Words, Wisdom, and Weariness

“The words of the wise [are] as goads; yea, as nails driven [by] the masters of collections, they [are] given from one Shepherd. And more than these, my son, be warned: The making of many books has no end, and much study [is] the weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12; underlining mine).

Bible-reading has primacy. John Trapp writes (not a promotion or endorsement of Trapp as a true Christian, but maybe his observations will prove helpful):

Ambition and covetousness sets many authors awork in this scribbling age, Scribimus indocti doctique, &c. Presses are greatly oppressed, and ‘every fool will be meddling,’ that he may be a fool in print…Many are sick of my very disease, saith Erasmus; that though they can do nothing worthy of the public, yet they must be publishing; hence the world so abounds with books, even to satiety and surfeit. …All other books, in comparison of this, we are to account as waste paper, and not to read them further than they some way conduce to the better understanding or practising of the things herein contained and commended unto our care” (John Trapp on Ecclesiastes 12:12; underlining mine).

Conduce to a better understanding or prove helpful. John A. Broadus writes (not an endorsement of Broadus as a true Christian, nor a blanket-agreement of what he writes here; but something to duly consider by the light and touchstone of Scripture):

“Some ministers are ‘too metaphysical’ in their preaching, but very many are not metaphysical enough in their studies…The study of Sermons is not only very useful with reference to the art of sermonizing, but affords much valuable material, provided it be not borrowed directly, but assimilated by reflection and made part of one’s own thinking. The careful analysis and thorough and repeated examination of a few rich and impressive sermons, is much better, in every respect, than the cursory reading of many. And so as to all our reading.

Young men who have enjoyed but limited opportunities of culture, and have never looked out with eager eyes upon the great world of books, sometimes need to be urged to read more widely; but in the immense majority of cases, very different advice is required. He who would become really a man must abandon as early as possible the childish dream of reading everything. Except what is done for recreation — and excessive recreation is destruction— he must have a limited field of study, and must cultivate that field with the utmost possible thoroughness. And upon every subject studied, he must find out the best books, and restrict himself almost entirely to those. If the men of true scholarship and real power were called on to give one counsel to young students, in this age of multiplied books, they would probably all unite in saying, Read only the best works of the great authors, and so read these as to make them thoroughly and permanently your own.

Whether it is better to make extracts, summaries, and references in a Commonplace Book, or to rely mainly on memory in reading, will depend on a man’s turn of mind and general habits, and on the kind of reading in question” (John A. Broadus, Preparation and Delivery; underlining mine).

Wisdom is profitable to direct. Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Life is a vapor. Redeem the time because the days are evil. May the Word of Jesus Christ richly dwell in His people.