Eleven years ago we promised: “We will remember them.” Thousands of precious lives taken by vile murderers in just a few hours. Today we keep that promise, thankful for the public ceremonies and church services that revive our failing and fading memories.

We will remember them because if we forget we will be the poorer for it and the nation will be the weaker. Grave social, moral, emotional and even spiritual loss will follow.

We wish we could remember better. Not just the blood-soaked events in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. But also the blood-soaked events at Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. In 1 Corinthians 15v1-2, the apostle Paul warns that the consequences of forgetting the Gospel are not just grave but fatal:

I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached to you, unless you have believed in vain.

In response, the Puritan Richard Steele preached a sermon on that text entitled: “What are the hindrances and helps to a good memory in spiritual things?”

Steele began by describing the double wound that sin inflicted upon our memories:

  1. We remember what we should forget: unprofitable things, hurtful things, sinful things.
  2. We forget what we should remember: our Creator and what He has done for us, our Redeemer and what He has done for us, the truths of religions, the duties of religion, our sins (to loathe them), our vows to God and promises to others, the church of God, our latter end.

He then lists some of the ways we can further injure and weaken our memories:

  1. Limited understanding: unless we clearly know something we will never remember it.
  2. A carnal, careless heart: which remembers useless songs better than edifying sermons.
  3. A darling sin: that monopolizes our thoughts and debauches our faculties.
  4. Excess of worldly cares: they stuff the memory and leave no room for spiritual matters.
  5. Gluttony and excess alcohol: both damage the brain and the body, though food works more slowly than drink.
  6. Violent emotions such as anger, grief, and fear: all such emotions change our body chemistry, with knock-on effects on the brain.
  7. A multitude of undigested notions: Puritan-speak for “information overload!”

Isn’t it amazing how ahead of scientific curve some of these old Puritans were! We see their beautiful holistic balance even in some of the memory repair treatments Steele proposed:

  1. A balanced climate: the brain thrives when the envornment is not too hot or too cold, not too dry or too damp.
  2. A sober diet: the heathens show up believers here by demonstrating that a sparing and temperate diet improves the mental faculties.
  3. A quiet mind: is like a clear still pool where you can see all the fish.
  4. Audible repetition of Gospel truths: especially to be done with the family at the end of each Lord’s Day.
  5. Writing out truth: Writing out the sermons you hear helps memory, prevents distraction, and stops drowsiness.
  6. Exercising the memory: just as a muscle can be made stronger by use, strengthen your memory with different challenges.
  7. Mourn over your forgetfulness: just as we would expect an employee to apologize for forgetting his duties, so we humbly confess our spiritual forgetfulness.
  8. Pray: Ask God for the promised Holy Spirit to keep the Gospel before your mind (Jn. 14:26)
  9. Diligent attention: if the mind wander in hearing, the memory will be weak in remembering (another way of saying, “don’t multi-task”)
  10. Value the Gospel: the more we love something, the more we will remember it.
  11. Serious meditation: read for a few minutes, shut the book, then think on what you read for a few minutes before going on and the precious truths will abide with us.

We will remember them. Precious truths and precious lives.

This sermon is not online, but you will find it in Volume 3 of Puritan Sermons (Amazon, Logos, Puritan Hard Drive). Steele’s best known work is online: A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in the Worship of God

  • http://outin2thedeep.wordpress.com Wesley

    Of all the treatments, i was most impressed (and humbled) by “mourn over your forgetfulness”. This is so often the last thing on my mind, even after i’ve remembered God’s faithfulness, to repent of forgetting His goodness. Thanks for this great post sir!

  • Frederika Pronk

    Thank you for remembering and reminding. The Bible and history teach that Christians are especially the target of the enemies inspired by God’s great Opponent, Satan. It is so important that we remember 9/11 with prayer, remind our children and grandchildren, loved ones, friends, and fellow citizens to be vigilant for our countries, take an interest in how our governments (we’re Canadian as well as a US citizens) are protecting us (or not). YouTube has some shocking reminders of that horrible and terrifying day: 9/11/2001.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Yes, Ricky, I started watching one of those videos and had to stop. It is so shocking. Difficult to know how to keep the horror in front of us without scaring ourselves silly.

  • http://homeschoolonthecroft.blogspot.com/ Anne

    I was thinking of this the other day when the children of Israel are spoken of in Joshua 2 as having forgotten what God had done for them. I couldn’t but be amazed that so soon … it was all forgotten. How important for parents to tell children constantly ‘all that the Lord has done’ for us, as individuals, but also what He has done throughout history .

    (I don’t know if it’s a Scottish thing, but our minds seem to have been working along similar lines today!)

    @Fredrika, I’ve just been watching a Fox News video of the events of 9/11. No matter how often we watch the events, they never cease to shock us, and to make us weep

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Agreed Ann. We forget so much and so quickly.