by Thomas Manton
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.— Psalm 119. 15.
ALL along David had showed what he had done; now, what he will do. Ver. 10, 'I have sought;' 'ver. 11, 'I have hid;' ver. 13, 'I have declared;' ver. 14, 'I have rejoiced.' Now, in the two following verses, he doth engage himself to set his mark towards God for time to come: 'I will meditate in thy precepts,' &c. We should not rest upon anything already done and past, but continue the same diligence unto the end. Here is David's hearty resolution and purpose to go on for time to come. Many will say, Thus I have done when I was young, or had more leisure and rest; in that I have meditated and conferred. You must continue still in a holy course. To begin to build and leave unfinished is an argument of folly. There is always the same reason for going on that there was for beginning, both for necessity, profit, and sweetness. We have no license to slack and give over till all be finished: Phil. 2:12, 'Work out your own salvation;' otherwise all you do is in vain, yet not in vain: Gal. 3:4, in vain as to final reward, yet not in vain as to increase of punishment. You lose your cost, your watchings, striving, prayings; but you will gain a more heavy punishment, so that it had been better you had never begun: 2 Peter 2:20, 21, 'For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.' You bring an ill report upon God; your sense of the worth of heavenly things must needs be greater for your making trial; and therefore your punishment for neglect the greater. Into the vineyard they came at several hours, but all tarried till the close of the day. Some called sooner, some later, but all held out till the end: Heb. 6:10, 11, you; have ministered and must minister; you have prayed and must pray; you have heard the word with gladness, and must hear still. Many in youth are zealous, but when their first heats are spent, grow worldly, careless, and ready to sound a retreat from God. The fire of the altar was never to go out; so should the life, and warmth, and vigour of our affections to the word of God be ever preserved. God is the same still, and so is the word; and therefore we should ever be the same in our respects to it. The devil in policy lets men alone for a while, to manifest some respect to the ways of God, that they may after do religion a mischief. They are full of zeal, strict, holy, diligent in attendance upon ordinances. He never troubleth them, but is at truce with them all this while, till they get some name for the profession of godliness, and then he knoweth their fall will be the more scandalous and ignominious, not only to themselves, but to their profession. They are forward and hot men a while, till they have run themselves out of breath, and then by a notable defection shame themselves, and harden others.
Compare it with the 13th verse, 'I have declared;' now 'I will meditate.' To be warm and affectionate in our expressions of respect to the word before others, and to slight it in our own hearts, argueth, gross hypocrisy; therefore David would not only confer, but meditate. Many talk with others, but not with their own soul: 'Commune with your hearts, and be still.' True zeal is uniform; when there is no witness but God, it acts alike.
Refer it to the 14th verse, David had spoken of his delight in the law; now, that he would meditate therein; in both not to boast, but to excite others by his example: that is to be understood all along when he speaketh of his diligence in and about the law of God. But mark, first the word was his delight, and then his meditation, Delight causeth meditation, and meditation increaseth delight: Ps. 1:2, 'But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.' A man that delighteth in the law of God will exercise his mind therein. Our thoughts follow our affections. It is tedious and irksome to the flesh to meditate, but delight will carry us out. The smallest actions, when we have no delight in them, seem tedious and burdensome. It was no great matter for Haman to lead Mordecai's horse, yet a burdensome offensive service, because it was against his will. The difficulty that we find in holy duties lieth not in the duties themselves, but in the awkwardness of our affections. Many think they have no parts, and therefore they cannot meditate. He that findeth a heart to this work will find a head. Delight will set the mind a-work, for we are apt to muse and pause upon that which is pleasing to us. Why are not holy thoughts as natural and as kindly to us as carnal? The defect is in the heart: 'I have rejoiced in thy testimonies,' saith David, and therefore 'I will meditate in thy statutes.'
In the words there is a double expression of David's love to the law of God:—
1. I will meditate in thy precepts.
2. I will have respect to thy ways.
Concerning which observe—
1. In both the notion by which the word of God is expressed and diversified, precepts, ways. The word precepts implieth God's authority, by which the counsels of the word are ratified. Ways implieth a certain direction for our walk to heaven. There are God's ways to us declared in his promises. So it is said, Ps. 25:10, 'All the paths of God are mercy and truth.' Our ways to God, ver. 4 of that psalm: 'Show me thy ways, teach me thy paths.' These are his precepts.
