In order to the profitable reading of the Word of GOD it is necessary to approach its sacred pages with becoming reverence and humility. Some persons read the Bible as a book of amusement, while others peruse it for its antiquarian character and its historical records. Others again read thoughtlessly; being accustomed from childhood to see the Book in their households, they unconsciously come to treat it as a common thing. In order, however, to study it with saving benefit, the heart must be prepared with pious dispositions and with illumination of the HOLY GHOST, which is promised to those who ask it.
1. Read with reverence. Remember that it is an inspired revelation in which ALMIGHTY GOD sets forth His plan of grace and mercy. To read a message from the LORD with lack of reverence or with thoughtlessness is as unwise as it is dangerous.
2. Read with docility. Remember that GOD is the Teacher in the Word. Do not therefore use it so as to make it sustain favorite theories or preconceived opinions. To act thus is to assume that man knows beforehand what GOD should reveal, and that it is not dishonoring to GOD to compel His Word to speak as man pleases. So also to reject the teachings of the Bible because they are humiliating to man's supposed ability or dignity is to act as if GOD knew not our state and nature, and that man were wiser than GOD.
3. Read with intelligence and care. Compare passage with passage, and it will be found that the Bible will be its own interpreter. There are many difficult and profound places in the Bible. Do not reject or deal rashly with such passages. Lay them aside for thought and prayer and future reading, and in time it will be found that light will arise in unexpected quarters, and such portions will be made plain.
4. Read studiously. Let the earnest attention of the mind and all the faculties of the soul be applied, remembering that the Word is given to make wise unto salvation. Do not ignore the lessons of any book or part of a book. Realize the fact that the Bible is all from GOD, and that, though all the books are not of equal interest, they are all designed for our instruction, and they all unite to complete the revelation as a whole. Read the Bible so as to discern the system of truth which pervades the Book, and remember always that if natural things in the universe are worthy of study, much more so are the lessons of JEHOVAH, set forth in His Word, that reveal a Saviour and tell us of the inheritance of the saints in another world.
5. Read regularly. It is related of CHRYSOSTOM that he read the Epistle to the Romans twice every week, and of the Rev. THOMAS GOUGE, that he read fifteen chapters daily. Aim not so much as quantity as at regularity, so as daily to feed on the Word, and thus we shall experience its sustaining and controlling power. In the labors and cares of every-day duty, as well as in the temptations, we shall feel the benefit of such feeding on the Divine counsels in the Holy Word.
6. Study the design of each book. Errors and heresies generally arise from separating passages and reading them without regarding their relative bearing and connection, and applying a dogmatic meaning to them, instead of ever reading with the conviction that no one part and no one book can be opposed to any others, and that a spirit of unity pervades the whole.
7. Discern always the connection which is shown to exist between doctrine and duty, and strive after spiritual obedience. To receive right views of GOD, heaven, hell, the SAVIOUR, pardon and acceptance, will necessarily lead to right feelings, and where the affections and the heart are right, then right acting will follow. In other words, true doctrines, rightly apprehended, are inseparable from spiritual feelings and efforts after corresponding obedience. There is darkness in every mind where mere legality or notional formality prevails.
8. Remember that the Bible is given not only to teach, but to sustain under trial, and to cheer under affliction. This is a world of care, a scene of disappointments, bereavements, trials and distress. This is not the inheritance and the rest. Here the believer walks by faith, and the soul has to lean on an unseen stay, but a never-failing support. Of that support the Word is ever full, both of direction and promise. Read with faith and receive the promise with the simplicity and heartiness of a little child, and it will be found that the Lord is a present help in time of trouble. Study, then, the Word that teaches the soul how to cast the burden on the Lord.
9. Rely constantly on the teaching of the HOLY SPIRIT, and look for His gracious presence to shin on the Word and make the soul wise unto salvation. Remember that the "natural man receiveth not the things of the SPIRIT OF GOD. They are spiritually discerned." The HOLY GHOST has given the Word by His inspiration, and it is His office to interpret it to the soul, and to seal it on the heart. Ever look for that teaching. Read with humility, with a tender, docile spirit, being assured that if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of GOD, who giveth liberally, and it shall be given to him.
Friday, January 30, 2009
How to Read the Word of God
John Brown of Haddington's Self-Interpreting Bible: