Christians should love literature because God loves literature. He used literature to reveal himself to us. His holy counsel came in written form. He is the most important author of the most important book — the Book of books!
Consider what past servants of the Lord said about books. C. H. Spurgeon, preaching on 2 Timothy 4:13, said: ‘Paul was inspired by the Spirit, but he still wants books! He had been preaching for at least 30 years, and yet he wanted books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wanted books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wanted books!
‘He had been caught up into the third heaven and had seen things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wanted books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, but he still wanted books! The apostle said to Timothy and, in the same way, says to all preachers: “Give thyself unto reading”.’
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a great producer of Christian literature (see John Piper’s The legacy of sovereign joy). This was the fruit of his pastoral and academic responsibilities. Besides translating the Bible into German, he produced hundreds of other theological, doctrinal, polemical and political books, as well as works on apologetics, catechisms, material for children, and hymnals.
From 1522-1524 he produced 446 theological books, as well as other writings. He also preached several times a week and sometimes several times a day. From 1510 to the year of his death he preached over 3000 sermons, and from age 41-62 was the father of an extensive family.
The printed word was fundamental in propagating the Protestant Reformation. His works spread internationally and multiplied uncontrollably.
Luther’s great motivation was the Book of books. To him, the Bible was the primary source of faith. He once said in a letter that when he was a young man he had read the Bible so many times that he could point out the position of a verse on the page just by hearing it. His conversion occurred through the inexhaustible study of the biblical text.
John Calvin was also one of the principal producers of Christian literature in the history of the church. Born in Noyon, France, in 1509, he was converted after being educated in law at Paris. There he studied theology. In 1533, he had to flee into exile because of persecution against the Protestants.
Practically all his future ministry was concentrated in Geneva, where he took refuge in 1536.
During his arduous pastoral labours, he was able to produce 48 volumes which, in the language of John Piper, were ‘hammered out on the anvil of pastoral responsibility’. Of these volumes, his commentaries on various books of the Bible are outstanding. He wrote commentaries on all the New Testament books, except Revelation, and on thirteen books of the Old Testament.
Calvin’s chief work, and possibly the greatest work of Christian literature of all time, was his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Between 1536 and 1559, he published eight editions of the Institutes.
The spirit of his writings is best expressed by a comment on 1 Corinthians: ‘The first step in serving Christ is to forget ourselves and think only of the Lord’s glory and the salvation of men. Furthermore, no one will ever be equipped to teach if he is not first absorbed by the power of the gospel to speak not so much with his lips, but with his own heart’.
By means of his books and the numerous letters he sent to pastors and elders, Calvin was the spiritual father of countless churches throughout France during the time he ministered in Geneva. And all this work was carried on while enduring severe health problems. In a letter to his doctor, he described his symptoms — colic, vomiting blood, fever, chills, gout, hemorrhoids, kidney stones, indigestion, ulcers and blood in the urine.
John Bunyan was born in England in 1628. His book Pilgrim’s Progress is reputed to be the most read book after the Bible. His conversion began through the reading the only two books in his house which were inherited by his wife.
He became pastor of a Baptist congregation and was imprisoned many times as a nonconformist. It was in prison that he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. This book attained rapid popularity.
Bunyan wrote about 58 books in all. Most of his writings were for the purpose of helping pilgrims on their way to heaven. It was said of him that his blood ran with Bible verses. He once said he ‘would prefer to die with the Philistines than to corrupt the blessed Word of God’.
Solomon warns us with impressive realism in Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 that: ‘the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person’. Our motives must be right if we produce Christian literature.
If you want to produce Christian literature: Write! But submit your conscience and text to the supreme authority of Scripture. Write! But consider the needs of God’s people around you. Make what you say relevant and useful to the edification of the church and the glory of the Father.
Editora FIEL, Brazil