A Talk about the Family Bible
George Everard, 1878
It is a very common thing in our English Homes to have a large Family Bible. Sometimes it is given as a wedding present; sometimes it is bought by careful savings a little before or after marriage. Then in this Bible are written the names of the heads of the family and the time they were married; and then often are added the names of children and when they were born; and sometimes too the sad record how they have early been taken away. No home, it seems to me, is complete without the large Bible, around which all in the house may gather, and learn from its pages those blessed truths which alone can make the home really a happy one. If Family Prayer is like the roof of the house — the Family Bible is like the bright lamp within, which sheds light on all the household. It also seems to me suitable that the story of births, and it may be of deaths also, should be registered in this Holy Book. For where else can there be found any better help and guidance and consolation from the cradle to the grave?
And may we not well speak of the Family Bible, because it sets forth so truly the various duties of the members of the household?
Fathers and mothers are instructed to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by loving correction to guide their footsteps in the way of life. Children are taught to honor and obey their parents, to requite them for their kindness, and to show piety at home. Husbands are exhorted to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and to forbear all bitterness and harshness. Wives are bidden to submit to their husbands and to show them reverence; and both are enjoined to live together as heirs of the grace of life.
Those who have servants are told to deal justly and faithfully by them, since they too have a Master in Heaven. Servants are told to do all things as the servants of Christ, living daily under His eye, striving to please Him in their daily duties — and He will pay them better wages than man ever gives.
We have various precepts and examples which will almost bring down Heaven to earth, if they are in any measure followed, and will make each family a type of the Great Family above.
So that the Bible is indeed a Book for the Family; and where it is best loved and practiced, we shall find the most genuine and lasting happiness.
The word Bible signifies Book; and when we call it the Bible, we mean that it is the Book of books — the best Book, the wisest Book, the Book that will do us the most good of any in the world.
If all the other books in the world were destroyed, however great and irreparable the loss — if men still had the Bible, they would be far better off than if this were destroyed and all other books remained.
It is the Book that alone can tell . . .
how sin can be forgiven,
how temptation can be overcome,
how trouble and sorrow can be met,
how tears can be wiped away, and
how death can be the gate of everlasting life.
It is indeed the best companion . . .
for days of trial,
for the day of sickness, and
for the hour when we must part from all below!
I remember a long time ago hearing a story of a young girl traveling by railway with a clever skeptic. He went on arguing for some time with his fellow-travelers, and trying to prove the Bible untrue; when at last this young girl said that the Bible gave her all the comfort she had in the world, and as he had been trying to take this away from her — could he give her anything better? He could make no reply to this appeal, and said no more on the subject.
Something of the same kind is told of the mother of the historian Hume. She had loved the Scriptures, but he persuaded her to give them up. When in days of sickness she wrote to him, asking him for some comfort, it is said he never answered her letter, for he knew not what comfort he could give her.
We often find the words, "The Holy Bible" in gilt lettering upon the back. These words seem to me to be very suggestive. It is the Holy Bible, because it is the gift of a Holy God. It tells of a Savior who is "Holy, harmless, and separate from sinners." It is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and the great object of it is to make men holy, as God is holy. Every one who reads the Scriptures with prayer for the teaching of the Spirit becomes more and more holy. Thousands and tens of thousands who were once slaves of sin and evil — through the knowledge of the Word, have become humble, holy, happy Christians, following in the footsteps of Jesus on earth, and preparing to live with Him in glory.
Oh what a treasure is a well-read Bible! It is . . .
a mine of gold,
a hive full of honey,
a field covered with a rich harvest.
It is a tree of life, of which every twig bears precious fruit.
It is an ocean full of pearls.
It is a river full of the purest water of life.
It is a sun whose beams warm and cheer the heart.
It is a bright star that can guide the pilgrim through the darkest night.
It is a granary stored with the finest of the wheat.
It is a medicine-chest, from which we may find a remedy for every malady of the soul.
It is a Mount Pisgah, from which we can view the promised land of Canaan.
All this and much more, is the Bible to those who love to search it and explore the depths of heavenly wisdom which it contains.
