How to Read the Bible

   A Sermon

   (No. 1503)

   Delivered by


   At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

   "Have ye not read?...Have ye not read?...If ye had known what this
   meaneth."--Matthew 12:3-7.

   THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES were great readers of the law. They studied
   the sacred books continually, poring over each word and letter. They
   made notes of very little importance, but still very curious notes--as
   to which was the middle verse of the entire old Testament, which verse
   was halfway to the middle, and how many times such a word occurred, and
   even how many times a letter occurred, and the size of the letter, and
   its peculiar position. They have left us a mass of wonderful notes upon
   the mere words of Holy Scripture. They might have done the same thing
   upon another book for that matter, and the information would have been
   about as important as the facts which they have so industriously
   collected concerning the letter of the old Testament. They were,
   however, intense readers of the law. They picked a quarrel with the
   Saviour upon a matter touching this law, for they carried it at their
   fingers' ends, and were ready to use it as a bird of prey does its
   talons to tear and rend. Our Lord's disciples had plucked some ears of
   corn, and rubbed them between their hands. According to Pharisaic
   interpretation, to rub an ear of corn is a kind of threshing, and, as
   it is very wrong to thresh on the Sabbath day, therefore it must be
   very wrong to rub out an ear or two of wheat when you are hungry on the
   Sabbath morning. That was their argument, and they came to the Saviour
   with it, and with their version of the Sabbath law. The Saviour
   generally 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, "Have
   ye not read?"--a cutting question to the scribes and Pharisees, though
   there is nothing apparently sharp about it. It was very a fair and
   proper question to put to them; but only think of putting it to them.
   "Have ye not read?" "Read!" they could have said, "Why, we have read
   the book through very many times. We are always reading it. No passage
   escapes our critical eyes." Yet our Lord proceeds to put the question a
   second time--"Have ye not read?" as if they had not read after all,
   though they were the greatest readers of the law then living. He
   insinuates that they have not read at all; and then he gives them,
   incidentally, the reason why he had asked them whether they had read.
   He says, "If ye had known what this meaneth," as much as to say, "Ye
   have not read, because ye have not 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 learned 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 are mere
   skimmers and glancers at the Word: you have not read it, for you do not
   understand it.

   I. That is the subject of our present discourse, or, at least the first

   I scarcely need to preface these remarks by saying that we must read
   the Scriptures. You know how necessary it is that we should be fed upon
   the truth of Holy Scripture. Need I suggest the question as to whether
   you do read your Bibles or not? I am 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 old Puritanic
   times men used to have a scant supply of other literature, but they
   found a library enough in the one Book, the Bible. And how they did
   read the Bible! How little of Scripture there is in modern sermons
   compared with the sermons of those masters of theology, the Puritanic
   divines! Almost every sentence of theirs seems to cast side lights upon
   a text of Scripture; not only the one they are preaching about, but
   many others as well are set in a new light as the discourse proceeds.
   They introduce blended lights from other passages which are parallel or
   semi-parallel thereunto, and thus they educate their readers to compare
   spiritual things with spiritual. I would to God that we ministers kept
   more closely to the grand old Book. We should be instructive preachers
   if we did so, even if we were ignorant of "modern thought," and were
   not "abreast of the times." I warrant you we should be leagues ahead of
   our times if we kept closely to the Word of God. As for you, my
   brothers and sisters, who have not to preach, the best food for you is
   the Word of God itself. Sermons and books are well enough, but streams
   that run for a long distance above ground gradually gather for
   themselves somewhat of the soil through which they flow, and they lose
   the cool freshness with which they started from the spring head. Truth
   is sweetest where it breaks from the smitten Rock, for at its first
   gush it 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
   upon it, is the surest way of growing m grace. Drink of the
   unadulterated milk of the Word of God, and not of the skim milk, or the
   milk and water of man's word.

