Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/June 1891/New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Miracles and Medicine II
XII. MIRACLES AND MEDICINE.
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL.D., L.H. D.,
EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
WE have seen that during the middle ages, while various churchmen, building better than they knew, did something to lay foundations for medical study, the Church authorities, as a rule, did even more to thwart it among the very men who, had they been allowed liberty, would have cultivated it to the highest advantage.
Then, too, we find cropping out everywhere the feeling that, since supernatural means are so abundant, there is something irreligious in seeking cure by natural means: ever and anon we have appeals to Scripture, and especially to the case of King Asa, who trusted to physicians rather than to the priests of Jahveh, and so died. Hence it was that St. Bernard declared that monks who took medicine were guilty of conduct unbecoming to religion. Even the School of Salerno was held in aversion by multitudes of strict churchmen, since it prescribed rules for diet, thereby indicating a belief that diseases arose from natural causes and not from the malice of the devil; moreover, in the medical schools Hippocrates was studied, and he had especially declared that demoniacal possession is "nowise more divine, nowise more infernal, than any other disease": hence it was, doubtless, that Pope Innocent III, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, forbade physicians, under pain of excommunication, to undertake medical treatment without calling in ecclesiastical advice.
Out of this feeling had grown up another practice, which made the development of medicine still more difficult—the classing of scientific men generally with sorcerers and magic-mongers: from this largely rose the charge of atheism against physicians, which ripened into a proverb, Ubi sunt tres medici, ibi sunt duo athei
Magic was so common a charge that many physicians seemed to believe it themselves: in the tenth century Gerbert, afterward known as Pope Sylvester II, was at once suspected of sorcery when he showed a disposition to scientific methods; in the eleventh century this charge nearly cost the life of Constantino Africanus when he broke from the beaten path of medicine; in the thirteenth it gave Roger Bacon, one of the greatest benefactors of mankind, many years of imprisonment, and nearly brought him to the stake; these cases are typical of very many.
Still another charge against physicians who showed a talent for investigation was that of Mohammedanism and Averroism; and Petrarch stigmatized Averroists as "men who deny Genesis and bark at Christ."
The effect of this wide-spread ecclesiastical opposition was, that for many centuries the study of medicine was confined mainly to the lowest order of practitioners. There was, indeed, one orthodox line of medical evolution during the later middle ages; St. Thomas Aquinas insisted that the forces of the body are independent of its physical organization, and that therefore these forces are to be studied by the scholastic philosophy and the theological method instead of by researches into the structure of the body; as a result of this, mingled with survivals of various pagan superstitions, we have in anatomy and physiology such doctrines as the increase and decrease of the brain with the phases of the moon, the ebb and flow of human vitality with the tides of the ocean, the use of the lungs to fan the heart, the function of the liver as the seat of love, and that of the spleen as the center of wit.
Closely connected with these methods of thought was the doctrine of signatures: it was reasoned that the Almighty must have set his sign upon the various means of curing disease which He has provided: hence it was held that bloodroot, on account of its red juice, is good for the blood; liverwort, having a leaf like the liver, cures diseases of the liver; eyebright, being marked with a spot like an eye, cures diseases of the eyes; celandine, having a yellow juice, cures jaundice; bugloss, resembling a snake's head. cures snake-bite; red flannel, looking like blood, is supposed to cure blood-taints, and therefore rheumatism; bear's grease, being taken from an animal thickly covered with hair, is recommended to persons fearing baldness.
Still another injury was wrought by this theological pseudoscience. One of the ideas it evolved was that of disgusting the demon with the body which he tormented: hence the patient was made to swallow or apply to himself various unspeakable ordures, with such medicines as the livers of toads, the blood of frogs and rats, fibers of the hangman's rope, and ointment made from the body of gibbeted criminals. Many of these were survivals of heathen superstitions, but theologic reasoning wrought into them an orthodox significance. As an example of this mixture of heathen with Christian magic, we may cite the following from a mediæval medical book as a salve against "nocturnal goblin visitors": "Take hop plant, wormwood, bishopwort, lupine, ash-throat, henbane, harewort, viper's bugloss, heathberry plant, cropleek, garlic, grains of hedgerife, githrife, and fennel. Put these worts into a vessel, set them under the altar, sing over them nine masses, boil them in butter and sheep's grease, add much holy salt, strain through a cloth, throw the worts into running water. If any ill tempting occur to a man, or an elf or goblin night visitors come, smear his body with this salve, and put it on his eyes, and cense him with incense, and sign him frequently with the sign of the cross. His condition will soon be better."
As to surgery, this same amalgamation of theology with survivals of pagan beliefs continued to check the evolution of medical science down to the modern epoch. The nominal hostility of the Church to the shedding of blood withdrew, as we have seen, from surgical practice the great body of her educated men; hence surgery remained down to the fifteenth century a despised profession, its practice continued largely in the hands of charlatans, and down to a very recent period the name "barber-surgeon" was a survival of this. In such surgery, the application of various ordures relieved fractures; the touch of the hangman cured sprains; the breath of a donkey expelled poison; friction with a dead man's tooth cured toothache.
