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Excursus X: An Excerpt from “A Warning Exhortation Against Pietists, Quietists, and all Who in a Similar Manner have Deviated to a Natural and Spiritless Religion under the Guise of Spirituality,” by Wilhelmus à Brakel
Among those who espouse blind popery—whose religion does not differ much from paganism—there have always been those who have rejected creature-worship and who have written much about internal religion, elevating this as highly as their natural intellect would permit them. These persons are referred to as mystical writers (that is, hidden writers) since the general public did not achieve such a level of contemplation, such elevation of spirit having been concealed from them. Today many are very fond of the word mystical, as if it implies a high level of spirituality. . . . [Such]have little to say about the Lord Jesus as being the ransom and righteousness of sinners—about how He, by a true faith, must be used unto justification and in approaching unto God, beholding in His countenance the glory of God, and practicing true holiness as originating in Him and in union with Him. . . . Numerous imaginations originating in empty minds, natural speculations, deceptions of Satan, dreams, and zealotry go under the name of mysticism . . . [including] the Quakers[.] . . .
[The Roman Catholic] Michael de Molinos . . . rejected all external exercises of religion and proposed that one need only be in a quiet and introverted frame God-ward in order to be irradiated by Him. . . . [He sought] the elimination of all external activity, including the activity of the intellect and any spiritual elation. This would consist in being totally divorced from self, being elevated above all things, being fully united with God, and in passive reflection to lose one’s self fully in God, thus worshiping Him in pure love. This is how far the illusions and vain speculations of the natural man—who is void of the Spirit and ignorant of God—can go. Since he excluded all external and spiritual motions and promoted quietness in both areas, his followers, many of whom are to be found among Papists and various sects, are called Quietists, that is, those who are quiet or at rest.
Some years after Molinos, François de Salignac de Lamothe Fenelon, [Roman Catholic] Archbishop of Cambrai, published . . . The Exposition of the Fundamental Propositions of the Saints, or, Inner [Spiritual] Life). It is truly not a spiritual book. Fabricated spiritual matters—which are neither to be found in Holy Writ, nor in the practice of the saints—are elevated in a natural manner to as high a level as natural reflection can possibly bring them. He is of the same mold as Molinos and the previous mystical writers among the Papists. They teach a love (or lovelessness), a beholding of God and union with God to consist in some nonessential fancy contrary to the Word of God. This Word teaches us to behold God in the face of Christ as He reveals Himself in the work of redemption. As such God is known and believed by the truly regenerate and true believers. This renders them joy in, and love for, God, causing them to glorify God.
The difference between the self-denial, love, beholding of God, etc., of the mystics and of the truly godly consists in this: The mystics comprehend, say, and do everything according to their natural intellect, fantasy, and imagination, doing so without the Spirit. They do not make use of the Lord Jesus (that is, as a ransom, and righteousness unto justification and peace), as being the only way of approach unto God, and unto true and genuine sanctification. Such exercises and this way are hidden from them. Those, however, who are truly godly, regenerate, and who truly believe, live by faith and not by sight. In all things they make use of the Lord Jesus. They come to the Father by Him, accustom themselves to behold God in the face of Jesus Christ, do everything as in the presence of God, and walk before God’s countenance in humility, fear, love, and obedience. These are the old paths. From this you can observe that the difference between the mystics and the truly godly is as the difference between imagination and truth; between being natural and without the Spirit and being led by the Spirit; between worldly and heavenly; between seeking an unknown God and serving the true God; and between being engaged without, and contrary to, the Holy Scriptures (dabbling with invisible things), and living according to the written Word of God. A truly godly person remains humble and serves God in Spirit and truth, and is thus kept from the temptation of entertaining high-minded and fabricated imaginations. . . .
I shall state and defend some propositions whereby the errors will be evident and whereby a believer, holding fast to those truths, will be delivered from their temptations.
PROPOSITION 1: A Christian must have a great love for the truth; all splendid pretense void of love for the truth is deceit. . . . [T]his truth is the seed of regeneration; that is, it is the means whereby man is drawn out of darkness into marvelous light. “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (James 1:18); “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet 1:23). He who therefore neither knows nor has the truth cannot be regenerated. If he is not regenerated, however, all his speaking about spiritual things is but the work of nature and he is entirely devoid of the truth. . . . [T]he truth is the means, fountain, and rule from which holiness issues forth and according to which it must be regulated. Holiness is the loving observance of truth. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:14-15). The Lord Jesus when praying for holiness for His own, beseeches that it may come about by the truth. “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). If the heart is to be purified, it must occur by means of the truth. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Pet 1:22). He who lives in sin is a slave and servant of sin. He who is set free from sin is set free by the truth—a truth comprehended and known well. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). To live holily is to walk in the truth. “… even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 3-4). Someone who neither knows nor has the truth cannot be holy. Whatever he manifests is but the natural work of an unconverted person. Every step which deviates from the truth is impure and causes impurity in the way of holiness. . . . If we love the truth, we shall hate all that is opposed to the truth, however insignificant it may be[.] . . . One cannot trifle with the truth. It is too precious a gift from God[,] and God takes notice of how we deal with it. . . . [N]ot only is it contrary to God’s will to have fellowship with error, but also with those who espouse error. . . . Thus, every [church] member must be on guard against intermingling with those who espouse false doctrine. Hear what the command is: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor 6:14-15,17). If you stand in awe of God’s majesty, if you tremble at His Word, and if the truth is precious to you, be on guard against false doctrine, false teachers, and for men who are mired in error, however attractive they may appear to be. Let your heart be governed by the exhortation of the apostle: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (2 John 1:10); that is, have no fellowship with him and avoid him so that you will not be drawn away from the truth by him in the least. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:17-18).
How necessary it is to carefully heed this proposition! Compare yourself to this. Do you have such a tender love for the truth? Is it that precious to you? Do you joyfully give thanks to God for it? Do you live according to it? Do you engage in battle on its behalf? Do you indeed abhor all error and those who espouse it? Are you fearful and concerned about associating with such persons? If such is the case with you, then you are not in danger of being misled by the elevated language of [false teachers such as mystical quietists], for you will immediately perceive whether they have and promote either the truth or error, and whether they have love for the truth. . . .
PROPOSITION 2: A Christian must have great love and esteem for the church. . . . He who . . . view[s] the church from every dimension with a spiritual eye and heart, will not only be ignited with love for the congregation and, with ecstasy, stand in awe of the glory of the church, but he will also be provoked to holy wrath against all those who would dare to undertake anything which is detrimental to the church. The [comments] above will give sufficient reasons to be on guard against the delusions of [mystical quietists]. They exert every effort to ruin the church—if this were possible. They reject the church, church order, the divine commission of ministers, the ministry of the Word . . . [t]hey thus make themselves guilty of the abominable sin of despising the congregation of God. “ . . . or despise ye the church of God” (1 Cor 11:22). He who despises the church of God despises God Himself and the riches of His goodness, and will not escape the judgment of God. Even though the one [Quietist] espouses this and another person again different heresies and errors, all of them holding to opinions of their own, they agree in this respect that their religion consists in stripping themselves as being nothing (in reference to God, that is), and in the contemplation upon an imaginary and fabricated God. They ascend in this as far as their natural perception will enable them, which to such darkened individuals appears as wondrous light and as being wondrously spiritual. Occasionally they come together to listen to someone speak of these matters. Their religion furthermore consists in manifesting an indiscriminate love for people of various sects—even as far as the wallet is concerned. He who has no love for the church has no love for God. He who is engaged in battling the church is battling God and will endure His judgment. . . . [T]hey make a great display of spirituality and thereby gain entrance with the upright. They thus lead them away from the church and from true religion. Therefore you must, first of all, keep in mind what their objective is, and from that perspective judge their fair speeches. However, do not permit yourself to be ensnared by these fair speeches, nor to be tempted to the commission of the dreadful sin of leaving the church and engaging in battle against her. “He that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt 12:30).
PROPOSITION 3: The Holy Scriptures are the only rule for doctrine and life. In the first proposition we have demonstrated how precious and lovely the truth is, and that he who loves the truth, hating all who deviate therefrom, will withdraw himself from all who depart from the truth—and thus also from the Pietists. In the second proposition we have discussed the esteem and love which all lovers of the church have for the people or congregation of God from which the [quietists] are separated. To this we shall now add the preciousness and loveliness of the Word of God, in which all saving truth is comprehended, upon which the church is built, and which God has given to the church for the purpose of preserving and spreading it. This the [quietists] either reject or minimize.
God has caused the way of salvation (there being but one, which is hidden from the natural man) to be recorded so that His people would have a steadfast rule of doctrine and life, and be protected against the deceits of Satan. . . . God has furthermore given such a record in order that the church be protected against the deceits of men who make use of craftiness, causing people to err in a subtle manner. He has also done so in order that everyone would be protected against his own heart which carries within it the seed of all heresy and error. This way of salvation, having thus been recorded, has been entrusted to the church in order that she would preserve it in its purity, transmit it from generation to generation and from nation to nation, proclaiming it everywhere unto the conversion of men, to lead the converted to the church, and to govern the faith and life of the members of the church.
The Word of God is the foundation upon which the church is built (Eph 2:19-20), the insignia of the true church, the nourishment of the church, the only rule of faith and life, and the sword against the enemies who err and battle against the truth—it is everything to the church. There is no church without the Word and there is no Word without the church. . . . The Spirit who has inspired the Word and causes believers to perceive, taste, and experience those matters contained in the Word, assures them of the divinity of that Word. He does this not only by means of its inherent evidences of divinity, but also by way of immediate operation in their hearts. . . . Even though a natural man reads and hears of the mysteries of the Word of God, he does not understand them unless God by His Spirit makes them known to his soul by immediate revelation. . . . [Quietists]lack this spiritual light. They have natural light concerning God’s majesty and the insignificance of the creature. They perceive that man’s felicity consists in the beholding of God; and by means of the Holy Scriptures their natural light becomes increasingly clear. Since these persons do not understand the spiritual mysteries, they occupy themselves with a natural beholding of God, imagining that their natural perceptions are wondrously spiritual, and far exceed the Word and that of those who are truly illuminated. Yet such perceptions are nothing but fabrications and illusions which deprive them of salvation.
Not only do the Holy Scriptures contain mysteries, but they also contain all mysteries which God wills His children to know, and which are needful for their spiritual functioning here and the enjoyment of felicity hereafter. Therefore, to teach spiritual matters or spiritual exercises which have neither been revealed nor prescribed in God’s Word is deceit. . . .There is nothing lacking in the Word—neither small nor great, low nor high. “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Ps 19:7). He who either adds to or subtracts from it shall have no part in all the promises recorded in the Word. Rather, all the curses which are declared in the Word will come upon them (Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18-19). . . .The Word of God is “able to make thee wise unto salvation … and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:15-17). One cannot desire anything beyond this; he who fabricates something else accuses God’s Word of being deficient. God demands nothing beyond this; he who demands, seeks, and does something apart from Scripture cannot please God with his will-worship. . . .
The Holy Scriptures are the only rule for doctrine and life. He who wishes to live godly and desires to be saved must regulate his intellect, will, affections, words, deeds, and entire religion according to this Word. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa 8:20); “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word” (Ps 119:6,9); “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11). Therefore—whoever you may be—if you love godliness and salvation, if you have esteem and reverence for God, you ought also to have respect and esteem for the revealed will of God which, by the goodness of God, has been given to us unto salvation. Let this Word be your only rule . . . and you will walk surely. . . .
If the Word of God is so precious to you, if you love it so, and if you make it your rule for faith and life, you will be immune to the delusion of the [Quietists]. If you are taken in and shaken by their speech—having the appearance of spirituality—and you turn to the Word of God, you will immediately perceive that it is not according to the Word, that the Word of God does not speak in that fashion, and that God does not lead His children in such a manner; the Word of God will be a shield to you.
When you encounter them, you must investigate first of all what knowledge of, esteem for, and study they make of the Word. You will then perceive that some reject it entirely, ignore it, and will not respond to your investigation. Others will perceive it as a primer, from which little ones and beginners derive benefit; they contend that one must ascend beyond the Word and engage in more elevated contemplations. However, they will either deny or be silent about the fact that the Word has been inspired by God and has been appointed to be the only and eternal rule—which you may interpret as a denial. Others, who do not perceive the spirituality of the Word with their natural eyes, will deem it to be of little value and will view it as a dead letter, having neither spirit nor life. They maintain that those who hold to the Word will never become spiritual. Others, in order not to give the appearance of casting aside the Word, and your being frightened by them, will make use of it in their conversation and will quote such Scripture passages which speak of light, beholding, and spirituality. Investigate them more carefully, however, as to whether they believe the Word of God to be inspired in its entirety, and whether they acknowledge it as the only rule for faith and life. You will then experience that things are not in order here. . . . You thus have sufficient reason to reject them, and to consider all their doings to be but natural (which they truly are), thinking of this passage: “Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?” (Jer 8:9). . . .
PROPOSITION 4: Regeneration is the originating cause of spiritual life, and of all spiritual thoughts and deeds. . . . However, the point in question is this: What is regeneration and what change does it bring about in man? . . . Many pagans have . . . excelled in conquering their corruptions and in practicing virtue . . . [h]e who reads Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Antonius, Epictus, and other pagan writers will stand amazed.
Regeneration does also not consist in losing sight of yourself; it does not consist in abstaining from aiming at or seeking prosperity and salvation, or your joy and delight for yourself, and instead lose yourself in nothing else but the beholding of God alone. It does not consist in the reflection upon and beholding of God, in sinking away in God, and in continually bringing yourself in the presence of God. All of that can also be the work of nature; pagans, idolatrous Papists, and other proponents of error do likewise.
It does not consist in the increase of natural light and virtuousness, as if man would be regenerated were light to exceed darkness or virtuousness sin. For,
(1) growth is of the same nature as the principle from which it originates. The principle of light and virtuousness is natural, and thus also the increase in both—regardless of how far it may go.
(2) The natural man, however illuminated, virtuous, humble, and exalted he may be in his beholding of God, is and remains a fool (Rom 1:22), without God and without hope (Eph 2:12), and blind (Eph 4:18; 1 Cor 2:14). Thus, regeneration does not consist in the increase of the matters [here] mentioned.
(3) If this were so, man would not need to be regenerated; however, he does stand in need of this. Growth is the continuation of a principle which already exists, and not the receiving of a principle of life which did not exist previously. Regeneration is, however, the generation of a principle of a life which did not exist previously, and thus a translation from one state—death, into another state—life.
(4) Regeneration proceeds from the Holy Spirit by means of the gospel; it causes a person to behold God in the face of Jesus Christ, generates spiritual life by union with Christ, and culminates in felicity. None of these things are true for natural light and virtuousness, and they thus differ in their essential nature.
Regeneration is a complete change of man wrought by the Holy Spirit through the Word. This change is both internal and external. It is from death to life, from natural to spiritual, from an earthly disposition to a heavenly disposition, from self and all creatures to Christ, and through Him to God. Regeneration begins in the heart and in the innermost recesses of the soul. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26). The heart encompasses the intellect, will, and affections.
When someone comes under conviction and receives a desire toward God, he will then initially be in danger of striving for great things. Since natural religion is easier—having the cooperation of nature (true regeneration being contrary to man’s nature)—he will very readily be drawn away to [Quietism], which is nothing else but a natural religion. He will thus be in danger of remaining in a natural state and of perishing. . . . When you are in the company of these people (however, I counsel you to avoid them and to stay with the church and the godly in the church), do not be taken back by highly elevated matters which have a great appearance of spirituality and thus are very attractive to beginning Christians. If, however, you ask them to speak about regeneration, you will find them to be ignorant in that respect or to be entirely in error. This will be sufficient for you to see that all their activity is but natural and thus draws away from true holiness and communion with God, and consequently from salvation itself. And if there is someone among them who was truly a partaker of the principle of regeneration prior to joining with them, and thus is able to speak soundly about this, do not allow yourself to be deceived along with him who is deceived. The principle of his life is indeed true and he will be saved, but the hay, straw, and stubble which he has built upon it will be burned. Regeneration is imperfect and we must therefore not follow them in all that they do; they also still sin. They, possessing a spiritual principle, can nevertheless yield somewhat to their nature which is yet in them, and thus can practice self-denial and behold God in a natural sense. This will cause them to be a Christian of small stature where true growth is absent. Therefore, take heed.
PROPOSITION 5: A Christian continually avails himself of faith. . . . In order for someone to be a partaker of [the] Savior, he must respond to [the] offer [in Scripture], go to Christ, receive Him, and entrust himself entirely to Him. This act of faith is not the cause of a person becoming a partaker of Jesus, but only the means. Therefore, whether faith is weak or strong, whether it is exercised with clarity or be it in darkness, whether it is exercised with much ease or much strife, is not of the essence, but rather, whether it is done in truth with the heart. . . .
Faith is the beginning point of whatever believers undertake. Faith is the soul of their activity and permeates everything. By faith they take hold of His strength and thereby are active as though it were their strength. By faith they overcome the world, are united with the fullness of Christ, and become partakers of all His benefits. . . . If you are upon this way and exercise faith in the manner here delineated, see to it that you persevere in the same way. Do not ever depart from this way, for it will safely bring you to the end of your faith . . . [y]ou will be safeguarded against the errors of . . . all . . . who are in error as far as the practice of godliness is concerned. . . .
There are also those who at one time have received Jesus as their Savior. This task having been accomplished, they might as well proceed to perfection and pursue more lofty things. Poor people—as if it were possible to grow, apart from Christ; as if we could live, except by faith and the continual, actual beholding of Christ and being in union with Him; and as if we could bear fruit without continually drawing sap and nourishment from Christ! He who conducts himself in such (or even stranger) fashion, let him be convinced of his error and turn to Christ, in order to make use of Him continually unto . . . sanctification[.] . . . If someone is upright in the exercise of faith, but yet small in grace, let that which has been said be as a beacon. Let him flee from all who do not enter upon this way of faith and who with a great show of spirituality fail to encounter Jesus.
PROPOSITION 6: All of man’s felicity, here and hereafter, consists in communion with and the beholding of God. . . . This is the most excellent promise: “I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:23); “We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). Their seeing of God agrees with the manner in which God reveals Himself from His side. “And hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true” (1 John 5:20); “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18); “For God . . . hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Such is the activity and the exercise of the godly: “I have set the Lord always before me” (Ps 16:8); “ . . . they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance” (Ps 89:15); “My meditation of Him shall be sweet” (Ps 104:34); “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! . . . when I awake, I am still with Thee” (Ps 139:17-18). This is sufficient to conclude that the beholding of God is reserved for God’s children only. . . . God does not reveal Himself to the world; that is, to the unconverted, to natural men, to those who do not have the Spirit. This is evident in John 14:22, 17, “Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world . . . the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” . . . Therefore, whatever the natural man writes or speaks concerning reflecting upon, beholding of, and being united to God in love, is nothing more than an illusion.
Although a natural man cannot ascend to the right knowledge and beholding of God, and since God does not reveal Himself to such, he nevertheless knows from nature that God is, and that his felicity consists in communion with God. This is further reinforced by the natural knowledge of the Word of God. As a result, many have engaged themselves in beholding God, so that the beholding of God and the discussion thereof is no evidence of spirituality.
I repeat, many unconverted do engage themselves in beholding God by means of their natural light, or by means of their knowledge of the Word of God.
(1) This is very evident among the heathen, who speak concerning this in their writings, doing so with such lofty expressions that a Christian must be amazed and astonished about it.
(2) This is also evident among the popish mystics and thinkers. They are obviously idolaters, for they worship a piece of bread as their God. They pray to angels and deceased persons and render religious honor to images. They destroy the atonement of the Lord Jesus by their abominable mass and in other ways. They wish to be justified by their own works, and thereby merit heaven. They acknowledge the antichrist to be their head and hate true believers. They are persecutors of the church of the Lord Jesus; and they, either by their contribution or by having pleasure in this, are guilty of the blood of the martyrs, and are thus much more abominable than the heathen and others who function only in the realm of the natural. They write and speak much about divine meditations, doing so with expressions which are as lofty as their imagination can devise—yes, their words even exceed imagination, and if they cannot understand them, others may understand them. If they cannot, they may be amazed about these incomprehensible expressions.
(3) This is also evident among many others (not of the popish religion) who also engage themselves in meditation and reflection about divine things. It is evident that they neither have a knowledge of nor a love for the truth. They neither have a love for the Word of God nor do they establish it as their only rule for doctrine, thoughts, and life. There is no love for the church (from which they depart), and there is neither love for nor union with the truly godly. They can unite themselves with all manner of devoted people, but cannot tolerate the truly godly who rebuke them by means of their light. They are unacquainted with the nature of true conversion. This is also true for saving faith, they being total strangers of its exercise. . . . [T]hey speak about great things, about being drawn up, about ascending above themselves and above all creatures—yes, dreadful though it be, above God Himself. The language of Balaam is heard among them: “The man whose eyes are open . . . which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance” (Num 24:3-4).
From that which has been said, it is very evident that unconverted persons also engage themselves in beholding God. You therefore ought not to be immediately inclined to think that those who speak thus—that is, who in a charming manner speak of extraordinary illumination—are true recipients of grace and are truly spiritual. The blind can also speak of light, the unspiritual of the spiritual, and those who are alienated from God about communion with God, and the loveless about love—doing so not feignedly, but from a heart that thinks to have and speak the truth. You must therefore investigate whether that which they say about beholding God is truly spiritual. Follow the advice of the apostle John: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
In order not to be hastily inclined by word or spirit, attentively take note of what has been said thus far: There is a twofold beholding of God—a natural and a spiritual.
(1) The natural beholding of God is practiced by the unconverted; the spiritual beholding of God by those who are true recipients of grace, have truly been regenerated, and truly believe.
(2) The natural beholding of God occurs by the light of nature and the external illumination of the Word, by one’s own spirit, imagination, and mental powers, and by the drawing of rational conclusions; the spiritual beholding of God occurs by the illumination of the Holy Spirit who has drawn believers out of darkness into His marvelous light.
(3) The natural beholding of God has God as its object as He reveals Himself in nature as the eternal, exalted, and glorious One, etc. In the spiritual beholding of God a person beholds Him in the face of Jesus Christ; that is, in the manifestation of all the perfections of God in the work of redemption. In such spiritual beholding He reveals Himself at times in an immediate sense as their reconciled God and Father, doing so occasionally with such light, glory, sweetness, and bliss that it cannot be expressed, and at other times with such expressions as: “I, God, am your God; I am your salvation; I have loved thee with an everlasting love; thou art Mine.”
(4) The natural beholding of God leaves a man alienated from God; the separation remains. The illusion of being united with God is but a union according to their own imagination, for true union occurs only by way of faith—something they do not possess. The spiritual beholding of God brings the soul near to God—yes, unites her with God as belonging to Him. “. . . that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). Oh, blessed unity! Oh, blessed appropriation!
(5) The natural beholding of God leaves man unchanged, that is, in the state of nature—even though through the knowledge of God they may flee from the excessive pollutions of the world. The spiritual beholding of God causes the soul to become increasingly a partaker of the divine nature, and to become holy as He is holy. By the Spirit of the Lord, the soul is transformed through such beholding—in harmony with the object being beheld—from glory to glory. See to it that you do not immediately deem all beholding of God to be spiritual in nature.
It is evident from the nature of their reflection, that the beholding by God of such persons—which in reality consists more in elevated words than in substance—is the result of natural illumination and imagination. Such beholding varies greatly according to everyone’s physical constitution, inclinations, and power of imagination. What follows represents the common manner in which this transpires; if someone is not exercised in the manner as we shall now delineate, he should know that we do not have him in view.
(1) Some, as they undertake such reflection, meditate upon what they know about God in a natural sense, and have read or heard of God. They do not consider at that moment that they have read or heard this. While thus meditating, they ascend from one thing to the next, having conceptions about God in accordance with what their heart and imagination suggest. They then think about what they imagine, and all that is engendered by such thoughts. God must then be as such reflections project Him to be, and in this manner God has then revealed Himself to the soul. It is immaterial whether such thoughts of God are suitable and in harmony with the Holy Scriptures; this revelation is sufficient assurance for them that it is true and spiritual.
(2) Some will mentally withdraw from all creatures, themselves, and God. They are occupied with nothing except with expelling those mental objects which present themselves time and again. They thus endeavor to be without thoughts, as if nothing existed, and they thus enter and sink away into thick darkness. If a ray of light then falls upon their mind in this thick darkness, without the discovery of anything objective, they consider this to be of the Spirit. They allow themselves to be illuminated and guided by this light, and as this light increases, God is unveiled to them as being such and such. This they observe passively—as being the recipient of it, allowing themselves to be illuminated thereby. The soul is thus ignited in love and receives such motions and stirrings, until they again come to themselves and desist for the time being.
