A Discourse Concerning Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholly
Timothy Rogers
1691 AD

Click to View

Click to ViewSee also: History of Psychiatry homepage


  1. In 1691 AD, Timothy Rogers, a minister for a church, describes depression (melancholy) as caused by a sin problem: "A sense of Sin, and great sorrow for it", "a sense of the Wrath of God, and a fear of Hell", "terrors of the soul", "trouble of Conscience", "terrors of Conscience", "Anxieties of Soul", "sinking and guilty Fears", "sense of Tormenting", "Racking Pain, the immediate prospect of Death, and together with this, an apprehension of God's Displeasure, and the fear of being cast out of his Glorious Presence for ever", "anguish and vexation", "Raging Fever", "want of sleep", "Real Misery that they are tormented with", "fears and terrors that overwhelm our Souls", "fills them with anguish and tribulation". He describes how the mind can make the body sick: "If a Man, saith he, that is troubled in Conscience, come to a Minister, it may be, he will look all to the Soul, and nothing to the Body; if he come to a Physician, he considereth the Body, and neglecteth the Soul: for my part, I would never have the Physician's Counsel despised, nor the Labour of the Minister neglected; because the Soul and Body dwelling together, it is convenient, that as the Soul should be cured, by the Word, by Prayer, by Fasting, or by Comforting; so the Body must be brought into some temperature, by Physick, and Diet, by harmless Diversions, and such like ways." Rogers cautions not to blame the devil for this depression: "Do not attribute the effects of mere Disease, to the Devil". (A Discourse Concerning Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholly, Timothy Rogers, 1691 AD)
  2. "Timothy Rogers (1658-1728) A Discourse Concerning Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholly, In Three Parts. Written for the Use of such as are, or have been Exercised by the same. By Timothy Rogers, M.A. who was long afflicted with both (1691), A: Epistle Dedicatory, B: pp. i—iii, C: pp. xi—xii, D: pp. 1-4. Rogers' Discourse is a classic statement of melancholy in its religious framework. From his opening dedication to Lady Mary Lane, through the preface of advice `to the Relations and Friends of Melancholly People', and throughout its 31 chapters, the context and explanation for suffering is humankind's fall from paradise and consequent distance from the grace of God, an awareness that is present behind even some of the apparently less religious accounts of melancholy that follow from the eighteenth century. As a Nonconformist minister, [Timothy] Rogers (1658-1728) was clearly alert to this framework, but what makes his account and advice more than just doctrinal is the fact that they are rooted in personal experience. His ministry was in London, but continuing `trouble of mind' forced his removal to a more rural area, Wantage in Berkshire. Even the gratitude for recovery expressed in the Discourse proved to be ill-founded, for Rogers' periods of melancholy persisted throughout his life. The experience of suffering, however, not only authenticates his descriptions and informs his sympathy. It actually makes his advice resolutely practical, indicating a clear-sighted capacity for observation and analysis even while undergoing the sufferings he recalls. The first extract is from the dedication to Lady Mary, who stands for Rogers as a model both of proper compassion and of proper patience in the face of trial. The second and third are examples from his series of 'Advices', while the fourth is from the introduction to part one, which deals, over 13 chapters, with God's anger against humankind and with suffering in a fallen world." (Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century, A Reader, Allan Ingram, 1998 AD, p 36)
  3. "Rogers's detailed instructions on how to care for patients suffering from `trouble of mind', especially from `melancholly' of the religious kind, are particularly valuable because they were written from personal experience; as the extract shows much of his advice can still be usefully applied by the psychiatrist and the psychiatric nurse today. It appears from his biography prefixed to the third edition of his book (London 1808; a second edition appeared in 1706) that he came from a family in which several near relatives were similarly affected 'so that his case might properly be called natural or hereditary'. In his late twenties he had his first breakdown, 'a deep and settled melancholy' lasting two years. On his recovery he wrote this book as an offering 'for his wonderful restoration', to discharge 'the Duty of those Persons whom God hath delivered from Melancholy, and from the anguish of their Consciences' and to show `What is to be thought of those that are distracted with Trouble for their sins'. However he continued ever after subject to 'a very unhappy dejection of mind . . . a prey to gloomy fears and apprehensions', so that he was forced to retire into the country where he continued to manifest 'though in a more contracted sphere, the same zeal for the honour of God, and for the salvation of the souls of men'." (300 years of Psychiatry, Richard Hunter, 1963, p248)