The enormous development of miracles in the Church continued during century after century, and here probably lay the main causes of hostility between the Church on the one hand and the better sort of physicians on the other; namely, in the fact that the Church supposed herself in possession of something far better than scientific methods in medicine. Under the sway of this belief a natural and laudable veneration for the relics of Christian martyrs was developed more and more into pure fetichism.
Thus the water in which a single hair of a saint had been dipped was used as a purgative; water in which St. Remy's ring had been dipped cured fevers; wine in which the bones of a saint had been dipped cured lunacy; oil from a lamp burning before the tomb of St. Gall cured tumors; St. Valentine cured epilepsy; St. Christopher, throat diseases; St. Eutropius, dropsy; St. Ovid, deafness; St. Gervaise, rheumatism; St. Apollonia, toothache; St. Vitus, St. Anthony, and a multitude of other saints, the maladies which bear their names; even as late as 1784 we find certain authorities in Bavaria ordering that any one bitten by a mad dog should at once put up prayers at the shrine of St. Hubert, and not waste his time in any attempts at medical or surgical cure. In the twelfth century we find a noted cure attempted by causing the invalid to drink water in which St. Bernard had washed his hands. Flowers which had rested on the tomb of a saint, when steeped in water, were supposed to be especially efficacious in various diseases. The pulpit everywhere dwelt with unction on the reality of fetich cures, and among the choice stories collected by Archbishop Jacques de Vitry for the use of preachers was one which, judging from its frequent recurrence in monkish literature, must have sunk deep into the popular mind: "Two lazy beggars, one blind the other lame, try to avoid the relics of St. Martin, borne about in procession, so that they may not be healed and lose their alms. The blind man takes the lame man on his shoulders to guide him, but they are caught in the crowd and healed against their will."
Very important also throughout the middle ages were the medical virtues attributed to saliva. The use of this remedy had early Oriental sanction. It is clearly found in Egypt. Pliny devotes a considerable part of one of his chapters to it; Galen approved it; Vespasian, when he visited Alexandria, is said to have cured a blind man by applying saliva to his eyes; but the great example impressed most forcibly upon the mediæval mind was the use of it ascribed in the fourth Gospel to Jesus himself: thence it came not only into church ceremonial, but largely into medical practice.
As the theological atmosphere thickened, nearly every country had its long list of saints, each with a special power over some one organ or disease. The clergy, having great influence over the medical schools, conscientiously mixed this fetich medicine with the beginnings of science: in the tenth century, even at the School of Salerno, we find that the sick were cured not only by medicine, but by the relics of St. Matthew and others.
Human nature, too, asserted itself then as now, by making various pious cures fashionable for a time and then allowing them to become unfashionable. Just as we see the relics of St. Cosmo and St. Damian in great vogue during the early middle ages, but out of fashion and without efficacy afterward, so we find in the thirteenth century that the bones of St. Louis having come into fashion wrought multitudes of cures, while in the fourteenth, having become unfashionable, they ceased to act, and gave place for a time to the relics of St. Roch of Montpellier and St. Catherine of Sienna, which in their turn wrought many cures until they too became out of date and yielded to other saints. Just so in modern times the healing miracles of La Salette have lost prestige in some measure, and those of Lourdes have come into fashion.
Even such serious matters as fractures, calculus, and difficult parturition, in which modern science has achieved some of its greatest triumphs, were then dealt with by relics; and to this hour the ex votos hanging at such shrines as those of St. Geneviève at Paris, of St. Antony at Padua, of the Druid image at Chartres, of the Virgin at Einsiedeln, in the cave of Lourdes, nay, even at the fountain of La Salette, in spite of the fact that thorough legal investigation has twice utterly disproved the miracle which gives sacredness to the place, are survivals of this same conception of disease and its cure.
So, too, with a multitude of sacred pools, streams, and spots of earth. In Ireland hardly a parish has not had one such sacred center; in England and Scotland there have been many; and as late as 1805 the eminent Dr. Milner, of the Roman Catholic Church, gave a careful and earnest account of a miraculous cure wrought at a sacred well in Flintshire. In all parts of Europe the pious resort to wells and springs continued long after the close of the middle ages, and has not entirely ceased to-day.
As to all these the argument was simply this: if the Almighty saw fit to raise the dead man who touched the bones of Elisha, why should He not restore to life the patient who touches at Cologne the bones of the Wise Men of the East who followed the star of the Nativity? If Naaman was cured by dipping himself in the waters of the Jordan, and so many others by going down into the Pool of Siloam, why should not men still be cured by bathing in pools which men equally holy with Elisha have consecrated? If one sick man was restored by touching the garments of St. Paul, why should not another sick man be restored by touching the seamless coat of Christ at Treves, or the winding-sheet of Christ at Besançon? And out of all these inquiries came inevitably that question whose logical answer was especially injurious to the development of medical science: Why should men seek to build up scientific medicine and surgery, when relics, pilgrimages, and sacred observances, according to an overwhelming mass of concurrent testimony, have cured and are curing hosts of sick people in all parts of Europe?