(3) Some, having a desire to approach unto God and to behold Him, divest themselves of all reason, memory, affections, and even of those thoughts which initially ignited the inclination to contemplate upon God as having served their purpose. Having thus been emptied of everything, the soul turns to God, considering Him to be her God, and continually thinks: “Oh God, Thou art my God, and I am Thine.” The soul then listens to what God will subsequently reveal of Himself, and thus, in an infatuated manner, focuses upon God as being present. Here she reposes, tastes more than she sees, worships, exults, is in subjection, and exercises love. The only things missing here are the Spirit, spiritual life, the exercises of faith, the going to God through Christ, and the beholding of God in the face of Christ. Since these things are absent, they are all the work and imaginations of a person’s own doing. They are but natural exercises and thus of no value.
(4) Some remain quiet and in a disposition wherein which they are turned unto God, and do nothing but wait upon the Spirit. If nothing comes to mind, then they again proceed, being well satisfied. If something occurs to them, they deem this to be of the Spirit; then this is truth, and is more certain and infallible than the Word of God which they consider to be but a dead letter, a primer for beginners, and of no benefit whatsoever. If the thought which occurs to them gives direction to do or not to do something, it is considered to be the leading of the Spirit and they give heed to it. They do not pray, speak, or do anything unless they are motivated by such an idea coming to mind; they thus, quietly and with delight, live on. When they are stirred up by an idea which occurred to them, they depend on this, irrespective of whether it either agrees with or is contrary to God’s Word. This they do not investigate; it is a matter of indifference to them. They are thus carried away by their own spirit to abominable practices from which even the natural man recoils. This is borne out by the witness of those whom God in His goodness has converted from the error of their ways, and is also taught by daily experience. Some go further than that and play prophet. When thoughts about future events occur to their empty minds, they are deemed to be revelations which will either occur or not occur. Poor, misguided people! They desire to seek God and to do His pleasure, but completely miss the way itself. With all their ideas and the adamant passion of their own spirit they perish.
It behooves all Christians to live in the presence of God, to examine themselves as to what is the good will of God in which He delights, to esteem the Word of God as the revealed will of God and as an infallible rule, and continually to give heed to the leading of the Spirit. It behooves them to give careful heed to their well-illuminated conscience and to be desirous not to act contrary to it. To follow one’s own spirit and ideas, however, as if they were from the Holy Spirit, is to run to one’s own destruction.
In order to be safeguarded against such fanaticism, we must keep the following in mind:
(1) Man has his own spirit; there are many seducing spirits, and the evil spirit can transform himself into an angel of light. He, with the intent to deceive, can give thoughts which are essentially good, but stir man up to use them in an erroneous manner. We must therefore give heed and know by which spirit we are being moved.
(2) The Holy Spirit convinces man of sin and causes him to grieve, be perplexed, and in many ways be troubled about his sin.
(3) The man who is conquered by the Holy Spirit will be regenerated and translated from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being earthly minded to being heavenly minded.
(4) The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of faith who brings God’s children to Christ, causing them to receive Jesus by a true faith as their ransom and righteousness.
(5) The Holy Spirit unites His children and keeps them united to the church, for by one Spirit are they all baptized into one body (1 Cor 12:13).
(6) The Holy Spirit leads believers in all things according to the Word of God; He leads them into all truth. The Word of God is truth, however, and the only rule by which we shall not err. By that Word He regenerates, sanctifies, leads, and comforts them.
Know then with certainty that where these matters are not found, there God’s Spirit is not present. Be assured that whatever is deemed to be spiritual but which does not harmonize with the above, is nothing but illusionary and are seductions of a man’s own spirit. Regardless of how greatly one may boast of spirituality, be instructed and warned. Know that the Holy Spirit is given only to the children of God and that only those who are led by the Spirit do indeed have the Spirit of Christ. The natural man, however, does not have the Spirit (Jude 19); the world cannot receive the Spirit; it neither sees nor knows Him.
It is evident to the truly godly, when considering these ways of beholding God, that they are all but a natural work. This can especially be concluded from the fact that such persons consider the greatest mark of spirituality to be the measure by which a person is stripped of himself and loses sight of himself so completely as if he did not exist. This is not due to a shameful view of their sins, but the result of comparing themselves to God, or it is without reason, or because of the opinion that thus it must be. This is foolish spirituality, which is nothing but the fruit of nature! Why do you delight yourself in such contemplation wherein you utterly lose sight of yourself and do not think about yourself? Is not self your focus in this and do you not deem this to be your salvation? Why then do you engage in this? You neither need to nor are able to do it by virtue of it being God’s will, as it is certainly of no benefit to Him. You thus do it for your own sake, since this reflection upon your nothingness is your delight. Therefore, while thinking that you do not have yourself in view at all, and to be rid of self completely, you are nevertheless seeking yourself. Only if such exclusion and deprecation of self were spiritual in nature (while in reality it is natural and sinful), it would not be a sinful seeking of self, but rather a holy seeking of self.
There can be either a sinful or a holy seeking of self. A sinful seeking of self is when one seeks honor, esteem, love, respect, advantage, etc. in order that all men and everything would end in them. A holy seeking of self is to promote one’s own physical welfare for the purpose of being fit to serve God in whatever capacity that may be. In our seeking after God, it is not sinful to have the welfare of your soul, and thus light, life, love, joy, delight, and salvation in view. Rather, it is evidence of being engaged spiritually in the right way. This is a holy seeking of self, for:
First, God has created this spiritual seeking of self within man. Did not Adam need to be careful to refrain from eating of the forbidden tree in view of the threat, “The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”? Did he not have to be in fear of losing his blessed state? Was he not obligated to seek his felicity in communion with God?
Secondly, God commands His children to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). This they must therefore strive for.
Thirdly, God continually confronts man with threats in order to save him with fear (Jude 23). Observe this in Luke 13:3, “… except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Fourthly, God uses many inducements to persuade man to seek his own salvation. “Come unto Me … and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. . . . For My yoke is easy” (Matt 11:28-30).
Fifthly, if man should not seek himself and his own well-being, it would be a matter of indifference to him how he fared according to body and soul; and being thus indifferent, all prayers would cease. Then there would be nothing for him to desire or request. God, however, wills that “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil 4:6). Then all thanksgiving for received benefits would also cease; God, however, wills that we give thanks in everything (1 Thess 5:18). “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12).
It is evident from all this that spirituality does not consist in disregarding our welfare, utterly deprecating ourself, utterly losing sight of ourself as far as salvation is concerned, and excluding ourself from everything. Rather, this is a fabricated religion which is contrary to God’s commandment, serving no other purpose but the satisfaction of the flesh and our own imagination.
Objection #1: Ought not God be the focus of all things and ought not all things end in God? By seeking self, however, man makes himself the focus and ends in self. Answer: When a godly person focuses upon himself in spiritual matters, he acts according to the command and will of God. It would be impossible for him to end in himself and to remain focused on his felicity only, for that is not the highest level of his felicity. Being a recipient of grace, however, and while enjoying the goodness of God, he will time and again turn to God as the cause of his salvation. He will thus end in Him, thank Him, give honor and glory to Him, and praise Him, because by reason of His essence, all praise must be unto Him, He being worthy thereof. The more pure the manner is in which a spiritual person ends in glorifying God, the more felicity he will enjoy; and the more felicity he enjoys, the more he will end in God. This is not to suggest that he contributes something to God, but rather, that the benefit is man’s. Thus, having his felicity in view and ending in God must go together; the godly person cannot seek the one without exercising the other. As all the godly end in God upon receiving and enjoying the benefits of God, they (especially the fathers in Christ) likewise have the glory of God in view when they begin to undertake something.
Objection #2: A Christian must deny himself (Matt 16:24), not seek himself (1 Cor 10:24), is nothing (Gal 6:3), and must be lowly of heart (Matt 11:29). Therefore, man must remain outside of everything and neither seek nor have himself in mind in anything.
Answer: There is a threefold self. First, there is a sinful self; that is, pride, maliciousness, vengefulness, envy, miserliness, immorality, and all the sinful lusts of the heart, along with the deeds which issue forth therefrom, whereby he seeks to satisfy his lusts and to attain to the fulfillment of his desire. These a Christian must not seek, but he must abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. He must mortify . . . them.
Secondly, there is also a natural self; that is, to desire and seek all that pertains to the welfare of the body, such as food, drink, sleep, clothing, housing, goods, peaceful association with people, and whatever else pertains to human existence. One may and must seek these things, for no one has ever hated his flesh, but rather, cherishes it. However, a Christian does not set his heart upon them, and it is his objective to serve God in the use of these things. He is resigned to the divine dispensation, and he must be satisfied with either much or little, since these are not his portion. If, however, these matters run counter to the Lord Jesus, His cause, the truth, and godliness, and one is obligated to abstain from one or the other thing, then a Christian will readily deny himself, willingly let go of everything, view the disappearance of his goods with joy, and not even hold his life dear. This is the denial which Christ requires.
Thirdly, there is a spiritual self; that is, the desire for the salvation and welfare of our soul, consisting in reconciliation with God through the blood of Christ, union with God, and a life in the enjoyment of His fellowship, love, light, and holiness—and thus eternal glory. A Christian may not deny himself these spiritual things. He must always seek them with all his might. It is the life of the soul, the will of God, the command of God, and it pleases God. To neither seek nor pursue this is sin. Man, in having fellowship with and beholding God, may not utterly put self aside and keep himself entirely outside of this. Rather, he must strive for and seek to find pleasure in spiritual delight, joy, love, and holiness.
Matt 16:24 refers to the natural self; 1 Cor 10:24 refers to the sinful self; Gal 6:3 spreaks of such people who have great thoughts of themselves, despise others, and who in the meantime have no grace, or have but a very small measure.
Let us consider Matt 11:29. Humility does not exclude self; instead, it does relate to self, for it acknowledges what a person is and what graces and benefits are his. He does not boast of this, since he acknowledges that he does not have them of himself, but that they have been granted to him of God by reason of His goodness alone. He sees his sinfulness and that he is therefore not worthy of anything. He sees virtues and capabilities in other persons which he does not have, and thus exalts them above himself. Having the Lord Jesus as his example, he knows that this lowly and yet noble disposition as a Christian, is pleasing to God. He therefore seeks to walk humbly with his God as a weaned child and in a becoming disposition-one of submission and being obliged toward man. It is hereby very evident that the exclusion of self in beholding God is a sign of something that purely proceeds from nature, is of one’s own choosing, and is a sinful act toward the majestic and holy God.
There are three things which cause the godly to be troubled more than anything else. It first of all troubles them that [certain mystics and quietists] speak of these lofty contemplations also speak of their union with God, of belonging to God, and that in such contemplation they view God as their God. Secondly, such persons, in an exceptional manner, are able to speak of love for God and of sinking away in the love of God, and, so to speak, being consumed by it. Thirdly, there are some who speak of the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus in a most extraordinary manner. These three matters, they think, are indeed spiritual and evidences of extraordinary grace. Who would not be enamored by these matters? Who would not desire always to hear this discussed? My response to this is that it cannot but be that truly gracious persons, when hearing others speak of beholding God, of belonging to God, of love to God, and of the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus, will find love and desire stirring within to be in such a condition. This is due to their acquaintance with these matters in their spiritual nature, and they thus perceive them as such when they hear them being discussed. If those who speak thus would know and possess these matters in their true, spiritual nature, far be it from us to warn them in any way; rather, we would embrace them in love. Since we know, however, that these three matters can issue forth from natural illumination and can be expressed by persons who neither possess true grace nor derive these lofty views from a love for the truth, the Word, the church of the Lord Jesus, conversion, and the exercise of true saving faith, we must of necessity demonstrate how the unconverted can be occupied with these three matters.
As far as the first matter is concerned, it is common knowledge that temporal believers, those who are externally religious in the state of nature-yes, even heathens-view God as their God and call Him their God. Everyone knows this. Why is it that those who occupy themselves in contemplating God would also not be able to do so? However, just because they imagine this to be so, does not therefore imply that this is indeed the case. God is only the God of true believers who, through Christ, having received His ransom and righteousness, come to God for reconciliation. Those who are therefore strangers of this way, and do not come in truth unto God in this way, do not have God as their portion. God is not their God, and their imaginations are vain and without foundation. . . . In this illusion they proceed to be amazed, to be delighted in, and to rejoice in God as He is, in the fact that this God is their God, and in all that this God is for them. These are great matters indeed. Many who thus contemplate upon God, however, endeavor to rid themselves of all spiritual motions which pertain to themselves, be divorced from self, and neither think of self nor reflect upon themselves. They only wish to contemplate God, be illuminated by Him, and be drawn up on high, into glory, and into eternity. Yes, though it be dreadful to say, they even endeavor to ascend to God in their reflections. Who would then be offened by the claim of such persons that God is their portion and that He is their God?
Secondly, their love for God is consistent with the manner in which He is their portion. Man has a loving nature, and if he finds or imagines a desirable object, his love goes out toward it. The imagination can have a remarkable effect here, for vain man can imagine something or somebody which or whom he has never seen. He dwells upon this with his thoughts; he delights himself in imaginary conversation, and rejoices in love, as if it were in truth. When a natural man focuses his thoughts upon God, he can also have natural inclinations of love toward God. When in addition he reflects upon the perfections of God—be it through the light of nature or external illumination of the Word—a love issues forth which is not of a spiritual, but of a natural sort. This love is commensurate with their knowledge. It is thus that the heathen delight in God. It is in this manner that idolaters and those who have strayed from saving truth speak of the love of God, the wondrous motions of love, and the kiss of love upon awakening. And thus, by all the motions of natural love which one man can have toward another, they ascend unto God, so that the nature of love does not change, but only the object. They thus dishonor God with their so-called love for Him.
Objection: Are not all natural men haters of God? “Let them also that hate Him flee before Him” (Ps 68:1); “ . . . haters of God” (Rom 1:30); “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom 8:7). Since many who meditate upon God delight in Him in doing so, is this not proof that they are spiritually illuminated and truly regenerate? “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19); “But if any man love God, the same is known of Him” (1 Cor 8:3).
Answer: Not all that bears the name of love is love. There is a love which is natural and a love which is holy. Natural men—such as the heathen and all the unconverted—have natural love, this being of the same nature as he from whom it proceeds; however, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). From this natural love we can only conclude that such people are in the state of nature, and not at all that they are spiritual and regenerate. We completely agree that a natural man in beholding the perfections of God as He reveals Himself in nature in His majesty, glory, power, and goodness, etc., can with his natural heart love God in a natural manner. Pagans and other unconverted men have loved Him in this manner. Those who love God in such situations, can hate Him in other respects, demonstrating this by the rejection of His Word, by not receiving His Son, and in hating and persecuting His children. Those who thus meditate upon God in a natural sense are able to associate with all manner of men, but they detest God’s children who truly manifest the image of God. They hate the light because it exposes them, and because they are rebuked by the light in true believers. They show that they hate God by being unwilling to live according to His laws, instead desiring to live according to their own imaginations. They hate His rebukes, and their entire life demonstrates that they do not delight in God.
If we compare this natural love with the purely spiritual love of God in Christ Jesus—which we shall briefly discuss further on—then we shall perceive that the smallest spark and the tiniest ray of this love is incomparably superior and more pure than all the pretended love of such who meditate upon God, regardless of how they adorn it with beautiful words. The difference is not only one of degree, but of very essence. Oh, how far does this divine spark—that heavenly fire—excel all those dead coals!
The third matter pertains to the extraordinary manner in which they speak of the glory and beauty of the Lord Jesus. Should it come as a surprise that someone who has the Scriptures, who reads godly literature describing the Lord Jesus in His beauty and glory, and who furthermore has an eloquent tongue, can speak in a most excellent manner about Jesus? Does someone therefore know Jesus Himself? Is this proof that he himself experientially beholds and relishes the Lord Jesus? He who draws conclusions merely on the basis of such eloquent speech is naive, and too little skilled in the matters of Christianity. Take time to observe a person who speaks thus as far as his sentiments are concerned, the company he keeps, his love to the godly in the church, and in reference to the first five propositions of this chapter. You will readily perceive how you must judge such a person. Take particular note, however, of how he speaks concerning the manner in which the soul is led to Jesus as Surety, how the soul is exercised in receiving the Lord Jesus as his ransom and righteousness, as well as its engagement in spiritual wrestlings. You will then perceive that all this lofty speech only relates to the Lord Jesus as King, or as an example for imitation, but not as High Priest in order to find reconciliation and peace with God in His atonement, doing so by a continual and frequently repeated exercise of faith, which is the marrow and essence of true Christianity.
Some little children in Christ, who are easily driven about by every wind of doctrine, hearing someone speak eloquently about lofty reflections and not being conscious of the thorn hidden in it, become enamored with such a condition as a result of the spiritual life and light which is within them. They may also engage in meditation upon God as the [quietists] do; that is, in a natural manner—however, with different results.
(1) Some, when they begin, perceive inner strife and have an aversion for this way, although a heartfelt desire for the matter itself remains. They condemn themselves for such resistance and aversion, being of the opinion that this is engendered by their corrupt nature—thinking that it is but laziness and a lack of spirituality. They resume and strive all the more earnestly, but the resistance and aversion remain and increase. Having thus wrestled for some time, they begin to see that their objective—to behold God—is indeed good and spiritual, but that the method is but a natural one, so that this resistance and aversion were not sinful, but an activity of the regenerated nature. They perceive that there is a spiritual way to walk in the light of God’s countenance. They thus escape this snare and desist from pursuing this natural method.
(2) Others, having the principle of spiritual life, are careless as far as preserving and strengthening it. They are inclined to err in seeking to be someone special. They, when perceiving the appearance of spirituality in such lofty reflections, pursue this method recklessly. When God gives them over to themselves, they err by pursuing their fantasy and natural imaginations—and thus, upon that good foundation which is within them they build wood, hay, and stubble, which will be burned. They will nevertheless be saved since the gifts of God’s grace are without repentance. In the meantime, they make themselves guilty of giving offense and are at times the cause of the damnation of other people who, not possessing grace, have followed them in this work of nature due to the esteem they have for them. It only occurs very rarely that such persons are exercised again in a unadulterated manner and come to the simplicity which is in Christ, since pride—which comes naturally to those who pretend to have such lofty reflections—has also overtaken their heart. Since those that are truly converted can fall and err greatly, we must therefore be careful in judging the deeds of the godly, as not all that they do is good. We may not imitate them just because they are godly, but only inasmuch as they are followers of Christ and walk according to the Word of God. “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments” (Ps 119:6). . . .
Truly spiritual persons do not make a distinction between meditation and beholding: they are both considered to be human activities. He does make a distinction, however, between the activity of the soul in meditating upon divine things, and the extraordinary revelations of God to the soul engaged in such meditation upon divine things, which the soul—upon receiving them—acknowledges, feels and tastes.
A believer, however much he may humble himself, will never arrive at beholding God as a result of the measure in which he waits, longs, exerts himself, and lifts up his heart. His duty is to meditate so that he may gain more and more insight into what he knows of God by means of the Word, faith, and experience—in order that he may delight himself in, rejoice in, and adore God, while bowing down before Him to worship Him reverently. He must endeavor to acquaint himself with God, become holier by virtue of having fellowship with Him, and serve God in a manner more pleasing to Him.
Objection: All of this is self-love and therefore must be rejected.
Answer: This sort of self-love is holy, commanded by God, pleasing to Him, and a proof of the spirituality of the meditation. Sinful self-love—which manifests itself in the seeking of esteem, honor, love, respect, to be served by others, and to cause all things to end in self—is hated, despised, and avoided by the person who meditates in a godly manner. In seeking his own spiritual welfare in spiritual meditation, he does not end in self, but rather acknowledges all things to be from God and through God. In love and joy he returns all this again to God, giving Him the honor and glory.
Occasionally God, according to His promise (John 14:21,23), meets such who meditate spiritually with extraordinary and more immediate revelations of Himself, and causes them to behold God in more immediate proximity, and to taste who He is and what He is to them in Christ Jesus. . . . Since God does not reveal Himself to the world and the unconverted, and since they cannot attain to a seeing and beholding of God by their own activity, all their speaking of such beholding, and all their beholding of God is nothing but fantasy, is not in truth, and only a reflection of their thoughts upon the illusions of their own making. . . .
A believer, who engages himself in meditation upon divine things and seeking fellowship with God, withdraws himself from all things and considers there to be no one but God and himself. He acknowledges himself as a creature of God, as having an immortal soul, and as having been created with a human nature in Adam, excelling in holiness and glory. He also acknowledges that in all things he is miserably distorted, deformed, and abominable—being sinful within and without. He occasionally will focus upon his condition in order to gain a deeper insight about himself and thus acknowledge himself to be unworthy that God would look upon him, or would bestow any grace or benefits upon him. He acknowledges himself to be entirely unfit and unworthy to approach unto this majestic and holy God, although he cannot enjoy light, life, peace, rest, satisfaction, and felicity except in communion with God.
While thus maintaining this humble frame, he turns his eye to the Mediator, wholeheartedly approving of this holy way to come and to be permitted to approach unto God through Him. . . .
The soul may also be in a sinful condition. The corruption of the heart may manifest itself; she cannot resist vain thoughts; the lusts of the flesh are exceptionally strong and hold her captive; besetting sins are lively—be it due to disposition, physical condition, or incidents which she either desires, cannot avoid, or may not avoid—and she has little strength against them. She is then perplexed by this; sin is a heavy burden and she is bowed down by it. There is no peace; communion with God has been disturbed, God hides Himself, and faith is assaulted. What now? Any personal initiative does not result in progress; to stay away from God causes more regression. The soul dares not approach unto God due to being too sinful; and to remain in this condition is equivalent to dying continually, whereas there is life and faith in the soul. She makes the resolution to approach unto God, being convinced of her sincerity—not only to be delivered from guilt and punishment, but also from corruption and all the sin which proceeds from this. Such a soul then presents herself to the Lord as sinful and as miserable as she is, together with her grief related to this and her desire to be delivered from it. She meditates upon the free grace of God, that God neither considers anyone’s virtue (which is not naturally present anyway), nor sin, but is gracious because He wills to be gracious to her, and is merciful to whomever He wills. While meditating, she will focus upon the depth of this free grace, approve of it with her whole heart, be enamored with it, and adore it. From this she proceeds to eternal and sovereign election, to eternal love, and while reflecting upon herself and the grace which the soul perceives to be in herself, she is astonished and sinks away in adoration. “I, I sinful man have been known! I have been loved by Thee! I have been eternally appointed to be a recipient of salvation! To Thee, to Thee alone, oh Lord, be the glory for Thy free grace and for Thy unsearchable love for humanity.” From this she proceeds to the Mediator Jesus Christ. In meditating upon Him she can find neither beginning nor end due to the manifestation of all the perfections of God, such as love, righteousness, wisdom, omnipotence, mercy, etc. She acknowledges this holy way as the way whereby the sinner is reconciled with God and which gives her liberty to approach unto God. This way she approves of. She becomes enamored with it and chooses it for herself. She observes in this way the fullness of the satisfaction and is absorbed by the unsearchableness of this way. She meditates upon the immutability of God, that God remains the same in His purpose and love toward the elect, even though they, time and again, spoil everything before Him. Christ’s satisfaction cannot be abolished; the covenant of grace is unbreakable; God remains faithful, and always restores His own. When the soul in a negative frame occupies herself with such meditations, she will experience a wondrous change. The conscience perceives peace with God through the blood of Jesus, the estrangement is transformed into intimacy, and the soul—being washed and cleansed—goes her way rejoicing.
Occasionally the soul of a godly person has a desire for holiness which is more than ordinary. She is enamored with self-denial as far as honor, esteem, the love of men, comfort, earthly delight, and the riches or goods of this world are concerned. She does this neither for self nor for the rest and welfare of the soul, but for the Lord’s sake, doing so to the degree and in those circumstances in which the Lord requires such from her. She is enamored with being continually in the presence of God, as well as with obeying, fearing, loving, and walking humbly with God. She greatly desires humility and meekness of heart, as well as wisdom, love, forbearance, and friendly dignity. She furthermore yearns for the image of her Jesus, and to give expression to His life in her life. She does not desire this in an earthly, lifeless, and natural manner as the unconverted do. Rather, she desires that this be so in a living and truly spiritual manner in union with the Lord Jesus by faith—and through Him with God—and by the influence of the Lord’s Spirit to the glory of her God, the honor of the church, and the salvation and stirring up of other people. With this desire she comes before the Lord and continues to focus upon His holiness. While continually cleaving to Christ, however, a view of God’s holiness causes her to sink away in shame due to her insignificance and sinfulness, saying with Job, “Now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). With Isaiah she may cry out, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5). She nevertheless, being in Christ, continues in her beholding of this pure holiness, and allows herself to be illuminated and enlivened by this holiness; in that respect she becomes holier and holier. This is according to the testimony of the apostle: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). Thus, the soul who is enamored with holiness acquaints herself with the Lord, cleaves to Him as seeing the invisible, and continually focuses upon the exhortation: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” . . .
