Full text of English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermon titled ‘How to Read the Bible’ which was delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on Thursday Evening June 21, 1866.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon – English Baptist preacher
‘Haven’t you read? Haven’t you read?… If you had known what these words mean….’ (Matthew 12:3&7)
Now, the Scribes and Pharisees were great at reading the Law. They studied the sacred books continually, poring over each word and letter. They made many insignificant notes, but still very curious observations, such as:
Which was the middle verse of the entire Old Testament? Which verse was halfway through the middle? How many times such a word occurred, and even how many times a letter occurred in its particular position?
They have left us a mass of wonderful notes on the simple words of Holy Scripture. They might have done the same thing on any other book for that matter, and the information would have been just about as important as the facts which they have so diligently collected concerning the words of the Old Testament.
They were, however, intense readers of the Law. One day they picked an argument with the Savior on a matter concerning the Law, for they carried the Law at their fingertips, and were ready to use it like a bird of prey does with its claws to rip into tear.
Our Lord’s disciples had picked some heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands and ate the kernels. According to the interpretation of the Pharisees, to rub heads of grain is very much like threshing, and it is very wrong to thresh on the Jewish Sabbath day. Therefore it must be very wrong to rub out a grain or two of wheat when you are hungry on the Sabbath morning.
That was their argument, and they came to the Savior with it. And with their version of the Sabbath Law, the Savior usually carried the war into the enemy’s camp, and he did so on this occasion. He met them on their own ground, and he said to them: Haven’t you read? A cutting question to the Scribes and Pharisees.
Though there is nothing apparently sharp about it, it was a very fair and proper question to put to them: Haven’t you read? Read. They could have said, Why? We have read the book through many, many times. We are always reading it. No passage escapes our critical eyes.
Yet our Lord proceeds to ask the question a second time: Haven’t you read? As if they had never really read at all, though they were the greatest readers of the Law that were alive at that time, He insinuates that they have not read at all. And then He gives them, incidentally, the reason why He asked them whether they had read.
He says, ‘if you had known what these words mean?’, which was the same as saying, you haven’t read because you haven’t understood. Your eyes have gone over the words, and you have counted the letters, and you have marked the position of each verse and word, and you have said scholarly things about all the books, and yet you are not even readers of the Sacred Volume, for you have not acquired the true art of reading. You do not understand, and therefore you do not truly read it.
You merely skim and glance at the Word. You have not read it because you do not understand it. That is the subject of our message, or at least the first point of it, that in order to truly read the Scriptures, there must be an understanding of them.
I scarcely need to preface these remarks by saying that we must read the Scriptures. You know how necessary it is that we should feed upon the truth of the Holy Scripture. Need I suggest the question as to whether you actually read your Bibles or not? I’m afraid that this is a magazine reading age, a newspaper reading age, a periodical reading age, but not so much a Bible reading age as it ought to be.
In the days of the Puritans, men used to have a limited supply of other literature, but they found a whole library in one book: the Bible, and how they read the Bible, how little of Scripture there is in modern sermons compared with the sermons of those masters of theology, the Puritan theologians.
Almost every sentence of theirs seems to cast some light upon a text of Scripture. Not only the one that they are preaching about, but many others as well, are set in a new light as the discourse proceeds. They introduce blended thoughts from other passages which are parallel or semiparallel to their texts, and thus they educate their readers to compare spiritual things with spiritual.
Oh, I pray to God that we ministers would use the Grand Old Book much more than we do. We would be instructive preachers if we did so. Even if we were ignorant of modern thought and were not always abreast of the times, I assure you we would be way ahead of our time if we kept closely to the Word of God.
As for you, my brothers and sisters, who are not called to preach, the best food for you is the Word of God itself. Sermons and books are good enough, but streams that run for a long distance above ground gradually gather up some of the soil through which they flow, and they lose the cool freshness which they had when they started from the head of the spring.
Truth is sweetest where it breaks from the rock that was struck, for its first gush has lost none of its heavenliness and vitality. It is always best to drink at the well and not from the tank.
You shall find that reading the Word of God for yourselves, reading it rather than notes about it, is the surest way of growing in grace. Drink the unadulterated milk of the Word of God, and not the skimmed milk, nor the milk and water of man’s word.
