HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE.
"Understandest thou what thou readest?" Acts 8: 30.
One thing I have noticed in studying the Word of God, and that is, when a man is filled with the Spirit he deals largely with the Wojd of God; whereas the man who is filled with his own ideas refers rarely to the Word of God. He gets along without it, and you seldom see it mentioned in his discourses. A great many use it only as a text-book. They get their text from the Bible, and go on without any further allusion to it; they ignore it; but when a man is filled with the Word, as Stephen was, he cannot help speaking1 Scripture. You will find that Moses was constantly repeating the commandments; you will find, too, that Joshua, when he came across the Jordan with his people, there they stood, and the law of the Lord God was read to them, and you will find all through Scripture the men of God dealing much with his Word. Why you will find Christ constantly referring to them, and saying, "Thus saith the Scriptures." Now, as old Dr. Bonar, of Glasgow, said, "The Lord didn't tell Joshua how to use the sword, but he told him how he should meditate on the Lord day and night, and then he would have good success." When we find a man meditating on the words of God, my friends, that man is full of boldness and is successful. And the reason why we have so little success in our teaching is because we know so little of the Word of God. You must know it and have it in your heart. A great many have it in their head and not in their heart. If we have the Spirit of God in our heart, then we have something to work upon. He does not use us because he is not in ns. Know, as we come to this Word to-day, as Mr. Sankey has been •inging:
* No word he hath spoken
Was ever yet broken."
Let us take this thought in John 10: 35: "And the Scripture can not be broken." There is a great deal of infidelity around, and it has crept into many of the churches, too. These doubters take up the Bible and wonder if they can believe it all—if it is true from back to back, and a good many things in it they believe are not true. I have a good deal of admiration for that colored man who was approached by some infidel—some skeptical man, and who told him, •• Why, the Bible is not true; all scientific men tell us that now: it's only a bundle of fables." "Bible ain't true?" replied the colored roan. "Why, I was a blasphemer an' a drinker,' an' dat book just made me stop swearin', drinkin' lyin', and blasphemin', an' you say 'taint true." My friends, the black man had the best of the argument. Do you think if the Bible was a bad book it would make men good? Do you think if it was a false book it would make men good? And so let us take our stand on the colored man's platform, and be convinced that it is true. When we take it into our hands let us know that it is the Word of God, and try to understand it. Many of the passages appear to us difficult to understand, but if we could understand it clearly from back to back at first, it would be as a human book; but the very fact that we cannot understand it all at once, ia the highest proof that it is the Word of God.
Now, another thought is, that a great many people read it, but they read it as a task. They say, "Well, I've read it through, I know all that's in it," and lay it aside. How many people prefer the morning paper in order to get news. They prefer it, but it is » false idea. This Bible is the only newspaper; it tells you all that has taken place for the last six thousand years, and it tells you all the news of the future. Why, seventeen hundred years before Christ, the people were told in it of the coming of Christ. They knew he was coming. The daily paper could not tell us of this; they may be written by learned men, brilliant editorial writers, but they couldn't have told this. If you want news, study the Bible— the blessed old Bible—and you will find it has all the news of the world.
Now, we come up to the question, How to study it A great many read it as I used to read it, just to ease my conscience. I had a rule before I was converted, to read two chapters a day. If I didn't do it before I retired, I used to jump out of bed and read them; but if you had asked me, fifteen minutes after, what I had read, I could not have told you. Now this is the trouble with many—they read with the head and not with the heart. A man may read his Bible, but when he has closed it you may ask him what chapter he read last; and he can not tell you. He sometimes puts a mark in it to tell him; without the mark he don't know, his reading has been to careless. It is to keep him from reading it again. Just as I used to do when hoeing corn; I used to put a stick in the furrow to know where I had hoed last. A good many people are just like this; they pick up a chapter here, and there is no connection in their reading, and consequently don't know anything about the Word of God. If we want to understand it, we've got to study it—read it on our knees, asking the Holy Ghost to give us the understanding to se« what tho Word of God is; and if we go about it that way, and turn onr face, as Joshua did, in prayer, and set ourselves to study these blessed and heavenly truths, the Lord will not disappoint us, and we
will soon know our Bible; and when we know our Bible, then it is that God can use us.
