Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pastor John's Great Medical Journal

Until about 100 years ago, the church was inextricably involved in health care. From the time Jesus healed the sick and cared for the infirm, down through the ages, Christians have taken care of their flocks. 

As recently as 50 years ago, many hospitals were still owned and run by church organizations. Here in Birmingham, there was Carraway Methodist, St. Vincent's Catholic, Baptist Princeton and Baptist Montclair, and Holy Name of Jesus Hospitals. Almost every large hospital was church-owned. So involvement of the religious community in healthcare goes 'way, 'way back. When medicine became too expensive for the churches to support, private companies and conglomerates bought out the hospitals, and today very few church hospitals remain. But there was a time...

In the mid-1700s, a certain young preacher rebelled against doctors and modern medicine. While he was involved with saving souls, he was just as concerned with healing bodies. He was to become one of the most renowned healers of his day.

Preacher John rejected the "doctors" of his day, and looked to Nature and natural cures for most diseases. A writer as well as a preacher, he published many papers and books, but his best-selling book was titled, "Primitive Physick or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases".  He spent years gathering  remedies and treatment methods from people who had used them. Remedies that were tried and true. 

John looked upon doctors as "Men of Learning", but who inverted healing. John thought the doctors laid aside experience and relied on theories. More concerned with how the body and its parts worked than in healing the person, the doctors of his time speculated and mixed herbs and used exotic treatments, "'til at length Physick became an abstruse science, quite out of the reach of ordinary men... They filled their writings with abundance of technical terms, utterly unintelligible to plain men" (which might be even more true today). John saw the person as more than a broken bone, or a kidney stone, and felt one's first aid kit should contain natural and readily available medicines that everyone could obtain and use. His idea was that wellness meant more than just absence of illness. It involved the "whole" person.

"Primitive Physick" contains numerous natural remedies for almost every known malady of the time - from BOILS (Apply a little Venice Turpentine; OR, a plaster of honey and wheat-flower; OR of figs...) to CORNS (Apply fresh every morning the yeast of small beer, spread on a rag; OR boil the juice of radishes, 'till it is thick enough to spread as a plaster. Shift it as it grows dry; OR apply fresh ivy leaves daily, and in fifteen days they will drop out.) to VERTIGO (Take a vomit or two; OR use the cold bath for a month; OR on a May morning, about sunrise, snuff up daily the dew that is on mallow leaves; OR take every morning half a dram of mustard seed.)

To cure convulsive asthma, "dry and powder a toad. Make it into small pills, and take one every hour until the convulsions cease." To cure baldness, "rub the part morning and evening with onions, till it is red; and rub it afterwards with honey." In fact, Primitive Physick actually includes 18 cures for baldness.

The book includes instructions and cures  for "An Easy and Safe Vomit", "Involuntary Urine", "To Increase Milk", "An Old Stubborn Pain in the Back", "An Easy Purge" and "A Stronger Purge".  It gives child-rearing instructions (Move over, Dr. Spock!) "No child should ever be swathed tight. It lays the foundation for many diseases." "Tis best to wean a child at about seven months old. They should lie in the cradle at least a year." "Parents should dip their children in cold water every morning, until they are three quarters old." "Milk, milk porridge, and water-gruel are the proper breakfast for children."

John also  became interested in the curative powers of electricity, and his shock treatments were the forerunner of some of our modern electrical medicine: electroconvulsive shock therapy (EST), and maybe even cardioversion (the defibrillator)... but that was another book, and it didn't sell as well.

This turned out more a book report than an article, but I was so fascinated with what I read about it that I bought the book. Couldn't put it down. As a Congregational Health Nurse, I found the concept of healing the body along with the spirit and the soul right down my alley, so to speak. Furthermore, it was fascinating that this young man of faith would be so keenly interested in healing physical and mental illnesses, not to mention that this book, of all the books he wrote, was his very best seller. 

"Primitive Physick" by John Benjamin Wesley... and, as Paul Harvey always said,  now you know the rest of the story. 

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