The Dangers of Neglecting Meditation
Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
I shall show you the woeful troubles and the intolerable mischiefs which come from the lack of practicing this duty of meditation. I will show you that the lack of practicing this duty is the cause of all sin, and I will instance in particulars:
1. The reason why people harden their hearts in SIN and go on obstinately—is for lack of meditation. "I hearkened and heard, but they spoke not aright: no man repented of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?" (Jer 8:6). They did not repent because they did not reflect upon what they did; they did not bethink themselves, so the phrase is: "If they shall bethink themselves…and repent" (1 Kings 8:47).
They did not say, "I am undone by what I have done; I have lost God and Heaven by what I have done; and if I do not repent, I am an undone creature forever." No man repented of his wickedness, because no man considered what he had done; for did you consider the evil that is in sin, did you dwell and abide upon it, did you commune with your own hearts and seriously consider what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God, you dare not willingly sin against God. The reason why men go on rashly, heedlessly, obstinately in sin is for lack of the meditation of the evil of sin.
2. The reason why all the SERMONS we hear do us no more good, is for lack of divine meditation. For it is with sermons as it is with food—it is not having food upon your table that will feed you, but you must eat it. And you must not only eat it, but digest it—or else your food will do you no good.
So it is with sermons: it is not hearing sermons that will do you good, but digesting them by meditation. Pondering in your hearts what you hear, must do you good. One sermon well digested, well meditated upon—is better than twenty sermons without meditation! Now meditation is that which will digest all the sermons you hear.
There are some men sick with a disease that makes them vomit up whatever they eat—the food never does them any good.
So is the custom of many of you: you hear a sermon, you go away, and never think of it afterward. This is just like food that you vomit up.
There is a disease that some men have, that all the food they eat goes through them—it never nourishes with them. Now, this food never nourishes.
So it is with the sermons you hear—I am afraid that the sermons you hear go right through you. You hear them and hear them—and that is all you do. You never seek by meditation to root them in your hearts.
That is the reason why you are so lean in grace—though you are so fully fed with sermons!
It is with sermons as it is with a plaster—if a man has a wound in his body and lay a plaster to the wound, this plaster will never heal him unless it abides upon the wound. If he takes it away as soon as ever it is laid on-it will never do him any good.
So it is with sermons: if when you have heard a sermon, you never ponder and meditate on it, it is just like a plaster put on and then pulled off again!
I am confident the great reason why we have so many hunger-starved Christians who are lean in grace and lean in practice, though they hear sermon upon sermon—it may be on the Sabbath day they will hear four or five sermons—is because they digest nothing. They never ponder and meditate upon what they hear!
This is what our Savior Christ speaks of, by the seed that was sown by the highway side is meant a man that hears the word and never thinks of it after he has heard it, but allows the devil to steal it out of his heart (Luke 8:5). As the gardener that sows the seed on a hard path—you know he never plows it, he never looks that it should come to anything. For many of you, the sermons you hear are like the seed sown in the path—you never cover it by meditation, you never think of it after you have heard it; and that is the reason you get no more good by what you hear.
3. The reason why the PROMISES of God do no more affect your hearts, when the saints of God taste no more sweetness in the promises—is because you do not ponder and meditate upon them. It is with the promises of the gospel as it is with a candy—if a man does not chew his candy but swallow it down whole, he will never taste any great sweetness in it. The way to taste the sweetness is to chew it
In the same way, the promises of God are full of heavenly comfort, but you will never enjoy their comfort unless you chew them by meditation.
As it is with spices—unless they are chrushed, they never smell sweet. And as it is with a flower—unless you rub it, you will never smell the fragrance of it. No more will you ever taste the heavenly comfort that is in the promises of the gospel—unless you rub them, unless you crush them, unless you chew them by meditation!
The reason why the saints of God walk so uncomfortably all their lives long, is because they do not chew these promises.
4. The reason why the THREATENINGS of God make no more impression upon our hearts, is for lack of meditation. There are terrible threatenings against sin in the Word—but, alas, there are few people affected with these threatenings. The threatenings of God in Scripture are like the rattling of hail upon the roof-tiles—they make a great noise, but they make no impression.