Let me say there are three books which every Christian ought to have, and if you haven't them, go and buy them before you get your tea. The first, is a good Bible—a large-print Bible. I don't like those little-print ones; which you can scarcely see—get one in large print. A good many object to a large Bible because they can't carry it in their pocket. "Well, if you can't carry it in your pocket, it is a good way to carry it under your arm. It is showing what you are—it is showing your flag. Now, a great many of you are coming in from the country to these meetings, and when you get on the cars you see people who are not ashamed to sit down and play cards. I don't see why the children of God should be ashamed to carry their Bible under their arms in the cars. "Ah," some say, "that is the spirit of a Pharisee." It would be the pharisaical spirit if you hadn't dipped down into heavenly truths—if you haven't the spirit of God with you. Some say, "I haven't it." Suppose you don't read so many of these daily papers, and read a little oftener the Bible. Some say, "I haven't time. Take time. I don't believe there is abusiness man in Chicago who couldn't find an hour a day to read his Bible if he wanted to. Get a good Bible, then a good concordance, and then a scriptural text-book. Whenever you come to something in the Word of God that you don't know, hunt for its meaning in those books. Suppose, after the meeting, I am 'coking all over the platform, and Dr. Kittredge says, "What are you looking for?" and I answer, "Oh, nothing, nothing," he would go off. If he thought I hadn't dropped something he wouldn't stay, But suppose I had lost a very valuable ring, which some esteemed friend had given me, and I told him this, he would stay with me, and he would move this organ, and those chairs, and look all over, and by looking carefully we would find it. If a man hunts for truths in the Word of God, and reads it as if he was looking for nothing in particular, he will get nothing. When the men went to California in the gold excitement they went to dig for gold, and they worked day and night with a terrible energy just to get a little gold. Now, my friends, if they wanted to get the pure gold they had to dig for it, and when I was there I was told that the best gold was got by digging deep for it. So the best truths are got by digging deep for them.
When I was in Boston I went into Mr. Prang's chromo establishment. I wanted to know how the work was done. He took me to a stone several feet square, where he took the first impression, but when he took the paper off the stone T could see no sign of a man's face; the paper was just tinged. I said I couldn't see any sign of a man's face there. "Wait a little," he said. He took me to another atone, but when the paper was lifted I couldn't see any impress> »n yet. He took me up—up to eight, nine, ten stones, and then I could see just the faintest outlines of a man's face. He went on till he got up to about the twentieth stone, and 1 could see the impression of a face, but he said it was not very correct yet. Well, he went on until he got up, I think, to the twenty-eighth stone, and a perfect face appeared, and it looked as if all it had to do was to speak, and it woulil be human. If you read a chapter of the Bible and don't see anything in it, read it a second time; and if you can not see anything in it, read it a third time. Dig deep. Read it again and aga n, and even if you have to read it twenty-eight times, do so, and you will see the man Christ Jesus, for he is in every page of the Word; and if you take Christ out of the Old Testament you will take the key out of the Word.
Many men in the churches nowadays are saying that the teachings in the New Testament are to be believed, but those in the Old are not. Those who say this don't know anything about the New. There is nothing in the Old Testament that God has not put hi* seal upon. "Why," some people say to me, "Moody, you don't believe in the flood? All the scientific men tell us it is absurd." Let them tell us. Jesus tells us of it, and I would rather take the word of Jesus than that of any other one. I haven't got much respect for those men who dig down for stones with shovels, in order to take away the Word of God. Men don't believe in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but we have it sealed in the New Testament. "At it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah." They don't believe in Lot's wife, but he says, "Remember Lot's wife." So there is not * thing that men to-day cavil at but the Son of God indorses. Thej don't believe in the swallowing of Jonah. They say it is impossible that a whale could swallow Jonah—its throat is too small. Thej forget that the whale was prepared for Jonah; as the colored woman said, "Why, God could prepare a man to swallow a whale, let alone a whale to swallow a man." We find that he indorses all the point* in the Old Testament, from Genesis to Revelation. We have onlj one book—we haven't two. The moment a mart begins to cut and slash, away it all goes. Some don't believe in the first five books They would do well to look into the third chapter of John, where they will see the Samaritan woman at the well looking for the com ing of Christ from the first five books of Moses. I tell you, my friends, if you look for him you will find him all through the Old Testament. You will find him in Genesis—in every book in the Bible. Just turn to Luke xxiv. 27, you will find him, after he had risen again, speaking about the Old Testament prophets: "And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scripture the things concerning himself." Concerning himself. Don't that settle the question? I tell you, I am convinced in •ny mind that the Old Testament is as true as the New. "And b« began at Moses and all the prophets." Mark that "all the prophets." Then in the forty-fourth verse: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scripture." If you take Christ out of the Old Testament, what are you going to do with the psalms and prophets? The book is a sealed book, if wo take away the New from it. Christ unlocks the Old and Jesus the New. Philip, in teaching the people, found Christ in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Why, the earthly Christians had nothing but the Old Testament to preach the gospel from—at Pentecost they had nothing else. So if there is any man or woman in this assembly who believes in the New Testament, and not in the Old, dear friends, you are deluded by Satan, because if you read the Word of God you will find him spoken of throughout both books. I notice if a man goes to cut up the Bible and comes to you with one truth and says, "I don't believe this and I don't believe that"—I notice when he begins to doubt portions of the Word of God he soon doubts it all.