Timothy Rogers (1658-1728)
M A Glasgow, nonconformist minister of London and Wantage, Berkshire

A discourse concerning trouble of mind, and the disease of melancholly . . . By Timothy Rogers, M.A. who was long afflicted with both, 1691 London, Parkhurst & Cockerill (pp. x +lxxviii +434) pp. i-iv, vii, ix, xi-xiii, xiv-xv, xvii-xxviii

To the very much HONOURED and RESPECTED LADY, The Lady Mary Lane.

A Discourse Concerning Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholly
Timothy Rogers, Church minister
1691 AD

MADAM, YOUR LADYSHIP has a very full claim to this DEDICATION; and under your Patronage this BOOK can with good assurance venture abroad: You, more than any other, have enquired of me concerning the following Treatise, and more frequently urged me to Print it. You were pleased to Honour me, during my long Affliction, with your kind Visits; and though I was greatly afflicted, and in degrees beyond what are very common to Men, yet you did not a little revive me by your Compassionate and Gentle words, and by the 'Charitable hopes that you had of my deliverance, though you have often heard me say, That I should never be delivered. I thought that I should never have any more ease in my pained Body, nor ever any more hope or quiet in my troubled Soul: But that God who is Omnipotent, and who heard your Prayers, and the Prayers of many others in my behalf, hath wrought a double Salvation for me. He who is the Lord of Nature, has healed my Body; and He who is the Father of Mercies, and the God of all Grace, has given rest to my weary Soul. None have any Cause to presume, when they consider what miseries I felt for a long time, and how I was overwhelmed with the deepest sorrows, for many doleful Months together; neither have any cause to despair, they cannot be more low, more near to Death and Hell than I thought my self to be, and yet I live, and am not without some refreshing hope of God's acceptance, and can say with the Prophet, Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy: And with him is plenteous redemption.

Your LADYSHIP has never, indeed, been afflicted with that Distemper and those Anxieties of Soul whereof I treat in the following Book, and I heartily pray you never may: For MELANCHOLLY is the worst of all Distempers; and those sinking and guilty Fears which it brings along with it, are inexpressibly dreadful. But I know that you have been in manifold Afflictions, and you have had several very great Losses: You lost some years ago a Father, who was, indeed, in all respects, for his Holiness, his Even temper, and his Publick and Charitable Spirit, worthy to be loved; and I am sure you greatly loved him, as he you, to the very last. You lost a Mother, whom all that knew her, greatly valued for the skill and experience that she had in matters of Religion, and especially for her admirable acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures; and tho in the latter part of her Life, she saw not the Light of this World, yet her Soul was recreated with a Light Spiritual and Divine; and the loss of her sight was abundantly recompenced to her, by the clearer views which she had of God, and of a Life to come. And not to mention other Losses, you have lost several Children, in whom there was all the sweetness of youth, all that good temper, and those blooming appearances of hopefulness which could make such little Plants desirable; but you have born even so great a Loss with a submissive and a Christian Patience, as knowing that you have not so much cause to mourn for those that are gone as to rejoyce in those that are left; and who are a very great Comfort to you; and may they long be so ....