Still another development of the theological spirit, mixed with professional exclusiveness and mob prejudice, wrought untold injury. Even to those who had become so far emancipated from allegiance to fetich cures as to consult physicians, it was forbidden to consult those who, as a rule, were the best. From a very early period of European history the Jews had taken the lead in medicine; their share in founding the great Schools of Salerno and Montpellier we have already noted; and in all parts of Europe we find them acknowledged leaders in the healing art. The Church authorities, enforcing the spirit of the time, were especially severe against these benefactors: that men who openly rejected the means of salvation, and whose souls were undeniably lost, should heal the elect, seemed an insult to Providence; preaching friars denounced them from the pulpit, and the rulers in state and Church, while frequently secretly consulting them, openly proscribed them. Popes Eugene IV, Nicholas V, and Calixtus III especially forbade Christians to employ them. The Councils of Béziers and Alby in the thirteenth century, the Council of Avignon in the fourteenth, the Synod of Bamberg and the Bishop of Passau in the fifteenth, with many others, expressly forbade the faithful to call Jewish physicians or surgeons, under penalty of excommunication: such great preachers as John Geyler and John Herolt thundered from the pulpit against them and all who consulted them. As late as the middle of the seventeenth century, when the city council of Hall, in Würtemberg, gave some privileges to a Jewish physician "on account of his admirable experience and skill," the clergy of the city joined in a protest, declaring that "it were better to die with Christ than to be cured by a Jew doctor aided by the devil." Still, in their extremity, bishops, cardinals, kings, and even popes, insisted on calling in physicians of the hated race..
Nor did the Reformation immediately change the sacred theory of medicine. Luther, as is well known, again and again ascribed his own disease to "devils' spells," declaring that "Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is the prince of death," and that "he poisons the air"; but that "no malady comes from God." From that day down to the faith cures of Boston, Old Orchard, and among the sect of "Peculiar People" in our own time, we see the results among Protestants of seeking the cause of disease in Satanic influence and its cure in fetichism.
Yet Luther, with his sturdy common sense, broke away from one belief which has interfered with the evolution of medicine from the dawn of Christianity until now. When that troublesome declaimer, Carlstadt, declared that "whoso falls sick shall use no physic, but commit his case to God, praying that His will be done," Luther asked, "Do you eat when you are hungry?" and the answer being in the affirmative, he continued, "Even so you may use physic, which is God's gift just as meat and drink is, or whatever else we use for the preservation of life."
But perhaps the best-known development of this theological view in the Protestant Church was that mainly evolved in England out of a French germ of theological thought—a belief in the efficacy of the royal touch in sundry diseases, especially epilepsy and scrofula, the latter being consequently known as the king's evil. This mode of cure began, so far as history throws light upon it, with Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, and came down from reign to reign, passing from the Catholic saint to Protestant debauchees upon the English throne, with ever-increasing miraculous efficacy.
Testimony to the reality of these cures is overwhelming. As a simple matter of fact, there are no miracles of healing in the history of the human race more thoroughly attested than those wrought by the touch of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, the Stuarts, and especially by that chosen vessel, Charles II. Though Elizabeth could not bring herself fully to believe in the reality of these cures, Dr. Tooker, the Queen's chaplain, and later Dean of Lichfield, testifies fully of his own knowledge to the cures wrought by her, though he confesses that she was somewhat skeptical. William Clowes, the Queen's surgeon, also testifies fully to them. Fuller, in his Church History, gives an account of a Roman Catholic who was thus cured by the Queen's touch and converted to Protestantism. Similar testimony exists as to cures wrought by James I. Charles I also enjoyed the same power, in spite of the public declaration against its reality by Parliament. In one case the King saw a patient in the crowd, too far off to be touched, and simply said, "God bless thee and grant thee thy desire"; whereupon, it is asserted, the blotches and humors disappeared from the patient's body and appeared in the bottle of medicine which he held in his hand; at least so says Dr. John Nicholas, Warden of Winchester College, who declares this of his own knowledge to be every word of it true.
But the most incontrovertible evidence of this miraculous gift is found in the case of Charles II, the most thoroughly cynical debauchee who ever sat on the English throne before the advent of George IV. He touched nearly one hundred thousand persons, and the outlay for gold medals issued to the afflicted on these occasions rose in some years as high as ten thousand pounds. John Brown, surgeon in ordinary to his Majesty and to St. Thomas's Hospital, and author of many learned works on surgery and anatomy, published accounts of sixty cures due to the touch of this monarch; and Sergeant-Surgeon Wiseman devotes an entire book to proving the reality of these cures, saying, "I myself have been frequent witness to many hundreds of cures performed by his Majesty's touch alone without any assistance of chirurgery, and these many of them had tyred out the endeavours of able chirurgeons before they came thither." Yet it is especially instructive to note that while in no other reign were so many people touched for scrofula, and in none were so many cures vouched for, in no other reign did so many people die of that disease: the bills of mortality show this clearly, and the reason doubtless is the general substitution of supernatural for scientific means of cure. This is but one out of many examples showing the havoc which a scientific test always makes among miracles if men allow it to be applied.
To James II the same power continued; and if it be said, in the words of Lord Bacon, that "imagination is next of kin to miracle—a working faith," something else seems required to account for the testimony of Dr. Heylin to cures wrought by the royal touch upon babes in their mothers' arms. Myth-making and marvel-mongering were evidently at work here as in so many other places, and so great was the fame of these cures that we find, in the year before James was dethroned, a pauper at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, petitioning the General Assembly to enable him to make the voyage to England in order that he might be healed by the royal touch.
