Sermon preached before the Governers of the Hospitals of the City of London by Andrew Snape (1718)

A selection from 'A sermon preach'd before the right honourable the Lord-Mayor, the Aldermen, Sheriffs, and Governours of the several hospitals of the City of London, in St. Bridget's Church, on Easter Wednesday, April 16. 1718', by Andrew Snape.

"Spital Sermon

[B]esides Sin and Ignorance, there is a third Sort of Blindness incident to Human Minds: and that is Distraction, which divests the rational Soul of all its noble and distinguishing Endowments, and sinks unhappy Man below the mute and senseless Part of Creation: even brutal Instinct being a surer and safer Guide than disturb'd Reason, and every tame Species of Animals more sociable and less hurtful than Humanity thus unmann'd. Sad Blemish of our Nature! [...] Frail Man indeed! So liable to be degraded, by the Loss of that very Faculty for which he values himself so highly, and he who values himself most highly upon it, in the greatest Danger of being so degraded. Persons of the greatest Genius, of the finest Parts, and most lively Imagination, whose Brain is of a more delicate and subtle Texture than that of other Men; are observed in many of their Flights to border very nearly upon Frenzy, and too often they do more than border. Whilst the aspiring Soul is pursuing some lofty and elevated Conception, soaring to an uncommon Pitch, and teeming with some grand Discovery; the Ferment proves too strong for the feeble Brain to support, the Intenseness of Thought disconcerts the slender Fibres; the thin Partitions and Inclosures, that keep the Ideas separate, and rang'd in a beautiful Order, are burst in sunder by the Force of the labouring Imagination, and the whole Magazine of Notions and Images lye jumbled together in a common Heap, and mingled in wild Confusion.

When once the Mind has receiv'd such a total Crush, no Operation can afterwards be expected from it, that is regular, uniform, and even... .
[T]he Discourse which began with a seeming Earnestness, and rais'd Expectation of something not only serious and coherent, but of great Importance; expatiates into idle Rambling, and goes off in unintelligible Jargon. The sober and solemn Look into which the Visage had compos'd it self, the Air and Deportment of a most reserv'd Gravity, breaks out in an Instant into loud unseasonable Laughter, into apish Gestures, and antick Mimickry. No Sense of Honour or Decency then remains, no Regard is paid to the Number or Character of the Beholders. The Restraints of Fear and Shame are quite laid aside, and stubborn Self-Will and brutal Concupiscence discover themselves without any Check or Guard.

In some Cases indeed the Discomposure of Mind is not quite so shocking, nor the Concussion so violent, but that the shatter'd Ideas may recollect themselves again, the Delusion may cease, and the Mind recover its former Justness and Regularity of Thought. But in Order to this, there is need of Art and Skill, of proper Remedies, and a strict Confinement of the Person so afflicted... . In Commiseration of those unhappy People, who are bereft of the dearest Light, the Light of Reason, who are transported out of their Senses by the impetuous Hurry of a Lunacy or Frenzy, who have lost all Remembrance of, or at least all Regard for themselves, their Affairs, their Friends,... ; Who are not only unqualified to bear their Share in rational Conversation, but become even dangerous to be convers'd with; in Pity, I say, to their deplorable Case, you have a large Place of Reception [Bethlehem Hospital] appropriated to such Patients, where proper Care is taken that they shall neither harm themselves nor others, and where by the Help of such Physick and Diet, and other Management, as the Nature and Degree of each Person's Distemper calls for; many of those distracted People, are... recover'd from that inconsistent Raving and Wildness of Imagination, and restor'd to a sound and perfect Mind."