by Arthur W. Pink
Philologos Religious Online Books
Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
From a master to his apprentice, when leaving his service and entering into life for himself. My young friend: As you were early committed to my care by your pious mother, whose death soon after left you a tender orphan; so I trust, in sincerity of heart, I have endeavoured to warn and counsel you against those evils which your inexperienced age was exposed to and directed and encouraged you in the principles of religion and of practices of virtue, which may lay the foundation for a happy and useful life; and I am now, with great affection, fulfilling the last part of my trust, by giving you some important counsels and cautions on your entrance on the stage of life wherein you will meet with temptations and difficulties you never yet experienced and will need all the assistance you can receive from God and man for your wise and happy conduct.
1. See that the foundation of religion is well laid in a sincere conversion, an entire and willing resignation of your soul to God as your sovereign Lord and Ruler and supreme and satisfying good; living by faith on Christ Jesus as the Saviour and hope of sinners, through whose mercy and mediation we are to seek for and receive every blessing from God for time and eternity. I trust you are not altogether a stranger to these dispositions of soul; but my advice is that you never rest satisfied until you have, in your own conscience, a full evidence of your sincerity herein. It is a dreadful thing for an immortal spirit to hang in a state of suspense by the slender thread of life between two such amazing extremes as an eternal Heaven or Hell. Satisfaction may be had: and it is worth all the pains, prayers, and vigilance you can use to obtain it.
2. As you are entering into a world wherein great variety of examples, methods of conduct, and manners in religion will be presented to you, some plausible, some pernicious, and many destructive—if you value your conscience or your comfort, make the sacred Word of God, which is to be the rule of your future judgment and of God's present providence over you, the invariable rule of your disposition and practice. Believe me, you will never find a more faithful counsellor, a more advantageous guide, or cordial, constant and comforting friend than in these sacred oracles of wisdom and truth if you closely study and practice them. Let no day therefore pass over without some serious perusal of it, join with earnest prayer to God for wisdom to understand it and power to conform to it. Study those inimitable rules of wisdom and prudence in the Proverbs of Solomon to direct your practice; the Psalms of David to inspire your devotion and the whole Word of God, especially the New Testament, to form your faith, your heart, your hope thereof. Particularly, treasure up in your mind some pertinent passages to every article of faith, commanded duty, and forbidden temper and practice—that your belief may be directed by the wisdom and your conscience formed by the authority of God in every scene of duty and temptation. “Bind them continually to thine heart, and tie them about thy neck; when thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov. 6:21-23).
3. If you would enjoy the pleasures of a rational religious being let your actions not only be lawful for the matter of them but laudable as to the ends for which you performed them; that is, let it be the chief view and highest end in all you do to please God and glorify Him. It is the great prerogative of the Most High God and the proper homage that is due to Him for all His reasonable creatures, that, as He is their Creator and absolute owner, so He should be their chief end; and this end should be habitually intended by them in all their actions; and it is the great condescension of God and consolation of religion that He hath not only permitted us to enjoy the comforts and perform the offices of life but hath made it part of our duty so to do—so that there is not a minute of our life but we may be doing the work of God while we are serving ourselves and may convert the common actions of life into the services of religion by directing them to His glory. Study noble views, therefore, in all you do: devote yourself entirely to God and He will return you to yourself, wiser and better than He found you. Study to glorify Him by a life of holiness and beneficence and He will honour and bless you; so much as is done for God He will accept and reward, but what is done from low and selfish views is lost at your account: whatsoever therefore ye do, do it “as the servants of Christ . . . with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph. 6:6, 7).
