Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Richard Greenham (Puritan) on 8 Ways to Better Read Scripture

Richard Greenham, 1542-1594, was an early English Puritan. From Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson's Meet the Puritans (p. 293), we learn the following about him: 
In 1599, Henry Holland likened [Greenham] to Elijah, and said that for “practical divinity he was inferior to few or none in his time” (Works, 1605, p. 724). Thomas Fuller said that Greenham’s “masterpiece was in comforting wounded consciences; many, who came to him with weeping eyes, went from him with cheerful souls” (The Church History of Britain, 1655, pp. 219–20). Joseph Hall called him “that saint of ours.” This impression of him continued, especially through his collected sayings, which have been said to resonate “with a truth and force that gave Greenham a place among English divines which was second to none” (‘Practical Divinity,’ pp. 35–36). His writings were often quoted by later Puritans, and Puritan diaries reveal that his Works were owned and read by many.
In Greenham's work, “A Profitable Treatise Containing a Direction for the reading and understanding of the holy Scriptures” we get the following reflections drawn from Deuteronomy 6:6, 11:18; Nehemiah 8:8; Psalm 1:2; Acts 15:21; and 2 Peter 1:19. Greenroom gives eight suggestions for better reading of the Scriptures: 

1. With diligence. We must be more diligent in reading the Scriptures than anything else—more than men dig for hidden treasure. Diligence makes rough places plain; makes the difficult, easy; makes the unsavory, tasty. 

2. With wisdom. We must be wise in the choice of matter, order, and time. In terms of matter, we must not try to move from the revealed to that which is not revealed, nor spend more time on the most difficult portions of Scripture. In terms of order, the wise reader of Scripture must be firmly grounded in all the major points of doctrine. Moreover, Scripture reading must follow some semblance of order, for a whole Bible makes a whole Christian. In terms of time, the entire Sabbath should be devoted to such exercises as the reading of Scriptures. On other days, a portion of Scripture should be read in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. 

3. With preparation. In desiring to learn of God, we must approach Scripture with a reverential fear of God and His majesty, with faith in Christ, and with sincerity. 

4. With meditation. This is as critical as preparation before reading Scripture. Reading may give some breadth, but only meditation will offer depth. “Meditation without reading is erroneous, and reading without meditation is barren,” Greenham writes. “Meditation makes that which we have read to be our own.” It helps transfuse Scripture through the entire texture of the soul. 

5. With conference. This means godly conversation with ministers or other believers. The godly must share with others what they learn from the Scriptures, not in a proud manner but with humility, trusting that where two or three are gathered together for spiritual conversation, God will be among them. 

6. With faith. As Hebrews 4:2 says, faith is the key to profitable reception of the Word. Through reading the Word by faith, our faith will be refined. Scripture reading ought to try our faith, not only in the generalities of our lives, but also in particular afflictions. As gold is tried in the fire, so faith will abide the fire of affliction. 

7. With practice. Practice will “bring forth increase of faith and repentance,” Greenham writes. Practice is the best way to learn; the more we put the Word into practice in the daily obedience of faith, the more God will increase our gifts for His service and for additional practice. 

8. With prayer. Prayer is indispensable in the reading of Scripture. It must precede, accompany, and follow our reading. Prayer also necessarily involves thanksgiving: “If we be bound to praise God when he hath fed our bodies, how much more when he hath fed our souls?” Greenham asks. In short, if the Bible is to get into us, we must get into it. To neglect the Word is to neglect the Lord, but those who read Scripture “as a love letter sent to you from God” will experience its warming and transforming power.