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Usually God cometh to us in our deep meditation; when the soul is most elevated, and fittest to entertain the comforts of his presence, then we have sensible experience of God.
1. The standing, spiritual benefits of meditation are many. It imprints and fastens a truth upon the mind and memory ; deliberate thoughts stick with us; as a lesson we have conned is not easily forgotten. Civet long kept in a box, the scent remaineth when the civet is taken out. Sermons meditated on, are remembered by us long after they are delivered. It sets the heart a-work. The greatest matters will not work upon him that doth not think of them. Tell them of sin, and God, and Christ, and Heaven, and Hell, and they stir them not, because they do not take these truths into their deep thoughts; or if they be stirred a little, it is but a fit, while the truth is held in the view of conscience. We had need in. culcate things, if we would have them to affect us. The steel must beat again and again upon the flint, if we would have the sparks fly out; so must the understanding bear hard upon the will, to get out any affection and respect to the ways of God. It showeth the beauty of truths. When we look upon them in transilu, we do not see half that is in them; but upon a deliberate view, it more appeareth; as there is a secret grace in some, that is not discerned but by much converse and narrow inspection. It helpeth to prevent vain thoughts: the mind of man is restless, and cannot lie idle; therefore, it is good to employ it with good thoughts, and set it a-work on holy things; for then there will be no time and heart for vanity, the mind being prepossessed and seasoned already; but when the heart is left to run loose, vanity increaseth upon us. Oh, Christians ! meditation is all; it is the mother and nurse of knowledge and godliness, the great instrument in all the offices of grace. We resemble the purity and simplicity of God most, in the holiness of our thoughts. Without meditation, we do but talk one after another like parrots, and take up things by mere hearsay, and repeat them by rote, without affection and life, or discerning the worth and excellency of what we speak. It is meditation that maketh truths always ready and present with us. “Bind them continually upon thy heart; when thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou wakest, it shall talk with thee” (Prov. vi. 21, 22). But I forbear.
2. Whereby the mind is applied to serious and solemn consideration. I add this, to distinguish it from occasional meditation, and those good thoughts that accidentally rush into our minds; and to note the care and attention of soul that we should use in such an exercise. It is musing makes the fire burn; glances or transient thoughts, or running over a truth in haste, is not meditation ; but a serious attention of mind. It is not to take a snatch and away ; but to make a meal of truth, and to work it into our hearts. Alas! a slight thought, that is like a flash of lightning, gone as soon as come, doth nothing. Constant thoughts are operative; and a truth, the longer it is held in the view of conscience, the more powerful it is : " Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day” (Deut. xxxii. 46). A sudden thought may he none of ours it may be unwelcome, and find no entertainment with us; but set your hearts to it. Let these things sink down into your hearts ; let them go to the quick. “ Through desire a man having separated himself, intermeddleth with all wisdom" (Prov. xviii. 1). Then is a man fit for these pure and holy thoughts, for intermeddling in all wise and divine matters,
when he hath divorced himself from other cares, and is able to keep his understanding under a prudent confinement.
3. Of the truths which we understand and believe. In meditation we suppose the object understood; for it is the work of study to search it out, of meditation to enforce and apply it : and we suppose it believed and granted to be a truth. The work now is to improve our assent, that it may have an answerable force and efficacy upon the soul.
4. It follows in the description, for practical uses and purposes. Meditation is not to store the head with notions, but to better the heart. We meditate of God, that we may love him, and fear bim ; of sin, that we may abhor it; of Hell, that we may avoid it; of Heaven that we may pursue it. Still the end is practical, to quicken us to greater diligence and care in the heavenly life.
Use I.-To reprove those that are seldom in this work. Worldly cares, and sloth, and ease divert us: if we had a heart, we would have time and leisure. The clean beasts did chew the cud. We should go over, and over, and over again the truths of God in our thoughts. But, alas !
1. Either men muse on trifles; all the day their minds are full of chaff and vanity. Oh! hast thou thoughts for other things, and hast thou no thoughts for God's precepts? Hast thou not a God and a Christ to think of? And is not salvation by him, and everlasting glory, worthy of thy choicest thoughts? Thou hast thoughts enough, and to spare, for other things, for base things, for very toys, and why not for God, and the word of God? Why not for Christ, and that everlasting redemption he hath accomplished for us? If a man would throw his meat and drink down the kennel, rather than give to him that asketh him, the world would cry shame upon him : will you cast away your thoughts upon idle vanities, rather than God shall have them? Oh, shame! your thoughts must be working; what, shall they run waste, and yet God hare no turn ?
