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Study vs. Meditation

The end of study is information, and the end of meditation is practice, or a work upon the affections. Study is like a winter sun that shines but does not warm, but meditation is like blowing up the fire, where we do not mind the blaze but the heat. The end of study is to hoard up truth, but of meditation to lay it forth in conference or holy conversation. In study, we are rather like vintners that take in wine to store themselves for sale; in meditation, like those that buy wine for their own use and comfort. A vintner’s cellar may be better stored than a nobleman’s; the student may have more of notion and knowledge, but the practical Christian has more of taste and refreshment.

Thomas Manton (1620-1677)
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Objects of Contemplation

I can truly say, that Christ, his love, his works, his grace, his word, are the main objects of my contemplation and meditation. Oh I am always best, when I am most a-meditating and contemplating Christ, his love, his grace, etc. “How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God; how great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17).

—Thomas Brooks,
Works, 3:79.

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Meditation

[Meditation] is a duty wherein the very heart and life-blood of piety lies. Meditation may be thus described: it is a holy exercise of the mind; whereby we bring the truths of God to remembrance, and do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves. In meditation there are two things:

  1. A Christian’s retiring of himself, a locking himself up from the world. Meditation is a work which cannot be done in a crowd.
  2. It is a serious thinking upon God. It is not a few transient thoughts that are quickly gone—but a fixing and staying of the mind upon heavenly objects: this cannot be done without exciting all the powers of our souls, and offering violence to ourselves.

—Thomas Watson
The Christian Soldier, or Heaven Taken by Storm (Robert Moore, 1816).

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The Need to Meditate on Christ

This occasional meditation [on Christ], will be a means to cure the most vicious part of our lives; for what is the wickedest part of a man’s life? It is his vain thoughts. As in nature there is no vacuity or emptiness, but a vessel is either filled with liquor or the air; now the more water you pour in, the more air goes out. So if you would but store your souls with these occasional meditations, it would thrust out vain and vile thoughts.

Oh it is a rare temper when a christian is always upon the wing. When he is like the beams of the sun, they touch the earth, but the body of the sun is fixed in heaven. So it is with a christian when he converseth with the world, but enjoys God.

—William Bates
The Whole Works of the Rev. William Bates, 3:119.

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Beholding the Glory of Christ

There are two ways of beholding the glory of Christ

The one is by faith, in this world,—which is “the evidence of things not seen;” the other is by sight, or immediate vision in eternity, “We walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). We do so whilst we are in this world, “whilst we are present in the body, and absent from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). But we shall live and walk by sight hereafter. And it is the Lord Christ and his glory which are the immediate object both of this faith and sight For we here “behold him darkly in a glass” (that is, by faith); “but we shall see him face to face” (by immediate vision). “Now we know him in part; but then we shall know him as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).

What is the difference between these two ways of beholding the glory of Christ?

It is the second way—namely, by vision in the light of glory—that is principally included in that prayer of our blessed Saviour, that his disciples may be where he is, to behold his glory (John 17:24). But I shall not confine my inquiry thereunto; nor doth our Lord Jesus exclude from his desire that sight of his glory which we have by faith in this world, but prays for the perfection of it in heaven.

It is therefore the first way in which we must labor:

1. No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who doth not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight.

2. The beholding of Christ in glory is that which in itself is too high, illustrious, and marvellous for us in our present condition. It hath a splendour and glory too great for our present spiritual visible [visive] faculty; as the direct, immediate sight of the sun darkens our sight, and doth not relieve or strengthen it at all.

3. Herein, then, our present edification is principally concerned; for in this present beholding of the glory of Christ, the life and power of faith are most eminently acted. And from this exercise of faith doth love unto Christ principally, if not solely, arise and spring. If, therefore, we desire to have faith in its vigour or love in its power, giving rest, complacency, and satisfaction unto our own souls, we are to seek for them in the diligent discharge of this duty;—elsewhere they will not be found.

Herein would I live;—herein would I live;—hereon would I dwell in my thoughts and affections, to the withering and consumption of all the painted beauties of this world, unto the crucifying all things here below, until they become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way meet for affectionate embraces.

—John Owen
Adapted from The Works of John Owen, 1:288-291.

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