MEMBERSHIP IN THE STRICT AND PARTICULAR BAPTISTS.
There were three such congregations in Sydney in the 1920s and the largest was Belvoir Street Church. The members rejoiced in the arrival of Arthur Pink and for six months he preached each Sunday and Wednesday. Once he had read their basis of faith he gave them assurance that he held to those convictions and so was able to be received into the church membership.
Then followed a flowering of activity. He preached 300 times in the year 1925, for rarely less than an hour and usually 75 to 90 minutes, returning home at 10 p.m. He then commenced three Bible Study Classes each week in different parts of Sydney. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Pink typed out all the articles and helped with the correspondence and office work. They worked most nights until 2 a.m. after four hours’ hard study and writing an article for the magazine. In the summer heat of 85-105 degrees, he would work with his feet in a tub of water with a cloth around his head. There was much blessing and joy in the ministry during this year. But, alas, a year later he had resigned. He preached the duty of all men to believe in Christ. He limited himself to preaching one sermon in five to the unsaved, being aware of their background. He preached two sermons in nine months on ‘Man’s Responsibility – Gospel Responsibility’ while he preached a dozen on election and particular calling and so on. But he would typically say to the non-Christian, “why not believe in him for yourself? Why not trust the precious blood for yourself, and why not tonight? Why not tonight, my friend? God is ready. God is ready to save you now if you believe on him. The blood has been shed, the sacrifice has been offered, the atonement has been made, the feast has been spread. The call goes out to you tonight, ‘Come for all things are now ready.’”
Or again, he would typically say, “In some quarters there is so much said about the inability of the natural man to perform acts of grace, there is such disproportionate emphasis laid upon the helplessness of the creature that a most deplorable and a tragic lethargy has been fostered and encouraged. And I am afraid there are some present tonight who are so obsessed with this do-nothingism that they sadly need to be shaken up and aroused to a sense of their responsibility” (Studies, 1927, p.163)
But Pink discovered that the trust deeds of two of the smaller Strict and Particular Baptist church who were linked with his church in Belvoir Street contained articles of faith which specified the very errors against which he was contending. So very regretfully he resigned after preaching for over two years in Belvoir Street. If he had been shown the articles of the other churches and told he had to be in agreement with them he would never have accepted the call, and knowing Pink’s views on gospel responsibility, they should never have invited him to occupy their pulpit. About 40 per cent of the membership of Belvoir Street also resigned. Twenty-six of them met to form a new church with Arthur Pink as a pastor and soon their numbers doubled. But once again Pink was restless with the situation. With the reasoning behind the formation of this church, his own decision to become the pastor there, his wish to avoid the ‘strife of tongues’, could there ever be peace amongst Christians in Sydney while he was there? Would any church work in Australia survive with this general opposition to free grace preaching? Soon on July 20, 1928, Arthur and Vera sailed back to England waving a good-bye to a group of friends at the quayside who sang the doxology.
BACK IN ENGLAND
For the next two years, Pink lacked a pulpit and a fixed congregation. He believed most churches had departed from the gospel and so it was a Christian duty to depart from them. He was prepared to say to some Christians, those fearful words, “Better stay at home and read God’s Word” and yet he also said, “Next to being saved the writer deems it his greatest privilege of all to belong to one of Christ’s churches” (Studies, 1927 p.281). He stayed with his brother in Seaton in Devon, and he could visit his aged parents. He had opportunity to preach in a number of places but no call was forthcoming. He preached in Seaton but soon he was told that three of the leading men in the church had taken offence at his view of God’s sovereignty and so that door was closed to him. Not a door of ministry opened to him and so, as the months went by, their thoughts increasingly turned to the USA and in May 1929 they sailed there from Southampton. The immigration officer in New York said to him, “Do you intend to pursue your calling as a minister of the gospel?” “Yes,” replied Pink, “by the grace of God.” The immigration officer said, “You are coming here to mend broken souls?” Pink replied, “No, sir,, instead as an instrument in the Lord’s hands, to bring life to those who are dead in sin.” The officer’s face lit up! “Attaboy!” he said, “That’s the talk.”
