'The Black Lines of Damnation': Double Predestination and the Causes of Despair in Timothy Bright's A Treatise of Melancholie
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The relationship between melancholy and religious enthusiasm in England has been the subject of a number of historical studies. This article examines a lesser-known type of religious melancholy, the fear that one was among the reprobate (those not predestined for salvation). Whereas Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy identified reprobation fears as a form of melancholic madness, the physician Timothy Bright developed a more subtle approach to the causes of despair in A Treatise of Melancholie, published almost four decades earlier. He argued that although the doctrine of predestination was in general a comforting theology, it could be terrifying for persons subject to melancholy as the humour distorted the imagination and made the sufferer susceptible to Satanic suggestions. Bright bequeathed the notion of melancholy as a cause of spiritual anxiety to puritan ministers, who incorporated it into works of consolation for those suffering from an afflicted conscience.
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