The Life and Work of D.L. Moody: Chapter 25 - How to Study the Bible
A Characteristic Bible Reading - Helpful Auxiliaries to Bible Study - Jesus the Key to the New Testament - The Four Gospels - Six Things Worth Knowing - How Christ Dealt With Sinners.
No more interesting services were ever conducted by Mr. Moody than his Bible Readings.
I remember riding on the train with him at one time, and as we came into New York City, where he was to conduct a service, I said to him, "let me see your Bible," he had it in his hands, turning over the leaves, he laughingly replied, "Oh, no, if I should give you this, you would have my sermon for to-night, and then you might preach it before I could." And yet no one was more willing to give help to others than Mr. Moody. He was always receiving from his friends, but he was ever giving to them in return; and as for myself, it has been difficult for me to preach without saying, "Mr. Moody said this," or "I once heard Mr. Moody say, and I have ever found that illustrations on which he had set his seal of approval, were received by all classes of people as authentic.
Mr. Moody was peculiar in this, that however many times you might hear him say anything it never lost its freshness, and somehow you felt that you were hearing it for the first time.
The following is a characteristic Bible reading--the theme being one, in which he was always at his best:
A CHARACTERISTIC BIBLE READING
In Ephesians, 5th chapter and 18th verse, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Ghost. A person who is full of the Holy Spirit deals much with the Scriptures. One of the things we lack in the present day is more Bible study. I think this nation is just waking up to the fact that we have had a famine, it is not the man now that makes a fine oration in the pulpit so much as it is a man that expounds the Word of God that we need. A boy once asked another boy how it was that he caught all the pigeons that were in the neighborhood. He said: 'Well, I tell you, it is because I feed them well. If you feed the people well they will come; and people have got tired hearing a little more or less eloquence. The preachers have hitherto used the Bible merely as a text-book. They have taken their texts out of the Bible, and they have gone all over Christendom for their sermons. The result is that our churches are weak in spiritual power. But it is beginning to improve already. The churches are not now hunting after a man that will make a grand oration, so much as they are for a man that will unfold to them the Word of God. That is what the people want. If they can only get back to the Word of God, then we will have not just here and there a revival, but we will be in a revival all the time. The church will be constantly in a revived state. It is those Christians that are feeding on the Word of God that are revived all the while. There is something fresh about them, and people are glad to hear them talk.
"THAT BOOK MADE ME A GOOD MAN"
As we come to study this Word of God, we want to keep in mind that it is the Word of God, not the Word of man; and that as the Word of God, it is true. I think the colored man was about as near the truth as one need be, when some infidel came to him and told him the Bible was not true. 'That Book not true? Massa, I was once a murderer, and a thief, and a blasphemer, and that Book made me a good man. That book must be true! If it is a bad book, it could not make such a bad man good.' That is argument enough; we do not need anymore. Look around us; if a man becomes a profligate, he begins to talk against the Bible; if he is upright he takes it as a lamp to his feet. We are never afraid of a man that tries to live according to the teachings of this book. This book is God's Word, and it will stand. Over the new Bible House recently built in London, England, are written these words, 'The Word of the Lord endureth forever.' That building will pass away, that city may pass away, like Babylon and Nineveh, and other cities that once flourished, but the Word of God shall endure forever. Not one word that God has spoken shall fall to the ground. We want also to bear in mind that the Bible is not a dry, uninteresting book, as a great many skeptics try to make out. They 'say, 'We want something new; we have outgrown that.' Why, the Word of God is the only new book in the world. All that the newspapers can do is to tell of things as they have taken place, but the Bible will tell of things that will take place. We do not consider the Bible enough as a whole. We just take up a word here and a word there, and a verse here and there, and a chapter here and there, and never take it up in any systematic way. We, therefore know very little about the Bible. I will guarantee that the bulk of Christians in America only read the Bible at family worship; and you will notice, too, that they have to put in a book-mark to tell where they left off the day before. You ask them an hour after what they have read, and they have forgotten all about it. Of course we cannot get much knowledge of the Bible in that way. When I was a boy I worked on a farm, and I hoed corn so poorly that when I left off I had to take a stick and mark the place, so I could tell next morning where I had stopped the night before. If I didn't, I would likely as not hoe the same row over again.
