Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

The Causes of Depression

In his introductory essay to this book, J. I. Packer discusses how the Puritans understood the body-soul connection in depression and how problems in one can lead to problems in the other. Referring to Richard Baxter in particular, he viewed depression as “a psychophysical reality, a ‘diseased craziness . . . of the imagination’ that might be caused by the body being out of sorts (“sorrows that come from your spleen”), or by overload or overstrain on the mind, or perhaps both together.”

The Condition of Depression

In addition to spiritual symptoms such as terrors of hell and temptations to blaspheme and commit suicide, “Melancholics characteristically could not control their thoughts; they were unable to stop despairing about everything, or to begin a discipline of thanksgiving and rejoicing in Christ, or to concentrate on anything but their own hopelessness and felt certainty of damnation. They would cultivate solitariness and idleness; they would spend hours doing nothing. They would insist that others did not understand them, and that they were not sick but only realistic about themselves, and they would prove perversely obstinate in the matter of taking medication.”

The Cure of Depression

Baxter’s prescription included

1. “Never letting melancholics lose sight of the redeeming love of God, the free offer of life in Christ, and the greatness of grace at every point in the gospel.”

2. “Not attempting to practice the secret duty of meditation and prayer on one’s own, but praying aloud in company.”

4. Cultivating cheerful Christian community.

5. Avoiding idleness.

6. “Making good use of a skilled physician, a discerning pastor, and other faithful Christian mentors and friends, for support, guidance, and hopefully a cure.”

“Baxter wrote about the care of the soul and the care of the body as if they were indivisible if not indistinguishable components of the same person.”

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.