Monday, May 26, 2008

Baxter's Directions to the Depressed: Evil Thoughts

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. pp83-85. [Edited and abridged by SML.]

Chapter 4: Directions to the Melancholy.

When the disease is gone very far, directions to the melancholy persons themselves are vain, because they have not reason and free will to practice them: at that point, it is their friends around them who must have the directions. But because with most of the melancholy people, and at the onset, there is still some power of reason left, I shall give the following directions for use of such ones.

Direction 8: When blasphemous or disturbing thoughts intrude or fruitless musings; presently meet them and use that Authority of Reason which you still have to cast and command them out.

If you have not lost it, Reason and the Will have command over the Thoughts, as well as over the tongue, or hands or feet. And as you would be ashamed to run up and down, or fight with your hands and say, I cannot help it: so you should be ashamed to let your thoughts run at random or on hurtful things, and say I cannot help it. Do you do the best you can to help it? Can you not bid them be gone? Can you not turn your thoughts to something else? Or can you not rouse up your self and shake them off? Some by casting a little cold water in their own faces, or bidding another do it, can rouse them from melancholy musings as from sleep.

Or if you cannot otherwise command and turn away your thoughts, rise up and go into some company, or to some employment which will divert you and take them away. Tell me what you would do, if you heard a scold in the street reviling you, or heard an atheist talk against God, would you stand still to hear them, or would you talk it out again with them, or rather go from them, and disdain to hear them, debate the case with such as they. Do you the like in your case: when Satan casts in ugly or despairing or murmuring thoughts, go away from them to some other thoughts or business. If you cannot do this of your self, tell your friend when the temptation comes, and it is his duty who has the cure of you, to divert you with some other talk or works or force you into diverting company. Yet be not too much troubled at the temptation, for trouble of mind does keep the evil matter in your memory, and so increase it, as pain of a sore draws the blood and spirits to the place. And this is the design of Satan, to give you troubling thoughts, and then to cause more by being troubled at those, and so for one thought and trouble to cause another, and so as waves in the sea, do follow one another.

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