How Did the Puritans Define Meditation?

Reformation Heritage Books is one of the premier publishers of Puritan books–both primary and secondary works. David Saxton has written a excellent book called God’s Battle Plan for the Mind. The Puritans are notoriously misunderstood in our modern culture. Saxton offers a sample of definitions of meditation from some of the major Puritan writers. Consider these:

Thomas Hooker: “Meditation is a serious intent of the mind whereby we come to search our the truth, and settle it upon the heart.”

William Fenner: “Meditation is a settled exercise of the mind for a further inquiry of the truth, and so affecting the heart therewith, and therefore there be four things in meditation. . . . 1) An exercise of the mind. . . . 2) A settled exercise. . . . It dwells upon a truth. . . . 3) To make further inquiry. . . . Meditation pulls the latch of the truth and looks into every closet, and every cupboard, and every angle of it. . . . 4) It labors to affect the heart.”

William Bates: “Meditation is the serious exercise of the understanding, whereby our thoughts are fixed on the observation of spiritual things in order to practice.”

Thomas White: “Divine meditation . . . is a serious, solemn thinking and considering of the things of God, to the end we might understand how much they concern us, and that our hearts thereby may be raised to some holy affections and resolutions.” He later explains the three parts of meditation: consideration, affections, and resolutions.

Thomas Watson: “Meditation . . . 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.” “Meditation is the soul’s retiring of itself so that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to heavenly affections.”

John Ball: “Meditation is a serious, earnest and purposed musing upon some point of Christian instruction, tending to lead us forward toward the Kingdom of Heaven, and serving our daily strengthening against the flesh, the world, and the devil.”

Isaac Ambrose: “Meditation is a deep and earnest musing upon some point of Christian instruction, to the strengthening up against the flesh, world, and devil, and to the leading us forward toward the Kingdom of Heaven; or, Meditation is a steadfast bending of the mind to some spiritual matter, discovering of it with our selves, till we bring the same to some profitable issue.” (pp. 29-30)

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind is a paperback with 160 pages and sells for $18.00.

David W. Saxton is senior pastor of Hardingville Bible Church in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

God's Battle Plan


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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One Response to How Did the Puritans Define Meditation?

  1. I read this and think it’s an extremely important book about a largely forgotten and misunderstood discipline.


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