4. Be very watchful against an inordinate affection to the present world. Use it with sober cheerfulness and gratitude to Heaven, as far as is necessary to your present comfortable existence, but suffer it not to engage your heart. An earthly sensual mind is the basest perversion of the noble faculties of the soul of man, and the highest dishonour reflected on that glorious and good Being who created and redeemed it. The predominant degree of this evil and sordid disposition is ever inconsistent with sincerity in religion and the inordinate degrees of it in good men are the foundation of many sorrows, Divine rebukes and Providential afflictions. Very just is the saying of a worthy divine to this purpose: “Whatsoever we make an idol of will be a cross to us if we belong to Christ, and a curse to us if we do not.” The interest of the soul in sincere Christians more often suffers from the unhallowed love of mortal objects than from the love of unlawful ones. Watch carefully, therefore, over your affections and when any temporal good appears unusually delightful see that your inclinations to God do not grow feeble and languid thereby and your affections to spiritual concerns more cold and indifferent. Remember, that to be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.
5. Labour to procure and constantly to cherish a meek and humble spirit, which is of high estimation in the sight of God and men. This will make you easy to be pleased, difficult to be offended, calm and serene in every circumstance of life. This will cause you to be courteous and affable to inferiors, respectful to superiors and procure honour and esteem from others, far beyond all the assuming airs of pride and arrogance and self-applause. Especially let this disposition be cherished in all your religious concerns: a condescending God, a humble Redeemer, and a proud sinner are the most astonishing scenes that can present themselves to the mind of man. Labour to be sensible how little knowledge and goodness you possess compared with the rule of your duty and the attainments of others, and never measure yourself but by your superiors in wisdom and goodness. Expect to excite your gratitude to Heaven for its great favours to your soul.
6. Watch over the natural appetites of the body: let not those senses which were designed to administer innocent pleasures become incentives to sin. The sensitive affections have so far overpowered reason and conscience in man that the Scripture can find no word more fit to describe his fallen state by than flesh; and believe me, it requires all the assistance that piety and reason can afford to keep them in due subordination. Be chaste and virtuous, not only in conversation and behaviour but in the dispositions of your mind; indulge no lascivious thoughts or looks and run not unnecessarily into temptations thereunto: you know how great a flame the fire of lust indulged may kindle. Observe the injunctions which our Lord and Saviour has given concerning the government of the eyes (see Matt. 5:28), and imitate the wise example of Job 31:1 and David (Psa. 119:37) relating thereunto. Be also sober and temperate in the use of diet and drink: every degree is excessive therein which renders you indisposed to action and exercise of body and mind; particularly let no company engage you to exceed the bounds of reason herein—a peremptory refusal or two at first will ever free you from their solicitations—but easy compliance will encourage their repeated assaults upon your innocence and virtue.
7. Be very cautious in your choice of company and friends for we insensibly grow like unto those with whom we frequently and familiarly converse. Be rude and uncivil to none but intimate only with a few and let those few be well-chosen, such as you may improve by in virtue and goodness; especially let this be attended to in the choice of a relation through life. Believe it that love is usually a blind passion, erroneously mistaking both persons and things; and therefore if you would consult your true happiness, never enter into an agreement with this nature without first consulting your elder and judicious friends, whose knowledge of human nature is greater and their affections more cool and therefore fitted to form a truer judgment.
I cannot conclude this letter of advice without recommending to you a benevolent heart and useful and charitable life as the noblest disposition and highest enjoyment the present state can afford. Consider yourself as a member of the universe, whose proper disposition is to feel the sorrow and rejoice in the happiness of all the beings that surround you: and permit me to point out that the sensualist, the covetous, the ambitious, in the highest gratification of their desires, never felt a joy comparable to that of doing good. Watch therefore against a contracted selfish spirit as an high injury to yourself, and be diligent, prudent and frugal in all your economy that you may have the capacity of being a great blessing to others. Especially endeavour to promote their best interests, whereby you may be an everlasting blessing unto them.
That the God of all grace may inspire your heart with heavenly wisdom, preserve you from the evils of life, grant you prosperity and make you a blessing in every relation thereof; give you more to feel the power and the pleasures of godliness in this world and in due time grant you to receive the rewards of it in a better is the hearty prayer and desire of your sincere friend and affectionate master—November, 1752.