THE AGED CHRISTIAN AND HIS BIBLE
A seventh letter to an elderly person
Possibly you may have met with a tract called The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain. This shepherd was a plain, simple man, with sarcely any learning. But there was one sort of knowledge of which he had a great deal. And there was one kind of happiness, which he enjoyed more than most men. He was one who feared and loved God, and the Holy Scriptures were his delight. He read them daily, and his soul was greatly refreshed and comforted by them. They were ‘more to him than his necessary food.’
Some were astonished at his knowledge. They wondered how one who had so little learning could know so much. Where did it come from? How was it that he, a poor unlettered man, had so much wisdom? He gleaned it all from the Word of God. That Word was brought home to his heart by the Holy Spirit, and it taught him much.
And what has the Word of God done for you! Has it brought life and comfort to your soul? You have a Bible, I dare say, and often read it. But do you enjoy it? Is it precious to your soul? Had you rather give up every other book, than give up your Bible? Is it your constant companion? Do you feel, as you read it, that it is as if God was speaking it to your soul?
Two persons may read their Bibles very differently, One may Â•read down’ a chapter or two every day, as regularly as the clock strikes. He may get through a vast deal of Scripture in the course of the year. The sacred volume may often be seen in His hand. And yet he may be none the better for his reading. His mind may be as dark as ever, and his hopes of heaven as dim and cloudy. With all his reading, he may never receive God’s truth into his soul. He may never know Christ as his Saviour.
Another may study the Bible with far greater profit. He may not be a learned man, or have had much schooling. He may find a difficulty in making out some hard words he meets with. But he is a humble man; and so he looks up to God for His teaching. He never opens the Bible without breathing a secret silent prayer, it may be, within his own heart – a prayer that the Holy Spirit may open his eyes and help him to understand and feel the truths he reads. Thus the word falls like seed upon the open furrow. It does not remain on the surface, but sinks down into his very soul. It takes root there. It instructs him. It brings joy and peace to his heart. It makes him ‘wise unto salvation.’
Let the Bible be your constant study. It is God’s Word; and it is therefore the best of books. It tells you the way to be saved;
therefore it is most precious. It speaks to you of your Saviour and
your home; and therefore it should be most sweet to you. Read it very often, so that you become well acquainted with its blessed truths. And a happy thing it is if you can say with one of old, ‘Thy word is sweet to my taste: it is sweeter than honey to my mouth.’
I dare say you will find in the course of your reading, much that you do not understand. Do not let this trouble you. There are many passages in God’s Word, which even the most learned find it difficult to explain. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways: so it is no wonder that we cannot understand them.
I have heard of an aged Christian who was once asked, ‘How is it that you have so good a knowledge of your Bible?’ ‘This’, she replied, ‘is the plan I go upon – when I come to a hard verse, or a difficult word, I do not dwell much upon it; but I put a slip of paper in the page, and then read on. And presently I come to some passage which explains the one I could not understand. Thus I am able to take out one marker after another. And the consequence is there are but few places which cause me much difficulty’.
Try this plan, and I think you will find it answer. There must be difficulties in God’s Word; but Scripture will often explain Scripture. And, after all, ought we not to be very thankful that there is so very much that we can receive for the life and nourishment of our souls?
One thing is very necessary, and that is to read the Bible with prayer. Our minds are dark and ignorant, and we want enlightening. Now, even if we had a friend always at our elbow, ready to explain to us every passage, we should still want something more. For man cannot make the blind to see. This is God’s work. He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness – He who said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light’ – He must shine into our hearts.
Then, ask for His enlightening grace. Pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit may come and dwell within you. He is the Teacher that we want; for ‘who teacheth like Him?’
Whenever you open your Bible then, remember to ask God to open your heart. Put up some such short and simple prayer as this:-O Lord, I am blind and ignorant; do Thou enlighten me. Teach me by Thy Holy Spirit; and grant that thy Word may do my soul good, for Christ’s sake.’ Only read the Bible in a prayerful, humble, child like spirit, and I am sure you will not read it in vain. You will find there a treasure, which will enrich and comfort your soul day by day.
There was a time when the Bible was a scarce and expensive book, so that few could possess it. Now, thank God, it can be had by
all. May we prize it as our dearest material possession, and be very thankful to God for giving us so rich a gift!
Holy Bible! Book Divine!
Precious treasure, thou art mine!
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.