Saturday, April 3, 2010

Puritans Rose Early

Robert Murray M'Cheyne wrote a paper entitled "Reformation," which was a searching "examination of his heart and life," a year before he died in which he said (Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M'Cheyne, p. 162):

I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into any corner. The morning hours, from six to eight, are the most uninterrupted, and should be thus employed, if I can prevent drowsiness. A little time after breakfast might be given to intercession. After ten is my best hour, and that should be solemnly dedicated to God, if possible.

I ought not to give up the good old habit of prayer before going to bed; but guard must be kept against sleep: planning what things I am to ask is the best remedy. When I awake in the night, I ought to rise and pray, as David and as John Welsh did.

Though himself not a Puritan, his careful cultivation of the morning hours to practice secret worship is consistent with the piety of our Puritan forefathers who so often rose early to worship in imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John Howe, "A Funeral Sermon for that Faithful and Laborious Servant of Christ, Mr. Richard Fairclough" (1682), in Works, Vol. 3, p. 408:

Every day, for many years together, he used to be up by three in the mornings, or sooner, and to be with God (which was his dear delight) when others slept.

James Reid, Memoirs of the Westminster Divines, Vol. 1, pp. 345, 355:

[William Gouge] began his studies early in the morning, and continued them until a late hour at night....He continued nine years in the College. And during all that time, he was never absent from morning prayers in the chapel, which were usually performed about half an hour after five o'clock in the morning, except when he went out of town to visit friends. He rose so long before, that he might have time for his secret devotions, and for reading his morning task of the Holy Scriptures. He resolved to read fifteen chapters of these every day; five in the morning, five after dinner, before he entered upon his other studies, and five before he went to bed. And when he could not sleep during the watches of the night, he meditated upon these, and enjoyed then a spiritual and an intellectual feast upon the Word of God....He generally rose about four o'clock in the morning, during the summer; and in winter, he rose before it was light, that he might have the better opportunity for his own devotion, in imitation of his blessed Lord and Master, Mark i. 35.

George Godfrey Cunningham, Lives of Eminent and Illustrious Englishmen, Vol. 3, p. 174:

[Matthew Poole, while working on his Latin Synopsis Criticorum] rose at three or four o'clock, took a raw egg at intervals, and kept on labouring all day till towards evening, when he usually sought for a short time the relaxation and enjoyment of society at some friend's house.

Edmund Calamy the Historian, The Nonconformist's Memorial, Vol. 3, p. 19:

[William Bridge] was a very hard student; rose at four o'clock winter and summer, and continued in his study till eleven.

John Howie, The Scots Worthies, p. 133:

[Samuel Rutherford at Anwoth] laboured with great diligence and success, both night and day, rising usually by three o'clock in the morning, spending the whole time praying, writing, catechising, visiting, and other duties belonging to the ministerial profession and employment.

Theodosia Alleine, Life and Death of the Rev. Joseph Alleine, p. 106:

All the time of his health, he did rise constantly at or before four of the clock, and on the Sabbath sooner, if he did wake. He would be much troubled if he heard any smiths, or shoemakers, or such tradesmen, at work at their trades, before he was in his duties with God; saying to me often, "O how this noise shames me! Doth not my Master deserve more than theirs?" From four till eight he spent in prayer, holy contemplations, and singing of psalms, which he much delighted in, and did daily practise alone, as well as in his family. Having refreshed himself about half an hour, he would call to family duties, and after that to his studies, till eleven or twelve o'clock, cutting out his work for every hour in the day. Having refreshed himself a while after dinner, he used to retire to his study to prayer, and go abroad among the families he was to visit, to whom he always sent the day before; going out about two o'clock, and seldom returning till seven in the evening, sometimes later. He would often say, "Give me a christian that counts his time more precious than gold."

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