My son, beware of anything beyond these.
Of making many books there is no end,
and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
— Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV —
On Monday I listed eleven old books that every Christian should read. I asked you what the twelfth book should be. Here are the books suggested.
- The Scandal of the Incarnation selections from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (Jason Miller)
- The Bondage of the Will (John T. Jeffery)
- On the Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther (Jeffery Hutchison)
- Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade**
- The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Ben . . . )
- The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Ben . . . )
- The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards (Josh Philpot)
- Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons by Arabella Stuart (Jerod Harper)
- Holiness by J. C. Ryle (Cade Campbell)
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Terry Braswell)
- In His Steps by Charles Sheldon (Terry Braswell)
- The Cross of Christ by John Stott (Tony . . .)
From the responses, it looks like we have our next twelve. I would heartily commend ten of them, with caveats about a few.
- First, I know little to nothing about Jean-Pierre de Caussade and his posthumous publication, Abandonment to Divine Providence. The title sounds interesting, but as I learned years ago, it’s the author not the title that makes the difference. (See John T. Jeffery’s caution below).
- Next, In His Steps does deserve a place on the list, but it should be mentioned that the author of this work of fiction was a strong proponent of the Social Gospel, a movement that demotes and often denies the penal substitionary nature of the cross—something well articulated by John Stott in his book, The Cross of Christ.
- Last, to be fully clear, I can only commend On the Freedom of a Christian, The Mortification of Sin, and Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons by hearsay. To date, I haven’t read them, but need to.
Overall, these books helpfully round out my first list. Still, of this list, the book I’d add to my own is The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards. It gives the first list a biography and a book on missions. Killing two birds with one stone, it completes my twelve.
That said, such books come to help us understand the testimony of the twelve apostles. As with all created things, reading books (even about Christ and the Scripture) must not displace our first love for the Bible. As Solomon said long ago, “My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Wearying ourselves with studies about the gospel is not bad, so long as it leads us to find our rest in Jesus Christ (Heb 4:11).
May we labor to know him more, that we might abide in his superlative Word, and may we make wise use of these books (and others) to help us understand God’s Word and the promises therein.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
Thanks to John T. Jeffery for doing a little digging on Jean Pierre de Caussade Abandonment to Divine Providence:
Jean Pierre de Caussade S.J. was a French Catholic Jesuit writer known for his work Abandonment to Divine Providence (also translated as The Sacrament of the Present Moment) and his posthumously-published letters of instruction to the Nuns of the Visitation at Nancy, where he spiritual director from 1733-1740, although he continued to write the sisters after leaving Nancy.
While he is best known for his work with the sisters, he also spent years as preacher in southern and central France, as a college rector (at Perpignan and at Albi) and as the director of theological students at the Jesuit house in Toulouse. Caussade is remembered for, among other things, his belief that the present moment is a sacrament from God and that self-abandonment to it and its needs is a holy state – a belief which, at first glance, would appear to be heretical relative to Catholic dogma. In fact, because of this fear (especially with the Church’s condemnation of the Quietiest movement), Caussade’s instructions to the sisters were kept unpublished until 1861, and even then they were edited to protect them from charges of Quietism. A more authoritative version of these notes was published only in 1966. It is clear in his writings that he is aware of the Quietists and that he rejects their perspective.”