13. Meditation

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
"His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night."—Psa. 1:22But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
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.
The devil is an enemy to meditation; he cares not how much people read and hear, nor how little they meditate; he knows that meditation is a means to compose the heart, and to bring it into a gracious frame; now the devil is against that; Satan is content that you should be hearing and praying Christians, so that ye be not meditating Christians; he can stand your small shot, provided that you do not put in this bullet.
A Christian when he goes to meditate, must lock up himself from the world. The world spoils meditation; Christ went "apart" into the mount to pray, so go apart when you are to meditate; "Isaac went out to meditate in the field" (Gen. 24:6363And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. (Genesis 24:63)). He sequestered and retired himself that he might take a walk with God by meditation. The world's music will either play us asleep, or distract us in our meditations. When a mote is gotten into the eye, it hinders the sight; 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. When Abraham went to sacrifice he left his servant and the ass at the bottom of the hill (Gen. 22:55And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Genesis 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. This is the first thing, lock and bolt the door against the world.
There must be in meditation a fixing the heart upon the object; carnal Christians are like quicksilver which cannot be made to fix; their thoughts are roving up and down and will not fix; like the bird that hops from one bough to another, and stays nowhere. David was a man fit to meditate: "O God, my heart is fixed" (Psa. 108:11<<A Song or Psalm of David.>> O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. (Psalm 108:1)). In meditation there must be a staying of the thoughts upon the object: "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:1919But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)).
Meditation AND MEMORY
The meditation of a thing hath 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. When David began to meditate on God, it was sweet to him as marrow (Psa. 63:5-65My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: 6When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. (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 down.
Meditation AND STUDY
Meditation and study differ. Study is a work of the brain, meditation of the heart; study sets the invention on work, meditation sets the affection on work. Study is the finding out of a truth, meditation is the spiritual improvement of a truth; the one searcheth for the vein of gold, the other digs out the gold. Study is like a winter sun that hath 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.
Without meditation the truth 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. Without meditation the truths which we know will never affect our hearts, "These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart" (Deut. 6:66And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: (Deuteronomy 6:6)). 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. Without meditation the word preached may increase notion, not affection. Meditation fetcheth life in a truth. There are many truths lie, as it were, in the heart dead, which when we meditate upon, they begin to have light and heat in them.
The best time to converse with God is, before worldly occasions stand knocking 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. Wind up thy heart towards heaven in the beginning of the day, and it will go the better all the day after. He that loseth his heart in the morning in the world, will hardly find it again all the day.
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 yeoman were to dine in the same room, and to sit at two tables; if the yeoman should have his meat 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 shall be served first, all our morning thoughts attending it, and the Lord shall be put off with the dregs of the day, is not this a contempt done to the God of glory? 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 "before the foundations of the world." Before we fell He was thinking how to raise us. We had the morning of His thoughts. We have taken up His thoughts from eternity: if we have had some of God's first thoughts, well may He have our first thoughts. "In the morning the dew fell" (Ex. 16:1313And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. (Exodus 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 betimes in the morning before he be gone out. I would not by this, wholly exclude evening meditation. Isaac went out to meditate in the eventide (Gen. 24:6363And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. (Genesis 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. 29:3939The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even: (Exodus 29:39)), as the cream at the top is sweet, so the sugar at the bottom.
Meditate till thou findest thy heart grow warm. If when a man is cold, you ask how long he should stand by the fire? Sure, till he be thoroughly warm, and made fit for his work. So, Christian, thy heart is cold; never a day, no, not the hottest day in summer, but it freezeth there; now stand at the fire of meditation till thou findest thy affections warmed, and thou art made fit for spiritual service. David mused till his heart waxed hot within him: "While I was musing the fire burned" (Psa. 39:33My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, (Psalm 39:3)).
Meditation is an excellent means to profit by the word: reading may bring a truth into the head, meditation brings it into the heart; better meditate on one sermon than hear five. There is a disease in children called the rickets, when they have great heads, but their lower parts are small and thrive not. I wish many professors have not the spiritual rickets, they have great heads, much knowledge, but yet they thrive not in godliness, their heart is faint, their feet feeble, they walk not vigorously in the ways of God; and the cause of this disease is, the want of meditation. Illumination without meditation makes us no better than devils. Satan is an angel of light, yet black enough.
Meditation doth make the heart serious. Some Christians have light hearts: "Her prophets are light" (Zeph. 3:44Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law. (Zephaniah 3:4)). 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; now meditation makes the heart serious. Meditation consolidates a Christian; solid gold is best; the solid Christian is the only metal that will pass current with God.
Meditation is the bellows of the affections. We light affection at this fire of meditation, "while I was musing the fire burned" (Psa. 39:33My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, (Psalm 39:3)). Illumination makes us shining lamps, meditation makes us burning lamps.
Meditation fits for prayer. Meditation first furnisheth with matter to pray, and then furnisheth with a heart to pray. "I muse on the work of Thy hands, I stretch forth my hands unto Thee" (Psa. 143:5-65I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. 6I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah. (Psalm 143:5‑6)). The musing of his head made way for the stretching forth of his hands in prayer. Prayer is the child of meditation: meditation leads the van, and prayer brings up the rear.
Meditation is a strong antidote against sin; sin puts a worm into conscience, a sting into death, a fire into hell; did men meditate of this, that after all their dainty dishes, death will bring in the reckoning in hell, they would say as David in another sense, ""Let me not eat of their dainties" (Psa. 141:44Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties. (Psalm 141:4)). The devil's apple hath a bitter core.
Meditation is an excellent means to lessen our esteem of the world. Great things seem little to him that stands high, if he could live among the stars, the earth would seem as nothing. He who is catching at a crown, will not fish for gudgeons, as Cleopatra once said to Mark Antony.
Read before you meditate. "Give attendance to reading" (1 Tim. 4:1313Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (1 Timothy 4:13)). Then it follows, "meditate on these things" (verse 15). Reading doth furnish with matter; it is the oil that feeds the lamp of meditation. Be sure your meditations are founded upon Scripture. Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is dangerous.
Meditate not on too many things at once. One truth driven home by meditation will most kindly affect the heart. 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.
Pray over your meditations. Prayer fastens meditation upon the soul; prayer is a-tying a knot at the end of meditation that it doth not slip.
Let meditation be reduced to practice. Live over your meditation. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law" (Josh. 1:88This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:8)). Meditation and practice, like two sisters, must go hand in hand. The end of meditation is action. They who meditate in God's law, and observe not to do, are no better than the devil; he knows much, but still he is a devil.