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The value of a good book

Category Articles
Date April 26, 2002

THE VALUE OF A GOOD BOOK

When Dr James Stalker gave the nine Yale Lectures on Preaching in 1891, which were subsequently published by Hodder and Stoughton under the title “The Preacher and His Models”, he drew to his conclusion with these words:

A student ought, while at college, to make himself master of at least one or two of the great books of the Christian centuries in which Christianity is exhibited as a whole by a master mind. If I may be allowed to mention my own experience, it happened to me, more by chance, perhaps, than wise choice, to master, when I was a student … John Owen’s work on “The Holy Spirit.” It exhibits Christianity entire, and I learned it almost by heart, as one does a text-book. I was not then thinking much of subsequent benefit; but I can say that it has been ever since a quarry out of which I have dug, and probably I have hardly ever preached a sermon which has not exhibited traces of its influence.

There is another valuable result which will follow from the early mastery of books of this kind. You will be laying the foundation of the habit of what may be called Great Reading, by which I mean the systematic study of great theological works in addition to the special reading for the work of each Sunday. Week by week a conscientious minister has to do an immense amount of miscellaneous reading in commentaries, dictionaries, etc. in connection with the discourses in hand; but, in addition to this, he should be enriching the subsoil of his mind by larger efforts in wider fields. It is far from easy to carry this on in a busy pastorate; and it is almost impossible unless the foundation has been laid in early days of study.

[John Owen’s book on The Holy Spirit has recently been reprinted by the Banner of Truth in a readable contemporary paperback edition of 208 pages]

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