RIGHTLY INTERPRETING THE ‘ALL THINGS’ IN SCRIPTURE

RIGHTLY INTERPRETING THE ‘ALL THINGS’ IN SCRIPTURE

A.W. Pink

ALL THINGS”! Those two words supply an example of something to which we allude in these pages every once in a while, and which requires to be frequently emphasized in this age of shallowness; namely, the danger there is of being MISLED BY THE SOUND OF CERTAIN EXPRESSIONS IN THE SCRIPTURES through failing to ascertain their real sense.

Among professing Christians, there are not a few superficial people who imagine that the bare quoting of a verse is sufficient to prove their point and silence an opponent, whether that verse be relevant or not, whether the letter of it accords with, or contradicts other passages.

There are others who, in a mistaken zeal for the integrity and authority of the Word, suppose it would be a perversion or denial of it, to place a different meaning upon what appears to be its obvious signification. Luther’s tenacious insistence that Christ’s words concerning the sacramental bread, “this is my body”—must be understood literally, is a case in point. In like manner, it is supposed that when a verse says “all men” or “all things,” that “IT MEANS WHAT IT SAYS” and is to be understood universally.

“Behold, I have told you ALL THINGS ahead of time” (Mark 13:23): surely it is obvious that those words are not to be taken without any limitation.

“Come, see a man, who told me ALL THINGS I ever did” (John 4:29) is not to be understood absolutely.

“ALL THINGS are lawful unto me” (1 Corinthians 6:12) would flatly contradict many passages if it were regarded without any qualification.

When the apostle said, “I am made ALL THINGS to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22), his words must be explained in the light of what immediately precedes.

“But you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know ALL THINGS” (1 John 2:20) surely does not mean we know everything knowable; for if it did, it would be affirming that those Christians were omniscient.

The words “ALL THINGS,” like all others in Scripture, require interpreting!

“With God ALL THINGS are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Doubtless, it will appear to some of our readers that we rob the statement of much of its preciousness, if we affirm that it cannot be taken without any limitation, yet such is the case! God Himself has plainly told us in His Word that there are some things which He CANNOT do. “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13), He “cannot deny” Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and thankful we are that He cannot. That He is UNABLE to do so, only demonstrates His ineffable holiness and absolute perfection.

“With God all things are possible.” Is this the same as “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). No, it is not. Nothing can baffle His wisdom, nothing can impede His power, nothing can prevent the outworking of His eternal purpose. The context is speaking of the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom. But God can change the heart of a miser, incline the will of the covetous. No sinner is beyond the reach of His grace.

“And we know that ALL THINGS work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). That too must be understood in the light of its CONTEXT. From verse 16 to the end of the chapter, Paul showed that the AFFLICTIONS to which the saints are exposed in this life, are in no way incompatible with the favor of God unto them. Their sufferings bring them into fellowship with Christ (Romans 8:17). There is no proportion between their afflictions—and their future glory (Romans 8:18-25). Suitable aids are furnished them (Romans 8:26-27). They contribute to our weal. They do not and cannot separate from the love of God (Romans 8:29-39). Thus the “all things” has reference to the “sufferings of this present time” (Romans 8:18).

“God has not made a promise that all the SINS of believers shall work for their good” (Thomas Manton, 1620-1677), to have done so had opened a wide door for carelessness and presumption. Such would be contrary to the analogy of the Word, where threatenings are uniformly made against sin. It would be opposed to the qualification here: “love to God” is our duty and is exercised in obedience and not in sinning. As a fact, the sins of believers are not always overruled for “good” (Jeremiah 5:25; 1 Corinthians 3:15).

“He who spared not his own Son—but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us ALL THINGS?” (Romans 8:32). God has not only given His own Son for His people to discharge their obligations, but He has also given Him to them (as the “with him” clearly implies) to ENRICH them. They are made partakers of His life (Colossians 3:4), of His righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6, Romans 5:19), of His Spirit (Romans 8:9). Christians are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6) and have been given Christ’s own status and standing before God (1 John 4:17).

Christ is the “appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2) and believers are “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). God has given Christ to us as a “Covenant,” as a “head” of influence, as our great High Priest. Christ is both the security and the channel of every mercy: God supplies our every need “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The “all things” of Romans 8:32 is the “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Of Christ’s fullness “have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). We shall yet share His “glory” (John 17:24).

“For ALL THINGS are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And you are Christ’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). The Corinthians had yielded to a narrow and sectarian spirit and were pitting one apostle against another, when in reality, their respective ministries were designed for the good of all God’s people alike (Ephesians 4:11-13): the epistles of Peter are as truly the property of the Gentile saints—as those of Paul’s belong to Hebrew believers. From that, the apostle proceeds to make a larger inventory of the Christian’s riches. Not only are all ordinances and the ministries of all God’s servants the common property of His whole family—but so is “the world,” for it exists for their sakes (2 Corinthians 4:15) and is to be “used” – though NOT “ABUSED” – by them (1 Corinthians 7:31).

“Life” is theirs, in contrast from the unregenerate who merely exist (1 Timothy 5:6). “Death” is theirs, for it gives entrance into unclouded bliss. “Things present, or things to come” (1 Corinthians 3:22) are theirs (1 Timothy 4:8). “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

This is one of the few passages where “all things” is to be understood WITHOUT ANY RESTRICTION. That is not an arbitrary assertion of ours—but one required by the general tenor of Scripture, and by the immediate context.

In Romans 9-11, God is set forth as the sovereign Determiner of all creatures and events, and the supreme Disposer of them, who “works ALL THINGS after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Everything that happens in the universe is of God’s ordination, is through His operation, and is unto His glory in its termination. As CREATOR, God is the originating cause of all creatures; as PROVIDER, God is their sustaining cause; as GOVERNOR, God is the determining cause of their end.

“Be obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9): do not pick and choose between God’s commandments, but “have respect unto all Your commandments” (Psalm 119:6).

“Grow up into him in ALL THINGS, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Be SYMMETRICAL Christians, flourishing in every grace – in knowledge, faith, love, humility, meekness, patience, self-denial, gentleness, temperance.

“Giving thanks always for ALL THINGS unto God” (Ephesians 5:20): happily recognize and gratefully acknowledge that the very things which cross our wills, and which nature dislikes, are appointed by unerring Wisdom and infinite Love.

“I can do ALL THINGS [appointed by God] through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That is, His grace is sufficient for every need.

How much confusion is avoided, how many erroneous understandings obviated, if we only go to the trouble of ascertaining the subject under discussion, attend carefully to the context, and, especially, compare one part of Scripture with another.

To cite only one more case in point: “WHATEVER you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). They are sadly mistaken who suppose that promise has no RESTRICTIONS: it must be qualified by James 1:6-7; 4:3; 1 John 3:22, 5:14. 

SUICIDE AND THE SAINT

SUICIDE AND THE SAINT

Scanned and edited from the writings of A.W. Pink by Michael Jeshurun

“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God, that Thou torment me not. For He said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” [Mark 5:2-8]

That the man, above recorded, was not only a demoniac, or man possessed with demons, but also a maniac, or mad-man, is evident from the text of v. 15, in which it is said, the people saw him “sitting, and clothed and in his RIGHT MIND.” And it is very evident that the expression in his right mind” can have no reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in him as a sanctified soul, although it may be so spiritualized; for of this secret and Divine work, the common people or unconverted Gadarenes could be no judges, nor could it be cognizible to their senses; but the plain and obvious meaning of the text is this: that the man was restored to the use of his natural faculties, that his mind was both sound and intelligent.