At times the soul beholds the Lord’s perfections in the work of creation and meditates upon them in an orderly and attentive fashion. Sometimes she occupies herself by meditating upon the providence of the Lord, and learns from this to rightly know God’s sovereignty, wisdom, righteousness, and goodness, so that all the power, evil, and goodness of the creature disappears. She views God as being the only one who is operative, executing all things irresistibly according to His purpose and good pleasure. Then again, the soul who attentively meditates selects other matter for reflection and thus acquaints herself with the Lord. The heart thus increases its steadfast confidence in the Lord, loves Him, fears Him, serves Him, and due to continual fellowship with God, the soul begins to shine forth as the countenance of Moses did when he had communed with God for forty days upon the mountain.
The Lord can also lead a longing soul to a more immediate beholding of Himself, at which time she neither brings before the Lord her conditions, nor is occupied with the works of God—be it in nature or in grace. Instead, she immediately approaches unto God, be it in a general sense or as far as each individual perfection is concerned. This is not done in a barren and lifeless manner by merely beholding and acknowledging them. Rather, the Lord occasionally permits her to taste the efficacy and salvation to be found, and at times gives her a foretaste of the beholding of God in heaven. The soul who beholds God in a lively and spiritual manner always cleaves to Christ, and in that frame she beholds God’s all-sufficiency, goodness, love, holiness, sovereignty, majesty, glory, and omnipotence, doing all this while considering that this God is her God and that He is her all. This brings forth adoration, joy, love, and praise. In thus beholding God, the soul maintains a humble, quiet, and approving frame that is void of earthly concerns—and also is believing, meditating, going out in love, characterized by intimate communion, dependent, desirous for counsel, and making use of His strength and benefits as her own. . . .
The conclusion of all that we have stated as a warning against the [Quietists] is as follows: There is natural and spiritual religion, a natural and spiritual denial of self, a natural belonging to God as Creator and Preserver and a spiritual and true belonging to God as a reconciled Father in Christ, a natural and spiritual love to God and to man, and a natural and spiritual reflection upon and beholding of God. This is the crux of the matter; everything depends upon this, and salvation or condemnation is contingent upon this. We have made as clear a distinction as possible between the natural and the spiritual, and wish that every one to whom salvation is dear would know this distinction, reject that which is natural, and practice what is spiritual, rather than embrace immediately whatever has the appearance of spirituality.
Objection: Religion, self-denial, belonging to God, love for God and man, the beholding of God, etc., are indeed good things, and if a person is engaged in that which is good, we ought to love such a person. Is it necessary to be so careful in investigating the difference between the natural and the spiritual, and to weigh it upon the scale of a goldsmith? We ought not to judge each other in these matters, but tolerate one another. The one may do it in this manner and the other in that manner, but we must overlook the manner itself, considering it to be insignificant.
Answer: However, must we not have a heartfelt love for our fellow man? Is it love if we, in order to maintain peace and unity, allow our neighbor to run to his destruction in hell? Is it not love if we wish to lead him by the hand unto salvation and warn him about the way which leads to hell? And even if he becomes difficult and views you as dealing lovelessly with him and as being desirous to lord over him, is it therefore not love if we nevertheless wish to pull him away from his destruction? What I did in this chapter I have done out of love, in order to deliver souls from destruction and to direct them in the holy way unto salvation. If you do not wish to hear me, it will grieve me that you are intent on running to your destruction.
You are saying that the actions of all parties are one and the same; the manner in which they are done is a matter of insignificance, and therefore, we must allow everyone to proceed according to his own opinion. If, however, everything depends on the manner in which one proceeds, and if this determines whether something is either natural or spiritual, and leads either to damnation or salvation, then this is not a matter of insignificance. Love demands that we point this out to each other, and warn, protect, and correct each other. For example, in the realm of the natural, is it a matter of indifference to you whether you have a clear diamond in your ring or a piece of glass of the same size and appearance? It also glitters. Is it a matter of indifference to you if a coin has but the proper imprint, regardless of whether it is copper or gold—as long as it is red? You do search out the difference in the natural realm—either choosing or rejecting it—and will not allow yourself to be fooled by external appearance, and would you yet be careless in the spiritual realm upon which everything depends? If there are two rich persons, the one owning his goods righteously and the other unrighteously, will you consider them to be of equal status and say, “Rich is rich, and the matter of ‘how’ is not important; that should not be so strictly investigated or distinguished”? Should one not give consideration as to the “how” in spiritual matters, since everything depends on it? If there are two horses and the one is clean, vigorous, and fast, whereas the other is full of stinking abscesses, stiff, and halting miserably, would you then say, “A horse is a horse, life is life, and progress is progress”? Are there differences in the physical realm and must we yet approve of everything in the spiritual realm? Is it the same to you whether a dead horse teems with living worms, or whether it is alive? Is it the same to you whether you have your father, child, husband, or wife represented on a painting, or whether they are present in very person? Would you say, “It is all the same”? This is likewise true in the spiritual realm. Is it a matter of indifference as to whether a clock indicates the hour by her chime or whether this is indicated by a human voice? If some people wish to go to the same city and some travel upon the right way, whereas others enter upon a way which does not lead to the city, but to the land of the enemy, would you then say that they all have good intentions, and one must thus leave them alone in their choice of direction? Must we not warn those who have strayed?
I have presented an abundance of examples to convince everyone forcefully that everything does depend upon the “how” or the manner, and that primary attention must be given to this. Scripture says that we must take heed how we hear, and we must speak and act accordingly. Natural men who behold spiritual matters in a natural sense remain natural and unregenerate in the flesh, and the light they have only changes them as far as the degree of virtuousness is concerned—with which they cannot please God (Rom 8:8). They remain without Christ, without true saving faith, and therefore without spiritual life; all their reflections, self-denial, and love for God and men are but dead works. With all their illusions, spirituality (as they call it), and delightful daydreaming they will perish if they do not repent. Be warned, and may the Lord convict such persons and bring them to the right place. Take note of the following texts: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24), since they are not upon the right way and do not seek to enter in the right manner. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 16:25). Since they are of the opinion that they are correct, believing that the hidden and spiritual way to heaven has been found by them, there is but little possibility that they can be convinced of their error. “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you … but the publicans and the harlots believed Him” (Matt 21:31-32). Therefore, I warn you in love; do not stray any further, lest you perish. And you who are beginners in grace, and have been enticed by such natural beholding of God, self-denial, and love, I call out after you, “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee” (Song 6:13). May the Lord hear my prayer on your behalf.bbb I have indeed anticipated that some of the godly in reading this warning would become concerned and doubt their state, thinking as follows: “If the unconverted also can come this far—that is, live in the beholding of God, in the denial of self, loving God and man, are determined to have God as their portion, and to commune with God as their God—do I even resemble them? How can I think to possess grace if I do not, so to speak, resemble them at all—neither in their activity, nor in their ecstatic speaking about those matters and about the Lord Jesus? I truly ask myself: “Do I have grace indeed?”
To this I answer that whatever they do in a natural manner, you do in a spiritual manner by the principle of spiritual knowledge and life which is within you. Even if they acted and spoke as you perceive they do (although they do not do so), you nevertheless have no reason to doubt your spiritual state, for a small, weak child is just as much a human being as the strongest man. In the church there are indeed men and fathers in Christ, and there are also weak children. Due to the faint resemblance to others, one may not draw the conclusion that one is neither gracious nor possessing grace. Rather, one must acknowledge that which he possesses and be desirous for growth.
Furthermore, your understanding of God and Christ, your prayers, your desires after God, your seeking after the Lord Jesus, your focusing upon God, and your deeds and exercises—all proceeding from this principle of life—exceed all their beholding of God, reflections, sinking away in God, losing themselves in God, and similar expressions. The difference is as great as the difference between a dead and a living person; it is incomparable. The difference is not one of degree but of very essence. The one is natural and the other spiritual; the one is but an illusion, a fabrication. They are but self-made images which you can observe as frequently as you wish, whereas the other is truth, Spirit, and a life emanating from the Holy Spirit. If you were familiar with their activity and the manner in which they behold God—however, they do not come to God, but imagine a God who is according to their wishes—and the manner in which they deny themselves, love, and speak, you would not desire such spirituality, but would reject it. You are also able to create natural images of God and mentally ascend higher and higher. If you yield to such natural imagination, however, you will readily perceive that this cannot delight you; it makes you colder and you will reject it. However, the least ray of God in the face of Christ, the least fleeing to Jesus and leaning upon Him will be incomparably sweeter to you than all that lifeless meditation. Therefore, rejoice quietly in your portion—however small it may seem to you—since it consists in light, life, truth, union with Christ, and love, and allow all those who have such elevated natural notions to go their way. Out of love for communion with Jesus and for His children, continue to be exercised with that spiritual principle which is according to the Word of God, and thank the Lord for your portion, which incomparably exceeds all their natural motions. Your spiritual principle cannot coalesce with theirs, since they are the very opposite of each other. To be but acquainted with their activities is sufficient to reject their principle and to flee from it. Consider but this one example: You love the godly because they love the Lord Jesus and are loved by Him, whereas you love other people in an entirely different manner from the children of God. You cannot be in agreement with all manner of false doctrine. They love indiscriminately, regardless of which religion a person may belong to. It is only the truly godly who stand firm in the faith, who are established in the truth, and who have intimate fellowship with God in the Spirit, whom they do not love. Rather, they abhor them and flee from them since their works, which are not upright but only of a natural disposition, are made manifest by the light of such. By this you can discern the rest of their doings. Be on your guard against this, and let your dealings between God and your soul be in simplicity and in truth. Let your eye continually be focused upon the Word of God whereby you have received spiritual light and life, which is also your continual nourishment and the rule for your life. Then you will proceed safely.
We have thus presented to you the fundamentals to which you must adhere in order to be safeguarded against the temptation of the [Quietists], which simultaneously serve as marks whereby they are discovered. We have therefore considered the following from two perspectives: love to God and man, the denial of self, belonging and being united to God, and the beholding of God. We have done so both from the side of the [Quietists] and the side of the godly, having demonstrated from the Word of God that their activity is but the natural activity of the unconverted by which they will perish; and that the activity in which the godly engage is rooted in God, is by the Holy Spirit, is according to the Word of God, and leads them to salvation.
That which has been said is sufficient to convince those poor misguided people who, desiring to approach unto God and become partakers of salvation, instead depart from God and enter upon the broad way of destruction. Oh, that the Lord would open their eyes and change their hearts so that they would forsake their foolishness and walk in the way of understanding!
That which has been said ought also to suffice as a warning for those who are inclined toward the ways of the [Quietists]. That is an easy way which agrees with man’s nature and in which Satan leaves them alone, being able to safely lead them to hell in this way—for the truly godly have both their nature and the devil against them. Therefore, withdraw your foot from them, depart from them, and remove yourself from their snares. If you desire pure light and true godliness, remain with the church, follow the Word, and walk in straight paths.
It also ought to suffice to stir up the truly godly to walk in the way of the Lord with new courage and lifting up of the heart, and to let their light shine—to let it shine in demonstration of what truth is, what the efficacy of truth is, and what is the way of uprightness and holiness, so that the [Quietists] and their illusions may be put to shame. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). May the Lord send out His light and truth; may they lead and bring you unto His holy hill, and to His tabernacles (Ps 43:3).
I. Excursus XI: Hannah Whitall Smith:
Higher Life Writer, Speaker on Sanctification, Developer of the Keswick Theology, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic
Mrs. Hannah Whitall Smith, author of The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life and other devotional books, was in her day, and remains at this time, a very influential—indeed, probably the most influential—Higher Life writer on sanctification. Her views undergird and powerfully influence and mold the entire subsequent history of the Higher Life theology. She published The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life in 1875, a capstone of her and her husband’s preaching of the Higher Life as “lay evangelists of the National Assocation for the Promotion of Holiness” at the Conventions at Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton that constituted the birth of the Keswick theology. The publication of her best-selling book coincided with the tremendous impact her preaching was having at that time in Britain. Robert and Hannah were spreading the Higher Life not only “in London, but [also] in other cities such as Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester and Dublin, as well as various Continental European centers. Additionally, strategic doors were opening to them, such as being invited to meet dons and other senior members of Cambridge University to share their message.” As thousands of ministers assembled from not the British Isles only, but also France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, India, Russia, Persia, China, Australia, Israel, South Africa, and North America to learn the Higher Life from the Smiths at the Brighton Convention, Robert declared: “All Europe is at my feet!” There was much truth to his declaration, although in leading venues such as the Oxford Convention and “at Brighton . . . Hannah Smith[’s] . . . daily Bible Readings were the main focus of interest and she was widely recognised as the leading spirit at the conference. Never shy about publicity, she observed that . . . she had a congregation larger than that of C. H. Spurgeon.” Her preaching brought many into the Higher Life. Describing this period of time, Hannah wrote in her diary:
In January 1874 I went over with our four children and joined my husband in England. . . . [T]he Lord gave us . . . wonderful openings . . . for preaching the Higher Christian Life to rich and poor. My inward experience continues, through it all, to be one of perfect rest and peace. My husband’s health was mercifully restored, and the strain of my earthly sorrow was removed. The Lord saw that I had learned the lesson and He delivered me. And my earthly happiness has been unclouded since[.] . . . We returned last Sept. 1874 to America and this winter has been a time of busy work in Philadelphia for me. In March 1875, my husband went back to England, and in a week, I sail with the children to join him. A great work is opening before us there for this summer in large conventions calling for the promotion of Scriptural Holiness [the Keswick precursor Conventions], at which I have to take a prominent part, both in holding ladies meetings, and in giving “Bible readings,” as they are called to save the feelings of the dear brethren who are afraid to call it preaching.
Her preaching and her person were very well received at these conferences, and her book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, which was really “old Quaker doctrine,” was likewise positively received by those who adopted the Keswick teaching, leading, throughout the rest of her life, to “numberless calls . . . for preaching or giving Bible readings” all over America and abroad. Mrs. Smith was regularly “preach[ing] in Quaker and other churches in England” in high demand, while also publishing further influential books. Indeed, “H. W. Smith[’s] The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life . . . is regarded as the classic presentation of Keswick teaching and was instrumental in the spread of the ‘victorious life’ movement that began at the first annual Convention for the Deepening of the Spiritual Life held at Keswick, England, in 1875.” “[I]t may be confidently said that . . . The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life . . . has never been superseded . . . [in] its teaching . . . by anything which has appeared since. This book has had a remarkable influence in connection with the Holiness Movement.” Indeed, Hannah came to teach the Keswick doctrine of her Christian’s Secret as the “Superintendent of the Evangelistic and Bible Reading work” of the “Women’s Christian Temperance Union,” so that she had “direct influence over 60,000 Christian women, and indirect influence over all their congregations.” She testified: “[T]he Lord has given me my parish among them.” Indeed, she wrote: “ever so many of [these women were] saying that they had learned the secret from my book “The Christian’s Secret.” It is perfectly wonderful how that book has gone over this whole country. Wherever I go I am met with stories of its value and blessing. So many people even here have told me that it is ‘next to their Bibles.’” While it was reckoned by many as of great enough value to be always next to one’s Bible, Hannah’s book was most selective in its presentation of Biblical teaching, never citing verses such as Philippians 2:12, for the Apostolic command to act with fear and trembling, and the mention of working, did not fit Mrs. Smith’s emphasis upon personal happiness, ease, and sanctification by faith alone. In any case, her book is properly recognized as foundational and paradigmatic for the Keswick doctrine of sanctification, so much so that her “book . . . for many years, was the most-read devotional book in the world.” The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life “had not only a phenomenal sale all through [Mrs. Smith’s] lifetime . . . [and] was reissued again and again, and translated not only into all the major languages of the world, but even into obscure dialects of half-civilized tribes . . . [in] every part of the globe.” Hannah W. Smith’s writings “have done [m]ore than any publications ever written to extend,” in the eyes of advocates of the Higher Life, “the knowledge of the truth of sanctification.” Her preaching and writing have had an inestimably great impact on the ideas of many millions in worldwide Christendom.
Hannah wrote her book out of a conviction that Higher Life or Keswick doctrine was solid Quaker teaching. She was convinced that “the early leaders of her own society of Friends [Quakers] had been preaching the same” Higher Life theology “which she was hearing about from . . . Methodist writers such as John Wesley” and “the Holiness advocates of her day.” Certainly the classic Quaker doctrine of sanctification is either extremely similar or entirely identical to the doctrine taught by the Keswick convention. Hannah was confident that her Higher Life teaching was simply classic, unreformed Quakerism.
How, then, did Mrs. Smith come to write her bestselling and extremely influential Quaker and Keswick classic? She explained:
[M]y book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life . . . was written simply and only to oblige my husband, who was editing a monthly religious paper at the time, and who begged me each month for an article. I had no feeling whatever of being “called” to write it, nor that I was being “guided” in any way. . . . I said . . . that I would only write one [article], and that he need not expect me to continue. For some reason, however, my article excited more interest than anything else in the paper, and he begged me so much to go on writing that I finally consented to give him an article every month. . . . [T]hese articles, collected in a book, made the Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life[.] . . . But these articles were dragged from me, so to speak, at the point of the bayonet, for I never wrote them in any month until the printers were clamoring for their copy. I could not be said, therefore, to have had any great feeling or sense of being called to write them, beyond the fact that I did it to oblige my husband[.] . . . [T]he book was not written under any special feeling of being called to write it, nor with any idea that it was in the least an especially religious service. I did it simply and only to oblige my husband, and that was all there was to it. I didn’t even pray much about it, nor had I any thought that I was doing a work for the Lord[.]
Indeed, Hannah was yet more candid in writing to her daughter:
[M]y most successful book [The Christian’s Secret] was written so to speak at the point of the bayonet, without one ray of enthusiasm, and hating to do it all the time. . . . I must repeat that I did write “The Christian’s Secret” at the point of the bayonet, as it were. I did not want to write it at all, and only did it at father’s earnest entreaties. . . . [H]e begged me so hard that at last I said I would write one article and no more, if he would give up drinking wine at dinner. Then when that article was published everyone clamoured for another, and father begged, and I was good-natured and went on, but under a continual protest. And the best chapter of all was written . . . when I was . . . as near cursing as a person who had experienced the “blessings of holiness” could dare to be! So . . . books can be successful even if they are ground out with groans and curses[.]
Thus, Hannah W. Smith did not pray much about her bestseller, nor think that she was doing a work for the Lord by writing it, but simply wanted her husband, at the pinnacle of his work as a Higher Life preacher, to stop drinking alcohol at dinner. She had not a ray of enthusiasm for the book, but emphatically hated writing it, and even ground out the best chapter with groans and curses. Nevertheless, with what appears to be assistance from the supernatural realm, her book, and its Higher Life theology, spread like wildfire and was received with overwhelming acclaim. So wonderful, she came to conclude, was the Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life that she wrote concerning it: “Every line I write is a pure favor to the world[.]” The book was her doing—it was marvelous in her eyes.
Nevertheless, even as she wrote her bestselling and paradigmatic Keswick book without much prayer and without thinking about doing any work for God by composing it, but filled with hatred, groans, and curses, Hannah recognized that the kind of religion she led others to adopt could be preached and promulgated by ungodly people who, without any blessing from God, simply were putting on a religious show. After the downfall of her husband Robert P. Smith on account of his promulgation of erotic bride mysticism during the Keswick precursor Conventions, the Smiths returned to America. Upon their arrival, Dr. Charles Cullis, who “had stood by Robert more nobly and grandly than any other human being” when Mr. Smith was exposed for his erotic mysticism, sought to restore Robert by having him and his wife preach some meetings. The “sole object [of the meetings] was to reinstate Robert in the eyes of the church and the world. . . . [I]t ought not to have been called a ‘Convention for the promotion of holiness,’ but a ‘Convention for the promotion of Pearsall Smith.’” Hannah Smith wrote to a friend about these meetings:
I felt utterly indifferent to the meeting in every way . . . I f[ound] no pleasure in it whatever. So we made no preparations for the meeting, we neither studied, nor prayed, nor meditated, nor in fact thought about it at all. . . . We both of us hated it cordially, and felt we should be only too thankful when it was over.
It was in no sense a religious or “pious” undertaking on our parts. We were neither fervent, nor prayerful, nor concerned, nor anything that we ought to have been. Thou sees I am telling the honest truth. And I really cannot imagine a meeting begun in a worse frame of mind that [sic] ours was, according to all one’s preconceived notions of what is the right and suitable thing. And in precisely the same frame of mind we went through the meeting. It was all a wearisome performance to us. We did it as if we had crossed over an impassable gulf. The flood had come since the last time [when Higher Life meetings were held], and changed everything for us. There was no interest, no enthusiasm. The meetings were a bore; the work was like a treadmill. We counted the hours until we could get away, and hailed the moment of emancipation with unspeakable joy. . . . [We knew we had] indifference and want of every sort of proper qualification for Christian work, which I have described before[.] . . . I was utterly unmoved; and both Robert and I came away more confirmed than ever in our feeling of entire relief from everything of the kind. We are done! Somebody else may do it now.
However, despite the fact that neither Robert nor Hannah Smith could stand being at the meetings, the power from the spirit world that was evident in their earlier ministry was more abundant than ever:
I . . . am compelled to record that the meeting was a perfect success. There was just the same power and blessing as at Oxford or Brighton, only on a smaller scale because of the meeting being smaller. There was every sign of the continual presence of the Spirit. Souls were converted, backsliders restored, Christians sanctified, and all present seemed to receive definite blessings. Dr. Cullis and many others say that it was the best meeting ever held in this country. And it really was a good meeting, even I, uninterested as I was, could see that. There was just the same apparent wave of blessing that swept over our English meetings. And Robert and I never worked more effectually. He had all his old power in preaching and leading meetings, and the very self-same atmosphere of the Spirit was with him as used to be in England. As for me, thee knows I am not much given to tell of my own successes, but in this case, in order that thee may have all the facts, I have to tell thee that I was decidedly “favored” as Friends say. In fact I don’t believe I ever was as good. All who had heard me before said so.
The fuss that was made over me was a little more than even in England. The preachers fairly sat at my feet, figuratively speaking, and constantly there kept coming to me testimonies of definite blessings received while I spoke. The second time I spoke a Democratic Editor was converted and consecrated on the spot; and I could scarcely get a minute to myself for the enquirers who fairly overwhelmed me. . . . I had to write all this, and thee must tear it right up, but how could thee know it unless I told thee[.] . . . For who would have dreamed of such an outcome to the indifference and want of every sort of proper qualification for [Christian] work, which I have described beforehand? . . . They all talked to me most solemnly about how dreadful it was in me to think of giving up public work[.] . . . We had to refuse lots of urgent invitations to hold meetings in various places, but we did it without a longing thought, only too thankful to be released. . . .
The one satisfaction of the meeting to us was this, and it was a satisfaction, that Robert was treated with all the old deference and respect, and that no one even seemed to think of or remember the English scandals, and Robert felt that it was a complete reinstatement of himself in the eyes of the church and the world. Our object in going to the meeting was accomplished . . . it will wipe out all the wretched English blot, and put him right once more. And then henceforth home and home life for us.
Personal holiness and genuine blessing from the Holy Spirit were not required for the type of religion spread by Hannah and Robert Smith. Their Higher Life doctrine could be spread by both knowingly unconsecrated Christians who were just putting on a weary performance and by unconverted persons. Hannah continued:
And now, WHAT does thee think of it all? I think one of two things, but which one I think, I don’t know. Perhaps thee can tell me. Either I was awfully wicked in the whole matter, and God was not in it anywhere, and all the success was by force of natural gifts and talents. Or else I was awfully good, so good as to have lost sight of self to such a degree as to be only a straw wafted on the wind of the Spirit, and so consecrated as not to be able to form a desire even, except that the will of God might be fully done.
I waver about myself continually. Sometimes I feel sure I have progressed wonderfully, and that my present sphinx-like calm and indifference to everything whether inward or outward except the will of God, is very grand. . . . I really don’t much care what His will is. . . . And then again I think I am an utterly irreligious and lazy fatalist, with not a spark of the divine in me. I do wish I could find out which I am. But at all events my orthodoxy has fled to the winds. I am Broad, Broader, Broadest! So broad that I believe everything is good, or has a germ of good in it, and “nothing to be refused,” if it be received with thankfulness.
I agree with everybody, and always think it likely everybody’s “view” is better than my own. I hold all sorts of heresies, and feel myself to have got out into a limitless ocean of the love of God that overflows all things. My theology is complete, if you but grant me an omnipotent and just Creator. I need nothing more. All the tempests in the various religious teapots around me do seem so far off, so young, so green, so petty! I know I was there once, it must have been ages ago, and it seems impossible. “God is love,” comprises my whole system of ethics. And, as thou says, it seems to take in all. . . . I guess He means us to be good human beings in this world, and nothing more. . . . There is certainly a very grave defect in any doctrine that universally makes its holders narrow and uncharitable, and this is always the case with strict so-called orthodoxy. Whereas, as soon as Christian love comes in, the bounds widen infinitely. I find that everyone who has travelled this highway of holiness for any length of time, has invariably cut loose from its old moorings. I bring out my heresies to such, expecting reproof, when lo! I find sympathy. We are “out on the ocean sailing,” that is certain. And if it is the ocean of God’s love, as I believe, it is grand.
