Skip to comments.The Rt. Rev. Ashton Oxenden: "Helps by the Way: The Bible"
Posted on 06/02/2006 7:09:01 PM PDT by sionnsar
For something from the 19th century, here is a chapter from a book titled The Pathway of Safety by the Rt. Rev. Ashton Oxenden, (1808-1892) who was a clergyman with the church of England and a contemporary of J.C. Ryle. Like Ryle, Oxenden was a Reformed evangelical Anglican. He served as bishop of Montreal and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Canada for roughly ten years, from 1869 to 1878. Pastor Chuck Long, who has made The Pathway of Safety available on the Internet, writes this about the Bishop: "Oxenden was a man of deep commitment and devotion to God. He took his call as a minister seriously and as such he worked hard and faithfully all his years. He had a shepherds heart and a strong desire to see his people grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. His writings testify to his desire to help his people learn to walk with God in Christ. His writings were doctrinally sound and very practical and for this reason I want to make his writings known." Read what Bishop Oxenden wrote about the Bible and I think you will agree:
The Pathway of Safety; or, Counsel to the AwakenedMy thanks to Pastor Long (who I believe is a Reformed Baptist) for sharing this with us. May the Lord use this to help us indeed share David's delight in the Word of God, and say with him, "O how I love Thy Law!"
By the Right Rev. Ashton Oxenden, D.D.
HELPS BY THE WAY: THE BIBLE
THE Word of God is the Christians daily nourishment. And if he has, indeed, been born again of the Spirit, he will desire the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby. (1 Pet. 2.2) The natural man has no appetite for this heavenly food; but it is sure to spring up in that heart which is renewed by the grace of God.
The Bible is Gods book, written by men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Receive that book, then, not as the word of men, but as it is, in truth, the word of God. (1 Thess. 2.13) Yes, that book which, perhaps, you have so often carelessly readthat book which you have often looked upon as little more than a task-bookthat book is the Word of God. It contains all that an inquirer after religious truth need know. Here are the words of eternal life. Here is spiritual food that can feed, bless, and save you. The Bible is the Guide-post, as it were, to lead poor wanderers to Heaven, to point out the way to that better country before them. It is the Compass which shows us as we pass over the troubled waves of life, how we may reach the wished-for haven. It is the Medicine-chest, which contains the only remedy that can cure a diseased soul. It makes known Gods will to man. In prayer we speak to Him; but here, in the Bible, He speaks to us.
What a blessing it is, that God has given us a book, which lays open to us His will concerning us. Here is something genuine and substantial to depend upon. We can go to our Bibles and read, Thus says the Lord. There are no perhapses in this holy volume: it speaks to us with authority. When we read Gods Word with the felt impression that it is His message to our souls, it is sweet indeed to our taste.
No doubt, you have often heard that, in damp and marshy places, it is not uncommon in the night to observe a certain bright appearance in the air, which has sometimes been mistaken for a lantern, or a light from a house. Many a lonely traveler, who has lost his way, has seen this light in the distance. A momentary feeling of joy has come across him; for he has thought within himself, Surely there is some welcome habitation there, in which I may find a shelter. He has followed the light, but only to get farther from the right road. It has led him into fresh danger, till at last he discovers that he has been following a mere vapor which deceived him.
And is it not thus that Satan sometimes endeavors to mislead us? He tempts us to follow other lights than the true one. He is ever trying to draw us into the wrong road, and then he leaves us in our misery. But, happily, God has given us a sure guide, if we only follow it. Thy word (says David) is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Ps. 119.105)
Before we go any farther, I would advise you to ask Gods pardon for all your heedless, profitless reading of His Word. Ask Him to forgive you the great sin of an unheeded Bible. And, now make up your mind to take this Word as your companion, and the guide of all your steps, as you journey on to Heaven. I have spoken, in the Third Chapter, about hearing the Gospel; but I now want to urge you to the careful and devout reading of Holy Scripture.
1. Read your Bible dailyyes, daily. I have sometimes found persons, who have been awakened, somewhat backward in this work. They will walk miles to hear a sermon, perhaps. Anything that is a little exciting seems to fall in with their taste. And, meanwhile, they neglect the calm, quiet, and most blessed occupation of searching into the Word of Life, as those who are looking for a hid treasure.
