God’s Battle Plan for the Mind, the Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation

This small volume touts the importance of biblical meditation as practiced and promoted by the Puritans. The book is filled with scores of quotes from the writings of the Puritans, all chosen to either instruct or inspire the reader to a deeper level of mediation. The author’s goal is to “convince God’s people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation. This book will motivate the believer to begin meditating; teach practically how to meditate on divine truth; and guide in right patterns of thinking throughout the day” (p. 2).

It is important to define biblical mediation in contrast to worldly contemplation, or Christian mysticism (see pp. 17-22), both of which seek to empty the mind. Biblical meditation, however, means “to think personally, practically, seriously and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look in life” (p. 2). Richard Greenham says, “Meditation is that exercise of the mind, whereby we call to our remembrance that which we know, do further debate of it, and apply it to ourselves, that we might have some use of it in our practice” (p. 9). Chapter three fleshes out Old Testament, New Testament and Puritan descriptions of meditation, such as “meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it upon the heart” (p. 29). Thomas Watson, one of the most readable and insightful of the Puritans, nails it with this description: “Meditation is the palate of the soul whereby we taste the goodness of God; it is the eye of the soul whereby we view the beauties of holiness. It is the key to the wine cellar, to the banqueting house, to the garden of spices that lets us in unto Him whom our soul loves. The reality is that the greatest gifts of God to His people will do no good if they are not unwrapped and enjoyed (p. 137).” Watson also wrote, “A Christian enters into meditation as a man enters into the hospital, that he may be healed. Meditation heals the soul of its deadness and earthliness (p. 3).”

The Puritans recognized two types of meditation: occasional – connecting biblical insights to everyday life experiences (pp. 33-44), and deliberate (pp. 45-49) in which time is set aside for the purpose of meditation. Chapter six (pp. 76-93) is dedicated to how one is to approach meditation and what they should meditate on. Excuses, hindrances and enemies of meditation are detailed in chapter eleven (pp 115-127). Getting started and the value of meditation are the subjects of the final chapter and conclusion.

In our modern times, when our thinking is cluttered by many things (pp. 121-122), God’s Battle Plan for the Mind is an excellent reminder and encouragement to make biblical meditation a central feature in the believer’s life. Highly recommended.

by David W. Saxton (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015) 145 pp + viii, paper $18.00

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel