George Swinnock (Puritan) and Meditation
I have, in some form introduced you to the Puritans already (see my post about Thomas Watson), but a reintroduction is necessary as we continue to think through the spiritual discipline of meditation. The Puritans saw meditation as essential to a healthy, vibrant, Christian life. For them, meditation was the mechanism designed by God to move them away from merely intellectual exercises of faith. Meditation moved Puritans toward warm affections for Christ that produced godly character.
This is reflected well in Puritan George Swinnock's (1627-1673) definition of meditation: "[meditation is] a serious applying the mind to some sacred subject till the affections be warmed and quicked and the resolution heightened and strengthened thereby, against what is evil, and for that which is good."
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Let's break that definition down today so that we get a clearer picture of how Swinnock practiced meditation.
Serious Applying the Mind
Sweat may be involved here. This is no drive-by devotion. This is no birds-eye-view approach. The serious applying of the mind requires you carve out time for pondering, for thinking deeply. If your brain is a muscle, this is a workout. The more you do this, the more skillful you become, the more submissive your muscle will be. If you've never seriously applied your mind in spiritual matters, I suggest starting at ten minutes. Set aside ten minutes a day to stretch your thinking.
Some Sacred Subject
What are you pondering or thinking deeply on? I suggest this be the Scriptures or some Scripture-driven literature. And it needs to be narrow in scope. You aren't reading 5 chapters. You're reading just a verse or two. In my experience, the quality of my thinking decreases if I aim to think deeply about more than 3 verses or so.
Till the Affections Be Warmed and Quickened
I suggested to start out meditating ten minutes a day. However, Swinnock has a timeframe in mind implicit in his definition. You meditate until the Holy Spirit stirs your affections for Christ. This may manifest itself in different ways, but here are some questions to ask yourself as you meditate:
Am I being convicted of sin and encouraged in Christ?
Do I feel the weight of my sin?
Am I humbled by the forgiveness God provides in Christ?
Am I marveling in the glories of the gospel?
Do I feel compelled to lovingly discuss the things God is teaching me?
Do I feel like singing?
Do I feel like weeping?
Am I comforted?
Is my confidence in Christ being increased?
Is my love for others being stirred?
Is my love for the local church growing?
These are all things I feel/have felt at times as I meditate. I do not feel these things all the time, but the Lord has used the spiritual discipline of meditation to deeply encourage my weary, wandering, soul. I need my affections warmed every day. So do you.
Resolution Heightened and Strengthened Against What is Evil
Your meditations should grow legs and feet. In other words, they should move you to action. Now that your affection is warmed for the glories of God and the gospel you hatred for sin is increased. It is increased to the point that you desire to make resolutions against sin (my next article will be on resolutions against sin). This should be strategic warfare against remaining indwelling sin in your life. You cannot repent from sin passively. In the context of community, your local church, come up with a strategic plan to overcome sin and temptation.
Resolution Heightened and Strengthened For That Which Is Good
This is continued movement. It is not enough to just cast off sin. You must develop disciplines that allow you to abide in Christ. Abiding in Christ really is the greatest good for a believer. You must be strategic. Again, this is not passive. A fruit of your meditation is that you have tangible action steps on how to abide in Christ Jesus.
This is how George Swinnock and other Puritans practiced meditation. Do you see the benefits? Will you do the same?