Rules About Meditation

June 11, 2010


I’m currently reading through a book by Nathaniel Ranew.  It’s called “Solitude Improved by Divine Meditation.”  I’ve only recently become interested in the idea of Biblical Meditation.  There doesn’t seem to be too much written about the idea in today’s marketplace.  You can probably draw upon several contemporary sociological issues to try to rationalize why  it seems as though people don’t meditate much.  You gather from most Puritan writings that Christian meditation was at one time a highly encouraged and, indeed, to an extent, a catechized behavior.  But I don’t know.  I think people are, by God, a naturally meditative race.  However, most of what we are inclined to meditate upon today, I believe, is rubbish.  But I think I’ll leave that thought for another day.

A Puritan Divine, Ranew was minister of St. Andrew Hubbard, Little Eastcheap, London about 1644.  In ’68, he was sent to Felsted, Essex, to replace Samuel Warton after his death.  Around 1662 he was ejected from Felsted for non-conformity, not adhering to the King’s prescribed methods of preaching and worship, and eventually settled in Billericay.  He died in 1677, having lived 75 years.

The excerpt below is from his book (chapter 3 of part 2; page 92).  Since most people, myself included, gravitate towards articles that teach us “how-to-do” things, I’d thought I’d start off by giving you an insight into what Ranew means when he speaks about Divine Meditation.  The following is the flow of the meditative exercise from the rising of the morning and throughout the course of the day. 

The more particular rules we may use for this daily meditation, are these following.

  1. Meditation of setting up the master mark, the glorifying of the most high God.
  2. Next unto it, meditation of eternal happiness in the enjoying of God. 
  3. Meditation then after it of the sure and adequate means for attaining them both. 

And these are therefore to be meditated upon:

  1. Meditating on, Jesus Christ, the only way to the Father by his work of redemption.
  2. Meditating on, The Holy Spirit, the great applier of Christ and his redemption.
  3. Meditating on, The holy ordinances of God, the usual ways of the Spirit’s coming to apply Christ by.
  4. Meditating on, The word of God, chiefly the promises of the gospel: these on God’s part.
  5. Meditating on, our part, by our use of the ordinances, and the word and promises, and that faith and holiness whereby we come to union and communion with God, glorify him, and obtain salvation; faith as the instrument of receiving Christ, and both faith and holiness, or the graces of Christ, as our principle of life and power, to live unto God, and growing up to perfection against all opposition.

1.  The first thing according to the rule of best wisdom, which lays the surest foundation in any course, is first to take into most serious consideration the supreme and chief end, and to act a fresh setting up before us that master mark and scope of the most high God, and the glorifying of him, to be continued as we can through the whole course of the day.

Meditation of this glorifying God, for pure, lively, and highest advancing of it, this is the soul’s best operation, and runs most parallel to the perfect work of heaven.  Heaven’s higher acting is contemplation of the most blessed God, for the most transcendent exalting of the glory: the rule of Scripture is, to do all to the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10:31.  And this rule must therefore have its place and power here; therefore this daily meditation must take it in , and set it up.  It must be every one’s wisdom to bottom our day meditation, with the still eyeing of and aiming at the glorifying of the most high God.  To begin with the fresh thoughts, and also the warmest frame of spirit, for furthering the supreme end, the glory of God, and with it , as fit to be annexed unto it, that which is wrapped up with it, our own eternal happiness.

In a watch, and divers artificial motions, the evenness and expediteness of the motion is from evener or unevener, stronger or weaker drawing of the spring, the first mover.  Thus is it in godliness, a christian’s motions are answerable to his eyeings more or less of the main end.  Christians complain of their daily dead-heartedness and unevenness; it much arises from the so little or listless lookings at the main mark.  Paul looked earnestly, and he presses hard.  In archery, those who eye the mark most earnestly and steadily hit the oftenest and fullest.  The wisest Christian is the most earnest, equal eyer of the main end.  There be many particulars in this head, which according to prudence and leisure may have their seasons of ponderings.

The variety will produce delight, and set an edge upon the spirit, apt to grow heavy and weary; they are such as these: as the considerations of the most high God, in all his infinite glories and perfections: his all-sufficiency, in his knowledge, wisdom, holiness, righteousness, and the rest; but chiefly in his so infinite and unchangeable love, and riches of free grace: the infinite obligations eternally lying upon us, for glorifying and exalting of him: the infinite excellences and fulness of the second Person, and his infinite love, in undertaking with his Father, to redeem lost sinners: and the infinite love of the third Person, the Holy Spirit, the applier of redemption.  Some most serious meditation of God, and glorifying him, to give down into the heart a glowing heat and liveliness for all the following day, is still fit in some measure to be practised.

2.  The next should be some serious musing on that next end, our own salvation and eternal happiness, further to be wrought out, to be our day labour, by the opportunity of a new begun day, a day which will bring us nearer to the ocean of eternity.

For me this is both convicting and reassuring.  I think there is so much that could be said about this, but for now two things stand out.  First, when he says “Christians complain of their daily dead-heartedness and unevenness; it much arises from the so little or listless lookings at the main mark.”  Was this written in 2010?  Amazing.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard the problem and remedy for dead spirituality stated so succinctly.  Our day and our being should be focused on the one chief end or “main mark”; that of glorifying God.  Second, glorifying God is not only our obligation as grateful Christians but it is wonderfully good for us.  Giving God the praise He deserves works to keep all things bearing on life in perspective.

Note: Biographical information found in part within Joel Beeke’s and R.J. Pederson’s book “Meet the Puritans.”

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