Tag Archives: A.W. Pink

Take Heed What you Read

An appropriate follow up to the post Christian Nominalism and the Christian Bookstore:

By Arthur W. Pink 

“Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24): the word “hear” obviously includes what is read, for that which is written or printed is addressed to the ears of our intellect. Few people today realize the urgent need for “taking heed” unto what they read. Just as the natural food which is eaten either helps or hinders the body—so the mental food we receive either benefits or injures the mind, and that, in turn, affects the heart. Just as it is harmful to listen to the rubbish and poison which is being served from the great majority of present-day pulpits—so it is exceedingly injurious to the soul to read most of what is now being published. “Take heed what you hear” and read! But let us seek to be more specific.

The only thing which is really worth calling “religion” is the life of God in the soul-commenced, carried on, and consummated solely by the Holy Spirit. Hence, whatever does not bear the impress of the Spirit’s unction, should be rejected by the Christian: for not only can unctionless messages do us no good—but what proceeds not from the Spirit—is of the flesh. Here, then, is the test which God’s children ought to apply unto all they hear, and here is the balance in which they should weigh all that they read. True, there are varying degrees of the Spirit’s unction. As it is in the natural so it is in the spiritual—there will be a varying amount of wetness from the faintest moisture of dew—as compared to the copious shower. As there had to be “salt” in every sacrifice (Lev. 2:13), so every discourse or article proceeding from the Spirit’s aid, is “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). But O how very much today is devoid of spiritual savor and flavor!

Some of God’s dear people may suppose that it would be presumptuous to set themselves up as judges of what they hear or read—but that is a serious mistake, being both a false humility, and a shirking of duty. The Apostle rebuked the Hebrews because their senses (spiritual faculties) were not developed so as to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:13). With as much reason, might it be termed pride for anyone to pass judgment upon the groceries or meats purchased from the stores. Others may ask, “But how are simple and unlearned souls to distinguish between the different religious publications of the day?” Very simply: in sampling your natural food how do you determine whether or not it be seasoned? By your natural taste, of course. So it is spiritually: the “new man” has a palate too! If the God of creation has given us natural palates for the purpose of distinguishing between wholesome and unwholesome food, the God of grace has furnished His people with a capacity, a spiritual sense, to distinguish between nutritious and unwholesome soul food.

“Just as the mouth tastes food—the ear tests the words it hears” (Job 34:3). Does yours, my reader? Are you as careful about what you take into your mind—as what you take into your stomach? You certainly ought to be, for the former is even more important than the latter. If you eat some material food which is injurious, you can take a purgative and get rid of the same; but if you have devoured mental food which is injurious, it stays with you! “The ear tests the words it hears.” Again, we ask, Does yours, dear reader? Are you learning to distinguish between “letter” and “spirit;” between the “form” and the “power;” between that which is of the earth and that which is from Heaven; between that which is lifeless and unctionless and that which is instinct with the breath of God? If the answer is ‘No’, then you are greatly the loser.

How many of God’s dear children listen to the automaton “letter” preachers of today, and yet find nothing suited to the needs of their poor souls! And how many are subscribing for one magazine after another, hoping to find that which will the better furnish them to fight the good fight of faith—only to be disappointed? What they hear and what they read does not penetrate and grip—it has no power—it neither breaks down nor lifts up—it produces neither godly sorrow nor godly joy. The messages they hear or read, fall upon their ear like an idle or twice-told tale—it completely fails to reach their case or minister to their needs. They are no better off after hearing a hundred such “sermons” or reading through a hundred such periodicals, than they were at the beginning! They are no farther from the world—and no nearer unto God!

It is often a long time before God’s children are able to account for this. They blame themselves; they are exceedingly loath to say, “This message is not of God.” They are afraid to act in the spiritual, as they do in the natural, and condemn and discard that which is worthless. While they feel a lack of power in the sermons they hear, or the articles they read, and while their souls steadily get dried up like a potsherd—they are slow to realize that this is the inevitable effect of the unctionless preaching they listen to, or the unctionless literature they read; and that such dryness and leanness of soul is inevitable—by their association with unhumbled and empty professors. But in due time God opens their eyes, and they see through the flimsy veil and discover that both the sermons they hear, and the literature they read—are only the product of a dead profession!

