liberty to accept or oppose them, as the “clerk” adopts or attacks him and his theory and practice. It would, indeed, be disrespectful in the listener not to pay intelligent heed to the discourses which emanate from the pulpit. I have myself listened to the preaching of hundreds of university graduates, and of men who never took a degree, and have noticed that the same diversity of style exists amongst them, as is to be found in medical men. Some order a certain plan of treatment for a soul, which they assert to be grievously affected, and give no reason for what they say or do. Others give their motives for everything which they affirm, and for the plan which they prescribe for
Under the ministry of one of the last I sat for many years. Conspicuous for sound judgment, and for a peculiarly clear oratory, his sermons were to me an intellectual treat. From the exordium, forwards, I followed his words closely, and lost none of his arguments. But I soon became conscious that he never once carried his reasoning to its logical conclusion. Still further, it was manifest that certain things were by him taken for granted; and it was held to be culpable to inquire into the reality of those assumptions. In fine, it was evident, that there was a Bluebeard's closet in the house of God, into which, in the preacher's opinion, it was death to pry!
With the idea which was gradually forced upon my mind, that there was a systematic suppression of the truth in the pulpit, I very carefully searched the Bible, with which I have been familiar from infancy, and upon which, it is asserted, all our faith is founded. At this time, too, a casual inquiry into some ancient cognomens, which have descended to us from remote antiquity, induced me to examine into ancient faiths generally. With this became associated an examination of all religions, and their influence upon mankind.
I found that in every nation there have been, and still are, good men and bad, gentle and brutal, thoughtful and ignorant. That the best men of Paganism-Buddha, for example—did not lose, by comparison, with the brightest light of Christianity; and that such large cities as London and Paris, have as much vice within them as ancient Rome or modern Calcutta. I found, moreover, that there is a culpable colouring in the accounts given by Christian travellers of Pagan countries. The clerical pen rests invariably and strongly upon the bad points of every heathen cult, and contrasts them with the best elements of Christianity. I do not know that it has ever instituted a fair comparison between corresponding characters in each faith. As an illustration of my meaning, let us regard the stern virtue of the Roman Lucretia, who committed suicide, her body having been forcibly defiled by the embraces of another than her husband, even though the ravisher was a prince. She had heard nothing of the Jewish law or Christian gospel, nevertheless she was far better than the wives of the nobles in the courts of Louis the XIV. and XV., who gladly sold themselves and their daughters to the royal lechers. These, unlike the Italian woman, were instructed both in the law and the gospel; they attended one place or another of Christian worship daily or weekly. Nay, if report be true, “the eldest son of the Church,” when he visited the “parc aux cerfs,” made each fresh virgin, victim of his passion, duly say her prayers before she assisted him to commit adultery, and herself permitted fornication! We sympathize with Paul and the early Christian fathers in their denunciations of the Romans and Greeks for obscenities practised in honour of their gods; but, at the same time, we feel sure that, had those apostles and teachers lived in the middle ages, they would have denounced, with greater warmth, the murders which were constantly being perpetrated in honour of Jesus.