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Keep Up Heavenly Thoughts

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation and Counsel to Professors of Christianity

Keep Up Heavenly Thoughts}


Another part of this heavenly trade is carried on and maintained by heavenly thoughts. Thoughts are the embryo and conception of actions. Thoughts also come under the jurisdiction and government of Christianity. It is a common, but carnal principle and false assertion that thoughts are free. They are indeed free from the inspection of people, but not from the eye and judgment of God, Who searches the hearts and weighs the spirits (Jeremiah 17:10).1023 God will bring every secret thing into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14).1024 Solomon tells us that foolish thoughts are sin (Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 24:9).1025 And Peter tells us that the thoughts of the heart need forgiveness (Acts 8:22).1026 Not only sinful actions, but sinful thoughts are forbidden (Deuteronomy 15:9).1027 The very thoughts of Christians, as well as words and lives, are to be brought under the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).1028 The idea and prototype of every deliberate action is first drawn up in the mind and inward thoughts. No work is rightly done that is done without previous thought and consideration. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV). A person weighs, considers, and deliberates about the way he is to go and about the course of life he will pursue. He counts the time, cost, and everything that is needed for his work. “She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16 NASB). So it is in this heavenly trade; the way must be thought out, and it requires serious thought and consideration to discern how to manage the heavenly trade to best advantage, how to obtain and move wisdom’s goods off the shelf, how to strengthen grace, how to carry out one’s duty, how to obtain the favor of God and dwell in His presence, how to improve mercy, and how to ensure glory [at the last]. The heavenly trade can never be carried on without heavenly thoughts. Thoughts that work on the heart that are about God and godliness are of great use to further a holy life. They warm and cheer the heart under troubles (Psalm 94:19),1029 engage and fix the heart on God, and render His presence desirable. Heavenly thoughts fire up the heart and stir it up to holy actions (Psalm 139:17; Psalm 39:3).1030 Heavenly thoughts are a choice preservative against sin (Psalm 4:4).1031 Heavenly thoughts are greatly useful to increase knowledge and attain deep wisdom and understanding. “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4 ESV). That is, their thoughts will be working on truth, busily employed to find out the meaning of the Word, “Looking on one side, and on the other side,” said Mr. Fenner. By this means we will greatly thrive in knowledge. People will never be purposeful in their Christianity or be masters of this heavenly trade until they become more spiritual and heavenly in their thoughts. Christian, make conscience of your thoughts—they will come to judgment. “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?” (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV). Give heed to where your thoughts go, grab control of your thoughts when they begin to wander, enliven your thoughts when they are unproductive, moor your thoughts when they float away, spiritualize them when they are carnal, and exercise them when they are slothful. Set them on their proper and profitable objects and hold them to their work in divine and heavenly meditation1032 every day; this is part of your heavenly trade and it has a mighty tendency to enrich your soul (Psalm 4:4; Psalm 63:4; Psalm 104:34; Genesis 24:63; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 77:12; Psalm 139:8).1033


Meditation is calling in the thoughts from their wandering astray and undue uses and fixing them on and holding them to their particular work: the travels of the mind in search of some spiritual good extracted from whatever duty and providence lays before it. Meditation weighs things and actions in the scales of truth, turns things upside down and looks at both sides, and looks through things that it may rightly evaluate them. Meditation is running to and fro to increase knowledge (Daniel 12:4).1034 Meditation sifts things and truths to separate the flour from the bran and truth from error. It helps one to a clearer and more sensible view of truth and excellence. Similar to the work of the chemist,1035 meditation extracts the spirits and fundamental essence of things. It warms the heart, fires up the affections, raises desires, and engages the will. It enlightens and enlivens the conscience and helps feed the soul with divine truth and feasts it on divine love. It draws nourishment from ordinances, sweetness from promises, instruction from created things, and good from providences. Without meditation, a person cannot receive that good offered to him or do the good that is required of him. The preached Word does not profit hearers due to lack of meditation to digest it. Threatenings, promises, counsels, and encouragements do not affect the soul, fulfill their purpose, or deliver their message due to a lack of serious consideration of them that leads to settled lessons learned. Oh, what profit might Christians get to their souls if more time were spent every day in right meditation. Believer, command your heart to this duty of daily meditation; it is as necessary as prayer, reading, and other acts of holiness. Regularly allow some time every day for this holy exercise of serious thoughts and contemplation. Meditate on God, His Word and works, the soul and its being, immortality, duties, evil, and what is good for it. Meditate on the world and its vanity and emptiness, on sin and its nature and outcomes, and on holiness and its excellence and blessed advantages. Meditate on death, judgment, and eternity. And, meditate on whatever might yield instruction and profit. Urge your conscience with the command of God, the practice of the saints, and the great necessity and many advantages of this duty. Consider how your heart is habitually and greatly averse to this duty; this is evidence of its spirituality and excellence because the more sinful nature is opposed to a duty, the more of God is usually in that duty. Also think of the many losses and disadvantages you have sustained by your neglect of it. Pray hard for the Spirit to help your soul in the due performance of it. I can only leave you these hints without further details, for otherwise this book would become too large. [Readers interested in practical instruction in meditation may wish to consult Richard Alleine’s directions.1036 Ed.]