Oh! Beware of this evil which so many fall intoeven religious persons. Take your empty pitcher, day by day, to this wellspring of life; and, though you may only seem to get a drop now and then, God will be daily filling you out of His fullness. Never let a single day pass without reading some portion of Scripture. Your body needs daily food, and so does your soul. Both will suffer without it. You may be pressed for time; you may have scarcely a spare moment that you can call your own. I am aware how busily occupied you sometimes are. Still, I would urge upon you the importance of having, if possible, a fixed time in every day for feeding upon this heavenly manna. Read a verse or two only, if you have not time for more. I have known poor men and women, who never miss this, their daily meal. I have known men of business who, though pressed with work, set apart a fixed time in every day for this sacred purpose. And we have all read of a certain King, who had all the affairs of a great nation upon his hands, but who could still say, O, how I love Thy law; it is my meditation all the day; Thy testimonies are my delight and my counselors. (Ps 119:24, 97) Go, and do thou likewise.
2. Let your Scripture reading be a solemn work. Some read the Bible with a lightness, which shows that they can hardly feel its immense value. Now I would particularly advise you never to take it up carelessly; and be not content with reading it just at odd times, when you have nothing else to do, and when you happen to have a few spare moments. This sort of reading is not only unprofitable, but sometimes actually hurtful. Learn to approach the holy volume with a feeling of reverence and godly fear; and treat it as something too precious to be trifled with.
3. Study the Bible with prayer. You may read page after page, but it will be to little profit, unless you get a blessing from above. How would it be with a blind man? Let a book of any kind be placed before him. He might open it, and turn over its pages; but all would be in vain; he would get nothing from it. And you are blindnot so blind as you once werebut still you only see dimly. And, unless God says, Let there be light, there will be none. He must shine upon the Word, and open your heart to receive it.
Whenever you read your Bible, then, pray earnestly for Gods teaching. Pray that the Holy Spirit may be given to you, to guide you into all truth. (John 16.13) Ask God to prepare you to give a cordial welcome to His truth, and so to break up the soil that when you read the word your heart may be like an open furrow, ready to receive into it the precious seed. And then, I am sure, you will find your soul warmed and blest; and the light will grow stronger and stronger within you.
4. Read the Bible in a teachable and obedient spirit, as a little child, feeling your ignorance. Say to yourself, when you open the book, Now I am going to learn something; now I am going to draw water from the wells of salvation. Whatever Gods Word teaches, receive it as from Him.
Our reading and our hearing should produce some fruit in us: it should lead to some good result. What is the use of our knowing more about holiness, for instance, unless we become holier personsof learning that this is right, and that is wrong, unless we set ourselves earnestly to follow the one, and avoid the otherof becoming better acquainted with the history of our Lord, and of His servants; unless we forthwith endeavor to be like them, and to walk as they walked? He who reads only for readings sake, and without practicing what he learns to be Gods will, is a mere spectator in religion. But, on the other hand, if, the moment you discover a truth, you immediately set yourself to act upon it, then you will have more grace given to you to make further advances in the knowledge of God. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine. (John 7.17) The Psalmist speaks of this as the great secret of his growing knowledge,--I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts. (Ps 119.100)
Whatever, then, you see commanded in Gods word, go and do it. Say to yourself, I must forthwith carry this out in my daily life. Do not wait till your conscience grows slack again; but act at once, while the feeling of what is right is strong within you. Whatever is written in the Bible, whether it be pleasant or not to your taste, look upon it as something that is to be obeyed.
5. Read through one book of the Bible, before you begin another; not a chapter in one part today, and in another part tomorrow. In this way you will be much more likely to get the meaning of Gods word, and to profit by it. If you received a letter from a friend, you would gather but little from it by pitching upon a passage here, or a sentence there. Surely you would read the letter through, if you wished to get a clear view of what is contained. Now, each book of the Bible is like a separate letter; and therefore, instead of taking a chapter at random, you will do well to choose a gospel, or an epistle, or any other part, and go regularly through it, before you begin another. This you will find the best way of reading Scripture, so as to understand it.
I would not advise you, however, to read a great deal at once. A little well studied and prayed over, may be as good for your soul as a larger quantity. Sometimes, only a very few verses, thoroughly weighed, will afford you the sweetest nourishment, and will teach you more than whole chapters carelessly read.
