Give attendance to reading the Scriptures: J.W. Alexander & Thomas Murphy

Wise words to pastors especially to improve their preaching, but also to all Christians, from James W. Alexander (Thoughts on Preaching) and repeated by Thomas Murphy as well (“Incessant Study of the Bible,” Pastoral Theology):

§ 43. Study of the Scripture.— Constant perusal and re-perusal of Scripture is the great preparation for preaching. You get good even when you know it not. This is one of the most observable differences between old and young theologians. "Give attendance to reading."

And a further thought on this matter:

The liveliest preachers are those who are most familiar with the Bible, without note or comment ; and we frequently find them among men who have had no education better than that of the common school. It was this which gave such animation to the vivid books and discourses of the Puritans. As there is no poetry so rich and bold as that of the Bible, so he who daily makes this his study, will even on human principles be awakened, and acquire a striking manner of conveying his thoughts. The sacred books are full of fact, example, and illustration, which with copiousness and variety will cluster around the truths which the man of God derives from the same source. One preacher gives us naked heads of theology; they are true, Scriptural, and important, but they are uninteresting, especially when reiterated for the thousandth time in the same naked manner. Another gives us the same truths, but each of them brings in its train a retinue of Scriptural example, history, a figure by way of illustration; and a variety hence arises which is perpetually becoming richer as the preacher goes more deeply into the mine of Scripture. There are some great preachers who, like Whitefield, do not appear to bestow great labour on the preparation of particular discourses; but it may be observed, that these are always persons whose life is a study of the Word. Each sermon is an outflowing from a fountain which is constantly full. The Bible is, after all, the one book of the preacher. He who is most familiar with it, will become most like it; and this in respect to every one of its wonderful qualities; and will bring forth from his treasury things new and old.

Thomas Murphy's Recommended Pastoral Library

The following is a list of recommended books that should be had and consulted by the Christian minister in his library, prepared by Thomas Murphy, an Irish-American Presbyterian, who was born in Country Antrim in 1823 and died in New Jersey in 1900. Many of the authors he cites in his most valuable Pastoral Theology, pp. 144-147, not surprisingly, are to be found here at Log College Press. This guide can be useful to all Christians, but especially if you are a pastor or seeking to become one, take note of the authors and titles and links below.

In order to give some assistance in the selection of books, we would name a few upon the respective branches of ministerial study. We pass by general reading and culture, for it is with the minister in his special calling as pastor that we are now concerned. We give only a few authors as many as may serve at the beginning of the ministry a sort of indispensable apparatus for commencing the great work. At least, the pastor's library should be stocked with most of these as soon as circumstances will allow. The books we name have been well tried, and are recommended by persons whose judgment is worthy of confidence.

1. Books of general reference….

2. Interpretation of Scripture….

3. Commentaries. On the whole Bible, [Matthew] Henry's Commentary; Critical and Experimental Commentary by Jamieson, Faussett and Brown; [Johann Peter] Lange's great Bible work is a thesaurus of scriptural exposition which may be secured as the wants of the pastor require. Many of the best expositors have written on only one or a few books of Scripture. A detailed list of some of the most useful of these may now be given: On Genesis, [James Gracey] Murphy, [Melancthon Williams] Jacobus, [George] Bush; on Exodus, Murphy, Jacobus, Bush; on Leviticus, Bush, [Andrew] Bonar; on Numbers, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Deuteronomy, Keil and Delitzsch; on the whole Pentateuch, [John] Calvin; on Joshua and Judges, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Ruth and Samuel, Keil and Delitzsch; on Esther, [Thomas] McCrie [the Elder]; on Job, [Albert] Barnes; on Psalms, Barnes, Calvin; on Proverbs, [Charles] Bridges, [Moses] Stuart; on Ecclesiastes, Bridges; on Song of Solomon, Newton; on Isaiah, Barnes, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on Jeremiah and Lamentations, [Ebenezer] Henderson; on Ezekiel, [Patrick] Fairbairn; on Daniel, Barnes, [Karl August] Auberl[e]n, Stuart; on the minor prophets,  Henderson; on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi[T.V.] Moore; on the four Evangelists, John J. Owen; on Matthew and Mark, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on John, [George] Hutch[e]son; on Acts[Joseph Addison] Alexander, [Horatio Balch] Hackett, Jacobus; on Romans, [Charles] Hodge, [Samuel Hulbeart] Turner; on Corinthians[Charles] Hodge; on Galatians, [Martin] Luther; on Ephesians[Charles] Hodge; on Philippians and Colossians, [John] Eadie; on Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barnes; on Hebrews, Stuart, [John] Owen; on James, Barnes, [Robert Everett?] Pattison; on Peter, Barnes and [Robert] Leighton; on John and Jude, Barnes; on Revelation, Stuart, Barnes and Auberl[e]n.

