Gleanings in Pink

Jeremy Gibson, Derby, England

I recently read a sad story. An older brother lent me the book The Life of Arthur W. Pink by I. H. Murray. Many of us have enjoyed the writings of Arthur W. Pink, especially his earlier works. I derived much pleasure reading Gleanings in Genesis1 some years ago and more recently found his studies in the Gospel of John of enormous help – this volume alone extends to over 1000 pages.2 These are only two of many books authored by A. W. Pink, the majority of which were originally written for his monthly magazine, Studies in the Scriptures (1922-53). How did he achieve so much? Remember, this was all done when everything was written out painstakingly by hand and then typed up. Microsoft Word with editing at the touch of a button did not exist.

Arthur W. Pink was born in Nottingham, England, on April 1, 1886, and converted when 18 years of age. Two years later he joined the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, USA. However, after only six weeks he found the teaching to be overly simplistic and rudimentary, at least for him. Feeling that two years spent there would be ‘wasting my time’, he moved immediately to a pastorate in Colorado. I feel this early action was a sign of things to come. Arthur was no doubt exceedingly bright; this coupled with the capacity to study incessantly for hours every day seems to have fostered within him an impatience for those without his own depth of understanding of the Bible. With this intolerance came an inability to listen to or learn from others, or to acknowledge any authority apart from his own. More than this, and perhaps more disturbing, was his focus on his own ministry to the exclusion of almost everything else.

He never stayed in one place for any length of time. He moved from one pastorate to another in the USA and then on to Australia. He determined that his views alone should prevail. After some time ministering among Baptist churches in Australia, when he found that his teaching on God’s sovereignty and divine election were unacceptable to them, he moved to another church, becoming pastor at Belvoir Street, Sydney. Here he became unhappy with the over emphasis on the sovereignty of God. A split ensued. He became pastor of the break-away group but after only a few months he withdrew from them also on the basis that it had been, in his view, ‘set up in a poor spirit’. I could not help but contrast this wandering preacher to godly men I have known who have stayed faithfully in one assembly for many years ministering God’s truth. I still remember reading some telling words that John MacArthur’s father said to him, ‘The great preachers, the lasting preachers who left their mark on history, taught their people the word of God’, and ‘they stayed in one place for a long time’.3

Arthur moved back to England in August 1928. Then, after nine months, he returned to the USA, initially to Morton’s Gap, Kentucky, then on to Los Angeles; after this he moved to Millmont and then York, Pennsylvania; but when speaking opportunities repeatedly dried up he returned to England, to Cheltenham, England, in 1934. Even by this stage he had practically withdrawn from having regular fellowship with other believers. It was in the winter of 1934-35 that he commented, ‘It is now seven years since my dear wife and I partook of the Lord’s Supper!’4 In the UK he continued to move. He lived for a time on Great Western Road, Glasgow. Here he preached wherever opportunity arose, ranging from the Free Presbyterian churches to even in some assemblies. For example, he preached in Bethany Hall, Falkirk, in October 1935. With seeming naivety, he could not understand why his diary was not instantly filled with preaching commitments. After being blocked from further preaching in the Free Presbyterian churches and not being immediately invited back to preach in the assemblies he moved south again, this time to Hove. Finally, during the Second World War, he moved for the last time, to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, off the North West coast of Scotland. Here, he and his wife remained for the rest of their lives, never, as far as one can tell, having fellowship with any local church.

Although Arthur Pink moved repeatedly, there was one constant in his life: his monthly magazine, Studies in the Scriptures. In Stornoway he and his wife lived in a small two room apartment. He went out for about one hour each day, the rest of every waking hour being spent either in written correspondence or preparing articles for Studies in the Scriptures. And he kept at it with unflinching discipline till he could do it no more, dying aged 66 years. His writing for the magazine was so far in advance that four monthly issues could be published after his death and his wife ran a further year with reprints supplementing unused manuscripts. It was during this final year that she suffered a stroke resulting in a right sided weakness. What a legacy this man has left: volume upon volume of in depth Bible exposition – truly, ‘he being dead yet speaketh’, Heb. 11. 4.

He is highly quotable. Regarding the sovereignty of God, he wrote, ‘sovereignty characterizes the whole being of God. He is sovereign in all His attributes. He is sovereign in exercising His power. His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills. This fact is evidenced on every page of Scripture. For a long season that power appears to lie dormant, and then it goes forth with irresistible might’.5 He described the eternal security of every child of God as ‘the infrustratable certainty of their entrance into the inheritance purchased for them by Christ and unto which they have been begotten by the Spirit.’6 And concerning the reality of Christ’s death he wrote, ‘but how could Jehovah’s “Fellow” suffer? How could the eternal one die? Ah, he who in the beginning was the Word, who was with God, who was God, “became flesh”. He who was in the form of God took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men; “and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, Phil. 2. 8. Thus, having become incarnate the Lord of glory was capable of suffering death, and so it was that he “tasted” death itself’.7 A. W. Pink began his discussion on the divine inspiration of the Bible with these words, ‘Christianity is the religion of a Book. Christianity is based upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture. The starting point of all doctrinal discussion must be the Bible. Upon the foundation of the divine inspiration of the Bible stands or falls the entire edifice of Christian truth. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Ps. 11. 3. Surrender the dogma of verbal inspiration and you are left like a rudderless ship on a stormy sea, at the mercy of every wind that blows. Deny that the Bible is, without any qualifications, the very Word of God, and you are left without any ultimate standard of measurement and without any supreme authority. It is useless to discuss any doctrine taught by the Bible until you are prepared to acknowledge, unreservedly, that the Bible is the final court of appeal. Grant that the Bible is a Divine revelation and communication of God’s own mind and will to men, and you have a fixed starting point from which advance can be made into the domain of truth. Grant that the Bible is (in its original manuscripts) inerrant and infallible, and you reach the place where study of its contents is both practicable and profitable’.8

I stand in awe of the man and at what he achieved, but at the same time saddened. He is to be highly commended. He had nothing of this world’s wealth, ever living in spartan circumstances. He served with unswerving energy till the end. His wife was thoroughly devoted to him and a great supporter of his ministry. But it seems that Arthur Pink became so consumed with his own sphere of service that it even replaced fellowship with other believers. May God give us the passion of Arthur Pink for the Holy Scriptures, his steadfastness in service, and the grace to hold the wealth of this world in such low esteem, but at the same time preserve us from imbalance, ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is’, Heb. 10. 25.

For those who are interested, many of A. W. Pink’s books can be viewed on line, free, at:
http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/pinks_archive.htm.
Care, however, should be exercised due to Pink’s association wih amillennianism and some hyper- Calvinistic teachings.

Footnotes

1 Pink A. W. Gleanings in Genesis (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1922).
2 Pink A. W. Gospel of John, 3 volumes in 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975).
3 MacArthur J. Rediscovering Expository Preaching (Dallas: Word, Inc., 1992), p. 347.
4 Murray I. H. The life of Arthur W. Pink (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1981), p 86.
5 Pink AW. The Sovereignty of God (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1928), p. 22.
6 Pink AW. Eternal Security (Grand Rapids: Guardian Press Inc., 1974), p. 11.
7 Pink AW. The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1958), p.1.
8 Pink AW. The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976), p.5