Declarations from the Past Provide Wisest Counsel for the Present
There is a quote from England’s Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, of the late 19th century that has been a guiding light for my work. Spurgeon wrote, “The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted; he who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”
A professor of mine once asked me where all the money in the world could be found. Not sure of my answer, I responded, “In banks, I suppose.” He smiled and said, “You are right. So where is all the knowledge in the world to be found?” I replied, “In books?” Again he smiled and affirmed I had given the correct answer, but this time adding an exhortation, saying, “You need to read, read, and read. Make as many withdrawals in your life as possible.”
The love of reading good books has kept me on a quest for them for years. Although there are excellent writers of today, I find those of earlier days the most interesting, especially when the subject matter is theology. So many of them demonstrate incredible “wordsmithing” skill – their ability to pack so much content in one sentence – the turn of a phrase – the emotion and passion conveyed – the flow and rhythm of their words – sometimes their use of great poetry or literature of the past – their faithfulness to the truth – makes me hungry for more and more.
The best divinity books in my library are those that have been out of print for decades – books – believe it or not – that I found when visiting antique stores. While my wife was swooning over some turn of the century lamp, I was rapturous over the discovery of some volume by a Christian author currently unknown or long-forgotten.
Recently I found just such a gem with the title, “One Hundred Great Texts and Their Treatment,” a Sermon Helps book edited by Rev. Frederick Barton, with a copyright of 1914, and published by Harper and Brothers, New York and London. Each chapter contained suggested materials for preparing a good sermon on various subjects taken from a hundred passages of Scripture.
One chapter was about the Bible, the Word of God. The quotes recorded therein were so wide-ranging and of such weight on the subject, I cannot resist sharing them. These declarations from the past provide us with wise counsel for the present. I have placed them under headings with the hope that one might find these excerpts as instructive and meaningful as I found them.
The Bible’s Use and Purpose
“The Bible is not a charm, that, keeping it on our shelves or locking it up in a closet, can do us any good. Neither is it a story book to read for amusement. It is sent to teach us our duty to God and man; to show us from what a height we are fallen by sin, and to what a far more glorious height we may soar, if we will put on the wings of faith and love. This is the use we ought to make of the Bible. If we use the Bible thus, Christ will open our eyes to see the way. He will send you wings and they shall bear you up to heaven.”
-A. W. Hare
The Bible’s Power for Right Living
“I am full of fear for the best man if he neglects his Bible. He is almost certain to fall before the enemy. Amid these last days’ perils there is no safe-guard but in the word of God.”
-D. L. Moody
“What sinful men up and down this world want is not more teaching as to what they ought to do and be, in higher ideals and fresh examples, but power which energizes the will to do its duty. For some reason which never fails to move men with awe, God has been pleased in all these years to communicate most largely his impulse and irresistible energy through these vital pages…”
-John R. Mott
The Bible and the Church
“Those churches which are most formal and lifeless, and which, apparently, lack propagating power, are those which are the most ignorant of these writings. Here is vitality: ‘Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ ‘My words are spirit, and they are life.’”
-John R. Mott
The Bible and Social Progress
“When the Bible goes down the red flag goes up. Without the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, you leave society at the mercy of a sea full of moral privateers. Statesmanship is never so short-sighted as when it hedges against the Bible, one of whose constantly reiterated doctrines is respect for magistrates and administrative authority. And labor and industry are nothing else than purblind, when they tolerate indictments against that volume whose chief theme and inspiration are the life, the words and the deeds of Jesus the Carpenter.”
-Dr. William Porcher Du Bose
The Bible and Civic Welfare
“The more the Bible is put into the minds and hearts and daily lives of the people, the less concern we may have with respect to our political laws. Take out of our lives the Scriptures and you would strike an irreparable blow to our national progress, and to those high ideals which we associate with America and Americans.”
-Charles W. Fairbanks
The Bible and Liberty
“Put the Bible in countries where tyranny and injustice have long held sway and the inevitable fruitage in God’s good time will be liberty, democracy, justice and brotherhood.”
A popular refrain of our time says, “Let us not go back, but let us continue to move forward.” May I suggest that in many matters of modern day living, we have too often, too much, and for too long, neglected or forgotten timeless truths that are the only means for really moving forward. While voices of the present continue to insist that we are headed in the right direction, voices from the past tell us that we are actually losing ground.
Our current experiences and circumstances also testify to the error of our ways.
It is foolish to think that because something is old that it isn’t relevant – that it is obsolete.
Within the dusty pages of a book found on the shelf of an antique store is a record of eloquent remarks from those who call to us from the past. They speak to us from the dead. They tell us of another Book – one that transcends the generations – one that warns us of pitfalls and precipices – one that addresses our greatest needs – one that made our forefathers a people of strength, character, prosperity and blessing to the entire world. And they admonish us to dust off the cover of that ageless Book and return to it.
I can hear them. Can you?
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