And it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom…
The Holy Scripture is, as Austin saith, a golden epistle sent to us from God. This is to be read diligently. "Ignorance" of Scripture is "the mother of" error, not "devotion." "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures" (Matthew 22:29). We are commanded to "search the Scriptures" (John 5:39). The Greek word signifies to search as for a vein of silver. How diligently doth a child read over his father's will and testament, and a citizen peruse his charter! With the like diligence should we read God's Word, which is our Magna Charta for heaven. It is a mercy the Bible is not prohibited. Trajan, the emperor, forbade the Jews to read in the book of the law. But there is no danger of touching this tree of Holy Scriptures; if we do not eat of this tree of knowledge we shall surely die.
I. REMOVE THOSE THINGS WHICH WILL HINDER YOUR PROFITING.
1. Remove the love of every sin. The body cannot thrive in a fever; nor can the soul under the feverish heat of lust.
2. Take heed of the thorns which will choke the Word read. A covetous man is a pluralist; he hath such diversity of secular employments, that he can scarce find time to read; or if he doth, what solecisms doth he commit in reading! While his eye is upon the Bible, his heart is upon the world; it is not the writings of the apostles he is so much taken with, as the writings in his account book. Is this man likely to profit? You may as soon extract oils and syrups out of a flint, as he any real benefit out of Scripture.
3. Take heed of jesting with Scripture. This is playing with fire.
II. PREPARE YOUR HEARTS TO THE READING OF THE WORD. The heart is an instrument that needs putting in tune. This preparation to reading consists in two things —
1. In summoning our thoughts together to attend that solemn work we are going about. The thoughts are stragglers; therefore rally them together.
2. In purging out those unclean affections which do indispose us to reading. Many come rashly to the reading of the Word; and no wonder, if they come without preparation, that they go away without profit.
III. READ THE SCRIPTURE WITH REVERENCE. Think every line you read God is speaking to you. When Ehud told Eglon he had a message to him from God, he arose from his throne (Judges 3:20). The Word written is a message to us from Jehovah; with what veneration should we receive it!
IV. READ THE BOOKS OF SCRIPTURE IN ORDER. Though occurrences may sometimes divert our method, yet for a constant course it is best to observe an order in reading. Order is a help to memory: we do not begin to read a friend's letter in the middle.
V. GET A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE (Psalm 119:73). If the Word shoot above our head, it can never hit our heart.
VI. READ THE WORD WITH SERIOUSNESS. Well may we be serious if we consider the importance of those truths which are bound up in this sacred volume. "It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life" (chap. Deuteronomy 32:47). If a letter were to be broken open and read, wherein a man's whole estate were concerned, how serious would he be in reading of it! In the Scripture our salvation is concerned; it treats of the love of Christ, a serious subject (Titus 3:4).
VII. LABOUR TO REMEMBER WHAT YOU READ. The memory should be like the chest in the ark, where the law was put. Some can better remember a piece of news than a line of Scripture; their memories are like those ponds where the frogs live, but the fish die.
VIII. MEDITATE UPON WHAT YOU READ. Meditation is the bellows of the affections: "While I was musing the fire burned" (Psalm 39:3). The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.
IX. COME TO THE READING OF SCRIPTURE WITH HUMBLE HEARTS. An arrogant person disdains the counsels of the Word, and hates the reproofs; is he likely to profit? "God giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6). The most eminent saints have been but of low stature in their own eyes; like the sun in the zenith, they showed least when they were at the highest.
X. GIVE CREDENCE TO THE WORD WRITTEN. Believe it to be of God; see the name of God in every line. The Romans, that they might gain credit to their laws, reported that they were inspired by the gods at Rome. Believe the Scripture to be "Divinely inspired." Whence should the Scripture come, if not from God?
1. Sinners could not be the authors of Scripture. Would they indite such holy lines? or inveigh so fiercely against those sins which they love?
2. Saints could not be the authors of Scripture. How could it stand with their sanctity to counterfeit God's name, and put "Thus saith the Lord" to a book of their own devising?