The change in the royal succession does not seem to have interfered with the miracle; for, though William III evidently regarded the whole thing as a superstition, and on one occasion is said to have touched a patient, saying to him, "God give you better health and more sense," Winston assures us that this person was healed, notwithstanding William's incredulity.
As to Queen Anne, Dr. Daniel Turner, in his Art of Surgery, relates that several cases of scrofula which had been unsuccessfully treated by himself and Dr. Charles Bernard, sergeant-surgeon to her Majesty, yielded afterward to the efficacy of the Queen's touch. Naturally does Collier, in his Ecclesiastical History, say regarding these cases that to dispute them is to come to the extreme of skepticism, to deny our senses and be incredulous even to ridiculousness." Testimony to the reality of these cures is indeed overwhelming, and a multitude of most sober scholars, divines, and doctors of medicine declared the evidence absolutely convincing. That the Church of England accepted the doctrine of the royal touch is witnessed by the special service provided in the Prayer-Book of that period for occasions when the King exercised this gift. The ceremony was conducted with great solemnity and pomp; during the reading of the service and at the laying on of the King's hands, the attendant bishop or priest recited the words, "They shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover"; afterward came special prayers, the Epistle and Gospel, with the blessing, and finally his Majesty washed his royal hands in golden vessels which high noblemen held for him.
In France, too, the royal touch continued, with similar testimony to its efficacy. On a certain Easter Sunday, that pious king, Louis XIV, touched about sixteen hundred persons at Versailles.
This curative power was then acknowledged far and wide, by Catholics and Protestants alike, upon the Continent, in Great Britain, and in America; and it descended not only in spite of the transition of the English kings from Catholicism to Protestantism, but in spite of the transition from the legitimate sovereignty of the Stuarts to the illegitimate succession of the house of Orange. And yet, within a few years after the whole world held this belief it was dead; it had shriveled away in the increasing scientific light at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
We may now take up more in detail the evolution of medical science out of the mediæval view and its modern survivals. All through the middle ages, as we have seen, some few laymen and ecclesiastics here and there, braving the edicts of the Church and popular superstition, persisted in medical study and practice; this was especially seen at the greater universities, which had become somewhat emancipated from ecclesiastical control. In the thirteenth century the University of Paris gave a strong impulse to the teaching of medicine, and in that and the following century we begin to find the first intelligible reports of medical cases since the coming in of Christianity.
During the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries the revival of learning, the invention of printing, and the great voyages of discovery gave a new impulse to thought, and in this medical science shared: the old theological way of thinking was greatly questioned, and gave place in many quarters to a different way of looking at the universe.
In the sixteenth century Paracelsus appears—a great genius, doing much to develop medicine beyond the reach of sacred and scholastic tradition, though still fettered by many superstitions. More and more, in spite of theological dogmas, came a renewal of anatomical studies by dissection of the human subject. The practice of the old Alexandrian School was thus resumed. Mundinus dared use the human subject occasionally in his lectures; but finally came a far greater champion of scientific truth, Andreas Vesalius, founder of the modern science of anatomy. The battle waged by this man is one of the glories of our race.
From the outset Vesalius proved himself a master. In the search for real knowledge he braved the most terrible dangers, and especially the charge of sacrilege, founded upon the teachings of the Church for ages. As we have seen, even such men in the early Church as Tertullian and St. Augustine held anatomy in abhorrence, and Pope Boniface VIII interdicted dissection as sacrilege, threatening excommunication against those practicing it. Through this sacred conventionalism Vesalius broke without fear; despite ecclesiastical censure and popular fury, he studied his science by the only method that could give useful results. No peril daunted him. To secure the material for his investigations, he haunted gibbets and charnel-houses, risking the fires of the Inquisition and the virus of the plague: first of all men he began to place the science of human anatomy on its solid, modern foundations— on careful examination and observation of the human body: this was his first great sin, and it was soon aggravated by one considered even greater.
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing that has ever been done for Christianity is the tying it to forms of science which are doomed and gradually sinking. Just as, in the time of Roger Bacon, excellent men devoted all their energies to binding Christianity to Aristotle—just as, in the time of Reuchlin and Erasmus, they insisted on binding Christianity to Thomas Aquinas—so, in the time of Vesalius, such men made every effort to link Christianity to Galen. The cry has been the same in all ages; it is the same which we hear in this age for curbing scientific studies; the cry for what is called "sound learning." Whether standing for Aristotle against Bacon, or for Aquinas against Erasmus, or for Galen against Vesalius, or for making mechanical Greek verses instead of studying the handiwork of the Almighty, the cry is always for "sound learning": the idea always is that these studies are "safe."
At twenty-eight years of age Vesalius gave to the world his great work on human anatomy. With it ended the old and began the new: its researches, by their thoroughness, were a triumph of science; its illustrations, by their fidelity, were a triumph of art.
