Long before the advent of scientific medicine, when the healing art was struggling to discard its primitive swaddling clothes, there arose in the Hellenic world a physician, Hippocrates by name, who profoundly influenced the course of medicine. Under the aura of Greek culture this Asclepiad made observations and pronouncements that pointed the way toward the scientific approach to human ills.
Even more admirable than his rational concept of medicine was his characterization of an ideal physician. The Hippocratic Oath shows to what lofty heights the ethical concept of medicine had reached in that remote age. "With .purity and holiness," declares the oath, "I will pass my life and practice my art."
When one searches for the perfect incarnation of this ideal, the character of Jesus Christ in all its beauty and excellence stands pre-eminent. At this opening convocation of the year for senior and junior medical students, is it not most practical to re-examine the life of one who brought radiance and eternal glory to the ministry of healing?
It is not for us to know all that was in the mind of Jesus, but the record of His life and work offers an inexhaustible source for study and contemplation. As students of medicine you are interested in developing and maturing your scientific and spiritual philosophy. You are, furthermore, concerned with attempts to analyze the mental patterns of your patients. For such as you I suggest the advice of Paul to the Christians at Philippi : "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Phil. 2:5. Not only do I suggest this brief passage as advice, but may I offer it as the theme around which your life of service may be oriented.
Success in the practice of medicine, for the most part, demands that a practitioner recognize and accept the fact that he is in the world to serve. Indeed, the fact that you are here today is an indication that you sense to some extent the course plotted by your calling, or you would have abandoned it before completing the difficult preclinical years. In your mind is a persistent desire to see the practical application of your store of knowledge. Greater than that, there is, I believe, within the heart of each of you that measure of consecration which leads Christian physicians to recognize in each patient a soul to whom the Great Physician offers eternal life,
Your clinical contacts at the Los Angeles County General Hospital and at the White Memorial Clinic and Hospital will offer unlimited opportunity to develop what Dr. P. T. Magan often referred to as the "talent of people." You must sense ties of human companionship binding you to men of all races, creeds, and colors.
Jesus was a man among men. He chose to serve both the high and low. Much of His ministry was among the masses. He was at home with people, and understood their problems and difficulties. Early in life he sensed the necessity of being about His Father's business, a conviction which came upon Him while mingling with crowds and observing the hypocrisies of religious leaders. In His first pulpit experience Jesus declared His devotion to the needy, and set the course of His ministry :
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He bath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor ; He bath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18.
In the fulfillment of His mission Jesus chose to spend most of His time in the centers of Galilean population. Also bear in mind that Jesus' earliest education, although in a family circle of simple piety and unaffected religious zeal, was not carried out in the sheltered atmosphere of a narrowly orthodox Pharisaic home, or under the shadow of the temple, in a priestly family. It took place in Galilee, which was crisscrossed by the caravan routes of the time. Galilee was the trade emporium of Palestine in the first century, the crossroads of north-south and east-west traffic.'
Hellenism, the prevailing philosophy in the eastern Mediterranean basin at this time, was well established in Syria, just to the north. This made Galilee the district of Jewry nearest to the Hellenistic world. In fact, Greek life, letters, and philosophy had infiltrated into Galilee, and the cities particularly carried the marks of Hellenistic civilization. There was also the Oriental influence from the East. It is not strange then that orthodox Jews within the cloistered confines of the Holy City eyed with distrust their brethren in the province to the north.'
In such an atmosphere Jesus was born and educated. It is thrilling to contemplate His powers of intellectual and spiritual synthesis. Shunning both the materialism and the fanaticism of His time, Jesus lived a life of practical service which has become the inspiration of millions.
In the profession you have chosen, scientific curiosity and the desire to excel are important stimulants, but the one compelling motive of your life must be an indwelling desire to serve mankind as did Jesus. Disciplining yourself to assume the attitude of service merely because you "owe it to the world," or "doing right" because your religious background has created in you a premonition of retribution and a day of judgment, are both superficial approaches to a life of loving service.
In the fourth century of the Christian Era, when outward signs of the disintegrating Roman Empire became evident to the masses, the church naturally stepped into the breach by providing in a measure the security traditionally felt under the empire. The period of emperor persecution was over, and the church, expanding in power and influence, modeled itself after vanishing Rome. There was "a gradual transformation from apostolic simplicity to official grandeur, from purity to laxity, from persuasion as a missionary method to compulsion and repression."
Sensing the insecurity of the age and lamenting the passing of an era in the development of the church, some frustrated Christians registered their protest by seeking spiritual perfection in quiet isolation. Thus monasticism, a religious escape mechanism for persons tryins, to flee the contagion of a corrupt. society, attached itself to the church. Unmindful of Jesus' supplication for His followers—"I pray not that ,Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil" —thousands of Christians sought spiritual justification in isolation.4
Regardless of the virtues that may be attributed to the socially minded monastic orders that later sprang up and dominated the church, it is significant that medicine in Western Europe during these centuries of monastic culture was the most sterile of any period of its long existence. There is no place for isolationism, spiritual or scientific, in the life of the Christian physician. Jesus went everywhere, teaching, preaching, healing. "I am come," said He, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10 :10.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
—To be concluded in June
1 Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, pp. 68-92.
2 Canon David Capell Simpson, "Judaism, the Religion in Which Christ Was Educated," in a collective work, The History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge (New York : Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1929), pp. 156-157.
3 James Houston Baxter, "History of the Church, 312-800 A.D.," OP. Cit., p. 495.
4 Monasticism was of ancient origin, having been associated with various ancient religions. Paul of Thebes, in Egypt, who withdrew to a cave in the Egyptian desert to escape persecution (middle of third century A.D.) and continued his hermit existence the remainder of his long life, is credited with being the earliest Christian monastic.