2. Observe, the one is the fruit of the other: 'I will meditate;' and then, 'I will have respect.' Meditation is in order to practice; and if it be right, it will beget a respect to the ways of God. We do not meditate that we may rest in contemplation, but in order to obedience: Josh. 1:8, 'Thou shalt meditate in the book of the law day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.' So Phil. 4:8, 9, 'Think of these things,' 'do these things'—λογίζεσθε. When you cast up your accounts, and consider what God hath required of you, it is that you may set upon the work. Meditation is not a flourishing of the wit, that we may please the fancy by playing with divine truths (sense is diseased that must be fed with quails), but a serious inculcation of them upon the heart, that we may urge it to practice. Nor yet an acquainting ourselves with the word that we may speak of it in company: conference is for others, meditation for ourselves when we are alone. Words are but the female issue of our thoughts, works the male. Nor merely to store ourselves with curious notions and subtile inquiries; study searcheth out a truth, but meditation improveth it for practical use: it is better to be sincere than subtile.
3. Observe, this practical obedience is expressed by having respect unto the ways of God. To respect God's ways is to take heed that we do not turn out of them, to regard them and ourselves: 'Observe to do them,' Josh. 1:8; and it is called elsewhere, pondering our path: Prov. 4:26, 'Ponder the path of thy feet,' that we may not mistake our way, nor wander out of it. Respect to God's word was opened ver. 6 and 9. The main point is this—
That one great duty of the saints is meditating on the word of God, and such matters as are contained therein.
Let us inquire what meditation is, because the practice and knowledge of the duty is almost become a stranger to us. Before I can define, I must distinguish it. Meditation is—
2. Set and solemn.
1. Occasional meditation is an act by which the soul spiritualiseth every object about which it is conversant. A gracious heart is like an alembic; it can distil useful thoughts out of all things that it meeteth with. Look, as it seeth all things in God, so it seeth God in all things. Thus Christ at Jacob's well discourseth of the well of life, John 4; at the miracle of the loaves, discourseth of manna, John 6 and 7; at the feast of tabernacles, of living waters; at the Pharisee's supper, discourseth of eating bread in the kingdom of God, Luke 14:15. There is a holy chemistry and art that a Christian hath to turn water into wine, brass into gold, to make earthly occasions and objects minister spiritual and heavenly thoughts. God trained up the old church by types and ceremonies, that the things they ordinarily conversed with might put them in mind of God and Christ, their duties, and dangers, and sins. And our Lord in the New Testament taught by parables and similitudes taken from ordinary functions and offices amongst men, that in every trade and calling we might be employed in our worldly business with a heavenly mind; that whether in the shop, or at the loom, or in the field, we might still think of Christ, and grace, and heaven. There is a parable of the merchantman, a parable of the sower, a parable of the man calling his servants to account, &c., that upon all these occasions we might wind up our minds, and extract some spiritual use from our common affairs. Thus the creatures lift up our minds to the creator. David had his night meditation: Ps. 8:3, 'When I consider the heavens, the work of thy hands, the moon, and the stars which thou hast ordained,' &c.;—the sun is not mentioned. When he was gone abroad in the night, his heart was set on work presently: and Ps. 19:5, there is a morning meditation, for he seemeth to describe the sun coming out of his chambers in the east, and displaying his beams like a cloth of gold upon the world. A holy heart cannot want an object to lead him to the meditation of God's power, and goodness, and glory, and wise providence, who hath made and doth order all things according to the counsel of his will. There is a great deal of practical divinity in the very bosom of nature, if we had the skill to find it out. Job biddeth us, 'Ask the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.' They speak by our thoughts.
2. There is set and solemn meditation. Now this is of several sorts, or rather, they are several parts of the same exercise.
