Hunger is the best sauce. The Bible is the meeting point of many interests, intellectual, scientific, antiquarian, emotional, artistic, -literary, moral, and spiritual. It touches us on every side. It sounds the deepest depths of human sorrow. It lifts us up to the noblest heights of human exaltation. But the leading interest of the Book is spiritual. It is not easy to enlist the interest and the sympathy of the man who has no appetite for the things of God in a course of Bible Study.
The chief cause of the neglect of Bible Study in the present day is the surrender of the soul to the prevailing attractions of material interests and worldly ambitions. If a man is not interested in spiritual things, if he does not know and does not want to know what he must do in order to become holy and acceptable to God, it will be difficult to convince him of the incomparable fascination and the supreme joy of true Bible Study. But given a healthy appetite and a wholesome taste for the things that conduce to purity and goodness and real greatness of soul, the Bible is an unfailing source of perpetual delight.
The intellectual or scientific interest of the Bible is superior to that of any other similar pursuit. Its antiquarian interest appeals to all who are concerned with the records of the past in a way that cannot be paralleled by the appeal of the classics, or that of the ancient literary monuments of the East. The study of the Bible leads to the discovery of ever-deepening wonders and undreamed-of glories, which startle the soul and plunge it into ecstasies of delight, exceeding in intensity and power the rapture experienced by the man of science - when some new truth flashes upon his mind, with the revelation of hidden harmonies, the solution of baffling problems, and the proof of long-cherished hypotheses. The solution of difficulties, the clearing up of discrepancies, the reconciliation of apparent contradictions, and the attainment of a clear perception of the perfect harmony which penetrates into the last detail and permeates and pervades the entire structure of Holy Scripture, is a source of unfailing intellectual interest. The Bible is a world in itself, and its hidden harmonies monies are as simple and as perfect, as complete and as profound, as those which underlie the unity of the world, which forms the subject of the investigation of the scientist and the philosopher.
The artistic or emotional interest of the Bible is not less but greater than that of any other literary work. No one can read the book of Ruth, the history of Joseph, or the dramatic episode of the book of Esther without being deeply touched, sometimes even . to tears; by the appeal which these narratives make to our affections and our sympathies ; whilst the book of Daniel, read, accepted, and believed in as the true history which it is, cannot fail to arouse the deepest feelings of admiration for the courage, the heroism, and the faith in God which the history portrays, and the triumphant conclusion to which it eventually attains. For pure artistic skill and literary power the narrative portions of Scripture are without a peer in the literature of all ages. They make the Bible the most inter esting Book in the whole world.
The moral interest of the Bible touches the deeps of childhood, of maturity, and of old age. It kindles in childhood a passionate desire to live a worthier, a nobler, and a better life ; it fires the enthusiasm of youth with the same strenuous purpose ; and it sustains the moral elevation of those whose sun is westering and soon to sink into the rest of eventide.
But the supreme interest of the Bible is the interest of the spirit-the interest of holiness,and the supernatural craving for a closer walk with God. In the rich and deep and tranquil satisfaction which it affords to the longing of the soul for perfect union with God, the Bible stands alone. It exhibits the perfect pattern of lowliness, the true type of self-sacrifice, the authentic model of godly fear. The life of the spirit is nourished, expanded, and perfected in feeding upon the Word. The soul is sustained in sorrow, the will is strengthened in conflict, the heart is purified from sin, the intellect is clarified and freed from doubt, the character is established in righteousness and truth, and the new nature is 'imparted to the child of God through the deeper study of the Word of God.
One of the surest methods of promoting the enjoyment of the Word of God is the habit of seeing the truth of each portion of Scripture in the light of the great central truth of the whole. We need to grasp the scope and purpose of the Bible as an organic whole to have a clear conception of the specific aim of each book it contains, and an equally vivid insight into its relation to the general aim of the whole Bible of which it forms an organic part. One of the chief sources of the supposed contradictions of Scripture is the practice of ignoring the relation of the various books to each other, to the testament to which they belong, and to the Bible as a whole. In this matter the golden rule is "Distinguish the dispensations and the difficulties will disappear." One of the chief delights of Bible Study is the growing perception with increasing study of the perfect harmony which obtains between the older revelation and the new, the earlier books and the later, regard being had to the dispensation to which each portion of Scripture belongs.
The complete mastery of the truths revealed in Holy Scripture, and the clear perception of their inner harmony, can only be obtained by long and patient investigation, reflection, and research ; but those who are willing to pay the price will be rewarded by the exhilarating sense of power which invariably accompanies persevering effort in the search for truth. A comprehensive grasp of the aim and purpose, the scope and content of the Bible, invests with deep and living interest the study of each individual book.
The habit of confining one's attention to the study of selected portions viewed by themselves apart from their relation to the context in which they are found, is in some degree responsible for the lack of interest which many Christians experience when the Bible is read in this way. It is necessary to survey the whole field in a systematic, consecutive, comprehensive way, if the interest of Bible Study is to be deepened and maintained.
The joy of Bible Study can only be experienced by those who obey its precepts and live the life which it enjoins and inspires. The Bible student must abandon all hypocrisy, all malice, all covetousness, and all indolence. He must forsake the sins which the Bible rebukes ; otherwise he will be unable to appreciate its noble counsels and its high commands, interest in the pursuit of the truth will decline, and eventually the study of the Word will be neglected and forsaken. Sin soon separates from the Bible those whom the Bible does not separate from sin.
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