The Life of A. W. Pink – Pt 2

Arthur Pink’s mind turned to the USA and in June 1910 he sailed from England to Chicago and entered the Moody Bible Institute. No record of his journey and his first experience of America survives. He survived in Moody for just six weeks. He was 24, many of the students were out of high school, still in their teens and the teaching as far as Pink was concerned was most elementary. He discussed his reaction with one of his lecturers who could sympathize with him. In fact he helped to find him a church at Silverton a small town over 9000 feet up the mountains of Colorado where he stayed for almost two years.
Then Pink moved to California, and whilst there he visited his home in Nottingham for five months, and returning to California wrote his first book on The Divine Inspiration of Scripture. These ten years, 1910 until 1920 were the period when he matured as a preacher, met Vera Russell a Kentucky girl and soon after their first meeting in 1916 he married her. It was a long and very blessed marriage. She loved and honoured Arthur and sought by any means to assist him in his work. During these years he discovered the Puritans and devoured them. The churches where he was the preacher were small rural congregations. In California he seems to have had a brief pastorate of a church plagued by perfectionism. He says virtually nothing about it. Then in 1913 off he went to Kentucky to rural America, the nearest railway was forty miles away, and there he served half time two little churches. He was also involved in another pastorate in Kentucky in a town called Spartanburg. Short pastorates were very common in America, as they are with the Baptists and Methodists in particular to this day. But he gradually became known increasingly amongst the growing fundamentalist movement which was led by such men as Philip Mauro, Arno Gaebelin and Harry Ironside.
It was from 1915 onwards that he came across Puritan writers. In 1918 he read a four volume set of Jonathan Edwards’ works. In 1919 he notes that he had read 45 books in the preceding three months. He wrote a letter to I.C.Herendeen in Swengel, Pennsylvania, the owner of a small publishing work called ‘The Bible Truth Depot’ in May of that year and he told Herendeen, “Next week, DV, I shall complete Manton’s 22 volumes, and then I expect to make a careful study of 12 large volumes by Thomas Goodwin.” In another letter, two months later, he told Herendeen, “I have just finished volume 8 of Goodwin’s 12 volumes.” That volume consists of 600 pages. A month later in another letter to Herendeen he writes, “I have just finished Goodwin’s last volume and am now ready to begin the 18 volumes of John Owen.” But three and a half months later in another letter he wrote, “Owen is wearisome. I am not half way through the sixteen volumes of his works.”
Iain Murray comments, “That no Puritan would have commended such an intensity of reading does not seem to have occurred to Pink. We may admire his enthusiasm while questioning his wisdom. From painful experience he would give better advice to young men in later years. He wrote to one Robert Harbach in 1944, ‘I would advise you to go slow in reading Owen . . . You are likely to find him more helpful in another ten years’ time, if you are spared, when your own spiritual life has further matured (Letters to a Young Pastor, p. 9)” (Iain Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, Banner of Truth, 2004, p.53)
Besides the books that he was reading Pink continued to develop as a writer in what eventually was to become 53 books. Three books following his first on the Divine Inspiration of Scripture, namely, The Redeemer’s Return, The Godhead of God and the Seven Sayings on the Cross. But he was placing too great a strain on himself with so much reading and writing and this in addition to his pastoral and preaching duties in the little Spartanburg church. He lost weight and experienced severe headaches, his blood pressure was considerably below normal and he was in a generally run down condition. Vera Pink wrote to Herendeen in June 1919, “I am quite worried about my husband. The work here is so discouraging and the strain of waiting for something else to open up is telling upon him. He is quite despondent, nervous and irritable and unable to sleep . . . It seems to me the Lord would have him devote more and more of his time to writing books.”
The next twelve months was a wonderful period in the life of Arthur Pink. He had been invited in the summer of 1920 to preach in Garden Grove, California (where he had preached seven years earlier). A group were awaiting the arrival of a new minister and he was to fill the pulpit until he arrived. After he had preached for them he took the trans-continenntal train back and fore to New York and then an evangelist named Thompson beseeched him for help. He was preaching in San Francisco to vast crowds. He spoke of 150 genuine converts. “I am no teacher,” he told Pink, “and they are hungry for the word.” So Pink went along to the tent and found the place packed out with all 1000 seats taken. Pink preached to them for 65 minutes on the way of salvation and they listened “with breathless interest throughout.” And so through the week he preached each night to 700 people with a thousand attending each Saturday and Sunday nights. He wrote to Herendeen of the wonderful works of God he was observing and gave to that astonished man a long list of names and addresses of people who had ordered all four books that he written. He should have been writing his revision of The Sovereignty of God at this time but had to lay it aside.
Pink was invited to continue to work with Thompson but felt he must dedicate some of his time to writing. He moved back to his new home in Pennsylvania for a while and then early in 1921 returned to these meetings in California. The numbers attending had shrunk because of a difference of opinion between Thompson and Harry Ironside. The crowds had preferred the ministry of Thompson, which Ironside did not like, and he had deepened the breach between the two men by questioning whether Thompson was ‘living by faith’ and then someone showed Ironside Pink’s The Sovereignty of God so that the author’s Calvinism had become another point at issue. Pink continued to preach powerfully in the tent, and numbers again rose to 700 people. He got on well with the evangelist Thompson – Pink generally go on well with people. Finally Pink returned to his new home in Swengel, Pennsylvania.
