This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
Presentation to the public, through "The Century Magazine," of the substance of the foregoing excited much discussion, and led the most conspicuous advocates of " faith-healing" therein exposed to make such defense as they could. But confident assertions of supernatural powers, and vehement denials of the sufficiency of natural causes to account for their results, and quotations of misapplied passages of Scripture, have been the only defensive weapons of the faith-healers. They have, however, been compelled to avow that "they keep no record of failures, as they do not depend upon phenomena or cases, but upon the divine Word".
This admission is fatal. If they cannot do the works, either they have not the faith, or they misunderstand the promises they quote. Christ and the apostles depended upon the phenomena to sustain their claims; and when the apostles failed in a single instance Christ called them a faithless and perverse generation. The failure of these religious thauma-turgists to surpass other manipulators in the same line in the nature and extent of their mighty works has compelled them to say that they do not depend upon phenomena, and make no record of unsuccessful attempts and relapses.
The difficulty is that they apply promises to the ordinary Christian life which relate to the power of working miracles. That they misunderstand and misapply them is clear also from the fact that most spiritually minded Christians in the greatest emergencies have been unable to work miracles. The reformers—Calvin, Knox, Luther, etc.—could not. John Wesley, in his letter to the Bishop of Gloucester, enumerates all the miraculous gifts possessed by the apostles, and expressly denies that he lays claim to any of them. Judson, Carey, Martyn, Duff, Brainerd,1 and other eminent missionaries trying to preach the Gospel among Pagans, Mohammedans, and Pantheists, most of whose priests are believed by the people to be able to work miracles, were unable to prove their commission by any special power over disease, or by other mighty works. In Algiers, after its conquest by the French, the power of juggling priests was so great that it was impossible to preserve order until Robert Houdin, the magician, was sent over, whose power so far surpassed that of the priests that their ascendancy over the people was broken.
1 Brainerd, in his narrative of his work among the American Indians, confesses his great embarrassment as follows:
"When I have instructed them respecting the miracles wrought by Christ in healing the sick, etc., and mentioned them as evidences of his divine mission, and of the truth of his doctrines, they have quickly referred to the wonders of that kind which [a diviner] had performed by his magic charms, whence they had a high opinion of him and of his superstitious notions, which seemed to be a fatal obstruction to some of them in tho way of their receiving the Gospel".
Yet, though Brainerd could do none of these mighty works, he was the means of the conversion of thai very diviner by tho influence of his own life and the spiritual truths which he taught.
The charge that the writer is not a spiritually minded man was to be expected: this is the common cry of the superstitious when their errors are exposed. But the most extraordinary allegation was made by A. B. Simpson, founder of a sect of faith-healers in the city of New York. He states his belief that the cases " of healing and other supernatural phenomena ascribed to Spiritualism cannot be explained away either as tricks of clever performers or the mere effects of will power, but are, in very many instances, directly supernatural and superhuman"; and asserts that: "The cures to which Dr. Buckley refers among heathen nations, the Voodoos of the negroes, and the Indian medicine men, are all of the same character as Spiritualism." On the subject of Roman Catholic miracles he says:
"Where there is a simple and genuine faith in a Romanist,— and we have found it in some,— God will honor it as well as in a Protestant. . . . But when, on the other hand, they are corrupted by the errors of their Church, and exercising faitli, not in God, but in the relics of superstition, or the image of the Virgin, we see no difference between the Romanist and the Spiritualist, and we should not wonder at all if tho devil should be permitted to work his lying wonders for them, as he does for the superstitious Pagan or the possessed medium".
This means that if the Roman Catholics are devout, it is God who docs the mighty works for them; if superstitious it is the devil. As many of the most remarkable phenomena connected with Roman Catholicism have occurred where the Virgin is most prominent, as at the Grotto of Lourdes, and at Knock Chapel (a girl having been cured recently by drinking water with which some of the mortar of the chapel had been mingled), it is pertinent to ask, if supernatural operations are involved in both, whether the works of God might not be expected to be superior to those of the devil?
Mr. Simpson goes so far as to say that what he calls " divine healing" is "a great practical, Scriptural, and uniform principle, which does not content itself with a few incidental cases for psychological diversion or illustration, but meets the tens of thousands of God's suffering children with a simple practical remedy which all may take and claim if they will." Such propositions as this are as wild as the weather predictions that terrify the ignorant and superstitious, but are the amusement and scorn of all rational and educated persons; as the following, from the " Congregationalist" of Boston, shows:
We have taken pains, before publishing it, to confirm, by correspondence, the singular case of a woman's death in a religious meeting at Pcekskill, N. Y. Rev. Mr. Simpson, formerly a Presbyterian preacher, was holding a Holiness Convention, Major Cole, the "Michigan Evangelist," being a helper. In an " anointing service " an elderly lady, long afflicted with heart-disease, who had walked a long way after a hard day's work, presented herself for "divine healing," and was .anointed by Mr. Simpson. A few minutes after she fainted and died, the finding of the jury of inquest being that her death was from heart-disease, but hastened by the excitement of the service. One would suppose that the case would bo a warning against the danger of such experiments, if not a rebuke of the almost blasphemous assumption of miraculous power.