Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Healing Wonders Of Christ

( Originally Published 1908 )



IN the history of the Founder of Christianity as re-corded in the Gospels, we find attributed to Him certain wonderful or miraculous deeds. From the second century to the present time these achievements have excited in some grave scepticism, whereas in the case of others they have met with enthusiastic acceptance. Their appearance in the Gospel narrative have led rationalistic writers to doubt the veracity of the Gospel story, and the enlightened Christian of today often feels them rather a burden than a help to faith. Nevertheless the general historical trustworthiness of the first three Gospels is one of the most assured results of modern criticism. Although secondary elements are not wholly absent from these narratives, and although echoes of the Old Testament are not infrequently audible in them, yet to resolve the whole history into a series of mythical recitals modeled on Old Testament originals after the manner of Strauss is far from the thought of serious-minded scholars today. Though the threefold cord sometimes shrinks to a single strand, though St. Luke in particular has incorporated narratives as to whose origin at present we can only conjecture, yet the glad conviction has gained ground that in these exquisite and unstudied narratives we have a generally faithful picture of the life and the death of the Son of Man. The judgment of Harnack may be taken as embodying the conclusions of the best New Testament scholarship of our time. "The unique character of the Gospels," he says, "is universally recognized by criticism to-day. . . . The Greek language lies only like a transparent veil upon these writings, the contents of which can with a slight effort be translated back into Hebrew or Aramaic. That we have here in the main a first-hand tradition is indisputable." Now embodied in the substance of these Gospels is the record of Christ's deeds. The deep impression He produced upon His contemporaries is consistently represented as effected by His mighty works as well as by His words, and these miracles are not like the trifling and immaterial acts ascribed to Him in the Apocryphal gospels, but are worthy expressions of the gracious character of their Author. So closely are most of these stories interwoven with the most probable incidents of His life, so supported are they by His authentic words, so sustained by direct and in-direct evidence of every sort, that to tear them from the Evangelical narratives would be to renounce definitively and forever the hope of any real knowledge of the life of Jesus. In view of the impossibility of creating in simplicity and propriety such situations as frequently con-front us in the miracles recorded in these Gospels, we may even boldly take up David Hume's challenge and affirm that the invention would be more miraculous than the miracle. Not only His friends but also His enemies admitted His power to work wonders. As He hung upon the cross, the taunt flung at Him was also an unconscious tribute: "He saved others, Himself He cannot save." His power was maliciously ascribed to Beelzebub, though later opponents supposed that He gained it through some occult knowledge acquired in Egypt. As to Christ's own claim there can be no mistake. His message to Herod is plain, "Behold, I cast out devils and I do cures."' There were two classes that lay close to the heart of Christ — the poor and the sick. In the great Judgment scene. He identifies Himself for all time with these classes. "I was hungry and ye gave me to eat. . . . I was sick and ye visited Me." He conceives of His mission as that of a physician, a Healer of the souls and bodies of men. "They that are whole have no need of a physician but they that are sick."' And the judgment which He pronounces upon the cities by the lakeside implies His won-der working activity: "Woe unto thee Chorazin! Woe unto thee Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." 5 And yet He never proposed His ability to work miracles as a proof of His divine mission, but invariably declined such a challenge, stigmatizing it as a solicitation of an evil and adulterous generation and enjoining silence on those whom He had restored. He recognized that others could cast out demons and He admitted that false Messiahs could perform wonderful works, declaring that a tree is known by its fruit, not by these showy blossoms, and that character is the only proof that one is sent by God. In short, His miracles, though frequent, were with Him a secondary matter. As a rule, they were almost forced from Him by man's distress. His business on earth was to reveal God and to found His kingdom. The sign he offered to His contemporaries was the old sign of the prophet Jonah whose preaching was believed by the Ninevites.

The miracles of Jesus are usually grouped under four heads: (1) Ordinary acts of healing. (2) The expulsion of demons. (3) The raising of the dead. (4) The so-called nature miracles. We here concern ourselves only with the first two of these groups. In doing this we are not to be understood as throwing doubt upon the other types of miracle, much less rejecting them. For the present we set them aside because as yet we are unable to find in our experience a point of contact with them. A miracle, if it is to meet with acceptance at the hands of modern men, must be shown to have some analogy with facts and phenomena within their knowledge. Those of which this cannot be shown are by no means to be rejected. They are simply to be reserved to the day of fuller light. It would be rash to suppose that all the light possible in this matter has been vouchsafed us. The rationalistic criticism of fifty years ago rejected the healing wonders of Christ. Fuller knowledge enables us to smile at the sceptical dogmatism of this criticism. Why may it not be that the knowledge of fifty years hence will be able to make intelligible some of the narratives on which faith stumbles today?

