“How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit,” Part 2

Watson’s directions, 11-20.

Direction 11.  Highly prize the Scriptures. . . . The scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]; it is a pandect of divine knowledge, an exact model and platform of religion [true religion, i.e., biblical Christianity].  The Scripture contains in it the credenda, “the things which we are to believe,” and the agenda, “the things which we are to practice.”  It is “able to make us wise unto salvation.” [2 Tim 3.15] “The Scripture is the standard of truth,” the judge of controversies; it is the pole-star to direct us to heaven [Isa 8.20].  “The commandment is a lamp” [Prov 6.23].  The Scripture is the compass by which the rudder of our will is to be steered; it is the field in which Christ, the Pearl of price, is hid; it is a rock of diamonds; it is a sacred collyrium, or “eye-salve;”  it mends their eyes that look upon it; it is a spiritual optic-glass in which the glory of God is resplendent; it is the panacy or “universal medicine” for the soul.  The leaves of scripture are like the “leaves of the tree of life, for the healing of the nations” [Rev 22.2].  The scripture is both the breeder and feeder of grace.  How is the convert born, but by “the word of truth?” [James 1.18] How doth he grow, but by “the sincere milk of the word?” [1 Pet 2.2].  The word written is the book out of which our evidences for heaven are fetched; it is the sea-mark which shows us the rocks of sin to avoid; it is the antidote against error and apostasy, the two-edged sword which wounds the old serpent.  It is our bulwark to withstand the force of lust; like the Capitol of Rome, which was a place of strength and ammunition.  The scripture is the “tower of David,” whereon the shields of our faith hang [Song 4.4].  “Take away the word, and you deprive us of the sun,” said Luther. . . . O, prize the word written; prizing is the way to profiting.

Direction 12. Get an ardent love to the word. — He is likely to grow rich who delights in his trade. . . . St. Chrysostom compares the scripture to a garden [A pleasure-garden is sweet; but much sweeter is the perusal of the sacred writings.  The former contains fading flowers; but the latter blooming thoughts.  There the cooling zephyr plays; but here we are refreshed by the breath of the Holy Spirit, says Chrysostom]; every line in it is a fragrant flower, which we should wear, not in our bosom, but our heart.

Direction 13. Come to the reading of the word with honest hearts.–

Question. “What is it to read the word with an honest heart?”

Answer 1. To come with an heart willing to know the whole counsel of God. — A good heart would not have any truth concealed; but saith, as Job, “That which I see not, teach thou me” [Job 34.32].

Answer 2. To read it that we may be made better by it. — Some go to the Bible, as one goes to the garden, to pick flowers, that is, fine notions. . . . This is like the woman that paints her face, but neglects her health.  But this is to have an honest heart . . . “O,” saith the soul, “that this sword of the Spirit may pierce the rock of my heart . . . to kill and make fruitful . . . that it may kill my sin, and make me fruitful in grace.

Direction 14. Learn to apply the scriptures. — Take every word as spoken to yourselves.  When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins;” when it presseth any duty, “God intends me in this.” . . . A medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

Direction 15. Observe the preceptive part of the word, as well as the promissive. — Make us as well of the precepts to direct you, as the promises to comfort you.

Direction 16. Let your thoughts dwell upon the most material passages of scripture. — The bee fastens on those flowers where she may suck most sweetness.  Though the whole contexture of scripture is excellent, yet some parts of it may have a greater emphasis, and be more quick and pungent.

Direction 17. Compare yourselves with the word. — See how the scripture and your hearts agree, how your dial goes with this sun.  Are your hearts, as it were, a transcript and counterpane of scripture?  Is the word copied out into your hearts?  The word calls for humility; are you . . . humble?  The word calls for regeneration; have you the signature . . . of the Holy Ghost [Spirit] upon you?  . . . Is there such a change wrought in you, as if another soul did live in the same body? “Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified,” etc. [1 Cor 6.11].  The word calls for love to the saints; do you love grace where you see it? . . . The bringing of the rule of the word and our hearts together, to see how they agree, would prove very advantageous to us.  Hereby we come to know the true complexion and state of our souls, and see what evidences and certificates we have for heaven.

Direction 18. Take special notice of those scriptures which speak to your particular case.

I shall instance only in three cases: [1]. Affliction.  [2]. Desertion.  [3].  Sin.

Case 1.  First, affliction. — Hath God made your chain heavy?  Consult these scriptures: “If you endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons.” [Heb 12.7, etc].

Case 2. Secondly, desertion. — Are your spiritual comforts eclipsed?  “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee” [Isa 54.8].

Case 3. Thirdly, sin. — Are you drawn away with lust? Read Gal 5.24; James 1.15; 1 Pet 2.11.  Are you under the power of unbelief? — Read Isa 26.3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Direction 19. Take special notice of the examples in scripture. — Make the examples of others living sermons to you.

[1]. Observe the examples of God’s judgments upon sinners. — . . . How hath God plagued idolaters! [Num 25.3-5, 9; 1 Kngs 14.9-11].  What a swift witness hath he been against liars! [Acts 5.5, 10].  These examples are set up as sea-marks to avoid [1 Cor 10.11; Jude 7].

[2]. Observe the examples of God’s mercy to saints. — Jeremy [Jeremiah] was preserved in the dungeon, the three children in the furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den.  These examples are props to faith, spurs to holiness.

Direction 20. Leave not off reading in the Bible till you find your hearts warmed. — Read the word, not only as a history, but labour to be affected with it.  Let it not only inform you, but inflame you. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord” [Jer 23.29].  Go not from the word till you can say as those disciples, “Did not our heart burn within us” [Luke 24.32]?

Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit,” in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, 63-68, vol 2 of 6.


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