Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

actual disease the mercenary armies of Switzerland. This quality would seem, in our population, to be supplanted by an eager, and often a criminal, desire for gain; and hence contentment is enjoyed wherever on the wide earth wealth may be accumulated, and to which doubtlessly may be referred much of the financial trouble under which we are now groaning, and which criminal eagerness for gain, if not checked, threatens demoralization and wide-spread calamity.

The history of the struggle for independent national existence furnishes another memorable example of how far results may transcend original designs, and how movements in their inception fall short of foreshadowing the ends at which they may ultimately aim, and which may be attained, or in other words assure us that “there is a divinity which shapes our ends.” The first year of this eventful struggle saw our ancestors as British subjects, battling for their rights under the British constitution, which was simply an effort to arrest the execution of laws which were felt to be discriminating, unjust, and tyrannical; but, by a comparison of views in the midst of a community of suffering, the actors in these scenes were goaded on to cut the Gordian knot by a stroke for liberty to govern themselves in an independent condition.

This much, it has been hoped, might not be considered inappropriate to our present surroundings in this Centennial year, but we may not dwell, however pleasant, on our country's history. From this we may be presumed to turn away with much the same feeling as that which would occur to the man of science when leaving the consideration of the subject of the attraction of gravitation, the hond which binds the solar system together, to the consideration of the more humble but more intimately related subject of molecular or cohesive attraction. Wbatever interest we may feel in, or attachment we may have to, the larger and more extended subject of citizenship, and whatever just pride we may entertain for our country, there is suggested, by the present meeting, a line of thought relating more immediately to our connections as they exist in the brotherhood of medicine. Methinks I hear a suggestion, you are in danger of leaving Hamlet out. I ask permission to reply, that professional position is so far involved in the beneficent protection afforded by our government, that both patriotism and philanthropy would forbid less than has been said, and further “ Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto."

Unless there is contained in the oft-repeated truism, that "the proper study of mankind is man," a most egregious falsehood, we may certainly claim that ours is a legitimate calling. We are

but acquiescing, and acting in obedience to the old Greek injunction, "Gnothi Seauton," which, although directed more particularly to mental and moral self-knowledge, may, without straining, be regarded as complied with by studying the individual for the purpose of knowing the species.

What then is the province of the physician? We are indiscriminately called doctor and physician, the two names clearly indicating different functions, and not unfrequently requiring different orders of endowment; but clearly the function of physician, a student of nature, must be antecedent in time to the exercise of the function of doctor or teacher.

The objects had in view by the aspirants to the medical profession are various, but they may be mainly comprehended under three classes, viz.: first, as an occupation; secondly, as a profession, and thirdly, as an office; perhaps in our country a large majority of the aspirants to medical lionors adopt this line of life as an occupation, the avocation by which they expect to support themselves and families. In this respect it has its allurements, for, although less lucrative than some others of the learned professions, examples are not wanting where both a competency and even an aflluence have crowned the effort, and, while the duties are highly arduous, and the demands exacting, the field is nevertheless inviting to many. Another large class are invited and allured to this line of life by a fondness for knowledge, the conscious possession of which affords to many minds the highest gratification. In this class may be found many of the brightest ornaments of our brotherhood, men who are above sordid gain or even the emoluments which to others are the paramount objects of desire. But to a phase of our relation to the community, immeasurably higher than either of these, attention is invited, viz., that of an office; while there is involved in it (or in our relation) the elements of the first definition of an office, viz., " that which is laid upon or taken up for another," it is equally true, that to the medical man is entrusted " a special duty, trust, or charge conferred by authority.” In his oflice of medical adviser he is every day called upon to sit in judgment on some of the most vitally important questions which can affect man; questions of life or death, how often do these confront men in active practice! Moreover, before legal tribunals, what weight attaches to professional opinions! These opinions have been growing in importance ever since the Justinian Code, which, strangely enough, referred all medico-legal questions to the authority of "the learned Hippocrates," and was superseded by the more sensible order to the magistrates, enjoining them in all questions of doubt in criminal cases

to consult the opinions of living medical men. On public occasions these utterances are delivered under the solemn sanctions of an oath, but in the discharge of every-day duty the same weighty questions are constantly recurring. With these solemn responsibilities of our office properly appreciated, what manner of persons ought we to be?

In all official positions it is customary and highly appropriate that the intrant should subscribe to, and ever after act under, the solemn responsibility imposed by the oath, and the priest who ministers at the altar of medicine ought to be pure, and be gove erned by a high sense of the magnitude of the duty entrusted to him, and might profitably be fortified by being brought under the obligation of the sacramentum.

As important to the prosecution of the work assigned us, and to the proper investigation of the questions submitted to our adjudication, it is of singular moment for us to have clear conceptions of our subject-man, whence comes he? what is he? Modern science, falsely so called, has sought to thrust on us an account of man's origin, which neither agrees with the ancient belief of his dignity, nor is in accord with the teachings of inspiration, and which, moreover, is inconsistent with the more lucid deductions of the best thinkers of our own time.

