“Reading well is listening well” by C.S. Lewis

“If we take literature in the widest sense, so as to include the literature both of knowledge and of power, the question, ‘What is the good of reading what anyone writes?’ is very like the question ‘What is the good of listening to what anyone says?’

Unless you contain in yourself sources that can supply all the information, entertainment, advice, rebuke and merriment you want, the answer is obvious.

And if it is worthwhile listening or reading at all, it is often worth doing so attentively.

Indeed we must attend even to discover that something is not worth attention.”

–C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961/1992), 131-132.

“Those who read great works” by C.S. Lewis

“In the first place, the majority never read anything twice. The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work.

We have all known women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it.

But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it.

Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life.

Secondly, the majority, though they are sometimes frequent readers, do not set much store by reading. They turn to it as a last resource.

They abandon it with alacrity as soon as any alternative pastime turns up. It is kept for railway journeys, illnesses, odd moments of enforced solitude, or for the process called ‘reading oneself to sleep.’

They sometimes combine it with desultory conversation; often, with listening to the radio.

But literary people are always looking for leisure and silence in which to read and do so with their whole attention. When they are denied such attentive and undisturbed reading even for few days they feel impoverished.

Thirdly, the first reading of some literary work is often, to the literary, an experience so momentous that only experiences of love, religion, or bereavement can furnish a standard of comparison.

Their whole consciousness is changed. They have become what they were not before.

But there is no sign of anything like this among the other sort of readers. When they have finished the story or the novel, nothing much, or nothing at all, seems to have happened to them.

Finally, and as a natural result of their different behaviour in reading, what they have read is constantly and prominently present to the mind of the few, but not to that of the many.

The former mouth over their favourite lines and stanzas in solitude. Scenes and characters from books provide them with a sort of iconography by which they interpret or sum up their own experience.

They talk to one another about books, often and at length. The latter seldom think or talk of their reading.

It is pretty clear that the majority, if they spoke without passion and were fully articulate, would not accuse of of liking the wrong books, but of making such a fuss about any books at all.

We treat as a main ingredient in our well-being something which to them is marginal.”

–C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961/1992), 2-3.

“My own eyes are not enough for me” by C.S. Lewis

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend.

He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison.

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented.

I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we wink back into sub-individuality.

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see.

Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

–C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961/1992), 140-141.

“This pattern is a primal one” by Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman

“With the explicit reference to the promise to Abraham, Moses indicates that this hope for the future worship and obedience of the people is not a generic hope.

Rather, it is tied to specific promises that we find at strategic places in the story of the Pentateuch. In other words, we can ask:

Where does this hope originate? Where can we find out more information about the content of this hope?

As we see from the story of the Pentateuch, the ability of the people to follow the law and maintain obedience from a willing heart is an insufficient place to put our hope.

In fact, this is the theme explicitly articulated by a pessimistic Moses at the climax of the Pentateuch. In his book-length closing speech, Moses argues that the Mosaic covenant has failed to bring about the obedience that the Lord requires in the hearts of the people.

What hope is there for the second generation? For the reader of the Pentateuch?

Reading and rereading the story of the Pentateuch as a whole highlights that the pattern that Moses identifies on the plains of Moab began in Eden.

This pattern is a primal one. So too, the hope that Moses anticipates has its roots in that same garden.

The forward momentum of this narrative progression is a primary way that the Pentateuch functions. Throughout this sweeping narrative storyline, though, there are strategically placed poetic sections that provide reflective commentary on the story.

These carefully arranged and strategically composed poems function like windows into the meaning of the Pentateuch’s purpose and also offer a glimpse into the author’s meaning.

Within these poems, we find a cluster of images that profile the promises that bind the major themes of the Pentateuch together.

Within these poetic compositions, an individual is described who will one day defeat God’s enemies and bring about blessing for the people rather than despair.

A future hope is promised, and the proof is in the poetry. A brief survey of these textual locations can orient us to this aspect of the story and the message of the Pentateuch.”

–Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman, Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture, Invitation to Theological Studies Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2020), 133-134.

“Taking a canonical line to the cross” by Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman

“For the biblical theologian, the role of the reader is never to make a path to Christ, but always to follow the path to Christ that the biblical authors have laid down. This route requires patience, but only the patience necessary to get you to the text.

Once you are there, your journey awaits. There you will find the biblical author waiting, by the Spirit revealing God in Christ to you. The grand storyline of the Bible and its network of covenant promises and expectations find their end in Christ.

This path is long and winding, but will lead you to your destination. This line is not as the crow flies, but is the one where the cross lies. Taking a canonical line to the cross may not be straight or fast, but it’s true.

The discipline of biblical theology aims to navigate this balance of unity and diversity. The gospel of Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed from all of the Scriptures.

The gospel according to Genesis will have a different shape, tone, and feel than the gospel according to Galatians.

This sensitivity to the details of the biblical texts, the theological developments of the biblical storyline, and the unity of God’s work in the divine plan of redemption will ably equip us to reckon with the gospel wherever we might find ourselves in our travels to and fro across the literary landscape of the biblical canon.”

–Jeremy M. Kimble and Ched Spellman, Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture, Invitation to Theological Studies Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2020), 101–102.

“The line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament” by John Owen

“It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He declared unto His disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,’ (Luke 24:27).

It is therefore manifest that Moses, and the Prophets, and all the Scriptures, do give testimony unto Him and His glory.

