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How Are You?, 1873

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

(The hand of the diligent maketh rich.)

“You are late home from the dispensary today, dear papa,” said Ella Manson, as she met her father the doctor in the hall of their dwelling, took from him his hat and umbrella and rubbed some shining raindrops from his coat.

“There were a great many poor creatures coming today for relief,” replied the doctor. “A great deal of sickness prevails at this season.”

“Come to the fire, dear papa. I am sure that you, who take care of every one, should have some one to take care of you. See what a cheery blaze I have made to welcome you home.”

The doctor entered his warm little study and took his seat on the easy chair which was wheeled round for him by his young daughter. And as she placed herself on a footstool at his feet and looked up with her bright smile into his face, the good man silently thanked God for the many blessings bestowed upon him.

“You have hard work at the dispensary, papa.”

“I am well repaid,” said her father, “if I am only able to relieve pain and help in restoring health.”

“Ah, what a precious thing health is!” cried the girl. “It seems to me that a kind and clever doctor does more good than any one else. How people crowd to any place where they can get a cure for their diseases, and oh, what a terrible variety of pains and ailments there are in the world! One would think that health is the uppermost thing in every mind, for the very first question asked by friends when they meet is generally, ‘How are you?’ as if they considered that if health were but good, everything else must be right.”

“It is strange,” said the doctor, as he thoughtfully gazed into the fire, “how much more apt we are to think of the body’s health than the soul’s.”

“I do not know what you mean by the soul’s health, dear papa.”

“The soul—that part within us which thinks, hopes, fears, and loves. That soul which was made to live for ever—is subject to as many kinds of sickness as our poor perishing bodies and it is not difficult to trace a great resemblance between them. There is the fever of passion, the dizziness of folly, the madness of drunkenness, the blindness of ignorance. Far more real and terrible evils than any which merely attack our mortal frames. But the great difference is this, while we use every means, make every effort to procure health for the body, too many amongst us neither know nor care whether their souls be sick or well.”

“If ‘How are you?’ meant, ‘How is your soul?’” observed Ella, “people would feel quite angry and hurt at such a question being asked.”

“But what a solemn question it would be!” said her father. “How great would be its importance! It would be as if the speaker said, ‘Is your soul in safety? has it found rest and peace? is the pain of an evil conscience gone? have you no fear of eternal death? have you been to the Good Physician? and has He healed your soul for ever?’”

“I doubt whether many people ever think that their souls need healing,” observed Ella.

“And yet, my child, what is the Bible description of the soul as it is by nature? The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint: from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores” (Isa 1:5-6).

“And how can the soul be healed?” asked Ella.

“The Lord who made it, who knows it, who died for it, He alone can heal the sick soul. In His blessed Word is to be found some cure for every disease from which the soul can suffer. I had a strange dream last night,” continued the doctor, “and this has made the subject of sick souls rest much on my mind during the day. When I saw mothers bringing their sickly children, or pallid invalids, scarcely able to drag on their feeble limbs, coming for medicine and for advice, I could not help thinking to myself, ‘Would that all poor creatures would seek as anxiously for advice for their souls, for medicine to cure their sins, which are more deadly far than any sickness can be!’”

“What was your dream?” asked Ella.

“I dreamed that I sat in the dispensary in my accustomed place to receive all who came for healing. But there were no medicines near me, nothing but the Bible lay on the table with a strange light gleaming upon it. And I saw in my dream that a motley crowd stood at the door, some with cheeks blooming with health and faces bright with mirth, others sad and sorrowful in countenance. But I knew that all had souls diseased, that all were in danger of eternal death, but that for each was contained in the Bible a recipe for a medicine which, taken and applied, could heal the worst sickness of the soul.”

“What a strange dream!” exclaimed Ella.

“I saw every object before me as clearly as I see you now,” said the doctor. “Indeed, my powers in my dream seemed far greater than any that I possess when awake, for I was able to read the thoughts and tell at a glance what ailed every one of the sin-sick patients before me.”

“Tell me about them,” said Ella.

“The first was a merry-looking girl, gaily—I may say gaudily—dressed, with fluttering ribbons and flowers, gilt ornaments, and a bold saucy manner which seemed to say that she feared no danger and cared for nothing but pleasure. She had clearly no idea that any disease was in her. But I saw that her soul was afflicted with a dizziness and lightness which, unless cured in time, would be attended with fatal effects. For her I wrote down the prescription from the Bible, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1Jo 2:15).

“Did she take the paper gladly and was she cured?” inquired Ella.

“Neither in this case, nor in any other, did I see the effect of the recipe which I had given,” replied the doctor. “I laid the cure before each patient, but I had no power to make him take it. Life or death was offered to him. He had to choose between sickness and health. The ministers who preach God’s Word and show sinners the path to heaven, may point the way and lead the way, but the most faithful and gifted of them all cannot oblige the unwilling to follow. There are many, alas! who have not even a wish to be cured of sin. They love their disease, even though they know that it must lead to their utter destruction.”

“Who was the next patient?” asked Ella.

