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.
Many well-attested cases of irreparable damage to religion, individuals, and to the peace of churches and families have been placed in my hands or ascertained by investigation. From them I select the following:
A lady, a member of the Christian church, aged about fifty-five years, had been ailing for two or three years. She fell and bruised her side, and was confined to her bed for some weeks. She was better for a month perhaps, and then the disease developed into internal abscess of the stomach, and she slowly declined until her death, which occurred about five months afterward. She and her family became very anxious for her recovery, and, being very devout, their minds turned to faith cures and faith-healers. A month before her death she was in correspondence with one of these persons. This lady appointed an hour in which to pray, and directed that friends in the place where she resided should meet and pray at that time. Her pastor went and prayed. At the close of this interview the patient told him she had received just then a great blessing, so that now she felt reconciled to die, and subsequently said nothing about healing, but much about the heavenly rest which she expected soon to enter. For a long time her nourishment had been, and then was, taken entirely in the form of injections of beef tea. On a certain day a layman who had been healed, and was himself a healer and a prime mover in faith-healing conventions, visited her about noon and stayed until near evening. He told the lady and her children that the Lord had sent him there that she might be instantly healed, read and expounded the book of James, brought out his phial of oil, anointed her forehead, knelt by her bedside, holding her hand in his, and prayed very earnestly for her immediate cure, claiming present conscious testimony by the Holy Spirit that tho cure was wrought. On rising from his knees, still holding her hand, he lifted the lady in bed to a sitting posture, and pronounced her cured in the name of the Holy Trinity. A member of the family protested that it was hazardous for her to sit up in that way, as she had not been able to sit up for many weeks. Finally the patient laid down exhausted, and the visitor left, assuring the family that " in four days mother would be up and about." Shortly after this (perhaps an hour) intense pain in the stomach began and kept increasing until the agony became unendurable, so that groans and screams of distress were wrung from her. This continued for twelve hours, when exhaustion and stupor ensued, which lasted until her death, the next day. An autopsy was hold by physicians who had been in attendance, and they reported a lesion of the stomach, caused, in their opinion, by the exertion of the patient in arising and sitting up in bed. When our informant met the visiting brother who had had a revelation of the Spirit that the patient was to recover, he inquired after the case, and on being told that our informant was about to go to the funeral, he expressed great surprise and said, "It sometimes happens that way".
Can anything more blasphemous be imagined than the presumptuous claim of a revelation through the Holy Spirit of a matter of fact, and the pronouncing the dying cured in the name of the Holy Trinity ?
Families have been broken up by the doctrine taught in some leading "Faith-Homes" that friends who do not believe this truth are to be separated from because of the weakening effect of their disbelief upon faith. A heartrending letter has reached me from a gentleman whose mother and sister are now residing in a faith-institution of New York, refusing all intercourse with their friends, and neglecting obvious duties of life.
Certain advocates of faith-healing and faith-homes have influenced women to leave their husbands and parents and reside in the homes, and have persuaded them to give thousands of dollars for their purposes, on the ground that "the Lord had need of the money".
This system is connected with every other superstition. The Bible is used as a book of magic. Many open it at random, expecting to be guided by the first passage they see, as Peter was told to open the mouth of the first fish that came up and he would find in it a piece of money. A missionary of high standing with whom I am acquainted was cured of this form of superstition by consulting the Bible on an important matter of Christian duty, and the passage that met his gaze was, " Hell from beneath is moved to meet thee at thy coming." Paganism can produce nothing more superstitious, though many Christians, instead of "searching the Scriptures," still use the Bible as though it were a divining-rod.
It feeds upon impressions, makes great use of dreams and signs, and puts forth statements untrue and pernicious in their influence. A young lady long ill was visited by a minister who prayed with her, in great joy arose from his knees, and said, "Jennie, you are sure to recover. Dismiss all fear.
The Lord has revealed it to me." Soon after, physicians in consultation decided that she had cancer of the stomach, of which she subsequently died. He who had received the impression that she would recover, when met by the pastor of the family, said, "Jennie will certainly get well. The Lord will raise her up. He has revealed it to me." Said the minister, "She has not the nervous disease she had some years ago. The physicians have decided that she has cancer of the stomach." " Oh, well," was the reply, "if that is the case, she is sure to die".
A family living in the city of St. Louis had a daughter who was very ill. They were well acquainted with one of the prominent advocates of faith-healing in the East, who made her case a subject of prayer, and whose wife wrote her a letter declaring that she would certainly be cured, and the Lord had revealed it. The letter arrived in St. Louis one day after her death.
These are cases taken not from the operations of recognized fanatics, but from those of leading lights in this ignis fatuus movement.
It is a means of obtaining money under false pretenses. Some who promulgate these views are honest, but underneath their proceedings runs a subtle sophistry. They establish institutions which they call faith-homes, declaring that they are supported entirely by faith, and that they use no means to make their work known or to persuade persons to contribute. Meanwhile they advertise their work and institutions in every possible way, publishing reports in which, though in many instances wanting in business accuracy, they exhibit the most cunning wisdom of the children of this world in the conspicuous publication of letters such as the following:
Dear Brother: The Lord told me to send you fifty dollars for your glorious work. I did so, and have been a great deal happier than I ever was before; and from unexpected quarters viore than three times the amount has come in.
In one of the papers devoted to this subject this letter recently appeared:
Dear Brother: Please announce through the "Crown of Glory" that I will sail for the western coast of Africa to preach a full salvation in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to heal whomsoever the Lord will by faith, as soon as the Lord sends the balance of the money to pay my fare. I have renounced all rum, wine, cider, tobacco, beer, ale, and medicines — only Jesus! Only Jesus my Savior! I will sail October 10, if the Lord sends the balance of tho money to Brother Heller, 48 Orchard st., Newark, N. J. Yours, in Christ, S. B. Mvler.
A prominent English advocate of this method of raising money, who has done an extraordinary and useful work, on one of his missionary tours in this country explained his curious system with so much eloquence that the founders of certain faith-homes in the United States called upon the editors of various religious papers and endeavored to induce them to set forth that there are institutions in this country conducted on the same principle, naively observing that they did not wish his presence and eloquence to divert to England money that should be expended here. Yet they "do not use means" ! But as in the case of the supposed faith-healings, for every successful instance there are a large number of unrecorded grievous failures; and many subjects of delusion who have established faith-homes to which the public has not responded have suffered the agonies of death. Some have starved, some have been relieved by benevolent Christian friends, and others have been taken to asylums for the insane. Similar wrecks are to be found all through the land, dazzled and deceived by the careers of the few who have succeeded in getting their enterprises under way and enjoy a monopoly of their limited method of obtaining revenue. Some who succeed are doubtless as sincere men and women as ever lived. Others oscillate between knavery and unbridled fanaticism.
The horrible mixture of superstition and blasphemy to which these views frequently lead is not known to all. I quote from a paper published in Newark, N. J., in the interest of faith-healing:
Three of the richest men in Ocean Park, N. J., have died. Faith-healing has been taught in the place, but was rejected by them, so death came.
Charleston, S. C. - A few years ago the Holy Ghost sent tho to preach in that city. But they rejected tho Gospel and me. A wicked man shot at me and tried to kill me, but God saved me so that I was not harmed. . . . But I had to leave Charleston and do as the great Head of the Church said : . . . "when ye depart out of that house or city, shako off the dust from your feet." Earthquake, September 1, LSSG ; one-half the city in ruins. It has a population of about iifty thousand people. Ye wicked cities in the world, take warning! God lives!