4. Note-books on Bible Study

It is not a logical method in the treatment of our subject that we are pursuing, but rather in the natural way in which each part would be suggested to us. We have now reached the point where it may be best to say what we have to about note-books and other matters of that kind.

It is always well to read and study pen in hand. Lord Bacon said: "Reading maketh a full man; writing, an exact man"; and the practice of putting down the results of our reading and study is most important. What has occupied us in the former chapter will have already shown the necessity for note-books of one kind or another. Our study, for instance, of Ephesians would require a special note-book in which we would jot down the outlines of each verse and afterwards their groupings together

The final results of our analysis might well be transferred to another book in which things were put in a more orderly way. This suggests the use of at least two kinds of note-books from the outset. The writer would only give some of the results of his own experience in this direction. No doubt, each one would find special means adapted to his peculiar needs. We would suggest, then, having two books, one perhaps larger and forming part of a series of such note-books, in which the results of our study could be entered in a more orderly and careful way; but we should have a handy book in which we can jot down everything as it comes up. Disconnected thoughts perhaps, outlines of verses or of chapters, questions which occur to us; hundreds of matters which will escape our memories if we let them go, but which are fastened definitely by being thus recorded. We might call such a note-book in which entries like this were made, the daybook, and the more permanent and orderly one, the ledger. Just as in a day-book each entry is put down, often quite hastily and with only a separating mark to distinguish it from the following entry, so this note-book should be used freely for everything. It can be of small size, so as to be conveniently carried in the pocket or bag, to jot down on every occasion our gleanings in the field of divine truth. In this also we might keep a memorandum of work done, and thus mark each day's progress. As we read our daily chapter, something that has struck us in it may at once be put down.

It is also before us as we take up our work of analysis, and we have no hesitation in blocking out the contents of a verse three or four times if necessary, until we get something like a real list of what is there. During the day other things occur to us, perhaps from our Old Testament reading, or something is suggested, not closely connected with our special study; but it too finds a place here. Such a book is wonderfully interesting when it is completed,and serves as a kind of diary of each day in connection with divine things.

If we use it as freely as has been suggested, we would probably fill a small-sized one every two or three months. These should be numbered and kept for further reference.*

{*It was the practice of the late J. N. Darby to fill such notebooks, and from these, after his death, four volumes of "Notes and Comments on Scripture" were prepared.}

Will our readers pardon us if we suggest a few lines of entry in such a book?

"Tuesday, May 9, 19 — . Daily reading in the family, Exodus 20, the law. Ought not the ten commandments to be committed to memory by every one? Would it not increase conviction of sin in the unsaved, and gratitude in the hearts of believers? Was struck with the effect of the law upon the people, putting them at a distance, and then God's gracious provision of the altar by which we are brought nigh. Thus, the wounding and healing are put side by side. Study the subject further."

"List of subjects in Romans 5:1: 1, justification; 2, by faith; 3, present possession, 'we have'; 4, 'peace with God '; 5, 'through our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

"Ver. 2:1, Access into the grace; 2, by faith; 3, standing; 4, joy in hope; 5, the glory before us."

"Three points of time are noted here:

"Peace in view of past sins; access for the present; the glory of God for the future.

"What exactly is meant by 'we stand'? What is the difference between standing and state, and is it a scriptural distinction? These two verses seem to stand out separately from what follows. Analyzed and memorized them."

"Continued private daily reading, John 6. The language of this chapter suggests how important it is. The miracle of the five loaves is the only one recorded in all the four Gospels. Does our Lord mean to say that we are to labor for the bread of life, and if so, how can that be reconciled with its being a gift? Was struck with the expression 'at the last day' used four different times in this chapter. It seems to connect together four thoughts: 1, ver. 39, the gift of the Father; 2, Ver. 40, the faith of the believer. These two suggest God's side and man's side. 3, ver. 44, faith the gift of God; 4, ver. 54, all rests on the work of Christ. J. N. D.'s version gives a different word for 'eat' in ver. 51 and in ver. 54 where it is translated 'feedeth upon.' Does 'eating' suggest the first time a hungry sinner comes, and 'feeding' the daily communion which is to continue always? A very full and rich chapter, with only a little gleaned out of it. Hope for more next time."

This will suffice to give a hint how such a book can be used. The daily date will serve as a kind of diary, and whenever meetings have been attended, or things of that kind, they could also be entered here. It is not advised that we should pursue the methods of the diaries of many godly Christians which have been preserved for us, in which thoughts and states are dwelt upon. Introspection is never a healthy or profitable occupation, except for necessary self-judgment, and is reserved for the privacy of our closets with God; and even here we are only to be sufficiently occupied with self to judge our ways and to turn more completely to the Lord and His blessed Word. A record of our goings and doings is of comparatively small value, but it is indeed a comfort if we can connect our life's history with our progress in the knowledge of God's precious Word.

The entries indicated above might be made several times during the course of a day, and the time occupied in putting them down would be scarcely appreciable and would serve to fasten in our minds something we might use from every chapter we read. The results of our analysis or other special study could be, when fully digested, entered in the more formal outline-book suggested above.

In addition to what has been said above, it may be well to have a special book for each line of study — as, for instance, Ephesians, Colossians, etc.