In order to understand the Bible we will have to study it cares fully. I was told in California that the purest and best gold that they get they have to dig the deepest for; and so, in studying the Bible, we must dig deep. And there are a great many Christians walking on crutches in their Bible studying. They do not dare to examine for themselves. They go wondering what others say, what Edwards says, what the commentators say. Suppose you look and see for yourselves. God has given you your own mind to use. If we will go to the Word of God, and be willing to be taught by the Holy Ghost. God will teach us, and will unfold His blessed truth to us.
There are three books that every Christian ought to have, if he cannot have but three. The first is a Bible - one with good plain print that you can easily read. I am sick of these little fine types. It is a good thing to get a good-sized Bible, because you will grow old by and by, and your sight may grow poor and you won't want to give up the one you have been used to reading in after it has come to seem like a sort of a life-long companion. The next book to get is Cruden's Concordance. You cannot get on very well in Bible study without that. There is another book printed in this country by the Tract Society called the Scriptural Text Book. It was brought out first in London. These three books will be a wonderful help to you in studying the Word of God.
DO NOT READ THE BIBLE TO EASE YOUR CONSCIENCE
Another thing: do not read the Word of God as I used to, just to ease your conscience. I had a rule to read two or three chapters every day. If I had not done it through the day, I would read them just before I went to bed to ease my conscience. I did not remember it perhaps an hour, but I kept the rule. You will never get much out of it in that way. It is a good way to hunt for something when you read it. Two words will give you the key to the whole Bible - Christ and Jesus. The Christ of the Old Testament the Jesus of the New, and the two books explain each other. You may search for these words in your study.
Some time ago I went through the building where Prang's chromos are produced in Boston. They were bringing out a chromo of a prominent public man, and he showed me this picture in its different stages of progress. In the first stone there was no trace of a man's face; only a little tinge of color that did not suggest any shape. I saw the next stone, and still no face, and the third, and so on, and not until the fourth or fifth stone was there any likeness of a face at all. After a little it began to show, and yet not until I came to the fourteenth or fifteenth stone did it look at all like the man himself, and not until the twenty-sixth stone did it look as natural as life. That is the way it is when we read the Scripture. We take it up and do not see anything in it; we read it again, but see nothing. Again and again, and after you have read it twenty-five times, you will see the man Christ Jesus stamped on every page.
STUDY ONE BOOK AT A TIME
The Old Testament was written only to teach us who Christ was. Moses, the law, the prophets, they all testify to Christ. You take Christ out of the Old Testament and it is a sealed book to you. It has been a great help to me in studying the Bible to study one book at a time. Suppose you spend six months reading Genesis. Getting the key of that, you get the key to the whole Bible. Death, resurrection, and the whole story are told in Genesis. All in types, to be sure, and shadows that are brought out further on. There are eight great beginnings in Genesis - the beginning of creation, the beginning of marriage, the beginning of sin and death, of sacrifices, of the covenant, of the nation, and human race and Hebrew race. Take up these eight beginnings, and see what they teach, and this key will unlock to you the rest of the Bible.
If you just take the Bible itself alone, without any other book to help you to interpret it, one passage will explain another. Instead of running after the interpretations of different men, let God interpret it to your soul. As Stephens said, Do not study it in the blue light of Presbyterianism, or the red light of Methodism, or the violet light of Episcopalianism, but study it in the light of Calvary. One man says, "I am a Romanist, and it has got to teach what Romanism teaches;" another says, "I am a Protestant, and it has got to teach me what Protestantism teaches." Take it up independent of these, and after you have dug its meaning out for yourself it will be so much sweeter to you.
TAKE THE BIBLE TOPICALLY
Another way is to take it up topically. Suppose you spend three or four months reading all you can find about love; after that you will be full of love. Then take the word grace, and run through the Bible, reading all there is about grace. After I had been studying grace for two or three weeks, I got so full that one day I could not stay in my study any longer, and went out on the. street and asked the first man I saw, if he knew anything about the grace of God. I suppose he thought I was crazy, but I was so full I had to talk to somebody. Then take up the subject of the blood, then the subject of Heaven. Some are troubled about' assurance, and do not know whether they may have assurance of being saved or not; but take up the Bible, and let God speak to you about it. If you go into court, you will find that the lawyer just gets all the testimony he can on one point and he heaps it before the jury. If you want to convince men of any grand truth, just stick to that one point. Take up the Word, and get all the testimony you can. Bring in Moses and David and Joshua, and every apostle you can, and make them testify. If you read all the Bible says of forgiveness, before you have studied it a week, you will want to forgive every one.