“The next was a thin, gaunt woman, bowed down with sorrow and care, with sharp features and hollow eyes. She was not old in years, but her hair was streaked with gray and her face furrowed with wrinkles. Much trouble had bowed that back and lay like a leaden weight at that heart! I knew in my dream that I had before me one greatly afflicted and one who had not yet learned how to bring the burden of her cares and lay it at the feet of her loving Saviour. Her sickness of soul was a wasting decline. She was losing strength day by day. She was sinking into a state of listless gloom which took all her energy away and made life itself a weary burden, almost too heavy to be borne.”

“Surely,” exclaimed Ella, “that was rather her misfortune than her sin!”

“My child, there is sin in mistrust of God. There is sin in giving up hope when we are bidden to trust in the Lord. With a feeling of deep pity and an earnest prayer that the mourner might find true comfort, I wrote down for her the words of the Saviour, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest (Mat 11:28).

“Then I turned in my dream towards two who had entered the dispensary together, a brother led in my his sister. I thought that the man seemed unwilling to come. There was a sullen, dogged look on his face and in his bleared and bloodshot eyes. His bruised skin seemed to bear tokens of a recent fall or fight. His clothes were ragged and torn. Even had I not possessed the strange power of reading character bestowed upon me in my dream, I should have known the miserable man at once to be a habitual drunkard. "'I have brought you a wretched madman!’ cried the sister in a tone of indignant contempt. ‘I doubt if it be possible to cure him, but I have led him here on the chance. In one of his horrid fits of drunkenness see how he has torn his clothes to rags and struck his face against a lamp-post! I am afraid that in his madness he will do himself or others serious harm. It is not safe to leave him alone. He is like one possessed by a devil!’

“‘Oh, fatal madness,’ I inwardly exclaimed, ‘that draws thousands and thousands of precious souls to the pit of destruction!’ With a sigh I wrote down the warning contained in the book of God’s Word, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith (1Pe 5:8-9).

“I raised my eyes as I gave the writing and they rested now not on the brother, but the sister. The decent, respectable woman, who had such a scorn for sin—she of whom the world spoke so well—she who believed herself to be so safe, so full of spiritual health—what was my surprise to observe that she was almost totally blind! I saw that, little as she was aware of it, she was really as much an object of pity as her miserable brother.

“‘Your soul also requires healing,’ I said.

“‘It is in perfect health,’ replied the woman sharply, ‘and no one need be anxious about it. I am a regular church-goer. I pay every man his due. I never did harm to any one.’

“‘Yet for you I have a message,’ said I, ‘may God give you grace to apply it! Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind. I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see’” (Rev 3:17-18).

“Papa,” said Ella, with a perplexed look, “what was the sin of this woman—what is blindness of the soul?”

“Her sin was self-righteousness,” replied Dr. Manson, “the besetting sin of many who call themselves Christians. It blinded her to her own danger. It made her unable to see herself as a sinner. It prevented her from looking to Him through whose merits alone we can be saved. If any human being say, ‘I have no need of healing,’ it is because the soul is blind and the darkness of ignorance surrounds it.”

“Did any other patients come in your dream?”

“A young man entered next,” replied the doctor, “who had just been engaged in a fierce quarrel with one of his neighbours. His cheeks were flushed, his brows were knit, he was grinding his teeth from rage. I knew that his blood was hot, that his pulse beat high, that he was in the fever of passion. Silently I held out the Bible cure for him to take at a calmer moment—he was too angry at that moment to read—Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Eph 4:31-32).

“A woman followed behind, but as one who neither sought nor hoped for a cure. She was wretched in her outward appearance, her dress told of want and neglect, a settled gloom was on her face. She never raised her eyes from the ground. And what depths of misery lay beneath that sad exterior! Here was one who thought herself beyond reach of cure! The palsy of despair was upon the miserable creature. She seemed as if unable to stretch forth a hand to grasp at mercy, even were it to be offered. She had heard of a Saviour indeed, but she could not believe that His love could extend to such a sinner as she. Eagerly and anxiously I wrote out for her the blessed words of the Redeemer, which—received, believed, and obeyed—can give life to the dying soul, Look unto Me and be ye saved (Isa 45:22). Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out (Joh 6:37). I leant forward so anxiously as I gave the writing to arrest the attention of the sufferer that the movement roused me from my sleep and starting, I awoke from my dream.”

“It was a singular dream indeed,” observed Ella, “but how much truth was in it. It was like a glimpse behind the curtain that hides from us the real state of our fellow-creatures. When next I pass through a crowd, I shall think of the sin-sick souls and wonder how each of them could answer the question, ‘How are you?’ in the spiritual sense.”

“Nay, rather, my child,” said the father, looking with tender affection at the fair young girl at his feet, “Ask the question of your own soul. How are you in the sight of your God? Be on your guard against every symptom of disease lurking within. If you feel the chill of indifference, the languor of indolence, the heat of anger, the pang of envy, do not rest in a careless hope that all is well with your soul. Watch over it, for it is precious. Keep from it the infection of evil companions, the unwholesome food of bad books. And above all, my daughter, come daily by faith and prayer to the Good Physician, who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psa 103:3-5).

Edited by Pam Takahashi


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