X. THEOLOGICAL OPPOSITION TO INOCULATION, VACCINATION, AND THE USE OF ANAESTHETICS.

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 smallpox 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 smallpox; 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. 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. A large body of ministers joined in denouncing the new practice as "flying in the face of Providence," and "endeavouring 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 professton 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 smallpox and to pray to God in the evening against the disease is blasphemy"; that the smallpox 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 favoured the new practice, and had sheltered another clergyman who had submitted himself to it.

To the honour 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 favour 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, urging 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 neighbouring towns, and out of these only six had died; whereas, during the same period, out of nearly six thousand persons who had taken smallpox 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.[[57]]

The steady evolution of scientific medicine brings us next to Jenner's discovery of vaccination. 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_, the 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 smallpox; 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 from this disease. In Wurtemberg, during the twenty-four years following 1772, one in thirteen of all the children died of smallpox, 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 smallpox, 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 honoured 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 honourable in this struggle than in many which preceded it: the reason is not difficult to find; the decline of theology enured to the advantage of religion, and religion gave powerful aid to science.

Yet there have remained some survivals both in Protestantism and in Catholicism 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 reasons especially distinguished themselves by opposition to compulsory vaccination; but it is only just to say that the great body of the English clergy have for a long time 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 more beautiful than 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 priesthood 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 theology. In that year the smallpox broke out with great virulence in 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 neighbouring 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 Abbe Filiatrault, priest of St. James's Church, declared in a sermon that, "if we are afflicted with smallpox, 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 smallpox." The clerical press went further: the _Etendard_ 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 Catholic 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 scepticism planted in the hearts of their children which will bear fruit for generations to come.[[61]]

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 eminent Jesuits, Joseph Acosta and 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 Protestants. In the early years of the seventeenth century the Jesuit missionaries in South America learned from the natives the value of the so-called Peruvian bark in the treatment of ague; and in 1638, the Countess of Cinchon, Regent of Peru, having derived great benefit from the new remedy, it was introduced into Europe. Although its alkaloid, quinine, 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 it 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, Hoffmann 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.[[62]]

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 anaesthetics in obstetrical cases, was immediately met by a storm of opposition. This hostility flowed from an ancient and time-honoured 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 he seemed about to be overcome, 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 upon 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. This victory was won not less for religion. Wisely did those who raised the monument at Boston to one of the discoverers of anaesthetics inscribe upon its pedestal the words from our sacred text, "This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."[[63]]


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