The Baptist Pillar ©      Brandon Bible Baptist Church     1992-Present

"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Scriptures: Prayerful Study of the Bible

R. Morris, Baptist Minister, Hunmanby, Yorkshire (1858)

The Bible is not now, as was the case before the Reformation in the sixteenth century, locked up in the dead languages, and withheld from the people by an arrogant but insolent priesthood: it is translated into the language of the people, offered for a mere nominal price, is widely circulated, and is to be met with, not only on the shelves of the learned and in the drawing-rooms of the rich, but also in the humble dwellings of our agricultural labourers and the artisans of our crowded towns and cities.

What friend of the Bible but must rejoice at this? It is, however, one thing to have the Bible in our possession, and another devoutly to read and study it. It is, indeed, a subject for devout gratitude and praise that it is so accessible, but that it is in so many instances forgotten and neglected ought to lead to close searchings of heart, and occasion deep humiliation and shame. Remember, it is not having the Bible in our houses, on our shelves, or on our tables, that can do us good, but reading, studying, and believing it!

In pressing upon your consideration the importance of the study of the Bible, we feel it incumbent upon us at the outset to caution you against that kind of reading which would give you a disrelish for the Word of God.

Let it not for a moment be supposed that we would have you confine your reading exclusively to the Bible and to works strictly religious and theological: for other works, doubtless, will come in your way, which you can consult both with safety and advantage.

But yet, whilst this is the case, as you value your immortal soul, it becomes you to avoid all writings, be they newspapers, periodicals, or works of fiction, that would in any way, or to any degree, lower your regard for the Bible, or unfit you for the devout study of it.

Ah, it is but a poor, and sorry exchange, to cast away the Bible for the last novel! If indeed you can find time greedily to devour novels, and thus neglect your Bible, you may rest assured that they are working your moral and spiritual ruin.

If such works are recommended by the ease and elegance of their diction and the bewitching and enchanting imagery they present, the danger is all the more imminent, and it becomes the watchmen on the walls of Zion to sound the alarm, and guard the young and unwary against them; for hundreds upon hundreds, yea, thousands upon thousands, have been ruined by them.

Oh! let parents and the guardians of our youth, instill into their young and tender minds a love for the Bible, that they may become like Timothy, of whom it was said, “And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Bunyan, when he wrote the Pilgrim’s Progress, had no other works with him in his prison than the Bible and Fox’s Book of Martyrs. Whilst then you have liberty to walk abroad into the wide field of literature, and taste whatever is pure and wholesome, it yet becomes you to be careful that you do not neglect that greatest, best, and holiest of all books, the Bible!

The prayerful study of the Bible is necessary in order rightly to understand the meaning of it. “Open thou mine eyes,” was the prayer of the Psalmist, “that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” No one can become mighty in the Scriptures without prayer; human learning and critical acumen are almost sure to lead their possessor astray, unless sanctified by prayer; but with it they are of immense advantage in searching after truth.

If we would know the meaning of God’s Word, we must, by close communion with him in prayer, seek the illumination of his Holy Spirit, for it is his province to lead us into all truth, and without his guidance we are sure to go astray; but enlightened and taught from above, the Bible will not prove a dry or an uninteresting study, but fresh beauties will ever be discovered in it, and the intellect will be strengthened and invigorated, and the heart and the life renewed and sanctified thereby.

Again, the prayerful study of the Bible will make us enlightened Christians, and render us proof against the assaults of error. Christianity can only be learnt from the Scriptures; and it is a reproach and an indelible stigma upon any one bearing its sacred name to be ignorant of the only depository of Divine truth.

“Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” We should not be satisfied with reading other works, even though they are religious books, and neglect it, for no other can ever supply its place. And he who devoutly and habitually studies the Bible will take nothing upon trust, and will not be carried away by the glitter of great names, but will bring the opinions of the Fathers and learned divines to the test of Scripture, and this will furnish him with an effective antidote against the cavils of infidelity and all the errors of the times, for he will thus be able easily to discern the precious from the vile and the true from the false — both in doctrine and in practice.

Ah! who are the parties who are most in danger of being carried away by the fooleries of popery and Puseyism, or the various other forms of error which infest the land? Are they our Sunday-school teachers and scholars, and our Bible readers? Oh, no! they are rather those who receive their creed at second-hand, who are willing that others should think for them in matters of religion, and whose faith stands not in the power of God, as did that of the Corinthians of old, but in the wisdom of men!

