A Reminder: Read Old Books

Derek Brown is surveying some old classics that I have enjoyed over the years and I believe you will enjoy.  The book he focuses on is The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes. Here is a small quote from Sibbes,

We will only prolong our depression and deepen our hesitancy to obey if we give up on doing good whenever we wrestle with our motives—or when godly affections appear to dissipate as we set about some service for Christ.

Read Old Books!

Read Old Books

old books

 

The language is too archaic. They talk funny. It doesn’t make sense today. It’s not for me. Just like history being forgotten, people do not read old books as much anymore. And they are missing so much. Old books, well written books, remind us of a time and place when God was honored, and men feared their sin.
Whether the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or Spurgeon and Hodge in the nineteenth century, the content of the books was focused on God, and our relationship to Him. We need books that remind us of the tragedy of sin, and, as R. C. Sproul states, the cosmic treason that is sin. We do not look on sin as those who went before us did. We do not weep and lament at our purposeful separation from a God who calls us to himself. The church today is disconnected from the church of a hundred, two hundred, five hundred years ago, and we are suffering because of it. We need to learn biblical repentance that was taught and practiced for hundreds of years. Charles Spurgeon said this in the late nineteenth century,
Repentance may be and is a change of mind; but what a change it is! It is not an unimportant change of mind such as you may have concerning whether you will take your holiday this week or the next, or about some trifling matter of domestic interest; but it is a change of the whole heart, of the love, of the hate, of the judgment, and the view of things taken by the individual whose mind is thus changed.

It is a deep, radical, fundamental, lasting change; and you will find that, whenever you meet with it in Scripture, it is always accompanied with sorrow for past sin. And rest you assured of this fact, that the repentance which has no tears in its eye and no mourning for sin in its heart, is a repentance which needs to be repented of, for there is in it no evidence of conversion, no sign of the existence of the grace of God.[^1]

“A deep, radical, fundamental, lasting change…accompanied with sorrow. Were individual christians and the church to begin practicing and living out this   kind of repentance it would change the face of our lives and witness of the church. John Owen, writing in the seventeenth century, produced multiple volumes of theological works, including a seven volume study of the book of Hebrews. John Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim’s Progress, read widely even today by millions. One could even go as far back to the church fathers of the early second through sixth centuries. Augustine, Origen, Eusebius, and others. Athanasius, in his “Statement of Faith” discussing the relationship of the Father and Son, says this

For it would be inconsistent with His deity for Him to be called a creature. For all things were created by the Father through the Son, but the Son alone was eternally begotten from the Father, whence God the Word is ‘first-born of all creation,’ unchangeable from unchangeable.[^2]

These writers discuss deep theological thoughts and ideas. They are passionate about the things of God, and about sharing the things of God with the people they teach. We lose so much when we forget. To use Sir Isaac Newton’s famous phrase, “we are able to see further because we stand on the shoulders of giants.” We need to stand on the shoulders of these giants in theology, and follow their passion for God and His Word. In this modern era we need to see clearly and far, and we cannot do that if we forget. Please, read old books.

 

 

[1] The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 43, sermon number 2,510, “Apart.”
[2] Athanasius of Alexandria. “Statement of Faith.” St. Athanasius: Select Works and
Letters. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Trans. Archibald T. Robertson. Vol. 4. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892.

On The Christian Life Series

Owen_book

If you have not had a chance to read any of the books from the series “On the Christian Life”, you really should. Some of today’s leading theologians have written short biographies on christian theologians from the past. They are wonderfully written and short enough for you to read easily. You can start with any of them today. I suggest buying them here.

The Nicene Creed

The church has a history. The problem is too many Christians do not know it, and are not really inclined to learn it. And this is one of many problems with the modern church today. We have forgotten, we know we have forgotten, but it is not important. It happened hundreds of years ago, and it doesn’t affect me today.

The Nicene Creed is one such forgotten and unimportant historical document. Never mind that it focused the church on the Trinity, set the foundation for theology within the church, and argued against the heresies of the day. If you really believe that it is irrelevant to our life as Christians, and to the life of the church, read it. You will see the necessity of the thoughts involved, and the theology stated. We need this theology today. We cannot emphasize it enough in our worship services, and in our own daily lives. Yes, the Bible is always primary, but the creeds are taken from the scriptures. We need the creeds to remind us of God’s Word, our history, and our ties to that history. For hundreds of years the church has recited this creed in worship, and we need to remember who we are, and from where we have come.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Forever Elsewhere

“We are forever elsewhere.”

In her book, Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle discusses conversation in our digital age. She believes we have lost, not only the ability, but the desire, for face to face conversations.
We eat at home, or out, with a phone in our hands or near us. We may be in a room full of people, and yet texting friends who are miles away. As she says, “We haven’t stopped talking, but we opt out, often unconsciously, of the kind of conversation that requires full attention.” We talk at each other, and listen less. She says, “technology makes emotions easy.” We hope to avoid face to face conflict of any kind, so technology becomes our mask.
The problem we must face within the church is that we are not immune to this. We must have reminders to silence our devices, or turn our phones off during the service. Our focus can be pulled away when a notification pops up onscreen, and suddenly we miss the word preached.
Emotions are not “easy” all the time. If we are to learn and mature we must understand all emotions, and how to deal with them, in ourselves, and others. In the christian life focus is mandatory.Keeping our eyes focused on Christ is a requirement. If you walk on a sidewalk with your head down, only seeing the path at your feet, you walk in a crooked manner. But if your eyes our focused on the sidewalk in front of you, you see much more clearly.
It is technology in this modern era that has caused our culture to be “forever elsewhere”. But in our walk with Christ, it is our unfocused hearts that are the problem. A true follower of Jesus seeks face to face conversation with Him, and with those around them.
When our mind in not focused on the Sunday message, when our hearts are not “in worship”, when we tell a friend we just don’t have time to talk, when we are too busy for prayer and bible study, we suffer. And we suffer, because we are forever elsewhere.