Benedict Pictet (1696) on the Duty of Reading the Scriptures

From all that has been said, we may abundantly infer the duty of reading the scriptures. This obligation arises from the positive command of God, directed to all and each of mankind – “These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest in the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up, “ etc. (Deut. vi. 7-9; xxx. 11-14); “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and in the law doth he meditate day and night,” (Psalm i. 1, 2); “Let the word pf Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, whereinto ye do well that ye take heed, “ (Col. iii. 16; 2 Peter ii. 19); “Search the scriptures.” (John v. 39). The end also for which the scriptures was given obligers us to read it, namely, the salvation of all men, which it could not effect, unless it were perused. All the encomiums bestowed on the scripture, are so many arguments for the reading of it. It is the will or testament of a Father, therefore it must be read by the children; it is the epistle of the Creator to the creature, therefore to be perused by the latter; it is the food of our souls, to nourish which it must therefore be read; to which we may add, the constant practice of the Jewish and Christian church. All the fathers exhort to this duty, and among the rest Chrysostom, who, preaching to the people, declares, I always exhort, and will not cease to exhort you, not only to give ear to what is aid in this place, also to apply yourselves at home to the constant reading of the divine scriptures. And he reproves those who allege various excuses for their neglect of this duty, such as various occupations, and the care of their families; and who dared to assert that this duty belonged not to them, but to the monks and hermits. We are well aware, indeed, that many abuse the reading of the scriptures; but if any one should make this a reason for neglecting the duty, he would be like a man, who, because of the frequent abuse of meat and drink, should choose to perish for hunger and want.

[Pictet comments, “All the encomiums [high praise] bestowed on the scripture, are so many arguments for the reading of it.” What are the encomiums Pictet refers to? That scripture is the will and testament of the Father, epistle of the Creator, and food for our souls. At Standard Sacred Text we make much for the Christocentricity of the Scripture, and here we see the same emphasis made by Pictet with his reference to “will and testament.” This of course refers to the familiar words of Hebrews 9:15-17 and the New Covenant sealed with by the vicarious, bloody death of Jesus Christ. 162 years earlier, William Tyndale makes a similar comparison in the prologue of his 1534 English NT: “Here thou hast (most dear reader) the new testament or covenant made with us of God in Christ’s blood.” [Note that for Pictet “easier to read” and multiple versional readings do not rise to the level of high praise.] It is indeed high praise to speak of the scripture in terms of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Such commendations edify the church, evangelize the lost, and fortify the soul of the saint. Furthermore, these accolades do not tend to division and perplexity but to unity and comfort around the Savior. When the scriptures are given high praise, the arguments will again be heard for the importance of its reading.]

Benedict Pictet, Christian Theology, translated from the Latin by Frederick Reyroux (London: R. B. Seely and Sons, 1696 [1834]), 58-59.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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