But now, beloved, our point is that much of the obvious Bible reading that is taking place is not Bible reading at all. The verses pass under the eye, and the sentences glide over the mind, but there is no true reading.
An old preacher used to say, the word has mighty free course among many nowadays, for it goes in one ear and out the other. So it seems to be with some readers. They can read a great amount because they do not read anything. The eye glances, but the mind never rests.
The soul does not light upon the truth and stay there. It flips over the landscape, as a bird might do, but it builds no nest there and finds no rest for the soul of its foot. Such reading is not reading.
UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING IS THE ESSENCE OF TRUE READING.
In prayer there is such a thing as praying in prayer, a praying that is in the heart of the prayer. So also in praise. There is praising in song, an inward fire of intense devotion, which is the life of the Hallelujah.
It is the same in fasting. There is a fasting which is not fasting, and there is an inward fasting, a fasting of the soul, which is the soul of fasting.
It is even true with reading the Scriptures. There is an inner reading, a heart reading, a true and living reading of the word. This is the soul of reading, and if it is not there, the reading is a mechanical exercise and profits nothing.
Now, beloved, unless we understand what we read, then we have not read it. The heart of the reading is absent.
We commonly condemn the Roman Catholic Church for keeping their services in the Latin tongue. Yet it might as well be in the Latin language as in any other tongue, if it is not understood by the people.
Some people comfort themselves with the idea that they have done a good act when they have read a chapter of the Bible, even though they have not understood the meaning of it.
But does not nature herself reject this as a mere superstition? If you had turned the book upside down and spent the same time in looking at the characters in that direction, you would have gained as much good from it as you will in reading it in the regular way without understanding it.
If you had a New Testament Bible written in Greek, it would be very Greek to some of you. But it would do you as much good to look at that as it does to look at the English New Testament, unless you read with an understanding heart.
LETTER DOES NOT SAVE THE SOUL
It is not the letter which saves the soul. The letter kills in many ways and can never give life. If you dwell on the letter alone, you may be tempted to use it as a weapon against the truth, as the Pharisees did, and your knowledge of the letter may breed pride in you to your destruction.
It is the spirit, the real inner meaning that is drawn into the soul by which we are blessed and sanctified.
We become saturated with the word of God, like Gideon’s fleece, which was wet with the dew of heaven. And this can only come to pass by our receiving it into our minds and hearts, accepting it as God’s truth, and understanding it to the point of delighting in it. We must understand it, or else we have not read it properly.
Certainly the benefits of reading must come to the soul by the way of the understanding. When the high priest went into the holy place, he always lit the golden candlestick before he kindled the incense upon the altar, as if to show that the mind must have illumination before the affections can properly rise towards their divine object.
There must be knowledge of God before there can be love to God. There must be a knowledge of divine things as they are revealed, before there can be any enjoyment of them. We must try to make out, as far as our finite mind can grasp it, what God means by this and what he means by that. Otherwise we may kiss the book and have no love of its contents.
We may reverence the letters and yet really have no devotion towards the Lord who speaks to us in these words. Beloved, you will never get comfort for your soul out of what you do not understand, nor find guidance for your life out of what you do not comprehend, nor can any practical bearing upon your character come out of that which is not understood by you.
Therefore, we must understand what we read, or otherwise we read in vain.
And all this shows us that when we come to study the Holy Scriptures, we should try to have our minds completely awake to it. We are not always fit, it seems to me, to read the Bible. At times it would be good for us to stop before we open the book.
Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. (Exodus 3:5)
You have just come in from careful thought and anxiety about your worldly business, and you cannot immediately take that book and enter into its heavenly mysteries. Just as you ask a blessing over your food before you eat it, likewise it would be a good rule for you to ask a blessing over the Word before you partake of its heavenly food.
Pray that the Lord would strengthen your eyes before you dare to look into the eternal light of Scripture. Just as the priests washed their feet before they went to their holy work, so it would be good to wash the soul’s eyes with which you look upon God’s Word, to wash even the fingers, if I may so speak, the mental fingers, with which you will turn from page to page, that you may handle the Holy Book in a holy way.
