THE IMPORTANCE OF BIBLE STUDY.
You will know that a race of slaves who never read a Bible would have to depend upon direct revelation from God for much of their religious faith. It required much time and thought to show them the value of daily Bible study. We needed to write and say much on this subject. The following was read at a Pastors' and Teachers' Institute and before several associations and in connection with the special Baptist Pastor's Course at Leland University in 1881, and it was requested by all for publication.
I mention this general endorsement of the paper in 1880, because it shows the great progress made among colored pastors by that time in regard to the importance of Bible study, and at the same time, the still pressing need of stimulating it. Here is the paper:
The Bible is a personal letter from God to his family on earth. Part of it is addressed to his saved children and part to those lost in sin; part to the weak and part to those who are stronger, and part to the faithful and part to the backslider. Then there is advice to children, to parents, to husband, to wife. There is a lesson in it for all, for every situation in life. It is all in one book, but how shall we find the part that is fitted for each one. This is a great question--the answer is partly given in 2 Timothy 2: 15. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Yes, it must be divided and rightly divided. We will liken it to a doctor's shop; there is medicine for fevers, for colds, for small-pox, etc. What shall the doctor do? Snatch up a bottle anywhere and hand it to any patient, no matter what his disease is? Is that the doctor's duty? Would you employ such a doctor? No, no. You say I would not. But that is the way many of the soul doctors do. Perhaps you say no to that. Well tell me how many of them can turn to the verse that suits a backslider? that would help a doubting Christian; that would lead an inquirer to Christ; the verse to give a proud Christian, and so on through all the diseases of the soul. Hand them a Bible to-day and see how many can do it. Then how many can sit down and talk with the patient and find out just the medicine he needs? Not one in twenty. Why? They have not studied the human heart as it is explained and shown to us in the looking-glass of God's work.
The Bible tells about sin in its different stages, and how Jesus, the great physician, has prepared the medicine; how to give it, and the part for each troubled soul. It is all there. It also shows where Satan's traps are, and we, as the guardian of souls, should be able to point them out to the young and ignorant. This is surely a great work and a great study, and should make us tremble lest we make a mistake; because a mistake about the soul will last throughout eternity. God says, "Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me," etc., Matthew 18:6. How terrible to offend or lead astray a human being. We must be careful that our teaching does not lead people astray. To be put in trust with the gospel is a great trust. Now what shall we do? "Search the scriptures," John 5:39. Look carefully, examine closely. This is what search means. Be sure you know the meaning of every word. Have your dictionary by your side. Do not run over one word till you have the clear meaning. The Jews had read the scriptures, but they had not searched them, or they would have known that Jesus was the true Saviour. "You believe in them," he said, "and they testify of me." Only search and you will see. Don't attempt to explain a passage of scripture till you have searched it. I have often asked persons to explain a text of scripture when I knew it was the first time they had read it, because they said so; and yet they would begin right off without giving it any study. I supposed they would say, "No, Sister Moore; I do not know its meaning. You tell me what it means." But no, they did not say that. I am surprised to see so many people who want to preach, and some do not even know how to read the message God has given them, to say nothing of explaining it; and, if I ask them to sit down and read a chapter with me, they do not want to do it. They say the Spirit teaches them what to say. So it does. In John 14:26 we read that it teaches, and how it teaches, namely: by bringing to remembrance all things whatsoever I have said unto you. But how can you remember what you have not heard?
You must know the Bible. It is the standard by which we examine and test the doctrines and teachings we hear. We must bring all and examine it by the law and the testimony, Is. 8:20. All acknowledge the Bible is a "lamp unto our feet and light unto our path," Ps. 119. The Bible is on our pulpits but it is not studied, and this is principally why the people do not know how to study it. They have not been trained in that direction. Now how shall we train them to see? The "comfort of the scriptures," Rom. 15:4; "their power build you up," Acts 20:32; their power to "sanctify," John 17:17. That only by knowing the scriptures can they be furnished or fitted for all good works, Tim. 3:16-17.
This is a great question and should command the attention of every good teacher in Louisiana, and if they are good teachers they will direct their energies to this point. Jesus said in his day that they erred because they did not know the scriptures. Jesus himself was constantly saying, "It is written, 'His sword is the word of God,'" Eph. 6. There are thirty-two thousand exact quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, and one hundred and twenty that are not exact but mean the same, but are not quite the same in words. The history of God's people in the Old Testament was written for our admonition and instruction "upon whom the ends of the world have come," 1st Cor. 10:11; by this we understand that all the light that went before is now gathered up for our pathway, and here we sit in darkness, the light all shut out by our traditions and superstitions. How many times have I heard teachers of the gospel tell mourners not to bother with the Bible now, but go to God and He would teach them; and when I would take my Bible and tell them what God said, I have been told: "Sister Moore, leave them people with God." And what is the result of all this? They have come into the church on the foundation, not of Christ, but of dreams and visions?"travels," as they call them, and six months after they are back in the world. A short time ago I listened to perhaps twenty converts and backsliders tell their experience, which was received and they taken into the church, and yet in their experience, Jesus or the Bible was not mentioned.
One poor woman told me that ever since she set out to seek the Lord she had prayed this one prayer, "O Lord, show me hell." And He had showed it to her and she was satisfied. The pastor of this church loves his Bible and studies it; but he had not the moral courage to tell his people that all these dreams were only as Jeremiah says, like the chaff to wheat, Jer. 23:28. "Jeremiah's hammer" was the "word of God." Jer. 53:20.
I have often heard preachers preach about Jeremiah's hammer, and all they did was to hammer the Hammer as it lay on the pulpit. God pity the people and woe unto the teachers who have taken away the key of knowledge and will not enter themselves nor allow others to enter. Luke 11 :5-2. We have surely said enough to show why the Bible should be studied. Now, how shall it be studied? 1. I would say it must be studied with a teacher. Well may every one say as did the Eunuch to Philip: "How can I except some one man should guide me," Acts 8:31. Yes, the people in the State of Louisiana must have teachers who will explain God's word and give it to them little by little as they can understand it. 2. I listen to God when the Bible is read. It is God talking to me, and not to my neighbor. The Bible is my personal letter from God just the same as he is my personal Savior. Take the words into your heart and feed upon them. Be hungry for them as a babe is for its mother's milk, 2 Peter 1:2.
Stop at every command and ask your heart, "Have you cheerfully and willingly obeyed that." If not get down on your knees right there before you read any more and ask God to give you strength to obey him; then read Phil. 4:13. Stop at every promise and ask your own heart, not another's, "Do I believe that for my own soul?" Then ask, "Is this promised blessing mine?" If not, examine and see if you have fulfilled the conditions. For example: In Proverbs 28:13 God says, "He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy." You believe this, you say, and yet you do not feel at peace with God. I ask, "Have you confessed your sins?" "Yes," you say, "I have confessed all my sins, but it is no use, the burden is still there." Now, I ask again, "Have you forsaken your sins? Have you cut off the right hand that offended you?" "O, no," you say, "I can't give up my whiskey, my tobacco, or the man I am living with though he is not my lawful husband." Then I answer, "You cannot find mercy till you forsake your sins." Notice well the conditions of the promises, and again go to Phil. 4:13, and believe that verse with all your heart. Again another says, "I can't find forgiveness, and I do believe in Jesus;" but I find this man has not forgiven his enemies, and read him Matt. 6:15, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your heavenly father forgive you." In the third place we would say read the Bible every day. Be like the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily, Acts 17:11, and in the twelfth verse it says, "therefore many believed." Yes, this every-day reading and obeying the scriptures, this every-day religion, is what we need. It is the power that will convert sinners.
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