Despair. Despairs, Equivocations, Definitions, Parties and Parts affected

Despair. Despairs, Equivocations, Definitions, Parties and Parts affected

There be many kinds of desperation, whereof some be holy, some unholy, as one distinguisheth; that unholy he defines out of Tully to be Ægritudinem animi sine ulla rerum expectatione meliore, a sickness of the soul without any hope or expectation of amendment; which commonly succeeds fear; for whilst evil is expected, we fear: but when it is certain, we despair. According to Thomas 2. 2æ. distinct. 40. art. 4. it is Recessus a re desiderata, propter impossibilitatem existimatam, a restraint from the thing desired, for some impossibility supposed. Because they cannot obtain what they would, they become desperate, and many times either yield to the passion by death itself, or else attempt impossibilities, not to be performed by men. In some cases, this desperate humour is not much to be discommended, as in wars it is a cause many times of extraordinary valour; as Joseph, lib. 1. de bello Jud. cap. 14. L. Danaëus in Aphoris. polit. pag. 226. and many politicians hold. It makes them improve their worth beyond itself, and of a forlorn impotent company become conquerors in a moment. Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem, "the only hope for the conquered is despair." In such courses when they see no remedy, but that they must either kill or be killed, they take courage, and oftentimes, præter spem, beyond all hope vindicate themselves. Fifteen thousand Locrenses fought against a hundred thousand Crotonienses, and seeing now no way but one, they must all die, thought they would not depart unrevenged, and thereupon desperately giving an assault, conquered their enemies. Nec alia causa victoriæ, (saith Justin mine author) quam quod desperaverant. William the Conqueror, when he first landed in England, sent back his ships, that his soldiers might have no hope of retiring back. Bodine excuseth his countrymen's overthrow at that famous battle at Agincourt, in Henry the Fifth his time, (cui simile, saith Froissard, tota historia producere non possit, which no history can parallel almost, wherein one handful of Englishmen overthrew a royal army of Frenchmen) with this refuge of despair, pauci desperati, a few desperate fellows being compassed in by their enemies, past all hope of life, fought like so many devils; and gives a caution, that no soldiers hereafter set upon desperate persons, which after Frontinus and Vigetius, Guicciardini likewise admonisheth, Hypomnes. part. 2. pag. 25. not to stop an enemy that is going his way. Many such kinds there are of desperation, when men are past hope of obtaining any suit, or in despair of better fortune; Desperatio facit monachum, as the saying is, and desperation causeth death itself; how many thousands in such distress have made away themselves, and many others? For he that cares not for his own, is master of another man's life. A Tuscan soothsayer, as Paterculus tells the story, perceiving himself and Fulvius Flaccus his dear friend, now both carried to prison by Opimius, and in despair of pardon, seeing the young man weep, quin tu potius hoc inquit facis, do as I do; and with that knocked out his brains against the door-cheek, as he was entering into prison, protinusque illiso capite in capite in carceris januam effuso cerebro expiravit, and so desperate died. But these are equivocal, improper. "When I speak of despair," saith Zanchie, "I speak not of every kind, but of that alone which concerns God. It is opposite to hope, and a most pernicious sin, wherewith the devil seeks to entrap men." Musculus makes four kinds of desperation, of God, ourselves, our neighbour, or anything to be done; but this division of his may be reduced easily to the former: all kinds are opposite to hope, that sweet moderator of passions, as Simonides calls it; I do not mean that vain hope which fantastical fellows feign to themselves, which according to Aristotle is insomnium vigilantium, a waking dream; but this divine hope which proceeds from confidence, and is an anchor to a floating soul; spes alit agricolas, even in our temporal affairs, hope revives us, but in spiritual it farther animateth; and were it not for hope, "we of all others were the most miserable," as Paul saith, in this life; were it not for hope, the heart would break; "for though they be punished in the sight of men," (Wisdom iii. 4.) yet is "their hope full of immortality:" yet doth it not so rear, as despair doth deject; this violent and sour passion of despair, is of all perturbations most grievous, as Patritius holds. Some divide it into final and temporal; final is incurable, which befalleth reprobates; temporal is a rejection of hope and comfort for a time, which may befall the best of God's children, and it commonly proceeds "from weakness of faith," as in David when he was oppressed he cried out, "O Lord, thou hast forsaken me," but this for a time. This ebbs and flows with hope and fear; it is a grievous sin howsoever: although some kind of despair be not amiss, when, saith Zanchius, we despair of our own means, and rely wholly upon God: but that species is not here meant. This pernicious kind of desperation is the subject of our discourse, homicida animæ, the murderer of the soul, as Austin terms it, a fearful passion, wherein the party oppressed thinks he can get no ease but by death, and is fully resolved to offer violence unto himself; so sensible of his burthen, and impatient of his cross, that he hopes by death alone to be freed of his calamity (though it prove otherwise) , and chooseth with Job vi. 8. 9. xvii. 5. "Rather to be strangled and die, than to be in his bonds." The part affected is the whole soul, and all the faculties of it; there is a privation of joy, hope, trust, confidence, of present and future good, and in their place succeed fear, sorrow, &c. as in the symptoms shall be shown. The heart is grieved, the conscience wounded, the mind eclipsed with black fumes arising from those perpetual terrors.

 

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