NOT ENOUGH BIBLES
People do not have enough Bibles. Once in my own Sunday school I asked all the children who had on borrowed boots to rise; no one rose. Then I asked all those who had on borrowed coats to rise; no one rose. Then I asked all those who had borrowed Testaments in their hands to rise, and they all went up; and I said I want you all to bring your Bibles with you, and about two months after that it would have done your soul good to see every child come with a Bible. A great many people carry their hymn-books, but it is better to carry your Bible. When I was in Scotland I had to keep my eyes open, and preach exactly according to the Word, or some old Scotchman would rise and draw his Bible on me, and I would know it pretty quick. A man got up in Parliament a few years ago and made a grand speech full of eloquence, that took over four hours. He carried all the people with him in one voice. When he got through a man got up and read two or three lines of the law of England, and bursted the whole speech in a minute.
Some men are very eloquent when there is not one word of truth in what they say, but you cannot know it, because you have not the Bible knowledge. There are a good many people who wonder that they do not have joy in their religion. The reason is that they do not feed upon the Word; that is where they get the joy. If we neglect the manna that God has given us for our soul's nourishment, of course we won't have joy; but people whine and say it is a great mystery to them that they do not have joy as others do. See how happy some are! Why? They feed upon the Word of God. That is why. They are not living upon the Old stale matter of the conversion that they had long ago. It makes me sick to hear men tell how happy they were long ago when they were first converted. The idea that they should not be happier since then! We ought to grow in grace and be advancing. Suppose I should keep telling my wife, "I loved you very much when I married you!" That is the way many treat the Lord, telling Him how much they loved Him once.
HAVE A BIBLE YOU CAN MARK
About bringing your Bibles with you - just have a Bible you can mark. If I should go and hear one of my friends preach, and he unfolded some grand and glorious truth, I would put a few words down upon the margin of the Bible that would just give me the key to the whole, and I would not forget it. By doing this, when you heard a good sermon you could go and preach it to other people. I hope the day will come when if a man hears a good sermon in the morning, he will be so full of it he will have to go and preach it over again in some locality where they have not heard it. If the lawyers and merchants would only do that they would make better missionaries than the hired ones. I think more of this Bible in my hand than of all the other Bibles in New York. If I had come without this Bible I would have been lonesome. I have carried it so long I have got used to it. Buy a good Bible, one that won't wear out, with a good flexible cover that will fold around you. Button up your coat over it and keep it close to your heart. You can mark your texts in it and know where to look for them at any time, and they will all be glad to see you in any prayer-meeting. There will be something fresh about you that will make you always welcome.
An Englishman said to me, "Did you ever study the book of Job?" "No," I said, "not particularly." "You ought to," said he; "it is a wonderful book; if you get the key to that, you get the key to the whole Bible." "That is singular," said I. "I thought Job was more of a poetical book; how do you make it out?" He said the first division represents Adam in Eden, .a perfect man untried; the second head represents his fall; the third says "The wisdom of the world came to restore Job." You cannot," he said, "find any wisdom in all the books equal to the wisdom of those three men, but they could not help poor Job out of his difficulty."
Just so is the world trying to put Adam back again; they try to amend him but they cannot do it. Your philosophers cannot restore Adam to his original perfection. What can the geologist tell you about the Rock of Ages? What can the astronomer tell you of the Bright and Morning Star? The fact is Job could not stand their treatment. He could stand his boils and his scolding wife, but he could not stand the way the wise men treated him. The fourth head is about Elihu; he came and. brought grace and that is what Job wanted. He did not want law; Job was a righteous man in his own conceit up to this time. He said, I have fed the hungry, I have clothed the naked, I did this and that - I! I! I! - that was Job's cry then. He was a great man; if we had him now we would make him a leader in some Presbyterian Church and be glad to get him.
