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How to Read Scripture According to Thomas Watson
This is a quote from Thomas Watson’s (1620-1686) sermons collected and arranged in a book titled, “A Body of Divinity” as it relates to reading the Word of God:
“Read the Bible with reverence. Think in every line you read that God is speaking to you. The ark wherein the law was put was overlaid with pure gold, and was carried on bars, that the Levites might not touch it (Exodus 25:14). Why was this, but to give reverence to the law? Read with seriousness. It is matter of life and death; by this Word you must be tried; conscience and Scripture are the jury God will proceed by, in judging you. Read the Word with affection. Get your hearts quickened with the Word; go to it to fetch fire. Luke 24:32. ‘Did not our hearts burn within us? Labour that the Word may not only be a lamp to direct, but a fire to warm. Read the Scripture not only as history but as a love letter sent you from God, which may affect your hearts. Pray that the same Spirit that wrote the Word may assist you in reading it; that God’s Spirit would show you the wonderful things of his law. ‘Go near,’ saith God to Philip, ‘join thyself to this chariot.’ Acts 13:29. So, when God’s Spirit joins himself with the chariot of his Word, it becomes effection.” (bold is mine).
These are good, straightforward measurements as it relates to our heart posture in reading the Word of God.
As Christians, do we reverence the Word? Though penned by human authors, the Bible is a divine book. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit who is worthy of our reverence. And our reverence for the Word of God should flow from the reverence we have for him. There should be a holy trembling as we open God’s Word to us.
Are we conscientious that God is speaking to us as we read his Word? The God who inspired it is the God who has preserved it—kept it pure in all ages (1689 1.8). The Lord has kept his living and active (Hebrews 4:12) pure because He has something to say to us when we read it. And as we read His Word, the Holy Spirit works in tandem with it and changes us for our good. If you wanna hear God speak, read His Word.
Are we serious-minded in our reading of God’s Word? This should certainly be the trickle-down of reverencing the Word. But, do you find yourself flippant and casual when you sit down to read or is there an earnestness and determination to mine God’s Word for all its riches?
As you read, are your affections stirred? Do you sense that your interior life is being properly aligned? We do not read the Word of God informationally (although there is information in it). As Christians, we want to experience the presence of God by the Spirit of God as we read. Do you find yourself cold and calloused as a believer? Then spend intentional time in God’s Word and have your emotional life recalibrated. Have your love for Him and His image-bearers cultivated a new.
These are a few lessons from Thomas Watson on how to read our Bibles.