From our correspondence we gather that in these strenuous
days, there are not a few who deplore the fact, that they do not now have
the time available for serious reading which they once had. Working
conditions are so exacting, competition is so keen and ruthless, the pace
has become so feverish—that the majority are too exhausted at the close of
the day to apply themselves in the evening to anything which involves much
effort. We sympathize with these weary toilers, and would offer to
them the following remarks.
First, God is no Egyptian taskmaster, laying upon us a
burden grievous to be borne.
Second, there is nothing more restful to the nerves and
relief-bringing to an over-taxed mind, than half an hour spent alone with
God; say five minutes in reading a Psalm or a portion from the Gospels, 15
or 20 minutes at the Throne of Grace—thanking God for the mercies of the
day, pouring out to Him our troubles, seeking fresh supplies of grace: and
then reading a chapter from the Epistles.
Third, retire to rest half an hour sooner than you have
been doing, and rise that much earlier in the morning, so as to spend it
with God, preparing yourself for the demands of the day.
Fourth, be most particular in seeing to it that you spend
several hours on Sundays, reading over God's Word and edifying books. It is
not honoring to the Lord for you to rush from one meeting to another, and
leave yourself little opportunity for private devotions.
But there is another class of young people or those not
so hardly pressed by the exigencies of modern life, who write and ask us
what we consider to be "the best way to study the Bible." Recently it has
struck us that the term "study" in this relation has an egotistical sound
and savors of carnality. Is it not almost irreverent to employ this language
here—a dragging down of the holy and unique Word of God to the level of mere
human productions? Is it a clear brain—or a sensitive conscience,
which is most essential for profiting from Divine revelation? and which is
more likely to be called into exercise by close "study"? "What method
do you recommend for studying the Bible?" Does not such a question seem to
indicate, that the inquirer supposes the Sacred Scriptures to be addressed
chiefly to the intellect? The questioner may not be conscious of this (for
the heart is very deceitful)—yet is not that what is really implied? Can you
imagine one who had received a letter from his sweetheart, proposing to sit
down and "study" it? Would not that expression be altogether incongruous in
such a connection?
But has not God Himself exhorted us to "study" His Word?
Where? In what passage? The actual term "study" occurs but five times in the
Bible. Twice in Proverbs (15:28; 24:2) where it signifies to "meditate"
beforehand; once in Ecclesiastes 12:12; again in 1 Thessalonians 4:11,
"Study to be quiet"; and finally, "study to show yourself approved unto God,
a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth"
(2 Timothy 2:15), which is addressed to the preacher, and means he is to
make it his paramount concern to endeavor to please God in all things, and
is to spare no pains in equipping himself to minister the Word in season to
needy souls, so that each may receive a suitable portion. Neither the verse
itself nor the context has any reference to partitioning off the Scriptures,
allotting one book to this dispensation and another book to that
dispensation—which is a subtle device of the Enemy to rob God's children of
many needed parts of their spiritual bread.
Are we intimating, then, that the rank and file of God's
people should devote less time to the Scriptures—or that they should be
encouraged to scan them superficially? No, indeed —God forbid! That against
which we are here protesting is the God-dishonoring idea that His Word is
merely a piece of literature, which may be "mastered" by a course of
"study." That which we would warn against is an undue occupation with the
technical aspects of the Bible. By all means read and re-read the whole
Bible through consecutively, so as to become acquainted with its contents.
By all means, "search the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11) in order to test
all you hear and read, "compare" one part with another, so that you may
obtain fuller light upon what is before you. Pray constantly for the
guidance and illumination of the Spirit, that He may open to you its Divine
mysteries; slowly ponder each word in every verse. Above all, beg God to
write His Word more legibly and fully upon the tablets of your heart.
God's blessed Word is not for dissection by the
knife of cold intellectuality—but is to be laid to heart. It
is not given for us to display our cleverness and "brilliance" upon—but to
be bowed before in true humility. It is not designed for mental
entertainment—but for the regulation of our daily lives. Far, far more
important than "method", is our motive when approaching the Word. Not
to acquire that which will puff us up in our own conceit—but that which will
subdue pride and bring us as supplicants to the footstool of Mercy, is what
we should seek. Of what value is a knowledge of the original Hebrew and
Greek—or a thorough acquaintance with the history, geography, and chronology
of the Bible—if the heart be left cold and hard toward its Author?
We very much doubt then, if this word "study" is an
appropriate one to apply unto our perusal of the inspired page. What would
be thought of a child, away from home, saying he was going to "study" the
letters he had received from his parents? And the Bible consists of a series
of letters from the Heavenly Father to His dear children. Then let us
cherish them as such, and act accordingly.
As we wrote recently to two young friends in the United
States, "I wonder if you will be surprised when I say that, I seriously
doubt if God has called or requires you to 'study' His Word—what you need to
do is FEED thereon. How much nourishment would your body derive from a study
of the chemical properties of cereals and fruits—or from seeking to
ascertain the various sorts of soil in which they are grown or the different
types from which they are derived—or the meaning of their Latin names? None
whatever! And I am persuaded that much of the modern 'study of the Bible' is
equally profitless spiritually. True, such a study as I have mentioned
above, would feed pride—acquiring a knowledge which many of your fellows
possess not; but would it aid digestion?
Would it not be more practicable to pay closer attention
to securing a nutritious and balanced diet? Would it not be more profitable
if you gave greater attention to the mastication of your food? So it is,
dear friends, with our spiritual food." "Desire the sincere milk of the
Word—that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). That is the only nutritive
food for the soul!
Dwell not so exclusively upon favorite books of Scripture
that you neglect others equally needful—but vary your reading, and then you
will obtain a balanced diet. Memorize a verse or two every day and meditate
thereon whenever you have a few spare moments, even when journeying to and
from your work, and then you will masticate your Food. Put the precepts into
practice, heed the warnings of Scripture, and then you will assimilate what
you have fed upon.
N.B.—It should hardly be necessary for us to point out,
that this brief editorial is not designed for preachers and teachers.