[1.] There is a reflective meditation, which is nothing but a solemn parley between a man and his own heart: Ps. 4:4, 'Commune with; your own heart and be still;' when we have withdrawn ourselves from company, that the mind may return upon itself, to consider what we are, what we have been, what straits and temptations we have passed through, how we overcame them, how we passed from death to life. This is a necessary part of meditation, but very difficult. What can be more against self-love and carnal ease than for a man to be his own accuser and judge? All our shifts are to avoid our own company, and to run away from ourselves. The basilisk dieth by seeing himself in a mirror, and a guilty man cannot endure to see his own natural face in the glass of the word. The worldly man choketh his soul with business, lest, for want of work, the mind, like a mill, should fall upon itself. The voluptuous person melteth away his days in pleasure, and charmeth his soul into a deep sleep with the potion of outward delights, lest it should awake and talk with him. Well, then, it is necessary that you should take some time to discourse with yourselves, to ask of your souls what you have been, what you are, what you have done, what shall become of you to all eternity: Jer. 8:6, 'No man asketh of himself, what have I done?' You would think it strange of two men that conversed every day for forty or fifty years, and yet all this while they did not know one another. Now, this is the case between us and our own souls; we live a long time in the world, and yet are strangers to ourselves.
[2.] There is a meditation which is more direct, when we exercise our minds in the word of God and the matters contained therein. This is twofold:—
(1.) Dogmatical, or the searching out of a truth in order to knowledge: 'Proving what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God,' Rom. 12:2. This is study, and differeth from meditation in the object, and supposeth the matter we search after to be unknown, either in whole or in part; whereas practical meditation is the inculcation or whetting of a known truth upon the soul: and it differs in the end; 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 shineth, but warmeth not; 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 hath more of taste and refreshment.
(2.) Practical and applicative. This we now speak of; and it is that duty and exercise of religion whereby the mind is applied to the serious and solemn consideration and improvement of the truths which we understand and believe, for practical uses and purposes. Not like a man that soweth and never reapeth; or a woman that often conceives, but never brings forth living children.
(1st.) It is a duty; for it is commanded, Josh. 1:8, 'This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.' As the promise is general, 'I will not leave thee nor forsake thee,' Heb. 13:5, so is the command. To meditate in the law is a part of the description of a godly man: Ps. 1:2, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night.' It is commended to us by the practice and example of the saints in scripture. Isaac, Gen. 24:63, 'went out to meditate in the field in the eventide,' to pray, as in the margin; the word in the original is indifferent to both senses; it properly signifieth muttering, or an imperfect or suppressed sound. The Septuagint sometimes renders it by ἀείδειν, to sing; but others by ἀδολεσχῆσαι, which signifies to exercise himself. The word is used here ἐν ταῖς ἐντολαῖς σοῦ ἀδολεσχήσω. Symmachus, λαλῆσαι, to speak; Aquila, ὁμιλῆσαι, to discourse with God and his own soul. The original word, לשׂוח, signifieth to mutter, or such a speaking as is between thoughts and words. He made his duty his refreshment and solace at night. So David often in this psalm. Reason enforceth it. God, that is a spirit, deserveth the most pure and spiritual worship by the mind, as well as that which is performed by the body. Thoughts are the eldest and noblest offspring of the soul, and it is fit they should be consecrated to converse with God.