6. Have some settled plan for your Scripture reading. Read it methodically. There should be a plan and method in all we do; and in nothing is this more necessary than in our Bible studies. It is quite possible for a person to be a great reader of Gods word, and yet to know little of its contents. He may get nothing more than a smattering of Scripture. He may fill his memory with Bible phrases and expressions. He may lay hold of certain favorite doctrines, and on these he may dwell with delight, and even with profit. But, after all, this fitful, desultory, kind of reading will give him but a very imperfect knowledge of Gods truthof His truth as a whole.
Now, let me try and assist you in forming a plan. I will suppose that you feel your Scripture reading to have been hitherto very unsatisfactory, and that you are now really desirous to make it more profitable. I will take it for granted that you can, by a little effort, find time for two readings during each day.
I would recommend you then take, in the morning, some part of the Old Testament. And let your first act be to lift up your heart to God for His teaching. You might use some such short prayer as this:--Give me, O Lord, Thy Holy Spirit to enlighten my blindness. Teach me out of Thine own word, and write Thy truth in my heart, for Jesus Christs sake. Then open your Bible with the feeling that there is some holy lesson to be learned from it, some truth to be found which shall give fresh light to your soul. You are beginning, perhaps, the Book of Genesis, or Proverbs, or Isaiah. It is well first to consider what sort of a book it is you are going to study. Is it the history of the Lords dealings with His people of old? Then try and cull from it something to warn you, or to encourage you. Does it contain precepts for your guidance? Feel that every word is for you; and make a resolution that what you read shall, by Gods grace, influence your conduct. Or is it prophecy? Then expect to meet with something dark and difficult, and much to call out your faith. Do not read a great deal: but what you do read, read well and thoughtfully.
In the evening, again, you may be able to set apart a little time for this blessed study; and then it may be well to read a portion of the New Testament. But let it be a fixed and regular portion. If you are going through one of the Gospels, remember that you are reading what the Son of God Himself did and said. Study His spotless and holy character, and make it your pattern. And when you think of all that He enduredthe coldness, the ill-treatment, the unbelief, the contempt, the contradiction of sinners, the untold agonies that He met withbear in mind that all this was for you, and in order that He might be the great Sin-bearer, and Sorrow-bearer, of a fallen world. Or, if you read the Acts of the Apostles, you will find it very good for you to trace the course of those early followers of Christ, who counted not their lives dear unto themselves, so that they might bear the Saviors cross after Him here, and wear His crown hereafter. Or, if you are reading one of the Epistles, consider the circumstances under which the particular Epistle, or Letter, was sent; by whom it was written; and to what body of Christians, or to what person among them it was addressed; and endeavor to look upon each verse as trhough it contained a message of God to your own soul.
As to the quantity we should read, it must depend much on the time we have, the state of our mind, our wants, &c. Some Christians find it very beneficial, now and then, to take a short passage, and to break it up, as it were, so as to examine every expression and every word separately; and thus endeavor to extract from it all the sweetness that it contains. Some, too, have found a great advantage from the habit of stopping occasionally, and turning Scripture into prayer, thus making it a devotional exercise.
In any case, the fault of most readers of Scripture is that they do not sufficiently meditate upon it, and turn it over in their minds, and digest it as they do the food that nourishes their bodies. When they have read a chapter or two, they are apt to look upon it as a thing done; and the subject they have been dwelling upon is allowed altogether to pass away from their minds as a tale that is told.
Never read for the sake of feeling afterwards that you have accomplished a task. For what will it profit you to have run over with your eye a certain number of verses, if, like the Butterfly which flits from flower to flower, you have scarcely gathered any nourishment? Be rather like the Bee, which rests awhile, and draws out the sweetness which lies deep within.
Read Scripture thus thoughtfully, prayerfully, and methodically; and sure I am that God will make it a blessed study to you. It was said of Apollos that he was mighty in the Scriptures. May the same be said of you! Try to become so. If you do indeed love your Bible, thank God for it. If not, ask Him to make you love it. And rest not until you can feel something of Davids experience when he said, How sweet are Thy words unto my taste; yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! They are the rejoicing of my heart! (Ps 119.103, 111)
"Reformed evangelical Anglican"
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