Puritan Meditation

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A Poem

Rogers, Richard – A Sweet Meditation: A poem on the benefit of reading, conference, musing on holy things, and prayer: containing a complaint that these holy exercises are neglected for that which is worse than nothing, even men’s sinful will, 1603, 46 stanzas

One of the fathers of puritanism, Richard Rogers (1551-1618), in his continual walking with God was ‘the Enoch of his age,’ according to his esteemed puritan grandson, William Jenkyn.  His poem is delightful.

 

 

Video

Beeke, Joel – The Puritan Art of Godly Meditation, Video clip, 2:46 min.

 

 

Extract

Gearing, William – Of Meditation and the Fittest Season of it, Gearing died 1688, 2 pages, starting on p. 57, being chapter 18 of his The Sacred Diary: or Select Meditations for Every Part of the Day

 

 

Puritan Works  (29)

(In Chronological Order)

Hall, Joseph – The Art of Divine Meditation,  Buy no date, 60 pages, reprinted 1964 by Sovereign Grace Publishers

Hall, Joseph – Meditations and Vows, Divine and Moral, 1609, 208 pages, Hall was a reformed Anglican bishop

Hall, Joseph – A Meditation on the Love of Christ: a Holy Rapture, 27 pages, p. 283 of his larger collected work, Treatises Devotional and Practical, Hall was a reformed Anglican bishop

Stoughton, Thomas – David’s Meditation on the Word of God, 1616, p. 293 of his Two Profitable Treatises, 140 pages

Rous, Francis – Of Meditation, 1616, 6 pages, being chapter 8 of his Art of Happiness, retitled, Treatises and Meditations Dedicated to the Saints

Warwick, Arthur – Spare Minutes: or Resolved Meditations and Premeditated Resolutions, 1634, p. 171, 47 pages, 61 meditations in the first part and 37 in the second part, being bound at the end of the Table Talk of John Seldon.  Warwick, according to the Post-Reformation Digital Library, was Reformed. 

“The theme that they [the mediatations] symbolically express is of the pious soul overcoming the world and ascending to heaven, leaving behind his work and memory for the edification of those who remain.” – Dictionary of National Biography

Sibbes, Richard – Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations,  Buy  1638, 43 pages, with a four page introduction by Ezekiel Culverwell.  338 short meditations, about a paragraph long each, from his various writings.  From volume 7 of his works.

Shepard, Thomas – Meditations and Spiritual Experiences,  Buy  1640, 135 pages, with a 17 page introductory essay by J.R. Anderson, a Free Church of Scotland minister, and a 9 page account of the author.  These are diary meditations of Shepard from throughout his life.

Joel Beeke: “When I first read Alexander Whyte’s book on Thomas Shepard some thirty years ago, I was frequently moved to tears. Whyte selects a number of individual and experimental statements from Shepard’s writings and meditates on them in the most moving manner, persuading the reader of the heinousness of sin, the depravity of our heart, and the riches and glory of Christ Jesus. This is one of the most spiritual books I have ever read. It is convicting, humbling, uplifting, and enlarging all at once, moving the soul near to God through Word-centered, Spirit-empowered truth. Read one chapter an evening. Meditate on it; pray over it. Let it penetrate your inmost being.”

The Westminster Larger Catechism, 1646

#121 – Why is the word ‘Remember’ set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?

The word ‘Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labour to blot out the glory and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.

Church of Scotland – Causes of the Lord’s Wrath Against Scotland, 1651, 10 reasons listed and then expounded on.  This is also printed in George Gillespie’s two volume works

This will break your heart.  It is perhaps the most searching and thorough confession of sin ever confessed by a national church over its land.  Examine your own life before it every year.  May our churches and lands confess our sins before God likewise.  

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  – 2 Chron. 7:14

Ambrose, Isaac – Of the Nature and Kinds of Meditation, 1652, 23 pages, being chapter 8 of his Media, the Middle things in reference to the first and last things : or, The means, duties, ordinances, both secret, private, and public, for continuance and increase of a Godly life, once begun till we come to Heaven

“The chapter contains six sections.  The first defines meditation; the second deals with ‘circumstantials’ such as time, place and possible subjects; the third and fourth examine occasional and deliberate meditation, respectively, and the final two each provide an extended example of a deliberate meditation.” – Amy Gant

White, Thomas – Instructions for the Art of Divine Mediation,  Buy  HTML, 1655, 230 pages.  White was a presbyterian puritan.  Calamy, one of the Westminster divines, said that this is “one of the best books we have on the subject.”