In the passage above cited, the Church of Christ is presented with one of the most remarkable cases in the Book of God, of the preservation of a soul under great tribulation, from the act of self-destruction; of the miraculous deliverance of a child of God, under derangement of mind, from the dreadful crime of SUICIDE. In this affecting narrative, the Christian world is presented with an extraordinary display of the preservation of one of God’s elect (a lunatic) from the commission of suicide, though continually incited to the same, by a host or legion of devils! Of a man in whom the words of the apostle were most truly exemplified, PRESERVED IN CHRIST JESUS, and (then) called ” (Jude 1). And, my brethren, if the soul of the “elect” be thus wondrously preserved in Christ Jesus BEFORE calling, or before the spiritual and saving manifestation of Christ to the soul, how much rather when that soul is sensibly and savingly sanctified by the Presence and Indwelling of God? “Know ye not (says the apostle to the Church at Corinth) that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.

Think for a moment, my Christian friends, of the deplorable state and condition of this poor Maniac, and yet (O amazing truth) a vessel of God’s boundless and eternal mercy. Behold a man, whom no man could tame; fierce and ramping as a lion; a man isolated from his fellow-men, mad, forsaken, desolate; a miserable and terrific outcast; a man, literally full of Devils! Look to his habitation, among the corpses of the dead; and mark, this was not an occasional retreat, but his very dwelling-place; “who had his dwelling among the tombs.” Look too at the state of his body; naked, bleeding, and wounded: to the state of his mind- “crying continually”; driven about with a tempest, sometimes furiously rushing upon the mountains; at others, prowling and weeping among the tombs.

Poor man! And hadst thou no friend to pity thee, none to speak peace to thy bleeding soul? Alas, who dared approach? For he was full of devils (it is worthy to note that no sooner were these spirits permitted to enter the swine, than they led them to instant destruction!) spirits of the damned bent on destruction, and were urging their victim continually to the commission of SUICIDE, “by cutting himself with stones.”

Poor man! And hadst thou no eye to pity thee? Blessed be God! The eternal Jehovah was thy refuge; His everlasting arms were underneath; and therefore the gates of hell could not prevail. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plague: O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes.” O the safety of the soul that is wrapped up in the “bundle of life,” and embosomed in the heart of God! Many waters cannot quench the flame of heavenly love, nor can the floods of hell extinguish it. Such an one may be persecuted of devils, but he shall not be forsaken; cast down of hell, but not destroyed. Sooner or later the sweet music of this precious promise shall ring in his ears, and bring peace and consolation to his afflicted soul: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”

O, my Christian brethren, could we have stood upon an elevation and beheld the ravings of this poor Maniac, how affecting had been the sight, how afflictive the contemplation! Now, prowling like a wolf among the dwellings of the dead; then, furiously rushing up and down the mountains, crying, weeping, bleeding. Why does he not plunge from off the mountain’s brow and end his wild career? The arm of Omnipotence restrains him. Why not bleed to death of his wounds? An unseen hand binds them up. But how can mortality sustain such a conflict? The arms of God are underneath; and “Mercy (in Christ) embraceth him on every side.” Nature exhausted, he sinks upon the ground and falls insensibly to sleep. The rains drench his skin, the winds blow, (he hears them not), the tempest rages, and now the rays of the sun dart upon his defenceless head; and yet, he still survives! A spark of heavenly, unextinguishable flame, tossed upon the rude ocean of turbulent and tormenting devils!

Poor and afflicted Child of Mercy! And wherefore thus grievously afflicted and tormented? That in the inscrutable decrees of Jehovah, he might become a Barnabas, a son of CONSOLATION! A pastor after God’s own heart, a feeder of the flock of Christ: “and he departed and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” A Preacher, not like many of the day who thrust themselves into the Ministry, the leprosy of whose presumption is stamped of God upon their foreheads, but a Minister of the Sanctuary, chosen of the Father, ordained of the Spirit, and sent forth of the Son, to testify of the remorseless tyranny of Satan, the helplessness and wretchedness of man, and the abundant and exceeding riches of the sovereign grace of God; a man of deep and heartfelt experience; a guide to the blind, and a champion for the truth; a preacher inspired of the Spirit, entrusted and empowered of God. But, poor afflicted Child of Mercy! wherefore wast thou thus grievously tried and tormented ? That the power, grace, and glory of God may be transcendently manifest: that in the ages to come, the Church might behold (in this poor Maniac) a bright and living Epistle of the preservation of ALL God’s blood-bought Family FROM THE APPALLING CRIME OF SUICIDE. 

O, my Brethren, how full of sweet and heavenly consolation is the deliverance of this Demoniac to all the distressed and persecuted people of God! Behold a man without human control, without the restraint of human reason, and carried away by Devils as a flood, and yet PRESERVED FROM SUICIDE. Can a stronger case be possibly conceived, or can its parallel be found ?

Poor and afflicted child of God, hast THOU a Legion of Devils in thy soul? THOU SHALT NEVER COMMIT SUICIDE!

Art thou driven as with a tempest night and day; Thou no house, no home? Thou shalt never commit suicide. Art thou deprived of reason, and is thy body naked, bleeding, wounded? Thou shalt never commit suicide; for the Spirit of the Lord shall go forth with healing in His wings, and shall pluck thee out of many waters: He shall bear thee as an olive branch through the windows of heaven, and place thee, as the trophy of Mercy, in the bosom of thy God. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” [Isaiah 35:10]

Tossed as a wreck, (with helm of reason lost) little did this Maniac dream of the mercies that awaited him on high: but no sooner has the appointed moment of deliverance arrived, than the Sun of righteousness dispels the gloom: and in His glorious beams the holy Dove descends, broods over her adopted child, and plucks Her darling from the lions. “Sing O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.” [Isaiah 44:23] Poor afflicted child of God, dost thou sometimes fear the violence of temptation will lead thee to the commission of Suicide?! Behold a man in whom a legion of Devils appeared to have full sway, a fierce and ramping Maniac; in a word, a man who seemed forsaken of God, and given up to hell, and yet preserved from Suicide. Hitherto thou shalt come, Satan, but no further, and here (TOUCH NOT HIS LIFE) shall thy proud waves be stayed.

Again, the apostle propounds this question to the Church; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” and then replies, “In ALL these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us:” but do I TRIUMPH in tribulation, if tribulation drives me to SUICIDE?

And lastly, it is the office of the Holy Spirit to work repentance (The dying thief repented, and made a confession to the glory of God!) for sin in the souls of ALL His saints. But how can there be repentance of that sin which carries me as a criminal before the Judge, and presents me reeking with the blood of life? Is there repentance in the grave? The Word says, No! Where then stands my unrepentant soul? Thus the CRIME OF SUICIDE CARRIES THE OFFENDER BEYOND THE PALE OF MERCY (it carries him before God in the very commission of his sin), seals his awful doom, and apportions him eternally with all the sons of perdition. Like Judas and Ahithophel, that man perishes in his iniquity.

