Journal of Dr GFW
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Sunday. Thou peaceful day. Thousands participate in ease and freedom from toil. The pleasures are the result of Thy Holy Countenance, all animated nature seems to rejoice in Thee; You seem the harbinger of peace and gladness. Your Divine appearance is full of gladness. Your Divine appearance is full of gladness. All pay their homage of respect and cease from labor. The husbandman leaves his fields to enjoy repose. The mechanic drops his implements to taste sweet rest. The merchant leaves the counter and closes his windows to enjoy your silent freshness. All is hushed at Your approach.
Once to me you were the harbinger of peace and contentment, but now you find me quite different, and well may you say, "Revert back." Are moments that are past lost, swallowed up in eternity? Once on your return, the cares of the day were laid aside and then did not your mind dwell on noble and sublime subjects? Recall now these feelings of fervent supplication to the All-wise God, which were then vehemently poured out, for his protection and mercy. You are yet under his care and protection and he your constant friend in every vicissitude of life.
I went about five miles from this place to meeting and heard Lutheran discourse delivered by a man by the name of Shober who spoke the English so imperfect that I could scarcely comprehend him.
My motive in going was not as pure from self-interest as many people ought to have when attending church. I did not expect to receive any benefit from the pulpit, but unjustifiable as my object was, I will state it and leave it for your reflection. I went for the sole purpose of becoming acquiainted with the people and to let them know I was seated in Bethania and that my profession was that of a Physicia. I was introduced to a nmber of individuals by Lewis Lash, who accompanied me, but all seemed afraid to speak and were repulsive. I recollect that the sermon delivered related principally to Sunday Schools, his praise of the beneficial tendency was long and tedious, and in my estimation of the matter, false. I have no respect for such institution conducted the way they now are. If they were confined in the sphere for which they were first introduced, I would support them, but as they now are sectarian engines of power, leveled at the liberties of our country, I condemn them. Here I saw for the first time in my life the Baptizing of Infants. There was several here today that underwent that ordinance. Every individual must have his own notion in these matters, but to me it appears that Infant Baptism is nowhere required or sanctioned in or by the Scriptures and the common understanding of men whould not sanction it if left uninfluenced by Sectarian representation. Yet we find men of profound erudition and sound intellect following and recommending it to others. Yet to me this does not make it obligatory or reasonable, it only shows the great extent superstition or preconceived notions may and do operate. To me it seems impossible that any man, uninfluenced by interest or prejudice, can possibly imagine or believe it to be productive of the least advantage to either child or parents in the present or future situation of the child, or that, if they child should die in infancy, its situation in another state of existence will be any better in consequence of having undergone the ordinance of Baptism. If there be any effect produced by it, I think it a deleterious one, because, in the ceremony connected with it, it requires of the parents and those who may become Godfathers and Mothers a pledge or promise of an attention to the welfare of the child that neither ever comply with. It goes further. It extorts a solemn pledge before God and man that they never can perform, and a moment of reflection will convince every Godfather and Mother that they have violated a solemn promise made before and in the presence of the Creator who now stands as a witness against them. And it is not probable that all the injury it is calculated to produce stops here. It has an effect on the child in after life, causing a belief that this infantile ceremony has in some measure freed them from the imperfections of nature and made them fitter subjects of God's eternal approbation and consequently less attention will be given to the real requirements of Christianity. And it has another tendency of equal importance in every point as it tends to perpetuate a belief in the efficacy and absolute neccessity of a mere ceremony, adopted in the darkest reign of superstition and ignorance. It creates a belief in the systems of man not in accordance with divine authority. To me it appears to be destined to receive its just reward as soon as complete understanding of the Scriptures obtain confidence. Time and understanding will be fatal to all such superstitions that, in proportion to the advancement of correct principles and refined intellectual improvement, will recede and at last be obliterated, and men will learn to act from motives that have their origin in utility. How long it will be before man will leave the dark and gloomy regions of ignorance and superstition to bask in the core congenial and pure atmosphere of rational intelligence, time alone can decide.
Ah, Man, how long will you continue to grope in darkness amid naught but the lamentable scenes of woe and misery created alone by the wild visions of fancy? Do you delight to hear the groans of the dying when the mind is filled with despair, when a mortal being is just on the point of leaving this sublunary world? Is it sweet music then to hear the firey imprecations of a pretended angel harrowing up every scene of black intermindable woe in another would, all the idle fabrication of friends on earth? With all your boasted superiority of intelligence you still act as a child.
