Post obitum benefacta manent, aeternaque Virtus
Non metuit Stygiis, nec rapiatur Aquis.
I was sick, and ye visited me. Matth. xxv.
Among all the innumerable Species of Animals which inhabit the Air, Earth and Water, so exceedingly different in their Production, their Properties, and the Manner of their Existence, and so varied in Form, that even of the same Kind, it can scarce be said there are two Individuals in all Respects alike; it is remarkable, there are none within our Observation, distiinguish’d from the rest by this Particular, that they are by Nature incapable of DISEASES. The old Poets, how extravagant soever in their Fictions, durst never offend so far against Nature and Probability, as even to feign such a Thing; and therefore, tho’ they made their Achilles invulnerable from Head to Foot, and clad him beside in impenetrable Armour, forg’d by the Immortals, they were obliged to leave one soft unguarded Place in his Heel, how small soever, for Destruction to enter at. — But tho’ every Animal that hath Life is liable to Death, Man, of all other Creatures, has the greatest Number of Diseases to his Share; whether they are the Effects of our Intemperance and Vice, or are given us, that we may have a greater Opportunity of exercising towards each other that Virtue, which most of all recommends us to the Deity, I mean CHARITY.
The great Author of our Faith, whose Life should be the constant Object of our Imitation, as far as it is not inimitable, always shew’d the greatest Compassion and Regard for the SICK; he disdain’d not to visit and minister Comfort and Health to the meanest of the People; and he frequently inculcated the same Disposition in his Doctrine and Precepts to his Disciples. For this one Thing, (in that beautiful Parable of the Traveller wounded by Thieves) the Samaritan (who was esteemed no better than a Heretick, or an Infidel by the Orthodox of those Times) is preferred to the Priest and the Levite; because he did not, like them, pass by, regardless of the Distress of his Brother Mortal; but when he came to the Place where the half-dead Traveller lay, he had Compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his Wounds, pouring in Oil and Wine, and set him on his own Beast, and brought him to an Inn, and took Care of him. — Dives, also, the rich Man, is represented as being excluded from the Happiness of Heaven, because he fared sumptuously every Day, and had Plenty of all Things, and yet neglected to comfort and assist his poor Neighbour, who was helpless and full of Sores, and might perhaps have been revived and restored with small Care, by the Crumbs that fell from his Table, or, as we say, with his loose Corns. — I was Sick, and ye Visited me, is one of the Terms of Admission into Bliss, and the Contrary, a Cause of Exclusion: That is, as our Saviour himself explains it, Ye have visited, or ye have not visited, assisted and comforted those who stood in need of it, even tho’ they were the least, or meanest of Mankind. This Branch of Charity seems essential to the true Spirit of Christianity; and should be extended to all in general, whether Deserving or Undeserving, as far as our Power reaches. Of the ten Lepers who were cleansed, nine seem to have been much more unworthy than the tenth, yet in respect to the Cure of their Disease, they equally shared the Goodness of God. And the great Physician in sending forth his Disciples, always gave them a particular Charge, that into whatsoever City they entered, they should heal ALL the Sick, without Distinction.
When the good Samaritan left his Patient at the Inn, he gave Money to the Host, and said, TAKE CARE OF HIM, and what thou spendest more, I will repay thee. We are in this World mutual Hosts to each other; the Circumstances and Fortunes of Men and Families are continually changing; in the Course of a few Years we have seen the Rich become Poor, and the Poor Rich; the Children of the Wealthy languishing in Want and Misery, and those of their Servants lifted into Estates, and abounding in the good Things of this Life. Since then, our present State, how prosperous soever, hath no Stability, but what depends on the good Providence of God, how careful should we be not to harden our Hearts against the Distresses of our Fellow Creatures, lest He who owns and governs all, should punish our Inhumanity, deprive us of a Stewardship in which we have so unworthily behaved, laugh at our Calamity, and mock when our Fear cometh. Methinks when Objects of Charity, and Opportunities of relieving them, present themselves, we should hear the Voice of this Samaritan, as if it were the Voice of God sounding in our Ears, TAKE CARE OF THEM, and whatsoever thou spendest, I will repay thee.
But the Good particular Men may do separately, in relieving the Sick, is small, compared with what they may do collectively, or by a joint Endeavour and Interest. Hence the Erecting of Hospitals or Infirmaries by Subscription, for the Reception, Entertainment, and Cure of the Sick Poor, has been found by Experience exceedingly beneficial, as they turn out annually great Numbers of Patients perfectly cured, who might otherwise have been lost to their Families, and to Society. Hence Infirmaries spread more and more in Europe, new Ones being continually erected in large Cities and populous Towns, where generally the most skilful Physicians and Surgeons inhabit. And the Subscribers have had the Satisfaction in a few Years of seeing the Good they proposed to do, become much more extensive than was at first expected; for the Multitude and Variety of Cases continually treated in those Infirmaries, not only render the Physicians and Surgeons who attend them, still more expert and skilful, for the Benefit of others, but afford such speedy and effectual Instruction to the young Students of both Professions, who come from different and remote Parts of the Country for Improvement, that they return with a more ample Stock of Knowledge in their Art, and become Blessings to the Neighbourhoods in which they fix their Residence.
It is therefore a great Pleasure to all the Benevolent and Charitable, who have been acquainted with these Things in other Countries, to observe, that an Institution of the same Kind has met with such Encouragement in Pensilvania, and is in such Forwardness, that there is reason to expect it may be carried into Execution the ensuing Year. May the Father of Mercies grant it his Blessing, and Thousands of our unhappy Fellow Creatures, yet unborn, will have Cause to bless him, for putting it into the Hearts of the generous Contributors, and enabling them thus to provide for their Relief.
The Pennsylvania Gazette, August 8, 1751