But, enough! Now, what will thee do with it all?
Hannah saw that her Higher Life doctrine did not require the blessing of the Spirit of God and that it led people to reject Christian orthodoxy for ever greater heresy. While she was not willing to commit to the truth because of her unwillingless to evaluate everything by Scripture alone, she was correct when she opined: “I was awfully wicked in the whole matter, and God was not in it anywhere and all the success was because of our natural gifts and talents.” Both Mrs. Smith and her husband possessed tremendous natural powers and salesmanship abilities which they used to great success. Mrs. Smith was also correct that her sphinxlike indifference was pagan fatalism, irreligious, and evidence that she had nothing of God in her. Describing the powers that brought her to be leading meetings and services continually, Hannah wrote: “There seems to be something occult about it.” Nonetheless, she continued on her path without care or concern, feeling happy. Mr. Smith recognized the overwhelming evidence provided by his last “successful” meeting that the Holy Spirit was not in his work at all, but that his success was simply natural; his apostasy from the profession of Christianity to agnosticism following in due course. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, was not willing to recongize that all her Higher Life agitation had been done without any real blessing by God, and so she retained her belief in the Higher Life and in a deity, while her orthodoxy, such as it was, went to the winds. She could be satisfied without the incarnate Christ, considering dotrines such as His Deity, crucifixion, and resurrection as mere tempests in a religious teapot. She could be satisfied also without the church. She could even be satisfied with the piety of mystical Hindu syncretism or Buddhism, as long as she had a simple Creator. When Mrs. Smith could dilute the whole counsel of God contained in the complete Bible to a simple and mushy “God is love”—whoever and whatever God is—and when those who “travelled on this highway” of the Higher Life with her “for any length of time” ended up jettisoning orthodoxy also, it should have been glaringly and horribly obvious to her upon self-examination (2 Corinthians 13:5) that her religion was earthly, sensual, and devilish.
Hannah was able, in part, to continue to preach the Higher Life even after facing the evidence that all her work was unspiritual and devoid of the smiles of heaven because she flatly rejected self-examination. In direct contradiction to the command of 2 Corinthians 13:5 and other Biblical passages, Mrs. Smith proclaimed that “self-examination . . . seems to be spiritual” but in reality causes “injury and harm”—indeed, it is “about as disastrous as anything.” Consequently, as she learned from “Fenelon,” she counselled others: “[G]ive up all future self-reflective acts,” for this was a key to spiritual “liberty.” At the Brighton Convention, for example, she boldly preached against self-examination, distorting 2 Corithians 13:5 in a major way.
After all, she had “suffered so much from” self-examination that she wrote: “I have at last given it up forever. Do the same, dear friend[.]” Rather than practicing self-examination, one is to “lear[n] the precious lesso[n] . . . of knowing the inward Voice, and following it without reserve. . . . For myself, I find that the sweetness of a life of obedience to this inward Voice is greater than I can express,” as confirmed by her feelings of happiness and by the Quaker “Isaac Pennington.” Hannah sought to come to a “more complete surrender to . . . the inward voice . . . than ever” as she plunged ever deeper into the Higher Life; her “great hunger” was for this “voice.” Thus, by rejecting self-examination, she could remain deluded and happy despite in the devilish nature of her religion, as its terribly unsound character was only obvious to those who recognized human depravity, rejected the Inward Voice, cleaved to sola Scriptura, and carefully applied the Bible to their own spiritual experience, because of their own personal regeneration. Hannah W. Smith rejected such a careful and watchful attitude, since the conflict between the Bible and her experience hindered her feelings of happiness and made her feel like she was suffering; following the Inward Voice instead made her feel very happy, at least at the time—whether she was happy upon her death is another question.
As well as the paradigmatic Higher Life or Keswick writer, Mrs. Smith and her husband were Quakers, “birthright member[s] of the Society of Friends” who sought to lead her children into the Quaker way. The Smiths had Quaker ancestors reaching back to the days of William Penn. Hannah’s “father . . . was . . . a very strict Quaker . . . Robert’s family were also of good Quaker stock.” Indeed, Hannah, her “parents, and [even her] grandparents” were “birthright Friend[s],” and Hannah was raised in “traditional Quaker mysticism.” While, Mr. Smith was for a portion of his life a member of the Presbyterian denomination, even in his most theologically orthodox years he was close enough to Quakerism that, for example, around the time of his leadership of the Keswick precursor Conventions he could send his “children and their nurse . . . to stay for the whole summer with the Barclays, a wealthy Quaker family, at Monkhams, their home in Essex . . . [where] the girls shared the Barclay children’s governess and tutors.” Furthermore, Mrs. Smith “could not follow . . . Robert . . . [in joining] the Presbyterians . . . as she found their views against the preaching of women unacceptable.” Indeed, Hannah was too heretical even for many Quakers: “In 1867 . . . Hannah . . . tried to start a little Quaker Meeting in Millville, which, not surprisingly, turned out too heretical to be approved, and she searched the Scriptures to support her strong feeling that she was called upon to preach.” Nevertheless, by “the 1870s Hannah had no church affiliation and . . . had begun to attend Friend’s Meeting again,” as she “had become more or less reconciled . . . [with] the Quakers.” During some periods of their married life when, in the words of Hannah, “Robert [was] enthusiastic over [men such as a local] Baptist clergyman . . . because he preaches such a pure gospel,” Hannah nonetheless noted, “I cannot enjoy close contact with such people”; Quaker ministers, who did not preach a pure gospel, were better. The teachings of the Pearsall Smiths cannot be understood properly without a consideration of the Quakerism that permeated their religious background.
Hannah believed that the “Friends . . . were especially raised up by the Lord to teach this truth” of the Higher Life, and she “long[ed] to see Quakerism the formost in the great battlefield” for it. She wrote: “More and more I am convinced that Quakerism was in its first founding pure, unadulterated Christianity. Every advanced truth that the Lord teaches me, I find is only a return to pure Quakerism.” Before her rise as a preacher of the Higher Life, at the pinnacle of her preaching work with Robert that led to the founding of the Keswick Convention, and throughout the rest of her life, she remained a devoted Quaker.
Mrs. Smith . . . 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. . . . [E]ven the fundamental mystical [Quaker heresy of] the “divine seed” is quite clearly enunciated and the characteristic Higher Life teaching developed out of it. . . . 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.
The Higher Life theology she founded was simply the theology of Quakerism.
Since she did not have to examine herself by the teaching of Scripture, Mrs. Smith could set Biblical doctrine and practice against each other, reject the former, exalt the latter, and feel happy in her deluded state. Hannah wrote:
How true the old Friends were when they used to tell us that it was not what we believed but how we lived that was the real test of salvation, and how little we understood them! . . . And as thee says, my opinions about God may all be wrong, but if my loyalty to Him is real it will not matter. It seems as if it would be enough just to say, “God is,” and, “Be good,” and then all would be said. [That is, even Deism combined with mere morality would be acceptable.] It is the practical things that interest me now[.]
She did not know whether what she taught people was sound, or whether it was true—but she knew that it made people feel comfortable, and this was enough. Indeed, she wrote that her first duty in life was not to glorify God, but to be comfortable: “I consider it my first duty in life to make myself as comfortable as is possible[.]” After all, as Hannah explained at the Brighton Convention, the Holy Spirit is not “one to make us unhappy”—thoughts that make one unhappy “always come from Satan.” She did not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), but sought first the secret of a happy life. Feeling happy—eudemonism—was what was truly important. Her son Logan narrated:
When in her later life [Mrs. Smith] came to be a sort of mother-confessor to the many people who used to come to her for advice in their perplexities, her advice was always, she told us, for them to do the thing they really and seriously wanted to do. . . . “But surely, Mother,” [her children] sometimes protested, “this is dangerous advice to give to people!” “Well,” she would answer, “our Heavenly Father knows the kind of advice I give, so if He sends people to me it must be because He wants them given this advice. Besides, children,” she would add, “people always in the end do what they want to do, and they might as well do it with a good conscience.”
Based on this view that people should do whatever they wanted, Hannah taught: “[D]on’t be too unselfish.” Logan Pearsall Smith explained what he learned from his parents about sanctification from the time he experienced his second blessing as an unregenerate seven year old:
Sanctification . . . renders us immune from sin. . . . [I] renounced . . . Pelagian attempts to conquer Sin and Satan by [my] own carnal struggles, and realized that only by Grace, and unmerited Grace alone, and by no “deadly doing,” could [I] attain the conquest that [I] sought. . . . [Those who receive the second blessing receive] [t]he glorious certainty that they are sanctified . . . they rejoice—as all my life I have rejoiced—in the consciousness that they can commit no wrong. I may do, I have undoubtedly done, things that were foolish, tactless, and dishonest, and what the world would consider wrong, but since I attained the state of Sanctification at the age of seven I have never felt the slightest twinge of conscience, never experienced for one second the sense of sin.
Logan achieved the goal of his mother’s theology of sanctification—happiness in a perpetual freedom from a sense of sin and guilt—the secret of a happy life. To Hannah W. Smith, feeling happy, and having no pangs of conscience because of sin, were more important than the glory of God and obedience to the Bible.
In line with the Quaker background she shared with her husband, both Mrs. and Mr. Smith were believers in the continuation of miraculous gifts for the present day as opposed to being cessationists, advocates of the Biblical truth that the sign gifts ceased with the completion of the canon of the Scripture and the death of the Apostles in the first century. The Smiths were consequently involved in the Faith or Mind Cure movement which advocated miraculous and non-medical means for healing and laid the foundation for Keswick continuationism and Pentecostalism. Mrs. Smith knew Quakers who had received Faith Cures. She was the instrument through which various people received such Cures herself, healing several who were “close to hysteria,” although she “tried her powers, in vain, on a victim of cancer,” since cancer is clearly a physical disease that is not removed when someone is no longer hysterical. She stated: “With Faith Healing I have had a great deal of experience.” Hannah wrote concerning a sick friend: “I wish she could get hold of faith healing[.]” She herself used a “Mind Cure for sea-sickness[.]” She was acquainted with that prominent evangelist of the Faith Cure, Dr. Charles Cullis, from at least 1871, and ministered with Cullis on various occasions, since “Dr. Cullis of Boston [was] a friend and fellow evangelist” of the Smiths. After all, Cullis surely had miraculous powers; he healed Mrs. Smith’s daughter of indigestion through the techniques of the Faith Cure, although he was unable to heal himself—ever—of a serious heart condition he endured for decades. Indeed, Cullis was such a firm supporter of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their Higher Life preaching that he sought to restore Robert after Mr. Smith’s fall due to his preaching of erotic Spirit baptism. As a Quaker, Hannah W. Smith was naturally an advocate for the continuationism of the Faith or Mind Cure.
Mrs. Smith was likewise a “friend” of the “New Thought teacher . . . Mrs. Caldwell,” illustrating the close relationship between the nineteenth century New Thought or Mind Cure movements from which arose the Christian Science of Mary B. Eddy, with its spiritualism and laws of healing, and the Faith Cure. Hannah noted:
I find that spiritualists have all the “baptisms” and “leadings” and “manifestations” that [non-spiritualistic but continuationist] Christians have, with precisely similar symptoms. The same “thrills,” the same “waves” or currents of life, the same spiritual uplifts, the same interior illuminations; they even see similar visions of Christ, and hear similar interior voices . . . taken in themselves, it is utterly impossible to distinguish between them.
Mrs. Smith’s daughter also “visited . . . with the intention of studying her doctrine, the famous female prophet, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy.” Indeed, Hannah Smith’s description of the Faith Cure makes its identity with the Mind Cure of New Thought evident:
[O]ur faith lays hold of spiritual forces which are superior to natural forces and which therefore can overpower them. . . . [W]e become able to avail ourselves of powers that He has put at our disposal in the spiritual realm. I expect His real will for us is health always, but if we disobey natural laws His will is thwarted, and it is only by bringing in spiritual laws that we can overcome the evil tendencies caused by sin[.] . . . [J]ust as a wire does not create the electric current but only draws it down in certain directions so our faith does not create health but only draws the vitality of the spiritual realm down into our vessel. It is wonderful what faith will do.
Thus, the Faith or Mind Cure works based on “law,” and prayer is not, as it is in the Bible, a means of healing through the petitioning of a personal, sovereign, and loving God in Christ for His gracious physical mercies—rather, prayer is the instrument of healing insofar as by it people are “brought into harmony with those laws” of healing. Anticipating the Word of Faith doctrine of positive confession creating positive realities and negative confessions creating negative realities, Mrs. Smith consequently counselled: “[L]et me advise thee not to talk of thyself as being old. There is something in Mind Cure, after all, and, if thee continually talks of thyself as being old, thee may perhaps bring on some of the infirmities of age.” She wrote: “[T]he mind cure . . . is only the science by which the faith cure works,” a fact generally recognized by objective writers of her day. No objective disjunction and sharp division between an allegedly Christian Faith Cure movement and a clearly pagan and evil Mind Cure movement can be established by objective historiography—Hannah W. Smith and other early continuationist Higher Life leaders certainly made no such division.
Indeed, the Mind or Faith Cure was simply the application to the body of the Higher Life or Keswick doctrine of sanctification by faith alone: “[T]he mind cure . . . [or] faith cure . . . is simply doing on the plane of physical health what we did on the plane of sin when we reckoned ourselves dead to it and alive only to God. If the atonement covers sickness as well as sin this [is] all . . . true.” Hannah’s rejection of self-examination was helpful as a support for the Faith and Mind Cure, for not only should one refrain from spiritual self-examination, but from physical self-examination also, so symptoms that were “cured” by the Faith Cure but were still present could be ignored: “Self examination of one’s physical symptoms or spiritual symptoms is about as disastrous as anything.” Unfortunately, the adoption of the Faith and Mind Cure in Hannah’s family led to unnecessary and tragic early death. Hannah Whitall Smith’s sister Mary Thomas died of breast cancer at the age of fifty-three in 1887, leaving behind her husband and eight children. Mary believed she was cured by the Faith Cure, consequently refused to go to a doctor to deal with her cancer, and consequently died. In the words of Hannah W. Smith:
The one great grief to all of us is that six months [earlier] she could have been cured [by conventional medicine], when she first began to think she had the trouble, but then she trusted the Lord for healing and fully believed it was done and went on believing this all summer so fully that she never said anything to anyone about it. And all the while [her cancer] was growing as rapidly as it was possible for it to do . . . my sister is simply the victim of the faith cure teaching.
Hannah’s preaching at a camp meeting exemplified the union of the Faith Cure and the Higher Life in her theology:
In our hotel I found one of the housekeepers who was a devoted adherent of mine and who told me of a Holiness Camp Meeting in progress in the country outside of the city. . . . Just as I neared the ground . . . I saw a Philadelphia lady whom I used to see at meetings there long ago coming to the pump for water! I spoke to her and she recognized me at once, gave me a hearty welcome, and then introduced me to the leaders of the meeting and to all the dear saints right and left. I received a perfect ovation! They had all apparently read my book “The Christian’s Secret,” and were full of it, and of the blessing it had been to them “next to their Bibles” [as] the “constant companion of their devotions,” the “greatest help of their lives” etc. etc. And they fairly overwhelmed me with their delight at seeing me, dear souls.
They would hear nothing but that I should stay and preach for them in their evening meeting, which I did, under a large tent. It was altogether quite a refreshing experience. . . . They had a meeting for faith healing, and insisted on my going to it to teach them! . . . I told them . . . I would give them Dr. Cullis’ teaching, and that seemed to satisfy them.
Mrs. Smith was far from being alone in combining the Faith or Mind Cure and the Higher Life; rather, preparing the way for Pentecostalism, “belief in and the witness to miraculous divine healings attended the holiness movement at every turn.” Her Quaker continuationism was by no means restricted to a belief in continued Apostolic healings; she noted that “speaking with tongues . . . is . . . apt to come to [Higher Life] Revivals, [and] I have known a great many instances.” She likewise thought: “[It is] the privilege of Christians to receive the same Baptism now . . . [as was received] on the day of Pentecost. . . . There is nothing in the Bible which suggests that this gift [of Spirit baptism as experienced on Pentecost] should cease[.] . . . [T]he early Friends must have known and experienced it, and . . . this accounts for their wonderful success.” After all, for Mrs. Smith, if not for Scripture, only elite believers—those only who have entered into the Higher Life—have the Holy Spirit, so a post-conversion second blessing comparable to Pentecost was obviously of tremendous importance. Mrs. Smith was a committed continuationst because of her Higher Life Quakerism, and was consequently very important Pentecostal precursor.
Hannah, as a natural concommitant of her continuationism and Quakerism, believed in the Inner Light heresy and was consequently an opponent of the sole authority of Scripture. W. H. Griffith Thomas effectively summarizes the character of the Quaker Inner Light heresy:
In the Mysticism of the Quakers we find the tendency to emphasise the doctrine of the “inner light” as something either independent of, or superior to the written Word. This position is set forth by Barclay, the leading theologian of the Society of Friends. “We may not call them (the Scriptures) the principal fountain of all truth and knowledge, nor yet the first adequate rule of faith and manners, because the principal fountain of truth must be the truth itself; i.e. that whose authority and certainty depends not upon another.” Again, “God hath committed and given unto every man a measure of light of His own Son—a measure of grace, or a measure of the Spirit. This, as it is received, and not resisted, works the salvation of all, even of those who are ignorant of the death and sufferings of Christ.” . . . [Contrary to Quakerism,] it is not true to say that every man, as such, has the Spirit of God, nor can we call the same thing “light,” “reason,” “grace,” “the Spirit,” “the Word of God,” “Christ within,” and “God in us.” Such a procedure would create untold confusion and lead to almost endless trouble. . . . According to the early Quakers a man of their time might be as truly inspired of God as were the Prophets and Apostles of the Bible. Against the imposition of dogma by authority George Fox said that “though he read of Christ and God,” he knew them only through a [“]like spirit in his own soul.” And to refer to Barclay again, he taught that “God hath placed His Spirit in every man, to inform him of his duty and to enable him to do it.”
The Inner Light was key to Quaker devotional writing and practice:
The most obvious theological distinction [in] Quakerism which makes an impact on devotional pratice is the doctrine of the ‘inner light.’ . . . [E]very individual was born with the light of Christ within. Though the light (which is often identified with the Holy Spirit) is darkened by sin, it can be rekindled through quietness and spiritual listening. Christ, therefore, shines anew on the heart apart from the normal means of grace such as preaching and reading the Scriptures.
Rejection of the sole authority of Scripture was a necessary corollary to the Inner Light doctrine—consequently, Hannah W. Smith, along with Quakerism in general, opposed the truth of sola Scriptura. For the “Society of Friends . . . [the] ultimate and final authority for religious life and faith resides within each individual. Many . . . seek for this truth through the guidance of the inner light.” Thus:
[George] Fox and others stressed [that] the contemporary believer has the same or clearer experience of God as the biblical prophets. . . . [T]he scripture is . . . like a record of ancient men who had their own ‘showings’ of the divine light, experiences recorded in order to prompt us to do the same. The Bible is a guidebook only in this way[.] . . . “Quakerism is better off emphasizing pantheistic and universalist perspectives. Our [Quaker] mode of worship is especially well-suited to this theology. Other denominations probably better serve people who are looking for strict adherence to doctrine . . . or Christ crucified as a personal Savior[.]”
Hannah Smith, a universalist who came to rest satisfied in a mystical “bare God,” rather than the Triune Father, Son, and Holy Spirit revealed in Scripture, received many great revelations as a Quaker—unfortunately, they were far, far too often not illumination that came from the study of the Scripture, but additional revelations or Quaker “openings” that arose from other sources. For example, she wrote: “One of my greatest ‘openings’ into the mystery of religion came from something I heard . . . Oscar Wilde . . . say in Philadelphia, dressed in shorts with a big sunflower in his buttonhole.” Statements of the serial pedophile Oscar Wilde, with the assistance of the Inner Light, were, for Hannah, a fine substitute for the sole authority of the infallible Word of God, the Bible.
Naturally, Mrs. Smith opposed literal or grammatical-historical interpretation of Scripture, and the truly authoritative character of Scripture in general. She affirmed: “I am afraid of too much literalness” in interpreting the Bible, preferring rather “the spiritual meaning” that is “often so much deeper than appears on the surface, as even to seem almost in contrast” to the literal meaning. After all, literal interpretation was the death-knell of Quaker continuationism and the destruction of the foundation of the Higher Life theology—it was, therefore, better when at meetings like the Broadlands Conferences Mrs. Smith, her husband, and others could minister in a “wonderfully inspired way,” testifying to notions validated not by literal exegesis of Scripture, but by “their personal experience,” as they “tarried . . . not . . . in the letter of the Word, but . . . discerned everywhere beneath it the living Word.”
Mrs. Smith could likewise rejoice when a modernist like “Newman Smyth” wrote “a grand book on Christian evolution,” or when the modernist “Canon Farrar . . . dealt forcibly with all timid holding on to old errors” and set forth the necessity for “revision of the Bible.” Indeed, because of the preeminence of the Inner Light, the Bible was normally not used in the Friends meeting. Mrs. Smith certainly had no patience for a dispensational and literal view of Biblical prophecy; indeed, while Biblical holiness leads saints to long for Christ’s second coming, Hannah Smith testified: “[S]ince Christ has come to me in my heart I cannot care so much for His outward coming.” What need did she have for the Bible and its literal meaning when she had mysticism and a Quaker inward divinity, a “Christ within,” to lead her and teach her?
Mrs. Smith, contrary to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-37, spoke frequently to mixed audiences and taught adult men. Although Paul, under inspiration, stated: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak. . . it is a shame for women to speak in the church. . . . If any man think himself to be . . . spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord,” Mrs. Smith preached to men about how to be spiritual. At their meetings, both “Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith . . . took a leading part in the speaking.” She “supported the right of women to preach as Quakers always had done,” defending “women’s preaching” after “an experience of revolt from the traditional views” found in Scripture, a revolt in which she was followed by many, such as Mrs. Boardman, who was similarly “led” to address mixed audiences under Quaker influence, and Hannah’s Quaker and Keswick successor Jessie Penn-Lewis. Mrs. Smith explained at the Brighton Convention, where vast crowds of men thronged to hear her preaching, that she had asked the Lord to show her whether women should preach or not, and “He . . . gave me such a strong feeling that it was His mind, that now, whatever is said against it, it makes no difference.” Experience validated woman preachers in a way that Scripture could not. However, the unscriptural experiental validation of women preachers was most comparable to the validation of the Mind and Faith Cures by experience—the marvels performed by women validated both their leadership ministries and the value of their Cures. After all, students of the early decades of the Mind and Faith Cure movements noted: “[N]inety-five percent of [the] adherents [of] . . . ‘Christian Science’ . . . are women . . . [and] ‘Faith Healing’ . . . too . . . has a largely feminine constituency.” Thus, experience on her side, arguments from Scripture could by no means move Mrs. Smith from her position, although she was willing to assent to the views of other Quaker women preachers who justified their disobedience by proclaiming at the pre-Keswick Conventions a misinterpretation of Joel 2:28’s promise about the prophesying of daughters. While the committee backing their Higher Life conventions allowed both Hannah and Robert to preach, she made “the members of the committee . . . uneasy[.] . . . It was bad enough for a woman to preach; many, in particular the Germans, found it extremely shocking; but for her to preach Restitution, or the denial of Hell, was dangerously heretical.” Nonetheless, Hannah wrote to Robert: “I quite enjoy the thought of your pow-wow over me . . . and of . . . condolences . . . on the possession of such a dangerous article as a heretical, preaching wife. . . . I do not in the least mind being a heretic. In fact I think it rather suits my cast of mind.” Indeed, it was precisely her denial of hell for the universalist heresy that brought her and her husband to fame, for her universalist confession lead to her receipt, “at a time when the universal hope was deemed a heresy . . . an invitation to hold [the] series of [Higher Life] meetings at Broadlands.” Consequently, on the authority of her feelings and subjective impressions and backed by her heretical opinions, Mrs. Smith began her career as a woman preacher in Quaker meetings and continued preaching regularly to mixed audiences of men and women for the rest of her life.
Mrs. Smith was also passionately opposed to the Biblical pattern of leadership by the huband in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33), stating that it made women into slaves, and looking to woman’s sufferage as the key to the destruction of all the Biblical patriarchy (Isaiah 3:12) that existed in the society of her day. Concerning the Biblical roles in marriage, she said: “‘No’ emphatically . . . a thousand times ‘No.’ . . . I know nothing more absolutely unjust in itself nor more productive of misery to the woman than the assumption of the place of authority on the part of men. It reduces women at once in principle to the position of slaves . . . [a]ny amount of anarchy and confusion would be better.” Nothing, Hannah W. Smith knew, could be more unjust than what the Holy and Just One, the good and loving God, commanded about the roles of men and women in the marriage relationship.