(2d.) It is a necessary duty; not a thing of arbitrary concernment, a moral help that may be observed and omitted at our pleasure; but of absolute use, without which all graces wither. Faith is lean unless it be fed with meditation on the promises: Ps. 119:92, 'I had fainted in my affliction, unless thy word had been my delight.' Hope is not lively unless we contemplate the thing hoped for, and, with Abraham, walk through the land of promise, Gen. 15, and think often and seriously on 'the glory of the riches of the inheritance of the saints,' Eph. 1:18, and get upon the mount of meditation, upon the top of Pisgah, to get a view of the land. So for love; the more we study 'the height, and breadth, and depth of God's love in Christ,' Eph. 3:18, 19, the more is the heart melted and drawn out to God, and more quickened to obedience: Ps. 26:3, 'Thy loving-kindness is before mine eyes.' And as it helpeth our graces in their exercise, so all other duties; as hearing of the word. To hear and not to meditate is unfruitful. The heart is hard and the memory slippery, the thoughts loose and vain; and therefore, unless we cover the good seed, the fowls of the air will catch it away. It is like a thing put into a bag with holes—lost while it is received: James 1:23, 24, 'Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own souls; for if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of person he was.' Bare hearing begets but transient thoughts, and leaveth but a weak impression in the soul; like a flash of lightning, as soon gone as come, or the glance of a sunbeam upon a wave. A man never discerneth the scope, the beauty, the order of the truths delivered, till he cometh to meditate on them, and to go over them again and again in his thoughts: Ps. 62:11, 'God hath spoken once, twice have I heard this,' &c., i.e., when we repeat it upon our thoughts, inculcate it, and meditate upon it, this maketh a deeper impression, and that which is spoken rebounds again and again; it is twice heard. David saith, Ps. 119:99, 'I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation.' The preacher can but lay down general theorems and deduce practical inferences; but that which fasteneth them upon the heart is our own thoughts; and so we come to be wiser, to see more clearly and practically as to our own case than he that preacheth; we see a further use than he was aware of. So for prayer; what we take in by the word we digest by meditation, and let out by prayer. These three duties help one another. What is the reason men have such a barren, dry, and sapless spirit in their prayers? It is for want of exercising themselves in holy thoughts: Ps. 45:1, 'My heart inditeth a good matter;' and then 'My tongue is as the pen of a ready writer.' It alludeth to the mincah, the meat-offering; the oil and flour were to be kneaded together, and fried in a pan, and so offered to the Lord. When we come with raw dough-baked offerings, before we have concocted and prepared our thoughts by mature deliberation, we are barren or tumultuary in our prayers to God. Prayer is called by the name of meditation, because it is the product and issue of it; as Ps. 5:1, 'Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my meditation.' So Ps. 19:14, 'Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight;' implying that prayer is but the vent and expression of what we have deliberated and meditated upon. So David findeth his desires more earnest after grace, the more he mused and meditated: Ps. 143:5, 6, 'I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the works of thy hands; I stretch forth my hands unto thee; my soul thirsteth after thee as a thirsty land.' Well, then, it is the life and strength of other ordinances, without which how slight and perfunctory are we! I might instance in conference; the stream of good discourse is fed by serious thoughts. The Lord's Supper, a duty which is mainly despatched by our thoughts; there we come to put reason to the highest use, to be the instrument of faith and love; of faith in believing applications; of love, in resolutions of duty and thankfulness. In that one ordinance there is a union of mysteries, which we take abroad in holy and serious thoughts. To have an unfruitful understanding, then, is a great damp and deadness to the heart. Now, we shall never enlarge ourselves in pertinent and savoury thoughts, unless we use to meditate; for spiritual dispositions do not come upon us of a sudden, and by rapt motions, but by progressive and orderly degrees and preparations.
(3d.) It is a profitable duty as to temporals. Isaac went out to meditate, and of a sudden he espieth the camels coming upon which Rebecca was brought to him, Gen. 24:63, 64. Was this a mere accident, think you, or a providence worthy of remark and observation? Isaac goes to meet with God, and there he gets the first view of his bosom-friend and spouse. This was a mercy cast into the bargain. 'Godliness hath the promises of this life, and that which is to come.' There is nothing lost by duty and acts of piety. Seneca said the Jews were a foolish people, because they lost the full seventh part of their lives—Septimam ætatis partem perdunt vacando; intending their sabbath-time. This is the sense of nature, to think all lost that is bestowed upon God. Flesh and blood crieth out, What need this waste? they cannot spare time from their callings, they have families to maintain. Oh! let me tell you, by serving God you drive on two cares at once. Worldly interests are cast into the way of religion, and though not designed and intended by us, these things are added to us. For comforts and manifestations of God, we have them many times in our recess and the privacy of our retirements, in a more plentiful manner than elsewhere. 'The spouse inviteth the bridegroom, Cant. 7:11, 'Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field.' Upon which Bernard, O sancta anima, fuge publicum, fuge. An nescis te verecundum habere sponsum, qui nequaquam tibi velit indulgere præsentiam suam coram aliis? We have most experiences of God when we are alone with him, and sequestered from all distractions of company and business, solacing ourselves with God. Exod. 3:1, Moses drove the sheep to the back side of the wilderness, and came to the mount of God: he goeth aside from the other shepherds, that he might converse with the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and there he seeth the vision of the fiery bush. Usually God cometh to us in our deep meditation; when the soul is most elevated, and fittest to entertain the comforts of his presence, then we have sensible experience of God.
