Melancholy in so far as it is a mental disease, and must more or less affect the religious state of the believer, demands our consideration. It is generally held that melancholy is the exaggeration of the natural and legitimate feelings of grief, despondency, and apprehension, which become morbid where the emotion is without a cause, or is disproportioned to the actual cause, or is so intense as to disturb and destroy the exercise of the other mental powers. This dejection and suffering is found associated with exalted sensations, or delusions as to the personal or physical condition of the individual, which originate in habitually cherishing certain impressions, in fixing the attention upon certain vital processes, which maybe unhealthy, or become so by the very concentration of thought bestowed upon them. The patient lives in fear of death, in the conviction that he is-differently or more exquisitely constructed than those around; that he labors under some foul or fatal disease; that he is destitute of strength or comeliness. This has been regarded as hypochondriacal melancholy — the maladie Anglaise, and affects 'the 'opening of life. Similar feelins are called forth in reference to the social position. Tiere arises a dread of poverty and want. The victim is haunted by imaginary debts, obligations, peculations. He feels incapable of extricating himself. The poor, as well as the rich, entertain such doubt and dread. They starve in order to husband their resources. This affection prevails at maturity at the period of greatest activity and usefulness. Towards the decline of life although encountered at every age-morbid depression assumes the form of religious anxiety, despair, remorse. Moral statistics show that among the inhabitants of Northern Europe the number of cases of melancholy exceeds those of mania; and it has been supposed that the rudiments of the malady may be detected in the original character, the temperament and habits of the race, as well as in 'the climate, domestic condition, and diet, by which these are modified. Defective blood nutrition, or anaemia, appears to be the physical state with which the great majority of cases of melancholy are connected, and to which all modes, of treatment are directed. Powerful and permanent and depressing moral emotions act as effectively in arresting healthy digestion and alimentation as the use of injudicious food, or the use of proper nourishment under circumstances such as the respiration of impure air, or indulgence in intemperate or degraded tendencies, which render assimilation impossible. The aspect of the melancholiac corroborates the view of inanition and exhaustion. The surface is pale, dry, cold, attenuated, even insensible; the muscles are rigid; the frame is bent; the eyes sunk, and fixed or flickering; the lips parched and colorless. There is a sense of exhaustion or pain, or impending dissolution. It has been remarked that in proportion to the intensity of the internal agony is there an obtuseness or anesthesia to wounds or external injuries. Such an immunity causes il lunatics an indifference to the most grievous forms of suffering, and has given rise to the supposition, on the part of those scientists who cannot see any virtue in religion, that Christian martyrs displayed at the stake a fortitude inspired rather by a lunatic condition than by heroic faithfulness to their convictions.-Chambers, Cyclop. sv.
To remove the oppressiveness of melancholy the following remedies may be applied:
1, early rising; 2, plain, nourishing food; 3, strict temperance; 4, exercise in the open air.
Or, if it arises particularly from the mind:
1, associate with the cheerful;
2, study the Scriptures;
3, Consider the amiable character of God, and the all-sufficient atonement of his Son;
4, avoid all sin;
5, be much in prayer, so as to enjoy the promised presence of the Holy Spirit, the infallible Comforter;
6, be constantly engaged in such employments as combine the sense of duty and the feelings of benevolence
See Burton, Baxter, and Rogers, On Melancholy; Cecil, Remains; Fuller, Works; Haslam, Observations on Madness and Melancholy; Esquirol, Maladies Mentales, 1:398; Crichton, Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement. SEE ALSO MIND; SEE MONOMANIA.