Dwight L. Moody*
An old writer said that some books are to be tasted, some to be
swallowed, some to be chewed and digested. The Bible is one that you
can never finish with. It is like a bottomless well; you can always
find fresh truth gushing forth from its pages. "No Scripture," said
Spurgeon, "is exhausted by a single explanation. The flowers of God's
garden bloom not only double, but sevenfold; they are continually
pouring forth fresh fragrance." Hence the great fascination of constant
and earnest Bible study. I thank God there is a height in the Book that
I have never been able to reach, a depth that I have never been able to
Hence also the necessity of marking your Bible. Unless you have an
uncommon memory, you cannot retain the good things you hear. If you
trust to your ear alone, they will escape you in a day or two; but, if
you mark your Bible, and enlist the aid of your eye, you will never
lose them. The same applies to things you read.
Every one ought to study the Bible with two ends in view,-- his own
growth in knowledge and grace, and passing it on to others. We ought to
have four ears,-- two for ourselves, and two for other people. My Bible
is worth a good deal to me because I have so many passages marked that,
if I am called upon to speak at any time, I am ready. We ought to be
prepared to pass around heavenly thoughts and truths, just as we do the
coin of the realm.
Bible-marking should be made the servant of memory; a few words will
recall a whole sermon. It sharpens the memory, instead of blunting it,
if properly done, because it gives prominence to certain things that
catch the eye, which by constant reading you get to learn by heart. It
helps you to locate texts. It saves preachers and class-leaders the
trouble of writing out notes of their addresses. Once in the margin,
There is a danger, however, of overdoing a system of marking, and of
making your marks more prominent than the Scripture itself. If the
system is complicated it becomes a burden, and you are liable to get
confused. It is easier to remember the texts than the meaning of your
The simplest way to mark is to underline the words, or to make a stroke
alongside the verse. Another good way is to go over the printed letters
with your pen, and make them thicker. The word will standout like
heavier type. [For example], mark "only" in Psalm 62 in this way.
When any word or phrase is often repeated in a book or chapter, put
consecutive numbers in the margin over against each text. Thus, "the
fear of the LORD" in Prov. 1:7, 29, and so on. Number the ten plagues
in this way. In the second chapter of Habakkuk are five "woes" against
five common sins.
When there is a succession of promises or charges in a verse, it is
better to write the numbers small at the beginning of each promise.
Thus, there is a sevenfold promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:2, 3, "1I will
make of thee a great nation, 2and I will bless thee, 3and make thy name
great, 4and thou shalt be a blessing, 5and I will bless them that bless
thee, 6and curse him that curseth thee, 7and in thee shall all families
of the earth be blessed." In Prov. 1:22, we have 1simple ones,
Put a cross in the margin against things not generally observed. For
example, the law regarding women's wearing men's clothes, and regarding
bird's-nesting, in Deut. 22:5, 6; the sleep of the poor man and of the
rich man compared, Eccl. 5:12.
On blank pages at the beginning and end of your Bible, jot down texts
to answer the various kinds of difficulties that you meet in talking to
people in the inquiry-room: "can't hold out," "too great a sinner,"
"fear persecution," etc. Also on these blank pages write short Bible
readings and outlines of sermons.
In addition to the examples already given, I find it helpful to mark--
1. Scripture references. Opposite Gen. 1:1 write, "Through
faith. Heb. 11:3," because there we read, "Through faith we understand
that the worlds were framed by the word of God." Opposite Gen. 28:2
write, "An answer to prayer, Gen. 35:3." Opposite Matt. 6:33 write, "1
Kings 17:3" and "Luke 10:42," which give illustrations of seeking the
kingdom of God first. Opposite Gen. 37:7 write, "Gen. 50:18," which
gives the fulfillment of the dream. You can connect the prophets with
the historical books, the epistles with the Acts, in this way.
Do not buy a Bible that you are unwilling to mark and use. An
interleaved Bible gives the most room for notes and suggestions.
2. Notes to recall a sermon, story, or hymn. Against Ps. 119:59,60, I
have written, "The prodigal son's epitaph." The recalls John McNeill's
sermon on those texts.
3. Railway connections; that is, connections made by fine lines running
across the page. In Dan. 6, connect "will deliver" (v.16), "able to
deliver" (v.20), and "hath delivered" (v.27). In Ps. 66, connect "Come
and see" (v.5) with "come and hear" (v.16).
4. At the beginning of every book, a short summary of its contents,
something like the summary given in some Bibles at the head of chapters.
5. Key-words for books and chapters. Genesis is the book of beginnings;
Exodus, of redemption. The key-word of the first chapter of John is
"receiving"; second chapter, "obedience"; and so on.
6. Any text that marks a religious crisis in life. I heard Mr.
Meyer preach on 1 Cor. 1:9, and he asked his hearers to write in their
Bibles that they were that day "called unto the fellowship of his Son
Jesus Christ our Lord."
Be precise and concise in your marking; for instance, Neh. 13:18, "A
warning from history."
Never mark anything because you saw it in the Bible of some one else.
If it does not come home to you, if you do not understand it, do not
put it down.
Never pass a nugget without trying to grasp it. Then mark it down.
* from Golden Counsels by
Dwight L. Moody, 1899.