Under God, I owe almost everything to rural Methodism. I was brought up in a home where godly parents talked to each other about Methodist ministers, local preachers and circuit plans!
My father, an evangelical local preacher, took me to hear some of the great men of Methodism. I listened to many unsung preachers who read only one book — the Bible! In the providence of God these men had a profound effect on my life.
In my teens my godly mother died of cancer and I rebelled, blaming God for her death. In 1951 my father suggested that I should attend the Derwent Convention at Cliff College, and reluctantly I agreed.
This is where I was gloriously converted to Jesus Christ under the preaching of Rev. Baines Atkinson. I became a local preacher and later attended Cliff College, becoming soaked in Methodist teaching.
I do want to emphasise that Methodist preachers were used by God to shape my life; they preached with a heart-warming passion that is so lacking today. But they left me an Arminian through and through, believing I could be saved today and lost tomorrow.
In 1963 a new chapter began in my life. A young Methodist preacher and I went to the Keswick Convention. After the Saturday evening meeting we went for a meal. While we were eating, a Highland minister joined us and asked: ‘Have you been to the Convention meeting? Tell me about it’. This we did. He replied: ‘You young men need to read A. W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God’.
In hindsight I wonder just what we, in our ignorance, had revealed! But I bought the book, which I read and reread. It completely changed my conception of God.
It was like being converted all over again! I was so blessed with the thought that God, to quote Pink, is ‘the Almighty, that his will is irreversible, that he is absolute sovereign in every realm of all his vast dominions’.
As I read this enlightening exposition, the Lord laid these words upon my heart: ‘Present-day conditions call loudly for a new examination and new presentation of God’s sovereignty. From every pulpit in the land it needs to be thundered forth that God still lives, that God still observes, that God still reigns’.
I was so fired up with these truths that I shared them from many chapel pulpits. I urged fellow preachers to read the book. Alas, some of them told me it needed burning!
Eventually I left the denomination and my friend, who never read the book, remains in Methodism to this day! Yes, the book changed me but I am thankful to say it did not make me a hyper-Calvinist.
For many years after reading the chapter on ‘The sovereignty of God in salvation’ I had to grapple with election and the atonement. Christ dying for God’s elect was a spiritual explosion to my mind: ‘Christ did not die to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all the Father had given him’.
To read that all three persons in the Trinity are concerned with our salvation was all new to me. To quote again: ‘with the Father it is predestination; with the Son propitiation; with the Spirit regeneration. The Father chose us, the Son died for us, the Spirit quickens us’.
What a thrill to have these truths as a foundation for my faith! The Method-ism I knew taught me that God was sovereign in creation. But I was never taught God’s sovereignty in salvation; for example, in predestinating grace.
The discovery of new truths about God and his purposes worried me at first. Would this teaching on election and atonement destroy my evangelistic zeal now I no longer believed in ‘free-will’?
I can testify that the opposite has happened, for these precious doctrines of grace have given me a greater determination to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus. I now realise that, because God will bring all his elect into the fold, there will be positive results to his glory.
The words of our Saviour are endued with new comfort in these days of spiritual and moral declension: ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18).
‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37).
Pink taught me truths that have become a sure foundation for my life, for the absolute supremacy of God is of great practical importance.
Unless we have a proper regard for his high sovereignty we will never honour him in our thoughts, nor will he have his proper place in our hearts and lives.
Since reading this book the truth ‘that God works all things after the counsel of his own will’ has burned in my soul. He is in control of everything, seen and unseen. What a truth, what a gospel, what a God we have!