LI. SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES
`O how love I Thy law: it is my meditation all the day.' -- Ps. 119:97
`Ye search (or search ye) the Scriptures: and these are they which bear witness of Me.' -- John 5:39
`The word did not profit them, because they were not united by faith with them that heard.' -- Heb. 4:2
At the beginning of this book there is more than one passage upon the use of God's word in the life of grace. Ere I take leave of my readers, I would fain once again come back to this all-important point. I cannot too earnestly and urgently address this call to my beloved young brothers and sisters: Upon your use of the word of God your spiritual life in great measure depends. Man lives by the word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. Therefore seek with your whole heart to learn how to use God's word aright. To this end, receive the following hints.
Read the word more with the heart than with the understanding: with the understanding I would know and comprehend; with the heart I desire, and love, and hold fast. Let the understanding be the servant of the heart. Be much afraid of the understanding of the carnal nature, that cannot receive spiritual things. (1 Cor. 1:12,27; 2:6,12; Col. 2:18) Deny your understanding, and wait in humility on the Spirit of God. On every occasion, still keep silent amidst your reading of the word, and say to yourselves: this word I now receive in my heart, to love and to let it live in me. (Ps. 119:10,11,47; Rom. 10:8; Jas. 1:21)
Read the word always in fellowship with the living God. The power of a word depends on my conviction regarding the man from whom it comes. First set yourself in loving fellowship with the living God under the impression of His nearness and love: deal with the word under the full conviction that He, the eternal God, is speaking with you; and let the heart be silent to listen to God, to God Himself. (Gen. 17:3; 1 Sam. 3:9,10; Isa. 50:4; 52:6; Jer. 1:2) Then the word certainly becomes to you a great blessing.
Read the word, as a living word in which the Spirit of God dwells, and that certainly works in those that believe. The word is seed. Seed has life, and grows and yields fruit of itself. The word has life, and of itself grows and yields fruit. (Mark 4:27,28; John 6:63; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:23) If you do not wholly understand it, if you do not feel its power, carry it in your heart; ponder it and meditate upon it: it will of itself begin to yield a working and growth in you. (Ps. 119:15,40,48,69; 2 Tim. 3:16,17) The Spirit of God is with and in the word.
Read it with the resolve to be, not only a hearer, but a doer of the word. Let the great question be: What would God now have of me with this word? If the answer is: He would have me believe it and reckon upon Him to fulfil it: do this immediately from the heart. If the word is a command of what you are to do, yield yourself immediately to do it. (Matt. 5:19,20; 7:21,24; Luke 11:28; Jas. 1:21,25) O there is an unspeakable blessedness in the doing of God's word, and in the surrender of myself to be and to act just as the word says and would have it. Be not hearers, but doers of the word.
Read the word with time. I see more and more that one obtains nothing on earth without time. Give the word time. Give the word time, at every occasion on which you sit down to read it, to come into your heart. Give it time, in the persistence with which you cleave to it, from day to day, and month after month. (Deut. 6:5; Ps. 1:2; 119:97; Jer. 15:16) By perseverance you become exercised and more accustomed to the word: the word begins to work. Pray, be not dispirited when you do not understand the word. Hold on: take courage: give the word time: later on the word will explain itself. David had to meditate day and night to understand it.
Read the word with a searching of the Scriptures. The best explanation of the Bible is the Bible itself. Take three or four texts upon a point: set them close to one another and compare them. See wherein they agree and wherein they differ; where they say the same thing or again something else. Let the word of God at one time be cleared up and confirmed by what He said at another time on the same subject: this is the safest and the best explanation. Even the sacred writers use this method of instruction with the Scriptures: `and again.' (Isa. 34:16; John 19:37; Acts. 17:11; Heb. 2:13) Do not complain that this method takes too much time and pains: it is worthy of the pains: your pains will be rewarded. On earth you have nothing without pains. (Prov. 2:4,5; 3:13,18; Matt. 13:44) Even the bread of life we have to eat in the sweat of our face. He that would go to heaven never goes without taking pains. Search the Scriptures: it will be richly recompensed to you.
Young Christian, let one of my last and most earnest words to you be this: on your dealing with the word of God depend your growth, your power, your life. Love God's word then; esteem it sweeter than honey: better than thousands of gold or silver. In the word, God can and will reveal His heart to you. In the word, Jesus will communicate Himself and all His grace. In the word, the Holy Spirit will come in to you, to renew your heart and all your thoughts, according to the mind and will of God. O, then, read not simply enough of the word to keep you from declension, but reckon it one of your chief occupations on earth to yield yourself that God may fill you with His word, that He may fulfil His word in you.
Lord God, what grace it is that Thou speakest to us in Thy word, that we in Thy word have access to Thy heart, to Thy will, to Thy love. O forgive us our sins against Thy precious word. And, Lord, let the new life become so strong by the Spirit in us, that all its desire shall be to abide in Thy word. Amen.
1. Ps. 119. In the middle of the Bible stands this psalm, in which the praise and the love of God's word are so strikingly expressed. It is not enough for us to read through the divisions of this psalm successively: we must take its principal points, and one with another seek what is said in different passages upon each of these. Let us, for example, take the following points, observing the indications of the answers, and seek in this way to come under the full impression of what is taught us of the glory of God's word: --
1. The blessing that the word gives. Verses, 1,2,6,9,11,14,24,45,46,47, and so on. 2. The appellations that in this psalm are given to God's word. 3. How we have to handle the word. (Observe -- walk -- keep -- mark -- and so on.) 4. Prayer for divine teaching. Verses 5,10,12,18,19,26. 5. Surrender to obedience to the word. Verses 93,105,106,112,128,133. 6. God's word the basis of our prayer. Verses 41,49,58,76,107,116,170. 7. Observance as the ground of confidence in prayer. Verses 77,159,176. 8. Observance as promised upon the hearing of prayer. Verses 8,17,33,32,44. 9. The power to observe the word. Verses 32,36,41,42,117,135,146. 10. The praise of God's word. Verses 54,72,97,129,130,144. 11. The confident confession of obedience. Verses 102,110,121,168. 12. Personal intercourse with God, seen in the use of Thou and I, Thine and Mine.
I have merely mentioned a few points and a few verses. Seek out more and mark them, until your mind is filled with the thoughts about the word, which the Spirit of God desires to give you.
Read with great thoughtfulness the words of that man of faith, George Mueller. He says: `The power of our spiritual life will be according to the measure of the room that the word of God takes up in our life and in our thoughts.' After an experience of fifty-four years, I can solemnly declare this. For three years after my conversion I used the word little. Since that time I searched it with diligence, and the blessing was wonderful. From that time, I have read the Bible through a hundred times in order, and at every time with increasing joy. Whenever I start a fresh with it, it appears to me as a new book. I cannot express how great the blessing is of faithful, daily, regular searching of the Bible. The day is lost for me, on which I have used no rounded time for enjoying the word of God.
`Friends sometimes say: I have so much to do, that I can find no time for regular Bible study. I believe that there are few that have to work harder than I have. Yet it remains a rule with me never to begin my work until I have had real sweet fellowship with God. After that I give myself heartily to the business of the day, that is, to God's work, with only intervals of some minutes of prayer.'