Dear reader, whatever you forget, never, never forget day by day to read something out of this precious Book.
We are told of one who found a Bible covered with dust. He took it up and wrote on it with his ringer the two letters, very large, "S.S."
When asked what he meant by those two letters, he said, "S.S. signifies SLOTHFUL Servant." He meant to say to its possessor, "You have had God's Word in your house — but you have neglected to read it. God has told you in this Book all that you need to know in order to be saved; but you have taken no pains or trouble to learn that which God has revealed."
But the letters might have had another and encouraging meaning. "S.S." might signify "Search the Scriptures." Whatever you have done hitherto, begin now to search them daily as for hidden treasures. Go deep into this precious mine. Ponder what you read. Compare one part with another. Compare the commands and precepts with your own daily life. Bring its promises to bear on your heart and temptations.
Or "S.S." might signify "Savior of Sinners." This is the great message of the Bible. It tells of Christ coming into the world to save the lost. It tells of Him as able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him. We are therefore to read it that we may lay hold of the great salvation which He brings to us. We are to learn out of it, His fullness and all-sufficiency to meet every need, and His readiness and delight to save those who come to Him.
"Blessed Lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, by patience and comfort of Your Holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ."
We see here that when we read or hear the Scriptures, we should pay good heed to each word — to each verse and sentence. There are depths and heights in many of the simplest verses that we can never reach. Therefore we ought to turn them over again and again in our minds. We must "mark, learn, and inwardly digest" them. A few verses or even a single verse well thought over, and still better, well prayed over — will bring more profit and help than many chapters listlessly or carelessly read.
I remember a Christian man who would write out on a piece of paper in the morning the verse or verses that had most struck him in his morning portion, and walking through the fields or by the wayside would ponder the passage through the day.
The great aim of the Scripture is to lead us to embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of the Gospel.
We are like shipwrecked sailors. We are in great danger by reason of our sinful and lost condition. We are in peril of eternal death, and of sinking to a more fearful abyss than that of the great Atlantic. But in the Scriptures our merciful God throws us out the rope of salvation. He declares that Christ has died for our sins, and that there is salvation in Him for the greatest sinners. But we must "embrace and ever hold fast" this blessed hope. As the sailor must take hold and then keep hold of the rope — so must we in our hearts believe in Christ and cleave to Him. By the calls and promises of the Word we are invited at once, without any delay, to come to Christ, to trust our souls to Him, to accept a free pardon, and the help of His Holy Spirit.
This is the first great object of the Bible, namely, to make us "wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
But a second great object for which the Bible is given, is to enable us to hold fast this hope.
We must "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." And the Bible shows how it is possible to do this. It warns against rocks that are near. The fear of man, the allurements of worldly pleasures, the snare of pride, the temptation of doubt and unbelief — against these we must watch.
The Bible gives great encouragement to persevere. It leads us to "patience and comfort," by the assurance that Christ is ever at hand to support us when we are tempted, and to hear our prayers. It brings before us the faithfulness of God to His people, and the blessed truth that He will never leave nor forsake those who trust in Him. It points us to the Heavenly City where there shall be no more sorrow nor sighing, and where the former things are passed away. Thus we are taught to "hold fast" the blessed hope until we have passed safely through the waves of this troublesome world and have reached the haven where we would be.
There is one more thought before I leave this subject. It seems to me that the possession of a Bible brings with it a great responsibility. If you have had a Bible, but have never followed its blessed lessons — will it not prove to be a millstone around your neck in the Great Day?
"Ah," you will say, "I had a Bible. It told me plainly that the sinner must perish. It told me that only One could save me — He who died for sinners on the tree. It told me of the glories of Heaven and the woes of Hell. But I never cared for my soul. I never thought of my sins. I never trusted in my Savior. I never prayed for the help of the Spirit. And now that Bible bears witness to me that my ruin lies at my own door!"
Dear reader, let this never be the case with you. May your experience be like that of a Hindu who had a copy of the New Testament presented to him, and who learned the secret of peace from its pages: "I read, I pondered, I wondered, I believed. I gazed upon the cross of Christ, and as I gazed the ponderous load fell off my heart; I rejoiced in Jesus."