Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baxter's Directions to the Depressed: Think about God and Christ and Heaven

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. pp85-87. [Edited and abridged by SML.]

Chapter 4: Directions to the Melancholy.

Direction 9. When you do think of any holy things, let it be of the best things; of God and Grace and Christ and Heaven: of or your brethren or the church; and carry all your meditations outward; but be sure that you pour not on your selves, and spend not your thoughts upon your thoughts.

As we have need to call the thoughts of careless sinners inwards, and turn them from the creature and sin upon themselves; so we have need to call the thoughts of self-perplexing Melancholy persons outwards: for it is their disease to be still grinding upon themselves. Remember that it is a far higher, nobler and sweeter work to think of God and Christ and Heaven, than of such worms as we ourselves are. When we go up to the God, we go to Love and Light and Liberty: but when we look down into ourselves, we look into a dungeon, a prison, a wilderness, a place of darkness, horror, filthiness, misery and confusion.

Therefore such thoughts (tho’ needful so far as without them our repentance and due watchfulness cannot be maintained yet) are grievous ignoble, yes, and barren, in comparison of our thoughts of God. When you are pouring on your own hearts, to search whether the Love of God be there or no, it were wiser to be thinking of the infinite Amiableness of God, and that will cause it, whether it were there before or not.

So instead of pouring on your hearts, to know whether they are set on Heaven, lift up your thoughts to Heaven, and think of it’s Glory, and that will raise them thither, and give you and show you that which you were searching for. Spend that time in planting holy desires in the garden of your hearts, which you spend in puzzling yourselves in searching whether it be there already. We are such dark confused things, that the fight of our selves is enough to raise a loathing and horror in our minds, and make them melancholy: but in God and Glory, there is nothing to discourage our thoughts, but all to delight them, if Satan does not misrepresent him to us.