2. Or else men muse on that which is evil. There are many sins engross the thoughts.
(1.) Uncleanness sets up a stage in the heart, whereon a polluted fancy personates and acts over the pleasures of that sin. Our thoughts are often panders to our lust: “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin” (2 Peter ii. 14). The unclean rolling of fancy on the beauty of women, is forbid : “He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. v. 28).
(2.) Revenge : the thoughts of it, how sweet are they to a carnal heart! Men dwell upon their discontents and injuries, till, like liquors that sour in the vessel when long kept, they sharpen revenge. We are apt to concoct anger into malice : “Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually, he soweth discord” (Prov. vi. 14).
(3.) Envy stirreth up repining thoughts ; it is a sin that seedeth on the mind : “And Saul envied David from that day forward” (1 Sam. xviii, 9). David's ten thousands ever ran in Saul's mind. Envy muses on the good of others, to hate them.
(4.) Pride, in lofty conceits and whispers of vanity. “He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke i. 51). Proud men are full of musings. “Is not this great Babylon that I have built, for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ?” (Dan. iv. 30.) Proud men please themselves with the suppositions of applause, and the echoes of praise in their minds.
(5.) Covetousness consists chiefly in a vain musing: “Their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezek. xxxiii. 31). “ Hearts exercised with coretous practices” (2 Peter i. 14).
Use II.-Is of exhortation, to press us to meditate on God's precepts. Many think it is an exercise that doth not suit with their temper; it is a good exercise, but for those that can use it. It is true, there is a great deal of difference among Christians; some are more serious and consistent and have a greater command over their thoughts; others are of a more slight and weak spirit, and less apt for duties of retirement and recollection; but our unfitness is usually moral rather than natural; not so much by temper, as by ill use. Now sinful indispositions do not disannul our engagements to God, as a servant's drunkenness doth not excuse him from work. Inky water cannot wash the hands clean. That it is a culpable unfitness, appeareth, partly because disuse and neglect is the cause of it; those that use it, have a greater command over the thoughts. Men count it a great yoke ; custom would make it easy. Every duty is a help to its selt; and the more we meditate, the more we may. They that use it much, find more of sweetness than difficulty in it. If a man did use to govern his thoughts, they would come more to hand. Partly, want of love: we pause and stay upon such objects as we delight in. Lore naileth the soul tu the object or thing beloved : “O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm cxix, 97). Carnal men find no burden in their thoughts; their heart is in them. Well then, though you have not such choice and savoury thoughts as others have, yet set upon the work; you can think of anything you love.
Oh, but as some press it, it requireth art and skill, and logical dispositon of places of argumentation.
Answer.-We cannot tie you to a method. Serious thoughts, no question, are required ; and dealing with the heart about it in the best way of reasoning that we can use. Take these directions :
1. Look how others muse how to commit a sin ; and shall not we muse how to redress it? Wicked men sit abroad : “ They hatch cockatrice eggs, and weave the spider's web” (Isa. lix, 5); they devise mischief upon the bed : “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds” (Mic. ii. 1). So do you muse how to carry on the work of the day with success. “The wicked man shutteth his eyes to devise froward things;“ (Prov. xvi. 30); it signifies his pensive, solitary muttering with himself.
2. As you would persuade others to good. Surely you do not count admonition so hard a work. What words you would use to them, use the same thoughts to yourself; heart answereth to heart.
3. You understand a truth; you have arguments evident and strong, why you should believe it; repeat them over to the soul with application. “ See it, and know it for thy good” (Job. v. 27). This application is partly by way of trial, partly by way of charge. By way of trial, how is it with thee, O my soul ? " What shall we then say to these things ?”. (Rom. viii. 31.) By way of charge and command: “ It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I might declare all thy works” (Psalm lxxii. 28).
SERMON XVII. VERSE 16.-I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget
thy word. David had spoken much of his respect to the word, both as to his former practice, and future resolutions. A godly man, the more good he doth, the more he desireth, delighteth, and resolveth to do. Spiritual affections grow upon us by practice and much exercise. The graces of the spirit, and the duties of religion, do every one fortify and strengthen one another; lose one, and lose all; keep one, and keep all. Meditation breedeth delight, and delight helpeth memory, and practice. He had said, “I will meditate in thy precepts ;' and now, “I will delight myself in thy statutes ;” and that produceth a further benefit, “ I will not forget thy word.”
