Published in The Andrew Fuller Center Review (Fall 2012), iss. 4

Arthur W. Pink is both an enigmatic and eccentric Baptist figure of the 20th century.1) For more on the life and ministry of A.W. Pink see Iain Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, Revised and Enlarged. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2004); Richard Belcher, Arthur W. Pink: Born to Write (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1980). Pink pastored churches in England, the United States, and Australia, until finally settling in Stornoway, Scotland to devote all of his energies to his writing ministry, Studies in the Scriptures. His reclusive practices and sparse affiliation with churches and denominations has left a short biographical trail. The most profitable information for Pink’s life comes from his personal correspondence.  Though these letters reflect someone aggressively guarded against indulging too many personal details, they do afford more insight into Pink’s life than do his published writings. To date there have been four publications of Pink’s letters.  In 1978 The Banner of Truth Trust published a small selection of Pink’s letters in their possession.2)Arthur Pink, Letters of A.W. Pink: During the Period 1924-1951 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1978).  Richard Belcher, who wrote the first biography of Pink available in North America, published two collections of letters from the years 1917-1921.  These letters chronicle Pink’s pastorate in Spartanburg, SC, the first publication of The Sovereignty of God, and Pink’s time as an itinerant preacher in California.3)Arthur Pink, Letters from Spartanburg: 1917-1920, ed. Richard Belcher (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1993); Arthur Pink, Letters of an Itinerant Preacher: 1920-1921, ed. Richard Belcher (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1994).  Finally Roy Harbach published a correspondence that he had as a young pastor with Pink near the end of Pink’s life (1943-1949).4)Arthur Pink, Letters to a Young Pastor: Letters to Rev. R. Harbach (Grandville: The Evangelism Committee of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church, 1993).

Origin and Provenance

The first letter is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Coleman.  The Pink’s first met the Coleman’s while ministering in Australia from 1925 to 1928.  It appears from the date of this letter (1941) that they retained their friendship through correspondence for the rest of Pink’s life.  Having made the final major relocation of his life, Pink was living in Stornoway, Scotland as the Second World War was raging.  During this time he was writing articles in his monthly periodical Studies in the Scriptures on The Sermon on the Mount, The Life of Elijah, and The Doctrine of Man’s Impotency.5)Each of these series would later be extracted from Studies in the Scriptures and independently published by Baker, Moody, Banner of Truth, and others. It is also clear from the letter to the Coleman’s that Pink had recently finished writing his article on Elijah entitled “Dejected” which would be published in the January edition of Studies in the Scriptures of 1942.6)Later published as chapter 24 in the Banner of Truth reprint Arthur Pink, The Life of Elijah (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1963).

The next two letters (from 1947 and 1948) are addressed to Fred Cherry.  Cherry was a Southern Baptist Evangelist who apparently discovered Pink’s Studies in the Scriptures and decided to ask Pink several questions regarding matters of eschatology.7)I am indebted to Pastor Wade Burleson who graciously sent me scans of these letters.  Fred Cherry was Pastor Burleson’s maternal grandfather.  These letters were likewise written from Pink’s home in Stornoway.

Significance of the Letters

The following letters are interesting on several accounts.  First, the 1941 letter to the Colemans is a demonstration of how Pink’s own work on the Studies affected him spiritually.  Pink may have been eccentric but, as this letter shows, he was far from stoic.  The letter also provides a rare instance where Pink mentions both his father and his sister (and their apparent struggles with insomnia).  Thomas Pink, his father had passed away seven years prior to the writing of this letter in 1933.8)Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 240. Aside from passing references in his letters, such as the one below, very little is known about Pink’s sister Agnes.

The two small letters to SBC evangelist Fred Cherry are also illuminating. Pink abandoned the dispensationalism he had once championed sometime around 1930.  After that time he became an aggressive opponent of Dispensationalism and also defended a Reformed Baptist perspective of covenant theology.9)For a scathing criticism of Dispensationalism see Pink’s articles entitled “Dispensationalism” in Studies in the Scriptures, 1933-1934.  For example, Pink states, “the fact remains that in the effects produced the labors of the ‘dispensationalists’ have been as subversive of faith as those of the ‘higher critics’” (Studies in the Scriptures, February 1933).  Likewise, “It is an ominous fact that the great majority of ‘Dispensationalists,’… take the creation of man as the commencement of their scheme or system:  this at once betrays a woeful ignorance and brands them as incompetent guides” (Studies in the Scriptures, March 1933).  Following his series on Dispensationalism, Pink published a series of articles defending his understanding of “Covenant Theology” from 1934 to 1938.  These articles were later extracted and published by Baker; A.W. Pink, Divine Covenants (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973).  However, after this theological revolution Pink scarcely addressed the issue of eschatology and never committed himself to an eschatological position.  In a rare instance, in his articles on The Divine Covenants, Pink articulated his hesitation with addressing eschatology.

