Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 6 (1889-1890)


Ms 17, 1890

Instruction to Physicians

Battle Creek, Michigan

October 1, 1890

From Lt 13, 1890. This manuscript is published in entirety in MM 51-53, 147-151.

Dr. _____’s great success is largely due to his giving attention to his patients. Here I know that you lacked. You have ability, but you allowed other things to take up your mind, when the patients needed your time, your care, your undivided attention. I know that in this you needed to reform. You neglected to speak words of tender sympathy and assurance to suffering ones. Comforting words were often needed, but they were left unspoken. Dr. _____ carries into the sickroom a heart full of sympathy, and he is ready to speak words that are necessary for the patients. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 1

You are too reticent. It is in your power to bind the sick to your heart, and if you do not obtain the confidence of your patients, it is because you do not see the great need of tact, ingenuity, in ministering to the soul as well as to the body. I do not justify any one in practicing deception upon the dying. In as mild a manner as possible, tell them the truth in regard to their case (as I believe you do), and then point them to Jesus as their only hope. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 2

You have no right to shut yourself up within yourself, and say scarcely anything to the patients. You should not keep patients waiting for your decision in their case. It is not right to cause them suffering of mind by unnecessary delay. Every case should receive prompt attention in its turn and according to its necessity. Negligence in this respect has hurt you from the very first of your medical practice. It need not and should not be. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 3

I have been shown that this defect in your character has caused men and women to curse you in their hearts, and almost to blaspheme God. Now if I thought this could not be corrected, I would not write as I do. It is your duty as a Christian physician to educate your manners and your habits for the sickroom, to be cheerful and affable, to manifest tender sympathy, to converse freely on the subjects essential to your patients and which come within the sphere of your practice. You can reach a high standard in your practice. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 4

Do not, I beg of you, lay blame on others. You have pondered over disagreeable matters altogether too much. There are many things that you do not view in a correct light. Now, cease to think of the disagreeable things; cease to talk of them. Fix your mind on Jesus your helper, and work in faith and confidence. By disciplining yourself you can have greater success than you have ever yet had. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 5

While at the Health Retreat, you were too reticent in religious exercises. You need to educate the soul religiously. You need to pray and to believe, to hang your helpless soul on Jesus. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 6

A physician needs to be in daily communion with God, that he may be a constant channel of light to his patients. He should be an imitator of the Lord Jesus Christ. While daily conversant with death, working for those on the verge of the grave, he requires a constant supply of the grace of God, for there is danger that he will become indifferent to eternal realities. His only safety is in keeping the Lord ever before him, his mind constantly under the influence of the Spirit of God. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 7

The physician should be governed by a strict sense of propriety at all times and on all occasions. I speak plainly, because I know that it is my duty to do this. You cannot be too chaste in your words or too modest in your examination of patients. Coarseness or indelicacy in the operating room, or by the bedside of the suffering, is a sin in the sight of God; and in the minds of the patients it will tell with power against the physician. Unless he constantly cherishes a strict sense of propriety, he will unguardedly shock sensitive patients who are modest and refined. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 8

Above all other men who fill positions of responsibility, the physician needs to be connected with God, to be taught continually by Him, else there is danger that, under temptation, he will become unfaithful, coarse, and profligate. He needs pure and undefiled religion. And those who stand as his assistants should be wise and calm, persons who fear God. You are safe only when connected with the source of all power, of all purity and elevation of character. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 9

There are coarse and even sensual minds among physicians. God forbid that this should be the character of one who claims to believe sacred truth. The Spirit of God will shield us from all evil, and will give us an appreciation of the reality of spiritual and eternal things. The solemn truths which we profess will sanctify the soul if we bring them into the inner sanctuary of the heart. O that every physician would be what God would have him—pure, holy, undefiled, shielded by the grace of God, knowing that Christ is his personal Saviour. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 10

Ever bear in mind, Dr. _____, that the sickroom is a place where Christian courtesy, delicacy, and politeness should always be manifested. There should not be even an approach to commonness. The actions of the physician are making their impression. The tones of his voice, the expression of his countenance, the words he speaks, are weighed by the patient. Every movement is scrutinized. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 11

If the invalid is relieved from pain, and brought back, as it were, from death to life, he is inclined almost to worship the one who, he thinks, has saved his life. He seldom thinks that it is God who has done this work through His human agents. Now is the opportune moment for Satan to come in and lead the physician to exalt himself instead of Christ. Jesus says, “Without me ye can do nothing.” [John 15:5.] 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 12

You should lead the patient to behold Jesus as the physician of the body as well as of the soul. If the physician has the love of Christ in his own heart, he will use his influence to set the mighty Healer before the afflicted one. He can direct the thoughts, the gratitude and praise, to the source of all power, mercy and goodness. If he fails to do this, he is neglecting the most precious opportunities. Oh, what a chance for the Christian physician to exercise his talents to the glory of God, and thus put them out to the exchangers, to be multiplied, and send back to heaven a flood of light in praise and thanksgiving to God for His mercy and love. Oh, what opportunities to drop in the heart the seed which will bear fruit unto holiness. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 13

He who loves God supremely, with all the heart, with all the soul, mind, might, and strength, will love his neighbor as himself, and will strive for his highest good. He will not lose one opportunity of setting the Lord before the afflicted one. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 14

