Spiritual Profit

The news is full at the moment with the scandal of the leaked Panama Papers, where it has been alleged that many influential investors, including some Presidents, have sought to hide their money in a tax haven, using the services of a Panamanian law firm to help them. The legality of what they have done to get rich quick is now looking rather questionable. We all like to see a good return for our money, and everyone likes to make a profit. God too likes to see a return on His investment; the parable of the talents shows that.

imageThe second appendix in Thomas Watson’s Heaven Taken by Storm, is a sermon called: “How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit.” Watson bemoans that: “Many lay aside the Scriptures as rusty armour (Jer. 8:9). They are more well-read in romances than in Paul; they spend many hours between the comb and the mirror, but their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible.”

Scripture was written so that we might profit from it, and it is sad that many fail in this respect. To be serious about our profit margins, he recommends that we come reverently to the Word of God, expecting God to speak to us, asking Him to help us understand it. Try to memorise God’s Word, and meditate upon it: image“The bee sucks the flower and then works it into the hive, and so turns it into honey; by reading we suck the flower of the Word, by meditation we work it into the hive of our mind, and so it turns to profit.”

We should prize the Scriptures highly. “It is the breeder and feeder of grace.” (He likes this phrase, having used it in his book). “How is the convert born, but by the Word of truth” (Jas. 1:18)? How does he grow but by “the sincere milk of the Word” (1 Pet.2:2)?”

imageCome to the Word with a humble heart, willing to know the whole counsel of God, avoiding the pick and mix approach, where we favour the good bits but gloss over the challenging bits. Unfortunately, “Some go to the Bible as one goes to the garden to pick flowers, that is, fine notions.”

Learn to apply Scripture: “bring it home to yourself.” Notice the examples of real people in the Bible, and think of them as “living sermons.”Never leave off reading God’s Word until you find your hearts warmed. It must not only inform, but inflame you. Set about practising what you read. “Christians should be walking Bibles.”

Pray that God will make you profit, asking the Holy Spirit to help and guide you. David’s prayer is a good starting place:“Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law.” (Ps. 119:18).

If you profit from the Word, make sure to praise God for His grace towards you, and give Him the glory. Watson finishes with a beautiful flourish, full of heart-warming devotion to God, which is so typical of his writing: “That God should pass by millions, and the lot of His electing love should fall upon you; that the Scripture, like the pillar of cloud, should have a dark side to others, but a light side to you; that to others it should be a dead letter, but to you the savor of life; that Christ should not only be revealed to you, but in you (Gal. 1:16) – how should you be in a holy ecstasy of wonder, and wish that you had hearts of seraphims burning in love to God, and the voices of angels to make heaven ring with God’s praises!”

It comes as no surprise to me to read on the dust jacket of this book, that Thomas Watson was a highly esteemed preacher, who was particularly gifted in extemporaneous prayer. He is considered to be “one of the most irresistible, quotable and devotional of all the Puritans.” (dust jacket notes, taken from editor, Joel R. Beeke’s Preface.)

I think his writing reads very well to a modern ear, and is really accessible to ordinary readers like me, as opposed to Puritan scholars and theologians. I love his style, and his colourful illustrations, and would quite happily read more of his books.