To shield himself, as far as possible, in the battle which he foresaw must come, Vesalius dedicated the work to the Emperor Charles V, and in his dedicatory preface he argues for his method, and against the parrot repetitions of the mediæval text-books; he also condemns the wretched anatomical preparations and specimens made by physicians who utterly refused to advance beyond the ancient master. The parrot-like repeaters of Galen gave battle at once. After the manner of their time their first missiles were epithets; and, the almost infinite magazine of these having been exhausted, they began to use sharper weapons—weapons theologic.
In this case there were especial reasons why the theological authorities felt called upon to intervene. First, there was the old idea prevailing in the Church, sanctioned by one at least of the popes, that the dissection of the human body is forbidden to Christians: this was used with great force against Vesalius; but he at first gained a temporary victory; for a conference of divines having been asked to decide whether dissection of the human body is sacrilege, gave a decision in the negative.
The reason was simple: the great Emperor Charles V had made Vesalius his physician and could not spare him; but, on the accession of Philip II to the throne of Spain and the Netherlands, the whole scene changed: the bigots were now sure to have their way.
Another theological idea barred his path. Throughout the middle ages it was believed that there exists in man a bone imponderable, incorruptible, incombustible, the necessary nucleus of the resurrection body. Belief in a resurrection of the physical body, despite St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, had been incorporated into the formula made many centuries after his time and called the Apostles' Creed, and was held throughout Christendom, "always, everywhere, and by all." This hypothetical bone was therefore held in great veneration, and many anatomists sought to discover it; but Vesalius, revealing so much else, did not find it, and was therefore suspected of a want of proper faith. He contented himself with saying that he left the question regarding the existence of such a bone to the theologians. He could not lie, he' did not wish to fight the Inquisition, and thus he fell under suspicion.
The strength of this theological point may be judged from the fact that no less eminent a surgeon than Riolan consulted the executioner to find out whether, when he burned a criminal, all the parts were consumed; and only then was the answer received which fatally undermined this superstition. Still, in 1689 we find it still lingering in France, creating an energetic opposition in the Church to dissection. Even as late as the eighteenth century, Bernouilli having shown that the living human body constantly undergoes a series of changes, so that all its particles are renewed in a given number of years, so much ill feeling was drawn upon him, especially from the theologians, who saw in this statement danger to the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, that for the sake of peace he struck out his argument on this subject from his collected works.*
Still other encroachments upon the theological view were made by the new school of anatomists, and especially by Vesalius. During the middle ages there had been developed various theological doctrines regarding the human body; these were based upon arguments showing what the body ought to be, and naturally, when anatomical science showed what it is, these doctrines fell. An example of such popular theological reasoning is seen in a wide-spread belief of the twelfth century, that during the year in which the cross of Christ was taken by Saladin, children, instead of having thirty or thirty-two teeth as before, had twenty or twenty-two. So, too, in Vesalius's time another doctrine of this sort was dominant: it had long been held that Eve, having been made by the Almighty from a rib taken out of Adam's side, there must be one rib fewer on one side of every man than on the other. It was also held upon the authority of Genesis that the Almighty created man literally out of the dust of the earth, and breathed life into his nostrils. This twofold creation was a favorite subject with illuminators of missals, and especially with those who illustrated Bibles and religious books in the first years after the invention of printing; but Vesalius and the anatomists who followed him put an end among thoughtful men to this belief in the missing rib, and in doing this dealt a blow at much else in the sacred theory. Naturally, all these considerations brought the forces of ecclesiasticism against the innovators in anatomy.
A new weapon was now forged: Vesalius was charged with dissecting a living man, and, either from direct persecution, as the great majority of authors assert, or from indirect influences, as the recent apologists for Philip II admit, he became a wanderer: on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, apparently undertaken to atone for his sin, he was shipwrecked, and in the prime of his life and strength he was lost to the world.
And yet not lost. In this century the painter Hamann has again given him to us. By the magic of Hamann's pencil Vesalius again stands on earth, and we look once more into his cell. Its windows and doors, bolted and barred within, betoken the storm of bigotry which rages without; the crucifix, toward which he turns his eyes, symbolizes the spirit in which he labors; the corpse of the plague-stricken beneath his hand ceases to be repulsive; his very soul seems to send forth rays from the canvas, which strengthen us for the good fight in this age.
He was hunted to death by men who conscientiously supposed that he was injuring religion: his poor, blind foes destroyed one of religion's greatest apostles. What was his influence on religion? He substituted, for the repetition of worn-out theories, a conscientious and reverent search into the works of the great Power giving life to the universe; he substituted for representations of the human structure—pitiful and unreal—representations revealing truths most helpful to the whole human race.
The death of this champion seems to have virtually ended the contest. Licenses to dissect soon began to be given by sundry popes to universities, and renewed at intervals of from three to four years, until the Reformation released science from this yoke.
I hasten now to one of the most singular struggles of medical science during modern times. Early in the last century Boyer presented inoculation as a preventive of small-pox in France, and thoughtful physicians in England, inspired by Lady Montagu and Maitland, followed his example. Ultra-conservatives in medicine took fright at once on both sides of the Channel, and theology was soon finding profound reasons against the new practice. The French theologians of the Sorbonne solemnly condemned it; the English theologians were most loudly represented by the Rev. Edward Massey, who in 1772 preached and published a sermon entitled The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation. In this he declared that Job's distemper was probably confluent small-pox; that he had been inoculated doubtless by the devil; that diseases are sent by Providence for the punishment of sin; and that the proposed attempt to prevent them is "a diabolical operation." Not less vigorous was the sermon of the Rev. Mr. Delafaye, entitled "Inoculation an Indefensible Practice." This struggle went on for thirty years. Yet it is a pleasure to note some churchmen—and among them Madox, Bishop of Worcester—giving battle on the side of right reason; but as late as 1753 we have a noted rector at Canterbury denouncing inoculation from his pulpit in the primatial city, and many of his brethren following his example.
