Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/347

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MEDICAL PROFESSION IN MODERN THOUGHT.

extraneous titles of honor to give it dignity and respect. Put a doctor in the midst of the wildest savages, and they will respect the "medicine-man," when the lawyer's fluent sophistry and the preacher's pathetic eloquence would not gain them consideration, or even save them from death. Livingstone passed unharmed and esteemed among the savage tribes of Africa under the protection of his medical skill; and Christ himself cultivated the character and functions of a healer of disease, not only because in that capacity he went about doing good, but probably also, as De Quincey surmised, for the secret reason that he thus disarmed the jealousy and suspicion which the ruling authorities might otherwise have felt of the crowds which he drew about him. When the mighty fabric of the Roman Empire, penetrated by internal decay, at last fell to pieces under the successive assaults of the Goths, and the Vandals, and the Huns, many thousand persons were, as Gibbon tells us, taken captive and distributed through the deserts of Scythia; and it is interesting to note what was the relative value of persons under these circumstances. "The skill of an eminent lawyer would excite only their contempt or their abhorrence. The vain sophist or grave philosopher who had enjoyed the flattering applause of the schools was mortified to find that his robust servant was a captive of more value and importance than himself. But the merit of the physician was received with universal favor and respect; the barbarians who despised death might be apprehensive of disease." So long as man deems it the most important thing in the world to him that he should go on living—and he does that commonly as long as he is alive—so long will he hold in favor and esteem him whom he believes able to prevent or to mitigate the suffering of disease, and to keep at bay "the last enemy," death. It has always been so. "Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him; for the Lord hath created him."

Having seen how good a thing is the direct work of relieving suffering by medical art, let me now go on to point out that the training through which you go in order to fit yourselves to do this is excellently well adapted to make the most of your intellect as an instrument of knowledge. It seems to me that no education which is given anywhere, taking it all in all, is better than that through which it is necessary to go in order to become a thoroughly accomplished physician. You are brought into direct contact with the facts of Nature, face to face with them from the beginning of your course; step by step you advance in the practice of observation and reflection, from more simple to more complex phenomena, and so you learn to make the order of your ideas conform gradually to the order of Nature. That is real instruction; moreover, it is instruction at first hand. In intercourse with Nature, sophistry and pretense avail nothing; sincerity, and humility, and veracity of mind, are essential; we must learn patiently her laws, and, learning, obey them, or we ourselves, our con-