ePub 版

piricism and the dreams of visionaries, and would become a pursuit, noble and honorable, and worthy of the time and talents of the greatest minds.

Some of the phrenologists, in their classification of the faculties of the human mind, have assigned a place to one which they have called wonder. Whether we are phrenologists or not, we shall probably feel disposed to give assent to something answering to this faculty, after taking a view of the intellectual operations of those who think on medical subjects. The love of the marvelous is here strongly exhibited, and has operated most injuriously upon medicine. The secrecy and intricacy with which medical phenomena are often clothed, has proved a fruitful source of ridiculous and absurd notions and superstitions. Occult causes, mysterious influences, supernatural agency, and miraculous interposition, have been all supposed. The imagination, having free scope, and a supposed license to ramble, ever busy and ever productive in wild and fantastic and distorted images, has had here a field of operation which it has considered its own, and in which it has roved and raved with a degree of ardor, assiduity and success, which has hardly been known in any department of the world of fancy. The fruits of these freaks-these wild and romantic excursions-may be met with in the language and actions of the people, and even in the opinions and practice of some medical men. With these, medicine is a kind of necromancy, consisting in the exercise of a sort of conjuring process, and practiced by jugglers and magicians. It is thus taken out of the domain of science, or of an art involving principles, and placed in the hands of fairies and powows. Even the great Bacon gave a warrant to this transference. His prescriptions for the cure of diseases, (of which he was the author of many,) show that he was a very credulous and superstitious man, on medical subjects. He gravely recommends the skull of a hanged man as an infallible cure for epilepsy! A thousand ridiculous fancies and vagaries of this sort, may be collected from the records of medicine, the offspring, not of the brains of the ignorant and vulgar alone, but also of men of genius and learning.

The conclusion to which we would bring our remarks is this: The only safety for the public on this momentous subject, is to confine the practice of physic to men of truly enlightened and philosophical minds. But this can never be accomplished, until the public at large are made more strongly to feel the multiplied and peculiar difficulties attendant on medical inquiries. It is from enlightened public opinion alone, that we can hope for the removal of what is still an enormous evil in this country-the intrusion of ignorant men, of weak and ill-disciplined minds, into

the medical profession. Public opinion ought to check the facility with which degrees and licenses are granted in some of our medical institutions. How often are men taken from the plough or the anvil, with the bare rudiments of an English education, and in two or three years turned out upon society, as the constituted guardians of the public health! Such men, in most cases, could not sustain themselves for an hour in the profession of divinity or of law. Their utter incapacity for philosophical investigation would be manifest to all; but shielded by the mysteries of a profession which the public eye cannot penetrate, they too often gain wealth and influence, by the grossest quackery and imposition. If our remarks in this article, should lead any of our readers to appreciate more highly the amount of mental discipline which ought to be demanded in medical practitioners, our labors will be amply repaid.


A Discourse occasioned by the death of Mr. Amos Pettingell, by L. F. DIMMICK, Newburyport, Mass. 1832.

Mr. Dimmick has conferred a favor on the friends of Mr. Pettingell, not only in Newburyport but in other places, by the publication of this discourse. He has rendered, moreover, a valuable service to the church at large; for, so similar are the feelings and principles by which its members are actuated, that an account of any one, who was eminent for holiness, must be regarded by all the followers of Christ, as a tribute to the memory of a friend, and can hardly fail of being useful to others. We have been led by this consideration as well as our own feelings, to attempt with still greater particularity than is done in this discourse, a sketch of the life and character of Mr. Pettingell. And we have done it in the hope, that the example which he presented, of the union of the scholar and the christian, of a strong intellect and extensive learning, with devoted piety and uncommon usefulness, towards the close of his life, may thus be more widely diffused and exert a greater influence.

Mr. Amos Pettingell was born October 20, 1804, in Newburyport, Mass. The success of his early education, and the hope that God would qualify him to become a minister of the gospel, induced his parents to give him an opportunity of improving his mind by the best instruction which the country affords. In 1818, he became a member of Phillips' Academy at Andover, and two

years and a half after, of Yale College. His first efforts at the latter institution placed him among the most distinguished scholars of his class. His progress in every department of learning, and especially the mathematics, together with the uniform correctness of his conduct, justly entitled him to the honorable rank, which was assigned him when he graduated.

For two years after he left college, Mr. Pettingell was ployed as an instructor in the academy at Monson, Mass.; an office for which he was eminently qualified by his learning, promptitude, and scrupulous fidelity in the performance of every duty. This employment gave accuracy to the knowledge he had already gained, and prepared the way for more extensive acquisitions at a later period. In 1827, he was appointed tutor in Yale College. During the first part of his tutorship, he employed his whole time in making himself thoroughly acquainted with the branches of knowledge which it was his duty to teach. He had in consequence become so familiar with the whole course of study, that, at a later period, it was not thought inconsistent with his office as an instructor, to employ in the study of the law the time not occupied in his appropriate duties. He therefore entered the Law-school, in this city, and continued a member of it somewhat more than a year. In the spring of 1831, he relinquished the study of a profession in which he would have been eminently successful, and devoted himself to the study of theology, from that time till his death, which happened November 30, 1831.