“Although similar to Ball’s style in that his explanations are driven by numbered lists and are moderately brief (if it is possible to thus characterize any Puritan publication), White’s work is less catechetical than Ball’s, and is instead divided into topical chapters; yet White does provide possible objections and answers to his points.” – Amy Gant

Watson, Thomas – A Christian on the Mount: Or, a Treatise concerning Meditation,  Buy  1657, 98 pages

“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.” – Publisher

Ball, John – A Treatise of Divine Meditation,  Buy POD  1660, 284 pages, the first 136 pages of it are re-typset on 31 PDF pages here

“His book is fairly straightforward, generally written in a list-based style with brief explanations for a number of items under a given heading, and often utilizes a question-and-answer format. The first 138 pages of this work address meditation in general from a standpoint of instruction-giving, while the latter of Ball’s 284 total pages contain example meditations and applications of meditations on a variety of subjects.” – Amy Gant

Fenner, William – The Use and Benefit of Divine Meditation, HTML, 1665, a sermon on Hag. 1:5, “Now therefore saith the Lord of Hosts, Consider your ways.”

“Fenner’s style is fervent and emphatic. Fittingly, repetition and parallel construction, which lend themselves well to this sort of address, are frequent and noticeable. In addition, Fenner makes abundant use of examples and illustrations to make certain complicated points clear and memorable for his audience. These illustrations, which derive from sources as diverse as (for example) Aesop’s tales, Scriptural narratives, the church fathers, and the natural world, are in addition to his main prose narrative exhortation. Further, he employs specific Scripture passages from which he draws his doctrine and practice, and makes frequent use of lists.” – Amy Gant

Fenner, William – The Second Sermon of the Use and Benefit of Divine Meditation, HTML, 1665, a sermon on Hag. 1:5, “Now therefore saith the Lord of Hosts, Consider your ways.”  This is a substantial but incomplete form of the sermon

Spurstowe, William – The Spiritual Chemyst, or Divine Meditations on Several Subjects,  Buy  1666, 268 pages

Bridge, William – The Sweetness and Profitableness of Divine Meditation,  Buy  1667, 19 pages, p. 124 of volume three of his works, a sermon on Ps. 104:34, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord

Bridge, William – The Work and Way of Meditation, HTML,  Buy  1667, 17 pages, p. 143 of volume three of his works, a sermon on Ps. 104:34, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord

Ranew, Nathanael – Solitude Improved by Divine Meditation,  Buy  1670, 341 pages, the first two chapters of the work have been re-typeset on HTML 

“In its entirety, Solitude Improved is considerably longer than any other Puritan works on meditation; this is largely due to Ranew’s blending of a more verbose style of writing common to sermons with an inclusiveness of topics common to manuals.

Because of the length, inclusiveness, and accessible style of Ranew’s work, this book is an excellent place to begin a study of Puritan meditative theology and practice.”

Howe, John – A Treatise of Delighting in God, 1674, 279 pages

Manton, Thomas – Illustrations and Meditations: or, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Manton died in 1677, 268 pages, these meditations were compiled from throughout Manton’s 22 volumes by Charles Spurgeon, who thought that they were the choicest sermon illustrations.  Spurgeon’s collection was published in 1883.

Each of these paragraph long meditations, often from daily life occurrences, breathe deep profundity and spirituality.  Spurgeon had the highest regard for Manton’s writings.

Calamy, Edmund – The Art of Divine Meditation,  Buy POD  1680, 232 pages, being ten sermons on Gen. 24:63, “And Isaac went out to meditate in the fields at the even-tide.”  Calamy was a Westminster divine

Calamy “…had connections through politics, religion, print, and society with a number of other authors on meditation.  Unlike the other collections of sermons, Calamy’s work appears to have been gathered together specifically for a print edition; that is, unlike the works of Fenner and Bridge, it is difficult to tell where one of Calamy’s ten sermons ends and another begins.  Although there are a number of passages which repeat earlier ideas as if reminding his hearers of something from a previous message, divisions are unclear. Neither is his work divided into chapters, as the manuals are; indeed, Calamy’s table of contents is quite circuitous, having an outline with an unclear hierarchy and several nested lists.

