Trinity College Library (Ireland)

[Adapted from Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory of 1673]

Because God has made available the excellent, holy writings of his servants; and many may have a good book, on any day or at any hour of the week, even those who have no access to a good preacher – I advise all God’s servants to be thankful for so great a gift as books, and to make use of them, and to read much. For reading can be more conducive to knowledge than hearing is, because you may choose what subjects, and the best treatises, you please; and you may read as often as you please; and you may peruse again and again whatever you forget; and you may take your time as you go, to fix it in your mind. And as is the case with very many, reading does more than hearing to move the heart – because lively books may be more easily accessed than lively preachers.

Especially these sorts of men and women should be much in reading:

  1. Mothers and Fathers, or heads of households, who have more souls to care for than just their own.
  2. People who live where there is no preaching; or, where there is only bad preaching. (Bad preaching is even worse than none!)
  3. Infirmed people, 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, since they have more leisure than others have.

To all these, but especially to parents, 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 graphic romance novels or “love-books”, and the false, bewitching and seducing books of all false teachers; and the railing books by various factions written against each other, on purpose, to teach men to hate one another. For where these are allowed to corrupt the mind, other useful writings are forestalled in their benefits. It is an awful wonder to see how powerfully these kinds of writings poison the minds of children, and of many other empty heads.

Also refrain from books that are written by contemporary “sons of Korah“; those written to breed distastes and discontents in the minds of the people against their governors – both magistrates and ministers. For there is always something, even in the best leaders, for the tongues of seditious men to fasten on, and then to aggravate in the people’s ears and minds; and there is something even in godly people, which tempts them all too easily to become ill-tempered,  then to take aim and take fire, before they are aware of what they are doing. Rarely do most people, even godly people, foresee the evil to which such treachery leads.

Direction 2 – When you read to your family, or to others, let it be seasonably and timely – at a time when silence and participation are most likely to bear fruit; 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 condition, or to the spiritual condition of those you read to. It is worse than unprofitable to read books designed for comforting troubled minds to those that are block-headedly self-secure, and who have hardened, obstinate, un-humbled hearts. It is just as bad as a physician giving medicines or remedies that are contrary to a patient’s need, and that would actually nourish the disease! So it is to read books that are too high-a-style, or subject too deep, to dull or ignorant hearers. We use to say: “That which is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison.” It is not enough that the substance is good – but it must be agreeable to the situation for which it is used.

Direction 4 – In a common family, begin with those books which both, and at once, inform the understanding about the fundamentals of the faith and awaken the affections of the heart, such as treatises about 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.

“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, 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 of 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 or to your families) some larger expositions of the Apostles’ 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 be limited to a mere general knowledge, which, in truth, is not as valuable as genuine understanding.

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

A Prayer for the New Year

January 3, 2016

Cades Cove Snow

O Lord, Length of days does not profit me
except the days that are passed in Your presence,
in Your service, to Your glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Your Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbor,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.

May Thy fear by my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

~ adapted from Valley of Vision

 

Pure Puritan

January 20, 2011

What is your view of the Puritans?  If you are like many people you may not think much of them.

Tim Keller maintains that the Puritans offer us great practical insights. In an article for CCEF, titled Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling, Keller elaborates on these insights:

  1. The Puritans were committed to the functional authority of the Scripture. For them it was the comprehensive manual for dealing with all problems of the heart.
  2. The Puritans developed a sophisticated and sensitive system of diagnosis for personal problems, distinguishing a variety of physical, spiritual, tempermental and demonic causes.
  3. The Puritans developed a remarkable balance in their treatment because they were not invested in any one ‘personality theory’ other than biblical teaching about the heart.
  4. The Puritans were realistic about difficulties of the Christian life, especially conflicts with remaining, indwelling sin.
  5. The Puritans looked not just at behavior but at underlying root motives and desires. Man is a worshipper; all problems grow out of ‘sinful imagination’ or idol manufacturing.
  6. The Puritans considered the essential spiritual remedy to be belief in the gospel, used in both repentance and the development of proper self-understanding.

Reading the Puritans is not always easy. But thanks to Banner of Truth Trust there are number of Puritan materials offered in revised editions. Many of them are abridged. Most, if not all of them, are translated into more contemporary English. Check out Puritan Paperbacks. These are rich resources for spiritual formation.

Ecstasy & Delight

December 16, 2009

Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification.

We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones…

The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers…

By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Romans 5.5)… because the Lord has made himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made the joyful partakers of it.

– John Flavel (1630-1691)

heavens.jpg  

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” – Galatians 1:10.   

 At this time of the year most of us see the opportunity for a new start. Whether you are one who makes New Years Resolutions or not, there seems to be the sense of “Do Over” that comes almost as soon as that ball drops in Times Square, and the Bowl season begins to make way for the roundball & puck.   

The question cited at the top of this post was posed by the Apostle Paul.  His question raises another, more fundamental question: Who are we to live to please?  I hope that question will be given consideration for this new year (and every year).  

It would not be appropriate to suppose Paul suggests that affirmation from the people around you is a bad thing. On many occasions he expresses his thankfulness for having been well received, for the friendships with many among whom he lived and ministered.  Yet, his question should remind us, as the Westminster Catechism says, “The primary purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God”. 

While earning esteem at work, in your neighborhood, or among family members is often a good thing, Paul reminds us that when this is our driving motivation we are often out of accord with the very purpose for which we are created, and for which we are redeemed.   

So how do we know when we are falling into this? (Yes, when, not if.)   

The great English Puritan, Richard Baxter, provides us with some thoughts, and exhorts us: “See therefore that you live for God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and as that will suffice you.”

You may discover yourself by these signs: 

1. You will be careful to understand the Scripture, to know what pleases and displeases God

2. You will be more careful in the doing of every task, to fit it to the pleasure of God rather than men.

3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your goals, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.

4. You will look to secret duties as well as public, and to that which men do not see as well as those which they see.

5. You will revere your conscience, paying close attention to it, and not slighting it; when it tells you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when it tells you of His approval, it will comfort you.

6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious (holy) in order to please God, not proud and ambitious for your honor among men, nor impious against the pleasing of God.

7. Whether men are pleased or displeased, how they judge you or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interests, in comparison to God’s judgment. You don’t live for them. You can bear their displeasure, and comments, if God is pleased. 

These will be your evidences.