Meditate on Death

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
~ Joshua 1:8

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
~ Psalm 1:2

I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah
~ Psalm 77:11-12, Psalm 104:34, Psalm 119:15, Psalm 139:17-18, Psalm 143:5-6

And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
~ Luke 12:18-20

O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
~ Deuteronomy 32:29

How to Meditate on Death, by Thomas Boston.

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.
—Genesis 24:63

Meditation is a necessary duty, to the performance of which people should set themselves, seriously making choice of such times and places for it (so that) the duty may be gone about with the best advantage. I shall first explain the duty, and then apply the subject.

I am to shew what meditation is. It is twofold. Occasional (meditation) is of some spiritual thing arising from such occasions as offer themselves, (such as) ejaculatory prayer (a short occasional thought). Fixed and solemn (meditation is) when the soul deliberately sets itself to think upon some spiritual thing to the bettering of the heart thereby. This is the meditation in the text, in which three things are to be considered.

1. A choice of some spiritual subject to meditate upon. Many meditate upon sin with delight, and so ride post to hell with little din. “He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil” (Psa 36:4). Others employ their thoughts only in the meditation of things of the world. But he that would meditate aright must choose some spiritual subject to think upon. And it is needful (to) select one and not abide in generals (Psa 63:6; Song 1:4).

2. A calling in of the heart from all other objects. The mind of man is too narrow to be taken up to purpose about many things at once, especially with thoughts of diverse kinds; therefore, David prays, “Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psa 86:11).

3. Employing the heart on the spiritual subject so chosen, to think upon it, study it, and seriously consider it; to lay it before our understandings to move our affections and improve our hearts.

Let us apply the subject. I exhort you to make conscience of this duty of meditation, and particularly of fixed meditation, setting yourselves as solemnly to it as to prayer and other duties.

Motives: 1. Consider (that) it is the command of God. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed” (Psa 4:4). And “meditate upon these things,” says Paul to Timothy (1Ti 4:15). Why do you perform other duties but because God commands you? Well, He that bids you do other duties bids you do this also. Remember you shall not be ashamed when you have respect to all his commandments (Psa 119:6). If the command of God hath due weight with you in one case, it will have weight in all (Jam 2:10-11).

2. It is made desirable by the testimony that it hath from the practice of the people of God. Thus was Isaac employed, (and) thus David (Psa 63:6). Yes, David puts it in the description of the godly man: he meditates on the Law of God “day and night” (Psa 1:2).

3. It is of notable use for a Christian’s improvement. It much increases knowledge: “I have more understanding,” says David, “than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” (Psa 119:99). It is the way to comfort under affliction. When David’s enemies plotted against him, “Thy servant,” says he, “did meditate in thy statutes” (Psa 119:23). It makes a Christian tender in his way. “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (Psa 119:15). It gives a Christian a sweet relish of the goodness of God (Psa 63:5-6).

Now I would lay before you some directions to your right managing of this work:

1. Habituate yourself to occasional meditation, to take up a holy meditation on things that you see or hear, turning them to a spiritual use. This was the practice of Christ: to spiritualise worldly things. None have fairer occasion of it than husbandmen, whose calling is so much spiritualised in the Scripture.

2. If your occasions will permit, and sometimes they will, retire by yourselves for solemn meditation, so as you may go about it without disturbance. But sometimes a man may have good occasion for meditation even while at his employment in the world.

3. Make choice of some spiritual matter to meditate upon. Fix this in the first place so that you may not be rambling from one thing to another. There is great variety of subjects: God, Christ, His sufferings, the love of God, death, judgment, heaven and hell, eternity, the graces of the Spirit (faith, love, hope), the Word and works of God.

4. Begin with a short and earnest prayer: either ejaculatory or more solemn. Pray as David: O Lord, “open…mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psa 119:18).