There are false ideas of consistency and etiquette which lead to neglect of sacred duties. Worldly etiquette, which stands in the way of saving men’s souls by lifting up Jesus before them, and of seeking to do them good, is to be discarded. It should be our constant study how we may best follow the example of Christ and promote His glory. Connection with God is everything. What physicians aim to do, Christ accomplished in the fullest sense. The physician labors with zeal to prolong life. Christ is the giver of life. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 15

Who has endowed the physician with reason and intelligence? He who is the truth and the life. He applies the balm of Gilead. He is the great Restorer. He is the one who has repeatedly vanquished death and who grants eternal life—God over all. If the physician has learned in the school of Christ, he will, while ministering to the diseased bodies, watch for souls as one that must give an account. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 16

Christian physicians need to pray—to watch unto prayer. Before them is opened a door for many temptations, and they need to be awakened to a lively sense that there is a Watcher by their side, as surely as there was a Watcher at that sacrilegious feast of Belshazzar, when men praised the gods of silver and gold and drank from the sacred vessels of the temple of God. When men take honor to themselves, they are dishonoring God. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 17

Whenever one, by any action, leads men to be forgetful of God or to neglect the plain injunctions of His Word, the unseen Witness testifies, as in the writing on the walls of the palace, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” [Daniel 5:27.] 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 18

Dr. John Cheyne, while he rose to a high point in his profession, did not forget his obligations to God. He once wrote to a friend: “You may wish to know the condition of my mind. I am humbled in the dust by the thought that there is not one action of my busy life which will bear the eye of a holy God. But when I reflect on the invitation of the Redeemer, ‘Come unto me,’ and that I have accepted this invitation; and moreover, that my conscience testifies that I earnestly desire to have my will in all things conformed to the will of God, I have peace, I have the promised rest, promised by Him in whom was found no guile.” 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 19

Before his death, this eminent physician ordered a column to be erected near the spot where his body was to lie, on which were to be inscribed these texts, as voices from eternity: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28.] “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” [Hebrews 12:14.] 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 20

And while Dr. Cheyne thus strove, even from the tomb, to beckon sinners to the Saviour and to glory, he concealed his own name, withholding it from tHe column entirely. He was not less careful to say, as speaking to the passer-by, “The name and profession and age of him whose body lies beneath are of little consequence, but it may be of great importance to you to know that by the grace of God he was brought to look to the Lord Jesus as the only Saviour of sinners, and that this looking unto Jesus gave peace to his soul.” “Pray to God, Pray to God,” it says, “that you may be instructed in the gospel; and be assured that God will give the Holy Spirit, the only teacher of true wisdom, to them that ask Him.” This memorial was designed to turn the attention of all to God, and cause them to lose sight of the man. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 21

This man brought no reproach upon the cause of Christ. I tell you, dear brother, in Christ we may do all things. It is an encouragement to remember that there have been physicians who were consecrated to God, who were led and taught by God. And there may be such in this age—physicians who do not exalt self, but who walk and work with the eye single to the glory of God, men who are true to principle, true to duty, ever looking unto Jesus for His light. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 22

When we shall have finished our work here, let it be with joy and not with grief that we meet our life record. One writer has said, “In ancient times it was proverbially true, or alleged, that wherever there were three physicians, there were two atheists; that is, the majority of the profession were then deemed atheist or atheistic. How changed now!” 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 23

“William Hay, a surgeon of eminence, is described as one of those who fear God in youth, who walk with Him through life, and to whom the hoary head is therefore a crown of glory. Arrested by the words, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’ [2 Corinthians 5:17], and affected by the love of God in the Saviour, he devoted himself to that which God puts first in the soul. The holy duties and pleasures of the Sabbath rest were zealously cultivated by Hay. In short, he escaped from the dangers of his profession because he was afraid of them and adopted the divine means of safety. His support and comfort were found in believing views of the atonement made by Jesus; and resting therein, he was blessed and made a blessing.” 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 24

As we examine the records of the past, physician after physician rises up before us qualified to minister to the soul as well as to the body, and some of them actually doing so. Driven by the perils of their profession, they sought the wisdom of ‘God, only wise, and’ were guided by His Spirit in the path whose end is glory. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 25

The Christian physician is a minister of the highest order. He is a missionary. Those who through their skill and faithful, earnest effort, by wisdom from God, can relieve bodily pain, place themselves in such a relation to their patients that they can point them to the Soul-healer, who can say, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” [Matthew 9:2.] The God-fearing, God-loving physician longs to reveal Jesus to the sin-sick soul and tell him how free, how complete, is the provision made by the sin-pardoning Redeemer. “His tender mercies are over all his works.” [Psalm 145:9.] But for humanity more ample provision is made, and the promise is full which points to Jesus as the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. What can make a heart so light, what can spread so much sunshine through the soul, as the sense of sins forgiven? The peace of Christ is life and health. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 26

Then let the physician realize his accountability and improve his opportunities to reveal Christ as a forgiving Saviour. Let him have a high regard for souls and do all in his power to win them to Christ and the truth. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 27

May the Lord put His Spirit upon our physicians and help them to work intelligently for the Master, because they loves Jesus and the souls for whom Christ died. 6LtMs, Ms 17, 1890, par. 28