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The “Higher Life” Movement1
The circle of ideas summed up in the general term “Perfectionism,” was first given standing in the Protestant churches through the teaching of John Wesley. The doctrine of “Christian Perfection” in which these ideas were formulated by him, very naturally therefore took from the beginning and has continued always to hold among the Wesleyans “the place of an acknowledged doctrine.” Henry C. Sheldon tells us,2 no doubt, that it has claimed “very different degrees of practical interest and advocacy from different representatives” of Wesleyanism. He even tells us that “in the present, while it is advocated by not a few after the manner of John Wesley, many in effect set it forth as rather a possible ideal to be progressively approached, than as the goal lying immediately before every well-instructed Christian, the prize of a present faith and consecration.”
A somewhat earlier writer goes even further and gives us to understand that Wesleyans have never been very forward in laying claim to their “Christian Perfection” as practically exemplified in their own lives, however faithfully they may have clung to it as a distinctive and highly valued doctrine of their confession. “Hardly one in twenty of our ministers,” he remarks,3 “professes it, either publicly or privately, so far as I can learn. We preach it occasionally; but among our people its confessors are still fewer, in proportion to numbers, than in the ministry. Even among our bishops, from 1784 to the present day, confessors are as hard to find as in any other class of our people. The very princes of our Israel have been silent in regard to their own experience of it. The apostolic Wesley never professed it. In the sixty-fourth year of his age, and the forty-second of his ministry, he published, in one of the leading journals of London, a letter containing these words: ‘I have told all the world I am not perfect; I have not attained the character I draw.’ Bishop Asbury, who, if possible, exceeded Wesley in the toils and sufferings of his faithful ministry, did not profess it. The saintly Hedding, approaching the grave by lingering disease, always calm, and often joyous in view of death, was importuned to profess it, and declined. Myriads of men and women among us, whose lives were bright with holy light, saints of whom the world was not worthy, never professed it.” However chary, nevertheless, men may have been in pointing to their own lives as illustrating the doctrine, the doctrine of “Christian Perfection” has always been the glory of Methodism; and for a hundred years or so it constituted also one of its most exclusive peculiarities.4
As the middle of the nineteenth century was drawing on, however, a kindred doctrine began to show itself, in a relatively independent development, among the American Congregationalists, in sequence to the increasing dissolution of the hereditary Calvinism of the American Congregational churches and the shifting of opinion here and there among them to a Pelagianizing basis.5 Very potent influences were in operation in America during these years, moreover, tending to break down the barriers which divided the denominations from one another, and to give to doctrines hitherto distinctive of one or another of them more general currency. The conditions of life, especially in the rapidly settling frontier regions of what is now called the Middle West, made it a struggle to preserve in them any form of Christianity whatever, and opened the way for the wide extension of all kinds of extravagances. In the welter of sharply contrasting notions struggling for a footing in this intellectual and social confusion, a certain advantage was enjoyed by extreme pretensions. Only those who took strong ground could hope for a hearing. And the constant interchange between the frontier and the country at large spread the contagion rapidly throughout the land. Among the other extravagances thus given great vogue was naturally a tendency to proclaim perfection a Christian duty and an attainable ideal, which none who would take the place of a Christian in this wicked world could afford to forego.
The growing influence of perfectionist ideas in the religious community at large was both marked and advanced by the publication in 1859 of W. E. Boardman’s book called “The Higher Christian Life.” Mr. Boardman had acquired his notions under Methodist influences in a frontier settlement,6 and in this book he gave them wings and thus inaugurated a movement which has affected the whole Protestant world. We do not see but that Mark Guy Pearse’s description of the book is perfectly just. It was, he says,7 “perhaps the first popular treatise on this subject that won its way amongst all denominations; and its vast circulation, both in America and England, not only melted the prejudices of hosts against this subject, but made it possible for other writers to follow in the paths which he had opened, and led multitudes of timid souls out of the misty dawn into the clear shining of the sun.” The movement thus begun reached its culmination in the labors of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith, out of which grew in the early years of the fourth quarter of the century the great Keswick Movement by which their formative ideas have been spread throughout the English-speaking world and continue still to be vigorously propagated. It is to W. E. Boardman and Mr. and Mrs. Smith accordingly that we must go if we wish to know what the Higher Life movement really is, and what it really means for Christian life and doctrine.
William Edwin Boardman8 was born in Smithfield, New York, October 11, 1810, and grew up in the Susquehanna country into a rugged but very unstable manhood. After a number of business adventures he found himself in the early forties in the little mining town of Potosi in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, seeking to mend his broken fortunes. His religious life had been of a piece with his business career. Converted in early manhood, he had passed through many violent changes before, under Methodist influences,9 he found in the rough surroundings of Potosi “rest of heart in Jesus for sanctification,” and became the head of the little “Plan of Union” church which had been gathered there largely under his influence.10 Within two years, however, he was compelled to leave Potosi by a violent anti-slavery controversy in which he had become embroiled, and entered Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati in the summer of 1843 as a student of divinity. The three years that he passed at Lane seem to have been devoted as much to the propagation of the Higher Life teachings as to his studies. After their close he was a year at Greenfield, Indiana, and then six months at New Haven in some loose connection with the Yale Divinity School. In 1852 he went to Detroit and his name appears this year for the first time in the Minutes of the General Assembly of the (New School) Presbyterian Church, as a “stated supply.” He found in Michigan what seems to have been congenial employment as a missionary of the American Sunday School Union, and was removed by that Society in 1855 to their central office in Philadelphia, to take charge of their “Students’ Mission Service”—transferring at the same time his Presbyterial membership to the (Old School) Presbytery of Philadelphia. Leaving the Sunday School Union after two or three years of service, he became for a short time “stated supply” at the manufacturing town on the Jersey side of the Delaware called Gloucester City, and then, in 1859, sailed for California for his wife’s health. In 1862 he returned from California and soon after entered the service of the United States Christian Commission, becoming its secretary and laboring efficiently in the organization of its work. After the Civil War he reverted for a while to business life, and then, in 1870, at last found his mission as a public agitator for the Higher Christian Life. At the same time he disappears also, in some unexplained way, from the roll of Presbyterian ministers, having held a place on that roll for nearly twenty years without ever having been settled as a pastor or continued longer than two or three years at a time in any one employment.11
Mr. Boardman’s eager and restless mind, little disciplined and very prone to extravagances, naturally had little taste for the humdrum work of the regular ministry, and the necessity of coöperation attending it. Having attained his threescore years without finding comfort or stability in the ordinary paths of ministerial labor, he appears to have thought it high time to throw off all the shackles of the conventional paths and to go his own untrammeled way. He stripped himself naked for the conflict. He broke all ecclesiastical ties and stood forth a perfectly free lance without responsibilities to anyone. He even freed himself from worldly entanglements, and resolved, like an invading army, to “live on the country.” A born agitator, equipped both by nature and by training for that work, we can imagine the zest with which he now cast himself with absolute abandonment into his congenial and wholly irresponsible task. The completeness of his separation of himself for it and the whole-heartedness of his devotion of himself to it are intimated to us by Mrs. Boardman in the language of her coterie. “At this time,” she writes,12 “he felt he had a definite call to a definite work. As in his earlier life God had led him out into evangelistic work among the unconverted, so now He distinctly called him to evangelize among Christians, and proclaim the Gospel of full rest in our indwelling Saviour.” “It was evident now that the Lord was drawing my husband on to a full surrender of all his time to this direct service among His own people; and he became so very restful and happy in the separation from all secular work, that whatever doubts had heretofore crossed his mind, as to what the Lord wanted him to do, disappeared forever.”13 “It was at this time in the same year, 1870, that the Lord called upon us to give up all our possessions, and enter upon a life of full trust in Him for all our temporal needs.”14 “Since that day in which all was committed to the Lord, there has never been an anxious thought as to how we should get on, or how meet any debt, for the Lord has supplied us even before asking, so that we have been free as the birds, going wherever the Father sends us, without a fear but that He would meet all expenses in His own way.”15 “It was now necessary to work independently of others, since it was the Lord who was to employ us.… No more committees or organizations, every step must now be directed by the Lord Himself.”16
We have overrun ourselves in the last two quotations. They remind us that soon after Mr. Boardman had given himself wholly to the work of public agitation in the interests of the Higher Life, he found it desirable to make a certain change in his methods. At first he made it his business to organize “Conventions for Holiness,” through which the propaganda he had taken in hand might be carried forward. An “Association for holding Union Holiness Conventions” was formed; Mr. Boardman was made its chairman; and as chairman it was his duty to be present at and to engineer all the meetings. Successful conventions were held under these auspices at Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, Wilmington and elsewhere. But difficulties arose. The responsibilities for and the labor of the conventions, all fell on Mr. Boardman’s shoulders: the financial returns from them were divided among the members of the Association and yielded to no one any large amount. Mr. Boardman thought that, the ball having now been started rolling, it might be permitted with advantage to roll on of itself. It might be left to others to organize conventions of which he should be invited to take charge. As Mrs. Boardman puts it:17 “Organization, as has been said, was one of my husband’s greatest—‘gifts’ shall I call it? And yet it was sometimes a hindrance, especially when the Lord was calling to a single-handed work.” The significance of the last clause should not be missed. The event proved the forecast just. “Many more invitations came than could be met.”18 Conventions were held everywhere; in the East, in the West:19 there seemed no limit to them. “It was a blessed liberty,” Mrs. Boardman exclaims,20 “to be free from all bondage to serve in connection with Committees or Associations”; and how delightful thus to experience how bountifully the Father, as their Provider, supplied every need!
There proved to be one limit, however—Mr. Boardman’s strength. He broke down from overwork in the spring of 1872.21 But even that brought new opportunities and new triumphs. As one of its results Mr. Boardman found himself in the autumn of 1873 in London,22 where Mr. R. Pearsall Smith had been holding meetings during the spring for the propagation of the Higher Life and was now preparing to resume them. Mr. Boardman joined him, and during the next two years there was written into the history of religious conventions one of its most remarkable chapters.23 The great evangelistic campaign of Messrs. Moody and Sankey in England and Scotland was now in full swing, and the Higher Life movement was, as it were, embroidered upon it.24 First there was that wonderful series of “Breakfasts” in which, week after week, Mr. Smith and Mr. Boardman met select parties of the ministers and Christian workers of the city to talk with them about the Higher Christian Life and Power for Service. These were followed by large popular meetings for the advancement of holiness, culminating in the meetings of the spring and summer of 1874, the climax of which was reached in the Conference at Broadlands in July and the great Oxford Union Meeting of the first week of September, 1874. Immense meetings of similar character were held throughout England during the next twelve months, and even the Continent was invaded by Mr. Smith with remarkable results. The climax was again reached in the great Brighton Convention of June, 1875—after which came Mr. Smith’s sad collapse. Meanwhile Mr. Boardman, after extensive tours through England and Scotland, had returned to America (early in June, 1875), but finding there no such opportunities for his propaganda as England offered him, he came back in December, 1875 to London, which he thereafter made his permanent home and the center of his activities. As late as 1880 when he had reached his three score years and ten he made an extended tour in Sweden preaching his favorite doctrine and—yes, healing the sick! For he had now taken up with this delusion, and indeed it seems to have become during the last few years of his life almost his chief concern. He apparently dates his conversion to it from a meeting with Dr. Cullis during his visit to America in the summer of 1875. It was not until the publication of his book, “The Lord that Healeth Thee,” in 1881, however, that he was fairly “launched as a teacher of divine healing.” The Faith-house called “Bethshan” was opened by Mrs. Baxter and Miss Murray in 1882 to accommodate the patients who resorted to him, and of it he was “both the father and the pastor.” But his career as a faith healer was short:25 he himself died February 4, 1886.
Although he began late, Mr. Boardman became a somewhat voluminous writer.26 It is by his first book, however, “The Higher Christian Life,” published in 1859, that he is best known, and through it that he has exercised his widest influence as a leader in the Higher Life movement. It is with it primarily therefore that we are concerned.27 It is not a good book, and the critics dealt faithfully with it.28 They pointed out the incorrectness of its historical illustrations, the vagueness and ambiguity of its doctrinal statements, the inconsequence of its argument, the formlessness of its structure, the inelegance of its literary style. Everything they alleged against it was true. Nevertheless, the book sold, and was read, and bore fruit. Theodor Jellinghaus says that more than a hundred thousand copies of it went into circulation in America and England; that it made its author the leading teacher of the more circumspect and practical doctrine of complete sanctification; and that it was by it that access was gained for this teaching into all evangelical denominations.29 This is a conservative statement. Mrs. Boardman describes the sale of the book as rapid beyond all precedent in books of its class—“it was impossible for many weeks to supply the demand”; and reminds us that it was reprinted in many editions in England—an edition was issued by Nisbet, another by Strachan, and so forth—and that one British publisher alone sold sixty thousand copies of it before 1874.30 It is a mere superstition to imagine that only good books sell well. Are Pastor Russell’s books good books? It is in literature as in music where ragtime makes a more popular appeal than Beethoven. This comparison may supply us with the proper characterization of Mr. Boardman’s book: it is a ragtime book. It is the book of a Sunday School missionary accustomed to address himself to the unsubtle intelligence of “the wild and woolly West.” Mrs. Boardman with pardonable wifely appreciation not wholly without reason describes it by saying that it “sets forth the truth in clear, simple, direct statements, illustrated by examples.” It uses a broad brush and lays on the color thickly. Much of its appeal lies in the very coarseness of its art. But that is not the whole truth. Its real power lies in its fundamentally Christian tone. It exalts Christ, and it exalts faith. And no book which exalts Christ and exalts faith will ever fail of an immediate response from Christian hearts.
Mr. Boardman’s zeal is, as he puts it, for a “full salvation” through “full trust.”31 What he has it in his heart to do is to set forth Christ “as all in all for the sinner’s salvation,” and to assure “the sinner who receives him as such, and abides in him,” that he has in Him “full salvation.”32 The sinner who both “receives Him” and “abides in Him”: he who desires a full salvation must do both these things. He must not only enter by Christ but walk in Christ; Christ is not only the Door but the Way. And we contribute as little to our walking in the Way as we do to our entering by the Door. There are many who expect to enter by the Door, but to walk in the Way for themselves. They expect “to journey in the straight and narrow way by virtue of their own resolutions and watchings, with such help from God and man as they can secure from time to time.”33 It cannot be done. Jesus “is The Way and there is no other. There is no real progress heavenward but in Jesus.” Jesus is not a partial Saviour but a complete Saviour: we do not get a portion of our salvation in Him and supply the rest ourselves; In Him and in Him alone is complete salvation. “What we call experimental religion, is simply this: The sinner is first awakened to a realization of his guilt before God, and of his danger, it may be too. He really feels, that is, he experiences, his need of salvation, and becomes anxious and eager to do anything to secure it. Tries perhaps all sorts of expedients, except the one only and true, in vain. Then at last his eyes are opened to see that Jesus Christ is set forth to be his salvation, and that all he has to do is, just as he is, without one grain of purity or merit, in all his guilt and pollution, to trust in his Saviour, and now he sees and feels, that is, he experiences, that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the very Saviour he needs. In Jesus he triumphs and exults. In Jesus he revels and rejoices. Jesus is the one amongst ten thousand, the altogether lovely. The only one in heaven or on earth to be desired, filling all the orbit of his soul with faith, and hope and love. This in substance is the sum of all religious experience.”34 In Jesus Christ, our complete Saviour, there is complete salvation to be had by faith alone.
Nothing, of course, could be truer to the Gospel than this insistence on the completeness of the salvation provided in Christ and received by faith alone; and it would perhaps not be easy to say it better. It is the very essence of the Christian proclamation. The mischief is that Mr. Boardman contends that this “full salvation” received by a “full trust” in Jesus our “full Saviour,” is not one indivisible salvation, but is separated into two distinct parts, received by two distinct acts of faith. This is the meaning of his dwelling so earnestly upon the necessity of not only entering by the Door but also walking in the Way. To his own consciousness, indeed, he is not dividing the two stages of salvation from one another but assimilating them to one another. He conceives it to be usual to think of them not only as separable in fact but as resting on different foundations; one on faith, the other on works. “We have one process for acceptance with God,” he says,35 “that is faith; and another for progress in holiness, that is works. After having found acceptance in Jesus by faith, we think to go on to perfection by strugglings and resolves, by fastings and prayers, not knowing the better way of taking Christ for our sanctification, just as we have already taken him for our justification. We see and believe in Jesus as our Atonement on earth, and our Advocate and Mediator in heaven, but we fail to see and receive him as our ever-present Saviour from sin now here with us in the hourly scenes of the daily journey heavenward.” He is preoccupied with the vindication of faith as the sole instrument of salvation in all its stages alike. In making this vindication he is doing a good work, and for the sake of it we can bear with the play on words by which he gives a double reference to the Scriptural declaration: “The just shall live as well as be made alive, by faith,”36 and can read with patience such a passage as this:37 “Whether the question relates to justification or sanctification the answer is the same. The way of freedom from sin is the very same, as the way of freedom from condemnation. Faith in the purifying presence of Jesus brings the witness of the Spirit with our spirits that Jesus is our sanctification, that the power and dominion of sin is broken, that we are free, just as faith in the atoning merit of the blood and obedience of Christ for us, brings the witness of the Spirit that we are now no longer under condemnation for sin, but freely and fully justified in Jesus.”
Of course we have both justification and sanctification only in Jesus, and of course we have Jesus only by faith. But we cannot divide Jesus and have Him as our righteousness while not at the same time having Him as our sanctification. It is precisely this division of Jesus, however, which Mr. Boardman is insisting upon. That is his real meaning in the passage which we have just quoted. When we read it in its intended sense it is as pure a statement of the Wesleyan doctrine of the successive attainment of righteousness and holiness by separate acts of faith as Wesley himself could have penned. It is equally his real meaning in the double emphasis which he puts on the Scriptural declaration that the just shall live by faith. “The just shall be made alive first,” he expounds it,38 “and afterwards learn to live by faith. The just shall be justified before God first, and afterwards learn the way to become just also in heart and life, by faith”—where the “first” and “afterwards” are the really significant words. This separation of justification and sanctification as two distinct “experiences” resting on two distinct acts of faith is in point of fact Mr. Boardman’s primary interest, and constitutes the foundation stone of his system. Grant him the reality of “the second conversion” by which we obtain sanctification, as distinct in principle from the first conversion by which we obtain justification, and he will not boggle over much else. Here lies the heart of his system of teaching and on the validation of this his whole effort is expended.39
The necessity for this distinction of experiences he finds in the twofold need of the sinner and the consequent twofold provision made for his need. “And now,” he writes,40 “to account for the two distinct experiences, each so marked and important, and so alike in character, we have only to consider two facts, viz. first, that the sinner’s necessities are two-fold and distinct, although both are included in the one word salvation. We express the two in the words of that favorite hymn, ‘Rock of Ages,’ when we sing,
‘Be of sin the double cure,
‘Save from wrath, and make me pure.’ ”
It will be observed that “Rock of Ages” is quoted here, not in its original form, but in that given it by T. Cotterill in 1815. Toplady himself wrote—
“Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
We do not know the precise end sought by Cotterill in the alteration which he introduced. It may have been merely greater exactness in the rhyme. It may have been also greater exactness in doctrinal statement. Whether he meant it or not, in any event his form does make the doctrinal statement more exact. Christ’s blood does something more for us than cleanse us from the guilt and power of sin: it cleanses us also from the corruption of sin. To sum up the “double cure” which it brings us as cleansing from the guilt and power of sin is therefore a fatally inadequate statement—though it is all that Mr. Boardman’s successors in the advocacy of the Higher Christian Life are able to attribute to it. Whether he himself understood more to be included in the cleansing wrought by Christ’s blood may require some further investigation. Suffice it to note here that he quotes the hymn in a form in which it says more; and that he speaks in this context in this more adequate language of the hymn. The “two great and equal wants of the sinner,” he declares41 to be these: “he must be just in the eye of the law, justified before God. And he must also be holy in heart and life”—in heart as well as in life, observe—“or he cannot be saved.” All that it is necessary to make ourselves sure of at the moment, however, is that Mr. Boardman explicitly represents the two things which he here describes as “being reckoned righteous before God, and being made righteous in heart and life,” as things which are “distinct and different in their nature,” and therefore separable in their experience.
It is only fair to recognize at the same time that Mr. Boardman is willing to be as reasonable in the matter as it is possible to be while yet preserving the essence of his contention. He is willing to admit, for example, that the two “experiences”—justification and sanctification—need not be always temporally separated. A man may be justified and sanctified at the same time. He is even willing to admit that these two experiences need not be consciously separated—“by a gulph of vain strugglings.”42 “Any particular kind of experience is nowhere in the Bible made a pre-requisite of salvation. He who really and truly believes in the Lord Jesus, will be saved whether he has any experience at all to relate or not.”43 “Let Jesus be received as the all in all, and that is enough! Whoever can say, ‘Jesus is mine and I am his,’ that ‘he is complete and I am complete in him,’ and say the truth, has the experience whether he has an experience to relate, or not.”44 But he is firm in asserting that we must actually have these two “experiences,” both of them, if we are to be saved, and that they are essentially distinct. Though they may possibly coalesce in time, and though we may have nothing to relate concerning them, yet they are distinct, necessary experiences both of which we must have. There may therefore be—there ordinarily is—an interval between them, long or short.45 The second experience may be as cataclysmic as the first—it often is even more so. In any event it must be had. “It is necessary for all to come to the point of” distinctly “trusting in the Lord for purity of heart to be prepared for heaven.” “There is no other way under heaven to be purified but by faith in the Lord. And none but the pure in heart shall see God in peace.”46 So little is Mr. Boardman inclined to sink “the second experience” in the first, that his tendency is to exalt it above it. He speaks of it as “the second and deeper work of grace.”47 He declares plainly48 that “the second is the higher stage, and more difficult too. It is really harder to overcome sin in the heart, than to break away from the world at first. And it is harder to come to the point of trusting in Jesus to subdue one’s own heart entirely to himself, than to venture upon him for the forgiveness of sin. We are slower to perceive that the work of saving us from sin—of expelling sin from us—is Christ’s, than to see that he has already suffered the penalty of sin and purchased our pardon.”
