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THE MORAL DIAGNOSIS OF DISEASE.
BY A PENITENT INVALID.
I knew that I was convalescent on a certain day when I caught a clear glimpse of the criminal career I had been pursuing, all the while supposing myself, supposed by others, a martyr. What had I committed ? I had leagued myself with such banditti as Agne, Fever, Liver-disease; with them had waylaid my nearest friends and relatives and robbed them of their inestimable trea
It was the least of my villainies that I picked my father's pocket and buried its hard-carned contents in a doctor's shop ; in the silence of night I vastated my mother's nerves, and, by robbing her of sleep, pilfered several years of her life ; one-third of the rest I poisoned with headache. Yet I was a hugged assassin — they were betrayed with kisses !
One day it struck me that something the Devil was the matter !
Whereupon an introspective diagnosis revealed the suspected cloven-foot all along palate, stomach and liver. He had passed in under cover of mince-pie, of fruit-cake; he had lurked in late suppers, and never failed to slip into the last half of the second cup of coffee. When once in, he turned “bowels of mercies" into thumbscrews and racks for myself and every one around me. Thus because I had not taken the trouble to know the simplest laws of my own nature, or had not practised the slightest rules of selfdenial, I had spanseled everybody in the house with my biliary duct, and frozen up the wells of contentment with my chills. My ague came down on our domestic peace like an iceberg on a small craft; my fever came, a tropical monsoon, to wither and blight the flowers of our home.
Then I began to see things as they are. I repented ; I armed myself against the wiles of the Evil One. In many tempting forms he came, in rich food, in cramping fashions, in total-abstinence fanaticisms ; I quenched his fire-darts in Holy Water.
But I found that my penitence would be in vain, and my life of health a perpetual battle, unless I should take the Sacraments. In the Church of Health I found that there were two. Sacraments, both necessary.
The first is the Lord's Supper. The difficulty with most suppers is, that they are not arranged with reference to the Lord within us : they are the Palate's and the Belly's Suppers; and they are such stuff as the Lord has come very low to bless and break. That which we eat and drink should be His very body and blood.
The second Sacrament is Baptism. This must be by immersion, not sprinkling, and in cool water. All water is holy water; it is a crystal stream flowing out from the everlasting Throne ; it is a river that makes glad the city of God. It is sent to wash our sins away ; in it is health, and health is Religion.
Van Vulture, my neighbor, assisted by a preacher who comes daily to tell him how much more the Lord loveth those chastened with dyspepsia than those who have godless enpeptic stomachs, has been perched for more than a year upon his wife and children, preying on their vitals. The uttered prayers for his restoration, the unuttered ones for his flight to happier spheres, have been unanswered : Van Vulture recovers not, flies not,
“Still is sitting, still is sitting," with beak active upon his devoted Promethea Vincta and her children.
The other day I called on them. The wife and children were dining on a venerable loaf of bread and equally venerable remnant of ham - indeed, the whole room as well as the table reminded me of Hogarth's Tailpiece : here were broken chairs, worn-out brooms, cracked glasses, etc. As I went up stairs to see the invalid who was the artist in this case, I could scarcely suppress a hope that he would complete it as Hogarth did his, by adding his own palette broken! When I approached Van V., I found him serenely dining on a brace of partridges, some East India sweetmeats and vermicelli, and a bottle of cabinet champagne at his side. “The good Lord,” he remarked, “ has sent me quails on my way through the wilderness of affliction."
Presently Mrs. Van V. entered the sick-room, looking pale enough to take the place of her prostrate husband. She was bonneted and gloved.
Mrs. Van V. My dear, I thought I would take our little Kitty on a little walk. If you wish anything, please knock on the floor for Bridget. (Handing poker.)
Mr. Van V. (Eyes turned up desolately to the ceiling, with an affectation unknown outside of sick-rooms) H-e-i-g-h-h-o-o.
Exit Mrs. Van Vulture, to return in one minute and fifteen seconds, bonnetless and gloveless ; little Kitty with red eyes sits at the window with the everlasting transparent slate in her hands.
“Van Vulture," cried I, have you ever read much about Dr. Johnson ?”
No, sir.” “ He was a man who made some profound remarks, sir,- very profound remarks, though some of them were quite brutal. Amongst other things, he once said, Every man is a rascal when he is sick. Good morning, sir!"
I heard subsequently that I was for this voted “ a brute" by the neighbors, and prayed for by Van Vulture's consoler, the Rer. Choker Bronchitis ; yet I am convinced that Doctor Johnson's remark is the only saving clause in the case of Van V. and hundreds like him ; and that if it were not for that truth, they should be treated as we would treat any savages whom we met hearing the scalps of men, women and children on their wipers.
