Books confer an intellectual wealth that cannot be defined—a wealth that is vague and atmospheric, but a wealth that is nevertheless factual and very real. Their value is not due chiefly to the historical information or general knowledge conveyed. An encyclopedia would serve our total needs if this were all we sought in books. But such reading would only make "full" men, as Bacon said, without making ready and overflowing personalities. Books are the repositories of that intellectual enrichment which comes to a man when he finds himself conversant with the deep spiritual and racial experiences of mankind.
No worker can give his best service, nor find his place most effectively in the life and work of people today, without knowing what life and work have meant to men of other days. In books, the recorded experiences of men are exposed to his gaze, telling him in big print not only what others have thought and said and done, but what they have gained or lost by so doing. Through them are revealed to him in action the abiding qualities of moral character and the elemental experiences of the heart—patience, hope, sorrow, love as well as hate and passion—personalized in the current of human living coursing down across the centuries.
The direction of the trends and impulses to which men have yielded, and the clews to the deeper secrets of their emotional struggles and responses are the living substance out of which all worth-while books are created. Consequently they stand like reservoirs of intellectual and spiritual power, ready to be drawn upon by those aersing the intellectual- and spiritual needs of today.
Dr. James H. Snowden, brilliant writer and preacher of our day, when well past eighty years of age, eulogized the beauty and wealth and the cultural power of books in these graphic words:
"Books are boats loaded with a cargo of ideas, the most valuable goods and vital wealth of the world. They come floating down the stream of time, it may be from distant days and far lands and various climes, and bring us freight infinitely more precious than the silks of India, or the spices of Araby, or all the ivory and diamonds and gold of Africa. Yet are they so plentiful and cheap that no one is so poor but may be rich in this treasure. Books are the throbbing brains of thinkers that are gone. They are the vital arteries through which the thoughts and deeds, the visions and victories of men of genius pour into us and throb in our pulses. They crowd the glorious consciousness of these gifted souls into our minds. so that we see through their eyes and think with their thoughts and are strong with their strength and rise on the wings of their spirits.
"Books are battalions of words which in their massed might are charged with mysterious and almost miraculous power of molding and merging many, and even millions, of minds into one thought and purpose and life. They resurrect the past and create the future. The scepters of kings and emperors are puny playthings compared with these magic wands. With all your getting get some good books. Read them, meditate upon them, hug them to your hearts until they soak into your souls and make you wise and rich and strong."
It must be obvious to thoughtful people that the man who has acquired the habit of intelligent reading usually gets a little more out of life. He is also able to put more into life—for books kindle the imagination, and enrich the vocabulary with grace and power. This is a trite statement, but one that needs emphasis and reiteration in the face of the slack reading habits of so many busy workers in our ranks.
People demand more of us, as workers and ministers today, than ever before—and rightly so. The days of illiteracy are gone. The average congregation has a liberal sprinkling of college-trained individuals who expect from ministers flawless style and perfect diction. To them and to many others—especially in our city churches and evangelistic efforts—grammatical errors, awkward constructions, and ignorance of major movements and personalities in the historical, scientific, and literary life of the world are unpardonable.
These are the index of an inadequate preparation which no amount of sincerity and earnestness can fully condone, but they constitute a very definite handicap to leadership in any church or community. No careful minister dares go into his pulpit today with unconfirmed data or carelessly collected-informatinn. Even children in the grades are book and magazine readers, and many of them are surprisingly conversant with world affairs.
Every minister today faces with anxiety an avalanche of books and a growing multitude of readers. He is, or should be, fearful lest he fail to perceive the major trends and currents of modern thought which surge through the literature of today, reach the- minds of his hearers, and distort for them the fundamentals of Christianity. He is anxious lest the wrong implications of science, under the spell of clever writing and subtle literary charm, pervert the judgment of the people and despiritualize their outlook toward God and human destiny.
Dr. John Watson, who touched the emotions of the world with the quaint parish personalities In his book, "Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush," and whose kindling imagination gave glowing warmth and special charm to all he wrote, once told the students at Yale that were he to begin again his life of sermon making, he would give more thought to two special phases of his work. He would seek to enrich his preaching style with more beauty and imagination, and he would add to the content of his sermons more of the comfort and serenity of the gospel message. To command the attention of modern hearers and secure the response he desired, he felt the need of touching everything he said publicly with the light that glows in men's minds only when the Imagination has been struck. He would also stress more positively the comfort of the gospel as he faced a world of sorrow.
And right here is where we can gear into our proclamation of the advent truth the full force and power of truth-laden books as we, a little handful of workers in these troublous times, seek through the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, to open unto the hearts of our fellow men, with all the earnestness of our souls, and all the force of appeal we can command, the matchless beauty and the rich solace of the third angel's message.
[A reprint of these illuminating articles may be obtained in leaflet form, together with a complete list of all Ministerial Reading Course books, by years, upon request to your Book and Bible House, or the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Takoma Park, D.C. ---Editor]