Directions for Reading Christian Books

“Because God has made the excellent, holy writings of his servants, the singular blessing of this land and age; and many may have a good book, even any day or hour of the week, who cannot at all have a good preacher — I advise all God’s servants to be thankful for so great a mercy, and to make use of it, and be much in reading. For reading, with most, does more conduce to knowledge than hearing does, because you may choose what subjects and the most excellent treatises you please; and may be often at it, and may peruse again and again what you forget, and may take time as you go to fix it on your mind. And with very many, reading does more than hearing also to move the heart — because lively books may be more easily accessed than lively preachers.

Especially these sorts of men should be much in reading:

1. Masters of families, who have more souls to care for than their own.

2. People who live where there is no preaching; or bad preaching — which is worse than none!

3. Poor people, and servants, and children, who are forced on many Lord’s days to stay at home, while others have the opportunity to hear the Word preached.

4. And non-working persons that have more leisure than others have.

To all these, but especially masters of families, I shall here give a few directions.

Direction 1. I presuppose that you keep the devil’s books out of your hands and house. I mean cards, and idle tales, and play-books, and romances or love-books, and false, bewitching stories, and the seducing books of all false teachers, and the railing or scorning books which the men of several sects and factions write against each other, on purpose to teach men to hate one another, and banish love. For where these are allowed to corrupt the mind — all grave and useful writings are forestalled; and it is a wonder to see how powerfully these poison the minds of children, and many other empty heads.

Also refrain from books that are written by the sons of Korah, to breed distastes and discontents in the minds of the people against their governors, both magistrates and ministers. For there is something in the best rulers, for the tongues of seditious men to fasten on, and to aggravate in the people’s ears; and there is something even in godly people, which tempts them too easily to take fire and be distempered before they are aware; and they foresee not the evil to which it tends.

Direction 2. When you read to your family, or others, let it be seasonably and gravely, when silence and attendance encourage you to expect success; and not when children are crying or talking, or servants bustling to disturb you. Distraction is worst, in the greatest businesses.

Direction 3. Choose such books as are most suitable to your state, or to those you read to. It is worse than unprofitable, to read books for comforting troubled minds, to those that are blockishly secure, and have hardened, obstinate, unhumbled hearts. It is as bad as to give medicines or remedies contrary to the patient’s need, and such as nourish the disease. So is it to read books of too high a style or subject, to dull and ignorant hearers. We use to say: That which is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison. It is not enough that the matter is good — but it must be agreeable to the case for which it is used.

Direction 4. To a common family begin with those books, which at once inform the judgment about the fundamentals, and awaken the affections to entertain them and improve them. Such as are treatises of regeneration, conversion, or repentance.

Remember that they are not the most learned, who read most — but those who read that which is most necessary and profitable.

Direction 5. Next these, read over those books which are most suited to the state of young Christians for their growth in grace, and for their exercise of faith, and love, and obedience, and for the mortifying of selfishness, pride, sensuality, worldliness, and other the most dangerous sins.

Direction 6. At the same time labor to methodize your knowledge; and to that end read first and learn some short catechism, and then some larger catechism. And let the catechism be kept in memory while you live, and the rest be thoroughly understood.

Direction 7. Next read (to yourselves or families) the larger expositions of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Ten Commandments; such as Thomas Watson on the Commandments; that your understanding may be more full, particular, and distinct, and your families may not stop in generals, which are not understood.

Direction 8. Read much those books which direct you in a course of daily communion with God, and holy ordering your daily life.”

Richard Baxter, Christian Directory

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God’s Arrows Never Miss

“God is a righteous judge–and God is angry with the wicked every day!” (Psalm 7:11)

“God not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no ignorant or indifferent God to deal with; He can be angry, nay, He is angry today and everyday with you–you ungodly and impenitent sinners! The best day that ever dawns on a sinner, brings a curse with it. From the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which God’s oven is not hot, and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as stubble before Him!”

“If he does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready!” (Psalm 7:12)

“What blows are those which will be dealt by that long-uplifted omnipotent arm! God’s sword has been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will not repent, it will speedily cut us in pieces! Turn or burn is the sinner’s only alternative.” 

“He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts!” (Psalm 7:13)

“Even now God’s thirsty arrow longs to wet itself with the blood of the ungodly! His bow is bent, His aim is taken, His arrow is fitted to the string–and what, O sinner, if the arrow should be let fly at you even now! Remember, God’s arrows never miss the mark, and are, every one of them, ‘instruments of death.’ Judgment may tarry, but it will not come too late. The Greek proverb says, ‘The mill of God grinds slowly–but grinds to powder!’ “

– Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David

Your Life Preaches All The Week

“Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this, for your sermons last but an hour or two–but your life preaches all the week!

If Satan can only make a covetous minister a lover of praise, of pleasure, of good eating–he has ruined your ministry.

In great measure, according to the purity and graces of the instrument, will be success. It is not great talents God blesses, so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an powerful weapon in the hand of God!”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Beloved, What Is Heaven?

“Beloved, what is Heaven? What is the final glory of the saints? It is the best place, the richest inheritance provided by the Father for the people ransomed and redeemed by the precious blood of His dear Son! And when we enter there, we shall enter as children welcomed to a Father’s home! It will be the best that God can give us! He will bestow upon us, who deserved the least–the best in His power to bestow: the best Savior, the best robe, the best banquet, the best inheritance. In Heaven, there will be nothing more to taint, nothing more to sully, nothing more to embitter, nothing more to wound, no serpent to beguile, no Eve to ensnare, no spoiler to destroy, no sin to defile, no adversity to sadden, no misunderstanding to alienate, no tongue to defame, no suspicion to chill, no tear, no sickness, no death, no parting. It will be the best part of the pure, radiant, glorified universe which God will assign to His redeemed people!Let the prospect cheer, sanctify, and comfort you! It will not be long that you are to labor and battle here on earth. It is but a little while that you are to occupy your present sphere of conflict, of trial, and of sorrow. The time is coming–oh, how fast it speeds! Soon the Lord Jesus Christ will bring you home to Heaven!”

Octavius Winslow

Whatever Sin Offers, God Offers More

“The invitation of the Bible is not to dreary abstinence. It’s a call to find in God that which truly satisfies. It’s believing that we find lasting fulfillment, satisfaction, joy, and identity in knowing God and nowhere else.  Whatever sin offers, God offers more, for God offers us himself. God isn’t just good, he’s better–better than everything else–and the true source of all joy.”

– Tim Chester, You Can Change, p.85