Be Careful of What you Read

II Kings 4:39,40
      And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered therefore of wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not…and it came to pass as they were eating the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.

WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): When you read, select your authors with care, taking chiefly such as are of long and well-established reputation.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): If you read the Babylonian books of the present day, you will catch their spirit, and it is a foreign one, which will draw you aside from the Lord your God. You may also get great harm from divines in whom there is much pretence of the Jerusalem dialect, but their speech is half of Ashdod: these will confuse your minds and defile your faith. It may chance that a book which is upon the whole excellent, which has a little taint about it, may do you more mischief than a thoroughly bad one. Be careful; for works of this kind come forth from the press like clouds of locusts. Scarcely can you find in these days a book which is quite free from the modern leaven, and the least particle of it ferments till it produces the wildest error. In reading books of the new order, though no palpable falsehood may appear, you are conscious of a twist being given you, and of a sinking in the tone of your spirit; therefore be on your guard.

J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): It is not good to be much conversant with error, even though the object be to refute it; it is disturbing, if not defiling. Private and unlettered Christians, who value their own peace, will not willingly hear preachers, or read books, which inculcate error.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): The things you read will fashion you by slowly conditioning your mind.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): The chastity of the mind is its soundness in the faith. And this they are in danger to lose who will go into all companies, and lend an ear to all doctrines that are preached. First be a hearer, and then a disciple of them. Many indulge themselves so far in this curiosity of conversing with every sect and opinion, that at last they turn skeptics, and can settle upon nothing as truth.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Now I am grown old I am cautious of recommending books. I advise everybody to study the Scriptures with prayer, to draw from the fountain-head, and to examine and try the writings of men by the infallible standard, and not to pay too implicit a regard to the sentiments of great authors or preachers. The best are defective, and the wisest may be mistaken…The Bible is the fountain from whence every stream that deserves our notice is drawn; and, though we may occasionally pay some attention to the streams…the purest streams are not wholly freed from the ‘gout de terroir’—a twang of the soil through which they run; a mixture of human infirmity is inseparable from the best human composition; but in the fountain the truth is unmixed.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Let not authority from man, but evidence from the Word, conclude thy judgment; that is but a shore, this a foundation. Quote the Scripture rather than men for thy judgment. Not, so saith such a learned holy man; but, thus saith the holy Scripture. Yet take heed of bending this direction too far the other way, which is done when we condemn the judgment of such whose piety and learning might command reverence. There is surely a mean to be found betwixt defying men and deifying them. It is the admiring of persons that forms the traitor to truth, and make many cry “Hosanna” to error, and “crucify” to truth.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): Too much respect to man was one of the inlets of popery.

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): I do not mean to depreciate the labours of those who have commented on the sacred writings; but we may read expositors, and consult critics, while the “spirit and life” of the Word utterly escapes us. A tender, humble, holy frame is perhaps of more importance to our entering into the mind of the Holy Spirit than all other means united. It is thus that, by “an unction from the Holy One, we know all things.”

GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): Learned commentaries I have found to store the head, with many notions and often also with the truth of God; but when the Spirit teaches, through the instrumentality of prayer and meditation, the heart is affected. The former kind of knowledge generally puffs up, and is often renounced, when another commentary gives a different opinion, and often also is found good for nothing, when it is to be carried out in practise. The latter kind of knowledge generally humbles, gives joy, leads us nearer to God, and is not easily reasoned away; and having been obtained from God, and thus having entered into the heart, and become our own, is also generally carried out.

THOMAS ADAM (1701-1784): The eager reading of even religious books may be dangerous, and a hindrance to those who are aiming at the true spirit of religion, if they have recourse to them instead of God.

C. H. SPURGEON: Yes; and I may add, that to forego your Bible reading for the perusal even of good books would soon bring a conscious descending of the soul.

GEORGE MÜLLER: I fell into the snare, into which so many young believers fall, the reading of religious books in preference to the Scriptures…and thus, like many believers, I practically preferred, for the first four years of my [converted] life, the works of uninspired men to the oracles of the living God. The consequence was, that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace. In knowledge I say; for all true knowledge must be derived by the Spirit, from the Word. And as I neglected the Word, I was for nearly four years so ignorant, that I did not clearly know even the fundamental points of our holy faith. And this lack of knowledge most sadly kept me back from walking steadily in the ways of God…If any believers read this, who practically prefer other books to the Holy Scriptures, and who enjoy the writings of men much more than the Word of God, may they be warned by my loss.

C. H. SPURGEON: Do you attach no weight to this advice? This advice is more needed now than almost at any other time, for the number of persons who read the Bible, I believe, is becoming smaller every day. Persons read the views of their denomination as set forth in the periodicals, they read the views of their leader as set forth in his sermons or his works, but the Book, the good old Book, the divine fountain-head from which all revelation wells up—this is too often left. You may go to human puddles, until you forsake the clear crystal stream which flows from the throne of God. Read the books, by all manner of means…Search the human literature, if you will, but especially stand fast by that Book which is infallible, the revelation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


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