(J.R. Miller, “Things That Endure”)
“Avoid every kind of evil!” 1 Thessalonians 5:22
Much is said in commendation of books. But, as in other matters, there is need for wise discrimination in what one reads. Not all books are worth reading.
There are many which are utterly empty of anything that is noble or worthy. One might read them continually all one’s life–and yet be no wiser and no better. A hundred of them do not contain a dozen sentences that it is worthwhile to keep in one’s memory, or that can be of any help or cheer or strength in one’s life.
Then, there are books which are most pernicious in their influence. There are all grades and degrees of evil in this class. Some of them carry a subtle poison in their atmosphere which is noxious to those who breathe it. We need to keep most careful watch over our heart, so that nothing shall ever tarnish its purity. Any corrupt thought, dallied with even for a moment, leaves a stain upon the mind which may never be effaced.
If we would keep the tender joy of our heart experiences unbroken, we must hold rigid watch over our reading, conscientiously excluding not only whatever is obviously impure–but all in which lurks even a suggestion of evil.
A writer says: “Never read a book which is not worth reading, for some noble end, beyond the short-lived pleasure of a little excitement.”
When we think of the influence which our reading has upon our lives, we see at once the importance of selecting only books that are worthwhile. At the best, none of us can read one book in a thousand of those which are within our reach. Surely then, this one book ought to be the best in all the thousand.
Every year, a flood of really worthless publications is poured over the country. People go into ecstasies over trivial works which please or excite them for a day–and are then old and forgotten; while books in every way admirable, are passed by unnoticed.
No book is really worth reading, which does not either impart valuable knowledge; or set before us some ideal of beauty, strength, or nobility of character.
There are enough great books to occupy us during all our short and busy years. If we are wise, we will resolutely avoid all but the richest and the best.
(Editor’s note: Reading was the primary media in J.R. Miller’s day. The above standards apply to all media today–TV, internet, etc.)
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