Confining our attention then to the healing aspect of our Lord's ministry, what light has modern medical science to throw upon it? Every one has learned to recognize the reality of spiritual phenomena, the inter-dependence of soul and body, the effect of psychical states on physical states. There exists now in the archives of medicine, as Professor Osier in his review of the progress of medicine during the nineteenth century admits, a vast mass of trustworthy material testifying to the reality of cures effected or facilitated by other than physical means. Many persons discouraged by the difficulty of establishing a rational theory to account for these cases, or shocked by the absurd pretensions of those who claim to possess power to effect such cures, decline to enter this obscure border land of science, and prefer to ignore the whole subject. Yet that domain exists and to it presumably belong the miracles of healing ascribed to Christ and to His apostles. In this region personality counts for much, as every psychologically trained physician is aware. From time to time through the centuries men have arisen endowed with a peculiar power to dispel the moral and physical maladies of their fellowmen. Among these, "the First among many brethren," stands the Lord Jesus, the Great Physician. Of Him it was said that He taught and healed. Co-ordinating His cures with others that have been wrought in ancient and modern times, we obtain a new sense of the nature and reality of His mighty works that removes them from the stifling atmosphere of the old supernatural vacuum and gives them a place under the starry heavens and among the mysterious forces of God's universe.

In approaching a closer examination of Christ's therapeutic work, we must bear in mind that much uncertainty must attend our effort. The sources from which we. get our information are admittedly fragmentary. They were written by simple and prosaically-minded men. They have no pretensions to be scientific biographies, but are rather broken and somewhat disjointed memoirs. And still more important for our purpose is the reflection that the diagnoses of the troubles cured are popular in character and are therefore vague and ambiguous. On the other hand, bearing in mind the uniqueness of Christ's personality and our own ignorance of the limits to the influence of mind over body, we will do well to avoid all hasty dogmatism as to what would be possible or not possible to such a one as Christ. Schmiedel regards as historical "only those of the class which even at the present day physicians are able to affect by psychological methods." 1 But the best physicians to-day admit that their studies are only at the beginning, that the dark border land of body and soul is still for the most part unexplored, and that when it is explored sufficiently startling discoveries will be made.

In order that we may understand the significance of Christ's healing ministry, a few words must be said as to the state of medical science in the Palestine of His day. That there was no lack of physicians at that time and place we learn from the story of the woman with an issue of blood. " She," we are told, " had suffered many things of many physicians and had spent all she had and was nothing better but rather grew worse." Luke, being a physician, could not tolerate this reflection of Mark's on the medical profession and so he quietly drops this remark about the clumsy ignorance of the doctors.' Greek medical knowledge had scarcely, if at all, affected the rabbinical views of disease. In spite of the teaching of the Book of Job, the orthodox opinion was that every kness argued some sin, secret or open, on the part of the sick person? Such a feeling of course only deepened the misery of the sufferer. In addition to this, the doctrines of demons had been elaborately developed and these evil spirits were supposed to be at work behind all forms of illness, but more especially in that particular form which went by the name of demon possession. Even St. Paul could not shake himself free from this Jewish notion, for he speaks of his thorn in the flesh as a messenger of Satan. With such ideas it was no wonder that, as Bousset says, the physician pursued his craft with all manner of remedies possible and impossible, good and bad, sometimes by proper means, more often with all the devices of quackery, faith healing and magic, with utterings of the mysterious name of God and even of the religious method of prayer." And yet occasionally some of these crude doctors advocated methods that curiously foreshadow the therapeutics of to-day. In the Talmud, for example, a woman suffering from an issue of blood is told to seat herself at the crossroads and to cry aloud, "Let thine issue of blood be stopped" — an ancient example of the modern theory of auto-suggestion.

The scope and range of Christ's therapeutic activity is worth noting. In the triple tradition — the material common to the first three Evangelists — we have the record of eleven miraculous deeds and of these nine are acts of healing. The diseases cured are as follows: (1) fever; (2) leprosy; (3) paralysis; (4) a withered hand; (5) demoniacal possession; (6) uterine hemorrhage; (7) reanimation at the point of death; (8) epilepsy; (9) blindness. In addition to specific cures we have a number of summarizing notices of Christ's healing ministry. For example, we are told that when He was in Capernaum, " they brought unto Him all that were sick and them that were possessed with demons, and He healed many that were sick with diverse diseases and cast out many demons." And again we are told that "a great multitude from Galilee followed and from Judæa and from Jerusalem and from Idumæa and beyond Jordan and about Tyre and Sidon. . . for He had healed many in so much that as many as had plagues pressed upon Him that they might touch Him." It may be inferred that the diseases named are typical of those with which He was accustomed to deal throughout His career. There is no mention in the records of His healing such diseases as tuberculosis, typhus, diphtheria and the like. He is reported to have cured leprosy, which in the view of modern medical science is incurable. But here we must remember that in the ancient world two types of leprosy were recognized, the one curable, the other incurable . And from the vague description given in the Gospels we are unable to decide which type is referred to. An analogy to the healing of the milder type may perhaps be found in the well-known fact that certain forms of eczema are recognized to be largely of nervous origin and are amenable to the influence of suggestion. "Eruptions on the skin," says a distinguished medical writer, "will follow excessive mental strain." 1 If we assume, for example, that this was the type of leprosy mentioned by all the first three Evangelists as having been cured at Capernaum, we can understand why the leper was permitted to come up close to Jesus and to mix with other people.