3. Angels could not be the authors of Scripture. What angel in heaven durst personate God, and say, "I am the Lord"? Believe the pedigree of Scripture to be sacred, and to come from the "Father of lights."
XI. HIGHLY PRIZE THE SCRIPTURES (Psalm 119:72). St. Gregory calls the Bible "the heart and soul of God." It is the library of the Holy Ghost. It is the compass by which the rudder of our wheel 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 "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 "universal medicine" for the soul.
XII. GET AN ARDENT LOVE TO THE WORD. Prizing relates to judgment, love to the affections. "Consider how I love Thy precepts" (Psalm 119:159; Romans 7:22). He is likely to grow rich who delights in his trade; "a lover of learning will be a scholar." St. Austin tells us, before his conversion he took no pleasure in the Scriptures, but afterwards they were his "chaste delights."
XIII. COME TO THE READING OF THE WORD WITH HONEST HEARTS.
1. Willing to know the whole counsel of God.
2. Desirous of being made better by it.
XIV. LEARN TO APPLY SCRIPTURE. Take every word as spoken to yourselves.
XV. OBSERVE THE PRECEPTIVE PART OF THE WORD, AS WELL AS THE PERMISSIVE. Such as east their eye upon the promise, with a neglect of the command, are not edified by Scripture; they look more after comfort than duty. The body may be swelled with wind as well as flesh: a man may be filled with false comfort, as well as that which is genuine and real.
XVI. 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.
XVII. 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 of Scripture? Is the Word copied out into your hearts?
XVIII. TAKE SPECIAL NOTICE OF THOSE SCRIPTURES WHICH SPEAK TO YOUR PARTICULAR CASE. Were a consumptive person to read Galen or Hippocrates, he would chiefly observe what they writ about a consumption. Great regard is to be had to those paragraphs of Scripture which are most apposite to one's present case. I shall instance only in three cases —
XIX. 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. They have been hanged up in chains in terrorem.
2. Observe the examples of God's mercy to saints. Jeremy, was preserved in the dungeon, the three children in the furnace, Daniel in the lions den. These examples are props to faith, spurs to holiness.
XX. LEAVE NOT OFF READING IN THE BIBLE TILL YOU FIND YOUR HEARTS WARMED.
XXI. SET UPON THE PRACTICE OF WHAT YOU READ. "I have done Thy commandments" (Psalm 119:166). A student in physic doth not satisfy himself to read over a system or body of physic, but he falls upon practising physic: the life-blood of religion lies in the practical part. So, in the text: "He shall read" in the book of the law "all the days of his life; that he may learn to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them." Christians should be walking Bibles.
XXII. MAKE USE OF CHRIST'S PROPHETICAL OFFICE. He is "the Lion" of the tribe of Judah," to whom it is given "to open the book" of God, "and to loose the seven seals thereof (Revelation 5:5). Christ doth so teach as He doth quicken.
XXIII. TREAD OFTEN UPON THE THRESHOLD OF THE SANCTUARY. Ministers are God's interpreters; it is their work to expound dark places of Scripture. We read of "pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers" (Judges 7:16). Ministers are "earthen" pitchers (2 Corinthians 4:7). But these pitchers have lamps within them, to light souls in the dark.
XXIV. PRAY THAT GOD WILL MAKE YOU PROFIT. "I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit" (Isaiah 48:17). Make David's prayer: "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law" (Psalm 119:18). Pray to God to take off the veil on the Scripture, that you may understand it; and the veil on your heart, that you may believe it. Pray that God will not only give you His Word as a rule of holiness, but His grace as a principle of holiness. I shall conclude all with 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: "The law of his God is in his heart" (Psalm 37:31). Never leave till you are assimilated into the Word. Such as profit by reading of the Book of God are the best Christians alive; they answer God's cost, they credit religion, they save their souls.
2. You who have profited by reading the Holy Scriptures, adore God's distinguishing grace.
(T. Watson, M. A.).
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: