Thaumatographia Pneumatica

Cotton Mather

The Eleventh Example

Reader, into this chapter, with too much of reason, may be transcribed a passage which I have had occasion formerly to publish in a book about the "cause and cure of a wounded spirit":

There are very cruel self-murderers, whereto the wounds on people's consciences have driven them. Such a consternation is upon them that they can't pitch upon any other project for their own repose, than that of hanging, drowning, stabbing, poisoning, or some such foaming piece of madness. But in God's name, think again before you do so vile a thing! Think by whose impulse 'tis that you are dragged into this cursed action. Truly, 'tis a more ordinary impulse of the devil, whereof I have seen most prodigious evidences.

One that came to me with a "wounded soul," after all that I could plead with him, left me with these words: "Well, the devil will have me after all!" And some company just them hindering me from going after him, as I intended, ere I could get at him, he was found sitting in his chamber choaked unto death with a rope, which rope nevertheless was found not about his neck, but in his hand and on his knee.

The sensible assistance which the devil had frequently among us given to these unnatural executions does manifestly shew that they who dogged the swine into the deep of old are the same that compel persons to be so much worse than swine, as to kill themselves. These doleful creatures we have seen sometimes hang themselves to death, while their feet are yet upon the ground -- yea, by a line which hath presently broken, and yet left them dead. And I think some that have been found and fetched before their life was wholly extinguished in them have confessed unto me this purpose: That they had no sooner given the first stop unto their breath but they presently lost all sort of sense, only they felt such a load immediately upon their shoulders that they could not help themselves, though their knees were upon the floor all the while.

Moreover, the strange obstructions that are given to mens' coming into a probability of deliverance from their hurries, do further manifest that the armies of hell are herein beleaguering of them. How often people have been at a minister's door to have spoken with him, but having no power to knock, they have gone away and laid violent hands upon themselves! People at the threshold of this very meetinghouse have had a forcible and furious kind of whisper made in their minds that they must be gone to some other congregation; but at length, overcoming their invisible pullbacks, they have come in, and a large part of my sermon hath been to dissuade any hurried souls from the murdering of themselves, which God has blessed unto the saving of them. It seems the bloody demons had, unto their vexation, some way learnt what I was to preach about.

The result of all this is thus much, since 'tis the devil which puts you upon your thus wronging of yourselves -- don't resign yourselves unto the conduct of that hellish murderer! Are the devil's hands, I pray, so desirable that you will needs throw yourselves into them, while the hands of the Saviour are yet open to receive you -- to relieve you?

"Oh, do thy self no harm!"