The same opposition was vigorous in Protestant Scotland. The great majority of ministers joined in denouncing the new practice as "flying in the face of Providence," and "endeavoring to baffle a divine judgment."
On our own side of the ocean, also, this question had to be fought out. About the year 1721 Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, a physician in Boston, made an experiment in inoculation, one of his first subjects being his own son. He at once encountered bitter hostility, so that the selectmen of the city forbade him to repeat the experiment. Foremost among his opponents was Dr. Douglas, a Scotch physician, supported by the medical profession and the newspapers. The violence of the opposing party knew no bounds; they insisted that inoculation was "poisoning," and they urged the authorities to try Dr. Boylston for murder. Having thus settled his case for this world, they proceeded to settle it for the next, insisting that "for a man to infect a family in the morning with small-pox and to pray to God in the evening against the disease is blasphemy"; that the small-pox is "a judgment of God on the sins of the people," and that "to avert it is but to provoke him more"; that inoculation is "an encroachment on the prerogatives of Jehovah, whose right it is to wound and smite." Among the mass of scriptural texts most remote from any possible bearing on the subject one was employed which was equally cogent against any use of healing means in any disease the words of Hosea: "He hath torn and he will heal us; he hath smitten and he will bind us up."
So bitter was this opposition that Dr. Boylston's life was in danger; it was considered unsafe for him to be out of his house in the evening; a lighted grenade was even thrown into the house of Cotton Mather, who had favored the new practice, and had sheltered another clergyman who had submitted himself to it.
To the honor of the Puritan clergy of New England, it should be said that many of them were Boylston's strongest supporters. Increase and Cotton Mather had been among the first to move in favor of inoculation, the latter having called Boylston's attention to it; and at the very crisis of affairs six of the leading clergymen of Boston threw their influence on Boylston's side and shared the obloquy brought upon him. Although the gainsayers were not slow to fling into the faces of the Mathers their action regarding witchcraft, arguing that their credulity in that matter argued credulity in this, they persevered, and among the many services rendered by the clergymen of New England to their country, this ought certainly to be remembered; for these men had to withstand, shoulder to shoulder with Boylston and Benjamin Franklin, the same weapons which were hurled at the supporters of inoculation in Europe—charges of "unfaithfulness to the revealed law of God."
The facts were soon very strong against the gainsayers: within a year or two after the first experiment nearly three hundred persons had been inoculated by Boylston in Boston and neighboring towns, and out of these only six had died; whereas, during the same period, out of nearly six thousand persons who had taken small-pox naturally, and had received only the usual medical treatment, nearly one thousand had died. Yet even here the gainsayers did not despair, and, when obliged to confess the success of inoculation, they simply fell back upon a new argument, and answered: "It was good that Satan should be dispossessed of his habitation which he had taken up in men in our Lord's day, but it was not lawful that the children of the Pharisees should cast him out by the help of Beelzebub. We must always have an eye to the matter of what we do as well as the result, if we intend to keep a good conscience toward God." But the facts were too strong; the new practice made its way in the New World as in the Old, though bitter opposition continued, and in no small degree on vague scriptural grounds, for more than twenty years longer.
The steady evolution of scientific medicine brings us, next, to the discovery of vaccination by Jenner. Here, too, sundry vague survivals of theological ideas caused many of the clergy to side with retrograde physicians. Perhaps the most virulent of Jenner's enemies was one of his professional brethren, Dr. Moseley, who placed on the title-page of his book, Lues Bovilla, as a motto, referring to Jenner and his followers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; this book of Dr. Moseley was especially indorsed by the Bishop of Dromore. In 1798 an Anti-vaccination Society was formed by physicians and clergymen, who called on the people of Boston to suppress vaccination, as "bidding defiance to Heaven itself, even to the will of God," and declared that "the law of God prohibits the practice." As late as 1803, the Rev. Dr. Ramsden thundered against vaccination in a sermon before the University of Cambridge, mingling texts of Scripture with calumnies against Jenner; but Plumptre and the Rev. Rowland Hill in England, Waterhouse in America, Thouret in France, Sacco in Italy, and a host of other good men and true, pressed forward, and at last science, humanity, and right reason gained the victory. Most striking results quickly followed. The diminution in the number of deaths from the terrible scourge was amazing. In Berlin, during the eight years following 1783, over four thousand children died of the small-pox; while during the eight years following 1814, after vaccination had been largely adopted, out of a larger number of deaths there were but five hundred and thirty-five who died of this disease. In Würtemberg, during the twenty-four years following 1772, one in thirteen of all the children died of small-pox, while during the eleven years after 1822 there died of it only one in sixteen hundred. In Copenhagen, during twelve years before the introduction of vaccination, fifty-five hundred persons died of small-pox, and during the sixteen years after its introduction only one hundred and
fifty-eight persons died of it throughout all Denmark. In Vienna, where the average yearly mortality from this disease had been over eight hundred, it was steadily and rapidly reduced, until in 1803 it had fallen to less than thirty; and in London, formerly so afflicted by this scourge, out of all her inhabitants there died of it in 1890 but one. As to the world at large the result is summed up by one of the most honored English physicians of our time in the declaration that "Jenner has saved, is now saving, and will continue to save in all coming ages, more lives in one generation than were destroyed in all the wars of Napoleon."
