One of the advantages of reading old books is that they make you aware that there is nothing new under the sun. Here is a quote from Stephen Charnock that is bang up to date.
Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator. We are willing God should be our benefactor, but not our ruler; we are content to admire his excellency and pay him a worship, provided he will walk by our rule.
The Existence and Attributes of God. Kindle Edition, Loc 2629
In my reading this morning I came across this in a book by Joel Beeke. I hope that it touches you as it’s touched me.
Christ as God is an infinite and immortal spirit, yet He took a human head so it could be struck, crowned with thorns, and beaten with a reed. He took a human body so it could be ripped open with a Roman scourge. He took human arms and legs so they could be stretched out on the cross, and human hands so that they could be nailed to its wood. He took a human soul so He could feel the unspeakable pain of His Father forsaking Him in the darkness. He took our very nature so that He could bleed and die for the sins that we committed.
Another great quote from Denney’s book. This time extolling the centrality of Christ.
Christ not only was something in the world, he did something. He did something that made an infinite difference, and that puts us under an infinite obligation. He bore our sins. That secures His place in the gospel and in the adoration of the church. That is the impulse and the justification of all Christologies.
I’ve been reading James Denney, ‘The death of Christ’ over the last week. Another book, to my shame, I’ve had on my shelf for a while and not read because the cover doesn’t look appealing. Here is a great sentence from p 66.
If God has really done something in Christ on which the salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is a Christian duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies, or explains it away”
We are drawn to our computer screens; and while I applaud, welcome and make use of all the electronic resources available to help with sermon preparation, there is only the click of a mouse between using the equipment as a devotional aid and using it as an electronic mailbox, between redeeming time and wasting it.
Iain D Campbell
On Saturday evening I read Iain Campbell’s latest book, ‘Pray, Plan, Prepare, Preach’ in the DayOne ‘Ministering the Master’s Way’ series. I found some helpful things and reminders throughout the book, but the most poignant was the warning quoted above. In life the line between something being beneficial on the one hand, and unhelpful on the other is ofter very thin. This is certainly true when it comes to our computers and other electronic gadgetry.
Currently I find myself between phone providers waiting for my phone to be unlocked. The result, I have no internet access beyond the half of our house covered by wifi. It’s great, I love the freedom from the enticing desire to check e mail wherever I go. What will I do when this service returns? My prayer is that God would give me self control so that the gadgets that I use would be helpful and beneficial, not instruments that enslave.
I have four categories of book in my study. There are those in my ‘to read’ pile, those I’ve read, those I don’t plan to read and those I would like to read, but have never got around to it. Over this Summer, for the first time I can remember, I finished my ‘to read’ pile and I’ve started reading those in the latter category. One of these is The Confessions of St Augustine, translated by Maria Boulding.
When I pick up an ‘old’ book I never know quite what to expect. There is a place in my mind that is convinced it will be heavy, turgid and unreadable. I guess I could be accused of what C.S. Lewis called ‘chronological snobbery’. Yet, again and again I find myself having to re-evaluate my opinions. More often than not these books are lively, gripping, soul searching and mind stretching in a way that the majority of books today don’t even come close to emulating. I’ve found Augustine’s book one of these.
I think what has struck me most as I’ve read through it is that it doesn’t feel like a book written over 1700 years ago. The human heart has not changed. Recently I heard an interview with some people who took part in the recent riots and looting excapades in London. They spoke very clearly of having no remorse, but rather a pleasure and joy in what they had done. Notice the similarity in Augustine’s reflections:
The malice was loathsome, and I loved it. I was in love with my own ruin, in love with decay: not with the thing for which I was falling into decay but with decay itself, for I was depraved in soul, and I leapt down from your strong support into destruction, hungering not for some advantage to be gained by the foul deed, but for the foulness of it.
The Confessions of St Augustine, p 68.
Part of my reading diet over the last few weeks has been the first volume of a set of selected works by Martin Luther. I have to say I’ve found them surprisingly stimulating, engaging and gripping to read. Every now and again I come across a sentence that is genius and I simply have to write down. Here is one of them:
It is not many books that make men learned, nor even reading. But it is a good book frequently read, no matter how small it is.