That the second experience like the first is of faith alone we have already seen to belong to the very essence of its conception. It is usually emphasized in antagonism to the notion, supposed to be prevalent, that we are justified by faith but are to be sanctified by works. No, it is asserted with emphasis, we are sanctified also by faith. There were two classes in Peter’s audience at Pentecost, we are told in a typical passage49—not only unconverted men, but men who had long enjoyed the forgiveness of their sins. But Peter had not different messages for them. “Peter did not say to the one, Believe in the Lord Jesus and ye shall be converted, and to the other, Watch, pray, struggle, read, fast, work, and you shall be sanctified. But to one and all he said, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost.” Perhaps there is a tincture of the Quietism so prominent in the later teaching of this trend of thought traceable here; and an illustration employed a little further on increases the suspicion that there may be. “Suppose,” we read,50 “when Daniel was cast into the lion’s den, instead of trusting in his God, that He would deliver him—suppose then that in his impotence, bound hand and foot, he had made fight with the lions, and sought deliverance by his own struggles with those terrible beasts of prey, how long before he would have been torn limb from limb and devoured by the hungry monsters of the den?” The suspicion remains, however, a mere suspicion: the obvious intent is less to discredit effort than to exalt faith, as the alone instrument of salvation. Mr. Boardman obviously means to conceive this faith on which he hangs everything in its utter simplicity. It is a formula with him, no doubt that, We must both give all and take all, and that is obviously the “surrender” and “faith” of later authors.51 But Mr. Boardman perceives better than they that these are but two aspects of one act. “True and saving faith,” he says,52 “is two-fold. It gives all and takes all.” If both these elements of it are not present, the act of faith is not complete, and, in a word, no real faith has been exercised. “If it fails to give all up to Christ, no matter how bold and clamorous it may be in claiming the promises, it is dead and powerless.… On the other hand if it fail of taking Christ for all, all its givings will be in vain and worse than in vain, ending only in sore and terrible disappointment at last.” “He who gives all and takes all has all. He who gives but does not take, or takes but does not give, has nothing but disappointment and sorrow.”
It results inevitably from Mr. Boardman’s separation of justification and sanctification as two experiences, each the result of a special act of faith and normally occurring at different times, that he has two kinds of Christians on his hands. Naturally he is a little embarrassed when he attempts to relate these two kinds of Christians to one another and to the ultimate issues of life. One of his reviewers—Dr. John A. Todd53—wishing to push him to the wall, demands how true faith can be ascribed to a man, “when all the while, as our author says of Luther,54 he ‘accepts Christ as a propitiation, but rejects him as a sanctification.’ ” “On this principle,” he cries out, “a man may be justified, and, we suppose, go to heaven—for ‘whom he justified, them he also glorified’ (Rom. 8:30)—while rejecting Christ in one of his most important offices as a Saviour. A more gross and revolting error could not well be conceived.” Dr. Todd is right of course: the situation created by separating justifying and sanctifying faith and describing them as unrelated operations, is an impossible one. The Scriptures, not merely in Rom. 8:30, but everywhere—very explicitly in Rom. 6—join justification and sanctification indissolubly together as but two stages of the one salvation secured by the one faith in the one Christ. But Mr. Boardman has not laid himself open to the whole extremity of Dr. Todd’s assault. He does teach that a man may accept Christ for justification and live through long years rejecting Him—or at least not receiving Him—for sanctification: as if a justified man, received into the divine favor and granted the Spirit of Adoption, could possibly fail to receive his Redeemer from sin for sanctification also—if that depended on a separate and special act of faith and was not rather, as it is, an inevitable result of the justification itself. But he does not teach that a man may go to heaven without having received Christ for his sanctification; that is to say, without being sanctified—for there is, as he too allows, no sanctification out of Christ. The way he attempts to meet the situation is this: “How does it fare,” he asks,55 “with all those professors of religion who live on to the end of their days without the experimental knowledge of the way of sanctification by faith?” And the answer he gives is this: “Badly, of course, if they are mere professors, and not truly converted.… For they have not been justified, and therefore they cannot be either sanctified or glorified, but will be banished from the presence of God and the glory of his power forever.… But, if really converted, then the way of sanctification by faith in Jesus will be made plain in the evening of their earthly course.” That is to say, no man who has had only “the first conversion” can be saved: but there is no man who has only “the first conversion.” If he has “the first conversion,” he certainly will sooner or later have “the second.” God the Lord will take care of that. There are not then, after all, in Mr. Boardman’s scheme two kinds of saved men, merely justified and both justified and sanctified men. There are only two stages in salvation, which may come together or may be—even widely—separated in time; but which invariably are both experienced in the saved. This is, it will be perceived, a doctrine of “Perseverence.” All those who are “really converted,” says Mr. Boardman, are ultimately saved: God will see that they are also sanctified. But he can see no vinculum between the two, except the bare will of God: God will not permit one who has received Jesus Christ for justification to fail to receive Him also for sanctification. This is undoubtedly something—and might lead one to say, What God has joined together let not man put asunder. But it falls gravely short of the teaching of Scripture which connects sanctification with justification as its necessary issue and through it the necessary issue of the indivisible faith that lays hold on the indivisible salvation of the indivisible Christ. From even it, however, Mr. Boardman’s successors in the teaching of the Higher Christian Life have fallen away.
The most difficult matter in connection with Mr. Boardman’s doctrine of sanctification is to make perfectly sure precisely what he supposes we receive in this “second conversion” which it is his main purpose to establish. He says with great fervor that we receive in it by faith just Christ—and Christ, says he, is enough. “Exactly what is attained in this experience?” he asks.56 And he answers, “Christ. Christ in all His fulness. Christ as all in all. Christ objectively and subjectively received and trusted in. That is all. And that is enough.” But Christ, we must remember, is not received in this experience for the first time. He had already been received in the “first conversion,” between which and this “second conversion” the analogy is most complete.57 When He was received in the “first conversion” apparently that was not enough. In the “first conversion” Christ was received only for justification; only in the “second conversion” is He received for sanctification. Precisely what we get in Christ in this second conversion is, then, sanctification. It is not meant that the holiness of Christ is imputed to us in this transaction, so that we are in Christ looked upon as holy, though we are unholy in ourselves. Nor is it meant that the holiness of Christ is transfused into us in it, so that we are instantaneously made actually holy by our reception of Him for sanctification. Nor is it merely meant, as Dr. Jacob J. Abbott, who wrestles with the problem manfully in a review of the book in the Bibliotheca Sacra and Biblical Repository,58 suggests, that we receive in it in Christ “a proper equivalent for a completed sanctification.” Dr. Abbott, however, in his explanation of what he means by this comes very near to the truth—in one aspect of it. “We have made the ‘transfer’ to Christ,” he expounds; “we may, therefore, in the full confidence that he will carry on the work to its completion, dismiss trouble about our present imperfect state. We may act and feel and rejoice and triumph just as if the work was already consummated. We have ‘conquered an abiding peace, and gained the full salvation.’ ” Mr. Boardman certainly means to say that in receiving Christ by faith for sanctification, we receive a power which assures our sanctification. The actual realization in all its details of the holiness thus assured us he represents as a process; and he does not seem, at least clearly, to deny that it is realized by us in its details by means of effort. But he asserts that it is unfailingly realized, and he teaches that the strength by which it is realized is not our own but Christ’s. We are relieved from all anxieties, all care, all responsibility, about our sanctification: it is in Christ’s hands, and because it is in Christ’s hands, we are at peace. And being thus relieved from all anxiety about it, we may properly be said to have it, to have it not merely in prospect, but, in principle, in present possession—though in a possession that progressively realizes itself in fact.
Mr. Boardman certainly means this, we say: but just as certainly this is not all that he means. He teaches very distinctly that the sanctification which we receive in Christ does not come all at once, but in process. Although he is concerned to show that the analogy between the first and the second conversions is complete, he yet is constrained to allow59 that there is one matter in which “the pardon of sins” which we get in the one and “the purging of sins” which we get in the other differ with a difference that is radical. This is that “pardon is instantaneously entire, but cleansing from sin is a process of indefinite length.” It is secured instantaneously by the single act of faith, just as pardon is, but the difference is that, in the first conversion, “the work of Christ is already done the instant the soul believes, while in the second, the work of Christ remains yet to be done in the future after the soul believes.” “In the one,” he continues, “the atonement has been made, and the moment it is accepted, the pardon is complete; in the other, although the righteousness of Christ is perfect in which the soul is to be clothed, yet the work of unfolding the heart to itself in its wants, and the unfolding of Christ to the heart from glory to glory, in his sympathizing love, and purifying presence and power, as the soul shall be prepared to go onward and upward from faith to faith, is a work of time and progress.” Or, as he states it in another place,60 by the act of faith in accepting Christ for sanctification “the soul is now placed in the hands of Christ, as the clay in the hands of the potter; and by faith, Christ is received by the soul as the potter to mold it at his own sovereign will, into a vessel for the Master’s own use and for the King’s own table.” Thus a new starting point has been gained. A new and higher level has been attained, upon which the soul hereafter moves. But—and the warning is made express and very emphatic—a starting point is “not the goal reached, or the mark of the prize won.” There can be no doubt, then, that Mr. Boardman teaches that the sanctification which we make sure, absolutely sure, of in our “second conversion” is progressive and that we attain the goal only at the end of a long process. Nevertheless there is no reader of Mr. Boardman’s book who will not feel that, when this has been said, all is not yet said. In one way or another, Mr. Boardman also certainly teaches that when we accept Christ for sanctification, we not only make our sanctification certain but obtain it at once.
The puzzle into which Mr. Boardman’s readers are thrown at this point is relieved by an incidental remark which he lets drop in a letter, written in his old age to Miss Baxter, the founder of Bethshan. “I have known Him as my Saviour from my own conscious sins,” he writes,61 “as long as you have known your right hand from your left.” That is to say, from the beginning of his career as a teacher of the Higher Christian Life, he has looked upon Christ as delivering His people from “all conscious sins.” This is the precise key which is needed for what otherwise was in danger of appearing a sheer contradiction. What Mr. Boardman teaches, we now see clearly, is that the moment we accept Christ for sanctification we receive in Him freedom from all conscious sinning and at the same time absolute assurance in Him that He will progressively cleanse our “heart and life” in His own good time and way from all sin. There is here in other words, a double “experience,” the experience of an immediate deliverance from all conscious sinning and the experience of progressive deliverance of the heart and life from all sin whatsoever. How Christ proceeds in thus cleansing us gradually from all sin we have seen in descriptions already quoted: it is all summed up in the phrases62 that He progressively unfolds “the heart to itself in its wants,” and Himself “to the heart from glory to glory,” leading the soul thus steadily upwards from faith to faith. That this was settled doctrine to Mr. Boardman we perceive from its reëmergence in precise form in his addresses at the great Oxford Union Meeting in 1874.63 “In every one of us,” he is there reported as saying, “there is a whole unknown world. Sin cannot be abandoned by us until it is known. The instant we know it, we lay it on Christ, and the blood cleanseth it. We learn much of it when we are wholly given over to Christ, but now we can learn only progressively.… Be content to accept this, that there is a world within, which unfolds as we walk in the light. We see day by day what we could not see before. But every discovered need is at once met in the Lord Jesus, our mercy-seat. Condemnation for known transgression is not the necessity of our existence. In Him is available victory over every temptation—not partial, but complete. If you have faith in Christ, Christ acts in you.…” What is declared here is not that Christ is our future Sanctifier, but our present Sanctifier, our present Sanctifier in every successive present. At every moment we are in Him free from all conscious sin; but we are led by His sanctifying grace every successive moment to be conscious of more sin that we may be in Him freed from that too—until we are at last freed from all sin. This is a very ingenious combination of a constant sense of freedom from sin in Christ with a constantly increasing deliverance from sin by Christ. It enables Mr. Boardman to declare that we have from the moment of accepting Christ for sanctification “full salvation” in Him and yet to represent the salvation we have in Him as wrought out in a process which is not complete until life itself ends.64 Christ is at once a perfect present Saviour and a perfect prospective Saviour. “Christ,” he is able to say, therefore, with emphasis,65 “is no more freely offered in the faith of his atonement, than in the assurance of his personal presence and sanctifying power! He has not given himself to us in half of his offices freely, then to withhold himself from us in the other half. If we are content to take him as a half-way Saviour—a deliverer from condemnation, merely, but refuse to look to him as a present Saviour from sin, it is our own fault. He is a full Saviour. And to all who trust him he gives full salvation. To all and to each.”
From the point of view thus attained we are able to answer the question also how far Mr. Boardman’s teaching is “Perfectionism.” He is himself anxious to dissociate it from “Perfectionism,” and writes a whole chapter for that purpose.66 Nevertheless no other name can justly be given to it. In his view every Christian who rejoices “in full salvation through full trust in Jesus,” experiences Him as a “present Saviour” from sin. All such (having passed out of the seventh chapter of Romans into the eighth) “have learned that there is deliverance now here in this life through faith in Jesus.… They have learned experimentally, they know, that Jesus Christ our Lord, through faith in his name, does actually deliver the trusting soul from the cruel bondage of its chains under sin, now in this present time.”67 They do not look to death “as their deliverer … as if death was the sanctifier or the sanctification of the children of God”; they have an adequate sanctifier in the present Jesus. “The great difference between the two classes”—those that have taken Jesus for sanctification, and those who have taken Him only for justification—is that while the one has not, the other has “found Jesus, as a present Saviour from the present power of sin,”68 and may therefore give “thanks to God for triumphant deliverance already wrought, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The very gist of the experience” expounded, we are told with the emphasis of italics,69 is that those who possess it have “an assured knowledge of the presence and power of Jesus to deliver us from the dominion as well as the penalty of sin, and keep us by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” So the crowning thing which constitutes this fulness of faith “is the apprehension, not so much of the certainty of final salvation, as the joyful confidence of the presence of Jesus, as a present Saviour from sin, and a present captain of salvation, to direct us and sustain us in every conflict with Satan.” Of course it is the indwelling Christ that is here celebrated. The source of all the Christian’s confidence is that he knows “that Jesus is with us, and that He will keep us by His own power, and wash us in His own blood, and lead us by His own hand, and uphold us from falling, or lift us when fallen” (pp. 279–280). It is not in our state that we trust nor in our attainments, but in Christ alone. “The command is not—Now you have got into a high and holy state, so walk in that; But even as ye received christ jesus, so walk in him.”70 But—in Christ Jesus we have attained to a state, in which, abiding in Him, we abide. And the state which we attain in Him is a state of freedom in Him from conscious sin and ever increasing freedom in Him from all sin as we are made by Him—in whose hands we are as the clay in the hands of the potter—progressively conscious of more and more of the sins of which we are ignorant, only that we may be progressively delivered from them also. If this is the state of the Christian it is a state of freedom from conscious sin and that at an ever higher and higher level of actual holiness. This is very expressly a doctrine of perfectionism. It is not taught that the Christian is absolutely perfect—but what perfectionism teaches that? It is not taught that the Christian never sins. But the Christian’s sinning is made merely auxiliary and contributory to his holiness—the instrument which Christ his Sanctifier uses to elevate him continually to a higher and higher level in his perfection. In the most literal sense the Christian’s sins become stepping-stones to higher things.
It ought to be added, however, that in his latest years Mr. Boardman appears to have exchanged this most ingenious form of perfectionism by which a constant, conscious perfection is maintained in the course of a steady actual growth towards real perfection, for the exaggerated mysticism which has become a characteristic doctrine of the later advocates of the Higher Christian Life.71 We find him at least, say about 1880, writing to this effect in a letter to Miss Baxter, the founder of the Faith-Cure Home, Bethshan. “He is the life, the All of life,” he now writes,72 “for body as well as soul, complete. In Him dwelleth all fulness; we are filled full in Him.… Fulness, absolute fulness of life dwells in Him alone; and in us, only as He dwells in us by faith.… As long as we take healing from Him bit by bit, bits will yet be lacking. As long as we take strength from Him bit by bit, bits of infirmities will remain.… He is the great Expulsor of ‘the world, the flesh (self) and the Devil,’ and that by His own continual presence in us, in His own fulness, the Fulness of God. And so He is the Expulsor of sin, sickness, weakness, and all that can oppress, whether in spirit, soul, or body.” On this teaching, when we have Christ, Him Himself and not merely things from Him, we have at once all: there is no more room for growth—for Christ is past all growth and we are “uplifted” by the Spirit into Christ and He is unfolded “in all His fulness, the Fulness of God in us.” We can no longer be sick or weak or sinful in any, even the least degree, for these things are incompatible with the fulness of life we receive in Christ. This extreme doctrine of the mystical indwelling may be thought to be already prepared for by a distinction which Mr. Boardman had made a few years earlier, between the dwelling of the Spirit with us and in us. “Our Saviour makes this distinction,” he writes (p. 90) in his book, “In the Power of the Spirit,”73 “in connection with the promise of the Spirit as an indwelling one, ‘who is with you and shall be in you.’ The Spirit is with us to convince of sin before we are converted and to regenerate us in the new birth; and He is with us afterwards to work in us everything that is of God. But this is an entirely different thing from His coming to possess us fully for God as His temple; to purify us to God as His peculiar possession, purchased by the blood of the Son of God; fill us with all the fulness of God; attend us by the might of God; and preserve us blameless unto the coming of Christ.” But it belongs distinctively to Mr. Boardman’s later years and supplants in them the clever theory by which he reconciled, perhaps with a greater measure of success than any other theorizer of his school, the contradictory requirements that the Christian must receive in Christ immediate sanctification, and that the Christian’s sanctification must be a progressive attainment.
Of course it is easy to say that the sanctification received at once in Christ is not a real sanctification; it is only sanctification to the consciousness of the Christian himself. This might be expressed by saying that what the Christian receives at once when he receives Christ for sanctification is not sanctification but peace. Here is the root of the phraseology which speaks of this experience as obtaining “rest in Christ.” But this only uncovers to us the ingrained eudaemonism of the whole Higher Christian Life movement. It is preoccupied with the pursuit of happiness and tends in many ways to subordinate everything else to it. It is no accident that the title of Hannah Whitall Smith’s chief book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.” And it is no accident that Isaac M. See’s book bears the title, “The Rest of Faith.”74 Men grow weary of serving the Lord; they do not wish to fight to win the prize; they prefer to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease.
It will have been, no doubt, noticed that in his presentation of his notion of the Higher Christian Life Mr. Boardman has left a place for the divine initiative. The sanctification of the Christian is, in his view, in such a sense in Christ, that it is really Christ—or the Holy Spirit—who sanctifies him, according to His own plan and by means of His own working. This leaves a place for a doctrine of assurance—in which indeed, as we have seen, Mr. Boardman’s doctrine of sanctification very largely consists; and for a necessarily correlated doctrine of perseverance. In these respects Mr. Boardman’s mode of presenting the idea of the Higher Christian Life has an immense advantage over that which has been more common later. It seems really to suspend upon God the sanctification of the Christian, instead of, as has been common later, suspending the sanctifying work of God on the Christian. Whether Mr. Boardman was prepared, however, to go the whole way here, and to recognize without reserve, with Paul, that in all ways and in all respects it is “of God that we are in Christ Jesus,” may admit of some doubt. In his later years at least he had fallen away from, if he had ever heartily embraced, that pure confession. We find him at the Oxford Union Meeting in 1874,75 saying: “ ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ Each one has to open. A very little latch will keep a door fast,—a rusty lock will keep it very fast. You must undo the fastenings. It is not His way to force the door.” This sounds like the familiar teaching of the Pelagianizers: Christ is dependent in His action on our pleasure, and works—can work—only when we release Him for working. Theodore Monod on the next page, puts the general notion at its height. “Believing, we shall have life through the Lord Jesus. How much life? Precisely as much as we trust Him for. Christ is to each one what each one expects Him to be: if nothing be expected, He is nothing; if little, little; if much, much; if everything, everything.” If this be true, then it is not Christ who regulates our activities, and so secures our sanctification; but we who regulate His activities, and so secure our own sanctification. Christ is merely the instrument at our disposal by means of which we may sanctify ourselves—and we may use Him at our will, little or much, inefficiently or efficiently, according to our choice. Mr. Murray Shipley declares this in open language.76 There is “limitless power” in Christ for us, he tells us; and then he exhorts us: “The power is yours—use it!” He even compares it to electricity and magnetism—forces lying at our disposal, for us to use as we list. This conception is the precise antipodes of that to which Mr. Boardman more happily gives expression, when he tells us that the Christ whom we receive within us by faith sanctifies us by bringing us progressively to the knowledge of the sins which we ignorantly commit and delivering us from them one after another as they emerge in our consciousness. It is a matter of regret that it supplanted both in his own later teaching and in the teaching of his successors that better doctrine.
His successors naturally were numerous, and varied very much in the details of their teaching.77 It was, however, in Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith that the movement which he had inaugurated found its most capable propagators and it was through them that it attained its widest extension and its most lasting influence.78 Both Mr. and Mrs. Smith were born and bred Quakers. They did not receive, however, their doctrine of the Higher Christian Life from their Quaker inheritance. Mr. Smith indeed shows little or no Quaker influence in his teaching. He was through most of his active life a member of the Presbyterian Church, though, when he appeared as the leader of the Higher Life movement in London in 1873, he had renounced all ecclesiastical connection and presented himself as an unattached teacher, who would fain serve all denominations alike. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, remained essentially a Quaker throughout life, or, as it would be more accurate to say, grew steadily more and more Quaker. There is scarcely a distinctively Quaker conception which does not find expression at some time or other in her writings.79 In her later years, even the fundamental mystical doctrine of the “divine seed”80 is quite clearly enunciated and the characteristic Higher Life teaching developed out of it. “There is … in every man,” she expounds,81 “a seed of the divine life, a Christ-germ as it were. The old Quakers called it ‘the witness for God in the soul,’ ‘that which corresponds to the divine inspeaking.’ ” This same seed, she explains, while in everyone, is not quickened in all. But “whenever we feel inward stirrings and longings after holiness,” “the divine seed within us is being quickened.” “This is the begetting of God.” That is precisely Robert Barclay over again.82 But now Mrs. Smith goes on: “Then comes in our responsibility. We cannot create life, but we can let life live. We can ‘lay hold’ of it by an entire surrender to Christ, who is our life. We can accept Him as our life, and can refuse to let any other life live in us.” “This, then, is how the spiritual life is to grow; that is, by surrender and faith. We must ‘boycott’ the old self-life, and must deal only with the spiritual life. But we must not make another mistake, and think that although we cannot beget life by our self-efforts, we are to make it grow ourselves. We are as powerless in the matter of our growth as in the matter of our begetting. Life grows of itself. It is a mighty dynamic force that only asks a chance to grow. The lily grows by the power of its inward life principle, and according to the laws of a lily’s life. No amount of its own stretching or straining, nor any pulling up by others, would help its growth. It is all folly, and worse than folly, for Christians to make such mighty efforts to grow. If they would only let the Christ life within them grow, unhindered by their interference, they need have no fear of the result.”
According to this, every man is born with a Christ-germ in him. It needs only quickening. There is to be no new creation, therefore, but only a rousing into activity of something already existing. The Holy Spirit quickens this Christ-germ. Then we come into play. Whether this new-born life is to live depends on us. We had no power to quicken the Christ-germ into activity. But it has no such power of life in it as to force itself on us. We have to decide whether it shall live or not. Only if we welcome it will it live. Our welcoming of it is described, however, very lamely, and is made purely negative. It consists of a duplex act, surrender and faith. That is all we have to do, but our doing it is, somehow, the essential condition of the living of the new-born life quickened in us. We must not do anything or try to do anything positive, looking to the cherishing of this new-born life. Hands off!—that is the only thing we are to do. Perceiving it to be quickened—“feeling inward strivings and longings”—we must just stand aside and let it grow. That is the condition of its growing. This purely negative act is oddly described as “ ‘lay[ing] hold’ of it, by an entire surrender to Christ.” No wonder the words “lay hold” are put between quotation marks. “Surrendering” seems more like letting go than taking hold. And indeed letting go is what we are being told to do. It is miscalled “accepting” therefore. The attitude is one of complete passivity. We have nothing to do with the begetting of this new life and we have nothing to do with its growth. “Life grows of itself.” We feel the life stirring in us. We know ourselves to be alive in Christ because of it. And then, finger on lip, we softly step aside, and—let it grow. The condition of its growth is that we should thus step aside. That is Mrs. Smith’s exposition of the Christian life. No, it does not sound like Paul’s, “Work out your own salvation.” Nor like Christ’s, “Strive—agonize—to enter in by the narrow door.” It is just quietistic mysticism. There is some talk, no doubt, of our feeding our spiritual life on Christ, and that not merely by contemplation but by following Him—imitatio Christi. But that is a false note here, and we soon are brought back to the declaration that our fruit-bearing is not to be by effort, “but by spontaneous growth.” We are not to trouble ourselves about it, any more than the fig-tree troubles itself about its fruit. Effort to bear fruit is like tying apples on a tree: they are not the fruit of the tree unless they are spontaneously produced.
Mrs. Smith became perfectly well aware, then, that her teaching was in its essence genuinely Quaker teaching: and she delighted to present it in its organic relation with Quaker teaching. But she did not get it from the Quakers. She got it from the Methodists. Having got it from the Methodists, however, she recognized it as Quaker teaching also and rejoiced in that fact.83 “My dear father,” she tells us,84 “who was a genuine Quaker, as well as a most delightful one, owned to it. At the earliest opportunity I told him of our new discovery, and said, ‘And now, father, is not this the secret of thy life and the source of thy strength? Is not this the way thou hast always lived?’ I shall never forget his reply. ‘Why, of course it is, daughter,’ he said, with a joyous ring of triumph in his voice.…” But “I must confess,” adds Mrs. Smith,85 “that, although we found … that the Friends did actually teach it, yet it was among the Methodists we received the clearest light.” Having got it from the Methodists moreover, she got it in that distinctively Methodist form which separates justification and sanctification as two distinct experiences, and this is the form in which she teaches it throughout the whole course of the Higher Life Movement, though she reverted from it later to the Quaker form. “The Methodists were very definite about it,” she writes86 in her old age. “They taught definitely that there were two experiences in the Christian life, the first being justification, and the second sanctification, and they urged Christians not to be satisfied with justification (i.e., forgiveness) merely, but also to seek sanctification or the ‘second blessing,’ as they called it, as well. I should not myself express the truth in this fashion now, but at that time I must acknowledge it was most helpful.” In point of fact, this distinction between justification and sanctification was the hinge on which her whole Higher Life teaching turned, as we shall have occasion to note later.
Robert Pearsall Smith was born in Philadelphia, February 1, 1827, and died in England, at the age of 72, April 17, 1899. His wife, Hannah Whitall Smith, was some five years his junior (she was born in Philadelphia in 1832) and outlived him a dozen years, passing away in a serene old age at her English home in her eightieth year. Both had been born into Christian homes and had lived from their earliest years under exceptionally winning Christian influences. But it was not until the summer of 1858 that they found their “all-sufficient Saviour,” by a happy coincidence both on the same day.87 The language in which Mrs. Smith speaks of their experience of conversion is enthusiastic. In it they came “to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” as their “all-sufficient Saviour”: in it they “by faith in Him were ‘born again’ into the family of God.” We gather from certain “old papers” which she quotes in her biographical sketch of her son Frank, that they entered by it into a very happy Christian life.88
As the years passed, however, they became dissatisfied with their Christian attainments. They wanted, not a future deliverance only, but a present deliverance. For this they strove, but with only indifferent success. Looking back on these years Mr. Smith came to speak of them as “long and toilsome” years of “legality.” Mrs. Smith fell into a most unhappy condition of questioning the justice of God, for which she found relief only by adopting a doctrine of universal salvation. “I began to feel,” she says,89 “that the salvation in which I had been rejoicing was, after all, a very limited and very selfish salvation, and, as such, unworthy of the Creator who has declared so emphatically that his ‘tender mercies are over all His works,’ and above all unworthy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world for the sole and single purpose of saving the world. I could not believe that His life and death for us could be meant to fall so far short of remedying the evil that He came on purpose to remedy, and I felt it must be impossible that there could be any short-coming in the salvation He had provided.” She was already arguing from the “completeness” of Christ’s salvation to effects she imagined must therefore be included in it.
Soon she carried the argument one step farther. From her immediately subsequent point of view, she explains:90 “We had … learned thoroughly the blessed truth of justification by faith, and rejoiced in it with great joy. But here we had stopped. The equally blessed twin truth of sanctification by faith had not yet been revealed to us.” This new revelation came to them in the later sixties—we may apparently date it in its culmination somewhere about 1867. How it came Mrs. Smith describes in its broad outlines in “The Record of a Happy Life,” published in 1873.91 “In the fall of the year 1866, there came as Tutor to Frank, a young Baptist theological student. He had not been long in our house, before we discovered that he had a secret of continual victory and abiding rest of which we were ignorant. After watching him for many months, continually impressed with the wonderful purity and devotedness of his life, we began to ask him about it. And he told us that his simple secret was faith. He trusted, and Jesus delivered. He laid the care of his life, moment by moment, on the Lord, and the Lord took it, and made his life moment by moment what He would have it be. It was a wonderful revelation. At the same time, some of the workmen in our factory, having also come into the experience of this life of faith, began to come to our house to talk about it; and we all attended … a little evening meeting, held for the consideration and promotion of this truth.” The result was at last, that “… (we) were brought out into a clear knowledge of the truth of sanctification by faith, and realized in the wondrous peace, and victory, and liberty of this new life, that we had known before only half the gospel.”
Details are added in later accounts. The Smiths were now living at Millville, New Jersey, whither they had removed in the autumn of 1864 to take charge of the glass-factories there, belonging to the firm of Whitall, Tatum & Co. A little Methodist dressmaker in the village became Mrs. Smith’s Priscilla;92 Mr. Smith found his Aquila among the Methodist workmen in his factory:93 these took them unto them and expounded unto them the way of God more carefully. The Methodist Holiness Meetings became their resort: Inskip, McDonald, Methodist Holiness revivalists, became to them household names94—and they soon found themselves enthusiastic adherents of the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification by faith. There were points no doubt at which they held back. Even in the glow of her new discovery Mrs. Smith, while crying out with fervor, “And this is the Methodist ‘blessing of holiness,’ ” feels bound to add,95 “Couched by them it is true in terms that I cannot altogether endorse, and held amid what seems to me a mixture of error, but still really and livingly experienced and enjoyed by them.” Despite these minor reserves she was not backward in acknowledging that she owed her new Blessing to the Methodists, and what she now began to teach was in essence what they taught. Mr. Smith was won to the new doctrine with more difficulty; it was Mrs. Smith herself who put the finishing touches to his conversion. “At first my husband felt somewhat frightened. He continually fell back on the argument that the ‘old man’ must always bring us into bondage. ‘Impossible or not,’ I said, ‘it is certainly in the Bible, and I would like to know what thee thinks of Romans 6:6. What can this mean but that the power of sin is really to be conquered, so that we no longer need to serve sin! ‘Startled, he exclaimed, ‘There is no such passage in the Bible.’ ‘Oh! yes there is,’ I replied, and turning to my Bible I showed it to him. With this verse, of course, he had been familiar, but it now appeared as if he had never seen it before. It brought conviction, however, and from that time he did not rest until he had discovered the truth for himself.”96 Hermann Benser is quite right therefore when he emphasizes that it was under Methodist influences that Mr. Smith attained his new point of view;97 and Theodor Jellinghaus98 is entirely accurate when he pronounces him a spiritual pupil of Inskip, Upham and Boardman, but equally right when he adds: “In his doctrine and mode of presenting it he agrees, however, most closely with Boardman.”99
With his characteristic enthusiasm Mr. Smith gave himself, at once on acquiring his new views, to their zealous propagation. His chief book, “Holiness through Faith,” after having appeared first in instalments in a periodical, was published in 1870. In the summer of 1871 he experienced at a Methodist Camp Meeting, in immediate response to prayer, what he understood to be “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” equipping him for fuller service. His description of that experience is very striking.100 His whole being was inexpressibly filled with God, so that he was less conscious of what his senses presented to his apprehension than of what was revealed to him within and no creature was so real to his soul as the Creator Himself: losing nothing of his sense-perception, everything was yet glorified by the divine revelation. Mrs. Smith gives us a temperate account of the occurrence. “The truth came to me,” she says,101 “with intellectual conviction and delight; my husband, being more of an emotional nature, received the Blessing in true Methodist fashion, and came home full of Divine glow. He said he had retired to the woods to continue the prayer by himself. The whole world seemed transformed to him. This ecstasy lasted for weeks, and was the beginning of a wonderful career of power and blessing.” It was in the power of this endowment that he appeared in London in the spring of 1873 as a world-evangelist.102 We have already spoken of the remarkable meetings begun in London in the spring of 1873, which ran up to the great Oxford Union Meeting of August 29 to September 7, 1874. Mr. Boardman participated in them, but they were Mr. Smith’s meetings; and by the time that the Broadlands Conference of July 17–23 and very especially the Oxford Union Meeting was reached, Mr. Boardman had fallen well into the background.103 The Oxford Meeting was called by Mr. Smith, was presided over by him, was governed in all its details by him with calculated adjustment to the effect desired, and was, in a word, but an instrument of his propaganda. The effect of the meeting was nothing less than amazing; and from it the propaganda was widened out with great energy and skill to cover all Britain, and then carried over to the Continent. Mr. Smith himself, on the invitation of highly-placed theologians, bore it to Berlin where, on the request of the Court-preacher Baur, the Emperor placed the old Garrison Church at his disposal. From Berlin he went to Basel, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, down the Rhine to Bonn, and thence to Barmen, everywhere arousing the greatest enthusiasm and leaving permanent results—although he could address his audiences only through an interpreter, and could only shout to them as his battle cry a single sentence in their own language, the refrain of a hymn composed for the meetings by Pfarrer Gebhardt of Zurich—Jesus errettet mich jetzt, “Jesus saves me now.”104 Meanwhile preparations were making in England for the holding of another great international convention which should surpass even the Oxford Meeting. It was held at Brighton from May 29 to June 7, 1875, when the climax was reached. Mr. Smith again presided and again was the chief speaker. The enthusiasm already at a high pitch was raised still higher. Plans were laid for continuing the campaign vigorously throughout England—when suddenly it was announced that all of Mr. Smith’s engagements were cancelled and he had returned to America. That was his dramatic definitive disappearance from public life.
What had happened to occasion this sudden withdrawal at its very culminating point from a work enthusiastically prosecuted was not fully made known to the public. Mr. Smith had had a fall from his horse in 1861 which had been followed by congestion of the brain and long-continued distressing nervous symptoms;105 and it was understood that it was to seek relief from some of the sequelæ of this accident that he had come to Europe in 1873.106 It was said that a return of this disorder now rendered a complete rest imperative. But the public knew very well that this was not all that was to be said. The air was full of rumors of the most disquieting kind; Theodor Jellinghaus characterizes them as “a stream of the most rancorous and malignant calumnies,” to which no one who has any respect for the ninth commandment should listen.107 The rumors were not, however, without foundation in fact. And Mr. Smith’s friends were compelled before the end of the year to issue an explanation. This explanation was signed by S. A. Blackwood, Evan H. Hopkins, Marcus Martin, Donald Matheson, R. C. Morgan, Lord Radstock, J. B. Smithers, and Henry Varley, and ran as follows: “Rumors of an exceedingly painful character with regard to a prominent teacher, which had for some time been in private circulation, having now had currency given to them in your and other papers, we consider it right, in the interests of truth, and in justice to the person in question, to make the following statement:—Some weeks after the Brighton Convention, it came to our knowledge that the individual referred to had, on some occasions in personal conversation, inculcated doctrines which were most unscriptural and dangerous. We also found there had been conduct which, although we were convinced that it was free from evil intention, was yet such as to render action necessary on our part. We therefore requested him to abstain at once from all public work, and when the circumstances were represented to him in their true light, he entirely acquiesced in the propriety of this course, and recognized with deep sorrow the unscriptural and dangerous character of the teaching and conduct in question. In addition to the above, a return of the distressing attacks of the brain, from which he had previously suffered, rendered the immediate cessation from work an absolute necessity.” This statement, it will be observed, makes it clear that Mr. Smith’s withdrawal from the public agitation in the interests of the Higher Christian Life which was being vigorously carried on under his leadership, was not at his own instance or primarily on account of illness: his illness is brought in very pointedly as subsidiary and apparently as a subsequently arising justification of his retirement. His withdrawal was compelled by the intervention of his fellow-workers in the agitation, and that distinctly on the double ground of erroneous teaching and faulty conduct. Precisely what the nature of his “unscriptural and dangerous” teaching was, and exactly what the conduct was108 which compelled intervention, the statement does not tell us, and a certain obscurity hangs about the matter accordingly until to-day.109 It seems, however, to have been no secret at the time that Mr. Smith’s dereliction was just that he had “lapsed into antinomianism,”110 and one of the journals of the day tells us more explicitly,111 that “the special error against which the gentlemen above named protested was the positive and unqualified assertion, that those who are ‘in Christ’ are no longer subject to the law of God, as the rule of their conduct; that they are lifted to a higher sphere of life, and walk in a freedom unknown to those who are strangers to the exalted experience of the new and better life.”
This was the end of Mr. Smith’s public career. He had yet a quarter of a century to live, a quarter of a century of suffering and seclusion after that short decade of exciting agitation and popular applause. A short, pathetic note from his wife to Mr. J. B. Figgis, one of his companions in that agitation, written in the midst of this quarter of a century (March 29, 1883) may contain the essential story of the whole of it: and it seems to us that it may bring us some aid—the aid of significant silences—to an understanding of what had happened following the Brighton Conference in 1875. “Mr. Smith’s health,” writes Mrs. Smith,112 “is very poor, and he is obliged to live a very quiet and domestic life. He thinks he cannot live long, but, of course, this is something we know nothing about. Some physicians say that he has a very serious heart trouble. I believe myself that the springs of his life were sapped in 1874, and that existence can never be anything but weariness and suffering to him again in this world.”
In our absorption in Mr. Smith’s remarkable career we must not forget the woman by his side. We have seen her finding Christ as her “all-sufficient Saviour” on the same day with him;113 and afterwards, when she had discovered that she had not, after all, found Christ as her “all-sufficient Saviour” but only as her halfway Saviour, leading him with her into the devious pathway of “the second blessing” of “holiness by faith.” The immediately subsequent years of eager propagation of this new-found gospel were as much hers as his. At the great Oxford and Brighton meetings she played almost as great a part as he did. Every day she gave a Bible reading, ostensibly to the ladies, really to the gathering crowds.114 “But there were other portions of the day,” writes Mr. J. B. Figgis, of the Oxford Meeting,115 “at which some special speaker had the whole attention of the audience. This was especially the case at 3 o’clock each afternoon, when Mrs. Pearsall Smith gave a Bible Reading. Anything more impressive or delightful … than this series of addresses we never remember hearing.” Of the Brighton Convention he writes:116 “Such was the enthusiasm that each afternoon people crowded together to listen to Bible-readings by Mrs. Pearsall Smith, with interest so keen that the Great Dome could not hold the numbers that came; and after the earliest days the readings had to be repeated an hour later in the Corn Exchange.” She shared also, in a measure, her husband’s retirement after 1875, but not with such complete, as not with such enforced, silence. Mr. Smith’s literary as well as oral propaganda now came to an end.117 Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, although from this time on she appeared only occasionally on public platforms, merely shifted her constant activity into more literary channels. Her calmness of disposition and greater facility of literary expression would have given her, in any event, a much larger hearing in this department of labor than her husband could ever have aspired to. Her book, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” first published in 1875, has sold in innumerable editions, and Mr. Figgis feels able to say of it118 that “with a wider circulation than any other book on holiness,” it has had “greater effect in leading pilgrims to this River than any other writing of any other man or woman of the time, with the possible exception of some of Miss Havergal’s.” Of her writings in general he declares119 that they have done “more than any publications ever written to extend the knowledge of the truth of sanctification.” Through them120 Mrs. Smith very easily becomes one of the most conspicuous figures and one of the most influential factors in the Higher Life movement.
The hinge on which the whole system of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith’s Higher Life teaching turns is the separation of sanctification from justification as a distinct attainment in Christ.121 Sanctification is not thought of by them as involved in justification, and necessarily issuing from it in the unfolding of the salvation received through faith in the “all-sufficient Saviour.” It is thought of, on the contrary, as a wholly new acquisition, sought and obtained by an entirely fresh act of faith. The fundamental fact of their religious experience was that they were dissatisfied with the results of their acceptance of Christ as their “all-sufficient Saviour, bearing” their “sins in His own body on the tree.”122 They felt the imperative need of a fuller salvation than that exercise of faith had as yet brought them, and they were unwilling to await God’s slow methods of developing this fuller salvation through the conflicts of life. They supposed themselves to have obtained it at once by supplementing their first faith, through which they had received only justification, by an additional faith,123 through which they received sanctification. And this they proclaimed to be really God’s appointed way for the sanctification of His children. Their whole gospel consists essentially, therefore, in the proclamation of what they speak of as “sanctification by faith,” by which they mean immediate sanctification by a special exercise of faith directed to that particular end. They imagine that thus they escape the necessity of awaiting the completion of salvation only in some future experience. Though it comes in two separate stages, it does not come in their view by process. Each of these stages is an immediate attainment following at once on the exercise of a faith particularly for its attainment. We are freed from the guilt of sin by one act of faith, and we are freed from the power of sin by another act of faith. It is the immediacy of the effect which is the point of chief insistence: the suspension of it on faith alone is only a means to that end. Hence the watchwords, “A present salvation”—“Jesus saves me now!” and “Sanctification by faith alone”—“Not by works or by effort, but by faith.”124
This is what Mrs. Smith means when she describes the gospel which they proclaimed as “the glad tidings of a sufficiency to be found in the Lord Jesus, not only for our future salvation, but for our utmost present needs as well.”125 The present need which she has in mind is “real and present victory” over sin. And this is what Theodor Jellinghaus means when he explains126 that the essential teaching of the Oxford Union Meeting was that “Jesus’ blood, death and resurrection has delivered and delivers us not only from the guilt of sin, but also from all the power of sin, according to the Scriptures; that our sanctification comes not in parts through our efforts and self-mortifications according to the law, but through surrendering trust in Christ’s redemptive power and leading.” The words are capable of a good sense, as also are the words of his crisper statement: “Jesus is for every believing Christian a present deliverer, who lets none sit and sigh in the bonds of sin.” But this good sense is not the sense intended. The sense intended is that those who have been justified by faith may attain sanctification also with equal immediacy by an equally simple exercise of faith. This is, of course, perfectionism. The exact variety of perfectionism that it is may be the object of further enquiry, but it is already declared in this general statement that what is taught is some form of perfectionism. The immediate attainment of sanctification and perfectionism are convertible terms.
The whole whirlwind campaign conducted by Mr. Smith from 1873 to 1875 was simply a concerted “drive” of American Perfectionism on the European stronghold.127 It is interesting to observe the forces converging to the assault at the Oxford Union Meeting. The presence on the platform there of Dr. Asa Mahan, the chief figure among the Oberlin Perfectionists, by the side of Mr. Boardman and Mr. Smith, reveals the significance of that meeting to the leaders of all types of the perfectionist movement and their united effort to secure through it their common ends. Whatever differences may have existed among them in details of teaching, they were conscious of unity among themselves and between them and their Wesleyan colleagues, in the main object in view. In point of fact, Dr. Mahan was in complete harmony with Mr. Smith in the essence of the matter. For him, too, sanctification—and he at least felt no hesitation in saying that he meant “perfect sanctification”—was at any moment obtainable by the Christian by a simple act of faith. For him, too, this sanctification was the work of the indwelling Christ alone. And for him, too, all effort on our part in the working of it out was excluded.128
Even on one point on which we might expect to find Dr. Mahan more decided than Mr. Smith there is no real difference between them, although Dr. Mahan gives to his exposition of it a somewhat greater fulness. We mean the reference to the sinner’s own will of the really decisive action in every stage of his salvation, so that it may properly be said that his salvation continuously hangs purely on himself. Nothing could exceed the decisiveness of Mr. Smith’s statements. The apostle Peter, referring to the case of Cornelius and his companions, speaks (Acts 15:9) of God “purifying their hearts by faith.” He is not speaking here of sanctification, it is true; but Mr. Smith takes him as if he were. The point to observe is that the passage, so understood, raises no barrier to Mr. Smith’s affirming sharply, “We purify ourselves.” God purifies us, says Peter; we purify ourselves, says Mr. Smith. We purify ourselves, but only by faith; and because we purify ourselves by faith, that means that we purify ourselves by using God to purify us; we by faith secure the purifying of our hearts by God. That is Mr. Smith’s meaning when he says129—to quote the sentence fully now—“We purify ourselves, not by effort, but by faith; not by works, but by the precious blood of Christ.” He does not dream of questioning that it is we that purify ourselves: it is only a question of how we do it. He goes further, and declares that even the maintenance of our purified condition depends wholly on ourselves. “This clean and humble condition, however,” he continues, “is ours only while the blood is applied by faith, for the very moment faith ceases to apply it, corruption ensues, and the same old bitter waters flow out.”
