Book stores are a huge weakness in my life, especially used book stores. Online bookstores are great, and brick and mortar stores selling new books are a definite draw, but a good used book store is impossible to ignore.
I found a new one today, in the back of an old haunt. We stopped at Baker Books in Grand Rapids, a regular stop when we’re in town. On my way to find the men’s room I had to walk through the back room, full of used books. I was flabbergasted by what I found. Needless to say, I started browsing. It’s amazing. Just by walking down the aisles I found books I didn’t even know I was missing. Books that can help explain things to me, can uplift me, entertain me.
During this trip I found three titles (four books – one was a two volume set). The first was from the Library of Christian Classics series titled “Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation“. The next is “The Book of Common Worship” put out by the Presbyterian Church of America in 1946. Finally, the two volume set is the “Heidelberg Catechism“, a series of 53 sermons by Johannes Vanderkemp from the early 18th century (he died in his pulpit in the Netherlands in 1718).
Here are the opening sentences of the author’s “Preface to the candid reader” written in 1717:
“BEFORE I inform thee of the purport of this my book, I must briefly discourse with thee on two momentous matters, which are of the greatest concern to thee and every other person. And in the first place, that it behooves thee to inquire whether thou art in the true church, in which God, with whom we have to do, is sought, worshipped and glorified in a pure and acceptable manner, to salvation. It is a dictate of human nature, that man ought not only to worship and glorify God, but that he ought also to do this in connection with others. But man having sinned, and come short of the glory of God, knows not in what manner he ought to worship and glorify him; and nevertheless, as the idea, that he ought to worship God, abides with him, he will, according to his confused and singular conceptions, endeavour to worship him in an erroneous manner. And since being puffed up by his fleshly understanding, he delights in himself, and in his peculiar opinions, he therefore seeks to render them agreeable to others also, and thus to create a party, even in religion. But the Lord God, having appointed for himself an everlasting people, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, peculiar people, that they might shew forth his praise, hath made his will known to them, and thus also the proper method of glorifying him. This hath produced two kinds of churches and religions, a false, and a true or pure one.”
He goes on to describe these two kinds of religions. Very interesting reading, and that’s just the preface!
I can’t imagine a world without books. Common wisdom today says a book can be many things, and is not just paper and ink. eBooks are books, they say, and have reinvigorated reading. Google is going to scan all the classics and have everything available at the touch of a button, click of a mouse, or swipe of a finger across a digital page. I don’t know. Google doesn’t have the same ambiance as a room filled with old books. I’m willing to give up a lot of things for on-line convenience, but the joy of shopping for and reading a book is not one that will be easy.