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Critical Examination of Genesis III. 16.

(Concluded from p. 315.)

Having Reference to the Employment of Anaesthetics in Cases of Labour

By The Rev. Abraham De Sola, Lecturer on Hebrew Language and Literature, University of Macgill College.

Professor Simpson has added many logical and convincing arguments  in refutation of the actual and imaginary objections of the literalists. One or two we have adduced as our own, because they occurred to us before we had seen the learned Professor’s book; and because we thought the cause of truth would not suffer by repeating them. For others, which appear to us most cogent, we must refer the reader to the work itself; and yet, we cannot refrain transcribing one which appears to us particularly happy. Professor Simpson says, “But the accoucheurs and surgeons among you who object to the use of chloroform on the ground that it goes, in their opinion, against the object and end of the primeval curse upon woman, strangely forget that the whole science and whole art and practice of midwifery is, in its essence and object, one continuous effort to mitigate and remove the effects of that curse.” And after enumerating these means of mitigation, the Professor continues—“By these means they succeeded partially, in, times past, in mitigating the sufferings and effects of parturition, and thought they <<417>>committed no sin. But a means is discovered by which the sufferings of the mother may be relieved far more effectually; and then they immediately denounce this higher amount of relief as a high sin. Gaining your end, according to their religious views, imperfectly, was no sin—gaining your end more fully and perfectly is, they argue, an undiluted and unmitigated piece of iniquity.”*  

* Anesthesia, p. 125.         

We must beg leave further to quote what a Christian clergyman, who takes the same view of the case as Professor Simpson and the humble writer of the present inquiry, has said in connexion with this subject, “I should not be surprised, in the course of the debates upon the emancipation of the Jews, to find some members pleading, as some have pleaded in former times, that to give a Jew a legitimation in any commonwealth, is a plain contravention of the will and word of God concerning that people.”† The writer was not incorrect in his prophetic anticipations. In the late discussion on the Jewish Bill in the British Parliament there were not wanting those who did urge such an objection, and it was, doubtless, as much in consequence of their everlastingly chiming this objection, as from any other cause, that the Bill was lost.

† Ib., p. 127.   

With these extracts from Professor Simpson we conclude, but not before earnestly exhorting our readers to weigh calmly and unprejudicially the arguments adduced on both sides of the question before they decide the employment of anaesthetics in cases of labour to be unscriptural and irreligious. As to the propriety or expediency of their use, in a medical point of view, as before remarked, it is not for us but for others to decide. We desire only to show that if a certain case should call for their employment, both physician and patient would not be acting unscripturally were they to use them. It is true that some teachers of religion have not been able to see the innocency of the practice, and one has pronounced chloroform, in particular, to be “a decoy of Satan, apparently offering itself to bless woman; but in the end, it will harden society, and rob God of the deep, earnest cries which arise in time of trouble for help.”‡ But we have already seen that language similar in tone has been employed by such injudicious and bigoted zealots (worse enemies to the Scriptures than unbelievers themselves), when waging a fierce war against the introduction of inoculation.

‡ Ib., p. 121.

And we cannot but remember how, among Christians, the teachings of the celebrated Gali­leo were also styled unscriptural, and himself branded with such titles as “liar,” “impostor,” etc.; and how among Jews, that eminent philosopher, <<418>>Moses Maimonides, whose gigantic intellect has been extolled as well by enemy as by friend, was excommunicated by the French Israelites, and copies of his works, now so much prized, publicly burned by them, because he strove to disabuse them of various absurdities they had permitted to usurp the place of religion. Nor can we forget that the most important discoveries in medical science, when first broached, have had to contend with this same prejudice and bigotry*—that Harvey called down upon himself the indignation and ridicule of the profession, because he taught the circulation of the blood—that his followers were lampooned and his discovery written against—that Democritus was pronounced a madman; Roger Bacon a sorcerer,—that epilepsy, St. Vitus’s dance, and numerous other diseases were ascribed to demoniacal possession, the phenomena of electrical and galvanic apparatus, to the agency of spirits—that the devil was declared to be the chief personage, though disguised, in the lodges of freemasons—that the truths of the physiology of the brain, of the lacteals, and then of the lymphatics, bark, antimony, the stethoscope were pronounced to be no truths. Let us recollect all this, and then let us ask ourselves with what sentiments we, at the distance of a couple of generations from the decriers of these truths, now regard their opposition, and then let us determine that coming generations shall not so regard us, but that they shall be obliged to confess, that however superior and advanced they may be in science, they do not excel us in our attachment to it; and that we have been guided in the present, and every other inquiry we have instituted, by a love of truth, of progress, and therefore of God and his revelations.

* See a pamphlet by Dr. Elliotson on “Surgical Operations without Pain in the Mesmeric state.”

And above all, let us remember that our heavenly Father does not find any satisfaction in “the deep earnest cries” of suffering humanity†—“does not find pleasure in the death of him that dieth;”‡ but that on the contrary, God’s love for us surpasseth that of a mother for her tender babe.§ Yea, “The Eternal, the Eternal is a merciful God and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”||

Montreal, February 28, 1850.

† Ex. xxii. 20.27.         ‡ Ezek. xviii. 32.
§ Isai. xlix. 15.           || Ex. xxxiv. 6.