   But, now, beloved, our point is that much apparent Bible reading 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 at one of their ears and out at the other; so it seems to be
   with some readers--they can read a very great deal, 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 flits over the landscape as
   a bird might do, but it builds no nest there, and finds no rest for the
   sole of its foot. Such reading is not reading. Understanding the
   metering is the essence of true reading. Reading has a kernel to it,
   and the mere shed is little worth. In prayer there is such a thing as
   praying in prayer--a praying that is in the bowels of the prayer. So in
   praise there is a praising in song, an inward fire of intense devotion
   which is the life of the hallelujah. It is so 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 so with the
   reading of the Scriptures. There is an interior reading, a kernel
   reading--a true and living reading of the Word. This is the soul of
   reading; and, if it be not there, the reading is a mechanical exercise,
   and profits nothing. Now, beloved, unless we understand what we read we
   have not read it; the heart of the reading is absent. We commonly
   condemn the Romanists for keeping the daily service in the Latin
   tongue; yet it might as well be in the Latin language as in any other
   tongue if it be not understood by the people. Some comfort themselves
   with the idea that they have done a good action when they have read a
   chapter, into the meaning of which they have not entered at all; but
   does not nature herself reject this as a mere superstition? If you had
   turned the book upside down, and spent the same times 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 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 understanding
   heart. It is not the letter which saves the soul; the letter killeth m
   many senses, and never can it give life. If you harp on the letter
   alone you may be tempted to use it as a weapon against the truth, as
   the Pharisees did of old, and your knowledge of the letter may breed
   pride in you to your destruction. It is the spirit, the real inner
   meaning, that is sucked 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 so far understanding it as to delight in it. We must
   understand it, then, or else we have not read it aright.

   Certainly, the benefit 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 brazen 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 an 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 to its
   contents, we may reverence the letter and yet really have no devotion
   towards the Lord who speaks to us in these words. Beloved, you will
   never get comfort to 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.

   Now, if we are thus to understand what we read or otherwise we read in
   vain, this shows us that when we come to the study of Holy Scripture we
   should try to have our mind well awake to it. We are not always fit, it
   seems to me, to read the Bible. At times it were well for us to stop
   before we open the volume. "Put off thy shoe from thy foot, for the
   place whereon thou standest is holy ground." 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. As
   you ask a blessing over your meat before you fall to, so it would be a
   good rule for you to ask a blessing on the word before you partake of
   its heavenly food. Pray the Lord to strengthen your eyes before you
   dare to look into the eternal light of Scripture. As the priests washed
   their feet at the laver before they went to their holy work, so it were
   well 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 with a holy book you may deal
   after a holy fashion. Say to your soul--"Come, soul, wake up: thou art
   not now about to read the newspaper; thou art not now perusing the
   pages of a human poet to be dazzled by his flashing poetry; thou art
   coming very near to God, who sits in the Word like a crowned monarch in
   his halls. Wake up, my glory; wake up, all that is within me. Though
   just now I may not be praising and glorifying God, I am about to
   consider that which should lead me so to do, and therefore it is an act
   of devotion. So be on the stir, my soul: be on the stir, and bow not
   sleepily before the awful throne of the Eternal." Scripture reading is
   our spiritual meal time. Sound the gong 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 the psalm upon the Sabbath day in the courts of the Lord's house.