Judging by her unhappy and un-Christian marriage and the fact that none of her children who survived to adulthood were born again or honored the Lord, Mrs. Smith neither had the true “secret” of a happy Christian life nor the spiritual power to affect others for Christ. Her son Logan Pearsall Smith rejected Christ and Christianity. He wrote:
The old doctrines of the corruption of man and his inevitable doom unless he finds salvation in the conviction of sin, the gift of grace, and a sudden catastrophic, miraculous conversion—this evangelical theology . . . has now become utterly alien and strange to me. . . . I rejoiced in . . . ridicule of the evangelical religion . . . I gave . . . serious attention to the literature of Theosophy, and was inclined to believe that the key to the problem of existence was to be found, if only I could grasp it, in a little book of Rosicrucian doctrine over which I used to pore for hours. . . . We are indeed leaves that perish . . . I do not find that a fate to be regretted . . . for any other form of being I feel no longing. All that I have read about what happens in a future existence makes the life beyond the grave seem an uncomfortable adventure. I have no desire for eternal bliss. . . . [I]f there is a struggle in the mind . . . between God and Mammon, I advise that the service of the god of money should be followed.
One of Hannah’s two daughters abandoned her Roman Catholic husband and her children to pursue an adulterous relationship, while the other daughter married atheist Bertrand Russell; both daughters rejected Christianity. Indeed, Hannah’s persistently adulterous daughter Mary wrote the following to her mother: “I have (I think) no orthodox standards of any kind. Thee, who is such a rebel against orthodoxy in religion, cannot be surprised or shocked if I am a rebel against orthodoxy in conduct. . . . [O]ne heresy leads to another, in the next generation at least.” As Hannah’s children rejected Christianity, so her husband Robert evidenced his unregenerate state by his rejection of Christianity for agnosticism and Buddhism accompanied by his own persistent adultery. More importantly than her lack of the “secret” of happiness or spiritual power, Mrs. Smith did not have the “secret” of a God-honoring Christian life, or even, based on her heresies, a Christian life at all. Nonetheless, “[m]any today who know her only through her writings know very little about . . . Hannah’s heresies . . . or, if they do, like those who knew her best, they still accept her spiritual insights as valid . . . loyal to . . . [the] doctrine . . . that life not doctrine was the true test of pure Christianity.” However, one wonders if many of those advocates of a doctrineless false pietism who embrace Mrs. Smith are aware that, while not living an outwardly profligate life, she nonetheless disliked united prayer, went to casinos, and hated her household servants. She wrote a note to her daughter about her “belated birthday present—a telescope Cigarette holder. Thee need not advertise that it is a present from the author of the ‘Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life’!” She also wrote her daughter concerning her grandchildren: “The girls decided to play Demon in my sitting-room, and asked if I would let them say ‘Da[-]n’ now and then, and what could a poor foolish grandmother say but, ‘Yes’! (But do not put this in my Memoirs, I beg of thee!).” Along with allowing her grandchildren to play Demon and employ curse words, Mrs. Smith also fellowshiped with spiritualists and received prophecies from occult palm readers. Her life was not a little different from that of a consistent pietist, even one who cared little for Biblically orthodox doctrine. Neither Mrs. Smith’s beliefs nor her life indicated that she knew the alleged “secret” to a happy or holy Christian life.
Mrs. Smith was a committed universalist. She was passionately and zealously wedded to the heresy that everyone would go to heaven and nobody would suffer eternally in hell. After a period of time during which she blasphemously thought God was selfish for not saving everyone and that she was more loving than God, and consistent with her Quaker background, Mrs. Smith adopted universalism because of a grossly unscriptural “revelation” given to her while she was expressing her displeasure with God. While feeling justified in her “upbraiding” of the Holy One, she adopted universalism because of an “inward voice” that she “knew” gave her the truth because of the testimony of her “heart” before she even looked at the Bible. She was open to such “revelations” because she rejected the total depravity of man in favor of the Inner Light: “Just as we inherit natural life from the first Adam, so do we inherit spiritual life from the second Adam. There is . . . in every man 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 responds to the divine inspeaking. . . . There is a divine seed in every man[.]” After all, for Mrs. Smith, the law is not the externally objective testimony of Scripture, but the Inner Light, the Divine Seed—“Our law of life is within; we must love to follow it.” She would have done well to consider God’s testimony that “he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26; cf. Jeremiah 17:9). Instead, Mrs. Smith taught that one should follow “God’s four especial voices, i. e. the voice of the Bible, the voice of circumstances, the voice of one’s highest reason, and the voice of one’s inward impressions.” She had learned from the Quakers that personal “revelations” were superior to the Scriptures:
A Quaker “concern” [alleged revelation] was to my mind clothed with even more authority than the Bible, for the Bible was God’s voice of long ago, while the “concern” was His voice at the present moment and, as such, was of far greater present importance . . . the preaching I hear[d] was certainly calculated to exalt the “inward voice” and its communications above all other voices . . . since God spoke to us directly[.]
She received such revelations throughout her life, leading her to all kinds of conclusions that could not be found in the Bible. Mrs. Smith persisted in believing in and preaching the universalism she had learned from the spirit world through the Inner Voice until her death, for the Inner Voice was the necessary corollary of the Quaker and Gnostic rejection of human depravity for the doctrine of the Divine Seed in every man. Every man had a Divine Seed, so every man would be saved; thus Hannah had learned from the Inner Voice. Hannah came to teach religious pluralism as a corollary of her universalism, that “a good Creator can be got at through all sorts of religious beliefs and all sorts of religious ceremonies, and that it does not matter what they are.” Indeed people who are “fundamentally good . . . can be so content without any real link with God,” or even “without any certainty that there is a God to be linked to.” Thus, not just the false gospel of High Church Anglicans and Roman Catholic priests, or the polytheism and blasphemy of Mormons within the realm of what might in the very loosest sense be termed Christiandom, but also the worship of various gods, whether Allah, Baal, or Satan, is fine; indeed, even atheists and agnostics can be fundamentally good, and everyone is going to heaven at the end, in any case. One may trust in Jehovah and hate the devil, and another may trust in the devil and hate the living God, but although “on exactly opposite pathways . . . we all meet God at last.” People who do not care in the least about the “saving of the soul,” and who are “unconsciou[s] . . . [of] the Christianity of Christ,” are still “serving, though it may be unconsciously . . . the Divine Master,” regardless of whatever the Bible might say to the contrary (e. g., Ephesians 2:1-13). God receives the worship and brings to heaven those who worship in spirit and in truth and serve Him in a Bible-practicing church, and He also allegedly receives the worship and brings to heaven those who offer the gore of human sacrifices to Moloch. It thus becomes clear why it was necessary for Hannah to preach the Higher Life—all already have eternal life, but not all have the happiness and rest that comes from the Keswick theology.
Hannah W. Smith wrote My Spiritual Autobiography: How I Discovered The Unselfishness of God specifically because she loved being a heretic, and because she wanted to convince others to adopt heresies and become heretics:
[M]y autobiography . . . “How I discovered God” . . . is the story of my soul life from my early Quaker days, on through all the progressive steps of my experience . . . I am putting all my heresies into my story, and am trying to show the steps that have led to them; and I flatter myself that it is going to be very convincing! So if you feel afraid of becoming heretics, I advise you not to read it. For my part, I always did love being a heretic as some of you know. What fun it was[!]
The book documents Mrs. Smith’s universalist and Quaker heresies, as well as the fact that her universalism, which she spread in her writings, antedated her and her husband’s public proclamation of the “Higher Life” theology from which the Keswick movement originated. She explained her adoption of the universalist heresy as follows:
Neither could I see how a Creator could be just . . . in consigning some of the creatures He Himself, and no other, had created, to the eternal torment of hell, let them be as great sinners as they might be. I felt that if this doctrine were true, I should be woefully disappointed in the God whom I had . . . discovered. . . . As an escape from the doctrine of eternal torment, I at first embraced the doctrine of annihilation for the wicked, and for a little while tried to comfort myself with the belief that this life ended all for them. But the more I thought of it, the more it seemed to me that it would be a confession of serious failure on the part of the Creator, if He could find no way out of the problem of His creation, but to annihilate the creatures whom He had created. . . . I could not believe He would torment them forever; and neither could I rest in the thought of annihilation as His best remedy for sin. . . . I set myself to discover my mistakes. . . . [O]ne day a revelation came to me that vindicated Him, and that settled the whole question forever. . . . I seemed to have a revelation . . . not of His [Christ’s] sufferings because of sin, but of ours. . . . I had been used to hear a great deal about the awfulness of our sins against God, but now I asked myself, what about the awfulness of our fate in having been made sinners? Would I not infinitely rather that a sin should be committed against myself, than that I should commit a sin against any one else? Was it not a far more dreadful thing to be made a sinner than to be merely sinned against? . . . I saw that, when weighted in a balance of wrong done, we, who had been created sinners, had infinitely more to forgive than any one against whom we might have sinned.
The vividness with which all this came to me can never be expressed. . . . I saw it. It was a revelation . . . it could not be gainsaid. . . . How long it lasted I cannot remember, but, while it lasted, it almost crushed me. And as it always came afresh at the sight of a strange face, I found myself obliged to wear a thick veil whenever I went into the streets[.] . . . One day I was riding on a tram-car along Market Street, Philadelphia, when I saw two men . . . dimly through my veil . . . [but when the] conductor came for his fare . . . I was obliged to raise my veil in order to count it out. As I raised it, I got a sight of the faces of those two men, and with an overwhelming flood of anguish, I seemed to catch a fresh and clearer revelation of the depths of the misery that had been caused to human beings by sin. It was more than I could bear. . . . I upbraided God. And I felt I was justified in doing so. Then suddenly . . . [a]n inward voice said . . . “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” “Satisfied!” I cried in my heart . . . . [“]If I were Christ, nothing could satisfy me but that every human being should in the end be saved, and therefore I am sure that nothing less will satisfy Him.” And with this a veil seemed to be withdrawn from before the plans of the universe . . . I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall.
I saw all this that day on the tram-car . . . not only thought it, or hoped it, or even believed it—but knew it. It was a Divine fact. And from that moment I have never had one questioning thought as to the final destiny of the human race. . . . However great the ignorance therefore, or however grievous the sin, the promise of salvation is positive and without limitations . . . somewhere and somehow God was going to make everything right for all the creatures He had created. My heart was at rest about it forever.
I hurried home to get hold of my Bible, to see if the magnificent fact I had discovered could possibly have been all this time in the Bible . . . my Bible fairly shone with a new meaning. . . . the true [universalist] meaning, hidden behind the outward form of words . . . rightly interpreted, not by the letter, but by the spirit . . . the denunciations of God’s wrath, which had once seemed so cruel and so unjust, were transformed into declarations of His loving determination to make us good enough to live in Heaven with Himself forever. . . . [A]t this time my real discovery of the unselfishness of God began. Up to then . . . I had been secretly beset from time to time with a torturing feeling that, after all, it was rather a selfish salvation, both for Him and for me. . . . always there had been at the bottom of my mind this secret feeling that His love could not stand the test of comparison with the ideal of love in my own heart. . . . I still had often felt as if after all the God I worshipped was a selfish God, who cared more for His own comfort and His own glory that He did for the poor suffering beings He had made. . . . [M]ost of my ideas of the love and goodness of God have come from my own experience as a mother . . . since this discovery of the mother-heart of God I have always been able to answer every doubt that may have arisen in my mind . . . by simply looking at my own feelings as a mother. . . . I had in short such an overwhelming revelation . . . that nothing since has been able to shake it. . . . [W]hen I had that revelation on the tram-car in Philadelphia that day, a light on the character of God began to shine. . . . The amazing thing is that I, in company with so many other Christians, had failed, with the open Bible before me, to see this [“truth” of universalism.] . . .
[Opposition to my new belief in universal salvation] became at this time well-nigh intolerable. I could listen patiently, and even with interest, to any sort of strange or heretical ideas . . . but the one thing I could not endure, and could not sit still to listen to, was anything that contained, even under a show of great piety, the least hint of [opposition to universalism]. . . . [A] celebrated Preacher . . . was visiting us. . . . his object was to combat my views on Restitution [that is, universalism.] [A]lthough the speaker was my guest, I broke forth into a perfect passion of indignation, and declaring that I would not sit at the table with any one who held such libelous ideas of God, I burst into tears and left the room, and entirely declined to see my guest again. I do not say that this was right or courteous, or at all Christ-like, but it only illustrates how overwhelmingly I felt on the subject. . . . As was to be expected . . . my views on Restitution, which of course I had speedily announced, met with a great deal of disapproval from the Plymouth Brethren, and my other orthodox friends . . . I have always rather enjoyed being considered a heretic . . . the discovery I had made . . . was considered by many to be . . . a grave heresy . . . but the revelation I had had was too glorious for me to withhold it whenever I found an open door; and . . . I was never willing to sail under false colours, nor speak anywhere without it being perfectly well known beforehand what a heretic I was[.] . . . And, as a fact, these very views, and the frank confession of them . . . were the means of opening the way for some of our most important and successful work. . . . 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, and upon my arrival in London I was invited to meet a company of leading Evangelical ladies, who were to decide as to whether it would be safe for them to endorse me, and lend their influence to the work. . . . I [declared my belief in] the universal hope . . . the moment I ceased speaking . . . [I was invited to] come and have some meetings . . . not a word of disapproval was uttered, and . . . [the way] was thrown open to us for our first conference, which was a time of wonderful blessing, and proved to be the entering door for all the future conferences, and for our whole after work in England and elsewhere. . . . I believe in Restitution more and more. . . . When in 1874 there was to be one of these conferences . . . some of the committee who were helping to organize it, got frightened about my heresies . . . [but] as it was felt important to have me at the meetings, the committee . . . decided to take me as I was, with all my heresies. . . . I am a thousand times stronger in my view of restitution every day I live. . . . I . . . know that never for one single moment in all my work in England was I made to feel that my views on restitution in the slightest degree hindered the entrance of the message I had to give, or closed any door for my work. In fact I believe they made the way for me in many places that would otherwise not have been open. . . . [Concerning] my [universalist] . . . belief . . . without it I should have been shorn of half my power.”
Mrs. Smith then proceeds to explain that she came to her position about “the life of faith”—although her view of faith was always extremely weak and unscriptural—only after she had adopted the universalist heresy. She called “the life of faith” the “fourth epoch in my religious life,” while the universalist heresy was “the third epoch in my religious life.” Her universalism, she affirmed, opened up avenues for her spread of the “Higher Life” doctrine, and without universalism, she stated, “I should have been shorn of half my power.” Universalism was essential for Mrs. Smith’s development and promulgation of the Higher Life or Keswick doctrine of sanctification.
As already noted, Mrs. Smith declared that her universalist heresy and other heresies were key to her work as a Higher Life preacher and Keswick founder:
[T]hese very views, and the frank confession of them . . . were the means of opening the way for some of our most important and successful work. . . . [the] meetings in the interests of the Higher Life, or, what I prefer to call it, the Life of Faith. . . . [A] company of leading Evangelical ladies . . . were to decide as to whether it would be safe for them to endorse me, and lend their influence to the work. . . . I [declared my belief in] the universal hope . . . the moment I ceased speaking . . . [I was invited to] come and have some meetings . . . not a word of disapproval was uttered, and . . . [the way] was thrown open to us for our first conference, which . . . proved to be the entering door for all the future conferences, and for our whole after work in England and elsewhere. . . . [M]y views on restitution . . . made the way for me in many places that would otherwise not have been open . . . without it I should have been shorn of half my power.”
Hannah elsewhere explained her rise to Higher Life preacher in England in more detail, revealing that not universalism only, but spiritualism also—familiar intercourse with demons—was key to her exaltation as a famous Higher Life preacher and the founder of the Keswick theology. First, before beginning to preach the Higher Life, she sought Quaker approval for her teaching:
Robert [Smith] . . . seems to expect nothing else but that I will plunge into the work [of Higher Life agitation] with equal zeal, but I have not felt any guidance as yet in reference to it, except in the direction of the Friends [Quakers]. . . . I really could not consent to do it unless the Friends had first heard me, and were fully alive to the purport of my message. [A Quaker leader] therefore proposed, and we agreed, to invite a number of Friends to come to our house . . . to hear one of my lessons[.] . . . I burn to see this glorious life of faith becoming once more the realized experience of my dearly loved [Quaker] Society.
At this meeting, the critical incident was Hannah’s declaration of her belief in universalism, which brought her the support of the famous noblewoman and spiritualist Mrs. Mount-Temple, also known as Mrs. Cowper-Temple, who attended both Quaker meetings and spiritualist séances with her husband. Mrs. Mount-Temple narrated:
[T]he critical . . . incident at this meeting [took place while] Hannah was sitting in a little circle of excellent orthodox friends [Quakers], who had assembled to hear some of the good things that she had to impart, and she was there on examination.
She happened to have seen a funeral in the street, and as she spoke of it, we all put on the conventional look of sadness. “Oh,” she said, “when I meet a funeral I always give thanks for the brother or sister delivered from the trials and pains of this mortal state.” “How wonderful,” I thought, and I could not help exclaiming, “Is that possible? Do you feel this about everybody?” . . . She stopped and looked around. . . . [It was] a time when the universal hope was deemed a heresy, and she was on her trial. She owns that she went through a few moments of conflict. But truth prevailed, and looking up, with her bright glance, she said, “Yes, about everybody, for I trust in the love of God.” I yielded my heart at once to this manifestation of trust and love and candour.
Logan Pearsall Smith described his mother’s critical confession of universalism in more detail:
[S]he could not, she avowed to the assembled company, believe that the God she worshipped as a God of love was capable of such awful cruelty [as not to take every single person to heaven]; sinners, of course, He punished, but that He had decreed that their torments should be unending was to her a horrible belief. . . . [T]he company was on the point of breaking up in confusion when from the depths of the great drawing-room there floated forward, swathed in rich Victorian draperies and laces, a tall and stately lady, [Mrs. Cowper-Temple,] who kissed my mother, and said, “My dear, I don’t believe it either.”
This dramatic moment was . . . a turning point . . . since, if it had not occurred, our family would no doubt have soon returned to America[.] . . . For this lady who thus intervened and took my mother under her protection was, as it were, the queen of evangelical Christians; and her acceptance . . . [and] corroborat[ion] of [Mrs. Smith’s] view of Hell . . . afterwards confirmed by that of her husband, William Cowper Temple, silenced all opposition and no further objections were suggested . . . [since the] Cowper Temples, owing to their great wealth and high position, were by far the most important people in the world in which [Mr. and Mrs. Smith] were, so to speak, on trial.
Mrs. Mount-Temple was delighted in Hannah W. Smith’s confession of universalism—she declared that it was “what strongly drew me to her that day”—as was Mr. Mount-Temple, who “partly believe[d] in Mahomed, Vishna, Buddha, the Pope, the Patriarch . . . [and] love[d] high, low and Broad Church.” The couple were of one mind in religious matters. Thus, because of Hannah W. Smith’s frank confession of universalism, the Mount-Temples threw their powerful influence behind her and her husband. With such patronage, and the help of the demons conjured in the Cowper-Temples’s séances, the Pearsall Smiths were exalted to their position as leading Higher Life preachers, and the founding of the Keswick theology became possible.
The Mount-Temples were the owners of the Broadlands estate where the foundational precursor Conference to the Keswick Conventions was held, and the fundamental innovations of the Keswick theology on the older orthodoxy were set forth. Broadlands was a receptacle for amalgamating many mystical heresies and spreading such newly minted concoctions onward; for instance, both the Catholic “Bernard of Clairvaux” and “profound saying[s] . . . of Druidic philosophy,” uttered, perhaps, between Druidic acts of human sacrifice, were welcome at Broadlands. As Hannah W. Smith saw her doctrine of the Higher Life in the ideas of Buddhism and Hinduism, so the Higher Life proclaimed at Broadlands and affirmed by the Mount-Temples was not that only of Roman Catholic mysticism, and other unregenerate mystics within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but even that of overtly pagan Eastern mysticism:
From very early times, and especially in the countries of the East, there have been men and women who have sought . . . [to] ponder the nature and duties of true life, to be alone with God, and learn to know and worship Him.
Buddha and his followers in India, the Essenes among the Jews, and the early Christians of the third and fourth centuries, who from Rome and many other cities fled to the deserts of Egpyt . . . [medieval] anchorite[s] . . . [dwellers in] monastic settlements . . . [h]ermits . . . perfect m[e]n . . . [possessed] spiritual power . . . [that] gave them force and initiative[.] . . . Men and women who lived thus were revered, trusted, and consulted during their lifetime, and honoured, and sometimes worshipped, after their death. . . . The Roman Catholics have their “Retreats” under a spiritual director, the . . . Anglicans of the English Church have their “quiet days,” the Quakers their Conferences[.] . . . Surely these practices, during so many ages and amongst such diverse peoples . . . point to a true instinct rooted deeply in human nature, one which is referred to and sanctioned in the Holy Scriptures . . . the felt need . . . [to] reach after the highest possibilities of life. . . . The Conferences at Broadlands came about this way.
Indeed, for Mr. Mount Temple, a poem praising the Muslim Allah, including the confession “La Allah, illa Allah! . . . expressed better than anything he knew his own thoughts and feelings.” Universalism and religious syncretism were the foundation of the close friendship of Hannah Smith with Mrs. Mount-Temple and her husband.
The Mount-Temples also found enchanting and attractive the Quaker rejection of a judicial justification solely by the imputed righteousness of Christ and the associated Quaker Higher Life doctrine of sanctification by faith alone preached by the Smiths. Mrs. Cowper-Temple narrated:
William [Cowper-Temple] was deeply interested in the experiences of which [Hannah W. Smith] and her husband had to tell us. We had been brought up to try to hold the forensic view of justification by faith; but of sanctification by faith we had never heard, and it seemed to us that, though the meaning of the two terms [justification and sanctification] might be identical, it enabled us to look at the doctrine in a new light . . . for who could really care about being merely accounted righteous? [W]hile to be made righteous . . . seemed something worth hearing about.
Mr. and Mrs. Cowper-Temple’s support for Mrs. Smith and her husband, because of Hannah’s universalism and the Smiths’ Quaker repudiation of the gospel by confusing justification and sanctification, led to Hannah and Robert’s exaltation to the central position as Higher Life preachers—their “fame spread from Broadlands.” The 1874 Conference at Broadlands that came about because of Hannah’s confession of universalism and repudation of justification and the gospel was the “initiatory [Higher Life] Conference . . . [and] the starting-point for those that followed . . . and which, but for this one at Broadlands, would never have been held.” That is:
[B]ut for this spectacular intervention, [the Smiths] might never have taken to preaching in England . . . [I]t was the worldly greatness of [Hannah’s] new friend which saved H. W. S. . . . Lady Mount Temple . . . [was] a hospitable leader of the evangelicals (Broadlands became almost a second home to the Pearsall Smiths)[.] . . . The religious conferences at Broadlands, where H. W. S. often preached, became famous. . . . [T]he house . . . was filled to the attics and many of the guests overflowed into the inns . . . [f]amous people attended, in the company of others less famous.
Along with the weighty patronage of Mrs. Cowper-Temple, “the Friends . . . were unanimous in wishing [her] . . . to give them a series” of Higher Life lessons, and Mrs. Smith’s fame as a Higher Life preacher had consequently begun, with the “Mount Temples [as] ardent supporters of the Smiths.” As a result, “the good Cowper Temples . . . inaugurate[d] a series of such [Higher Life] meetings,” the first and following, Broadlands Conferences, those key initial precursors and supports of the Keswick Conventions. “Lady Mount-Temple . . . initiated the Broadlands Conferences in 1874 where one might find, at the same gathering, a preaching Negress, a Quaker, a Shaker, an atheist, a spiritualist, an East End Socialist, and a prophet of any sort at all.” At these Broadlands meetings Mr. Smith “was an acceptable preacher . . . but [Mrs. Smith], beautiful in her Quaker dress, with her candid gaze and golden hair, was given the name of ‘the Angel of the Churches,’ and her expositions . . . attracted the largest audiences, and made these gatherings famous in the religious world.” Hannah W. Smith, who was present at the first, the last, and most of the Broadlands Conferences in-between, truly epitomized the Higher Life as presented at Broadlands and its successor Conventions at Oxford, Brighton, and Keswick. From the first Conference in 1874, the root of all the subsequent Higher Life and Keswick movement and a pinnacle of Higher Life teaching, participants generally recognized that they “received the clearest and most definite teaching” from Mrs. Smith’s preaching there, just as she set forth the Broadlands and Keswick doctrines in her “books, which are well known.” Many at Broadlands could testify: “She was to me the most inspiring . . . figure . . . amongst those who addressed us.” She led countless multitudes of unregenerate individuals at Broadlands to feel happy, “sunny, and joyful” as she pointed them to the ease and rest of the Higher Life. The Cowper-Temples kept up the Broadlands Higher Life Conferences annually, spreading the Higher Life with Hannah W. Smith, as well as supporting the Oxford Convention and other subsequent Higher Life gatherings, until “Lord Mount Temple’s death at Keswick.” Truly, through the work of the Pearsall Smiths and Mount Temples in the birthing of the Higher Life theology proclaimed at Keswick and in other ways, “[t]he results that followed on the Broadlands Conferences were widespread and various”—indeed, “it is difficult to measure them,” for they are truly incalculable.
