A sermon by Thomas Watson derived from Deuteronomy 17.19, “And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.”
This post is simply his practical outline mixed with some of the more penetrating insights/illustrations. This is the first of three posts devoted to this helpful sermon. Part 1 includes the introduction and first 10 directions, Part 2 will include the next 10 directions, and Part 3 the last 4 directions and concluding corollaries. I trust that his practical “directives” will be of immense help to you in reading the Scriptures with the most spiritual profit.
. How Israel was to select their king
[a]. His election [17.15, “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose.”]
[b]. His religion [17.18, “When he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites.”]
. Rest of sermon confined to these words, “He shall read in it [that is, the Book of the Law] all the days of his life.”
Question posed: “How we may read the Scriptures with most spiritual profit?”
Resolution of the question: “I shall lay down several rules or directions about the reading of Scripture.”
Direction 1. “If you would profit by reading, remove those things which hinder your profiting.”
3 Obstructions to be removed: First, remove the love of every sin. Second, Take heed of the thorns which will choke the word read. Third, Take heed of jesting with Scripture.
Direction 2. “If you would profit, prepare your hearts to the reading of the word.”
Preparation consists in two things: First, “In summoning our thoughts together to attend that solemn work we are going about. — The thoughts are stragglers; therefore rally them together.” Second, “In purging out those unclean affections which do indispose us to reading.”
Direction 3. “Read the Scripture with reverence. — Think every line you read God is speaking to you.”
Direction 4. “Read the books of Scripture in order. . . Order is an help to memory: we do not begin to read a friend’s letter in the middle.”
Direction 5. “Get a right understanding of Scripture . . . In the law Aaron was first to light the lamps, and then to burn the incense: the lamp of the understanding must be first lighted, before the affections can be inflamed. Get what knowledge you can by comparing the Scriptures, by conferring with others, by using the best annotators [commentators].”
Direction 6. “Read the word with seriousness . . . If a letter were to be broken open and read, wherein a man’s whole estate were concerned, how serious would he be in reading of it! In the Scripture our salvation is concerned; it treats of the love of Christ, a serious subject. . . . Seriousness is the Christian’s ballast, which keeps him from being overturned with vanity.”
Direction 7. “Labor to remember what you read. — Satan would steal the word out of our mind; [cf. Matt 13.4, 19] not that he intends to use of it himself, but lest we should make use of it. . . . . we are bid to have the ‘word dwell in’ us [Col 3.16].”
Direction 8. “Meditate upon what you read. . . . The bee sucks the flower, then works it in the hive, and so turns it to honey: by reading we suck the flower of the word, by meditation we work it in the hive of our mind, and so it turns to profit. . . . The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”
Direction 9. “Come to the reading of the Scripture with humble hearts. — Acknowledge how unworthy you are that God should reveal Himself in His word to you. . . . pride is an enemy to profiting.”
Direction 10. “Give credence to the word written. — Believe it to be of God; see the name of God in every line. The Romans, that they might gain credit to their laws, reported that they were inspired by the gods at Rome. . . . [but] All Scripture is of divine inspiration [cf. 2 Tim 3.16].”
Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit,” in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, 57-63, vol 2 of 6.