Say to your soul, come, soul, wake up. You are not about to read the newspaper. You are not perusing the pages of a human poet to be dazzled by his poetry. You are coming very near to God, who sits in the Word like a crown monarch in his halls. Wake up. Wake up, my glory. Wake up all that is within me.
Though right now I may not be praising and glorifying God, I’m about to consider that which should lead me to do so, and therefore it is an act of devotion. So awake, my soul. Awake and do not bow down with the sleepy heart and the sleepy mind before the awe inspiring throne of the eternal.
SCRIPTURE READING IS OUR SPIRITUAL MEAL TIME.
Sound the bell and call in every faculty to the Lord’s own table to feast upon the precious meat which is now to be partaken of, or rather ring the church bell as for worship, for the studying of the Holy Scripture ought to be as solemn a deed as when we lift up the psalm on Sunday in the courts of the Lord’s house.
These things are true. You will see at once, dear friends, that if you are to understand what you read, you will need to meditate upon it. You will need to meditate upon it.
Some passages of Scripture lie clear before us, blessed shallows in which the Lambs may wade. But there are also deep waters in which our mind might rather drown herself than swim with pleasure if she came there without caution.
There are texts of Scripture which are made and constructed on purpose to make us think. By this means, among others, our Heavenly Father would educate us for heaven by making us think our way into divine mysteries. Therefore, He puts the Word in a somewhat involved form to compel us to meditate on it before we reach the sweetness of it.
You know, He might have explained it to us that we might catch the thought in a minute, but it did not please Him to do so in every case. Many of the veils which are cast over Scripture are not meant to hide the meaning from the diligent, but to compel the mind to be active. For oftentimes the diligence of the heart, in seeking to know the divine mind, does the heart more good than the knowledge itself.
Meditation and careful thought exercise us and strengthen us for the reception of the yet more lofty truths. I have heard that the mothers in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain in the olden days who wanted to bring their boys up to be good slingers, would put their dinners up above them where they could not get at them until they threw a stone to bring it down.
Our Lord wishes us to be good slingers, and He puts up some precious truth in a lofty place where we cannot get it down except by slinging at it.
And finally, we hit the mark and find food for our souls, then we have the double benefit of learning the art of meditation and partaking of the sweet truth which it has brought within our reach.
Brothers and sisters, we must meditate. These grapes will yield no wine until we tread upon them. These olives must be put under the wheel and pressed again and again that the oil may flow from there. In a group of nuts laying on the ground, you can tell which nut has been eaten because there’s a little hole which the insect has punctured through the shell. Just a little hole. And then inside there’s a living thing eating up the kernel.
Well, it is a grand thing to bore through the shell of the letter and then to live inside, feeding upon the kernel. Oh, I wish to be such a little worm as that living within and upon the Word of God, having bored my way through the shell and having reached the innermost mystery of the blessed Gospel.
The Word of God is always most precious to the man who most lives by it.
As I sat last year under a wide-spreading beech tree, I was pleased to note with prying curiosity the singular habits of that most wonderful of trees which seem to have an intelligence about it which other trees do not have. I wondered and admired the beech tree, but I thought to myself, I do not think half as much of this beech tree as that squirrel over there does. I see him leap from branch to branch, and I feel sure that he dearly values the old beech tree because he has his home somewhere inside it in a hollow place.
These branches are his shelter, and these beech nuts are his food. He lives on the tree. It is his world, his playground, his granary, his home. Indeed, it is everything to him, and it is not so to me, for I find my rest in food elsewhere.
With God’s word, it would be good for us to be like squirrels, living in it and living on it. Let us exercise our mind by leaping from branch to branch and find our rest and food in it and make it our all in all.
We shall be the people that get the profit out of it if we make it to be our food, our medicine, our treasury, our armor, our rest and our delight. May the Holy Spirit lead us to do this and therefore make the Word precious to our souls.
Beloved, I would next remind you that for this end we shall be compelled to pray. It is a grand thing to be driven to think. It is a grander thing to be driven to pray by having been made to think.
Am I not addressing some of you who do not read the word of God? And am I not speaking to many more who do read it, but do not read it with a strong resolve that they will understand it. I know it must be so.
Do you wish to begin to be true readers? Will you, from this day forward labor to understand? Then you must get on your knees. You must cry to God for direction. Who understands the book best? The author of it.
