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.”
3. 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.”
5. 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:
- Through the Eyes of Spurgeon: Official Documentary [YouTube]
- 100 of the Best Charles Spurgeon Quotes
- Book: From the Library of Charles Spurgeon: Selections From Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey by James Bell
- The Spurgeon Center at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Inspiration from Spurgeon When You Need a Reading Break