Monday, April 7, 2008

How to profit from reading a good book, by Thomas Brooks

Thomas Brooks, The Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod, with Sovereign Antidotes... Seventh Edition. London, 1699. [Abridged, edited, and extracted by SML.]

The Epistle Dedicatory:

[To give a little good counsel as you read,] as that it may turn much to your soul's advantages; for, as many fish and catch nothing, so many read good books and get nothing, because they read them over cursorily, slightly, superficially; but he that would read to profit, must then,

  1. Read, and look up for a blessing, Paul may plant, and Apollo may water, but all will be to no purpose except the Lord give the increase. [1 Cor 3:6-7] God must do the deed, when all is done, or else all that is done will do you no good; if you would have this work successful and effectual, you must look off from man, and look up to God, who alone can make it a blessing to you. [Mic 6.14]
  2. To profit, read and meditate; mediation is the way by which spiritual truths are digested. A man shall as soon live without his heart, as he shall be able to get good by what he reads without meditation. Prayer (says Bernard) without meditation, is dry and formal, & reading without meditation is useless and unprofitable. Austin says, the more I meditate on thee, the sweeter thou art to me: so the more you shall meditate on what you read the sweeter it will be to you; they usually thrive best, who mediate most; meditation is a soul satisfying duty, it is a grace-strengthening duty, it is a duty-crowning duty.
  3. Read, and try what you read, take nothing upon trust; but all upon trial. [As in Acts 17:10-11]
  4. Read and do, read and practice what you read, or else all your reading will do you no good... Profession without practice will but make a man twice told a child of darkness, to speak well is to sound like a cymbal, but to do well is to act like an Angel...
  5. Read and apply; reading is but the drawing of the bow, application is the hitting of the while; the choicest truths will no further profit you, then they are applied by you; you were as good not to read, as not to apply what you read.
  6. Read and pray, he that makes not conscience of praying over what he reads, will find little sweetness or profit in his Reading; no man makes such earnings of his reading, as he that prays over what he reads. Luther professes that he profited more in the knowledge of the Scriptures, by prayer in a short space, than by study in a longer... Ah Christians! Pray before you read, and pray after you read, that all may be blessed and sanctified to you.