I don't know why, but yesterday I picked up my copy of Baxter's Practical Works, Volume 1: A Christian Directory. It is the writings and teachings of Richard Baxter, one of my favorite puritans (if you have never heard of him, I would recommend THIS site for information).
As I thumbed through it, I happened to find myself in Chapter 20, "Directions for Profitable Reading the Holy Scriptures." In this relatively short chapter (short for him, since he waxes eloquently for page after page on many topics), Baxter gives Ten Directions to Reading the Bible. I thought I would share them today so that hopefully when you find yourself reading the Word today, you might do so more strategically.
(FYI - If you do not know, Baxter writes in the 1600s, which means his English is rough to us, but good for them.)
- Bring not an evil heart of unbelief. Open the Bible with the holy reverence as the book of God, indited by the Holy Ghost . . . Bethink you well, if God should but send a book or letter to you by an angel, how reverently you would receive it! How carefully you would peruse it; and regard it above all the books in the world! And how much rather should you do so, by that book which is indited by the Holy Ghost, and recordeth the doctrine of Christ himself, whose authority is greater than all the angels!
- Remember that it is the very law of God which you must live by, and be judged by at last. And therefore read with a full resolution to obey whatever it commandeth, though flesh, and men, and devils contradict it.
- Remember that it is the will and testament of your Lord, and the covenant of most full and gracious promises; which all your comforts, and all your hopes of pardon and everlasting life, are built upon. Read it therefore with love and great delight. Value it a thousandfold more than you would do the letters of your dearest friend, or the deeds by which you hold your lands, or anything else of low concernment.
- Remember that is is a doctrine of unseen things, and of the greatest mysteries; and therefore come not to it with arrogance as a judge, but with humility as a learner or disciple; and if any thing seem difficult or improbable to you, suspect your own unfurnished understanding, and not the sacred word of God.
- Remember that it is a universal law and doctrine, written for the most ignorant as well as for the curious; and therefore must be suited in plainness to the capacity of the simple, and yet have matter to exercise the most subtle wits.
- Bring not a carnal mind, which savoureth only fleshly things, and is enslaved to those sins which the Scripture doth condemn.
- Compare one place of Scripture with another, and expound the darkest by the help of the plainest, and the fewer expressions by the more frequent and ordinary, and the doubtfuler points by those which are more certain.
- Presume not on the strength of your own understanding, but humbly pray to God for light; and before and after you read the Scripture, pray earnestly that the Spirit which did indite it, may expound it to you, and keep you from unbelief and error, and lead you into the truth.
- Read some of the best annotations or expositors; who being better acquainted with the phrase of the Scripture than yourselves, may help to clear your understanding.
- When you are stalled by any difficulty which over-matcheth you, note it down, and propound it to your pastor, and crave his help, or (if the minister of that place be ignorant and unable) go to some one that God hath furnished for such work.