Arthur Pink, 1950
What a wonderful thing is the memory — one of the many precious faculties with which the Creator has endowed us. By it we are enabled . . .
to live the past over again in our minds,
to revive the early experiences of childhood,
to recall the words of those who are no longer with us.
By it we may review the Lord's dealings with us in grace and in providence, call back to mind His interventions on our behalf, delivering us when in straits — or rejoicing our hearts while He talked with us by the way. By it we can turn over the pages of our chequered lives, and read what is recorded both for and against us.
Memory is the power of retention, the storehouse in which all our knowledge is preserved. It is not possible to assess its value in silver and gold. How much poorer should we be — if everything were erased from its tablets! One of the greatest tragedies of life, is for a person to lose his mind and memory. It is indeed hard to part with any, but, if compelled to make the choice, probably most of us would rather be deprived of our limbs, our hearing, or even our sight, than our mentality — yet comparatively few cultivate and use it as they should.
The memory is indeed of vast importance, for it is the treasurer of the soul. What the understanding takes in — the memory stores up. Knowledge, intellectual growth, social fellowship, the spiritual life — all have their roots in this faculty of retention. But this invaluable gift, like all others, entails a corresponding obligation. Each talent that God has bestowed upon us is for use — and if it is not employed, it will deteriorate. As limbs unexercised become stiff and muscles flabby — so an unused memory becomes enfeebled. The memory may be developed and controlled — though time and trouble are required for them, as for everything else of worth.
Memory is largely a matter of volition. Said the Psalmist, "I will not forget your word" (119:16). Definiteness of purpose is required, whether we shall recall a thing or dismiss it from our minds. Remembering is a setting of knowledge to work, reviewing the notions and impressions we have received, by exercising our thoughts about and meditating upon them.
The seat of the memory is the heart. Of Mary it is said that she kept all these things "in her heart" (Luke 2:19, 51) — things kept there, are never lost.
This leads us to point out that there is both a notional or speculative remembering — and a practical or influential one. The former is where we barely think of things — and receive no profit or benefit from them. The latter is where the mind is so engaged with the object recalled — that the affections are fired and the will moved by it. Thus the faculty of memory is given us by God as a means unto an end — to be a help in promoting piety.
The Scriptures abound with exhortations to remembrance. At the fore of them, we would place that one where those of tender years are bidden, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Bear in mind that, since He be your Maker, He is therefore your rightful Lord and Owner — so carry yourself toward Him as such, rendering unto Him the homage and honor that are His due. Meditate much upon His glorious perfections; call Him to mind constantly while your heart is yet impressionable, and habits for good or evil are being formed for life; and thereby you will be fortified against the temptations of youth. All of men's wickedness and misery comes through forgetting God, hence the warning, "Beware that you forget not the LORD your God!" (Deuteronomy 8:11).
"They soon forgot his works" (Psalm 107:13), so superficially were they affected by them. Pathetic and tragic statement! Of whom was it made? Of the heathen? No, of His own highly favored people, Israel. They had witnessed Jehovah's mighty power in the plagues upon Egypt. They had themselves been the immediate objects and beneficiaries of the operations of His hand, delivering them from the house of bondage. They had again beheld His intervention for them by miraculously opening a way through the Red Sea, and then causing its waters to close over Pharaoh and his armies. Seemingly, their hearts had been deeply impressed on that occasion, for they had raised a song of acknowledgment and praise unto the Lord for what He had wrought for them — yet mark the sad sequel. Those signal interpositions of God ceased to engage their thoughts; the benefits and blessings of which they had been the partakers, no longer moved them. Nor was it only after an interval of years, that those gracious actings of the Lord faded from their minds, but "they soon forgot his works." Base ingratitude! Not only so; instead of thankful recollections, they broke forth in murmurings, saying to Moses and Aaron, "you have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill the whole assembly with hunger!" (Exo 16:2-3).
So it has been in all ages.