This is the line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament, without the conduct whereof we can understand nothing aright therein: and the neglect hereof is that which makes many as blind in reading the books of it as are the Jews,—the veil being upon their minds. (2 Cor. 4:14-16)

It is faith alone, discovering the glory of Christ, that can remove that veil of darkness which covers the minds of men in reading the Old Testament, as the apostle declares, (2 Cor. 3:14–16). I shall, therefore, consider briefly some of those ways and means whereby the glory of Christ was represented unto believers under the Old Testament.

It was represented in the institution of the beautiful worship of the law, with all the means of it. Herein have they the advantage above all the splendid ceremonies that men can invent in the outward worship of God; they were designed and framed in divine wisdom to represent the glory of Christ, in His person and His office.

This nothing of human invention can do, or once pretend unto. Men cannot create mysteries, nor can give unto anything natural in itself a mystical signification.

But so it was in the old divine institutions.

What were the tabernacle and temple?

What was the holy place with the utensils of it?

What was the oracle, the ark, the cherubim, the mercy-seat, placed therein?

What was the high priest in all his vestments and administrations?

What were the sacrifices and annual sprinkling of blood in the most holy place?

What was the whole system of their religious worship?

Were they anything but representations of Christ in the glory of His person and His office?

They were a shadow, and the body represented by that shadow was Christ.

If any would see how the Lord Christ was in particular foresignified and represented in them, he may peruse our exposition on the 9th chapter of the Epistle unto the Hebrews, where it is handled so at large as that I shall not here again insist upon it.

The sum is, ‘Moses was faithful in all the house of God, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken afterward,’ (Heb. 3:5).

All that Moses did in the erection of the tabernacle, and the institution of all its services, was but to give an antecedent testimony by way of representation, unto the things of Christ that were afterward to be revealed.

And that also was the substance of the ministry of the prophets, (1 Pet. 1:11-12). The dark apprehensions of the glory of Christ, which by these means they obtained, were the life of the church of old.

Promises, prophecies, predictions, concerning His person, His coming, His office, His kingdom, and His glory in them all, with the wisdom, grace, and love of God to the church in Him, are the line of life, as was said, which runs through all the writings of the Old Testament, and takes up a great portion of them.

Those were the things which He expounded unto His disciples out of Moses and all the Prophets. Concerning these things He appealed to the Scriptures against all his adversaries: ‘Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testily of Me.’ (John 5:39)

And if we find them not, if we discern them not therein, it is because a veil of blindness is over our minds.

Nor can we read, study, or meditate on the writings of the Old Testament unto any advantage, unless we design to find out and behold the glory of Christ, declared and represented in them.

For want hereof they are a sealed book to many unto this day.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 348-351.

“As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration” by J.C. Ryle

“As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is ‘facile princeps’ (‘easily the first or best’) among the divines of the Puritan school.

The value of expository preaching is continually pressed on ministers in the present day, and not without reason.

The end of all preaching is to bring men under the influence of God’s Word; and nothing seems so likely to make men understand and value the Word as lectures in which the Word is explained.

It was so in Chrysostom’s days; it ought to be so again. The idea, no doubt, like every good theory, may be easily ridden to death; and I believe that with ignorant, semi-heathen congregations, a short pithy text often does more good than a long passage expounded.

But I have no doubt of the immense value of expository preaching, when people will bring their Bibles to the service, and accompany the preacher as he travels on, or go home to their Bibles after the service, and compare what they have heard with the written Word.

I hold it to be a prime excellence of Manton’s expository sermons that, while they are very full, they are never too long.

For my own part, I am painfully struck with the general neglect with which these expository works of Manton’s have been treated of late. Modern commentators who are very familiar with German commentaries seem hardly to know of the existence of Manton’s expositions.

Yet I venture boldly to say, that no student of the chapters I have named will ever fail to find new light thrown on their meaning by Manton. I rejoice to think that now at length these valuable works are about to become accessible to the general public.

They have been too long buried, and it is high time they should be brought to light. I value their author most highly as a man, a writer, and a theologian; but if I must speak out all I think, there is no part in which I value him more than as a homiletical expositor of Scripture.

It only remains for me to express my earnest hope that this new edition of Manton’s works may prove acceptable to the public, and meet with many purchasers and readers.

If any one wants to buy a good specimen of a Puritan divine, my advice unhesitatingly is, ‘Let him buy Manton.’

We have fallen upon evil days both for thinking and reading. Sermons which contain thought and matter are increasingly rare.

The inexpressible shallownesss, thinness, and superficiality of many popular sermons in this day is something lamentable and appalling.

Readers of real books appear to become fewer and fewer every year. Newspapers, and magazines, and periodicals seem to absorb the whole reading powers of the rising generation. What it will all end in God only knows.

The prospect before us is sorrowful and humiliating.

In days like these, I am thankful that the publishers of Manton’s Works have boldly come forward to offer some real literary gold to the reading public. I earnestly trust that they will meet with the success which they deserve.

If any recommendation of mine can help them in bringing out the writings of this admirable Puritan in a new form, I give it cheerfully and with all my heart.

J.C. RYLE,
Vicar of Stradbroke, Suffolk.
29th October 1870.”

–J.C. Ryle, “An Estimate of Thomas Manton,” in Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1871/2020), 2: xvii–xix.