By Reuben Archer Torrey
A third method of study is the Biographical. This needs no definition. It consists in taking up the various persons mentioned in Scripture and studying their life, work and character. It is really a special form of Topical Study. It can be made very interesting and instructive. It is especially useful to the minister with a view to sermon building, but is profitable for all Christians. The following suggestions will help those who are not already experienced in this line of work.
1. Collect all the passages in the Bible in which the person to be studied is mentioned. This is readily done by turning in Strong's Concordance to the person's name, and you will find every passage in which he is mentioned given.
2. Analyze the character of the person. This will require a repeated reading of the passages in which he is mentioned. This should be done with pencil in hand, that any characteristic may be noted down at once.
3. Note the elements of power and success.
4. Note the elements of weakness and failure.
5. Note the difficulties overcome.
6. Note the helps to success.
7. Note the privileges abused.
8. Note the opportunities neglected.
9. Note the opportunities improved.
10. Note the mistakes made.
11. Note the perils avoided.
12. Make a sketch of the life in hand. Make it as vivid, living and realistic as possible. Try to reproduce the subject as a real, living man. Note the place and surroundings of the different events, e. g., Paul in Athens, Corinth, Philippi. Note the time relations of the different events. Very few people in reading the Acts of the Apostles, for example, take notice of the rapid passage of time, and so regard events separated by years as following one another in close sequence. In this connection note the age or approximate age of the subject at the time of the events recorded of him.
13. Summarize the lessons we should learn from the story of this person's life.
14. Note the person in hand in his relations to Jesus, e. g., as a type of Christ (Joseph, David, Solomon and others), forerunner of Christ, believer in Christ, enemy of Christ, servant of Christ, brother of Christ (James and Jude), friend, etc., etc.
It will be well to begin with some person who does not occupy too much space in the Bible, as, e. g., Enoch or Stephen. Of course many of the points mentioned above cannot be taken up with some characters.
Suggestive books in character studies are Stalker's Lives of Christ and Paul, and Stalker's "Imago Christi"; Rev. F. B. Meyer's "Elijah," and also other O. T. characters; Mr. Moody's "Bible Characters."