Monday, July 27, 2009

Prayer, Meditation, and Temptation

William Cunningham, Theological Lectures, pp. 59-62:

Luther was accustomed to say that there were three things that were necessary to make a theologian, viz., prayer, meditation, and temptation or experience. Under the head of meditation, he, of course, comprehended reading, to which the apostle enjoined Timothy to give attendance; but by including it under the head of meditation, he showed very emphatically the strength of his conviction, that it was not the mere perusal of books that was in itself of any very great value, unless men’s faculties were really brought to bear upon the subjects of the books read. There must be reading, much reading; but this reading must not be the mere devouring of books. It must be accompanied with such a careful weighing and digesting of what is read, that it should rather be called meditation than reading.
The necessity of combining reading and meditation, or reflection, is thus happily expressed by a celebrated writer, Gerhard John Vossius [1577-1649], the father of the equally celebrated Isaac Voss [1618-1689]: - "[English translation of the Latin remarks given here:] Reading and meditation ought to be very closely and intimately combined; for even reading does not penetrate into the mind, there being a necessity for attention while reading, and for meditation after it, that we may perceive the reasons and grounds of the particular statements made, and be able to apply what we read to other things of a similar kind. Without this what is read is not understood, and the small portion that may be comprehended will produce no fruit, because it has no root. It will also soon be forgotten, just as we see that what is not fixed deep in the earth is generally carried away by the wind. So that it is not be wondered at that men of extensive and multifarious reading are sometimes possessed of little or no judgment. The reason is, that they merely load their memories, and do not sharpen their judgment by exercising it. But as many 'helluones librorum' err on one side, devouring much and digesting nothing, so they err in an opposite extreme who, despising the labours of others, spend their time wholly in meditation, and because they are ignorant of what others have written, though much more true and excellent than anything they could have written, though much more true and excellent than anything they could produce, they often embrace their won dreams and fancies for oracles." - Gerhard Vossius, quoted in [Johann Buddeus' Isagoge historica-theologica ad theologiam universam 1727], p. 89.)

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