Now, the question is, how to study the Bible. Of course, I can not tell you now you are to study it; but I can tell you how I have studied it, and that may help you. I have found it a good plan to take up one book at a time. It is a good deal better to study one book at a time than to run through the Bible. If we study one book and get its key, it will, perhaps, open up others. Take up the book of Genesis, and you will find eight beginnings; or, in other words, you pick up the key of several books. The gospel was written that man might believe on Jesus Christ, and every chapter speaks of it. Now, take the book of Genesis; it says it is the book of beginnings. That is the key; then the book of Exodu3—it is the book of redemption; that is the key-word of the whole. Take up the book of Leviticus, and we find that it is the book of sacrifices. And so on through all the different books; you will find each one with a key. Another thing: we must study it unbiased. A great many people believe certain things. They believe in certain creeds and doctrines, and they run through the book to get Scripture ,in accordance with thom. If a man is a Calvinistio man, he wants to find something in accordance with his doctrine. But if we seek truth, the Spirit of God will come. Don't seek it in the blue light of Presbyterianism, in the red light of Methodism, or in the light of Episcopalianism, but study it in the light of Calvary. Another way to study it is, not only to take one book at a time; but I have been wonderfully blessed by taking up one word at a time. Take up the word, and go to your concordance and find out oS
all about it. I remember I took up the word "love," and turned to the Scriptures and studied it, and got that so I felt that I loved everybody. I got full of it. When I went on the street I felt as if I loved everybody I saw. It ran out of my fingers. Suppose you take the subject of love and study it up. You will get so full of it that all you have got to do is to open your lips and a flood of the love of God flows upon the meeting. If you go into a court, you will find a lawyer pleading a case. He gets everything bearing upon one point heaped up so as to carry his argument with all the force he can, in order to convince the jury. Now, it seems to me a man should do the same in talking to an audience; just think that he has a jury before him, and he wants to convict a sinner. If it i« love, get all you can upon the subject, and talk love, love.
