Life of A. W. Pink – Pt 1
ARTHUR W. PINK 1886-1952
Arthur Walkington Pink is one of the two ‘A.W.’s of prodigious Christian authorship, the other being A.W. Tozer. We meet many Christians who tell us that they once read Pink’s The Sovereignty of God and their whole vision of God and of salvation was mightily expanded. The young Paul Tucker once was speaking to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1945 about entering the ministry, and he said, “I ought to read Karl Barth.” “Don’t waste your time reading Barth and Bruner,” advised the Doctor, “You will get nothing from them to aid you with your preaching. Read Pink!” So he was introduced to Studies in the Scriptures. And those who have read Pink’s The Sermon on the Mount, which was written in Stornoway during the Second World War, will see the similarities in understanding those tremendously logical and moving chapters from Matthew’s gospel by both Dr. Lloyd-Jones and Pink. In 1949, when the Doctor was troubled with depression his eyes fell on words from a sermon of Pink that came to him ‘like a blaze of light’ (Iain Murray, The Fight of Faith, p.209).
I once was speaking to Douglas MacMillan and I asked him what he was preaching on and he told me it was the life of David. “What are you finding helpful in preparation?” I asked him. “Arthur Pink’s book,” he told me, that is, the book that Pink wrote in the 1930s. On another occasion I spoke to Herbert Carson about Pink’s book on Elijah. He was enjoying it, but told me that when he read it he’d been under the impression that Pink was a contemporary of John Bunyan and John Milton.
I once asked John Murray if he had ever met Arthur Pink. He had not but he told me that Pink had once written to him with a question concerning the hypothetical necessity of the atonement of Christ. That is the material Professor Murray deals with in those tough opening pages of Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Then Mr. Murray recounted an experience that a friend of his had related to him of Pink staying in his house. A.W. inquired what time would be lunch and he was told at 12.30. So promptly at that time he entered the dining room, but the meal was not ready. The minister and his wife had children and their distractions. The minister related that Pink showed his displeasure at being kept waiting and Professor Murray expressed some sympathy for him and his wife and was a little critical of A.W. Pink.
What do we make of that? Mr Murray got that second hand from an acquaintance. There are these stories of the personal discipline of A.W. and his isolation from other Christians. One suspects what had happened was a misunderstanding. “The Pinks were considerate guests in a home” (op cit Iain Murray, p.146). John Murray’s words are a warning. It is all too easy to caricature a preacher as ‘dry’, or ‘intellectual’ or not evangelistic, or an inconsiderate person’ and that appellation sticks to him for the rest of his days and his usefulness is diminished. Is that gossip? Isn’t that a sin? Pink’s natural thoughtfulness and seriousness as he patiently waited for his lunch could easily be interpreted as evidencing an awkward and critical dimension to his character when in fact he did possess a sober disposition. Puritans are caricatured as opposed to joy and celebration. It is the Cavalier who is laughing, not the Roundhead.Such critics should read of the celebrations that marked the wedding feast of Oliver Cromwell.
Pink was a man who redeemed the time and was confronted with deadline after deadline all the decades he single-handedly published his monthly magazine Studies in the Scriptures. Pink lived with the conviction that the time was short. There is, for example, the repeated tall tale of the briefest conversation he had in Stornoway with a man whom he met in the street who greeted him, “Good morning Mr. Pink. How are you keeping?” Without breaking his stride Pink is said to have replied tersely, “Not keeping, being kept.” Maybe that dialogue did take place. Certainly his consciousness of how he needed to redeem the time in evil days was one of his many enviable character traits. When I had finished reading Iain Murray’s second edition of the life of Pink (Banner of Truth 2004) I had developed a real affection and true admiration for him. Preparing this paper has done nothing to diminish it even though one is aware that some people find him unattractrive. Dr. Lloyd-Jones wondered to me whether it was the best use of Iain Murray’s time and gifts to be writing the life of Pink. I said, “That he should get on and finish his life of Jonathan Edwards?” Exactly!” said the Doctor. But why not Edwards and Pink?
