A Christian on the Mount
A Treatise Concerning Meditation
By Thomas Watson
"His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he
meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2
Having led you through the Chamber of Delight in
my previous discourse, I will now bring you into the Withdrawing Room of
Meditation. "In his law does he meditate day and night."
I. The opening of the Words, and the Proposition asserted.
Grace breeds delight in God, and delight
breeds meditation. Meditation is a duty wherein consists the
essentials of religion, and which nourishes the very life-blood of it. That
the Psalmist may show how much the godly man is habituated to this blessed
work of meditation, he subjoins, "In his law does he meditate day and
night;" not but that there may be sometimes intermission: God allows time
for our calling, he grants some relaxation; but when it is said, the godly
man meditates day and night, the meaning is, frequently—he is much
conversant in the duty.
It is a command of God to pray without ceasing, 1 Thess.
5:17. The meaning is—not that we should be always praying—but that we should
every day set some time apart for prayer. We read in the Old law it was
called the continual sacrifice, Numb. 28:24, not that the people of
Israel did nothing else but sacrifice—but because they had their stated
hours, every morning and evening they offered, therefore it was called the
continual sacrifice. Thus the godly man is said to meditate day and night,
that is, he is often at this work, he is no stranger to meditation.
Doctrine. The proposition that results out of the
text is this—that a godly Christian is a meditating Christian, Psalm
119:15. "I will meditate in your precepts." 1 Tim. 4:15, "Meditate upon
these things." Meditation is the chewing upon the truths we have
heard. The beasts in the old law which did not chew the cud, were unclean;
the professor who does not by meditation chew the cud, is to be accounted
unclean. Meditation is like the watering of the seed, it makes the fruits of
grace to flourish.
II. Showing the NATURE of Meditation.
If it be inquired what meditation is, I answer—Meditation
is the soul's retiring of itself, that by a serious and solemn thinking upon
God, the heart may be raised up to heavenly affections. This description has
1. Meditation is the soul's retiring of itself.
A Christian, when he goes to meditate, must lock up himself from the world.
The world spoils meditation; Christ went by himself into the
mountainside to pray, Matt. 14:23, so, go into a solitary place when you are
to meditate. "Isaac went out to meditate in the field," Gen. 24:63;
he sequestered and retired himself that he might take a walk with God by
meditation. Zaccheus had a mind to see Christ, and he got out of the
crowd, "He ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him," Luke
19:3, 4. So, when we would see God, we must get out of the crowd of worldly
business; we must climb up into the tree by retiredness of meditation, and
there we shall have the best prospect of heaven.
The world's music will either play us asleep, or
distract us in our meditations. When a mote has gotten into the eye—it
hinders the sight. Just so, when worldly thoughts, as motes, are gotten into
the mind, which is the eye of the soul—it cannot look up so steadfastly to
heaven by contemplation. Therefore, as when Abraham went to sacrifice, "he
left his servant and the donkey at the bottom of the hill," Gen. 22:5, so,
when a Christian is going up the hill of meditation, he should leave all
secular cares at the bottom of the hill, that he may be alone, and take a
turn in heaven. If the wings of the bird are full of slime, she cannot fly.
Meditation is the wing of the soul; when a Christian is beslimed with earth,
he cannot fly to God upon this wing. Bernard when he came to the
church-door, used to say, "Stay here all my worldly thoughts, that I may
converse with God in the temple." So say to yourself, "I am going now to
meditate, O all you vain thoughts stay behind, come not near!" When you are
going up the mount of meditation, take heed that the world does not follow
you, and throw you down from the top of this pinnacle. This is the first
thing, the soul's retiring of itself—lock and bolt the door against the
2. The second thing in meditation, is, a serious and
solemn thinking upon God. The Hebrew word to meditate,
signifies with intenseness to recollect and gather together the thoughts.
Meditation is not a cursory work, to have a few transient thoughts of
religion; like the dogs of Nilus that lap and then run away; but there must
be in meditation a fixing the heart upon the object, a steeping the
thoughts. Carnal professors have their thoughts roving up and down, and will
not fix on God; like the bird that hops from one branch to another, and
stays in no one place. David was a man fit to meditate, "O God, my heart is
fixed," Psalm 108:1.
In meditation there must be a staying of the thoughts
upon the object; a man who rides quickly through a town or village—he minds
nothing. But an artist who is looking on a curious piece, views the whole
portraiture of it, he observes the symmetry and proportion, he minds every
shadow and color. A carnal, flitting professor, is like the traveler, his
thoughts ride hastily—he minds nothing of God. A wise Christian is like the
artist, he views with seriousness, and ponders the things of religion, Luke
2:19. "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her
3. The third thing in meditation, is, the raising of the
heart to holy affections. A Christian enters into meditation, as
a man enters into the hospital—that he may be healed. Meditation heals the
soul of its deadness and earthliness; but more of this afterwards.
III. Proving Meditation to be a DUTY.
Meditation is a duty lying upon every Christian, and
there is no disputing our duty. Meditation is a duty, 1. Imposed. 2.
1. Meditation is a duty imposed—it is not
arbitrary. The same God who has bid us believe, has bid us meditate, Josh.
1:8. "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth—but you
shall meditate therein day and night." These words, though spoken to the
person of Joshua, yet they concern everyone; as the promise made to Joshua
concerned all believers, Josh. 1:5 compared with Heb. 13:5. So this precept
made to the person of Joshua, you shall meditate in this book of the law,
takes in all Christians. As God's Word does direct, so his will must enforce
2. Meditation is a duty opposed. We may
conclude it is a good duty, because it is against the stream of corrupt
nature. As one said, "you may know that religion is right—which Nero
persecutes;" so you may know that is a good duty—which the heart opposes. We
shall find naturally a strange averseness from meditation. We are swift to
hear—but slow to meditate. To think of the world, if it were all day long,
is delightful. But as for holy meditation, how does the heart wrangle and
quarrel with this duty; it is like doing of penance. Now truly, there needs
no other reason to prove a duty to be good, than the reluctancy of a carnal
heart. To instance in the duty of "Let a man deny himself," Mat. 16:24,
self-denial is as necessary as heaven—but what disputes are raised in the
heart against it? What! to deny my reason, and become a fool that I
may be wise; nay, not only to deny my reason—but my righteousness?
What, to cast it overboard, and swim to heaven upon the plank of Christ's
merits? This is such a duty that the heart does naturally oppose, and enter
its dissent against. This is an argument to prove the duty of self-denial
good; just so it is with this duty of meditation; the secret antipathy the
heart has against it, shows it to be good; and this is reason enough to
IV. Showing how Meditation differs from MEMORY.
The memory (a glorious faculty) which Aristotle calls the
soul's scribe, sits and pens all things that are done. Whatever we read or
hear, the memory does register; therefore, God does all his works of wonder
that they may be had in remembrance. There seems to be some analogy and
resemblance between meditation and memory. But I conceive there is a double
1. Meditation has more sweetness in it, than the bare
remembrance. The memory is the chest or cupboard to lock up a
truth, meditation is the palate to feed on it. The memory is like the ark in
which the manna was laid up, meditation is like Israel's eating of manna.
When David began to meditate on God, it was "sweet to him as marrow," Psalm
63:5, 6. There is as much difference between a truth remembered, and a truth
meditated on, as between a cordial in a glass—and a cordial drunk
2. The remembrance of a truth, without the serious
meditation on it, will but create matter of sorrow another day.
What comfort can it be to a man when he comes to die, to think he remembered
many excellent notions about Christ—but never had the grace so to meditate
on them, as to be transformed into them! a sermon remembered—but not
ruminated, will only serve to increase our condemnation.
V. Showing how Meditation differs from STUDY.
The student's life looks like meditation—but does vary
from it. Meditation and study differ three ways.
1. They differ in their nature. Study is a work of
the brain, meditation of the heart; study sets the mind on work, meditation
sets the heart on work.
2. They differ in their design. The design of
study is notion, the design of meditation is piety. The design of study is
the finding out of a truth; the design of meditation is the spiritual
improvement of a truth. The one searches for the vein of gold; the
other digs out the gold.
3. They differ in the outcome and result. Study
leaves a man never a whit the better; it is like a winter sun that has
little warmth and influence. Meditation leaves one in a holy frame: it melts
the heart when it is frozen, and makes it drop into tears of love.
VI. Showing the SUBJECTS of Meditation.
The next particular to be discussed, is the
subject-matter of meditation; what a Christian should meditate upon.
I am now gotten into a large field—but I shall only glance at things; I
shall but do as the disciples, pluck some ears of corn as I pass along.
Some may say, "alas, I am so barren I know not what to
meditate upon!" To help Christians therefore in this blessed work, I shall
show you some choice select matter for meditation. There are fifteen things
in the Word of God, which we should principally meditate upon.
Section 1. Meditate on God's ATTRIBUTES.
The Attributes of God are the several beams by which the
divine nature shines forth to us; and there are six special attributes which
we should fix our meditations upon.
Meditate upon God's OMNISCIENCE. His eye is
continually upon us; he has a window open into the conscience; our thoughts
are unveiled before him. He can tell the words we speak "in our bedchamber,"
2 Kings 2:12. He is described with seven eyes, to show his
omniscience. "You number my steps," Job 14:16. The Hebrew word signifies to
take an exact account. God is said to number our steps, when he makes a
precise and critical observation of our actions; God sets down every step of
our lives, and keeps as it were, a day book of all we do, and enters it down
into the book. Meditate much on this omniscience.
Meditation on God's omniscience would have these
1. It would be as a bridle to check and restrain us from
sin. Will the thief steal—when the judge looks on?
2. Meditation on God's omniscience would be a good means
to make the heart sincere. God has set a window in every man's
breast, "does not he see all my ways?" Job 31:4. If I harbor proud,
malicious thoughts, if I look at my own interest more than Christ's, if I
juggle in my repentance—the God of heaven takes notice! Meditation on his
omniscience, would make a Christian sincere, both in his actions and aims.
Only a fool would dare to be a hypocrite before God!
Meditate on the HOLINESS of God. Holiness is
the embroidered robe God wears: it is the glory of the Godhead, Exod. 15:11.
"Glorious in holiness!" Holiness is the most orient pearl of the crown of
heaven. God is the exemplar and pattern of holiness. It is primarily and
originally in God as light in the sun; you may as well separate weight from
lead, or heat from fire, as holiness from the divine nature; God's holiness
is that whereby his heart rises against any sin, as being most diametrically
opposite to his essence, Hab. 1:13. "You are of purer eyes than to behold
iniquity." Meditate much on this attribute.
Meditation on God's holiness would have this effect; it
would be a means to transform us into the similitude and likeness of God;
God never loves us until we are like him. There is a story of a deformed
man, who set lovely pictures before his wife, that seeing them she might
have lovely children, and so she had. Be that as it may, while by meditation
we are looking upon the beams of holiness, which are gloriously transparent
in God, we shall grow like him, and be holy as he is holy. Holiness is a
beautiful thing, Psalm 110. It puts a kind of angelical brightness upon us;
it is the only coin which will pass current in heaven; by the frequent
meditation on this attribute, we are changed into God's image.
Meditate on the WISDOM of God. He is called
"the only wise God," 1 Tim. 1:17. His wisdom shines forth in the works of
providence; he sits at the helm guiding all things regularly and
harmoniously; he brings light out of darkness; he can strike a straight
stroke by a crooked stick; he can make use of the injustice of men to do
that which is just; he is infinitely wise, he breaks us by afflictions, and
upon these broken pieces of the ship, brings us safely to shore; meditate on
the wisdom of God.
Meditation on God's wisdom would sweetly calm our hearts.
1. When we see things go badly in the public. The
all-wise God holds the reins of government in his hand; and whoever the
earthly ruler—God over-rules; he knows how to turn all to good; his work
will be beautiful in its season.
2. When things go badly with us in particular, the
meditation on God's wisdom would rock our hearts quiet. The wise God has set
me in this condition, and whether health or sickness, his wisdom will order
it for the best. God will make a golden cordial from poison, all things
shall be beneficial and medicinal to me; either the Lord will expel some
sin, or exercise some grace. Meditation on this would silence murmuring.
4. Meditate on the POWER of God. His power is
visible in the creation. "He hangs the earth upon nothing," Job 26:7. What
cannot that God do—who can create? Nothing can stand before a creating
power! He needs no pre-existent matter to work upon; he needs no instruments
to work with, he can work without tools; he it is before whom the angels
veil their faces, and the kings of the earth cast their crowns. He it is who
"removes the earth out of her place," Job 9:6. An earthquake makes the earth
tremble upon her pillars—but God can shake it out of its place. God can with
a word, unpin the wheels, and break the axle of the creation. He can suspend
natural agents, stop the lion's mouth, cause the sun to stand still, make
the fire not burn! Xerxes, the Persian monarch, threw fetters into the sea,
as if he would have chained up the unruly waters; but when God commands,
"the winds and sea obey him," Matt. 8:27. If he speaks the word, an army of
stars appear, Judg. 5:20. If he stamps with his foot, a multitude of angels
are presently in battalia; if he lifts up an ensign, and does but hiss, his
very enemies shall be up in arms to revenge his quarrel, Isaiah 5:56. Who
would provoke this God! "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
living God," Heb. 10:31. As a lion—"he tears in pieces his adversaries,"
Psalm 50:22. Oh meditate on this power of God.
Meditation on God's power would be a great stay to faith.