   If these things be so, you will see at once, dear friends, that, if you
   are to understand what you read, 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 deeps 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 won d educate us for heaven--by making us think our way into
   divine mysteries. Hence he puts the word in a somewhat involved form to
   compel us to meditate upon it before we reach the sweetness of it. He
   might, you know, have explained it to us so that we might catch the
   thought in a minute, but he does not please to do so m 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 the son for the reception of
   the yet more lofty truths. I have heard that the mothers in the
   Balearic Isles, in the old times, 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 and fetched them 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, at last, we hit the mark and find food for our souls. Then
   have we the double benefit of learning the art of meditation and
   partaking of the sweet truth which it has brought within our reach. We
   must meditate, brothers. These grapes will yield no wine till we tread
   upon them. These olives must be put under the wheel, and pressed again
   and again, that the oil may flow therefrom. In a dish of nuts, you may
   know which nut has been eaten, because there is a little hole which the
   insect has punctured through the shell--just a little hole, and then
   inside there is the 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. I would 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 upon it. As I sat last year under a wide-spreading beech, I
   was pleased to mark with prying curiosity the singular habits of that
   most wonderful of trees, which seems to have an intelligence about it
   which other trees have not. I wondered and admired the beech, but I
   thought to myself, I do not think half as much of this beech tree as
   yonder squirrel does. I see him leap from bough to bough, 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 those beech-nuts are his food. He lives upon 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 and food elsewhere.
   With God's word it is well for us to be like squirrels, living in it
   and living on it. Let us exercise our minds by leaping from bough to
   bough of it, 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 armourv, our rest, our
   delight. May the Holy Ghost lead us to do this and make the Word thus
   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 through 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 the
   strong resolve that they will understand it? I know it must be so. Do
   you wish to begin to be true readers? Will you henceforth labour to
   understand? Then you must get to your knees. You must cry to God for
   direction. Who understands a book best? The author of it. If I want to
   ascertain the real meaning of a rather twisted sentence, and the author
   lives near me, and I can call upon 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, that
   I cannot make it out. I have not the knowledge and grasp of the subject
   which you possess, and therefore your allusions 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 thus
   treated, and would think it no trouble to unravel his meaning to a
   candid enquirer. Thus I should be sure to get the correct meaning, for
   I should be going to the fountain head when I consulted the author
   himself. So, beloved, the Holy Spirit is with 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, the one to the other, till at
   last we come to the pith and marrow of his divine instruction. Seek
   then very earnestly the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for if the very
   soul of reading be the understanding of what we read, then we must in
   prayer call upon the Holy Ghost to unlock the secret mysteries of the
   inspired word.

   If we thus ask the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, it will
   follow, dear friends, that we shall be ready to use all means arid
   helps towards the understanding of the Scriptures. When Philip asked
   the Ethiopian eunuch whether he understood the prophecy of Isaiah he
   replied, "How can 1, unless some man should guide me?" Then Philip went
   up and opened to him the word of the Lord. 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 honouring 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 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 refuse to receive that light, to what end
   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 earthen
   vessel, we will have it; but we think we are too wise, too heavenly
   minded, too spiritual altogether to care for jewels when they are
   placed in earthen pots. We will not hear anybody, and we will not read
   anything except the book 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 ye are Christ's,
   and Christ is God's," and therefore accept of the light which God has
   kindled, and ask for grace that you may turn that light upon the word
   so that when you read it you may understand it.

   I do not wish to say much more about this, but I should like to push it
   home upon some of you. You have Bibles at home, I know; you would not
   like to be without Bibles, you would think you were heathens if you had
   no Bibles. You have them very neatly bound, and 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
   lavender with the clean pocket 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. often and often have I told you
   that the searching of the Scriptures is not the way of salvation. The
   Lord bath said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be
   saved." But, still, the reading of the word often leads, like the
   hearing of it, to faith, and faith bringeth salvation; for faith cometh
   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 make bold to enquire,--Do not many
   of you read the Bible m a very hurried way--just a little bit, and off
   you go? Do you not soon forget what you have read, and lose what little
   effect it seemed to have? How few of you are resolved to get at its
   soul, its juice, its life, its essence, and to drink in its meaning.
   Well, if you do not 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.

   II. But now, secondly, and very briefly, let us notice that IN READING
   is in my text, because our Lord says, "Have ye not read?" Then, again,
   "Have ye not read?" and then he says, "If ye had known what this
   meaneth"--and the meaning is something very spiritual. The text he
   quoted was, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice"--a text out of the
   prophet Hosea. Now, the scribes and Pharisees were all for the
   letter--the sacrifice, the killing of the bullock, and so on. They
   overlooked the spiritual meaning of the passage, "I will have mercy,
   and not sacrifice"--namely, that God prefers that we should care for
   our fellow-creatures rather than that we should observe any ceremonial
   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 into the spiritual, and all our readings ought to do
   the same.