During the years of our spiritual infancy we heard and read nothing but the premillennial interpretation of prophecy, and, of course (as a spiritual child), we readily accepted all that our teachers said. But for the last decade, we have sought to carefully examine what was taught us, and we have discovered that, some of it at least, was but “fairy tales.”

Common fairness compelled us to weigh the postmillennial view. In doing so, we recognized a very real danger of allowing our mind to run to an opposite extreme. We are free to admit that, upon a number of important points this system of prophetic interpretation is no more satisfying to us than the “pre”; and therefore at the present time we are not prepared to commit ourselves to the entire position of either the one or the other. Nor does that which is known as amillennialism completely solve the problems. In other words, we now have no definite ideas concerning coming events, applying to ourselves those words of the Lord, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7).10)A.W. Pink, “The Divine Covenants: The Davidic,” Studies in the Scriptures, November 1937.

The above words were written in 1937 and Pink’s conviction to avoid the subject of eschatology only increased until his death in 1952. It seems, however, from Pink’s responses to Cherry that the SBC evangelist had a certain penchant for eschatology.  Cherry was eager to procure a copy of Pink’s early dispensational work The Redeemer’s Return and discuss matters of eschatology with his correspondent.  The letter dated 1947 is one of the few times that Pink explains his understanding of specific texts related to eschatology at such a late stage of his life.            

Further, in a republication of The Redeemers Return after Pink’s death, Pastor John R. Gilpin of Calvary Baptist Church in Ashland, KY asserted in the preface that though Pink repudiated this book, he believes that had Pink lived longer “he would have doubtlessly repudiated his ‘repudiation.’”11)Gilpin states, “It is true that after writing this book Mr. Pink swerved in his doctrinal position and all the A-Millennialists make much of the fact that he, as they say, repudiated this book. It so happens that the writer was a personal friend of Mr. Pink and knew him well. He is one of the few individuals who is living today who knew Mr. Pink and he happens to know that had Mr. Pink lived he would have doubtlessly repudiated his “repudiation.” He had been influenced by the writings of another individual, which caused him to temporarily turn from Pre-Millennialism. At the time of his death he was on the verge of turning back to embrace his original position as set forth in this book.” John R. Gilpin in Preface to Arthur Pink, The Redeemers Return (Ashland: Calvary Baptist Bookstore, n.d.), Anyone familiar with Pink’s biography or his writings up to the point of his death in 1952 recognizes that Gilpin’s statement is entirely unfounded.  There is no evidence that Pink intended to abandon his commitment to a baptistic version of covenant theology and return to dispensationalism.  His writings remain antagonistic toward dispensationalism to the very end.  Further, the letters to Fred Cherry reproduced below demonstrate that Pink still disavowed The Redeemer’s Return a mere four years before his death.  It is also interesting that Pink specifies his chapter “The Signs of the Redeemers Return” as particularly distasteful.  In this chapter he argued that the signs of the times indicated that the Lord’s return was very close.12)“History is repeating itself. Conditions in the world today more closely resemble those which obtained just before the first coming of Christ, than have those of any other generation since then. Today the same luxury and licentiousness; the same skepticism and credulity; the same coldness and formality among those who profess to be God’s people; the same lack of natural affection toward children and disrespect for the aged; the same military spirit and lust for blood, followed now by the enslaving of the conquered—deportation of the Belgians. The need of the world for a competent and righteous Ruler was never as apparent as now. The ‘Dispensation of the fullness of times’ must be at hand. As all History prepared the world for our Lord’s first advent, so it is now ‘making straight His way’ for His second coming, when He shall be seen not in a manger but on a throne of Glory; not as the victim, but as the Victor. But we must restrain our pen and conclude in few words. We have examined many Scriptures, we have listened to the evidence of numerous witnesses, we have compared sundry and independent lines of prophecy, and we have found that they harmonize in their testimony, that they are mutually corroborative, that each sustains the truthfulness of the others, that singly and unitedly they affirm with voice loud and clear “the Coming of the Lord draweth nigh!” Never before did the Church of God gaze upon such a constellation of Signs attesting the near approach of the Redeemer, as it does today. Never before was there such unmistakable demonstration that this Gospel age is rapidly drawing, to a close.”  A.W. Pink, The Redeemer’s Return (Ashland: Calvary Baptist Bookstore, n.d.), 237-238.

