Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Union and Communion by Arthur W. Pink

Arthur Walkington Pink was a fascinating guy. He carried on an amazing writing ministry throughout his pilgimage on earth. He sold a monthly letter called Studied in the Scriptures. Almost everything published by him today was posthumously (after his death) published in book form. He bounced from pastorate to pastorate (one thinking he emphasized the Sovereignty of God too much another thinking he emphasized human responsibility too much.

A.W. is at his best when he writes on experimental Christianity. He doesn't disappoint in this book. His chapter on experimental union is worth the price of the book. He has a section on backsliding that has some great counsel. His superlapsarian bleeds through at several points with some pretty weak arguments, but it doesn't detract from the book. It is a book well worth the read. Here is a lengthy section where Pink gives rememdies for backsliding. Hopefully, it will wet your appetite to read the book:

Having sought, then, to show again wherein experimental communion with Christ consists, and dwelt upon the means and maintenance thereof, we must now turn to the darker side of our subject and consider the interruption and severance
of the same. And in this connection we cannot do better than devote the remainder of this chapter to a careful examination of our Lord’s words in Revelation 2:4, “I have against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” As an assembly is but the aggregate of its members and officers, the rebuke to the Ephesian church applies directly unto individual Christians who are in the condition here described. It is one in which the heart is not so deeply affected as it once was with the love of God in Christ, nor is there now such devotion toward nor delight in Him; and in consequence, there is a feebler resistance to sin and slackening pursuit of holiness.
It is to be carefully noted that the charge which is here preferred by Christ is not “thou hast lost thy first love” (as it is frequently misquoted), but “thou hast left thy first love,” which is a more definite act, and emphasizes the failure of
responsibility. The sad state here depicted signifies a decay in grace, a declension in spirituality, a waning of affection, with the resultant loss of relish for Divine things, growing carelessness in the use of means, and formality in the
performance of duty. It is a state of heart that is here in view, which may or may not be accompanied by outward backsliding. The fine gold has become dim. Christ no longer holds the first place in the soul’s affections. Some are conscious of this decay in love, while others aware of it draw the erroneous conclusion they have never sincerely loved Christ at all.

Genuine Christians may find their love for Christ languishing. Just as the body will soon be chilled if, on a winter’s day, it leaves the fireside, so the soul’s ardor and fervor will quickly wane if the things of time and sense are allowed to
crowd out close communion with Christ. But though grace may decay, it is never utterly destroyed; hence the error of speaking about “losing” our first love. The “seed” of God (I John 3:9) remains in His people even when they backslide: it
did in David, and in Peter. There is a vital principle communicated in regeneration which is indestructible. So, then, though the Christian’s love may suffer a sad abatement, it is never totally extinguished: the acts and fruits of it may be
few, its measure may greatly diminish, but the root of it is still present.
That we may the better understand this spiritual disease (and thus be fortified against Satan’s lies) let us point out what it is not. First, not every distemper or ailment which the renewed heart perceives and mourns over, is a leaving of
our first love. Every act of known sin is not apostasy, nor even a degree of it; as every rise of bodily temperature after a meal is not a fever. There are infirmities and failures in the most spiritual saints. As said an old writer, “Alas for the
generation of the just, if every vain thought, idle word, or distempered passion, were a decay of love.” Nothing is so uncertain as to judge ourselves by particular acts, for in every act love does not put forth itself so strongly as at other
times. Some obstructions of love there may be for the present, which the soul takes notice of and retracts with sorrow, but still we hold on our course.
Second, every abatement or absence of transports of soul and mountain-top elations, is not a leaving of first love. At conversion there are strong joys and liftings up of soul upon our first acquaintance with God in Christ, but such an experience is not sustained, nor meant to be so. A healthy person will regularly relish his food, yet he must not expect it to produce such sensations of pleasure as does the first meal to a starving man. At conversion our love shows itself in sensitive expressions, for as yet it is not dispersed and diffused in the several channels of obedience; but when the Christian learns how many ways he is to express his love to God, he may have a true zeal and affection for Him, and become “rooted and grounded” in love, without those ravishments of soul which he experienced when first realizing that his sins were all pardoned and that he was accepted in Christ.

Third, nor must the Christian conclude that his love has decayed because he no longer experiences those conscious goings forth of heart to God as he had in special seasons, when God granted him a high day in His courts. There are occasions when God feasts the soul so that it is constrained to say, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and with fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:5). There are times when we are favored with rich experiences of God’s love, to which all the pleasures of the creature are no ways comparable. Such are very great
mercies, but they are never intended for us to try our state by. A settled calm, a quiet peace of soul, is an even greater mercy than occasional transports of joy. If we preserve our relish for spiritual things it is a surer proof of our standing in
grace than in any spasmodic or sporadic raptures. Though Christians ought not to lightly or rashly judge themselves guilty of a decay in their love, yet on the other
hand they should not readily acquit themselves of it, for it is a great evil. The highest degree of love does not answer to the infinite worthiness of Christ, nor to what we owe Him for having rescued us from Hell and secured for us an eternity
with Himself in Heaven. But when a believer falls from that measure of love whereunto he had already attained, it is the more grievous, because to now seek his happiness in things, to settle down with a measure of contentment in his backslidden state, is tantamount to saying that he had formerly loved Christ too much, and had been more earnest and diligent in seeking to please Him than was necessary. Thereby he condemns his former love and disesteems Christ as not worthy to be loved with all heart, mind, and strength. Moreover, as love decays, so do all our other graces, with their fruits and works. Nor will Christ, who is jealous of His peoples’ affection, ignore their growing coldness, but will make them smart for their sin and folly.

It is not without reason then that Christians are exhorted to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). The healthy Christian is still apt to remit something of his delighting himself in the Lord, and his constant duty to honor Him in all things; and at no point does he need to be more upon his guard than in the preserving of his love. There is much of self-pleasing in us, love of our own ease and carnal gratification, much lusting after the things of this world, and such a
continual opposition of the flesh to the Spirit which ever seeks to draw off from God and heavenly things, that we cannot be sufficiently watchful against everything which has a tendency to quench that spiritual fire which should always be burning in our hearts. Unless we daily heed that exhortation, “Keep thy heart with all diligence” (Prov. 4:23) we shall quickly lapse into that careless and cold state which is the case with the great majority of professing Christians. How much we need to pray for one another “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God” (II Thess. 3:5).

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