Even so, his work on this topic is strong: his prose is clear, his explanations are sound, his examples and illustrations are useful, and his pastoral care for his audience is evident. Though less passionate and drawn to extremes in his discourse than others such as William Fenner, Calamy’s presentation is nonetheless full of entreaty, appealing variously to mind, heart and conscience. Even while providing important information about this topic, he attempts to win also the hearts and emotions of his audience, that they may hear, understand, and obey God’s call to the duty of divine meditation.” – Amy Gant  

Gearing, William – Of Meditation and the Fittest Season of it, Gearing died 1688, 2 pages, starting on p. 57, being chapter 18 of his The Sacred Diary: or Select Meditations for Every Part of the Day

Flavel, John – Husbandry [Farming] Spiritualized: or the Heavenly Use of Earthly Things, in which Husbandmen [Farmers) are Directed to an Excellent Improvement of their Common Emplyments, Whereunto are Added Occasional Meditations upon Birds, Beasts, Trees, Flowers, etc., died 1691, starts on p. 25, 275 pages, from volume 5 of his works

Flavel derives many spiritual lessons from general revelation and the application of the scriptures to the daily work of farmers, growing trees, taking care of animals and gardening.  Such was the practice of Job and his friends (Job 12:7-8, etc.)

Flavel, John – Navigation Spiritualized, or a New Compass for Seamen, died 1691, 87 pages, from volume 5 of his works

Flavel ministered in a seaport town.  Here he helps sailors draw spiritual lessons from their calling from God.  “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.”  Ps. 107:23-24

Manton, Thomas – Sermons on the 24th Chapter of Genesis, HTML, 1693, ten sermons on Gen. 24:63, “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide” 

“While each of these ten [sermons] could stand alone, they link closely together as a series which develops a full theology of meditation. The first five sermons explain the doctrine and practice of meditation, and the final five provide examples of how to meditate on certain subjects. Uniquely, Manton subdivides deliberate meditation into dogmatical and practical categories… 

Manton, a D.D., has a style more unadorned and academic than many of these other sermon writers, lacking their frequency and creativity of examples and illustrations; Manton’s prose remains much closer to biblical passages that he references, and often takes his illustrations directly from the Bible rather than from his daily life. Often digressing into discussion of Latin or Greek, and occasionally also Hebrew, he presents his argument via copious biblical cross-references and careful hermeneutical evaluation, divided into many numbered lists. Through such techniques, he presents material in a plain but nevertheless earnest and accessible way. He also discusses meditation in regard to the Lord’s Supper in a notably extensive way.” – Amy Gant

Bates, William – On Divine Meditation, died 1699, 53 pages, on Ps. 119:97, from Works, vol. 3, p. 113-165

Henry, Matthew – Directions for Daily Communion with God, p. 428 of Works, vol. 1, 1712, 37 pages, being 3 sermons: (1) How to begin the day with God, (2) How to spend the day with God, and (3) How to close every day with God. 

 

 

Contemporary Articles

Beeke, Joel – ‘The Puritan Practice of Meditation’  no date, 31 pp.

Gant, Amy

“Beating a Path to Heaven”: Nathanael Ranew and the Puritan Art of Divine Meditation in the 17th Century  2007  80 pp.  being a Masters thesis in history, with a 6 page bibliography

‘A Look at Modern Scholarship on Puritan Meditation’  2007, 15 paragraphs

‘Timeline of seventeenth century England and Puritan works on Meditation’  HTML  2007 

‘Understanding Puritan Meditation’  HTML  2007, a brief exposition of five points: its (1) Biblical basis, (2) Doctrinal basis, (3) its Focus on the Intellect, (4) Focus on the Affections, and (5) its Practical Applications to Daily Life.

 

 

 

Related Pages

Meditation

Self-Examination

Personal Godliness

Christian Living

Prayer