I have not always liked reading but God has used several old, dead men to shape my thinking. This list is subject to change and it most likely will. Here are my top 5:
“Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God. Believing, then, is directing the hearts’ attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to “behold the lamb of God,” and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives (90).”
“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 the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the 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. (40-41).”
“Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself back to me. Lo, I love you, but if my love is too mean, let me love more passionately. I cannot gauge my love, nor know how far it fails, how much more love I need for my life to set its course straight into your arms, never swerving until hidden in the covert of your face. This alone I know, that without you all to me is misery, woe outside myself and woe within, and all wealth but penury, if it is not my God.”
“As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power—the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness.(Book I. Ch. I. section II)
“When sin lets us alone, we may let sin alone: but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times, in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion (28).
“The good Lord sends us a spirit of mortification to cure our distempers, or we are in a sad condition (36).
The last one here, The Mortification of Sin by John Owen is one of the most dense, challenging books I will ever read. I don’t know that this will could ever be off of my Top 5. I challenge you to read old, dead guys. There is so much wisdom to be found in them. I still pick these up and read them from time to time and its like finding a $20 bill in the pants you haven’t worn in a year… but even better.