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The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/paul-baynes-brief-directions-unto-a-godly-life-chapter-eleven/

CHAPTER TWELVE: PRIVATE DISCIPLINES, MEDITATION

Meditation

The second private help is meditation; and that is when we do of purpose separate ourselves from all other things, and consider as we are able and think of some points of instruction necessary to lead us forward to the kingdom of heaven, and the better strengthening us against the Devil and this present evil world, and to the well-ordering of our lives. This heavenly communion with God and ourselves is that which the Fathers called soliloquies: which must be distinguished from ordinary thinking of good things and pondering of words and actions, which yet in Scriptures is called meditation: Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:97. For that [careful consideration of things] ought never to be wanting [lacking], beinga part of watchfulness, and is exercised together with prayer; but this is more solemn: when a man of set purpose does separate himself from other business to solace himself in these holy and heavenly thoughts.

The matter of this meditation may be on any part of God’s Word, of God himself and his works of mercy and judgment, or our own estate, the vanity and misery of this world and of the manifold privileges which we with the rest of God’s children and joy (but [it should be] especially of those things which we have most special need of).

The great and necessary use of this duty may well appear even in the hearts of good Christians, in which there is much naughtiness;[1] so many rebellions and [such] loathsome filthiness that [it] makes some despair of reforming; and therefore they cease to endeavor it. Yet if such noisome poisons be suffered to lurk and remain in them, they will not only as sour weeds choke the plants of grace within us, but also grow up themselves, and bring forth most noisome and dangerous fruit, as by woeful experience men feel and try.

The Great Benefit of Meditation

Now for the weeding of these out of the ground of our hearts, there is no means so available as the considering oft and deep meditating: which is to find out what swarms of them [weeds of corruption] do lodge in our hearts; also to bring them into a vile account, to be weary and ashamed of them, and so to entertain better in their room. For although by the Word we know our corruption, by conference we revive the remembrance of them, and by reading we do both.

Yet all this will be but of small force except they be joined seasoned with meditation. For our hearts are so deceitful, but if once we can but commend that which is good and speak against evil, we are ready to think that our estate is right marvelous good. Whereas yet, if there be not in the heart a hatred of the one and the love of the other, we do but deceive ourselves. Now, when we do often gage [measure/evaluate] these hearts of ours and sift our thoughts, and deal truly (accusing or excusing) as we love our souls; though we find sin to sit near and fast glued, yet by God’s assistance and blessing we shall break off and chase away these cursed swarms of profane thoughts and desires. We shall become better armed against them afterwards, and our hearts being thus mollified and relenting, we shall nourish them more graciously with holy thoughts, and heavenly desires, and draw them into more near and heavenly communion with our God; taking heed of the sugared baits of earthly delights, and transitory pleasures of this world.

In sum, the fruit and benefit which by our meditation in private prayer we reap, is so great (the Spirit of God changing our hearts thereby from the daily course and custom more and more, and bringing the heavenly life into more liking with us, and making it more easy and sweet which with the men of this world is so irksome and unsavory) but none can express and conceive it, that he which hath felt the same. Therefore it is that men of God who are most commended for their piety, both of old, as Moses, David, Paul, etc. in our own times also, are most taken up of this exercise; and others that are strangers to it, though they be good Christians, much fruit which by it they may reap.

Hindrances to Meditation

The lets [hindrances] which are enemies to this duty, they are of two sorts: for either they are such which hinder men altogether from going about it, or else such as keep them from taking any good thereby when they do enter into it. Of the former sort there are three.

First, lack of knowledge

The first is when a Christian knowing this duty to be required of him [and goes] about it, but is so empty and barren that he has no matter to bestow the time of his cogitations about[2]. Now for the remedy of this, there shall be rules and examples set down hereafter; but in general, it shall be expedient for him to propound onto his meditation these four things.

a. First, of his unworthiness, vileness, sins, and corruptions.

b. Second, the greatness of God’s bounty in his deliverance.

c. Third, how he may be guided throughout the present day, according to the rules of direction, especially in the hardest points.

d. Fourth, of the several parts of the Christian armor which God has appointed for strengthening.

Second, an unfit heart

The second impediment of this sort is an unfit mind onto spiritual and heavenly duties, through some unsettledness, slothfulness, or other corruptions.

