Thursday, July 14, 2011

How To Read The Scriptures With Spiritual Profit (Part I)

The 17th century Puritan pastor and author Thomas Watson wrote:

"Oh, says my soul, that the sword of the Spirit may pierce the rock of my heart; that this blessed Word may have such a virtue in it as the water of jealousy to kill and make fruitful, that it may kill my sin, and make me fruitful in grace."

Deuteronomy 17:19 says, "And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statues."

Watson asked the following question:

QUESTION. The grand question I am to speak to is this: How we may read the scriptures with most spiritual profit. It is a momentous question and of daily use.

Watson's response was:

RESPONSE. For the resolution of this question, I shall lay down several rules or directions about reading of scripture.

He gave these directions:

DIRECTION IIf you would profit by reading, remove those things which will hinder your profiting.--That the body may thrive, obstructions must be removed. There are three obstructions [that] must be removed, if you would profit by scripture:

1. Remove the love of every sin.--Let a physician prescribe never so good receipts, if the patient takes poison, it will hinder the virtue and operation of the physic. The scripture prescribes excellent receipts; but sin lived-in poisons all. The body cannot thrive in a fever; nor can the soul, under the feverish heat of lust. Plato calls the love of sin magnus daemon, "a great devil". As the rose is destroyed by the canker which breeds in it so are the souls of men by those sins they live in.

...according to Gregg's plain English

No matter how good the medicine prescribed by a doctor, if a patient chooses to take poison, the poison will destroy any good of the medicine and prevent the medicine from working. The bible "prescribes" very beneficial medicine but allowing sin to live in and rule our lives destroys the good the scripture would do us. The body can not survive or be healthy in disease and the soul cannot be healthy while under the influence of sin. Even Plato saw sin as a "great devil", a great evil in the life of an individual. Just like a rose is killed by fungus and disease from the inside the souls of men will be destroyed by those who continue to live in sin.

Therefore, to profit from the reading of the Bible, remove by confession and forsaking of the love of and practice of sin. Identify sin and exercise the effort to put sin to death.

2. Take heed of the thorns which will choke the word read.--These thorns our Saviour expounds to be "the cares of the world" (Matt. 13:22). By "cares" is meant covetousness. A covetous man is a pluralist; he hath such diversity of secular employments, that he can scarce find time to read; or if he doth what solecisms doth he commit in reading! While his eye is upon the Bible, his heart is upon the world; it is not the writings of the apostles he is so much taken with, as the writings in his account-book. Is this man likely to profit? You may as soon extract oils and syrups out of a flint as he any real benefit out of scripture.

...according to Gregg's plain English

Be very careful that the desire for money, possessions, and things don't overtake and interfere with the teachings of the bible. The thorns that Jesus warned about are "things" that are made to be very attractive through advertising that causes the believer to covet, envy, or lust after them. A man who covets material possessions has two or more interests. He becomes so busy accumulating, maintaining, or using his precious possessions that he no longer has time to read the bible or if the reads he is too busy to read deeply and does not profit from what he reads. This man is like the man in James who is double minded or literally "two-souled." He has is heart in both heaven and in the earth and as a result is not much good for either place. It would be easier to squeeze honey out of a very hard and dry rock than for this person to extract profit from reading the bible.

3. Take heed of jesting with scripture.--This is playing with fire. Some cannot be merry unless they make bold with God. When they are sad they bring forth the scripture as their harp to drive away the evil spirit. As that drunkard who having drunk off his cups, called to his fellows, "Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out." In the fear of God beware of this. King Edward IV would not endure to have his crown jested with, but caused him to be executed who said he would make his son heir to the crown, meaning the sign of the crown: much less will God endure to have his word jested with. Eusebius relates of one who took a piece of scripture to jest with, [that] God struck him with frenzy. The Lord may justify giving over such persons "to a reprobate mind." (Rom. 1:28)..

Do not joke around with the bible. Just like you will be burned when you play with fire, if you play with the bible you will experience injury. Don't be like people who think that they can get in God's face. Don't be like drunks who when they sober realize they have no supplies of their own and want you to supply them. You can't expect someone else's blessing from reading the bible. Read it for yourself. Take as an example of how men will not tolerate their position to be joked about, for example, King Edward put to death a man who joked about making his son the heir to the throne. God just might reject you if you joke around with his Word.


Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

Thanks for summarizing. It makes much more sense to me now. ☺

Did you happen to read the Huffington Post piece on the Bible this morning?

It makes me sad...especially the commentary below the post. We're living in tragic times filled with much cynicism and disbelief.

Happy Thursday! ☺

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thanks for the explanations, it made much sense,also easier to read.

Have a good day.

Michael Wright said...

Amen, great stuff from the mind of a Puritan.

Penned Pebbles said...

Great post! I really like #3. Blessings!

Persis said...

Good advice from Watson. I also like Gregg's plain English translation too. :-)