In considering the characteristic qualities of Mr. Pettingell's mind, all who knew him will recognize the remarkable activity of his intellectual powers. Whatever was the object of his pursuit, he entered into it with uncommon eagerness and alacrity. Whether in severe study, or in his hours of relaxation, in the sober business or the lighter amusements of life, his mind was always on the alert. To this characteristic, controlled and regulated by sound discipline, may be traced his great love of knowledge. He extended his inquiries into many different departments of learning. He sought information from every source, from books, from conversation, from the common occurrences of life. Nor did this versatility of mind lead him into inquiries more curious than profitable, or expose him through credulity to error or imposition;-a common result whenever this trait of character is joined with weakness of judgment, or mis-directed by early education. His sound mental discipline and habits of reflection enabled him to select and arrange from these various sources of information, whatever was useful. He acquired knowledge with great rapidity. This may be attributed in part to strong natural powers, but principally to good habits of study. With him study was

labor. He engaged in it with the whole energy of his mind. He could withdraw his thoughts from every object but the one before him, and employ them upon that for any length of time, without distraction and with great effect. Hence his attainments were made with uncommon ease. He was not compelled to prolong his hours of study to the exhaustion of both body and mind, and apparently he was not a hard student. But to spend hour after hour over a book, to read with listless inactivity, till the attention is wearied and the whole subject involved in obscurity, is not study. It is idleness; and results, in most cases, from a reluctance to make great exertions, or from the gratification which many find in suffering the ideas of others to float through the mind, without one effort to detain or make them their own. Mr. P. did not study, as many scholars are accustomed to do, with the pen in his hand. Though his knowledge was extensive, it was not retained by note books or on paper, but by scientific arrangement and the strength of a well cultivated memory. Undoubtedly a frequent use of the pen gives precision to knowledge, and a man can hardly write too much, who records his own views of the subjects which he examines. But it may be doubted whether a mere accumulation upon paper of the thoughts of others, is of any use, since it too often results in destroying all habits of self-reliance, both in recalling our knowledge and in applying it to the concerns of active life.

When Mr. Pettingell entered on the study of law, the qualities of mind to which we have alluded above, were conspicuously displayed, and we think it may be useful to speak of him in this respect with more particularity. He engaged in this study with his characteristic ardor. His mind was peculiarly fitted for such pursuits. Trained as he had been in the severe school of the mathematics, he was highly successful in unraveling the intricacies of legal science, in following out its principles into all their bearings, in seizing hold of its nice distinctions, in perceiving with clearness its definitions and the uses of technical terms, and in reasoning from them with accuracy and clearness. He had enlarged ideas of the worth and importance of the science. His acquaintance with the precepts of the bible and the great system of moral philosophy, led him to consider it in a moral point of view. He was not satisfied, therefore, without tracing its general principles to their foundation, and examining their connection with each other, to determine how far they are consistent with justice and morality. He employed but little time on the light literature of the study; but devoted the whole energy of his mind to a thorough examination of the great writers upon law. These were the objects of his study and reflection. He examined their

[ocr errors]

principles for himself, and made their learning his own. At the same time, he was not indifferent to the information imparted by his instructors. Indeed he was peculiarly inquisitive; but it was not the inquisitiveness of an inattentive mind, which seeks of an instructor, what it has lost through negligence, or of a weak one, which busies itself about trifles, but of one which finds difficulties and requires assistance, as a natural consequence of the depth of its researches. By this method of study, he made rapid progress; and few persons, we will venture to say, have become, in so short a time, more thoroughly acquainted with the principles

of law.

Such was Mr. P. as a scholar. As a lawyer, he would have been among the most eminent in the profession. But we have already said, that in the spring of 1831, he relinquished these pursuits, and employed himself in the services of religion. So entire an abandonment of the leading object of his life, is of sufficient importance to receive a serious consideration. His character previous to this period, first demands our attention. His learning, and the powers of his mind, have already been mentioned. His moral character was uncommonly pure. In whatever situation he was placed, he discharged its duties with fidelity. All the duties which belong to man as a member of society, had not indeed devolved upon him, but his character in this respect may be sufficiently learned, from the manner in which he discharged those which had. As an officer of college in particular, he was eminently faithful. He was careful to aid the diligent and orderly, while he did not suffer idleness and impropriety of conduct, to pass unreproved. None enjoyed more highly the pleasures of friendship, or performed its offices with greater faithfulness, than Mr. Pettingell. Blessed with a cheerfulness of disposition, seldom overcast with gloom, and possessed of almost unrivaled powers of conversation, he was an agreeable companion, and received and imparted the enjoyments of social intercourse, with uncommon interest. He was an affectionate son and brother. In short, no one possessed in these respects a fairer character. Though able by the strength of his mind to master the most abstruse subjects, he had in matters of feeling the simplicity of a child. To this was added a remarkable evenness of temper, which made his life pass with a uniform, though animated cheerfulness. From early years, his mind had been imbued with the soundest religious principles. He was a child of many prayers. Over his whole life, from early infancy, parental piety had watched with unwearied solicitude. Dedicated to God in baptism, he was from the first instructed in the precepts of the gospel; and we well remember with what warm gratitude he

« 上一頁繼續 »