Consider this quote by Lewis:
“It’s a good rule after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to three new ones....Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and especially liable to make certain mistakes. We all therefore need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.... 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....The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds and this can only be done by reading old books.”
Ah, the “clean sea breeze of the centuries,” you don’t hear that language these days. That is precisely the point Lewis is making. We need the insight of those who have gone before. This is especially important in the Christian life. We are prone to think, “I have my Bible that is all I need.” Well, yes, nothing compares to the Bible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a great deal from believers from the past.
I want to challenge you to think about the fact the Word of God is always reforming us, always bringing us into conformity with Christ. One of the ways God can accomplish this is through the rich devotional and doctrinal writing of the past. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound all that thrilling! But trust me there is some truly wonderful writing that is not necessarily on the New York Times best seller list.
Have you ever heard of the Heidelberg Catechism? It was written in 1563, not long after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg. It was meant to teach children the truths of the faith. Consider the richness of the very first question:
Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
Newer is not necessarily better. Thank God for his faithfulness throughout the centuries to preserve the truth of his word and the power of the gospel.