Solitude Improved

Ranew goes on to provide a general overview of meditation, highlighting key Scripture passages and employing a series of analogies

Pious meditation is the duty of every Christian; or, It is the high institution of Christ, and greatly incumbent duty of Christians, to exercise themselves much in holy meditation.
A rare and soul-enriching way; none know the sweetness and blessings of it, but such as exercise themselves in it.


Nathanael Ranew died in 1677, “a judicious divine, and a good historian.”[1] He had served as vicar in Felsted, Essex, until his ejection in 1662 for nonconformity, after which he moved twenty miles south to teach in the town of Billericay. Well-regarded during his lifetime, he is now most known for his book, Solitude Improved by Divine Meditation, described as “One of the best books upon the subject.”[2] If that is the case, Ranew’s book would seem especially relevant for today, when meditation is often heavily misunderstood (if not entirely ignored).

In Solitude Improved, Ranew explains what meditation is, why it is necessary, and how it can be practiced. Here is a selection from the introduction:

Purposing some Improvement of Solitude in the late mournful year, when death was so largely commissioned to destroy by that dreadful pestilence, I made choice of this excellent subject of Divine Meditation. The best way of thinking and mind employing is this meditation. The right art and skill of it is a rare attainment. The due practice of it is a most noble self-entertainment.

A pious heart hath three happy ways of self-entertainment in solitary; three rare ways of being least alone, when most alone.

The first way of self-entertainment, is the ordinance of reading and searching the Holy Scriptures, the pure, perfect, and infallible word and will of Christ concerning us.

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