Read your Bible!

  • 1 February 2016

This paper may fall into the hands of someone who "loves and believes the Bible, and yet reads it Only a little." I fear there are many such people in this day. It is a clay of hustle and hurry. It is a day of talking and committee meetings, and public work. These things are all very well in their way, but I fear that they sometimes clip and cut short the private reading of the Bible. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of the persons I speak of? Listen to me, and I will say a few things which deserve your serious attention. You are the man who is likely to "get little comfort from the Bible in time of need.” Trials come at various times. Affliction is a searching wind, which strips the leaves off the trees, and exposes the birds’ nests. Now I fear that your stores of Bible consolations may one day run very low. I fear lest you should find yourself at last on very short allowance, and come into the harbour weak, worn and thin. You are the man that is likely "never to be established in the truth” (2 Pet 1:12). I will not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, and the like. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. Like the Benjamites, he can “sling a stone at a hair and not miss”, (Judges 20:16); he can quote Scripture easily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to be able to fight a good fight with him. Your armour does not fit well. Year sword sits loosely in your hand. You are the man that is likely to "make mistakes in life." I will not wonder if I am told that you have erred about your own marriage - erred about your children's education of spiritual things - erred about the conduct of your household - erred about the company you keep. The world you steer through is fuli of rocks, and reefs, and sand bars. You are not sufficiently familiar either with the searchlights or your charts. You are the man that is likely to be carried away by some deceptive false teacher for a time." It will not surprise me if those clever, eloquent men, who can "make the lie appear to be the truth," are leading you into many foolish notions. You are out of balance. No wonder if you are tossed to and fro, like a cork on the waves. All these are uncomfortable things. The Bible warns us and arms us. I want every reader of this paper to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you this day. Do not merely read your Bible "a little," but read it a great deal. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16). Do not be a mere babe in spiritual knowledge. Seek to become “well instructed in the kingdom of heaven," and to be continually adding new things to old. A religion of feeling is an uncertain thing. It is like the tide, sometimes high, and sometimes low. It is like the moon, sometimes bright, and sometimes dim. A religion of deep Bible knowledge is a firm and lasting possession. It enables a man not merely to say, "I feel hope in Christ,’ but 'I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim 1:12).

I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is a very arrogant habit. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching" (2 Tim 3:16). To this habit may be traced that want of broad, well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people's Bible-reading is a system of perpetual dipping and picking. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book. This is also a great mistake. No doubt in times of sickness and affliction it is allowable to search out seasonable portions. But this is an exception. l believe it is by far the best plan to begin the Old and New Testaments at the same time, to read each straight through to the end, and then begin again. This is a matter in which everyone must be persuaded in his own mind. I can only say it has been my own plan for nearly forty years, and I have never seen cause to alter it.

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool (1880-1900). Writer, pastor, evangelical preacher.