I’m a connoisseur of old Christian books, especially the sermonic/devotional genre. Their authors plumb the depths of spiritual truth in simple yet soul-stirring language. You get the sense that their hearts flamed with love for the Savior. The words on the page are aglow with precious truths gleaned from precious hours spent with the Master.

Such was Malcolm James McLeod (1865-1940), pastor of Pasadena Presbyterian Church in California (1900-1910) and then pastor at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church of New York City.

McLeod authored thirteen sermon/devotional books, published between 1901 and 1935. I first discovered his writings when my wife, Kate, read a few paragraphs from one of her late father’s favorite books. The excerpt was from McLeod’s volume, Heavenly Harmonies for Earthly Living. Those three paragraphs alone, beautifully descriptive and powerful in their simplicity, inspired me to begin to collect all of his books.

Turn aside and take a moment to warm your soul near McLeod’s hearth:

The fifth chapter of Genesis is a monotonous record of names and numbers. It is like a walk in a forest of long-lived, leafless oaks. It is, moreover, a wilderness of wickedness. “The whole earth was corrupt and filled with violence.” “It repented the Lord that He had made man.” “Behold, I will destroy him with a flood of waters.” One oak, however, in the heart of the wilderness was green, like the tree planted by the river whose leaf withereth not; for “Enoch walked with God.”

Climate and soil do not account for everything. The palm tree grown on the edge of the desert, with leaf clean and green. It sends its roots down through the sand till it reaches moisture in the depths. The edelweiss, with dense clusters, flowers on the summit of the Alps. The “traveler’s joy” blooms on the highest peak of Teneriffe. The samphire grown in clefts of the rock far above the reach of the sea. In Wyoming the hot spring flows hard by the snow-drift. Sodom had its Lot, Egypt its Joseph, Babylon its Daniel. Abijah dwelt in the house of Jeroboam; and in this antediluvian chapter of the early twilight, bracketed with men whose alone biography is that they lived and died, is found a man who walked with God.

Surely the record is remarkable. What reticence! What omission! He lived 365 years, and yet his is the briefest biography ever penned. Forster’s life of Dickens covers three volumes. Washington Irving’s life by his nephew enlarges to four volumes. Masson takes six folios to complete the tragedy of Milton’s career. Lord Macaulay fills eight duodecimos on sixteen years of England’s history. It takes the author thirty-two volumes to tell Napoleon’s story. But here a simple line is all. The description is pointed, yet pregnant. The words cut through the outer shell and with a single stroke lay bare the man. One could have wished, indeed, that the full record of his life had been chronicled, as also the story of his long-lived son, Methuselah, and many another Bible hero. But differently has it been decreed. Just one dip of the pen, one stroke of the pencil, must suffice. Oh, for grace so to live that when God calls us our monument may be immortalized with the noblest epitaph that was ever chiseled into marble—“He walked with God.”