These are the parties who everywhere most easily fall a prey to superstition and error: but the study, the prayerful study of the Bible will always be found to present a strong barrier against the encroachments of error. “That we, henceforth, be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

Further, the prayerful study of the Bible leads to activity and devotedness in the cause of Christ. It is a sickly kind of meditation which does not lead to effort, and which would lead and individual to shut himself up in cloisters lest he should be contaminated by coming in contact with the world. The way to manifest our religion is not by an ignoble retirement from the discharge of the active duties of life, but by living above the world, and by earnest and believing efforts to reclaim it from error and sin.

The Scriptures everywhere exhort to diligence in the service of Christ. And not only do they exhort us to this, but they also point us to the example of the blessed Redeemer, who, when on earth, went about doing good. His was an intensely busy life; his days were spent in travelling from village to village, and from town to town, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and diseases amongst the people.

And the apostles had also imbibed the spirit of their Divine Lord and Master. Theirs is the zeal, devotedness, and disinterestedness we are to emulate, and what so likely to stimulate thereto as the prayerful study of the Bible? It is impossible, utterly impossible for us thus to study it and remain indifferent to Christian effort.

The prayerful study of the Bible is sure to lead to increased Christian liberality. That we have arrived at anything like perfection in this important department of Christian service is held only by a very few. True there are not wanting among us instances of Christians giving cheerfully and munificently of their worldly substance to the Lord: but the scanty rule of giving hitherto followed by the great majority of the professed disciples of the Saviour, convinces us that they have not as yet deeply pondered that saying of their Lord —

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It is well to have the eloquent orator on the platform to plead the cause of our missionary and Bible societies, but we must not expect too much from this, — and there is need that Christians learn to depend less on the excitement of a public meeting to move them to liberality, and that they give more from principle; and were they habitually to study their Bibles, this would be the case. The rule of giving would no longer be what they had been in the habit of doing in former years, or what others are doing, but as the Lord had prospered them.

And to grow in grace it is necessary that we grow in the knowledge of the Saviour; and the greater and more enlarged our acquaintance with Divine truth, the stronger is the incentive which we have to live a holy and blameless life, and to abound in every good word and work. Oh, then, let us give ourselves more to the study of the Bible; and let us study it with a view to derive from it those lessons of heavenly wisdom and grace which it is designed and so well adapted to afford.

The Bible is too much neglected, and that not only by the world, but also by the Church; for the pressure of business, along with other causes, have led to a criminal disregard of the Scriptures. A Psalm or two, or a few verses out of one of the Gospels or the Epistles in the course of the day, or it may be of the week, and those hurriedly gone through, is all which in numerous cases is attempted to be done, and the study of the Scriptures is regarded as belonging exclusively to ministers and to candidates for the sacred office! But the truth is, that the prayerful study of them is incumbent upon all Christians, be they ministers, office-bearers, or more private members.

Many have said, “We have no time to study the Bible;” to such we say, then you ought to have time; you have no right to engage in such a multiplicity of worldly business as to deprive you of a little leisure for the reading of God’s Holy Word; and take care, lest whilst you are joining house to house, and adding field to field, and adorning and enlarging your premises, and pushing and extending your business, — take care lest God send leanness into your soul for your neglect of his word. No time! why you can find time occasionally for the evening party; you can find time to avail yourself of steamboat and railway excursions; you can find time to read the papers and, perhaps, also Dickens’ and Bulwer's works, — and can’t you then find time for reading the Bible?

Oh! did you but love it more, then we are sure you would find time to read it! And, after all, daily reading and prayer need not in the least touch upon the lawful duties of your calling. “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit: serving the Lord.” Robert Hall, speaking of the esteem in which the Scriptures are held, says, “The votaries of all other religions regard their supposed sacred books with a devotion which consecrates their errors, and makes their very absurdities venerable in their eyes.

They glory in that which is their shame: we are ashamed of that which is our glory. Indifference and inattention to the truths and mysteries of revelation, have led by an easy transition, to a dislike and neglect of the book which contains them; so that in a Christian country nothing is thought so vulgar as a serious appeal to the Scriptures; and the candidate for fashionable distinction would rather betray a familiar acquaintance with the most impure writers than with the words of Christ and his apostles.”

Christians! let not your Bibles be despised, neglected, or forgotten, for a blessing is pronounced on him that delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates therein day and night. One reason why heavenly realities affect us so little is, that the mind is not allowed to dwell sufficiently long upon them, and is too much occupied with the consideration of other and inferior objects.

Let us then rise in our thoughts and contemplations above this sublunary and transitory scene; let us soar heavenwards, where unsullied purity and endless pleasures dwell; then the earth would grow daily less and less in our esteem, and it would be a mystery to us that it had been allowed to occupy our thoughts and enchant our hearts so long. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”