A Christian's faith may anchor safely upon the rock of God's power. It was
Samson's riddle, "Out of the strong came forth sweetness;" Judges 14:14.
While we are meditating on the power of God, out of this strong comes forth
sweetness. Is the church of God low? he can "create praises in Jerusalem,"
Isaiah 65:28. Is your corruption strong? God can break the head of this
leviathan. Is your heart as hard as a stone? God can dissolve it. "The
Almighty makes my heart soft." Faith triumphs in the power of God: out of
this strong comes forth sweetness. Abraham meditating on God's power, did
not stagger through unbelief, Romans 4:20. He knew God could make a dead
womb fruitful, and dry breasts give suck.
5. Meditate upon the MERCY of God. Mercy is an
innate disposition in God to do good; as the sun has an innate property to
shine, Psalm 86:5. "You Lord are good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous
in mercy to all them that call upon you. God's mercy is so sweet, that it
makes all his other attributes sweet. Holiness without mercy, and justice
without mercy, would be dreadful. Geographers write that the city of
Syracuse in Sicily is curiously situated, that the sun is never out of
sight; though the children of God are under some clouds of affliction, yet
the sun of mercy is never quite out of sight. God's justice reaches
to the clouds; his mercy reaches above the clouds.
How slow is God to anger. He was longer in destroying
Jericho, than in making the world; he made the world in six days—but he was
seven days in demolishing the walls of Jericho. How many warning arrows did
God shoot against Jerusalem, before he shot off his destroying arrow?
Justice goes by foot, Gen. 18:21. Mercy has wings. The sword
of justice often lies a long time in the scabbard, and rusts, until sin
draws it out and sharpens it against a nation. God's justice is like the
widow's oil, which ran a while, and ceased, 1 Kings 4:6. God's mercy is
like Aaron's oil, which rested not on his head—but ran down to the
skirts of his garment, Psalm 133:2. So the golden oil of God's mercy does
not rest upon the head of a godly parent—but is often poured on his
children, and so runs down, "To the third and fourth generation," even the
borders of a pious seed. Often meditate upon the mercy of God.
Meditation on mercy would be a powerful loadstone to draw
sinners to God by repentance. It would be as a cork to the net—to keep the
heart from sinking in despair. Behold a city of refuge to fly to—"God is the
Father of mercies," 2 Cor. 1:3. Mercy does as naturally issue from him, as
the child from the parent. God "delights in mercy," Micah 7:18. Chrysostom
says, it is delightful to the mother to have her breasts drawn; and how
delightful is it to God to have the breasts of mercy drawn! Mercy finds out
the worst sinner; mercy comes not only with salvation in its hand—but
with healing under its wings.
Meditation on God's mercy would melt a sinner into tears:
One reading a pardon sent to him from the king, fell a weeping, and burst
out into these words, "A pardon has done that which death could not do, it
has made my heart relent."
6. Meditate upon the TRUTH of God. Mercy makes
the promise, and Truth performs it, Psalm 89:33, "I will not allow my
faithfulness to fail." God can as well deny himself as his word. He is
"abundant in truth," Exod. 34:6. That is—if God has made a promise of mercy
to his people, he will be so far from coming short of his Word, that he will
be better than his Word. God often does more than he has said, never
less; he often shoots beyond the mark of the promise he has set, never short
of it. He is abundant in truth. God may sometimes delay a promise, he
will not deny it. The promise may lie a long time as seed hidden
under ground—but it is all the while a ripening. The promise of Israel's
deliverance lay four hundred and thirty years under ground; but when the
time was come, the promise did not go a day beyond its reckoning, Exod.
12:41. "The strength of Israel will not lie," 1 Sam. 15:29. Meditation on
God's truth would—
1. Be a pillar of support for faith. The world hangs upon
God's power, and faith hangs upon his truth.
2. Meditation on God's truth would make us ambitious to
imitate him. We should be true in our words, true in our dealings.
Pythagoras being asked, "What makes men like God?" answered, "When they
Section 2. Meditate upon the PROMISES of God.
The promises of God are flowers growing in the paradise
of scripture; meditation, like the bee, sucks out the sweetness of them. The
promises are of no use or comfort to us, until they are meditated upon.
Roses hanging in the garden may give a fragrant redolence, yet their sweet
water is distilled only by the fire. Just so, the promises are sweet in
reading over—but the water of these roses, the spirits and quintessence of
the promises, are distilled into the soul only by meditation. The incense,
when it is pounded and beaten, smells sweetest. Meditating on
a promise, like the beating of the incense, makes it more fragrant and
pleasant. The promises may be compared to a gold mine, which only enriches
when the gold is dug out. By holy meditation, we dig out that spiritual gold
which lies hidden in the midst of the promise, and so we come to be
Cardan says that every precious gem-stone has some hidden
virtue in it. They are called precious promises, 2 Pet. 1:4. When
they are applied by meditation, then their virtue appears, and they become
precious indeed. There are three sorts of promises which we should meditate
1. Promises of REMISSION. "I, even I am he who
blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your
sins," Isaiah 43:25. Whereas the poor sinner may say, "Alas, I am deep in
debt with God, I fear I have not filled his bottle with my tears—but I have
filled his book with my debts!" Well, but meditate on his promise, "I am he
who blots out," etc. The word there in the original to blot out, is a
metaphor alluding to a merchant, who when his debtor has paid him, he blots
out the debt, and gives him an acquittance. So says God, "I will blot out
your sin, I will cross out the debt-book!" In the Hebrew it is, "I am
blotting out your transgressions." "I have taken my pen, and am crossing out
your debt!" Oh, but may the sinner say, "There is no reason God should do
thus for me." Well, but acts of grace do not go by reason, "I
will blot out your sins—for my name's sake." Oh, but says the sinner,
"Will not the Lord call my sins again to remembrance?" No, he promises to
send them into oblivion; "I will not upbraid you with your sins—I will
remember your sins no more." Here is a sweet promise to meditate upon; it is
a hive full of the honey of the gospel.
2. Meditate upon promises of SANCTIFICATION.
The earth is not so apt to be overgrown with weeds and thorns, as the heart
is to be overgrown with lusts! Now, God has made many promises of healing,
Hos. 14:4, and purging, Jer. 33:8. Promises of sending his Spirit,
Isaiah 44:3, which, for its sanctifying nature, is compared sometimes to
water which cleanses the vessel; sometimes to wind, which is the
fan to winnow and purify the air; sometimes to fire, which refines
the metals. Meditate often on that promise, Isaiah 1:18, "Though your sins
be as scarlet—they shall be as white as snow!" Scarlet is so deep a dye,
that all the art of man cannot take it out; but behold here a promise—God
will whiten the soul; he will make a scarlet sinner—into a snow
white saint! By virtue of this refining and consecrating work, a
Christian is made partaker of the divine nature; he has a suitability and
fitness to have communion with God forever. Meditate much on this promise.
3. Meditate upon promises of REMUNERATION.
"The haven of rest," Heb. 4:9. The beatifical sight of God, Matt. 5:8. The
glorious mansions, John 14:2. Meditation on these promises will be as choice
cordials to keep us from fainting under our sins and sorrows.
Section 3. Meditate upon the Love of Christ.
Christ is full of love, as he is of merit. What was it
but love—that he should save us—and not the fallen angels? Among the
rarities of the loadstone, this is not the least—that leaving the gold
and pearl, it should draw iron to it—which is a baser kind
of metal. Just so, that Christ should leave the angels, those more
noble spirits, the gold and pearl—and draw mankind to
him—how does this proclaim his love? Love was the wing on which he flew
into the virgin's womb!
1. How TRANSCENDENT is Christ's love to the saints!
The apostle calls it a love "which passes knowledge," Eph. 3:19. It is such
a love as God the Father bears to Christ; the same for quality, though not
equality, John 15:9. "As the Father has loved me—so have I loved you." A
believer's heart is the garden where Christ has planted this sweet flower of
his love. It is the channel through which the golden stream of his affection
2. How SOVEREIGN is Christ's love! "Brothers,
think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise
by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of
noble birth." 1 Corinthians 1:26 In the old law God passed by the
noble lion and the eagle—and took the dove for
sacrifice. That God should pass by so many of noble birth and abilities, and
that the lot of free grace should fall upon me—O the depth of divine
3. How INVINCIBLE is the love of Christ! "It
is strong as death," Cant. 8:6. Death might take away Christ's life—but not
his love! Neither can our sin wholly quench that divine flame of love; the
church had her infirmities, her sleepy fits, Cant. 5:2, but though blacked
and sullied, yet she is still a dove; Christ could see the faith,
and wink at the failing. He who painted Alexander, drew him
with his finger over the scar on his face. Just so, Christ puts the finger
of mercy upon the scars of the saints! He will not throw away his pearls for
every speck of dirt! That which makes this love of Christ the more
stupendous, is that there was nothing in us to excite or draw forth his
love! He did not love us because we were worthy—but by loving us he made us
4. How IMMUTABLE is Christ's love! "Having
loved his own, he loved them to the end," John 13:1. The saints are like
letters of gold engraved upon Christ's heart, which cannot be erased out.
Meditate much upon the love of Christ.
1. Serious meditation on the love of Christ, would make
us love him in return. "Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be
burnt?" Proverbs 6:28. Who can tread by meditation upon these hot coals of
Christ's love, and his heart not burn in love to him?
2. Meditation on Christ's love, would set our eyes
abroach with tears for our gospel unkindnesses. O that we should sin against
so sweet a Savior! had we none to abuse—but our best friend? Had we nothing
to kick against—but affections of love? Did not Christ suffer enough upon
the cross—but must we needs make him suffer more? Do we give him more gall
and vinegar to drink? O, if anything can dissolve the heart into mourning,
it is the unkindness offered to Christ. When Peter thought of Christ's love
to him—Christ could deny Peter nothing, yet he could deny Christ, this made
his eyes to water; "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
3. Meditation on Christ's love would make us love our
enemies. Jesus Christ showed love to his enemies. We read of "the fire
licking up the water," 1 Kings 18:38. It is usual for water to quench
the fire, but for fire to dry up and consume the water, which was not
capable of burning, this was miraculous! Such a miracle did Christ show; his
love burned where there was no fit matter to work upon—nothing but sin and
enmity. He loved his enemies; the fire of his love consumed and licked up
the water of their sins! He prayed for his enemies, "Father forgive them;"
he shed his tears—for those who shed his blood! Those who gave
him gall and vinegar to drink—to them he gave his sin-forgiving blood to
drink. Meditation on his love—should melt our hearts in love to our enemies.
Augustine says, "Christ made a pulpit of the cross, and the great lesson he
taught Christians was, to love their enemies."
4. Meditation on Christ's love would be a means to
support us in case of his absence. Sometimes he is pleased to withdraw
himself, Cant. 5:6, yet when we consider how entire and immutable his love
is, it will make us wait with patience until he sweetly manifests himself to
us. He is love, and he cannot forsake his people very long, Micah 7:19. The
sun may be gone a while from our climate—but it returns in the spring.
Meditation on Christ's love may make us wait for the return of this Sun of
Righteousness; Heb. 10:37, "For yet a little while and he who shall come
will come." He is truth, therefore he shall come; he is love,
therefore he will come.
Section 4. Meditate upon SIN.
1. Meditate on the GUILT of sin. We are in
Adam as in a common head, or root—and he sinning, we become
guilty, Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one
man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because
all sinned." By his treason—our blood is tainted. This guilt brings
shame with it, as its twin! Romans 6:21.
2. Meditate upon the FILTH of sin. Not only is
the guilt of Adam's sin imputed, but the poison of his
nature is disseminated to us! Our virgin nature is defiled! If the
heart is spotted—how then can the actions be pure? If the water
in the well is foul—it cannot be clean in the bucket! Isaiah
64:6, "We are all as an unclean thing." We are like a patient under the
physician's care—who has no sound part in him, his head is bruised, his
liver is swelled, his lungs are gasping, his blood is infected, his feet are
gangrened. Thus is it with us before saving grace comes! In the mind
there is darkness! In the memory there is slipperiness! In the
heart there is hardness! In the will there is stubborness! "You
are sick from head to foot—covered with bruises, welts, and infected
wounds—without any ointments or bandages!" Isaiah 1:6. A sinner befilthied
with sin, is no better than a devil in man's shape!
And which is sadly to be laid to heart--is the
adherency of this sin. Sin is natural to us. The apostle calls it, "the
sin that so easily ensnares us!" Heb. 12:1. Sin is not easily cast
off. A man may as well shake off the skin of his body—as the sin
of his soul! There is no shaking off this viper until death!
Oh, often meditate on this contagion of sin. How
strong is that poison—a drop whereof is able to poison a whole sea? How
venomous and malignant was that apple—a taste of which
poisoned all mankind! Meditate sadly on this. Meditation on sin would make
the plumes of pride fall off! If our knowledge makes us
proud—that is sin enough to make us humble. The best saint alive who is
taken out of the grave of sin—yet has the smell of the grave-clothes
still upon him!
3. Meditate upon the CURSE of sin. Gal. 3:10.
"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything
written in the Book of the Law." This curse is like a deadly canker upon
fruit, which keeps it from thriving. Sin is not only a defiling
thing—but a damning thing! It is not only a spot in the
face—but a stab at the heart! Sin betrays us into the devil's
hands—who writes all his laws in blood. Sin binds us over to the wrath
of God! What then, are all our earthly enjoyments—with the sword
of divine vengeance hanging over our head! Sin brings forth the "scroll
written with curses" against a sinner, Zech. 5:5, and it is a "flying
scroll"—it comes swiftly—if mercy does not stop it. "You are
cursed with a curse!" Mat. 3:9. Thus it is until the head of this
curse is cut off by Christ. Oh meditate upon this curse due to sin.
