My Books are My Wealth

All our contributory reading should be designed to strengthen us in faith and experience, that we may be greater men of God, and more efficient ministers of His word.

By VARNER J. JOHNS, Pastor, Loma Linda, California

My books are a treasure chest, stored with gems of thought and gold of wisdom gathered by others, and given to me for my enrichment. My library is more than a shelf of books. I am not alone in my study. Men are gathered about me for my counsel and encouragement—great men, wise men, understanding men.

Prophets speak to me. There is Moses, the prince of historians, poets, and philosophers. Isaiah, the prophet of hope, thrills me. Paul, the illustrious apostle, inspires me through the pages of my wonderful Bible. Leaders of the Reformation period sit beside me while I read. The indomitable Luther talks to me, the spirit-filled Wesley encourages me, the wise Newton teaches me. The men of the message are in my study. Andrews, Smith, Spicer, Daniells, Wilcox, and many more aid me in my search for knowledge. The Great Counselor is there to guide me in wisdom through the pages of His Book. And second only to the Book of books, are the writings of the Spirit of proph­ecy, which are there for my edification and counsel.

Let me list some of my book counselors. I have the Authorized Version and other help­ful versions of the Bible. Among them all, I enjoy Weymouth's most. In the study of the Word, I find a comprehensive concordance indispensable. How often I have sought cer­tain words in the original and found their meaning and pronunciation in Strong's Con­cordance with its Hebrew and Greek originals. Next to my concordance are commentaries. Above them all for beauty of expression, wealth of meaning, and reliability in interpre­tation are the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. Ever refreshing, ever inspiring, I value them more and more with the passing of the years.

Doctor Clarke's commentary is often in use on my desk. A six-volume set of Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown is one of my most valued contributors to knowledge. A first edition of Matthew Henry is most helpful on certain sub­jects. Joseph Benson adds his testimony in the interpretation of texts. There is James G. Murphy on the book of Exodus, unsur­passed in his clear delineation of the law and the Sabbath. There are commentaries on the books of Hebrews, Romans, and other Bible books. And Olshausen throws a flood of light on the New Testament. Only a short time ago I looked in Volume IV of Olshausen for his comment on the expression, "the first fruits," and found in addition his comment on the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It is thrilling for a preacher to read words like these:

"But Christ being security for our resurrection, the first fruits only of those who slept, the resur­rection had commenced with him. Regarded from our modern point of view the idea is startling; it would seem that the apostle might be answered : if the body is not raised, assuredly the spirit of man may yet continue to exist ; and for him it is not indifferent whether the life of the man has been one of stern self-denial, or self-indulgence. But the apostle by no means recognizes the possibility of existence as a pure spirit without bodily organs ; the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the name are alike unknown to the entire Bible ; and indeed with Justice, because a personal consciousness in created beings necessarily presupposes the limita­tions of body."

I have a predilection for the older books. Many of the modern commentators deal falsely with the Scriptures. Modernists destroy the foundations of faith. Many so-called Funda­mentalists destroy the harmony of the Word by wild, tangent interpretations of Scripture. I do not, of course, accept all that Clarke and Benson tell me, but these men revered the inspiration, historicity, and certainty of the Scriptures. Their interpretations are, for the most part, in harmony with the Word. I honor them for it.

Many of my counselors are men who lived a hundred years ago, Even now, I glance over my desk, and there is a volume of Bishop Thomas Newton, with 1835 stamped upon the title page. His work on prophecy follows closely the more illustrious Sir Isaac Newton. Other old friends look down upon me from my shelf of books. There is Thomas Horne (1825), and his marvelous work on the proofs of the genuineness, authenticity, and inspira­tion of the Scriptures, his description of the manuscripts and the harmonies and analysis of Scripture. There is Thomas Robinson (1793) with his delightful reflection on Scripture characters. There is Charles Buck (1853) with his definitions of religious terms and an impartial description of the Adventists of 1844. There is John Dowling (1845) with his History of Romanism, graphically illus­trated with old steel engravings. There is a two-volume set of Wesley's sermons, dated 1842, with their unsurpassed exaltation of the law of God. There are the sermons of George Whitefield (1837). And so the list goes on.

For a Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical cyclopedia, nothing equals that of McClintock and Strong, to my mind. Read, for example, the article on "Mariolatry," and you will have a wealth of material on this subject. In the more limited field of Biblical literature, Kitto's "Cyclopedia" is helpful to me. In church history, I have on my shelves Neander, Mosheim, Kurtz, Summerbell, D'Aubigne, Wylie, Abbott.

A preacher need not spend a fortune on his library. There are, indeed, rare books for which we are willing to pay a large sum. Many valuable books, however, may be found at a reasonable price by one who seeks. In a Goodwill. store I found a set of Geikie's "Hours With the Bible," Edersheim's "Life and Times of Jesus," and Jones' "The Two Republics." I was looking through a shelf of books in a second-hand furniture store and I discovered, "The Conflict of Christianity With Heathenism" by Uhlhorn. Sometimes a rare book will cost little more than a copy of some magazine. The money I save by not taking several daily papers buys many a book for my library. The weekly or monthly news-re­view magazines are more reliable anyway.

There are sermon volumes—Talmage, Chap­man, Moody, Spurgeon, Chalmers, Robert Hall, Murray, Finney. There are books on special subjects—junior sermons, chapel talks, "making good" talks for young people, and books on character. There are books on Christian evidences, on archeology, on Mod­ernism, by such writers as Leander S. Keyser, Melvin Grove Kyle, William B. Riley, Harry Rimmer, and Dan Gilbert. There are books on temperance by Frances E. Willard and others, books on Romanism by Hislop, Edgar, and others, and biographies of great ministers. Books by G. Campbell Morgan are much-prized volumes in my library.

On the shelves I see many books which will in time be eliminated. I think of many others that I wish I had. There is Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," for example. We must be selective in our choice of books. Someone has said that we do not have time even to read all the good books—only the superior books. The cultivated mind is the measure of the man. We are a part of all we read. The books we read make a "record" of the brain. This "record" speaks to the members of our church, the youth in our schools. How careful we must be to shun the poisonous darts of Modernistic doubt. We are commissioned rightly to divide the word of truth. Seeking for truth, as for priceless treasure, is our mission. The word of truth must be the center of all our study. Men who reverence, exalt, and love it, are worthy of our respect and our time. Others may better be kept from our libraries.

Books on archeology strengthen our faith in God's word. The study of chronology, church history, and secular history also con­firms our faith in the Word. Nature books speak to us of the creative power of God. All our contributory reading should be designed to strengthen us in faith and experience, that we may be greater men of God, and more efficient ministers of His word.


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By VARNER J. JOHNS, Pastor, Loma Linda, California

November 1938

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