How to Study the Bible—Feeding one's self—The Best Law—Three Books Every Christian Should Possess — The Bible in the Sabbath School.
SOMEONE has said that there are four things necessary in studying the Bible: Admit, submit, commit and transmit. First, admit its truth; second, submit to its teachings; third, commit it to memory; and fourth, transmit it. If the Christian life is a good thing for you, pass it on to some one else.
Now I want to tell you how I study the Bible. Every man cannot fight in Saul's armor; and perhaps you cannot follow my methods. Still I may be able to throw out some suggestions that will help you. Spurgeon used to prepare his sermon for Sunday morning on Saturday night. If I tried that, I would fail.
The quicker you learn to feed yourself the better. I pity down deep in my heart any men or women who have been attending some church or chapel for, say five, ten, or twenty years, and yet have not learned to feed themselves.
You know it is always regarded a great event in the family when a child can feed itself. It is propped up at table, and at first perhaps it uses the spoon upside down, but by and by it uses it all right, 52 How to Study the Bible.
and mother, or perhaps sister, claps her hands and says, "Just see, baby's feeding himself!" Well, what we need as Christians is to be able to feed ourselves. How many theie are who sit helpless and listless, with open mouths, hungry for spiritual things, and the minister has to try to feed them, while the Bible is a feast prepared, into which they never venture.
There are many who have been Christians for twenty years who have still to be fed with an ecclesiastical spoon. If they happen to have a minister who feeds them, they get on pretty well; but if they have not, they are not fed at all. This is the test as to your being a true child of God—whether you love and feed upon the Word of God. If you go out to your garden and throw down some sawdust, the birds will not take any notice; but if you throw down some crumbs, you will find they will soon sweep down and pick them up. So the true child of God can tell the difference, so to speak, between sawdust and bread. Many so-called Christians are living on the world's sawdust, instead of being nourished by the Bread that cometh down from heaven. Nothing can satisfy the longings of the soul but the Word of the living God.
THE LAW OF PERSEVERANCE.
The best law for Bible study is the law of perseverance. The Psalmist says, "I have stuck unto thy testimonies." Application to the Word will tend to its growth within and its multiplication without. Some people are like express-trains, they skim along so quickly that they see nothing.
I met a lawyer in Chicago who told me he had spent two years in studying up one subject; he was trying to smash a will. He made it his business to read everything on wills he could get. Then he went into court and he talked two days about that will; he was full of it; he could not talk about anything else but wills. That is the way with the Bible—study it and study it, one subject at a time, until you become filled with it.
Read the Bible itself—do not spend all your time on commentaries and helps. If a man spent all his time reading up the chemical constituents of bread and milk, he would soon starve.
THREE BOOKS REQUIRED.
There are three books which I think every Christian ought to possess.
The first, of course, is the Bible. I believe in getting a good Bible, with a good plain print. I have not much love for those little Bibles which you have to hold right under your nose in order to read the print; and if the church happens to be a little dark, you cannot see the print, but it becomes a mere jumble of words. Yes, but some one will say you cannot carry a big Bible in your pocket. Very well, then, carry it under your arm; and if you have to walk five miles, you will just be preaching a sermon five miles long. I have known a man convicted by seeing another carrying his Bible under his arm. You are not ashamed to carry hymn-books and prayer-books, and the Bible is worth all the hymnbooks and prayer-books in the world put together. If you get a good Bible you are likely to take better care of it. Suppose you pay ten dollars for a good Bible, the older you grow the more precious it will be54 Three Books Required.
come to you. But be sure you do not get one so good that you will be afraid to mark it. I don't like giltedged Bibles that look as if they had never been used.
Then next I would advise you to get a Cruden's Concordance. I was a Christian about five years before I ever heard of it. A skeptic in Boston got held of me. I didn't know anything about the Bible and I tried to defend the Bible and Christianity. He made a misquotation and I said it wasn't in the Bible. I hunted for days and days. If I had had a concordance I could have found it at once. It is a good thing for ministers once in a while to tell the people about a good book. You can find any portion or any verse in the Bible by just turning to this concordance.
