They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, that you can’t appreciate what you have until it’s taken away. Isn’t this why we sometimes imagine ourselves without the people we love? As we imagine their absence we grow in our affection. Perhaps we would grow in our affection for the Bible if we imagined it being taken away.
When I was in Hawaii I was able to sit through a couple of classes on the history and theology of the Puritans and, in that class, encountered this fantastic quote drawn from J.I. Packer’s book A Quest for Godliness. Packer uses it as a means to describe “the very heart of Puritanism,” for Puritanism was, at heart, a Bible movement. He describes how a “Mr Rogers of Dedham” once had his church imagine God’s Word being taken away. Thomas Goodwin was present and later described it all to John Howe who wrote it down.
He told me that being himself, in the time of his youth, a student at Cambridge, and having heard much of Mr. Rogers of Dedham, in Essex, purposely he took a journey from Cambridge to Dedham to hear him preach on his lecture day. And in that sermon he falls into an expostulation with the people about their neglect of the Bible; he personates God to the people, telling them…
“Well, I have trusted you so long with my Bible; you have slighted it; it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs. You care not to look into it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.” And he takes up the Bible from his cushion, and seemed as if he were going away with it, and carrying it from them,
But immediately turns again and personates the people to God, falls down on his knees, cries and pleads most earnestly, “Lord, whatsoever thou cost to us, take not thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us thy Bible, only take not away thy Bible.”
And then he personates God again to the people: “Say you so? Well, I will try you a little longer; and here is my Bible for you, I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more, whether you will value it more, whether you will observe it more, whether you will practice it more, and live more according to it.”
But by these actions he put all the congregation into so strange a posture that he never saw any congregation in his life. The place was a mere Bochim [see Judges 2], the people generally … deluged with their own tears; and he told me that he himself when he got out, and was to take horse again to be gone, was fain to hang a quarter of an hour upon the neck of his horse weeping, before he had power to mount, so strange an impression was there upon him, and generally upon the people, upon having been thus expostulated with for the neglect of the Bible.