Faith-cure a popular name for certain sudden and remarkable cases of recovery in recent times, claimed to have been effected by the power of faith in God alone, without the use of any medicine or physical remedy. We cite a few notable cases from the public prints:
"New HAVEN, CONN., March 27. — A remarkable faith-cure is reported from the village of Noank. Mrs. Fannie S. Spencer, the wife of ex-Representative John R. Spencer, has for many years been a victim of the opium habit and asthma. Her family is one of the wealthiest and most reputable in eastern Connecticut. She is now sixty-five years old. Over forty years ago she suffered from an attack of ill-health, and her physician prescribed opium. She is of a nervous temperament. The use of the drug as a medicine developed an appetite for it, to which she gave way. She was also a great snuff-taker, and in addition there was the asthmatic trouble which the drug was used to relieve. All the local doctors agreed that an opium habit of forty years' standing was all incurable disease. One day about an week ago two or three of Mrs. Spencer's friends met at her residence, and a season of prayer was determined upon. Prayers were offered and continued with earnestness by those present for some time. It was during this period that Mrs. Spencer says she experienced a peculiar sensation of mind and body unlike anything she had ever felt before. She calls it the 'Blessings of the Holy Spirit.' From that moment she dates her complete cure, and she and her friends declare she has not since touched opium nor snuff, nor has she felt any desire for them, and she has been entirely free from the asthmatical trouble." — N.Y. Times, March 28, 1884.
"CLEVELAND, June 29. — A strange case of faith-cure came to light, here today. It is that of Miss Rebecca Kerby, who has been on an invalid's bed forty years, in a farm-house just out of Chardon, a small town near here. During that time she has been on her feet but twice, and then only at the expense of great suffering. For twenty- eight years she has not sat up, and yet it is told of her. that on Monday, after prayer and an exercise of faith, she arose from her bed, sat in a chair for an hour, and was able to walk once across the room." — The Tribune (N.Y.), July 1, 1884.
"Mrs. Emily J. Wimpy, wife of John A. Wimpy, a resident of the village of Norcross, twenty miles from the city of Atlanta, Georgia, who had not been able to walk upon the ground for twenty-two years in consequence of extreme physical weakness and suffering, was enabled to rise and walk and go about and do as others do without any assistance, being restored to her former state of good health. This was done through the faith that God was able antd would heal her by divine power. The fact is attested and reported through the press by Reverend W.A. Parks, a presiding elder of the North Georgia Conference of the M.E. Church South, who was present and witnessed it." — The Way of Holiness, quoted in The Law and Gospel, Paris, Illinois, December 1884.
Many similar instances might easily be collected. In fact, there is a regular hospital, conducted by Dr. Cullis, of Boston, where patients of nearly all sorts repair for healing by means of simple prayer and faith, with no other outward sign than mere touch.* Professions of a like ability are put forth by several religious bodies, especially what is known as the "Irvingite," or Catholic Apostolic Church (q.v.). With regard to all these statements we have to remark:
1. It is not impossible nor incredible that miracles should take place in modern times, provided that suitable occasions of necessity should arise. God is undoubtedly as able to effect them now as anciently. The only question is one of fact; and that is further limited to this inquiry: Do these phenomena take place through natural law — whether bodily or mental, or both combined — or are they the supernatural results of direct divine power in answer to believing prayer?
2. The evidence in most of the cases certainly and probably in all, if the circumstances were detailed, is decidedly in favor of the former, or natural solution. It will be observed that they are chiefly if not wholly of such a chronic character that the mind of the patient has largely to do with their existence and continuance. They are nervous diseases, functional and not organic derangements. We have yet to hear of an acute malady, a well- defined fever, a settled consumption, a broken limb, or a positive lesion of any kind being cured in this manner. With the older prophets, with Christ and his apostles, all these and much more marked disabilities were just as readily healed as any. There was nothing done in a corner, nor was there the least opportunity to doubt the absolute divine power. There is generally we might say invariably — an air of mystery and collusion about these cases, which justly lays them open to suspicion. Until, therefore, more palpable and bona fide examples shall be adduced, we hold ourselves justified in doubting that these cures are anything more than the effect of the imagination upon highly susceptible systems.
3. At the same time we fully and gladly admit that earnest faith and prayer have an influence upon divine providence, which may lead to a cure that would not take place without them. This is through a special blessing upon the means used, or upon the person, without any particular medical means. But this is a very different thing from the peculiar claim set up in the cases adduced. SEE MIRACLE; SEE PRAYER.
