I have read, over and over again, the words of famous people extolling the Bible and its influence on our world. Those quotes have come from American presidents, scientists, scholars in literature, historians, anthropologists and many others. They say such things as, “Nothing else has so affected, altered and improved human history as much as the King James Bible.” Despite the abundance of those quotations, only rarely have I seen specific instances of that influence. Perhaps you’ve found that to be true yourself. Well, I’m going to give you the account of just one way in which the Bible changed the course of history – your history.

Having exhausted my treasury of unread books and wanting to take something the right size and shape to read on the plane for our trip to Tennessee, I pulled a book out of my library which blessed me forty years ago. It blessed me once again. This is “Chats from a Minister’s Library” by Wilbur M. Smith. It was published in 1951, so it is nearly as old as I am. I don’t know if IT has ever been republished, but I have been when the Lord regenerated my soul. In his introduction, Smith said that he hoped this would be the first in a series, but as far as I know there has never been a second book. What a shame. I will confess, right up front, that nearly all the material I will share with you this morning is not my own. It comes from the second chapter in this book.

I’d like you to consider something from the life of SIR JAMES YOUNG SIMPSON who was born in 1811.

In the middle of the 19th century, James Simpson had the largest medical practice in Scotland. He was made Senior President of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh at the astonishing age of 24. Before he was 30, he was appointed to the Chair of Midwifery in that city, and when only 36, he was made one of Queen Victoria’s physicians. Some of you might be aware that Victoria was deathly afraid of pregnancy and giving birth, so to have James Simpson as her doctor was very important. By the time Simpson was 50, he was a member of nearly every medical society on both sides of Atlantic. He was the first physician in Scotland to receive a baronetcy. And when he passed away, at the early age of 59, he was given a great public funeral in Edinburgh, and a bust of him was placed in London’s Westminster Abbey.

As a young doctor, Simpson was horrified at the awful torture involved in surgery and difficult child-births. In those days there were no anesthetics. So amputations, for example, were only possible by strapping the patient to a table and cutting through tissue and bone with the patient fully aware – painfully aware – of what was going on. Most cancerous tumors internal problems, which are routine today, such as appendectomies, could not be touched back then. Just think of at least five thousand years of surgeries without any anesthetic whatsoever.

Simpson thought that if his patients could sleep during surgery he could be of better service to them. To discover some way to accomplish that he periodically invited a small group of sympathetic physicians to his home for discussions and experiments. At these meeting various chemicals, crystals and powders were placed over a fire, with the doctors inhaling the rising fumes. Meeting after meeting of such experiments passed without any appreciable results. It is a wonder that some chemical did not kill them, but they were willing to take that risk for the sake of medical progress.

They had almost given up hope when one evening, one of Simpson’s friends said he had received a crystal called “chloroform” from an apothecary in Paris. It was brought out and some of it put over a small flame. The doctors had not been inhaling these fumes very long before one of them fell unconscious, slipped from his chair and glided under the table. In rapid succession there was another and another. When they woke up, they knew that the object of their search had been found. It was a turning point in surgery and modern medicine. This was on November 4, 1847. When later experiments in the hospital proved the efficiency of chloroform, Simpson published his findings.

Unfortunately, he was immediately attacked. It was said that he was an immoral, dangerous, and God-resisting rebel for meeting one of the great problems of life – pain. Medical men and religious leaders pointed to Genesis 3 and the curse God placed on man for his sin. They quoted verse 16 where God said to Eve, “I will great multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” People were saying that women were supposed to suffer and die in childbirth, and it was ordained by God that surgeries were supposed to be painful.

James Simpson was a born-again Christian, and he was very well taught in a great many areas. He had a profound knowledge – and love – for the Word of God. Always trying to live like a saint of God, to be charged with un-Christian practices was heart-breaking. And he was crushed by the charge that pain was ordained of God and that any artificial means used for the alleviation of that pain must be considered to be outside of God’s will. He had nowhere to turn for guidance in this crisis except to the Word of God itself. He was determined to find, from what he considered to be divine revelation, whether or not it was sinful to alleviate pain.

He began his Bible study at the beginning, and hardly turning the first page he came to these words: “And the Lord God caused a DEEP sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of the ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof, and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man made he a woman and brought her unto the man” – Genesis 2:21, 22. This appeared to be the answer to Simpson’s question, but he wondered if he was reading it correctly? Being a scholar, and a lover of research, Simpson carefully investigated the actual language of this text, especially the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “deep sleep.”

After a thorough study of his Bible, he wrote an article on the subject and had it published in a prominent medical journal. It was entitled, “Answer to the Religious Objections Advanced Against the Employment of Anesthetic Agents in Midwifery and Surgery.” All of this was done within six weeks after his discovery of the effects of chloroform.