SUICIDE IS SELF-MURDER, and is one of the most desperate crimes which can be committed. Inasmuch as this sin precludes repentance on the part of its perpetrator, it is beyond forgiveness. Such creatures are so abandoned by God as to have no concern for their eternal salvation, seeing they pass into the immediate presence of their Judge with their hands imbrued in their own blood. Such are self-murderers, for they destroy not only their bodies but their souls, too.

Now the Spirit testifies, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” [2Tim 3:16] My Christian Brethren, have you a single case in the Divine Record of a saint’s falling into Suicide? I say, have you a single case in the whole Bible of a saint’s having fallen into the commission of that dreadful sin? YOU HAVE NONE! You may search from Genesis to Revelation, but you will find none. Now, if the thing were possible, we ought to have an example, seeing the Word of God is given for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be “thoroughly furnished,” but behold, we have NOT ONE!

What, then, is the common inference or conclusion to be drawn from this memorable fact? The conclusion, I apprehend, will be thus: THAT THE CHILD OF GOD, OR SPIRITUAL BELIEVER IN CHRIST, IS NEVER PERMITTED TO FALL INTO SUICIDE.

But some say, Did not Samson commit Suicide? By no means. He died as a martyr, fighting in the cause of God. He fell contending with the world, and went triumphantly to glory. O there is a mighty difference in dying to the confusion of God’s enemies, and falling as a Suicide to the confusion of friends! When Samson contended with a thousand of his foes, his life was prolonged; but in this, his last conflict, he fought, fell, and conquered as in a moment. Grasping the pillars upon which the house stood, Samson cried unto his God; and having received power from on high (the sanction of the HOLY ONE!) he bowed his head and yielded up the ghost. Like his blessed Lord and Master (of whom he was a glorious type) he overcame most in his death. Samson died a blessed martyr in the cause of God; he fell not into Suicide. Did Stephen shrink to declare the truth in the very teeth of his enemies? So neither did Samson shrink from the pillars of the house, though like Stephen, he were to be stoned to death. Thus fell these champions of the faith, scorning bodily deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. “He that hateth his life in this world,” said our blessed Lord to His disciples, “shall keep it unto life eternal.”

As Mr. Hunt so plainly pointed out, Samson certainly was not guilty of this enormous sin; instead, he died as a godly hero for the good of Israel. It is to be carefully noted that the life of Samson ended by his calling upon the Lord! His last act is one of PRAYER, and it was in direct answer thereto that supernatural strength was granted unto him, so that “the dead which he slew at his death, were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16:28, 30).

But it will be asked, Have not the saints of God ever attempted Suicide ? Most certainly they have; both before and after calling. Like the poor Demoniac recorded by Matthew (chap. 17: 15) they have oftentimes sought their own destruction; but, through Mercy, have, as oftentimes, been wonderfully delivered. “Thou shalt not die, but live, and declare the works of God.” [Psalm 118:17]

“Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law but under grace.” “Destitute, afflicted, tormented.” One of the dear children of God determines upon self-destruction: carried as by a flood, she steals along the river’s brink, selects the fatal spot, and is just about to plunge into the stream, when suddenly the voice of God is heard; in an instant, Satan flees, the soul is set free, and Christ resumes His throne. O Satan, “thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall, but the Lord helped me!” “The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.” Another child of God draws the knife, but the weapon fails. Another grasps the cup of poison, but his hand so trembles that he cannot hold it to his lips. Another takes a halter and looks for a beam, but is prevented he knows not how. Another suspends his body from a door, but soon the fastening fails, and he drops to the floor.

Carnal professors, whose hearts have been “swept and garnished” by themselves, never dream of such temptations as these, and are ready to reproach and accuse the children of God when thus exercised; but let such professors remember God hath not spoken in vain, “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” Carried by this flood, David fell into adultery and murder; and poor boasting Peter cursed and swore, and declared he knew not his Lord and Master. Merciful God! What ways and means hast Thou devised to prove the unchangeableness of Thy sovereign mercy, the immutability of Thy Covenant love! My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips.” [Psalm 89:34]

PROFESSORS ARE NOT ALWAYS REGENERATED POSSESSORS

But, it may be asked, are there not instances of men celebrated for knowledge of Divine mysteries, and of most exemplary conduct, falling into the crime of Suicide? The fact is notorious, and cannot be denied: but that we may reply to the question effectually, let us turn to the Word of truth, the unerring testimony of God. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity (Christ dwelling in my soul) I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” In other words, though I be ever so gifted, and have not grace, I am nothing.

As a preacher I may be greatly attractive to my hearers; as “one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument;” but if Christ be not formed in my soul “the hope of glory” I am nothing. Even David, that eminent man of God, was deceived in this matter. He took a man of gifts, for a man of grace; but as he advanced in the Divine life, God showed him greater things. He went to the house of God with Ahithophel and took sweet counsel together, and thought him a dear brother in the Lord; but in time of temptation this high-sounding professor (this cymbal of the Sanctuary) fell away. He sided with Absalom in the rebellion, pleaded against the sweet singer of Israel, and sought to compass the death of the king, by the very son of his bowels! I say, therefore, though men be gifted to speak as with the tongues of men and of angels, and draw the eyes of the Church upon them as the beloved of God, if they be not TEMPLES OF THE HOLY GHOST (truly “born of God”), in time of temptation they fall away.

There is more than one instance of suicide recorded in the Bible, and most solemn and instructive is their testimony. There are three cases in all, and each of them was that of a PROFESSOR, who belonged EXTERNALLY to the people of God; but in none of them can it be fairly shown that he was a REGENERATED  soul.

The first was Saul, the apostate king. It is true that for a brief season he seemed to run well—but the evil spirit which troubled him, his rank disobedience to the Lord, his murderous designs upon David, and his consulting with the witch of Endor—all clearly marked him out as a son of Belial, before he took his own life (1 Chron. 10:4).

The second was Ahithophel, who basely deserted David and befriended Absalom in his insurrection (2 Sam. 17:23).

The third was Judas, the traitorous Apostle, who, though he deceived his fellows, was denominated by Christ as “a devil” (John 6:70).

Rightly has it been said “These stand forth as so many monuments of the power of Satan, the strength of despair, and the indignation of the Almighty.” This, in itself, is quite sufficient in our judgment to settle the matter – that the only ones mentioned in Scripture who directly took their own lives, were not believers – but UNBELIEVERSLet the reader carefully ponder that fact. But that is negative evidence; the positive, as we shall see, is equally conclusive.

But before weighing that, perhaps a word or two should be said upon what the Spirit has chronicled about Jonah, for the nearest approach to a saint actually committing suicide is his, for he distinctly bade the sailors in the ship “take me up and cast me forth into the sea” (Jonah 1:12). But observe, first, that was designed for THEIR good, “So shall the sea be calm UNTO YOU!” Second, Jonah did not himself jump overboard. Third, as in the case of Samson, the providence of God had designed that he should be a remarkable type of Christ. Finally, remember that God MIRACULOUSLY DELIVERED HIMas though to show us that He will not, under any circumstances, allow one of His own to destroy himself.