1. Meditation on this curse would make us afraid of
retaining sin. When Micah had stolen his mother's money, and heard her
curse him, he dared not keep it any longer, but restored it, Judg. 17:2. He
was afraid of his mother's curse; what then is God's curse!
2. Meditation on this curse would make us afraid of
entertaining sin. We would not willingly entertain one in our house who
had a deadly plague! Sin brings along with it, the plague of God's curse,
which cleaves to a sinner. Meditation on this, would make us fly from sin!
While we sit under the shadow of this bramble of sin—fire will come out of
the bramble eternally to devour us! Judg. 9:15.
Section 5. Meditate upon the Vanity of the CREATURE.
When you have sifted out the finest flour that the
creature can give, you will find something either to dissatisfy or
nauseate. The best wine has its froth, the sweetest rose
has its prickles, and the purest comforts have their dregs. The
creature cannot be said to be full—unless we say that it is full of vanity;
as a sail may be filled with wind. Job 20:22, "At the height of his
success distress will come to him; the full weight of misery will crush
him." Those who think to find happiness here on earth, are like Apollo who
embraced a tree, instead of the lovely Daphne. Meditate on this vanity of
the creature. The world is like a broken looking glass—which shows a false
1. Meditation on worldly vanity would be like the digging
about the roots of a tree, to loosen it from the earth. It would much
loosen our hearts from the world, and be an excellent preservative against
the love of earthly things. Let a Christian think thus with himself, "Why am
I so serious about such a worthless vanity? if the whole earth were changed
into a globe of gold, it could not fill my heart!"
2. Meditation on the creature's vanity would make us look
after more solid comforts—the favor of God, the blood of Christ, the
influences of the Spirit. When I see that the life which I fetch from the
cistern is vain—I will go the more to the ocean! In Christ there
is an inexhaustible treasury! When a man finds the bough begin to break, he
lets go of the bough, and catches hold on the trunk of the tree. Just so,
when we find the creature to be but a rotten bough, then by faith we shall
catch hold on Christ, the tree of life! Rev. 2:7. The creature is but a
shaking reed, God is the immoveable rock of ages!
Section 6. Meditate on the Excellency of GRACE.
1. Grace is precious in itself. 2. Pet. 1:1, precious
1. Grace is precious, in its original, it comes
from above, James 3:17.
2. Grace is precious, in its nature; it is the
seed of God, 1 John 3:9. Grace is the spiritual embroidery of the soul; it
is the very signature and engraving of the Holy Spirit. Grace does not lose
its color: it is such a commodity, that the longer we keep it, the better it
is—it changes into glory!
2. As grace is precious in itself, so it makes us
precious to God; as a rich diamond adorns the one who wears it. Isaiah
43:4, 'Since you were precious in my sight." The saints who are
invested with grace, are God's jewels, Mal. 3:17, though sullied with
reproach, though besmeared with blood—yet, jewels! All the world besides, is
but chaff. These are the jewels—and heaven is the golden cabinet where they
shall be locked up safe! A gracious man is the glory of the age he lives in.
So illustrious in God's eye is a soul bespangled with grace, that he does
not think the world worthy of him, Heb. 11:38, "Of whom the world was not
worthy." Therefore God calls his people home so fast, because they are too
good to live in the world, Proverbs 2:26, "The righteous is more excellent
than his neighbor."
Grace is the best blessing; it has a transcendency above
all other things. There are two things which sparkle much in our
eyes—but grace infinitely outshines both.
1. GOLD. The sun does not shine so much in our
eyes as gold; it is the mirror of beauty, "money answers all things," Eccl.
10:19. But grace weighs heavier than gold; gold draws the heart from
God, grace draws the heart to God. Gold does but enrich the mortal
part, grace the angelic part. Gold perishes, 1 Pet. 1:7, grace perseveres.
The rose, the fuller it is blown, the sooner it sheds—is an emblem of all
things, besides grace.
2. GIFTS. These are nature's pride. Gifts and abilities,
like Rachel, are fair to look upon—but grace excels. I had rather be holy
than eloquent. An heart full of grace, is better than an
head full of notions. Gifts commend no man to God. It is not the
skin of the apple we esteem, though of a vermilion color—but the
fruit. We judge not the better of a horse for his trappings and
ornaments, unless he has good mettle. What are the most glorious abilities,
if there is not the metal of grace in the heart? Gifts may be bestowed upon
one for the good of others, as the nurse's breasts are given her for the
child—but grace is bestowed for a man's own eternal advantage. God may send
away reprobates with gifts, as Abraham gave the sons of the
concubines some gifts, Gen. 25:6—but he entails the inheritance
only upon grace. O, often meditate upon the excellency of grace!
1. The musing on the beauty of grace would make us fall
in LOVE with it. He who meditates on the worth of a diamond,
grows in love with it. Damascen calls the graces of the Spirit the very
characters and impressions of the divine nature. Grace is that flower of
delight, which, like the vine in the parable, Judg. 9:13, "cheers the
heart of God and man."
2. Meditation on the excellency of grace would make us
earnest in the PURSUIT after it. We dig for gold in the
mine, we sweat for it in the furnace. Did we meditate on the worth of
grace, we would dig in the mine of ordinances for it. What sweating and
wrestling in prayer would we have! We would put on a modest boldness, and
not take a denial. "What will you give me (says Abraham) seeing I go
childless?" Gen. 15:2. So would the soul say, "Lord, what will you give me,
seeing I go graceless? Who will give me to drink of the water of the well of
3. Meditation on the excellency of grace would make us
endeavor to be instrumental to CONVEY grace to others. Is grace
so transcendently precious, and have I a child who lacks grace? Oh that I
might be a means to convey this treasure into his soul! I have read of a
rich Florentine, who being about to die, called all his sons together, and
used these words to them, "It much rejoices me now upon my death-bed, that I
shall leave you all wealthy;" but a parent's ambition should be
rather to convey sanctity, that he may say, "O my children, it
rejoices me that I shall leave you gracious; it comforts me that before I
die, I shall see Jesus Christ live in you."
Section 7. Meditate upon your SPIRITUAL STATE.
Enter into a serious meditation on the state of your
souls; while you are meditating on other things, do not forget yourselves;
the great work lies at home. It was Solomon's advice, "know the state of
your flock," Proverbs 27:23, much more know the state of your soul;
for lack of this meditation, men are like travelers, skilled in other
countries—but ignorant of their own: so they know other things—but know not
how it goes with their souls, whether they are in a good state or bad; there
are few who by holy meditation, enter within themselves. There are two
reasons why so few meditate upon the state of their souls.
1. Self-guiltiness. Men are reluctant to look into
their hearts by meditation, lest they should find that which would trouble
them. The cup is in their sack. Most are herein like tradesmen, who
being ready to sink in their estates, are reluctant; to look into their
account books, lest they should find their estate low; but had you not
better enter into your heart by meditation, than God should in a sad
manner enter into judgment with you?
2. Presumption. Men hope all is well; men will not
take their land upon trust—but will have it surveyed; yet they will take
their spiritual estate upon trust, without any surveying. They are confident
their case is good; Proverbs 14:16. They presume that it is a thing not to
be disputed on, and this confidence is but conceit. The foolish virgins,
though they had no oil in their lamps, yet how confident were they? "They
came knocking"—they doubted not of admittance. Just so, many do not possess
salvation—but remain secure; they presume all is well, never seriously
meditating whether they have oil or not. O Christian, meditate about your
soul! See how the case stands between God and you; do as merchants, cast up
your estate, that you may see what you are worth. See if you are rich
towards God, Luke 12:21. Meditate about three things:
1. About your debts, see if your debts are paid or
not, that is, your sins pardoned; see if there be no arrears, no sin in your
soul unrepented of.
2. Meditate about your will; see if your will is
made yet. Have you resigned up all the interest in yourself? Have you given
up your love to God? Have you given up your will? This is to make your will.
Meditate about your will; make your spiritual will in the time of health; if
you put off the making of your will until death, it may be invalid; perhaps
God will not accept of your soul then.
3. Meditate about your evidences. These evidences
are the graces of the Spirit; see whether you have any evidences. What
desires have you after Christ? what faith? see whether there are any flaws
in your evidences; are your desires true? do you as well desire heavenly
principles, as heavenly privileges? O meditate seriously upon
To sift our hearts thus by meditation, is very necessary;
if we find our estate is not sound, the mistake is discovered, and the
danger can be prevented. If our spiritual estate is sound, we shall have the
comfort of it. What gladness was it to Hezekiah, when he could say,
"Remember now, O Lord, how I have walked before you in truth, and with a
perfect heart, and have done that which is good in your sight," Isaiah 38:3.
So, what unspeakable comfort will it be, when a Christian, upon a serious
meditation and review of his spiritual condition, can say, "I have something
to show for heaven—I know I have passed from death to life," l John 3:14,
and as a holy man once said, "I am Christ's, and the devil has nothing to do
Section 8. Meditate upon the small number of those who
shall be saved.
The eighth subject of meditation is, the small number
that shall be saved; "but few are chosen," Mat. 20:16. Among the
millions in Rome—there are but few senators; and among the swarms of people
in the world—there are but few believers. One said, all the names of the
good emperors might be engraved in a little ring. There are not many names
in the book of life. We read of four kinds of ground in the parable, and but
one good ground, Matt. 13. How few in the world know Christ. How few that
believe in him? Who has believed our report? Isaiah 53:1. How few bow to
Christ's scepter. The heathen idolaters and Mahometans possess almost all
Asia, Africa, America; in many parts of the world the devil is worshiped, as
among the Parthians and Pilapians; Satan takes up most climates—and
hearts. How many formalists are in the world? 2 Tim. 3:5,
"having a form of godliness." Formalists are like wool which receives
a slight tincture, not a deep dye, whose religion is a paint—not an
engraving, (which a storm of persecution will wash off). These look like
Christ's doves—but are the serpent's brood. They hate God's
image, like the panther, that hates the picture of a man.
O often meditate on the small number of those who shall
1. Meditation on this, would keep us from marching along
with the multitude. "You shall not follow a multitude," Exod. 23:2. The
multitude usually goes wrong: most men walk "after the course of this
world," Eph. 2:2. That is, the lusts of their hearts, and the fashions of
the times. They march after the prince of the air. Meditation on this would
make us turn out of the common road.
2. Meditation on the fewness of those who shall be saved,
would make us walk tremblingly. Few find the way; and when they have
found it, few walk in the way. The thoughts of this would work holy
fear, Heb. 4:1, not a despairing fear—but a jealous and cautious fear. This
reverential fear, the eminent saints of God have had. Augustine says of
himself, he knocked at heaven's gate with a trembling hand. This fear is
joined with hope, Psalm 147:1. "The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear
him, in those who hope in his mercy." A child of God fears, because
the gate is strait; but hopes, because the gate is open.
3. Meditation on the fewness of those who shall be saved,
would be a whetstone to holy industry. It would put us upon working out our
salvation; if there are so few that shall be crowned, it would make us the
swifter in the race. This meditation would be an alarm to sleepy Christians.
Section 9. Meditate upon Final APOSTASY.
Think what a sad thing it is to begin in religion to
build, and not be able to finish. Joash was good while his uncle Jehoiada
lived—but after he died, Joash grew wicked—all his religion was buried in
his uncle's grave. We live in the fall of the leaf; how many are fallen to
damnable heresies? 2 Pet. 2:1. Meditate seriously on that scripture, Heb.
6:4-6. "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have
tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have
tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if
they fall away, to be brought back to repentance." A man may be enlightened,
and that from a double lamp—the Word and Spirit; but these beams, though
they are irradiating, yet not penetrating. It is possible he may have a
taste of the heavenly gift; he may taste but not be nourished
by it. This taste may not only illuminate—but refresh; it
may carry some sweetness in it, there may be a kind of delight in spiritual
things. Thus far a man may go and yet fall away finally. Now this will be
very sad (it being such a God-affronting, and Christ reproaching sin) "Know
therefore it is an evil and bitter thing that you have
forsaken the Lord," Jer. 2:19. Meditate upon final relapses.
1. Meditation on this would make us earnest in prayer to
God—for soundness of heart, "Make my heart sound in your statutes," Psalm
119:80. Lord, let me not be an almost Christian. Work a thorough work
of grace upon me: though I am not washed perfectly, let me be washed
thoroughly, Psalm 51:2. That which begins in hypocrisy, ends in
2. Meditation on hypocrites final falling away, would
make us earnest in prayer for perseverance. "Hold up my goings in your paths
that my footsteps slip not," Psalm 17:5. "Lord, hold me up that I may hold
out. You have set the crown at the end of the race, let me run the race,
that I may wear the crown!" It was Beza's prayer—let it be ours, "Lord
perfect what you have begun in me, that I may not suffer shipwreck when I am
almost at the haven."
Section 10. Meditate upon DEATH.
We say we must all die—but how rare it is—that anyone
meditates seriously upon death?
1. Meditate on the certainty of death; it is
appointed for all, once to die, Heb. 9:27. Death is an inviolable reality.