Mrs. Mount-Temple was not only Mrs. Smith’s patron in her Higher Life preaching, but the two became very close friends—so much so that Mrs. Mount-Temple mentions Mrs. Smith first in a list of “[f]riends whom we [the Mount-Temples] loved.” During their time as Higher Life evangelists in Britain, the Smiths would often leave their children “at Broadlands in Hampshire, the home of [Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s] friends, the Cowper Temples . . . Broadlands became . . . almost [the family] home in England,” where “innumerable guests . . . were gathered . . . to listen to the glad tidings” of the Higher Life. Hannah called her rich patron “our sweet Lady Mount Temple,” since their “friendship lasted till [Mrs. Mount Temple’s] death in extreme old age,” when Mrs. Smith was one of a few very close friends granted entrance to Mrs. Mount Temple on her deathbed. They spoke together at various functions to large crowds.
Lord Mount-Temple was not merely the owner of the Broadlands property but the active leader and director of the Higher Life Conferences on his estate; they were the highlight of their year. He “was eminently fitted to preside over such an assembly . . . [and] occup[ied] the position of President at these Conferences,” while “Lady Mount-Temple . . . was the sun and soul of all that . . . company.” Mr. Mount-Temple’s spiritual guidance and leadership were crucial, unforgettable, and a model for Broadlands spirituality. He opened and closed the meetings, presided over them, introduced and specified the topics Conference participants were to address, set and maintained the tone and direction of the speeches, and regularly spoke himself. Broadlands spirituality and Higher Life theology are inextricably united to the spiritual system of the Mount-Temples—indeed, the spirituality of the Conferences and that of their hosts were indubitably one and the same.
Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple were unregenerate people who were drawn into spiritualism, the Higher Life theology, and many other grievous false teachings, and their devilish errors were blatent and obvious to any who had a modicrum of Biblical discernment. In Mr. Mount-Temple’s “childhood[,] religion was at a very low ebb . . . religious instruction did not come within the scope of recognized maternal duties,” and he received “no religious training,” so his ideas were very “vague.” He never came to a point of conscious conviction of sin and of his lost estate, followed by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and to the new birth. Instead, as he thought, he felt “the first strivings within him of an unexpressed God-consciousness . . . in his cradle,” and from that time he was a “spotless youth” who was, apart from Biblical conversion, “growing spiritually” (contrast Luke 5:31-32). Similarly, Lady Mount-Temple “as a child . . . had learned to pray but had never undergone a ‘conversion’” to Christ; instead, “search[ing] for . . . a higher life,” she turned to spiritualism in 1861. She testified: “[C]onversion never came to me. Instead of it I was early beset by doubts of all kinds.” However, at least each of the Mount-Temples could testify: “I am enrolled in [the] holy army [of] . . . the Lord Jesus. . . . I have been signed with the sign of the cross in Baptism.” After all, the sacrament of “Christening . . . was the ingathering of [infant] lambs into [their] Master’s Fold.” Surely a baptismal regeneration could substitute for a Biblical conversion.
While unconverted, the couple nevertheless desired spirituality. Seeking the Higher Life, Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple “learned to take a much wider view of the Church as a single body of all baptized Christians, including Nonconformists and members of the Roman and Greek Churches.” For example, a picture of Christ bestowing the stigmata on the hands and feet of Francis of Assisi was a wonderful positive in the spirituality of Broadlands, for such a receipt of stigmata was certainly not a devilish deceit, but a glorious and positive event. Mr. Mount-Temple testified:
I . . . always felt an interest in the opinions of different denominations . . . and have attended the worship of all which have been within my reach . . . I have been able to enjoy the privilege of prayer with them all.
I have prayed fervently in the . . . Romish churches, and have lifted up my heart in their solemn litanies and pealing music[.] . . . I have learnt much in the Unitarian services in Liverpool; I have profited by the sermons and prayers of the Independents, Wesleyans, and Baptists; I have joined with Quakers and Plymouth Brethren . . . worshipping the same God . . . [by] Unitarian [writings] . . . I am drawn nearer to my heavenly Father[.] . . . I found myself edified by . . . Papists and Greeks [Eastern Orthodox], as well as with Calvinists and Lutherans[.] . . . In [a] . . . Unitarian Chapel . . . [i]t is delightful to . . . join in prayer and praise, and to carry away some good thoughts. . . . I have never become acquainted with any religious body in which there were not to be found persons full of love to our Lord.
Preachers of the Trinity and preachers of a non-Trinitarian deity, advocates of justification by faith alone and of justification by works, worshippers of Jehovah and worshippers of Mary, and all religious bodies whatever, contained people who were full of love to the Lord, Mr. Mount-Temple knew. “From the first he combined the opinions of the Broad Church with . . . fervour and warmth.” Similarly, Mrs. Mount-Temple did not view Roman Catholics or other advocates of false gospels as people to “proselytize, believing they had all they needed to make them good Christians.” Naturally, medieval Romanist mystics such as “Fénelon . . . were . . . men of exalted and angelic nature.” “Catholic[s] of the mystic school” were present and preaching at the Broadlands Conferences from the first. The place of worship at the Mount-Temples’s Broadlands residence contained a special crucifix, kept low to the ground so that not adults only, but children also could reach its feet to kiss the graven image of the Catholic “Christ,” and poems about the crucifix and prayers to be like it were celebrated parts of Broadlands spirituality. Radically different and contradictory beliefs were to be united around Higher Life mysticism: “High Church, Broad Church, Low Church were . . . submerged in the Deep Church.” Hannah W. Smith likewise rejoiced in the ecumenical unity and the “absolute oneness” she felt with those who believed and preached false gospels at the Broadlands Conferences, a oneness she recognized as greatly facilitated by and manifested in Mr. Mount-Temple. “All shades of religious opinion” were represented at Broadlands, and Mr. Mount-Temple’s command was embraced: “[D]on’t be too critical.” “None of those who took part . . . at Broadlands . . . could be spared”—every single one of the false views and heresies represented there were necessary, and every single speaker and visitor was a positive influence and helped raise others to the Higher Life, no matter how abominable his false doctrines and practices were when compared to Scripture.
Having come to doubt the doctrine of the Fall, the Mount-Temples came to adopt a “broader view of Christian truth and of the universal hope,” that is, the universalism that made Hannah Smith so appealing to them. Many universalists in addition to Mrs. Smith were among their religious teachers, facilitating both the ecumenicalism of both the Pearsall Smith and Cowper Temple families. “Dr. Baylee” was a dear “religious . . . . friend . . . for many years” who “helped indeed,” and he “was rejoicing in the universal hope” when he “visited [the Mount Temples] in later years at Broadlands.” They testified: “[H]elp and enlargement through the great Christian prophet of our day, Frederick Maurice. We used to wander on Sunday afternoons to [his] . . . Chapel[,] [where we] heard the broader view of Christian truth and of the universal hope[.]” They testified that their “best friends” included Maurice’s “disciple[s],” and proclaimed that “the blessed George MacDonald,” that famous universalist, “has been one of our dearest friends and teachers,” indeed, a “special teacher or prophet” at Broadlands. Despite the plain words of Jesus Christ (John 8:44), Broadlands affirmed that “all [are] children of God,” with the “actual, living, inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit in each heart.” The rejection of Christ’s teaching about hell in favor of the universalist heresy was important to the great Higher Life lived by the Cowper-Temples and proclaimed at Broadlands, and the promotion of universalists such as Hannah W. Smith was consequently near to their heart.
Broadlands ecumenicalism was held together, not by universalism only, but by the Quaker doctrine of the Divine Seed also:
[Mr. Mount-Temple] discern[ed] far more quickly than most the Divine seed in every man. . . . He was in very truth, as George Fox was, the “friend” of all men. He believed, with George Fox, that every soul of man was a visited soul . . . therefore differences of creed . . . were no hinderances to his loving fellowship[.] . . . This deep sense of the solidarity of mankind [in the Divine seed] led Lord and Lady Mount Temple to seek to gather the leaders of wholly differing schools of thought together in their home at Broadlands, that they might all be drawn closer together[.] . . . All sects . . . were represented at these Conferences. High Church, Low Church, Broad Church, Dissenters, Quakers, Plymouth Brethren, Salvation Army officers, [and so on] . . . were all at [Broadlands] bound together into one common brotherhood[.] . . . Each [speaker] agreed immensely with the last speaker, and then proceeded to offer quite another Gospel.
Since the Divine Seed was in every man, Lord Mount Temple prayed for a mystical Deification: “My Lord Jesus, as Thou didst take my humanity, I pray Thee impart to me Thy Divinity.” Employing the language of the truth affirmed at the Council of Chalcedon of Jesus Christ’s character as one Person with two natures, a true Divine nature and a true human nature, Mr. Mount Temple affirmed the sickening idolatrous error that all men are, like Christ, likewise single Persons with a Divine and human nature: “I have to record my thanks . . . for deep Churchism at our Conferences . . . for the knowledge that we are all two in one—two natures in one person . . . the Divine and human.” Likewise, as Christ had preexisted his incarnation, so all men had preexistent souls—“We were not created when we were born; that was not the beginning—‘Trailing clouds of glory do we come/From God, Who is our home’; we were put here for a term, for our education, enwrapped in a fleshly nature, that the inner nature might grow by overcoming it.” Consequently, as one enters the Higher Life of mystical union with God, one comes to “nothing short of interpenetration, oneness with God,” patterned after Christ, for “[i]n Him the human is the Divine.” Passing beyond a simple knowledge of Jesus leads to “the ideal life, the life of man as Son of God.” The preexistent soul becomes the Divine Seed in man, so that he can enter into the Higher Life and be finally divinized. Speakers at Broadlands tied in deification and preexistent souls with universalism and the Divine Seed in every man, for the Biblical doctrine of total depravity was set aside: “Awake to the knowledge that every fellow-creature is a member of Christ. Gordon found it useful in dealing with men, whether heathen or others, to say to himself, ‘Here is one in whom God is, I will speak to the God in him.’ . . . We must be dead to the sin in others, alive to the God in them.” Certainly if, in accordance with Satan’s primordial lie (Genesis 3:5) and consistent with Quaker doctrine, all people are God and man, the possibility that some men are “heretick[s]” to be “reject[ed]” after admonition (Titus 3:10), or that the true Christian was to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11), would the farthest thing from Mr. Mount Temple’s supposedly Divine but actually depraved and idolatrous mind.
The ecumenicalism and universalism derived from the Divine Seed doctrine were at the heart of the Broadlands Conferences, as they were exceedingly dear to Hannah W. Smith and the Mount Temples, and passed into the Higher Life and Keswick movement through them. Unregenerate false teachers were treated as the objects, not of evangelism, but of hearty fellowship as the children of God, so that their ideas could be imbibed:
Almost every shade of Christian thought was represented there; there were those who belonged to the High Church, Low Church, Broad Church, Dissenters, Salvationists, Quakers, Swedenborgians, all able . . . to meet as one brotherhood . . . in the real union apparent at these Conferences . . . learn[ing] from one another . . . [as] His children.
Indeed, ecumenicalism was one of the greatest and most marked results of the Broadlands Conferences:
But perhaps the most marked of the results of the Conferences, the one which has had the widest influence, even amongst those who were never at Broadlands, but have caught something of its spirit, was the breaking down of barriers between brethren; . . . between those of whatever creed . . . the increased desire for union, that seems everywhere to be leavening the churches. . . . People met together at Broadlands who certainly would not have met elsewhere . . . [and] found their differences were of less importance than they had thought, and that they were one in the deepest aspiratons of their souls. . . . Evangelicals saw that Ritualists were not necessarily slaves of the husks and the letter; more important still, the eyes of orthodox religionists were opened to the mysterious workings of the spirit of truth in regions far beyond the precincts of recognized Christianity . . . a sign of what is coming upon Christendom. . . . Those hours were a prophecy and promise of . . . what is long[ed] for, “the corporate union[.]” . . . [T]he Broadlands Conferences were the starting-point of . . . [t]he great Conferences at Oxford in 1874, and at Brighton in 1875 . . . leading on to those held annually at Keswick[.] . . .
Two men were heard talking together outside one of the great meetings at the first Oxford Conference. “What does it all mean?” said one. “Oh, don’t you know,” replied the other, “it’s all the Christian people in the world are going to be one sect.”
Ecumenicalism, both through the direct position of the leaven at Broadlands and through the leaven of the ecumenical Conferences it birthed at Oxford, Brighton, and Keswick, was a central result of the meetings started by Lord and Lady Mount-Temple. Furthermore, the alleged workings of God in saving and blessing people outside of Christianity and among all the groups in Christendom, which formed the foundation of Broadlands ecumenicalism, arose from the Broadlands emphasis upon universalism. At Conference after Conference Hannah W. Smith, Andrew Jukes, George MacDonald, and many others passionately set forth the universalist heresy; since all men have the Divine Seed within them, “the awakening touch will come, the life will be quickened and manifest itself,” so that all will come to salvation. Not regenerate man only, but each and every “man is the child of God,” without any qualification of any kind, so that “the ordinary work to be wrought by evangelical preaching . . . [s]udden and effectual conversion . . . is not in” MacDonald’s writings or those of his fellow universalists. Evidence for universalism was culled, not from the Bible alone—for it was very difficult to find it there—but from many other sources, such as pagan religions and modern poets. After all, since “[a]ll the poets believe in a golden age,” so should we:
[T]he restitution of all things . . . [is something] which mankind in almost every age and in many countries seem to have had some kind of dim intimation[.] . . . I still have an impression of the reverent, serious attitude, the bowed head and almost breathless awe, in which the subject was approached, and the contributions, not only from our own Scriptures, but from the sacred writings of the East, from old philosophies, and from modern poets, which were brought forward to show how deep-seated was this great hope in the hearts of mankind generally. . . . “There is no evil,” says the old Druidic philosophy, “that is not a greater good than it is an evil[.”] . . . Dante surely had something of the same idea . . . [as did] Browning . . . [and] Tennyso[n] . . . [and] Trench[.] . . . Quotations were of course made from the Scriptures [also]. . . . Much was spoken that might be summed up in Walt Whitman’s words[.] . . . [A] prayer from Lord Mount-Temple . . . would fitly close the meeting. . . . Referring to possibilities for individual souls after death, George MacDonald said one day: “The Roman Catholics believe in three stages after death. At the Reformation the Protestants gave up one, but they gave up the wrong one.”
Consequently, the Broadlands Conferences stood for the position that “a desire to proselytize . . . has been the cause of all the religious tyranny and persecution that has been the disgrace of the Christian Church, and . . . is entirely opposed to the spirit and teaching of Jesus.” Indeed:
[O]utside . . . the Christian temple . . . there are beautiful, preeminently beautiful souls adorned with all Christian graces. . . . These noble, beautiful souls . . . are the “other sheep, not of this fold,” are guided by the “true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” . . . Proselytising is wrong. There was, perhaps, nothing our Lord condemned more strongly. . . . The desire to proselytize is generally from selfishness or pride. . . . We should never take from any man, not even from a heathen, that [spiritual truth] which he has, without giving him something better. . . . The world is helping the churches. There is an island in the South Sea, where, it is said, the people are never dishonest and never untruthful. A missionary is going out there. It makes one almost tremble to think of it.
Lord and Lady Mount-Temple were very successful in working at Broadlands with Hannah W. Smith and others in spreading their Higher Life ecumenicalism and universalism throughout Christendom.
The Inner Light, with its concomitant heresies of the Divine Seed and universalism, were exalted in the anti-cessationist Higher Life atmosphere of Broadlands. The “higher and deeper Christian life” was a development of “the inner light, which is variously manifested by human souls, each contributing in the measure it has received ‘of the fullness of Him that filleth all in all,’” that is, of the Divine Seed in every man, the presence of which was intimately tied in with the affirmation of universalism and the rejection of an eternal hell. Experience and many world religions validated such ideas—had not the Druids believed in the Inner Light? A belief in the Biblical doctrine of human depravity, which denies that man has anything remotely close to a Divine Seed in him, was a tremendous roadblock to the Higher Life, for “only as . . . man . . . yields himself to this highest within him, can he know his true life, the spiritual life . . . self-surrender to the highest life within” is what is necessary. People can obey without grace, Biblically defined, since virtues are “latent in all men.” Broadlands testified: “Whenever I meet a man, I know the germ of the Christ-life is there. . . . Christ is the life of men, the Divine seed in every one.” Consequently, “[t]here is something to learn from every one,” for “revelation” comes to all men through the Inner Light based on the Divine Seed. Monergistic regeneration of the spiritually dead sinner is the opposite of the Broadlands message; on the contrary, “[W]hat we call conversion [is] the potential spiritual life becoming the actual,” the Divine Seed beginning to flourish as those who already have Divinity within enter into the Higher Life.
The advance of “Christian Socialism” was also part of the Mount-Temples’s spirituality. They “loved heartily” their “dear friends” and fellow leaders in “Christian Socialism,” such as “Charles Kingsley” and “Tom Hughes,” who first met Mr. Mount-Temple at the first Broadlands Conference in 1874. However, Mr. Mount-Temple outshone them all in the battle for socialism: “[I]n the early days of Christian Socialism, . . . [the] movement [was] so vehemently and widely denounced, [but Mr. Mount-Temple] was from the first an advocate and liberal supporter, and, from his social and public position, risked more than all the rest of [its leaders] put together.” Attacks on freedom and the spread of socialism under the guise of Christianity were important parts of the Cowper-Temples’s religion.
When the Cowper-Temples declared that they received alleged truths from “all sects” and “schools of thought,” their “all” was no exaggeration—as strong continuationists because of their belief in the Quaker doctrine of the Divine Seed, they happily received the allegedly inspired teachings of the most twisted cultists and vilest fanatics, as they exalted, listening to, and obeyed their heart’s voice (cf. Jeremiah 17:9). They warmly held the “belief in the revival of the prophetic gifts which Christ had bestowed on his apostles for all men with a living faith.” The couple consequently rejoiced in the demonically-manipulated perfectionist and cult leader Edward Irving and his Apostle, Henry Drummond. Irving founded of the Catholic Apostolic Church, predicted the end of the world in 1868, affirmed that Christ had adopted man’s fallen nature, claimed that the gift of tongues and other first century miraculous gifts had been restored among his followers, and vigorously maintained other heresies, which Drummond faithfully supported and promulgated. Mrs. Mount-Temple narrated:
Mr. Henry Drummond . . . [was] a very special influence which affected [Mr. Mount-Temple’s] religious views[.] . . . At Albury, Mr. Drummond and Lady Harriet, the Duchess of Northumberland (then Lady Lovaine), and Lady Gage, the other daughter, were all very kind to us, and hoped perhaps that we should join the Apostolic Church, of which Mr. Drummond was an Apostle.
It was all very interesting and hope-giving, and opened a new region to us. All we heard of the birth and development of this Church was thrilling. . . . Haldane Stewart had instituted . . . a system of prayer . . . for a special outpouring of the Spirit. He and other devout friends assembled at Albury, and there was, they believed, such a miraculous answer, that it was to them as a second Pentecost. Some began to speak under spiritual influences, and through these persons, endued, they believed, with the prophetic gift, a most beautiful Church system was organized, not, they said, by their own will or wisdom, but by the Spirit of God.
They believed the Lord was soon to return [that is, in 1868], and that a new body of apostles and faithful disciples were called out to receive Him. They called this the Elias ministry. . . . They believed apostles were appointed supernaturally to rule the Church universal. Prophets were inspired to teach and evangelists sent forth with power [now that these offices had been restored in their religious organization; before that time] the prophetic gift was unknown, and the apostolic universal ministry had been lost. . . . [T]his [was a] really splendid ideal of a Church. . . . [It greatly influenced] my husband’s religious development.
The kindled hope of the Lord’s speedy approach, the calling out of Apostles, and of an elect body to meet Him, greatly quickened our spiritual life. We attended their beautiful services, we listenened to [their] eloquent and fervent appeals[.] . . .
We hung on Mr. Drummond’s words for hours, while he described to us this wonderful ideal[.] . . . He was indeed one of the last men . . . whom one could suspect of any fanaticism or spiritual aberration. . . . Imagine such a man an Apostle . . . bringing in the Kingdom of God. . . . This was the new world in which we found ourselves, and very kindling and entrancing it was!
I was carried away by it[.] . . . It deeply moved William, but he did not feel called to leave the place and the duties to which he was attached. . . . [W]hat remained to us of the teaching and blessing of this time [was,] [f]irst of all, the revival of spiritual life [that is, the Higher Life]; then, a much wider view of the Church . . . includ[ing] all who have been baptized . . . comprising therefore the members of the Roman and Greek Churches, and all Nonconformists [as well as] Quakers [as] the descendants of those within the covenant of baptism. . . . [S]pecial truth [was] confided to . . . the Unitarians . . . [while] the Friends [received the] . . . special truth . . . [of] the Inner Light . . . the Wesleyans [of] . . . perfection, etc. All one body . . . [Drummond] taught us also the meaning of Symbols, and of Ritual . . . [t]he members of the Apostolic Church hold that the Lord is truly present in Holy Communion[.] . . . So it was, that without joining the Apostolic Church, William always felt much indebted to the teaching we received [from them] at Albury[.]
Thus, from Irving’s Catholic Apostolic cult, the Cowper-Temples were encouraged in ecumenicalism, continuationism, post-conversion Spirit baptism with miraculous results, the Inner Light, the Real Presence, perfectionism, and the Higher Life, all of which flourished at their Broadlands Conferences and at the Keswick Conventions which developed from them.
Spiritualism was at the root of the Higher Life beliefs of Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple. Mrs. Cowper-Temple explained that, having first heard of spiritualism in 1857 and becoming fully initiated by 1861, she led her husband also to embrace the occult, so that Mr. Mount-Temple “gathered all the good he could from spiritualism, and was helped . . . leading us to a higher life.” The couple attended a vast number of séances, seeing there great marvels performed by, as they thought, the dead who had been conjured up. They learned, contrary to 1 Corinthians 15, that the true resurrection is not that of the body, but the rising into the realm of the spirits—the Higher Life. They not only were spiritualists themselves, but sought—successfully—to lead others into their fellowship with devils, as they were “always ready to introduce” their friends, such as Hannah W. Smith, “to influential people among the spiritualists.” They greatly advanced the careers of self-professed “Christian spiritualist” ministers such as H. R. Haweis. They “studied the . . . writings of Swedenborg,” “the great spiritualist of the eighteenth century,” and Swedenborg’s writings and friends were continued influences at Broadlands and its Conferences. Indeed, spiritualism was promoted at the Broadlands Conferences, where it fit well with the doctrine of the erotic spiritual Baptism: “Each meeting included discussions on the uses of Spiritualism, the role of entrancement, the role of prayer, and the mission of God in the world.” The Mount Temples’s longing for restored miracles and a Higher Life was satisfied by the spirits with whom they became familiar through séances. For example, they conversed with the spirit of Frederick Lamb, a Viscount, who told Mr. Mount-Temple where he could find assorted letters and speeches and commanded that they be published. Lord Palmerston, who had been dead for 13 months, similarly told Mr. Mount-Temple where important memoranda could be found. They worked with mediums who “engaged in extensive automatic writing . . . and . . . often left [their] body to traverse the spheres,” while also working wonderful cures [of sickness].” At various séances, and in the company of other spiritualists, including those they had proselyted into spiritualism, the Mount-Temples experienced the supernatural signs and wonders that they had been seeking:
[Prophetic] message[s] . . . [were given through using] a ouija board[.] . . . [A] wonderous demonstration [took place] of a table dancing in tune with music played on a piano apparently by invisible hands [for a while until they] heard departing footsteps and the [spirit’s] farewell, “Dear earthly friends, good night.” . . . [T]able rapping and spiritual music . . . table tilting and levitation . . . psychical responses sent through clairvoyant visions or spirit writing moving [one’s] fingers when . . . in a state of trance [were experienced]. . . . [G]uests pressing their fingers lightly to the tops of two tables, [Mr. Temple recorded,] “the large table danced in time to a country dance & the little table rose & being suspended in the air the feet be[in]g about 1 foot from the ground & it rapped against the edge of a sofa . . . it also heaved as if at the top of a wave & tilted to the side.” . . . [Séances were discussed where] fresh eggs, fruit, and flowers would descend from the ceiling . . . [although some were] amazed with the triviality of the manifestations. . . . [S]pirits moving about the room [caused] ferns [to] shake[.] . . . [A medium] elongating his body by some six to eight inches in a trance [was also] summoning luminous forms visible to guests. . . . [O]bjects materiali[zed] without the aid of a medium[.] . . . [Many] messages from the dead [were delivered.]