As space will not permit a detailed examination of all Christ's healing miracles, it will be convenient to select one for close study in order that we may the better under-stand His attitude toward disease and the methods which He employed to combat it. The incident which we have chosen for examination is that of the healing of the paralytic.' This story is the more readily selected because it offers certain difficulties which have excited consider-able scepticism. For our part, the more we study it, especially in the light of the analogies of modern medical knowledge, the more are we convinced of its historicity. The story can be briefly told.

At some undefined point in His ministry we find Christ "preaching the Word" of the Kingdom in a house at Capernaum. The house is one-storied, as most village houses in Palestine are to-day, built but a few feet above the ground, consisting of one or at most two rooms, with a rough outside stairway leading to the flat roof. Within, all the available space is crowded and even the entrance is choked by an interested audience. Suddenly, there appear four men bearing a rude pallet or quilt on which lies a young man paralyzed on one side of his body. They would force a way into the presence of Jesus, whose reputation as a healer is spreading far and wide. But the crowd will not yield. Nevertheless the friends of the sick man are determined not to be balked of their purpose. They make their way to the roof of the dwelling by the outer stairway, and, as St. Mark graphically says, "unroof the roof" by "digging up" the tiles or slabs of dried clay, and through the hole thus made they lower the pallet with the sufferer to the feet of Jesus. The faith of friends and patient fill Him with admiration. He cannot refuse such a challenge. In some way or other His inspired insight detects beneath the physical a moral paralysis, a disease of conscience, the sense of guilt, the pressure of some sin, which has led to this bodily distress. The deepest need of the sufferer is not to be cured of his physical disorder; it is to be healed of his spiritual misery that lies behind the bodily disturbance, and so Jesus turns to him with the word of comfort, "Child, your sins are forgiven." At once certain critical theologians present who have come from a distance take offense. "The man is speaking blasphemy," they say. " God alone has power to forgive sins." Jesus, with a touch of irony, turns on them with the question, "Why do you think such thoughts? Is it easier to say to the paralytic `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Arise, and take your bed and go?" Doubtless the critics would reply, "It is easier to assure a man of forgiveness than to cure him of paralysis, and the man therefore who can do the greater may be assumed to be able to do the less." Jesus feels within himself that He has power to forgive sins, that is, to offer such an assurance of forgiveness as is valid before God and as actually removes the guilt of sin. He is also conscious of the power of the Saviour to innervate afresh the physical life of the man before Him with a flood of physical energy. Strong in the consciousness of this double power, He addresses Himself to the sufferer, summons him to put forth His will by commanding him to rise and take up his bed and go unto his house. The sick man obeys the command to the amazement of all who are present.

This simple and artless story has been subjected by Strauss to a searching criticism, with the result that he rejects it as a mere legend without the slightest foundation in fact, and accounts for its appearance by the Messianic obsession of the time working on such a prophecy as that of Isaiah: "Then shall the lame man leap as a hart." Strauss's criticism is based partly on critical grounds and partly on supposed improbabilities in the details of the narrative. Matthew gives the original form of the story, and Luke in turn is outdone by Mark in wealth of detail. Matthew simply says that a paralytic was brought to Jesus stretched on a bed. Luke describes how Jesus surrounded by a multitude taught and healed in a certain house, and how the bearers, unable to get near Him for the press, let the sick man down through the roof; Mark goes beyond Luke in stating the number of the bearers and in describing how they tore up the roof so as to let the sick man through. Thus do legends grow. But modern criticism cuts the ground from under this sceptical theory by showing that not Matthew but Mark is our earliest Gospel and that Matthew and Luke depend on it for much of their material. Thus the Gospel of Mark with its supposed difficulties stands nearest the facts. Moreover, according to Papias, a very early authority, Mark depended for his information on an eye-witness, Peter, whose recollections he wrote down. This sufficiently accounts for the lifelike detail and dramatic action of the story as it is told in the second Gospel. As to the improbabilities which Strauss finds in connection with the getting on the roof and of digging it up, they are based upon a misunderstanding of the structure of peasant dwellings in Palestine. Modern travelers make it quite clear that the action of the patient's friends was very natural and easy of accomplishment.