As suggestive of the dignified position of man in the scale of animation assigned to him by the Greeks, it is only necessary to dissect and study the term by which he was described, it being the same word transported, almost unchanged, to our own language, only varied by change of termination. What meaning would a Greek philosopher give to that compound but highly suggestive term, anthropos, composed of the particle ana, up, trepo, to turn, and ops, the countenance, distinctively and preëminently the only animal having power to turn up the countenance, the only being capable of studying and intently beholding the starry heavens, the presumed abode of the supernatural governors of the universe, and rendering to them adoration and worship? Does any one reply that this is superstition, I answer that no more convincing argument for the existence of a Higher Intelligence and of our obligation to Him, aside from the direct teachings of Inspiration, is found, than the wide-spread and almost if not quite universal existence of some rite or ceremony by which that obligation is expressed.

Some modern scientists, claiming to occupy an advanced position, seek to thrust man on us as a highly developed mollusk. The theory of natural selection traces his antecedents back into the geological ages, and suggests that his present perfection has been

attained by a gradual expanding of rudimentary organs, and again by the addition of entirely new ones. That certain variations are allowable under the laws of nature, which may in the progress of generations add efficiency to organs already in existence, is easily demonstrated; but that these changes are capable of destroying the identity of species may well be doubted, or that these variations may reach to the endowing of the purely animal and irrational with rationality and accountability, we insist may be regarded as not only not proven, but as beyond the bounds of possibility.

The belief, based on the Mosaic account, " That on the sixth day God created man, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul,”—for centuries, wherever this doctrine has been enunciated, this has been accepted as the true account, not only because it was the statement of Inspiration, but because it was in accordance with the fundamental truth of science, propounded thousands of years ago by Pythagoras, wlo shares with Thales and Xenophanes the high distinction of starting the problem of physical science, viz., " the study and interpretation of nature as an object governed by unchanging laws,” instead of a variety of personal agencies, as conceived by the religious faith of earlier generations. Shall we accept the modern hypothesis, and thereby be remanded back to the period in the world's history when gods many ruled the universe? when to Jupiter, Neptune, Vulcan, and others were assigned separate and distinct provinces in the world's government? when the minds of those imaginative ages were filled and amused with their fierce rivalries and disgusting intrigues and amours,—can we afford to abandon the inspired teachings above quoted ? Shall we ignore the Pythagorean doctrine? Shall we deny the identity of species ? or rather shall not we accept the conclusion of the well-put argument of Agassiz, when, by careful research and patient investigation, he traces and assigns to each suicceeding era its own distinct classes of animals, and fails to find any approximation to our subject until the introduction of the modern period, and puts forth the claim that at each successive era creative energy was called forth in introducing new species? In the progress of the same argument, the same distinguished naturalist, with considerable sharpness, reproves the inconsistency of asking credit for the discovery of laws, and in the same breath denying the power which has ordained them; thus deifying second causes at the expense of the “uncaused cause of all things.”

Such science must be near akin to the philosophy of the African who replied to the question, "Which do you consider the greatest of the luminaries, the sun or the moon ?" “Oh, the sun or the moon ?

Why, the sun is of very little consequence to our earth, he only comes out in the daytime, when we don't need him, but the moon is of great value to us, she shines at night when most needed."

This effort to divorce science from the Author of all science is not less impious than was the effort of Prometheus to steal fire from the heaven over which Jupiter ruled, and has had its prototype in two efforts, which have passed into history and mythology, the one occurring, according to authentic history, on the plain of Shinar, the other reported to have occurred in Thessaly. History tells us that the effort to erect the tower of Babel was arrested by the direct interposition of Omnipotence, and resulted in the confounding of the language of the builders. Mythology fails to advise us of the fate of those whose impious attempt to scale Olympus was made by piling Pelion on Ossa. A Frenchman of our own century, highly cultured in general science, but especially distinguished as an anatomist, suggests that “a perfect acquaintance with man necessarily presupposes a combination of all that is taught in anatomy, physiology, and psychology, and it is because his anatomy, his physiology, and his moral and intellectual endowments have not been studied by the same class of philosophers, that in the sciences relating to himself so much yet remains to be desired."

While medicine in general will forever be excluded from the physical or exact sciences, on account of that variable factor vitality, some of its component elements are, nevertheless, brought within that category. Says Cruveilhier: “ The facts presented to us in the zoölogical are of a totally different character from those comprised in the physical sciences. Inorganic bodies, in fact, are governed by constant and immutable laws, acting in perfect harmony with each other; but living bodies are subject not only to physical but also to vital laws, the latter of which are constantly struggling against the former. This struggle constitutes life ; death the triumph of the physical over the vital. In consequence, however, of this continual strife, derangements of structure and disorders of function very often occur, and these become more frequent and more complicated as the organization is more highly developed, and the animal more elevated in the scale of being."

To be the spectators and sometimes to be the arbiters in this struggle is our province. By what means shall we afford to the vital forces the most efficient aid ? This is the problem presented for our solution. How shall we most successfully render assistance to the vital power in this assault by the physical ? There is inherent in all organisms endowed with vitality, within the limits assigned by a beneficent Creator, a power competent in many cases to re

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »