From my early days I have been an omnivorous reader. I am afraid I have wasted a lot of time reading some books that were of very little profit, but in an effort to get a general idea of literature, embracing history, science, poetry, philosophy, belles-lettres, and worthwhile fiction, as well as that which was of far more importance than the rest,- a knowledge of the Bible and related subjects,- I have read as widely perhaps as one so busily engaged as I, could do. ...
But as I look back over the years there are certain books which stand out in my memory and thoughts as having meant more to me than the general run, whether secular or religious. I think, as a youth, my first appreciation of history was due to reading a series of books seldom seen now and which many would look upon as rather juvenile, namely, the Biographical Histories by John and Jacob Abbott. It was these books that made historical characters live before my mind's eye, and all that I have read since along that line has never blotted out the memory of the thrills that used to come to me as I pondered over these books by the two Abbotts. I have always had a love for poetry, both secular and religious, but Tennyson and Shakespeare stand out above all others in the secular field, and the "Hymns of TerSteegen, Suso, and Others", as translated by Mrs. Bevan, have had the greatest appeal to me of any religious poetry.
As to fiction, which I have red somewhat more sparingly than along other lines, I have always felt I owe a great debt to Dickens, whose vivid portrayals of various phases of life inculcated in my mind a deep appreciation of human values. I turned to Dickens again and again when I attempted to read some modern bestseller and found myself so disgusted with its filth that I consigned it to oblivion. Dickens never wrote a line that he need to have been ashamed of. I do not speak here of works of science and philosophy, as I do not recall any of these books or set of books that stands out above others as having been of special value to me.
When it comes to expository works. I have no hesitancy in saying that I owe more to five writers of the so-called Plymouth Brethren school than to any one else. C.H.M.'s (C.H. Mackintosh) Notes on the Pentateuch, together with six volumes of his Miscellaneous Writings, (Things New and Old) proved of inestimable value when as a young preacher I was seeking a firm foundation for my faith and a better grasp of Bible truth. Then a little later some unknown friend, to whom I shall be forever indebted, presented me with a set of J. N. Darby's Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. I remember well that I literally devoured these five volumes, giving almost every spare moment to them, so that I read them in two weeks' time, I think I am safe in saying that they opened up the Scriptures in their comprehensiveness in a way that nothing else has ever touched. Needless to say. I have familiarized myself with practically everything J. N. Darby wrote and I regard him as far in advance of any of the other commentators on the Bible. The works of William Kelly, particularly as set forth in his Lectures Introductory to the Pentateuch, Early Historical Books, Minor Prophets, The Four Gospels. Paul's Epistles, The Acts, Catholic Epistles and the Revelation, added much to that which J. N. Darby had already opened up to me. These early books of Kelly whetted my appetite so that I was not satisfied until I had red everything else of his, amounting to thirty or more volumes. I admit they are sometimes rather dry and I like to have a glass of water by my side as I read them, but they are clear and definite, and so far as scholarship is concerned, Kelly towers far above many who are held in honor as outstanding theologians and expositors.
When it comes to theology itself, I owe more to the works of F. W. Grant, I think, 'than' even to Mr. Darby and Mr. Kelly. F.W., as he is familiarly known, led me into an appreciation of what I might call the "inwardness" of the great truths of the person of Christ and His propitiatory work, such as I have never found anywhere else. Samuel Ridout, who was a close collaborator with F. W. Grant, helped me much, particularly as to setting the example of simplicity in unfolding the truth of God, so that the ordinary mind could readily grasp it.
The following books I have found most helpful in giving me a deeper knowledge of Bible history and connected subjects: Edersheim's History of Israel and Judah and also his Life and Times of Jesus, Messiah. Though not absolutely clear as to certain great truths concerning the Person and work of our Lord, both Geikie and Farrar, in their books, both entitled The Life of Christ, helped fix certain outstanding facts in my memory that have always been helpful in my study of the Gospels.
Sir Robert Anderson's various books have been a joy and delight because of their keen analysis of great Biblical themes, though unfortunately Sir Robert was during his later years evidently somewhat under the influence of that great scholar, but distressingly ultradispensational teacher, E. W. Bullinger.
I should probably mention in closing that I have been greatly indebted to both Strong and Young in the study of words and their inner meaning. Their great concordances are always within reach and I find them invaluable.