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is necessary, God commands it; saith he to Joshua, “thou shalt meditate in the law day and night, that thou mayest observe to do, according to all that is written therein.” Josh. 1. S. Joshua was a prince of Israel, had numerous employments, and yet notwithstanding such multiplicity of business, saith God to him, “thou shalt meditate.” And Hag. 1. 5. “ thus saith the Lord of hosts, consider your ways." It is a duty which falls under an absolute command, and this command of God cuts off all the vain pleas of carnal men, and all those hinderances which take them off from this duty. There are four I shall name, all cut off by this command of God.
i. Some pretend their unfitness for this duty; they want both temper and matter; they cannot confine their thoughts to an object, and there is such a barrenness in their souls, they have not spiritual objects to discourse upon. For answer, consider,
1. That man's disability doth not give him an exemption from duty. If you have lost your power, yet God hath not lost his right. He commands you to do it, and will this be a sufficient plea at the last day to say, you cannot do it ?
2. This unfitness of thine proceeds from a corruptedness of spirit. Thy heart is carnal and sensual, and therefore thou canst not meditate on spiritual things. If there were but love in thy soul, that would nail thy heart to holy objects. “Oh how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day" (saith David in the text.) Dost thou think one sin shall excuse another ? You cannot meditate, what is the reason ? because you have carnal hearts. Nay,
3. This argues thou hast been guilty of the neglect of this duty, thou art unfit because thou hast neglected it. We may see in nature, those beasts that are very fierce, yet are tamed by custom, and manageable by use. A little child will lead a beast when he hath been used to it; so thy thoughts which are very fleeting and unruly, yet if thou didst use to call them to an account, if thou didst issue out a command, and wast resolved to serve God in this duty, this would bring thy thoughts to a consistency,
ii. (And this is the common objection against this and all other duties) Mutitude of business. There are many who will tell you, that they are so harassed by the employments of this world, that they cannot spend time in this duty solemnly, and seriously. But to answer.
1. Consider, that the duties of religion, are not slight matters, to be performed in an idle hour. Shall those things which are the special acts of thy life, give way to thy worldly occasions ? Suppose you should hear a husbandman say thus, I have so much business that I can neither plow nor sow, would you not look upon that man as mad ? and doth it not argue a greater madness, for a man to say thus; I have so many employments that
; I cannot mind, or meditate upon those things which relate to eternity? I told you before, that a prince cannot plead dismission from this duty, although his employments are very numerous. Nay,
2. A multitude of business is so far from dismissing thee from this duty, that it should rather excite thee to it. For argue thus, if my affairs be many and various, I have more need to meditate upon the law of God, that so I may behave myself therein with a clear and cheerful conscience; and therefore pretend not this, for this will never avail thee at the last day.
ii. Much less can spiritual laziness, give us an exemption from this duty; and this (in truth) is the great cause why men do not perform it. Vain men lie upon the bed of security, as if grace would drop out of the clouds; as if glory were the fruit of a few verbal prayers; this is the temper of worldly men, but this will never excuse you from this duty. If you do but consider that heaven itself is the reward of the victorious,“the violent take it by force.” Matt. 11. 12. If the duty require sweat and pains, remember that there is a crown which is promised as the reward of it. "Blessed is the man who meditates in the law of the Lord;" Psal. 1. 1, 2. there is a blessed eternity that shall be his portion; and consider this, how many of the world spend the flower of their time, the vigour of their affections, the strength of their bodies, and all in the service of sin; they toil like horses in the service of sin; and shall they spend more of their strength and time in that work which is the worst drudgery, and when their wages is eternal death, than you will do in the work of God?