Simpson began his article by stating the charge against him: “I am informed that in another medical school my conduct in introducing and advocating the superinduction of anesthesia in labor (child-birth) has been publicly denounced ex cathedra as an attempt to contravene the arrangement and decrees of Providence, hence reprehensible and heretical . ..” After quoting the curse pronounced upon Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:16-18), Simpson continued: “If it is sinful to try to counteract the effects of this part of it, referring to child-bearing women, it is sinful to try to counteract the other parts of it regarding the state of the ground . . . The agriculturalist in pulling up the thorns and thistles . . . is never looked upon as erring and sinful in doing so.”

He then continued with another argument: “If some physicians hold that they feel conscientiously constrained not to relieve the agonies of a woman in child birth because it was ordained she should bring forth in sorrow, then they ought to feel conscientiously constrained on the very same grounds not to use their professional skill and art to prevent a man from dying.” He then proceeded to investigate the Hebrew word translated sorrow, “etzebh,” which is derived from the root “atzabh,” meaning “to labor” or “toil,” showing that in the other places where it occurs – Proverbs 14:23; 5:10; 15:1; 10:22; Psalms 127:2; and Jer. 22:28 – it does not mean physical pain. “The great characteristic of human parturition (child-birth) is the vastly greater amount of muscular effort, toil or labor required for its accomplishment. The state of anesthesia does not withdraw or abolish that muscular effort, toil or labor; for if so it would then stop and arrest entirely the act of parturition itself. But it removes the physical pain and agony … it leaves the labor itself entire.”

We may disagree with some of his next statement, but he quoted Matthew Henry, adding: “Certainly under the Christian dispensation the moral necessity of undergoing such anguish has ceased and terminated. Those who believe otherwise must believe, in contradiction to the whole spirit and testimony of revealed truth, that the death and sacrifice of Christ was not as it is everywhere declared to be, an all-sufficient sacrifice for all the sins and crimes of man.” For support hecommentary on the third chapter of Genesis.

Then he came directly to the question of anesthetic in its relation to sleep: “Those who urge on a kind of religious ground that an artificial or anesthetic state of unconsciousness should NOT be induced merely to save frail humanity from the miseries and tortures of bodily pain forget that we have the greatest of all examples set before us for following out this very principle of practice in Genesis 2:21. In this remarkable verse the whole process of a surgical operation is briefly detailed, but the passage is principally striking as affording evidence of our Creator himself using means to save poor human nature from the unnecessary endurance of physical pain.” Simpson then quoted another commentator: “It is to be noted that Adam had been plunged in a sleep so profound that he felt no pain; and further that neither had the rupture been violent or was any want perceived of the lost rib, because God so filled up the vacuity with flesh that his strength remained unimpaired, only the hardness of bone was removed.”

Concluding His article Simpson wrote: “The profundity of the sleep as expressed in the Hebrew is also worthy of note, for the noun “tardenah” signifies according to all the best Hebrew scholars the deepest form of induced slumber. In the early and very literal Greek translation which Aquila made of the Bible, he uses the word “kataphora,” a term which Hippocrates, Galen, Aetius, and other Greek physicians used as implying that state of insensibility and total unconsciousness which in modern medical language we express by ‘coma’ and ‘lethargy.’ Gesenius translates the Hebrew word with the Latin word “sopor.” The Hebrew term for common sleep is “shenah.” We may always rest fully and perfectly assured that whatever is true on point of fact or humane and merciful in point of practice, will find no condemnation in the Word of God.”

One of the greatest medical men of the middle of the 19th century, Sir James Simpson, didn’t use humanistic logic, medical terms or simple human sympathy to propound his thesis in that medical journal. He used the Word of God. And ultimately, just as the Bible does with its presentation of the gospel, what the Bible declared about pain control was unimpeachable. If it wasn’t for the Bible it might have taken decades or centuries before you could have painless surgery.

I will conclude with something which Smith didn’t mention, because perhaps Simpson didn’t.

Mark 15 describes the crucifixion of the Lord – where Christ Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many. In verse 22 we read: “They bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. And … they … crucified him…”

There are millions of people who drink alcohol for one primary purpose – the mitigation of their pain. For some it is physical pain, but many of those people move on to oxy, meth and even phentinol. Other people drink because of emotional pain. People self-prescribe alcohol to kill pain.

On the day of His crucifixion someone offered the Lord Jesus wine mingled with myrrh. It is called “gall” in the Book of Matthew. I believe that Christ was given spiked wine in order to deaden the pain which was going to coming when the nails would be stabbing through His flesh, and as He was forced into that agonizing posture on the cross. But the Lord Jesus refused any anaesthesia, because of the special work He was performing on our behalf. Christ felt every millimeter of those nails, the thorns in His scalp and the lashes across His back. He suffered through every minute of that late morning heat and the bone shivering clammy coolness of that darkened afternoon, because He was bearing the pain and reproach of my sin.

It wasn’t that Christ was making a comment on the use of Chloroform, Novocain or Ketamine or any other substance in medical procedures. He had a great work to complete – work which required feeling the full effects of our sin and guilt. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own BODY on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose STRIPES ye were healed” – I Peter 2:24.