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.

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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’ ]

THE LEADING OF THE LORD

THE LEADING OF THE LORD

A.W. Pink

“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” [Deut 32:10]

“He led him about.” The “finding” is not the end, but only the beginning of God’s dealings with His own. Having found him, He remains never more to leave him. Now that He has found His wandering child He teaches him to walk in the Narrow Way. There is a beautiful word on God “leading” in Hosea 11:3: “I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms. Just as a fond mother takes her little one, whose feet are yet too weak and untrained to walk alone, so the Lord takes His people by their arms and leads them in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Such is His promise: “He will keep the feet of His saints” (1 Sam. 2:9). There is a threefold “leading” of the Lord:

EVANGELICAL.—The Lord Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). But again He said, ‘No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” John 6:44). Here then is how God leads: He leads the poor sinner to Christ. Have you, my reader, been brought to the Saviour? Is Christ your only hope? Are you trusting in the sufficiency of His precious blood? If so, what cause have you to praise God for having led you to His blessed Son!

DOCTRINAL.—The Lord Jesus declared, “When He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth” John 16:13). We are not capable of discovering or entering into the Truth of ourselves, therefore do we have to be guided into it. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14). It is He who makes us to lie down in the “green pastures of Scripture and who leads us beside the “still waters” of His promises. How thankful we ought to be for every ray of light which has been granted us from the lamp of God’s Word.

PROVIDENTIAL.—”Thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go” (Neh. 9:19). Just as Jehovah led Israel of old, so today He leads us step by step through this wilderness-world. What a mercy this is. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way” (Ps. 37:23). Yes, every detail of our lives is regulated by the Most High.

All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command,
All must come and last and end,
As doth please our Heavenly Friend.

STRUGGLE WITH SIN – A SIGN OF REGENERATION

STRUGGLE WITH SIN – A SIGN OF REGENERATION

A.W. Pink

He who is really honest with himself and has had his eyes opened in some degree to see the awful sinfulness of self, and who is becoming more and more acquainted with that sink of iniquity, that mass of corruption which still indwells him, often feels that sin more completely rules him now than ever it did before. When he longs to trust God with all his heart, unbelief seems to paralyze him. When he wishes to be completely surrendered to God’s blessed will, murmurings and rebellion surge within him. 

When he would spend an hour in meditating on the things of God, evil imaginations harass him. When he desires to be more humble, pride seeks to fill him. When he would pray, his mind wanders. The more he fights against these sins, the further off victory seems to be. To him it appears that sin is very much the master of him, and Satan tells him that his profession is vain. What shall we say to such a dear soul who is deeply exercised over this problem?

The very fact that you are conscious of these sins and are so much concerned over your failure to overcome them, is a HEALTHY SIGN. It is the blind who cannot see; it is the dead who feel not – true alike naturally and spiritually. Only they who have been quickened into newness of life are capable OF REAL SORROW FOR SIN. Moreover, such experiences as we have mentioned above evidence a spiritual growth: a growth in the knowledge of self. As the wise man tells us, ‘he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow’ (Eccl. 1:18). In God’s light we see light (Ps. 36:9). The more the Holy Spirit reveals to me the high claims of God’s holiness, the more I discover how far short I come of meeting them.

Let the midday sun shine into a darkened room, and dust and dirt which before were invisible are now plainly seen. So with the Christian: the more the light of God enters his heart, the more he discovers the spiritual filth which dwells there. Beloved brother, or sister, it is not that you are becoming more sinful, but that GOD IS NOW GIVING YOU A CLEARER AND FULLER SIGHT OF YOUR SINFULNESS. Praise Him for it, for the eyes of the vast majority of your fellows (religionists included) are blind, and cannot see what so distresses YOU!

ONLY BY DIVINE REVELATION CAN THE GOD OF THE SCRIPTURES BE KNOWN

ONLY BY DIVINE REVELATION CAN THE GOD OF THE SCRIPTURES BE KNOWN

A.W. Pink

“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and KNOWETH ME, THAT I AM THE LORD.” [Jeremiah 9:23,24]

In one on his letters to Erasmus, Luther said, “Your thoughts of God are too human.” Probably that renowned scholar resented such a rebuke, the more so, since it proceeded from a miner’s son; nevertheless, it was thoroughly deserved. We too, though having no standing among religious leaders of this degenerate age, prefer the same charge against the majority of the preachers of our day, and against those who, instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, lazily accept the teaching of others.

