On Meditation: Charnock

Stephen Charnock (1628-1680), a contemporary of and co-pastor with Thomas Watson, seems to be mostly known for the posthumously published "The Existence and Attributes of God." Every pastor should read this two volume work, as should everyone else who loves good theology that gives birth to deep Christian experience. Late last year I read one of his sermons, "The Sinfulness and Cure of Evil Thoughts," and just recently found out it was his only work to be published during his life. In this excellent sermon he touches upon the discipline of meditation and gives some practical help for thinking deeply on God's word throughout the day. Here are a few quotes.

First, look to the matter of your meditation. - Let it be some truth which will assist you in receiving some languishing grace, or fortify you against some triumphing corruption; for it is our darling sin which doth most envenom our thoughts: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7) ... Stake your soul down to some serious and profitable mystery of religion; as the majesty of God, some particular attribute, his condescension in Christ, the love of our Redeemer, the value of his sufferings, the virtue of his blood, the end of his ascension, the work of the spirit, the excellency of the soul, beauty of holiness, certainty of death, terror of judgment, torments of hell and joys of heaven.

He encourages believers to pick a biblical theme to occupy their thoughts throughout the day. This work of meditation frames our thoughts for good, protects our thoughts from sin and allows us to use those things which enter our experience throughout the day for our benefit as well.

Thus, by employing our minds about one thing chiefly, we shall not only hinder them from vain excursions, but make even common objects to be oil to our good thoughts, which otherwise would have been fuel for our bad. Such generous liquor would scent our minds and conversations all the day, [so] that whatsoever motion came into our hearts, would be tinctured with this spirit, and savour of our morning thoughts; as vessels, having been filled with a rich wine, communicate a relish of it to the liquors afterward put into them. We might also more steadily go about our worldly business, if we carry God in our minds; as one foot of the compass will move more regularly move about the circumference, when the other remains firmly in the center.

He also argues that our meditation should be "affectionate and practical."

Meditation should excite a spiritual delight in God... and a divine delight would keep-up good thoughts, and keep-out impertinencies. A bare speculation will tire the soul, and, without application and pressing upon the will and affections, will rather chill than warm devotion.


If you think of the evil of sin, leave not till your heart loathe it; if of God, cease not till it mounts up in admirations of him. If you think of his mercy, melt for abusing it; if of his sovereignty, awe your heart into obedient resolutions; if of his presence, double your watch over yourself. If you meditate on Christ, make not end till your hearts love him; if of his death, plead the value of it for the justification of your persons, and apply the virtue of it for the sanctification of your natures.

Meditation is much more than memorizing a verse. It is a rigorous and rewarding discipline, a preaching to ourselves the truth of God that will change our souls. The entire sermon is excellent, though I am not sure where to find it outside of my six volume collection of puritan sermons printed by Roberts.