The same feature appears most conspicuously in the case of Job. It should be pointed out first, that the situation of that patriarch was a most desperate one and his sufferings almost unprecedented. Second, he was tempted, yes urged by his wicked wife, to resort unto extreme measures, “curse God, and die” (2:9). Third, poor Job ardently longed for death, as that which would put a happy end to his miseries. This is clear from his own words, “O that I might have my request, and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that He would let loose His hand and cut me off” (6:8, 9). This is recorded, we need hardly say, for OUR ADMONITION, and not for OUR IMITATION. Fourth, yet though he was peeved at death’s delay, and fretful because life still remained in him, nevertheless the fact remains that HE DID NOT destroy himself. The Lord’s qualification to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; but save his life” (2:6)—makes it clear that while He allows the Devil to sorely BUFFET a saint, he cannot take his LIFE.

“Is suicide A SINor not? Is rebellion a sin, unbelief a sin, despair a sin? Then suicide must be a SIN OF SINS; for it is the last fruit, the highest summit of those sins. Can a man who commits it be said to die in faith, or hope, or love? Where is receiving the end of faith, the salvation of the soul, (1 Peter 1:9), if a man dies in unbelief, as a suicide must do? How can his hope be “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19) if it breaks in the storm? And where is love, when he bids defiance to the Almighty by breaking through the bounds of life and death which He has set up? Evidently he dies in sin, and in a sin for which he can have no repentance, for he cuts himself off from repentance by that same act by which he cuts himself off from life” (J. C. Philpot, Gospel Standard, 1861).

How each of us, then, needs to earnestly pray, “Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe!” [Psalm 119:117]. It is nothing but Sovereign Grace which makes any of us to differ. Probably there are very few Christians but at one time or other seriously pondered suicide, yet the Lord in His covenant-faithfulness either renewed their graces, changed their intentions, or thwarted their efforts – as He did more than once with the hymn-writer of blessed memory, William Cowper. And to those Christians who are fearful lest such a terrible ending as suicide should be their lot, we close by reminding them of the sure promises of the preserving hand of the Most High over His saints. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous—but the Lord DELIVERETH HIM out of them ALL” (Psalm 34:19). “Who are KEPT by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).

“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God KEEPETH HIMSELF, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18). These are strong testimonies to show that Jehovah will not allow Satan to prevail over any of His chosen ones.

 

STRENGTHENING THE HANDS OF THE MOURNERS IN ZION 

STRENGTHENING THE HANDS OF THE MOURNERS IN ZION

A.W. Pink

“Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; He will come and save you.” [Isaiah 35:3,4]

It is the duty of the preacher to faithfully warn the young convert that the peace, joy and assurance which usually follows the first realization of sins’ forgiveness, will in turn be succeeded by fierce temptations, inward conflicts, sad failures which will produce grief, darkness, and doubtings. It was so with Abraham, with Moses, with Job, with Peter, with Paul; yea, with all the saints whose biographies are recorded at any length in the Scriptures. Great changes are to be expected in the young convert’s feelings and frames, so that his comforts are dampened, and the dew of death seems to settle upon his graces. A deeper realization of his awful depravity—what he is by nature—will make him groan and cry out “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24); yet that only makes way for a fuller and further weaning from self.

Very often the young Christian is allowed by God to sink yet lower in his experience. Satan is let loose upon him and sin rages fiercely within him, and strive and pray as he may, it often obtains the upper hand over him. Guilt weighs heavily on his conscience, no relief is granted from any source until he now seriously questions the genuineness of his conversion and greatly fears that Satan has fatally deceived him. He feels that his heart is as hard as the nether millstone, that faith in him is dead, that there is no help and no hope for him. He cannot imagine that one who has been born again and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit could be so enslaved by sin. If God were his Father, He would surely hear his cries and grant deliverance from his spiritual enemies. But the heavens are as brass over him until the very breath of prayer seems frozen within him.

Hoping against hope he seeks relief from the pulpit. But in vain. The sermons he hears only aggravate his woes for they depict the Christian’s experience as vastly different from his own: they deal with the bright side and say little or nothing on the dark side. If he converses with the professing Christians of the day he is likely to get laughed at, and told to cease being occupied with himself and look only to Christ, to lay hold of the promises of God and go on his way rejoicing. That is the very thing he most of all desires: “to will IS present” with him, “but how to perform that which is good” he “finds NOT” (Rom. 7:18). Poor soul! is there no one that understands his case? no one qualified to minister comfort to him? Alas, alas, there are few indeed in this frothy age.

Here, again, experimental preaching is urgently needed, preaching which enters into the very experiences described above—experiences shared, in some measure, by all quickened souls while they are in this “Wilderness of Sin.” But O what wisdom from on High (not from books!) is needed if, on the one hand, the “smoking flax” is not to be “quenched” and the “bruised need” not broken—and, on the other hand, sin be not made light of, failures be not excused, and the standard of holiness be not lowered. The pulpit should declare frankly that there are times when the mind of the believer is filled with deep distress, that there are seasons when the light of God’s countenance is turned away from His people, and the Devil is permitted to sorely wound them, tell them that they have committed the unpardonable sin, and that there is no hope for them; but that such experiences are no proof at all that they are still unregenerate.

The preacher has to bear steadily in mind that if there are among his hearers carnal professors who are ready to seize eagerly anything which would bolster them up in their false assurance, there are also feeble and ailing babes in Christ which require tender nursing (Isa. 60:4; 1 Thess. 2:7), and little ones of God’s family who lack assurance, and because of this think the worst of themselves. It is therefore wise business to “take forth the precious from the vile” (Jer. 15:19): that is, by a discriminating ministry expose and terrify the sin-hardened, but speak words of comfort to the real mourners in Zion. “In our congregations there are wheat and chaff on the same floor: we cannot distinguish them by name, but we must by character” (Matthew Henry).

We must make it clear that those who regard sin lightly, have not the fear of God before their eyes; those not grieved because they find so much in their hearts opposed to Divine holiness, are unregenerate—no matter how much head-knowledge of the Truth they possess or how loud be their Christian profession.

It is at this very point that the true under-shepherd of Christ stands out in marked contrast from the “hireling” of the flock, concerning whom God says, “Ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life” (Ezek. 13:22). On the one hand, the regenerate are “made sad” by pratings about “the victorious life,” or “the second blessing,” or “the baptism of the Spirit.” These blind leaders of the blind claim to have so “got out of Romans 7 into Romans 8,” to have so left behind them all inward conflicts and agonizing doubtings, as to virtually have entered into the state of the glorified—causing real Christians to conclude that they know nothing of that Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation” and must be complete strangers to a miracle of grace within them.

On the other hand, these false prophets declare that all who have “accepted Christ as their personal Saviour” are saved, even though they have not yet received the second blessing, that they are justified though not “entirely sanctified.” They assure the godless, the worldling, the pleasure-intoxicated, that they may be saved at this very moment on the sole and simple condition that they believe God so loved them as to give His Son to die for them. Thus peace is assured to the unconcerned “when there is no peace,” the hearts of the careless are hardened, and the wicked are promised life without any regard to God’s demand that they must “forsake” their idols. “Nor can anything strengthen the hands of sinners more than to tell them they may be saved in their sins without repentance; or that there may be repentance, though they do not return from their wicked ways” (Matthew Henry).