The standing spiritual benefits of meditation are many. It imprints and fastens a truth upon the mind and memory. Deliberate thoughts stick with us, as a lesson we have conned is not easily forgotten. Civet long kept in a box, the scent remaineth when the civet is taken out. Sermons meditated on are remembered by us long after they are delivered: it sets the heart a-work. The greatest matters will not work upon him that doth not think of them. Tell them of sin, and God, and Christ, and heaven and hell, and they stir them not, because they do not take these truths into their deep thoughts; or if they be stirred a little, it is but a fit, while the truth is held in the view of conscience. We had need inculcate things if we would have them to affect us. The steel must beat again and again upon the flint, if we would have the sparks fly out; so must the understanding bear hard upon the will, to get out any affection and respect to the ways of God. It showeth the beauty of truths. When we look upon them in transitu, we do not see half that is in them; but upon a deliberate view it more appeareth; as there is a secret grace in some, that is not discerned but by much converse and narrow inspection. It helpeth to prevent vain thoughts. The mind of man is restless, and cannot lie idle; therefore it is good to employ it with good thoughts, and set it a-work on holy things; for then there will be no time and heart for vanity, the mind being prepossessed and seasoned already; but when the heart is left to run loose, vanity increaseth upon us. O Christians! meditation is all; it is the mother and nurse of knowledge and godliness, the great instrument in all the offices of grace. We resemble the purity and simplicity of God most in the holiness of our thoughts. Without meditation we do but talk one after another like parrots, and take up things by mere hearsay, and repeat them by rote, without affection and life, or discerning the worth and excellency of what we speak. It is meditation that maketh truths always ready and present with us: Prov. 6:21, 22, 'Bind them continually upon thy heart; when thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou wakest, it shall talk with thee.' But I forbear.
1. Whereby the mind is applied to serious and solemn consideration. I add this, to distinguish it from occasional meditation, and those good thoughts that accidentally rush into our minds, and to note the care and attention of soul that we should use in such an exercise. It is musing makes the fire burn: glances or transient thoughts, or running over a truth in haste, is not meditation, but a serious attention of mind. It is not to take a snatch and away, but to make a meal of truth, and to work it into our hearts. Alas! a slight thought, that is like a flash of lightning, gone as soon as come, doth nothing. Constant thoughts are operative; and a truth, the longer it is held in the view of conscience, the more powerful it is: Deut. 32:46, 'Set your hearts to all the words which I testify among you this day.' A sudden thought may be none of ours; it may be unwelcome, and find no entertainment with us, but set your hearts to it: Luke 9:44, 'Let these things sink down into your hearts;' let them go to the quick: Prov. 18:1, 'Through desire a man having separated himself, intermeddleth in all wisdom.' Then is a man fit for these pure and holy thoughts, for intermeddling in all wise and divine matters, when he hath divorced himself from other cares, and is able to keep his understanding under a prudent confinement.
2. Of the truths which we understand and believe. In meditation we suppose the object understood; for it is the work of study to search it out, of meditation to enforce and apply it; and we suppose it believed and granted to be a truth. The work now is to improve our assent, that it may have an answerable force and efficacy upon the soul.
3. It follows in the description, for practical uses and purposes. Meditation is not to store the head with notions, but to better the heart. We meditate of God that we may love him and fear him; of sin, that we may abhor it; of hell, that we may avoid it; of heaven, that we may pursue it. Still the end is practical, to quicken us to greater diligence and care in the heavenly life.
Use 1. To reprove those that are seldom in this work. Worldly cares and sloth and ease divert us; if we had a heart, we would have time and leisure. The clean beasts did chew the cud. We should go over, and over, and over again the truths of God in our thoughts. But alas!—
1. Either men muse on trifles; all the day their minds are full of chaff and vanity. Oh! hast thou thoughts for other things, and hast thou no thoughts for God's precepts? Hast thou not a God and a Christ to think of? And is not salvation by him, and everlasting glory, worthy of your choicest thoughts? You have thoughts enough and to spare for other things—for base things, for very toys—and why not for God and the word of God? Why not for Christ and that everlasting redemption he hath accomplished for us? If a man would throw his meat and drink down the kennel, rather than give to him that asketh him, the world would cry shame upon him. Will you cast away your thoughts upon idle vanities rather than God shall have them? Oh, shame! Your thoughts must be working. What! shall they run waste, and yet God have no turn?