4. TheologySystematic Theology, by [Charles] Hodge; [George] Hill's Divinity; [Timothy] Dwight's Theology; [John] Dick's Theology; Outlines of Theology, by A. A. Hodge; [Benedict] Pictet's Theology.

5. Church History. [Johann Lorenz] Mosehim's Ecclesiastical History; [W.G.T.] Shedd's History of Doctrines; [Johann Heinrich] Kurtz's Sacred History; [Philip] Schaff's Apostolic Church; [Thomas] McCrie's [the Elder] Life of Knox; History of the Church in Chronological Tables, [Henry Boynton] Smith; The Ancient Church, by Dr. [William Dool] Killen; [Jean-Henri Merle] D'Aubigne's Histories.

6. Church Government and the Sacraments[Samuel] Miller on the Christian Ministry; [Samuel} Miller on the Ruling ElderPrimitive Church Officers, J.A. Alexander; [Richard] Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity; [Lyman] Coleman's Primitive Church

7. Sermons. This field is a boundless one, and we give only a few books which are known to be of standard value: [Robert] South's Sermons; Robert Hall's Sermons; Sermons of John M. Mason — these should be read by all means; [Samuel Davies’] Sermons; Archibald Alexander's Practical Sermons; Gospel in Ezekiel, [Thomas] Guthrie; Principal [William] Cunningham's Sermons, amongst the best in the language; [Charles] Spurgeon's Sermons; Bishop [Samuel] Horsley's Sermons, among the best.

8. Practical Piety. [Lady Rachel] Russell's Letters; [Samuel] Rutherford's Letters; [Thomas] A Kempis; [John Angell] James's Earnest Ministry; [Octavius] Winslow's Precious Things of God; [Richard] Baxter's Reformed Pastor; Daily Meditations by [George] Bowen; Owen on the Glory of Christ — a work of pre-eminent value; Owen on Spiritual-Mindedness — Dr. [Archibald] Alexander said this should be read once a year; [John] Howe's Delight in God; [John] Flavel's Keeping the Heart.

9. Christian Biography. Lives of [Robert Murray] McCheyne, [Charles] Simeon, Henry Martyn, [Thomas] Hal[y]burton, Archibald Alexander.

10. Great Puritan Writers. John Howe -- all of his works. Says James W. Alexander, "A little reading in the pages of great thought will sometimes set one thinking, as if by a happy contagion. Such pages are those of John Howe." Owen, especially on Hebrews Dr. Mason used to say all his theology was from this. Some of his most valuable productions are on "Spiritual-Mindedness," on the "Glory of Christ," on "Forgiveness of Sin," "Indwelling Sin," and "Mortification of Sin;" Baxter, especially his "Saints Rest" and "Reformed Pastor," Leighton's works; Flavel's works highly recommended; and [Stephen] Charnock on the "Divine Attributes." 

11. On Sabbath-school Work. "Sunday-School Idea" ([John Seely] Hart); "Sabbath -School Index" ([Richard Gay] Pardee); "Preparing to Teach" (Presbyterian Board).

The minister who has secured most of these books is furnished with the best of reading for many a day, and with authorities on almost all subjects that can come before him in his profession. Of other authors he will find out the value in the progress of his ministry, and purchase them as new wants arise. It was an excellent advice of Dr. Archibald Alexander that ministers should buy books only as they are actually needed, and not to be stored away on the shelves of the library for future use. Our last advice is to be sure of getting only the standard and very best authors.