The first man soon forgot the One who gave him such an excellent being and had entered into solemn covenant with him — allowing the allurement of the serpent and the solicitation of his wife to drive all holy considerations from his mind.
How quickly did Noah forget his wonderful salvation from the fatal deluge — no sooner spared from water, than he was drowned in wine.
How soon did Lot forget his rescue from Sodom — and fall into the fire of lust.
How quickly did David forget the Lord's delivering him from Saul — and fall into the sins of adultery and murder!
How soon did Solomon forget the One who had appeared unto him thrice — turning unto false gods and committing the terrible sin of idolatry.
Of the ten lepers who were healed by Christ — all but one forgot to return and give thanks unto God.
Even the apostles quickly forgot the miracles of the loaves (Mat 16:9-10).
And these things, my reader, have been recorded for our learning and warning, for us to take to heart and turn into earnest prayer, that we may be kept from such God-dishonoring conduct, for we are men "subject to like passions" (James 5:17).
Not only is the Lord grievously slighted by our forgetfulness of Him, but we ourselves are greatly the losers. As God declared of old through His prophet, "My people has been lost sheep . . . they have forgotten their resting place" (Jer 50:6). As the Lord is the only true refuge for the soul, so He alone is its resting place. Consequently, when He is not in our thoughts, not only are we exposed to danger, but we are given up to a spirit of unrest and disquietude. There can be . . .
no joy in communion,
no delight in His service,
no calm and cheerful subjection to His will
— when God is forgotten.
There can be. . .
no strength for the performance of duty,
no calm facing of our problems,
no courage to enter into conflict with the enemy —
unless the sufficiency and fidelity of God be the heart's stay, and the remembrance of His past mercies and deliverances and His present promises be much in our thoughts. Instead, we become like "lost sheep" — pastureless, wretched, an easy prey for the wolves all around us.
It is by keeping fresh in our minds how graciously the Lord dealt with us yesterday, how unfailingly He supplied our every need — that faith is strengthened and hope stimulated today. Do not forget previous answered prayers as you ply the throne of grace afresh.
The reasons for our sinful forgetfulness of God are not hard to discover:
First, it issues from the universal depravation of our nature. No part of man's complex being escaped serious injury when he apostatized from God, his intellect suffered seriously. Fearful indeed have been the effects of the Eden tragedy, chief of which is that the natural man likes not to retain God in his thoughts (Rom 1:28).
Second, it flows from the little esteem in which we hold the wondrous works of God. The works of the creature are admired — but those of the Creator are slighted. Let a person be desperately ill, and then be restored under the ministrations of a doctor — and he will be praised to the skies — while the great Physician will scarcely be thanked at all!
Third, it results from the mind's being so stuffed with worldly things. It was thus when the Son of God appeared: the inn was so crowded, they laid Him in a feeding trough in a stable. Just so, the minds of God's people are so crammed with the base things of this world — that there is little room for spiritual objects.
Finally, it is because the gracious actings of God make such slight impressions upon us. When the seed fails to penetrate the surface of the earth, the birds quickly snatch it away. Things not cherished and meditated upon — are soon forgotten. As grievous as is the sin of forgetting God, a much greater crime is it when we are guilty of attributing the same failure unto Him; yet what reader of these lines can truthfully answer that he has never done so? Even the Psalmist, in a fit of dejection, asked, "Has the LORD forgotten to be gracious?" (77:9). What a woeful word to fall from the lips of a renewed person!
Even though divine mercy has preserved you from such a grievous utterance, has not the wicked idea been entertained in your mind? Oh, what vile creatures we are! God can no more cease to be gracious unto His children, than He can cease to be. It is because we give way to unbelief, and judge the Lord by sense — that such a concept is allowed a place in our hearts. He waits to be gracious (Isaiah 30:18) — till we are ready, till we come to the end of our resources. The vessel must be empty before He pours in His favors. His time is now; it is you who are not prepared for His blessing!