Category Archives: Nathanael Ranew

English Puritans on Meditation

My friend Amy Gant has a published new website devoted to the topic of English Puritan Meditation. The website complements her excellent MA thesis, “‘Beating a Path to Heaven': Nathanael Ranew and the Puritan Art of Divine Meditation in the Seventeenth Century.” The thesis focused on Ranew’ book Solitude improved by divine meditation.

From the website:

“To the Puritans, divine meditation involved personal devotion and edification in the sense of thinking godly thoughts – thinking the type of thoughts that Jesus Christ Himself might think. Or, as Richard Baxter put it, “…meditation is but the reading over and repeating God’s reasons to our hearts, and so disputing with ourselves in his arguments and terms.” As scholar Richard Douglas Jordan has said, Baxter also “took a stand against enthusiasm in devotion and saw meditation as involved with reason and the written word. In his Christian Directory, Baxter spoke of the Christian’s delight in God as a ‘solid rational’ experience.” These understandings stemmed both from Scriptural examples such as those in the Psalms and from biblically-based doctrines of salvation, sanctification, and more, which provide motivation for many of the Christian disciplines.

It required a great amount of personal self-control to focus one’s mind upon unseen realities such as God and Heaven. The motivation for such intellectual pursuits was based, again, in Puritan doctrine: they were committed to meditation because they understood the Scriptures to teach that it was God’s will for them to practice it. Yet the great emphasis, earnestness and time commitment which they gave to this task is best understood in light of the Puritan sense of urgency in performing all the spiritual disciplines, and in living a godly life in general. Because of their focus on the shortness of life, Puritans tended to abhor unnecessary wasting of the time that God had given them, as servants, to perform their duties on earth. For this reason, mental discipline came to be very important for the Puritans – and meditation was a large part of that process.”

You will find a great deal of biblical and historical information on the art of divine meditation. I would encourage you to take some time this weekend to look around.

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