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Charles Spurgeon Quotes on Reading and Books

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834—1891), “The Prince of Preachers”, preached to an estimated 10,000,000 during his lifetime, published his sermons to an estimated 25,000 people each week during the height of his ministry, and continues to enjoy wide readership today, nearly 125 years after his death.

Some of his more popular books include All of Grace, Lectures to My Students, his Morning and Evening Devotional, The Power in Prayer, a biography, among others. (In addition to all of his other accolades, he is one of my mother’s favorite preachers to read ;) ).

From an early age, Spurgeon was a reader—and gradually became a ferocious reader, usually reading six books per week in his reading and preaching prime. By the end of his life, he amassed a library of over 7,000 books. No doubt this reading habit played a major part in molding his mind to powerfully unpack biblical truth with the clarity and imagination he is known for.

The quotes from Spurgeon below come from his writings or sermons and share wisdom for Christian readers on reading and choosing books.

1. Know that your reading is important.

“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”

2. Reading and praying are the best ways to spend leisure time.

“We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books” — join in the cry.”

Charles Spurgeon Quote on Reading Books Knowledge Learning and Pride copy3. Read fewer books deeply instead of rushing through many.

“Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them…digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be ‘much not many.’”

4. Make sure your learning results in heart knowledge.

“An ounce of heart knowledge is worth more than a ton of head learning.”

Charles Spurgeon Quotes about Reading Good Books Bible5. Live in the Bible.

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”

“All human books grow stale after a time–but with the Word of God the desire to study it increases, while the more you know of it the less you think you know. The Book grows upon you: as you dive into its depths you have a fuller perception of the infinity which remains to be explored. You are still sighing to enjoy more of that which it is your bliss to taste.”

6. Read the Puritans.

“By all means read the Puritans, they are worth more than all the modern stuff put together.”

“Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”

7. Learn from Paul’s example.

[Speaking of Paul's words in 2 Timothy 4:13]:
“He was inspired, and yet he wants books!
He had been preaching for thirty years, and yet he wants books!
He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!
He had a wider experience than most men do, and yet he wants books!
He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things that it was not lawful for a man to utter, and yet he wants books!
He had written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!”

8. Discern what you should and shouldn’t read.

“Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.”

9. Prioritize your reading with what nourishes your soul.

“Give yourself to reading.’… You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible.”

Related Spurgeon Goodness:

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You’ve probably heard the statistic quoted that 50% of all marriages end in divorce–and inside the church is no better. Evangelicals quote the 50% statistic like it’s Scripture–but is it true?

Shaunti Feldhan in The Good News About Marriage (which I reviewed) plainly says (and backs up) that the 50% statistic isn’t true. She spent a lot of time analyzing marriage studies and came up with several very encouraging findings about married couples staying married. (This is different than mentioning the overall state of marriage is good news.)

Below are eight of her encouraging findings.

1. Much of the key divorce information in news articles and other common references is inaccurate or interpreted incorrectly, downplays the positive findings, or, in some cases, quotes studies that don’t exist.

2. Those who get married in their mid-twenties or later, go to college, don’t cohabit first, and/or worship together could realistically have a 5 to 10 percent divorce rate.

3. Around 80% of marriages are happy, with around 30 percent of those being very happy.

4. The Barna Group study that first claimed a 50% divorce rate in the church was misunderstood. It was researching, “divorce rates based on faith-based beliefs, not faith based practices like worship attendance, and in fact actually excluded consideration of whether the person went to religious services.”

5. Most of those who are the least happy will be the most happy if they stay committed for five years.

6. Most marriage problems are not caused by big-ticket issues, and simple changes can make a big difference.

7. The rate of divorce in the church is not the same as the rate among those who don’t attend worship services.

8. In 82% of struggling couples, one partner is simply unaware that their spouse is less than happy, which is a lot easier to address than both people being entrenched in hurt.

Links-To-Make-You-Think-and-Grow

The Meaning of Sex by Jonathan Leeman

Read the Bible to Your Anxiety by John Piper

8 Biblical Responses to Worry by David Roach

You Can’t Hide from the Culture Wars by Daniel Darling

Free Livestream of the ERLC’s Course called Intro to Christian Ethics with Russell Moore

From Telegrams to Instagram: A Look at Presidents and Technology

Don’t Kill that Quote by Tim Challies. Only appropriate to share this below:

Quotes are like lozenges, great for savoring but terrible for just straight-out swallowing. Learn how to savor good quotes.

