Memory, A Faculty Or Failure

Memory, A Faculty Or Failure

James Gunn

Memory is that divine endowment by which man possesses the ability to retain ideas in the mind; it is the faculty by which when required, the retained ideas are recalled in practically the same language and the same imagery as when first received. The functions of memory are actually three; first, it receives the impression; in the second place, it retains that impression; and, finally, either through circumstance or at will, the impression is recalled.

In response to his teacher’s request that he define memory for the class, the little boy declared that it was the thing you forget with. In this he was very much mistaken.

Memory has been illustrated by the Records Office, in which there are many drawers containing many files into which documents are placed for safe keeping.

How helpful a well developed and amply equipped memory can be in the study of all studies, that of the Bible. It will be profitable to ascertain some of the methods the Lord uses to deeply impress His truth upon our memories; and, then, to determine some of the means He uses to help us recall His truth.

Receiving The Impression:

Throughout the Word of God, a number of different methods are employed to transmit divine conceptions to the receptive mind of man.

(a) CLARITY OF EXPRESSION: The preacher of Ecclesiastes reveals the very rules through which God has given us His revelation. He writes, “Because the preacher was wise … he sought out, and set in order many proverbs…; He sought to find out acceptable words (Ecc. 12:9-10).” There are two things here which impress memory; first, things were set in order, that is, things set in proper sequence: secondly, acceptable words were sought out, words within the vocabulary and appreciation of the hearers. In Solomon’s principles of teaching there are two essentials by which facts are fixed upon memory --sequence and simplicity.

(b). ILLUSTRATION OF MEANING: The parables of our Blessed Lord Jesus reveal the great wealth of illustrative material He used. How deeply these have affected human thinking. The question, “Who is my neighbour?” is answered in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which illustrated neighborliness in its most perfect form. The assertion, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them,” is confirmed by the parable of the prodigal son. Who could ever forget such illustrations or their meanings?

(c). REPETITION OF STATEMENT: After the resurrection of Christ we read, “They remembered His words, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again (Luke 24:7-8).” Why did they remember these words? Because Christ had repeated them in their hearing on several occasions (Matt. 16:21; 17: 9-12; 17:22; 20:17-19; John 12:23-33). Repetition deepens impression upon the mind.

(d). ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS: How often we read the expression, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto.” The Lord Jesus constantly associated spiritual concepts with common processes. The sowing of the word of the kingdom is associated with the sowing of seed in a field. The appearance of professors in Christendom is associated with the presence of tares in a field of grain (Matt. 13). The chief butler recalled his dream as soon as he heard about the dream of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:9). One idea is recalled because of its intimate association with a similar idea.

(e). CONNECTION THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCE: The rule of the association of ideas is used purposely; whereas, the connection through circumstance may not be used intentionally, but result from the common happenings of life. To remember a circumstance, enables the mind to recall some fact closely connected with it. Two or three examples will elucidate the point. The crowing of the cock, reminded Peter of the Lord’s prediction of his denial (Matt. 26:74-75). The circumstance of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon Cornelius, brought to Peter’s mind the fact that the Lord had spoken of the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 11:15-16). Peter, as an old man, recalled ,the exact words of the Father; “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased;” because of the striking impression made upon his mind on the Mount of Transfiguration. (2 Pet. 1:16-18).

These rules may be practiced in every day living, so as to develop our mental powers for Bible study. On being introduced to a stranger, repeat his name inwardly to yourself several times, if necessary spell it to yourself, and thus learn to deeply impress your memory. For the new fact that you wish to remember, form an association with some other fact you long have known, and use the circumstances of life as the filing clerks of memory.

Recalling The Impression:

“It is very provoking,” said a brother in a Bible study class, “A preacher was here sometime ago, and explained that verse to us, but I cannot recall what his explanation was. I remember it was very good, but what he said has slipped from my memory.” This brother’s difficulty, too frequently has been our own. All would like to recall what memory holds of the good things of God, but how can we do so?

There are three simple rules:

(a). THE IMPULSE OF THE SPIRIT: Said the Lord Jesus to His disciples, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.” God intended that certain who heard those words, preserve their actual impressions of the life of the Lord Jesus. Christ lived a life in which He revealed His essential Deity as well as His perfect humanity. The record of that life has been preserved, but between the inspired record made later, and the earlier revelation, years passed by; in the case of Matthew, twenty-five; in that of Peter, assuming that he dictated the Gospel of Mark, thirty-five; and in that of John, fifty-five years. The link between the scenes of the life of Christ, and the dates when those scenes were chronicled is the Holy Spirit.

(b) THE IMPETUS OF SELF EFFORT: The Lord holds man responsible to recall the past. This is brought before us in the epistle to the first of the seven Churches in Asia, Ephesus. He says, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen,” (Rev. 2:5). The history of this church appears in three stages; its formation (Acts 19) about A.D. 55-56; its consolidation (The epistle to the Ephesians) through A.D. 62; and its degeneration (Rev. 2:1-7) evinced by A.D. 96. There was much to remember during nearly forty years, much in the closing thirty years of that period, the years of decline, and the Lord commands that through self-effort they recall their former glory, as well as the pathway of weakness and failure they had pursued. The effort required to recall mental impression is in direct proportion to the amount of effort we exercise to deepen that impression when it is first received. The deeper we make the impression the easier will it be to recall, whether this be through the Spirit’s promptings, self-effort, or the ministry of the Word of God.

(c). THE IMPACT OF MINISTRY: The apostle Peter realized his responsibility as a servant of Christ to put the saints always in remembrance of the truth of God (2 Pet. 1:12-15). This he endeavoured to do; first, by his oral ministry, for he says, “I think it is meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;” and, secondly, by his written ministry, “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” Ministry in either form is a means by which truths already learned are recalled for immediate use.