The Art of Divine Mediation by Edmund Calamy

June 1, 2014

Calamy, Edmund. The Art of Divine Meditation (1680. Reprint, Ann Arbor, MI: EEBO editions, ProQuest, 2011)

Edmund Calamy was one of Westminster divines who gathered at the Westminster Assembly of 1643. Calamy argued for the Presbyterian position in the midst of 17th century English Puritanism. He was a part of getting Charles II to the throne in England. Nevertheless, when the Act of Uniformity was instituted in 1662, Calamy would not submit to the act and was therefore ejected along with many other puritans. His work the Art of Divine Meditation charts out the many different aspects of divine meditation. Calamy uses Genesis 24:63 as a launching point for his instruction on mediation, which reads, “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.” Calamy’s work is uniquely fitted for the common man as he seeks to approach God in sweet meditation. Furthermore, Calamy’s work practically leaves no nuance of meditation untouched. He manages to speak to the obligation of meditation on all different types of people. He addresses the division of meditation between holy meditation and evil meditation. In classic puritan style, he goes on to divide holy meditation into two sorts. First, there is occasional meditation. In occasional meditation there is an excellence since Christians can engage in this sort of meditation at almost any moment. God has abundantly provided through creation for the Christian’s engagement in occasional meditation. A great benefit of this type of mediation is that it can be practiced at any time. Especially in the western world, with the incredible progression of technology and society, the time seems to run off the clock. How useful is occasional meditation in such a society? Also, Calamy shows that this type of meditation can be practiced in all places. Anywhere one goes, he or she is confronted with God’s creation. Every spot on the globe is profitable toward contemplations that can lift the Christian’s mind heavenward. There is a negative or cautionary motivation to engage in occasional mediation as well. Calamy notes that to neglect God’s creation is a grievous sin. God’s word says that the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. If indeed God has created the world to declare his glory, then it is sinful for man not to use it to that end.

Calamy proceeds to address another type of meditation, namely solemn meditation. Solemn meditation is a very different sort than occasional mediation. Solemn mediation is most pointedly illustrated in the beast that chews the cud. In the same way that a beast of the earth slowly and thoroughly chews its food, so the Christian fixes his or her mind on the truth of God and repeatedly thinks upon God’s word and sets his or her heart upon it. Calamy warns of the great problems that come from not engaging in this type of meditation. He remarks that neglecting solemn meditation causes great sin in the Christian. Neglecting this duty specifically makes the Christian’s heart hard. Furthermore, if a believer neglects to meditate in a solemn sense, then he or she will not make good use of sermon. In fact, Calamy employs vivid language to show the danger of a believer not making good use of sermon. The Christina who does not meditate on a sermon is like one who eats meat only to vomit it up. Such a person will not get the nutrients of the food, so neither will the believer who merely hears a sermon. In the same way, one who eats only to have the food pass through him or her quickly will not get the vital nutrients, but will left deformed. Calamy says that this is the result of God’s people if they neglect this vital duty of engaging in solemn meditation. Problems abound when solemn meditation is neglected. For instance, God’s word is full of promises and his word is sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. Yet, believers will not be able to relish the sweetness of God’s promises if they do not take the time to consider and meditate on them. These promises include both warning promises and merciful promises. When God warns his children concerning sin it is a sober thing that is to cause one to stand in fear of God. But when a believer does not meditate, he or she is not sobered by God’s warnings. In the same way, when God’s mercies are made an object of meditation it will result in joy in the believers, when they are not made an object of mediation, then the believer will neglect God’s mercy. In Psalm 103, the psalmist exemplifies how a believer should recall God’s mercy and meditates on his kindness. He preaches to his own soul saying, “Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Calamy labors the point to show how detrimental the lack of meditation can be. He highlights that through want of mediation the Christian will begin to doubt God’s truthfulness. God is faithful and will provide for his children, but how will a Christian who does not consider this think? Such a person will not only doubt God, but will be suspect of other believers. The one who passes on solemn mediation will be distrustful man of his brother or sister, constantly seeing fault in other while not seeing any in himself.

On the other hand the fruit of solemn meditation is sweet and compelling. The one who meditates will grow in love to God and faith in his goodness. Not only will he grow in love to God, but also he will grow in love to Christ specifically as he sees that all of God’s promises are yes in him. Solemn meditation will cause one to hate the world and the things in the world. This is critical in light of living in a world where temptation will come with violent threatening. The one who has made a practice of divine meditation will be able to turn from sin with a grateful heart. He will not lust after the world for he knows that God has blessed him beyond measure. Again, the one who meditates will be able to bring out God’s eternal promises even in the midst of terrible circumstance. Finally, the one who meditates will be aided in obeying God’s commands.

Calamy marks out those who refuse to meditate and makes a point to warn those who will not obey God’s command to do so. First, there are those who are simply ignorant and do not know how to meditate. Second, there are those who are forgetful and foolishly forget God. Third, there are those who are rash-headed believers. This group often gets into trouble as they speak often when they should not, and make errors due to acting too quickly; Calamy states that such people will not endure until the end. Finally, there is a type of person who neglects meditation because they are slight-headed. Calamy wisely distinguishes between the one who has a natural inability to think long on a subject and those who sinfully neglect to do so.

Calamy proceeds to address the place and time for meditation. Isaac is an example that he went out to the field to pray. Christians can learn from this example that they should find a place that is secluded so as not to be distracted as they seek to fix their mind on God’s truth. Concerning the time, Calamy notes that it is beneficial to meditate morning, noon, and night. Christians should set aside a specific time each day when they can engage in solemn meditation and then add to that times of occasional meditation throughout the day. In puritan fashion, Calamy adds that the Sabbath provides a day in which solemn meditation should abound. This call to devote one day in seven to the Lord is a hallmark of puritan spirituality and a needed point to modern believers.

Calamy not only speaks to the nature and need of meditation, he specifies certain topics for divine meditation. He proposes that the love of God the Father and God the Son make for first order topics of meditation. Christians can move from the general topic of God’s love to the specific love of Christ in giving of himself on the cross for sinners. As a believer consider the dying love of Christ, he will be moved to see the true sinfulness of sin and make this his constant meditation. As believers spend time thinking specifically on the ugliness of sin, they will feel a real sense of their own depravity. This sense of their own need of grace makes up another topic of meditation.

The meditation that Calamy speaks of is no easy task. He emphasizes that the one who engages in mediation must persevere in meditation. The very nature of meditation takes a mental focus that calls for great energy. Also, meditation is not something that is to be done once every now and then. Rather, meditation is something that believers should engage in often. Believers should not let their thoughts drift off to abstract concepts, but instead they should consider how God’s truth applies to their own life. True meditation takes God’s truth and considers it in reference to one’s own heart. He specifically mentions that meditation must engage three areas. First, meditation must engage the mind or the intellect. Meditation is not a mystical experience that bypasses the mind; rather it requires the focus and active engagement of the mind. But thinking is not enough when it comes to meditation. Second, meditation requires the engagement of the affections. Meditation is a matter of the heart where the believer seeks to get his will in alignment with God’s glory. Finally, meditation includes one’s conversation. To speak of one’s meditation is the way to bring out the abundant fruit of meditation. In conclusion, Calamy has provided a classic puritan work on the Art of Divine Meditation. It is a stirring and detailed call to believers to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.