It is not possible for Dr. Mahan, then, to be more decided than Mr. Smith is, in referring our sanctification wholly to ourselves as its procuring cause, at the very same moment that he is referring it to God as its effecting cause. But Dr. Mahan explains more fully how the matter is arranged.130 The sinner, according to him, has power to “avail himself of proffered grace,” to “abide in Christ.” And, having this power, it is his part to exercise it; and when he exercises it he is properly said to sanctify himself—though, of course, it is the grace of which he avails himself, the Christ in whom he abides, that immediately works the sanctification. “The sinner,” he says, “is able to make himself a ‘new heart and a new spirit,’ because he can instantly avail himself of proffered grace. He does literally ‘make to himself a new heart and a new spirit,’ when he yields himself up to the influence of that grace. The power to cleanse from sin lies in the blood and grace of Christ; and hence, when the sinner ‘purifies himself by obeying the truth through the spirit,’ the glory of his salvation belongs, not to him, but to Christ.” It is our business to “yield ourselves up to the influence of grace,” which is identified with abiding in Christ. “We can ‘abide in Christ,’ and thus bring forth the fruit required of us.” But it is the grace to which we yield ourselves, the Christ in whom we abide, that is the immediate worker of the actual effect. “Herein also lies the ability of the creature to obey the commands of God, addressed to us as redeemed sinners.” We cannot obey them directly by our own act, but we can obey them, indirectly, by using Christ as an instrument through which we may perform what is required of us. “ ‘He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.’ ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.’ These declarations are literally and unqualifiedly true. We can ‘abide in Christ,’ and thus bring forth the fruit required of us. If by unbelief we separate ourselves from Christ, we of necessity descend, under the weight of our own guilt and depravity, down the sides of the pit, into the eternal sepulchre.” It is not Christ in the last analysis that sanctifies us: He is merely the instrument through which we perform this work. Facit per alium facit per se: we are our own sanctifiers. Nevertheless, Christ is the sole instrument through which we can sanctify ourselves, and therefore faith, or “abiding in Christ,” is the sole thing we have to do in the matter. And here comes in the Quietism of this teaching. “There is one circumstance connected with my recent experience,” says Dr. Mahan,131 “to which I desire to turn the special attention of the reader. I would here say, that I have forever given up all idea of resisting temptation, subduing any lust, appetite, or propensity, or of acceptably performing any service for Christ, by the mere force of my own resolutions. If my propensities, which lead to sin, are crucified, I know that it must be done by an indwelling Christ. If I overcome the world, this is to be the victory, ‘even our faith.’ If the great enemy is to be overcome, it is to be done ‘by the blood of the Lamb.’ ” We sanctify ourselves; but we do it only by faith. Beyond faith there is nothing for us to do. The Christ, released for the sanctifying work by faith, does the rest; and we must leave it to Him wholly. In all these matters Mr. Smith’s teaching simply repeats Dr. Mahan’s.
The primary zeal of these writers is naturally to establish the completeness of the sanctification which we receive immediately on faith. This amounts in their hands, as it amounted in the hands of the Wesleyans, to an attempt to substitute a doctrine of Perfectionism for the doctrine of Perseverance, and to discover the completeness of salvation in what we find in our possession, rather than in “what we shall be,” which an apostle tells us is not yet made manifest. A very good example of how Scripture is dealt with in this interest is supplied by the address which Dr. Mahan delivered at the first morning hour of the first full day of the Oxford Union Meeting.132 He seizes here upon the declaration of Heb. 7:25, that Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him. The idea of the “uttermost” of this passage includes that of “glorification.” As A. B. Davidson puts it (“The Epistle to the Hebrews,” p. 142): “The offering of Christ enables men to draw near unto God; those that thus draw near He is able to save completely, to bring them through all hindrances to that honour and glory designed for them, which He Himself has reached as the Captain of their salvation.” But for this Dr. Mahan has no consideration. He emphasizes merely the strong assertion of the completeness of Christ’s salvation contained in the word, and then demands, dramatically: “Why is that power in Christ revealed, if we are not to avail ourselves of it? Why are we told what He is able to do, if we suppose that He is not ready to do it, or that we are not authorized to expect it?” “Expand your hearts,” he exhorts us; “expect to receive, and receive all that He is able to do.” “It is a great sin,” he declares, “to ‘limit the Holy One of Israel.’ ‘Save to the uttermost!’ Dare to cease to limit His power, and take Christ at His word!” The response, of course, rises to the lips of every simple believer—that the power of Christ to save to the uttermost is the foundation of all our hope, and that everyone who believes in Him commits himself to Him for this and nothing less; we do, all of us, expect to receive and do receive it all, without limitation and without diminution, and in this expectation, sure and steadfast, lies all our comfort and all our joy. But the revelation of it would not need to be made to us—we would not need to be told of it—if it were a present experience, not a matter of hope. Nor would the revelation made in this great declaration be true, if the measure of salvation we have already received were all that we could look to Him for, if a complete salvation both of soul and body were not the portion of His saints. And certainly it would not be true if even the measure of salvation we have already received from Him were unstable or liable to be lost to-morrow, its maintenance depending not on Him but on us. The whole force of the declaration hangs precisely upon our being as yet viatores, not consummatores; exactly what it does is to give us assurance of the consummation. The state of that Christian is sad indeed who must believe that what he already is is the uttermost which Christ is able to do for him, and that henceforth he must depend on himself.
On the afternoon of the very same day, Mr. Smith, in the very same spirit, exhorted his hearers not to put an arbitrary limitation on the power of God by postponing the completion of their salvation to the end of their “pilgrimage,” and so virtually attributing to death the sanctifying work which they ought to find rather in Christ. “Shall not Christ do more for you than death?” he demands, and then he develops a reductio ad absurdum. We expect a dying grace by which we shall be really made perfect. How long before death is the reception of such a grace possible? “An hour? A day? Peradventure a week? Possibly two or three weeks, if you are very ill? One good man granted this position until the period of six weeks was reached, but then said that more than six weeks of such living”—that is, of course, living in entire consecration and full trust, with its accompanying “victory”—“was utterly impossible!” “Are your views as to the limitations of dying grace,” he inquires, “only less absurd because less definite?” The absurdity lies, however, only in the assumption of this “dying grace”—Mr. Smith describes it as “a state of complete trust to be arrived at, but not until death.” The Scriptures know of no such thing; they demand complete trust from all alike, as the very first step of the conscious Christian life. It finds its real source in the Arminian notion that our salvation depends on our momentary state of mind and will at that particular moment. Whether we are ultimately saved or not will depend, then, on whether death catches us in a state of grace or fallen from grace. Our eternal future, thus, hangs quite absolutely on the state of mind we happen (happen is the right word here) to be in at the moment of death: nothing behind this momentary state of mind can come into direct consideration. This absurd over-estimate of the importance of the moment of dying is the direct consequence of the rejection of the Bible doctrine of Perseverance and the substitution for it of a doctrine of Perfection as the meaning of Christ being our Saviour to the uttermost. The real meaning of this great declaration is just that to trust in Jesus is to trust in One who is able and willing and sure to save to the uttermost—to the uttermost limit of the progress of salvation. Death in this conception of the saving Christ loses the factitious significance which has been given to it. Our momentary state of mind at the moment of death is of no more importance than our momentary state of mind at any other instant. We do not rest on our state of mind, but on Christ, and all that is important is that we are “in Christ Jesus.” He is able to save to the uttermost, and faithful is He that calls us, who also will do it. He does it in His own way, of course; and that way is by process—whom He calls He justifies, and whom He justifies He glorifies. He does it; and therefore we know that our glorification is as safe in His hands as is any other step of our salvation. To be progressively saved is, of course, to postpone the completion of our salvation to the end of the process. Expecting the end of the process only at the time appointed for it is no limitation upon the power of the Saviour; and looking upon death as the close of the process is a very different thing from looking upon death as a Saviour.
It will not require to be pointed out that the whole tendency of such arguments as we have just quoted is to establish the immediate attainment by faith of all that can be subsumed under the term “salvation.” Whatever Christ came to give is ours to-day—not in developing, but in developed form—for the taking. “You must agree with us,” says Mr. Smith,133 “that whatever the Holy Spirit makes us to yearn for, Christ came to give.” Once the chief need of our soul was pardon of our sins; we trusted Christ for it and got it. Now, says he, substitute for pardon, “purity of heart,” “holiness,” being “filled with the Spirit,” wholehearted “love to God and your neighbor,” or “righteousness.” Trust Christ for them and you shall have them all, in their completeness, here and now. Here is a doctrine of salvation, not by faith, but by faiths. Not content with dividing salvation into two halves, each of which is to be obtained by its own special act of faith, Mr. Smith pulverizes it into numerous distinct particles, each of which is to be sought and acquired by its own separate act of faith. The principle he lays down is that we are to trust in Christ for whatever our soul feels the need of, in each several instance, separately, and thus pile faith on faith. In this way we make our way through the Christian life by repeated acts of believing. Not only so, but it is to us in each several instance precisely according to our faith. “Full faith gives the full deliverance; partial faith the partial victory. So much faith, so much deliverance, no more, no less!”134 It is our faith, then, which regulates our grace; and that means that it is we and not God who save. “The stream can ascend no higher than the passage that conveys its waters from the fountain. Faith is the channel. While the fountain is infinite in depth and in height, its flow is regulated by the channel opened for it.” Mr. Smith himself draws the inference with reference to sanctification, and that with the emphasis of italics. “If we would live up to the gospel standard of holiness, we must believe up to the gospel standard of faith.”135 This is a dismal outlook for those of “little faith,” and indeed is as complete a doctrine of work-salvation as Pelagius’ own. We advert to it, however, only by the way, as illustrative of Mr. Smith’s general conception of “the way of life.” Despite the confidence with which it is presented, it is held in subordination to the dichotomizing of salvation into justification and sanctification—each the product of its own act of faith. It may serve, however, to make clear to us that Mr. Smith supposes sanctification to be attainable in its fulness by mere faith—provided, of course, the faith is full faith. He that yearns for perfect sanctification can have it on perfect faith. “Full faith gives the full deliverance.”
Precisely how Mr. Smith conceived his full sanctification, however, it requires some further discrimination to make clear. Theodor Jellinghaus wishes us not to confound it with the “perilous” Wesleyan doctrine of a complete deliverance from sin.136 He is right in insisting on this. Mr. Smith, like Mr. Boardman before him, teaches only that we are saved from all sinning; Wesley, that we are saved from all sin. The way Jellinghaus expresses the distinction between the two parties is this:137 “Whereas Wesley teaches a sudden destruction (einmaliges Ertöten) of sin, so that every sinful motion that shows itself afterwards is a proof of the loss of this stage of Christian perfection, they” (that is, Messrs. Boardman and Smith) “teach that the Christian who hungers after deeper sanctification enters, through complete surrender and trust in the power of the blood of Christ to cleanse and preserve from all sin, into such a condition of the soul that he can continuously conquer. If he, nevertheless, stumbles again, he is to confess and repent and be cleansed again, and then enter boldly at once again into the same condition.” They accordingly read 1 John 1:7, with an emphasis on the present tense: “If we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,” and interpret it as meaning that our cleansing from sin is a continuous act. Wesley, on the contrary, read the text erroneously with a past tense: “The blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sin,” and referred 1:8 to false teachers who denied that they were by nature sinful, needing redemption and purification by Christ. Jellinghaus goes on to say138 that accordingly there was very little of the specifically Wesleyan doctrine heard at the Oxford Union Meeting. What was heard daily was declarations like these: “I feel my inward corruption more than ever”; “we remain in ourselves sinful and liable to sin”; “sinless perfection is pure nonsense—we do not dream of such a thing”; “no one can say I can be holy if I will”; “our strength in faith lies in the knowledge of our own sinfulness and inability to conquer”; “you cannot be cleansed to-day from all unconscious faults, but only from the faults and sins which God has as yet revealed to you”; “we are cleansed only according to our knowledge or our light, therefore as we advance we discover sins in us hitherto unknown, which must be destroyed”; “the sanctified Christian is not holy in his own nature, but only through a life of faith in Christ, which makes and preserves us holy”; “it is not sin that is dead, but we are dead to sin.” All this amounts only to saying that the precise teaching of Messrs. Boardman and Smith is that when we receive Christ for sanctification what we receive is a sanctifying power, able to make and keep us holy in all our acts. In his earlier and better period Mr. Boardman read the last clause, rather: “pledged to make and keep us holy in all our acts.” Mr. Smith reads it rather: “able to make and keep us holy in all our acts—if we constantly rest in perfect trust upon Him for it.” Thus he throws us back on our own activity to maintain (through Christ) our sanctification. The state itself into which we come by our trust is a state of sanctification, of holiness, of perfection; but a state of perfection of acts, not of heart, and so a state of perfection which has its seat not in us but in Christ. We are perfect as long as we abide in Christ. As Theodor Jellinghaus puts it:139 “It is a fundamental idea of the holiness-movement that sanctification and undisturbable peace of heart may be found and maintained by believingly obedient rest on the sanctifying will and gracious leading of God in Christ Jesus.”
On its negative side this teaching denies that the sinful nature is eradicated. Mr. Smith’s language is not always exact in this matter. He speaks repeatedly of “the purification of the heart by faith”—partly, no doubt, because of his erroneous interpretation of Acts 15:9 of sanctification. He even sometimes speaks very confusingly of our having received “a new nature” when we believed, though, when he does so, he is careful to explain that the reception of this “new nature” has not extruded the old nature. “Being born of God,” he says,140 “we received, in addition to the old nature (the flesh) a new nature, an actual existence begotten of God, of ‘incorruptible seed.’ ” He even speaks in one passage, indeed,141 most inconsistently, as if we had been changed in our very being by our union with Christ. “Shall the larger part of my being be held by Satan? Nay, henceforth it shall gravitate, not toward sin, but toward God.… No longer ‘prone to wander,’ though liable to it every moment, the current of our being sets toward God and not toward sin.” All such language must be set down to the credit of traditional modes of expression intruding into Mr. Smith’s speech. It does not express his own point of view. This he declares most explicitly. “Remember,” says he,142 “that you are now no better in and of yourself—only you have learned that you may dare to trust Christ for more than you ever conceived of before.” He does not teach, he says,143 “perfection in the flesh,” but rather its exact antithesis. Nay, not only does there not dwell in the flesh any good thing, but “there never will be any good thing in it, or coming out of it.” The Articles of the Church of England speak truly when they say, “This infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerate.” We are always to pray, “Forgive us our debts”—“for, even where we are not immediately conscious of displeasing God, there is so much in the debilitated condition of our moral nature, and in our lives, at an immense moral distance from the perfect holiness of God.” The passage from which we are quoting143 bears on its face an apologetical character. Mr. Smith is obviously defending himself from criticisms which had been made of his doctrine. His defense consists in the very emphatic denial that the “infection of nature” is eradicated or that we are ever freed wholly from sin.
He does teach, however, on the positive side, as he gives us at once to understand,144 that we are freed from sinning. Even here, however, a qualification is introduced. He does not teach that we are freed from all sinning, but only from all conscious sinning. He is willing to admit that there is a standard of holiness above the holiness to which he contends that we may attain. Our own perceptions of what is right and what is wrong do not constitute a final standard: “Christ is our only standard.” “Trespass against the known will of God” is therefore only “one, but not the only, definition of sin.” Under a higher definition of sin we could not claim to be free from sin; but under this lower definition of sin—which is one though not the only definition of sin—we are, on believing, made free from sin. We are not, then, “to ‘continue in sin,’ in the sense of known evil.”145 “Christ came to save us from this.” This does not mean that Christ came to save us from this only. Christ meets “in the atonement, not only all conscious guilt, but also all unperceived evil in our moral condition or ways.” He saves us from all our guilt. But, besides saving us from our guilt, he saves us also from all conscious sinning. “Christ came to heal us, not to leave His Church one general hospital of sick souls”146—a simile borrowed possibly from Isaac M. See147 and running in its implications somewhat beyond Mr. Smith’s meaning. For Mr. Smith does not deny that the Church contains only sick souls. He only affirms that Christ, on being appealed to for that purpose, takes away all the sickness of which these souls are conscious. The Church may, and should, then, contain none who are consciously sick; and the simile is intended to affirm strongly that this is Christ’s purpose for His Church—that all its members should be free from all known sin. Christ “will give” us “not pardon only, but deliverance from the power and act of sin.”
Mr. Smith thus very distinctly teaches a perfectionism. But the perfectionism which he teaches is equally distinctly a subjective, not an objective, perfectionism. It might be described as living up to the light that is in us. “It is noticeable,” he says148 “how constantly the Scripture speaks to our consciousness, rather than in absolute terms, carefully avoiding all metaphysical distinctions, and suiting its expressions to the realized need of the believing hearer.” Accordingly we must define both sin and holiness relatively to our consciousness. Sin is “the consciousness of transgression of God’s will”; holiness, “loving God with the whole heart, unconscious of any active, inward evil.” What is asked of us, he explains, is not perfect faultlessness, but “a conscience void of offence”; not “absolute perfection,” but living “up to the measure of today’s consciousness.” “The apostles,” says he,149 “neither claim an absolute holiness, nor open the door for a defiled conscience.” He speaks on this subject from 2 Chron. 29:16, which tells us that the priests brought out of the temple all the uncleanness that they found in it. He emphasizes the words “all that they found.” “It was ‘all that they found,’ that they carried forth,” he says.150 “We shall never know in this life the absolute purity of the Lord Jesus. We are, and ever shall be, at an immense moral distance from ‘the Holy One,’ but we cry to God for light to see the evil within us progressively as we are able to bear it; and we must accept strength from Him to ‘carry forth’ all that in our dim vision we can see of ‘filthiness out of the holy place.’ ” “There never was but One,” he says again,151 “who, from the cradle to the grave, was in every thought, affection, and action, a complete burnt-offering. Everything in us is short of the perfect holiness of Christ. Yet we may, up to the very furthest measure of our consciousness, present ourselves living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. In each moment, as to the attitude of our souls we may, so far as we see and know, be wholly the Lord’s, yet, with each day’s increasing intelligence, being more and yet more completely the Lord’s.” “ ‘The blood cleanseth’—is ever cleansing sin from the conscience, as it is progressively revealed”; which is not exactly what 1 John 1:7 says.
We perceive that in this conception of the nature of holiness, as living up to the light that is in us, a doctrine of progressive sanctification is developed, which is in harmony with perfectionism. The light that is in us may increase, and as it increases we rise to ever higher planes of living, but not to greater perfection. We can be perfect at each stage, while no stage is final: “there is no finality short of the Throne of God.” My ignorance of God’s will at each stage will permit me to act contrary to His objective will and yet maintain “the Rest of Faith,” “entire consecration.” “I breathe to-day,” we are told,152 “the atmosphere of the love of God, every past sin forgiven, and, through the blood of cleansing, without a present sense of transgression,—not a cloud to separate me from God; but I may not be able to walk to-morrow with a clear conscience in all the paths I tread to-day.” “It follows from this,” we are told again,153 “that persons who have great light in the teaching of Scripture may be walking outwardly in advance of the sanctified but ignorant Christian, while yet the one is sinning and under a sense of condemnation, and the other, more ignorant but more trusting, walks with a conscience void of offence.” A recently converted heathen, accordingly, living in a half-light, may commit many heathenish horrors and yet be none the less perfect. The standard being a subjective, not an objective one, our knowledge, not God’s law, Christian perfection does not mean the fulfilling of all that God requires of a Christian, but only of all that a Christian’s conscience, in its changing degrees of knowledge, requires from time to time of himself. The subjectiveness of the thought is intense, and one is tempted to apply the proverb, “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”154
Meanwhile Mr. Smith, on the basis of this theory of “adjusted holiness”—a phrase of W. B. Pope’s—is able to declare the Christian at every stage of his development perfect; and having done that, he permits the idea of perfection to run away with him. Because the Christian is “perfect” at every stage of his development, Mr. Smith forgets that this perfection is, according to his own teaching, an imperfect perfection, perfect only to the Christian’s consciousness; and that only the ultimate goal to which he is tending is objective perfection. He thinks now of an ever objectively perfect Christian advancing to a higher kind of perfection: the Christian is growing all the time, but he is growing not towards perfection—that he possesses all the time—but towards maturity. “Remember,” he counsels us,155 “that soul-health is very different from maturity. The sour apples in April are perfect. In October they are mature or ‘perfected.’ At the best we are but ripening, and yet I do not shrink from Scripture terms. The Bible speaks of many perfect men—‘as many as be perfect’—but adds, ‘Not as though I were already perfected.’ Little children are ‘perfect’ in all their immaturity. Do not confound an unobtainable, absolute, or divine holiness with an attainable victory over known sin. When Paul asserted, ‘I know nothing against myself’—not as the ground of his justification, but of his conscience void of offence; and when John said, ‘We keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight’; they neither claimed absolute holiness nor opened a door for a defiled conscience.” He is thinking here of the Christian’s growth as if it were a normal growth like the ripening of an apple, at every stage perfect for that stage. It seems to have escaped his mind that a Christian’s growth is a progressive cleansing from imperfections and has not “maturity” but “cleansing” as its goal. No doubt, says Johannes Jüngst,156 properly, the growth which Mr. Smith’s simile pictures to us would be the normal development of the divine life in a sinless soul; but it is not such a development that we poor sinners must pass through, and Mr. Smith also allows that we are in this world poor sinners: which is much the same thing that Lyman H. Atwater means when he declares157 that Mr. Smith and his companions describe in such passages not such a growth as takes place on earth, but that which takes place in heaven.
