Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
"A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps" (Proverbs 14:15). As we all know, there is a class of people who are so gullible that they believe almost everything they hear, every story that is told, every promise that is made them. They are easily imposed upon, for they do not think for themselves, and never properly outgrow their infancy. Thoroughly unsophisticated, they are ready victims for any retailers of fairy-tales who come along.
But there is another class which, concerning natural things, are more cautious and on their guard; who instead of believing every tale, require proof; and who instead of forming estimates by the first glance of the eye, examine things carefully. This second class to which reference has just been made is, in the affairs of the world, particular, shrewd, not easily imposed upon. We say "in the affairs of the world," for when it comes to things concerning their eternal destiny, many of this very class are, strange to say, most credulous and easily duped. In matters concerning their never-dying souls, they throw caution to the winds, stifle any suspicions they might have, cease to examine things with due care, and allow themselves to be deceived. Let a man styling himself an "evangelist" come to their community, and they will flock to hear him; let him affirm that he believes the Bible to be God's word, Christ to be God's Son, and faith in His blood to be God's way of salvation--and he is at once received as "orthodox." Satisfied thus of the "evangelist's" orthodoxy, they are as ready to receive what he presents, as the poor heathen are to blindly follow what their "priests" tell them.
Or, just as those born in Papist families pliantly yield unto the awful dogma that the Virgin Mary is to be worshiped, so others reared by those belonging to a Protestant denomination which teach that water baptism is requisite in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins, mechanically assent thereto. In like manner, if others sit under a preacher who tells them "All that is necessary in order to salvation is to believe in Christ," thousands of credulous simpletons believe him, to their eternal undoing. Yes, we greatly fear that not a few readers of this Magazine, if they received a letter from the editor addressing them as "Dear Brother" or "Dear Sister," would be likely to exclaim, "Well, if Brother Pink thinks I am a Christian, there is no need for me to worry about it."
Yes, "the simple man believes anything." There is no doubt in the writer's mind that one of the factors contributing much unto the babel of tongues now existing in Christendom, is the gullibility of the public. Almost any man (or woman) can start a new religion today: providing he has a pleasing personality, a forceful delivery, or a sensational message--he is sure of a following.
Again, the conflicting sects already in existence are perpetuated because so many of their adherents blindly accept some man's say so, believing their "church's" interpretation of the Scriptures, instead of prayerfully searching the Word for themselves. Here too we have the explanation of why so many are in a state of mental confusion, knowing not "whom to believe" or "what to believe." They hear one preacher after another, attend this Bible conference and that, read numerous magazines and books; and finding the speakers and writers differing so much, these credulous simpletons know not where they stand. Now this feverish rushing around from "church" to "church," this readiness to accept almost anything that is heard or read, this lightness of belief, is a most dangerous thing.
God has bidden His people to "Believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1); and "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thes. 5:21). O how great is the need for so doing: never more requisite and urgent than in these evil days. How often does that warning occur in the New Testament, "Take heed that no man deceive you" (Matt. 24:4; Eph. 5:6; 1 John 3:7 etc.) To take things on trust is the height of folly. Emulate those spoken of in Acts. 17:11, "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
"A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps." Not only does he measure what he hears and reads by the unerring standard of God's Word, but the prudent man also scrutinizes his own heart, to see if he can find there the evidences and fruits of regeneration and sanctification. He wishes to make sure that the Holy Spirit has wrought a miracle of grace within him. Deeply impressed with the solemnity of eternity, knowing how prone man is to give himself the benefit of the doubt, he dares not to take anything for granted, he cries, "Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind" (Psalm 26:2).
"A prudent man gives thought to his steps." Yes, he takes warning from the empty profession all around him, and is fearful lest he should prove to be one of the foolish virgins. He refuses to be beguiled by the voice of flatters, who tell him that all is well with his soul. Even though a preacher assures him that he is saved, that satisfies him not. He demands something more than a head-knowledge of the letter of Scripture: he wants to know that the law of God has been written on his heart (Heb. 8:10). And in seeking proof of this he spares no pains, and considers no diligence or effort too great.
"A prudent man gives thought to his steps." Observe well the tense of the verb: it is not that he is concerned about the matter and then takes stock once and for all. No, he continues to be exercised before God as to the state of his soul. The "simple" may rest satisfied with the fact that they "believed on Christ" so many years ago, but the "prudent" are tender about their present relation to God. They realize that nothing but an obedient following of Christ now, a walking with Him now, a communing with Him now, furnishes any satisfactory proof that they were born-again at a certain date in the past.
"A prudent man gives thought to his steps." Yes, he not only examines diligently his heart, but he is deeply concerned about his "steps." Instead of complacently assuming that the warning belongs unto others, he is filled with alarm when he reads that, "There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). Is it possible that, after all, he may be deceived? Yes, very, very possible; yes, exceedingly likely. Such a soul, truly awakened by the Holy Spirit, can have no rest until he makes sure that he is in that "Narrow Way" which leads unto life, and which FEW indeed find.
Reader, which are you: a credulous simpleton, or a prudent soul that "gives thought" to your going? If the former, may it please the Lord to shatter your false peace, and make you feel your imminent danger. If the latter, may the Holy Spirit grant increasing diligence to "make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).