Under the fifth head God speaks. He says, "Gird up your loins like a man, I will put a few questions to you." The moment Job got a glimpse of God he was a different man; his self-righteousness was gone. When I go into the inquiry-rooms some days some have their heads down on their hands, and I cannot get a word out of them. I say to myself, such persons are near to God. But some are flippant and glib, and say, Why does God do this and why does God do that? God alone restores Adam to his lost state, and in his restoration he is better than he was at the beginning, because his last state is eternal. When he is restored to Heaven there is no more banishment.
JESUS THE KEY TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
Up to this point I have tried to show you that Christ was the key to the Old Testament, now I will show that Jesus is the key to the New. Christ was tempted as we are, but He had not the same enemy to overcome. He that knew no sin took upon Him ours. One of the saddest mistakes that young converts make, is that of merely feeding upon sermons instead of the Word of God. You know it is quite an event in the family when the child gets so it can feed itself. We want to learn as quick as possible to feed ourselves. If we will only take our Bible and make up our minds that we will depend upon our own study of the Bible. He will help us understand it. If we try to study it in one way, and we find we do not like it, let us take up another, and if that fails, try another. Some time ago my wife was very anxious that I should learn to like tomatoes. She liked them and she wanted me to like them. So she got me to try them, first raw, with vinegar, and sugar and pepper, but I could not bear them; then she fixed them another way, but still I could not eat them. One day I came home, and she said, "I have cooked the tomatoes a new way." Well, I tried them again once more, and I thought they were the best things I ever tasted. So, if you take up the Bible one way and don't like it, take it up another way, and keep trying until you find a way in which it will unfold itself to you. You won't find people that are in love with the study of this Word carrying a dime novel through the street. They won't walk up Fifth Avenue with a trashy book in their hands. They will be reading books that will help them understand the Bible. You will be so anxious to get off alone and have a feast upon it, that you will have to reprove yourself for not going out and working more.
THERE IS DANGER ON THAT HEAD
There are a great many who are all the time feeding upon the Word - not in this country, I am sorry to say. I would rather be as they are elsewhere than as they are in this country, where they neither feed on the Word, nor study either. But some people are always taking in, taking in, and not as if they intended to give it out. Some one said we ought to fill our minds like they fill a vessel in the Mississippi river. A vessel goes up the Mississippi river, and takes in its cargo on the way, always with a view to taking it out. They put the freight that is coming out first on top. So let us store away our knowledge with a view of getting it out again, and not just to lumber up our heads with a lot of stuff that we never intend to use. Let us try to put these truths where we can get them out and give them to some one else. Now, I see some people who are here every night. They get the best seats every solitary night, and for the last six weeks they have been here every night, regularly. And when they go into the inquiry-room, you cannot get a word out of them; they won't as much as lift a little finger; their arms are folded. They are always standing round the building an hour before the doors are open. Here they are every night, always taking in and never giving anything out. But if we get a good thing let us go and give it to some one else.
Some one said he always studied the Bible with three R's in his mind - Ruin, Redemption, and Regeneration. When I open the Word of God I keep that idea in view. There are three cornerstones that a man must know - first, that he is ruined, or he does not want a redeemer; second, there is redemption through the blood; and third, regeneration by the Holy Ghost, born of the Spirit.
THE FOUR GOSPELS
I have in my Bible here the keynotes to the four books of the New Testament. I will give you my idea of a few of them. Matthew, when he wrote about Christ, writes of Him as the Son of David. He writes from the standpoint of a man that had belonged to the government. If you want to find out about Christ as the Son of David, you will have to turn to Matthew. These four men, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, wrote from different standpoints. Matthew brings out Christ as the Royal Son of David, as the Heir, as Abraham's successor, or from the line of Abraham to take the throne of David. Mark takes Him as a servant. You will find Him going here and there as a servant doing His master's will. Luke brings Him out as the Son of Man, as coming in contact with man; and then we find in the Gospel of John he brings Him out as the Son of God. Luke and Matthew and Mark do not go and trace Him back as John does. John goes past Adam and Abraham and Zachariah and Malachi - sweeps past them all, and brings Him out of the bosom of the Father; and he has with one stroke of the pen settled the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ. No one can read the Gospel of John and believe it, and still doubt the divinity of Jesus Christ, and believe Him to have been a mere man. He spoke of Him as the Son of God, a stranger starting out in the world alone. All through John, He was meeting sinners alone. He met Nicodemus alone, and the woman at the well. I have been interested, some time ago, in taking up for study the characters that had personal interviews with the Son of God. There were nineteen. Peter had two such interviews. No one knows what they said. Take up the history of these nineteen persons and see how they were blessed, unless, indeed, they rejected Him, as Pilate did?