But Mr. Smith has another expedient by which the perfection of the imperfect Christian can be vindicated. When expounding his doctrine of merely subjective perfection, at one point,158 he drops this remark: “This might be termed a Christian, not a Divine, nor an angelic nor yet an Adamic ‘perfection.’ ” That is to say, Christian perfection differs from all other kinds of perfection precisely in this, that it is not real perfection. That is a pity, if true, and provokes the jibe that one may then be a perfect Christian, it seems, without being a perfect man.159 We are face to face here, in other words, with that Antinomian tendency which is the nemesis that follows on the heels of all forms of perfectionism. In order to vindicate the perfection of the Christian the perfection of his perfection is sacrificed. The cant phrase is that he is under no other law than that “of this dispensation,” as if the law of holiness were a mere body of positive enactments which might vary from time to time and is not grounded in the nature of things, to say nothing now of the Nature of God Himself. Mr. Smith runs through the whole wretched story.160 “We are not called to the standard of a different dispensation from that in which our lives are to be lived. We are not called to walk by the rule of angels, … nor yet even by the rule of the yet unfallen Adam. Neither is our standard that which will be ours in glorified bodies.… The obedience to which Christ is wooing us is not the legal obedience, a stainless perfection of knowledge and act impossible to these clouded faculties.… We are called to a hearty and supreme love of God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ ‘A new commandment I give unto you.’ ” “It would seem, then, that love is God’s law and standard in this dispensation, and that whatever is not contrary to love does not now bring condemnation upon our conscience.” “We cannot claim any perfection beyond this, that up to the furthest line of to-day’s consciousness, we have the witness that we do love God and our brethren, and keep a conscience (or knowledge) void of offence.” The only alleviation of this calamitous teaching is that the way is left open for growth; and it is gravely questionable whether this can consistently be done. “Each day of full obedience,” we read,161 “is a day of advancing knowledge. Yesterday’s standard of walk will not answer for to-day. The past twilight did not discover some defiling bone in my tent, and it did not then bring an evil conscience; but, in the clearer light of to-day, the same contact would bring condemnation. The essential thing is not perfect light or perfect knowledge, but perfect obedience to the light and knowledge already bestowed.”
In developing now this doctrine of the Christian’s growth Mr. Smith sometimes speaks, as has already no doubt been noted, as if such a growth were not only normal for the Christian but sure to be experienced by him. The steps and stages of it seem to be represented as steps and stages through which Christ leads His children in conforming them more and more closely to His image. It nevertheless admits of some question how far Mr. Smith means to leave the impression that when once we have surrendered ourselves to Christ by faith we are in His hands and will not merely be “sanctified” by Him at once subjectively to our own consciences, but also gradually step by step “sanctified” by Him objectively, according to the standard of God’s holiness. Cross-currents of doctrine affecting this matter are flowing through his mind. He wishes to throw on Christ, to whom our lives are committed in faith, the whole responsibility for their direction. He wishes to keep in the hands of the believer the whole responsibility for his experiences. The solution of the paradox which he ordinarily suggests is that we have the responsibility for being in Christ, and Christ has the responsibility for the lives of those in Him. He has difficulty, however, in working this suggestion out consistently in detail.
With respect to himself, at least, he is very emphatic that his commitment of himself to Christ was once for all. “I am of course,” he says,162 “with increasing intelligence always more completely given to God, yet as regards the deliberate, full surrender, I did it but once. Thenceforward I looked on it as a thing irrevocably done, just as we look on our marriage for life. We do not say the ‘I will’; ‘I give thee my troth,’ of the marriage ceremony year after year, however more holy and complete may become the union of heart.” The conception which informs this statement is not that of a moment by moment surrender, but of a surrender done once for all, and valid thenceforward for ever. And this conception is repeatedly thrown forward. It is very sharply asserted, with the emphasis on the divine side of the transaction—the side of “Preservation “as distinguished from “Perseverance”—in a passage like the following:163 “As you definitely turned your back to the world, and accepted pardon through Christ, so now, with equal definiteness, give yourself to be the Lord’s, wholly the Lord’s, and for ever the Lord’s; to accept His will, to let Him live your lives for you.… We dare to believe that He will go on to ‘perfect that which concerneth us.’ We no longer faithlessly say, ‘I shall some day fall by the hand of the enemy’; but, rather, ‘I will yet praise Him more and more.’ We are beginning to feel the power of that word, ‘elect unto obedience’; and have given ourselves to a life of instantaneous, implicit, uniform obedience to God. We do not expect to be doing and doing this again and again, but always to recognize that we have done it. Liable in each moment to fail, we expect in the hourly miracle of grace, to be ‘kept by the power of God.’ ” If the sense of security expressed here seems not quite as pure as the point of view occupied requires, and we still hear of a constant “liability” to fail, we are glad to learn from other passages that this liability is understood to be in process of progressive elimination, and that it is not thought of as “liability” to more than what is commonly called “backsliding.”164 “The old nature,” we read,165 “is liable in each moment once more to assume its sway, and yet it may in each moment be kept in the place of death and beneath our feet. Faith’s power over it becomes more uniform every day. There will be conflict all along, but victory, not defeat.” And again:166 “Should failure come, let us never delay for one instant a full confession and restoration. Sometimes in this life of full faith, there may come a momentary parenthesis of failure. We must expect these, but if we stumble we will not lie there an instant. The way back is open. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ He who thus claims instantaneous restoration, finds failure to fade out of the life and communion to become more and more unbroken.”
Perhaps Mr. Smith’s fundamental meaning here nowhere finds clearer statement than in the closing pages of “Holiness Through Faith.” He is there speaking of our “abandoning “ourselves to Christ. “I like that word ‘abandon,’ ” he says.167 “It expresses the soul’s attitude towards Christ.… It places the soul in Christ’s hands, and makes Him alone responsible, if we may so speak, for all results. Our responsibility ends with the abiding: for then He Himself works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. A life of abiding is a life in which we sin not (1 John 3:6); we bear much fruit (John 15:5); we ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us (John 15:7); and then when He shall appear, we shall have confidence before Him at his coming.” The antinomy is glaring and cannot be covered up. If, when we “abandon” ourselves to Christ, we place ourselves in His Hands, so that He becomes responsible for all results, does He not become responsible for our continued “abiding,” too? But Mr. Smith intends to remove precisely that out of His responsibility and to reserve precisely that to us as the condition of Christ’s keeping us. This amounts in the end, of course, to saying that He will keep us, if we will only keep ourselves: He will keep us in the way if we will only keep ourselves in the Way. Mr. Smith is, to put it in one word, teaching Quietism, not Evangelicalism. It is our will, after all, not Christ’s will, that governs our lives. Christ can keep us only if we let Him keep us. We must first “abandon” ourselves to Him before He can take the responsibility for our lives. He can maintain His control of our lives only if we “abide” in Him. And at any moment we can—are “liable” to—snatch their control out of His hands.168
It is perhaps worth noting, in passing, that Mr. Smith is not unaware that the determining place which he gives to the will in religion requires of him a special doctrine of the will. He even ventures upon a psychological grounding of this doctrine. “President Edwards’ teaching of the affections governing the will,” he says,169 “I believe to be untrue. The will governs the affections. I believe in the yet older saying, that ‘True religion resides in the will alone.’ ” His immediate purpose here is to protect his hearers from imagining that religion consists in “frames and feelings.” “Many are feeling deeply,” he says, “but I desire to take you away from your emotions.” But in order to take them away from their emotions he propounds a purely voluntative theory of religion. This was held to his credit when he went to Germany. Johannes Jüngst170 recalls that it was noted there that “he does not aim to call out a movement of the emotions and feelings, but the will is awakened almost in a Kantian fashion. Religion lies for him chiefly in the will. He thanks God that it does not lie for him in the feelings.” The allusion in this closing sentence is to a pathetic story which Mr. Smith tells at this place, of how, when lying ill in South America, after the fall from his horse which has already been mentioned, in the deepest nervous depression and in the midst of powerful assaults of Satan, he “was thankful then that religion was in” his “will.” “To all his [Satan’s] attacks I said, ‘I will believe: live or die, in agony or in joy, I will believe!’ I seemed as one with his back to a rock and beset by devils.… I know whereof I affirm; I speak that I know, when I say God’s salvation is beyond the region of our emotions.” Of course there is defective analysis here and consequent self-deception. Because the “emotions” he has in mind were not the determinants of his will on this occasion, he fancies that the will is not determined by any emotions. He is not aware that in the sentence from Fénelon on which he supports himself, the term “will” includes the affections. He does not even stop to consider that when he makes religion to consist in “faith,” or “trust” as he calls it here—with “no sensible religious emotion for almost months, I did trust God, not only for final salvation, but for a conscience void of offence”—he is placing its essence in an affection. He is only intent on suspending all religion on undetermined acts of the will. He conceives of himself as able at any time to act in either part by a sheer arbitrary choice, and, whatever Fénelon meant, Mr. Smith means to hang all religion on such arbitrary choices. He “abandons” himself to Christ, he “abides in” Christ—or he falls away from Christ by sin—all by arbitrary acts of will. It is on these arbitrary acts of will that all the divine operations in salvation depend.
For “substance of doctrine” the teaching of Mrs. Smith does not differ greatly from that of her husband. There is an occasional slight difference in modes of statement. There is also perhaps some difference in emphasis. The mystical aspects of the doctrine—especially its Quietistic elements—are more dwelt upon in Mrs. Smith’s teaching. Their Quaker inheritance in general colors her presentation of their common teaching as it does not his, and this is increasingly so as the years go on. It is quite evident that Mrs. Smith found a growing pleasure in presenting her doctrine in a Quaker mold. She held also very strongly a doctrine of universal salvation, and declared that she would not be muzzled in the expression of it, although, in point of fact, it is not obtruded in her “holiness” teaching.171 Mrs. Smith’s career as a religious writer, moreover, extended over more than thirty years. It is not strange that she does not preserve entire consistency with herself through all these years in the details of her teaching, or perhaps the same zeal in the propagation of this or another of her peculiar conceptions. There is evidence that she not only gave up wholly in later years the separation of sanctification from justification, which was the very heart of her teaching at the height of her propaganda, but very much mitigated the assertion of perfection. Nevertheless, what she teaches on “holiness” during the Higher Life movement is what Mr. Smith teaches, and, in general, she teaches it just as he teaches it, often in precisely the same terms.
In the opening pages of her chief book, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” she defines “the Higher Christian Life,” to the propagation of which they had both given themselves with single-hearted devotion. “Its chief characteristics,” she says,172 “are an entire surrender to the Lord, and a perfect trust in Him, resulting in victory over sin, and inward rest of soul.” The adjunction of “rest of soul” to “victory over sin” in the description of the thing sought—she says, rather, the thing obtained—is perhaps characteristic of her personal attitude. It is perhaps also characteristic of her personal attitude that the sentence is given a somewhat mechanical turn. She wishes victory over sin and inward rest of soul, and she knows how to get them. The recipe to be followed is, “entire surrender to the Lord and a perfect trust in Him.” The result will follow. In a later book,173 at least, we find her discoursing of “inevitable law” in these high spiritual matters, and announcing with reference to them the perhaps disputable proposition, that “the man who discovers the law of anything possesses a power in regard to that thing as limitless as the law itself.” Mrs. Smith, now, knows the law of life: it consists in surrender and trust. We are in a position, accordingly, to control this life. These slight shades of suggestion apart, however, the sentence, in its isolation, is unexceptionable. All Christians understand that victory over sin and inward rest of soul come—and come only—by entire surrender to the Lord and perfect trust in Him. The sentence must be put in its setting in Mrs. Smith’s system to bring out its meaning to her. That setting is supplied in part in the little autobiographical sketch which she gave the ladies in her first Bible Reading at the Oxford Union Conference.174 “I saw,” she said, “that sanctification was by faith as well as justification. That the same Saviour who delivers from the guilt of sin, delivers also from its power. And that the very righteousness which the law demanded, but failed to procure, was made possible and easy by grace.… It had been an unspeakable blessing to me to be delivered from the guilt of my sin, but it was infinitely more glorious to be delivered from its power. For to me the consequences of sin were not so dreadful as the fact of the sin itself.” By the “fact of sin,” however, she means merely the fact of sinning: it is from the power of sin, not from the corruption of sin, that she so yearns to be delivered. Accordingly she goes on to express herself thus: “The same grace that saved us must keep us. The same Saviour who bore our guilt for us must do our daily work for us also.”
It is “our daily work” that she has particularly in mind. Her preoccupation is with Christianity as a This-world religion, that is to say, in contrast both with an Other-world and a Next-world religion;175 and this preoccupation supplies the major-premise of all her argumentation. “Did He [Christ] propose to Himself,” she exclaims,176 “only this partial deliverance,” which we have as yet experienced? “Was there a hidden reserve in each promise, that was meant to deprive it of its complete fulfilment?” Is a deliverance only partial, we ask, however, because it consumes time? Are promises deprived of their complete fulfilment because they are not fulfilled completely before the time of their complete fulfilment arrives? Mrs. Smith is only endeavoring to excite in the minds of her readers a feeling that they must have all that is promised them at once, or else the promise has failed. She wishes to betray them into an unwillingness to await the day of redemption and meanwhile to rejoice in the earnest of the inheritance that has been given to them. She wishes them to demand, like greedy children, all the feast prepared for them in the first course; and so she exhorts them to “settle down on this one thing, that Jesus came to save you, now, in this life, from the power and dominion of sin, and to make you more than conquerors through His power.” For proof, she can only say that “not a hint is given, anywhere, that this deliverance was to be only the limited and partial one with which Christians so continually try to be satisfied?” As if anybody supposes that! It is the good side of the Higher Life agitators that they manifest an active impatience with sinning. They revolt under and resent its bondage. It is a different matter to show impatience with God. And their reasoning too often runs on no other lines than these—if they are redeemed by the blood of Christ they have a right to all its fruits, and they wish them at once. They ask, “Is not Christ able to save to the uttermost?” and demand, “Why, then, does He not do it?” They are not willing to wait on God, and, unable to account for His method of saving by process, they chafe under the delay and require all their inheritance at once. This is the underlying attitude of the whole movement, and it is as manifest as anywhere else in the opening chapters of “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.” All the Biblical assurances of the completeness of Christ’s salvation are assembled, and then the demand made, Give me all of it—now. Mrs. Smith very properly explains that the whole work of our perfecting is done by God. Our part, she says, is only trusting it to Him that it may be done. Perhaps this is not precisely the same as trusting God to do it. We must not entrust it to God to be done, as we assign a job to a workman and require him to do it according to specifications. We must just trust God to do it—it, as all other things—in His own perfect way. The former attitude makes God our instrument to do our bidding. It is the attitude of the Higher Life movement.
There are two parts in “the work of sanctification,” Mrs. Smith teaches. There is man’s part; and there is God’s part. It is man’s part to place himself in God’s hands for sanctification; it is God’s part then to sanctify him. We say “then” to sanctify him, for God can do nothing towards sanctifying him until the man places himself in His hands for the purpose. “In the divine order,” says Mrs. Smith,177 “God’s working depends upon our co-operation. Of our Lord it was declared that at a certain place He could do there no mighty work because of their unbelief. It was not that He would not, but He could not. I believe we often think of God that He will not, when the real truth is that He cannot. Just as the potter, however skilful, cannot make a beautiful vessel out of a lump of clay that is never put into his hands, so neither can God make out of me a vessel unto His honor, unless I put myself into His hands. My part is the essential correlation [she means “correlative”] of God’s part in the matter of my salvation; and as God is sure to do His part all right, the vital thing for me is to find out what my part is, and then do it.” It is creditable to Mrs. Smith’s intelligence that she fully recognizes that, things being as she describes them, the vital thing in our salvation is our part in it, not God’s. The initiative—the decisive thing—lies in our hands: if we do our part God’s part follows of itself. “When a soul is really given up to God He never fails to take possession of it, and He then begins to work on that soul all the good pleasure of His will”—not before. “It is like making the junction between the machinery and the steam engine,” we are told.178 “The machinery is yielded up to the power of the engine, and the engine works it, and it goes easily and without effort because of the mighty power that is behind it.” “Thus,” we read, “the Christian life becomes an easy and natural life, when it is the outward development of the Divine life working within. When we give ourselves to Him He claims us, and this is where our safety lies—not in our giving, but in His taking. What we have to do is to put our will right over on His side, and then He will take possession of it, and work it for us, making us really willing to do His will.” We must first, by an act of will, give Him our will, and then—but only then—He works our will for us. “And if God thus gets possession of us,” we read next—“thus,” that is, by an act of our will giving Him our will—“and causes us to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments and do them, we shall find it an easy and happy thing to live in conformity with His will.” “He works miracles in a man’s will,” we read in another place (p. 161)—“when it is put in his hands.”
The primary thing to observe here is, of course, the suspension of the whole process on the human will. We say “the whole process” because it emerges that not only is God helpless to work on and in us unless and until we truly place ourselves in His hands for the purpose, but He is equally helpless to keep us in His hands when once He has undertaken the work on and in us that has been committed to Him. We must not only surrender ourselves to Him, but we must also “abide” in Him. Mrs. Smith told the ladies at the Oxford Union Meeting—using the simile of the clay and the potter again—that “the part of the clay is simply to be put into the potter’s hands, and to abide there passively.”179 “Put yourselves then into God’s hands,” is the exhortation, “as clay in the hands of the potter, and trust Him. But do not take yourselves back. Having given yourselves to Him you must abide in Him—you must stay there. You must let Him mould and fashion you.” Very strange clay this, passive in the potter’s hands, to which the potter can do nothing unless it lets him! Mrs. Smith’s main purpose here is to preach her gospel of passivity in the potter’s hands: “The potter must do all the work.” “When we have put our case in the Lord’s hands our part is simply to ‘sit still,’ for He will not rest until He has finished the matter.” “And we must remember this—that if we carry a burden ourselves the Lord does not carry it.”180 What we need to note now, however, is, not the passivity itself, but the fact that it is voluntary—not merely in the sense that we put ourselves in the potter’s hands voluntarily, but that we maintain our passive attitude in His hands voluntarily. Thus, as we have said, everything is made to depend, not on the Potter’s will, but on our own. And it is anything but a passive will that Mrs. Smith has in mind; she emphasizes the energy of the volition by which we place ourselves in God’s hands in a very decisive fashion. Illustrating the right Christian method of meeting the troubles and trials of life from Ps. 55:6–8, she tells us that we must not only have the wings of a dove, but must use them if we wish to escape. “The power to surrender and trust,” she says,181 “exists in every human soul, and only needs to be brought into exercise.” It belongs to us to bring it into exercise. “With these two wings we can ‘flee’ to God at any moment; but, in order really to reach Him, we must actively use them. We must not merely want to use them, but we must do it definitely and actively. A passive surrender or a passive trust will not do.… We must do it definitely and practically, about each detail of daily life as it comes to us.” Though we are passive in God’s hands and do nothing to work out our own salvation—nothing, that is, directly—behind that passivity we are intensely active, instituting and maintaining it. We enter into the surrendered life by an act of our own will; it is a very definite and energetic act by which we abandon ourselves to God. On the emergence of each trial we again act; it is a very definite act by which we take it to God and leave it with Him. It is not a “passive” but an “active” surrender and trust, a very definite and decisive act. But this is all that we do—we must not endeavor to tunnel the mountains in our path, nor to make our way around them, we must just spread our wings and soar over them. The wings are the symbol of “surrender and trust”; they belong to us, and it belongs to us to use them.
Behind this teaching lies a very definite doctrine of the will. So important to her system does Mrs. Smith feel this doctrine to be, that she devotes a whole chapter to it, both in “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” and in “Every-Day Religion,” her two most didactic volumes. In both chapters alike her chief purpose is to separate religion from the surface play of emotions. In order to do this, she makes religion an affair of the will alone, and asserts that the emotions have nothing to do with the will. You “yield” yourself to God, and that is the end of it. “You meant it then, you mean it now, you have really done it. Your emotions may clamor against the surrender, but your will must hold firm. It is your purpose God looks at, not your feelings about that purpose; and your purpose, or will, is therefore the only thing you need to attend to.”182 In writing-in a basis for such assertions she develops a clear psychological voluntativism. The will is affirmed to be “the governing power in man’s nature.” “If the will is set right,” we are told,183 “all the rest of the nature must come into harmony.” And by the will is meant here simple volition. “By the will,” she explains184 “I do not mean the wish of the man, or even his purpose, but the deliberate choice, the deciding power, the king, to which all that is in the man must yield obedience.” “It is,” she adds, “the man, in short, the ‘Ego’ that which we feel to be ourselves.” And then she expounds: “There is something within us, behind our emotions and behind our wishes, an independent self, that, after all, decides everything and controls everything.” Of course Mrs. Smith meets difficulties here. As she works out her problem the notion of the will she operates with vibrates between bare volition and the total subjectivity. She is found identifying it with what the Bible calls “the heart,” “the interior self, the controlling personality of our being.”185 She is found, despite the fact that the will is the king, to which all must yield obedience, speaking of a self behind the will, governing it. “I can control my will,” she says; and we are exhorted “to keep the will steadily abiding in its centre, God’s will.” “Your part then is,” she says,186 “simply to put your will, in this matter of believing, over on God’s side.” What this “you” is which controls the will, which itself controls everything, and which is indeed itself the “Ego,” she is helpless to explain. The will which is to control is the very will that is to be controlled. Mrs. Smith has no option here, of course; she must speak in this confusing way if she is to make—as she wishes to make—a bald volition possible to man and controlling in his destiny. I can choose to believe in that bald way, she affirms, when nothing seems true to me. She merely finds herself moving upward in that infinite regressus up which all the advocates of her notion of a determining will, itself undetermined, journey with no hope of a return. All that concerns us at the moment is to note that Mrs. Smith’s whole doctrine of the Higher Christian Life is founded on this doctrine of the will. Its starting point lies in the assumption that it is always in our power just to say “I will.” “The thing we are to do is to ‘choose,’ without any regard to the state of our emotions, what attitude our will shall take towards God.” “The whole question lies in the choice of our will.”187
The “surrender” and “trust” which “constitute our part” in “the work of sanctification,” and which are the precedent conditions of God undertaking His part, are, then, always in our power. Precisely what they are is not made quite so plain. They are sometimes elaborately treated, not as two names for one thing or two aspects of a single act, but two distinct acts;188 and we are told that we must have both “an entire surrender” and “an absolute trust.” Difficulty is experienced, however, in so defining them as to establish a plain distinction. In the effort to do so “surrender” is sometimes spoken of as if it meant merely “giving up” in the abstract—not giving up ourselves trustingly to God, but just accepting the course of life that comes to us. “Trust” then becomes the word for leaving ourselves in God’s keeping. At other times the attempt to separate the two things, at least, is abandoned. In the discussion in “Every-Day Religion,”189 Mrs. Smith tells us that she prefers the term “yield” to “consecrate,” to express what she means by “surrender.” “Consecration” is apt, she says, to express something too active, and indeed self-glorifying; it is an Old Testament word. We may consecrate our wealth to a given object; we yield ourselves to the care of a physician. “In the one case we confer a favour; in the other we receive a favour.” The idea sought to be conveyed is not that of sacrificing, but of abandoning. We yield ourselves to God as, when sick, we submit utterly to the nurse’s ministrations, or, when lost, we put ourselves wholly in the hands of the guide. “To yield to God means to belong to God, and to belong to God means to have all His infinite power and infinite love engaged on our side.” “Trusting,” now, she very naturally adds190 “can hardly be said to be distinct from yielding.… It is, in fact, the absolute correlation [she means “correlative”] to it.… Trusting, therefore, simply means that when we have yielded ourselves up unto the Lord, or, in other words, have made ourselves over to Him, we then have perfect confidence that He will manage us and everything concerning us exactly right, and we consequently leave the whole care and managing in His hands.” So far as a distinction is here made out, it would seem to be that “surrender” is thought of as the act by which we place ourselves in God’s hands, and “trust” as the succeeding state of confidence in His holy keeping of us. The point of importance, however, is not the discrimination of the words, but the establishment of the nature of the transaction which is expressed by them. This is made very clear. It is made very clear, for example, in this sort of a declaration: You have first to surrender your will into His hands—and by your will she means your liberty of choice—and He will take possession of it and work in you by His own mighty power “to will and to do of His good pleasure.”191 Having vindicated to us an ineradicable power of willing according to our own choice, Mrs. Smith now lays on us as our one duty in the use of this liberty of choice—to renounce it. The only use the religious man can put his will to is, by an energetic action of it, to work a complete exinanition of it.
