This fifth point and the previous section on application and experience are the two longest topics of this sermon. Significantly, the Holy Spirit occupies the primary role in both principles. Whitefield concludes this topic by arguing from common sense for cultivating a dynamic dependency upon the Spirit’s interaction with the Word:
How should it be otherwise, for God being a Spirit, he cannot communicate himself any otherwise than in a spiritual manner to the hearts of men; and consequently if we are strangers to his Spirit, we must continue strangers to his word, because it is altogether like himself, spiritual. Labour, therefore, earnestly for to attain this blessed Spirit: otherwise your understanding will never be opened to understand the scriptures aright (384).
Sixth, pray and ask God to send the Spirit to guide your reading of Scripture. While this might sound similar to the fifth point, Whitefield here expands discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke to his disciples about this principle in the Upper Room: that the Spirit of truth (John 16:13) would guide them into all truth. Whitefield’s concern here is that we read the words of Scripture not only at a surface level, but more deeply that “they might be inwardly ingrafted into our hearts” (384). Prayer is an essential guiding resource in this regard. Whitefield encourages us to frequently intersperse our reading with short prayers to the Holy Spirit over every word of the text.
Seventh, Whitefield concludes with the reminder that searching the Scriptures must be done continually. It is not an isolated practice that we do when we are in trouble but rather a habit that continually refreshes our lives. He suggests that the imagery of searching the Scripture parallels the intentionality and intensity of a person digging for a precious treasure. Once we discover something of value and truly grasp its worth, we will not treat it casually. What is more precious for Christians who seek to follow Jesus than saturating their hearts and minds in God’s revelation?
Therefore Whitefield appropriately challenges us to read the Bible both “devoutly [and] daily” (384). The introductory words of this article, which note the necessity of continuing in Christ’s words, connect nicely with this final principle. Following Jesus as his disciple is a lifelong adventure. We never outgrow our need for searching the Scriptures or inviting the Word to dwell within us fully.
Throughout this sermon, Whitefield’s attention to and dependency on the Holy Spirit is evident. But our preacher is realistic and recognizes the broad spectrum of his audience. Some listeners, no doubt, are committed to searching the Scriptures with great delight and desire to know and serve God more fully; others treat the Bible more superficially and read a verse or two if there are no other pressing demands on their time; still others may occasionally open the Bible and search for an answer when in crisis. So Whitefield concludes his sermon by reminding his listeners not to grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by despising or ignoring Scripture. Rather, he asserts that “unless corrected by the Spirit and word of God, you shall not enter into his heavenly kingdom: for unless you delight in God here, how will you be made meet [i.e. fitting] to dwell with him hereafter” (385).
It is important to realize that Whitefield is not offering us a specific method or technique of how to study the Bible. Rather, his focus is on the proper attitude and approach that we should have as we search the Scriptures. These principles are transferable whether we read the Bible using the inductive study method, the manuscript method, the practice of precept upon precept, or lectio divina. His basic concern is that we read the Bible in such a way that the liberating truth of Scripture can penetrate into our lives and address both our heads and hearts.
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