Her.12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Like most all of us Christians I thought I knew better than the old dead guys. I had heard what others had said that the old dead guys had taught. You know, Luther was the justified by faith guy, Edwards was the ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ guy, and Calvin was the predestination guy; check. That was the way I looked at it until I read some of their writings myself. I was stunned by Luther’s Christmas sermons and his teachings on Psalms, absolutely the best I had ever read. Reading Calvin for myself also shocked me, he was all about God revealing His glory in all things, especially creation. Then there was Jonathan Edwards, his message on Revelation concerning the lion and the lamb (The Excellencies of Christ) absolutely had me undone. I realized how shallow I was and how shallow the teaching of the charismatic/Pentecostal brand of Christianity had become. These men who had gone before us were raised up by the Lord to teach us. We are intended to stand on their shoulders. Ignoring them is one of the worst mistakes this generation of Christians has made. Here are some thoughts from C. S. Lewis on reading old books.
“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. . . . Now this seems to me topsyturvy. 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. . . . 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. . . . We all . . . need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. . . . We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century . . . lies where we have never suspected it. . . . None of us can fully escape this blindness. . . . The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”
That is why we need Spurgeon, and Bunyan, and Augustine; to ignore them is to ignore the voice of the Shepherd through the generations. So I say go find yourself a good old sermon or book to read. Don’t be satisfied with what someone else said someone believed. Go read the old dead guys for yourself. You may realize they are not dead after all but are just witnesses that have gone before us.