5. When you enter the duty, be resolute to go through with it, for Satan will strive to divert you. So that you (do) not lack matter, take these few rules. When you enter upon a subject of meditation, if it will bear it, observe: (1) Begin with a description of the thing—what it is; as what God, faith, love is or whatever be the matter of meditation. (2) If there be sundry kinds of these, observe them, (such) as faith feigned or un- feigned. Consider (3) the causes; (4) the effects; (5) its properties; (6) its opposites; (7) what it is compared to. Lastly, (8) consider scriptural testimonies concerning it.

6. Think and enlarge on the subject, so that your heart may be affected and touched with it. Here I would advise you: (1) To get suitable affection and relish of it in your souls. (2) To bewail the lack of that relish. (3) To desire that, which you complain that you lack. (4) Confess your in- ability to do for yourself what you wish to have. (5) Petition for the Lord’s working it in you. Lastly, (6) believe the Lord will grant your request.

7. Conclude all with thankfulness to the Lord and committing yourself to Him.

8. Take all outward helps you can for right managing of the duty. Because the sight of the eyes may divert you, if need be, go into the dark or shut your eyes. And if you cannot get your heart kept while your tongue is not employed, stand not to speak your meditation anyway, so (long) as you are not overheard. The Hebrew word in the text signifies both meditation and speaking.

To make this plainer to you, I will give you a short meditation on death, enlarged according to these rules.

Lord, gather my thoughts that I may profitably meditate on this, which will gather me and all mankind into the grave at length; and open mine eyes to see it before I feel it. O my soul! What is death? It is a dissolution of soul and body; a parting of these two loving companions, which God did unite in the womb. Consider, O my soul! There is a twofold death—violent and natural; and which of them may be my lot, I do not know. Each of these may be done (in) several ways. Either this life of mine must go as a candle that is blown out, or else will waste with diseases or age until, like a candle, it dies out of itself when the wick and grease are consumed. But oh, what are the causes of death? Why, the cause is in myself. I bear about the seeds of so many diseases as will cut me off at length; but the first cause of all is sin, which brought death into the world with it. Seeing I have sinned, I must die. And now, my soul, cast thine eyes on the effects of death. How does the approach of this grim messenger fill all the body with pains, make the eyes stare, and the face grow pale. When he gives his stroke, the breath goes, the soul departs, the body is left a lump of lifeless clay, while friends fall a-weeping that the dead is gone and they will see him no more in the land of the living. But what are the properties of death? Why, it is certain, it is uncertain. It is terrible in its most pleasant shape. It is a way we can go but once; if it once goes wrong, we cannot put it right. O my soul, what are the opposites of it? Even life that we now enjoy here, which is sweet, and eternal life in glory, where we shall be liable to no more death. And why should I forget the death of Christ that unstings it, according to Hosea 13:14? What is death like? To what may I compare it? It is like the blowing out or wasting of a candle. Like the Egyptian jailor who opened the prison door to the baker and butler, restoring the one to the court and sending the other to the gibbet. What say the Scriptures? They tell me, “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb 9:27).

Now, O my soul, how terrible is death! What a king of terrors is this! What need of preparation for it! But alas! How little is my hard heart touched with the consideration of this! How little am I affected with this, which I must feel! Oh, that I were suitably affected with it, that I were wise to consider my latter end! But alas! I cannot command this of myself; I cannot have one serious thought of it! I may as well dig through a rock with my nails as think to affect mine own heart with it. But, O Lord, to Thee I make my request. Do Thou give me a heart duly touched with it. Thou hast prepared death for me; prepare me for it. And I desire to believe Thou wilt do it, for Thou workest all our works in us. Blessed be the Lord Who has opened a way that we may be de- livered of its sting. And so, into Thy hands I commit my spirit. Be my God and guide even unto death (Psa 48:14). Amen.

Sickness and death are solemn things. They strip off all the tinsel and paint from a man’s religion; they discover the weak places in our Christianity.—J. C. Ryle