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What will your obituary read? The memoirs of James H. Brookes

James H. Brookes

I was researching some figures in Church History and came across James H. Brookes, a Presbyterian minister who led the Niagara Bible Conferences – an interdenominational meeting committed to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. From Chapter 12 of his memoirs:


Many and many a time Dr. Brookes has been asked: “How did you obtain
your mastery of the Scriptures?” His answer was to the point: “By studying it.”

His idea of Bible study, however, was very different from that of most men. So familiar was he with the Scriptures, that it has been said in all seriousness by admirers: “If all the Bibles were destroyed, Dr. Brookes could produce one from memory.”

On one occasion, while preaching at a conference in Asbury Park, New Jersey, the editor of a New York semi-religious publication was present. He had heard of Dr. Brookes’ marvellous power of quoting the Scriptures, and he determined to test it.

On a note book, during the sermon, he jotted down every verse quoted. Utterly amazed, the man went to Dr. Brookes after the sermon, and pointed out that he had quoted verbatim, almost a hundred separate Bible texts; giving not only the words, but the chapter and verse.

From his earliest youth Dr. Brookes was a Bible student.

As a child he had been expected to learn and quote much Scripture; and his mother was scrupulously careful that the quotation was faultlessly exact. She held that to misquote in the slightest degree was something almost a sin. It was God’s Word, she said, and must be studied, and repeated exactly, or not at all.

(Alas, how would her soul be torn if she heard some of the wretched misquoting of the Scriptures — where any is quoted at all — in many pulpits, even Presbyterian pulpits, today! A sermon was heard by the writer in a St. Louis Presbyterian church, in 1897, in which the Savior was “quoted” as saying certain words which no man, even with a magnifying glass, can find in any portion of the New Testament.)

The influence of that training was marked throughout Dr. Brookes’ career. The Bible was his vade mecum (a handbook or guide that is kept constantly at hand for consultation). He pored over it. He, so to speak, absorbed it. He knew it, and he knew everything worth knowing that had been written about it.

He kept himself thoroughly posted, too, as to the work of the destructive German critics (and their servile American “Men Fridays”) whose hope of recognition and worldly success, in the former country — and to a growing extent in our own— lies in their power to win notoriety, and gather about them a following.

There have been certain deluded men who have ignorantly implied that Dr. Brookes knew little but the English Bible.

It would not be charitable, though doubtless true, to say that he could have taught them Hebrew, Greek and Latin. But it is only a simple fact to state that he was an expert scholar in ancient languages. While in German and French he laid no claims to a profound study, as in the ancient tongues, yet he could easily read both those languages. He studied the German theological professors’ “sensation”-seeking utterances in the original, something which (let it be said under the rose) it is to be doubted if many of their subservient followers in American seminaries can do, with all their I’m-holier-than-thou air of philologic eruditeness.

This acknowledged champion of the Plain People’s English Bible knew all that they did concerning the Bible in the original [languages], and a great deal more, in numerous instances. Having delved deeply into the roots of words, and the textual study of men and times, he was fully equipped to battle with the destructive Biblical critics in their own camp. He saw through the pretensions of many alleged great textual scholars, and despised their lofty and exclusive assumption of sacred learning….

On blank pages of his Bibles, and on the margins of the printed pages, in small, perfect penmanship, he wrote down with the utmost care the rich results of his life-long labors. Only a photograph can adequately describe those marvellous “notes,” and only the multitudes who “heard him gladly,” and the greater multitudes who have read his books in many languages, know the value of them.

bible notes

To make himself certain as to the use of any one word, he thought nothing of reading the entire Bible through for that particular purpose. If the word appeared three times that fact he established for himself. He believed in being his own concordance. (It should be added here, that he was urged scores of times to
write a concordance.)

It was often his custom to read the Bible through three or four times during a summer vacation.

When he wished to fortify himself as to any doctrine from the Bible, he, of course, read the Bible through with such especial end in view. The passages were carefully marked.

When he reached the end of Revelations, every text bearing on the topic was at his tongue’s end. He had gone to the court of last resort, and all was settled.

The results of that tremendous labor would then be written down, briefly and beautifully, in a portion of his Bible. Dr. Brookes was constantly urging men
to study first the Bible itself, and then the books about the Bible.

He believed too many preachers, young and old, held the books “about the Bible” to be far too important.

Yet he was a great bookman, and his library was a “thing of beauty.” The four walls of his large study were crowded with theological lore, and to the day of his last illness he kept close watch on new works, and secured all the worthy ones.


Williams, David Riddle. James H. Brookes: A Memoir. St. Louis: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1897.

Read it online free at Google Books 

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Stats on Bible Reading & Morality

Have you read thru the entire Bible?

53% of people think the Bible should be read at least once, 40% say more

But only 20% have read it even once, and only 9% read it “over and over”

Do you read the Bible daily?

  • Barna Research: 13% of Americans read it daily
  • Indiana University: 9% of Americans read it daily

On a totally unrelated note…. people believe we are in a moral decline

Four out of five adults (81%) believe the morals and values of American are declining.

  • 72% of Millennials
  • 83% of Gen-Xers
  • 86% of Boomers
  • 93% of Elders
  • nearly all Bible Engaged adults (95%)
  • the majority of Bible-Skeptics (59%)
  • the majority of Bible-Hostiles (63%)

There’s still time to join us for the 2018 Bible Reading Challenge!

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Crosstalk America: Jim & Randy share the 2018 Bible Reading Challenge

2018 Bible Reading Challenge
Date:        December 6, 2017
Host:        Jim Schneider
Listen:      ​MP3 ​​​​| Order Jim began with a question for Randy: How is our Bible IQ as a nation and as a church are we reading our Bibles?

Randy’s response my sound shocking but it’s true. He indicated that many people aren’t reading anything. A recent study found that one out of four adults haven’t opened up any book in the last year.

Randy quoted the following statistics from Al Mohler:

–Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels.
–Many Christians can’t identify more than 2 or 3 of the disciples.

According to data from the Barna Research Group:

–60% of Americans can’t name even 5 of the 10 Commandments.
–82% of Americans believe ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is in the Bible.
–The majority of adults believe the Bible teaches that the most important purpose
in life is taking care of one’s family.
–Over 50% of graduating high school seniors thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were
husband and wife.
–A considerable number of respondents thought the Sermon on the Mount was
preached by Billy Graham.

Obviously this shows a great lack of biblical literacy. This shouldn’t surprise us when you consider that only 45% of those who regularly attend a church read the Bible more than once a week. 1 out of 5 people who attend church regularly never read the Bible at all. And the most scary statistic Randy found? 80% of Americans have never read the Bible through even once.

On the flip side, Back to the Bible’s Center for Bible Engagement did a study of those who read the Bible just 4 days a week. Here’s what they found:

–You’re 57% less likely to get drunk.
–You’re 68% less likely to have sex outside of marriage.
–You’re 61% less likely to engage in pornography.
–You’re 74% less likely to engage in gambling.
–You’re 228% more likely to share your faith with others.
–You’re 231% more likely to disciple others.
–You’re 407% more likely to memorize Scripture.

The key is to have a plan and a way to get started. One way to do that is through the 2018 Bible Reading Challenge that was presented on this edition of Crosstalk. It involves use of The One Year Bible published by Tyndale. This King James Version paperback is divided into 365 portions. Each day (15 minutes per day) you’ll read a portion from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms and Proverbs.

More Information:

To obtain your KJV paperback edition of The One Year Bible for a donation of just $15 or more (price includes shipping) call 1-800-729-9829 or go to