They went to Vera’s home town and were warmly welcomed and he preached here and there, but the invitations dried up. He felt there was little longing to see souls saved in confesssionally Calvinistic churches. He wrote, “As we grow older we feel the great need of a deeper experimental acquaintance with God, and some of the Holy Spirit’s applying his word with power to our hearts. More and more we are learning that there is a vast difference between a theoretical knowledge of the truth and inward experience of it . . . The general neglect of the heart is the root cause of the present state of Christendom.”
So they left Kentucky to move three thousand miles to Los Angeles. Since leaving Australia two years earlier he had done less than three weeks preaching. They were not inside any church for the whole of 1930 and saw very few Christians. They felt they had travelled the world and yet could not find any church which was scriptural in its membership, its maintenance of Discipline and in its preaching. One wishes in 1930 he had heard of Sandfields Forward Movement in Port Talbot in South Wales and the great blessings that that congregation was knowing. Many years later Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented, “If I had behaved as Pink did, I would have achieved nothing. Nothing at all. I could see that the only hope was to let the weight of truth convince the people. So I had to be very patient and take a very long-term look at things. Otherwise I would have been dismissed and the whole thing would have been finished” (Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, 1939-1981, Banner of Truth, p.232).
So the 45 year old Pink left California for the final time and headed back to Pennsylvania where they lived for a while in a house without electricity. They had fellowship with a number of people. Seventeen or so gathered with them over a week-end. They enjoyed good health. He could write the following of himself, “Though he has now read the Bible through over fifty times, and upwards of one million pages of theological literature, he has no glasses, and read the finest print as comfortably as he did twenty-five years ago. Though the editor’s wife does all her own housework, making of bread and her own clothes, looks after a garden, and has canned and preserved, jellied and pickled between two hundred and fifty and three hundred pints of fruit and vegetables; and though she does all the typing and addressing of envelopes for this magazine, yet, in spite of a frail body, God has graciously sustained and granted all needed strength” (Studies, 1932, p.286).
He still had no invitations to preach even when they moved near Philadelphia and so they came to believe it was time to move back to Britain. So they packed their belongings into three trunks and six boxes (including his books) and sailed to England in September 1934. He was born and bred in England but since 1910 he had spent less than two and a half years in the UK. They went to Cheltenham to live near some loyal friends. They tried to start a meeting in a hired hall and thirteen came to the first meeting but no more. They moved the meeting to a Monday night if that would attract more, but it did not. Pink was very discouraged, and he poured out his heart to a Free Presbyterian pastor. The minister,Wallace Nicolson invited to come to live in Scotland and so in March 1935 they moved to Glasgow to the home of a Free Presbyterian woman. They worshipped in an F.P.congregation for the next two months. One of the elders was a subscriber to Studies in the Scriptures. But he could not preach for them as he was not an F.P. member, and not even a Presbyterian. He had no invitations to preach, and so in his Annual Letter in December 1935 he wrote the following cri de coeur; “Do any of our readers know of any undenominational cause, or ‘independent’ church anywhere in Great Britain where a man of truth would be welcome, or any ‘mission’, conducted on Scriptural lines, where there would be openings for Bible Conference addresses? Our preaching is along the same lines as our magazine articles. Some readers have a wide acquaintance and may know of suitable openings, and God may use them to give us contact with places that should welcome an uncompromising and soul-edifying message. Please pray over this, and write us.” (Studies, 1935, p.382). He was invited to a Plymouth Brethren Assembly three days before Christmas and he preached on “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted”. But he asked that a solo and a harp selection might not take place and the leaders thought the request rather stiff and he was not invited back. After a year in Scotland they moved almost 400 miles to Hove on the south coast of England. He hoped that there he would find openings to speak, but there was none. Matthew Henry wrote, “God’s dearest servants are not always gratified in everything they have a mind to. Yet all who delight in God have ‘the desire of their hearts fulfilled (Psa.27:4) if not humoured.” Pink wrote, “One day we shall view life’s strange and bewildering events from another point of view and everything will be seen in its true perspective and proportions, not now, but in the coming years, it may be in the Better Land.”
