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VIII. Meditate upon what you read. Psalm 119:15: “I will meditate in thy precepts.” The Hebrew word to meditate, signifies to be intense in the mind. In meditation there must be a fixing of the thoughts upon the object.
Meditation means serious consideration. Rather than emptying the mind, it means to fill it. Thomas Manton has a useful expansion on the concept of meditating upon what one reads: give it entertainment, treat it like a guest:
Receive the word, give it a kind entertainment. There is an act of consideration; meditate upon it seriously, that truth may not float in the understanding, but sink into the heart: Luke 9:44, ‘Let these sayings sink down into your hearts.’ Believe it: the truth is a sovereign remedy; but there wanteth one ingredient to make it work, and that is faith: Heb. 4:2, ‘The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.’ There is an act of the will and affections, which is called, ‘a receiving the truth in love,’ 2 Thes. 2:10. Make room for it, that carnal affections may not vomit and throw it up again. Christ complaineth that ‘his word had no place in them,’ John 8:37, οὐ χωρεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν, like a queasy stomach possessed with choler, that casts up all that is taken into it: 1 Cor. 2:14, ‘A natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.’ Let it lodge, and quietly exercise a sovereign command over the soul.
Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 10, Sermons on the 17th Chapter of John, Sermon XI, (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 237. We must to know the words if they are to have any effect upon us. Francis Bacon in his essay, On Studies, speaks of “digesting” a book:
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not.
Luke 2:19: “Mary pondered those things.” Meditation is the concoction of Scripture; reading brings a truth into our head, meditation brings it into our heart; reading and meditation, like Castor and Pollux, must appear together. Meditation without reading is erroneous; reading without meditation is barren. The bee sucks the flower, and then works it into the hive, and so turns it into honey; by reading we suck the flower of the word, by meditation we work it into the hive of our mind, and so it turns to profit. Meditation is the bellows of the affection. Psalm 39:3: “While I was musing the fire burned.” The reason we come away so cold from reading the word, is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.
Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures with Most Spiritual Profit,” in The Bible and the Closet: Or How We May Read the Scriptures with the Most Spiritual Profit; and Secret Prayer Successfully Managed, ed. John Overton Choules (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1842), 24–25.