The pale victims bound on the altar of the invalid could tell us some close truths, if only the bands and ligatures of affection and self-devotion were removed. As it is, the artless truth will slip out occasionally. Very many times do we hear affectionate relatives excuse all manner of petulance, jealousy, suspicion, discourtesy, and general disagreeableness, by saying, “Poor man, his dyspepsia is very bad this year!”
Reader, I will here confide to you a private theological opinion of my own, one which you will not find in the Institutes of Calvin or Watson, nor even with Dr. Channing: it is this, that Dyspepsia and the Devil are one and the same Being.
This I discovered on losing a friend a few months since, through a little fit of indigestion which he had. I have been careful since to find before I speak to a friend whether his ear happens at the time to be in his head or his epigastric region.
How many ugly family quarrels, verging upon poker and broomstick, have arisen from mince-pies shared lovingly at eleven the night before! In the Persian Litany it is said, “O Mezdam, save us from the fetters of dark and evil matter !”
Who has not experienced with Mr. Emerson the difficulty of making the stomach a gentleman ? Yet we think it the duty of a gentleman to turn up our noses at the priesthood of the Cuisine, and to hide on the remotest shelf of our libraries the Almanach des Gourmands along with The Art of Tying the Cravat. higher civilization the Régles de Gastronomie Transcendante will stand on the shelf uniform with Holy Living and Dying. shall hear sermons preached from such texts as these from Barba :
" La sobriété est la conscience des estomacs.
“L'homme est un sublime alambic. Les sensations, les acts, les passions, l'imagination, tout enfin, dans l'admirable appereil que l'on nommc corps, concourt à un but unique, la digestion."
I lack words,” says Brillat Savarin, “ to express my contempt for a man who would be so discourteous to his stomach as to eat or drink too much, or who would commit an indigestion."
Commit an indigestion ! The sentence is Socratic.
Beauty rides on a lion.
No foliation of shaft or arch can make them beautiful unless they are strong enough to support what they are set to support. Venus must rest upon the lion of health, and can not substitute pallor and the hectic fire for the lily and the rose.
This parable reminds us that our popular Christianity has not fulfilled the law of the higher formation. It must everywhere sum up all the preceding formations, and lose none of their contributions, as the animal generations are summed up in the forehead
Jesus meant that his religion should do this : “ This is the Father's will concerning me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up.” Is our One God sufficient unless He contain the Pantheon of the Past ? What is there in the Church to-day to repay the loss of Hercules, of Apollo, of Venus ? We need as much as ever forms herculean and fair. Still should we worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (wholeness). The great Christian Ideas need great Christian sinews and transfigurable forms.
Why should we cover up the moral evils of Invalidism, even when we feel most tenderly toward its individual subjects? We all know that one who is sickly is a destroyer of innumerable and precious moments, talents and energies. What fair lives and strong capacities have had to abandon their sacred tasks, and turn aside from the sun-path of success, to waste away beside a sick couch! It matters not that it is a burthen willingly or joyfully undertaken by affectionate hearts ; it is all the worse that such heroism and patience are divorced from the living interests of life. It makes but little difference if the sickness is borne with the most patient spirit. The fatal fact remains, that the God-given moments of many lives are falling away, sand by sand, - sands, and nothing more. Everything is, by the human Law, postponed to sickness : Life is eagerly bound to the chariot-wheels of Death.
We honor the sacrifice ; for Mercy's call should be heard above all others; but this is a bloody sacrifice, only a type of the Living Sacrifice. If we are saved by this death of our lives, how much rather by their life !
Is this a beartless view ? It is worth being esteemed heartless to come into a right and true understanding with the Destroying Angel of Homes. It is painful to have invalids told that they are afflicting as they are afflicted: probes and lancets are also painful.
“ But how can we help being sick ? Did we make the ills that flesh is heir to? What defence is against inheritance ? Suppose it is ignorance of the laws of health : are we responsible for such ignorance ?”
It is true that tendencies to disease are inherited by some ; also that circumstances may not have allowed many to know the laws of prevention and remedy; the epidemics, too, lurk as highwaymen on our paths. Therefore in estimating the morale of health, a certain extent of absolution must be allowed. There is not one healthy person on the face of the earth : therefore we are all responsible only for the health of diseaser persons. Suppose a person to inherit a tendency to consumption, so that it is likely that the constitution will not last over thirty years: then thirty well-preserved and used years would be the health of that person ; twenty-five or twenty would be immoral,- that is, would be the result of thin. shoes, exposure, or some other violation of the protective laws, which environ us.
In speaking of moral and immoral in this connection, it must be remembered that we mean, simply, to show that the body par