Reading is doing:
Thirdly, no that is not the knowing, or the talking, nor the reading man, but the doing man, that at last will be found that the happiest man. “If you know these things, blessed and happy are you if you do them” (John 16:14). “Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my father that is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Judas called Christ Lord, Lord, and yet betrayed him, and has gone to his place. Ah! how many Judas is have we in these days, that kiss Christ, and yet betrayed Christ; that in their words profess them, but in their works denying them; but now there need to him, and yet in their hearts despise him; but call him Jesus, and yet will not obey him for their Lord (1 Brooks 9).
In writing so, Brooks does no more than emphasize what is already clear in Scripture:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22–25 (ESV)
On this point John Calvin writes:
22. Be ye doers of the word. The doer here is not the same as in Romans 2:13, who satisfied the law of God and fulfilled it in every part, but the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes, according to the saying of Christ,
“Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it,” (Luke 11:28;)
For he shews by the fruits what that implanting is, before mentioned. We must further observe, that faith with all its works is included by James, yea, faith especially, as it is the chief work which God requires from us. The import of the whole is, that we ought to labor that the word of the Lord should strike root in us, so that it may afterwards fructify
William Guthrie true saving faith is faith which shapes commands heart and conforms it to Christ:
And accordingly, faith, which God has appointed to traffic and travel between Christ and man, as the instrument of conveyance of His fulness unto man, and of maintaining union and communion with Him, acteth variously and differently upon God in Christ: for faith is the very shaping out of a man’s heart according to God’s device of salvation by Christ Jesus, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell’ (Col. 1: 16); so that, let Christ turn what way He will, faith turneth and pointeth that way. Now He turns all ways in which He can be useful to poor man; and therefore faith acts accordingly on Him for drawing out of that fulness, according to a man’s case and condition. As for example, The soul is naked, destitute of a covering to keep it from the storm of God’s wrath; Christ is fine raiment (Rev. 3: 17, 18); then accordingly faith’s work here is to ‘put on the Lord Jesus.’ (Rom. 13: 14.)
Thus reading, which is work to increase one’s knowledge and faith, must be aimed toward doing that which will give glory to God. As Thomas Watson writes in A Godly Man’s Picture true knowledge of God is a transforming knowledge:
“We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18). As a painter looking at a face draws a face like it in the picture; so looking at Christ in the mirror of the gospel, we are changed into his likeness. We may look at other objects that are beautiful—yet not be made beautiful by them. A deformed face may look at beauty, and yet not be made beautiful. A wounded man may look at a surgeon, and yet not be healed. But this is the excellence of divine knowledge, that it gives us such a sight of Christ as makes us partake of his nature! Like Moses when he had seen God’s back parts, his face shone; some of the rays and beams of God’s glory fell on him.
A reading which merely increases knowledge does not transform the heart is a reading which will condemn:
Reader, if it not be strong about my heart to practice what thou read is, to what end dost thou read? To increase that condemnation? If thy light and knowledge be not turned into practice, the more knowing that thou art, the poor miserable man thou wilt be in the day of recompense; thy light and knowledge will more torment thee that all the devils in hell. By knowledge will be that Rod that will eternally lash thee, and a scorpion that will forever bite thee, and that worm that will everlastingly knobby; therefore read, and labor to know, that thou may us do, or else if thou art undone forever(1 Brooks 9).
A reading which does not transform is a common thing in these days. The common course of education is for one to read and gain knowledge sufficient to pass a test, but not sufficient to change one’s life. Indeed, current education aims more at scores than virtue. As Christians, we must read with the aim to living in accordance with the rules of our King. Even the words of profane unbeliever can be turned into profit for us by demonstrating to us the folly of this world.
May we read to know and do those things which are pleasing to God, so that we can receive reward:
That man that reads that he may know, and that labors to know that he may do, we’ll have to heavens — the heaven of joy, peace, and comfort on Earth, and a heaven of glory and happiness after death(1 Brooks 9).