2. Or else men muse on that which is evil. There are many sins engross the thoughts.
[1.] Uncleanness sets up a stage in the heart, whereon a polluted fancy personates and acts over the pleasures of that sin. Our thoughts are often panders to our lust: 2 Peter 2:14, 'Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.' The unclean rolling of fancy on the beauty of women is forbid: Mat. 5:28, 'He that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.'
[2.] Revenge; the thoughts of it, how sweet are they to a carnal heart! Men dwell upon their discontents and injuries till, like liquors that sour in the vessel when long kept, they sharpen revenge. We are apt to concoct anger into malice: 'Frowardness is in his heart; he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord,' Prov. 6:14.
[3.] Envy stirreth up repining thoughts; it is a sin that feedeth on the mind: 1 Sam. 18:9, 'And Saul envied David from that day forward.' David's ten thousands ever ran in Saul's mind. Envy muses on the good of others to hate them.
[4.] Pride, in lofty conceits and whispers of vanity: Luke 1:51, 'He hath scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts.' Proud men are full of musings. 'Is not this great Babylon that I have built, for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?' Dan. 4:30. Proud men please themselves with the suppositions of applause, and the echoes of praise in their minds.
[5.] Covetousness consists chiefly in a vain musing: Ezek. 33:31, 'Their heart goeth after their covetousness;' 2 Peter 2:14, 'Hearts exercised with covetous practices.'
Use 2 is of exhortation, to press us to meditate on God's precepts. Many think it is an exercise that doth not suit with their temper; it is a good exercise, but for those that can use it. It is true there is a great deal of difference among Christians. Some are more serious and consistent, and have a greater command over their thoughts; others are of a more slight and weak spirit, and less apt for duties of retirement and recollection; but our unfitness is usually moral rather than natural, not so much by temper as by ill use. Now, sinful indispositions do not disannul our engagements to God, as a servant's drunkenness doth not excuse him from work. Inky water cannot wash the hands clean. That it is a culpable unfitness appeareth partly because disuse and neglect is the cause of it; those that use it have a greater command over the thoughts. Men count it a great yoke; custom would make it easy. Every duty is a help to itself; and the more we meditate the more we may. They that use it much find more of sweetness than difficulty in it. If a man did use to govern his thoughts, they would come more to hand. Partly, want of love. We pause and stay upon such objects as we delight in. Love naileth the soul to the object or thing beloved: Ps. 119:97, 'Oh, how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.' Carnal men find no burden in their thoughts; their heart is in them. Well, then, though you have not such choice and savoury thoughts as others have, yet set upon the work; you can think of anything you love.
Oh! but, as some press it, it requireth art and skill, and logical disposition of places of argumentation.
Ans. We cannot tie you to a method. Serious thoughts, no question, are required, and dealing with the heart about it in the best way of reasoning that we can use. Take these directions:—
1. Look how others muse how to commit a sin; and shall not we muse how to redress it? Wicked men sit a-brood: Isa. 59:5, 'They hatch the cockatrice egg, and weave the spider's web; they devise mischief upon the bed;' Micah 2:1, 'Woe to them that devise mischief on their beds.' So do you muse how to carry on the work of the day with success: Prov. 16:30, 'The wicked man shutteth his eyes to devise froward things;' it signifies his pensive solitary muttering with himself.
2. As you would persuade others to good. Surely you do not count admonition so hard a work. What words you would use to them, use the same thoughts to yourself: heart answereth to heart.
3. You understand a truth; you have arguments evident and strong why you should believe it; repeat them over to the soul with application: Job 5:27, 'See it, and know it for thy good.' This application is partly by way of trial, partly by way of charge. By way of trial: How is it with thee, O my soul?—Rom. 8:31, 'What shall we say to these things?' By way of charge and command: Ps. 73:28, 'It is good for me to draw nigh to God; I have put my trust in the Lord, that I might declare all thy works.'
From An Exposition of Psalm 119, by Thomas Manton