Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Samuel Clifford's directions to Those who have suffered from Depression in the Past - Part 1

An edited and (quite) abridged excerpt from The Signs and Causes of Melancholy, with directions suited to the case of those who are afflicted with it. Collected out of the works of Mr. Richard Baxter, for the sake of those, who are wounded in Spirit. By Samuel Clifford, minister of the Gospel London, Bible and Three Crowns, 1716. Extracted from Pages xi-xlvi.

from To the Reader, by Samuel Clifford

... [Those who have been afflicted by depression or have seen it in others] will readily acknowledge the case of persons under such circumstances to be sad and very affecting: theirs especially, who have no Friend at hand to give them suitable advice, by speaking a Word in Season to them. In compassion to such distressed Souls, who are weary and heavy laden, and ready to sink under their burden, I have drawn up the following collection...

...[Baxter] having no where in his works, (as I have observed) given any directions to those who were once oppressed with melancholy, but are now delivered from it, I shall take the liberty to add a few things by way of advice to such.

I. Keep your distance from sin. Sin is evil in itself, is contempt of the authority of God; and is so evil in its effects, that except for the merits of Christ, and the pardoning mercy of God, eternal death would be the unavoidable consequence of every sin. In your depression, when you thought of sin and death and hell, how evil did it seem? Even though time has changed your state of mind, it has made no change at all in the nature of sin: it is a transgression of the law of God, and therefore is evil in his sight, and should be as hateful to you as it ever was. You have the Word of God, to be a Lamp unto your Feet, and a light unto your paths; acquaint yourselves with it, so that you may know your duty towards God and Man. Although you will daily sin against God, do not allow yourselves to purposefully omit any duty which God requires, or to practice any known sin, which he forbids. To do that is inconsistent with the nature and sincerity of repentance, and altogether unbecoming those who have professed such sorrow for sin, as you have done.

Beware of being guilty of any thing that looks like rebellion against Him. Rightly fear the evil of sin by considering the majesty of God against whom it is committed and the nature of its punishment. Be aware where you have suffered most, and where your greatest danger lies from sin, and carefully guard against it in yourselves. Call upon heaven for help: double your watch and stand on your guard, as those who have an enemy always at hand. It is necessary to avoid the occasion of sin if you desire to be kept from sin itself. When you are familiar with the one, you cannot be safe from the other. The Apostle’s advice, I Thess. 5.22. Abstain from all appearance of Evil, is necessary for all times and for all persons; especially those who have had dreadful fear of the wrath of God for sin on their spirits, as you have had.

You say, may what I have felt of that nature be a warning to me for ever, to beware of Sin. I have been, as it were, within sight of the bottomless pit, and I have had a Hell of horror in my own conscience, sensing of the horrid evil of sin and God’s displeasure against me for it. Didn’t I confessed my sin to God with a broken heart and earnestly pray for mercy for myself and ask others to do likewise? I will not forget His mercy in answering my prayers. You who have been merciful to me beyond my expectations, do not leave me to the power of my corruptions. You who knows all things, know that sin is a burden to me, and if I must not be free from it, while I live in this world, help me daily to repent of my sins, and the Lord in Mercy forgive them; and let Your grace be sufficient for me, to enable me to carry on the conflict with my corruptions so effectually, that although sin has a being in me, it may not have dominion over me.

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