I recently came across a statement in a book that I am reading by J. C. Ryle that gripped my heart. Ryle noted–mind you, years before the turn of the 19th century–that he lived “in an age of reading.”
What most forcefully commanded my attention was the cry of his heart for Christian’s to have a living resolve for the written Word of God. That we would not only profess commitment to the Scriptures, but that we would labor in prayer and practice to acquire a taste for that which is divinely sweeter than honey (Ps 19:10).
But this was not what was distinctive about his admonition. A high view of Scripture is most foundational, but we must not leave it at that. We must not simply echo its superlative importance; we must apprehend our responsibility to value and discern all other reading through the reading of this sacred book.
We should be readers; avid readers. We should be good “nutritionists of the mind” and moderate both the quantity and quality of our entertainment (for ours is perhaps more “an age of entertainment” than of reading). We should read good Christ-exalting material; the most nourishing food for the mind is that which most glorifies God.
If Ryle expressed concern over the discernment of Christians in their reading in his day, calling it “an age of reading,” how much more in our day? Ours is the age of the information-superhighway, digital self-expression, social media, and the largest reaching, cheapest, non-peer-reviewed, means of publication known to date: blogging.
My heart was burdened over the thought of how many unprofitable bits of information are imbibed by Christians everyday. Please read this excerpt from Ryle and pray about how you might apply it in deciding which roads to take with your eyes on the information-superhighway, which books and blogs you read, and what entertainment you expose your redeemed mind to.
A quick glance at the Bible now and then does little good. At that rate you will never become familiar with its treasures, or feel the sword of the Spirit fitted to your hand in the hour of conflict. But fill your mind with Scripture by diligent reading, and you will soon discover its value and power. Texts will rise up in your hearts in the moment of temptation. Commands will suggest themselves in times of doubt. Promises will come across your thoughts in the time of discouragement. And thus you will experience the truth of David’s words, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Ps 119:11); and of Solomon’s words, “When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you” (Pr 6:22).
I dwell on these things more because this is an age of reading. There seems no end to the producing of many books, though few of them are really profitable. There seems a rage for cheap printing and publishing. Newspapers of every sort abound, and the tone of some, which have the widest circulation, speaks badly for the taste of the age. Amid the flood of dangerous reading, I plead for my Master’s book, I call upon you not to forget the book of the soul. Do not let newspapers, novels, and romances be read, while the prophets and Apostles be despised. Do not let the exciting and sensual swallow up your attention, while the edifying and the sanctifying can find no place in your mind.
With Ryle, I cry out: “Amid the flood of dangerous reading, I plead for my Master’s book.”