When Iain Murray comes to examine Pink’s isolation during these years, he wisely pleads Pink’s lack of membership in any denominational body. He had become a Baptist though formerly a Congregationalist even if for years he refrained from presenting his view of believers’ baptism in his magazine. He was unacceptable to the Strict and Particular Baptists of the Gospel Standard, and the Plymouth Brethren were unhappy with his rejection of what they called ‘Assembly Principles’ that is a dispensationalist view of Scripture, their rejection of the office of the minister and their Arminianism. By the time of Pink’s death over two million copies of the Scofield Bible had been printed. He once believe in this system and had written two early books in 1918 and 1923 promoting those views. He came to a better understanding of the truth and knew that he had taught error and felt this deeply.
Richard Belcher, an admirer of Pink, wonders whether he was suited to the pastoral office in the local church as being insufficiently sociable and too blunt, but there is much evidence of Pink possessing a true pastor’s heart. He cared for people and after he left an area he kept in touch with the individuals there and sought to help them. He was interested in people and they loved him. One illustration Iain Murray gives is the following; “On one occasion, when the Pinks were leaving a certain area in the United States, many friends were at the station to bid them farewell. They loaded them with gifts for the journey, mainly fruit. Pink was not long on the train before he was offering the fruit to fellow passengers, to an Afro-American in particular who was overcome with this unexpected kindness, having just begun work after a prolonged illness. He was lacking any money to purchase food. Love and consideration for others was not missing in Pink’s make up” (op cit, p.169).
The facts is that the current of religious life in the 1920s and 30s was away from the truths he loved and preached, The ecclesiastical spirit of the age was overwhelmingly rationalistic and man centred. The Fundamentalist movement was overwhelmingly decisionistic. He said, “Christendom is reapinig today the evil sowings of the last two or three generations, particularly the unscriptural ‘evangelistic’ methods that have been employed – the demand for visible ‘results’ and the lusting after numbers. Thousands have been pressed into ‘making a profession’ and rushed into ‘joining the church’.” (Studies 1931, p.188). It was the same conviction that was held by A.W.Tozer, his contemporary for 55 years though the two A.W.’s never met.
So he was hemmed in to his monthly magazine, and thus great good came from that as his articles were put together and sold by a dozen publishers, small and great. He could send out his magazine to a thousand people who never sent him a donation. He supported its publication from his own meagre resources. The last salary he was to receive was way back in 1928 and he lived another 27 years on his won money and the subscriptions and gifts that readers of the magazine sent to him. 1930 was his most trying year. At the end of the financial year he was a dollar in debt and that morning there was nothing in the post, but there was an afternoon delivery and a letter arrived with three dollars so they closed the year with a credit balance of five shillings. Yet his testimony at the end of one year was a warm meditation on the words of Christ, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Besides his monthly magazine production, Pink was an inveterate letter writer. He could say in 1946 that he had hand written well over 20,000 letters. Sometimes he wrote ten a day and they were not hurried notes but letters full of thought and wisdom and good counsel, affectionately written. It would be a delight to read some to you, but time forbids and the Banner of Truth has published a book of his letters. Many of his letters, Iain Murray judges to be ‘elevated correspondence courses, with tuition in the Scriptures’ (Murray ,op cit, p.224). Letters with Harold J.Bradshaw of Norwich over ten months in 1943 ran to forty-eight closely typed foolscap pages when copied from the originals (see Murray, op cit, pp. 226-235). Pink once wrote to friends informing them that on one day earlier in that month eighteen letters arrived at his door, and as the New Year approached he was being swamped with letters from friends who wrote to him once a year. To one man who asked for his interpretation of a verse in the book of Revelation he replied, “I have long since turned my attention to more vital and practical concerns than parading my brains over the symbols of Daniel and Revelation, and only wish I had done so earlier.” Another letter asked him his opinion of the Jews’ return to Palestine. Pink replied (it was in 1946), “God will work out his own eternal purpose, though personally I don’t profess now to know what that involves regarding the Jews.” And that is precisely where we are today.
To be continued –