Part 2: "So what exactly is a good memory good for anyway?"
As we saw in the first part of this series, the memory is an amazing faculty. God has given it to us to use for his glory, and I can hardly think of anything more glorifying to Him than memorizing His Word! It is our duty to labor to improve our memories, and then to put all of what we remember into practice! So the following is an embellishing of part one, and an answering of the questions, "Why should I pray for God's grace to help improve my memory? Exactly what are the benefits that I will gain?"
The first paragraph is an introduction to the rest.
The sanctification of the memory by fitting things laid up in memory for use and practice. –– This is plainly the work of God by his grace. A notional memory is of little use without a practical; as treasure in a chest is no way useful, though there be much of it, as a penny in the purse, when there is occasion for it. “The steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,” and on those who “remember to do his commandments.” (Psalm 103:17, 18). And certainly they who commit things to their memories on this design to practice them, shall be able to remember them, when they have need of them, in the course of their practice.
A good memory is very helpful and useful as a great means of knowledge.––For what use is your reading or hearing, if you remember nothing? It is not eating or drinking, but digesting your food, that keeps you alive; and so it is in this case: “My son,” not only “be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings,” but “keep them within your heart.” Then “they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” (Prov. 4:20-22)
A good memory is very helpful and useful as a means of faith.––As is plain in 1 Cor 15:2––“Unless you have believed in vain.” For, though faith rests purely on the word of God, yet when the word and works of God are forgotten, faith will stagger. Hence our Savior says, “O you of little faith, do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand?” etc. (Matt. 16:8-9.) “The word of God is the sword of the Spirit,” (Eph. 6:17), whereby Satan is foiled: but if this sword be out of the way by reason of forgetfulness, how shall we conflict with the enemy??
It is a means of comfort.––If a poor Christian in distress could remember God’s promises, they would inspire him with new life; but when they are forgotten, his spirits sink. Our way to heaven lies over hills and vales: when we are on the hill, we think we shall never be in the dumps again; and so, when we are in the valley, we fear we shall never have comfort again. But now, a faithful memory is a great help: “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.' I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:10-11). So also, Psalm 119:52: “When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.”
It is a means of repentance.––For, how can we repent or mourn for what we have quite forgotten? As, therefore, there is a blameworthy remembrance of sin, when we remember it in kindness; so there is a praiseworthy remembrance of sin, when we remember it with displeasure: “That you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame.” (Ezek. 16:63). But, alas! We write our sins in sand instead of stone, and foolishly imagine that the eternal God forgets them just as soon as we; though in such cases he has said and sworn, “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” (Amos 8:7)
And it is a means of usefulness.––No man should, nor indeed can, be singly religious. When one spark of grace is truly kindled in the heart, it will quickly endeavor to heat others also. So for counsel: we are born, we are new-born, to be helpful to others. Herein a good memory is exceedingly useful; out of which, as out of a storehouse, a wise Christian may “bring forth matters both new and old.” (Matt. 8:52). Such may say, “We have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us,” this and that observation. (Psalm 44:1). Likewise, “As we have heard, so have we seen,” what may be very useful to many a soul. (Psalm 48:8).
So that, you see, a good memory is useful in many ways, as a means of knowledge, faith, comfort, repentance, and usefulness. What Christian would not desire these things??? It is my prayer that you would be moved by this small endeavor. God will be pleased if we use our memories for his glory. We cannot but help glorifying Him if we use our memories to "store up his Word in our hearts that we might not sin against him!" Psalm 119:11
The next and last part of the series will be about very practical ways to improve your memory.
Part 1: Steele on the Memory
This is my formal introduction into the blogging industry, so I apologize if I did anything wrong. This post is the first of a three-part series about our memory. Most of what I've written here is adapted from a sermon preached by the Rev. Richard Steele (1629-1692). He belonged to an amazingly gifted group of theologians called the Puritans who lived in the seventeeth century. For those who are interested, the translations used are the KJV and the ESV.
What Are the Hindrances and Helps to a Good Memory in Spiritual Things?
The excellence of the memory: The soul of man is a subject of wonder; and nothing is more wonderful in it than the memory –– that such innumerable images of things should be lodged in a finite faculty, and that what seems to be utterly lost in it, should be fully recovered; wherefore it is justly deemed by the learned a miraculous mercy. It has power to make things that are in themselves absent and past, to be present. By the help of memory, we retain what we have read in books, what we have heard in sermons or other discourses, as well as examples of God’s mercies and judgments for our encouragement and warning. All these, and ten thousand things more, are laid up in the memory, which is the soul’s treasury, so that the soul would be a poor soul without the memory. We may see the worth of this faculty by those that are deprived of the use of it, that can remember nobody, nor the last question that they asked. All a man’s past life would be lost, if his memory were lost. The souls would be poor in knowledge, poor in gifts, poor in comfort, without the memory. Especially this faculty was happy in its primitive state before the fall; for then its reception was easy, the impressions firm, the recovery (if any use of it) ready. Then it was like a clear crystal glass, wherein all that was contained in it was easily seen; now it is cracked and muddy: then it was like an iron chest; now it is like a bag with holes. It had the neighborhood of a clear understanding and of a holy will; and Adam could not but “remember his Creator in those days of his youth.”
It is necessary to labor to improve your memories, to have them cured and strengthened –– It is an unquestionable duty. That fundamental law, propounded in the Old Testament (Deut. 6:5) and confirmed in the New (Matt. 22:37) –– “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” –– obliges us to strain every faculty to the utmost in God’s behalf. One end of Christ’s coming into the world was to repair our depraved faculties; and shall we suffer him to die in vain? First Corinthians 15:2 says, “By which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you –– unless you believed in vain.” This shows how necessary it is to improve our memories, as a means of faith and salvation. We find by experience that this faculty is miserably corrupted: and therefore it is undoubtedly necessary that it be renewed.
Reduce into practice that which you remember.––The end of all true knowledge is practice: “Remember to do his commandments.” (Psalm 103:18). If it be a doctrinal truth which you read or hear, consider what influence it has upon the heart. If it be a duty which is set before you, immediately set about it. If a sin be exposed, presently root it out. If insincerity or hypocrisy be brought to light, examine your spiritual state without delay. For, as a treasure in the chest is in danger of the robber; but when it is used for a good purchase, here it is safe from being stolen: so too, while spiritual notions swim only in the memory, you may easily lose them; but they are safe when they are once incorporated into your real practice. But, alas! There are too many that are like those whiffling chapmen, who come to the shop and lay-by a great many rich wares; but when all is done, they buy few or none: so these cheapen and bid for the pearl, but will not buy it; they will talk over all the points of religion, before they will seriously practice any one of them. For you “remember the Sabbath” aright, when you so remember it before it comes, that when it comes, you “keep it holy.” (Exod. 20:8). You remember God truly, when you fear and love and trust in him. You remember your neighbor as you ought, when you remember “to do good, and to communicate.” (Heb. 13:16). You remember yourselves best, when you remember “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” (Acts 24:16). In a word: you remember your latter end rightly, when you keep your oil ready in your lamps and in your vessels, so that when your Master comes, he may find you so doing.
Steele follows the usual practice of the Puritans in his sermon ––delivering doctrine before application––so I will too. The next post will have more applicable points.
So what are the great benefits to be gained by improving your memories? Keep your eyes peeled. . .