The New Zealand Evangelist
“Search The Scriptures.” — John V., 39
“Search The Scriptures.” — John V., 39.
(Concluded from Page 175.)
This command implies that the Bible should be read devotionally; not only so as to find out the meaning and thereby enlighten the understanding, but also so as to cherish devotional feeling and ‘impress the heart. There are many whose consciences would check them if they neglected prayer, but who, without any compunction, can neglect the reading of God's word, as a part of their secret or family devotions; just as if it were more important that they should speak to God in prayer, than that he should speak to them by his word. Reading the Scriptures should form a part of all devotional exercises, whether in the closet, the family, or the sanctuary. We highly disapprove of the practice of those who, when they attend public worship, leave their Bibles at home. God's book is surely our fittest companion to God's house. It is certainly a dishonour to the book of God to be excluded from the house of God; and as the eye conveys impressions so distinctly to the mind—as two senses must aid the memory much more than only one—they undoubtedly sustain a serious loss who do not follow the public devotional page 194 reading of the Scriptures with the eye as well as the ear,—who do not look as well as listen to the word of God.
The Bible should be read in a proper state of mind. It should be approached with reverence as God's book. All levity and thoughtlessness should be banished. David says that “his heart stood in awe of God's word.” It is to the man who trembles at God's word that he has respect. It should be approached with humility; humility is the proper disposition and spirit of a learner. “The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way”—with docility, with a sincere desire to know God's will; not to have Scripture on our side, but to be on the side of Scripture, to whatever consequences it may lead us,—in faith, taking God at his own word in everything, whether he command or forbid, promise or threaten; “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
It should be read prayerfully, with earnest supplication for the Spirit's teaching. We may possess the finest copy that ever issued from the press;—read with ease, accuracy, and elegance,—read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation—read regularly, daily—read with the aid of the best helps that ever were published; but unless the Spirit shine upon the pages, and open the understanding, the Bible will prove like a dial plate without the rays of the sun; where the figures are seen, but the hours are unknown. The Student of the Bible has an advantage over the student of every other ancient book. Although the Bible is the oldest book that is extant, as to the greater part of it, yet the author of the Bible is alive, is accessible, and willing to explain any and every portion of it to all who will apply.— Let our daily prayer be “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”
The truths of Scripture should be carefully and accurately treasured up in the memory. If the truths are worth searching and studying, they are worth remembering, and it is only so far as they are remembered page 195 that they are of any practical use. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.” Our Saviour and the Apostles had their minds evidently well stored with the Old Testa-ment Scriptures; as we find them on every occasion quoting them with the utmost readiness. Christ defeated Satan three times in succession by quota-tions from the word of God; and removed, from the minds of his disciples, the erroneous impressions respecting his death and resurrection, by appealing to the testimony concerning him in the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets. Apollos was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and the consequence was, that when he reasoned in the synagogue, he “mightily convinced the Jews, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Whatever is treasured up in the memory is ready for constant use. We have read of a man who, through the effect of temptation, had lost all hope of heaven—had given himself up to despair, and looked upon hell as his portion; but he still thought that if he could get the Bible to hell, it would mitigate his torments.— He knew that this could be done only by committing the Bible to memory. He accordingly commenced and learned chapter after chapter, and book after book; but long before he had completed his arduous but noble undertaking, the light that he was pouring into his mind became too strong for the darkness that had previously brooded over his soul; doubts, darkness, and despair, gave place to faith, hope, and joy, and he passed the rest of his days rejoicing in God his Saviour. Let young people especially commit large portions of the Scriptures accurately to memory. This is done with most ease in youth, and whatever is learned by heart then, will be of most and longest use. But while those who treasure up these heavenly riches in youth, are most benefitted by them; still it is better to be rich late than never.— None are too old to store their minds with heavenly truths, and become wise unto salvation.page 196
reading of the Scriptures should be read practically, — read with the view of reducing every truth to practice. It is scholars who practise what they learn, that make most progress. The promise of the Holy Spirit's teaching is to those only who obey. “If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” — John, VII, 17. “A good understanding have all they who do his commandments.” — Ps. cxi, 10. All the others are the means, this is the end; the end of searching the Scriptures is to know what to believe, and what to practise; to obtain a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are a field, Christ is the jewel; the casket is opened in order to obtain the jewel. The Scriptures are a field, Christ is the treasure hid in the field; the field is bought in order to obtain the treasure. The Scriptures are a well; Christ is the living water in the well; the stone is rolled away, and men draw, in order to obtain the water of life; “for this is life eternal to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” The law is to be written on the memory that it may be finally and perpetually engraven on the heart. The Scriptures are to be searched that we may become living epistles of Christ.