Even Keim, misled by western conceptions of house structure, and by a wrong critical theory, agrees with Strauss in regarding the realistic touches of St. Mark as spurious. On the other hand he accepts the kernel of the story — the healing of a case of paralysis, and accounts for the deed by a reference to the power of strong emotions, whether of joy or of terror, upon the physical organism. Keim is here looking in the right direction. Nevertheless he does not do justice to all the facts.

Let us, with the second Evangelist as our guide, try to understand the meaning of the story, to make it intelligible by co-ordinating it with known facts and to deduce from it our Lord's relation to sickness and His method of dealing with it. This will at the same time be the best apologetic for its historical worth.

i. We note that here Jesus recognizes the moral causes which in certain instances lie behind the physical disease. The friends of the sick man want Jesus to heal him, as it were, by a wave of the hand, but Jesus is no magician, and He knows that the moral malady is at the root of the trouble. He is very far indeed from sharing the prevailing theological notion of His time that every sickness in itself was evidence of sin, open or unconfessed. No! Rather for Him disease and sin are parts of a complex order — the kingdom of evil — to overcome which He felt himself sent by God. His Gospel or good news was in essence this: that God must be no longer conceived as the author of the misery and torture that make of human life a hell. On the contrary, He is Love, and as Love He is ever seeking to express Himself in joy. He is against disorder, weakness, pain, lack of self-control; these forces weaken life, and He is the God of the living. Nevertheless, Jesus recognizes, as every close observer of human life must recognize, that there are reciprocal relations between sin and disease just as there are reciprocal relations between the soul and the body.' "Medical science," says Matthew Arnold, "has never gaged — never perhaps enough set itself to gage — the intimate connection between moral fault and dis-ease. To what extent or in how many cases what is called illness is clue to moral springs having been used amiss, whether by being over used or by not being used sufficiently, we hardly at all know, and we too little in-quire. Certainly it is due to this very much more than we commonly think, and the more it is due to this, the more do moral therapeutics rise in possibility and importance. The bringer of light and happiness, the calmer and pacifier or invigorator and stimulator is one of the chiefest of doctors. Such a doctor is Jesus."

We know today that many nervous disorders have their main root in the moral region. Selfishness, making undue claims on the world, leads to worry, and worry is one of the most prolific causes of neurasthenia and allied troubles. Or the sense of some moral fault unpurged by penitence creates a dissociation of consciousness which in turn may lead to hysteria, and hysteria, as we know, can simulate almost any disease and turn life into a pro-longed wretchedness. Or again, wrong conceptions of God and of His relations to his creatures depress the soul, sink it into melancholy delusions and thereby set up all sorts of functional nervous disturbances. The alienist assures us that sixty per cent. of insanity may be traced to absence of self-control in one shape or an-other. If then the representatives of Christ today are to speak the healing and reconciling word, they must first understand more of the relations between abnormal states of mind or soul and the reflections of these states in the physical organism.