The spiritual life is refreshed with change, as well as the natural; but it is with change of exercise, not of affection. There is hearing, praying, conferring, meditating, and all with delight: for when one fontanel is drawn dry, we may as the Lamb doth, suck another that will yield new supply and sweetness. David had spoken of his various exercises about the word, in the use of all which he would maintain a spiritual delight.
In this verse observe again a double respect to the word of God.
These are fitly suited; delight preventeth forgetfulness: the mind will run upon that which the heart is delighted in; and the heart is where the treasure is (Matt. vi. 21). Worldly men that are intent upon carnal interests, forget the word, it is not their delight. If anything displease us, we are glad if we can forget it; it is some release from an inconvenience, to take off our thoughts from it; but it doubleth the contentment of a thing that we are delighted in, to remember it, and call it to mind. In the outward school, if a scholar by his own averseness from learning, or by the severity and imprudence of his master, by his morosity and unreasonable exactions, hath no delight in his book, all that he learneth is lost and forgotten, it goeth in at one ear, and out at the other; but this is the true art of memory, to cause them to delight in what they learn. Such instructions as we take in with a sweetness, they stick with us, and run in our minds night and day. So saith David here, “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”
DOCTRINE I.-One great respect which the saints owe to the word of God is to delight therein.
David resolveth so to do, “I will delight," or solace, or recreate " myself in thy statutes ;" this should be his refreshment after business. David had many things to delight in; the splendour and magnificence of his kingdom, as Nebuchadnezzar : “Is not this great Babylon that I have built, for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ?” (Dan. iv. 30.) His great victories, which Aristotle saith are delightful to all. To νικάν ηδυ και μόνον τοίς φιλονείκοις αλλά πάσι· φαντασία γάρ υπεροχής γίγνεται. It is an appearance of excellency (Arist. Rhet. I. cap. 11). Or, in his instruments of music, as those “ that chaunt to the sound of the viol, and invent to then selves instruments of music, like David” (Amos vi. 5). No, this was not the mirth that he chose for his portion. Wicked men throng their hearts with such delights as these, lest an evil conscience fly upon them ; but, “I will delight myself in thy statutes.” He might take comfort in a subordinate way in these things; but the solace of his life, and the true sauce of all his labours was in the word of God. As David, so Jeremiah, “Thy words were sound, and I did eat them; they were unto me as the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jer. xv. 16). That was the food and the repast of his soul, and he felt more warmth and cherishing in it, than any can in their bodily food. So Paul, “I delight in the law of God in the inward man” (Rom. vii. 22). Not to know it only, but to feel the power of it prevailing over his lusts, that was his delight as to the better part of his soul: so it is made a general character of the blessed man, that “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm i. 2). God's people will delight in his law; it is one of the greatest enjoyments they have on this side of Heaven, in the time of their absence from God. It is the instrument of all the good that they receive, comfort, strength, quickening.
But now, how do they delight in God's statutes ?
1. In reading the word. The Eunuch returning from public worship, was reading a portion of Scripture (Acts viii. 28). It is good to see with our own eyes, and to drink of the fountain ourselves; if it seem dark without the explication of men, God that sent Philip to the Eunuch, will send you an interpreter.
2. In hearing of the word. The command is, “Wherefore, be swift to hear” (James i. 19). The saints have had experiment of the power of it, and therefore delight in it: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm cxxii. 1). You should be glad of these occasions of hearing, not as with the minstrel, to please the ear, but to warm the heart. Seeing is in Heaven, hearing in the churches upon earth; then vision, now hearing
3. In conferring of it often. What a man delighteth in, he will be talking of ; so should you at home, abroad: “Thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and as thou walkest by the way" (Deut. vi. 7); seasoning thy journey. He that would have God to be in his journey, as travelling and walking abroad, should be speaking of divine things.
4. In meditating and exercising his mind upon it. “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm i. 2). Delight causeth a pause or consistency of mind; as the glutton rolleth the sweet morsel under his tongue, and is loth to let it go, so a godly man's thoughts will run along with his delight. Clean beasts chew the cud; God's children will be ruminating, going over the word again and again.
5. In practice. This delight is not in bare speculation; so hypocrites have their tastes and their flashes; but in believing, practising, obeying: “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies” (Psalm cxix. 14). Delight breedeth obedience, and is increased and doubled by it. It is not the delight which an ordinary beholder taketh in a rare piece of painting, merely to admire the art; but the delight which an artist taketh in imitating it, and copying it out. Here in the text it is “in thy statutes.” A gracious heart is alike affected with the rule, as the promise: not only with discoveries of grace, but discoveries of duty.