No one can be an eminent Christian, no matter how frequently he hears his favorite preacher, who does not converse much with his Bible in secret. Anyone who wishes to grow in grace and in knowledge must commune daily with the Bible’s prophets and apostles. Through the medium of these inspired texts, the Christian must drink largely of the pure living waters and undiluted milk of the word. Alas, it is a weak and sickly faith that depends solely upon the hearing of sermons or the reading of Christian “bestsellers” for its spiritual support.

God’s word is the food of the soul. There is more concentrated nourishment in a single text of Scripture, drawn out by the digestive process of meditation to strengthen the heart of the believer, than in many pages of uninspired, though instructive, composition. God’s words are life, and they are spirit. Read the pages of Christian martyrology and you will find that the secret of the martyrs’ strength was in their intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures. They were Bible Christians, and not mere sermon Christians.

If you have any deep experience in the ways of God and the devices of Satan, then you would easily remember times of peril when the perusal of a single chapter, or even the pondering upon a single verse, sounded like the voice of God and seemed like the mightiness of His omnipotence coming into your soul. If, then, you want to relish the uncorrupted sweetness of the word; if you want to realize all its strength-giving efficacy; if you want to grow to the strength and stature of a perfect man or woman in Christ Jesus; if you want to be valiant in the fight of faith—you must be much in converse with God alone, through the medium of his own blessed word.

Is this precious privilege not often neglected by many of you? Does the Bible not lie upon the table or the shelf for days or weeks unopened? What excuse have you to offer for so ungrateful a return for this inspired book? Perhaps, you say, it is a difficult book to understand. Admittedly, there are dark and inexplicable passages to ordinary readers, and yet how much more there is that is clear to the feeblest capacity. And think how much more those dark passages would brighten and unfold their meaning with a more spiritual, more devoted, and habitual attention!

Diligence, prayer, and a holy state of mind will unlock to the inquiring believer most of the hidden treasures of inspiration. Those who complain of the darkness of the Scriptures are generally those who have devoted the least time and attention to the study of them. Many uninspired books are difficult to those who only dip into them occasionally, but which, to the very same people, become easy when studied with care. There is such a thing as becoming, by long examination, familiar with an author’s style and manner, just as our protracted acquaintance with an individual enables us to understand the drift of his remarks better than we did at our first introduction to him. If necessary, the aid of a commentary may be of service to those who have leisure to peruse it.

But, perhaps, you say you have no time. No time to read the Bible! No time to read the book of God!—a book written by God to you, and for you, and of you! The only book which can make you wise to salvation! Have you time to eat, and drink, and sleep? And have you no time to read the Scriptures? Have you time to read texts from your friends, and no time to read texts from God! Time to read the news, and not time to read the Bible? Do you not feel ashamed at the idea, especially when actually put into language? You must find time; and, if in no other way, by redeeming it from sleep, business, recreation, conversation, and other pursuits. How much time would it take daily to read, even with serious attention, a whole chapter? As to the generality of Christians, how many precious fragments of time might be gathered up from other occupations, which are actually wasted—to be employed on this high and holy engagement!

SET ASIDE DAILY READING

Our perusal of the Scriptures should be HABITUAL and CONSTANT, and not merely occasional and accidental. Some rarely take up the Scriptures, except in a season of trial or difficulty, or at a time of leisure to use up an hour which they know not how otherwise to use. This shows a great neglect, not to say contempt of the Bible. The Scriptures should be, “The Christian’s own book,” and his “every-day book.” There is never a day in a believer’s history when he does not need them, and should not use them.

David describes the good person as one who delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates every day and night. Never let a day pass without reading a portion of Holy Scripture, and realize that an important duty of the day has been neglected if Scripture reading has been omitted. The truth of Scripture is the food of the mind and soul—and we should be as regular in the meals of the soul as in those of the body.

MIXED WITH FAITH

It is important, also, to mix FAITH with reading, as well as hearing. The apostle has beautifully expressed this, where he says, “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13). Though it is the word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword—it cannot work in us without faith. The reason why it works so little in the way of holiness, consolation, and zeal is because there is so little faith.

Sadly, it is too often read by believers without faith: there is not an act and exercise of faith in it at the time; no felt sense of the truth of the chapter that is thus read; no deep conviction, no practical persuasion of the Divine authority and power of that promise, command, invitation, or threatening, which may be before the mind. There is the principle of faith in the Bible, as a whole—but not the exercise of faith, at that moment, and in reference to that part of the Bible then read. What an impression would the word always produce on us if we paused to make these two reflections by faith: “This chapter is God’s word to me now—and all His words are true.”

ALWAYS WITH PRAYER

Realize, too, that such daily nourishment of the soul requires that Scriptures be read with earnest PRAYER for the teaching of the Spirit. The teaching of the Spirit is not to be expected apart from the word; nor a right understanding and impression of the word, apart from the teaching of the Spirit. Divine influence is not to be sought or looked for in the way of granting us a new revelation, or new faculties—but in the way of a right direction of our present faculties to understand the revelation we already possess.

Any shortcomings which makes some “extra-biblical” influence necessary is not a defect in the Bible, but in ourselves. The Bible, as a revelation, is all that is necessary. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” unless there is a spiritual defect on our part to receive its light. It is no fault of the sun that a blind man cannot see the great luminary. Our judgments are affected by the spiritual state of our hearts. Hence we are liable to err in our minds because of the imperfections of our hearts. Our corruptions send up exhalations into the higher regions of our minds, and thus the atmosphere becomes cloudy, and prevents the rays of truth from shining into our souls. Hence the need of praying, “Lord, open my eyes, that, I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

None of us will have any more spiritual understanding than the Spirit gives us; but then He will give us as much as we seek by earnest and believing prayer. To grow in grace and in knowledge, we must consult both the book and its Divine Author: the one by study, and the other by prayer. What a privilege it would be if, in reference to a human author, he or she were to say, “When you want any information on any point of my work, please come and ask me for explanation.” Amazingly, God says this very thing to us in reference to His book!

His Spirit reveals to us His mind and will in the Scriptures. Hence this striking prayer of the apostle:

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength” (Ephesians 1:17-19).

— John Angell James, edited and updated for easier reading

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