Take up the word grace. 1 didn't know what Calvary was till I studied grace. I got so full of the wonderful grace that I bad to speak. I had to run out and tell people about it. If you want to find out those heavenly truths, take up the concordance and heap up the evidence, and you cannot help but preach. Take heaven; there are people all the time wondering what it is, and where it is. Take your concordance and see what the Word of God says it is. Let these men who are talking against blood look into the Word of God, and they will find if it don't teach that, it teaches nothing else. When we preach about that, some people, are thinking we are taking our own views. But the Word says, "The life of all flesh is in the blood, and without blood there is no remission." The moment a man talks against blood he throws out the Bible. Take up Saul, study him. You will find hundreds of men in Chicago just like him. Take up Lot, study that character. Let me say right here, that if we are going to have—and I firmly believe in my soul that we are going to have, a revival in the Northwest—if we are going to have it, you must bring the people to the study of the Word of God. I have been out here for a good number of years, and I am tired and sick of these spasmodic meetings, tired of the bonfires which, after a little, are reduced to a bundle of shavings. When I see men speaking to inquirers in the inquiry-room without holding the Word of God up to them, I think their work will not be lasting. What we want to do is to get people to study the Word of God, in order that the work may be thorough and lasting. I notice when a man is brought coolly, and calmly, and intelligently, that man will have a reason for being a Christian. We must do that; we must bring a man to the Word of God if we don't want this Western country filled with backsliders. Let us praythat we will have a Scriptural revival, and if we preach only the Word in our churches and in our Sunday-schools, we will have a revival that will last to eternity. Let us turn back to one of the Old Testament revivals, when the people had been brought up from Babylon. Look at the eighth chapter of Nehemiah: "And Ezra, the priest, brought the Law before the congregation, both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, npon the first day of the seventh month, and he read therein, before the street that was before the water gate, from morning until midday, before the men and women and those that could understand, and the ears of the people were attentive unto the Book of the Law." No preaching there, he merely read the Word of God—that is, God's Word—not man's. A great many of us prefer man's word to that of God. We are running after eloquent preachers—after men who can get up eloquent moral essays. They leave out the Word of God. We want to get back to the Word of God. They had an all-day meeting there, something like this, "And Ezra opened the Book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood Up." I can see the great crowd standing up to listen to the prophet, just like young robins taking in what the old robin brings them. "And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, Amen, Amen. With lifting up their hands they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." "So they'read in the Book in the Law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." Now, it strikes me that it is about the height of preaching to get people to understand the reading of the Word. It would be a great deal better if a preacher would sometimes stop when he had made a remark, and say, "Mr. Jones, do you understand that?" "No, I don't;" and then the preacher might make it a little plainer, Bo that he could understand it. There would be a great difference in the preaching in some of the churches. He would talk a little less about metaphysics and science, and speak about something else. "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy unto our Lord, neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." "For the joy of the Lord is your strength." If you will show me a Bible Christian living on the Word of God, I will show you a joyful man. He is mounting up all the time. He has got new truths that lift him up over every obstacle, and he mounts over difficulties higher and higher, like a man I once heard of who had a bag of gas fastened on either side, and if he just touched the ground with his foot, over a wall or a hedge he would go; and so these truths make us so light that we bound over every obstacle.
And when we have those truths our work will be successful. Just torn over to Jeremiah 20: 9, to this blessed old prophet. There was a time when he was not going to speak about the Word of Ged any more. Now I just want to show you this, when a man is filled with the "Word of God you can not keep him still. If a man has got the Word, he must speak or die. "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, but his Word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." It set him on fire, and so a man filled with the Word of God is filled as with a burning fire, and it is so easy for a man to work when he is filled with the word of God, I heard of a man the other week who was going to preach against the blood. I was very anxious to see what he would say about it, and I got the paper next morning and found there was nothing else there than scriptural quotations. I said that was the very best thing he could do. As we see in the 23d chapter of Jeremiah: "Is not my Word like as a fire, suith the Lord, that breaketh the rock in pieces?" Those hard, flinty rocks will be broken if we give them the Word of God. These men in the Northwest that we can not reach by our own words, give them this and see if they can not be reached. Not only that, if we are full of Scripture ourselves, give them what God says, you will fine it easy to preach—you will say we haven't to get up so many sermons. It seems to me if we had more of the Word of God in our services and give up more of our own thoughts, there would be a hundred times more converted than there are. A preacher, if he wants to give his people the Word, must have fed on the Word himself. A man must get water out of a well when there is water. He may dip his bucket in if it is empty, but he will get nothing. 1 think the best thing I have heard in Chicago, I heard the other day, and it has fastened itself on my mind, and I must tell it to you ministers. We had for our subject at Farwell Hall the other day, the 17th chapter of John, when the Rev. Mr. Gibson said if a man were to come among a lot of thirsty men with an empty bucket they wouldn't come to him to drink. He said he believed that was the trouble with most of the ministers, as that had been the trouble with himself. He hadn't got a bucket of living water, and the people wouldn't come to him. Just look at an audience of thirsty men, and you bring in a bucket of clear, sparkling water and see how they will go for it. If you go into your Sundayschools and the children look into your buckets and see them empty, there is nothing for them there.' So, my friends, if we attempt to feed others we must first be fed ourselves.
