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I. If you would profit by reading, remove those things that will hinder your profiting.

First, “remove the love of every sin.” Sin will make us unfit to profit from the Scripture. Sin makes us stupid and confused. Start with the extreme example, someone intoxicated by drugs or lust has no ability to concentrate or think straight: The Scripture prescribes excellent recipes, but sin lived in, poisons all. The body cannot thrive in a fever, nor can the soul under the feverish heat of lust.”

Watson’s proposition can be taken further. Even seemingly “lesser” sins will hurt our ability to profit from the Scripture. Sin, at heart, is irrational (what could be more irrational than to rebel against the Creator of the Universe and the one who judge my life). To engage in irrationality cannot but make one more irrational.

This does not mean that one will not be logical: “logic” in its most pared down form refers to following a set of rules for thinking (and I grant that logic should mean a great deal more than this). I have known many who can think with logical ability and yet be utterly irrational: their premises, their facts are simply wrong. Someone can be utterly delusional and be logical (to an extent).

But sin is more subtle, it does not always undermine logic, but it always attacks true reason.

Second, take heed of those thorns which will choke the word read.

If your heart is busy dwelling upon something other than the words of the Scripture, how will you be able to read with even the barest concentration? As Watson writes of such a one: “While his eye is upon the Bible, his heart is upon the world.”

The Scripture takes concentration to read, meditation to digest, pray to expound: all these will take attention. Without a heart devoted to Scripture, “You may as soon extract oil and syrup out of a flint, as he any real benefit out of Scripture.”

Third, Take heed of jesting with Scripture; this is playing with fire. Some cannot be merry unless they make bold with God.

The Scriptures are nothing to trifle with. Some will trifle by merely joking about sacred things. This sort of levity is apparent even in many pulpits. Sometimes it is for laughs, other times is to tie the Scripture to gimmicks and nonsense. When pastors treat the Scripture as frivolous, we should not be surprised when the congregation does not consider the Scripture

Quotations from Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures with Most Spiritual Profit,” in The Bible and the Closet: Or How We May Read the Scriptures with the Most Spiritual Profit; and Secret Prayer Successfully Managed, ed. John Overton Choules (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1842), 18–19.