The following picture is part of an advertisement for a “new” medical text in the back of Calvin Cutter’s A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene: Designed for Colleges, Academies, and Families, a book from 1855 that I scooped up at a used book sale a couple years ago, found under the mysterious heading “GENERAL” (because, curiously, the good medical books are never categorized under “medicine” at these sales):
I find this both amusing and interesting at the same time. “STUDY ME,” it states, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” With his finger thrust authoritatively in the air, and decently clothed (not prancing about in exposed muscles, bones, and sinews as people often appear in medical texts), this little boy’s method of calling young scholars to educate themselves about human anatomy is fittingly stern (got to love the all-caps) yet subtle… and refreshingly modest. It is also religious.
My only annoyance is that it doesn’t attribute that it is a Biblical quotation, for it comes from Psalm 139:4. In full, it is, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV) However, I doubt a reference would have been necessary in the 1850s, in the days before reading Bibles in schools raised disapproving brows…
We ought to be educated about anatomy — in spite of any fear it might bring forth — because we truly are fearfully and wonderfully made. When considering how little we truly know about how we are made, how we function, and how we fall apart, we are fearfully made. Yes — we know a great deal more than we did two-hundred years ago. I feel we often need to be reminded that we still have a great deal to learn. One cannot forget how many consider anatomy fearful in the grotesque sense. I was a member of that crowd for many years. But the more one learns, the easier it is to cast the shivers and cringes aside and appreciate our admirable mechanics. And we are wonderfully made in terms of how intricate, sturdy, and complex the human form is. We are more resilient than you may think — and yet so delicate at the same time. No mortal man could conjure anything as amazing as what God has wrought.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made — and not one breath, swallow, blink, or twitch of the finger is to be taken for granted. To be educated of such matters is to better appreciate some of God’s finest work.
And I’m happy to have that little fellow from 1855 remind me of that which I should not need to be reminded… But we’re woefully forgetful creatures.