Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 05/16/2010 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. Valuable not only for its teaching, but for its motivation to actual meditation.
Puritan preacher and pastor Thomas Watson is renowned for a devotional writing style that is rich without being heavy. With the republication of A Christian on the Mount: a Treatise on Meditation, a re-issue of a scarce Watson volume, Puritan scholar Don Kistler has further refined and distilled Watson's insights on the oft-neglected practice of Christian meditation, bringing Watson's timeless insights to a new audience.
Meditation Has Content, and Causes Content
Any mention of "meditation" causes consternation for some Christians, which is understandable. The Transcendental Meditation movement of recent decades taught a pathway to the divine that involved emptying the mind of all thought and feeling. Watson, rather, teaches a content-rich meditation life centered on the Holy Scriptures. In the longest and most important chapter of the book, he suggests scriptural themes for meditation: God's attributes, God's promises, the love of Christ, sin, the excellency of grace, one's spiritual state, and heaven and hell, to name a few.
Watson associates the lack of mature, godly Christians with lack of biblical meditation. While there may be many that scan the scriptures, godliness is generally wanting because the scriptures are not subsequently ruminated upon; Watson calls this "chewing the cud." The effects of meditation, he says, are manifold: obedience, humility, and greater love of God, all culminating in a gracious contentment that is found lacking in those Christians who meditate little or not at all.
Watson Beholden to St. Bernard, Thales, and Aristotle
Many Puritan writers quote liberally and approvingly from medieval theologians and classical philosophers. Yet in our day, an Evangelical, Reformed writer will likely be designated a heretic in some quarters because he dares quote a mystic or a liberal, even though the quotation may be teeming with truth. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
Breakfast with God Every Morning
For those readers who may be hyper-sensitive to what may be perceived as Puritan legalism, be warned that Watson does teach that mornings are the best time to meditate. He provides copious reasons for this stance, from logistical considerations to biblical precedent. Recognizing a certain value in evening meditations, he nevertheless asserts that the morning is the fittest time: "then the imagination is quickest, the memory strongest, and the body most refreshed, having restored its strength by sleep." Non-morning people might take exception to this, so perhaps they should add the clause "the body most caffeinated" as well.
Watson wisely realizes that he cannot force nor foist the wonders of Christian meditation on anyone. In a two-paragraph chapter on the excellence of meditation, he briefly describes the wonderful effects of meditation, but grants that only those "who can tell how sweet honey is [are] those who taste it." Meditation's comforts cannot be properly expressed, he insists. This may be an example of Puritan reverse psychology - I hope it works!
And I hope this book will be widely disseminated. Kistler has done the Christian community a service by renovating and re-releasing this Puritan volume, and I commend it to you not only for its teaching on the practice Christian meditation, but for its value as a day-by-day motivating tool for actual meditation.
Editor's note: this volume can also be purchased directly from the publisher.