Now best remedy for such a one, is to meditate of his present unfitness; looseness of heart; and earthly-mindedness; to count it a heavy burden to accuse his heart, and so to bring it to relenting, by considering how far off it is presently from that mildness, humbleness, heavenly this, and readiness onto duties which have been in him at some other times. But let no man give liberty in any sort to his evil heart, when it is turned away from cheerfulness and willingness in any part of God’s service to go forward therein, for that were to bring him to utter bondage.

Third, lack of time.

The third let [hindrance] is lack of opportunity by reason of necessary business taking up the time; or for lack of convenient place, as it falls about to seamen, and those that have small and poor houses. Concerning which, it is not to be denied but that there may some time fall out such business as may excuse us in the omission of this duty. And this must be remembered, that the ordinary duties of our callings must not put this duty out of place, for if they do, it is through unskillfulness or untowardness of them who commit this fault. One of them is appointed of God to go with the other, and both of them stand together in upholding out their inward peace.

If any man be rich, he has less cause to be kept from it by worldly cares. If they be poor, they have the more need of it to moderate their care, that exceed not, nor carry them to unbelief. But if any intent or pretend extraordinary business, these must take heed that they seek not cloaks for their sloth. Yet if they had any necessary lets [hindrances] indeed, hereby they shall appear to be fruitless if at any time God remembered some other way as shall be most convenient, and this duty supplied hindrance is past.

            Errors of Meditation

A second sort of hindrances which may be called abuses there are to.

The first is to use it slightly[3], and so to make a ceremony of it: the remedy whereof is to hold our minds with taking delight in; for this, and all other cool if it helps will be unsavory onto us, except we should fastened in love and liking on them.

The second is when although we be desirous to use meditation, yet or heads are so full of trifling and wandering fantasies or worldly matters that we cannot mind heavenly things. The cause of this is the letting loose of our hearts all the day disorderly, without watching over them, or keeping them with a holy compass[4].

For the remedying of this, we must therefore carefully set ourselves against the corruption of our hearts, laboring to dry up those swimming toys [trifles, vanities] with the flame of heavenly and fervent affections. We must tie up our loose hearts throughout the day from deadly custom of ranging after vain, fond, and deceitful thoughts, dreams, and delights. This whosoever does or not at all, or seldom, or coldly, they lose a great part of their sweet and blessed living here, not enjoying the tenth part of those privileges and liberties which God has provided for them in their pilgrimage.

Rules for Meditation

The rules of direction in meditation be these.

He who desires to have help by meditation, must weigh how slippery, fickle, and wandering his heart [] [is][5] to his exceeding hurt; and that he must of necessity appoint some set time to check, reclaim, and wean it from the same[6]. Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 55:17.

He must watch over his heart, having been so deceived by it through his whole life, and have it in suspicion, that so it may be more fit to be drawn to such heavenly exercise is and attended onto the same.

This being observed, let him draw matter of meditation and prayer from his own desires and infirmities, from God’s benefits, from the changes in mortality of this life, and especially of that which is most available for this present [at the then present time].

If he cannot do that, let him read some part of the Scripture, or other book fit to season and will affect his mind, that so his mind may be quickened to the performance of this duty.

Details for Engaging in Meditation

Particular meditation concerning duties to be practiced.

No man shall be fit to govern himself aright before men, if he does not usually acquaint himself with, and frame himself after that Christian course, first before God. Yet no man must rest in private exercises of religion without a well ordered life before men. Every part of our calling must be so carried, as we may have peace thereby; if a man be fallen, he must not lie still, (Jeremiah 8:60 but return on to God, though with difficulty. Exodus 33:8. The breach must be made up in our consciences; which if we do, God is not far off. 1 Samuel 7:7, 10, 12, 22.

If we will rejoice only in prosperity, it is a sign that God’s benefits, not his favor, makes us merry. It is a good thing to rejoice in the Sabbaths, and in the communion of saints; yet we may not rest there, but in this, that God is our portion always, Psalm 110:57, 2 Chronicles 5:16.

In crosses we must use great sobriety, otherwise we shall be unsettled by them; to this end we must prepare and look for trouble before comes, and in it we must meditate of the best privilege that God has given onto us. 1 Samuel 30:6; Psalm 77.

We seldom keep unlawful commodities, or rejoice too much in lawful, but the Lord does cross us in them. Most vexations in our life become annoyances unto us through our own fault; in that, we either prevent them not when we may, or bear them not as we ought, or make not use of them as we might do. [[7]] The practice of godliness is a rich and gainful trade. Proverbs 3:14. But if it be not well followed, it will bring no great profit. To have a willing mind to be well occupied, and matter about which we may, and time to bestow therein, and freedom from hindrances therefrom, is an estate much to be made up; and yet for the most part, but they which have almost all outward encouragements, cannot tell what to do with them[8].

