Countless pastors, ministry leaders, and students of the Word of God have been immensely blessed and nourished by titles such as The Sovereignty of God, The Attributes of God, and the plethora of commentaries published by Arthur W. Pink. However, few Christians know the life and story of the man behind the pen. They say that you can’t truly appreciate a book unless you know the one who wrote it, and this is truly the case when it comes to Arthur W. Pink.
As always — in a remarkably balanced and honest way — Iain Murray, in his book The Life of Arthur W Pink, walks us through the life and ministry of Arthur W. Pink, from his upbringing in Nottingham, England all the way to his death in the oceanside town of Stornoway in the British Isles. Many consider Pink to be a gifted expositor — which he certainly was — though he was much more than this. He was a man of devotion who was committed to applying the truths of the gospel to the lives of God’s people.
This biography hones into the profound devotional life of Pink, and his commitment to corresponding and pastorally caring via letters for literally hundreds of individuals around the world, many of whom struggled to find a ‘church home’ where they lived. Pink could deeply relate to these believers, as he too was a sojourner, experiencing rejection a number of times by various denominations. He was rejected by many Christians and denominations after preaching sermons that were considered distasteful and heretical, generally on the topic of the sovereignty of God.
Murray makes clear that it did not interest Pink to write anything that was not directly applicable to practical Christian living. Pink had no interest in delving into obtuse theological matters which reach beyond the capacity of men to grasp. Rather, he was consumed with a longing to see God’s people glorify Him with their hearts and minds, and He believed this came primarily through studying the character and attributes of God.
“For Pink sovereign grace was not an idea. It was the only explanation of all that he was, and of all that he hoped to be” (p. 328)
Murray does not hesitate to earnestly present Pink’s weaknesses as both a pastor and public figure, which is both humbling and reassuring to the reader. Pink was a man of books, and this was the greatest strength and greatest weakness. While he was pastorally caring for many through the countless letters and books he wrote, and most notably through his monthly magazine — The Studies —Murray acknowledges that Pink was not fond of human interaction. His life — particularly his later years — was a life of reclusion, and though he welcomed some company that sought him, Pink was not excited by visitors, and would often view their visits as burdensome.
Knowing Pink’s struggle is humbling because it reminds us not to idolise the man who wrote some of the most influential evangelical books of the 21st century. On the flip side, it is reassuring because it reminds us that God uses broken people — including ourselves — to accomplish His glorious purposes. Moreover, it helps us to appreciate the reality God has gifted us all in different ways, and so we ought to appreciate our gifting and utilise it for the glory of God.
As I read this biography, two particular truths stood out to me concerning the glory of God and the challenges of the Christian life:
1. The Fruit of Our Labours — The Life of Arthur W. Pink illustrates the reality that much of the fruit of our labours will not be revealed until we are in the New Creation. For instance, Pink wrote dozens of books, few of which were duly appreciated and received during his lifetime. Since his death, Pink’s books have sold literally hundreds of thousands of copies, radically transforming the lives of a multitude of God’s people — myself included. During his life, it would have been easy for Pink to question His usefulness before the Lord considering the many obstructions he faced; yet, his life is a testimony to the truthfulness of Isaiah 55:10-11.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
2. Interest in the Reformers and Puritans — Pink is one of the men responsible for the resurgence of interest in the works of the Reformers and Puritans. Saturated with quotes of men ranging from Calvin to Spurgeon, Pink ignited a passion in believers for the glory of God in the study of His Word. His own wife — Vera — said of him:
“Mr Pink is a Puritan in reality and often says to me that he is 200 or 300 years out of his time.” (p. 172)
If you are new to Christian biographies, The Life of Arthur W. Pink is a great book to start with. Not only is it an achievable length, it will inspire in you a profound love for your Sovereign Creator, and a desire to glorify Him with all that you have. Conversely, if you are an avid reader of biographies, Murray’s portrait of the life of Pink will be both a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people throughout the generations and the tremendous things God can accomplish in the midst of hardship and trials.