The Christian and His Bible
George Everard, 1866
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word." "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." We are here taught by David that to walk aright, the young must be guided by the teaching of Holy Scripture. Hence nothing can exceed the importance of . . .
making your Bible a daily friend and companion,
pondering the lessons which it teaches, and
hearkening to the counsel which it gives.
Be firmly settled in the truth that Holy Scripture is the very Word of God. From first to last, it is all written under the guiding and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We may trust His word. He can neither deceive nor be deceived.
This may guide us in looking backwards and forwards, in considering both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Upon the former He set His own broad seal of authority. He Himself referred to very many portions of it, especially to the Pentateuch — He stamped it again and again as infallible truth. He ascribed error to the fact that men "knew not the Scriptures." He declared "that the Scripture cannot be broken;" that they that "believe not Moses and the prophets, will not be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
With respect to the New Testament, we know that He gave a special authority to His Apostles. He promised His Spirit to call to their remembrance the things which He had spoken, and to guide them into all truth. Their words were His words. The truths they taught and wrote were such as the Holy Spirit taught them.
The inner harmonies of Scripture, both as to its facts and doctrines, are an evidence of its Divine origin. The similarity of God's working at various times, both in the hearts of men and in the miracles which He has wrought, tends greatly to confirm our faith. Look at the latter point. Who can fail to discern the same God working at Babel, and on the day of Pentecost? At Babel we see Him confounding men's tongues, that He might humble pride, and bring low the tower which man was building for his own glory. On the day of Pentecost we see Him giving fresh powers of utterance, so that to some it seemed confusion, but the object of it was to aid His own people in rearing the spiritual temple for His own glory. If we recognize God's hand on the latter occasion, can we fail to see it in the former?
Notice again the strong resemblance that exists between several of the miracles wrought by Moses and those by Christ. It is true there are marked lines of distinction between them: in those of Moses we can discern chiefly judgment upon the rebellious; in those of Christ, tender mercy and compassion. Yet there was the same Divine power manifested, working in a somewhat similar way.
Compare the waters of the Nile being changed into blood — and the water at Cana changed into wine. Compare Moses and the people walking safely through the Red Sea, the Israelites crossing the Jordan — and Christ walking on the Sea of Galilee, as if there were a solid pavement beneath His feet. Compare Moses giving the people manna from the clouds — and Christ multiplying the loaves and fishes in the wilderness. Compare the three days of darkness in Egypt — with the three hours of darkness when Christ was upon the cross.
Surely in this, as in every other respect, we see that the Bible is one book. He who believes the miracles of Christ in the New Testament, will not be led astray by the prevailing skepticism which would lead him to cast away his faith in the Old Testament. And he who believes in the resurrection of Christ, the greatest of all His miracles, will scarcely be able to doubt the rest.
Let me now endeavor to make a few practical suggestions as to the profitable reading of Holy Scripture.
Ever hold the Book of God in the highest reverence. "My heart stands in awe of Your Word." Such should be your spirit whenever you take it in hand. I would not call that Bibliolatry which makes a Christian half tremble when his Bible falls from the table. Far is it to be preferred to the painful indifference with which the Bible is often treated in schools — cast hither and thither with no more thought than any other book. Especially would I guard you against the common practice of using a passage of Scripture to point a joke. Allusions of the kind do great harm both to those who make them and those who hear them.
To profit by Scripture, put away whatever would hinder its sanctifying effect. As no man could be nourished by the most wholesome food, if he accustomed himself to the use of some hurtful drug or poisonous herb — so the Word does not profit where that is indulged which is injurious to the soul's health. For example, avoid any such frame of mind as Peter has referred to, "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:1-2
Be careful likewise as to your other reading. Prefer the solid to the superficial. Be very choice as to any works of fiction which you may occasionally read. Set your face against any such book as would varnish sin, or gloss over those evils which God abhors. Never read skeptical books merely to know what others have to say. If for any reason you feel it your duty to read them, do so with a sincere desire after truth, with much prayer, and reading together with them, such answers as may have been made to the objections proposed.
Read the Scriptures regularly — yet with freedom. It is the worst possible plan, to take any chapter that you think of at the moment, and read it as your morning or evening portion. Instead of this, always have in hand some one book of Scripture — and do not leave either until you have finished it. With many it has been found most profitable to take the Old Testament in the morning, and the New Testament in the evening — and perhaps a Psalm at midday; but all this must necessarily vary according to the time and opportunity of different individuals. At least, make it your rule never to pass a day without thoughtfully reading, and in order, some part of Scripture.
But rise above routine. Cast off the veil of dry routine. Be not content with mere duty-reading. Look upon the Bible as your Heavenly Father's love-letter sent to guide, assist, and comfort you on your journey — and not as a task book, which you would neglect if your conscience would allow you. Neither let your eye wander over the page as if you knew it all, and had no need to search its hidden depths.
To assist you in pondering the Word, occasionally vary your method of reading. If a sermon you have heard has much impressed you, it may be well at your next season of retirement, instead of taking your ordinary portion — to turn to the text and search out the subject more fully from other parts of Scripture. If some particular verse in your chapter has much struck you, it will not be a lost morning if you go out of your usual track and find out parallel passages. If you have just come to the close of any book of Scripture, it may do you good to spend your next half hour in looking back and inquiring what definite lessons it has afforded. Collect its teaching into a focus. Fasten the mind distinctly upon its striking features — the main lesson or lessons of the book, its marked sentences — these will be something gained for life — nails fastened in a sure place.
