THE death of a prominent man of letters in the hands of certain individuals of the "Christian Science" persuasion has given rise to a good deal of serious discussion as to the principles and practices of that extraordinary sect. That a considerable number of persons should have banded themselves together to ignore medical science, and apply "thought" as a remedy for all physical ills, has excited no little alarm and indignation in various quarters. Some of the severest criticisms of this outbreak of irrationality have come from the religious press, which takes the ground that, while the Bible doubtless contains numerous accounts of miraculous healing, it nevertheless fully recognizes the efficacy of material remedies. A "beloved physician" is credited with the authorship of one of the gospels and of the book of Acts. An apostle recommends a friend to "take a little wine for his stomach's sake and his often infirmities." The man who was attacked by robbers had his wounds treated in the usual way. The soothing effect of ointments is recognized; and the disturbing effects of undue indulgence in the wine cup are forcibly described. The peculiar character of a miracle, it is contended, lies in the fact that it passes over natural agencies; but, because these may be dispensed with by Divine Power, they are not the less specifically efficacious in their own place. These, and such as these, are the arguments which are urged by the representatives of orthodox religion against the new heresy, or, as we have called it, "the new superstition." To argue against it on scientific grounds would be almost too ridiculous. When people make a denial of the laws of matter the basis of their creed, we can only leave them to work it out with Nature. They will find that, like all the world, they are subject to the law of gravitation and to the laws of chemistry and physics. If one of them happens to be run over by a railway train the usual results will follow; and so of a multitude of conceivable accidents. A Christian Scientist who "blows out the gas" will be asphyxiated just like anybody else; and if he walks off the wharf into the water he will require rescue or resuscitation just as if he were a plain "Christian" or a plain "scientist." Like Shylock, he is "fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases" as the rest of the community; and little by little the eternal course of things will chastise his extravagant fancies into reasonable accord with facts.
To tell the truth, we have not much apprehension that the health of the community will suffer, or the death rate go up, as the result of this new craze. On the contrary, we rather expect that any influence it may have in these respects will, on the whole, be for the better; and for a very simple reason: The laws of health are not so difficult to master, and, as every adherent of "Christian Science" will be anxious to reflect credit on it by the satisfactory condition of his or her personal health, we quite believe that in the new sect more diseases will be avoided than incurred. Moreover, the elevated condition of mind of these enthusiasts makes in itself for health, so long as it does not turn to hysteria.