Why Write New Books When There are Good Old Ones?
April 12, 2016
Part of our purpose on Meet the Puritans is to introduce you to good old books. This raises the question that if there are so many good old books, how can there be any need for new books? I spoke to a friend a while back who was writing a book and who asked me, "Why write another book when so many books have been written already and so many books are flooding the market daily?" Every generation of authors has asked this question and it is not new to our modern age. To encourage those of you who read and who write, as well as you who are thinking about becoming authors, consider the following advice from Thomas Manton (1620-1677):
There is no end of books, and yet we seem to need more every day. There was such a darkness brought in by the fall, as will not thoroughly be dispelled till we come to heaven; where the sun shineth without either cold or night. For the present, all should contribute their help according to the rate and measure of their abilities. Some can hold up a candle, others a torch; but all are useful. The press is an excellent means to scatter knowledge, were it no so often abused. All complain there is enough written, and think that now there should be a stop. Indeed, it were well if in this scribbling age there were some restraint. Useless pamphlets are grown almost as great a mischief as the erroneous and profane. Yet tis not good to shut the door upon industry and diligence. There is yet room left to discover more, above all that hath been said, of the wisdom of God and the riches of his grace in the gospel; yea, more of the stratagems of Satan and the deceitfulness of man's heart. Means need to be increased every day to weaken sin and strengthen trust, and quicken us to holiness. Fundamentals are the same in all ages, but the constant necessities of the church and private Christians, will continually enforce a further explication. As the arts and slights of besieging and battering increase, so doth skill in fortification. If we have no other benefit by the multitude of books that are written, we shall have this benefit: an opportunity to observe the various workings of the same Spirit about the same truths, and indeed the speculation is neither idle nor unfruitful. (Cited from Manton's letter to the reader in The Works of Richard Sibbes, 2:3).
So, should the church keep writing books today? Manton would say "yes." Why? Because we need to use every means possible to combat the darkness of sin, because we will continue to gain fresh discoveries of God’s glory in Christ, because believers need to be godlier, and because truth needs defending.
Manton’s counsel reflects the fact that the ascended Christ did not give Puritans only to equip and build the body of Christ, to bring us to unity and maturity in the faith, and to prevent us from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:12-14). He gave us pastors and teachers in the past, he is giving them in the present, and he shall give them in the future until he returns in glory (Eph. 4:8-11). Do not despise the gifts of your ministers just because they are not "the Puritans." Christ is still working through them. And ministers, strive to do as much good as you can with the time and resources that the Lord has given you. Writing books is not for every pastor, but we can be sure that Satan will continue to flood the presses with bad books. Let us not underappreciate the value of good books, however short their life-span. Who knows but that Christ will use our work in some measure as the Spirit blesses it to keep believers in joyful subjection to the Father’s will.