Our Annual Letter
by Arthur Pink
"Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." Ecclesiastes 11:6
We have now entered upon what must be at least the beginning of "the evening" of our life, for forty years have passed since the editor preached his first sermon. It was on the words, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Rom 1:16), etc., and to a congregation of over seven hundred people. Though it was not the first time we had spoken in public, yet it was quite an ordeal, especially as it was in our home-town — Nottingham. Since then, without any break, it has been our holy privilege, yet solemn responsibility, to sow the good seed, either orally or by the pen — the latter exclusively the last twelve years.
Let the preacher observe that in the verse with which we have opened, it is not "sow the seed," but "sow your seed" — that which we have, by grace, made our own, and verified by personal experience. That enables us to sow it with greater confidence, and often to better effect! The discriminating hearer (and reader) can usually perceive whether the message is spoken from the heart — or mechanically delivered; whether its author can say, "That which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life — we declare unto you" (1 John 1:1-3), or whether he be merely discussing something with which he has only a theoretical acquaintance.
The figure of "sowing seed" is a very suggestive one — among other things, implying the exercise of faith, for to outward sight, so far as immediate results are concerned, it seems to be love's labor lost. For the same reason, it is an act of hope, performed with the expectation of a future yield. So it should ever be with the servant of God. After making sure he has a message from the Lord and has first taken it unto and preached it to himself — he is to deliver the same in humble dependence upon his Master, and in the unshakable assurance that His Word will not return unto Him void — but shall indeed accomplish that which He pleases (Isa 55:11).
"For you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." Sometimes the servant of God is permitted to see fruits from his labors at an early date; at others, he may toil all through a long night and take nothing. That may be ascribed to the sovereignty of God, though we are persuaded that "according to your faith — be it unto you" (Mat 9:29) has not a little to do with it. "Without faith it is impossible to please him" (Heb 11:6) applies as much to preaching as to anything else. Sometimes a message upon which extra pains were taken, and which was delivered with unusual earnestness and liberty, appears to be lost on the air; while another which seemed far more commonplace is made a definite blessing to souls — which may be God's way of humbling the pride of His servant.
In our experience with this magazine, we have been particularly favored by God, for during the course of the year — for scarcely an article appears when some write in to say it has been blessed to them. Even the one on "Counsels regarding Marriage" in the August issue was found especially timely by one reader about to wed — though when inserting it, we knew that not. Though this year has not been without testings and anxieties — for as Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) well said, "Joy and trial go hand in hand" — yet it has been a most encouraging one.
An increasing number are kindly making this written ministry a matter of more definite prayer. That should be the chief recourse of all God's people in these evil days. The Lord changes not, and nothing is too hard for Him.
We greatly fear that conditions both in the churches and in the world will still further deteriorate, and that the spiritual and moral darkness upon Christendom will become denser. Yet, while that is cause for grief and exercise of heart — it is no reason why we should panic or lose hope. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). "Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed [the most stable forms of government] and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea [kings and emperors deposed]; the Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge" (Psalm 46:2,7).
During 1948, several old friends, both personal and of this magazine, have been called Home. On the other hand, we have good reason to believe that more than one of our readers who were "church members" have passed from death unto life while taking unto themselves some of the more searching parts of our articles; while others have been influenced to withdraw from places where error is taught, going forth unto Christ outside the apostate camp.
The number of our ministerial readers is being maintained, and we feel increasingly desirous of seeking to help them and strengthen their hands — especially the younger ones. Though we had to drop well over two hundred from our 1947 mailing list (and shall have to do the same this time!), the Lord graciously gave us new ones to take their places, and some fifty more for "good measure." The smallness of its circulation is still our acutest problem. Had it not been that more than one hundred sent an annual donation which permits us to mail them an extra copy — we would have been obliged to cease publishing years ago. Will readers take note, that $5 fully covers a bound volume and two of the loose monthly issues for next year.
So many have written to tell of the help and blessing received from the "Prayers of the Apostles" articles that we have decided to prolong them throughout 1949, D.V.
It had been our intention to take up a verse-by-verse exposition of the first epistle of John, and thus meet the wish of scores who read our work on John's Gospel — but that must be postponed for another year.
Under the "Doctrine of Revelation," after two or three more on the saving discovery which God makes of Himself in the soul — we hope to write several articles on the beatific vision of the revelation of the Lord unto His saints in glory, which is, of course, the climax of the subject; after which we expect to turn to the more technical side and take up the "verbal inspiration" of the Scriptures, their interpretation, and application: much grace will be required for the former, and wisdom for the latter.
In addition to those articles on Joshua, a new but shorter series will begin in the January issue, entitled "Glorious Sinai," which, though somewhat controversial, is most blessed and deeply important: we beg for them a prayerful and unprejudiced perusal.
If we are preserved in health, such a program, in addition to writing many letters every week, will keep us constantly busy — far busier than many realize. Our articles consist not of the first things which come to mind — but each one is the outcome of many hours' hard work. It is only by adhering strictly to a systematic schedule the editor is able (by grace) to produce so much month by month from his own pen. Such intense and prolonged application makes it impracticable for us to do any visiting or receive any visitors: the hour we might spend in conversing with a single person — is spent in seeking to help a thousand by our pen; so friends will understand why we cannot see any callers.
One reason why we remain in this secluded island is that we can prosecute our labors in undisturbed privacy. Notwithstanding our having had no break — not so much as a single day's holiday the past eight years — we are thankful to say that (except for slight colds) we have both been preserved in health and strength through another year.
In spite of a further ten per cent increase in costs of
production, we close 1948 with a small credit balance. We were ashamed of
the "workmanship" on the 1947 bound volume — but were unable to secure
better. This year, our printers have kindly agreed to do the job, and we
hope for a more satisfactory one. Through the generosity of a few friends,
the 1948 volume will be available to regular readers for $1.75 — but we
reserve the right to select customers at that price. Please read the
December cover-page article on December 31, and pray that it may be made
good in both writer and reader. Prayer for us, for God's blessing on this
magazine, and an increased circulation is earnestly solicited. With
Christian greetings, yours by divine mercy,
Arthur and Vera Pink