2. Meditate upon the proximity of death, it is
near to us.We are almost setting our feet upon the dark entry of death. The
poets painted time with wings; it flies—and carries us upon its
wings. The race is short between the cradle and the grave! The
sentence of death is already passed, Gen. 3:19. "To dust you shall return;"
so that our life is but a short reprieve from death which is granted to a
condemned man. "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my
years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath."
Psalm 39:5. Nay, our life is less than nothing, reckoned with eternity.
3. Meditate upon the uncertainty of time. We have
no lease—but may be turned out the next hour; there are so many casualties,
that it is a wonder if life be not cut off by untimely death. How soon may
God seal us a lease of ejectment? Our grave may be dug before night. Today
we may lie upon a pillow of down, tomorrow we may be laid upon a
pillow of dust. Today the sermon-bell tolls, to morrow our death bell
4. Think seriously, that to die is to be but once done,
and after death our state is eternally fixed. If you die in your
impenitency, there is no repenting in the grave. If you leave your work at
death half done, there is no finishing it in the grave, Eccl. 9:10, "There
is no work, nor device, nor wisdom in the grave where you go." If a garrison
surrenders at the first summons, there is mercy. But if it battles
until it is stormed and captured, there is no mercy then. Now it is a day of
grace, and God holds forth the white flag of mercy to the penitent;
if we battle with God until he storms us by death—there is no mercy. There
is nothing to be done for our souls after death. O meditate on death. It is
reported of Zeleucus, that the first piece of house-hold stuff he brought to
Babylon, was a tomb-stone; think often of your tomb-stone. Meditation on
death would work these admirable effects.
1. Meditation on death would pull down the plumes of
pride; you are but animated dust! Shall dust and ashes be proud?
You body will be turned into grass—and shall shortly be mowed down!
2. Meditation on death would be a means to give a
death-wound to sin. No stronger antidote against sin, says Augustine,
than the frequent meditation on death. Am I now sinning—and tomorrow I may
be dying? what if death should take me doing the devil's work, would it not
send me to him to receive double pay! Carry the thoughts of death as
a book always about you, and when sin tempts, pull out this book, and read
in it—and you shall see sin will vanish. We should look upon sin in two
looking-glasses—the glass of Christ's blood, and the glass of death.
3. Meditation on death would be a bridle for
intemperance; shall I pamper that body which must lie down in the house
of rottenness? Our Savior at a feast breaks forth into mention of his
burial, Mat. 26. Feeding upon the thoughts of death would be an
excellent preservative against gluttony.
4. Meditation on death would make us use time
better, and crowd up much work in a little space. Many meet in taverns to
trifle away time; the apostle bids us redeem time. "Redeeming the
time." Our lives should be like jewels, though little in bulk, yet great in
worth. Some die young, yet with gray hairs upon them. We must be like grass
of the field, useful; not like grass of the house-top, which withers before
it is grown up. To live and not be serviceable, is not life—but wasting
5. Meditation on death would spur us on in the pursuit
after holiness. Death is the great plunderer, it will shortly plunder us of
all our outward comforts. Our feathers of beauty and honor must be
laid in the dust—but death cannot plunder us of our graces. The commonwealth
of Venice, in their armory, have this inscription, "happy is he who in time
of peace, thinks of war." He who often meditates of death—will
make the best preparation for it.
Section 11. Meditate on the Day of JUDGMENT.
Feathers float upon the water—but gold sinks
in it. Just so, light feathery professors float in vanity, they mind not the
day of judgment—but serious spirits sink deep into the meditation on it.
Most men put far away from them, the evil day, Amos 3:6. They report of the
Italians, that in a great thunder they use to ring the bells—that the sound
of their bells may drown the noise of the thunder. Just so, the devil
delights men with the music of the world, that the noise should drown
the noise of the day of judgment, and make them forget the sound of the last
trumpet. Most men are guilty, therefore they do not love to hear of
the day of judgment. When Paul preached of judgment, Felix trembled,
he had a bad conscience. Josephus tells us of Felix, that he was a wicked
man—the woman that lived with him (Drusilla) he enticed away from her
husband, and when he heard of judgment, he fell a trembling. Oh I beseech
you meditate upon this last and solemn day; while others are thinking how
they may get riches, let us bethink ourselves how we may fare on the
day of judgment.
1. Meditation on the day of judgment would make us to
evaluate all our actions; Christ will come with his fan and his
sieve. "Will this action of mine, bide the test at that great day.
2. Meditation on the last day would make us labor to
approve our hearts to God—the great judge of the world. It is no matter what
men think of us—but what is our Judge's opinion of us? To
him we must stand or fall. The galaxy, or milky way, as the astronomers
call it, is a bright circle in the heavens containing many stars—but they
are so small that they have no name, nor are they taken cognizance of by the
astrologers. Give me permission to apply it; possibly others may take no
notice of us; we are so small as to have no name in the world, yet if we are
true stars, and can approve our hearts to God, we shall hold up our heads
with boldness, when we come to stand before our Judge.
Section 12. Meditate upon HELL.
1. Meditate upon the pain of loss, Matt. 25:10,
"and the door was shut." To have Christ's face veiled over, and a perpetual
eclipse and midnight in the soul; to be cast out of God's presence, in whose
presence is fullness of joy—this accentuates and embitters the condition of
the damned. It is like mingling gall with wormwood.
2. Meditate upon the pain of sense. Psalm 9:17,
"The wicked shall be turned into hell." And here meditate of two things,
1. The place of hell. 2. The company.
1. Meditate on the PLACE of hell. It is called
"a place of torment," Luke 16:28. There are two things especially in hell to
1. The FIRE. Rev. 20:15. It is called a lake
of burning fire. Augustine, Peter Lombard, Gregory the Great, say, this fire
of hell is a material fire, though they say it is infinitely hotter than any
culinary fire—which is but painted fire compared to hell-fire. I
wish none of us may experience what kind of fire it is! I rather think
the fire of hell is partly material, and partly spiritual; the material fire
is to work upon the body, the spiritual to torture the soul. This is the
wrath of God, which is both fire and bellows; "who knows the power of your
anger?" Psalm 90:11.
But it may be objected, if there is material fire in
hell, it will consume the bodies there. I answer, It shall burn
without consuming, as Moses' bush did, Exod. 3:2. The power of God
silences all disputes. If God by his infinite power could make the fire
not to consume the three Hebrew children; cannot he make the fire of hell
burn and not consume? Augustine tells of a strange salt in Sicily, which if
it be put in the fire, swims; that God who can make salt, contrary to its
nature, swim in the fire—can make the bodies of the damned not consume in
2. The WORM. Mark 19:44, "Where the worm never
dies." Homer in his Odyssey feigns, that Titus' liver was gnawed by two
vultures in hell. This never-dying worm Christ speaks of, is the gnawing of
a guilty conscience. Melancthon calls it a hellish fury—they that will not
hear conscience preaching, shall feel conscience gnawing; and
so great is the extremity of these two, the fire which burns, and the worm
which bites, that there will follow "gnashing of teeth," Matt. 8:12, the
damned will gnash their teeth for horror and anguish. That must needs be sad
fare (as Latimer says) where weeping is served for the first course,
and gnashing of teeth for the second. To endure this hell will
be intolerable, to escape it will be impossible!
2. Meditate of the COMPANY in hell—the devil
and his demons, Matt. 25:41. Job complains he was a companion to owls,
chapter 30:29. What will it be to be a companion to devils? Consider,
1. Their ghastly deformity—they make hell look
2. Their deadly antipathy—they are fired with rage
against mankind. First they become tempters—then tormentors.
Meditate much on hell. Let us go into hell by
contemplation—that we may not go into hell by condemnation. How
restless and hopeless, is the condition of the damned! The ancients feign of
Endymion, that he got permission from Jupiter always to sleep. What
would the damned in hell give for such a license! In their pains is neither
intermission, nor mitigation.
1. The serious meditation on hell, would make us fear
sin as hell. Sin is hell's fuel! Sin like Samson's foxes, carries
devouring fire in its tail.
2. Meditation on hell would cause rejoicing in a
child of God. The saint's fear of hell is like the two Marys' fear, Matt.
28:8, "They departed from the sepulcher with fear and great joy." A believer
may fear to think of the place of torment—but rejoice to think he shall
never come into that place. When a man stands upon a high rock, he trembles
to look down into the sea, yet he rejoices that he is not there struggling
with the waves. A child of God, when he thinks of hell, he rejoices with
trembling. A prison is not made for the king's son to be put in. A great
naturalist observes that nothing will so soon quench fire as salt and
blood; but I am sure of this—the salt brinish tears of repentance,
and the blood of Christ will quench the fire of hell to a believer. Christ
himself has felt the pains of hell for you. The Lamb of God being roasted
in the fire of God's wrath—by this burnt-offering the Lord is now
appeased towards his people. Oh how may the godly rejoice! "There is no
condemnation to those who are in Christ!" Romans 8:1. When the Son of God
was in the furnace, Dan. 3:25, the fire did no hurt the three children. Just
so, Christ being for a time in the fiery furnace of God's wrath, that fire
can do a believer no hurt. The saints have the garment of Christ's
righteousness upon them, and the fire of hell can never singe this garment.
Section 13. Meditate upon HEAVEN.
From the mount of meditation, as from mount
Nebo, we may take a view and prospect of the land of promise.
Christ has taken possession of heaven in the name of all believers, Heb.
6:20, "Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf." Heaven must
needs be a glorious city, which has God both for its builder and
inhabitant. Heaven is the extract and quintessence of all blessedness.
There the saints shall have all their holy hearts can desire. Augustine
wished that he might have seen three things before he died, Rome in its
glory, Paul in the pulpit, and Christ in the flesh. But the saints shall see
a better sight; they shall see, not Rome—but heaven in its glory; they shall
see Paul, not in the pulpit—but on the throne, and shall sit with him; they
shall see Christ's flesh, not veiled over with infirmities and disgraces—but
in its spiritual embroidery; not a crucified—but a glorified body. They
shall "behold the king in his beauty," Isaiah 33:17.
What a glorious place will this be! In heaven "God will
be all in all," 1 Cor. 15:28, beauty to the eye, music to the
ears, joy to the heart; and this he will be to the poorest saint, as
well as the richest. O Christian, who are now at your hard labor, perhaps
following the plough—you shall sit on the throne of glory! Rev. 3:21.
Quintus Curtius writes of one who was digging in his garden, and was
suddenly made king, and a purple garment richly embroidered with gold put
upon him. Just so shall it be done to the poorest believer—he shall be taken
from his laboring work, and set at the right hand of God, having the crown
of righteousness upon his head!
Meditate often on the Jerusalem above.
1. Meditation on heaven would excite and quicken
OBEDIENCE. It would put spurs to our sluggish hearts, and make us
"abound in the work of God, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the
Lord," 1 Cor. 15:58. The weight of glory would not hinder us in our
race—but cause us to run the faster! This weight would add wings to
2. Meditation on heaven would make us strive after heart
PURITY, because only the "pure in heart shall see God," Matt.
5:8. It is only a clear eye which can look on a bright transparent
3. Meditation on heaven would be a pillar of SUPPORT
under our sufferings. Heaven will make amends for all. One hour
in heaven will make us forget all our sorrows! The sun dries up the water;
just so—one beam of God's glorious face will dry up all our tears.
Section 14. Meditate on ETERNITY.
Millions of years stand only for ciphers in
eternity, and signify nothing. What an amazing word is eternity!
Eternity to the godly--is a day which has no sun-setting! Eternity to the
wicked--is a night which has no sun-rising! Eternity is a gulf which may
swallow up all our thoughts: Meditate on that scripture, "And they will go
away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal
life." Matthew 25:46.
1. Meditate upon eternal PUNISHMENT. The
bitter cup the damned drink of, shall never pass away from them. The
sinner and the furnace shall never be parted. God's vial of wrath will be
always dropping upon a wicked man. When you have reckoned up so many myriads
and millions of years, nay, ages—as have passed the bounds of all
arithmetic, eternity is not yet begun! This word forever breaks the
heart! If the tree falls hell-ward—there it lies to all eternity! Now is the
time of God's long-suffering, after death will be the time of the sinner's
long-suffering, when he shall "suffer the vengeance of eternal fire!" Jude
2. Meditate upon eternal LIFE. The soul that
is once landed at the heavenly shore, is past all storms. The glorified soul
shall be forever bathing itself in the rivers of pleasure. "You have made
known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalms 16:11. This is
what makes heaven to be heaven—"We shall be forever with the Lord!" 1
Thess. 4:17. Augustine says, "Lord, I am content to suffer any pains and
torments in this world—if I might see your face one day. But alas, were it
only a day, then to be ejected from heaven—it would rather be an aggravation
of misery!" But this word, "forever with the Lord," makes up the garland of
glory! A state of eternity, is a state of security.
1. Meditation on eternity, would make us very SERIOUS in
what we do. Zeuxes being asked, why he took so long to paint a
picture, answered, "I paint for eternity." The thoughts of an irreversible
condition after this life, would make us pray and live as for
2. Meditation on eternity, would make us overlook present
WORLDLY things—as flitting and fading. What is this present
world, to him who has eternity in his eye? it is but nothing. He who thinks
of eternity will despise "the passing pleasures of sin."