Thirdly, a Topical Text Book. These books will help you to study the Word of God with profit. If you do not possess them, get them at once; every Christian ought to have them.*
SUNDAY SCHOOL QUARTERLIES AND THE BIBLE.
I think Sunday school teachers are making a woeful mistake if they don't take the whole Bible into their Sunday school classes. I don't care how young children are, let them understand it is one book, that there are not two books—the Old Testament and the New are all one. Don't let them think that the Old Testament doesn't come to us with the same authority as the New. It is a great thing for a boy or girl to know how to handle the Bible. What is an army good for if they don't know how to handle their swords? I speak very strongly on this, because I know some Sabbath schools that don't have a single Bible in them. They have question books. There are questions and the answers are given just below; so that you don't need to study your lesson. They are splendid things for lazy teachers to bring along into their classes. I have seen them come into the class with a question book, and sometimes they get it wiong side up while they are talking to the class, until they find out their mistake, and then they begin over again. I have seen an examination take place something like this:
*The Topical Text Book. An aid to topical study of the Bible. Cloth 60 cents.
The Bible Text Cyclopedia, a complete classification of Scripture texts in the form of an alphabetical list of subjects by Rev. James Inglis. Large 8 vo. cloth, $1.75.
Both issued by the publishers of this volume.
"John, who was the first man?"
"No; I think not; let me see. No, it is not Methuselah. Can't you guess again?"
"That's right, my son; you must have studied your lesson hard."
Now, I would like to know what a boy is going to do with that kind of a teacher, or with that kind of teaching. That is the kind of teaching that is worthless, and brings no result. Now, don't say that I condemn helps. I believe in availing yourself of all the light you can get. What I want you to do, when you come into your classes, is to come prepared to explain the lesson without the use of a concordance. Bring the word of God with you; bring the old Book. 56 Sunday School Quarterlies and the Bible.
You will often find families where there is a family Bible, but the mother is so afraid that the children will tear it that she keeps it in the spare room, and once in a great while the children are allowed to look at it. The thing that interests them most is the family record—when John was born, when father and mother were married.
I came up to Boston from the country and went into a Bible class where there were a few Harvard students. They handed me a Bible and told me the lesson was in John. I hunted all through the Old Testament for John, but couldn't find it. I saw the fellows hunching one another, "Ah, greenie from the country." Now, you know that is just the time when you don't want to be considered green. The teacher saw my embarrassment and handed me his Bible, and I put my thumb in the place and held on. I didn't lose my place. I said then that if I ever got out of that scrape, I would never be caught there again. Why is it that so many young men from eighteen to twenty cannot be brought into a Bible class? Because they don't want to show their ignorance. There is no place in the world that is so fascinating as a live Bible class. I believe that we are to blame that they have been brought up in the Sunday school without Bibles and brought up with quarterlies. The result is, the boys are growing up without knowing how to handle the Bible. They don't know where Matthew is, they don't know where the Epistle to the Ephesians is, they don't know where to find Hebrews or any of the different books of the Bible. They ought to be taught how to handle the whole Bible, and it can be done by Sunday school teachers taking the Bible into the class and going right about it at once. You can get a Bible in this country for almost a song now. Sunday schools are not so poor that they cannot get Bibles. Some time ago there came up in a large Bible class a question, and they thought they would refer to the Bible, but they found that there was not a single one in the class. A Bible class without a Bible! It would be like a doctor without physic; or an army without weapons. So they went to the pews, but could not find one there. Finally they went to the pulpit and took the pulpit Bible and settled the question. We are making wonderful progress, aren't we? Quarterlies are all right in their places, as helps in studying the lesson, but if they are going to sweep the Bibles out of our Sunday schools, I think we had better sweep them out.