Practice of Christianity, Herman Witsius, Chap 1 (part 2)

Wes White, fellow Michigander, MARS graduate, and Presbyterian pastor is translating a French translation of Herman Witsius’ book: Practice of Christianity.  The work is so excellent that I’d like to repost portions of it here. For the original post go HERE

See post 1 of this series HERE.



Chapter 1 – On Holy Scripture (cont.)

    How We Make Use of the Scriptures
  1. How must we make use of Holy Scripture in order to use this means to advance in our spiritual lives? We must examine it with the greatest attention possible (Jn. 5:39). We must seek out the heavenly wisdom hidden in it as we would search for silver and plumb its depths as if we were looking for treasures (Prov. 2:4). We should never be so loaded with earthly occupations that we would not always reserve some time to at least read the Holy Scriptures, just as David testified concerning himself that since he was occupied during the day with the affairs of the kingdom, he arose early to meditate on the Word of God (Ps. 119:148). In addition, we should pray to the Lord in a few words in our heart that He would open our eyes so that we might see the wonders of His law (Ps. 119:18). Besides that, we must enter as into the sanctuary of God in meditation on this holy book with simplicity of heart, a soul emptied of prejudice, and a humble heart, and with a firm resolution in regulate our faith and conduct, in the smallest as well as the greatest matters, according to all the doctrines that will be revealed to us in it.
  2. Preparation of the Heart to Study Scriptures
  3. By what means can we turn our hearts to this serious attempt to study and meditate on the Holy Scriptures? We must make it our goal to reflect often and with great attention on the following things.
    • First, the Scripture is, so to speak, the Testament of our heavenly Father in which He promises us a magnificent inheritance and shows us the way to it. The Scripture is even “an inheritance of the assembly of Jacob” (Dt. 33:4).
    • Second, we can even with good reason regard it as a love letter that our great God and Lord Jesus Christ has sent us from heaven in order to testify of His unchangeable love for us and in order to stir us up to reciprocate with a holy love for Him. This is like what the Lord Jesus literally did write from heaven to the seven Churches of Asia Minor in Rev. 2-3.
    • Third, we must also be assured that this is the very book of our great God, the infinitely wise Being, and consequently that we find in it the best knowledge, the greatest wisdom, and the most beneficial rules and instructions. And insofar as the wisdom and goodness of the Creator surpass the wisdom and goodness of all creatures, to that degree the instructions of Holy Scripture surpass all that the wisest and best men of the world could have ever imagined.
    • Finally, we must assure ourselves that it is the Word of the Spirit of God and that by consequence it is filled with this Spirit whose breath which penetrates souls has passed over it from above and so has mixed in with it and is found everywhere in it. This is so true that every page and ever verse breathes some movement of the Spirit and transforms us little by little and more and more into the image of Jesus Christ (when we contemplate the Word with attention as it is presented to us) by a secret power of God who works within it.
    Interpreting Obscure Passages
  4. What should we do when we read a passage of Holy Scripture and find a passage that it is obscure or that we cannot readily understand? We should not immediately grieve or rebuke ourselves for it, much less abandon the reading of Holy Scripture, but we should instead think that God, in order to convince us of our stupidity and rebuke our laziness in spiritual matters, has mixed some obscure passages among others that are clear. Thus, in imitation of the Eunuch of Queen Candace (Acts 8:28), we must continue to read until what we find its meaning in other passages that are clearer or where the meaning of the obscure passage is explained clearly. To accomplish this, it would be quite useful to read in our families not only detached places of Scripture (except on occasion) but the whole Scripture, taking it from the beginning and reading unto the end in about one year. In order to understand obscure passages, we can also profit from the wise and excellent remarks of Tossanus and other interpreters of Scripture, which are in the margin of our Bible. [HERE] Every family should buy one of these Bibles, and no one should say that they are too expensive. Further, a reader who wishes to be instructed can consult with those who are more advanced than himself and in particular his Pastor. Besides, in the sermons, one can often find a solution to the difficulties that have given him trouble for a long time. And if by these means, someone is still not satisfied, he must hold firm without murmuring or consternation to the things that he knows well and wait patiently until it pleases God to reveal the difficult articles to us as well. “Let us all be of this mind, we who have been well instructed, and if you think otherwise, God will also teach this to you. However, let us follow by this rule: let us walk in harmony in the things to which we have already attained” (Phil. 2:15-16).
  5. Meditation on Scriptures
  6. But there are many people who read Scripture regularly but after they have done that for a long time, we do not see that they have become visibly better or better instructed. Why does that occur? That can result from various causes. First, there may be a lack of attention and reflection when one reads Scripture more from custom than devotion and when one is not careful to seek out heavenly wisdom, which is hidden like a precious treasure in a silver mine. This is, however, what Solomon and after him, Jesus Christ, demand (Prov. 2:4, Jn. 5:39).
    • Second, our spirit may be full of prejudices. These prejudices make us twist Scripture in order to fit ourselves. That was the problem that the Jews and even the disciples of Jesus Christ had. They were so powerfully overcome by their opinion about an earthly reign of the Messiah that it prevented them from knowing the truth.
    • Third, there may be a proud heart made stubborn with a false wisdom. For humility is the key to true knowledge; whereas, pride is the source of all errors. For “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).
    • Fourth, there may be a lack of proper meditation when someone does not meditate enough over what he has read like Mary did when she treasured up the Word of God and pondered it in heart (Lk. 2:19). We can do this when we do not practice the command that the Lord gives to us to speak of these things in our house, on the way, while laying down, and when we rise up (Dt. 6:7). If we would try to remember each time we read only one or two spiritual points, what a treasure of heavenly doctrine would we not accumulate in less than a year?
    • Finally, there may be a bad conscience, if we hold the truth that we know and confess in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Those who have such a bad conscience experience what Paul says of those who are effeminate, loaded with sins, tossed about with various lusts, always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:6-7). For the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). And the secret of the Lord and the knowledge of His covenant are for those who fear Him (Ps. 25:14).

2 thoughts on “Practice of Christianity, Herman Witsius, Chap 1 (part 2)

  1. Pingback: Practice of Christianity, Herman Witsius, Chap 1 (part 3) « Abraham's Seed

  2. Pingback: Practice of Christianity, Herman Witsius, Chap 2 (part 1) « Abraham's Seed

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