From the Editor’s Notebook: Learning from Letters

From the Editor’s Note Book

W. Ross Rainey

Learning From Letters

Ordinarily it is impolite to read other people’s personal mail, but when personal letters are published in book form for all to read it is quite legitimate to read them, and this, with much profit.

Last year The Banner of Truth Trust publishing company of Edinburgh, Scotland and Carlisle, Pennsylvania, published a paperback entitled, Letters of A. W. Pink. These published letters were written during the period from 1924 to 1951.

Over the years I confess to have occasionally wondered about Arthur W. Pink. I knew virtually nothing about the background of this Christian author, yet many of his books have for years been on my library shelves. As I have read or referred to these books, I have been spiritually blessed and instructed more fully in the Word of God. It might interest you to know (if you didn’t know it before) that our associate editor, James Gunn, wrote most of the material in chapter 20-23 of Pink’s Gleanings in Joshua, since the author died on July 15, 1952, before the series was completed.

I am well aware that Pink has been criticized, and sometimes quite harshly, for certain of his views with which many of us would take issue, and rightly so. However, it is not my purpose to pursue those things held by Pink which most of us, if not all, would consider extreme or radical, and in some instances erroneous. The fact remains that he was overall a godly and gifted man. Few in the more modern times have addicted themselves to the kind of in-depth Bible study in which he engaged. For some thirty years, in comparative obscurity, he wrote and edited a magazine of Biblical exposition entitled Studies in the Scriptures. It is largely, if not exclusively, from hundreds of his expository articles and series published in this magazine that his many volumes have been produced.

As the publishers state concerning the Letters of A. W. Pink, “The insights which characterize his other writings abound here also. This first collection of his letters is a natural introduction and companion to his major works of biblical exposition.”

I thought it would be edifying to our readers to ponder what Pink had to say about his method of studying the Bible. In a letter written to a Mr. Lowell Green on December 18, 1933, and as part of a chapter called “Profiting from the Word” (pp. 23-25), he wrote:

“In my early years I assiduously followed this threefold course: first, I read through the entire Bible three times a year (eight chapters in the Old Testament, and two in the New Testament daily). I steadily persevered in this for ten years, in order to familiarize myself with its contents, which can only be done by consecutive reading. Second, I studied a portion of the Bible each week, concentrating for ten minutes (or more) each day on the same passage, pondering the order of it, the connection between each statement, seeking a definition of the important terms in it, looking up all the marginal references, being on the look-out for its typical significance. Third, I meditated on one verse every day; writing it out on a slip of paper in the morning, memorizing it, consulting it at odd moments through the day; pondering separately each word in it, asking God to open to me its spiritual meaning and to write it on my heart. The verse was my food for that day, meditation standing to reading as mastication does to eating.

“The more some such method as the above be followed out, the more shall we be able to say, ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’ (Ps. 119:105). Let me use this verse as an example of what I mean by the third method above, of meditating on the Word. After getting the verse definitely before my mind (accurately memorizing it), I begin by asking questions: thus —Is the second clause of this verse merely a repetition of the first? That is hardly likely. What, then, is the distinct and separate concept in each clause? To help me answer, I must next ponder the exact terms found in each. In the former a ‘lamp’ is mentioned, in the latter ‘light’; in the former ‘my feet’ are in view, in the latter ‘my path’. While, then, the concepts of both clauses are similar, yet they are not identical.

“Satisfied on this point, that the second clause it not merely a repetition of the first, I seek to ascertain the difference between them: and this, by defining the figurative expressions here used. ‘Thy word is a lamp.’ When is a ‘lamp’ needed? Not in the daytime, but at night, when it is dark. If we are more or less familiar with Scripture, other verses will now flow into the mind, linking up with the one we are pondering! For example, we shall recall how 2 Peter 1:19 tells us this world is ‘a dark place’. And why is it so? because ‘the Light of the world is absent (John 8:12; 12:35). Then we shall recall that ‘the night is far spent’ (Rom. 13:12) — hence our need for the ‘lamp’!

“Second, note ‘a lamp unto my feet’ and not ‘my eyes’ — not to read by, but to walk by. This world is not only in darkness but it is a place of great danger to the child of God, for there are gins and snares, pitfalls and precipices on every side, and unless I have the light of God’s Word directing my ‘feet’, I am sure to fall into those snares — see Proverbs 4:19!”

From Sinkiang To Sinai

In the January 1979 issue of the Prophetic Witness, Dr Frederick A. Tatford has penned a brief article entitled “The Himalayan Highway.” Like myself, you may not have known that there is in existence today a road, ten yards wide, which runs from China through Tibet as far as Iran. It is described as one of the most spectacular engineering feats of modern times. Last June a 540-mile section was opened from Sinkiang Province in China to Pakistan, following the old silk route initiated by Marco Polo. For eight years some 10,000 Chinese laborers have carved the road out of the sides of mountains, some of which are 18,000 feet high. So far 2,700 lives have been lost in building this formidable highway. Most of the work has been done with pick and shovel since modern machinery has proved unwieldly and impractical in that part of the world.

Ultimately, the intention of the Chinese is to extend this road to Africa as a solution to meeting the tremendous food needs of China’s 850,000,000 people. This means, of course, that the road must cut through the Middle East via Sinai enroute to Africa.

Currently, thousands of men are being employed to keep the road free from the landslides of torrential rains, and in Pakistan it is being heralded as “the new wonder of Asia.”

As Dr. Tatford has indicated, John the Seer has told us that some day the waters of the Euphrates will be dried up in order that “the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Rev. 16:12). This prophecy reveals that at some time yet future all the barriers will be removed for an invasion of Israel from the Far East.

Thus it is not without good reason that Dr. Tatford asks, “Is this merely an engineering feat or are we seeing the basis being laid for the fulfilment of yet another Biblical prophecy?”


O Lord
I cannot bear Thy cross
Beyond the city gate,
Nor ever know, as Simon knew,
The burden of its weight.
I cannot lean,
As John, beloved,
With reverence on Thy breast;
Nor walk,
As Peter walked in faith,
Across the billows’ crest.
I cannot work, as Martha worked,
Nor bring the ointment sweet,
As Mary
Broke her costly flask
Of fragrance
At Thy feet.
I can but look to Thee in prayer,
And seek
Thy Spirit’s fill
One gift to give:
My heart and soul surrendered to Thy will.

—Constance Calenberg
(in The Pilgrim)

* * *

It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if you once receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common basis.

Practical work may be competitor against abndonment to God, because practical work is based on this argument — Remember how useful you are here, or — Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work. That attitude does not put Jesus Christ as the Guide as to where we should go, but our judgment as to where we are of most use. Never consider whether you are of use, but ever consider that you are not your own but His.

—Oswald Chambers