If you desire truth with all its beauty, tread the paths of calm and diligent reflection on rational grounds and not take that for granted which contradicts the plain understanding of the mind. And endeavor to come to some rational conclusion on every subject connected with your duty and station and not assist in perpetuating a thing you believe to be of no practical utility because some Reverend individual may have recommended it. Do nothing merely because your progenitors or forefathers had done so. It is, however, of importance to have the good will of everyone and particularly men of influence; and this you must endeavor to obtain by every means compatible with honor and just regard for your own independence. You have five avenues to your mind and through them is communicated every species of knowledge you can obtain, and by the constant exercise of these faculties in every case, you will approach the truth. This will afford you more satisfaction than to adopt unthought of the feeble representation of the ignorant and will be of real service.
One gleam of hope now bursts to my view, one prospect not created alone by fancy has at last come to my relief. I feel its reviving influence, its animating touch thrills through every nerve; hunger and thirst vanish like mist before the breeze and I almost see a competence solicit my acceptance. The occasion of all these feelings is small indeed, yet things of great importance sometimes depend on small occurrences and to me this may be so fortunate.
This day at three o'clock I was requested, for the first time in North Carolina, to visit a patient. It was a glorious request, and fraught with momentous importance. On the fate of the object seemed suspended my destiny. However, a call professionally was the incessant and secret wish of my heart. At the same time, I must say, though so strongly desired, it was at the same time dreaded. As the result of the first case in my profession was calculated to have no inconsiderable bearing on my immediate introduction into business, an occurrence absolutely neccessary in my situation. The first case, then, was the point on which emphatically hung suspended my present introduction into practice and a failure was at least to be attended with a long procrastination of all my opes, if not a complete overthrow of all my expectations. In a strange place and surrounded by so many watching eyes and so much depending and expected, few can even imagine my sensation at the moment. All are anxious to see and hear the result, but there is quite a contrast between their anxiety and me. Theirs the anxiety of mere curiosity, mine the deep solicitude of the fate of the patient and my own reputation. Both seemed to be suspendd in the same scale.
Before I started, I could hear the suppressed observations of many of the observers: some would say the New Doctor is going for the first time; some, it is useless, the child will die; others evincing a more symathetic spirit would say it is a bad case to begin with as the patient has been pronounced incurable by our best Physician. This last gave me some relief as I foresaw a plausible escape, in case the event proved unfavorable, but anticipated. A more pleasant state of things provided success crown the effort. I did not regard the eminent danger, if I could but succeed in restoring the child to health. Believing the greater the difficulty and danger attendant on the accomplishment of any undertaking, in any department, the greater the reward, if succesfully achieved and the less deleterious the effect in case of a failure. With my head full of plausibilities, I accompanied the father of the patient, Mr. Jacob Schaub, to the place of destination and there commenced my task and career in this State.
This is one of the many disadvantages attending the commencement of the practice of Medicine, particularly in a place where the Physician is an entire stranger and in a strange place. Nine times out of ten the first cases he is called to attend and to give relief are old chronic diseases that have failed the skill of some half dozen Physicians of known reputation, and in whom confidence has for years been reposed. Satisfied in this, that I was no more unfortunate than the commonalty of my Brethren in the healing Art and compelled to embrace the first opportunity, however unfavorable, I obeyed with alacrity the summons, and after riding there we arrived at the gate where we were met by some dozens of friends and visitors, collected no doubt to see the Yanky Doct. and hear what I would say. I pased the common salutations of the time of day and entered the sick apartment with all the apparent confidence inspired by long and intimate contact with disease and misery, determined not to let my feelings betray a doubt as to my own ability in cases of emergency. Well versed in the secret of asking questions and giving explanations of Phenomena in Medical Mysteries, everyone stood gazing in perfect silence. Not a syllable was uttered. All their thoughts seemed to be so intensely fixed on me, as to forbid their utterance or probably the ideas they formed were such as propriety forbid pronouncing in my presence.
I found my little sufferer in a dangerous and feeble situation originating from an infection of the digestive apparatus, endorsed on a weak organization of the whole system. Having now formed my ideas of its favorable termination, guarded by the possible disadvantages we should have to encounter in the accomplishment of our task, and related these to family, I made my prescriptions, gave the necessary direction, and mounted my horse and returned to my abode full of anxiety as to the result of my first undertaking. The night soon came. I retired to my bed at an early hour and the ever busy mind soon closed its congitations. I was not aroused until the bright orb of light brought with it a beautiful and pleasant Monday morning.