1023I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10 NASB).

1024For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 ESV).

1025All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the Lord weighs the motives” (Proverbs 16:2 NASB). “The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind” (Proverbs 24:9 ESV).

1026Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22 NKJV).

1027Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you” (Deuteronomy 15:9 NKJV).

1028We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB).

1029When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19 NASB).

1030How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17 ESV). “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue” (Psalm 39:3 ESV).

1031Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah” (Psalm 4:4 NKJV).

1032Meditation is a word with a wide variety of contemporary meanings. Most contemporary use pertains to highly subjective practices that are typically derived from Eastern religions, mysticism, and Roman Catholicism. As such, use of the term in the context of biblical Christianity would seem to be best avoided, but unfortunately it is in wide use in Christian circles. Therefore the editor deems it advisable to use the Scriptures to learn the meaning of “holy meditation,” giving the subject a very brief treatment and concentrating on those passages that command meditation, as opposed to otherwise only mentioning it. Since meditation, thinking, considering, pondering, reasoning, and so on are all related mental activities, it should come as no surprise that different translations will not always use “meditate” in the same place as another translation. For simplicity, we choose the NKJV to find instances of commanded meditation, whether by direct or indirect command or inspired prayer. Meditation on God’s Word is commanded directly in Joshua 1:8 and Psalms 1:2 and 4:4. Psalms 19:14; 63:6; 77:12; 104:34; 119:23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148 speak more indirectly. From these, we find three Hebrew words. In Joshua 1:8 and Psalms 1:2; 63:6; and 77:12, the root word is הָגָה [daw-gaw´], which has a variety of meanings, but in the present context may mean to contemplate, reflect, devise, muse, imagine, and so on. In Psalm 4:4, the word is אָמַר [aw-mar´], which normally means to speak or say. In this context then it refers to speaking in one’s own heart. The idea seems to be one of teaching oneself while angry. In Psalm 104:34 and all of Psalm 119, the word is שִׂיחַ [see´-akh], meaning muse, commune, ponder, consider, or even complain, speak, or talk. In Philippians 4:8, the word is λογίζομαι [log-id´-zom-ahee], meaning to think, ponder, consider, reason about, and so on. The NASB renders it dwell on, with a marginal note of ponder. The reader may note the similarity of the word to logic, which is not invalid; there is a whole family of related Greek words whose many meanings include ideas of words, speaking, thinking, reasoning, and so on. Christ is called the λόγος [log´os], the Word. In light of this then we can draw some general conclusions about biblical holy meditation. First, it is a thoughtful, analytical, disciplined, rational, and deliberate use of our minds to think about the things of God so as to gain insight, wisdom, and knowledge. That there is great similarity here to analysis of data in order to draw conclusions therefrom will rightly occur to those whose professions demand analytical skills. Such mental activity will evoke emotions, of course, but holy meditation is directed by reason and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not emotions or some vague mysticism. Much less is holy meditation some mindless process of endless repetition or navel gazing. Second, the purpose of such meditation is to connect our knowledge of God and His Word to our lives and hearts, creating an integrated worldview or body of knowledge and understanding centered on Christ. More than that, holy meditation will work deeply in our hearts to change our basic instincts and reactions to life events. It is a means of grace by which the Holy Spirit makes His Word effective in our lives. Scripture will do us little good if it goes “in one ear and out the other.” Third, Scripture does not define or prescribe any particular mode of thought or procedure. All people do not think or reason alike; but all must think, reason, and meditate.

1033Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah” (Psalm 4:4 ESV). “So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Psalm 63:4 NASB). “May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:34 NKJV). “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming” (Genesis 24:63 ESV). “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2 NKJV). “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12 ESV). “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:8 ESV).

1034But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4 ESV).

1035The reference to a chemist is based upon old theories of air, earth, fire, and water as elements, and ether theories.

1036Richard Alleine, Vindiciae Pietatis or A Vindication of Godliness in the Greatest Strictness and Spirituality of It from the Imputations of Folly and Fantasy Together with Different Directions for the Attaining and Maintaining of a Godly Life, Translated into twenty-first-century American English by Tom Sullivan, Editor, Edition: December 20, 2018. https://beforgiven.info/TranslatedWorks/vin/vindiciaepietatis_c145.html. Chapter entitled Directions for the Duty of Holy Meditation (Accessed June 15, 2020). There are also other formats available at https://beforgiven.info/HostedLiterature.htm#vin.

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