These five authors are always eminently quotable:
OK, I confess, I tend to like books and I tend to do a bit of reading. But some of you might have figured that out by now. And I am always on the lookout for good quotes. I have many thousands of quotes saved in perhaps hundreds of files, arranged by author or by subject. (I was thinking the other day, when I pass on, that it would be a shame to see all these gone to waste!)
Many, but not all, of these quotes I have the full reference for (author, title, page number, etc.). If you write a lot – as I do – having a ready supply of quotable quotes always comes in handy. And great thoughts and ideas from others are always worth passing on.
I confess however that my title might be a bit misleading – just how exactly would one measure such a thing? So I am here simply listing my top five based just on my own experience, based on those authors that I never can get enough of – those that I constantly keep reading and keep quoting from.
There are just so many quotable authors and speakers out there, but here I am limiting myself to Christians. One could think of so many others, such as a Churchill or an Orwell. And narrowing things down to just Christians does not help all that much anyway. Simply consider the Puritans – we would have so many great quotes to choose from by these great authors, pastors and preachers.
And comparisons can be misleading as well. Some of my top five (like Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones) wrote many dozens of books, even hundreds, while someone like Tozer did not write anywhere near as many books. But between the books he did author, and his many articles and sermons, there is never a shortage of quotes that flow from the pen or voice of Tozer. Also, some of these men, such as Lewis, were prolific letter writers as well, so there are even more areas where quote-mining can take place.
Thus I am being rather selective and biased here in listing these five Christians. They are the ones that I at least seem to always be quoting. If there were some way to actually measure who is the most quotable of these top five, I would have to say that it may well be a toss-up between Spurgeon and Chesterton (with Lewis certainly a close second).
These guys were so prolific in various ways. Spurgeon for example gave thousands of sermons besides his numerous books, while Chesterton of course had his regular newspaper columns to glean from as well. These champions offer a never-ending supply of terrific quotations.
Here then are my top five who I simply list in alphabetical order. I offer their dates, a link to my write-up about them in my “Notable Christians” series, and then a few somewhat random but choice quotes from each one.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/24/notable-christians-g-k-chesterton/
“It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom – that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”
“We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green.”
“At least five times the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases, it was the dog that died.”
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) billmuehlenberg.com/2012/01/19/notable-christians-c-s-lewis/
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
“Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) billmuehlenberg.com/2013/11/25/notable-christians-d-martyn-lloyd-jones/
“We must learn to seek the Lord himself. I mean that we must not be content with ideas concerning Him, or with propositions about Him. Once more it is essential that we should emphasize that while doctrines and theology and understanding are absolutely vital to the Christian, it is always wrong to stop at these alone. We must go beyond them and realize that the purpose of all knowledge of doctrine is to bring us to a knowledge of the Person of Christ. As we have seen, ‘That I might know him and the power of His resurrection’ was the ambition of the greatest doctrinal, theological teacher and preacher the Church has ever known. Without knowledge of doctrine we may become victims of a false mysticism, or simply remain babes in Christ. In order to be strong, and grow, and become virile and powerful, an understanding of truth is essential to us. But that should lead us to seek a knowledge of the Person Himself.”
“Nowhere is sin so brought home to us as at the Cross of Christ and by the blood of Christ. Before we are forgiven we must realize something of the enormity of sin, and it is at the Cross that we do so. We see it as something so terrible, so horrible, such an affront to God, that it necessitates the Cross. The Cross therefore condemns us before it sets us free. This is why it is an offence to the natural man… Sin is so terrible, so foul, and so vile that nothing could deal with it but the blood of Christ.”
“Salvation is not ultimately for our sakes; but for the glory of God. God in salvation is vindicating Himself, and manifesting Himself to the whole universe. He is displaying His everlasting and eternal glory. Hence His purpose cannot and will not fail.”
C. H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892) billmuehlenberg.com/2010/12/30/notable-christians-c-h-spurgeon/
“The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise.’ But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought… ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.’ No subject of contemplation will tend to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.”
“The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is in the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.”
“I cannot bear it—that we should love Jesus little. It seems to me horrible. Not to have your heart all on fire for Christ—this is execrable! Let us love him to the utmost. Let us ask him to give us larger hearts, and to fire them with the flame that is his own, that we may love him to the utmost possibilities of affection.”
A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) billmuehlenberg.com/2009/10/02/notable-christians-a-w-tozer/
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that comprises the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”
“The love of Christ both wounds and heals, it fascinates and frightens, it kills and makes alive, it draws and repulses, it sobers and enraptures. There can be nothing more terrible or more wonderful than to be stricken with love for Christ so deeply that the whole being goes out in a pained adoration of His person, an adoration that disturbs and disconcerts while it purges and satisfies and relaxes the deep inner heart. This love as a kind of moral fragrance is ever detected upon the garments of the saints. In the writings of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, for instance, this fragrance is so strong as to be very nearly intoxicating. There are passages in his Confessions so passionately sweet as to be unbearable, yet so respectful and self-effacing as to excite pity for the man who thus kneels in adoring wonder, caught between holy love and an equally holy fear. The list of fragrant saints is long. It includes men and women of every shade of theological thought within the bounds of the orthodox Christian faith. It embraces persons of every social level, every degree of education, every race and color. This radiant love for Christ is to my mind the true test of catholicity, the one sure proof of membership in the Church universal.”
“We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.”
Obviously there are many hundreds of other quotes I could have run with here. There is no shortage of wonderful things that were said by these five men. If these quotes spur you on to read these authors for the very first time, or to revisit them once more, then I have been successful in my aim for this piece. And if you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, well, so much the better!
Happy reading – and quoting.