It is not the number of books you read, nor the variety of sermons you hear, nor the amount of religious conversation in which you mix, but it is the frequency and earnestness with which you meditate on these things till the truth in them becomes your own and part of your being, that ensures your growth.
Multifarious reading weakens the mind more than doing nothing, for it becomes a necessity, at last, like smoking: and is an excuse for the mind to lie dormant whilst thought is poured in, and runs through, a clear stream over unproductive gravel, on which not even mosses grow. It is the idlest of all idleness, and leaves more of impotency than any other.
I read hard, or not at all; never skimming, and never turning aside to merely inviting books; and Plato, Aristotle, Butler, Thucydides, Jonathan Edwards, have passed, like the iron atoms of the blood, into my mental constitution.
The constant habit of perusing devout books is so indispensable, that it has been termed the oil of the lamp of prayer. Too much reading, however, and too little meditation, may produce the effect of a lamp inverted; which is extinguished by the very excess of that aliment, whose property is to feed it.
Many works of fiction may be read with safety; some even with profit; but the constant familiarity, even with such as are not exceptionable in themselves, relaxes the mind, which needs hardening; dissolves the heart, which wants fortifying; stirs the imagination, which wants quieting; irritates the passions, which want calming; and, above all, disinclines and disqualifies for active virtues and for spiritual exercises.
Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.