And what is the reason? It is for lack of meditation. We do not lay them to heart; we do not consider that these threatenings belong to us as long as we continue in our sins. Oh, if a wicked man meditates solemnly upon the threatenings of God, it would make his heart ache, especially when a sense of his sin goes along with them.
5. The reason why the MERCIES of God do no more good upon us is for lack of meditation. There are many mercies that all of us have received from God—many personal mercies and many family-mercies—and all these mercies are so many motives to service.
Now, what is the reason the saints of God bury the mercies of God in forgetfulness, and are no more thankful for mercies?
The reason is for lack of meditation: "Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not consider." Isaiah 1:2-3
That is the reason why they are so unthankful. It is with the mercies of God as it is with the fire: if a man walks by the fire and does not sit at it, it will never heat him much. If he is cold, he must abide at the fire, or else he will never be warmed.
In the same way, it is not a slight thought of the mercies of God that will affect your hearts, but it must be a dwelling upon them by meditation that will warm your hearts. Now, because we do not meditate upon these mercies, we do not solemnly consider the mercies of God; therefore it is that they do no more good upon our hearts.
There is a psalm which sets out the unthankfulness of the people of Israel: "We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses—and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea." Psalm 106:6-7
What is the reason they were so unthankful? It was because they did not meditate on the mercies of God.
6. The reason why afflictions do work no more upon us and why we are never the better for the AFFLICTING hand of God is for lack of meditation.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 is a precious text: "In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider." Times of affliction are times of meditation. What must we consider in the day of adversity? We must consider who it is that afflicts us, why we are afflicted, and what we shall do to have our afflictions sanctified. We must consider the meaning of God's rod and how we may be taught spiritual things by these afflictions.
Now, because we do not meditate upon God and upon His afflicting hand when we are afflicted, because we have slight thoughts under our afflictions—we get little good by our afflictions. I have observed that as soon as ever we are recovered from our afflictions—many of us forget God immediately. We never consider the mercies of God in recovering us—and then we return to our old vomit again for lack of meditation (Pro 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22).
7. The reason why the PROVIDENCES of God take no more impression upon our hearts, is for lack of this grace of meditation. The providences of God are very mysterious. God, in the government of the world, does everything on purpose. And truly I am very confident that what God especially requires of His children in these days, is to meditate upon His providences. There are many rare lessons to be learned from the consideration of the providences of God.
Now, what is the reason that the providences of God of recent years do no more good to us? The reason why we are never the better by them, is because we do not study the meaning of all these providences: "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil." Isaiah 57:1
This is the reason why we get no more good by the death of the godly and by the providences of God—we do not lay them to heart—we do not muse and study upon them.
8. What is the reason that the saints of God are so distrustful of God's providences when they are ready presently to sink and to say they are undone? It is for lack of meditation. And, therefore, Christ says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these!" Luke 12:22-27
If you considered the lilies and the birds, if you studied the love of God to you—then you would trust Him under any sad providences. The reason why the saints of God are so full of unbelief when they are in a low condition is for lack of meditation. They do not consider the ravens and the lilies; they do not study the promises that God has made to His children in their lowest condition.
9. The reason why the professors of religion are so censorious of other men and so little censorious of themselves, why they judge every man and examine every man but themselves—is for lack of meditation. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye!" Matthew 7:1-5
If men did reflect more upon themselves—they would censure themselves more, and others less. And the reason why people are so rash in censuring others, is for lack of self-reflection.
10. The reason why professors of religion offer the sacrifices of fools to God when they come to worship Him, why they pray proudly and rashly, why they rush upon ordinances without preparation—is for lack of meditation. "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
Why do people rush upon ordinances without preparation, rush upon sermons, rush upon prayer, rush upon holy duties? Why, they do not consider what they do!
11. What is the reason that people prepare no more for DEATH? Because they do not consider the shortness of life. They do not meditate of the vanity of this life, of the certainty and uncertainty of death. Therefore it is said, "O that they were wise, that they understood this—that they would consider their latter end!" (Deu 32:29).
Because men do not consider their latter end—is why they are so unprepared for their latter end!