   Notice, that this should be the case when we read the historical
   passages. "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered,
   and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and
   did eat the shew-bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither
   for them which were with him, but only for the priests?" This was a
   piece of history, and they ought so to have read it as to have found
   spiritual instruction in it. I have heard very stupid people say,
   "Well, I do not care to read the historical parts of Scripture."
   Beloved friends, you do not know what you are talking about when you
   say so. 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 assert 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 the
   statement to explain the illustration, the illustration expands and
   vivifies the statement. For instance, when our Lord himself would
   explain to us what faith was, he sent us to the history of the brazen
   serpent; and who that has ever read the story of the brazen serpent has
   not felt that he has had a better idea of faith through the picture of
   the dying snake-bitten persons looking to the serpent of brass and
   living, than from any description which even Paul has given us,
   wondrously as he defines and describes. Never, I pray you, depreciate
   the historical portions of God's word, but when you cannot get good out
   of them, say, "That is 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 is and must be profitable to you. Cry, "open thou mine
   eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."

   Just the same thing is true with regard to all the ceremonial precepts,
   because the Saviour goes on to say, "Have ye not read in the law, how
   that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath,
   and are blameless?" There is not a~single precept in the old law but
   has an inner sense and meaning; therefore do not turn away from
   Leviticus, or say, "I cannot read these chapters in the books of Exodus
   and Numbers. They are all about the tribes and their standards, the
   stations in the wilderness and the halts of the march, the tabernacle
   and furniture, or about golden knobs 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 closely locked up and the
   hardest to come at is the choicest jewel of the treasure, so is it 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
   take 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 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 watcher 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 so you
   cannot get at it easily. Just so, there are choice and precious
   doctrines of God's word which are locked up in such cases as Leviticus
   or Solomon's Song, and you cannot get at them without a deal of
   unlocking of doors and the Holy Spirit himself must be with you, or
   else you will never come at the priceless treasure. The higher truths
   are as choicely hidden away as the precious regalia of princes;
   therefore search as well as read. Do not be satisfied with a ceremonial
   precept till you reach its spiritual meaning, for that is true reading.
   You have not read till you understand the spirit of the matter.

   It is just the same with the doctrinal statements of God's word. I have
   sorrowfully observed some persons who are very orthodox, and who can
   repeat their creed very glibly, and yet the principal use that they
   make of their orthodoxy is to sit and watch the preacher with the view
   o framing a charge against him. He has uttered a single sentence which
   is judged to be half a hair's breadth 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 eighteen ounces to the
   pound." Sixteen ounces to the pound are not enough for these dear
   brethren of whom I speak, they must have something more and over and
   above the shekel of the sanctuary. Their knowledge is used as a
   microscope to magnify trifling differences. I hesitate not to say that
   I have come across persons who

   "Could a hair divide

   Betwixt the west and north-west side,"

