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.