I want to make some simple suggestions for studying this Book so as to get to God through it. There will be the emphasis of doubling back on one's tracks here. For some of the things that should be said have already been said with a different setting. First there must be the time element. One must get at least a half hour daily when the mind is fresh. A tired mind does not readily absorb. This should be persisted in until there is a habitual spending of at least that much time daily over the Book, with a spirit at leisure from all else, so it can take in. Then the time should be given to the Book itself. If other books are consulted and read as they will be let that be after the reading of this Book. Let God talk to you direct, rather than through somebody else. Give Him first chance at your ears. This Book in the central place of your table, the others grouped about it. First time given to it.
A third suggestion brings out the circle of this work. Read prayerfully. We learn how to pray by reading prayerfully. This Book does not reveal its sweets and strength to the keen mind merely, but to the Spirit enlightened mind. All the mental keenness possible, with the bright light of the Spirit's illumination—that is the open sesame. I have sometimes sought the meaning of some passage from a keen scholar who could explain the orientalisms, the fine philological distinctions, the most accurate translations, and all of that, who yet did not seem to know the simple spiritual meaning of the words being discussed. And I have asked the same question of some old saint of God, who did not know Hebrew from a hen's tracks, but who seemed to sense at once the deep spiritual truth taught. The more knowledge, the keener the mind, the better if illumined by the Spirit that inspired these writings.
There is a fourth word to put in here. We must read thoughtfully. Thoughtfulness is in danger of being a lost art. Newspapers are so numerous, and literature so abundant, that we are becoming a bright, but a not thoughtful people. Often the stream is very wide but has no depth. Fight shallowness. Insist on reading thoughtfully. A very suggestive word in the Bible for this is "meditate." Run through and pick out this word with its variations. The word underneath that English word means to mutter, as though a man were repeating something over and over again, as he turned it over in his mind. We have another word, with the same meaning, not much used now—ruminate. We call the cow a ruminant because she chews the cud. She will spend hours chewing the cud, and then give us the rich milk and cream and butter which she has extracted from her food. That is the word here—ruminate. Chew the cud, if you would get the richest cream and butter here.
And it is remarkable how much chewing this Book of God will stand, in comparison with other books. You chew a while on Tennyson, or Browning, or Longfellow. And I am not belittling these noble writings. I have my own favourite among these men. But they do not yield the richest and yet richer cream found here. This Book of God has stood more of that sort of thing than any other, yet it is the freshest book to be found to-day. You read a passage over the two hundredth time and some new fine bit of meaning comes that you had not suspected to be there.
There is a fifth suggestion, that is easier to make than to follow. Read obediently. As the truth appeals to your conscience let it change your habit and life.
"Light obeyed, increased light:
Light resisted, bringeth night
Who shall give us power to choose
If the love of light we lose?" [Note: Joseph Cook]
Jesus gives the law of knowledge in His famous words, "If any man willeth to do His will he shall know of the teaching" (Joh_7:17). If we do what we know to do, we will know more. If we know to do, and hesitate and hold back, and do not obey, the inner eye will surely go blind, and the sense of right be dulled and lost. Obedience to truth is the eye of the mind.