If I am reading a book and if I want to determine the real meaning of a rather twisted sentence and the author lives near me and I can call on him I shall ring at his door and say would you kindly tell me what you mean by that sentence? I have no doubt whatever that it is very dear. But I am such a simpleton and I cannot make it out. I do not have the knowledge and grasp of the subject which you possess and therefore your illusions and descriptions are beyond my range of knowledge. It is quite within your range and commonplace to you, but it is very difficult to me. Would you kindly explain your meaning to me?
A good man would be glad to be treated this way and would think it not a bit of trouble to unravel his meaning to such an honest seeker. Thus I would be sure to get the correct meaning for I would be going to the fountainhead when I have consulted the Author himself.
So, beloved, the Holy Spirit is within us and when we take His book and begin to read and want to know what it means, we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning. He will not work a miracle, but He will elevate our minds and He will suggest to us thoughts which will lead us on by their natural relation to other thoughts in the Scriptures till at last we come to the heart and soul of His divine instruction.
Earnestly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For if the very soul of reading is the understanding of what we read then we must, in prayer call upon the Holy Spirit to unlock the secret mysteries of the inspired Word.
Therefore, if we ask for the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit it will follow, dear friends, that we shall be ready to use all means and helps towards the understanding of the Scriptures.
When Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch whether he understood the prophecy of Isaiah, he replied: how can I, unless someone explains it to me? Then Philip went up and opened to him the word of the Lord.
Now, some, under the pretense of being taught of the Spirit of God refuse to be instructed by books or by living men. This is no honoring of the Spirit of God. It is a disrespect to Him. For if He gives to some of His servants more light than to others, and it is clear that He does, then they are bound to give that light to others and to use it for the good of the Church.
But if the other part of the Church refuses to receive that light, then for what purpose did the Spirit of God give it? This would imply that there is a mistake somewhere in the economy of gifts and graces which is managed by the Holy Spirit. It cannot be so.
The Lord Jesus Christ pleases to give more knowledge of His Word and more insight into it to some of His servants than to others. And it is ours joyfully to accept the knowledge which He gives in such ways as He chooses to give it.
It would be most wicked of us to say, we will not have the heavenly treasure which exists in earthen vessels. If God will give us the heavenly treasure out of His own hand, but not through the earth and vessel, we will have it.
But we think we are too wise, too heavenly minded, too spiritual overall to care for jewels when they are placed in earthen pots. We will not hear anybody. We will not read anything but the Bible itself. Neither will we accept any light except that which comes in through a crack in our own roof. We will not see by another man’s candle. We would sooner remain in the dark.
Brethren, do not let us fall into such folly. Let the light come from God. And though a child shall bring it, we will joyfully accept it. If any one of His servants, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, shall have received light from Him, behold, all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. And therefore accept the light which God has kindled, and ask for grace, that you may turn that light onto the Word, so that when you read it, you may understand it.
I do not wish to say more about this, but I would like to drive it home to some of you. You have Bibles at home I know; you would not like to be without Bible. You would think you were heathens if you had no Bible. You may have them very neatly bound. They are very fine looking volumes, not much thumbed, not much worn, and not likely to be so for they only come out on Sundays for an airing, and they lie in your drawer with the clean handkerchiefs all the rest of the week.
You do not read the Word, you do not search it. And how can you expect to get the divine blessing? If the heavenly gold is not worth digging for, you are not likely to discover it.
Oftentimes I have told you that the searching of the Scriptures is not the way of salvation. The Lord has said, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
But still, the reading of the Word often leads, like the hearing of it, to faith, and faith brings salvation, for faith comes by hearing, and reading is a sort of hearing.
While you are seeking to know what the Gospel is, it may please God to bless your souls. But what poor reading some of you give to your Bibles? I do not want to say anything which is too severe because it is not strictly true.
Let your own consciences speak but still I boldly ask, don’t many of you read the Bible in a very hurried way, just a little bit and off you go? Don’t you soon forget what you’ve read and lose what little effect it seemed to have. How few of you are resolved to get at its soul, it’s juice, it’s life, its essence, and to drink in its meaning.