Our part in sanctification—“surrender” and “trust”—having been duly done, God then does His part. His part is “to sanctify us.” The effect is, of course, instantaneous. As precisely what has happened is that we have ceased to work and God has taken over the work, what results is that hereafter we do nothing and God does all. This is a doctrine of Quietistic Perfectionism. Mrs. Smith’s Quietism is very explicit and very complete. No simile is too strong to express it. As we have had repeated occasion to note, a favorite illustration with her is derived from the clay and the potter. By our act of surrender we put the clay into the potter’s hands. He molds it then according to His will. She expresses what happens without figure by saying as repeatedly that God takes our wills and works them for us.192 He takes our wills, not our hearts or natures. The perfection that results, therefore, is a perfection of acts, not of heart or of nature. We put our wills into His hands, and He thenceforth works them for us. No, not exactly thenceforth, but as long as we leave them in His hands. It all depends on us, in the end, therefore; and that throws a fatal uncertainty over it all. At least, that is the way Mrs. Smith looks at it, from the point of view of her doctrine of arbitrary will. From our own point of view, as the heart remains unsanctified, we should have to say that it throws a fatal certainty of sinning over it all. “No safe teacher of this interior life,” says she,193 “ever says that it becomes impossible to sin; they only insist that sin ceases to be a necessity, and that a possibility of continual victory is opened before us.”
The next sentence is somewhat oddly phrased. “And there are very few, if any, who do not confess that, as to their own actual experience, they have at times been overcome by at least a momentary temptation.” Mrs. Smith scarcely means that it was a “momentary temptation” which overcame them: there seems no reason why a temptation which lasts but a moment should be thought to be particularly potent, and “momentary” does not appear to mean “sudden”—unexpected—and therefore unprepared for. She doubtless means that they are momentarily overcome by temptation. If so, she tells us that “few, if any,” make “the possibility of continual victory” which is “opened before us” an actuality. “At times”—which must mean a plurality of times—they are at least momentarily overcome by temptation. If this be true, then their perfection is not very perfect: it is broken in upon “at times” by sin. They may be rather better in their Christian lives than the general run of Christians, but when it comes to talking of perfection they are really no more perfect than others. This is given an even stronger significance by the next sentence. “Of course,” we read, “in speaking of sin here, I mean conscious, known sin.” She is not speaking of “sins of ignorance,” or of “what is called the inevitable sin of our nature.” These things she leaves to the theologians to discuss; she deals only in practical things—a rather cavalier way of speaking, one would think, of such tremendous realities. From this we learn, however, that the sins which she considers it possible to escape are only “conscious, known sins,” and also that the sins which “few, if any,” wholly escape falling into “at times”—fewer or more numerous times—are distinctively “conscious, known sins.” Despite her waving aside all discussion of “sins of ignorance,” she immediately enters into a discussion of them, the result of which seems to be that we can do very wrong things and not sin. Returning from this digression, she instructs us, not very consequently, that, as “the highway of holiness is not a place but a way,” we may step out of the path for a moment without obliterating the path, and we may step back into the path the next moment. It is not clear to us that a “path” has any superiority over a “place” in these matters, but, as the application is obscure, that may pass. The trouble does not seem to be with the path or the place—whichever “the highway of holiness” may be compared to—but with the bad habit of stepping out of it with the assurance that we can just as easily step back again. We have certainly lost sight of perfection in the course of the discussion, except, perhaps, as a bare possibility, a possibility of which “few, if any,” avail themselves. Nevertheless Mrs. Smith has no hesitation in asserting the possibility of continuous holiness, as if it were the experience of many and might easily be the experience of all. Of actually sinning she says,194 “There is no necessity for it whatever.”
Perhaps the most remarkable element in Mrs. Smith’s teaching in this matter, however, comes to light when195 she undertakes to expound the “causes of failure in this life of full salvation,” that is to say, to explain why those that are perfect fall at times into sin. “The causes do not lie,” she says, “in the strength of the temptation, nor in our own weakness, nor above all in any lack in the power or willingness of our Saviour to save us.” They lie simply in this: that we are cherishing in our heart something which is contrary to the will of God. That appears to amount, briefly, to this—that the perfect man sins because he is not perfect. She illustrates as follows: “Any conscious root of bitterness cherished toward another, any self-seeking, any harsh judgments, any slackness in obeying the voice of the Lord, any doubtful habits or surroundings,—these things or any of them, consciously indulged, will effectually cripple and paralyze our spiritual life.” Which, being interpreted, declares to us that if we are living in sins—conscious sins, too, note—“any conscious root of bitterness,” “consciously indulged”—why, we are liable to sin. And we are further told that we may be thus living in sin, though we seem to ourselves and to others to be triumphantly living the life of victory. What then becomes of consciousness as the norm of all?
It is not without its importance that we should note that Mrs. Smith is inclined sometimes to represent this liability to failure as an experience belonging particularly to the early stages of sanctification. She writes to her son,196 when he had just entered upon the “higher life” of complete consecration, that it cannot be expected to be wholly unbroken. “It often happens,” she says, “in the beginning of this life of faith, that there are temporary failures, and that the feet do sometimes stumble. But this need not discourage thee. Sanctification is not a thing once done, and done for ever; it is a life, a walk, and if we stumble we can get up again. It is a life of trust, moment by moment; and if for one moment we fail, that is no reason why we should not trust the next moment.” It even appears that in the process of growth hinted at here the sanctification may penetrate inward from the acts to the heart. This is, no doubt, formally denied in the most vigorous words. She writes to her son in the autumn of 1871,197 and prints it in 1873, on the very verge of the great London agitation: “But do not expect, dear boy, ever to find thy old nature any better or any nearer thy ideal; for thee never, never will. Thee thyself, that is, thy old nature, will always be utterly vile, and ignorant, and corrupt; but Jesus is thy life now. It is with thee, ‘No more I,’ but Christ who liveth in thee. And is not this glorious—to lose thy own life, and find Christ’s divine life put in its place?… Never look into thy own heart then for any sort of satisfaction or comfort. Thee will never find any goodness there,—no stocks of virtue laid up to draw upon. But thy goodness is all in Christ, and thee must draw it from Him moment by moment as thee needs it.” The very spirit of the Higher Christian Life speaks here; and it teaches us that the sanctification received by faith does not eradicate the sinful nature: we retain the old nature of sin, apparently completely unaffected. All our sanctification is “in Christ,” external to our self, and is drawn upon only for our daily need “moment by moment,” that is to say, for our conduct solely, since it does not affect our nature. Despite these strong words, however, Mrs. Smith teaches198 that the heart itself is purified by Christ’s indwelling. Following a lead from her son, she represents that we may not merely be delivered when we trust, but may be kept continually trusting; and more than that—that that traitor in the camp, inbred sin, may be ousted.
“In order to know a complete and continuous victory,” she says, “this inward enemy must be cast out, and the heart must be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Then, the very centre of the being having been taken possession of by Christ, and all His enemies destroyed by His presence, He reigns there supreme. And the soul finds itself ‘kept by the power of God,’ through an unwavering faith, which nothing jostles or dims.” On this teaching a doctrine of perfection, not of act but of nature, and with it a doctrine of perseverance, might be based. Mrs. Smith justifies herself in it by adding that “this wonderful truth is taught in many ways, and under many different figures, in the New Testament. Being ‘dead to sin,” knowing ‘the body of sin to be destroyed,’ ‘purifying our hearts by faith,’ being ‘cleansed from all unrighteousness’; all these, and many other expressions, set forth this truth, that Christ, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, is able and willing to destroy his very worst work,—even that which he wrought in us when he implanted sin in our nature. And that when Christ enters there, sin must retire.” Surely it is sufficiently clearly taught here that the old nature is not left untouched by the salvation of Christ. Indeed, it is even taught that Christ expels sin from our very nature, and that can mean nothing less than that we no longer have even indwelling sin, and that, in turn, can mean nothing less than the Wesleyan “entire sanctification,” “Christian Perfection.” “But,” adds Mrs. Smith, seeking to guard herself, “but let it be understood that it is only the presence of Christ that keeps out the sin. There is no inherent purity in the heart itself. But as with light and darkness, so with Christ and sin; they cannot exist together, there is no possibility of fellowship between them. Let a room, however, presume on its light, and shut out the rays of the sun, and darkness at once fills it. So let the soul presume on its purity, and cease to let Christ abide in it, and that moment sin reigns there again supreme. The indwelling presence of Christ makes the heart pure, and keeps it pure. The indwelling presence of Christ drives out His enemies, and keeps them out. The indwelling presence of Christ destroys (or ‘renders inert’) the body of sin, and keeps it so; but the moment the soul lets go of Christ, or turns its eyes away from Him, that moment its old evil all returns.”
It is evident that Mrs. Smith is here at her wit’s end. She is trying to teach at once that our old nature is expelled by Christ and that it is not expelled; that Christ keeps us permanently, and that His keeping is only moment by moment; that our abiding in our grace rests on Christ alone, and that it depends absolutely on ourselves. It is an impossible task. She says that implanted sin is itself cast out; that Christ entering the heart expels sin from it; that there cannot be the least remnant of sin left where Christ dwells. The indwelling Christ not only makes the heart pure but keeps it pure; not only drives out His enemies but keeps them out. He destroys—but here she falters, and suggests that we may say only “renders inert”—the body of sin and keeps it destroyed. But she cannot leave it at that, although she has said it so strongly and with such variety of expression that she must leave it at that. She talks of there being no inherent purity in the heart itself—as if a heart that is pure can be pure any other way than “inherently.” What she means is that it owes its purity to Christ, who dwells in it. But that makes no difference—if Christ dwells in it, and by dwelling in it “makes the heart pure and keeps it pure.” Underneath all this lies the assumption that we can put Christ out of our hearts again: “The moment the soul lets go of Christ, or turns its eyes away from Him, that moment its old evil all returns.” The mind reels as it tries to imagine how this can be—if, for example, Christ not only “drives out His enemies,” but “keeps them out.” The cart is surely put before the horse. Surely we cannot “let go of Christ,” “turn our eyes away from Him,” unless the old evil has already returned. A pure heart—and we are told that Christ has made the heart pure and keeps it pure—cannot do these things. And this old evil, all of which returns, where has it been all the intervening time? If it had only been “made inert,” it might perhaps be revived; but that is not what the Apostle says, nor what Mrs. Smith says—both he and she say it has been “destroyed”—and she adds that Christ keeps it destroyed. Surely it cannot come back. We cannot both be kept by Christ and not kept by Him; we cannot be made pure and kept pure and not be pure. Mrs. Smith is laboring with the fundamental contradiction of her school; she wishes to teach a supernatural salvation on the basis of a fundamental naturalism. She cannot do it.
Ordinarily when Mrs. Smith speaks of progress in sanctification her preoccupation is merely to reconcile the immediate attainment of sanctification by faith and the possibility nevertheless of growth in holiness. On our part, she teaches, sanctification is secured by an act, the entrusting of ourselves to God; from the moment that we entrust ourselves to God we are holy—God sees to that. But on God’s part, sanctification is produced in us by a process; God leads us up to ever higher planes in our holiness. “Sanctification,” she says,199 “is both a step of faith and a process of works. It is a step of surrender and trust on our part, and it is a process of development on God’s part. By a step of faith we get into Christ; by a process we are made to ‘grow up into Him in all things.’ By a step of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Divine Potter; by a gradual process He makes us into a vessel unto His own honor, meet for His use, and prepared to every good work.” So far as the mere words go, the truth of the matter is stated here. But Mrs. Smith’s meaning is not apprehended until we understand that she conceives man to be purely passive as the clay in the hands of the potter in the whole process, and that she conceives the growth which he experiences not to be towards perfection but in perfection. She speaks, indeed,200 of God carrying us “through a process of transformation, longer or shorter as our peculiar case may require, making actual and experimental the results for which we have trusted.” And if this were given true validity it might serve largely to correct the faults adverted to. After all is said, it certainly is God who sanctifies us: we are the clay in His hands, and He molds us as seems to Him good. And the process of transformation wrought out in our sanctification does only actualize in us what from the beginning we have trusted Christ for; it is a “working out” of our salvation. But to say this would not satisfy Mrs. Smith. She asserts that “purity of heart” is complete from the very first moment of our believing,201 and that all our subsequent growth is in, not into, purity of heart. We are “truly pleasing to God” in every stage of our growth, though “it may require years of training and discipline to mature us into a vessel that shall be in all respects to His honor, and fitted to every good work.”202 “The lump of clay, from the moment it comes under the transforming hand of the potter, is, during each day and each hour of the process, just what the potter wants it to be at that hour or on that day, and therefore pleases him; but it is very far from being matured into the vessel he intends in the future to make it. The little babe may be all that a babe could be, or ought to be, and may therefore perfectly please its mother; and yet it is very far from being what that mother would wish it to be when the years of maturity shall come. The apple in June is a perfect apple for June; it is the best apple that June can produce; but it is very different from the apple in October, which is a perfected apple. God’s works are perfect in every stage of their growth. Man’s works are never perfect until they are in every respect complete.”203
It could not be more strongly declared that the whole process of “sanctification,” so far as it is a process, is the growth merely into greater maturity of a person already from the beginning free from sin. It is a process not towards purity, but in purity towards maturity. In point of fact, however, this process is, on one side of it, a process of progressive freeing from sin. The human “apple in June” is not merely an immature apple, it is a rotten apple. It does not merely need “to grow” in order to become the “perfected” apple of October, it has got to be remade before it becomes the perfect apple for June and is in a state to “grow” at all. Mrs. Smith cannot explain away the recreative process of sanctification by confusing the ideas of imperfection and immaturity; this “imperfection” is not a merely negative but a most positive quality. She says, very smartly,204 that the Scriptures do not teach that we are to grow into grace but in grace. But to be “in grace” does not mean in Scripture that we are already free from sin, nor—it is time now to add—does the exhortation to “increase in grace” (2 Pet. 3:18) mean that we have no part in making the increase. It is, nevertheless, specifically to an attitude of passivity with respect to our growth that Mrs. Smith exhorts us. “Let me entreat of you, then,” she says,205 “to give up all your efforts after growing, and simply to let yourselves grow.” That is her fundamental prescription for the Christian life, “a growth without effort.”206 The lilies, she says, planted in good soil, do not strive to grow: their growing “is not a thing of effort, but is the result of an inward life-principle of growth.” “All the stretching and pulling in the world could not make a dead oak grow; but a live oak grows without stretching.” What we are to do, then, is merely “to get within” us “the growing life.” More at large:207 “We are to be infinitely passive, and yet infinitely active also; passive as regards self and its workings, active as regards attention and response to God.” Which is explained to mean that “we must lay down all the activity of the creature, as such, and must let only the activities of God work in us, and through us, and by us.” The fundamental meaning is that our only work is to get into Christ: He does the rest.
Of course Mrs. Smith finds herself in difficulties with the Scriptures here, and perhaps she could not have lighted upon a passage that would give her more difficulty in squaring her Quietism with the Scriptures than 2 Pet. 3:18, with which she particularly concerns herself. Precisely what Peter does in this passage is to require Christians to engage actively in advancing in their life of faith. It is not enough for him that we plant ourselves in the garden of the Lord—and let God give the increase. Precisely what he says we are to do is “to exert ourselves” (verse 14, cf. 1–10, 15), and to exert ourselves precisely that we may be found on the great day of judgment “unsullied and faultless” in His sight. To that extent we are engaged in our own sanctification, and to that end we are (among other things) “to take care”—to take care that we are not carried away by errors, and so fall from “our own” steadfastness (“our own,” notice); on the contrary, we are to “make increase” in grace, and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, this “making increase” being put in contrast with the “taking care” not to fall, as the other half of our duty. There is no Quietism here; and Peter says he is teaching just what Paul teaches. In contrast to both Peter and Paul Mrs. Smith says we are neither to exert ourselves nor to make increase in grace. We are in grace already and all our growth is to be within the grace we are in, and it is to be accomplished without any effort on our part.
This, then, is the teaching of the Higher Life agitation which filled with its propaganda the third quarter of the nineteenth century. It is not a very profound teaching, and its tendency was downwards. It was more shallow in the hands of its later than in those of its earlier advocates. Perfectionism is impossible in the presence of a deep sense or a profound conception of sin. This movement proclaimed, it is true, only an attenuated perfectionism—a perfectionism merely of conduct. But this involved a correspondingly attenuated view of sin. The guilt of sin, the corruption of sin, were not denied, but attention was distracted from them and fixed on the practice of sin. This is a fatally externalizing movement of thought, and brings with it a ruinous under-estimate of the baneful power of sin. This effect was reënforced by an extreme limitation of the notion of sinning. Nothing was recognized as sinning but deliberate sinning. Ignorance or inadvertence was made the mother of holiness, and holiness was thus brought to so low a level that the meanest in Christian attainments might easily lay claim to its possession. Corresponding to this defective outlook on sin and holiness was an equally defective attitude towards God and His relation to men. None of the high attributes of God were denied, but the practical effect of the teaching was to encourage men to look upon Him as a force existing for them and wholly at their command. This degrading conception of God was not given, it is true, so crass an expression as it has received in some later developments of the same type of thought. Mrs. Smith even includes in her chief book208 a chapter bearing the title “Is God in Everything?” in which she is fairly compelled to teach, in the mere interest of the life of faith, the fundamental fact of the universal government of God. Nevertheless, the open teaching of the whole movement is to the effect that God acts—and can act—in the matter of sanctification, as in the whole matter of salvation, only as man, by his prior action, releases Him for action. This is not a wholesome attitude to take towards God. It tends to looking upon Him as the instrument which we use to secure our ends, and that is a magical rather than a religious attitude. In the end it inhibits religion which includes in its essence a sense of complete dependence on God.
With these defects in its outlook on God and sin, the movement naturally fostered a thin religious life. The deep things are not for it. Throes of repentance, ecstasies of aspiration, alike, are rendered unnecessary and unbecoming. Christian living is reduced to the level of common respectability. The law of God having been pushed out of sight His grace becomes obscured with it. The summum bonum becomes ease in Zion, and God, as He is no longer greatly feared, neither is any longer greatly loved. Nor is He trusted. Our dependence is put in our own trust, not in God, and as arrant a work-salvation results as was ever taught. The works depended upon are concentrated into the specific work of trust; but all is hung on this specific work. This is a gravely unethical proceeding. Pelagius, when he hung salvation on works, at least demanded perfect righteousness as its ground. In this teaching perfect righteousness is dispensed with, and the trust in favor of which it is dispensed with disappears with it. The type of piety engendered by the preaching of a conditional salvation is naturally in polar opposition to that engendered by the preaching of a free salvation. The correlate to a free salvation is trust; the correlate to a conditional salvation is performance. Trust and performance are contradictions. A “Do” religion and a “Trust” religion are irreconcilable. To demand trust as a condition defeats, therefore, its own object and renders the trust demanded impossible. If we are to depend on our own trust it ceases to be trust. We cannot look to ourselves for the decisive act in our salvation and at the same time be looking to God for all. Trust transformed into a work loses its quality; turned back on itself, it is obliterated.
