From the earliest days of the Christadelphian Community, our pioneer writers have emphasised the need for regular daily Bible reading. As a young man of fifteen in 1854, Brother Robert Roberts compiled the Bible Reader’s Companion otherwise known as The Daily Bible Readings Chart, which is still recognised as the most universally adopted reading chart common to ecclesias throughout the world. In his autobiography, My Days and My Ways, he describes the circumstances in which he compiled the chart and expresses his very deep appreciation of the encouragement he received from reading the opening section of Elpis Israel which emphasises the importance of regular and accurate reading of the Scriptures. In this article we are including some of this section from Elpis Israel together with Bro Roberts’ advice as to the value of the Bible Reader’s Companion.

Revolving upon its own axis, and describing an ample circuit through the boundless fields of space, is a planet of the solar system bearing upon its surface a population of over a thousand millions subject to sin, disease, and death. This orb of the starry heavens shines with a glory similar to that of its kindred spheres. Viewed from them, it is seen sparkling “like a diamond in the sky”; and with the rest of the heavens, declares the glory of God, and shows forth the handiwork of Him that did create it.

This celestial orb, which is a world or system of itself, is styled the earth. It is the habitation of races of animals which graze its fields, lurk in its forests, soar through its atmosphere, and pass through the paths of its seas. At the head of all these is a creature like themselves, animal, sensual and mortal. He is called Man. He has replenished the earth and subdued it, and filled it with his renown. His crimes, however, rather than his virtues, have illustrated and distinguished him with an unhappy pre-eminence above all other created things. His heart is evil; and, left to its uncontrolled impulses, he becomes licentious, merciless, and more cruel than the fiercest beast of prey.

Such is the being that claims the independent sovereignty of the globe. He has founded dominions, principalities, and powers; he has built great cities, and vaunted himself in the works of his hands, saying, “Are not these by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” He repudiates all lordship over him, and claims the inalienable and inherent right of self-government, and of establishing whatever civil and ecclesiastical institutions are best suited to his sensuality and caprice. Hence, at successive periods, the earth has become the arena of fierce and pandemoniac conflicts; its tragedies have baptised its soil in blood, and the mingled cries of the oppressor and the victim have ascended to the throne of the Most High.

Skilled in the wisdom which comes from beneath, he is by nature ignorant of that which is “first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy”. This is a disposition to which the animal man under the guidance of his fleshly mind has no affinity. His propensity is to obey the lust of his nature; and to do its evil works, “which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, sects, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like”. All these make up the character of the world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life”, upon which is enstamped the seal of God’s eternal reprobation. “They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”, but “they shall die”.

Such is the world of human kind! The great and impious enemy of God upon the earth. Its mind is not subject to His law, neither indeed can it be. What shall we say to these things? Is the world as we behold it a finality? Are generations of men, rebellious against God, and destroyers of the earth, to occupy it successively through an endless series of ages? Are men to repeat the history of the past for ever? Is the earth always to be cursed, and sin and death to reign victorious? Who can answer these inquiries? If we survey the starry canopy, thence no sign or voice is given expressive of the truth. They declare the eternal power and divinity of their Creator, but they speak not of the destiny of the earth or of man upon it. If we question the mountains and hills, the plains and valleys, the rivers, seas, and oceans of the earth, and demand their origin, why they were produced, to what end they were created; their rocks, their strata, their fossils, or deposits, afford us no response. Turn we to man and ask him, “Whence comest thou, and what is thy destiny? Whence all the evil of thy nature, why art thou mortal, who made thee, who involved thee in the wide-spread ruin and calamity on every side?”

Ask an infant of days the history of the past, and he can as well detail it, as man can answer these inquiries without a revelation from Him who is before all, and to whom is known from the beginning all He intends shall come to pass. So true is it, that, unaided by light from heaven, “since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what is prepared for him that waiteth for him”; but, adds the apostle in his comment upon these words of the prophet, “God hath revealed these things unto us by his spirit… which things we (apostles) speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the holy spirit teacheth; interpreting spiritual things in spiritual words”.

To the Bible, then, all must come at last if they would be truly wise in spiritual things. This is a great truth which few of the sons of men have learned to appreciate according to its importance. A man may be a theologian profoundly skilled in all questions of “divinity”; he may be well versed in the mythology of the heathen world; be able to speak all languages of the nations; compute the distances of orb from orb, and weigh them in the scales of rigid calculation; he may know all science and be able to solve all mysteries, but if, with all this, he be ignorant of “the things of the spirit”; if he know not the true meaning of the Bible; he seemeth only to be wise, while he is, in fact, a fool. Therefore, the apostle saith, “let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men”. If our contemporaries could only attain to the adoption of this great precept, “let no man glory in men”, they would have overleaped a barrier which as a fatal obstacle prevents myriads from understanding and obeying the truth.

No one has any right to set up his own ignorance as the limit of what God hath revealed. A thing may be unknown to such a man, but it doth not therefore follow that it is either absolutely unintelligible or a secret. He may not know of it, or, if explained to him, he may not have intellect enough to comprehend it, or his prejudices, or sectarian bias may darken his understanding—this by no means makes the thing unintelligible or mysterious to other people. All that such persons have a right to say is, “We do not know anything about it”. They may confess their own ignorance, and resolve to look into the matter, or not; but they are presumptuously overstepping the bounds of propriety to venture to do more. Those who have no secondary interests to subserve apart from the truth only desire to know that they may believe and do. But where to know more would jeopardize the “vested interests” of a sect, and extort the confessions of its leaders and members that they were in error and knew not the truth, investigation is discouraged, and the things proscribed as too speculative and mysterious for comprehension, or, if understood, of no practical utility. In this way mankind infold themselves as in the mantle of their self-esteem. They repress all progress, and glorify their own ignorance by detracting from things which they fear to look into, or apprehend are far above their reach.

“Wisdom”, say the Scriptures, “is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thy head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” If thou wouldst, O reader, get this wisdom, happy art thou if thou findest it. “For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all things thou canst desire are not to be compared to her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her.”

Before the Son of God sent forth his apostles to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom in his name, “He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures”. If thou wouldst gain the knowledge of the wisdom of God which is so inestimable, and which is contained in the word they preached, thou must also be the subject of the same illumination. This is indispensable; for there is no obtaining of this commodity except through the Scriptures of truth. These “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. For all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”. What more dost thou want than perfection, and a crown of life and glory in the age to come? Search the Scriptures with the teachableness of a little child, and thy labour will not be in vain. Cast away to the owls and to the bats the traditions of men, and the prejudices indoctrinated into thy mind by their means; make a whole burnt offering of their creeds, confessions, catechisms, and articles of religion; and, after the example of the Ephesian disciples, hand over your books of curious theological arts, and burn them before all. These mountains of rubbish have served the purpose of a dark and barbarous age; the word, the word of the living God alone, can meet the necessities of the times.

Let the example of the noble-minded Bereans be ours. They searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things taught by the apostles were worthy of belief; “therefore they believed”.