How meditation differs from memory and study

Watson WednesdaysWednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson.  This week’s selection is taken from Heaven Taken by Storm.

The memory, a glorious faculty that Aristotle calls the soul’s scribe, sits and pens all things that are done. Whatever we read or hear, the memory registers. Therefore, God does all His works of wonder that they may be had in remembrance. There seems to be some analogy and resemblance between
meditation and memory. But I think there is a double difference.

Meditation has more sweetness in it than the bare remembrance. The memory is the chest or cupboard to lock up a truth; meditation is the palate to feed on it. The memory is like the ark in which the manna was laid up; meditation is like Israel’s eating of manna. When David began to meditate on God, it was sweet to him as marrow (Psalm 63:5-6). There is as much difference between a truth remembered and a truth meditated on as between a cordial in a glass and a cordial drunk down.

The remembrance of a truth, without the serious meditation on it, will but create matter of sorrow another day. What comfort can it be to a man when he comes to die to think he remembered many excellent notions about Christ, but never had the grace so to meditate on them as to be transformed into them! A sermon remembered, but not ruminated, will only serve to increase our condemnation.…

The student’s life looks like meditation, but varies from it. Meditation and study differ in three ways.

  1. They differ in their nature. Study is a work of the brain, meditation of the heart; study sets the mind to work, meditation sets the heart to work.
  2. They differ in their design. The design of study is notion; the design of meditation is piety. The design of study is the finding out of a truth; the design of meditation is the spiritual improvement of a truth. The one searches for the vein of gold; the other digs out the gold.
  3. They differ in the outcome and result. Study leaves a man never a whit the better; it is like a winter sun that has little warmth and influence. Meditation leaves one in a holy frame: it melts the heart when it is frozen, and makes it drop into tears of love.
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