Nevertheless, despite its leanness, the movement has persisted in its influence down to our own times. In Britain, on the European Continent, in America, its echoes are still heard. Mrs. Smith herself, at the opening of the new century no doubt, looked back on it as in some sense a thing of the past209; but that was only relatively the case. We do not so quickly escape from low levels of thought and feeling. It is sadly true in spiritual as in earthly things that the poor are always with us. It is matter of congratulation that the two great movements which arose, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of the violent “Higher Life” agitation of the seventies—“The Keswick Movement” in Britain, and the “Heiligungsbewegung” in Germany—while very greatly extending the influence of its essential teaching, have, although in different degrees, mitigated some of its most objectionable features. If, however, we have a right-wing, we have also a left-wing, of Keswick teaching; and if there has been a Theodor Jellinghaus in Germany, there has also been a “Pastor” Paul. Outside the main currents of these two great movements, individual preachers of the Higher Life also are, of course, continually appearing. Among these, Albert B. Simpson attracts perhaps primary attention, not less for the extravagance of his thories than for the wideness of the influence he has exerted through his long career.210 In the closing years of the last century the unwholesome figure of “the Tamil Evangelist,” V. D. David, drew temporary notice to itself and then passed under a cloud.211 On the other hand, James H. McConkey’s little book, entitled “The Threefold Secret of the Holy Spirit” (1897), pleases by the sobriety of its spirit, although certainly, in the main, running true to type.212 By the side of Mr. McConkey we may perhaps be permitted to place such teachers as Matthew H. Houston, who have not escaped direct influence from Keswick.213 From Wesley to Keswick may superficially seem a somewhat far cry. There is, no doubt, room between these limits for many distinguishable varieties of teaching. They are all bound together, however, by common fundamental conceptions of very dubious character, and it is too much to hope that we have seen the last of any one of them. Recent events only emphasize the fact that it is not merely the fittest among them which promise to survive.214
1 Reprinted from The Princeton Theological Review, xvi. pp. 572–622 and xvii. pp. 37–86; cf. Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Perfectionism, Part Two, vol. 8, 461–558. http://faithsaves.net.
2 “History of Christian Doctrine,” 1886, ii. p. 376.
3 J. T. Crane, “Holiness the Birthright of All God’s Children” (1874), ed. 2, 1875, pp. 14–15.
4 J. S. Inskip, “Methodism Explained and Defended,” 1851, pp. 59 ff.: “There is, however, one doctrine, in a great measure peculiar to Methodism. It is that, in which we teach the possibility of man attaining a state of grace in the present life, in which he will be made free from sin.… We contend this state may be attained now—at the present moment.… In this, as well as in our justification, ‘we are saved by grace, through faith.’ … Reader, thou mayest now believe, and now be saved from all thy sins.” The London Quarterly Review for October, 1875, xlv. p. 192: “The testimony to the completeness of the Spirit’s work of grace in the human soul, as an application of the atonement, has been and still is the leading peculiarity of Methodist teaching.”
5 See an illuminating page by Lyman H. Atwater in The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review, July, 1877, pp. 410, 411.
6 See the account given by Mrs. Boardman in her “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman” (1886), American edition, 1887, chapter iii.
7 Mrs. Boardman, “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” preface, p. vii.
8 See “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” by Mrs. Boardman, with a Preface by the Rev. Mark Guy Pearse, London, 1886; New York, 1887. There is a short appreciative sketch in Th. Jellinghaus, “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, 1898, pp. 718–720.
9 This states the fundamental fact. It is not intended that influences from other quarters did not coöperate to the effect; Mrs. Boardman in the “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman” indicates a number of such influences—among others intimate intercourse with an elderly woman who was one of a coterie of persons who had been excluded from Dr. E. N. Kirk’s church at Albany on the ground of their perfectionism. In “The Higher Christian Life,” Mr. Boardman shows adequate acquaintance with all the current forms of perfectionism. Jellinghaus, p. 718, very properly says moreover: “Neither he nor his wife could understand sanctification in the Wesleyan fashion as Christian Perfection and the eradication of the old nature, and had seen people fall through misunderstanding of this doctrine into an awful fanaticism.”
10 He received his ordination at this time from the Presbytery of the United Congregational and Presbyterian Churches, meeting at a neighboring town (“Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman.” p. 65).
11 In the “Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.,” his name appears on the roll of the (N.S.) Presbytery of Detroit of 1852, 1853, and 1854 as Agent and S.S.; of 1855 as Agent; and of 1856 as in transitu. It appears on the roll of the (O.S.) Presbytery of Philadelphia of 1856 as W. C.; of 1857–1858 as S.S. at Gloucester City, N. J.; and of 1859 as W. C. It appears in the Index to the “Minutes” (O.S.) of 1860, 1861, 1862, with the note “not reported,” and in the “Minutes” of 1863 and 1864 as a member of the Presbytery of Stockton in transitu. In 1865 his name appears on the roll of the Presbytery of Philadelphia as Secretary of the Christian Commission. From 1866 to 1870 he is a W. C. of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. In 1871 he appears in the Index as residing in New York, without reference to a Presbytery. He then disappears from the “Minutes.” From Nevin’s “History of the Presbytery of Philadelphia,” p. 41 (of Roll) we learn that Mr. Boardman was received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia from the Presbytery of Detroit, April 2, 1856; dismissed to the Presbytery of California, January 4, 1860; received from the Presbytery of Stockton October, 1864; transferred to the Presbytery of New York, June, 1870. He does not appear in the “Minutes” as a member of the Presbytery of New York, but in S. D. Alexander’s “History of the Presbytery of New York,” p. 159, his bare name, without data, occurs in the list of ministers belonging to the Presbytery of New York before the Reunion. This seems to imply that he presented the letter from Philadelphia, and was enrolled, but withdrew his letter in less than a twelvemonth. But other conjectures are possible.
12 “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” p. 136.
14 P. 142.
15 P. 145.
16 Pp. 145–146.
17 P. 140.
18 P. 146.
19 Pp. 141, 146 ff.
20 P. 150.
21 Pp. 151 f.
22 P. 155.
23 An account of them written by Dr. Cullis is printed in the “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” pp. 156 ff.
24 Messrs. Moody and Sankey landed at Liverpool June 17, 1873, and spent two years in the campaign.
25 Like Augustine who afterwards recognized occurrences he had witnessed at Milan as miracles—though they had not impressed themselves upon him as such at the time—Mr. Boardman now recognized as miracles occurrences in his earlier life which he had not recognized as such at the time (cf. “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” pp. 63, 133). In Sweden, in 1880, he quite freely worked cures (pp. 199, 209, 213, 218, 219). He depended on the Lord entirely for his own health: “Whenever threatened with a bilious attack he looked directly to the Lord, and was delivered” (p. 240). A quite disagreeable story is told, pp. 227 ff., of his persuading a dwarf not to insist on the Lord giving him a normal figure, because of the advertising value of his deformity.
26 We find the following books credited to him: “The Higher Christian Life,” 1858; “He that Overcometh, or A Conquering Gospel,” 1869; “Gladness in Jesus,” 1870; “Faith Work; or, the Labours of Dr. Cullis in Boston,” 1874; “In the Power of the Spirit, or Christian Experience in the Light of the Bible,” 1875; “The Lord that Healeth Thee,” 1881; “Rest for You” (a booklet). He also wrote much in periodicals.
27 It was written when he was forty-eight years old while he was acting as “stated supply” at Gloucester City.
28 See especially the article by Jacob J. Abbot in the Bibliotheca Sacra and Biblical Repository for July, 1860, pp. 508–535, and the article by John A. Todd in The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review for October, 1860, pp. 608–640.
29 “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, 1898, p. 719.
30 “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” pp. 104–105.
31 “The Higher Christian Life,” p. 45.
32 P. 47.
33 P. 326.
34 P. 50.
35 P. 52.
36 P. 183.
37 P. 94.
38 P. 191; cf. pp. 31, 183, 256.
39 It is interesting to observe that Theodor Jellinghaus, who has a great admiration for Mr. Boardman, cannot go the whole way with him with regard to his “second conversion.” “In England and America and lately also in Germany,” he writes (“Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, 1898, p. 71), “some have maintained that a converted man does not become a complete Christian, and does not become a thoroughly blessed and powerful instrument of God’s kingdom, until he receives suddenly and consciously a second baptism with the Holy Spirit. In this there is only this much truth—that a large number of men of God have experienced after their conversion, suddenly, a new deep baptism with the Holy Spirit; many of them at a time when there was suddenly brought to their remembrance and experience the cleansing power of Christ’s blood and the greatness of Christ’s love. But the New Testament nowhere requires for all believers a second, sudden baptism with the Holy Spirit. In most cases the deeper filling with the Holy Spirit comes gradually in sufferings, humiliations and wonderful answers to prayer, and deliverances by the deeper experience of the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.—He who teaches that every Christian must experience through a second baptism with the Holy Spirit the eradication of his sinful nature and the attainment of sinlessness, is an anti-Scriptural fanatic and errorist (Schwärmer und Irrgeist) …” In his book, “In the Power of the Spirit, or Christian Experience in the Light of the Bible,” 1875, Mr. Boardman identifies “the Baptism of the Spirit” with “the second conversion”: “The name given it in the New Testament,” he writes (p. 5), “is: ‘The Baptism of the Holy Ghost.’ ” Compare below, note 73. The same general position is taken by Asa Mahan, “The Baptism of the Holy Ghost,” 1870: see especially pp. iii–iv, 15–16. Jellinghaus, it will be noted, employs the phrase (in accordance with Matthew 3:11) of the saving operations of the Spirit of Christ in general.
40 P. 51.
41 P. 52.
42 P. 53.
43 P. 205.
44 P. 53.
45 Pp. 199, 200.
46 P. 206.
47 P. 139.
48 P. 140. Speaking elsewhere in terms of his own experience, he writes: “Forgiveness did not satisfy me; I wanted the dominion of sin destroyed. Purification, not less than pardon, I saw to be required. I became thoroughly awakened to my own wretched bondage to sin.” “The wrath of God against sin, as declared in the first of Romans, had been heavy upon me ten years before; but now the bondage of sin, as illustrated in the seventh of Romans, was heavier still, and I experienced the full bitterness of soul which sings out in the cry, ‘Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?’ But after the Lord led me into the rest of heart for sanctification, how sweet it was!”
49 P. 113.
50 P. 126.
51 He uses the expression (p. 178): “They could tell him what to do—could tell him to consecrate himself, and to believe.” Again (p. 135): “Another thing was needed as much as consecration to do the will of God, viz.: faith in Jesus, for the power of Him who worketh in us, to work in Him both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.”
52 Pp. 124, 125.
53 The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, October, 1860, xxxii. p. 625.
54 P. 30.
55 Pp. 210, 211.
56 P. 58.
57 Pp. 116 ff.
58 July, 1860, xvii. pp. 533–534.
59 P. 116.
60 P. 59.
61 “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” p. 231.
62 Pp. 116 f.
63 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” pp. 120, 121.
64 Mrs. Boardman, “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” p. 174, teaches very expressly the same doctrine. “It is only as the Holy Spirit reveals self that the soul can see it. There is ever a vast territory within to be possessed by our Lord, and He alone sees all the lurking places of this hidden self, and He alone can show us.… ‘If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we (Christ and we) have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ When we are walking, going on in the light, He reveals to us that from which we need to be cleansed; and we learn that whatever knowledge we may have gained, and however deep may be our communion with God to-day, it will not suffice for to-morrow; all we have learned is only retained by the exercise of trust or faith in the Lord moment by moment.” According to this the Higher Christian Life is a walk in Christ. We never commit known sin. But we continually learn that what we do is sin. And learning this, we cease from it. Thus there is a progressive cleansing from sin.
65 P. 76.
66 Part I, chapter v. pp. 64 ff. Mrs. Boardman, “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” pp. 52, 58, 135, 170, also vigorously repudiates “Perfectionism” from the same point of view as her husband. On p. 58 she tells us that the experience of receiving Christ as Saviour from his sins was to Mr. Boardman “not the end of sanctification, but the beginning of a life of full, abiding union with Jesus.” “It was a new and better starting-point for full and real progress in all time to come, all the springs of which were in Christ, not in himself.” He was thus bound to Christ “for all future progress” and was assured that “there would be no end of growth.” On p. 170 she defends herself and her husband from the charge that they could not use the clause in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses.” They did not doubt that Christians remained sinners always and always needed forgiveness. “Conscious sins” are a different matter.
67 Pp. 266, 267.
68 P. 269.
69 P. 289.
70 P. 322.
71 See, for example, the article on “The Victorious Life” in The Princeton Theological Review, July, 1918, xvi. pp. 356 ff. or pp. 561 ff. of this volume.
72 “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” pp. 231–233.
73 Published in 1875. This distinction is made in connection with an unhappy effort to turn the phrase, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, into a technical term designating “the second conversion.” “Conversion, therefore,” he writes (p. 89), “and the baptism of the Spirit are separate and distinct experiences.” “There is one, only one Baptism of the Holy Ghost, though there may be many and very great and precious renewals or refreshings by the Spirit afterwards” (p. 32). “The baptism. The baptism, I say; not a baptism, but the gift of the Holy Ghost as an abiding, guiding, teaching, girding, strengthening one” (p. 102). See above note 39.
74 Isaac M. See, “The Rest of Faith,” 1871. “Yes,” says he in the preface, “let the book be called by that name. For that is the blessed condition of the ‘little ones’ of the Lord Jesus.”—The fundamental teaching of the book runs on the familiar lines of the Higher Christian Life School. Mr. See calls what he advocates “Scriptural holiness” (p. 62). The following brief extracts will give the outlines of his doctrine. “Can I be holy? Yes, beloved, surely you can. Otherwise the glorious God of our salvation would not have commanded you to be holy” (p. 28, cf. p. 43). “I can be holy … God designed it.… He is able and willing” (p. 75). “It must be conceded by those who have tried every way to become holy and have failed that the work of our sanctification is only the Lord’s. Our part in the gracious plan is—‘only believe’ ” (p. 43). “But observe, that though the Lord Jesus is so ‘able to save unto the uttermost,’ yet He will not do our part of the work.… Do your part … and He will do His part” (p. 48). “He, with our full consent (He will not do it without), brings every power into harmony with His own life” (p. 44). “Most positive are we, that if they will let Jesus work, they shall know the joy of a perfect cure” (p. 51). “Let all go for Jesus. This is consecration—a complete, final yielding up of all we have to God, to be succeeded by a continual remembrance that we possess nothing henceforth in our own name” (p. 17). “He died to save us from all leaven of sin, that it might be rooted out and cast away, and that our lives might shine with His holiness. Any other view deprives the church of the full benefit of His death” (pp. 32–33). “We are just as helpless to be holy as the man with the withered arm was to stretch it out. All our works can never make us holy.… It is done by the all-powerful Jesus, who reigns in the hearts of His people, and who delivers them from all things ‘according to their faith.’ … This simple faith is in momentary exercise. It does not believe that holiness which it receives from Christ is infallibility, for this has never been promised; but it does believe, that, as it momentarily looks unto Jesus, it gets the work of the Holy Spirit done within, it keeps the cleansing which it enjoyed at first, and that it is enabled to please God” (p. 85). The perfectionists’ “distinguishing feature … is, that Jesus is so formed in them as to make it impossible for them to fall into sin. It would appear that they believe in infallibility. We have no such doctrine” (p. 54). “We confess our perfection cannot be Adamic, being conformable to our present imperfect capacities.… We also confess that our present graces are not angelic” (p. 55). “We are not sinners in the sense of active trangression of the law” (p. 89). “Jesus can and does keep those who intently look to Him from sinning, from breaking out into actual, known, and therefore wilful, acts of sinning” (p. 105). “I am utterly unable to see how sin can have any dominion or power, or active presence, if Jesus … dwell within. His presence is sin’s expulsion” (p. 58). “I need not, therefore, be anxious about the amount of sin which is left, when by His reigning grace, yea, by His sure presence, I am not conscious of a single desire outside of His will, nor of a departure from Him in my ways” (pp. 58–59). “Jesus has done two things for us. These two things are the purchase of His precious blood; they are inseparable … imputation and impartation. The latter expresses His own indwelling.… If we try to cleanse ourselves we shall be unfit for His dwelling, but if we believe He will cleanse us, and if we give up the work to Him He will see it well done” (pp. 95–97). Here is perfectionism of conduct, confined to deliverance from conscious transgression of known law, produced by the indwelling of Christ. Its generic sameness with the perfectionism taught by the other adherents of the Higher Life school is clear and the specific difference small.
75 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 74.
76 P. 80.
77 Some idea of their number and character may be formed from the volume published in 1872 with the title: “Pioneer Experiences; or the Gift of Power Received by Faith. Illustrated and Confirmed by the Testimony of Eighty Living Witnesses of Various Denominations.” By the author of “The Way of Holiness.” Introduction by the Rev. Bishop Janes.
78 There appear to be no objective, critical biographies of either Mr. or Mrs. Smith accessible. There is a little sketch of Mr. Smith in German: Möller, “R. P. Smith, ein Lebensbild”; and there is a short notice of him in Schiele und Zscharnack, “Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart,” v. p. 727. There is also a discussion of the “Religious Experience of R. Pearsall Smith” in The (London) Christian Observer, lxxv. 1875, pp. 830 ff., 926 ff.; lxxvi. 1876, pp. 60 ff. See also Th. Jellinghaus, “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum” (1880), ed. 4, 1898, pp. 431, 720. Mrs. Smith gives data for the earlier period of their religious life in “The Record of a Happy Life: Being Memorials of Franklin Whitall Smith,” 1873; and a valuable sketch of her own development in “My Spiritual Autobiography or How I Discovered the Unselfishness of God,” 1903. Her later years are depicted by her granddaughter, Ray Strachey, in “A Quaker Grandmother,” 1914.
79 She herself says in her old age (“My Spiritual Autobiography,” 1903, pp. 55 f.): “Nearly every view of divine things that I have since discovered, and every reform I have since advocated, had, I now realize, their germs in the views of the Society; and over and over again, when some new discovery or conviction has dawned upon me, I caught myself saying, ‘Why, that was what the early Friends meant, although I never understood it before.’ ”
80 Robert Barclay’s term (cf. Charles Hodge, “Systematic Theology,” i. p. 94; Hastings’ “Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics,” vi. p. 143 a), as also William Law’s (cf. W. R. Inge, “Christian Mysticism,” 1899, p. 282). Eckhart called it “spark” (cf. Inge, p. 155; R. A. Vaughan, “Hours with the Mystics,” i. p. 190). For the history of the term, see Inge, “Christian Mysticism,” Index, “Synteresis.”
81 “Every-Day Religion,” 1893, pp. 160 ff.
82 Charles Hodge, as cited, thus summarizes Barclay’s teaching: “This seed comes from Christ, and is communicated to every man. In some it lies as a seed upon a rock, which never shows any sign of life. But when the soul receives a visitation of the Spirit, if his influence be not resisted, that seed is vivified, and develops into holiness of heart and life; by which the soul is purified and justified. We are not justified by our works. Everything is due to Christ. He is both ‘the giver and the gift.’ Nevertheless our justification consists in this subjective change.” To make the parallel complete, Mrs. Smith teaches the same subjective conception of justification (p. 193). Christ is our Righteousness, she says, and then she adds: “That is, the life of Christ in our souls is a righteous life.” She had learned in 1858 the doctrine of Justification by Faith under Plymouth Brethren influences and held it for a time very clearly; but she came afterwards back to the Quaker doctrine (“My Spiritual Autobiography,” pp. 235 ff.) and spoke of her earlier period as a past phase of belief—“in our very evangelical days” (p. 278).
83 “My Spiritual Autobiography,” 1903, chapter xxix. pp. 275 ff.: “But now at last I had got the clue, and the true inner meaning of Quakerism dawned upon me more and more fully day by day. It was the ‘way of holiness’ in which they were seeking to walk. They preached a deliverance from sin, a victory over the cares and worries of life, a peace that passes all understanding, a continual being made ‘more than conquerors’ through Christ. They were in short ‘Higher Life’ people, and at last I understood them; and now the old preaching, which once had been so confusing, became marrow and fatness to my soul. The preaching had not changed, but I had changed. I had discovered the missing link, and had reached that stage in my soul’s experience to which such preaching ministered” (pp. 280–281).
84 “The Unselfishness of God,” as cited by J. B. Figgis, “Keswick from Within,” 1914, p. 13. The passage occurs (with some expansion of details) on pp. 278–279 of “My Spiritual Autobiography or How I Discovered the Unselfishness of God,” 1903, which is advertised as “a new edition of ‘The Unselfishness of God.’ ” We infer that Mr. Figgis’ quotations are taken from the first edition of the book, or else that he has skilfully condensed the text.
85 “My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 283.
86 Ibid., p. 283. Theodore Sippell summarizes the Quaker doctrine as follows: “Let us open Robert Barclay’s famous Apology of Quakerism. In the eighth chapter, ‘Concerning Perfection’ we read: ‘In whom this pure and holy birth is fully brought forth the body of sin and death comes to be crucified and removed, and their hearts united and subjected to the truth; so as not to obey any suggestions or temptations of the evil one, but to be free from actual sinning and transgressing of the law of God, and in that respect perfect: yet doth this perfection still admit of a growth; and there remaineth always in some part a possibility of sinning, where the mind doth not most diligently and watchfully attend unto the Lord.’ This power to live free from sin is ascribed by Barclay only to the regenerate man, in whom Christ lives and rules, who not only reveals and punishes sin but also gives power to cease from it. This perfection is, to be sure, no divine perfection, in the sense that we are as pure, holy and perfect as God Himself, but only a perfection which corresponds to the human measure. The doctrine that the saints can never in this life be free from sinning agrees, according to Barclay, neither with the wisdom and almightiness of God nor with His righteousness. It is in the highest degree an accusation of Christ, takes away the power of His offering and makes His coming and His service in the main matter ineffective. It is irrational and meaningless. Christ commands: ‘Ye shall be holy;’ it must therefore be possible. We have the promise, ‘Sin shall not rule over you.’ Paul does not argue in Rom. 6. ‘Ye can be free from sin,’ but ‘You must be free from it, because you are under grace, not under law.’ This perfection or freedom from sin is obtained and made possible when the Gospel and the inner law of the Spirit are received and recognized. According to the witness of Scripture, many have received this freedom from sin—some before the law, and some under the law, and many more still under the gospel. This perfection can be lost again, through lack of watchfulness.… Barclay does not wish to throw into doubt that a still higher condition is attainable by man in this life, in which the right has become so a second nature to him that he in this condition cannot at all sin again. All doubt of this possibility is excluded for him by the Scriptural declaration, 1 John 3:9. ‘Whosoever is born of God doeth no sin, for his seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.’ But Barclay modestly recognizes that he has not himself attained this degree of perfection. If now we bear in mind that regeneration, that is, the destruction of the sinful nature and the restoration of the original nature (as Adam possesed it before the fall), is accomplished according to the conception of the Quakers by a sudden instreaming of divine power and grace—then the kinship of the Quaker and the Methodist doctrines of perfection seems extraordinarily close. A difference between them must of course not be overlooked. According to the Quaker conception we receive the perfection immediately on our entrance into a state of grace; according to Wesleyans in a later stadium, namely in the ‘second change.’ But we should not lay too great weight on this difference in the question of their wider kinship” (Die Christliche Welt, xxviii. 1914, coll. 149–150).