The most dishonoring and degrading conceptions of the rule and reign of the Almighty are now held almost everywhere. To countless thousands, even among those professing to be Christians, the God of the Scriptures is quite unknown.

Of old, God complained to an apostate Israel, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether as thyself” (Psalm 50:21). Such must now be His indictment against an apostate Christendom. Men imagine that the Most High is moved by sentiment rather than actuated by principle. They suppose that His omnipotency is such an idle fiction that Satan is thwarting His designs on every side. They think that if He has formed any plan or purpose at all, then it must be like theirs, constantly subject to change. They openly declare that whatever power He possesses must be restricted, lest He invade the citadel of man’s “free-will” and reduce him to a “machine.” They lower the all-efficacious Atonement, which has actually redeemed everyone for whom it was made, to a mere “remedy”, which sin-sick souls may use if they feel disposed to; and they enervate the invincible work of the Holy Spirit to an “offer” of the Gospel which sinners may accept or reject as they please.

The “god” of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The “god” who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality.

The heathen outside of the pale of Christendom form “gods” out of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a “god” out of their own carnal mind. A “god” whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits nought but contempt.

Something more than a theoretical knowledge of God is needed by us. God is only TRULY KNOWN as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments. (Hosea 6:3; John 7:17; Daniel 11:32)

“Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee” (Job 22:21). A spiritual and saving knowledge of God is the greatest need of every human creature.

The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped.

“Yea doubtless, and I count ALL THINGS BUT LOSS for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ . . . THAT I MAY KNOW HIM, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death!” [Philippians 3:8-10]

An additional footnote –

Most who call themselves ‘Christians’ in our day neither know nor worship this Sovereign Almighty God of the Scriptures! What they do worship and contend for is a miserable IDOL!

“An anxious and pleading God, whose power is limited, and whose hands may be tied by the proud and stubborn sinner, who is less than dust of the balance, is no God, but a miserable idol!” (Herman Hoeksema; 1886-1965)

The God of the Scriptures is a Sovereign discriminating God, who is likened unto a ‘potter’ who has power over the clay to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor! A Sovereign who is answerable to NONE but Himself! A God who doeth according to HIS WILL in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and NONE can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest THOU? [Dan 4:35]A Sovereign who hath mercy on whom He will and hardens whom He will! [Rom 9:18] A Sovereign who knows the end from the beginning, and calleth those things that are not as though they were and makes His people willing in the day of His power! A Sovereign who hath created ALL THINGS for Himself, yea even the wicked for the day of evil, and causes the wrath of man to praise Him! [Prov 16:4; Psalm 76:10]

Few who claim to be Christians know THIS God! The God THEY believe in is a frustrated idol who keeps hoping and wishing and wringing his hands helplessly as MAN AND DEVIL RULE BY THEIR ‘FREE WILL’.

Now this God has told us plainly in His book that He hath mercy on whom He will and whom He will He hardeneth! [Rom 9:18] From amongst the children of Adam, He hath unconditionally chosen SOME to be saved from the wrath to come! [1Thes 1:10] And in order that He might be just and the justifier of these chosen ones (Rom 3:26), He sent His Son to atone on the Cross for their sins, and in time He doth irresistibly draw each and everyone for whom His Son atoned, making them ‘willing’ in the day of His power and saving them with an everlasting salvation! [Psalm 110:3]

This Almighty Sovereign God of the Bible cannot be known by ‘walking an aisle’, ‘saying a little prayer’, signing a ‘decision card’ or getting baptized when you are old enough etc, but only by REVELATION!

“I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast HID THESE THINGS from the wise and prudent, and hast REVEALED THEM unto babes”. [Matt 11:25]

Again – “Unto YOU (His elect) it is GIVEN to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: [WHY?] That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them”. [Mark 4:11,12]

Michael Jeshurun