This book, revised and expanded from an earlier version published in 1982, is a primer for personal use of the Bible. It is subtitled ‘Trusting, reading and applying the Bible’, reflecting the threefold division of the book.
The first part establishes the Scripture’s divine origin and authority. The second part — much the longest — provides an overview of the Bible’s varying literary styles. Major themes are identified and guidance given on interpretation (along with worked examples).
The final section deals with the purpose of God’s Word and gives practical advice on regular reading. Appendices include excerpts from John Murray and John Newton on divine guidance, a bibliography, and a Bible reading schedule based on M’Cheyne’s plan.
This book is broad in scope, but inevitably limited in detail. I found the brief exposition of 2 Timothy 3:16, showing the uses of Scripture, particularly helpful. Many valuable nuggets of information and application are to be found throughout.
Any Christian will benefit from reading this book. It’s not entirely clear, however, who the target readership is. The second section seems to be aimed at believers who are young in the faith and not familiar with the broad sweep of Scripture. Readers who are well taught and have long practised personal Bible reading may find some of the content rather obvious. By contrast, the defence of inerrancy earlier on in the book is somewhat complex.
Ferguson himself acknowledges the limitations of books such as this: ‘They can either tell us too much, so that we cannot take it all in … [or] tell us so little that we feel we have been left at square one’ (p.130).
He emphasises that simply getting on with reading Scripture is the only way to make progress, but shows us what to expect and where to find help.
Perhaps the reality is that we can all struggle to make the most of the Bible, and, when it comes to regular devotions and ongoing study of God’s Word, we often need reminding what, how and why. This book is therefore a welcome help and a spur to fresh effort in mining the treasures God has given us.