In the early 1920s Moody Press published Pink’s Gleanings in Genesis. I found it marginally useful in a couple of places. There are better books on Genesis. And also his first volume on John’s gospel was published which is a more helpful book. But the most important ministry of his life began in 1922 when Herendeen was successful in his exhortations that Pink should start a magazine. In January Studies in the Scriptures was launched, at first twenty pages in length, fourteen of which were written by him including one on John’s gospel and then other articles including some by Plymouth Brethren writers which are found just in these first years of the magazine. The rest are extracts from John Brown, Andrew Fuller, Ralph Erskine, Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon and Andrew Bonar. It was a magazine which reminds me of two of today’s fine magazines which adopt an identical format, The Free Presbyterian Magazine and The Gospel Standard, though one’s eyes do linger over the contemporary writings that they contain.
Of the Puritans Pink’s favourites appear to have been Matthew Henry, John Owen, Thomas Manton, John Flavel, Thomas Goodwin and John Bunyan. Gurnall he considered spiritual and helpful but it needed to be read slowly with meditation. His favourite Flavel book was the Fountain of Life. Howe was the driest, and Trapp he considered a poor expositor. He liked the German Hengstenburg, and the Scot he quoted from most of all was Thomas Boston but he knew and read Fairbairn, Smeaton and Cunningham. Alexander Maclaren, he thought, was ‘always worth reading with caution.’ From the USA Thornwell did not impress him while in England Spurgeon was ‘always good.’ But he was unhappy with Huntingdon’s repudiation of the free offer and his denial of ‘duty repentance’ and ‘duty faith’ and also that the ten commandments were not the Christian’s rule of life. Pink though widely read Philpot who also held those views and Pink quoted him favourably.
Pink introduces the new magazine and concludes as following, “The title of this magazine implies that it is designed not for lazy people, or for those who are so busily occupied with the things of this world, that they have no time (in reality no heart) for the things of God. No, it is published for the benefit of those who are or who wish to become, students of Scripture. The articles herein call for study, thoughtful perusal, prolonged meditation. Finally, let not this magazine become a substitute for your own daily study of God’s Word: rather let it be an incentive for further search on your part to discover the priceless treasure hidden therein.” For the rest of his life he had the monthly deadline of all 24 pages to fill, the proofs to be checked for printing errors, the subscriptions to collect and bank, the bills to be paid, and he never failed to do those things. The first year finished with 1,000 subscribers and a small credit balance and so they temporarily increased the size of the magazine to 32 pages and a larger print and still charged $1 a year. But they soon reduced it to 24 pages as the number of subscribers dropped.
As well as that Herendeen resigned and moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio and Pink had few invitations to preach anywhere. The pressures resulted in another breakdown. Pink was susceptible to depression, like David Brainerd and other ministers. The Pinks moved to live in Philadelphia, but soon they were to receive an invitation to preach in Australia which they accepted. The disciplined Pink prepared four further issues of Studies in the Scriptures before he set sail. They travelled across to California and had some great encouragements on the way through the large numbers attending their meetings and also being introduced to people who had been converted and helped by his ministry in preaching and writing. One woman had been a medium who had been converted through Pink’s ministry.
They sailed from San Francisco in March 1925 and arrived in Australia towards the end of the month. Sixty years later, when Iain Murray pastored a church in Sydney, he met older folk who remembered Pink’s visit and his preaching as one outstanding spiritual time. Pink had preached six campaigns each one of three weeks’ duration, and gained several hundred new subscribers to Studies in the Scriptures. He did not meet any other minister who believed and preached the sovereignty of God and particular redemption. The local fraternal asked him to address them on the subject the ‘responsibility of man’, and he leaped at the opportunity and preached on it powerfully, but the fraternal of Baptist ministers in Sydney sent a statement to the Australian Baptist magazine announcing to the Baptist churches that it could not endorse his ministry.
Pink described the situation he faced thus: “Today it is true almost everywhere that we are far more concerned about the results of the gospel than we are about the purity of it! We are more concerned in the blessing of man than we are about the glory of Christ! Isn’t that true? Isn’t it true that the first great question asked everywhere today is, ‘What are the ‘results? What is the fruitage? How many people have been saved in your church the last year?’ I am not saying that the question has no importance, but I do say that if that is the first question you are asking then it only shows what a low level we are living on. The first question we ought to be asking is, how scripturally is the gospel being preached in your church? Is the preacher magnifying  Christ? Is the preacher emphasizing the absolute sufficiency of his finished work? Does the preacher make it plain that God does not ask the sinner to do anything, that he has asked Christ to do it all and the Lord has finished the work his Father gave him to do . . . we are not saved by our giving but by God giving his Son.”
“A lot of our so called Christian work today reminds me of little children when they first witness father or mother doing some gardening. The ground is prepared and then the seed is sown, but every day the child goes into the garden and he looks around to see if the seed is beginning to sprout, and if it doesn’t show any signs, and he wanted to make sure that the seed is going to sprout, he just scratches around amongst the soil. He wants to see something. My friends that is what a lot of us are doing in connection with so called Christian work today. We have so little confidence in the power and in the sufficiency of the divine ‘seed’ to bring about the harvest that God has ordained it shall do” (Studies in the Scriptures, 1926, pp.111&112).
to be continued-
Geoff Thomas
Posted in Daily Thoughts.