While the Mount-Temples led many to adopt spiritualism, some of their converts came to suspect the true source of the manifestations. For example, one who had been converted to spiritualism by the Mount-Temples and attended numerous séances with them wrote to Mrs. Mount-Temple in April 1868:
Could anything more perfectly answer the description of a “familiar or household spirit” [Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27, etc.]—than that thing—if a true thing—that came . . . and answered the question—“Have you any News?[”]—“I haven’t got any”? Think of it! [If the Testament is true,] I have no doubt that it is your duty at once to abstain from all these things . . . [and] to receive what you have seen of them [the spirits] as an awful sign of the now active presence of the Fiend among us.
The manifestations, this more discerning convert recognized, were “beneath the dignity of an intelligent God”—therefore, “have done with ‘Mediums.’” However, the Mount-Temples, despite being confronted with the plain warnings of Scripture, did not take heed to this advice. Mr. Mount-Temple continued to be so enchanted with spiritualism that he was even nursed by a medium in his last illness. He never decided to reject them as Satanic, for they were among “the great cloud of witnesses encircling the world.” Besides, “the presence of unseen heavenly ones added to the deep gladness that was felt” at the Broadlands Conventions, so the spirits of the dead must have been good because they made people feel the happiness of the Higher Life. Likewise, Mrs. Mount-Temple, even to the end of her life, was never freed from the influence of mediums. After all, as she had learned from them, “Spiritualism [was] . . . the handmaid of Christianity.” Mrs. Mount-Temple even exercised supernatural powers herself; for example, one day when a man was suffering from a sickness, she threw a lady into a trance so that the cure for the disease could be obtained by prophecy, and then brought the lady out of the trace—“another bit of witchery.” In the 1870s, when the Higher Life meetings at Broadlands were founded and Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple were promoting Robert and Hannah Pearsall Smith, as well as cultists like Laurence Oliphant, the “Cowper-Temples . . . met the best-known mediums of this decade,” bringing “the greatest of the English mediums, with whom they had been attending séances . . . to Broadlands . . . [b]y 1874,” the very year Mr. Mount-Temple asked the spirits during a séance for permission to become a medium himself to further his spiritual growth. Thus, in 1874 Mr. Mount-Temple, seeking the Higher Life, both asked for permission to become a medium and thrust the Pearsall Smiths into the limelight in that fateful Higher Life Conference on their property. Indeed, the Mount-Temples were “one of the earliest” to explore “spiritualism” in England. Broadlands truly was a very spiritual place—mediums validated that “all manners of ghosts [were] about the house,” since “[c]ontact with ghosts helped shape both Lady and Lord Mount Temple’s futures and day-to-day living.” The day after the 1874 Broadlands Conference that germinated the Keswick theology, Mrs. Cowper-Temple had reached such a spiritual height in her Higher Life that she attended a séance to see if more of the spirit of a dead man, John King, would materialize than in the last attempt to contact him—previously, only his head had materialized, and Mrs. Cowper-Temple was hoping for more in her post-Conference séance. Truly, Mr. and Mrs. Cowper-Temple lived a supernatural and spiritual life, and the spirits that gathered there contributed to the supernatural and spiritual Higher Life that so many led at Broadlands. Such was the place, and such were the promoters, of the Broadlands Conference for the promotion of the Higher Life that hatched the Keswick system.
Scriptural cessationism, consequently, was rejected at the Broadlands Conferences for continuationism. Pentecost, with its signs and wonders, was not a completed dispensational event, but “a sample of that dispensation of the Spirit, which was the gift of God to the Church in all generations.” Indeed, because of the Divine Seed in every man, “[a]ny hour may be a miracle hour”—such miraculous visions as “the young Isaiah” had of Jehovah on His throne (Isaiah 6), as “Moses” had on “Mount Horeb,” and as “Paul” had on the road to “Damascus,” “such hours of visio[n] come to all . . . [h]ow many, in all ages . . . have known these sacred experiences[.] . . . Such special, memorable hours, came to us, not seldom, at Broadlands.” Many “hours of vision” and “dreams . . . came to the worshippers at Broadlands.” In fact, even the poet Wordsworth had received visions like those of Isaiah, Moses, Paul, and the participants at the Broadlands Conferences. While Scripture testifies that “God . . . spake . . . at sundry times and in divers manners . . . in time past” before the coming of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4), Broadlands testifies that “At sundry times and in divers manners God [still] speaks and manifests Himself.” Sola Scriptura and cessationism were out, while spiritualism and continuationism were in.
Those at Broadlands desired the presence of the sign gifts and healing powers, practiced the Faith and Mind Cure, and received inspiration from those demons that directed the Mount-Temples and promulgated through them the corruptions of the Higher Life theology. Supernatural beings from the angelic realm gave commands, so that voices, with music accompanying them, were heard at Broadlands Conferences. When Mr. Mount-Temple was, sick, through the Faith and Mind Cure he was restored again; both he and his wife “tried the ‘mind cure’” at times. They were conversant with homeopaths. Mr. Mount Temple’s “witness to others in the matter of healing by the prayer of faith was unceasing . . . [‘]I am anxious[,] [he said,] [‘that] . . . this form of Divine Healing . . . should be tried . . . it seems to me to be unfaithful not to have recourse to it . . . showers of healing are so plentifully falling around us . . . this valuable life should be [within] reach.[’]” During his sickness, in a manner consistent with his spiritualism, he was even able to join in prayer “with words of fervor and power as though his spirit were using his body whilst the mind remained dormant.” Dormant minds allegedly disjoined from actions on the spirit were most helpful in affecting Faith Cures.
Contrary to the truth that inspiration was complete with the canon of Scripture, but in accordance with its embrace of the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light, Broadlands was a place where allegedly post-canonical inspiration was as plentiful as fog in London. At Broadlands, “[n]ot only . . . pastors and teachers” were present, but “prophets” also. Mrs. Mount-Temple stated that the “impulse” through which Mr. Mount-Temple offered his Broadlands estate to Hannah and Robert Smith for the foundational Conference “seemed . . . like . . . inspiration”; “thus our first Conference was initiated,” Mrs. Mount Temple declared, by a revelation and by inspiration. The Conference was then “led by Mr. Pearsall Smith” in a “wonderfully inspired way,” even as Mr. Mount Temple’s speeches were “so inspired in utterance” both at that first Conference and at other times. Mrs. Pearsall Smith had reached such a height of spirituality that “inspiration” even “came from her shining face.” Indeed, women preachers—“inspired wom[e]n”—gave “inspired addresses,” and continuationism in general, and in particular a rejection of sola Scriptura for the Quaker doctrine of authoritative continuing revelations and inspiration because of the Divine Seed in every man, were insisted upon as of primary importance and as the core of Broadlands teaching:
It was insisted on first of all, that God does actually communicate with each one of the spirits He had made: not only did He speak to human beings in the past, but does still, here and now. This fact is referred to in the Bible . . . as the light . . . as a voice . . . as a guide . . . [in] individual guidance . . . [and] also as inspiration. . . . [T]his Divine communion is not only . . . the light (that which reveals), not only . . . a voice (which lets us know from Whom the word comes), or . . . a guide (which indicates our course), but is even as the breath or life of God within our life, to inspire us[.] . . . The power to discern this Divine guidance is given to all in some measure . . . it is a gift, a faculty common to all . . . God’s voice is of the heart[.] . . . Surely this is . . . the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light, which is the corner-stone of their belief. . . . Intuitions come at such times . . . [w]e feel within us “the breath of God, that warrenteth the utmost, inmost things of faith” . . . The vision br[ings] supreme joy . . . visionary hours may be as the steps in a rocky path, by which we climb to the pure air of the mountain-top.
Dream, vision, prophecy, spiritual imagination, call them what we will, are an essential element of human life. . . . [W]ithout the inspired spiritual element in life, man can never be truly man. . . . the highest powers of his being remain unused. . . . Every age has its seers, its dreamers of dreams, its men of [supernatural] insight . . . [such men] are needed. . . . The seer brings us new knowledge . . . as vision opens beyond vision into the depths of being and of love. . . . The seer rejoices . . . and the worker is glad of the inspiration . . . [t]hey are not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
After all, the Incarnation was not necessary so that Christ could satisfy the Law of God and shed His blood as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men, but He came to lead people to listen to the Inner Light: “He came in the flesh, that He might get at us from the outside, because we do not listen to the inward voice.” Despite multitudes of texts like Isaiah 53:4-6 and 1 John 2:2, Hannah Smith and the Mount Temples knew that “Christ” was “not in any sense . . . appeasing the wrath of God” by His work on the cross, so having His redemptive blood personally applied through a new birth was, without a doubt, not necessary for salvation. Further revelations are necessary, because “Christianity has never yet been fully preached,” not even by the Apostles and the first century churches—the “chuches have to learn that.” Consequently, “what a power there is in vision”! Thus, at that first Broadlands Conference, as at subsequent ones, the universalist Andrew Jukes proclaimed his heresies with “inspired wisdom.” Antoinette Sterling, consistent with “her Quaker upbringing . . . seemed as much inspired in the choice of her songs as in the rendering of them,” for “she was one of the few to whom God . . . [w]hispers in the ear,” so she could “guid[e] . . . the assembly . . . to a higher, nobler plane” with her “spontaneous outpourings which seemed inspired.” After all, “the highest music is itself a revelation, a manifestation of something divine” as it “prophesies of . . . predestined good . . . [and] salvation universal,” and “[t]here is no truer truth obtainable than comes of music,” including the propositions of Scripture, which flatly deny that salvation is universal. By entering into the Higher Life “the soul . . . receives more inspiration than it can hold.” The supernatural spirits that worked so greatly in Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple’s lives, as they did in the Quakers to give them Inner Light, and gave them and others present at Broadlands wonders and marvels, were the source of what Mrs. Mount-Temple called “the God-inspired . . . Conferences which [Mr. Mount-Temple] inaugurated and carried through for so many years . . . at Broadlands.”
The broadness of the Mount-Temples’s views embraced not only Irvingism, continuationism, and broader spiritualism, but even and especially the filthy religion of the occult perfectionists and free-love practicioners Thomas Harris and Laurence Oliphant, since spiritualism and sexual immorality were the natural handmaids of each other. As Hannah and Robert P. Smith adopted the doctrine that the baptism of the Spirit was associated with erotic thrills, so the only way to receive the true Spirit Baptism was through sexual immorality, taught Oliphant as Harris’s disciple. “Laurence Oliphant, together with his disciples, actually carried out, to the utmost possible extent, the practices of which Robert Pearsall Smith was suspected.” However, only those initiated into the Higher Life were brought into these depths of Satan; publicly Harris and Oliphant were more vague, as were the Smiths. Nevertheless, Oliphant held that “sexual passion was the only real spiritual life.” Oliphant explained to Mrs. Smith, and to many others, at the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Cowper-Temple, his unspeakable abominations. Hannah W. Smith explained:
[T]he Baptism of the Holy Ghost, [which we were to] seek the experience [of] for ourselves. . . . was to be the aim of our desires. . . . Mr. Oliphant . . . told me that he believed my husband was called to enter into and propogate the views he held, and he urged me to beg him not to stop short of the full consummation. . . . “Come and get into bed with me.” . . . I asked him if it were not possible to lead people into this glorious experience he spoke of without personal contact. He said no, it was not.
Such was the Higher Life Harris and Oliphant spread with the patronage of Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple.
It was Mr. Mount-Temple’s seeking to “gathe[r] all the good he could from spiritualism” that led him to make the acquaintance, his wife explained, of Harris and Oliphant. Mrs. Cowper-Temple, who was especially attracted to Oliphant because of his turn from materialism to spiritualism after necromantic contact with his dead father,narrated concerning the dirty duo:
[N]o one . . . ever attracted William [Mount-Temple] more . . . [than] Mr. Harris. . . . It was through him we became much allied with Laurence Oliphant, whom we first met at Broadlands . . . All there were interested in him. [Oliphant had] turned his back upon all and went off . . . to find God under the guidance of Mr. Harris. . . . [H]e always said he owed everything to Mr. Harris. . . . [Laurence] married [one from] our house [that is, one from the Cowper-Temple household], who was of one mind with himself . . . upheld by the hope of bringing others [by sexual contact] into the new and higher life . . . [They resided] with us at Broadlands [among other places].
The Mount-Temples “considered joining . . . Harris [and] his cult in New York State,” but they decided instead to simply make their “home at Broadlands a haven for . . . Harris,” from whence they “might help in [the] unfolding” of the spiritual Kingdom of which Harris was the messenger. From Broadlands Harris and Oliphant could propogate their ideas and seduce others into the Higher Life of sexual immorality and the thrills of the erotic Spirit Baptism, for Mr. Mount-Temple was zealous to promote such spiritual growth in all those whom he could influence from Broadlands. The Mount-Temples founded the Broadlands Conferences, the root of the Keswick Conventions and the capstone of their personal spiritual quest, for the purpose of promoting such Higher Life theology as that of Harris and Oliphant, and the special spiritual Baptism that accompanied it:
These [Broadlands] Conferences were established . . . to seek the outpouring of the Spirit[.] . . . A meeting . . . of universal character, all speaking as the Spirit moved them, not of doctrines or of systems, but of the wonderful things of God. . . . In 1874 a few persons were led together on this new basis . . . their participation in the same desire to lead a higher and deeper Christian life.
People sought “a tangible sign of the Spirit,” and received “ten times more [than they] expected” in his “felt presence.” Mr. and Mrs. Smith were consequently invited by the Cowper-Temples to lead that first fateful conference at Broadlands in 1874, that others also might enter into that same Higher Life and Spirit baptism that they four had experienced with all its physical thrills.
Hannah W. Smith was well aware of the spiritualism and the immoral abominations practiced and propounded by the Mount-Temples. She wrote: “Lady Mount Temple is about as sweet as a human being can be. But she is a spiritualist, and told me that nothing had saved her from absolute infidelity but the proofs she had seen in spiritualism of a life in another region . . . she . . . had so much Scripture on her side[.]” Hannah Smith believed “so much Scripture” was on the side of Mrs. Mount-Temple’s spiritualism despite the clearest and direst warnings against this demonic practice in texts such as Deuteronomy 18:11 and Isaiah 8:19. Thus, Hannah Smith allowed Mrs. Mount-Temple to introduce her to numerous spiritualists and mediums, and they sat under their teaching together. Was it not good that Mrs. Mount-Temple had been kept from agnosticism and atheism through the close communion with Satan and his devils into which she was brought as she engaged in familiar intercourse with demons pretending to be dead people who had come back from the grave? However, notwithstanding her preservation from agnosticism and atheism at the time, at a later time “Lady Mount Temple” began to “rav[e] against God one minute, and d[id] not believe there is any God the next minute.” Furthermore, “Lady Mount Temple could never grasp the difference between right and wrong; when no cruelty was involved she couldn’t see why people should not do what they like”—why they could not, as Hannah advised, “always . . . do the thing they really and seriously wanted to do . . . and . . . with a good conscience.” That such advice could lead to the most monstrous iniquities, and extreme lasciviousness, was apparent. Indeed, Mrs. Mount Temple’s “family, the Tollemaches, were a wild family, much given to misbehavior” that led many of them into “disgrace,” as a result of which they would be invited to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Mount Temple for a while. Mrs. Mount-Temple’s “only answer” when confronted with the fact that a servant of hers named Sarah, “under the almost intolerable domination” of whom she had fallen, “was the mother of a large family of illegitimate children,” was: “‘I am so glad poor Sarah has had some fun.’ . . . [A] charge of misconduct made no impression.” Indeed, Lady Mount Temple even “wrote . . . a friendly letter . . . [to] Oscar Wilde [while he] was out on bail between his two trials . . . inviting him to pay her a visit,” although Wilde was a notorious and serial pedophile, and his two trials were connected to his despicable sodomizing of countless boys and men. Lady Mount Temple also thought—as her conection with Laurence Oliphant makes most unsurprising—that it was “incomprehensible and silly” that Mr. Smith was removed from his leadership of the Keswick Convention after the Brighton meetings because of his espousal of erotic bridal mysticism: “If these good people wanted to kiss each other, what, she wondered, could be the harm in that?”
Despite, or perhaps because of, Mrs. Mount-Temple’s spiritualism, damnable heresies, immorality, and rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Mrs. Smith could write to her: “I think of you as . . . sitting in a bower of heavenly love . . . our true and only [l]and is the beloved and beautiful will of God, which environs us all everywhere and in everything.” Indeed, Mrs. Smith was happy to have fellowship with a variety of other spiritualists also, as well as receiving prophecies from occult palm readers. It is unsurprising that Hannah felt that there was “something occult about” the powers that assisted her preaching ministry. She was certainly not an enemy of the Satanic spiritualism of her great Higher Life patrons.
With the Mount-Temples, Mrs. Smith fellowshipped with Laurence Oliphant, that spiritualist, perfectionist cult leader, and free-love practicioner. Oliphant taught the doctrine which had already been adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Smith some years earlier, and was publicly proclaimed at the Keswick precursor Convention at Oxford, that Spirit baptism brought erotic sexual sensations, although Mr. Oliphant affirmed with greater clarity that the actual entertainment of lustful and vile passions in acts of shameful immorality was the key and the only way to receive Spirit baptism. It was essential, Hannah knew, to receive a post-conversion Spirit baptism, for only after the Baptism does one really become a temple of the Holy Spirit and have His indwelling. And, in truth, it certainly would not be surprising if a supernatural spirit made the body of someone who received the erotic bridal Baptism his dwellingplace. In any case, Mr. and Mrs. Smith were not alone in receiving patronage from the Mount-Temples; Oliphant also was received in the like manner and given a stage upon which to proclaim his filthy abominations. Mrs. Smith wrote about their meeting:
I went to Dorking to join Lord and Lady Mount Temple at a friend’s house there to meet Laurence Oliphant. . . . He . . . has come over to England on a mission to propogate a sort of mystic spiritualism of a most peculiar kind. . . . After dinner Laurence Oliphant read us a long paper . . . [t]he next morning, however, he unfolded his ideas to me . . . similar teaching had [been adopted by] a great many good people in America.
Her letter dramatically understated matters; as other writings of hers, which she would not allow to be published until after her death, and the deaths of all those involved in the events, indicated: “Readers of her [Hannah Smith’s] Religious Fanaticism will recognize the moderation of this letter, for, as she there frankly reveals, Laurence Oliphant, together with his disciples, actually carried out, to the utmost possible extent, the practices of which Robert Pearsall Smith was suspected,” speaking of the doctrine that Spirit baptism was associated with sexual thrills, and engaging in practices suitable to such a confession; for Oliphant held that “sexual passion was the only real spiritual life.” In her more forthright and posthumous description of her visit with the Mount-Temples to sit at the feet of Oliphant, Mrs. Smith wrote:
On one occasion I was invited to go with two friends of mine . . . to meet Mr. Oliphant. In the evening, after dinner, Mr. Oliphant read us a paper about some mysterious experience that he declared was the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, and was the birthright of everyone; urging us to seek the experience for ourselves. . . . I scented out what he meant; but one of my friends did not, and she was profoundly impressed with the mysterious reference to some wonderful “it” that was to be the aim of our desires. When he closed the paper, she said in her sweet, childlike way, “What would’st thou have me to do in order to gain this?” Immediately he coloured up to the roots of his hair, and said, “I could not tell you in this company.” It flashed into my mind that if he had answered her what was really in his mind, he would have said, “Come and get into bed with me.” However, nothing more was said then, and we separated for the night, but I was convinced from the behaviour of our hostess and her daughters that they had been more or less initiated into the mystic rites of this new religion. The next morning Mr. Oliphant asked for a private interview with me, in which he told me that he believed my husband was called to enter into and propogate the views he held, and he urged me to beg him not to stop short of the full consummation. I asked what the full consummation was. He said, “You noticed the question that was asked me last night? Do you know what I would have answered? I did not tell him what I had thought, but asked him, “What would you have answered? His reply was, “If I dared to I would have said, ‘Come and get into bed with me.’” . . . I asked him if it were not possible to lead people into this glorious experience he spoke of without personal contact. He said no, it was not.
In addition to contact with Oliphant through the Mount-Temples, Hannah Smith had contact with the sect of Oliphant’s father in his filthy faith, Thomas Harris, although she professed, at least in public, that she did not adopt either of their views. However, it is clear that she sought out, learned, and “knew personally about” Oliphant’s sect and Harris’s sect, while reading some of Harris’s writings and lending them to others. On Mrs. Mount-Temple’s request, Hannah even visited Harris’s colony in California. Since Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple made their “home at Broadlands a haven for all sorts of prophets of new religious and utopian experiements, including the American Thomas Lake Harris . . . [and] his cult in New York State” and they seem to have “considered joining [his] American group,” Mrs. Smith’s exposure to and fellowship with Harris and Oliphant is not surprising in the least. Indeed, although he may be difficult for her to understand, “Harris” is definitely “in his senses,” as Hannah knew, a fact validated to her by her friend, the New Thought teacher Mrs. Caldwell, who considered his writings “very advanced truth”—and Hannah knew that Mrs. Caldwell was also certainly “in her senses,” with “plenty more people, too” who found Harris and his abominations attractive. Filthy fanatics like Oliphant were some of the people Mrs. Mount-Temple introduced to Mrs. Smith. Through Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple, Hannah W. Smith was both influenced by spiritualism and other forms of demonic activity, encouraged in the doctrine of erotic bride mysticism being promulgated by her husband and adopted, for a time, by herself also, and exalted to be the most important leader of the Higher Life movement, so as to become the founder of the Keswick theology.
The Mount-Temples’s Broadlands Conference was the launching point for the Keswick movement; all the key Keswick theological distinctives were there in place. The distinctive pattern of the later Keswick meetings of beginning with an explication of the evil of known sin, progressing through the provision made in the Higher Life for victory, and a call to the embrace of the Higher Life and its practical consequences, was pioneered at Broadlands. The positive Keswick emphases, retained from the older classical orthodox doctrine of sanctification, on the necessity of surrender to Christ, a rejection of self-dependence, and the importance of faith, were set forth. What was truly new, the deviations from classical orthodoxy among Keswick speakers and writers, was also taught. For example, Broadlands taught the Keswick idea that Christ Himself lives the Christian life for the believer. Broadlands rejected Christ’s Lordship and Biblical repentance in conversion, teaching that one receives Christ with the attitude of “some of self, and some of Thee” and only later comes to a real surrender. Broadlands taught the standard Keswick Quietism and its associated continuationism. The standard pattern of progressive daily topics at the Keswick Convention was that of Broadlands. Broadlands taught the distinctive Keswick model of sanctification. Keswick theology was consequently molded by the corruption of the gospel, confusion of Biblical sanctification, spiritualism, continuationism, ecumenicalism, the Inner Light, New Thought, the Mind and Faith Cure, feminism, Quakerism, syncretism, quietism, antinomianism, universalism, erotic sensations as Spirit baptism, and the other heresies of the Smiths and their fellow teachers of the Higher Life as taught at Broadlands. It is difficult to underestimate the influence of the teaching of Hannah W. Smith and others at Broadlands on the subsequent history and development of the Keswick movement, as the Oxford and Brighton Conventions were simply Broadlands writ large, and Keswick theology is the permanent establishment of the promulgations of these Conventions.
Thus, Mr. Mount-Temple was by no means a passive host who simply lent his Broadlands property to others for their use—on the contrary, he was the mainspring and heart of the Broadlands Conference and consequently a prime initiator of Keswick. Those who knew Broadlands best testified:
Lord Mount Temple . . . was th[e] mainspring, th[e] very heart . . . of the Broadlands Conferences[.] . . . He was the preparer and the almost hidden ruler of the feast. . . . [T]he aim of his life express[ed] itself and t[ook] visible form in these Conferences . . . it was in these that the sap of his inner ideal life . . . found issue[.] . . . I attribute . . . the felt presence of the Spirit [at the Conferences] . . . not a little, I may say mainly, to the tone and spirit of him who [was] the lord of those broad lands[.] . . . I believe the main channel of all this blessing at Broadlands was dear Lord Mount Temple himself. . . . [I]t was his heart which . . . first conceived the possibility of such meetings . . . it was his personal influence, also, . . . which kept . . . opposite elements in peace[.] . . . Broadlands . . . [was under] the . . . leadership of Lord Mount Temple.
Lord Mount Temple led the way in spiritual things, Hannah Smith testified, and called through the Broadlands message for others to follow him to his eternal dwelling place. He received rhapsodic and hagiographical praise from key Keswick men such as Charles Fox, the poet of Keswick and its closing preacher for two decades. He developed the practice of “open[ing] every meeting” at the Broadlands Conferences, where he “urged upon his hearers the need of a higher spiritual life” and promoted Quietism. Furthermore, his influence was by no means limited to Broadlands, but “he often preached” in various venues. By leading the Broadlands Conference, he was the source of the Oxford, Brighton, and Keswick Conventions that patterned themselves after and developed from it. As Hannah Whitall Smith explained out of her personal experience as a fixture and leader among the Broadlands preachers:
Mr. and Mrs. Cowper Temple . . . were among the first to open their hearts and their home to the teaching concerning the life of faith that was at that time beginning to attract attention among English Christians. The great Conferences at Oxford, later, in 1874, and at Brighton in 1875, and the long series of similar, though somewhat smaller Conferences since held for the “deepening of the spiritual life,” were all the outcome of that first Conference gathered by Mr. and Mrs. Cowper Temple at Broadlands . . . in the summer of 1874; and probably without this brave initiatory Conference of theirs those which followed, filled as they have been and still are with [Higher Life] blessings to thousands, would never have been held. This fact is not generally known, but in the great day of accounts, when the secrets of all hears are revealed . . . thousands will [recognize] these . . . pioneers for having thus opened to Christians a wide door into . . . the life hid with Christ in God.
