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

Watson’s directions, 21-24 and concluding thoughts.

Direction 21. Set upon the practice of what you read. . . . The word written is not only a rule of knowledge, but a rule of obedience: it is not only to mend our sight, but to mend our pace. . . . Reading without practice will be but a torch to light men to hell.

Direction 22. Make use of Christ’s prophetical office. . . . Such as would be scripture-proficients, let them get Christ to be their teacher. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” [Lk 24.45].  Christ did not only open the scriptures, but “opened their understanding.”

Direction 23. Tread often upon the threshold of the sanctuary. — Wait diligently on a rightly constituted ministry: “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching diligently at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors” [Prov 8.34].  Ministers are God’s interpreters; it is their work to open dark places in Scripture.  We read of “pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers” [Judges 7.16].  Ministers are “earthen” pitchers [2 Cor 4.7].  But these pitchers have lamps within them, to light souls in the dark.

Direction 24. Pray that God will make you profit. — “I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit” [Isa 48.17].  Make David’s prayer: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” [Psalm 119.18]. . . . Implore the guidance of God’s Spirit: “Thou gavest them thy good Spirit to instruct them” [Neh 9.20].  Though the ship hath a compass to sail by, and store of tackling, yet without a gale of wind it cannot sail.  Though we have the word written as our compass to sail by, and make use of our endeavours as the tackling, yet, unless the Spirit of God blow upon us, we cannot sail with profit.  When the Almighty is as “dew” unto us, then we “grow as the lily,” and our “beauty is as the olive-tree” [Hosea 14.5, 6].

Two corollaries, —

[1]. Content not yourselves with the bare reading of scripture, but labour to find some spiritual increment and profit. — Get the word transcribed into your hearts. . . . Never leave till you are assimilated into the word.

[2]. You who have profited by reading the holy scriptures, adore God’s distinguishing grace. — Bless God that he hath not only brought the light to you, but opened your eyes to see it; that he hath unlocked his hid treasure, and enriched you with saving knowledge.  Some perish by not having scripture, and others by not improving it.  That God should pass by millions in the world, and the lost of his electing love should fall upon you; that the scripture, like the pillar of cloud, should have a dark side to others, but a light side to you; that to others it should be a “dead letter,” but to you that “savour of life;” that Christ should not only be revealed to you, but in you; [Gal 1.16] how should you be in an holy ecstasy of wonder, and wish that you had hearts of seraphim burning in love to God, and the voices of angels, to make heaven ring with God’s praises!

Objection.  But some of the godly may say, they fear they do not profit by the word they read.

Response.  As in the body, when there is a lipothymy or “fainting of the vital spirits,” cordials are applied: so let me apply a few divine cordials to such as are ready to faint under the fear of non-proficiency.

[1]. You may profit by reading the word, though you come short of others. — The ground which brought forth thirty-fold was “good ground” [Mt 13.8].

[2]. You may profit by reading the word, though you are not of so quick apprehension. — Some impeach themselves of non-proficiency, because they are slow of understanding. . . . A Christian’s intellectuals may be less quick and penetrating, yet that little knowledge he hath of scripture keeps him from sin; as a man that hath but weak sight, yet it keeps him from falling into the water.

[3]. You may profit by reading scripture, though you have not so excellent memories. — Christian, art thou grieved thou canst remember no more?  Then for thy comfort, —

[a]. Thou mayest have a good heart, though thou has not so good a memory.

[b]. Though thou canst not remember all thou readest, yet thou rememberest that which is most material, and which thou hast most need of. — At a feast we do not eat of every dish, but we take so much as nourisheth.  It is with a good Christian’s memory as it is with a lamp: though the lamp be not full of oil, yet it hath so much oil as makes the lamp burn: though thy memory be not full of scripture, yet thou retainest so much as makes thy love to God burn.  Then be of good comfort; thou dost profit by what thou readest; and take notice of that encouraging scripture: “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, he shall bring all things to your remembrance” [John 14.26].

Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit,” in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, 68-71, vol 2 of 6.

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