Did you ever hear the dream of Gutenberg?
(George Everard, "The Importance of Reading" 1885)
Did you ever hear the dream of Gutenberg? He was just about to put forward his invention of the printing press, and it seemed to him as if an angel came and spoke to him:
"John Gutenberg, you have made your name immortal — but at what a cost! Think well what you are doing! The ungodly are many more than the godly. Your work will but multiply their blasphemies and lies. You have uncovered the bottomless pit — and a swarm of seducing spirits shall henceforth come out and turn earth into Hell. Oh think of millions of souls corrupted by your achievement. See the poison of fiends distilled into the souls of boys and girls, making them old in the experience of sin! See that mother weeping over her depraved son, and that grey-haired father hiding his face from his daughter's shame. Destroy your press, for it shall be the pander of blasphemy and lust! Destroy it, and forget it! Forbear, by multiplying the resources of the wicked, to make yourself through all ages the partaker of their crimes!"
Gutenberg was about to destroy his invention, but he reflected that the gifts of God, though perilous, are never bad, and that he might be helping the intellect and wisdom which God had given to man to gain fresh help and opportunity for good. So he proceeded with his work, and the first book that went forth from his press was a portion of the Holy Scriptures.
But, alas, the dream has come too true! Tens of thousands of publications, small and great, are issuing from the press which spread the contagion of evil on every side. Many a school boy has lost irretrievably the tone and purity of his mind by such reading. Many a girl has secretly read such a book, and it has left its stain on her for life — her dress may be fair and white, but the spot on the inner robe of purity abides.
Amidst the vast amount of printed matter sent forth daily, it is to be feared that the evil sadly exceeds the good. None can tell how the minds of multitudes are corrupted by the publications that they peruse. Therefore, my friend, be careful what you read!
It is true that "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." But it is no less true that as a man reads — so very much will he think. Mind, memory, conscience, imagination, will, affection — all will be influenced by that which you read.
The questionable novel, with its picturing of the worst passions of the soul, as is too often the case — ought not to be devoured as if it would leave no bad impression behind. I know quite well, that we all need recreation, but it is not genuine recreation to spend hour after hour pouring over that which is trashy, nonsensical, and worse — and will only unfit you for anything higher and holier.
A great responsibility rests upon parents with respect to this matter. You would be very careful never to let poison be so exposed in your house that by any chance your children would be likely to touch it. But is there not worse poison than that which endangers life? And ought you not to take heed that no such books are in your home as may prove likely to injure the souls of your children.
And if, dear reader, you should have formed the habit of reading such light and injurious books or publications — is it not wise at once to cast them aside? It may be difficult for you at first to substitute other reading, but in the end you will be abundantly recompensed for the effort, in the real profit and solid enjoyment afforded by the perusal of works of a higher character.
If such books as I have referred to are in your house, follow the example of the Ephesians. They burned their bad books publicly, though the price of them was fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)