We must provoke ourselves to reading of the word. What an infinite mercy it is that God hath honoured us with the Scriptures! The barbarous Indians have not the oracles of God made known to them; they have the golden mines, but not the Scriptures which are more to be desired 'than much fine gold,' Psalm xix. 10. Our Savior bids us 'search the Scriptures', John v.39. We must not read these holy lines carelessly, as if they did not concern us, or run over them hastily, as Israel ate the Passover in haste; but peruse them with reverence and seriousness. The noble Bereans did 'search the Scriptures daily,' Acts xvii.11. The Scripture is the pandect of divine knowledge; it is the rule and touchstone of truth; out of this well we draw the water of life. To provoke to a diligent reading of the word, labor to have a right notion of Scripture.
Read the word as a book made by God Himself. It is given 'by divine inspiration' 2 Tim. iii.16. It is the library of the Holy Ghost. The prophets and apostles were but God's amanuenses or notaries to write the law at his mouth. The word is of divine original, and reveals the deep things of God to us. There is a numen, or sense of deity engraven in man's heart and is to be read in the book of the creatures; quaelibet herba Deum; but who this God is, and the Trinity of persons in the Godhead, is infinitely, above the light of reason; only God Himself could make this known. So for the incarnation of Christ; God and man hypostatically united in one person; the mystery of imputed righteousness; the doctrine of faith: what angel in heaven, who but God himself, could reveal these things to us? How this may provoke to diligence and seriousness in reading the word which is divinely inspired. Other books may be written by holy men, but this book is indicted by the Holy Ghost.
Read the word as a perfect rule of faith; it contains all things essential to salvation. “I adore the fullness of Scripture,” saith Tertullian. The word teaches us how to please God; how to order our conversation in the world. It instructs us in all things that belong either to prudence or piety. How we should read the word with care and reverence, when it contains a perfect model and platform of religion and is “able to make us wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15)!
When you read the word, look on it as a soul-enriching treasury. Search here as for a 'vein of silver' Prov. ii.4. In this word are scattered many divine aphorisms; gather them up as so many jewels. This blessed book helps to enrich you; it fills your head with knowledge, and your heart with grace; it stores you with promises: a man may be rich in bonds. In this field the pearl of price is hid: What are all the world's riches compared to these? Islands of spices, coasts of pearl, rocks of diamonds? These are but the riches that reprobates may have, but the word gives us those riches which angels have.
Read the word as a book of evidences. - How carefully doth one read over his evidences! Would you know whether God is your God? Search the records of Scripture, 1 John iii. 24. 'Hereby we know that he abides in us.' Would you know whether you are heirs of the promise? You must find it in these sacred writings. 2 Thes. ii. 13. 'He hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification.' They who are vessels of grace, shall be vessels of glory.
Look upon the word as a spiritual magazine, out of which you fetch all your weapons to fight against sin and satan. 1. Here are weapons to fight against sin. The word of God is a consecrated sword that cuts asunder the lusts of the heart. When pride begins to lift up itself, the sword of the Spirit destroys this sin, 1 Peter iv. 5 'God resists the proud.' When passion vents itself, the word of God, like Hercules's club, beats down this angry fury: Eccles. V. 9. 'Anger rests in the bosom of fools.' When lust boils, the word of God cools that intemperate heat, Eph. V. 5. 'No unclean person hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ.' 2. Here are weapons to fight against Satan. The word fenceth off temptation. When the devil tempted Christ, he three times wounded the old serpent with the sword of the Spirit. 'Tis written, Matt. Iv. 7. Satan never sooner foils a Christian than when he is unarmed, and without Scripture weapons.
Look upon the word as a spiritual glass to dress yourselves by: It is a looking-glass for the blind, Psalm xix. 8. In other glasses you may see your faces; in this glass you may see your hearts, Psalm cxix. 104. 'Through Thy precepts I get understanding. This looking of the word clearly represents Christ; it sets him forth in his person, nature, offices, as most precious and eligible, Cant.vi. 16. 'He is altogether lovely; he is a wonder of beauty, a paradise of delight. Christ who was veiled over in types, is clearly revealed in the mirror of the Scriptures.
Look upon the word as a book of spiritual receipts. Basil compares the word to an apothecary's shop, which has all kinds of medicines and antidotes. If you find yourselves dead in duty, here is a receipt, Psalm cxix. 50. 'Thy word hath quickened me.' If you find your hearts hard, the word doth liquify and melt them; therefore it is compared to fire for its mollifying power, Jer. xxiii. 29. If you are poisoned with sin, here is an herb to expel it.
Look upon the word as a sovereign elixir to comfort you in distress. It comforts you against all your sins, temptations, and afflictions. What are the promises but divine cordials to revive fainting souls. A gracious heart goes feeding on a promise as Samson on the honeycomb, Judges xiv. 9. The word comforts against sickness and death, 1 Cor xv. 55. 'O death, where is thy sting?' A Christian dies embracing the promise, as Simeon did Christ, Heb. xi. 13.
Read the word as the last Will and Testament of Christ. Here are many legacies given to them that love him; pardon of sin, adoption, consolation. This will is in force, being sealed in Christ's blood. With what seriousness doth a child read over the will and testament of his father, that he may see what is left him.
Read it as a book by which you must be judged: John xii. 48. 'The word that I have spoken shall judge him at the last day.' They who live according to the rules of this book, shall be acquitted; they who live contrary to them, shall be condemned. There are two books God will go by, the book of Conscience, and the book of Scripture: the one shall be the witness, and the other the judge. How should every Christian then provoke himself to read this book of God with care and devotion! This is that book which God will judge by at the last. - They who fly from the word as a guide, shall be forced to submit to it as a judge.
This excerpt is taken from Thomas Watson's Taking Heaven by Storm, one of the “must read” books of the Puritans.