The duty of God’s servants is clearly enough defined in this respect: “They shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek. 44:23). Surely it is of vast importance that a deeply exercised soul should know whether or not his sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. But for that, teaching is necessary, teaching from a Divinely-qualified teacher; for if an inexperienced “novice” lays his hand to such a task he will only make bad matters worse and add to the fearful confusion which now prevails on every side. Only one who has himself sailed much in these deep waters is fitted to serve as pilot to floundering ships; none but one who had been harassed by Satan as Bunyan had, could have written “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”

“That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4) states the principle. One who has actually suffered from a serious disease is best fitted to recognize symptoms of it in others and recommend the remedies which he found most efficacious. Furthermore, one must be personally taught by the Spirit before he can explain to sin-sick and Satan tormented souls the “mystery of the Gospel”— the strange paradoxes of the Christian life.

It is one thing to read “for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10), it is quite another matter to prove the truth of it in actual experience. Nor is that statement any more paradoxical than the fact that it is the spiritually “poor” who are spiritually rich (Matt. 5:3). And equally true is it that those who most clearly perceive their filthiness and mourn over their pollution are they who have the best evidence that their sins have been washed away; as the most humble souls are the ones who most bewail their pride.

Seven HUMAN Looks

Seven HUMAN Looks

Arthur Pink

We continue to write upon “Looking,” for, said the prophet, ” Mine EYE affecteth mine HEART” (Lam 3:51). John Bunyan (1620-1677) wrote impressively on “Eyegate” and showed what a large part it played in admitting enemies into the CITY OF MANSOUL. The HEART has no more influential gate than the eyes; and if we are wise, we shall do as the patriarch and make “a covenant” with them (Job 31:1). Guard your EYE — and thereby safeguard your HEART.

Blessed are they who use their EYES to noble purpose, but better to have been born blind than PERVERT such a gift! Observation exerts a considerable influence upon the inner man, and therefore is no small factor in molding the life. But alas, observation is not always rightly used: instead of evoking reflectiveness, drawing out sympathy, and leading to kindly deeds — only too often it excites our corruptions and issues in evil works. Whether observation affects us for good or evil, depends not only upon the OBJECTS CONTEMPLATED, but also upon our REFLECTIONS on and reactions to the same.

1. The look of FAITH. “And the LORD said unto Abram…Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it” (Gen 13:14-15). That was in sharp contrast with the greed of his nephew, Lot, who “lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan” (verse 10), which was the look of covetousness. God here made a great promise and gift to His servant, and bade Abraham view his fair heritage, for it was a land flowing with milk and honey. As he gazed upon such an attractive portion, his heart would indeed be affected by a sense of the LORD’s goodness and magnanimity.

And so should it ever be with us. As we behold the wondrous handiwork of God all around us in the realm of creation, we should admire His wisdom, be awed by His power, and adore the grace of Him who “giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17) — to evoke thoughtfulness, regale our senses, and minister so freely to our needs. God’s workmanship in nature should fill us with wonderment and gratitude.

2. The look of DISOBEDIENCE. “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen 19:26). Solemn indeed is that, and chronicled for our admonition. God had given express command, “Look NOT behind you” (verse 17), but Lot’s wife disregarded His injunction. In unbelief and love to Sodom, she looked back and probably attempted to return there, for in Luke 17:31-32, we find that our Lord pointed His prohibition, “Let him likewise not RETURN BACK” with the warning, “Remember Lot’s wife.”

This incident is recorded to show us the peril of HANKERING AFTER FORBIDDEN AND FORSAKEN OBJECTS, and to make us fear and tremble, lest after having escaped the corruption which is in the world through the knowledge of Christ, we are again entangled therein, and overcome, only to find our latter end is worse than the beginning (2 Peter 2:20). Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt as a lasting monument of God’s displeasure against apostates. True conversion is the renouncing of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and it is at our peril that we lust after the things we have abandoned. As Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says, “Drawing back is to perdition, and looking back is TOWARDS it.”

3. The look of CURIOSITY. “And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bore unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land” (Gen 34:1). So far as Scripture informs us, she was the only daughter he had, and with so many brothers, was probably petted and spoiled. Born just before Joseph (Gen 30:21-24), she could not have been more than fifteen or sixteen; and therefore, her MOTHER was more to blame than she was. The Hebrew for “went out to see the daughters of the land” implies “to look about with them.” Probably it was some occasion of public festivity, and unrest and discontent with the tent possessed her; and a spirit of inquisitiveness moved her to mix with the ungodly and to look at the customs and fashions of the heathen. The sequel was disastrous, for not only did she lose her honor, but her conduct led to her brothers committing murder.

For young girls to get away from the eyes of their mothers and go out unchaperoned is highly dangerous, because of their inexperience of the world, their ignorance of the artifices of unscrupulous men, and their proneness to be easily deceived by flatterers. Let young women bear in mind that God has inseparably linked together “discreet, chaste — keepers at home” (Titus 2:5)!

4. The look of CONTEMPT. “And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth” (1 Samuel 17:42). Goliath could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw this stripling advancing toward him, and “looked about” for one whom he deemed more “worthy of his steel.” He was expecting to be confronted with the champion of Israel’s army; and thus, when he perceived that an unarmed shepherd-boy had entered the lists against him, the Philistine utterly despised him. Therein he made the fatal mistake of underestimating his enemy. David indeed had no coat of armor upon him, but, what was infinitely preferable, he was clothed with “the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11, 13). He might be totally unacquainted with the arts of warfare, but he knew from personal experience that JEHOVAH fails no one who really trusts Him. Said he, “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45); and the giant fell before him.

Learn, then, that might cannot prevail over weakness — when that weakness leans upon the Almighty!

5. The look of DISCONTENT. “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought…and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecc 2:11). That was the disappointing discovery made by the one man whom God permitted to obtain everything which the carnal heart craves. The force of his honest acknowledgment is the better perceived by observing what he tells us in the nine verses preceding, and then listening to his summing up: “And whatever my eyes desired, I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for mine heart rejoiced in all my labor” (Ecc 2:10). But having realized his ambitions and gratified every desire, he found that so far from their affording him any real and lasting satisfaction, they still left an aching void within.

Mere THINGS — however costly or lovely in themselves — cannot meet the real needs of the soul. The heart was made for God, and He alone can fill it. SELF’S enjoyment of the joys of this earth, leaves nothing but emptiness behind. The thirst of the soul, cannot be quenched by the cisterns of this world. Gold can purchase nothing, but what proves to be vanity. Christ alone “satisfies the longing soul” (Psalm 107:9).

6. The look of HUMILIATION. “Hearken to me, you that follow after righteousness, you that seek the LORD…and to the hole of the pit whence you are dug” (Isa 51:1). That is very necessary if a humble spirit is to be preserved in the child of God. It is a most beneficial exercise to look back and view our origin, and behold what we were when the hand of divine mercy was first laid upon us. “Wherefore remember,” says the apostle, “that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:11-12).

Remember it to your shame. Look to the “horrible pit and the miry clay” (Psalm 40:2), out of which the God of all grace brought you, that you may be confounded and never more open your mouth boastfully (Ezekiel 16:63). Daily ponder the question, “Who makes you to differ from another?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) — not only from those who are hastening to destruction, but from what you were YOURSELF only a short time since! Let such a look humble you into the dust!

