By Evan D. Burns
For those of us who are prone to buy good books, aspire to read them though they go on the shelf, and then rarely read them let alone read the Bible itself, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) issues a clarion call to wake up from lethargic Bible intake:
Next to praying, there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible-reading. God has mercifully given us a book which is “able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3: 15.). By reading that book, we may learn what to believe, what to be, what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace. Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it— but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice! Nevertheless, it is a sorrowful fact that man has an unhappy skill in abusing God’s gifts…. And just as man naturally makes a bad use of his other mercies, so he does of the written Word. One sweeping charge may be brought against the whole of Christendom, and that charge is neglect and abuse of the Bible. To prove this charge we have no need to look abroad: the proof lies at our own doors. I have no doubt that there are more Bibles in Great Britain at this moment than there ever were since the world began. There is more Bible buying and Bible selling, more Bible printing and Bible distributing—than ever was since England was a nation. We see Bibles in every bookseller’s shop— Bibles of every size, price, and style; Bibles great, and Bibles small— Bibles for the rich, and Bibles for the poor. There are Bibles in almost every house in the land. But all this time I fear we are in danger of forgetting, that to have the Bible is one thing— and to read it quite another…. Surely it is no light matter what you are doing with the Bible. Surely, when the plague is abroad, you should search and see, whether the plague-spot is on you.
J.C. Ryle, “Introduction”, Bible Reading.
Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons. They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.