Symptoms of Despair, Fear, Sorrow, Suspicion, Anxiety, Horror of Conscience, Fearful Dreams and Visions

Symptoms of Despair, Fear, Sorrow, Suspicion, Anxiety, Horror of Conscience, Fearful Dreams and Visions

As shoemakers do when they bring home shoes, still cry leather is dearer and dearer, may I justly say of those melancholy symptoms: these of despair are most violent, tragical, and grievous, far beyond the rest, not to be expressed but negatively, as it is privation of all happiness, not to be endured; "for a wounded spirit who can bear it?" Prov. xviii. 19. What, therefore, Timanthes did in his picture of Iphigenia, now ready to be sacrificed, when he had painted Chalcas mourning, Ulysses sad, but most sorrowful Menelaus; and showed all his art in expressing a variety of affections, he covered the maid's father Agamemnon's head with a veil, and left it to every spectator to conceive what he would himself; for that true passion and sorrow in summo gradu, such as his was, could not by any art be deciphered. What he did in his picture, I will do in describing the symptoms of despair; imagine what thou canst, fear, sorrow, furies, grief, pain, terror, anger, dismal, ghastly, tedious, irksome, &c. it is not sufficient, it comes far short, no tongue can tell, no heart conceive it. 'Tis an epitome of hell, an extract, a quintessence, a compound, a mixture of all feral maladies, tyrannical tortures, plagues, and perplexities. There is no sickness almost but physic provideth a remedy for it; to every sore chirurgery will provide a salve; friendship helps poverty; hope of liberty easeth imprisonment; suit and favour revoke banishment; authority and time wear away reproach: but what physic, what chirurgery, what wealth, favour, authority can relieve, bear out, assuage, or expel a troubled conscience? A quiet mind cureth all them, but all they cannot comfort a distressed soul: who can put to silence the voice of desperation? All that is single in other melancholy, Horribile, dirum, pestilens, atrox, ferum, concur in this, it is more than melancholy in the highest degree; a burning fever of the soul; so mad, saith Jacchinus, by this misery; fear, sorrow, and despair, he puts for ordinary symptoms of melancholy. They are in great pain and horror of mind, distraction of soul, restless, full of continual fears, cares, torments, anxieties, they can neither eat, drink, nor sleep for them, take no rest,

"Perpetua impietas, nec mensæ tempore cessat,
Exagitat vesana quies, somnique furentes."

"Neither at bed, nor yet at board,
Will any rest despair afford."