   in matters of divinity, but who know nothing about the things of God in
   their real meaning. They have never drunk 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 m 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 well; but this may be done without
   any personal acquaintance with them. Therefore, beloved, never be
   satisfied with a sound creed, but desire to have it graven 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 be not
   content with the idea that you are instructed until you so understand
   the doctrine 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. Mark that fifth
   verse, which I would now bring before you as part of my text which I
   have hitherto left out. "Have ye not read in the law, how on the
   Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are
   blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than
   the temple." Ay, 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 Lord of everything. oh, when you have
   got hold of a creed, or of an ordinance, or anything that is outward in
   the letter, pray the Lord to make you feel that there is something
   greater than the printed book, and something better than the mere shell
   of the creed. There is one person greater than they all, and to him we
   should cry that he may be ever with us. o living Christ, make this a
   living word to me. Thy word is life, but not without the Holy Spirit. I
   may know this book of thine 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 will I look up from the
   book to the Lord; from the precept to him who fulfilled it; from the
   law to him who honoured it; from the threatening to him who has borne
   it for me, and from the promise to him in whom it is "Yea and amen."
   Ah, then we shall read the book so differently. He is here with me in
   this chamber of mine: 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 never
   hear a sermon as to which you felt that if Jesus had come into that
   pulpit while the man was making his oration, he would have said, "Go
   down, go down; what business have you here? I sent you to preach about
   me, and you preach about a dozen other things. Go home and learn of me,
   and then come and talk." That sermon which does not lead to Christ, or
   of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of
   sermon that will make the devils in hell to laugh, but might make the
   angel 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 highfaluting, spread-eagle
   sermon; and when he had done, he asked the Welshman what he thought of
   it. The man replied that he did not think anything of it. "And why
   not?" "Because there was no Jesus Christ in it." "Well," said he, "but
   my text did not seem to run that way." "Never mind," said the Welshman,
   "your sermon ought to 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 little village in England--it
   does not matter where it is--there is sure to be a road to London.
   Though there may not be a road to certain other places, there is
   certain to be a road 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 preaching all
   the way along it." "Well, but," said the young man, "suppose I find a
   text that has not got a road to Jesus Christ." "I have preached for
   forty years," said the old man, "and I have never found such a
   Scripture, but if I ever do find one I will go over hedge and ditch but
   what I will get to him, for I will never finish without bringing in my
   Master." Perhaps you will think that I have gone a little over hedge
   and ditch to-night, but I am persuaded that I have not for the sixth
   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 small service to you, for what did our
   Lord himself say? "Ye search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye
   have eternal life, but ye will not come unto me that ye might have
   life"; and therefore your searching comes to nothing; you find no life,
   and remain dead in your sins. May it not be so with us?

   III. Lastly, SUCH A READING OF SCRIPTURE, as implies the understanding
   of and the entrance into its spiritual meaning, and the discovery of
   the divine Person who is the spiritual meaning, IS PROFITABLE, for here
   our Lord says, "If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy,
   and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.~ It will
   save us from making a great many mistakes if we get to understand the
   word of God, and among other good things we shall not condemn the

   I have no time to enlarge upon these benefits, but I will just say,
   putting all together, that the diligent reading of the word of God with
   the strong resolve to get at its meaning often begets spiritual life.
   We are begotten 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 yet in
   darkness and in gloom, oh 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 house, 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
   thee." I recollect 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 Doddridge's "Rise and Progress," for I said in 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 want 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." There was never a soul that
   did sincerely seek for Jesus in the word but by-and-by he stumbled on
   the precious truth that Christ was near at hand and did not want any
   looking for; that he was really there, only they, poor blind creatures,
   were in such a maze that they could not just then see him. Oh, cling
   you to 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 and 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 errors in the world spring from people not reading
   their Bibles. Would anybody think that the Lord would leave any one of
   his dear children to perish, if he read such a text as this,--"I give
   unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall
   any pluck them out of my hand"? When I read that, I am sure of the
   final perseverance of the saints. Read, then, the word and it will be
   much for your comfort.

   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 go rightest who keep
   closest to the book. Oftentimes when you do not know what to do, you
   will see a text leaping up out of the book, and saying, "Follow me." I
   have seen a promise sometimes blaze out before my eyes, just as when an
   illuminated device flames forth upon a public building. One touch of
   flame and a sentence or a design flashes out in gas. I have seen a 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 wondrous book if you
   do but read it; for, understanding the words more, you will prize it
   more, and, as you get older, the book will grow with your growth, and
   turn out to be a greybeard's manual of devotion just as it was
   aforetime a child's sweet story book. Yes, it will always be a new
   book--just as new a Bible as it was printed yesterday, and nobody had
   ever seen a word of it till now; and yet it will be a deal more
   precious for all the memories which cluster round it. As we turn over
   its pages how sweetly do we recollect passages in our history which
   will never be forgotten to all eternity, but will stand for ever
   intertwined with gracious promises. Beloved, the Lord teach us to read
   his book of life which he has opened before us here below, so that we
   may read our titles clear in that other book of love 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.


   HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"--445, 119 (Song I.), 478.