4. Benefits of this Systematic Work
A year of faithful adherence to a system such as we have suggested,though in its briefest form, will be of incalculable benefit in many directions. We want to collect a list of these benefits together and set them before the eye of any who may question the wisdom, desirability or indeed the feasibility of taking up work like this.
1. The Bible will not be neglected. It is a sad fact that many children of God allow days and weeks to pass without more than a glance at their Bibles. Let one who has resolved to read a chapter every day, and who has allowed three or four days to elapse, or perhaps longer, try to "catch up." They will find how much easier it would have been to read one chapter daily. One is traveling, sickness has come into the family, the house is full of visitors, extra work at the office matters like these will be found to shut out all reading of the Bible unless there is in our soul the insistence upon the few minutes which we have set apart for this. In this connection we would advise that no one lightly undertake to dedicate a portion of time however brief, to daily Bible work, who has not determined in the fear of God to carry it through; and if prevented at the outset by unavoidable circumstances from going on, not to attempt to "catch up," but to resume one day's work at once and go on from that point.
Let the reader ask himself if his Bible is neglected or not? And then let him ask, without needless prying, whether many of his acquaintances are not neglecting it equally with himself.
2. The example will be contagious. If one is really possessed with an idea, he will be speaking of it to his friends. As soon as one gets established in this kind of work, he will find himself telling some brother about it, and they will begin comparing notes, and sooner or later, others will be encouraged and stimulated to take it up. There will also be a greater readiness to speak about the things of God, for the simple reason that one has something to say. We are often exercised about the Lord's people having closed lips in the meetings. Often, this is due to the lack of clearness of apprehension; they do not speak because they have so little to say: and indeed it is probably desirable that they should first have a certain, if only a small, furnishing to speak to edification. So too in prayer; the more familiar we are with the thoughts of God in a proper way, the more our desires will find definite expression, and we, in the earnestness of desire, would soon lose self-consciousness; and prayer in public as well as private would be a normal practice.
3. The mind will be disciplined. The mind of man is a most marvelous instrument, if we may speak of it in that way. It responds to training, and every exercise of its powers increases its capacity for further activity. Thus, the practice of forming rough outlines, or making more accurate and minute analyses of portions of our Bible, will increase the facility with which we are able to do it, and with facility comes enjoyment of the keenest kind. There are no natural pleasures greater than those connected with mental activity, and speaking even in an educational way, the benefit of these studies cannot well be over-estimated. Regularity, system, accuracy, niceness of distinction, perception, memory, judgment — every faculty will be brought into play; and instead of a vague feeling of helplessness, coupled with shame to speak of things of which we know comparatively little, there will be a good degree of familiarity and confidence of a proper character. How different would Bible-readings be, for instance, if every one came to them already fairly familiar with the chapter to be discussed, and with ability to make or understand distinctions such as we have been dwelling upon. Every one could be a contributor to the general interest, and we are sure the Lord's beloved people would, with His blessing, have an awakening that they would not easily allow to subside.
4. The whole life would be affected. Let us suppose that an ordinarily busy Christian young man has been accustomed to sleep until the last possible minute in the morning, so that he must hurry through everything to get to his business in time; who has spent his spare moments on the train or elsewhere in aimless conversation or reading of questionable things; whose evenings are spent in mere social intercourse, often leading to associations and amusements which cannot but injure the soul, and retiring late at night with conscience none too much exercised, to repeat the same experience day after day. Will such an one grow? Need we be surprised if he makes no progress?
Let us now suppose that he determines to adopt the fifteen minute schedule of Bible study, and sets apart the time in the morning. He rises and begins the work. Perhaps the first feeling will be one of discouragement and distance, and he will be tempted to throw it all aside and resume his more easy-going manner but he has a conscience toward God and perseveres. Occasionally he "oversleeps," but at the end, we will say, of two weeks, the habit is in a fair way of being established to rise a half hour earlier than was his custom in order that he may not be unduly hurried. Instead of a wild rush at breakfast, with perhaps slips of temper and forgetfulness, a certain quietness and happiness of spirit takes its place. Something has interested him in his work and a glance at the newspaper suffices instead of the absorbing perusal of columns of worthless matter. Lunch hour finds him eager to finish something that he began in the morning, and his earlier rising makes him ready for retirement earlier than before. We say nothing now of the effect of the word of God upon his conscience and heart, but merely its tonic influence upon his habits. In a year's time, can any of us doubt that the effect upon his whole life will be so marked that his profiting will appear unto all?
5. Our knowledge of Scripture will be gradually and largely increased and systematized.
6. Our love for the word of God will be deepened.
7. Our reverence for Scripture and belief in its absolute inspiration will cease to be an orthodox belief and become the intensest conviction.
8. We will become better Sunday-school teachers, or preachers, and whatever public service we are engaged in will feel the improvement.
9. Prayer will be more definite, broader and constant, while our very necessities will teach us to watch thereunto with thanksgiving. In short, we are persuaded that the whole life will be brought under the power of divine things more fully than before.
There are of course dangers here as everywhere. Pride ever lurks behind every duty, and a spirit of complacency at increased knowledge, a measure of self-denial, greater usefulness, or whatever else it may be, will call for self-judgment and confession but where is this not the case? The very land of Israel's inheritance was peopled with enemies, and the epistle which brings out in highest and fullest measure our blessings in Christ warns us to put on the whole armour of God, that we may be victorious in the inevitable conflict with Satan and his hosts. Dangers only deter the slothful. Let us not be amongst the sluggards.