A Treatise of Divine Meditation - by John Ball (1585-1640)

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Many hear the Word of God, praise the preacher, wonder at the doctrine delivered, are affected with joy or sorrow. But, the godly man treasures up the Word in his heart, not a talent in a napkin, but as provision…

A Treatise of Divine Meditation by John Ball (1585-1640)

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John Ball (1585-1640) was a godly puritan preacher and scholar who was well known for his works on Covenant Theology, and praised for his work on godly meditation.

Ball said, “No Christian can exempt himself from this duty of meditation unless he intends to live unprofitably to others, uncomfortably to himself, and disobedient against God.”

Hear one of his instructions on how to meditate:
“O! heavenly Father, I heartily desire to follow You wherever You shall lead me, to do what You shall command, and to cleave to You as long as I live. But I find the flesh rebellious, soliciting daily, yes, and violently hailing to those things that are evil. Ah, miserable wretch that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? You, Lord, are only able, and willing to promise help and succour. To You therefore do I fly. I pray You have mercy on me in Jesus Christ, and repair the lost image of Yourself. Your hands have made me, and fashioned me; give me understanding, and I shall live. You created me pure, You can restore me, though corrupt. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Breathe into me the Spirit of Life, and establish me in the way of Your precepts. Heal my soul, for I am defiled, and cause me to grow up into the perfect stature of a spiritual man. I have wounded my soul, but cannot cure it, defaced Your image, but cannot fashion it anew. Look on my misery, dear Father, forgive my sin, and make me a new creature for Your infinite mercy, begin in me this good work, and perfect it to Your praise; in You do I trust, to You I seek for grace, for in You the fatherless find mercy.”

Ball divides this work into three areas: 1) what meditation is and its importance, 2) what occasional or extemporary meditation is, and 3) what solemn meditation is. Serious theological thinking is fundamental to all right Christian doing. Ball will show that godly meditation is a commanded, necessary and a spiritual help to the Christian being a vital component of a Christian living to God. In other words, everyone that names the name of Christ is required to meditate for God’s glory and their benefit.

There is no duty more neglected among Christians than this duty of meditation. Therefore, you should not only read over this work, but live it over. If you would be blessed in all your enterprises or concernments with the blessings of God, (Joshua 1:8), if you would have your understanding enlightened with the knowledge of God, your affections inflamed with the love of God, your heart established with the promises of God, your solitariness cheered up with the company of God, your afflictions mitigated with the comforts of God, and if you would have your thoughts, words and works regulated by the command of God, pray and consider, pray and meditate.

The book is outlined as follows:

What the word meditation signifies.

How meditation and prayer differ.

Reasons showing the necessity of meditation.

Who is bound to use this exercise?

What the matter or subject of our meditation ought to be.

What the fruits, effects, and benefits of meditation are.

What use we are to make of this point.

What superficial and careless thinking on some points is.

What the lets and impediments of this duty are.

How the first impediment is removed.

What a second let or impediment is.

How it is to be remedied.

What a fourth let is.

How it is to be remedied.

What should move us to be careful to take time for this duty.

What things hinder the fruitful performance of this duty.

How these abuses are to be remedied.

What the sorts and kinds of meditation are.

What is occasional meditation?

What rules are to be noted touching this extemporary meditation?

What are the benefits of extemporary meditation?

How should a man fit himself for extemporary meditation?

What is solemn, or settled meditation?

What motives should persuade Christians to set on this duty?

What things must be looked to that this exercise might be taken in hand with good success?

What rules are to be observed touching the choice of matter?

What we must do if our heart is so barren that we cannot call to mind anything that has been taught, nor remember any mercy we have received?

What particular meditations concerning duties to be performed or practiced, may we find commended to us in the writings of godly men?

What place is fit for meditation?

What they must do that have no room to be alone.

What time must be set apart for meditation?

What is to be said to those that pretend a multitude of worldly business to excuse the omission and neglect of this exercise?

What course must be held to redeem the time out of the world for meditation?

How we must make entrance into this exercise.

In what order we must proceed after the entrance.

What must be observed for the conclusion of this exercise?

How we must meditate on God’s infinite excellency.

How we must proceed in this meditation.

How these things are to be applied upon the heart and pressed upon the soul.

How we are to proceed in meditation of the holy angels.

How these things are to be pressed, and applied unto the heart.

How we are to meditate on man’s excellency.

How it is to be applied unto the heart for the quickening of the affection.

How we are to meditate on God’s infinite greatness.

How it is to be applied to the heart.

How we are to meditate on the love of God.

How it must be applied to the heart.

How we are to meditate on the fall of our first parents.

How it is to be applied unto the heart.

How we are to meditate on sin.

How it is to be pressed on the heart.

How we are to meditate on the work of redemption.

How it is to be applied to the heart.

How we are to meditate on the resurrection of Christ.

How it is to be pressed on the heart.

This is not a scan or facsimile, has been updated in modern English for easy reading and has an active table of contents for electronic versions.