by Chris Ritter
Although he was widely read on a great number of topics, John Wesley called himself a homo unius libri, a “man of one book”. He even went so far as to remark “I am a Bible bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.” In his preface to the Old Testament, John Wesley lays down seven suggestions for daily, personal Bible study. These tips are as appropriate today as in 1765 when they were written:
1) Set aside some time in the morning and evening to read God’s Word.
2) If you have time, read a chapter of the Old Testament and and a chapter of the New Testament. Read a little less if that works better for you.
3) Read with the single aim of knowing the will of God and have a firm resolution to do God’s will.
4) Read in faith, and to see the connection and harmony of these grand theological themes: Original Sin, Justification by Faith, the New Birth, Inward Holiness, and Outward Holiness.
5) Pray earnestly and seriously before and after you read as the scriptures can only be understood through the same Holy Spirit that inspired them.
6) Pause and examine yourself while you read and take note of those areas where God has helped you make progress and those areas where you need more grace.
7) Whatever God shows you to do, act on it quickly. Give God a quick “yes” and you will discover how powerful God’s Word really is.
If you are not in the habit of daily Bible reading, I would invite you to put these tips into practice for a week and see the difference that it makes in your life.
Here is Wesley’s original wording:
If you desire to read the scripture in such a manner as may most effectually answer this end, would it not be advisable, 1. To set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening for that purpose 2. At each time if you have leisure, to read a chapter out of the Old, and one out of the New Testament: if you cannot do this, to take a single chapter, or a part of one 3. To read this with a single eye, to know the whole will of God, and a fixt resolution to do it In order to know his will, you should, 4. Have a constant eye to the analogy of faith; the connexion and harmony there is between those grand, fundamental doctrines, Original Sin, Justification by Faith, the New Birth, Inward and Outward Holiness. 5. Serious and earnest prayer should be constantly used, before we consult the oracles of God, seeing “scripture can only be understood thro’ the same Spirit whereby “it was given.” Our reading should likewise be closed with prayer, that what we read may be written on our hearts. 6. It might also be of use, if while we read, we were frequently to pause, and examine ourselves by what we read, both with regard to our hearts, and lives. This would furnish us with matter of praise, where we found God had enabled us to conform to his blessed will, and matter of humiliation and prayer, where we were conscious of having fallen short. And whatever light you then receive, should be used to the uttermost, and that immediately. Let there be no delay. Whatever you resolve, begin to execute the first moment you can. So shall you find this word to be indeed the power of God unto present and eternal salvation.