There is no doubt that Pink has had and will continue to have a great impact on the church through The Sovereignty of God. In 1974 Ian Hamilton was attending a guest series of lectures in the New College Faculty of Divinity in Edinburgh. The visiting lecturer was Professor Donald MacKinnon the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity in Cambridge. The lecture was on the influence of neo-Hegelianism in 19thcentury German theology. He was a man of certain idiosyncrasies. He seemed to be snapping pencils as he spoke. Half way through the lecture he stopped and said, “Pink. Who has heard of Pink?” Ian Hamilton could not make the connection between the lecture or the lecturer and A.W.Pink. This Pink referred to by MacKinnon was obviously someone he had not heard of. The lecturer looked around, “No one?”. Ian Hamilton raised his hand as knowing him. He had in fact been invited to the lecture as president of the theological society. MacKinnon asked him what he knew of him. He told him that he had read the Sovereignty of God and Elijah. MacKinnon told the audience that one of his students had given him Pink’s Sovereignty of God and that he’d read it and had found it very interesting.
That evening there was a cheese and wine event and one of the faculty sought out Ian and told him that MacKinnon wanted him to be there and so he sat beside the professor at that event. He knew that MacKinnon came from Aberdeen and so Ian said to him, “I know a minister in Aberdeen named William Still.” MacKinnon looked at him and replied that he had heard Still once and he prayed the only authentic Pauline prayer he had ever heard prayed. He asked Ian what he was studying at that time and he told him that it was John Henry Newman. MacKinnon was editing Newman’s Oxford sermons, and in a couple of months he sent him a copy. “If you want to come to Cambridge to study then get in touch with me,” he wrote. All this little burst of excitement in the life of a student came from the sovereign God but it also came from having an appreciation of that book of Pink. So who was Arthur Walkington Pink?
Pink was born on April 1st in Nottingham in the year 1886. He came from a serious, loving Christian home. His father was 38 when he was born and he had two younger siblings. They were a close family and Arthur kept in touch with his parents and siblings through his life. He adored his father who was a corn miller. In their home no mail was opened on Sundays. Pilgrim’s Progress and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs were the kind of books read on the Lord’s Day. One Saturday he asked his father why he spent so much pains polishing his shoes. He told the lad, “I am polishing them as though the Lord Jesus was going to wear them.” He took the children to church and he gathered the three around him on Sundays and read to them from Bunyan and Foxe. But the children became indifferent to the claims of Christ and in his late teens Pink became enamoured with Theosophy, a movement that claimed it could join together all religions, and reincarnation and found a universal brotherhood. Its main messengers were some Russians. Pink got drawn in and began to speak at meetings and attend the London headquarters of Theosophy and its leaders coveted him for leadership in their movement, intending to impose a special title on this promising young man. He once acknowledged, “I was a medium practising, clairvoyance, psychomancy and magical healing.’”
His parents grieved over their children and prayed for them earnestly. Dad would never go to bed until his son came home, and then often accompanied his ‘Good night’ with a verse. One night in the year 1908 when his 22 year old son returned from Theosophy meeting his father said to him as he brushed past Dad, “There is a way which seemed right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Provs. 14:12). Pink hurried on to his room. He had intended to make a speech at the Friday night Theosophy meeting but the word of God convicted him and it was almost three days before he came down and met his family and when he made his appearance the change was so evident that his father cried, “Praise God my son has been delivered.” Pink kept that appointment at the next meeting of the Theosophists but to their chagrin he testified to them of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his new trust in him. He said, “Why did I leave Spiritism and Theosophy? There was no peace for a burdened conscience, no assurance of sins forgiven, no power of sin broken, no satisfaction of heart. I found I could not save myself and I came to the only one who could save me. ‘Thou O Christ, art all I want. More than all in Thee I find.”
For the next couple of years he studied the Bible. He came to read ten chapters a day plus one portion that he read again and again over several days. He would also write one verse on a piece of paper and carry it with him and turn to it in a spare moment and ask God to enlighten him as to its meaning. So he memorized the letter to the Ephesians a verse at a time. In the same year as he was converted, he preached in Nottingham his first sermon on Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” There were 700 in the congregation listening to him. We have no idea in what church that was.
Soon he sought to train for the ministry because while he was in his bedroom those three days he was given the knowledge that his life was going to be one of serving the word of God. Where should he go?
To be continued –