"What are those ministers to do who have a slender apparatus? By a slender apparatus I mean that they have few books, and little or no means wherewith to purchase more. This is a state of things which ought not to exist in any case."
Charles Spurgeon, Letters to My Students
I love books. I preached a message several years ago that I titled, "Read Books," and I believe that reading is an important spiritual discipline. There are a couple of interesting blog posts related to reading. T.B. Vick has an obsession with books, and a bookseller in Kansas City has a particularly morbid way to promote reading. Though I wouldn't say my apparatus is particularly "thin," I am becoming more and more frustrated at just how many books I need to buy but just can't afford. Ben Meyer's list of must-read theology books is only adding to my frustration. What am I to do?
Spurgeon gives seven suggestions to those with a slim apparatus:
- Purchase only the very best. "If he cannot spend much, let him spend well."
- Master those books you have. "A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them, as the classic proverb puts it "As the dogs drink of Nilus."
- Do a little judicious borrowing. By judicious, Spurgeon means that you must return your books to their lenders if you hope to borrow more. Libraries are my friend. (I just feel like I can't thoroughly digest a book without being able to make notes in the margin.)
- Spend much time with the most important book, the Bible. It is so easy to become consumed with books about the Bible that we fail to turn to the Bible itself. One goal of theological reading should be that when we return to the biblical text we are able to read with greater understanding.
- Make up for lack of books by much thought. "Without thinking, reading cannot benefit the mind."
- Keep your eyes open. Be observant of your world.
- Learn from people around you:
- Study yourself. "Study the Lord's dealings with your own souls, and you will know more of His ways with others."
- Read other people. "A man who has had a sound practical experience in thing of God Himself, and watched the hearts of his fellows, other things being equal, will be a far more useful man than he who knows only what he has read."
- Learn from experienced saints.
- Learn from inquirers
- Learn from those who are about to die.
And we might well add reading blogs.