Whatsoever measures of grace we have gotten, yet it is certain, that God has much more for us than we can think of, if those be the matters which we have in greatest price; but being set light by, the means neglected which preserve them, they die. That is a good estate, when we have not only joy in heavenly things at the first hearing of them, but increasing in joy as our knowledge and experience increases. And when we are not only delighted in these present duties of God’s service, but also as joyful to think of them which are to come, accounting that the more they be, the better they are. The more sure you are of God’s favor by faith, the more humble you are also, Matthew 15:27.

They are worthy of great punishment who set light by the plenty of that grace, the crumbs whereof God’s hungry servants do set great store by. When we are afflicted, and the wicked spared, our estate seems to them most vile; when we are both in prosperity, they seem more happy; when they and we be both afflicted, then they account our estate happier than their own, but especially when they are afflicted and we spared.

We may not assign the Lord in what place, state, condition, or in what company we should live, but is strangers wait on him, even as the handmaid on her mistress, for whatsoever he will allow us. We are ready most commonly to be called away by death, before we be fit, or have learned how to live. Look what care, conscience, zeal, love, and reverence, estimation of good things you had when first you embraced the Gospel. The same at least retain, and be sure you keep still [continue to keep] afterwards. The more knowledge that you have, take heed you be not more secure. For thus it is with many at this day, who therefore do smart [hurt] for it.

We not enjoy the grace which we had at first, except we be careful to keep it, as we were then to come by it.

Keep down carnal liberty, and the spiritual liberty shall be great; rest on God, and it shall make you overcome the hardest things. We must remember to serve and walk with God by days, not by weeks and months only, Psalm 90:12.

As husbandmen wait for their fruit, so should we for that which we pray and hope for; and that should make us joyful when we obtain it.

If we can rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, then we are Christ’s friends. Luke 15:6.

It is a folly, yes, a madness to be heavy to death for any earthly thing, when yet a man desires nothing more than life. All our life ought to be a providing for a good end, and a keeping away of woe which comes by sin.

This flesh would fain please itself in some unlawful liberties, when we have pleased God in some duties. But a wise man will keep well when he is well. The more grace we perceive in any man, and constancy, the more he is like to God, the better we ought to love him. John 13:23, Psalm 15:4.

Where there is willfulness in sinning, there is great difficulty in relenting, and also no power nor boldness in believing. Many beginning well in godliness have fainted and quailed, or [have] been justly reproached before their end, that others may the more fear their own weakness. Where new knowledge is not sought, there is less favor in the use of the old. And when men make not good use of the old, the seeking of the new is but novelty.

Men having experience of  Satan’s malice and continual dogging of them to do evil, it should teach them to trust better in their armor, and less to themselves.

Were we suspect that corruptions grow, if we go not about to pull them out, and pluck them up, they will be too deeply fastened in a short time.

Though a man pray and meditate and keep a better course in his life than some do, yet if he do it but slightly, the flesh prevailing much in hindering the well performing of it, all will soon come to not. It may be perceived in the sway it bears in the other parts of this life. [When it is perceived], then let it be speedily amended.

It is good so to taste ourselves with duty[9], one or other, at all times, and all places, that so doing we may cut off occasions of much sin.

Let no sin be slightly passed over or omitted, for when it comes to remembrance in trouble, it will be a heavy burden, and pinch us to the heart.

 

 

[1] “Naughty” sounds ironic or even “cute” in our ears. At this time, it had a distinctly wicked and vile sense.

[2] He has such an empty mind that he has nothing to think.

[3] A failure to take it seriously.

[4] Here, a “compass” means a limit: within a certain compass or circle.

[5] The text is corrupt at this point, “is infinite ways” or “in finite ways”.

[6] One must carefully consider one’s own heart and note how it wanders after foolishness vanities. Having seen the wandering nature of one’s heart, it is necessary to take control over the heart and take its attention off of foolish things.

[7] The text here reads, “When matters of more importance than our salvation is come in place, let us be occupied in them with more fervency then and that, but not before.” I am not certain what he means as being of more importance that our salvation.  The text appears corrupt, but I’m not sure how it could be fixed.

[8] We often and easily waste time which could be better spent on spiritual matters.

[9] We should always be occupied with some spiritual discipline, whether prayer, memorization, reading, service, et cetera.