A person may almost be known by the books he reads. If he habitually reads bad books, we can pretty safely conclude that he is a bad man; on the other hand, if he habitually reads religious books, we can reasonably presume that he is a religious man. Why is this? It is because the nature of a person’s books is usually the nature of his thoughts; and as a man thinks, so he is.
Consequently, our reading devotional literature is a great aid to our being devotional. Too few, I fear, realize how important to our spiritual advancement is the cultivation of a taste for devotional reading. As a rule, those who have a taste for spiritual books and gratify that taste prosper in the Lord, while those who have no relish for such books labor at a great disadvantage. Someone has said that “he who begins a devout life without a taste for spiritual reading may consider the ordinary difficulties multiplied in his case by ten.” The most spiritual men of all ages have had a strong love for reading spiritual books. If, however, my reader happens not to have such a taste or such a love, he should not be discouraged, for it can be created and increased through perseverances in reading devotional literature. Just as a person who does not relish a certain food may learn to like it if he will persist in eating it, so a person who does not have a taste for devotional books may come to enjoy them if he will diligently and prayerfully peruse them.
Spiritual reading invigorates the intellect, warms the affections, and begets in us a desire for more of God’s fullness and for a more heavenly life. It is especially helpful to prayer. When the mind is dull and the spirits low and we have no inspiration for prayer, the reading of a spiritual poem will often so stimulate the mind, raise the spirits, and animate the soul, as to make it easy for us to pray.
As to what books to read, the Bible, of course, is the best of all. But we need others. Although no other book can take the place of the Bible and none of us should neglect reading it, there are many books that can profitably be read in connection with it.
But whatever devotional book you are reading, do not read too fast. Think and digest as you go. Let there be a frequent lifting of the heart to God in prayer. It is not the bee that flies so swiftly from flower to flower that gathers the honey, but the bee that goes down into the flower. A few sentences taken into the mind and heart, and dwelt upon until they have become a part of us, are better than many pages read superficially.
—C. E. Orr