Well, if you don’t do that, I tell you again, your reading is miserable reading, dead reading, unprofitable reading. It is not reading at all. The name would be misapplied. May the blessed Spirit give you repentance touching this thing.
SPIRITUAL TEACHING OF THE WORD
But now, secondly, and very briefly, in reading the Bible we ought to seek out the spiritual teaching of the Word. I think that that is in my text, because our Lord says, haven’t you read? Then again, haven’t you read? And then He says, if you had known what these words mean, and the meaning is something very spiritual.
The text He quoted was ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’. That is a text out of the prophet Hosea.
Now, the Scribes and Pharisees were all for the letter of the law, the sacrifice, the killing of the young bull, and so on. They overlooked the spiritual meaning of the passage: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
Namely, that God prefers that we should care for our fellow creatures, rather than that we should observe any ceremony of His law so as to cause hunger or thirst and thereby death to any of the creatures that His hands have made. They ought to have passed beyond the outward to the spiritual, and all of our readings ought to do the same.
Notice that this should be the case when we read the historical passages. ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priest.’ (Matthew 12:3-4)
This was a piece of history, and they ought to have read it so as to have found spiritual instruction in it. I have heard some very stupid people say, well, I do not care to read the historical parts of Scripture.
Beloved friends, you do not know what you’re talking about when you say something like that. I say to you now by experience that I have sometimes found even a greater depth of spirituality in the histories than I have in the Psalms.
You will say, how is that?
I declare that when you reach the inner and spiritual meaning of a history, you are often surprised at the wondrous clearness, the realistic force with which the teaching comes home to your soul.
Some of the most marvelous mysteries of revelation are better understood by being set before our eyes in the histories than they are by the verbal declaration of them. When we have a statement to explain the illustration, the illustration expands and gives life to this statement.
For instance, when our Lord Himself wanted to explain to us what faith was, He sent us to the history of the bronze snake. And who has ever read the story of the bronze snake and not felt that he has had a better idea of faith through the picture of the dying snake bitten persons looking through the serpent of bronze and living, than from any description which even Paul has given us wondrously as he defines and describes. Never.
I pray that you never depreciate the historical portions of God’s Word.
But when you cannot seem to get any good out of them, then say this that it is because of my foolish head and my slow heart. O Lord, be pleased to clear my brain and cleanse my soul.
When he answers that prayer, you will feel that every portion of God’s Word is given by inspiration, and it is and must be profitable to you. Cry out, ‘Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things in your Law.’ (Psalm 119:18)
The same thing is true with regard to the ceremonial teachings, because the Savior goes on to say: haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath, the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? (Matthew 12:5)
Every single teaching in the Old Testament Law has an inner sense and meaning. Therefore do not turn away from Leviticus or say, I cannot read these chapters in the Book of Exodus and Numbers. They are all about the tribes and their standards, the stations in the wilderness and the progress of the march, the tabernacle and furniture, or about golden buds and bowls and boards and sockets and precious stones and blue and scarlet and fine linen.
No, but look for the inner meaning. Make thorough search for as in a king’s treasure, that which is the most strongly locked up and hardest to come at is the choicest jewel of the treasure.
So it is with the Holy Scriptures. Did you ever go to the British Museum Library? There are many books of reference there which the reader is allowed to tape down when he pleases. There are other books for which he must write a ticket, and he cannot get them without the ticket. But they have certain choice books with which you will not see without a special order.
And then there is an unlocking of doors and an opening of cases, and there is a guard with you while you make your inspection. You are scarcely allowed to put your eye on the manuscript for fear you should blot a letter out by glancing at it. It is such a precious treasure, there is not another copy of it in all the world, and you cannot get at it easily.
Likewise, there are choice and precious doctrines of God’s word which are locked up in such cases as Leviticus or the Song of Solomon. And you cannot get at them without a great amount of unlocking of doors. And the Holy Spirit Himself must be with you, or else you will never come near the priceless treasure.
The higher truths are as choicely hidden away as the precious ceremonial objects of princes. Therefore search as well as read. Do not be satisfied with a ceremonial teaching until you reach a spiritual meaning, for that is true reading. You have not read until you understand the spirit of the matter.