I thought, when I came to describe my inward Troubles, I should have described them much more largely; but I durst not review them too particularly, lest the very thoughts of them, should again, in some measure, overwhelm me: And, indeed, Inward Tenors, are things that may he sadly felt; but they cannot be fully express'd. To have the sense of Tormenting, Racking Pain, the immediate prospect of Death, and together with this, an apprehension of God's Displeasure, and the fear of being cast out of his Glorious Presence for ever, this was a part of my Case; And who can describe that Anguish and Tribulation, which such apprehensions cause in a desolate and a mourning Soul! I have in the following Treatise said as much as will, I suppose, be believed by those who have never been in such a woeful state; and if I had said more, it might perhaps sink some poor souls, who are already low enough; and if I cannot help them, which I design, yet I will be sure, as far as in me lies, not to make them worse.

THERE is a very great difference between such as are only under trouble of Conscience, and such whose Bodies are greatly diseased at the same time: A sense of Sin, and great sorrow for it, may in some persons not change at all their former state of health; and the mercy of God may so speedily relieve them, that they suffer no visible decays in their Constitution, but are so happy as to have a sound Mind and Body both at once. 'Tis not with relation to such that I write this Preface; but for such as are under a deep, and a rooted Melancholly: And to the Friends of such I think it is very necessary to give the following Advices.

THE PREFACE: CONTAINING Several Advices to the Relations and Friends of Melancholly People.

