The Sovereignty of God, Arthur W. Pink. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984 (first published 1918). Softcover. 269 pages. (also available online, Kindle, Hardback, Audio book). ISBN 0-8010-7088-0. ISBN 13: 9780801070884. [Reviewed by Dr. Julien Kennedy, Ballymena, NI.]
I would guess that this book, more than any other, has been used by God to introduce people to and reinforce their belief in the Reformed doctrines of sovereign grace. It is a must-read for anyone disenchanted with the false theology of their churches, for those interested in assessing Calvinism, and, I would go as far as to say, for every believer.
Why do I say this? Because the doctrine Pink de scribes is the most vital truth about God, namely, that as the Sovereign of the universe, He rules over all things and has predestined them from eternity. In his foreword to the first edition Pink states, “In the following pages an attempt has been made to examine anew in the light of God’s Word some of the profoundest questions which can engage the human mind.” Hence, he challenges the reader to study the truth of God’s sovereignty, and with gladness he describes the privilege of knowing these things. Pink knew that in Christendom in his time, as in ours, few believed total depravity and human helplessness, or sovereign, particular grace.
In his forward of 1921 Pink wisely and graciously added, “A few have condemned the book in unqualified terms, and these we commend to God and to the Word of His grace, remembering that it is written, ‘a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from Heaven’ ().” Notwithstanding that ‘concession’ to the unstable, unlearned, and deceived, we still believe that all who hold to false doctrine are accountable to God.
In his third forward Pink encapsulates the benefit of this doctrine when he states, “Nothing is so tranquilizing and so stablishing as the assurance that the Lord Himself is on the Throne of the universe, working all things after the counsel of His own will.” And I would also add that this sovereign God is working all things for the good and salvation of His elect people in Christ. This truth is an unashamed blast against ‘free will.’
That it is vital doctrine Pink states in his introduction: “Finally, we have sought to show that the Sovereignty of God is a truth revealed to us in Scripture for the comfort of our hearts, the strengthening of our souls, and the blessing of our lives. A due apprehension of God’s Sovereignty promotes the spirit of worship, provides an incentive to practical godliness, and inspires zeal in service. It is deeply humbling to the human heart, but in proportion to the degree that it brings man into the dust before his Maker, to that extent is God glorified.”
This book abases man and glorifies God. It is replete with Scripture references, which show what an avid Bible scholar Pink was. He patiently gives an entire chapter and four appendices to the gainsayers who would argue against its truth, carefully expoundingand .
The chapters cover God’s sovereignty in creation, providence, salvation, reprobation (this chapter and many other key parts are omitted by the Banner of Truth edition). In addition, the book covers God’s sovereignty with regard to human will and responsibility, and to prayer, as well as our response to the doctrine and the value of it. The book is comprehensive. It is a work virtually impossible to summarize because it is ‘chock full’ of weighty truths that are edifying and powerful. As an aside, I laughed when I came across the phrase ‘German neologians’!
Notwithstanding all the positives, I found one serious concern, which is Pink’s view that the fall somehow made men less responsible: “Now, strictly speaking, there are only two men who have ever walked this earth which were endowed with full and unimpaired responsibility, and they were the first and last Adams. The responsibility of each of the rational descendants of Adam, while real, and sufficient to establish them accountable to their Creator is, nevertheless, limited in degree, limited because impaired through the effects of the Fall.” I believe he is wrong there! Scripture teaches that all sin is gross and capital offence with no mitigating factors, committed by wholly responsible creatures who, as a result, deserve hell. Satan also stands alongside the first and second Adams, as a perfectly created being who had absolutely no impaired responsibility. Both he and all Adam’s fallen race are fully accountable for their sin.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Its truth underpins the Reformed faith which we love. I can guarantee, by God’s grace, that all—whether young person, new convert, or church officebearer—will benefit from reading it. You can read it free online too. Do make the time; it is well worth it!