It will have been noticed by those who have read this history thus far that the record of the Church generally was far more honorable in this struggle than in many which preceded it: the reason is not difficult to find; the decline of theology inured to the advantage of religion, and religion gave powerful aid to science.
Yet there have remained some survivals in both branches of the Western Church which may be regarded with curiosity. A small body of perversely ingenious minds in the medical profession in England have found a few ardent allies among the less intellectual clergy. The Rev. Mr. Rothery and the Rev. Mr. Allen, of the Primitive Methodists, have for sundry vague theological or metaphysical reasons especially distinguished themselves by opposition to compulsory vaccination; but it is only just to say that the great body of the clergy have at last taken the better view.
Far more painful has been the recent history of the other great branch of the Christian Church—a history developed where it might have been least expected; the recent annals of the world hardly present a more striking antithesis between Religion and Theology.
On the religious side few things in the history of the Roman Church have been so beautiful as the conduct of its clergy in Canada during the great outbreak of ship-fever among immigrants at Montreal about the middle of the present century. Day and night the Catholic clergy of that city ministered fearlessly to those victims of sanitary ignorance; fear of suffering and death could not drive these ministers from their work; they laid down their lives cheerfully while carrying comfort to the poorest and most ignorant of our kind: such was the record of their religion. But in 1885 a record was made by their theological spirit: in that year the small-pox broke out with great virulence at Montreal. The Protestant population escaped almost entirely by vaccination, but multitudes of their Catholic fellow-citizens, under some vague survival of the old orthodox ideas, refused vaccination and suffered fearfully. When at last the plague became so serious that travel and trade fell off greatly and quarantine began to be established in neighboring cities, an effort was made to enforce compulsory vaccination. The result was, that large numbers of the Catholic working population resisted and even threatened bloodshed. The clergy at first tolerated and even encouraged this conduct; the Abbé Filiatrault, priest of St. James's Church, declared in a sermon that, "if we are afflicted with small-pox, it is because we had a carnival last winter, feasting the flesh, which has offended the Lord; . . . it is to punish our pride that God has sent us small-pox." The clerical press went further: the Étendard exhorted the faithful to take up arms rather than submit to vaccination, and at least one of the secular papers was forced to pander to the same sentiment. The Board of Health struggled against this superstition, and addressed a circular to the clergy, imploring them to recommend vaccination; but, though two or three complied with this request, the great majority were either silent or openly hostile. The Oblate Fathers, whose church was situated in the very heart of the infected district, continued to denounce vaccination; the faithful were exhorted to rely on devotional exercises of various sorts; under the sanction of the hierarchy a great procession was ordered with a solemn appeal to the Virgin, and the use of the rosary was carefully specified.
Meantime, the disease, which had nearly died out among the Protestants, raged with ever-increasing virulence among the Catholics; and the truth becoming more and more clear, even to the most devout, proper measures were at last enforced and the plague was stayed, though not until there had been a fearful waste of life among these simple-hearted believers, and germs of skepticism planted in the hearts of their children which will bear fruit for generations to come.
Another class of cases in which the theologic spirit has allied itself with the retrograde party in medical science is found in the history of certain remedial agents; and first may be named cocaine. As early as the middle of the sixteenth century the value of coca had been discovered in South America; the natives of Peru prized it highly, and two Jesuits, Acosta and Don Antonio Julian, were converted to this view; but the conservative spirit in the Church was too strong; in 1567 the Second Council of Lima, consisting of bishops from all parts of South America, condemned it, and two years later came a royal decree declaring that "the notions entertained by the natives regarding it are an illusion of the devil."
As a pendant to this singular mistake on the part of the older Church came another committed by many leading Protestants. In the early years of the seventeenth century the Jesuit missionaries in South America learned from the natives the value of the socalled Peruvian bark in the treatment of ague; and in 1638 the Countess of Cinchona, Regent of Peru, having derived great benefit from the new remedy, it was introduced into Europe. Although with its alkaloid, quinine, it is perhaps the nearest approach to a medical specific, and has diminished the death-rate in certain regions to an amazing extent, its introduction was bitterly opposed by many conservative members of the medical profession, and in this opposition large numbers of ultra-Protestants joined, out of hostility to the Roman Church. In the heat of sectarian feeling the new remedy was stigmatized as "an invention of the devil"; and so strong was this opposition that the new medicine was not introduced into England until 1653, and even then its use was long held back, owing mainly to anti-Catholic feeling.