7. The look of HOPE. “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” (Jon 2:4). That is, though because of my reprehensible conduct, You no longer view me with approbation and delight; nevertheless, I will not give way to despair, but cast myself upon Your mercy. Those words, “I will look again toward your holy temple,” show that his faith laid hold of that statement: “and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which Thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for Thy name: Then hear Thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.” (1 Kings 8:44-49 and compare 2 Chronicles 20:9).

When a captive in Babylon, Daniel had acted on the same (Dan 6:10), and now the chastened prophet made it HIS confidence. Though in the whale’s belly, he refused to abandon hope. He “remembered the LORD: and his prayer came in unto Him, into His holy temple” (Jon 2:7). He remembered His grace, His faithfulness, His power, His past mercies — and turned unto Him the eyes of expectation; and he was miraculously delivered! Oh, what encouragement is there here for every failing saint who is tempted to despond.

Sighing in Prayer

Sighing in Prayer

A. W. Pink

The exercises of soul and pangs of heart find expression in sighs and sobs, in moans and groans, yet such as mere nature never produced. The word “sigh” has a much stronger force in its Scriptural usage than in our ordinary conversation, or we should say, in more modern speech, for three hundred years ago it signified a lament rather than a mark of peevishness. “And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage” (Ex. 2:23), the meaning of which is explained in the next verse: “And God heard their groaning.” Their “sighing” expressed their suffering and sorrow under the oppression of their Egyptian taskmasters. So again, we read that the sorely afflicted Job declared “For my sighing cometh before my meat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters” (Job 3:24). So by prayer sighs we intend those agitations and breathings of soul which are virtually synonymous with groans.

A “sigh” is an inarticulate declaration, and indistinct cry for deliverance. The saints are sometimes so opposed and troubled that they cannot find language suited to their emotions: where words fail them, the thoughts and feelings of their hearts find expression in sighs and cries. The workings of a Christian’s heart under the pressure of indwelling sin, the temptations of Satan, the opposition of the ungodly, the burden of uncongenial society, the wickedness of the world, the low state of the Cause of Christ on earth, are variously described in Scripture. Sometimes he is said to be “in heaviness” (1 Pet. 1:6), to “cry out of the depths” (Psa. 130:1), to “roar” (Psa. 38:8), to be “overwhelmed” (Psa. 61:2), to be “distracted” (Psa. 88:13). The tossings and anguish of his soul are depicted as “groanings” (Rom. 8:23).

The groanings of the believer are not only expressive of sorrow, but also of hope, of the intensity of his spiritual desires, of his panting after God, and his yearning for the bliss which awaits him on high (2 Cor. 5:2,4). Such exercises of soul are peculiar to the regenerate, and by them the Christian may identify himself. If the reader now be the subject of sorrows and sighs to which he was a total stranger while in a state of nature, then he may be assured he is no longer dead in sins. If he finds himself groaning over the infection of his heart and those workings of inward corruption which prevent his perfectly loving and uninterruptedly serving God as he longs to do, that is proof that a principle of holiness has been communicated to his soul. If he mourns over the lustings of his flesh against that principle of holiness, then he must be alive unto God.

The worldling will groan over the common troubles of life, such as financial loss, pain of body, the death of a loved one, but that is only the voice of nature. But the worldling never weeps in secret over the coldness of his heart or the workings of unbelief. “Groans” or “sighs” are the evidences of spiritual life, the pantings of holiness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. They are, as Mr. Winslow expressed it, “The ruled chimings of Heaven.” They are the sure pledges of deliverance (2 Cor. 5:4). They are the marks of the Christian’s union with Him who was “The Man of Sorrows.”

Before Christ healed the deaf man, we read that “He sighed” (Mark 7:34), which expressed His deep sympathy with the sufferer, as one “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” And again, when the Pharisees came to Him, “tempting Him” by asking a sign from heaven, we are told that Christ “sighed deeply in His spirit” (Mark 8:11,12), which denoted His holy indignation at their sin, godly sorrow for their persons, and grief within His own soul, for He “suffered” when He was “tempted” (Heb. 2:18). His holiness felt contact with evil.

“The nearer anyone is to heaven, the more he desires to be there. Because Christ is there. For the more frequent and steady are our views of Him by faith, the more do we long and groan for the removal of all obstructions and hindrances. Groaning is a vehement desire, mixed with sorrow, for the present want of what is desired” (John Owen).

Now the spiritual sighs and groanings of the Christian are interpreted by God as prayers! Those sacrifices which are acceptable to Him are “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psa. 51:7). Sobbings of soul are of great price in His sight (Psa. 61:8). The believer’s moans are intelligible language to heaven: “the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping” (Psa. 6:8): that “weeping” possesses an appeal unto Him which the eloquence of professional praying does not. “Lord, all my desire is before Thee, and my groaning is not hid from Thee” (Psa. 38:9).

Our tears speak to Him of godly sorrow, our moans as the breathings of a contrite spirit. “From heaven did the Lord behold the earth: to hear the groaning of the prisoner” (Psa. 102:20). Here then is consolation: God is privy to our secret sighs, Christ is touched with them (Heb. 4:15), they ascend as petitions to heaven, and are the sure pledges of deliverance.

Praise the Lord!

THE NEED FOR SUPERNATURAL REVELATION TO KNOW GOD

THE NEED FOR SUPERNATURAL REVELATION TO KNOW GOD

A.W. Pink

God can only be known by means of a supernatural revelation of Himself. Apart from the Scriptures, even a theoretical acquaintance with Him is impossible. It still holds true that “the world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21). Where the Scriptures are ignored, God is “the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). But something more than the Scriptures is required before the soul can know God, know him in a real, personal, vital way.

This seems to be recognized by few today. The prevailing practice assumes that a knowledge of God can be obtained through studying the Word, in the same way as a knowledge of chemistry may be secured by mastering its textbooks. An intellectual knowledge of God maybe; not so a spiritual one. A supernatural God can only be known supernaturally (i.e. known in a manner above that which mere nature can acquire), by a supernatural revelation of Himself to the heart. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). The one who has been favoured with this supernatural experience has learned that only “in Thy light shall we see light” (Psa. 36:9).

God can only be known through a supernatural facultyChrist made this clear when He said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The unregenerate have no spiritual knowledge of God. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Water, of itself, never rises above its own level. So the natural man is incapable of perceiving that which transcends mere nature. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God” (John 17:3). Eternal life must be imparted before the “true God” can be known. Plainly is this affirmed in 1 John 5:20, “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true.” Yes, an “understanding,” a spiritual understanding, by new creation, must be given before God can be known in a spiritual way.

If God has revealed Himself to you dear reader, He has given you a sight of yourself, for in His light we “see light.” A most humbling, painful, and never-to-be-forgotten experience this is. When God was revealed to Abraham, he said, “I am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). When He was revealed to Isaiah, the prophet said, “Woe is me for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). When God revealed Him-self to Job, he said, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6)—note, not merely I abhor my wicked ways, but my vile self. Is this your experience, my reader? Have you discovered your depravity and lost condition? Have you found there is not a single good thing in you? Have you seen yourself to be fit for and deserving only of hell? Have you, truly? Then that is good evidence, yea, it is proof positive that the Lord God has “found” you.