It is just the same with the doctrinal statements of the Word of God. I have sorrowfully observed some persons who are very orthodox and who can repeat their statement of belief very persuasively. And yet the principal use that they make of their orthodoxy is to sit and watch the preacher with the view of building charges against him.
He has uttered a single sentence which is judged to be half a hair’s width below the standard. That man is not sound. He said some good things, but he is rotten at the core, I am certain. He used an expression which was not 18 ounces to the pound. My friends, 16 ounces to the pound are not good enough for these dear brethren of whom I speak.
They must have something more and over and above the shackle of the sanctuary. Their knowledge is used as a microscope to magnify trifling differences. I do not hesitate to say that I’ve come across persons who could divide a hair between the west and the northwest side in matters of divinity, but who know nothing about the things of God and their real meaning. They have never drank them into their souls, but only sucked them up into their mouths to spit them out on others.
The doctrine of election is one thing but to know that God has predestinated you and to have the fruit of it, and the good works to which you are ordained, is quite another thing.
To talk about the love of Christ, to talk about the heaven that is provided for His people and such things, all this is very good, but this may be done without any personal acquaintance with them. Therefore, beloved, never be satisfied with a sound statement of belief, but desire to have it engraved on the tablets of your heart.
The doctrines of grace are good, but the grace of the doctrines is better still. See that you have it, and do not be content with the idea that you are instructed until you clearly understand the doctrine and that you have felt its spiritual power.
This makes us feel that in order to come to this, we shall need to feel Jesus present with us whenever we read the Word.
Note that fifth verse which I would now bring before you as part of my text, which I have up till now left out: haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?
I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. Yes, they thought much about the letter of the Word, but they did not know that He was there who is the Sabbath’s Master — man’s Lord and the Sabbath’s Lord and the Lord of everything.
O when you have taken hold of a statement of belief or of an ordinance or of anything that is outward in the letter of the word, pray to the Lord to make you feel that there is something greater than the printed book and something better than the mere shell of the doctrine.
There is one person greater than them all, and to Him we should cry that He may ever be with us: O living Christ, make this a living word to me. Your word is life, but not without the Holy Spirit. I may know this book of Yours from beginning to end and repeat it all from Genesis to Revelation, and yet it may be a dead book, and I may be a dead soul, but, Lord, be present here. Then I will look up from the book to the Lord, from the teaching to Him who fulfilled it, from the Law to Him who honored it, from the coming wrath to Him who has suffered it for me, and from the promise to Him in whom it is Yes and Amen. Then we shall read the book so differently.
He is here with me in my room. I must not trifle. He leans over me. He puts His finger along the lines. I can see His pierced hand. I will read it as in His presence. I will read it knowing that He is the substance of it, that He is the proof of this book as well as the Writer of it, the sum of this Scripture as well as the Author of it.
That is the way for true students to become wise. You will get at the soul of Scripture when you can keep Jesus with you while you are reading. Did you ever hear a sermon which you felt that if Jesus had come into that pulpit while the man was preaching, that Jesus would have said to him, ‘Get out, get out. What business have you here? I sent you to preach about Me, and you preach about a dozen other things. Go home. Go home and learn of Me. And then come back and talk.’
That sermon which does not lead to Christ, for which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, the beginning and the end, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but might make the angels of God to weep if they were capable of such emotion.
You remember the story I told you of the Welshman who heard a young man preach a very fine sermon, a grand sermon, a pretentious sermon, and when he had finished, he asked the Welshman what he thought of it.
The Welshman replied that he did not think anything of it.
And why not?
Because there was no Jesus Christ in it.
Well, said the young man, but my text did not seem to run that way.
Never mind, said the Welshman, your sermon ought to have run that way.
I do not see that, however, said the young man.
No, said the other, you do not see how to preach yet. This is the way to preach. From every village in England, it does not matter where it is. There is surely a road that leads to London. Though there may not be a road to certain other places, there is certainly a road that leads to London.
Now, from every text in the Bible, there is a road to Jesus Christ. And the way to preach is just to say, how can I get from this text to Jesus Christ and then go on preaching all the way along that road?
Well, but, said the young man, suppose I find a text that does not have a road to Jesus Christ.
I have preached for 40 years, said the old man, and I have never found such a Scripture. But if I ever do find one, I will jump over hedges and ditches to get to Him, for I will never finish without bringing in my Master.