There is another thing which has wonderfully helped me. That is, to mark my Bible whenever I hear anything that strikes me. If a minister has been preaching to me a good sermon, I put his name down next to the text, and then it recalls what has been said, and I can show it to others. You know we laymen have the right to take what we hear to one another. If ministers saw people doing this they would preach a good deal better sermons. Not only that, but if we understand the Bibles better the ministers woul d preach better. I think if people knew more about the Word than they do, so many of them would not be carried away with false doctrine. There is no place I have ever been in where people so thoroughly understand their Bibles as in Scotland. Why, little boys could quote Scripture and take me up on a text. They have the whole nation just educated, as it were, with the Word of God. Infidelity oannot come there. A man got up, in Glasgow, at a corner, and began to preach universal salvation. "Oh, sir," said an old woman," that will never save the like of me." She had heard enough preaching to know that it would never save her. If a man comes among them with any false doctrine, these Scotchmen instantly draw their Bibles on him. I had to keep my eyes open, and be careful what I said there. They knew their Bibles a good deal better than I did. And so if the preachers could get the people to read the Word of God more carefully, and note what they heard, there would not be so much infidelity among us.
I want to tell you how I was blessed a few years ago, upon hearing a discourse upon the 30th chapter of Proverbs. The speaker said the children of God were like four things. The first thing was, "The ants are a people not strong," and he went on to compare the chidren of God to the ants. He said the people of God were like ants. They pay no attention to the things of the present, but go on steadily preparing for the future. The next thing he compared them to was the conies. "The conies are but a feeble folk." It is a very weak little thing. "Well," said I, "I wouldn't like to be a coney." But he went on 'to say that it built upon a rock. The children of God were very weak, but they laid their foundation upon a rock. "Well," said I, " I will be like a coney and build my hopes upon a rock." Like the Irishman who said he trembled himself, but the rock upon which his house was built never did. The next thing the speaker compared them to was a locust. I didn't think much of locusts, and I thought I wouldn't care about being like one. But he went on to read they have "no king, yet they -go forth, all of them, by bands." There were the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians, the Methodist bands going forth without a king, but, by and by, our King will come back again, and these bands will fly to them. "Well, I will be like a locust; my King's away," I thought. The next comparison was a spider. I don't hke this at all; but he said if we went into a gilded palace filled with luxury, we might see a spider holding on to something, oblivious to all the luxury below. It was laying hold on the things above. "Well," said I, "I would like to be a spider." I heard this a good many years ago, and I just put the speaker's name to it and it makes the sermon. But take your Bibles and mark them. Don't think of wearing it out. It is a rare thing to find a man wearing his Bible out nowadays—and Bibles are cheap too. You are living in a land where there are plenty. Study them and mark them, and don't be afraid of wearing them. Now don't you see now much better it would be to study it? And it you are talking to a man, instead of talking about your neighbors, just talk about the Bible; and when Christian men come together, just compare notes, and ask one another: "What have you found new in the Word of God since I saw you last?" Some men come to me and ask me if I have picked up anything new, and I give them what I have and they give me what they have. An Englishman asked me some time ago, "Doyou know much about Job?" "Well, I know a little," I replied. "If you've got the key of Job you've got the key to the whole Bible." "What," I replied, "I thought it was a poetical book." "Well," says he, "I will just divide Job into seven heads. The first is the perfect man—untried—and that is Adam and Eve before they fell. The second head is tried by adversity—Adam after the fall. The third is the wisdom of the world—the three friends who came to try to help Job out of his difficulties. They had no power to help him at all." He could stand his scolding wife, but he couldn't stand them. The fourth head takes the form of the Mediator, and in the fifth head God speaks at last. He heard him before by the ear, but he hears him now by the soul, and he fell down flat upon his face. A good many men in Chicago are like Job. They think they are mighty good men, but the moment they hear the voice of God they know they are sinners—they are in the dust. There isn't much talk about their goodness then. Here he was with his face down. Job learned his lesson. That was the sixth head, and in these heads were the burdens of Adam's sin. The seventh head was when God showed him his face. Well, I learned the key to the Bible; I can not tell how this helped me. I told it to another man, and he asked me if I ever thought of how he got his property back and his sheep back. He gave Job double what he had, and gave him ten children besides, to that he should have ten in heaven besides hi* ten on earth.