Tim Challies

Seeking Justice and Mercy from Ferguson to New York

Heath Lambert’s Testimony (HT)


Blind Spots Collin Hansen Book CoverAs fallen beings with limited capacities, we carry around blind spots for nearly everything we do in life—including live out the gospel.

This is what Collin Hansen addresses in his new book, Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church.

In the book, Hansen seeks to lay a path for cultural engagement for a variety of Christians, separating them into three main camps, and identifying their strengths and weaknesses (or “blind spots”).

  • The courageous truth-defenders (who typically love theology and defending the truth)
  • The compassionate servants (who may be more recognized as the “social justice people”)
  • The commissioned who do whatever it takes to win souls

Interactions between these three groups can often be both judgmental and discouraging. Instead of appreciating strengths and learning from them, we point the finger and stereotype based on their blind spots. All the while we often forget that, just like they, we have major blind spots as well. Hansen’s book both encouraged and challenged me in several ways:

First, it helped me be more welcoming to have my blind spots exposed.

Before reading the book, I thought I would major as a courageous and commissioned Christian, but show that  compassion was a blind spot. And for the most part, that was true. What surprised me was when I realized I am not as commissioned as I thought I was—or would like to be. I don’t bend over backward to bring Jesus to people like the true commissioned do. But that is something I can work on and pray about. After having light shone into blind areas, I can now hopefully work toward more fully embedding each of the three categories as Christ did.

Second, it helped me be more thankful for Christians who don’t share my same blind spots.

Hansen provides a helpful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each group which helped me to not only see my own weaknesses, but also see and treasure the strengths of others. If I only read and hang around a bunch of Calvinist theology-lovers, I will likely perpetuate my own blind spots. That’s why I appreciate the many ways other people are impacting the world for Christ. The body of Christ needs diverse people with diverse gifts and strengths to minister the gospel the most effectively to a dying world.

Third, it helped me treasure Christ—the only One who is truly and fully compassionate, courageous, and commissioned.

How can you be fully compassionate, courageous, and commissioned? Not by aiming for it, Hansen says. “You achieve this biblical fullness when you aim for Jesus” (109). We aim for Jesus because He Himself perfectly embodied courage, compassion, and commissioned living. We are to follow Christ to courageously live our commission with compassion.

Even so, Christ was rejected, and we will be too. That’s one reason we can’t see Christianity as a rivalry between groups or a contest to win the most people. Whenever we can, we need to see those different than us as partners in serving and reaching a lost world for the sake of Christ. We also need to learn from those different than us and seek how we can sharpen each other to more faithfully engage the world with the gospel.

I’m thankful for Blind Spots and expect this short book to be helpful for pastors and faithful Christians. I’m hoping along with Collin Hansen that it will find it’s way into the hands of the courageous, compassionate, and commissioned to deepen their appreciation for Christ’s perfect work and strengthen their gospel witness in both faithfulness and fruit.

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Links-To-Make-You-Think-and-Grow

I love the new site For the Church from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Jared C. Wilson. Here’s a great article on FTC from Matt Perman Busting 12 Myths About Productivity.

Reflections from the Supreme Court Sidewalk. Wise words from Russell Moore

Five Reasons We Can Trust God in the Detours of Our Lives by Kristen Wetherell

Conference Media from The Gospel Coalition 2015 is Now Available (Spanish pre-conference too)

12 Ways Millennials Can Serve the Local Church by Chris Martin

3 Fundamental Reasons to Recover Fasting by Chad Francis

Finding Gospel Hope in Prayer: A Reflection on Psalm 130

There are times in all of our lives where finding our hope in Christ seems like a fruitless endeavor—or at best, a wrestling match where you can never quite grasp the hope you so desperately long for. Your prayers crumble under the weight of your guilt, and you don’t know how to climb out of the hole you find yourself in.

That’s where the psalmist begins Psalm 130.

Psalm 130 is a Psalm of Ascent; one ascending from the depths of despair to a joyful confidence in the God of the gospel. The Psalms of Ascent were likely sung by pilgrims journeying up to worship in Jerusalem at annual festivals.1 As God’s people traversed the dirt roads and winding paths to the city, these psalms would fill their lips and act as prayers to tune their hearts for hope-filled worship.

