The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Isaac Jennings
5 January 1847
[Published in Isaac Jennings, Medical Reform: A Treatise on Man's Physical Being and Disorders, embracing an outline of a theory of human life, and a theory of disease--its nature, cause, and remedy (Oberlin: Fitch and Jennings, 1847), pp. iv-vi. It was republished with minor alterations in The Oberlin Quarterly Review (February 1847), pp. 377-8.]
The following letter was printed under the heading "Notices of the Work" at the beginning of Isaac Jennings' Medical Reform:
BY PROF. FINNEY.
I am rejoiced that you are about to give to the world your views of medical reform. The multitudinous conflicting theories and practices of the medical profession, for ages past, and at present, demonstrate that no certainty is yet attained in the department of medicine. But if medicine be properly a science at all, it must belong to the certain or exact sciences. Whatever occurs under the operation of physical law must occur of necessity; and of course, if the law can be discovered, a science can be reared upon its developments. It certainly is an abuse of terms to call the "Theory and Practice of Medicine" a science in its present state. The whole subject of medicine needs to be overhauled and must be; for in these days of breaking loose from authority and of applying the severest tests of truth to every subject of human inquiry, it must be that minds will be found that will disturb "the foundations of many generations" upon the important subject of medicine. I have long been distressed with the unintelligent and unintelligible jargon of medical practice. Having suffered much from impaired health and medical treatment, and having [p. v] conversed with numerous eminent physicians, I was struck with the fact that "clouds and darkness" rested upon their pathway; that they were agonized (I mean the conscientious among them) with uncertainty at every step&emdash;hating empyrics, and yet obliged to be nothing else themselves. I said to myself the whole subject of medicine must need thorough revision if not utter subversion.
I was in this state of mind when your views were first communicated to me. I was prepared to look at them candidly, and was so much better satisfied with them than with any thing else I had examined, that, in respect to myself, I have practiced upon them exclusively for more than ten years, and my family have also done the same almost without exception, with the most satisfactory results.
I have read the proof sheets you handed me, and am much pleased with your manner of presenting your views to the world. I think with you, that, as far as Homopathy has claims upon public confidence, it is altogether confirmatory of your views. I have had opportunity to examine Mr. Hahnemann's views, and was struck with the fact that his system of medical treatment was based upon the assumption that disease is not wrong but right action, that nature was doing its best, and that medicine should be given to help forward the existing action or to increase the existing symptoms instead of changing them. He found also that the less he helped nature the better; that is, that as soon as medicine had sensibly increased the existing symptoms, he must cease to give medicine. This has occasioned their infinitesimal doses. Now who cannot see that this whole system of medical treatment is based upon the same assumption that you make, to wit, that all action is right under the circumstances, that is, that it is the best that under the circumstances can be done. The error of Hahnemann and his followers lies in the assumption that with medicine they can help nature, or in other words, that medicine can supply the place of vitality. But I regard this error as comparatively harmless, because they give so little medicine as to make almost no impression any way. They are generally good nurses and give wholesome directions in regard to diet, habits, &c., and use the least possible quantity of medicine. This I have thought was probably better for mankind, in their present ignorance of the necessary precautions in regard to nursing and habits, than for them at once, in their ignorance, to adopt the no treatment system. The Homopath does but little injury with his medicine, while he does much for the patient by advice in regard to nursing.
I hope the medical faculty will look thoroughly and honestly into your views. I have often asked myself, is it possible that God has left us necessarily all in the dark upon the greatly important subject of disease? Has He neither given us any rational ground upon which to construct a science of disease and cure, nor any revelation whatever? The fact is, there must be some a priori ground upon which the science of disease and cure can be based. This ground must and will be discovered. I am anxious to see if your "theory," as you modestly call it, can not be so stated as that the human intelligence shall intuitively affirm that it must be true. The more I look at your fundamental principle, namely, that disease is in no case wrong action or a positive entity, but in all cases is only impaired action resulting from a deficiency of [p. vi] vitality, and yet the best that is possible under the circumstances, I say the more I look at this principle and turn it over, subjecting it to the inspection of my intelligence, the more I find myself verging to the conclusion that this must be true. If there be any action in an organized and living body it must be organic action. It must tend to health. Organic law can act but in one direction, and that is to sustain the organization. When vitality or the vital principle is abundant, the organism will be perfectly sustained in all its functions. When the vital principle is deficient in quantity, the action will be defective&emdash; the functions of the organism will be partially suspended for want of power&emdash;but still the action is organic action. It can not be wrong action; for all the action there is, is the result of vitality yet energizing in the system. I have much that I should like to say upon this subject, but must close with hoping and praying that your work may be generally read by all classes and especially by the medical profession; for surely, if it be true, it is the greatest of mere human discoveries.
C. G. FINNEY.
Oberlin, Jan. 5th, 1847.