Notes on the Text

I have tried to keep the letters as close to the original wording and format as possible.  However, some of the text has been altered for accessibility and ease of reading.  For example, Pink used many abbreviations in his letters such as “Red’s Ret” to refer to his book The Redeemer’s Return.  I have chosen to include the full form of Pink’s abbreviations unless they refer to Scripture references.  The underlines in the text are Pink’s own.  Pink’s British spelling conventions have been retained.


Sabbath-day Aug. 10/41
Mr. and Mrs. H. Coleman,
Our beloved Christian friends:

Greetings in Him whose holy and wondrous Word records “But he (Elijah) went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree” (1 Kings 19:4).  For the first time in my Christian life I have today spent several happy hours under the “juniper tree”!  I confess I have, at different periods, spent some most unhappy seasons there, but today it has been quite otherwise, for in attempting to prepare an article thereon (which I must not too much anticipate), I have been occupied with the Lord’s love and grace and not with the prophet’s rejection.  What a truly wondrous Book the Word is!  No matter what our circumstances there is something exactly suited to our need:  no matter what may be our case – whether one of jubilation on the mountain top or one of consternation in the slough of despond – we find it accurately depicted therein in one or another God’s servants.  The Word is indeed a “mirror” (Jas. 1) in which we may behold every changing mood of our hearts.  Elijah was no exception when, under the juniper tree (in “the wilderness”!) he requested that “he might die.”  Tho’ we can sympathise with the dejected prophet, we must not vindicate him, for it was his own unbelief (sin) which occasioned his dejection.  But it is not with this I havebeen occupied today, but with the Lord’s response.  1st, we are to notice that he “slept.”  This was very far from being “the inevitable reaction of exhausted nature” as some suppose:  more than once have I lain down completely worn out (from unaccustomed manual labor) and then found I was (for hours) too tired to sleep, unable to relax.  Nor can we put ourselves to sleep by any effort of the will, as my Sister (and her dad) knows.  The very first time the word occurs in Script. is in “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam” (Gen. 2:21).  Far more God-honoring to affirm with the Psalmist, “HE giveth His beloved sleep” (Psa. 127:2).  Thus in giving Elijah sleep on this occasion we see the first gracious act of Him – who “knoweth our frame” – tenderly refreshing His weary servant.  2nd, “and as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold THEN and angel touched him” – compare Heb. 1:14.  “Then”: not after his success over Baal’s prophets, but following upon his forsaking the post of duty at Jezreel!  Not on the summit of Carmel, but here in “the wilderness” – pure, free, sovereign, amazing GRACE.  And has there not been a similar “then” in each of our lives?  Yes, more than we can now count up.  Well then may we exclaim – Psalm 103:10 – one of my favourite verses today!  3rd, “and said unto him, Arise and eat.  And he looked, and, behold there was a cake baken on the coals and a cruse of water at his head.”  It had been truly wonderful had God turned the steps of some traveler toward that juniper tree and moved him to succor the disconsolate prophet; further more wonderful, the Lord sent one of His celestial courtiers to minister unto him.  See here the constancy of God’s love – compare 2 Tim 2:13!  But more:  see here the special manna in which His love was manifested:  at Cherith (where he was obedient, the ravens fed him; but here, after his failure, an angel ministered to him!  Why?  Not that God condoned His erring servant, but to assure him His love had NOT abated – just as after some fall, we need some special token from God that we are not cast off.  But I must quit sermonising.

