Monday, December 19, 2005

Baxter on Choosing Books


This quote has come to mind more than once today, for different reasons, and so I thought I'd share it with you.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691):

"Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church . . . but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings."

1. As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavors of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.

2. The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preaches it to the ear. Vocal preaching has the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it: this way the milk comes warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher when you have but a average one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day. and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the 'Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.

3. You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse: for among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively; and some good, but mediocre, and weak and somewhat dull; and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautious, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak.

Baxter's Guide To The Value Of A Book

While reading ask oneself:

1. Could I spend this time no better?

2. Are there better books that would edify me more?

3. Are the lovers of such a book as this the greatest lovers of the Book of God and of a holy life?

4. Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come?

9 Comments:

Blogger Eric M Schumacher said...

Just happened upon your blog. Thanks for posting this. Great reminder from Baxter. He is good for that.

8:55 PM  
Blogger missmellifluous said...

What are you reading at the moment Kim?

9:23 PM  
Anonymous hannah said...

When a quote comes to mind for me, usually it is much shorter and not so profound :)
Thanks for the post.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

Hi Eric,

Welcome! I'm glad you stumbled onto my blog and were encouraged by Baxter. He IS "good for that."

Hi mm,

Right now I have about a dozen pages of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" to finish before we go see the movie on Friday or Saturday, I am just starting in earnest "The Deliberate Church" by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander (although I have read selected chapters and portions in a haphazard kind of way while my husband was reading it. . .) and I am in and out of "The Works of Jonathan Edwards" on a daily basis. I usually have more than one book going at a time.

When I finish re-reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe I plan to re-read "A Christmas Carol". With my son and mother coming on Thursday for Christmas and two church bulletins to do this week, I doubt if I'll get it finished before Christmas.

Oh, Hannah! I hope you know that I don't have that quotation memorized! But I do have it stored in my Palm along with hundreds of other quotes and passages, so when I have a few minutes and am "bookless" I turn to those and so they have become familiar friends.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Ah, now there's a friendly corner!

Great quote!

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Allyson said...

I just finished the most wonderful book that meets all those criteria. The Castle on the Hill, by Elizabeth Goudge. Out of print, of course, but you can find it online at Amazon or Ebay. she's so good for the soul!

12:12 PM  
Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Allyson!

What type of book is it? I can't tell by the title.

Tell us more!

12:38 PM  
Anonymous allyson said...

It's a novel written in 1941 about the war and how it affects the lives of several characters. Really interesting because as it was written during the war, the outcome and eventual victory for Britain was still only something hoped for. It's very brave, honest, noble, and full of trust in God's provision.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

Did I ever tell you about my Civil War children's book I started four or five years ago (and never finished. . .). It sounds like the kind of story I was struggling to tell.

I've thought about going back and revisiting that project, but one of the boys (who will remain nameless) re-formatted the disk I had all my research on so I'd have to start all over. Sigh.

4:52 PM  

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