THE SINGLE EYE

THE SINGLE EYE

A.W. Pink

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” [Mattt 6:22,23] 

“If the eye be single” or sound in vision. The contrast presented in the next verse is that of the eye being “evil” or “wicked,” so that a “single” eye is a good or holy one. And WHAT is a good “eye”? Plainly it is a RENEWED UNDERSTANDING, an anointed eye, a mind illuminated by the Spirit of God, a mind which is dominated and regulated by the Truth.

As the body is furnished with light for its activities by means of the eye, so the mind is fitted for its operations only as it is receptive to the influences of the Holy Spirit. A “single” eye has but one object—God, the pleasing and glorifying of Him.

This is borne out by the other occurrence (in a slightly different form) of this word: “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward” (2 Cor. 1:12). The joyful confidence of the apostle—which sustained him in his labours—consisted of the consciousness of his sincerity, namely his “simplicity” (the opposite of duplicity) and godly sincerity of spiritual translucence.

“The eye, that is, THE AIMS AND INTENTIONS. By the eye we set our end before us, the mark we aim at, the place we go to, we keep that in view, and direct our motion accordingly. In everything we do in religion there is something or other that we have in our eye: now if our eye be single, if we aim honestly, fix right ends, and move rightly towards them, if we aim purely and only at the glory of God, seek His honour and favour, and direct all entirely to Him, then the eye is single. Paul’s was so when he said, ‘to me to live is Christ’; and if we be right here, ‘the whole body will be full of light’—all the actions will be regular and gracious, pleasing to God and comfortable to ourselves. But if the eye be evil, if, instead of aiming only at the glory of God and our acceptance with Him, we look aside at the applause of men, and while we profess to honour God, contrive to honour ourselves, and seek our own things under color of seeking the things of Christ, this spoils all—the whole conversation will be perverse and unsteady, and the foundations being thus out of course, there can be nothing but confusion and every evil work in the superstructure” (Matthew Henry).

So much then for the meaning of the principal terms of our passage. Let us next consider ITS CONNECTION with the context. This appears to be somewhat as follows: our discernment between things, our estimation of values, our practical judgment of earthly and heavenly objects is very largely determined by the condition of our understanding—whether it be Divinely illumined or still in nature’s darkness. An enlightened understanding, perceiving objects according to their real nature and worth, enables its possessor to form a true judgment, to make a wise choice and to act aright respecting them. But a darkened understanding, conveying a wrong estimate of things, results in an erroneous choice and a disastrous end. In the latter case the “light which is in” a man is unaided human reason, and moved according to its dictates. Men imagine that they are acting wisely when instead they are pursuing a course of egregious folly, and then how great is their darkness!

The Gentile no more than the Jew has any love or longing for spiritual things, nor can either the one or the other perceive the wretchedness of his condition, for the light which is in them is darkness, great darkness. Proof of this is furnished by Christ in the verses we are now considering: in them He may be regarded as replying to a secret objection which the hearts of men were likely to frame against the two commandments which He had just given. Should it be asked, If there be such a necessity of laying up treasure in heaven and of avoiding to lay up treasure on earth, then WHY IS IT that the best educated, the shrewdest, the great men of this world commonly seek earthly riches far more than heavenly?

THIS is a question which, in one form or another, often exercises young Christians and stumbles inquirers, if the true riches of the soul are found not in the things of time and sense, why is it that our fellows labour so hard for “that which satisfieth not” (Isa. 55:2)? If the best which this world has to offer us perishes with the using of it, why is it prized so highly by almost one and all? Here is the explanation: BECAUSE MEN VIEW THINGS THROUGH A VITIATED EYE, so that the real appears but a phantom, and THE SHADOWS ARE MISTAKEN FOR THE SUBSTANCE. Marvel not at this, says Christ, they lack the single eye, i.e. the Divinely enlightened understanding, they are in nature’s darkness: they cannot discern between things that differ, they are incapable of judging aright of the true treasure, and being ignorant of the heavenly they seek only the earthly.

In order that we may have a better conception of what a single “eye” consists of, we need to inquire diligently into what TRUE WISDOM is. Spiritual wisdom is no common gift which every professing Christian possesses, but is a special bestowment of God in Christ peculiar to those who are regenerated, for Christ Himself is made wisdom unto them (1 Cor. 1:30). And this, not only because He is the matter of their wisdom—they being only truly wise when they are brought to know Christ and Him crucified, but because He is the root thereof. In Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and as believers are vitally united to Him they partake of His virtues, as a branch derives vitality from its stock.

Now this heavenly wisdom has two actions: the first is to DISCERN ARIGHT between things that differ. Thus Paul prayed for the Philippians: “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent,” or as the margin, “try things that differ” (Phil. 1:9, 10): that is distinguish good from evil, heavenly from earthly. Thereby the children of God distinguish the voice of Christ, the true Shepherd, from the voice of all false shepherds. Thereby they put a difference between the water of baptism and all other waters, and between the Lord’s supper and all other bread—discerning the Lord’s body therein. Thereby they discern their election and calling, perceiving more or less in themselves the marks thereof. Thereby they see the hand of God in providence, ever making all things minister to their ultimate good. “He that is spiritual judgeth all things” (1 Cor. 2:15), which the natural man cannot do.

The second action of this true and heavenly wisdom is TO DETERMINE and give sentence of things, what is to be done and what is not to be done, what is good and what is evil in behavior. But here let it be remembered that the principal work of this wisdom is to determine of true HAPPINESS, whereto the whole life of man ought to be directed, which happiness is the love and favour of God in Christ. Herein David showed his wisdom to be far different from that of the godless around him: “there be many that say, Who will show us any good?”—that is the world’s vain quest for happiness: “Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us” (Ps. 4:6)— wherein is the believer’s true happiness.

So too with the apostle Paul (Phil. 3:8). The same should be our wisdom, for if man have all learning and an intellect developed to the highest possible point, yet if he fail rightly to determine of true blessedness his sagacity is folly. Another important part of this heavenly wisdom is the right use of means whereby we arrive at this happiness.

Now the FRUIT OF this single eye is to make “the whole body full of light,” that is to order the entire life aright, guiding it into the paths of righteousness and making it abound in good works. “I [wisdom—see vv. 1, 11] lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment, that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance” (Prov. 8:20, 21). How urgently it behooves us, then, to seek after and endeavour to make sure we have obtained this true wisdom: if the mind endowed thus possesses such powers of discrimination, how necessary it is that we become partakers thereof. In order to this we must be very careful to get the fear of God into our hearts, for “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10).

This fear is a reverential awe of the heart toward God, whereby a person is FEARFUL TO OFFEND AND CAREFUL TO PLEASE HIM IN ALL THINGS. And this we obtain if we receive His Word with reverence, apply it to our own souls as we read it, tremble when it searches our conscience, and humbly submit ourselves unto it without repining. David could say, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105), and therefore “Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies” (v. 98). If we would be truly wise we must cease leaning unto our own understanding and be directed by the Word in all things.

Our deep need of diligently seeking after a single eye—an enlightened understanding, a mind endued with true wisdom— appears in the solemn fact that by nature each of us possesses an eye that is EVIL, filling our whole body with darkness. In consequence of the fall we lost the power to judge aright in spiritual things, so that we mistake evil for good, things which ought to be refused for things which ought to be chosen. The natural man perceives not the presence of God, or he would be restrained from doing things which he is ashamed to do in the sight of his fellows. The natural man perceives not the sufficiency of God, or he would not trust in the creature far more than in the Creator. The natural man is blind to the justice of God, or he would not persuade himself that sin as he may yet he shall escape punishment. So too the natural man is blind self-ward: he perceives not his own darkness, his sinfulness, his impotency, his frailty, his true happiness.

