I recently received a wonderful email asking me to recommend some of the works by the "dead guys" I get so excited about. How wonderful! Here is my response to that wonderful seeker of wisdom. May God grant them grace to persevere when it gets a little dry. Please feel free to pan or praise my picks, and to add some you find helpful as well. But tell us why you like them or don't bother, that way we'll know you actually read them and didn't steal them from another list.
You've asked a hard question. It's sort of like asking someone what their favorite food is; the answer often depends on the mood. That is, do you want dessert, main course, appetizer, or midnight snack? But since you've asked such a great question, I'll do my best to get you started.
As with any great meal, you should always begin with an excellent appetizer. To that end, I would recommend two most excellent books. They aren't theologically dense, and yet they are profoundly Biblical and encouraging. These aren't necessarily in order of greatness:
1. The Autobiography of George Muller. You can pick this one up in paperback for a song. George Muller was a man of the early 19th century, born in 1805 I believe. His heart was burdened for the orphaned children of his country, which was epidemic at the time. He had no money, and he never asked for any. Yet, through the power of prayer God granted him the ability to care for thousands of orphaned children. His autobiography is a testimony to God's faithfulness to him. What a book!
2. The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Henry Scougal. Henry Scougal was a man of God who passed away at twenty-eight, but by that time, he was already a pastor and a professor at King's College in Aberdeen. He lived from 1650-1678. This book is absolutely wonderful. Buy it even if you have to sell your car to have it. (You won't, I believe you can pick it up at Amazon for around $12.00). This little devotional was instrumental in leading George Whitefield to saving faith.
Those two will get you started. What comes next is much more difficult, and I have a recommendation to make to you: find someone else who wants to read good, deep, theological books. In fact, I'd start a "Dead Theologians Society" or something to help. Some of these are difficult to read, but if you mine in rock, you may strike gold!
1. Martin Luther's Three Treatises. I always recommend Luther early and often. One, he isn't boring. Two, why not read the man whom God used to begin the Reformation? Start with the Treatise on "The Bondage of the Will." It will change your life. (Be careful in your book search, they sell "The Bondage of the Will" seperately. What you want is the Three Treatises. You can get all three cheaper than buying one at a time.)
2. Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom. Find a friend to help you through this treatise on the work of God's law in the life of the believer. Great thought-provoking read. You may never mow your yard on Sunday again.
3. Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World. If your friends made it through Bolton's work, recruit them for this one. Be sure an get the version that John Piper edited. He basically put cliff notes in this to help folks understand Edwards, who can be rather...dry. But the payload at the end is worth the trouble. The one you want is God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards.
4. Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed. Written for the Christian who has known the pain of suffering and depression. This is a good read, and it has been a balm to many "burn-out" souls over the last 400 years.
If you have made it through any of these four main dishes, then you are ready for dessert. I have a perfect one in mind, and it will introduce you to yet another fine author.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress. John Bunyan was a Baptist pastor who spent many years in prison for his faith. During that time he wrote this wonderful little allegory call The Pilgrim's Progress. You won't need your friends to help you with this one. Read this to your children. If you don't have any, read it to your neighbor's children.
God bless with these! Hopefully some wise person will add to this already wonderful list.
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