2. Christ's healing power required as a psychological medium and spiritual condition faith on the part of the healed or of his friends or of both. This is the rule to which there is but one clear and necessary exception. In the cases of demon possession the mental organism was itself so disorganized that faith or any other rational and motived act was impossible. Jesus in these instances began by soothing the mind and distracting it from its obsession, and then with the naked force of his own personality, revealing itself in look, gesture, and word of command, He broke down the structure of hallucination and delusion which the morbid action of mind had built up and thereby He set the sufferer free from his disorder. But wherever a measure of self-control was left, He demanded faith. And we may assume the existence of faith even in those cases in connection with which it is not expressly named. Wherever there is a detailed account of a healing wonder, the presence of faith is indicated. For example, to the woman with the issue of blood Christ's word is, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." The blind beggar at Jericho, whose cry of expectant trust could not be silenced, hears from the lips of Christ the same benediction. At Nazareth His hands were tied because of the unbelief of His fellow townsmen. "He was not able to do any mighty work there." Only a few unimportant cases He treated because in these a little faith sufficed. This faith Jesus Himself sought to en-courage. The blind man brought to Him at Bethsaida 3 He isolates from the crowd and uses the simple therapeutic remedies then in vogue and with which doubtless the man was familiar. The restoration of sight was gradual. Jesus encouraged him to try to see, but at first the effort is only partially successful. Jesus repeated the operation of touching the eyes with spittle and then, as Mark says, "he took a steady look and was restored and saw everything clearly." In the story before us it is said that Jesus seeing their faith proceeded to pronounce His absolution.' First and mainly, perhaps, our attention is called to the faith of the sick man's friends. The patient, then, has been for some time living in an atmosphere of faith. The reports of Christ's healing work have reached His companions and have stirred them to hope and trust. This very hope and trust have created a psychological atmosphere favorable to the sufferer's eventual recovery. Moreover, it has tended to awaken faith in the patient himself. As in the case of the daughter of Jairus, Christ feels Himself mighty in an atmosphere free from doubt and fear. We can see, too, how a strong faith on the part of this unhappy man was developed. The very fact that he allowed his friends to carry him to Christ showed that faith had already germinated in his heart. Every element in the strange and never to be forgotten scene in which he is to be for the moment the central figure was calculated to develop this germ, to affect powerfully his imagination and to arouse all his slumbering moral forces. First of all, there is the contagion of the crowd eager to hear the Great Teacher, and the powerful impression made upon them. Then there is the inability to find access to Him, causing momentary disappointment to be followed by a reaction of hope. Then there is the climbing of the roof and the unusual mode of access to the Healer's presence. Nor can we forget the powerful nature of the indirect suggestion conveyed by his listening to the controversy between Christ and His critics and by marking the victory which Christ easily achieved. Above all, there is the tender and gracious Personality shining out in all its winsomeness and sympathy by way of contrast against the frowning and ungenial background of scribe and Pharisee. All this must have tended to create expectant attention, faith, confidence, hope, — the psychical conditions of a cure. We conclude then that the miraculousness of Christ's healing power did not consist in His refusal to use secondary causes, but rather in the Divine love and grace which moved Him to His cures and which His cures symbolized to the spiritually susceptible mind.

3. What was the secret of Christ's healing power?' The answer is, His sense of filial dependence upon God expressed in faith and prayer. The failure of the disciples to heal the epileptic boy at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration Christ explains as due to their want of faith,' and this want is explained because of their weakness in prayer, in the strong desire which sets in motion the Divine Will. Christ's consciousness of oneness with His father is implied in His saying to His critics, "But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath authority on earth to forgive sins." This authority is delegated to Him by his Father. He is the appointed Redeemer of mankind, the Founder of God's Kingdom upon earth, and therefore He was equipped with the power necessary to oppose and overcome the whole order of evil, to destroy it not in its outward manifestations only but in its ultimate causes. His power to heal is therefore only the visible manifestation of another power, His power to annul the guilt and activity of sin. This power was not something given Him once and for all, a magical endowment; rather was it an ethical quality to be sustained through communion with God. It is significant that after a day's healing and preaching activity at Capernaum He rose the following morning a great while before day and departed into a solitary place and there prayed.' It is here that we touch the inmost secret of Christ's power. It is the mystery of His personality, something which sets Him apart from humanity, something which lifts Him into a category by Himself. In healing as in teaching the best of men can follow Him only at a long interval.

The conditions, psychical and spiritual, of the healing wonder are now clearly manifest. The sick man, from a variety of circumstances co-operating, with his own longing to be free from misery, lies at the feet of Jesus. full of expectant and of hopeful confidence. He feels a sense of security. Anything, even what seems impossible, is possible in the presence of this Divine Man. Had the poor paralytic been asked by some one later, "How did you know that Christ was able to heal you?" he might have replied in the words of Iole concerning Hercules: "Because I was content the moment my eyes fell on Him — He conquered whether He stood or walked or sat." Moreover the man's deepest need had been met, the moral burden that had been weighing him down was removed; the various inhibitions caused by it no longer existed; in a word, all that is necessary is for the Healer to utter His word of command and the deed is done, the cure is wrought. Jesus, with a look of compassion linked with power, challenges the man to stand up. The man hears and obeys.

The records of any great psychological clinic of to-day should suffice to banish the last lingering doubt as to the genuineness of the narrative we have just discussed. One typical illustration may be given. From 1866 until 1875 a young woman was confined in the Saltperière Hospital at Paris suffering from hysteria. Her left arm and her left leg were paralzyed and by the contraction of the leg a kind of club-foot had been formed. The muscles of the tongue were so affected that she lost her speech. There was also a contraction of the oesophagus which hindered swallowing. The left eye was almost wholly blind. All the resources of medical science were tried for her relief, but in vain. Charcot, the noted expert in abnormal psychology, publicly explained that only some unforeseen and powerful impression could cure her. Three years after this statement was made, the patient was convinced that she would become well if on a certain Church festival the sacred Host should be placed upon her head. She waited in suspense for the day. As the procession approached, she began to tremble, lost consciousness, and fell into convulsions. In a few moments she was cured and was able to go into the chapel to return thanks to God.

