Things really haven’t changed much, it seems …

This is a quote from the The Jugurthine War, written by Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus) about 41 B.C., nine years after he was expelled from the Senate for alleged immorality and approximately six years before he died at the age of fifty-one.

Men have no right to complain that they are naturally feeble and short-lived, or that it is chance and not merit that decides their destiny.  On the contrary, reflection will show that nothing exceeds or surpasses the powers with which nature has endowed mankind, and that it is rather energy they lack than strength or length of days. 

But if the soul is enslaved by base desires and sinks into the corruption of sloth and carnal pleasures, it enjoys a ruinous indulgence for a brief season; then, when idleness has wasted strength, youth, and intelligence, the blame is put on the weakness of our nature, and each man excuses himself for his own shortcomings by imputing his failure to adverse circumstances. If men pursued good things with the same ardor with which they seek what is unedifying and unprofitable — often, indeed, actually dangerous and pernicious — they would control events instead of being controlled by them, and would rise to such heights of greatness and glory that their mortality would put on immortality.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)


Some hardy morsels …

 I came across these quotes while reading a book by George MacDonald entitled Dish of Orts (Orts means a scrap or morsel–I had no idea either:).  He actually used these passages in his own essay on forms of literature and I was so taken with them that I scoured the Internet until I found a scanned-in 1853 edition of Mr. Lynch’s book.  I downloaded it and, using “economy” mode on the printer, printed all 166 pages. 

The first quote brings to my mind the moments of warm recollection, often caused by a simple scent or the fading sun or a cup of coffee, of times spent with brother-books, the ones  we remember as fondly as we do our faithful dogs;  the second, that reading should exist reciprocally with all other parts of life;  and the third, which doesn’t so much make me want to begin reading a biography (it kinda does) as it does review my own story in light of what Mr. Lynch says here.  After all, the payment of self-sacrifice is non-refundable, is it not?  [Read more…]

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, at the post HERE.

Reading List 2008

Last year I offered a suggested reading list of six Christian classics (see it HERE) in order to introduce readers to our great Christian literary heritage and asked simply that you commit before the Lord to read those books. A number of folks did just that, with wonderful results for their lives — having their faith strengthened, their hope renewed, their endurance encouraged, their thinking challenged, and their love of God and his Church deepened.

So, still with some trepidation, I offer for your reading pleasure and further spiritual growth the reading list for 2008:

(JANUARY-FEBRUARY) Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality — What does true, biblical, Christian spirituality, grounded in Christ’s finished work, look like in real, everyday life? How do we live our Christian lives both more effectively and freely, every moment, by the grace of God? These are the sorts of issues Schaeffer characteristically helps us think more clearly and biblically about. Read this book carefully and thoughtfully and it will have a profound effect on your life.

(MARCH-APRIL) Jonathan Edwards’s The Life and Diary of David Brainerd — David Brainerd was a passionate, self-denying, praying man of God, who said on his 24th birthday, “I hardly ever so longed to live to God and to be altogether devoted to Him; I wanted to wear out my life in his service and for his glory ….” That would have been in 1742. In 1743, he gave himself wholeheartedly as a missionary to Native Americans in the northeast. In the fall of 1747, he died of tuberculosis. He was 29 years old. This is a book that will convict our lack of prayer and ignite in us a spirit of prayer.

(MAY-JUNE) J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism — The title says it all: theological liberalism is not the same thing as Christianity! That’s the case Machen argues, and this is a classic book in the great battle for Truth and the true Faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

(JULY-AUGUST) Harry Blamires’s The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? — Blamires was a student of C. S. Lewis and offers to us in this book the basics of a Christian worldview and an understanding of how being a Christian affects the way we think about all kinds of things. Foundational reading!

(SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER) Os Guinness’s When No One Sees: The Importance of Character in an Age of Image — An exploration on how to change the ways we live for good. Chapters include “The Importance of Character,” “Character in the Crucible,” “Cultural Erosions of Character,” “Spiritual Foundations for Strong Character,” and “Heroes of Character.”

(NOVEMBER-DECEMBER) Paul Little’s Know What You Believe — This book is a wonderful summary of the basics of the Christian faith. You might also want to follow this reading with his next, entitled Know Why You Believe.

Once again, this offers a very “do-able” schedule of one book every two months. I encourage you to take the plunge into our greater Christian literary heritage, this aspect of “the communion of the saints,” to hear the instruction of those who’ve gone before us, and then faithfully to pass it on to those who follow.

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.

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!