September 10th, 2008
This is a re-post from an entry from another blog I used to maintain. The original with some comments can be found here.
The Art of Divine Meditation by Joseph Hall is an out of print book, but it can be found here. It is 34 pages of Joseph Hall’s thoughts regarding meditation and it is worth the time and effort to read it and wrestle with what he is saying.
He begins by sharing the benefits of meditation. When we meditate, we see our false hearts, we find secret enemies, and we learn how to make us of all our good means. Meditation on the divine is the only remedy against worldliness and is the only security we can find in our daily walks with Christ. If we allow our lives to pass by without meditation, we will never find that assurance that we think we have.
He lists four different reasons for meditating on the things of God. First, it is our nature to meditate. There are many times when we experience an extemporal-outward occurrence of the mind. A good example is the wonder and awe a setting sun can bring. At that point and time you are not thinking about the sun does not actually set because we all know the earth rotates on an axis and the sun still so there is no way the sun can actually set. No, at that point, especially if you are a believer, you begin to ponder the majesty of the creator God. You begin to appreciate other things in your life and next thing you know the sun has set, the beauty you were admiring is gone, but you are still thinking about it and other wonders in your life.
A second reason for meditating is the wanting to meditate. This is the deliberate meditation that all Christians must partake of. Without deliberate meditation, we will swim along the shoreline of the ocean and never get deep enough to enjoy the beauty beneath the surface. You can enjoy something through some thought about it, but you can’t really enjoy something until you have experienced it deeply.
The third reason for meditating is to seek a hidden truth. We are wrestling with an infinite God. If we claim to have it all figured out, we are deceiving ourselves. There will come a time when some things will not be known clearly and we must sit down and think deeply on what the Scriptures have to say about it. You can’t do that with a quick perusal of a passage. There must be some thought involved.
A fourth and final reason Hall gives for meditating is so that our affections toward God will grow. We can’t be nurtured by a simple reading although that will help immensely. No, the growth comes in the wrestling with the doctrine of God. We ought to make it a part of our normal routine to set aside time to meditate deeply on the things of God. When we begin to do this, our faith will grow stronger.
The circumstances of meditation, the way one should meditate should include a specific place, time and a where and how. Effective meditation should be in secrecy (excludes company), in silence (excludes noise), and involve rest (exclude motion). The time should be relevant to each person’s personality. However, you must set a time that is your best time to think and stick to it. The place can always change and the positioning of the body is whatever you think best. The most important aspect of meditation is that it is done on a regular basis.
When we sit down to meditate, we should begin with prayer. Prayer is what “primes the pump” of the mind and heart in order to warm you up for deeper thinking of the divine. I would recommend praying through a Psalm or perhaps even a passage germane to what you want to meditate upon. Prayeràmeditationàstrength, life and matter in our affections to Godàprayeràmeditationàstrength, life and matter. It is an endless cycle that after years of walking with Christ should show us maturing steady toward Christ-likeness.
Hall warns that his guidelines should not be a restriction on someone seeking to meditate on God. If you have a better way that is God centered, then go with that. Neither should you be bound in trying to fulfill all the steps of any particular method. If one of the steps keep you meditating for 4 hours and that is all the time you have, no need to rush through the last steps. Praise God that He moved you as He did. Finally, when meditating, be sure to seek the face of God. Do not get caught up in philosophical and theological debates. Seek God.
The rest of the book is spent on explaining the ten questions that Joseph Hall developed to help him meditate. I am using an updated version I got from Dr. Whitney in his class this past semester. You can get them off of his website here. However, I will write them out here for convenience.
1.What is it (define and/or describe what it is)?
2.What are its divisions or parts?
3.What causes it?
4.What does it cause, i.e., its fruits and effects?
5.What is its place, location, or use?
6.What are its qualities and attachments?
7.What is contrary, contradictory, or different to it?
8.What compares to it?
9.What are its titles or names?
10.What are the testimonies or examples of Scripture about it?
These ten questions are instruments to help the mind focus on the things of God and to look at them from many different angles.
I would highly recommend downloading this little book and printing it off and reading it and rereading it. I have benefited greatly from these 34 pages and know that I have learned things that I am not aware of yet. This is one of the best books on meditation according to many and it has shown to stand the test of time having been written in 1606.