Thomas Watson was a Puritan. He read the Bible, prayed, pastored, and wrote books. And many of his books are still in print – 350 years later! His work are not light, not fluffy, not full of stories – they are full of God. The kind of serious writing he did, that is still in print, comes from focused, agressive, attentive Bible study and prayer. That’s why we should listen when he speaks. Please, read what he says, open your Bible, and redeem your extra time in quarantine.
Thomas Watson’s 24 Steps To Serious Bible Study
Remove hindrances. (a) remove the love of every sin. (b) remove the distracting concerns of this world, especially covetousness [Matthew 13:22, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful]. (c) Don’t make jokes with and out of Scripture.
Prepare your heart. [1 Samuel 7:3, And Samuel said to all those of the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”] Do this by: (a) collecting your thoughts (b) purging unclean affections and desires (c) not coming to it rashly or carelessly.
Read it with reverence, considering that each line is God speaking directly to you.
Read the books of the Bible in order.
Get a true understanding of Scripture. [Psalm 119:73, “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.”] This is best achieved by comparing relevant parts of Scripture with each other.
Read with seriousness. [Deuteronomy 32:47, “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”] The Christian life is to be taken seriously since it requires striving [Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not able.“] and not falling short [Hebrews 4:1, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it”].
Persevere in remembering what you read. [Psalm 119:52, “When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD “] Don’t let it be stolen from you [Matthew 13:4, 19, “And as he sowed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them…When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path“]. If it doesn’t stay in your memory it is unlikely to be much benefit to you.
Meditate on what you read. [Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.“] The Hebrew word for meditate means to be intense in the mind. Meditation without reading is wrong and bound to err, reading without meditation is barren and fruitless. It means to stir the affections, to be warmed by the fire of meditation [Psalm 39:3, “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue”].
Read with a humble heart. Acknowledge that you are unworthy that God should reveal himself to you [James 4:6b, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”].
Believe it all to be God’s Holy Word. [2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”]. We know that no sinner could have written it because of the way it describes sin. No saint could blaspheme God by pretending his own Word was God’s. No angel could have written it of the same reason [Hebrews 4:2, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened”].
Prize the Bible highly. [Psalm 119:72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces”]. It is your lifeline; you were born by it [James 1:18, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures“]; you need to grow by it [1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation”].
Love the Bible ardently [Psalm 119:72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces”].
Come to read it with an honest heart [Luke 8:15, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience”]. (a) Willing to know the entire and complete will of God (b) reading in order to be changed and made better by it [John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”].
Apply to yourself everything that you read, take every word as spoken to yourself. Its condemnation of sins as the condemnation of your own sins; the duty that it requires as the duty God would require from you [2 Kings 22:11, “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.”].
Pay close attention to the commands of the Word as much as the promises. Think of how you need direction just as much as you need comfort.
Don’t get carried away with the minor details, rather make sure to pay closest attention to the great things [Hosea 8:12, “Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing”].
Compare yourself with the Word. How do you compare? Is your heart something of a transcript of it, or not?
Pay special attention to those passages that speak to your individual, particular and present situation. e.g. (a) Affliction – [Hebrews 12:7, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”; Isaiah 27:9, “Therefore by this guilt of Jacob will be atoned for, and this will be the fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing.”; John 16:20, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”]; 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”]. (b) Sense of Christ’s presence and smile withdrawn – Isaiah 54:8, “In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD, your redeemer.”; Isaiah 57:16, “For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made.”; Psalm 97:11, “Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart”]. (c) Sin – Galatians 5:24, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”; James 1:15, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”; 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”; Proverbs 7:10,14, 22-23, “And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart…The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the LORD is angry will fall into it. Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the LORD will plead their cause and rob life of those who rob them.” (d) Unbelief – Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”; 2 Samuel 22:31, “This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”; John 3:15, “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”; 1 John 5:10, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.”; John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Pay special attention to the examples and lives of people in the Bible as living sermons. (a) Punishments – Nebuchadnezzar and Herod (b) mercies and deliverances – Daniel, Jeremiah, the 3 youths in the fiery furnace.
Don’t stop reading the Bible until you have your heart warmed. [Psalm 119:93, “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” Let it not only inform you but also inflame you – Jeremiah 23:29, “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”; Luke 24:32, They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Put into practice what you read. [Psalm 119:66 & 105 “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments…Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”; Deuteronomy 17:19, “And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them.”
Christ is for us Prophet, Priest and King. Make use of His office as Prophet [Revelation 5:5, “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”; John 8:12, Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”; Psalm 119:102-103, “I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me…How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!“] Get Christ not only to open the Scriptures up to you, but to open up your mind and understanding [Luke 24:45, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures“].
Make sure to put yourself under a true ministry of the Word, faithfully and thoroughly expounding the Word [Proverbs 8:34, “Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors”]. be earnest and eager waiting on it.
Pray that you will profit from reading the Word [Isaiah 48:17, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your GOd, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”; Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”; Nehemiah 9:20, “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times”].