Since this evil eye is in each of us by nature, we should constantly remind ourselves of our inability to judge rightly either of God or of ourselves, for IT IS THE FIRST STEP IN TRUE KNOWLEDGE TO ACKNOWLEDGE OUR OWN BLINDNESS. We must be suitably affected by such a realization, judging ourselves unsparingly, bewailing our misery, that we have a mind so corrupt that it disorders the whole of our conduct and seeks by grace to mortify the same. Since this evil eye is common to human nature, we discover therein what explains the mad course followed by the unregenerate, why they are so infatuated by sin and so in love with the world, and why the seriously inclined among them are deceived by error and captivated by false doctrines.

Since human reason is now completely eclipsed, how profoundly thankful we should be for the light of God’s Word, yet if that light illumine us and we fail to walk accordingly, suppressing its requirements, then doubly great will be our darkness.
May the Lord give us the grace to have a ‘single eye’ and walk in the light as He is in the light!

THE NEED FOR GRACE TO UPHOLD US 

THE NEED FOR GRACE TO UPHOLD US

A.W. Pink

The Lord is very jealous of His honour and will not share His glory with another. His people profess to believe that as a cardinal truth, yet they are apt to forget it. They, too, are human, and prone to hero-worship, prone to idolatry, prone to render unto the creatures that to which the Lord alone is entitled. Hence it is they so frequently meet with disappointment, and discover their beloved idol is, like themselves, made of clay. For his own people, God has chosen “the foolish things of this world,” the “weak things,” the “base things” and “things which are not” (mere “nobody’s”), “that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:27-29). 

And he has called sinful though regenerated men, and not holy angels, to be the preachers of His Gospel, that it might fully appear that “the excellency of the power” in calling sinners out of darkness into His marvelous light lies not in them nor proceeds from them, but that He alone gives the increase to the seed sown by them: “so then neither is he that planteth (the evangelist) anything, neither he that watereth (the teacher), but God” (1 Cor. 3:7).

It is for this reason that God suffers it to appear that the best of men are but men at the best. No matter how richly gifted they may be, how eminent in God’s service, how greatly honored and used of Him, let His sustaining power be withdrawn from them for a moment and it will quickly be seen that they are “earthen vessels.” No man stands any longer than he is supported by Divine grace. The most experienced saint, if left to himself, is immediately seen to be as weak as water and as timid as a mouse.

“Man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Ps. 39:5). Then why should it be thought a thing incredible when we read of the failings and falls of the most favored of God’s saints and servants? Noah’s drunkenness, Lot’s carnality, Abraham’s prevarications, Moses” anger, Aaron’s jealousy, Joshua’s haste, David’s adultery, Jonah’s disobedience, Peter’s denial, Paul’s contention with Barnabas, are so many illustrations of the solemn truth that “there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20).

Perfection is found in Heaven, but nowhere on earth except in the Perfect Man.

WHAT DOES THE PASSING OF ANOTHER YEAR MEAN? THIS – THAT OUR SALVATION IS NEARER THAN WHEN WE FIRST BELIEVED 

WHAT DOES THE PASSING OF ANOTHER YEAR MEAN? THIS – THAT OUR SALVATION IS NEARER THAN WHEN WE FIRST BELIEVED

In the N. T. the salvation of God is presented under three tenses: past, present and future. As a work “begun” (Phil. 1:6), but not completed in a moment of time. “Who hath saved us” (2 Tim. 1:9), “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), “now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11).

These verses do not refer to THREE DIFFERENT SALVATIONS, but to THREE DISTINCT PHASES and stages of salvation: salvation as an accomplished fact, as a present process, and as a future prospect. First, God saves from the PLEASURE OF SIN, causing the heart to loathe what it formerly loved. That which is displeasing to God is made bitter to the soul, and sin becomes its greatest grief and burden. Next, faith is communicated by the Spirit and the penitent sinner is enabled to believe the Gospel, and thereby he is saved from THE PENALTY OF SIN. Then it is he enters upon the Christian life, wherein he is called upon to “fight the good fight of faith”, for there are enemies both within and without which seek to bring about his destruction.

For that “fight” God has provided adequate armor (Eph. 6:11), which the Christian is bidden to take unto himself. For that fight he is furnished with effective weapons, but these he must make good use of. For that fight spiritual strength is available (2 Tim. 2:1), yet it has to be diligently and trustfully sought. It is in this fight, a lifelong process, a conflict in which no furloughs are granted, the Christian is being saved from the power of sin. In it he receives many wounds, but he betakes himself to the great Physician for healing. In it he is often cast down, but by grace he is enabled to rise again. Finally, he shall be saved from THE PRESENCE OF SIN, for at death the believer is forever rid of his evil nature.

Now it is that third aspect of salvation which concerns us in this present series of articles, namely, the believer’s perseverance: his perseverance in the fight of faith. The doctrine which is to be before us relates to the Christian’s being saved from the power of indwelling sin during the interval which elapses between his being saved from its penalty and the moment when he will be saved from its presence.

Between his being saved from Hell and his actual entrance into Heaven HE NEEDS SAVING FROM HIMSELF, saving from this evil world in which he is still left, saving from the devil who as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour. The journey from Egypt to Canaan lies not for the most part through green pastures and by the still waters but across an ARID DESERT WITH ALL ITS TRIALS AND TESTINGS, and FEW who left that House of Bondage reached the Land of milk and honey: the great majority fell in the wilderness through their unbelief—types of numerous professors who begin well but fail to endure unto the end.

There are multitudes in Christendom to-day deluded with the idea that a mere HISTORICAL FAITH IN THE GOSPEL ensures their reaching Heaven: who verily suppose they have “received Christ as their personal Savior” simply because they believe that He died on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all those who repudiate their own righteousness and trust in Him. They imagine that if under the influence of religious emotion and the pressing appeals of an evangelist, and assured that “John 3:16 means what it says”, they were persuaded to “become Christians”, that therefore all is now well with them: that having obtained a ticket for Glory they may, like passengers on a train, relax and go to sleep, confident that in due time they shall arrive at their desired destination.

By such deceptions Satan chloroforms myriads into Hell. So WIDESPREAD is this deadly delusion that one who undertakes to expose its sophistry is certain to be regarded by many as a heretic.

[Arthur Walkington Pink in his Introduction to ‘Eternal Security]

NONE BELIEVE SAVE THOSE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE

NONE BELIEVE SAVE THOSE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE

A.W. Pink

“As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48).

Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”

Here we learn four things:

First, that believing is the consequence AND NOT THE CAUSE of God’s decree.

Second, that a LIMITED NUMBER only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as are a meaningless qualification.

Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to SALVATION ITSELF.

Fourth, that ALL—”as many as,” NOT ONE LESS—who are thus ordained by God to eternal life WILL most certainly believe.

The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he –

“Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’, and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man.
Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He—in every case—dispose them?

Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today—and, since He changes not—from eternity.”

[ Quoted from A.W. Pink’s ‘Sovereignty of God’ ]