Ah, it is a great thing when once the Holy Spirit teaches a soul—that it is power which is lacking from the lifeless preaching and lifeless articles of dead professors. It is power which the renewed soul seeks—a message which has power to search his conscience, to pierce him to the quick, to write it upon his heart; a message which has power to bring him to his knees in broken-hearted confession to God; a message which has power to make him feel that he is “vile”; a message which has power to drive him to Christ, for the binding up of his wounds, for Him to pour in “oil and wine,” and send him on his way rejoicing. Yes, what the renewed soul longs for (though at first he knows it not) is that Divine message which comes to him “not simply with words—but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Sooner or later, every Christian comes to value “power,” and to count as worthless, whatever lacks it. It is by Divine power, that he is taught in his own soul, by which he is made to feel acutely his sinnership, his carnality, his beggarliness. It is Divine power working in his heart—the same power which brought Christ again from the dead (Eph. 1:19, 20)—which draws his affections unto things above and makes his soul pant after God “as the deer pants after the water brooks” (Psalm 42:1). It is this Divine power working in him which reveals to his burdened spirit the Throne of Grace, and causes him to implore mercy and to seek grace “to help in time of need.” It is this Divine power working in him, which makes him cry “Make me walk along the path of Your commands—for there I find delight” (Psalm 119:35).

Those who are partakers of this Divine power (and they are few in number) can never be satisfied with a powerless ministry, either oral or written.

“Those who live according to the flesh—have their minds set on what the flesh desires,” (Romans 8:5). They are charmed with oratorical eloquence, catchy sayings, witty allusions, and amusing illustrations. On just such “husks”, do the religious “swine” feed!

But the penitent prodigal can find no nutriment therein! Men “of the world”—and they may be graduates from some “Bible Institute” or possessors of a diploma from some Bible Seminary, now styling themselves “preachers of the Gospel”—will speak of the things of the world and “the world hears them” (1 John 4:5). But those who are seeking to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” obtain no help therefrom, yes, they perceive clearly that such sermons and periodicals are “broken cisterns, which can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

“Take heed what you hear” and read! More than forty years ago the saintly Adolph Saphir wrote, “I think the fewer books we read—the better. It is like times of cholera, when we should only drink filtered water.” What would he say if he were on earth today and glanced over the deadly poison sent forth by the heterodox, and the lifeless rubbish put out by the orthodox? Christian reader, if you value the health of your soul, cease hearing and quit reading all that is lifeless, unctionless, powerless, no matter what prominent or popular name be attached thereto. Life is too short to waste valuable time on that which does not profit. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the religious books, booklets, and magazines now being published, are not worth the paper on which they are printed!

To turn away from the lifeless preachers and publishers of the day—may involve a real cross. Your motives will be misconstrued, your words perverted, and your actions misinterpreted. The sharp arrows of false report will be directed against you. You will be called proud and self-righteous, because you refuse to fellowship empty professors. You will be termed censorious and bitter—if you condemn in plain speech—the subtle delusions of Satan. You will be dubbed narrow-minded and uncharitable, because you refuse to join in singing the praises of the “great” and “popular” men of the day. More and more, you will be made to painfully realize—that the path which leads unto eternal life is “narrow” and that FEW there are who find it. May the Lord be pleased to grant unto each of us—the hearing ear and obedient heart! “Take heed what you hear” and read!

 

Book Reviews for February 2012

Below are some short reviews from books I’ve recently finished.

Backslider – Andrew Fuller

This short book, by Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) showed up as a recommended read on Amazon.com while I was looking for another book of a similar theme.  I was surprised to find out that Charles H. Spurgeon “did not hesitate to describe Fuller as ‘the greatest theologian’ of his century.Fuller was widely considered by others to be the greatest Baptist theologian of the 1800’s.  In his short work, Fuller wastes little time in expounding on his theses, “The Backslider: it’s nature, symptoms, and means for recovery.”  If the reader didn’t realize this was a work over 200 years old, reading chapter 1 would’ve seemed like an address for the modern day Church.  Fuller states, “professors [of Christianity] are continually falling away from Christ; either totally, so as to walk no more with him [Christ], or partially, so as greatly to dishonor his name.”  This assertion is no doubt evidence of today as well.  Fuller points out it is, “the work of a faithful pastor to strengthen the diseased, to heal the sick, to bind up the broken, to bring again that which is driven away, and to seek that which is lost.”  As he  begins his dissection of the varieties of backsliding, he emphasizes that backsliding “originates in a departure of heart from him [God].”  Andrew Fuller goes on to describe the nature of backsliding before delving into some of the symptoms and effects.  He concludes his brief work by summarizing means to recovery from backsliding which begins with reading the word of God, especially those passages that relate to the backsliders current situation, i.e. Jeremiah 2, or Psalm 25, 32, 38, 51, and 130.   To Scripture reading, Fuller wisely (and biblically) suggest the addition of prayer.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but as he points out they “mutually assist each other.”  A second means of recovery is reflection upon the “circumstances of thine offences”, while thirdly Fuller recommends reflecting on “the goodness of God in having hitherto borne with thee.”  As he works through this final chapter, he adds 5 more helpful suggestions for backslider recovery, each of which are rooted in Scripture.  Overall this is a highly recommended, extremely helpful book for not only the backslider or one who has backslidden but everyone who is wondering how best to bring backsliders back.  James 5:19-20 

