The healing of his seamless dress
Is by our beds of pain—
We touch Him in life’s throng and press,
And we are whole again.
I cannot finish my little book of ideals without writing some things that are in my mind about cure by faith or by prayer. It is a subject that I approach with hesitation because of the danger of misunderstanding. No subject is more difficult and none is more important for the invalid to understand. We hear a great deal about the wonderful cures of Christian Science or of similar agencies, and we all know of people who have been restored to usefulness by such means. Has the healing of Christ again become possible on earth? No one would be more eager to accept it and acknowledge it than the physician if it were really so. But careful investigation always reveals the fact that the wonderful cures are not of the body but of the mind. It is easy enough to say that a cancer or tuberculosis has been cured by faith, and apparently easy for many people to believe it, but alas, the proof is wanting. The Christian Scientist, honest and sincere as he may be, is not qualified to say what is true disease and what is not. What looks like diseased tissue recovers, but medical men know that it could not have been diseased in the most serious sense, and that the prayer for recovery could have had nothing to do with the cure, save in a very indirect way.
The man who discards medicine for philosophy or religion is courting unnecessary suffering and even death. The worst part of it is that he may induce some one else to make the same mistake with similar results. In writing this opinion I am in no way denying the great significance and value of faith nor of the prayerful and trustful mind. If it cannot cure actual physical disease, faith can accomplish veritable miracles of healing in the mind of the patient. No thoughtful or honest medical man will deny it. Nor will most medical men deny that the course of almost any physical illness may be modified by faith and prayer. I am almost saying that there is no known medicine of such potency. Every bodily function is the better for the conquering spirit that transcends the earth and finds its necessary expression in prayer.
There really need be no issue or disagreement between medicine and faith cure. At its best, one is not more wonderful than the other, and both aim to accomplish the same end—the relief of human suffering. When the two are merged, as some day they will be, we shall be surprised to discover how alike they are. Christian Science is rightly scorned by medical men because it is unscientific, because it makes absurd and untenable claims outside its own field, and because it has not as yet investigated that field in the scientific spirit. When proper study and investigation have been made it will be found that faith cure, not in its present state, but in some future development, will have an immense field of usefulness. It will be worthy of as much respect in that field as medicine proper in its own sphere. As a matter of fact both medicine and faith cure are miraculous in a very real sense, as both depend for efficiency now and always upon the same great laws which may be fairly called divine. What is the discovery that the serum of a horse will under certain circumstances cure diphtheria? Does it not mean that man is tapping sources of power far beyond his understanding? Is man responsible save as the agent? Did he produce the complex animal chemistry that makes this cure possible? Did man make the horse, or the laws that control the physiology and pathology of that animal? Here, then, is faith cure in its largest and best sense. The biologist may not be willing to admit it, but his faith in these great laws of God have made possible the cure of a dread disease. Here, as in all matters of pure religion, it is what men say and write, not the fact itself, that makes all the misunderstanding; we make our judgments and conceive our prejudices from mere surface considerations. Call life what you will,—leave out the symbolic word “God” altogether,—the facts remain. The true scientific spirit must reverence and adore the power that lies behind creation. It is as inconsistent for the bacteriologist to be an unbeliever as it is for the Christian Scientist to deny the value of bacteriology. Medicine is infinitely farther advanced than Christian Science, and yet Christian Science has grasped some truth that the natural scientist has stupidly missed. When an obsession is thrown off and courage substituted for fear, we witness as important a “cure” as can be shown to the credit of surgery. If the Christian Scientists and the other faith-curers were only less superficial and less narrow in their explanation of the facts, if they would condescend to study the diseases they treat, they would be entitled to, and would receive, more respect and consideration.
The cure and prevention of disease through the agency of man are evidently part of the divine plan. Our eagerness to advance along the lines of investigation and practice is but that divine plan in action. The truly scientific spirit will neglect no possible curative agent. When scientific men ridicule prayer, they are thinking not of the real thing which is above all possible criticism, but of the feeble and often pathetic groping for the real thing. We ask in our prayers for impossible blessings that would invert the laws of God and change the face of nature—very well, we must be prepared for disappointment. The attitude of prayer may, indeed, transform our own lives and make possible for us experiences that would otherwise have been impossible. But our pathetic demands—we shall never know how forlorn and weak they are. Prayer is the opening of the heart to the being we call God—it is most natural and reasonable. If we pray in our weakness and blindness for what we may not have, there is, nevertheless, a wonderful re-creative effect within us. The comfort and peace of such communion is beyond all else healing and restoring in its influence upon the troubled and anxious mind of man. The poet or the scientist who bows in adoration before the glory of God revealed in nature, prays in effect to that God and his soul is refreshed and renewed. The poor wretch who stands blindfolded before the firing squad, waiting the word that ends the life of a military spy, is near enough to God—and the whispered prayer upon his lips is cure for the wounds that take his life.
The best kind of prayer seeks not and asks not for physical relief or benefit, but opens the heart to its maker, and so receives the cure of peace that is a greater miracle than any yet wrought by man. Under the influence of that cure the sick are well and the dead are alive again. With the courage and spirit of such a cure in our lives, we shall inevitably do our utmost to relieve, by any good means, the physical suffering of the world. We shall follow the laws of nature. We shall study them with the utmost care. We shall take nothing for granted, since by less careful steps we shall miss the divine law and so go astray. The science of healing will become no chance and irrational thing. We shall use all the natural means to relieve and prevent suffering—there will be no scoring of one set of doctors by another because all will have one purpose. But more to the point than that, men will discover that health in its largest sense consists in living devout and prayerful lives whereunto shall be revealed in good time all that our finite minds can know and use. There will be no suffering of the body in the old and pitiful sense, for we shall be so much alive that disease and death can no longer claim us.