3. Meditation on eternity would be a means to keep us
from envying the wicked's prosperity. Here the wicked may be
"dressed in purple and fine linen, and live in luxury every day." But what
is this, compared to eternity? As long as there is such a thing as eternity,
God has time enough to reckon with all his enemies!
Section 15. Meditate upon your EXPERIENCES.
The last subject of meditation is your experiences. Look
over your receipts:
1. Has not God provided liberally for you, and given you
those spiritual mercies, which he has denied to others who are better than
you? Here is an experience, Gen: 48:15. "The God who has fed me
all my days." You never eat—but mercy carves for you. You never go to
bed—but mercy draws the curtain, and sets a guard of angels about you.
Whatever you have, is out of the treasury of free grace! Here is an
experience to meditate upon.
2. Has not God prevented many dangers—has he not kept
watch and ward about you?
1. What temporal dangers has God screened off?
Your neighbor's house on fire—but it has not kindled in your dwellings.
Another is infected with the plague—but you are healthy. Behold the
golden feathers of protection covering you!
2. What spiritual dangers has God prevented? when
others have been poisoned with error, you have been preserved. God
has sounded a retreat to you; you have heard "a voice behind you saying—This
is the way, walk in it!" When you had enlisted yourself, and taken pay on
the devil's side—yet God has "plucked you as a brand out of the fire,"
turned your heart, and now you espouse Christ's quarrel against sin. Behold
preventing grace! Here is an experience to meditate upon.
3. Has not God spared you a long time? Why is it,
that others are struck dead in the act of sin—as Ananias and Sapphira—and
you are preserved as a monument of God's patience?
Here is an experience: God has done more for you than for
the fallen angels; he never granted them repentance—but he has waited for
you year after year, Isaiah 30:18. Therefore "will the Lord wait that he may
be gracious." He has not only knocked at your heart in the ministry
of the word—but he has waited at the door. How long has his Spirit
striven with you; like an importunate suitor, who after many denials, yet
will not give over the suit. Methinks I see JUSTICE with a sword in its hand
ready to strike! But MERCY steps in for the sinner, "Lord, have patience
with him a while longer!" Methinks I hear the angels say to God, as the king
of Israel once said to the prophet Elisha, 2 Kings 6:22, "Shall I smite
them? shall I smite them?" Methinks I hear the angels say, "Shall we take
off the head of such a drunkard, swearer, blasphemer?" But MERCY seems to
answer as the vine-dresser, Luke 13:8, "Let him alone this year," see if he
will repent. Is not here an experience worth meditating upon? Mercy
turns justice into a rainbow; the rainbow is a bow indeed—but has no
arrow in it! That justice has been like the rainbow without an
arrow—that it has not shot you to death—here is a monument of patience to
read over and meditate upon.
4. Has not God often come in with assisting grace?
When he has bid you mortify such a lust, and you have said as Jehoshaphat, 2
Chron. 20:12, "I have no might against this great army!" Then God has come
in with auxiliary force, and "his grace has been sufficient." When God has
bid you pray for such a mercy, and you have found yourself very unfit; your
heart was at first dead and flat, all of a sudden you are carried above your
own strength; your tears drop, and your love flames! God has come in with
assisting grace. If the heart burns in prayer—God has struck the fire! The
Spirit has been tuning your soul, and now you make sweet melody
in prayer. Here is an experience to meditate upon.
5. Has not God vanquished Satan for you? When the
devil has tempted to infidelity, to self-murder, when he would make you
believe either that your graces were but a fiction, or God's promise but a
counterfeit bond; yet you have not been foiled by the tempter—it is
God who has kept the garrison of your heart, else Satan's fiery darts would
have entered! Here is an experience to meditate on.
6. Have you not had many signal deliverances? When
you have been even at the gates of death, God has miraculously recovered
you, and renewed your strength as the eagle! May not you write that writing
which Hezekiah did? Isaiah 38:6, "The writing of Hezekiah King of Judah,
when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness." You
thought the sun of your life was quite setting—but God made this sun
turn back many degrees. Here is an experience for meditation to feed upon.
When you have been imprisoned by sin—your foot taken in
the snare, and the Lord has broken the snare, nay, has made those to break
it, who were the instruments of laying it—behold an experience to meditate
on! Oh let us often revolve in mind, our experiences. You who have rare
receipts of mercy—be often by meditation, looking over your receipts.
1. Meditation on our experiences would raise us to
THANKFULNESS. Considering that God has set a hedge of
providence about us—he has strewed our way with roses—this would make us
take the harp and violin—and praise the Lord, (1 Chron. 16:4). And not only
praise—but record our blessings. The meditating Christian keeps a register
or chronicle of God's mercies, that their memory does not decay. God would
have the manna kept in the ark many hundred years, that the
remembrance of that miracle might be preserved; a meditating soul takes care
that the spiritual manna of an experience be kept safe.
2. Meditation on our experiences would engage our hearts
to God in OBEDIENCE. Mercy would be a needle to sew us to
him! We would cry out as Bernard, "I have, Lord, two mites—a soul and a
body—and I give them both to you."
3. Meditation on our experiences would serve to convince
us that GOD is no hard master. We might bring in our experiences
as a sufficient confutation of that slander. When we have been falling—has
not God taken us by the hand? "When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your
love, O Lord, supported me!" Psalm 94:18. How often has God supported our
head and heart—when we have been fainting? And is he a hard
Master? Is there any Master besides God—who will wait upon his servants?
Christians, summon in your experiences. What spiritual enjoyments have you
had? What inward serenity and peace—which neither the world can give, nor
death take away! A Christian's own experiences may plead for God—against
those who desire to censure his ways rather than to try them; and to cavil
at them, rather than to walk in them.
4. Meditation on our experiences would make us
communicative to others. We would be willing to tell our children
and acquaintances, what God has done for our souls— At such a time we were
brought low, and God raised us; at such a time in desertion, and God brought
a promise to remembrance which dropped in comfort. Meditation on God's
gracious dealing with us, would make us transmit and propagate our
experience to others, that the mercies of God shown to us, may bear a
plentiful crop of praise when we are dead and gone!
So much for the subject matter of meditation; I
proceed next to the necessity of meditation.
VII. Showing the NECESSITY of Meditation.
It is not enough to carry 'God's book' about
us—but we must meditate on it. The necessity of meditation will
appear in three particulars.
1. The end why God has given us his Word written and
preached, is not only to know it—but that we should meditate
in it. The Scripture is a love letter which the great God has
written to us. We must not run it over in haste—but meditate upon God's
wisdom in writing, and his love in sending it to us. Why does the
physician give his patient a remedy; is it only that he should read it over
and know the remedy—or that he should apply it? The end why
God communicates his gospel remedies to us, is, that we should apply them by
fruitful meditation. Do you think that God would ever have been at the pains
of writing his law with his own finger—only that we should have the
theory and notion of it? Is it not that we should meditate
on it? Would he ever have been at the cost to send abroad his ministers into
the world, to furnish them with gifts, Eph. 4, and must they for the work of
Christ be near unto death—that the Christians should only have an empty head
knowledge of the truths published? Is it speculation or
meditation—which God aims at?
2. The necessity of meditation appears in this, because
without it we can never be godly Christians. A Christian without
meditation is like a soldier without weapons, or a workman without tools.
Without meditation, the truths of God will not stay with
us. The heart is hard, and the memory slippery—and without
meditation all is lost! Meditation imprints and fastens a truth in the
mind. Serious meditation is like the engraving of letters in gold or marble
which endures. Without meditation, all our preaching is but like writing in
sand, or like pouring water into a sieve. Reading and hearing without
meditation, is like weak medicine which will not work. Lack of meditation
has made so many sermons in this age, to have a miscarrying womb and dry
3. Without meditation the truths which we know will never
affect our hearts. Deut. 6:6, "These words which I command this
day shall be in your heart." How can the Word be in the heart—unless
it be wrought in by meditation? As an hammer drives a nail to the head—so
meditation drives a truth to the heart. It is not the taking in of food—but
the stomach's digesting it, which makes it turn into nourishment.
Just so, it is not the taking in of a truth at the ear—but the meditating on
it, which is the digestion of it in the mind, which makes it nourish.
Without meditation, the Word preached may increase notion, but not
affection. There is as much difference between the knowledge of a truth,
and the meditation on a truth, as there is between the light of a torch, and
the light of the sun. Set up a lamp or torch in the garden, and it has no
influence. But the sun has a sweet influence, it makes the plants to grow,
and the herbs to flourish. Just so, knowledge is like a torch lighted in the
understanding, which has little or no influence—it does not make not a man
the better. But meditation is like the shining of the sun—it operates upon
the affections, it warms the heart and makes it more holy. Meditation
fetches life in a truth. There are many truths which lie, as it were,
in the heart dead—which when we meditate upon, they begin to have life and
heat in them. Meditation on a truth is like rubbing a man in a swoon—it
fetches life. It is meditation, which makes a Christian!
4. Without meditation we make ourselves guilty of
slighting God and his Word. If a man lets a thing lie aside, and
never minds it—it is a sign he slights it. God's Word is the book of life;
not to meditate in it—is to undervalue it. If a king puts forth an edict or
proclamation, and the subjects never mind it—it is a slighting of the king's
authority. God puts forth his law as a royal edict; if we do not meditate on
it, it is a slighting his authority, and contempt done to the divine
VIII. Showing the reason WHY there are so few godly Christians.
Use 1. Information.
It gives us a true account why there are so few godly
Christians in the world; namely, because there are so few meditating
Christians. We have many who have Bible ears, they are swift to
hear—but slow to meditate. This duty is grown almost out of
fashion, people are so much in the shop, that they are seldom on the
Mount with God. Where is the meditating Christian? Where is he who
meditates on sin, hell, eternity, the recompense of reward—who takes a
prospect of heaven every day? Where is the meditating Christian? It is to be
bewailed in our times, that so many who go under the name of professors,
have banished godly discourse from their tables, and meditation from their
closets. Surely the hand of Joab is in this.
The devil is an enemy to meditation; he cares not how
much people read and hear; he knows that meditation is
a means to compose the heart, and bring it into a gracious frame. Satan is
content that you should be hearing and praying Christians,
just so long as you are not meditating Christians. He can stand your
small shot, provided you do not put in this bullet.
IX. A REPROOF to such as do not Meditate in God's Word.
Use 2. Of reproof.
It serves to reprove those who meditate indeed—but not in
the Word of God. They turn all their meditations the wrong way; like a man
who lets forth the water of his mill which should grind his corn, into the
highway, where it does no good. Just so, there are many who let out their
meditations upon other fruitless things which are in no way
beneficial to their souls.
1. The farmer meditates on his acres of land, not
upon his soul. His meditation is how he may improve a barren piece of
ground, not how he may improve a barren mind; he will not let his
ground lie fallow—but he lets his heart lie fallow; there is no
spiritual culture, not one seed of grace sown there.
2. The physician meditates upon his remedies—but
seldom on those remedies which the gospel prescribes for his salvation,
faith and repentance. Commonly the devil is physician to the physician,
having given him such stupefying drug, that for the most part he dies of a
3. The lawyer meditates upon the common law; but
as for God's law he seldom meditates in it either day or night. The lawyer
while he is meditating on his client's evidences, often forgets his own;
most have their spiritual evidences to seek, when they should have
them to show.
4. The tradesman is for the most part meditating
upon his wares; his study is how he may increase his estate, and make the
ten talents into a hundred. He is "cumbered about many things;" he does not
meditate in the book of God's book—but in his account-book day and night. In
the long run you will see these were fruitless meditations, you will find
that you are but golden beggars, and have gotten but the fool's
purchase when you die, Luke 12:20.
5. There is another sort that meditate only upon
mischief, "who devise iniquity," Mic. 2:1. They meditate how to defame
and to defraud; Amos 8:5, "They make the ephah small, and the shekel great."
The ephah was a measure used in buying, the shekel a weight used in selling.
Many who should support, too often supplant one another. And
how many meditate revenge? It is sweet to them as dropping honey.
"Their hearts shall meditate terror," Isaiah 38:18. The sinner is a felon to
himself, and God will make him a terror to himself.
X. A holy PERSUASIVE to Meditation.
Use 3. Of Exhortation.
I am in the next place to exhort Christians to this so
necessary duty of meditation. If ever there were a duty I would press upon
you with more earnestness and zeal, it would be this, because so much of the
vitals and spirit of religion lies in it. The plant may as well bear fruit
without watering, the food may as well nourish without digesting, as we can
fructify in holiness without meditation. God provides the food,
ministers can but cook and dress it for you—but it must be inwardly digested
by meditation. For lack of this you may cry out with the prophet, Isaiah
24:16, "My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me." O let me persuade such as
fear God, seriously to set upon this duty. If you have formerly neglected
it, bewail your neglect, and now begin to make conscience of it! Lock up
yourselves with God (at least once a day) by holy meditation. Ascend this
hill, and when you have gotten to the top of it—you shall see a fair
prospect—Christ and heaven before you. Let me put you in mind of that saying
of Bernard, "O saint, know you not that your husband Christ is bashful, and
will not be affectionate in company, retire yourself by meditation into the
closet, or the field, and there you shall have Christ's embraces." Cant.
7:11, 12, "Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field, there will I
give you my love."
O that I might invite Christians to this rare duty. Why
is it that you do not meditate in God's law? Let me expostulate the case
with you; what is the reason? Methinks I hear some say, "We are indeed
convinced of the necessity of the duty—but alas there are many things that
hinder!" There are two great objections that lie in the way, I shall remove
them, and then hope the better to persuade to this duty.
