A Divine Cordial

I recently finished reading All Things For Good (A Divine Cordial was the original title) by Thomas Watson, who was a 17th-century Puritan preacher. I realize that books written by Puritan authors probably don’t take up much shelf-space in the average modern library. This particular book had banded together with Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor and hunkered down on a corner shelf, bravely representing their brethren among the more glamorously-inked lumber that retains the majority in my own library.

However, Watson’s book providentially made it’s way into my hands not long ago and I was surprised at how forcefully relevant it was to me. Watson lays his expository case out in a logical, easy to follow way, just as you should expect from a preacher. But it’s his recognition and use of rhythm and balance that gives the reader so many truth-encapsulating sentences, sentences that stay with him long after the book is closed. I’m posting some of these very sentences here in hopes that you’ll see what I mean, and perhaps go lug a Puritan out from your own shelf.

Though a Christian has not a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel, yet he has a certain knowledge.  … Let us then not rest in skepticism or doubts, but labor to come to a certainty in the things of religion.

Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us.

If God does not give you that which you like, He will give you that which you need.

God will not be an inmate, to have only one room in the heart, and all the other rooms let out to sin.

He who is in love with God is not much in love with anything else.

What shall we think of such as have never enough of the world?

… may not Christ suspect us, when we pretend to love Him, and yet will endure nothing for Him?

Was His head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses?

Just in case …

If anyone’s been wondering about the movie The Golden Compass or about Philip Pullman’s whole trilogy of books under the title of His Dark Materials, I’ve written a few reflections in a document available on BibleDriven.com, at the post HERE.

A Lament and a Poignant Longing

For many of the image bearers of God in our day being literate is neither a goal nor a possibility. They have been rendered functionally autistic through the diversions of digital media, hyper hedonism, and pseudo-education that is more concerned with indoctrination than with the invocation of the muse, whose presence can transport us to unexplored lands of truth, even to eternity.

The National Endowment for the Arts laments (again) that reading is in steep decline. How can I provoke in my students the love of learning, the thrill of discovery, the discipline of finding, testing, and applying ideas? How can I commend reading over watching or playing? I can attempt to be a model of a literate man–a very imperfect one, who got a late start, and who chronically feels his ignorance. I can pray for them to awaken, to begin to disdain the cave they call a home.

— Douglas Groothuis

The Results of Good Reading…

A friend of ours, Bethany Mendenhall, has posted some thoughts about her recent reading of one of the modern American classics, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, on her blog. In addition to being moved by the story, she made the connection to the importance of the author’s work in its contemporary setting as well as its applicability to today. As a result, she has started a conversation, through comments on the piece, about truth with a couple of readers.

This is what we hope will happen as we read and think and then express these thoughts to others.

Make sure you read Bethany’s post.

It’s Better in Egypt …

 …But what more oft, in nations grown corrupt,                   

    And by their vices brought to servitude,

    Than to love bondage more than liberty,

    Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty…

-John Milton, Samson Agonistes


Americans can still be smart and creative, but the pressure of the times is oriented toward quickness–we want instant messaging, live news breaks, fast food, mobile phoning, and snap judgements.  As a result, we are growing into a shallow people, happy enough with the easy gratifications of mere speed and spectacle in all aspects of life.  Real books are simply too serious for us.  Too slow.  Too hard.  Too long.  Now and again, we may feel that just maybe we’ve short-changed our better selves, that we might have listened to great music, contemplated profoundly moving works of art, read books that mattered, but instead we turned away from them because it was time to tune in to Law and Order reruns, or jack into a Warcraft game on our home computer, or get back to the latest made-for-TV best seller. 

…In short, we turn toward the bright and shiny, the meretricious tinsel, the strings of brightly colored beads for which we exchange our intellectual birthright as for a mess of pottage.  For all too many twenty-first century Americans, only the unexamined life is worth living.

-Michael Dirda, Reading Beyond the Best-Seller List: A Polemic and a Plea

Our books …

Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes:

Christianity has been closely connected with the book and the written word from its inception. Books remain important to Christians — scholars and laypersons alike. We should be thankful that at this historical juncture the book is more accessible than ever. Serious Christians can and should start personal libraries of important and worthy Christian books. Some will be large and some will be small, but each can serve us the way Jerome’s library served him — and blessed the church.

Read this encouraging and thoughtful reflection, entitled “Books, Libraries, and the Ideal of Christian Scholarship,” on his weblog HERE!


“There is a vitiated literary taste, arising not so much from reading what is bad, as from exclusive study of one class of books, and these perhaps the more exciting.  There is also a vitiated spiritual taste, not necessarily growing out of error or the study of unsound books, but arising from favoritism in the reading of Scripture, which shows itself both in the preference of certain parts to others, and in the propensity to search these others only for their references to certain favorite truths.  Let the whole soul be fed by the whole Bible … ”

-Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Holiness

This is a quote I came across that relates to Ken’s post on Dr. Mohler’s refreshingly unpretentious suggestions for reading.  He mentions that he is reading in six different subjects at any given time.  The point is that he reads widely.  Just as we cannot (or should not) read only particular portions of Scripture ( … two chapters in Leviticus is enough, right?) and leave the rest out, so also we should not limit our selections of other books to one or two subjects.  We won’t take to every subject, and some we shouldn’t take to, but we should make an effort with unfamiliar subjects.  We might be surprised by what we find. 

I came across another quote in my reading that fits in here on another level.  Not only should we read widely, we should live widely.  What I mean is that we should interact outside of our comfort zone.  We should not limit our selections of people to one or two “types.”  We won’t take to every type, and some we shouldn’t take to, but we should make an effort with unfamiliar types.  We might be surprised by who we find.

 “The truly wide taste in humanity will … find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet everyday. … Made for us?  Thank God, no.  They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Some Suggested Reading

For those of you looking to expand your library of apologetics and theological books, Spencer Haygood has prepared a list over on his blog site at BibleDriven.com. This is in addition to the recommended list for 2007 posted on this site earlier this year. See the links to both in the Links list on the right hand side of this page.

Suggestions From A Legendary Reader

Among the things for which Dr. Albert Mohler is known is his library and his voracious reading habit. I saw a video clip of him in his library once…his collection of books is measured in thousands. His blog today (a republishing of an earlier post) offers some tips on reading that are worth noting. Read his suggestions here.

Happy reading!