837) Old and New

Image result for jeremy taylorMany people do not have the time or the desire to read books on theology and the Christian life.  It is estimated that over 90% of what printed by Christian publishers is purchased by less than 10% of American Christians.  British pastor and author Jeremy Taylor would not disapprove.  While the above quote makes abundantly clear the importance of giving such attention to our spiritual concerns, the quote below recommends ‘little reading and much thinking.’  It is hoped that these daily Emailmeditations can provide an opportunity for that, giving you ‘a little reading’ each day to help you think about your relationship with God and your eternal destiny.

Read not much at a time; but meditate as much as your time and capacity and disposition will give you leave; ever remembering that little reading and much thinking, short prayers and great devotion, is the best way to be wise, to be holy, to be devout.

–Jeremy Taylor  (1613-1667)

Psalm 90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

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C. S. Lewis once said that for every new book one reads, one should also read an old classic, in order to broaden one’s mind beyond the narrow limits our own time and culture.  I have tried to do that, and have often found the old classics to be slow and difficult reading.  There is a reason why Mark Twain said, “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, and nobody wants to read.”  But I have usually found the effort to be worthwhile, discovering valuable treasures in these old books.  And then, as advised by Coleridge in the quote below, I like to share it.

Great works are not in everybody’s reach, and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither the time nor the means to get more.  Let every bookworm, when in any scarce old tome, he discovers a sentence, a story, or an illustration that does his heart good, hasten to share it.

–S. T. Coleridge  (1772-1834), English poet and philosopher

Matthew 13:52  —  (Jesus) said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

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These Emailmeditations are much briefer than reading an entire book, but still may sometimes require a slow and careful reading.  Renovare’s Christopher Webb writes:

It is not always easy to read these old books.  That is not only because they are rooted in the past, although it is true that sometimes we will need to be ready to understand that the author is speaking from, and addressing, the concerns, assumptions, and even prejudices of another age.  It can also be difficult because we are used to reading quickly.  Woody Allen once quipped that, after taking a speed reading course, “I read War and Peace in twenty minutes– it’s about Russia.”  The spiritual classics simply will not submit to that kind of treatment.  Instead, we need to approach them using some of the skills of ‘lectio divina,’ divine reading.  We need to read slowly, savoring the turns of phrase and the insights they embody.  We need to read expectantly, open to the possibility that this writing might change the course of our lives.  And we need to read longingly, with a heartfelt desire that our reading will not only teach us about Jesus, but actually lead us into his presence.  Reading in this way takes time– it can takes months to work through a single book– but that is all right.  We need to remember that the goal is not turning the pages; it is turning our hearts.  

In 1955 Scottish theologian John Baillie edited A Diary of Readings, devotional readings for each day of the year, selected from writers throughout the history of Christianity.  What he wrote in his preface about his book could also apply to many of the selections for these daily meditations:

So many different traditions, as well as periods, and no doubt tempers of mind, are represented that not everyone, and perhaps no one, can make every page his own.  I could not myself do this.  But I hope each page may be found worth attending to and thinking about, and that from it something may be learned.  Some pages may be thought difficult, but it does not hurt to have our minds stretched a little, even when we do not fully comprehend.

Philippians 4:8  —  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

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Guide me, O Lord, in all the changes of my life in this world; that in all things that shall happen, I may have an evenness and tranquility of spirit; that my soul may be resigned to thy divine will and pleasure, never murmuring against thy gentle chastisements and fatherly correction.  Amen.

–Jeremy Taylor

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