I, like many of you, love books – new ones, old ones. Some of my co-laborers (i.e., partners-in-crime), the Buz Grahams and Doug Powells of this fair city, have turned their love of McKay’s book hunting into a contact sport. Other compatriots, such as Hank Stuart, especially like really old ones – not just reprints of old books, but books with some age and wear on them – books that could tell a story, along with the story on their pages.
I have a few old books, actual antiquarian specimens. I have a very cool old Latin edition of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, made even more special because my dear friend, Pastor David Cassidy of Redeemer PCA in Austin, who gave it to me as a gift. I have a couple of first editions of Spurgeon sermon collections. I even have a 1790 Scottish edition of JE’s 1746 Freedom of the Will. I have a first edition of Charles Hodge’s 1873 Systematic Theology I picked up in London many years ago, along with a couple of other first edition pieces from the Old Princeton theologians. Sometimes, these books make me sneeze – allergies. Maybe, I’ll add some posts about these down the road.
Not my allergies.
The old books.
All this is to say that, whether in antiquarian original editions, used copies, ornew reprints, we can really be helped by old books. I could say more about that, but why me when you can have C.S. Lewis? Below is a link to Phil Johnson’s site, where the entire text of Athanasius’ On the Incarnation can be read online. Included is Lewis’ excellent and famous preface, that is a classic in its own right…
On the Reading of Old Books
Allow me to draw out a few morsels (my favorite is the last one), followed by the link to the whole:
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.”
“This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.”
“Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet.”
“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”
“For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”
By the way, if you want a quick overview of the life and impact of Athanasius, click below to go to an article I did for Reformation21 a few years ago: