Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Collection

Long years ago when I was at the Talbotton Church, a member who lived out in what was called the Redbone Community gave me a book. It was, however, no ordinary book. Entitled, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, it was some 500 pages in length. I never have gotten around to reading it, but I valued it then and continue to do so now. Written in 1836, it became the first book in my collection of pre-1900 religious books. Like any collector, I have enjoyed the search. When traveling I always look for the old book collections full of dust and mold. Over the years the collection has grown to almost 75 volumes. I did not really start out to collect these old musty books, but somewhere along the way, it started happening.
Most of these old books are rather ordinary, costing a dollar or two and the breathing of some very old dust. A few have become more like treasures. The old saying about "one man's junk, another man's treasure" is certainly applicable when it comes to this collection of old religious books. But, it has been fun. I still remember the day I opened a package and received the gift of an 1818 edition of Hymns and Spiritual Songs by Isaac Watts. It felt like treasure in my hands! It still does! While I have several old Disciplines of the Methodist Church, my oldest edition is dated 1896. Another prize is The Epworth Hymnal put together for the church in 1886. One of them, an 1884 devotional book entitled, Daily Strength for Daily Needs, I actually used one year as a part of my devotional reading. Occasionally, I will pull one out and read something written and used in another era which I also find interesting.
This treasure of mine would be regarded as trash by most folks. When I am dead, my wife and children will have a hard time selling them at the final yard sale. Who knows? Maybe there will be another crazy collector out there? I have often asked myself , "Why?" It really makes no sense. I have finally decided it has something to do with being connected to a faith that is not transient and disposable. Nowadays, nothing seems to be something which cannot be thrown away or replaced. Oh, I know the story of faith is an old, old story. I have its record in scripture. These old books also speak to me about the fact that the story of faith and the writing about it has been around a long time and is not going away. Maybe holding a 150 year old book in my hands serves as an additional testimony of a faith that is timeless and of which I am by the grace of God a part.

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