4. The prerequisite of "faith" on the part of the stubjects applying for these cures is a suspicious circumstance; for they are required not only to believe that the Lord is able to perform the cure (which no Christian doubts), but that he is also willing to do it, and even that he actually will do it, which they have no right to assume. This is more than Jesus demanded. for the leper only said, "Lord, if thou wilt thou canst," and the question asked on another occasion was, "Believe ye that I am able?" Confidence enough to induce the patient to come to our Lord, or in friends to bring him, of course was necessary; but a fixed conviction that the cure was positively about to be wrought was not demanded. When it is said that "He could not do many mighty works because of their unbelief," in a certain place, it merely denotes this indisposition to apply to him. There never was a failure, however desperate the case, when this simple condition of asking was complied with. A larger measure of belief than this in such matters we judge to be presumption rather than wholesome faith.
5. The champions of "faith-cure" generally appeal to Jas 5:14-15, as a standing proof-text for the correctness of their position; but most of them pay little or no attention to the precise and express stipulations there made about "calling for the elders of the church," and "anointing with oil;" and they lay the whole stress upon "the prayer of faith." This, however, as the whole passage shows, is not the petition of the patient merely, nor of a self-constituted committee or a few volunteers, but of the regular ecclesiastical authorities, duly and formally convoked for that purpose. Most judicious expositors hold that this refers to the exercise of the miraculous "gift of healing" enjoyed by some early believers as a special endowment of the apostles, and that the direction has therefore ceased to be pertinent in later times. Such has been the practical comment of the Evangelical Church, departed from only by a few ecclesiastical bodies (with whom the experiment has been a signal failure), and by the Roman Catholics (who pervert it to teach "extreme unction"). SEE ANOINTING.
* The institution referred to is "The Faith-Cure House," which is part of a system of Faith-Work, established by Charles Cullis, M.D., at Grove Hall, Boston Highlands, in 1864, and now including in addition (according to the 19th Annual Report, 1883)," The Consumptives' Home, with its accommodation for eighty patients; the Spinal Cottage, with its four incurable cases of spinal disease; two Orphans' Homes, with their twenty-nine children; the Deaconesses' Home, for workers; Grove-Hall Church and the Little Chapel for the Dead;" besides the "Willard Tract Repository and Faith-Training College," in the city of Boston, branches in New York, Philadelphia, California, a Cancer Home at Walpole, Massachusetts, a college at Boydton, Virginia, for colored people, and a mission in India. The whole involved an expenditure for that year of $37,353.91, and for the nineteen years, $589,770.86; entirely raised by voluntary contributions, without personal solicitation. The Faith-Cure House was dedicated in 1882, after an expenditure of $4,303.77, raised in a similar manner. None of these institutions have any permanent fund or resources except the free-will offerings of friends from time to time. Many remarkable cures, it is claimed, have been effected through these instrumentalities — "cancers, tumors, paralysis, spinal diseases, consumption, chronic rheumatism " (see the cases in Dr. Cullis's two little volumes, entitled Faith-Cures, published in 1879 and 1881 at his Repository); but they require careful sifting in the light of medical science before they can properly be adduced to show any direct or preternatural divine interference. It is but just to say that this last assertion is scarcely made in its bold or full form by the advocates of the system; although their language, at least in the popular impression, seems to imply such a view. Of the numerous cases recited in these small volumes no scientific or exact statement is made, and in most instances the real nature of the disease is not disclosed at all, or very vaguely. A few are apparently examples of incipient consumption, cancer, or other dangerous and violent maladies. There are some of affections of the eyes, ears, and other special organs; but the symptoms are equally indefinite. Most are nervous disorders. Failures are not reported. The whole narrative, except in its pious sentiment, reads very much like the popular advertisements of cures by patent medicines. In nearly every example it is easy to trace the beneficial influence of hope upon the nervous system of the patient, as the probable mainspring of the recovery. That devout gratitude to God should be experienced by the subjects of these changes was certainly proper and natural; but it does not follow that they were correct in their opinion as to the particular channel or medium of the cure. There is nothing decidedly preternatural or supernatural about one of them. Nearly every physician of extensive practice has witnessed equally remarkable restorations in which no distinctively divine claim was set up. Nevertheless the facts are doubtless stated by Dr. Cullis with substantial truth, and if invalids may be cured in that way, it is certainly a very convenient and economical method of practice. There have been some other institutions in this country, however, that have attempted to imitate his plan, so far at least as to discard medical treatment; but they have been such woful failures that the civil law has been invoked in order to save their victims from death by criminal neglect. Providence commonly blesses only judicious physical means to beneficial physical results.
There are several similar establishments iu Europe, the most noted of which are one at Mannedorf, near Zurich, in Switzerland; established by Dorothea Trudel, and since her death, in 1862, carried on by Samuel Teller, and one at Bad Boll, in Wurtemberg, Germany, established by a Lutheran clergyman and since his death carried on by his sons. These are Christian retreats for a temporary sojourn of patients laboring under various diseases of body or mind, at a nominal charge for board, or, in the case of the poor, entirely free, where many remarkable cures are said to have been effected by prayer alone without medicine. As statistical reports are seldom or never issued by these institutions, which are all conducted on the voluntary plan, it is impossible to exhibit or analyze their results accurately.