What the theological method on the ultra-Protestant side could do to help the world at this very time is seen in the fact that, while this struggle was going on, Hoffman was attempting to give a scientific theory of the action of the devil in causing Job's boils. This effort at a quasi-scientific explanation which should satisfy the theological spirit, comical as it at first seems, is really worthy of serious notice, because it must be considered as the beginning of that inevitable effort at compromise which we see in the history of every science when it begins to appear triumphant.
But I pass to a typical conflict in our days, and in a Protestant country. In 1847 James Young Simpson, a Scotch physician, who afterward rose to the highest eminence in his profession, having advocated the use of anæsthetics in obstetrical cases, was immediately met by a storm of opposition. This hostility flowed from an ancient and time-honored belief in Scotland. As far back as the year 1591, Eufame Macalyane, a lady of rank, being charged with seeking the aid of Agnes Sampson for the relief of pain at the time of the birth of her two sons, was burned alive on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh; and this old theological view persisted even to the middle of the nineteenth century. From pulpit after pulpit Simpson's use of chloroform was denounced as impious and contrary to Holy Writ; texts were cited abundantly, the ordinary declaration being that to use chloroform was "to avoid one part of the primeval curse on woman." Simpson wrote pamphlet after pamphlet to defend the blessing which he brought into use; but the cause seemed about to be lost, when he seized a new weapon, probably the most absurd by which a great cause was ever won: "My opponents forget," he said, "the twenty-first verse of the second chapter of Genesis; it is the record of the first surgical operation ever performed, and that text proves that the Maker of the universe, before he took the rib from Adam's side for the creation of Eve, caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam." This was a stunning blow, but it did not entirely kill the opposition; they had strength left to maintain that the "deep sleep of Adam took place before the introduction of pain into the world—in a state of innocence." But now a new champion intervened—Thomas Chalmers; with a few pungent arguments from his pulpit he scattered the enemy forever, and the greatest battle of science against suffering was won. But this victory was won not less for religion: wisely did those who raised the monument at Boston to one of the discoverers of anæsthetics inscribe upon its pedestal the words from our sacred text, "This also cometh from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working."
Progress in medical science within the past quarter of a century has been vast indeed; the theological view of disease has greatly faded, and the theological hold upon medical education has been almost entirely relaxed. In three great fields especially, discoveries have been made which have done much to disperse the atmosphere of miracle. First, there has come in more knowledge regarding the relation between imagination and medicine, and, though still defective, it is of great importance. This relation has been noted during the whole history of the science. When the soldiers of the Prince of Orange, at the siege of Breda in 1625, were dying of scurvy by scores, he sent to the physicians "two or three small vials filled with a decoction of camomile, wormwood, and camphor, gave out that it was a very rare and precious medicine—a medicine of such virtue that two or three drops sufficed to impregnate a gallon of water, and that it had been obtained from the East with great difficulty and danger"; this statement, made with much solemnity, deeply impressed the soldiers; they took the medicine eagerly, and great numbers recovered rapidly. Again, two centuries later, young Humphry Davy, being employed to apply the bulb of the thermometer to the tongues of certain patients at Bristol, after they had inhaled various gases as a cure for disease, and finding that the patients supposed this application of the thermometer-bulb was the cure, finally wrought cures by this application alone, without any use of the gases whatever. Innumerable cases of this sort have thrown a flood of light upon such cures as those wrought by Prince Hohenlohe, by the "metallic tractors," and by a multitude of other agencies temporarily in vogue, but, above all, upon the miraculous cures which in past ages have been so frequent and of which a few survive.
The second department is that of Hypnotism. Within the last half-century many scattered indications have been collected and supplemented by thoughtful, patient investigators of genius, and especially by Braid in England and Charcot in France. Here too great inroads have been made upon the province hitherto sacred to miracle, and in 1888 the cathedral preacher, Steigenberger of Augsburg, sounded an alarm. He declared his fears "lest accredited church miracles lose their hold upon the public," denounced hypnotism as a doctrine of demons, and ended with the singular argument that, "inasmuch as hypnotism is avowedly incapable of explaining all the wonders of history, it is idle to consider it at all." But investigations in hypnotism, still go on, and are to do much in the twentieth century to carry the world yet farther from the realm of the miraculous.
Finally, in a third field science has won a striking series of victories. Bacteriology, beginning in the researches of Leeuwenhoek in the seventeenth century, continued by O. F. Müller in the eighteenth, and developed or applied with wonderful power by Ehrenberg, Cohn, Pasteur, Koch, Lister, Billings, and their compeers in the nineteenth, has explained the origin, and proposed prevention or cure, for various diseases widely prevailing, which until recently have been generally held to be "inscrutable providences."
In summing up the history of this long struggle between Science and Theology two main facts are to be noted: First, that in proportion as the world approached the "Ages of Faith" it receded from ascertained truth, and in proportion as the world has receded from the "Ages of Faith" it has approached ascertained truth; secondly, that in proportion as the grasp of theology upon education tightened medicine declined, and in proportion as that grasp has relaxed medicine has been developed.The world is hardly beyond the beginning of medical discoveries. Yet they have already taken from theology what was formerly its strongest province, sweeping away from this vast field of human effort that belief in miracles which for more than twenty centuries has been the main stumbling-block in the path of-medicine; and, in doing this, they have cleared higher paths, not only for science, but for religion.