If any medical fact can be relied upon, it is that for certain nervous disorders suggestion has a healing power. This is brought forward here not as an adequate explanation, for suggestion is itself a mystery, but as an analogy that may well render credible the extraordinary and in some respects unparalleled cures in the ministry of Christ.

There is one type of disorder which stands in a category by itself and over which Jesus exercised especial power. It is that which goes by the name of "demon possession." There are six cases of this disorder reported, three of them with some detail and three more briefly.' Besides these we have a reference to another case, that of Mary Magdalene, out of whom it is said seven demons were cast. Then we have casual notices of the cure of those possessed with demons. Not only so, but the Twelve and the Seventy reported to Jesus that they had had power over demons.' This power, however, though apparently enhanced in Jesus and His disciples, was not peculiar to them, for we find a reference to an unknown man who was seen by the disciples casting out demons, and Jesus himself admits that the pupils of the Pharisees were able to cast them out.' One receives the impression that however demoniacal possession is to be explained, it was a disease very widespread in Palestine in the time of Christ. Doubtless there were special social and religious conditions favorable to the growth of the distemper. The deep poverty of the people, crushed as they were beneath the intolerable burden of the Roman taxation; the consequent physical and moral degradation; the over-strained Messianic expectation, leading to all sorts of fantastic and apocalyptic beliefs; the firmly-rooted and prevailing belief in the existence and activity of malignant spirits, a belief which the Jew shared with the rest of the world — all these elements formed a kind of forcing bed for abnormal mental phenomena. The consensus of Biblical scholarship is tending toward interpreting this strange disorder in the light of modern psychological medicine. From this point of view the essential element in it was the presence of some psychical nervous or mental disease of which the demoniacal obsession was an accidental symptom. Before the birth of psychological science and while the changes produced by a morbid nervous state in our conscious life were unknown, the strange' phenomena of insanity were likely to be attributed to demons. When people perceived the marked and unaccountable alteration that the moral and mental state of their friends had undergone, when they heard strange words fall from their lips and witnessed all the melancholy manifestations of what would be called in our time double or multiple personality, they could hardly avoid the supposition that this profound transformation, these unreasonable fears and inhuman actions, were due to the presence of a foreign or malign spirit. They perceived that it was not the spirit of their friend that manifested itself. Hence they could only suppose it was some other spirit that had entered their friend's body and that spoke through his lips. To this psychological motive must be added the religious motive already referred to, which was at hand in the form of an elaborate doctrine of demons developed by the Jews largely out of foreign elements after the close of the Old Testament Canon, and to which the Apocryphal books bear abundant witness. The belief itself is pathological and except kept in check by the healthier elements in the individual and social life would tend to act as a powerful suggestion and would simulate a sort of pseudo-reality. Moreover, modern travelers and missionaries tell us that very similar phenomena may be observed at the present time in India, China, Japan, and other Oriental countries where belief in evil spirits is prevalent.' The missionaries exorcise demons to-day mainly by prayer and exhortation. The supposed demons speak through the organs of the possessed; they hate and seek to injure those who would exorcise them; they produce all manner of physical contortions and various nervous diseases; and they endow those over whom they tyrannize with apparently superhuman strength. It is clear that the demon possession of the Gospels does not stand by itself, but is to be viewed in connection with similar phenomena that were common in early Christianity, in Judaism and in many other religions. In general we may say that the Gospels distinguish between ordinary diseases and possession by demons, which latter they limit to a distinct class of nervous and mental maladies. We know to-day that it is persons afflicted with these ailments who are most susceptible to suggestion. In the three typical cases to which reference has already been made we may recognize some well-known form of nervous or mental disease. The boy at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration with his falls, his convulsions, his gnashing teeth, his foaming lips, the sudden onset of the attacks in which he flings himself into fire and water, the sudden cessation of the seizure, all these painful manifestations the father of the boy and the