Considering Our Will During Meditation

June 12, 2010


Continuing on with Ranew’s treatment of meditation, this chapter addresses concerns about our will.  It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and have the best of intentions.  Often, though, I’ve found myself thinking one thing and doing another; questioning my spiritual character before God.  The Bible says obedience is better than sacrifice, so our hearts and consciences need to be truthful and obedient.  Certainly, to some degree or another, we all struggle with a misdirected will.  If you consider the value of any spiritual growth or meditation, though, of what worth is it if we can’t apply it to our own lives?  That’s something I’m looking at within my spiritual condition.  My own faithfulness to the things of God that I know I understand.  Ranew has some worthwhile things to say.  

Chapter 5 (Part 1, page 18) – What the Will must intend in Meditation.

I shall name five particulars: there must be,

  1. An aim and firm purpose to make the duty a right work, to make sure it be made true.
  2. A free and full purpose of a wise work, to have it a work of spiritual wisdom.
  3. A firm purpose for a vigorous and spirited performing.
  4. A strong purpose of watching and earnest striving against all diversions and interruptions.
  5. In a firm purpose of utmost endeavour of success, and having the right and kindly end and fruit of the duty.

1. A right work.  The will’s purpose and intendment must be to make the duty of meditation a right work; to make sure it be made true and sincere, John 4:24.  Not a carcass, a painted piece, without soul and substance, a formality without power.  Not a mere work performed, as it were to flatter God, who looks for a duty, as they in Psalm 78:36,37 are said to flatter God with their lips, but their heart was not right with him.  We are ready to flatter him with our modes of meditation, and fashions of thinkings, with our formalities, without realities and truth, and the work’s being sincere.  It must not be a flattering of God, but a true pleasing him, from being true itself.  It must not be a work daubed over with the untempered mortar of our own heart’s self-deceitfulness, setting up a thing to show like it, and be something near it only, and putting thereby a cheat upon ourselves.  Nor must it be a thing only to stop the mouth of our consciences, keep them from calling on and challenging of us; but we must design it strongly and firmly, to purpose, through God, to proffer to and please him with a sincere work.  “Walk before me, and be thou perfect,”  Gen 17:1.  This must be understood, certainly, of every walk and path we go in:not a walk in some one way, or divers, and not all; but in every walking sincerity must be a property, a qualification designed and firmly resolved; and we must not be satisfied unless it be right meditating, such as Scripture requires, and saints in Scripture practised; yea, that they told God himself that they performed, Psa. 119:23.  And doubtless David durst not tell the heart-searching God he meditated, if he had done it formally and hypocritically, and not been sincere and upright in it.

2. The intendment of the will must be for making this duty a wise work, to make it a work of spiritual wisdom.  The apostle, in Eph. 5:17, says, “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”  And in 2 Tim. 3:15, there is mention of wisdom to salvation: and in Prov.9:12, wisdom is called on for ourselves.

(1) Wise in respect of God.  Certainly, as Solomon did things of great excellency to show himself very wise; so when the most high God’s honour is concerned, and when he will be present at our performances, and comes as it were purposely to them, shall we present him with any foolish piece; not design a wise work, and not be seen acting wisely?

(2) Wise in reference to ourselves.  Should we not also strongly purpose to make this duty a wise work, a work of sure wisdom for ourselves, and lay it fully level to the grand mark of eternal salvation for ourselves?  Solomon, in Prov. 17:21, saith, “The father of a fool hath no joy:” so the parent of a foolish acting will have no joy: it is the godly, prudent acting, whose fruit is peace, and which issues in heavenly joy.  Oh how sweet and comfortable is that duty, in which we have acted up to the rule of sound wisdom!

3. A spirited and lively work.  There must be a firm and strong purpose and intendment for a vigorous and spirited, a lively and warm work.  “Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” Rom.12:11.  In every duty we must have a purpose of striking fire, of making the heart burning hot: it must not be lukewarm, in an indifferency, that is but lazy; nor blood-warm, that is but low.  But the soul’s purpose and design must be for highest hear and fervence, greatest vigour and activity.  As artists in some high operations, seek for the hottest fire. 

As warmest preaching and warmest hearing, as the disciples’ hearts burned within them, when Christ opened the Scriptures, Luke 24:32.  And so warmest reading and warmest meditating.  In David’s heart, while he mused, the fire burned, Psa 39:3.  So when we meditate, we should intend a warm work, to be very warm at the heart.

4. A striving against all lets.  In a strong purpose of earnest striving against all lets and interruptions.  The whole work of a Christian here, must not only be vigorous and sedulous, but striving and contentious.  “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” Luke 13:24.  Every single and particular duty must bear a part of striving to enter in at the strait gate; for this is to be applied to every particular duty, though christ speaks only in general, bidding us strive.  Two things make up the notion of striving.

(1) Intention and earnestness.

(2) Contention against opposition.  When a man strives, he acts earnestly; and when he strives after or for a thing, he strives also with that which is against him.  Striving is against something that lets or opposes.  In all soul work, and peculiarly in this of meditation, the throng of difficulties is great, the oppositions are many, therefore the purposes and resolutions of heart must be strong and high.  None ever carry on their work well, who are not first well resolved, and still renew and link one firm purpose to another, to hold on their course to the last.

5.  A purpose for the kindly issuing of meditation.  The will must purpose firmly to endeavour still the kindly issue and success of the duty.  Look, saith the apostle, ye lose not the things wrought, 2 John 8.  Who would set up at the labour in vain?  Christ’s sweet promise is, “The seed of the blessed of the Lord shall not labour in vain,” Isa. 65:23.  The way, among others, of having it performed, is by grounding our endeavours in strong and rooted resolutions for that running and pressing on, and looking after our duties doing: until the work winds up, and issues in the spiritual ends, in the sweet success it is appointed unto; such as increase of holiness and grace, and improvement of communion with God.   Success sets the crown on the head of the work: resolve to get the crown still set on the head of every duty, that it may shine in the glory of success.

These are the five special branches this root of resolution should put forth; these, as so many precious corner-stones should lie at the bottom of this building, the better to bear it up.  These should be as so many great arteries branching forth from the heart, to convey vital spirits into the body of this heavenly duty of meditation, and keep it alive, and warm, and improvingly active.

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