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8 Spine out center

I love old books. They provide both comfort and challenge, both inspiration and critique.

Just this week, as our family has passed through a difficult time, my heart has been ministered to by a 17th-century minister, Thomas Watson, whose insights into God's goodness in the midst of pain have served as medicine for my soul. What a blessing for God to enable the words of precious saints in the past to feed our souls in the present!

Old books bring comfort. But they also challenge. The classics that have stood the test of time help us see through the fog of the current cultural climate--not so that we would try to escape our times, but so we can retain a gospel vision when the world grows dark around us. Old books keep "the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds" by opening our ears to our forefathers and mothers in the faith.

Never before has it been easier to access the words of great Christians from the past. For little to no cost, you can download ebooks or look up various translations of classic works.

As a researcher, I'm glad to see the availability of all these works. As a reader, I'm less excited. It just feels wrong to read great books that have stood the test of time in a digital format that doesn't correspond with the weightiness of the words. But when I try to find good print copies of some of these classics, I often find them used and tattered, or with typesetting that makes them less enjoyable to read.

For these reasons, I am excited about the Legacy of Faith Library. Here are 19 books packaged in 8 leather edition volumes with a wooden cradle that showcases these books in the beauty they deserve. I see this little library as an investment. It will be much more than a "collector's edition," because I don't want to leave them on the shelf. I want to read, mark up, and pass this set down to my kids. It's meant to stand the test of time, just as these books have.

Cradle-table with candles

I've read many of the books included in this set, but not all of them. Let me give a brief overview of what's in the series:

The volume on Augustine provides most of Confessions and a good portion of City of God. These are the two most important works from the most influential theologian in the Western church. Confessions is a doxological autobiography. City of God is a retelling of world history with the church at the center.

Grey-on table

The volume on John Bunyan includes Grace Abounding, the bestselling work of fiction in history--Pilgrim's Progress, and Miscellaneous Works.

Blue sitting on table

I'm glad to see Chesterton here, too, with his most famous apologetic work, Orthodoxy, and its prequel, Heretics. The jolly defender of Christian truth in a world gone mad for "freethinking" rationalism never ceases to amaze and delight me.

The volume on Jonathan Edwards, the most influential American theologian, includes famous sermons like Christ Exalted, God Glorified in Man's Dependence, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and his book Freedom of the Will.

The great Reformer Martin Luther is here with his 95 Theses and Bondage of the Will. Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students and All of Grace make up another volume.

For years, I have heard people rave about Andrew Murray's book Humility, so I am looking forward to reading that classic, alongside The Master's Indwelling and Absolute Surrender.

The final volume includes a collection of John Wesley's sermons, where I expect to encounter great preacher's passion for God's glory and the Christian's holiness--a combination that set early America on fire for Christ.

Here is the website for more information on the Legacy of Faith Library.

Close-up of 7 in a row

C. S. Lewis was right about the benefit of reading old books. We need to read the great Christian writers of the past in order to be faithful in the present.

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. . . . Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united--united with each other and against earlier and later ages--by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century--the blindness about which posterity will ask, 'But how could they have thought that?' . . . None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books."

The Legacy of Faith Library from BH Publishing on Vimeo.


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One thought on “One Way to Encounter the Great Writers in Church History”

  1. Taylor Craig says:

    I often find that even when I try to read old books, I find myself reading in the important but relatively narrow stream of the Reformed tradition. Do you have any favorites, besides Augustine, that come from before the Reformation in general? I finally got myself a set of Chrysostom sermons, but haven’t made much headway yet; I do find the very different outlook refreshing, even if I don’t always agree with him.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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