          I thank you in the blessed Name of Him whom we are seeking to serve for your ever welcome letter of June 1st & for kind enclosure – please convey my thanks to Sisters Paul & Eglitzky – which the Lord once more graciously brought through safely to us.  It is cause for praise that in such times as these we are still enabled to publish the magazine (spared a moment’s anxiety about finances!) and that God still deigns to bless its pages to you and others.  The tides of error and lawlessness are indeed increasing in their devastating effects and we can do nothing to stem them.  We are thankful to read that you “cry to Him continually to be preserved from being engulfed in the flood.”  I trust you received my last, pressing Matt. 24:13 upon you.  Since sending the same it has given point by news which has deeply distressed us.  A dear friend in the U.S.A. whom I have known intimately for over quarter of a century, in whose home we have stayed and who spent seasons with us at Mella Millmont and York, Pa., one whom I still believe to be a child of God, has though older than myself deserted his wife!  First, got mixed up in politics, then ceased family worship, now gone off with another woman.  “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”!  Yes, the articles on the Ten Commandments are greatly needed today – avoid as you would a deadly snake any man who denies the Law of God is not the Christian’s rule of life.  I am not surprised to hear “you have found it very necessary to re-read and ponder the articles on ‘Dispensationalism’” in the earlier “Studies,” and hope it has pleased God to so bless them to you as to fortify you against plausible ERROR.

         Thanks for the enclosed excerpt from dear Brother Brook’s letter:  I wrote him some two months ago:  he often comes before me – please convey to him my deep gratitude for his praying for me so much all these years!  We are not permitted to give any details of conditions here, but I think the censor will permit me to say we are very thankful God brought us to this place.  What a story each of us will have to relate when we meet in that land where there is no sin and hence no wars!  The feebler we get, the harder we must lean on the Everlasting Arms!  All is well with us.  With Christian love and every good wish from us both

Yours by Divine Mercy,
Arthur W. Pink – your Pastor.


April 16/47
Dear friend:

Was pleased to hear from you. Glad to know you keep men’s writings secondary to God’s Word & prayer. Really, there is very little written today worth a Christian’s reading – little which searches the heart, nourishes the soul, and promotes a closer walking with God. I am herewith sending sample copy of my monthly magazine, which owing to the smallness of its circulation, now costs me $1.50 to send for a year. As nearly all in it is from my own pen, my hands are kept very full, & I am obliged to write you briefly – eight other letters in the same mail call for replies, & I have no “office help”!

          My “Redeemer’s Return” is quite unobtainable – out of print for many years. It’s my firm conviction that the entire company of the redeemed will be “caught” at the 2nd coming of Christ – note the “all” in I Thess. 3:13!

          Luke 21:34, 35 is a warning to believers – similar to Romans 13:13, 14. Luke 21:36 is an exhortation – similar to Eph. 4:1 and 2 Thess. 1:11. The “foolish” virgins of Mt. 25 are unregenerate people who profess to be Christians – of which the churches today are full.

          Hoping you will want my magazine regularly – two $1 bills (which I can cash here) in a well-sealed envelope is quite safe.

With Christian greetings
Prov. 3:5, 6
 
Yours by divine Mercy,
A.W. Pink


April 7/48
 
My dear friend:

After so long an interval I was glad to receive yours of Jan. 28, and thank you for the $3. I have no loose 1947 now left, but hope to mail you complete 1947 bound volume within a few days.13)The reference to “loose 1947” means the individual copies of the Studies in the Scriptures periodical for 1947.  At the end of each year Pink would make the entire year of Studies of in the Scriptures available in one bound volume. Have also booked you for 1948 issues – Jan. and Feb. not ready for another month.

          My “Redeemer’s Return” was written 30 years ago, in the days of my spiritual infancy, when I received without question the teaching of older men. For 40 years I have studied Prophecy, and today it’s my firm conviction that most of what has been written thereon was guesswork! and that it’s of little practical importance. I fully agree with the spiritually-minded C.H. Spurgeon, who said: “I scarcely consider myself qualified to explain any part of the Book of Revelation, and none of the expositions I have ever seen entice me to attempt this task, for they are mostly occupied with a refutation of all the interpretations that have gone before, & each one seems to be very successful indeed in proving that all the rest knows nothing at all about the matter.”14)Quotation from Charles Spurgeon, “How They Conquered the Dragon” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 21. If you ask, why then did God give us the Revelation? I answer, to stain the pride of man, to expose our ignorance until such time as the whole of it is fulfilled! But how far would an understanding of its symbols promote a closer walking with God? To what extent would a correct interpretation of it’s “seals” & “vials” enable you to overcome temptation? Will your study of the two “Priests” of chapter 13 help your prayer life? My advise is, leave Prophecy alone, and concentrate on the practical portions of the Word!!

          You ask which parts of my “Redeemer’s Return” I no longer agree with? Answer, “The Signs of His return,” particularly – He has not come yet! and may not, for anything any man on earth knows, for 1000’s of years! May the Lord enable us to put first things (Matt 6:33) FIRST – the Revelation is at the END of the Bible!

