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PSALM, XLII. 6, 7.
According to the Tranflation of our Liturgy.
Why art thou fo full of Heaviness, O my Soul?
AVING, the laft Time, given you an Account of the Occafion and Scope of thefe Words, as they were spoken by the Pfalmift, and treated of fuch practical Points, as may be deduced from them, as fo confidered; I now come to that which I chiefly defigned when I pitched upon this Text, which was, as I told you, to speak to the Cafe of those People among us, that are troubled with religious Melancholy.
And here, that which I propofe to do, is, to confider the feveral Things that are most apt to disturb them, and which are wont to create great Uneafinefs, and Trouble, and Perplexity to their Minds, and to give fuch an Account
Account of thefe Things, as that every good Man may be fatisfied, that there is no Reason that, for the Sake of them, his Soul fhould be caft down, or his Spirit difquieted within him; but, on the contrary, that he ought to praife God, and to look upon him as the Help of his Countenance, and his God, as David expreffeth it in this Pfalm.
But, before I engage in this Argument, it is fit I fhould give you a more particular Account of what I mean by religious Melancholy, and how it is diftinguished from other Sorts of Trouble of Mind, that are incident to Mankind.
First of all, There is a Melancholy and Dejection of Spirit occafioned by worldly Things, fuch as Sickness, or Poverty, or Diftrefs, or Lofs of Friends, or bad Children and Relations, or fome other outward Cross or Disappointment, which either is come upon us, or we fear will do. But now this is not that Trouble of Mind I am here concerned with, tho' it be the most common Trouble that exerciseth the Minds of Men.
Secondly, There is a Trouble of Mind upon a religious Account, which moft Men, both good and bad, have fometimes Experience of, which likewife is far different from that religious Melancholy I am here to speak of. There is no good Man that at any time falls into a Sin, or doth any Action that he be lieves to be difpleafing to God, but he must needs be troubled in Confcience for it, and heartily
heartily vexed in his own Mind, that he should be fo foolish, and fo ungrateful to his great Benefactor. He will truly be forry for his Fault, and patiently confefs it, and earnestly beg Pardon for it. But then it is not his Infelicity to be thus troubled, and afflicted, (as the Cafe is with them that are religiously melancholy) but it is his Duty and his Advantage: For this is a Mean whereby he must be reftored to the Favour of God, and to his own Peace and Quiet of Mind; and it is the best Preservative likewise against his falling again into the fame Fault. And fo for bad Men, those that live in any Course of Vice or wilful Sin, there are few of them but are sometimes much troubled in Mind, and feel a great Load of Melancholy upon their Spirits, when they reflect upon their fpiritual Condition: Many Occafions are, by the Providence of God, thrown in their Way, which feldom fail of putting them in Mind of their finful Lives, and of the Danger they are in upon Account thereof. And, if these Reflections be ferious, they cannot but be accompanied with a great deal of Horror and Amazement. But, however they stifle thefe Thoughts in the Time of their Health, yet when they come to be on their fick Beds, and expect nothing but Death; then many of them are most terribly awaken'd, their Consciences then fly in their Faces, and in a miferable Agony they are upon account of their former ungodly Life, and would give all the World to be rid of thofe dismal Ap
prehenfions they have of themselves, and of their own everlasting Condition.
But this Trouble likewife is nothing but what is reasonable, and, confidering their Circumftances, very neceffary for them. It' is not a Melancholy grounded upon a Conceit, or Imagination, or Mifapprehenfion of Things; for really they have great Reafon to be thus difquieted and afflicted in their own Minds, and they must be senseless and ftupid, if they were not. And it is a Mercy of God to them, that they are thus awakened; for, if ever they repent, and come to good, it must in all Probability be by fuch Beginnings as these.
But, Thirdly, there is another kind of religious Trouble of Mind, which none but good Men, or those that defire fo to be, are fubject to: Which yet is different from that religious Melancholy, that is now under my Confideration. That which I mean, is that Trouble which arifes from our Irrefolution or Doubtfulness about the Goodness or Badness of Actions. When, in any Cafe that we happen to be engaged in, we are at a Lofs how to determine ourselves, as fearing that, if we act this way, we fin; if we act the other way, we may fin likewise. These Kind of Doubts or Scruples do often render the Minds of wellmeaning Perfons very uneafy, even fometimes in fuch Inftances as another Man, and he an honest Man too, would find no Difficulty at all in. It may indeed and doth fometimes happen, that this Perplexity and Scrupulofity
about Actions, doth proceed from Distemper and Indifpofition of Body; and, where it doth fo, it is a Spice of that religious Melancholy I am here to speak of; but, generally, it proceeds from Ignorance of Things, and the falfe Notions Men have taken up about the Measure of Actions, from their Education, or Converfation, and the like. And, when these are once removed, and the Man comes to form a right Judgment of Things, there is an End of the Scruples or Doubts, and confequently of all that Trouble they were the Cause of.
But, Fourthly, as for that Sort of Trouble of Mind, which we properly call religious Melancholy, and which is my prefent Argument; the best Account I can give of it is this, That it is a Dejection of Mind occafioned from the Temperament, or most commonly from the Diftemperature, of the Body, accompanied with unreasonable Fears, and Frights, about our spiritual Condition.
We cannot but have obferved, (at least they muft, that have ever had to do with Mens Souls) that they are a great many Perfons who, as far as we can judge, either by their Converfation, or by that Account they give of themfelves, (which they give in fuch Circumftances too, that no Man can fufpect that they counterfeit) are very innocent and virtuous Perfons, and have a hearty Senfe of God and Religion upon their Minds, and would not, for all the World, do any thing that they know to be finful; And who confequently may, with very good Reafon,