Charles Spurgeon on the Danger of Reading Christian Books

Charles Spurgeon said what follows in reference to James 1:5’s words:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

My dear friends, bear me witness that it is my constant effort to teach you the spirituality of true religion, and the necessity of our own hearts having personal dealings with the living God.

Now, though this you have heard thousands of times, I was about to say from me, yet, once again, I must remind you of it: the text says, “Let him ask of God.”

Now, you perceive, that the man is directed at once to God, without any intermediate object, or ceremony, or person. You are not told here to seek direction from good books; they may become very useful as auxiliary helps, but the best of human books, if followed slavishly, will mislead.

For instance, I am sure that hundreds of persons have been kept in unnecessary bondage through that wonderful and admirable book, “Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.” It has been the means of the conversion of hundreds; it has been profitable to thousands more; but there is a point in which it fails, so that, if you slavishly follow it, you may read the book through, and I undertake to say, you will not find comfort by following its exhortations. It fails, as all human guides must, if we trust in them and forget the Great Shepherd of Israel.

When a man is really under concern of soul, he is in a condition of considerable danger.

Then it is that an artful false teacher may get hold of him, and cozen him into heresy and unscriptural doctrine. Hence the text does not say, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask his priest;” that is about the worst thing he can do; for he who sets himself up for a priest, is either a deceiver or deceived. “Let him ask of God,” that is the advice of the Scripture.

We are all so ready to go to books, to go to men, to go to ceremonies, to anything except to God. Man will worship God with his eyes, and his arms, and his knees, and his mouth—with anything but his heart—and we are all of us anxious, more or less, until we are renewed by grace, to get off the heart-worship of God.

Juan de Valdey says, “Just as an ignorant man takes a crucifix and says, ‘This crucifix will help me to think of Christ,’ so he bows before it and never does think of Christ at all, but stops short at the crucifix; so,” says he, “the learned man takes his book and says, ‘This book will teach me the mysteries of the kingdom,’ but instead of giving his thoughts to the mysteries of godliness, he reads his book mechanically and stops at the book, instead of meditating and diving into the truth.” It is the action of the mind that God accepts, not the motion of the body; it is the thought communing with him; it is the soul coming into contact with the soul of God; it is spirit-worship which the Lord accepts.

Consequently, the text does not say, “Let him ask books,” nor “ask priests,” but, “let him ask of God.”

An excerpt from the newly released book Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading Fear and Worry for the Peace of God.

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