With best wishes,
Yours by divine Mercy,
A.W. Pink

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References   [ + ]

1. For more on the life and ministry of A.W. Pink see Iain Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, Revised and Enlarged. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2004); Richard Belcher, Arthur W. Pink: Born to Write (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1980).
2. Arthur Pink, Letters of A.W. Pink: During the Period 1924-1951 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1978).
3. Arthur Pink, Letters from Spartanburg: 1917-1920, ed. Richard Belcher (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1993); Arthur Pink, Letters of an Itinerant Preacher: 1920-1921, ed. Richard Belcher (Columbia: Richbarry Press, 1994).
4. Arthur Pink, Letters to a Young Pastor: Letters to Rev. R. Harbach (Grandville: The Evangelism Committee of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church, 1993).
5. Each of these series would later be extracted from Studies in the Scriptures and independently published by Baker, Moody, Banner of Truth, and others.
6. Later published as chapter 24 in the Banner of Truth reprint Arthur Pink, The Life of Elijah (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1963).
7. I am indebted to Pastor Wade Burleson who graciously sent me scans of these letters.  Fred Cherry was Pastor Burleson’s maternal grandfather.
8. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 240.
9. For a scathing criticism of Dispensationalism see Pink’s articles entitled “Dispensationalism” in Studies in the Scriptures, 1933-1934.  For example, Pink states, “the fact remains that in the effects produced the labors of the ‘dispensationalists’ have been as subversive of faith as those of the ‘higher critics’” (Studies in the Scriptures, February 1933).  Likewise, “It is an ominous fact that the great majority of ‘Dispensationalists,’… take the creation of man as the commencement of their scheme or system:  this at once betrays a woeful ignorance and brands them as incompetent guides” (Studies in the Scriptures, March 1933).  Following his series on Dispensationalism, Pink published a series of articles defending his understanding of “Covenant Theology” from 1934 to 1938.  These articles were later extracted and published by Baker; A.W. Pink, Divine Covenants (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973).
10. A.W. Pink, “The Divine Covenants: The Davidic,” Studies in the Scriptures, November 1937.
11. Gilpin states, “It is true that after writing this book Mr. Pink swerved in his doctrinal position and all the A-Millennialists make much of the fact that he, as they say, repudiated this book. It so happens that the writer was a personal friend of Mr. Pink and knew him well. He is one of the few individuals who is living today who knew Mr. Pink and he happens to know that had Mr. Pink lived he would have doubtlessly repudiated his “repudiation.” He had been influenced by the writings of another individual, which caused him to temporarily turn from Pre-Millennialism. At the time of his death he was on the verge of turning back to embrace his original position as set forth in this book.” John R. Gilpin in Preface to Arthur Pink, The Redeemers Return (Ashland: Calvary Baptist Bookstore, n.d.),
12. “History is repeating itself. Conditions in the world today more closely resemble those which obtained just before the first coming of Christ, than have those of any other generation since then. Today the same luxury and licentiousness; the same skepticism and credulity; the same coldness and formality among those who profess to be God’s people; the same lack of natural affection toward children and disrespect for the aged; the same military spirit and lust for blood, followed now by the enslaving of the conquered—deportation of the Belgians. The need of the world for a competent and righteous Ruler was never as apparent as now. The ‘Dispensation of the fullness of times’ must be at hand. As all History prepared the world for our Lord’s first advent, so it is now ‘making straight His way’ for His second coming, when He shall be seen not in a manger but on a throne of Glory; not as the victim, but as the Victor. But we must restrain our pen and conclude in few words. We have examined many Scriptures, we have listened to the evidence of numerous witnesses, we have compared sundry and independent lines of prophecy, and we have found that they harmonize in their testimony, that they are mutually corroborative, that each sustains the truthfulness of the others, that singly and unitedly they affirm with voice loud and clear “the Coming of the Lord draweth nigh!” Never before did the Church of God gaze upon such a constellation of Signs attesting the near approach of the Redeemer, as it does today. Never before was there such unmistakable demonstration that this Gospel age is rapidly drawing, to a close.”  A.W. Pink, The Redeemer’s Return (Ashland: Calvary Baptist Bookstore, n.d.), 237-238.
13. The reference to “loose 1947” means the individual copies of the Studies in the Scriptures periodical for 1947.  At the end of each year Pink would make the entire year of Studies of in the Scriptures available in one bound volume.
14. Quotation from Charles Spurgeon, “How They Conquered the Dragon” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 21.

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