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Reverend John Wesley
John Wesley (1704-1791) was the eighteenth century English clergyman who helped to pioneer the use of electricity for the treatment of illness. In 1760 he published The Desideratum, or Electricity made Plain and Useful by a Lover of Mankind and of Common Sense, based on his use of electricity in free medical clinics which he had established for the poor in Bristol and London. Although not widely appreciated by either science or medicine, several historians have credited Wesley with being one of the most notable electrotherapists in the eighteenth century and with stimulating nineteenth century developments in psychiatry and general medicine. Wesley lists 37 ailments in which electrification had been found eminently useful. In the tradition of English parish priests, he combined treatment for illness with spiritual evangelism - a combination which characterized much of the Methodist movement, which Wesley founded.

Best known as the founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703-1791) was also deeply committed to the democratization of medicine. Wesley, an advocate for social justice, recognized that medicine in England was increasingly available only to the wealthy, partly due to a shortage of physicians during a time of great population growth in England.

Wesley considered it a Christian duty to make medical knowledge and practical treatments accessible to the ‘Majority of Mankind’ a necessary and important aspect also of pastoral duties. Drawing from contemporary advice on healthy living and nature cures for disease with particular influence from Dr. George Cheyne’s - A Book of Health and Long Life (London, 1724), Wesley published a low-cost and easy-to read medical handbook entitled Primitive Physic: an Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases. He first published his book anonymously in 1745 under the title A Collection of Receipts for the Use of the Poor, which he later expanded as Primitive Physic. The latter went though a multitude of revisions and editions. The Methodist movement was, observes M. Schmidt, a "socially concerned Christianity," and the aim of this movement clearly involved medical practice.

In Wesley's time the causes of disease had been imperfectly understood, but there had been a strong belief in empiric "certain cures" and "tried remedies". Wesley had developed a reasoned view of which remedies were harmful, and was a thoughtful prescriber, feeling the need for treatment of the whole person. Wesley himself had claimed that men of learning had begun to set aside experience, to build on hypothesis, to form theories of diseases and their cure, and to submit these in the place of practical physics. As a firm believer in empiricism, Wesley had claimed that there was no more need for mystery in medicine than to appreciate the simple fact that "such a medicine removes such a pain" and should be used. The best physician, in Wesley's view, was not the one who talked best or who wrote best, but the one who performed the most cures, the one who walked the talk.

Clerical Medicine became the basis of natural medicine practice to which we owe Wesley a large and significant contribution. It could be claimed that he was one of our Fathers of Naturopathy. It can be thus be defined as: charitable medical services (Imitatio Christi) rendered to the poor using natural agents such as food, herbs, electricity, physic, water; "certain cures" and "tried remedies"; and supernatural agents including spiritual counseling, prayer, divination, and worship.


Excerpt from the Book: Modern Monastic, Clerical & Pastoral Medicine

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