Once upon a time reading was an activity engaged in by all the family. Evenings and spare afternoons were spent in companionable silence as members of the family of all ages read their books or, in some cases, were read to by father, mother or one of the older children. Such times were invaluable, building not only vocabulary, general knowledge and a broad understanding but also establishing relationships and friendships within the family.

Tragically, much of this sort of thing has been lost in the hi-tech, high speed world in which we live. We have, to a large extent, lost the art of reading—and reading as a family activity. This is not just the case with our children, but it unfortunately includes adults as well. We seem to think we need to be stimulated by visual images or we are unable to absorb information. Instead of taking down a book from the shelf to research a subject, we flick on the computer and scan through the internet with its endless wealth of material at our fingertips.

In this manner we are seriously losing a wonderful source of mental stimulation and more importantly we are losing our appreciation of the priceless fund of knowledge that is available to us in the works of our pioneer brethren and, indeed, in the Scriptures of Truth themselves. Furthermore, to read these books, we are absorbing not just the information but a spirit of the Truth which is needed as much in our community today as it ever was in times past. To define this spirit in words is very difficult, but any brother or sister who has applied themselves to a diligent perusal of these works will know that there is a contagious fervour and zeal imparted along with the accurate exposition of the Word.

Whatever useful study aids may be available (and they are useful to our Bible study) there is still no substitute for the thoughtful reading of the Scriptures and the writings of the Truth which we are so blessed to have available to us. One hundred and fifty years ago a reader wrote to Brother Thomas as follows: “I am happy to say that my wife and myself have reaped great benefit, so far, in reading your Elpis Israel, Anatolia (Exposition of Daniel) and the Herald. They are truly all great teachers of the word, by which we are enabled to search and understand the law and the testimony; and through the blessing of God we are determined to search on until we have found sufficient to make us wise unto salvation and to be baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and hope, though at this late hour, to become heirs of the kingdom of God…”. Here was a husband and wife united in searching the Scriptures and the Hope of the Gospel in isolation and without the vast support structure available to us today. Their assistance came from reading some of the literature which is so plentiful in our libraries at home and in the ecclesia. Another correspondent—a farmer in the back country of the United States—expressed his delight at receiving his copy of the first volume of Eureka, and relates how he hurried in from working in the field so that he could “have a read”.

Such benefits are at hand for us to use and if we would be “wise unto salvation” it is necessary to be constantly feeding the mind with spiritual thoughts that we may be workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Perhaps some of us have put Elpis Israel, Eureka, Exposition of Daniel and other works in a “too hard” basket. Think of the young couple of 150 years ago or the simple farmer who thrilled to read Eureka! Society nowadays considers itself far more “educated” than such people all those years ago. It is a frame of mind and a motivation that is required and perhaps this is what we lack. Reading is not just about accumulating information and knowledge but about changing our thinking to conform to the image of the Son of God: about filling the mind with Godly thoughts so that they drive out the carnal thinking so natural to the flesh. We have a favourite saying of Bro Carter’s: “The mind insensibly is affected by the stream of thought passing through it, and it is desirable to have the stream as pure as possible. A mind familiarized by pictures of evil is not strongly fortified if sin should assail.” Common sense would dictate that we fortify our minds with sound doctrine and exposition as well as devotional material as much and as often as possible—in fact, that we deliberately and regularly make time to read and read the Scriptures and the works of the Truth so readily to hand—that in the day of account we may give the answer of a good conscience, having endeavoured in this time of probation to conform our minds and lives to the pattern of our Lord and Master. With such, our Father will be well pleased.