Depression isn’t something new. Contrary to popular belief, Christians in ages past were not ignorant to its reality. I love reading through how the Puritans and early evangelicals (like John Newton) thought through such things as depression.
In one letter to a Mrs. Coffin we get a fair picture of Newton’s counsel to the depressed. Mrs. Coffin was a pastors wife. She also seems to have battled depressive episodes.
Here was Newton’s counsel to her:
- Pray much. Think little.
- Avoid musing and reasoning by yourself. (You need to battle in community)
- Keep to the Word.
- Realize that this is a spiritual battle.
- Know that the “Lord keeps the key of comfort in his own hand”.
- Wait for the Lord.
- Take heart that your experience isn’t unChristian, in fact no Christian is exempt from conflict of soul.
I also find it interesting that Newton told Mrs. Coffin, “I believe much of your complain is constitutional”. In other words Newton thought that a good bit of her problem wasn’t sin as much as it was biology. His counsel would have been very similar to my own.
This selection was tweaked from a letter of Newton that I got from this book. The whole book is filled with gems like this.
If you would like a more detailed explanation of any of the points feel free to ask in the comments. I’ve read enough Newton that I can explain what he means by each of these points.