narrator ascribe, in accordance with the belief of their time, to the malignant energy of a demon. As a matter of fact, however, a modern physician would content himself with diagnosing the case as epilepsy, a disease of the highest nerve centers and appearing in different forms. The demoniac in the synagogue of Capernaum appears to have been afflicted with some type of hysteria. Luke says that though the demon threw the sufferer down yet he received no harm, — a clear case of anæsthesia or loss of sensation which is one of the stigmata of hysteria. "Of all nervous afflictions," say Charcot and Richet, "hysteria is the one which in the case of possession appears to have played almost always the most considerable rôle." 3 The demoniac of Gerasa with his wild cry, his self-inflicted injuries, his frantic gestures, his ferocious onslaught on passers-by, is plainly the victim of some type of mania. In the cases of the blind and dumb demoniac and the dumb demoniac recorded by the first Evangelist, the dumbness and blindness are probably the accompaniments of a hysterical neurosis. With the healing of the hysteria these symptoms would naturally disappear. Our view of the reality or unreality of these evil agencies will depend upon our general view of the universe. It is significant that as education spreads, belief in demoniacal possession dies out and that the greatest strongholds of the belief to-day are in non-Christian countries. It is hard to resist the impression that Christ Himself shared the common idea, yet we must remember that the narratives of the disorder were written by men prepossessed with the theory of demoniacal action, and even the words of Jesus Himself come to us through the minds of such men. If the evidence warrants us in believing that Jesus did share the contemporary belief, we must maintain that in no way does this fact invalidate His spiritual authority as the Founder of the Kingdom of God. His ignorance of psychology and physiology is one of the limitations of His human knowledge. In any event, He did not stop to speculate as to the psychical or physical causes of these afflictions. He proceeded to heal them and the glorious fact remains that His word, His will, His personality were sufficient for this task. Nothing impressed the early Church so much as His power to exorcise the demons with a word! Armed alone with the spiritual power of faith in God and love to humanity, He stands over against the exorcists of His time with their fumigations, their sacramental acts, their mysterious signs, their terrible formulas. With Him all is simple and sublime. Not without significance as to the impression Jesus made upon early generations of Christians is the legend that Abgarus, King of Edessa, afflicted with a grievous disease, sent a letter to Christ by the hands of a courier to beg Him to come and heal him. He writes, "I have heard the reports. of Thee and of Thy cures, that they are performed without medicines and without herbs." Jesus Himself says that it is by the Spirit or Finger of God that He casts out demons. Even at a distance, as in the case of the. Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter, He is able to affect a cure, — a feat not unexampled in mod-ern times and certainly not to be set aside when we take into consideration the results of psychical research. As a rule, it is His word of command carrying a definite forth-putting of will that restores self-control to the sufferer. "It fell," as Traub says, "on the nerves." The inter-position of a mighty will, the tranquilizing contact with a calm and elevated nature, the touch of sympathy, the word of hope, were the means He employed in effecting His wonderful restorations. When He meets the raving demoniac of Gerasa who could not be bound by iron fetters and had taken up his abode in the vaults of the dead, He enters into quiet soothing conversation with him so as to draw off the diseased mind from its obsession. So profound an impression did Jesus make upon the unhappy man that after the cure he entreated Jesus that he might be allowed to become one of His stated followers and to stay constantly with Him, but Jesus sent him as a preacher of the Gospel to his own kinsfolk. How a healthy personality affects an unhealthy personality, how will touches will, what it is that passes from the sane and ordered mind to the unsound and disordered, it is impossible to tell, but every psychological clinic to-day is a witness to the reality of such facts. As we know nothing of the after history of those that were healed, we are unable to affirm that there were no relapses. That some of the cures failed to be permanent would appear from the little parable in which Jesus speaks of the demon who has gone out of a man passing through desert places and unable to find rest turning back to the soul from which he had been cast forth and, along with seven other spirits more evil than himself, entering into the man once more to make his last state worse than his first. The relapses must have been very exceptional; otherwise we could not account for the splendor of His fame, as the Physician both of soul and body.

