In his book, Puritan Reformed Spirituality: A Practical Biblical Study from Reformed and Puritan Heritage, Joel R. Beeke provides readers with a helpful chapter regarding Puritan divine meditation. Popular meditation today is an exercise in self-emptying. Only when you are empty can you feel at peace. Puritan meditation, however, was an exercise in filling one’s mind with the divine content of truth from God’s Word. Only when you fill your find with thoughts of Christ who is our peace (Eph. 2:14) can you find contentment. But such a task should not be approached lightly. Beeke, drawing from Puritans such as Edmund Calamy and James Ussher among others, provides a list of helpful spiritual (and physical) postures to assume in meditating upon the word of God and his goodness.
1. Clear your heart from things of this world—its business and enjoyments as well
as its internal troubles and agitations. Calamy wrote, “Pray unto God not only to keep out
outward company, but inward company; that is, to keep out vain, and worldly, and
2. Have your heart cleansed from the guilt and pollution of sin, and stirred up with
fervent love for spiritual things. Treasure up a stock of scriptural texts and spiritual truths.
Seek grace to live out David’s confession in Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I hid in my
heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
3. Approach the task of meditation with utmost seriousness. Be aware of its
weightiness, excellence, and potential. If you succeed, you will be admitted into the very
presence of God and feel once again the beginning of eternal joy here on earth.
As Ussher wrote, “This must be the thought of thy heart, I have to doe with a God, before
whom all things are naked, and bare, and therefore I must bee careful to not speake
foolishly before the wise God, that my thoughts be not wandring. A man may talk with
the greatest Prince on earth, his mind otherwise busied; Not so come to talk with God; his
eye is on the heart, and therefore thy chief care must be to keep the rudder of thy heart
steady. Consider the three persons in the Trinity are present.”
4. Find a place for meditation that is quiet and free from interruption. Aim for
“secrecy, silence, rest, whereof the first excludeth company, the second noise, the third
motion,” wrote Joseph Hall.Once a suitable place is found, stick with that place. Some Puritans recommended keeping the room dark or closing one’s eyes to remove all visible distractions. Others recommended walking or sitting in the midst of nature. Here one must find his own way.
5. Maintain a body posture that is reverent, whether it be sitting, standing,
walking, or lying prostrate before the Almighty. While meditating, the body should be the
servant of the soul, following its affections. The goal is to center the soul, the mind, and
the body upon “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).