Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 30, 1964
NUMBER 38, PAGE 4,12b

"The Cloak And The Books"


A book is forever. The spoken word is uttered and soon passes into oblivion; its impression, at best, can never outlast or outlive the man who heard it. But a book.... From his prison house in Rome Paul wrote to young Timothy, "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments." How intriguing to speculate as to exactly what "book" Paul desired Timothy to bring! Who would not like to read the same books the great apostle read, and perhaps decipher some handwritten note he may have made on the margin of a page here and there.

The written word is, beyond all question, the greatest way man has yet learned to cheat the fleeting evanescence of time. By written words, whether engraved on stone, impressed with some stylus on clay tablet, inscribed on papyrus, or vellum, or printed on paper, mankind has been able to accumulate knowledge. Each generation has been able to build on what went before, studying the thoughts, and findings, and experiments of the fathers, each man adding his own little bit to the ever increasing store before he too takes his place among the sleeping myriads who have preceded him. This the brute creation has never done, and can never do. The insights and understandings of other generations achieved by them in a lifetime of study and contemplation and experience, can be ours in a matter of hours!

One of the happiest features of the existence of books is that they enable us to choose our friends and teachers and companions. If we get tired of the stale gossip and trivial banalities of the day, we have but to open up the pages of one of the great classics — and immediately we share the thoughts and feelings of the noblest men who have ever lived. We walk with Aristotle or Shakespeare or Isaiah or Paul. We chuckle with nostalgic humor over the antics of Tom Sawyer, or tingle with dreadful apprehension and suspense as we follow the pen of Edgar Allen Poe through the horrors of the Rue Morgue. We can read the urbane and sophisticated advice of Lord Chesterfield to his illegitimate son, or can dream with Augustine of the City of God. Socrates was an ignoramus when it comes to modern science. Any fifth grade student would know more about elemental science than Socrates ever dreamed of. But the fundamental problems of human existence are the same in every age; knowledge of scientific gadgets and technology has little or nothing to do with the great questions the human race has always faced. And what thoughtful person can read Plato's Dialogues without being filled with a sense of wonder and awe!

To those serious students, concern about their relationship to God, to the universe, and to their fellowman, books are simply indispensable. Peter said that the apostle Paul had written some things "hard to be understood." But earth's greatest souls for nearly two thousand years have pondered those writings of Paul — and have left us their cumulative judgment and insights into the meaning of his letters. No man who is worthy to be called a student will follow slavishly any commentary that men may write; but neither will any man who is serious about his study be so incredibly egotistical and "puffed up" with a sense of his own importance and intellectual ability as to ignore what the great of all ages have had to say by way of commentaries and sermons and essays. The rich heritage of those who have gone before is ours for the asking!

The Gospel Guardian seeks constantly to encourage the reading of good books. Not an issue comes from the press without its quota of listings — books old and new (and more often than not, the old ones are the better), books by world renowned names and books by obscure and little-known authors, books on the Bible, books on current problems and the Christian life, books on history, ancient customs, law and philosophy; books to strengthen and encourage; books to inspire and lift the heart; books to inform and educate the mind. Flow empty and bereft life would be for all of us if the world were suddenly without books!

There is one great truth about books that ought to be stressed. That is what some have called "the evangelism" of books. Many Christians may be deeply committed to the Lord, and may care desperately about the welfare of someone he loves but may feel hopelessly inarticulate, and with an utter sense of frustration and inadequacy in any effort to talk to this person about Christ. A truly informative book is the perfect solution. Find a book that says what needs to be said, says it simply, convincingly, and in an interesting manner, and give this book to the friend. Untold thousands have been converted to Christ in just this fashion. And have forever felt an inexpressible gratitude to the friend who loved them enough to give the book!

Make it a regular practice to scan the advertisements in this journal for the names of good books. Let your mind be alert and receptive, open always to the best in religious literature. The rewards to you, and to others whom you may reach, are beyond calculation. Yes, Paul wanted "the books" to keep him company in that Roman prison. His example is worth following.

— F. Y. T.