XI. The answering of OBJECTIONS.
Objection 1. I have so much business in the world, that I
have no time to meditate.
Answer. The world indeed is a great enemy to meditation.
It is easy to lose one's purse in a crowd; and in a crowd of worldly
employments, it is easy to lose all the thoughts of God. So long as the
heart is an Exchange, I do not expect that it should be a Temple.
But, to answer the objection; have you so much business that you have no
time for meditation—as if piety were a minor matter—a thing fit only for
idle hours? What! No time to meditate! What is the business of your life—but
meditation? God never sent us into the world to get riches, (I speak not
against labor in a vocation) but I say this is not the end of our existence.
The errand God sent us into the world about, is salvation; and that we may
attain the end, we must use the means, namely, holy meditation. Now, have
you no time to meditate? just as if a farmer should say that he has so much
business, that he has no time to plough or sow; why, what is his occupation
but plowing and sowing!
What a madness is it to hear Christians say they have no
time to meditate? what is the business of their lives but meditation? O take
heed lest by growing rich, you grow worth nothing at last. Take heed that
God does not sue out the statute of bankruptcy against you, and you be
disgraced before men and angels. No time for meditation! You shall observe
that others in former ages have had as much business as you, and public
affairs to look after, yet they were called upon to meditate, Josh. 1:8.
"You shall meditate in this book of the Law." Joshua might have pleaded an
excuse, he was a soldier, a commander, and the care of marshaling his army
lay chiefly upon him, yet this must not take him off from piety; Joshua must
meditate in the book of God's law. God never intended that the great
business of piety should give way to a shop or farm; or that a particular
vocation should jostle out the general duty to holiness.
2. Objection. But this duty of meditation is hard. To
set time apart every day to get the heart into a meditating frame is very
difficult; Gerson reports of himself, that he was sometimes three or four
hours before he could work his heart into a spiritual frame.
Answer. Does this hinder? To this I shall give a
1. The price that God has set heaven at, is labor. Our
salvation cost Christ blood, it may well cost us sweat. "The
kingdom of heaven suffers violence," Matt. 11:12. It is as a garrison which
holds out, and the duties of religion are the taking it by storm. A godly
Christian must offer violence to himself, (though not natural-self, yet
sinful-self.) Self is nothing but the flesh. The flesh cries out for ease,
it is a libertine! It is reluctant to take pains, reluctant to pray, to
repent—it is reluctant to put its neck under Christ's yoke! Now a Christian
must hate himself; no man ever yet hated his own flesh, Eph. 5:29. Yes, in
this sense he must hate his own flesh, "The lusts of the flesh," Romans
8:13. He must offer violence to himself by mortification and meditation. You
say that it is hard to meditate. Is it not harder to lie in hell?
2. We do not argue so in other things; riches are hard to
come by, therefore I will sit still and be without them. No! Difficulty
is the whetstone of industry. How will men venture for gold? and
shall we not spend and be spent for that which is more precious than the
gold of Ophir? By meditation we suck out the quintessence of a promise.
3. Though while we are first entering upon meditation it
may seem hard, yet when once we are entered it is sweet and pleasant.
Christ's yoke at the first putting on, may seem heavy—but when once it is
on, it becomes easy; it is not a yoke, but a crown. "Lord," says Austin,
"the more I meditate on you, the sweeter you are to me!" According to holy
David, "My meditation on you shall be sweet," Psalm 104:34. The poets say
the top of Olympus was always quiet and serene. Just so, it is hard climbing
up the rocky hill of meditation—but when we are got up to the top, there is
a pleasant prospect, and we shall sometimes think ourselves even in heaven.
By holy meditation the soul does as it were, breakfast with God every
morning. When a Christian is upon the mount of meditation, he is like Peter
on the mount when Christ was transfigured, Matt. 17. He cries out, "Lord, it
is good to be here!" He is reluctant to go down the mount again. If you come
to him, and tell him of a purchase, he thinks you bid him to his loss!
What hidden manna does the soul taste, now that it is on
the mount! How sweet are the visits of God's Spirit! When Christ was alone
in the wilderness, then the angel came to comfort him. When the soul is
alone in holy meditation and prayer, then not an angel—but God's own Spirit
does come to comfort him. A Christian who meets with God in the mount, would
not exchange his hours of meditation for the most orient pearls or sparkling
beauties that the world can afford. No wonder David spent the whole day in
meditation, Psalm 119:97. Nay, as if the day had been too little, he borrows
a part of the night too, Psalm 63:6, "when I remember you upon my bed, and
meditate on you in the night watches." When others were sleeping, David was
meditating. He who is given much to meditation, shall with Sampson find a
honeycomb in this duty. Therefore let not the difficulty, discourage. The
pleasantness will infinitely countervail the pains.
XII. Concerning OCCASIONAL Meditations.
Having removed these two objections out of the way, let
me again revive the exhortation to "meditate in God's law day and night."
And there are two sorts of meditation which I would persuade to—
1. Occasional, and 2. Deliberate.
1. OCCASIONAL meditations, such as are taken
up on any sudden occasion. There is nothing almost which occurs—but we may
presently raise some meditation upon. As a good herbalist extracts the
spirits and quintessence out of every herb, so a Christian may extract
matter of meditation, from every occurrence. A gracious heart, like fire,
turns all objects into fuel for meditation. I shall give you some instances.
When you look up to the heavens, and see them richly embroidered with
light, you may raise this meditation. If the footstool is so
glorious, what is the throne where God himself sits! When you see the
skies bespangled with stars, think, what is Christ The Bright Morning Star!
Monica, Augustine's mother, standing one day, and seeing the sun shine,
raised this meditation, "Oh! if the sun is so bright, what is the light of
God's presence?" When you hear music which delights the senses,
presently raise this meditation, "What music like a good conscience; this is
the bird of paradise within, whose chirping melody does enchant and ravish
the soul with joy!" He who has this music all day, may take David's pillow
at night, and say with that sweet singer, "I will lay me down in peace and
sleep," Psalm. 4:8. How blessed is he who can find heaven in his own bosom!
When you are dressing yourselves in the morning, awaken
your meditation, think thus—but have I been dressing the hidden man of the
heart? Have I looked at my heart in the glass of God's Word? I have
put on my clothes—but have I put on Christ? it is reported of Pambo, that
seeing a gentlewoman dressing herself all the morning by her glass, he fell
a-weeping: "O says he, this woman has spent the morning in dressing her
body, and I sometimes spend scarcely an hour in dressing my soul!" When you
sit down to dinner, let your meditation feed upon this first course,
"How blessed are those who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God! What a
royal feast will that be, which God prepares! What a love-feast will that
be, where none shall be admitted but friends!"
When you go to bed at night, imagine thus, "Shortly I
shall put off the earthly clothes of my body, and make my bed in the grave!"
When you see the judge going to court, and hear the trumpet blow, think with
yourselves, as Hierom did, that you are still hearing that shrill trumpet
sounding in your ears, "Arise you dead and come to judgment!" When you see a
poor man going on the streets, raise this meditation, "Here is a walking
picture of Christ!" He had no place where to lay his head, Matt. 8:10. My
Savior became poor, that I through his poverty might be made rich!" When you
go to church, think thus, "I am now going to hear God speak, let me
not stop my ear; if I refuse to hear him speaking in his Word, I
shall next hear him speaking in his wrath!" Psalm 2:5.
When you walk abroad in your orchard, and see the plants
bearing, and the herbs nourishing, think how pleasing a sight it is to
God—to see a thriving Christian; how beautiful are the trees of
righteousness when they are hung full of fruit—when they abound in faith,
humility, knowledge! When you pluck a rose-bud in your gardens, raise this
contemplation, "How lovely are the early buddings of grace! God prizes a
Christian in the bud, he likes the blooming of youth, rather than the
shedding of old age!" When you eat a grape from the tree, think of
Christ the true vine; how precious is the blood of that grape! such rare
clusters grow there, that the angels themselves delight to taste of!
It is said of Augustine, he was much in these extempore
meditations. A gracious heart, like the philosopher's magic stone, turns all
into gold—he has heavenly meditations from earthly occurrences. The skilled
chemist, when several metals are mingled together, can by his skill extract
the gold and silver from the baser metals. Just so, a Christian, by a divine
chemistry, can extract golden meditations from the various earthly objects
he beholds! Indeed it argues a spiritual heart, to turn everything to a
spiritual use; and we have Christ's own example for these occasional
meditations, John 4:7-14. While he sat on Jacob's well, he presently
meditates on that, and breaks forth into a most excellent discourse
concerning the water of life. So much for occasional meditations.
2. Be exhorted to DELIBERATE meditations,
which are the chief. Set some time apart every day, that you may in a
serious and solemn manner converse with God in the mount: A godly man, is a
man set apart, Psalm 4:3, as God sets him apart by election, so he
sets him apart by meditation.
XIII. The fittest TIME for Meditation.
Question 1. What is the fittest time for meditation?
Answer. For the timing of it, it is rather hard to
prescribe, because of men's various callings and employments. But if I may
freely speak my thoughts, the morning is the fittest time for
meditation. The best time to converse with God is, when we may be most in
private, that is, before worldly concerns stand knocking as so many suitors
at the door to be let in. The morning is, as it were, the cream of the
day—let the cream be taken off, and let God have it. In the distilling
of strong-water, the first water that is drawn from the still is more full
of spirits, the second drawing is weaker; so the first meditations that are
stilled from the mind in a morning, are the best, and we shall find them to
be most full of life and spirits. The morning is the golden hour. God loved
the first-fruits, Exod. 23:19. "The first of the first-fruits you
shall bring into the house of the Lord." Let God have the first-fruits of
the day; the first of our thoughts must be reserved for heaven. The student
takes the morning for his study. The usurer gets up in the morning and looks
over his books of account: a Christian must begin with God in the morning.
David was with God before break of day, Psalm 119:147. "I rise before
dawn and cry out for help; I put my hope in Your Word."
Question 2. But why the morning for meditation?
Answer 1. Because in the morning the mind is fittest for
holy duties; a Christian is most himself then. What weary
devotion will there be at night when a man is even tired out with the
business of the day! He will be fitter to sleep, than to meditate.
The morning is the queen of the day; then the imagination is
quickest, the memory strongest, the spirits freshest, the body
most refreshed, having restored its strength by sleep. It is a sure rule,
then is the best time to serve God, when we find ourselves most in tune. In
the morning the heart is like a violin—strung and put in tune, and then it
makes the sweetest melody.
2. The morning thoughts stay longest with us the whole
day afterwards. The wool takes the first dye best, and is not
easily worn out. When the mind receives the impression of good thoughts in
the morning, it holds this sacred dye the better; and like an ingrained
color, it will not easily be lost. The heart keeps the relish of morning
meditations, as a cup receives a tincture and savor of the wine which is
first put into it; or as linen in a cedar chest—which keeps the scent a
great while after. Perfume your mind with heavenly thoughts in the
morning—and it will not lose its spiritual fragrancy! Wind up your heart
towards heaven in the beginning of the day—and it will go the better all the
day afterwards. It is with receiving thoughts into the mind, as it is with
receiving guests into an inn—the first guests which come, will get the best
rooms in the house; if others come afterwards, they get the worse rooms.
Just so, when the mind entertains holy meditations for its morning-guests,
if afterwards earthly thoughts come, they are put into some of the worst
rooms—they lodge lowest in the affections. The best rooms are taken up in
the morning, for Christ. He who loses his heart in the morning, in the
world; will hardly find it again all the day after.
3. It is a part of that solemn respect and honor we give
to God—to let him have the first thoughts of the day. We give
people of quality, the best treatment—we let them take the first place. If
we honor God (whose name is reverend and holy) we will let the thoughts of
God take first place. When the world has the first of our thoughts,
it is a sign the world lies uppermost, we love it most. The first thing a
covetous man meditates on in the morning, is his money; a sign his gold lies
nearest to his heart. O! Christians, let God have your morning meditations.
He takes it in disdain, to have the world served before him. Suppose a king
and a criminal were to dine in the same room, and to sit at two tables; if
the criminal would have his food brought up, and be served first, the king
might take it in high disdain, and look upon it as a contempt done to his
person. When the world is served first, all our morning thoughts
attending it; and the Lord shall be put off with the dregs of the day,
when our thoughts begin to run low—is not this a contempt done to the God of
4. Equity requires it. God deserves the first
of our thoughts; some of his first thoughts were upon us; we had a being in
his thoughts; before we had a being he thought upon us, Eph. 1:4. "Before
the foundations of the world." Before we fell, he was thinking how to raise
us. We had the morning of his thoughts. O! what thoughts of free grace, what
thoughts of peace has he had towards us! We have taken up his thoughts from
eternity; if we have had some of God's first thoughts, well may he have our
5. This is to imitate the pattern of the saints.
Job rose early in the morning, and offered sacrifice, Job 1:5. David,
when he awaked, was with God, Psalm 139:17, and indeed this is the way to
have a morning blessing. "In the morning the dew fell," Exod.
16:13. The dew of a blessing falls early—now we are likeliest to have
God's company. If you would meet with a friend, you go early in the morning
before he be gone out. We read that the Holy Spirit came down upon the
apostles, Acts 2:3, 4, and it was in the morning, as may be gathered from
Peter's sermon, verse 15, it was but "the third hour of the day." The
morning is the time for fruitfulness, "In the morning shall you make your
seed to flourish," Isaiah 17:11. By morning meditation, we make the seed of
grace to flourish.