  1. First, Look upon your distressed Friends, as under one of the worst Distempers to which this Miserable Life is obnoxious. Melancholly seizes on the Brain and Spirits, and incapacitates them for Thought or Action; it confounds and disturbs all their thoughts, and unavoidably fills them with anguish and vexation; of which there is no resemblance in any other Distemper, unless it be that of a Raging Fever. I take it for granted, and I verily believe, I say nothing but what is true; When this ugly Humour is deeply fixed, and path spread its Malignant Influence over every part, 'tis as vain a thing to strive against it, as to strive against a Fever, or a Phtrisie, the Gout, or the Stone, which are very grievous to Nature, but which a man by resolution, and the force of briskness and courage cannot help. One would be glad to be rid of such oppressing things, but all our strivings will not make them go away. And of all the Inconveniences of Melancholy, The want of sleep, which it usually brings along with it, is one of the worst. It is very reviving to a man that is in pain all the day, to think that he shall sleep at night; but when he has no prospect nor hope of that for several nights together, oh, what confusion does then seize upon him! he is then like one upon a rack, whose anguish will not suffer him to rest; by this means the Faculties of the Soul are weakned, and all its Operations disturbed and clouded, and the poor Body languishes and pines away at the same time. Arid this Disease is more formidable than any other, because it commonly lasts very long. . . . I pretend not to tell you what Medicines are proper to remove it, and I know of none; I leave you to advise with such as are learned in the Profession of Physick, and especially to have recourse to such Doctors as have themselves felt it; for it is impossible fully to understand the nature of it any other way than by Experience . . . And as old Mr. Greenham says (In his Comfort for Afflicted Consciences, P. 137); There is a great deal of wisdom requisite to consider both the state of the Body, and of the Soul. If a Man, saith he, that is troubled in Conscience, come to a Minister, it may be, he will look all to the Soul, and nothing to the Body; if he come to a Physician, he considereth the Body, and neglecteth the Soul: for my part, I would never have the Physician's Counsel despised, nor the Labour of the Minister neglected; because the Soul and Body dwelling together, it is convenient, that as the Soul should be cured, by the Word, by Prayer, by Fasting, or by Comforting; so the Body must be brought into some temperature, by Physick, and Diet, by harmless Diversions, and such like ways .. .
  2. Secondly, Look upon those that are under this woful Disease of Melancholly with great pity and compassion .. .
  3. Thirdly, Do not use harsh Speeches to your Friends when they are under the disease of Melancholly . . . They may fret and perplex, and enrage them more, but they will never do them the least good . . . If you be severe in your speeches, they'll never be persuaded that it is in kindness, and so not regard at all what you say ...
  4. Fourthly, You must be so kind to your Friends under this Disease, as to believe what they say. Or however, that their apprehensions are such as they tell you they are; do not you think that they are at ease when they say they are in pain. It is a foolish course which some take with their melancholly Friends, to answer all their Complaints and Moans with this, That it's nothing but Fancy; nothing but Imagination and Whimsey. It is a Real Disease, a Real Misery that they are tormented with: and if it be Fancy, yet a diseased Fancy is as great a Disease as any other; it fills them with anguish and tribulation: But this so disordered Fancy is the consequent of a greater Evil, and one of the sad effects that are produced by that black Humour that has vitiated all the natural spirits. These afflicted persons can never possibly believe that you pity them, or that you are heartily concerned for them, if you do not credit what they say; and truly it often falls out, that because Melancholly persons do not always look very ill, or have pretty good stomachs, and do not at first very much decline in their Bodies, other persons that know nothing of the Distemper, are apt to think that they make them-selves worse than they are: whereas, alas, they are so grieved, that they need not, neither will they counterfeit any more grief. In all other Evils people take for granted what others say, and accordingly sympathise with them; but in this they are apt to contradict and oppose such as are distressed; and as long as they do so, cannot pity them as they ought: This makes the grief of such to overwhelm and strangle them within, because when they disclose it, they find it is to no purpose; and do but in this case as you would have others do to you; suppose when you haze the Toothach, or Headach, and people, when you complain, should tell you 'tis nothing but Fancy, would not you think their carriage to be full of cruelty? and would it not vex you to find that you cannot be believed?
  5. Fifthly, Do not urge your Friends under the Disease of Melancholly, to things which they cannot do. They are as persons whose bones are broken, and that are in great pain and anguish, and consequently under an incapacity for action : their Disease is full of perplexed tormenting thoughts ; if it were possible by any means innocently to divert them, you would do them a great kindness .. .
  6. Sixthly, Do not attribute the effects of mere Disease, to the Devil; though I deny not that the Devil has an hand in the causing of several Diseases . . . But notwithstanding all this, it is a very overwhelming thing, to attribute every action almost of a Melancholly man to the Devil, when there are some unavoidable Expressions of sorrow which are purely natural, and which he cannot help .. .
  7. Seventhly, Do not much wonder at any thing that they say or do. What will not people do that are in Despair! What will they not say, that think themselves lost for ever! What strange extravagant Actions do you see those do that are under the power of fear! And none are so much afraid as these poor people are; they are afraid of God, of Hell, and of their own sorrows . . . Let no carriage of theirs provoke you to passion; let no sharp words of theirs make you to talk sharply .. .
  8. Eighthly, Do not mention to them any formidable Things, nor tell, in their hearing, any sad Stories; because they do already Meditate Terror; and by every sad thing that they hear of, are much more terrisied; their troubled Imagination is prepared to six upon any mournful thing; and by that means, will multiply its own sorrows . . . Studiously avoid all Discourse of what is grievous to them; and yet you must not be too merry before them neither; for then they think you slight their Ailiseries, and have no pity for them. A mixture of affableness and gravity will suit their Condition best .. .
  9. Ninthly, Do not think it altogether needless to talk with them; only when you do so, do not speak as if their Troubles would be very long : It is the length of their Trouble that amazes them, when after one Week, or Month, without Sleep, or Rest, or Hope, still the next Week and Month is as painful and as terrible to them as the former was; and this many times pushes them forward to seek to destroy themselves, because they see no period of their Miseries, and their Anguish is both Tedious and insupportable . . . Revive them therefore, by telling them, that God can create deliverance for them in a moment; That he has often done so with others; That he can quickly cure their Disease, and shew them his Reconciled, Amiable Face, tho it has been hid from them for a long season. You will convey to them some little support by such discourse as this . . .
  10. Tenthly, Tell them of others who have been in such Anguish, and under such a terrible Distemper, and yet have been delivered. It is very hard indeed to persuade a person under great pain and anguish, and a sense of the Wrath of God, and a fear of Hell, that ever any has heretofore been so perplext as he . . . I could send you to some now alive, that were long asflicted with Trouble of Mind, and Melancholly, as Mr. Rosewell, and Mr. Porter, both Ministers, the latter whereof was six years oppressed with this distemper; and now they both rejoyce in the Light of God's Countenance. I my self was near two years in great pain of Body, and greater pain of Soul, and without any prospect of peace, or help; and yet God hath revived me in his Soveraign Grace and Mercy . . . Mr. Robert Bruce, some time ago Minister of Edinburgh, was Twenty years in terrors of Conscience, and yet delivered afterwards. 


