From “Quiet Musings,”
a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892
“While I was musing the fire burned.” Psalm 39:3.
Our subject this evening will not stand in need of much preface. The Psalm may teach us that there are times when solitude is better than society and silence is wiser than speech. The company of sinners was a grief to David’s soul and because their converse was profane he chose, rather, to fly away from their midst or if they must still continue in his presence, he determined that he would resolutely seal his lips.
Touchingly he says, “I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good.”
This painful necessity soon proved to him a pleasing occasion. While he yielded himself up to the thoughts, the reveries and the pensive workings of his own heart, a sacred fire of devotion was kindled in his breast.
Whatever the circumstances of the Psalmist, you will all see that the exercise was profitable. And however peculiar the advantages of meditation at particular seasons, it may not be amiss for us to make it a common habit. There is much that is light and frothy in our ordinary communion and our communications, one with another, soon grow frothy and insipid when we have no definite matter in hand. Whether, therefore, to free ourselves from the stress of business or to escape from the temptations of idleness, let it be thought worthy of note that “musing” has sweet charms and calm reflection is capable of kindling a bright fire.
We do not muse much in these days of ours. We are too busy. We are hurrying here and there, doing much and talking much, but thinking very little and spending but very little time, indeed, in the modesty of retirement. “The calm retreat, the silent shade” are things which we know very little about. We would be better people if we were more alone and I suppose that we should do more good, after all, if with even less of active effort we spent more time in waiting upon God and gathering spiritual strength for labour in his service. The world has put a little letter before the word “musing” and these are the days, not for musing, but for amusing. People will go anywhere for amusement. To muse is a strange thing to them and they think it dull and wearisome. Our forebears loved the quiet hour and loved it so well that they cherished those times which they could spend in musing as the most happy because they were the most peaceful seasons of their life. We drag such time off to execution in a moment and only ask others to tell us how we may kill it.
Now there is much virtue in musing, especially if we muse upon the best, the highest and the noblest of subjects. If we muse upon the things of which we hear and read in sacred scripture, we shall do wisely. It is well to muse upon the things of God because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. A person who hears many sermons is not necessarily well-instructed in the faith. We may read so many religious books that we overload our brains and they may be unable to work under the weight of the great mass of paper and of printer’s ink. The person who reads but one book and that book the Bible and then muses much upon it, will be a better scholar in Christ’s school than the person who merely reads hundreds of books and muses not at all. Those who get but one sermon in a day, if they meditate much upon it, will get far more out of it than those who hear two or three but meditate not. The truth of God is something like the cluster of the vine; if you would have wine from it, you must bruise it, you must press and squeeze it many times. The bruisers’ feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches or else the juice will not flow and they must leap and leap and leap again, and well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. You must, by the feet of meditation, tread the clusters of truth if you would get the wine of consolation from them. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, the process which really supplies the muscle and the nerve and the sinew and the bone is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with inner life. So is it with our souls. They are not nourished merely by what we hear by going here and there and listening awhile to this and then to that and then to the other. Hearing, leading, marking and learning all require inward digesting and the inward digesting of the truth of God lies in the meditating upon it. Ruminating creatures chew the cud and these have always been considered clean animals and so it is a mark of true children of God that they understand how to chew the cud of meditation.
Why is it that some people are always in a place of worship and yet they are not holy, making only some slight advances in the divine life? It is because they neglect their closets. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it. They would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it. The fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it. The water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. They are either too idle or too busy, but often to be busy is to be idle and when some think us idle, we are then best at work. You who know anything of the divine life know very well what I mean by that. Meditation is not idleness and retirement is not forsaking the good of the world. I suppose that Moses did as much for Israel on the mountain’s summit with uplifted hands as ever Joshua did in the valley with his drawn sword. Elijah upon the top of Carmel, yes, even by the brook Cherith or in the house of the widow of Zarephath, was as much serving Israel as when he smote the priests of Baal and hewed them in pieces before the Lord. I commend meditation to you, then, for fetching the nutriment out of the truth of God.
Another note in the praise of this most blessed but much-neglected duty is that it fixes the truth upon the memory. You complain of short memories, you say that what you have heard you can scarcely remember to another day. If your paint is thin and you can not make your picture stand out in glowing colours, lay on many coats of your paint and so will you do what you want. If your memory will not retain the truth the first time, then think it over and over and over again and so, by having these several coats of paint, as it were, the whole matter shall abide.
When the fly fisherman goes out to fish, it may be that in mid-stream he sees a great fish and having cast his fly, the hook is soon fairly in the fish’s jaws. But what now? Why, he must let him run out the line, then he must drag him back again and, after all that, he never thinks his fish safely his own till he gets him into the net. Well, now, hearing sermons is, as it were, getting the hook into the fish’s mouth and meditation is the landing-net. It is this which gets the thing to shore. Furthermore, the same meditation becomes a fire of coals upon which the fish is broiled and prepared for our spiritual food? If you cannot hold a thing well, try and get many hooks to hold it with and meditation will supply you, as it were, with a hundred hands, every one of which you may grasp the truth of God. I am sure that we give not earnest heed enough to these things or else we should not let them slip.
Complain not, then, of your memory! Complain of yourself if you are not given to meditation. If your memory is frail let your closet rebuke you because you have not been there more often. Whereas another person may do with less meditation, if you say your memory is weak, the more reason why you should be a longer time and more often with your God in secret. All need this, but you need it more than others. See to it, then, that you neglect not this duty. For getting the nourishment out of truth and moreover, for preserving, for salting down the truth for future use, employ much meditation. Meditation clips the wings of thoughts which otherwise would fly away at the first clapping of the world’s hands. You shall thus keep your prey, as it were, surrounded and entangled in a net or else it might escape you. Your meditation shall hold it fast until you need it.
Yet further, meditation is of great value in opening up the truth of God and leading us into its secrets. There is some gold to be found on the surface of this land of Ophir, the Book of God. There are some precious jewels which may be discovered even by the wayfarer, but the mass of the gold is hidden in the heart of the earth and the person who would be rich in these treasures must dig into Scripture as one who seeks for choice pearls. You must go down into its depths and you must rummage there until you get at last at the treasure.