Saving Faith (Kindle Edition) – A.W. Pink (1886-1952)

Saving Faith is an excerpt of Pink’s larger work Studies on Saving Faith and was assembled by www.monergism.com. It is available as a free download from their site.  Let me just say that after reading this book, I most likely will purchase the expanded version because of Pink’s writing style, pastoral care, and brilliant exegesis.  This was the first book I’ve read of the classic books of Pink and it’s easy to see why he is such a well thought of theologian.  I will admit, I was a bit confused with Pink’s direction at the beginning of Saving Faith, but this could be due to its extraction from a larger work.  This difficulty hinged on Pink’s definition of saving faith and its distinction from counterfeits.  Boiling down his argument and exegesis true saving faith is a product of regeneration, or being born again.  The counterfeits, or those who possess non-saving faith, “are willing for Christ to save them from hell, but are not willing for Him to save them from self.  They want to be delivered from the wrath to come, but they wish to retain their self-will and self-pleasing.”  Once Pink established his thesis and drew distinction between the various “types of faith” this book soared.  In my opinion, what Pink seems to be addressing is the “no-Lordship Controversy” that was sparked and dealt with severely by Pastor John MacArthur several years ago.  Essentially, this viewpoint states that one can have Christ as Savior, but need not submit to Him as Lord of their lives, thus dividing Christ through an unbiblical distinction.  Perhaps the term had not been coined yet when Pink wrote his work, but I cannot help but see this as a potential audience he’s addressing.  Perhaps best summarizing his position, Pink draws distinction between 3 groups of people identified in the Old Testament: 1) Heathen Gentiles 2) National Israel 3) Spiritual remnant Israel (see Romans 9:6).  He then draws parallel to John’s Gospel 1) Hardened leaders of the nation (scribes, Pharisees, priests and elders) 2) Common people who “heard Him gladly” 3) Those who received Him as their Lord and Savior.  In using these examples from the Old and New Testament, Pink compares them to those of today: 1) Those who make no profession at all 2) Those attracted to Christ in a natural way, i.e. not openly antagonistic 3) Those “few” who deny themselves and take up their cross daily.  Pink goes on to say that counterfeits to genuine saving faith can often be more than a historical knowledge or head knowledge of Christ, but nevertheless falls short of being a quickening and saving faith.  If you’ve ever preached or taught to a wide-variety of people, this distinction is important because it seems so many people fall into the second group, yet have not been born again or truly saved.     

The Reformed Faith (Kindle Edition) – Lorraine Boettner

This short book is available for free download from www.monergism.com and provides a succinct, yet well-developed introduction to the reformed faith, or more commonly called Calvinism.  Boettner begins his study with a discourse on the sovereignty of God, then proceeds to discuss man’s totally helpless condition, Christ’s atonement, and the foreknowledge of God.  He likewise addresses some common objections in the form of passages that appear universalistic and then contrasts the common, widespread Arminianism beliefs with the subject of his work, Calvinism.  Many people are probably once like I was and at the very mention of the word Calvinism are immediately repulsed and reject it as a system invented by man.  The problem is, most, like I did, do not fully understand what it is.  Simply put, Calvinism was a point by point response to 5-points of beliefs laid out by the Remonstrants (The 5 Articles of Remonstrance), followers of Jacobus Arminius.  Those points, known as Arminianism, were rejected and considered heresy at the Synod of Dort (1618).  The subsequent response was the Canons of Dort, or more commonly called the 5-Points of Calvinism.  This debate between the two sides has been well chronicled throughout Church History and continues to this day.   It should be noted that this senate, verdict, and response occurred more than 50 years after the death of Calvin, so those who view him with disdain because of Calvinism, do so erroneously.  Boettner has written a very helpful book that provides a good introduction into the biblical basis for the 5-point response.

The Love of God

By A.W. Pink

There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say “God is a spirit” is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is “spirit” in the highest sense. Because He is “spirit” He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of “darkness.” In Scripture “darkness” stands for sin, evil, death; and “light” for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God “loves,” but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.

1.  The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: “according to His own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9).

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.

“What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good, in Thy sight.”

2.  It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.

The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us.” What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God, and since God is “love,” then it is equally true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He loves His people.

3.  It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.

The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to”—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? “According to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5).

4.  It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.

No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).

5.  It is immutable. As with God Himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless “having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.

“His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal source.”

6.  It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7.  It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for “He had not where to lay His head.” But He did give Him the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us, God loves us!