May the following reflection on Psalm 130 work a similar thing in your heart.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy! (Psalm 130:1-2)

Psalm 130 opens with a desperate cry for the Lord to have mercy. The psalmist is aware that his sin has created a deep chasm between him and God, and longs for the Lord to turn His ear toward him and show mercy. This deep and heartfelt cry for help contrasts with a heart calloused toward sin, a downcast heart more focused on it’s own powerlessness for change than on God’s abundant mercy to forgive and cleanse. This cry knows God is the only hope.

Crying from the depths can feel like your insides are turning outward and your entire being groans audibly for the Lord to show favor and grace in your distress. Instead of remaining in despair by dwelling on personal failures, the psalmist looks upward.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:3-4)

No one could stand before God if He marked our iniquities – that is the point the psalmist makes in verse 3. God designed it that way. But in Him there is forgiveness; by the shed blood of Christ on our behalf, the chasm between us and God caused by sin can be closed.

Why do you think God offers us forgiveness? You might think so He would be loved, or shown merciful – and surely those ring true. But the psalmist takes another route: “that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:4, emphasis mine).

What does forgiveness have to do with fearing God?

If our problem is offending a holy God because of our sin, then sin must not only be forgiven, but we must repent and do whatever we can to stop sinning; our hearts must change to no longer desire sin.

It is not enough to cling to God’s grace and live in sin so grace abounds (Romans 6:1). Knowing forgiveness in Christ at a heart level leads us to fear God and hate sin; for the fear of the Lord is hatred toward sin (Proverbs 8:13). Hating sin and beholding God’s kindness shown in sending Christ to the cross in our place causes us to fear God and turn from sin. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

This psalm documents the psalmist preaching the gospel to himself; reminding himself of God’s abundant and undeserved mercy in Christ toward repentant sinners, which leads not only to a fear of God, but also a joyful hope in Him. And that is how the psalmist’s prayer continues.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6)

In the original Hebrew, the words wait and hope overlap meaning, and are often times synonymous (and the parallelism in verse 5 confirms this). The last four verses of this psalm mention hoping or waiting five times, proving it to be a major theme of the psalm’s second half.

Hoping in the Lord rests on Who He is and what He has done–in this case, on forgiving. Hope flows from the fount of knowing and fearing the One who is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Instead of rightly condemning us, God condemned Christ in our place, so that we could be left spotless and clean in His sight.

We hope in God, because in Christ, He is for us (Romans 8:31). He has brought us from the domain of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. He’s on our side.

Hope in God calls us to forsake all of other hopes: hope in our performance, hope in our abilities, hope in our families and friends, hope in future prospects for a good life, hope in what we do for God.

We wait for the Lord and hope in His Word because His Word confirms His character to us. The promises of His Word reveal that we can (and must!) hope in Him. This hope will start to dawn for us as a watchman awaits the sunrise, seeing a glimmer of light at the break of dawn and increasing more and more each moment he waits.

Our hope will be more than that of the watchmen–for our hope rests not in everyday occurrences like the sun rising, something that is enjoyed by all men, righteous and wicked.

No, our hope rests in the grace poured out to those in Christ. Hope of acceptance by a holy God, a new life here on earth, and eternal life enjoying God’s presence in heaven.

Hope will start to dawn in your life as the gospel takes root in your heart.

One thing this psalm proves is that hope will start to dawn in your life as the gospel takes root in your heart. And hope so great cannot stay contained: it must flow outward.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130:7-8)

The psalmist’s renewed hope in gospel promises flows into public exhortations for God’s people to hope in Him. I can see the psalmist crying joyfully from the depths of his heart, “With the Lord there is steadfast love!” “With Him is plentiful redemption!”

Do you share the psalmist’s hope? Does hope in the God of the gospel turn your groans of anguish to shouts of joy (compare verses 1-2 with verses 7-8)? Do you rejoice that God will redeem you–and all His people–from your iniquities?

My encouragement to you is to make this psalm your heartfelt prayer. Let these truths pour out from your lips in joyful song to the One who redeems us from our iniquity by becoming iniquity for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

That amazing truth should cause your heart to ascend from the depths of despair to firmly grasp gospel hope in prayer.


1The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Ed. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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