Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/346

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function of introductory lecturer by preaching a gospel of pessimism, and inoculating you at the outset of your career with a despair of the littleness of life. Whatever the motive which has made you choose the medical profession as your life-career—and I suppose this has in most cases been the advice or example of others, or perhaps some quite accidental influence; for it is a startling consideration on what little circumstances the great issues of life often turn—you will not, I think, ever have cause to regret your choice if you look to the higher aim of it, and to that which is the proper end of human life. But on that condition only. It is not a profession which one who is ambitious of worldly distinction, or eager to accumulate much riches, should choose. You might, with prudence and industry, get vastly richer on the Stock Exchange or in commerce in a short time than you will probably after the labor of a long life in medical practice; and if you would aspire to gain a peerage or other ornamental thing of that kind, you would have done better to have gone into the army, and to have set before you as an aim, not the saving but the destruction of life; or to the bar, and have sold the highest exertions of your intellect to advocate the cause, whether the cause of the oppressor or of the oppressed, for which you were retained. Peerages don't come our way, and I am heartily glad they do not, for I much fear that there would not be the strength of mind to reject them; that a pitiful social ambition might tempt us to spoil the simple intrinsic nobility of our vocation with the outworn decorations of a childish stage of human progress. If medical practice be pursued as a mere means of money-getting, assuredly it causes the deepest demoralization of him who so uses it, as best things turned to basest ends breed the greatest corruption. He who deliberately applies himself to take the utmost advantage of the suffering and the feebleness of humanity, coming to him for aid in its anguish and its utter helplessness, in order to make his profit—and we may hope there are not many creatures of that vileness in the profession—may have large success in his low aim, but he discovers a meanness and a degradation of nature which are a grievous shame to his kind, and which devils might almost disdain.

But if you look to what is the true end of knowledge and work—to relieve the suffering and to minister to the comfort of man's estate, to lessen the sum of human sorrow on earth—you have chosen a profession which yields the fullest satisfaction to your aim and the largest scope to your work. We learn in order to act, the end of all knowledge being action; and the end of all action is to promote the welfare and the progress of mankind upon earth. In no profession are the opportunities of doing this good work-so great and constant as in ours; to the least of us, as to the greatest, occasions of tender sympathy and patient help occur every hour in the daily routine of our work; and no profession, therefore, rests so little for appreciation upon any adventitious circumstance of time or place, or so little needs