87 This is what Mrs. Smith says explicitly in “The Record of a Happy Life,” p. 16. They “had long been seeking the truth,” she says, and “were both brought on the same day, during the summer of 1858, to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as our all-sufficient Saviour, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree; and by faith in Him were ‘born again’ into the family of God.” In a much later book, “The Unselfishness of God,” 1902 (American edition under the title of “My Spiritual Autobiography,” 1903, pp. 172 ff.), a somewhat different account is given. Mr. Smith seems to be confusing this and his “second conversion” when in an address at the Oxford Union Meeting in 1874 (“Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 168) he says: “I had been a ‘religious man’ for ten long and toilsome years, when one day, in the railway carriage, I for the first time saw in the Scripture what the blood of Christ had done for me. Reaching my journey’s end I found that my wife, in the same way from the Scripture, had, a few hours before, also found eternal life in believing.” It appears to have been about 1867 that he found “the second blessing.”
88 See also “My Spiritual Autobiography,” pp. 192 ff.
89 “My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 200.
90 “The Record of a Happy Life,” 1873, p. 37.
91 Pp. 37 f.; cf. chapter xxvi. of “My Spiritual Autobiography.”
92 “My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 240.
93 “Holiness Through Faith,” pp. 83 f., 64 ff.
94 “The Record of a Happy Life,” pp. 139, 141; cf. p. 186.
95 “My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 245.
96 “The Unselfishness of God,” quoted by Figgis, “Keswick from Within,” p. 12; in a more expanded form, “My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 263. Mr. Smith’s own account, pp. 264 ff.
97 Das moderne Gemeinschaftschristentum,” 1910, p. 4.
98 “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, 1898, p. 720.
99 Johannes Jüngst (“Amerikanischer Methodismus in Deutschland und Robert Pearsall Smith,” 1875) in his sketch of Smith’s doctrine is concerned to show that the teaching of Smith and that of the Methodists are closely related. This he does very well. The fact is, however, not in dispute. The writer of the able article “The Brighton Convention and its Opponents” in The London Quarterly Review, xlv. October, 1875, pp. 84–128, while criticising quite freely, from the Wesleyan point of view, details in Smith’s teaching, does not think of denying that the cause of the one is in essence the cause of the other: “We are … concerned to defend the general doctrine they teach” (p. 103).
100 He tells about it in his book, “ ‘Walk in the Light.’ ” Compare Mrs. Smith’s “My Spiritual Autobiography,” 1903, p. 288.
101 “The Unselfishness of God,” quoted by Figgis, “Keswick from Within,” p. 14; in fuller form, “My Spiritual Autobiography,” pp. 288 f.
102 The phrase is Fr. Winkler’s, “Robert Pearsall Smith und der Perfectionismus,” second thousand, 1915, p. 17: “1873 beginnt seine Tätigkeit als Weltmissionar.”
103 Cf. Mrs. Boardman’s “Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman,” 1886, p. 250, where J. E. Page, editor of The King’s Highway, speaking of the Oxford Meeting, remarks of Mr. Boardman: “He was not very prominent in the meetings … but he did much valuable work in dealing with individuals.”
104 We are following the condensed narrative here of F. Winkler, “Robert Pearsall Smith und der Perfectionismus,” 1915, pp. 17 f.; cf. also the vivid brief narrative of Hermann Benser, “Das moderne Gemeinschaftschristentum,” pp. 3 f. and especially the full contemporary account of Johannes Jüngst, “Amerikanischer Methodismus in Deutschland, und Robert Pearsall Smith,” 1875, pp. 48 ff.
105 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” pp. 134 ff.
106 This is the ordinary account; but Mrs. Smith does not say this. In her “My Spiritual Autobiography,” 1903, p. 221, she writes: “In 1873 my husband had come over to England to hold some meetings in the interests of the Higher Life, or, what I prefer to call it, the Life of Faith. I soon followed him.…” This may be, however, only a comprehensive way of describing what actually took place.
107 “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, p. 434. He says he has fully discussed the matter in the first edition of his book, 1880, and has there shown that Mr. Smith’s whole fault lay in teaching privately to some of his pupils “an extravagant esoteric doctrine of particular betrothal (besonderen Verlobung) with Jesus.” We have not seen the first edition of Jellinghaus’ book, and do not know the grounds on which he bases this opinion.
108 We are assured by Mr. Smith’s friends that this “indiscretion” in conduct “did not amount to immorality in word or act” (The Presbyterian, February 19, 1876, p. 9). The closing words in the following account of Mr. Smith, given by P. Kahlenbeck in Herzog-Hauck, “Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche,” ed. 3, v. p. 665, seem unjustifiably harsh: “About the same time with the news of the results [of Moody’s preaching in Great Britain] there came another revivalist from across the ocean to Germany, Pearsall Smith, who addressed himself, however, more to those who were already believers, seeking to lead them to complete consecration to the Lord, and thus to sinlessness. He, however, after many had attached themselves to him, became in his personal life a disgrace to his doctrine.”
109 Fr. Winkler (“Robert Pearsall Smith und der Perfectionismus,” ed. 2, 1915, pp. 18, 19) in closing his brief sketch of Smith’s life mentions that the air was full of ugly rumors at the time when Smith broke off his work in England, but adds that the accessible sources of information do not render it possible to form a certain judgment of the truth of the matter. “Here,” says he, “there is a task for investigation, and in general a satisfactory life of R. P. Smith, from the point of view of critical science, is still lacking.”
110 The phrase is Professor Thomas Smith’s (The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, April, 1876, p. 251). Compare the words of Dr. Lyman H. Atwater (The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review, July, 1877, p. 419) who, warning his readers against the antinomian tendencies intrinsic in the Higher Life teaching, remarks: “Nor do we think it wrong or uncharitable in this connection to refer to the career of Mr. Pearsall Smith, who has been so conspicuous in Higher Life leadership.”
111 The Presbyterian (Philadelphia) of January 22, 1876, p. 8, where also the statement quoted above may be found. The matter is reverted to in the issue of February 19, 1876.
112 “Keswick from Within,” by the Rev. J. B. Figgis, 1914, p. 59.
113 Here is Mrs. Smith’s own account of the crisis (“My Spiritual Autobiography,” pp. 179): “One day, however, a ‘Plymouth Brother’ friend, hearing me tell my story, exclaimed ‘Thank God, Mrs. Smith, that you have at last become a Christian.’ So little did I understand him, that I promptly replied, ‘Oh no, I am not a Christian at all. I have only found out a wonderful piece of good news that I never knew before.’ ‘But,’ he persisted, ‘that very discovery makes you a Christian, for the Bible says that whoever believes this good news has passed from death unto life, and is born of God. You have just said that you believe in it and rejoice in it, so of course you have passed from death unto life and are born of God.’ I thought for a moment, and I saw the logic of what he said. There was no escaping it. And with a sort of gasp I said, ‘Why, so I must be. Of course I believe this good news, and therefore of course I must be born of God. Well, I am glad.’ From that moment the matter was settled.”
114 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 65: “At 4.30 Mrs. Pearsall Smith held a Bible Reading in the same room—a meeting for ladies. Gentlemen who chose to attend were not excluded, and many were present at this and the subsequent hours devoted to her Scripture lessons.”
115 As cited, pp. 23–24.
116 As cited, p. 37.
117 Mr. Smith’s books include “Holiness Through Faith,” 1870; “ ‘Walk in the Light,’ ” 1873; “Through Death to Life: the Lesson of the Sixth of Romans, with Illustrated Narratives”; “Bondage and Liberty; or, is Romans 7 to be the Continued Experience of the Christian?” and a series of booklets: “The Secret of Victory”; “Liberty in Serving Christ”; “Out of Darkness, into the Kingdom”; “A Clean Heart”; “Doers of the Word”; “Life’s Great Sorrow, and its Remedy”; “Chosen to be Holy”; “ ‘Thy Maker is Thy Husband’ ”; “The Way of Righteousness.” He was also the editor of the periodical: The Christian’s Pathway of Power.
118 P. 10.
119 P. 59.
120 Hannah Whitall Smith’s books include: “Holiness as Set forth in the Scriptures”; “The Record of a Happy Life: Memorials of Franklin Whitall Smith,” 1873; “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” 1875; “The Veil Uplifted; or, the Bible its own Interpreter,” 1886; “Every-Day Religion,” 1893; “Soul Rest; or, the Joy of Obedience,” 1893; “Child-Culture; or, the Science of Motherhood,” 1894; “Christ Enough,” 1895; “Old Testament Types and Teachings,” 1899; “The Unselfishness of God,” 1902; “Living in the Sunshine,” 1906; “Difficulties of Life”; “God is Love”; “The Open Secret.” There are besides a long series of booklets belonging to her earlier activity, such as: “The Way to be Holy”; “Abiding in Christ”; “The Christian’s Cry”; “The Christian’s Shout”; “A Word to the Wavering Ones”; “Jesus our Saviour from Sin”; “What Faith is and How to Exercise it.” For a considerable period she contributed almost every month a paper to The Christian’s Pathway of Power.
121 Johannes Jüngst (“Amerikanischer Methodismus in Deutschland und Robert Pearsall Smith,” 1875, pp. 62–66) has some admirable remarks upon this fundamental error of tearing apart two organically related things. “A justification which can endure for years without ripening true fruits of sanctification has been no justification at all in the evangelical sense. Can I talk of a fire which has been burning for years, but only to-day gives out warmth? According to both the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Church, justification and sanctification are two never to be separated twin sisters. He who is really justified and brought by Christ into the relation of a son to his God has received at the same time the impulse to sanctification, the impetus to an eternal advance. We must certainly bear in mind that the work of redemption in the Christian is a unitary whole.”
122 “The Record of a Happy Life,” p. 16.
123 “The Record of a Happy Life,” p. 37.
124 Johannes Jüngst, as cited, p. 66, quotes a German periodical of the time, which remarks that this haste to secure “full salvation” is a sign of the times: “Get rich quick, get saved quick!”
125 “The Record of a Happy Life,” p. 37.
126 “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, 1898, p. 431.
127 The air in London in the summer and autumn of 1875 was fairly palpitant with the Higher Christian Life. Mrs. Julia McNair Wright “reported” the meetings for The Presbyterian (Philadelphia), perhaps a little too sympathetically and yet with an eye open to excesses. Here is a vignette or two (September 11, 1875, p. 2). She tells of “an errant American preacher” who “preëmpted the platform,” and “was long and loud” in his claims to “complete sanctification,” and “was more than righteously angry with all who denied such a claim.” She tells also of “an elderly sister” “who claimed that even the roots of sin were dead in her heart.” “We studied this sister’s case carefully,” says Mrs. Wright, “and came to the conclusion that her assertion was based, not on a fact of sanctification, but on an obtuseness of perception.… She thought herself completely holy merely because her conscience did not remonstrate where other people’s consciences would have lifted an outcry.”
128 For these elements of Dr. Mahan’s teaching, see his “Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection,” 1844, pp. 91, 92, 189, 190.
129 “Holiness Through Faith,” p. 76.
130 “Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection,” pp. 92–93.
131 Pp. 189, 190.
132 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” pp. 49–52.
133 “Holiness Through Faith,” p. 41.
134 P. 49.
135 P. 49.
136 “Das völlige, gegenwärtige Heil durch Christum,” ed. 4, 1898, p. 717.
137 Ibid., p. 721.
138 P. 722.
139 As cited, p. 435.
140 “Holiness Through Faith,” p. 11.
141 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 186.
142 Ibid., p. 222.
143 Ibid., p. 150.
143 Ibid., p. 150.
144 P. 150.
145 P. 150.
146 P. 151.
147 “The Rest of Faith,” 1871, pp. 14 f.: “We have heard that a certain divine once said that the Church is an hospital where the inmates are all sick. When they get well they are taken to heaven. The person speaking may have believed it, but we believe the sentiment is of the devil.… If so… then, too, the churches that are scattered here and there through the land are only infirmaries where people come to be treated by the Great Physician, who proceeds to cure the people by a slow process, in the meantime leaving them to the oversight of these sick ministering nurses,” that is, their pastors.
148 “Holiness Through Faith,” p. 92: the italics are ours.
149 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 78.
150 Ibid., p. 60.
151 Ibid., pp. 60–62: the italics are ours.
152 “Holiness Through Faith,” p. 59: the italics are ours.
153 P. 60: the italics are ours.
154 Compare the reductio ad absurdum of these teachings of Mr. Smith’s given by Thomas Smith, The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, April, 1876. pp. 271–272.
155 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 323.
156 As cited, p. 58.
157 The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review, July, 1877, p. 415.
158 “Holiness Through Faith,” p. 59.
159 Cf. Lyman H. Atwater, as cited, p. 408: “The late Bishop Janes, in his introduction to the book entitled Pioneer Experiences, says that, ‘while entire sanctification makes us perfect Christians, it does not make us perfect men.’ ” The distinction between religious and moral perfection is curiously illustrated by a phrase of Mrs. Smith’s (“My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 213): “I saw that God was good, not religiously good only, but really and actually good in the truest sense of that word.” The notion that a being can be “religiously good” without being “really and actually good” is not a wholesome one.
160 “Holiness Through Faith,” pp. 105 ff.
161 P. 108.
162 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 136.
163 P. 152.
164 Mr. Smith’s assertions on this side reach their climax in the declaration he is reported to have made at the Brighton Conference: “I know no example of a relapse from the higher life” (Herzog-Hauck, “Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche,” ed. 3, xxiii. p. 530, lines 29, 30).
165 P. 321.
166 P. 274.
167 Pp. 155, 156.
168 Here is a hard saying of the Rev. D. B. Hankin’s (“Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” pp. 83 f.): “I trusted the Lord as never before, and found Him faithful to His promises in keeping me from falling; when I have stumbled, as I do even now sometimes, the failure is mine not Christ’s.” He means that it is only when his trust fails that Christ’s keeping fails. But he also means that when his trust fails Christ’s keeping fails. He means, that is, that Christ’s keeping depends on his own trusting. Christ has promised to keep him from falling; and Christ will be faithful to that promise—that is, will keep him from falling. Nevertheless he falls whenever he wishes to, and Christ does not keep him from doing so.
169 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 134.
170 As cited, p. 96.
171 “My Spiritual Autobiography,” pp. 222 f.
172 P. 37.
173 “Every-Day Religion,” 1893, p. 170.
174 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” pp. 66–68.
175 This also was no doubt a result of her Quaker training. Speaking of her girlhood, she writes (“My Spiritual Autobiography,” p. 143): “The Quakers rarely touched on the future life in any way, either as regarded heaven or hell. Their one concern was as to the life of God in the soul of man now and here, and they believed that where this was realized and lived, the future could be safely left in the Divine care.” Preoccupation with the present was therefore natural to her.
176 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” pp. 17 f.
177 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” p. 36.
178 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 291.
179 Ibid., pp. 295–296.
180 “Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874,” p. 299.
181 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” pp. 243–244.
182 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” pp. 66 f.
183 P. 80.
184 P. 80.
185 “Every-Day Religion,” pp. 69, 72.
186 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” p. 82.
187 “Every-Day Religion,” p. 79.
188 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” pp. 246 ff.
189 Pp. 36 ff.
190 P. 40.
191 One of the most remarkable things in this passage (p. 72) is the use of Phil. 2:13 in it. Henry A. Boardman, in his excellent examination of the teaching in “The ‘Higher Life’ Doctrine of Sanctification,” 1877, pp. 143 ff., animadverts on the violence done to this text by Mr. Smith in such passages as these: “Is not the promise worthy of confidence, that God will work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, and if He does this, shall we not have to cease working ourselves?”—“God worketh in you to will and to do; therefore cease working.” The Apostle says God worketh in you, therefore work. Mr. Smith says, God worketh in you, therefore cease working. Mrs. Smith, in some of her allusions at least, has learned to avoid this gross wresting of the text, though at the cost of a great inconsistency. “When we have surrendered the working of our wills to God,” she says in “Every-Day Religion,” 1893, p. 76, “and are letting Him ‘work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure,’ we are then called upon to ‘set our faces like a flint’ to carry out His will, and must respond with an emphatic ‘I will’ to every ‘Thou shalt’ of His.” The inconsistency of this with her Quietism is glaring. And the wresting of Paul in suspending God’s working on our working instead of vice versa remains unaffected. Compare also pp. 72 and 80.
192 For example, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” p. 190: “God’s way of working … is to get possession of the inside of a man, to take the control and management of his will, and to work it for him.”
193 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” p. 128.
194 P. 142; cf. p. 242.
195 Pp. 138 f.
196 “The Record of a Happy Life,” 1873, p. 88.
197 Ibid., p. 119.
198 “The Record of a Happy Life,” 1873, pp. 148 f.
199 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” p. 30.
200 P. 30.
201 P. 34.
202 P. 35.
203 P. 34.
204 P. 173.
205 P. 180.
206 Pp. 183–184.
207 P. 179.
208 “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” Part II, chapter xiii.
209 See J. B. Figgis, “Keswick from Within,” 1914, p. vii.
210 Among his relevant writings are: “The Christ Life”; “Walking in the Spirit”; “Life More Abundantly”; “Himself,” an address delivered at Bethshan, London, 1885; “Tracts for the Times, Deeper Life Series.” Compare The Princeton Theological Review for July, 1918, pp. 358 ff., or pp. 597 ff. of this volume, and “The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge,” x. p. 430.
211 The titles of some of his tracts are: “Scriptural Heart Cleansing”; “Practical and Scriptural Holiness”; “Have You Perfect Peace?”; “Are You a Pentecostal Christian?”; “Solution of Many Difficulties”; “How to Know the Voice of Christ”; “Is this Your Photograph?”; “Have You the Holy Ghost? “They were published by “The Church Press,” Chicago.
212 James H. McConkey, “The Three-fold Secret of the Holy Spirit,” ed. 2, 1897, 128 pages. Mr. McConkey writes on the general presupposition of the Arminian scheme of salvation. He looks upon Repentance and Faith, conceived as two separate acts, as the proper conditions of salvation. He even speaks of our “yielding” to the Spirit “for Regeneration,” and in general as if our “yielding” were always the precedent condition of the Spirit’s working. He teaches that there are two distinct and separate stages of salvation. On Repentance and Faith we enter into life, are united with Christ, and “receive the indwelling Spirit.” Then on “yielding,” or, more technically “surrendering,” our life to God we “receive the fulness of the Spirit.” Usually there is an actual interval between the two; logically such an interval is presupposed and the appeal of the Scriptures for the second is grounded on the asumption that the first has taken place; but actually the two steps may take place chronologically together, or with so short an interval between that it is unnoted. In the order of thought “conversion must of necessity precede consecration.” But the interval should not be prolonged. “The flesh still abides in the believer,” though he “need not walk in it.” “Jesus Christ does not so much impart life as He inbrings life”; and so “the believer has no spiritual life in himself, apart from Christ Jesus.” The old man is not to be amended but put off—as if the old man is not put off precisely by being amended.—Of course, the new spiritual life which is imparted is not “independent of Christ,” or “apart from Christ.” It will not do to represent the believer, however, as left dead: he is made alive in Christ—and it is he that is made alive. It is not only that he has Christ in him and Christ is living, but it is he himself that is living, for Christ has made him alive; yes, he has life in himself (John 6:53). It is not true that “the believer is portrayed as a man in himself spiritually dead, indwelt through the Spirit by Jesus Christ, who is his spiritual life” (p. 98). He is portrayed as a man who is spiritually alive, in whom Jesus Christ the source of all his life, dwells by His Spirit. The man himself is saved, and his new holiness is his holiness. It is a grave error to suppose that the living Christ can dwell within us without imparting life to us. He quickens whom He will; and he whom He quickens, lives.—It is pleasant to observe that, in spite of his fundamental Arminianism, Mr. McConkey believes in “Perseverance.”
213 M. H. Houston, “Dr. Strickler on Perfectionism,” 1904, p. 6: “I am nothing; Christ is all: his life is brought to me by the Holy Spirit, and to be filled with the Spirit is to have the fullness of Christ. The Christ life is obedience to all the commands of God, and the fullness of Christ is full, entire obedience to these commands. This is what is meant by the phrase, entire, or complete, sanctification.”
214 An admirable detailed criticism of the “Higher Life” teaching will be found in Henry A. Boardman, “The ‘Higher Life’ Doctrine of Sanctification, Tried by the Word of God,” 1877. It is also faithfully, though briefly, dealt with by John Charles Ryle, in the Introduction to his “Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots,” 1877; ed. 2, 1879; often reissued. Professor Thomas Smith in an article on “Means and Measure of Holiness,” in The British and Foreign Evangelical Review for April, 1876, pp. 251 ff., gives an excellent discussion of it; and Lyman H. Atwater, in an article on “The Higher Life and Christian Perfection,” in The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review for July, 1877, pp. 389 ff., takes occasion from it to review the whole subject of Christian Perfection most helpfully. There is an able article in The London Quarterly Review for October, 1875, xlv. pp. 85 ff., on “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents” from the Wesleyan point of view, defending the “Higher Life” teachers against their critics. From the heading of this article the titles of a number of the criticisms of the movement published in 1875 may be obtained. Valuable discussions are found also in Johannes Jüngst, “Amerikanischer Methodismus in Deutschland und Robert Pearsall Smith,” 1875; Reiff-Hesse, “Die Oxforder Bewegung und ihre Bedeutung für unsere Zeit”; G. Warneck, “Briefe über die Versammlung in Brighton,” 1876; Paul Fleisch, “Zur geschichte der Heiligungsbewegung,” 1910; H. Benser, “Das moderne Gemeinschaftschristentum,” 1910; Fr. Winkler, “Robert Pearsall Smith und der Perfectionismus,” second thousand, 1915. Compare also Herman Bavinck, “Gereformeerde Dogmatiek,” J. H. Kok, Kampen, 1911, iv. pp. 262 ff., and the literature there given.