I didn’t have this type of Bible verse memory as part of our homeschool for a long time- the Bible memorization that chooses random, single, stand alone verses for memorizing. I had not come across it in what I read from Charlotte and so I didn’t work it into the schedule. We did use, as Charlotte suggests, parable passages in our recitation time. We also learned some of the more famous Psalms.
But one day, I noticed that my kids did not know basic Bible verses. The bedrock verses that every Christian should know and really in our country’s past many Americans knew somewhat as common knowledge — verses like John 3:16 and Romans 3:23. They knew about them, but didn’t have them down pat. We were not part of a church program that promoted Bible verse memorization, and so the task got somewhat lost in the shuffle.
I learned verses as a child at our church. I am truly thankful I learned those verses year after year throughout my childhood. I recall them now at all times of the day, and for all seasons of life. I may not remember the references, but they are in my mind and heart, ready when I need them. I have gained so much comfort and blessing from being able to recall verses at will as I need them. Because of this, I realized that we needed to step up Bible memory so my children would have these verses at their instant access when they are adults – you know, the olden-days-way, without an electronic-device-instant-access, just, in your brain.
But does random Bible verse memorization have a place in Charlotte Mason’s Education? These verses that are not connected with a story? Verses that just are stand-alone verses that have no beginning or end such as a parable? Was it possible to learn these type of verses and still claim to be a Charlotte Mason purist? For a while I wasn’t sure. I decided that though I wasn’t mentally making the connections to link random Bible verse memorization and a Living Education, I’d just do it anyway and reconcile it later.
So, it’s time to think it through.
Let’s take a brief look at Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. She mentions that some of what a person takes into their mind does not really sink into the person. In Charlotte-speak that is referred to as sawdust or twaddle, we might typically say facts or information. Facts stay, as she says, in the outer court of the person and are not allowed entrance to their inner being. In the end, this factual information is worthless scrap because it has not entered the inner parts of the person. It falls away into nothingness.
We leave now the outer courts of Mind and Body, the holy places of the Affections and the Will, and enter that holy of holies where man performs his priestly functions; for every man is of necessity a priest, bound to officiate in his most holy place. – Charlotte Mason Volume 4 Book II p.174
…though they will plod on obediently over any of the hundreds of dry-as-dust volumes issued by the publishers under the heading of ‘School Books,’ or of ‘Education,’ they keep all such books in the outer court, and allow them no access to their minds. A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader. – Charlotte Mason Volume 3 p.228
Keeping in mind, then, that some things that come into the mind sink down into the being of the person and some stay on the surface, what does Charlotte say about the method of memorizing Bible verses? Here is one section where she speaks of Bible and memory:
Bible Recitations.—The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit; but the learning of the parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, should not be laid on the children as a burden. — Charlotte Mason Volume 1 p.253
There are several things to notice in this quote.
First, I notice she says beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages. Any Bible verse could fall into one or more of theses categories. So by this idea, any words of Scripture are candidates for memorization.
Second, she says to learn them by heart. Interestingly, the Psalmist also uses a similar phrase—“Thy Word have I hid in my heart….” This does not mean to have a general idea of the verse or its message, or in the case of a CM Education, a narration of the verse or passage. This means a word for word knowing and repeating- the purpose being so you know it when you need it.
In the appendix of Volume 3 Charlotte says class Ia “recites hymns, poems, and Bible verses”. The definition of recite definitely could be debated. Websters 1828 dictionary says recite is “to rehearse, to repeat, to copy, to tell over, to relate, to narrate.” So Charlotte may not have been using recite in the same vein that we think of today. The current definition says “to repeat, utter aloud something memorized or rehearsed often before an audience, to relate in detail.” But knowing that Charlotte’s use of recitation included a component of repetition over a period of time, and knowing that children are adept at remembering things, I think it is safe to conclude that these hymns, poems, and Bible verses made their way into the permanent places of the children’s minds – knowledge.
Third, one of a CM Education hallmarks is that Living material is used- whether books or things. By Living we mean, something that grows, changes, works on circumstances or ideas around it, moves, and shapes. Here, Charlotte mentions the characteristics of Living when she speaks of seed springing up, growing, and bearing fruit. In a CM Education we often talk of Living Books- those books which grow, build up and are memorable as they sink into the reader because of their qualities.
Interestingly, the Bible is often called The Living Bible. It refers to itself as living. Jesus refers to himself as the Living bread and Living water. Consider these verses as you think about the relevancy and Living-ness of Scripture.
I Peter 1:23
Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Bible verses, then, are not your typical educational ‘stuff’. They are our connection, visible and audible, to the Creator who made us. Because of that, I’m going to pose that Bible memorization of random, single verses, is not the sawdust, stale, rote memory of things such jingles for the grammar parts of speech, or the dates of the major battles of World War II, or the periodic table, or a list of the Presidents of the United States. Because of this unique Living quality of the words of God, it will sink down through the cracks and crevices, deep into the inner court of the soul. If Scripture is the ultimate Living book, by its very nature all of it is Living and any parts are fair game to be learned by heart. When it is learned BY heart, because it is Living, it will sink down deep INTO the heart where it will produce a crop now and for years to come. Because Bible verses are Living, memorization of random Bible verses can and should fit into a CM Education. They may start in that outer court, but with time, faith, and prayer they will sink down into the inner court of the heart.
Other verses to consider which speak to the Living qualities of the Bible.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
2 Timothy 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.