Some readers may perhaps be willing to acknowledge the truth of everything stated so far, but they will object: "Were not the healing deeds of Christ extraordinary events, a parallel to which is never to be expected ? What evidence," they will say, "is there in favor of thinking that Christ meant His healing ministry as well as his teaching ministry to be represented in His Church in all coming time?" To begin with, Christ in sending forth His disciples on their Galilean tour "gave them authority over the unclean spirits," and we are told that they carried out His commission, for they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. And we know from another source that the practice of anointing the sick man with oil and praying over him, both for physical and moral health, prevailed in the Apostolic Church.' The success of this early mission does not seem to have been great. Christ, however, repeats the experiment on a larger scale. He sends out seventy and empowers them to heal the sick that are in any city into which they may enter.' On the return of these Evangelists they reported that even the demons were subject unto them.'

Again, the greatest man in the Apostolic Church was St. Paul, and his attitude toward this question is valuable not only for its own sake but for the light it throws upon his conception of Christ's intention. In the list of spiritual gifts with which the Church was endowed, he mentions gifts of healing,' and he claims for himself wonder-working power. We know that the power he claimed he freely exercised. If it were possible for ùs to accept as historical the Book of the Acts as it stands, we could point to such a narrative as that which relates how handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched the Apostle's body were carried to the sick, and "the diseases departed from them and the evil spirits went out." But a great number of modern critics refuse to accept the whole of the Acts as genuine history. Nevertheless even free critics like Weizsacker, McGiffert, and Schmiedel accept as genuine history the "We-passages," that is, those passages in the later portion of the book in which the writer speaks in the first person plural as though he were an eye-witness of the events he is narrating.' This eye-witness it is now generally agreed was Luke, "the beloved physician." Now it so happens that in this portion of the Acts we have recorded two remarkable curative acts on the part of the Apostle; the one an exorcism of a demon, the other a cure of dysentery. At Philippi a girl "having a spirit of divination" (which means that in all probability she was a ventriloquist and therefore was supposed to be under supernatural influence), followed Paul and his companions crying the while that they were the servants of the Most High God. But the Apostle, following the example of Christ, refused to accept commendation from such a dubious quarter and, turning round, charged the demon in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. That Paul believed in the reality of demons we know from other sources. The other incident happened at Malta where he was shipwrecked on his way to Rome. "The miraculous cures at Malta," says Weizsacker, "are an historically inseparable portion of the Apostolic life." We are told that the father of Publius, the Governor of Malta, lay sick of fever and dysentery, unto whom Paul entered in and prayed and, "laying his hands on him, healed him." Then follows a notable statement: "And when this was done, the rest also that had diseases on the Island came and were cured; who also honored us with many honors." Now Harnack's keen-sightedness has seen that the Greek word rendered "were cured" would be more aptly translated "received medical attendance." The persons thus cured showed their appreciation by loading Paul and his companions with rich presents. Here then embedded in a section of the most primitive history, a section which has stood the tests of the most stringent criticism and is admitted by all scholars as genuine, we find the fundamental principle for which we have been contending throughout this book — Paul the Theologian, and Luke the Physician, the one with his spiritual power and his commanding personality, and the other with his training in the medical schools, join hands for the alleviation of human suffering. From all this, it is clear that while the great Apostle of the Gentiles felt himself primarily called to preach, he knew that Christ had also empowered him to heal.

Finally, the spurious conclusion of St. Mark's Gospel, which probably dates from an early part of the second century, does not indeed give us genuine words of Christ, but does enable us to see how the third generation of Christians conceived Christ's purpose as to the exercise of the healing gift. "And these signs shall accompany them that believe; in my Name shall they cast out demons; ... they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." In spite of the belief in thaumaturgy reflected in the claim to be able to take up serpents and drink any 'deadly thing without the slightest hurt, we have in this passage a genuine witness to the traditional belief of the early Church. For centuries, as we have seen, this belief had the most powerful influence on Church life and custom, and was an influential factor in the Christian propaganda. Nor has it ever wholly died out of the consciousness of the Church. A great succession of eminent men has kept it alive through the ages in spite of the unbelief and indifference of the great mass of Christians. Paul, Origen, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Luther, Swedenborg, John Wesley, Irving — that noble friend of Carlyle in whose meteoric ministry all London rejoiced for a season — Bengel, Erskine of Linlathen, Bushnell — these men believed that the Church was never nearer the realization of the mind of Christ than when engaged in healing the sick; nor must it be forgotten that the honored and historical Church of the Waldenses has pre-served this, among other primitive traditions, till our own time. Professor Du Bose, whose sane and conservative temper gives weight to his words, suggestively remarks: "Assuredly there is more to be accomplished than our religion or our science have accomplished for the spiritual and the natural ills of mankind through the mind and through the faith of men. On the part of religion, may it not be from a lack of mental and spiritual susceptibility on our part, the absence of a due response of mind and heart, that the truth and the love of God do not work greater wonders in our lives, not only spiritual and moral, but physical also ? May it not be one more of the many reproaches of our Christianity as it is that many have to go outside, if not of it, yet of its organized fellowship, to find that power of God unto salvation of soul and body which was its promise to us." And again : " They (those who were healed) were the subjects and not merely the objects of His power. He carried them along with Himself in their healing. On their part it was mind or heart or faith healing. He told them to be well, to arise and walk, to look up and see. And they did it. Could not we in many ways do it too, if only we would believe and know ? " We do not plead for any return to the mere accidents of the life of the primitive Church, but we do plead for a return to her spirit and, so far as modern conditions will permit, to the manifestation of that spirit. Armed with the resources of modern science, and more especially of modern psychological science, inspired with the enthusiasm of humanity which is the grand legacy bequeathed her by the Founder of our faith, the Church of to-day should be able to outdo the wonders of the Apostolic and the post-Apostolic Age, and in a new and a grander sense to win the world for Him Who came to take its infirmities and to bear its sicknesses.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com