iv. Sensual pleasure is another hinderance of this duty; the pleasures of the world discompose our souls, and unfit our bodies for the duties of meditation. A voluptuous man is like water, which is a fluid element, and frequent in motion; who can set a seal upon water? Now when thy soul is drenched in pleasures, it is made fluid, and always moving and running, from one thing to another, and this unfits thee. Oh remember this, the sweetness of religion is incomparably more than all the pleasures of sense. If a christian would but experience this duty of meditation, and observe what a rich income both of grace and joy it produceth to his soul, I should need no argument to press it
You have heard the nature of meditation, that it is a duty obliging all of us; Oh that I could persuade you to a serious and conscientious exercise of it: Oh that every day you would consecrate some time to meditate on the word. It is an expression of Bellarmine before his book, The Ascent of the Mind to God; writing to a great man, he tells him, the pretence of outward employments and the like, cannot excuse him from this duty; for no man can say thus, I have so much business that I cannot eat or sleep; much more let thy soul (which is the better part) have some nourishment every day.' Be frequent in occasional meditation, and raise up thy soul to God by it, and remember the scripture is a comment upon the book of the creature. And set apart some time for solemn meditation. What is the reason the ordinances are so unsuccessful? but because men do not meditate. Why do we make such slow progress in the ways of christianity, and our souls drive like Pharaoh's chariots without wheels ? but because we do not meditate. Why are we so frequently vanquished by sin ? but for want of meditation.
The great reason why some draw back, and others make no swifter progress, is this, because they are not seriously and constantly and conscientiously every day doing something in this duty.
of the time for meditation. The frequency of it; urged by two motives,
The continuance of it. Morning, evening, night, and the sabbath day, the most proper seasons for it.
111. The time for this duty; and there are three things I
THE shall open to you in reference to that; the frequency of it; the continuance; the seasons when we may most for the advantage of our souls draw forth our meditations.
i. For the frequency.
In the general. you must know, the scripture doth not positively determine any set times wherein we are obliged to meditate.
Spiritual prudence and holy affections should give rules to us for the frequency of meditation. The scripture speaks in general terms, David tells us of a godly man, that he “meditates in the law day and night.” Psal. 1. 2. Col. 4. 2. Eph. 6. 18. And as for his own practice, although he had the business of a kingdom, and the pleasure of the court to divert him, yet saith he, it is my meditation “all the day," which implies the constant disposition of his soul to this duty, and likewise that ordinarily he was wont to set apart some portion of every day for the performance of it. There are two things which should persuade you to frequency in it.
1. By frequency, you will make your thoughts more pliable for the discharge of this duty. Your souls will be more accomplished and fitted for the exercise of it. You know that customary running makes a person long breathed. So when we often use ourselves to this duty, our thoughts will be more consistent, and we shall be more improved and ripened for the exercise of it. Whereas he that long neglects it, will find that meditation first is unpleasant, then unnecessary, at last burthensome and odious; and this proceeds from disuse.
2. Long interruptions of it will hinder the fruit of it. When there are large gaps and strides between our performance of this
duty, we lose the benefit of our former meditations. As it is with our bodies, if a man makes a free, and liberal meal, this will not maintain his body to morrow, and a day after, but he must have constant food, else nature languishes and decays ; so you meditate to day, but if you should neglect it for many days after, you will lose the benefit of it, and the soul decays and languishes. If the biril leaves her nest for a long space, the eggs chill and are not fit for production ; but when there is a constant incubation, then they bring forth : so when we leave religious duties for a long space, our affections chill, and grow cold; and are not fit to produce holiness, and comfort to our souls ; but when we are constant in this work, then shall we find the advantage of it;
ii. For the continuance of this duty, how long must we continue in it?
I answer, so long ordinarily till thou dost find some sensible benefit conveyed to thy soul. The nature of man doth much disrelish this duty, and we are apt to be soon weary of it; our thoughts are like a bird in the cage, which flutters the more because of its confinement; so our thoughts are apt to run strayingly out, when we confine them to such a duty as this is; but he that begins and doth not proceed, loses the benefit of the duty. As it is in the kindling of a fire in wet wood, you know continuance is that which must cause the flame. When you blow at first, there is a little smoke arises, by holding on you raise sparks, but he that goes forward at last brings it to a flame. So it is in the duty of meditation; when you begin to meditate upon spiritual things, at first you raise a smoke a few sighs towards God; by continuance you raise some sparks of heavenly desires; but at last there is a flame of holy affections that goes up towards God. Now you should not ordinarily leave the work till the flame doth so ascend. When a man goes forth in a calm and serene evening, and views the face of the heavens, he shall first see a star or two twinkle and peep forth; but if he continues, both their number and lustre is increased, and at last he sees the whole heaven is bespangled with stars in every part ; so when thou dost meditate upon the promises of the gospel ; at first it may be one star begins to appear, a little light conveys itself to thy heart; but go forwards and then thou wilt find when thy thoughts are amplified and ripened, there will be a clear light,