I would not by this, wholly exclude EVENING meditation.
Isaac went out to meditate in the eventide, Gen. 24:63. When business is
over, and everything calm, it is good to take a turn with God in the
evening. God had his evening sacrifice, as well as his morning, Ex. 29:39.
As the cream at the top is sweet, so is the sugar at the
bottom; in two cases, the evening meditation does well.
1. In case such has been the urgency of business, that
you have time only for reading and prayer; then recompense the lack of the
morning meditation, with evening meditation.
2. In case you find yourself more inclinable to good
thoughts in the evening, for sometimes there is a greater impetus upon the
heart, a greater aptitude and tuneableness of mind, dare not neglect
meditation at such a time. Who knows but it may be a quenching the Spirit;
do not drive this blessed dove from the ark of your soul. In these cases
evening meditation is seasonable. But I say, if I may cast in my verdict,
the morning is to be preferred; as the flower of the sun opens in the
morning to take in the sweet beams of the sun, so open your soul in the
morning to take in the sweet thoughts of God. So much for the timing of
XIV. How LONG Christians should meditate.
Question 2. But how long should I meditate?
Answer. If we consider how long the world has, it is fit
that we give God at least one half hour every day. I shall only say this for
a general rule—meditate so long until you find your heart grow warm in this
If when a man is cold, you ask how long he should stand
by the fire? Surely, until he be thoroughly warm, and made fit for his work.
So, Christian, your heart is cold; never a day, no not the hottest day in
summer—but your heart freezes; now stand at the fire of meditation until you
find your affections warmed, and you are made fit for spiritual service.
David mused until his heart waxed hot within him, Psalm 39:3. I will
conclude this with that excellent saying of Bernard, "Lord, I will never
come away from you—without you." Let this be a Christian's resolution—not to
leave off his meditations of God until he finds something of God in him—some
"moving of affections after God," Cant. 5:4. Some "flamings of love," Cant.
XV. Concerning the USEFULNESS of Meditation.
Having answered these questions, I shall next show the
benefit and usefulness of meditation. I know not any duty that
brings in greater income and revenue than this. It is reported of Thales,
that he left the affairs of state to become a contemplating philosopher. O!
did we know the advantage which comes by this duty, we would often retire
from the noise and hurry of the world, that we might give ourselves to
The benefit of meditation appears in seven particulars.
1. Meditation is an excellent means to profit by the
Word. Reading may bring a truth into the head, meditation
brings it into the heart! It is better to meditate on one sermon—than
to hear five sermons. Many complain that they do not profit from sermons;
this may be the chief reason—because they chew not the cud—they do not
meditate on what they have heard. If an angel should come from heaven, and
preach to men, nay, if Jesus Christ himself were their preacher, they would
never profit without meditation. It is the settling of the milk that makes
it turn to cream; and it is the settling of a truth in the mind, that makes
it turn to spiritual nourishment. The bee sucks the flower, and then works
it in the hive, and makes honey of it. The hearing of a truth preached is
the sucking of a flower, there must be a working it in the hive of the
heart by meditation, then it turns to honey. There is a disease in
children called the rickets, when they have large heads—but their lower
parts are small and thrive not. Many professors have the spiritual
rickets, they have large heads, much knowledge—but yet they thrive not
in godliness, their heart is faint, their feet feeble, they don't walk
vigorously in the ways of God; and the cause of this disease is, the lack of
meditation. Bible knowledge without meditation, makes us no
better than devils! Satan is an angel of light, yet black
2. Meditation makes the heart serious, and then it is
ever best. Meditation ballasts the heart; when the ship is
ballasted, it is not so soon overturned by the wind; and when the heart is
ballasted with meditation, it is not so soon overturned with vanity. Some
Christians have light hearts, Zeph. 3:4, "his prophets are light." A light
Christian will be blown into any opinion or vice; you may blow a feather any
way: there are many feathery Christians; the devil no sooner comes
with a temptation but they are ready to take fire. But meditation makes the
heart serious, and God says of a serious Christian, as David of Goliath's
sword, "there is none like that, give it to me." Meditation consolidates a
Christian; solid gold is best; the solid Christian is the only metal that
will pass current with God. The more serious the heart grows, the
more spiritual, and the more spiritual, the more it resembles the
Father of spirits. When a man is serious he is fittest for employment. The
serious Christian is fittest for service, and it is meditation which brings
the heart into this blessed frame.
3. Meditation is the bellows of the affections.
Meditation hatches good affections, as the hen hatches her young ones by
sitting on them. We light affection at this fire of meditation, "while I
was musing the fire burned," Psalm 39:3. David was meditating on mortality,
and see how his heart was affected with it, verse 4, "Lord, remind me how
brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and
that my life is fleeing away." The reason our affections are so chill and
cold in spiritual things, is, because we do not warm ourselves more at the
fire of meditation. Illumination makes us shining lamps,
meditation makes us burning lamps. What is it to know Christ by
speculation, and not by affection? It is the proper work of
meditation to excite and blow up holy affections. What sparkling of love in
such a soul! When David had meditated on God's law, he could not choose
it, but love it, Psalm 119:97. "O how love I your law! it is my
meditation all the day." When the spouse had by meditation viewed those
singular beauties in her beloved, white and ruddy, Cant. 5. she grew
lovesick, verse 8. Galeatius Caraccialus, that famous Marquis of Vico, who
had been much in the contemplation of Christ, breaks out into a holy pathos,
"Let their money perish with them, who esteem all the gold in the world
worth one hour's communion with Jesus Christ!"
4. Meditation fits for holy duties. The
musician first puts his instrument in tune—and then he plays a song. Just
so, meditation tunes the heart—and then it is fit for any holy service. As
the sails to the ship, so is meditation to duty, it carries on the soul more
1. Meditation fits for HEARING. When the
ground is softened by meditation, now is a fit time for the seed of the Word
to be sown.
2. Meditation fits for PRAYER. Prayer is the
spiritual pulse of the soul, by which it beats strongly after God. There is
no living without prayer; a man cannot live—unless he breathes; no more can
the soul live—unless it breathes out its desires to God. Prayer ushers in
mercy, and prayer sanctifies mercy, it makes mercy to be mercy, 1
Tim. 4:5. Prayer has power over God, Hos. 12:4. Prayer comes with letters of
request to heaven. Prayer is the spiritual leech—which sucks the poison
of sin out of the soul. What a blessed (shall I say duty or)
privilege is prayer! Meditation is a help to prayer; Gerson calls
it the nurse of prayer. Meditation is like oil to the lamp; the lamp
of prayer will soon go out unless meditation feeds it. Meditation and prayer
are like two turtles-doves—if you separate one, the other dies. A
skillful angler observes the time and season when the fish bite best, and
then he throws in his hook. Just so, when the heart is warmed by meditation,
now is the best season to throw in the hook of prayer, and fish for mercy.
After Isaac had been in the field meditating, he was fit for prayer when he
came home. When the gun is full of powder, it is fittest to discharge. So
when the mind is full of good thoughts, a Christian is fittest by prayer to
discharge, now he sends up whole volleys of sighs and groans to heaven.
Meditation has a double benefit in it—it pours in,
and pours out. First it pours good thoughts into the mind, and then
it pours out those thoughts again into prayer. Meditation first furnishes
with matter to pray, and then it furnishes with a heart to
pray, Psalm 39:3. "I was musing," says David, and the very next words are a
prayer, "Lord make me to know my end;" and Psalm 143:5, 6, "I muse on the
works of your hands, I stretch forth my hands to you;" the musing of his
head made way for the stretching forth of his hands in prayer. When Christ
was upon the mount, then he prayed. Just so, when the soul is upon the mount
of meditation, now it is in tune for prayer. Prayer is the child of
meditation. Meditation leads the van, and prayer brings up the rear.
3. Meditation fits for HUMILIATION. When David
had been contemplating the works of creation, their splendor, harmony,
motion, influence—the plumes of pride fall off—and he begins to have
self-abasing thoughts, Psalm 8:3, 4. "When I consider the heavens, the work
of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have ordained—What is man that
you are mindful of him!"
4. Meditation is a strong antidote against SIN.
Most sin is committed for lack of meditation. Men often sin through
ignorance. Would they be so brutishly sensual as they are, if they did
seriously meditate upon what sin is? Would they take this viper in
their hand—if they did but consider its sting? Sin puts a worm into
conscience, a sting into death, and a fire into hell. Did men meditate on
this—that after all their dainty dishes, death will bring in the reckoning,
and they must pay the reckoning in hell—they would say as David in another
sense, "let me not eat of their dainties," Psalm 141:4. The devil's apple
has a bitter core in it. Did men think of this—surely it would
put them into a cold sweat, and be as the angel's drawn sword to affright
them! Meditation is a golden shield to beat back sin! When Joseph's
mistress tempted him to wickedness, meditation did preserve him, "How can I
do this great wickedness and sin against God?" Meditation makes the heart
like wet tinder—it will not take the devil's fire!
5. Meditation is a cure of COVETOUSNESS. The
covetous man is an idolater, Col. 3:5. Though he will not bow down to an
idol, yet he worships engraved images in his coins. Now meditation is an
excellent means to lessen our esteem of the world. Great things seem little
to him who stands high; if he could live among the stars—the earth would
seem as nothing. To a Christian who stands high upon the pinnacle of
meditation—how do all worldly things disappear, and seem as nothing to him!
He does not see in them, what men of the world see. He is gotten into his
tower, and heaven is his prospect. What is said of God, "He dwells on high,
he humbles himself to behold the things done on the earth," Psalm 113:6, I
may allude to with reverence. The Christian who dwells on high by
meditation, accounts it an abasing of himself, to look down upon the earth,
and behold the things done in this lower region. Paul, whose meditations
were sublime and seraphic, looked at things which were not seen, 2 Cor. 4
ult. How did he trample upon the world, how did he scorn it? "I am crucified
to the world," Gal. 6:14, as if he had said, "it is too much below me, to
mind it!" He who is catching at a crown, will not fish for minnows. A
Christian who is elevated by holy meditation, will not set his heart
where his feet should be—upon the earth.
6. Holy meditation banishes vain and sinful thoughts.
It purges the imagination, "How long shall vain thoughts lodge within
you," Jer. 4:14. The mind is the shop where sin is first framed. Sin
begins at the thoughts. The thoughts are the first plotters and contrivers
of evil. The mind and imagination are the stage where sin is first acted.
The malicious man acts over sin in his thoughts, he contemplates revenge.
The impure person acts over immorality in his thoughts, he contemplates
lust. The Lord humbles us for our contemplative wickedness, Proverbs 30:32.
"If you have thought evil, lay your hand upon your mouth." How much
sin do men commit in the chamber of their imagination?
Meditating in God's law would be a good means to banish
these sinful thoughts. If David had carried the book of the law about him,
and meditated in it, he would not have looked on Bathsheba with a lascivious
eye, 2 Sam. 2:11. Holy meditation would have quenched that wildfire of lust.
The Word of God is pure, Psalm 119:140, not only subjectively—but
effectively. It is not only pure in itself—but it makes them pure who
meditate in it. Christ whipped the buyers and sellers out of the temple,
John 2:15. Holy meditation would whip out idle and vagrant thoughts, and not
allow them to lodge in the mind. What is the reason the angels in heaven
have not one vain thought? They have a sight of God, their eye is never off
him. If the eye of the soul were fixed on God by meditation, how would vain
impure thoughts vanish! As when that woman was in the tower, and Abimelech
came near to the tower to have entered, but she threw a mill-stone out of
the tower upon him, and killed him, Judg, 9:52. Just so, when we have gotten
into the high tower of meditation, and sinful thoughts would come near to
enter, we may from this tower throw a millstone upon them, and destroy them.
And thus you have seen the benefit of meditation.
XVI. The EXCELLENCY of Meditation.
Aristotle places felicity, in the contemplation of the
mind. Meditation is highly commended by Augustine, Chrysostom, and
Cyprian—as the nursery of piety. Hierom calls it his Paradise.
With what words shall I set it forth? Other duties have done excellently—but
"you excel them all." Meditation is a friend to all the graces, it helps to
water the plantation. I may call it in Basil's expression, the treasury
where all the graces are locked up; and with Theophylact, the very
gate and portal by which we enter into glory. By meditation the spirits
are raised and heightened to a kind of angelic frame. Meditation sweetly
puts us in heaven, before we arrive there. Meditation brings God and the
soul together, 1 John 3:2.
Meditation is the saints' looking glass, by which they
see things invisible. Meditation is the golden ladder by which they ascend
to paradise. Meditation is the spy they send abroad to search the
land of promise, and it brings a cluster of the grapes of Eshcol with it.
Meditation is the dove they send out, and it brings an olive branch of peace
in its mouth. But who can tell how sweet honey is, save they that taste it?
The excellency of meditation I leave to experienced Christians, who
will say the comfort of it may be better felt than expressed.
To excite all to this so useful, excellent
(I had almost said angelic) duty, let me lay down some divine motives
to meditation; and how glad would I be, if I might revive this duty among
XVII. Divine MOTIVES to Meditation.
1. Meditation manifests what a man really is.
By this he may take a measure of his heart, whether it be good or bad.
