Prognostics of Religious Melancholy

Prognostics of Religious Melancholy

You may guess at the prognostics by the symptoms. What can these signs fore tell otherwise than folly, dotage, madness, gross ignorance, despair, obstinacy, a reprobate sense, a bad end? What else can superstition, heresy produce, but wars, tumults, uproars, torture of souls, and despair, a desolate land, as Jeremy teacheth, cap. vii. 34. when they commit idolatry, and walk after their own ways? how should it be otherwise with them? what can they expect but "blasting, famine, dearth," and all the plagues of Egypt, as Amos denounceth, cap. iv. vers. 9. 10. to be led into captivity? If our hopes be frustrate, "we sow much and bring in little, eat and have not enough, drink and are not filled, clothe and be not warm," &c. Haggai i. 6. "we look for much and it comes to little, whence is it? His house was waste, they came to their own houses," vers. 9. "therefore the heaven stayed his dew, the earth his fruit." Because we are superstitious, irreligious, we do not serve God as we ought, all these plagues and miseries come upon us; what can we look for else but mutual wars, slaughters, fearful ends in this life, and in the life to come eternal damnation? What is it that hath caused so many feral battles to be fought, so much Christian blood shed, but superstition! That Spanish inquisition, racks, wheels, tortures, torments, whence do they proceed? from superstition. Bodine the Frenchman, in his method. hist. accounts Englishmen barbarians, for their civil wars: but let him read those Pharsalian fields fought of late in France for their religion, their massacres, wherein by their own relations in twenty-four years, I know not how many millions have been consumed, whole families and cities, and he shall find ours to be but velitations to theirs. But it hath ever been the custom of heretics and idolaters, when they are plagued for their sins, and God's just judgments come upon them, not to acknowledge any fault in themselves, but still impute it unto others. In Cyprian's time it was much controverted between him and Demetrius an idolater, who should be the cause of those present calamities. Demetrius laid all the fault on Christians, (and so they did ever in the primitive church, as appears by the first book of Arnobius) , "that there were not such ordinary showers in winter, the ripening heat in summer, so seasonable springs, fruitful autumns, no marble mines in the mountains, less gold and silver than of old; that husbandmen, seamen, soldiers, all were scanted, justice, friendship, skill in arts, all was decayed," and that through Christians' default, and all their other miseries from them, quod dii nostri a vobis non colantur, because they did not worship their gods. But Cyprian retorts all upon him again, as appears by his tract against him. 'Tis true the world is miserably tormented and shaken with wars, dearth, famine, fire, inundations, plagues, and many feral diseases rage amongst us, sed non ut tu quereris ista accidunt quod dii vestri a nobis non colantur, sed quod a vobis non colatur Deus, a quibus nec quæritur, nec timetur, not as thou complainest, that we do not worship your Gods, but because you are idolaters, and do not serve the true God, neither seek him, nor fear him as you ought. Our papists object as much to us, and account us heretics, we them; the Turks esteem of both as infidels, and we them as a company of pagans, Jews against all; when indeed there is a general fault in us all, and something in the very best, which may justly deserve God's wrath, and pull these miseries upon our heads. I will say nothing here of those vain cares, torments, needless works, penance, pilgrimages, pseudomartyrdom, &c. We heap upon ourselves unnecessary troubles, observations; we punish our bodies, as in Turkey (saith Busbequius leg. Turcic. ep. 3.) "one did, that was much affected with music, and to hear boys sing, but very superstitious; an old sibyl coming to his house, or a holy woman," (as that place yields many) "took him down for it, and told him, that in that other world he should suffer for it; thereupon he flung his rich and costly instruments which he had bedecked with jewels, all at once into the fire. He was served in silver plate, and had goodly household stuff: a little after, another religious man reprehended him in like sort, and from thenceforth he was served in earthen vessels, last of all a decree came forth, because Turks might not drink wine themselves, that neither Jew nor Christian then living in Constantinople, might drink any wine at all." In like sort amongst papists, fasting at first was generally proposed as a good thing; after, from such meats at set times, and then last of all so rigorously proposed, to bind the consciences upon pain of damnation. "First Friday," saith Erasmus, "then Saturday," et nunc periclitatur dies Mercurii) and Wednesday now is in danger of a fast. "And for such like toys, some so miserably afflict themselves, to despair, and death itself, rather than offend, and think themselves good Christians in it, when as indeed they are superstitious Jews." So saith Leonardus Fuchsius, a great physician in his time. "We are tortured in Germany with these popish edicts, our bodies so taken down, our goods so diminished, that if God had not sent Luther, a worthy man, in time, to redress these mischiefs, we should have eaten hay with our horses before this." As in fasting, so in all other superstitious edicts, we crucify one another without a cause, barring ourselves of many good and lawful things, honest disports, pleasures and recreations; for wherefore did God create them but for our use? Feasts, mirth, music, hawking, hunting, singing, dancing, &c. non tam necessitatibus nostris Deus inservit, sed in delicias amamur, as Seneca notes, God would have it so. And as Plato 2. de legibus gives out, Deos laboriosam hominum vitam miseratos, the gods in commiseration of human estate sent Apollo, Bacchus, and the Muses, qui cum voluptate tripudia et soltationes nobis ducant, to be merry with mortals, to sing and dance with us. So that he that will not rejoice and enjoy himself, making good use of such things as are lawfully permitted, non est temperatus, as he will, sed superstitiosus. "There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour," Eccles. ii. 24. And as one said of hawking and hunting, tot solatia in hac ægri orbis calamitate, mortalibus tædiis deus objecit, I say of all honest recreations, God hath therefore indulged them to refresh, ease, solace and comfort us. But we are some of us too stern, too rigid, too precise, too grossly superstitious, and whilst we make a conscience of every toy, with touch not, taste not, &c., as those Pythagoreans of old, and some Indians now, that will eat no flesh, or suffer any living creature to be killed, the Bannians about Guzzerat; we tyrannise over our brother's soul, lose the right use of many good gifts; honest sports, games and pleasant recreations, punish ourselves without a cause, lose our liberties, and sometimes our lives. Anno 1270, at Magdeburg in Germany, a Jew fell into a privy upon a Saturday, and without help could not possibly get out; he called to his fellows for succour, but they denied it, because it was their Sabbath, non licebat opus manuum exercere; the bishop hearing of it, the next day forbade him to be pulled out, because it was our Sunday. In the mean time the wretch died before Monday. We have myriads of examples in this kind amongst those rigid Sabbatarians, and therefore not without good cause, Intolerabilem pertubationem Seneca calls it, as well he might, an intolerable perturbation, that causeth such dire events, folly, madness, sickness, despair, death of body and soul, and hell itself.

 

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