I have decided to put up a Top Ten list each Tuesday - at least until I run out of ideas. On a recent train ride into the city I compiled a pretty decent list of potential subjects. For today, my Top Ten Books on Personal Piety. Note: My "Top Tens" are somewhat relative. In this case there are other books equally good as those I am listing that may be more widely known, but I do not feel like citing every comparable book that comes to mind. I am leaving off books like Holiness, by JC Ryle; The Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards; Desiring God (or whatever) by John Piper, and St. Augustine's Confessions.
Top Ten Books on Personal Piety
10. The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence (Pub. 16--) A great book to read and discuss with friends. Written by a cook who learned that true blessing is found in a life that is intentionally lived with the awareness that God is with us in whatever we do.
09. The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes (Pub. 1630) Wow. For those who are hurting, weak, convicted and suffering under the weight of sin and losing assurance. Read it for yourself, and read it that you will better know how to help others.
08. Words to Winners of Souls, Horatius Bonar (Pub. 1866) I read this little book at the recommendation of a friend during my first year in Seminary (1997). It was the most convicting and exciting thing I read that year. Ideal for those in ministry.
07. Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin (Pub. 1550) Another little one that was very helpful for me touching on obedience, self-denial, patience, hope and the proper way to use and enjoy God's temporal gifts. It doesn't sound exciting, but it has been an important and formative book for me.
06. The Pleasantness of a Religious Life, Matthew Henry (Pub. 1741) Will the real John Piper please stand up? Like Desiring God, only better.
05. The Christian's Daily Walk, Henry Scudder (Pub. 16--) A favorite read of the Puritans, this is a very practical guide to navigating everyday life with Christ at the center. Like a how-to book for the Christian life - only it's actually good. How to start your day with God, how to conduct yourself at work, at play, when prosperous, when alone, when afflicted, etc. Small sections make this an easy read.
04. Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry (Pub. 16--) I used to say that no one writes on humility anymore, and pointed to this book as a great example of what people should read. Now C.J. Mahaney has written an excellent book on the subject, but this is till my favorite.
03. The Christian in Complete Armour, William Gurnall (Pub. 1662-1665) The most comprehensive work on the subject of spiritual warfare. It's a huge book, and will take a lot of time to work through it, but the payoff is worth it. I read this at a time when some of my closest friends were abandoning the faith (1994-1995) and was beginning to fear that I too would fall. This book helped me immeasurably.
02. Vital Godliness, William Plummer (Pub. 1864) This was the book God used to bring me out of a time in my life characterized by pride, and spiritual dryness. I was reading a chapter out loud to Jen on "Spiritual Darkness" and discovered myself in the pages. Plumer covers many spiritual experiences: backsliding, hope, love, humility, distress, joy, zeal, etc. I return to this book often.
01. The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Henry Scougal (Pub. 16--) Scougal died at 28, but wrote one of the most important books for the church outside of Scripture. I am dead serious. This little book challenges old and modern/postmodern notions of what it means to be a Christian by showing we are Christian not because we have the right doctrine, or the right behavior, but because the human soul has been joined to God and participates in the divine nature. One is a Christian because of what God has done, and continues to do, in the soul, and so it is his work in us that is our hope of salvation, not our own efforts. As simple as this sounds, I believe many conservative, evangelicals get it wrong. I would encourage you to get the book and read it now. I find that I need to read this once a year.
Wow, I never really considered it, but many of the most powerful books I have read have been pretty short reads. Be sure to share what books you have found to be helpful in this particular area - piety (not on church life, theology proper, etc.).