To illustrate what I mean, let me refer you to one of the most difficult books — that of the Prophet Ezekiel. Suppose you have been reading it, and it may have occupied you some five or six weeks. You come to the last chapter, and perhaps you grieve because there has been so much you could not understand. But look back — are there not precious lessons and principles to be carried away, such perhaps as can be scarcely found elsewhere, or at least as clearly?
Remember the chambers of imagery of Chapter 8. Learn that the penetrating eye of God pierces through every disguise, and lays bare that which is done with the utmost secrecy.
Remember the promise of the new heart of Chapters 11 and 36.
Learn the lesson of God's compassion, and His unwillingness that any should perish. (Chapters 18 and 33)
Remember the promise of Christ to be the Shepherd and the Plant of renown. Remember the frequently recurring sentence, "They shall know that I am the Lord." By judgment, or by mercy — each shall know the might and faithfulness of Jehovah.
Remember the expression, "I wrought for My name's sake," which is four times repeated in chapter 20.
What depths of consolation are there in this thought: you find no reason in yourself why God should grant you the blessing you desire; but you can ever plead His truth, His power, His love, and for His own glory He cannot disregard your plea.
Rich stores of heavenly wisdom may thus be laid up for future use, from a book treated by many as if too difficult for ordinary Christians.
The employment of the memory in the study of Scripture is likewise very important. "Your Word have I hid in mine heart," said David. It would be of no small benefit to you if you memorized a single verse selected from your morning reading, or if from time to time you committed to memory, special Psalms or chapters. I remember a blind girl repeating to me the 6th chapter of John, and I do not think, out of the seventy-one verses, that she made a single mistake. Very profitable to young Christians might it be to learn many precious passages in this way.
The prayers in Paul's Epistles are also very precious for this purpose. An aged Christian told me how helpful he found these later, as upon a sick bed he pleaded them again and again before God.
At once turn to practical use whatever out of Scripture, the Spirit has impressed upon your heart. When they have endeavored to do so, not seldom have Christians found single passages illuminate their whole life, and shed a light upon the whole of their after-course.
Twice was this the case in the life of the last Duchess of Gordon. The cause that led her first to study the Bible was remarkable. Though not then living for God, she was greatly pained to witness the vice which was prevalent in the higher ranks of society. To relieve her mind, she went to the Scriptures. She was discovered by a mirthful companion in her chamber with an open Bible before her. The taunt with which she turned away, led the young Duchess to become more earnest and persevering. One day her eye lighted upon Luke 11:13, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children — then how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him." This promise to the very end of her life became to her a guiding star. The great gift itself, and the willing bounty of the Giver — were both to her thoughts of exceeding encouragement.
Later in life another passage was brought before her in a very singular way. Being very anxious in mind with respect to fresh responsibilities devolving upon her, she was wandering over some old ruins in company with a few friends. A bright sunbeam fell upon a part of the wall, and made distinctly visible there a passage taken from an old version of Scripture: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." The impression was never lost. Romans 8:28 was a verse to which, in seasons of trial, she never failed to turn to. Blessed indeed will it be for the reader, if in the same spirit of joyful faith the Word be received into your heart.
What has been already said, may show the paramount necessity of prayer for Divine teaching. The words themselves, however appropriate, will never reach the inner depths of the soul, will never leave any permanent impression — unless the grace of the Holy Spirit accompanies them. For this therefore, unceasingly pray — that the Divine Spirit may impart to you the right understanding of that you read; that He may apply the Word to enlighten your conscience as to your sin and its evil before God; that He may reveal to your inmost heart, Christ in all His grace and love, and thus to perfect you in every good word and work.
A Christian woman was once found in her chamber stiff and cold, kneeling by her bedside with her open Bible before her. While thus communing with God, she had been called into His immediate presence above. May we, as she did, hold sweet fellowship with God in the study of His Word — and then at length sit down in His heavenly kingdom!
O God, the Father of mercies, I thank You for the precious jewel of Your Holy Word. Make it better to me than thousands of gold and silver, yes, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. Send forth Your light and Your truth — then I may discern more and more of its hidden treasures.
Show me therein, the evil of my own heart, and the sins and deficiencies of my life. Above all reveal to me in every page Christ, as my Savior, my Portion, my Refuge, my All.
O sanctify me by Your truth — Your Word is truth. Grant me Your Loving Spirit, and teach me thus to know You by faith, until I reach Your kingdom above. Hear this my petition for Jesus' sake. Amen.
Would you be wise, and know the Lord?
Would you believe aright?
Make the blessed volume of His Word
Your rule, your guide, your light.
Here is the spring where waters flow
To quench our heat of sin;
Here is the tree where truth doth grow,
To lead our lives therein.
The tidings of salvation dear
Come to our ears from hence;
The fortress of our faith is here,
Our shield, and our defense.
Head not this book in any case
But with a single eye;
Read not but first desire God's grace
To understand thereby.