Fear takes away their content, and dries the blood, wasteth the marrow, alters their countenance, "even in their greatest delights, singing, dancing, dalliance, they are still" (saith Lemnius) "tortured in their souls." It consumes them to nought, "I am like a pelican in the wilderness (saith David of himself, temporally afflicted) , an owl, because of thine indignation," Psalm cii. 8, 10, and Psalm lv. 4. "My heart trembleth within me, and the terrors of death have come upon me; fear and trembling are come upon me, &c. at death's door," Psalm cvii. 18. "Their soul abhors all manner of meats." Their sleep is (if it be any) unquiet, subject to fearful dreams and terrors. Peter in his bonds slept secure, for he knew God protected him; and Tully makes it an argument of Roscius Amerinus' innocency, that he killed not his father, because he so securely slept. Those martyrs in the primitive church were most cheerful and merry in the midst of their persecutions; but it is far otherwise with these men, tossed in a sea, and that continually without rest or intermission, they can think of nought that is pleasant, "their conscience will not let them be quiet," in perpetual fear, anxiety, if they be not yet apprehended, they are in doubt still they shall be ready to betray themselves, as Cain did, he thinks every man will kill him; "and roar for the grief of heart," Psalm xxxviii. 8, as David did; as Job did, xx. 3, 21, 22, &c., "Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life to them that have heavy hearts? which long for death, and if it come not, search it more than treasures, and rejoice when they can find the grave." They are generally weary of their lives, a trembling heart they have, a sorrowful mind, and little or no rest. Terror ubique tremor, timor undique et undique terror. "Fears, terrors, and affrights in all places, at all times and seasons." Cibum et potum pertinaciter aversantur multi, nodum in scirpo quæritantes, et culpam imaginantes ubi nulla est, as Wierus writes de Lamiis lib. 3. c. 7. "they refuse many of them meat and drink, cannot rest, aggravating still and supposing grievous offences where there are none." God's heavy wrath is kindled in their souls, and notwithstanding their continual prayers and supplications to Christ Jesus, they have no release or ease at all, but a most intolerable torment, and insufferable anguish of conscience, and that makes them, through impatience, to murmur against God many times, to rave, to blaspheme, turn atheists, and seek to offer violence to themselves. Deut. xxviii. 65, 68. "In the morning they wish for evening, and for morning in the evening, for the sight of their eyes which they see, and fear of hearts." Marinus Mercennus, in his comment on Genesis, makes mention of a desperate friend of his, whom, amongst others, he came to visit, and exhort to patience, that broke out into most blasphemous atheistical speeches, too fearful to relate, when they wished him to trust in God, Quis est ille Deus (inquit) ut serviam illi, quid proderit si oraverim; si præsens est, cur non succurrit? cur non me carcere, inertia, squalore confectum liberat? quid ego feci? &c. absit a me hujusmodi Deus. Another of his acquaintance broke out into like atheistical blasphemies, upon his wife's death raved, cursed, said and did he cared not what. And so for the most part it is with them all, many of them, in their extremity, think they hear and see visions, outcries, confer with devils, that they are tormented, possessed, and in hell-fire, already damned, quite forsaken of God, they have no sense or feeling of mercy, or grace, hope of salvation, their sentence of condemnation is already past, and not to be revoked, the devil will certainly have them. Never was any living creature in such torment before, in such a miserable estate, in such distress of mind, no hope, no faith, past cure, reprobate, continually tempted to make away themselves. Something talks with them, they spit fire and brimstone, they cannot but blaspheme, they cannot repent, believe or think a good thought, so far carried; ut cogantur ad impia cogitandum etiam contra voluntatem, said Felix Plater, ad blasphemiam erga deum, ad multa horrenda perpetranda, ad manus violentas sibi inferendas, &c., and in their distracted fits and desperate humours, to offer violence to others, their familiar and dear friends sometimes, or to mere strangers, upon very small or no occasion; for he that cares not for his own, is master of another man's life. They think evil against their wills; that which they abhor themselves, they must needs think, do, and speak. He gives instance in a patient of his, that when he would pray, had such evil thoughts still suggested to him, and wicked meditations. Another instance he hath of a woman that was often tempted to curse God, to blaspheme and kill herself. Sometimes the devil (as they say) stands without and talks with them, sometimes he is within them, as they think, and there speaks and talks as to such as are possessed: so Apollodorus, in Plutarch, thought his heart spake within him. There is a most memorable example of Francis Spira, an advocate of Padua, Ann. 1545, that being desperate, by no counsel of learned men could be comforted: he felt (as he said) the pains of hell in his soul; in all other things he discoursed aright, but in this most mad. Frismelica, Bullovat, and some other excellent physicians, could neither make him eat, drink, or sleep, no persuasion could ease him. Never pleaded any man so well for himself, as this man did against himself, and so he desperately died. Springer, a lawyer, hath written his life. Cardinal Crescence died so likewise desperate at Verona, still he thought a black dog followed him to his death-bed, no man could drive the dog away, Sleiden. com. 23. cap. lib. 3. Whilst I was writing this Treatise, saith Montaltus, cap. 2. de mel. "A nun came to me for help, well for all other matters, but troubled in conscience for five years last past; she is almost mad, and not able to resist, thinks she hath offended God, and is certainly damned." Felix Plater hath store of instances of such as thought themselves damned, forsaken of God, &c. One amongst the rest, that durst not go to church, or come near the Rhine, for fear to make away himself, because then he was most especially tempted. These and such like symptoms are intended and remitted, as the malady itself is more or less; some will hear good counsel, some will not; some desire help, some reject all, and will not be eased.

 

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