The Miseries under which the whole race of Men have now for a long time groaned, and under which they still groan, are owing to the Fall of Man. The day on which our first Parents complied with the temptation of the Devil, was a mournful day to them, and in its effects no less sad to us. It filled their once pure and quiet hearts with trouble and disorder, and made them unable to think of their great Creator with delight. It intercepted those chearful and comfortable beams of his Love, which were more satisfying to them than all the glories of the lower Paradise: For tho' it did, after the Fall, abound with all the same natural refreshments, with the same Rivers, Herbs, Trees and Flowers; yet it was to them no more a Paradise. No Musick could delight their sense, when they heard a terrible voice from God, summoning them to answer for their Crime; no objects could please their eyes, when they saw the Clouds thickning over their heads, and dreadful frowns in the face of their mighty Judge: All the Creatures could minister nothing to their ease or safety, when the great Creator was against them. From their Apostacy we may derive all our miseries; both the pains and sicknesses that afflict our Bodies, and the fears and terrors that overwhelm our Souls. Our Bodies are liable to a Thousand calamities that may be both long and sharp; but how long and how sharp soever they be, they do not altogether give us such a sensible and such lively grief, as we have when we are under distresses of Conscience, and when we are under a sense of the Wrath of God, that is due to us for Sin. There are many persons who endeavour by all the Rules of Art, to give relief and help against the mischiefs that attend our Bodies, but which after all their Art will go into the Grave; and there are as many, that by the Duty of their Office, and the Character they bear, are obliged to imitate their Saviour, To preach good tidings to the meek, and to hind up the broken hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, Isa. 61.1. But they are many times at a loss, to know what Remedies to apply to these inward and spiritual Diseases; and always unable to make their applications successful, unless God himself, by his Almighty Power, Create Peace, and turn that Chaos, and those Confusions under which a poor troubled Soul is buried, into the joy and light of day. It pleases the Wise God, that may make us serve to what uses he thinks most convenient for the good of the Universe, and the welfare of the Church, to suffer some of his Servants to feel the bitterness of Sin, and the terrors of his amazing-wrath; to be overwhelm'd with the fear of Hell, and to be for a long season even as in Hell it self; that so when they are delivered, they may warn those that are at ease, that they beware of Sin, lest it bring them also into a state so dreadful and so terrible; and that from their own experience, they may with tender-ness and compassion strive more earnestly to assist and help those whose Consciences are in a flame, and who are full of anguish and tribulation: That when they are escaped out of the snare of the Fowler, they may strive to disintangle those who are yet in trouble; and being themselves cured of their horror and amazement, they may lead their yet wounded brethren to that kind Physician, to that loving Jesus, with whose blood their Wounds were cleansed and healed.

As to my self, having been in Long affliction, and great distress of Conscience for many Months, and under a continued fear and apprehension of God's displeasure; and being now, through his inexpressible Grace, not without some hope of his acceptance, being delivered from violent and over-whelming sorrows, I would most readily give all the advice and help I can to those that are yet mourning under desertions, and complaining that God is departed from them, and that he remembers them no more. After the many waves and billows that went over me, through the great goodness of God I now enjoy a calm; and I pity, and would fain help those who are yet laboring in the deep; and for them peculiarly I write this Treatise; in which, tho' there be many things less exact than a Critical Reader may expect; yet there are some in which, I hope, a distressed Soul may find relief.

A discourse concerning trouble of mind, and the disease of melancholly, Timothy Rogers, 1691 AD



By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

Send us your story about your experience with modern Psychiatry


Click to View