Perhaps you will think that I have jumped over hedges and ditches tonight. But I am persuaded that I have not. For the 6th verse comes in here and brings our Lord in most sweetly, setting Him in the very forefront of you Bible readers so that you must not think of reading without feeling that He is there who is Lord and Master of everything that you are reading and who shall make these things precious to you if you realize Him in them.
If you do not find Jesus in the Scriptures, they will be of little help to you. For what did our Lord Himself say? You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.
And therefore, my friends, your searching comes to nothing. You find no life and remain dead in your sins. May it not be so with us.
Lastly, such a reading of Scripture implies the understanding of, and the interest into its spiritual meaning, and the discovery that the Divine Person who is the spiritual meaning, is profitable. For here our Lord says, if you had known what these words mean, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.
It will save us from making a great many mistakes if we are able to understand the Word of God. And among other things, we shall not condemn the innocent.
I have no time to expand upon these benefits, but I will just say this, putting it all together, that the diligent reading of the Word of God, with a strong resolve to get at its meaning, often produces spiritual life.
We are born again by the Word of God. It is the instrumental means of regeneration. Therefore, love your Bibles. Keep close to your Bibles. You seeking sinners, you who are seeking the Lord, your first business is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But while you are still in darkness and in gloom, O, love your Bibles and search them. Take them to bed with you, and when you wake up in the morning, if it is too early to go downstairs and disturb the rest of the house, then get half an hour of reading upstairs, say, Lord, guide me to that text which shall bless me. Help me to understand how I, a poor sinner, can be reconciled to You.
I remember how when I was seeking the Lord, I went to my Bible and to Baxter’s ‘Call to the Unconverted’, and to Alleine’s ‘Alarm’ and to Doddridge’s ‘Rise and Progress’.
For I said to myself, I am afraid that I shall be lost, but I will know the reason why. I am afraid I never shall find Christ, but it shall not be for the lack of looking for Him. That fear used to haunt me. But I said, I will find Him if He is to be found. I will read. I will think. Every soul that has ever sincerely sought for Jesus in the Word did in time find the precious truth that Christ was near at hand and did not need to be looked for, that He was really there. Only they poor blind creatures were in such a maze that they could not see Him at that time.
O cling to the Scripture. Scripture is not Christ, but it is the silken clue which will lead you to Him. Follow its leadings faithfully. When you have received regeneration in a new life, keep on reading because it will comfort you. You will see more of what the Lord has done for you. You will learn that you are redeemed, adopted, saved, sanctified.
Half the heirs in the world spring from people not reading their Bibles. Would anybody believe that the Lord would leave any one of His dear children to perish if he read such a text as this? I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.
When I read that, I am sure of the final perseverance of the saints. Read, then. Read the Word, and it will be of great comfort to you. It will be for your nourishment too. It is your food as well as your life. Search it, and you will grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. It will be for your guidance also.
I am sure those will walk most righteous who keep closest to the Bible. Oftentimes when you do not know what to do, you will see a text leaping out of the Bible and saying, follow Me.
I have seen a promise sometimes blaze out before my eyes like a bright light blazes forth on a public building. One touch of flame and the sentence or teaching flashes brightly. I have seen the text of Scripture flame forth in that way to my soul. I have known that it was God’s word to me. And I have gone on my way rejoicing.
And Oh you will get a thousand helps out of that wonderful book if you will just read it, for understanding the words more, you will prize it more. And as you get older, the Bible will grow with you in growth and turn out to be the old man’s manual of devotion. Just as it was in the past, a child’s sweet storybook.
Yes, it will always be a new book, just as new a Bible as if it was printed yesterday, and nobody had ever seen a word of it till now. And yet it will be a great deal more precious for all the memories which cluster around it.
As we turn over its pages, how sweetly do we remember passages in our history which will never be forgotten in all of eternity, but will stand forever intertwined with gracious promises.
Beloved, may the Lord teach us to read His Book of Life, which He has opened before us here below, so that we may read our names clearly in that other book of love, the Lamb’s Book of Life, which we have not seen as yet, but which will be opened at the last great day. The Lord be with you and bless you. Amen.