By John M. Brenneman
Originally published in the February 1866 issue of Herald of Truth.
“ ’Tis one thing now to read the Bible through,
And another thing to read to learn and do:
’Tis one thing now to read it with delight,
And quite another thing to read it right.
Some read it with design to learn to read,
But to the subject pay but little heed;
Some read it as their duty once a week,
But no instruction from the Bible seek:
Whilst others read it with but little care,
With no regard to how they read, nor where!
Some read it as a history, to know
How people lived three thousand years ago.
Some read to bring themselves into repute,
By showing others how they can dispute:
Whilst others read because their neighbors do,
To see how long ’twill take to read it through.
Some read it for the wonders that are there,
How David killed a lion and a bear;
Whilst others read, or rather in it look,
Because, perhaps, they have no other book.
Some read the blessed book they don’t know why,
It somehow happens in the way to lie;
Whilst others read it with uncommon care,
But all to find some contradictions there!
Some read as tho’ it did not speak to them,
But to the people at Jerusalem;
One reads it as a book of mysteries,
And won’t believe the very thing he sees:
Another reads through Campbell or through Scott,
And thinks it means exactly what they thought.
Some read to prove a preadopted creed—
Thus understand but little what they read;
For every passage in the book they bend,
To make it suit that all important end!
Some people read, as I have often thought,
To teach the book, instead of being taught.
And some there are who read it out of spite—
I fear there are but few who read it right.
So many people in these latter days
Have read the Bible in so many ways,
That few can tell which system is the best,
For every party contradicts the rest!!”
The above Poetry is, alas! a true description of too many Bible readers in our days. I fear there are but few who read it with such an anxious desire, as did the Ethiopian eunuch. Few there are, I fear, who read it as it is in truth, the word of God. We should read the Bible as a revelation from God to sinful man; wherein our lost, sad and deplorable condition by nature is made fully known unto us; the consequences of a wicked and sinful life of a sinner are plainly shown therein, namely that the wicked shall not go unpunished; and that they, if they continue in their wickedness, shall be destroyed. But the Bible also teaches, that, if the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord, he will have mercy upon him, and will abundantly pardon. It is certainly the duty of every intelligent person, to read the Bible (if they can read) with a sincere desire to know and do the will of God. For in the Bible “he hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” I fear that there are many Bible readers, to whom the promise of God in Isaiah 66:2, will not reach, where he says, “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
We should read the Bible with prayerful and upright hearts to learn to know the will of God. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning.” “Search the Scriptures,” says the Savior; “for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” The Bible directs and points us to Christ Jesus, who came to “save sinners.” We should search and read the Bible with a desire to benefit our souls. The Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation. Such wisdom is far preferable to that of this world. In the Bible we can behold ourselves as in a mirror, and see what manner of persons we are, what we need, to make us happy and where to go, to get it.