ONE WORD AT A TIME
Take one word at a time, and run through the Bible and read all you can find on that point. Take words "I Am." When the Lord sent Moses to Egypt, Moses was reluctant to go, and he said as a last excuse, " If I tell them that I have been sent, whom shall I tell them has sent me?" And the Lord said, "Tell them I Am." Some one said that was the same as a blank check given to Moses; and that when he got clown in Egypt and they wanted water, he just filled in the check with water, and they got it. Take the word "verily" of St. John. Whenever you see that word, you may feel sure there is some great truth coming after it. Some time ago I was blessed in taking up the seven blessings of Revelation for study. Some people say you cannot understand Revelation. They say the deep theologians can understand it, but common people cannot. Why, it is the one book that tells of the downfall of the devil, and the devil does not want us to find that out, so he says to us, "You cannot understand Revelation." It is the one book in the Bible that opens with a benediction. It tells us of the marriage supper of the Lamb. We get a great deal in Revelation that is not found in any other part of the Bible. All Scripture is given by inspiration, and all is profitable for reproof and correction, that a man of God may be thoroughly furnished. We want to take the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Do not let us join the unbelieving, scoffing world that says we cannot understand Revelation. "Blessed are those that watch. Blessed are those that keep from the world. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for they shall rest from their labors. Blessed are they that have part in the first resurrection." Let us have a part in the first resurrection And the last is, "Blessed are they that shall be at the marriage supper of the Lamb." Take these seven blessings and put them together and study them.
SIX THINGS WORTH KNOWING
I take up one chapter in the Epistle of John with the word "know." There are six things worth knowing. The first verse and third chapter says, "We know He is manifested to take away sin." That is what Jesus came for. We know it because God said it. Some people say it makes no difference what a man believes if he is sincere in his belief. Why it makes all the difference in the world. What we believe we know to be true. We are not deluded and deceived into believing it. The Spirit of God has borne witness to its truth.
Take the third thing worth knowing, in the 14th verse. "We know that we have passed from death unto life." How many in this audience to-night know that. Suppose I should ask this audience, how many could say they knew it? Some people think it is not the privilege of any one to know that. But this is a great mistake. If I did not know it now I would not go to my dinner this day or to my bed this night until I did know it. It is worth knowing. Christ came to call us from death to life. Do you think we have to go on in this terrible uncertainty not knowing whether we are saved or not. God does not leave us with that uncertainty. But if you have malice and hatred against some one, that is a sure sign that you have not got the spirit of Christ. You may know you have not been born of God, for God is love.
The fifth thing worth knowing is in the 24th verse, "We know that He abideth with us, by the Spirit which He hath given us." If we are out backbiting our neighbors, and living like the world, it is good evidence that we have not been born of God.
The sixth thing worth knowing is the best of all. It is in the 2d verse: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." John wanted to disabuse them of the idea that they were not sons of Heaven. I heard a man pray in a prayer-meeting: "When we come to die may we be the sons of God." But "now are we the sons of God," it says. "It does not yet appear what we shall be." The world does not yet know the difference, but it will be revealed by-and-by. There was a little boy in Boston who was probably the richest person in all Boston. The little child did not know that he was heir to a great estate. So, Christians, many of them, don't know that they are heirs to all things. We will come into possession of our inheritance by-and-by. What God wants is to have us live for that inheritance. He has had it in store for us where He dwells. Satan cannot get there to get it out, though he would like to if he could. It is kept for us, and He keeps us for it. The day I first got hold of those truths I could not hold my peace. When people came in I said to them, I have got some honey out of the rock," and I gave it to my friends. So we can help one another in our wilderness journey.
