The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) is an absolute gem of a web resource. It has been around forever. Okay, not quite that long – but as long as I can remember, it has always been a resource in my life. It shares similar age and prestige to that of Project Gutenberg – and a similar mission – but with a divine purpose.
The CCEL operates out of Calvin College under the auspices of faithful steward Harry Plantinga. The site has advanced from a simple repository for ebooks on the Christian faith to an advanced site that offers thousands of books across a wide variety of subjects for free to all along with various other technological endeavors – such as ThML, an XML specification for theological documents.
I remember the old days when we used to read off the scanned pages and edit the OCR text with manual html and xml, these days its all WYSIWYG (pronounced wizzywig, stands for What You See Is What You Get). You can tag pages, highlight sections, the site remembers where you left off reading, and all sorts of nifty stuff.
If you are looking for some great classical (and more contemporary) Christian thought and scholarship – the CCEL is an amazing and constantly expanding resource (and you can help expand it too!). Here are a few of the works that I have been or am reading on the CCEL that may be of interest to you:
- Autobiography of George Fox – Founder of the Quakers. A long and dry read, but also very insightful into early Quaker thought and practice as well as the political and cultural norms in England.
- The Imitation of Christ – A classic devotional work attributed to Thomas a Kempis on the Christian life offering rigorous insight into our spiritual lives.
- The Practice of the Presence of God – A classic devotional work by Brother Lawrence on the experience of God’s presence through all aspects of life.
- Spiritual Exercises – By Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a classical work on spiritual disciples. Somewhat dry and difficult reading, from a more Catholic perspective.
- Confessions – By Augustine of Hippo, an early church father who is usually placed alongside such individuals as Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, etc. Both devotional and theological.
- Religious Affections – Jonathan Edwards studies the biblical principles for emotional experiences in worship.
In addition to these works I am a huge fan of the extensive works by Philip Schaff, a let 19th century scholar whose works include extensive translations of the early church fathers, an exhaustive history of the church, a humongous encyclopedia of all topics Christian and religious, and so on. All of these works are available in their entirety on the CCEL. Go there now!