Above all things we ought to read scripture! But next to the scriptures, books of theology stand next in line of importance. It is vital that we do not waste our time reading books of little or no value. Seeing our time is very precious. When friends look at my library and reading habits, they often joke with me that the vast percentage of my Authors are dead. But when one considers that church history has been going on for two thousand years, that should come as no surprise. Now because of the warning in Ecclesiastes, “do not say it was better then than now!” Ecclesiastes 7:10, I will not jump entirely with both feet and say we should only read dead authors, yet i find a depth and often feel convicted in these older materials, where in most modern books i don’t find that to be the case. The old men of God who were used so powerfully in the past were so conscious of their sins, their unworthiness, that it cuts across the grain of the current trend of theology in our day.
But we can learn a lot from the movements of the past, from those who got to see powerful moves of God. When i measure my spirituality in the light of theirs i am shown up for my lack of diligence and devotion. These people of the past have been long gone, so how can i connect with them and learn from their spirit? Their works remain as a legacy for the church, their biographies have been written out for us that we might learn from their examples. For example, what Preacher would not benefit from reading the sermons of Spurgeon? Or the sermons of Robert Murray m’cheyne? Granted i feel awfully small in comparison, as i compare my sermons in the light of theirs, but it lets me know there are new heights that are yet to be obtained!
Some men of God from the past seem to have a stigma on their name in these current times. Just the other day i used on screen a quote from John Calvin, along with the huge beard and face in the background, as i did this i could sense a certain hush, or a certain sense of awkwardness, as his name is permanently connected with calvinism. It is sad in our day that voices of the past are now discriminated against, usually from people who have never read their material, but who are assuming a lot of things based on mere hearsay. I would hold Calvin’s writings up against many of todays popular Preachers, and say his writings are like three course meals in comparison to the milkshakes and candy floss we here in many places today!
If you are hungry for truth, it doesn’t matter where you find that truth, you will eat it up, and be dissatisfied with that which lacks any substance. Let your spiritual hunger drive you, first of all into the scriptures, next to that into books of theology and from men of God in the past who will enrich your soul! “give yourself to reading!” 1 Tim 4:13 nkjv.