WHOM IS IT WRITTEN TO?
The power of the Holy One is unlimited. If you have relatives who have no faith, and they are running down these meetings, do not get discouraged. The Lord God is able to save them. In the first twelve chapters of John, you will find Christ dealing with sinners altogether. In the 8th chapter of John, they are going to tell Him that they doubt His word. In the 10th chapter, He is going to have His sheep in spite of those unbelieving Jews. In the 11th chapter, the Jews are going to put Lazarus out of the way, because on account of Lazarus's testimony all men were believing. From the 13th to the 17th chapters, you will find Christ dealing with His Church. When you take a chapter like that, you should consider whom the chapter is addressed to. We would not have any trouble about the doctrine of election if we considered that it was addressed to the Church, to believers. Suppose. I should find a dispatch on the floor, saying, "Your wife is dead," I would say, "My wife dead! How can that be, and I not know of it?" But suppose I should find on the back of the envelope that it was addressed to some one else, and not to me, the case would be different. We must understand whom it is written to. The whole Bible is not directed to sinners. A good deal of it is addressed to certain classes and individuals, and a great deal is addressed to the whole world. In the 13th of John, he has Christ dealing with the disciples.
HOW CRIST DEALT WITH SINNERS
There are certain passages addressed to the wicked, and certain passages to God's people. Very often a sinner will get hold of some comforting word addressed to a Christian, and he will go and take comfort in it when he has no right to, any more than I would have a right to read some one's letters. In the 7th chapter of John, Christ is with the Father. In the 18th chapter of John, Christ is in the hands of His enemies. And so you just take any one book and divide it up like that. Take the subject of the gifts of Christ and, with the word gifts, learn all that is written of the gifts of Christ and the gifts of Satan. For Christ's gifts there are the bread of Life and the Holy Spirit and peace, and joy, and love, and mercy, and the morning star, and mansions. Take these gifts and put them down, and then put down beside them the gifts of Satan for serving him, and compare them. See if you will turn your back upon all these blessed gifts of God for the sake of the few fleeting moments of time here, and the baubles which, when you have got them, do not satisfy you.
I want to speak of the seven different characters in John, and how Christ dealt with them.
Suppose we could divide up these sinners here under these seven heads. Turn to the 7th chapter of John, and see how Christ dealt with that respectable sinner, Nicodemus. He set him aside entirely. He did not put a new piece into the old garment; the Lord does not patch a man's coat. He gives him a new coat throughout. He told Nicodemus he must be born again. In the 4th chapter, see how Christ deals with one who has fallen. She is not very respectable, but He gives her the water of life. We cannot find any class of people in New York that has not its representative in the Bible, and Christ's dealings with them. A nobleman came to Him, whose child was ill. He told him to go home, his child would live; He did not give the nobleman any medicine for his child, but the man took His word, and when he got home he found the child was nearly well, and that it was better from the seventh hour, when he had spoken to Christ.
"TAKE UP THY BED AND WALK"
If some poor tramp should read these words who has not got any friends, or anywhere to lay his head, a poor miserable sinner, if he will turn to the 5th chapter of John, he will know how Christ will deal with him. There was just such a poor beggar at the pool. Christ asked him if he would like to touch the waters; he said, "I would like to be put in, but I haven't any one to help me; I am lame;" and the Lord said, "Take up thy bed and walk." He cured him by a word.
I can imagine in the gallery there is a man who says: "I wish there was some class in the Bible that represented me. I have broken the law. If the law should get hold of me I would have to go to prison for twenty years; the police do not know; I have covered up my sin. I wish there was something in the Bible for me." Well, there is; there is. Turn to the 8th chapter of John. You will see how Christ dealt with a woman whom the law would have stoned to death. They dragged her into the presence of Christ, saying, "The law of Moses says, 'stone her to death;' what sayest thou?" He stooped and wrote on the ground as if He paid no attention; then He raised up and said, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," and He went on writing on the ground. When He looked up again the crowd had disappeared. He said, "Where are thy accusers? Go thou and sin no more." If you want to know how Christ dealt with sinners, go to the Bible. There is no sinner here who has not his representative in the Bible.