I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually, I get enough to eat or find the right morsel to consume until it is finished.
It makes me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, when I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.
I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well-respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published in 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at people in the ministry. I found a selection that is particularly applicable to everyone who reads, especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.
Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.
Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.
May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it. If our recent crisis has helped you slow down, don’t forget those lessons and apply them to your next great book experience.