As motives to the searching of the Scriptures, we may refer to the intrinsic value of their contents. The Bible contains truths that can nowhere else be found. It contains the most valuable and important of all truths that have ever been discovered. All the truths it contains are valuable. The best known book that professes to be a divine revelation, is the Koran of Mahomet, and-most certainly one of the first and greatest, if not the only advantage to be derived from a patient perusal of the Koran, is to see by the effect of contrast, the unapproachable excellence ef the Bible. With this book, a child may obtain in a single hour more certain information, on the most important of all subjects, than was known to all the heathen Sages of antiquity. David was wiser than all his enemies, and had more understanding than either his teachers or the ancients, because he page 197 meditated on God's testimonies, Ps. cxix. 98, 99, 100. Gold is the most precious of the metals, and honey is the sweetest substance known in nature. The saving knowledge of God's truth is more enriching than the finest gold, and more pleasing and satisfying than the tasting of the purest honey. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the droppings of honey-combs.”
Scripture truths possess not only a real but a relative value, in their perfect adaptation to the most important wants of man. All truth is valuable in itself: but some truths are of less practical value to many classes than what others are; some of the sublimest truths in Mathematics and Astronomy cannot be comprehended by the bulk of mankind, and even if they were comprehended, they would be of little practical value; but every truth revealed in the Bible is calculated to be of practical use to every individual to whom it is made known, or by whom it is understood. It reveals pardon to the guilty and condemned. To the sinner it reveals the only Saviour; and to the saint it makes known the sanctifying Spirit, and points as the perfection of holiness, to the image and law of God. It is the Young Man's Best Companion, and the Young Woman's Safest Directory and Guide.
It is God's command that we should “search the Scriptures.” Whatever God commands, we are bound implicitly and cheerfully to obey. His command is the first and highest reason for the performance of any duty. It is the only book God commands us to search. The searching or not searching of others is left as a matter of indifference; but it is not so with the Bible. To neglect the searching of the Scriptures, is an act of direct disobedience to the highest authority—the authority of God.
The greatest, wisest, and best of men, have all diligently searched the Scriptures. We pass over the eminent characters recorded in Scripture from Moses downward. History abounds with examples of this class, page 198 but we shall confine ourselves to one or two. Milton was as eminent for his Scriptural as his classical knowledge. His mind was early and fully stored with Scripture. He hesitated for a time, whether the subject of his great Epic poem should be national or Scriptural; but piety was stronger than patriotism, and instead of making Arthur and early British History the subject of his song, he chose Paradise Lost, and the fall and redemption of man, as the theme of a poem, second to none in the English or any other language, except the songs of inspiration. Klopstock, the great Epic poet of Germany, was influenced in a similar way to a similar choice. His father's library contained ten Bibles, but no other poetry. The soul of the youth was smitten with love for the poetry of the Scriptures, and the Bible became the boy's chosen companion. In after life, when he was selecting a subject for an Epic poem, he thought for some time on the Emperor Henry, or some German hero, as the subject of his poem, but his early attachment to the Scriptures soon decided the matter, and he selected the Messiah as his theme. Let parents who wish their children to be great as well as good, imbue their minds early as well as deeply with God's own book!
It is by the Bible also that we shall be judged. — When the great white throne shall be erected, and the dead, small and great, shall stand before God; when the books shall be opened, this book shall be opened and all who have had, or might have had access to it, shall be judged by it, and acquitted or condemned according as they have obeyed or disobeyed its commands. It is awful to perish with out the Bible; but tenfold more terrible to perish with the Bible in our hands: to employ the light of heaven to convey us to outer darkness, and with the word of life to sink down into the regions of everlasting death. From such an abuse of our Bibles, may God in mercy preserve us!