Saturday, March 15, 2008

Brotherly Advice

How did early missionaries accomplish so much? Here is one key: By abstaining from frivolous activities!

This is an excerpt of a letter from Hudson Taylor to his beloved sister, written while on the mission field in China.

"There is one thing I would specially warn you of the greatest curses I believe of the present day-the practice of novel-reading. If you value your mind and soul, avoid it as you would a dangerous serpent. I cannot tell you what I would give to be able to forget certain novels I have read and to efface their influence from my memory. And I firmly believe, though some would deny it,....that no Christian ever did or ever will read them without injury,.....very serious injury too, if the habit is indulged in. It is like opium-smoking, and begets a craving for more that must be supplied. Better books are neglected, and no one can estimate the mischief that results. Few, I believe, could honestly ask God's blessing upon the reading of a novel, and few would venture to assert that they read them to the glory of God. I dread them for you especially as a temptation to which you are constitutionally disposed....for you and I resemble one another very much as to temperament.....The only safety lies in avoiding them as one of Satan's most subtle snares. (Taylor, Hudson Taylor in Early Years: The Growth of a Soul, p.379)"

It's interesting that Hudson Taylor mentions valuing your mind, because I would have asked the question "what about developing your mind?" He apparently thinks that can happen without novel-reading. Perhaps it's imagination that will suffer, but is that a bad thing?

I suppose the key phrase that I agree with is that "better books are neglected." Does anyone really have enough time to read both novels and the Bible to their satisfaction?


  1. I read this post the other day and I am not sure how to respond....beacuse I do love to read novels! However, there are novels and there are novels. I do believe that some are just time-wasting junk. All the romances and so forth. But, in great literature I think there are many great (and very GOOD, MORAL ideas) presented in ways that might touch the heart of a person so as to convert it, whereas some other approach might not. I can think of many a novel that impacted my life, and particularly my spiritual life, postiviely:
    novels by Elizabeth Goudge
    many stories of Tolstoy
    Doestoevsky's great books
    Elizabeth Gaskell's and Charlotte Bronte's books
    and many, many more.

    I have had to kick myself in the rear a few times when I've become "addicted" to the "easy read" of a romance or mystery because they were time-wasters without any benefit.

  2. Yes, I am not sure how I feel about it either, it was just "food for thought." I do find it inspiring when Christians choose to take a radical stance on issues other people don't even think about. Some of these issues may be secondary when it comes to doctrine, but for personal holiness they may hold great significance in our lives.

    I do like the books you mentioned, and I can't say they had a harmful effect on me. But I'm not sure if I can name a novel that affected me spiritually, although sometimes I could compare it to a truth I already knew from the Bible. Outside the context of the Bible, I'm not sure how such books could convert someone.

    I know what you mean about "easy reads," and I think also that some non-fiction and Christian books can fall into that category.


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