Proverbs 23:7, "For as he thinks in his heart—so he is." As the meditation
is—such is the man. Meditation is the touchstone of a Christian, it shows
what metal he is made of. Meditation is a spiritual index. The index shows
what is in the book—so meditation shows what is in the heart. If all a man's
meditations are how he may get power against sin, how he may grow in grace,
how he may have more communion with God; this shows what is in his heart—the
frame of his heart is spiritual. By the beating of this pulse, judge of the
health of your soul. It is made the character of a godly man—that he fears
God, "and thinks on his name," Mal. 3:17. As are the thoughts—such is
But the thoughts of the ungodly are taken up with pride
and lust. "Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity," Isa, 59:7. When vain
sinful thoughts come, ungodly men make much of them, they make room for
them, they shall eat and lodge with them. But if a good thought happens to
come into their mind, it is soon turned out of doors, as an unwelcome guest;
this argues much unsoundness of heart. Let this provoke to holy meditation.
2. The thoughts of God, as they bring delight with
them—so they leave peace behind them. Those are the best
hours which are spent with God. Conscience, as the bee, gives honey. It will
not grieve us when we come to die—that we have spent our time in holy
soliloquies and meditations. But what honor will the sinner have, when he
shall ask conscience the question as Joram did Jehu, 2 Kings 9:22, "Is it
peace, conscience, is it peace?" And conscience shall say as Jehu, "What
peace, as long as the whoredoms of your mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts
are so many?" Oh how sad will it be with a man at such a time? Christians,
as you desire peace, "meditate in God's law day and night."
This duty of meditation being neglected, the heart will
run wild, it will not be a vineyard—but a wilderness.
3. Meditation keeps the heart in a good spiritual health.
It plucks up the weeds of sin, it prunes the wasteful branches, it waters
the flowers of grace, it sweeps all the walks in the heart, that Christ may
walk there with delight. For lack of holy meditation, the heart lies like
the sluggard's field, Proverbs 24:31, all overgrown with thorns and
briars—with unclean, earthly thoughts. It is rather the devil's hog stye,
than Christ's garden. It is like a house fallen to ruin, fit only
for unclean spirits to inhabit.
4. The fruitlessness of all worldly meditations.
One man lays out his thoughts about laying up money; his meditations
are how to raise himself in the world, and when he has arrived at an estate,
often God blows upon it, Hag. 1:9. His care is for his child, and perhaps
God takes it away, or if it lives, it proves a cross. Another meditates how
to satisfy his ambition, "Honor me before the people," 1 Sam. 15:30. Alas,
what is honor—but a meteor in the air; a torch lighted by the breath
of people, with the least puff blown out! How many live to see their names
buried before them? When this sun is in its meridian splendor—it soon sets
in a cloud.
Thus fruitless are those meditations which do not center
upon God. It is but to carry dust against the wind. But especially at death;
then a man sees all those thoughts which were not spent upon God, to be
fruitless, Psalm 146:4. "In that very day his thoughts perish." I may allude
to it in this sense—all worldly, vain thoughts, in that day of death perish,
and come to nothing! What good will the whole globe of the world do at such
a time? Those who have reveled out their thoughts in impertinences, will but
be the more disquieted; it will cut them to the heart, to think how they
have spun a fool's thread!
A Scythian captain having, for a draught of water,
yielded up the city, cried out, "What have I lost!" So will it be with that
man when he comes to die, who has spent all his meditations upon the world;
he will say, "What have I lost! I have lost heaven, I have betrayed my
soul!" And should not the consideration of this fix our minds upon the
thoughts of God and glory? All other meditations are fruitless; like a piece
of ground which has much cost laid out upon it—but it yields no crop.
5. Holy meditation is never lost. God has a
pen to write down all our good thoughts, Mal. 3:5. "A book of
remembrance was written for those who thought upon his name." God has all
our meditations written in his book. God pens our closet devotion.
6. See the blessedness affixed to the meditating
Christian. "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the
counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of
mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he
meditates day and night." Psalm 1:1-2. Say not it is hard to meditate.
It brings much blessedness. Lycurgus could draw the Lacedemonians to do
anything, by giving them rewards. If ungodly men can meditate with
delight on that which will make them cursed; shall not we meditate on that
which will make us blessed? nay, in the Hebrew it is in the plural,
blessednesses, we shall have one blessedness upon another.
7. Delightful meditation in God's law is the best way for
a man to prosper in his estate. Josh. 1:8. "This book of the law
shall not depart out of your mouth—but you shall meditate therein; for then
shall you make your way prosperous." I leave this to their consideration who
are desirous to thrive in the world; and let this serve for a motive to
The next thing remaining, is to lay down some rules about
XVIII. RULES concerning Meditation.
Rule 1. When you go to meditate—be very SERIOUS in the
work. Let there be a deep impression upon your soul. That you may
be serious in meditation, do these two things:
1. Get yourself into a posture of holy reverence.
Over-awe your heart with the thoughts of God, and the incomprehensibleness
of his Majesty. When you are at the work of meditation, remember you are now
to deal with GOD. If an angel from heaven did appoint to meet you at
such an hour, would you not prepare yourself with all seriousness and
solemnity, to meet him? Behold—a greater than an angel is here; the God of
glory is present! He has an eye upon you, he sees the state of your heart
when you are alone. Think with yourself, O Christian, when you are going to
meditate—that you are now to deal with him in private—before whom the angels
adore, and the devils tremble! Think with yourself, that you are now in his
presence before whom you must shortly stand and all the world with you—to
receive their everlasting sentence. You must die, and how soon you know not;
from the closet to the tribunal.
2. That your heart may be serious in meditation,
labor to possess your thoughts with the solemnity and greatness of the work
you are now going about. As David said concerning his building a house for
God—the work is great, 1 Chron. 29:1. So it may be said of meditation—the
work is great, and we had need gather and rally together all the powers of
the soul to the work! If you were to set about a work wherein your life was
concerned, how serious would you be in the thoughts of it? In the business
of meditation, your soul is concerned; eternity depends upon it! If you
neglect it, or are slight in it—it will have eternal consequences. If
Archimedes was so serious in drawing his mathematical line, that he minded
not the sacking of the city; O how serious should a Christian be when he is
drawing a line for eternity! When you are going to meditate, you are
going to the greatest work in the world!
Rule. 2. READ before you meditate. "Do not let
this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be
prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8. Read before you meditate. The Law
must be in Joshua's mouth; he was first to read--and then meditate.
"Give attendance to reading," 1 Timothy 4:13. Then it
follows, "meditate on these things," verse 15. Reading furnishes the mind
with matter. Reading is the oil which feeds the lamp of meditation. Reading
helps to rectify meditation. Augustine well says that, "meditation without
reading will be erroneous." Naturally, the mind is defiled, and will be
minting thoughts; and how many untruths does it mint! Therefore first read
in the book of the Law—and then meditate! Be sure your meditations are
grounded upon Scripture.
There is a strange Utopia in the imaginations of some
men; they take those for true principles, which are false; and if they
mistake their principles they must needs be wrong in their meditations. Thus
the mind having laid in wrong principles--the meditation must be erroneous,
and a man at last goes to hell upon a mistake! Therefore be sure you read
before you meditate--that you may say, "it is written!" Meditate on nothing
but what you believe to be a truth; believe nothing to be a truth, but what
can show its letters of credence from the Word.
Observe this rule--let reading usher in meditation.
Reading without meditation—is unfruitful! Meditation without reading—is
Rule 3. Do not multiply the subjects of meditation.
That is, meditate not on too many things at once; like the bird that
hops from one branch to another, and stays in no one place. Single out
rather some one topic at a time, which you will meditate upon. Too much
variety distracts. One truth driven home by meditation, will most greatly
affect the heart! A man that is to shoot, sets up one target which he aims
at to hit. When you are to shoot your mind above the world by meditation,
set one thing before you to hit! If you are to meditate on the passion of
Christ, let that take up all thoughts! If you are to meditate upon
death, confine your thoughts to that. One subject at a time is enough.
Martha while she was cumbered about many things, neglected the one
needful thing; so while our meditations are taken up about many things,
we lose that one thing which should affect our hearts, and do us more good.
Drive but one wedge of meditation at a time—but be sure you drive it home to
the heart. Those who aim at a whole flock of birds hit none. Several
medicines taken together, the one hinders the virtue of the other; whereas a
single medicine might do good.
Rule 4. To meditation, join EXAMINATION. When
you have been meditating on any spiritual subject, put an enquiry to your
soul, and though it is short, let it be serious. "O my soul, is it thus with
you—or not?" When you have been meditating about the fear of God—that
it is the "beginning of wisdom"—make an enquiry, "O my soul, is this fear
planted in your heart? You are almost come to the end of your days, are you
yet come to the beginning of wisdom?" When you have been meditating on
Christ, his virtues, his privileges, make an enquiry, "O my soul, do you
love him who is so lovely; and are you ingrafted into him? Are you a living
branch of this living vine?" When you have been meditating upon the graces
of the Spirit, make an enquiry, "O my soul, are you adorned as the bride of
Christ with this chain of pearl? Have you your certificate for heaven ready?
Will my graces be to seek, when I should have them to show?"
Thus should a Christian in his retirements, parley often with his heart.
For lack of this examination, meditation evaporates and
comes to nothing. For lack of examination while in meditation, many are
strangers to their own hearts; though they live known to others, they die
unknown to themselves. Meditation is like a telescope by which we
contemplate heavenly objects; but self-examination is like a looking
glass by which we see into our own souls, and can judge how it is with us.
Meditation joined with examination, is like the sun on the
dial, which shows how the day goes, it shows us how our hearts stand
affected to spiritual things.
Rule 5. Seal up meditation with PRAYER. Pray
over your meditations. Prayer sanctifies everything; without prayer they are
but unhallowed meditations. Prayer fastens meditation upon the soul.
Prayer is a tying a knot at the end of meditation—so that it does not
slip. Pray that God will keep those holy meditations in your mind forever,
that the savor of them may abide upon your hearts, 1 Chron. 29:18. "O Lord,
keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts
loyal to you." So let us pray, that when we have been musing on heavenly
things, and our hearts have waxed hot within us, we may not cool into a
sinful tepidness and lukewarmness—but that our affections may be as the lamp
of the sanctuary—always burning.
Rule 6. The last rule is, let meditation be reduced to
PRACTICE. Live out your meditation. "Do not let this Book of the
Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be
careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be
prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8. Meditation and practice, like two
sisters, must go hand in hand. Cassian says, that "the contemplative life
cannot be perfected without the practice." We read that the angels had
wings, and hands under their wings, Ezek. 1:8. It may be an
emblem of this truth; Christians must not only fly upon the wing of
meditation—but they must be active in obedience, they must have hands
under their wings! The end of meditation is action. We must
not only meditate in God's law—but walk in his law, Deut.
28:9. Without this, we are like those Gnostics, who had much knowledge—but
were licentious in their lives. Christians must be like the sun, which does
not only send forth heat—but goes its circuit round the world. It is
not enough that the affections are heated by meditation—but we must go our
circuit too, that is, move regularly in the sphere of obedience. After
warming at the fire of meditation, we must be fitter for work.
Meditation is the life of piety; and practice is the life of meditation. It
is said in the honor of Gregory Nazianzen, that he lived out his own
sermons. So a godly Christian must live out his own meditations. For
1. When you have been meditating on sin, which,
for its bitterness, is compared to grapes of gall; for its
damnableness to poison of asps, and you begin to burn in a holy
indignation against sin—now put your meditations in practice—give sin a bill
of divorce, Job 11:14. "If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and
let not wickedness dwell in your tabernacles."
2. When you have been meditating on the graces of
the Spirit, let the verdure and luster of these graces be seen in you. Live
these graces. Meditate, "that you may observe and do." It was Paul's counsel
to Timothy, "Exercise yourself to godliness." Meditation and practice
are like a pair of compasses, the one part of the compass fixes upon the
center, and the other part goes round the circumference. Just so, a
Christian by meditation fixes upon God as the center, and by practice goes
around the circumference of the commandments.
A man who has let his thoughts run out upon riches, will
not only have them in the notion—but will endeavor to get
riches. Let your meditation be practical. When you have been meditating upon
a promise, live upon a promise. When you have been meditating on a
good conscience, never leave until you can say as Paul, "Herein I exercise
myself, to have a good conscience," Acts 24:16. Beloved, here lies the very
essence of true religion.
That this rule may be well observed, consider,
1. It is only the practical part of religion,
which will make a man blessed. Meditation is a beautiful flower—but Rachel
said to her husband: "Give me children or I die," Gen. 30:1. So, If
meditation is barren, and does not bring forth the child of obedience—it
will die and come to nothing!
2. If when you have meditated in God's law, you do
not obey his law, you will come short of those who have come short of
heaven. It is said of Herod, Mark 6:20, "He did many things;" he was
in many things a practicer of John's ministry. Those who meditate in God's
law, and do not practice it, are not so good as Herod. Nay, they are no
better than the devil; he knows much—but still he is a devil.
3. Meditation without practice will increase a man's
condemnation. If a father writes a letter to his son, and the son shall
read over this letter, and study it—yet not do as his
father writes, this would be an aggravation of his fault, and would but
provoke his father the more against him. Thus when we have meditated upon
the evil of sin, and the beauty of holiness—yet we do not
eschew the one, nor espouse the other, it will but incense the divine
Majesty so much the more against us, and we shall "be beaten with many