Broadlands led directly to Keswick:
[O]n July 17, 1874, the first Broadlands Conference met. About 200 persons assembled[.] . . . After this a Conference was held at Broadlands nearly every summer till 1888, and soon after the last one, in August of that year, Lord Mount-Temple died.
Many who attended the first Conference in 1874 felt it would be well if similar meetings, open to larger numbers, could be held elsewhere, and, at the suggestion of Stevenson Blackwood, Oxford was selected as a suitable spot[.] . . . Accordingly a Conference was held in September in the lovely old city, and about 1000 men and women of all ranks of society and of various religious denominations were present.
A fortnight later a crowded meeting was held under the Dome of Brighton, to hear about the Oxford Conference, and as a result of the interest awakened, a Conference was held at Brighton in the following spring, which was largely attended. There were about 8000 strangers in Brighton, as many as 6000 attending services at the same time. . . .
The same year as the Brighton Conference, 1875 . . . the Keswick Conventions . . . [were] inaugurated . . . which have drawn great numbers . . . year after year ever since[.]
Both persons who attended and written works about Broadlands and its teaching were key in the formation of the Higher Life movement encapsulated at Keswick. Thus, “the Broadlands Conferences were the starting-point of many important movements. The great Conferences at Oxford in 1874, and at Brighton in 1875, for the deepening of the spiritual life, leading on to those held annually at Keswick and elsewhere . . . were the outcome of those at Broadlands[.]” The 1874 Broadlands Conference, at which the Smiths were key speakers, was “the germ from which Keswick was to grow, and out of which the memorable gatherings at Oxford and Brighton sprang more immediately.” The Keswick Conventions are indubitably the product of Broadlands. What is more, “the fruits of these . . . Broadlands Conferences . . . even now are seen, [even] among those who never were at Broadlands, but who have caught something of its spirit.” The deviations from orthodox spirituality in the Keswick movement developed from the foundation of the movement in the federation between the Mount Temples, the Pearsall Smiths, and other false teachers at Broadlands.
Hannah Smith’s Higher Life theology, promulgated in the Keswick movement, that sanctification produces a sort of perfection of acts, follows the teaching of the leading Quaker theologian Robert Barclay. However, Mrs. Smith came to her view of “the life of faith” in association not only with the “Quaker examples and influences” that from her youth led her to seek for entire sanctification, but also the Catholic heretics and mystical quietists “Fénelon and Madame Guyon.” Hannah described her love for a collection of their writings and its influence upon her, and her father before her, in leading them towards the Higher Life, as follows:
I knew I was not what I ought to be. My life was full of failure and sin. . . . I was continually sinning and repenting, making good resolutions and breaking them . . . longing for victory . . . but more often failing. . . . From the peaceful, restful lives of the Quakers, among whom I had been brought up . . . I had supposed of course that becoming a Christian meant necessarily becoming peaceful and good, and I had as much expected to have victory over sin and over worries as I had expected the sun to shine. But I was forced to confess in the secret depths of my soul that I had been disappointed. . . . Nothing could have described my condition better than the Apostle’s account of his own condition in Romans 7:14-23. I had entered into the salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, and yet I knew no such triumphant deliverance from the “body of death” within me[.] . . . This feeling became especially strong after my discovery of the unlimited love of God. . . . The Quaker examples and influences around me seemed to say there must be a deliverance somewhere, for they declared that they had experienced it[.] . . . There was also another influence in my life that seemed to tell the same story. I possessed a book which distinctly taught that God’s children were not only commanded to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, but also that they could do so; and which seemed to reveal the mystical pathway towards it. It was called “Spiritual Progress,” and was a collection of extracts from the writings of Fénelon and Madame Guyon. This book was very dear to me, for it had been a gift from my adored father, and always lay on my desk beside my Bible. . . . [Concerning it, my father also testified,] “This book proved to be of the greatest comfort to me. I carried it in my pocket, and at leisure moments read it to my everlasting profit, I trust. And I cannot but thank a kind Providence for giving me this blessed book.” . . . He valued the book so highly that, as fast as his children grew old enough, he presented each one of us with a copy, and asked us to read it carefully. Our father was so dear to us that we always wanted to please him, and I for one had made the book my special companion . . . its teachings had made a profound impression upon me[.] . . . After . . . the discovery I had made of the wideness of God’s love [universalism], I began to feel more and more uneasy. . . . And more and more I felt the inconsistency of having a salvation, which was in the end to be so magnificently complete [as every single person would be in heaven], but which failed now and here so conspiculously in giving that victory over sin and over worry . . . [until I discovered] the Methodist “blessing of holiness.”
Thus, not only Quakerism, universalism, and a self-centered eudemonism that was focused upon being free from worry and having a life of ease and rest, but also Roman Catholic mysticism was key in Hannah’s discovery of the Higher Life. In her youth Hannah had wished to “get perfectly good, just like Mme. Guyon,” and even to the limits of her old age she found various affirmations of Fénelon “everlastingly true.” She further wrote: “Fenelon’s whole teaching is to show us how to let the lower life die, and the higher life take its place[,] [that is,] . . . the ‘Higher Life’ . . . [taught in my] ‘Christian’s Secret[.]’” Likewise, Hannah Smith found “the true meaning of self abandonment” in Madame Guyon’s Commentary on the Song of Solomon, found confirmation on “the subject of guidance” by the Inner “Voice” from “Madame Guyon,” discovered her quietistic doctrine of resting on God in “naked faith” from “Madame Guyon” and “Fenelon,” and developed her doctrine of being “one with God” from them also. Indeed, she made many discoveries from this pair of Catholic mystics, who were central to her doctrine of sanctification, although other Roman Catholics were also important. Indeed, she found that not only Romanist mystics, but “[a]ll the writers on the advancing life say that a renunciation of all the activities of the soul must come before God can be all in all.” That is, quietism is the necessary prerequisite for mystical union and deification.  The Higher Life “may make us lazy on the line of ‘creaturely activity,’ for all our restless strivings and agonizings will be over, and our souls will dwell in ‘peaceable habitations’ continually,” but quietism is the truth, at least in the view of the writers on the advanced life, if not in the view of the Bible.
Both the Roman Catholic Archbishop Fénelon and the mystical Quietist and panentheist Madame Guyon, who in “all that concerns the distinction between Protestantism [and the Baptists] and Romanism . . . is wholly Romanist,” were enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Madame Guyon began her last will as follows: “I protest that I die in the faith of the Catholic, apostolical, Roman Church; having no other doctrines than hers; believing all that she believes, and condemning, without restriction, all that she condemns.” She was “an outstanding proponent” of “quietism,” that “manifestation of Roman Catholic mysticism in the seveneenth and eighteenth centuries,” having adopted it from “Miguel de Molinos, a Spanish priest” who was “founder of the Quietists.” Packer describes the error of Quietism:
Quietism . . . holds that all initiatives on our part, of any sort, are the energy of the flesh; that God will move us, if at all, by inner promptings and constraints that are recognizably not thoughts and impulses of our own; and that we should always be seeking the annihilation of our selfhood so that divine life may flow freely through our physical frames. . . . by biblical standards this passiv[e] frame of reference is altogether wrong, for the Holy Spirit’s ordinary way of working in us is through the working of our minds and wills. . . . Thus, our conscious, rational selfhood, so far from being annihilated, is strengthened . . . Philippians 2:13. This is holiness, and in the process of perfecting it there is, properly speaking, no passivity at all.
David Cloud explained:
The school of mysticism that Guyon adhered to, sometimes called Quietism, was an extreme form of Roman Catholic mysticism that emphasized the cleansing of one’s inner life and included the belief that one could see Christ visibly. Before Guyon’s day, in the Middle Ages, this took strange forms in erotic “bride mysticism” with some visionaries believing they were married to Jesus. Guyon and the Quietists went further, into something called essence mysticism. They believed that their being was merged with God’s being and the two became one. This unbiblical idea survives today in the New Age and other non-Christian religions. . . . She taught that we can know of God by “passing forward into God,” going into a mindless, meditative state where we can get in touch with the Christ within the self, merge with that Christ and be lifted into ecstasy.
Guyon “won many converts,” resulting in a “belief in a vague pantheism which is closer to the South Asian religions than to Christianity,” but, nevertheless, she “felt herself so close to God that she received visions and revelations,” as did so many of her Higher Life successors who devoured her writings. Madame Guyon also, with other medieval Roman Catholic mystics, believed in the abominable heresy of deification, which was also transferred into the Higher Life and Keswick milieu. Fenélon, who “admired and defended [Guyon’s] ideas,” had many converts also—he became the Catholic “Superior of a house for recent converts from Protestantism and then led a mission to the Huguenots,” seeking to bring those French Protestants back to the fold of that religious system, centered in Rome, that the Apostle John called the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth (Revelation 17). Concerning these Quietists, Hannah W. Smith wrote: “By my Quaker education, I was exceedingly inclined towards mysticism, and the books I had read—such as Madame Guyon, Fénelon, Isaac Pennington and others, all of which lead to a life of introspection and self-abandonment—had greatly strengthened me in this, so that I honestly believed that wonderful spiritual light would come, and did come, to souls that gave themselves up to the control of their interior emotions and followed impressional guidance.” She stated: “[B]ecause of my education in the Quaker Society . . . [m]y idea of guidance . . . was of having impressed upon my mind in some miraculous way the will of God; and the teaching I received was that instant, unquestioning obedience to these impressions was the only way[.]” Quaker and Roman Catholic mysticism were at the heart of Hannah W. Smith’s Higher Life and Keswick theology.
Mrs. Smith also rejoiced in her “dear Quaker friend[s] and the Catholic Saints” who “exalted James with his justification by works.” After the death of her daughter’s Roman Catholic husband, she “covenanted that” her grandchildren from that marriage would “be educated as Roman Catholics, and she kept . . . strictly to her promise.” She wrote: “My two little grandchildren are . . . devout little Catholics, and seem to enjoy their religion, and I am glad of it. I daresay they will be saved a good many of the perplexities and difficulties that so often beset Protestant children.” She led them to celebrate Lent, to “la[y] up treasure in Heaven by giving candlesticks to a Roman Catholic High Altar” and by going to Mass and the Confessional. Hannah used the methods in “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” to lead “a Roman Catholic lady, a convert who was vexed by doubts about some dogma of the Church” of Rome, to an unshaken confidence in the dogma of transubstantiation. “H. W. S. wrote out on a piece of paper, ‘I undertake never to have any more doubts about the Real Presence’ (or whatever it was), and brought it to her, and made her sign it. After that the troubled spirit was utterly at rest” in the bosom of the Whore of Babylon. After all, nothing was wrong with Romanism, since because of a Quaker “opening,” one of the special revelations she received that supplemented or contradicted the Bible, Mrs. Smith came to realize that Roman Catholics were all one in God with other Christians. In any case, a Christian does not need to be justified by Christ’s imputed righteousness, nor believe what the Bible says about Jesus Christ—rather, “to be a good human being is to be the best Christian that can be made.” Mrs. Smith documents how she turned away from the doctrine she had learned from the Plymouth Brethren of judicial and forensic justification by faith alone (cf. Romans 3:28), “[a]fter . . . the discovery [she] had made of the wideness of God’s love [universalism],” adopting instead the heresy and works-gospel that justification means that “the life of Christ in our souls is a righteous life.” She thus denied the Biblical doctrine of justification, as well as holding to other corruptions of the gospel, both before and during the time when she began her influence as a Higher Life teacher and preacher, and she cleaved to a false gospel the rest of her life.
In addition to rejecting the core Biblical doctrine of justification, Mrs. Smith was very confused on the instrumental means for the receipt of the gospel. Denying that repentant faith alone was the instrumentality for the receipt of salvation, Hannah taught that “we cannot be saved until after we confess,” so that it was necessary to “make an apology” after doing wrong. Her view of faith was dangerous and heretical. She wrote: “Faith, then, is not a grace . . . Neither are there different kinds of faith. Men talk about a . . . living faith, and a saving faith, and an intellectual faith, and an historical faith, and a dead faith; but God talks about believing what He says, and this is the only kind of faith the Bible mentions.” Thus, to Mrs. Smith, saving faith was merely intellectual assent, believing facts. Furthermore, Mrs. Smith anticipated the Word-Faith heresy that positive confessions create positive realities:
Put your will then over on to the believing side. Say, “Lord I will believe, I do believe,” and continue to say it. . . . I began to say, over and over, “The Lord does love me. He is my present and my perfect Saviour; Jesus saves me, Jesus saves me now!” . . . Those three little words, repeated over and over, — “Jesus saves me, Jesus saves me,” — will put to flight the greatest army of doubts that ever assaulted any soul. I have tried it times without number, and have never known it to fail. Do not stop to argue the matter out with your doubts, nor try to prove that they are wrong. Pay no attention to them whatever; treat them with the utmost contempt. Shut your door in their faces, and emphatically deny every word they say to you. . . . Cultivate the habit of expressing your faith in definite words . . . repeat often.
Further anticipating Word of Faith error, she wrote elsewhere: “Faith, we are told, ‘calleth those things which be not as though they were.’ Calling them brings them into being,” so that exercising faith is “the law of creation[,]” misinterpreting Romans 4:17, which states that the personal, omnipotent God, not faith, calls those things which are not as though they were. Thus, Hannah believed she could do what Romans 4:17 affirms God, not the Christian, does: “[I]t is like the pangs of creation to have ‘the faith of God’ and ‘call those things which be not as though they were.’ Is not that a grand definition of faith? It is in Romans 4:17.” Nevertheless, Hannah admitted: “I see the difficulty you speak of, and I confess it does seem an odd sort of thing to do, to become satisfied by saying one is satisfied, when one is not. But is it not just what faith is described to be ‘calling those things which be not as though they were.’ And what else can we do?” She recognized that it was, indeed, very odd to simply say that things were a certain way when they were not so, but such was her view of faith, and she did not know what else to do. Her view, applied to feelings, might have had some effect as a psychological gimmick, but when applied to physical healing in the nineteenth century Faith and Mind Cure movements, and the modern Word of Faith movement, it has caused vast numbers of early deaths, while when applied to conversion and assurance of salvation, it has led to vast numbers of eternal, spiritual deaths.
As Mrs. Smith’s view of faith was heretical, so her view of conversion was terribly deficient and dangerous. Her counsel to the unconverted was:
If you are unconverted, take His message to sinners in 2 Corinthians 5:19, for instance, and make up your mind to believe it, irrespective of your feelings, or of your reasonings or of any other thing whatever. Say to yourself, “God says that He ‘was reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.’ I do not see how this can be. I do not feel as if it were so. But God says it, and I know He cannot lie; and I choose to believe Him. He is reconciled to me in Christ, and He does not impute my trespasses unto me; I was saved through the death of Christ.” Repeat it over and over, putting all the power of will you possess into it. “I will believe; I choose to believe; I do believe; I am saved.” “How do you know it?” says Satan; “do you feel it?” “No I do not feel it at all; but I know it, because God says so; and I would far rather trust His word than my own feelings, let them be ever so delightful.”
Henry Boardman rightly comments on this false view of faith by Mrs. Smith: “Can this grossly unscriptural advice be followed without deadly peril of self deception?” Saving faith is a Spirit-worked trust in the Person and cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It possesses intellectual, volitional, and emotional elements. Repeating to oneself over and over that since Christ died for the sins of the world, one has received spiritual life, is a fearful error and a false gospel. Describing, on another occasion, how she would bring someone to “conversion,” although conversion to “a different sort of God altogether” than that of Christian orthodoxy, that is, the god of universalism, Hannah explained that the sinner does not need to recognize that he is a child of the devil (John 8:44) who is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) and then come to repentance (Luke 13:3); rather, he should simply mentally assent to the fact that he is, allegedly, already a child of God and already forgiven, just like all other sinners in the world, and then enter into the Higher Life and feel happy and free from trouble. Hannah and Robert Smith were happy to give assurance and the peace and comfort that comes with it to those without any testimony of real conversion or the life associated with it; for example, they publicly proclaimed that all their children were saved, although none of them were. She wrote:
[C]onversion comes . . . at the moment of belief, only it is belief in a different sort of God altogether. I go to a sinner now and say, “Poor soul, God loves you; God is your Father; He is on your side. He came down to this world in a human body, just to take your lot upon Him and to bear your sins and sorrows. He met your enemy and conquered him, so that you need not fear him any more. He is not angry with you. He took your sins upon Him and made your cause His own. He is reconciled to you. He declared that He forgave you when He was on earth, and He declares it still in the Record He left behind Him. He says if you will only trust Him He will get you out of all your troubles. He will beget His own spiritual life in you, and make you a partaker of the Divine nature. You shall be born of the spirit, and be filled with the spirit[.]
In light of Mrs. Smith’s confusion on the nature of saving conversion—errors in which she was followed by her husband and in which she stood with other Higher Life leaders—it is not surprising that Mrs. Smith’s son Logan could remember little about his own alleged conversion at the age of four. He had to find out what happened at the time of his professed conversion by reading a tract his father Robert P. Smith had written about it. His alleged conversion did not change his life—for such a change needed to await the second blessing, sanctification, Logan related—and he was never truly born again and so was able to apostatize from, renounce, and come to hate evangelical Christianity and the Christ set forth by it, just as his father and mother came to do, and all the other Smith children that lived to adulthood.
Mrs. Smith was able to adopt all her heresies because she was never truly born again. At the time of her alleged evangelical conversion Mrs. Smith noted that she thought that she simply “had found out something delightful about God” and the idea “that I personally was different in any way from what I had been before, never entered my head.” A member of the Plymouth Brethren, however, hearing her change in doctrinal views, told her: “Thank God, Mrs. Smith, that you have at last become a Christian,” to which she “promptly replied, ‘Oh no, I am not a Christian at all.’” However, Mrs. Smith allowed this member of the Plymouth Brethren to convice her that her doctrinal assent was equivalent to becoming a Christian, so that she came to conclude: “‘I must be born of God. Well, I am glad.’ From that moment the matter was settled, and not a doubt as to my being a child of God and the possessor of eternal life, has ever had the slightest power over me since.” Unfortunately, since she had never through repentant faith come into saving union with the crucified Christ, but had simply assented to certain Biblical truths, she never was regenerated, and thus was able to apostatize from even the evangelical doctrinal beliefs that had, for a time, captivated her interest. She refers, in her later life, to her “very evangelical days” as a time in the past that had come to an end, and she “had afterwards to discard” even the trappings of Christian orthodoxy that she held in her “extreme evangelical days.” At the time of her evangelical influence, she stated that she had not embraced the Person of the crucified and risen Christ through a repentant faith, but “what I got at was the fact of God’s forgiveness,” and since all she “got” was a “fact,” not a Person, she stated that the evangelical gospel was “a hook [about God’s forgiveness] that I had afterwards to discard. . . . The various hooks upon which I hung this fact at the different stages of my progress were entirely immaterial after all.” She could apostatize from even the evangelical truths she temporaily held to because they were simply facts assented to mentally—she had never embraced Jesus Christ as her own Lord and Savior on gospel terms. Consequently, as years passed, “[s]he found that, after all her searching and all her experimenting, she had come back very close to the position of the old Quakers from which she had started, and in her later days she was more mystical, more quietist, and at the same time less positive,” that is, more relativistic, than ever, since the “time has not yet arrived in the history of the human race when in this world we can have any absolute standard of right and wrong.” Mrs. Smith’s universalism led her to reject the necessity of the new birth and of conversion, truths to which she had intellectually assented for a short period:
[As Quakers,] [w]e were never told we had to be “converted” or “born again,” and my own impression was that these were things . . . [which] were entirely unnecessary for us, who were birthright members of the Society of Friends, and were already born into the kingdom of God, and only needed to be exhorted to live up to our high calling. I believe this was because of one of the fundamental principles of Quakerism, which was a belief in the universal fatherhood of God, and a recognition of the fact that Christ had linked Himself on to humanity, and had embraced the whole world in His divine brotherhood, so that every soul that was born belonged to Him, and could claim sonship with the same Father. . . . [T]he early Friends accepted this as true, and would have thought it misleading to urge us to become [converted or born again, since] we . . . already belonged . . . [to] the Good Shepherd. For a little time, in my Plymouth Brethren days, I looked upon this [Quaker doctrine] as a dreadful heresy; but later on I learned the blessed fact . . . that we are all, the heathen . . . heathen idolators . . . even included, “God’s offspring;” and I realized that, since He is our creator, He is of course our Father, and we equally of course are his children. And I learned to thank and bless the grand old Quakers who had made this discovery, since their teaching made it easy for me to throw aside the limiting, narrowing ideas I had first adopted [of the necessity of the new birth and conversion], and helped me to comprehend . . . that no one can shut another out [universalism].
Mrs. Smith was an unregenerate woman who professed and preached a false gospel.
Having rejected justification by faith and the new birth and having become a universalist, in association with what she learned “among the Methodists . . . [of] the ‘Doctrine of Holiness’ . . . [Hannah Smith learned about] an experience called ‘sanctification’ or the ‘second blessing’ which brought you into a place of victory.”
She explains what she learned by means of Methodist meetings on the second blessing:
[I] found . . . what Paul meant when he said, “Not I, but Christ,” and that the victory I sought, was to come by ceasing to live my own life[.] . . . I find there are some Christians who say that [we] receiv[e] Christ by faith for our sanctification, just as we received Him by faith for our justification . . . a Methodist doctrine . . . but it seems to be the only thing that can supply my needs . . . this is the Methodist “blessing of holiness.”
This new life I had entered upon has been called by several different names. The Methodists called it “The Second Blessing,” or “The Blessing of Sanctification;” the Presbyterians called it “The Higher Life,” or “The Life of Faith;” the Friends [Quakers] called it “The Life hid with Christ in God.” . . . I have most fully set it forth . . . [in my book] the “Secret of a Happy Life” . . . [where the teaching is expounded that] practical sanctification was to be obtained, like justification, by simple faith; and that, like justification, it was to be realized in any moment in which our faith should be able to grasp it.
The Higher Life “is what the Quakers have always taught. Their preaching is almost altogether about it.” Quaker men and women “receiv[ed] the blessing of full salvation or death to sin” in Quaker meetings and went on to become “very successful in holding Holiness meetings.” Indeed, Mrs. Smith thus noted that the Quakers, Methodists, and Catholics all taught the Higher Life doctrine she also embraced:
[T]his discovery, which I have tried to set forth, was the beginning of a great revival in the spiritual life of the Church everywhere . . . the life of faith [was found] not only among the Methodists, but among the Quakers and among the Catholics as well, and in fact it is I believe at the bottom of the creeds of every Church . . . The Life of Faith [is] . . . what the Quakers had always taught. . . . They were in short “Higher Life” people[.]
Hannah W. Smith refined the Higher Life perfectionism that was her Quaker birthright, not only from Roman Catholic influences, but from Methodist perfectionism also.
Mrs. Smith further developed her doctrine of sanctification by faith and the Higher Life through a discovery she stated was “more fundamental” than any other. She received this Higher Life truth through the influence of a Methodist minister who experienced demonic revelations and was a sexual predator. She explained why she was open to his twisted ideas:
[I]n my search after the deep things of God . . . I think all the fanatics in the United States must have found their way to my presence to try and draw me into their especial net, and . . . I was always ready to listen sympathetically, hoping that among them all I might at last find the truth[.] . . . I [could] be completely taken in by anyone who professed to be “guided by the Lord.” This was owing, I expect, to my early Quaker teaching about Divine Guidance. People had only to say to me that the Lord had led them into such or such a course, for me to bow down before them in profound reverence. . . . I was made to believe that . . . I should be able to understand the Divine reasons for what seemed to me violations of good sense and even of simple morality.
In contrast, concerning a local “Baptist clergyman . . . [who] preaches such a pure gospel,” Hannah affirmed, “I cannot enjoy close contact with such people,” finding preachers of a pure gospel repulsive, but fanatics of all sorts much more attractive, in keeping with her background, associations, and unrenewed nature. She stated: “My first introduction to fanaticism, if I leave out all that I got from the Quakers to start with, which was a good deal, came through the Methodist doctrine of entire sanctification. That doctrine has been one of the greatest blessings of my life[.]” This blessing came in association with Dr. Henry Foster and his Clifton Springs sanitarium; the Pearsall Smith family had known Dr. Foster since at least 1871 when Robert had stayed at the sanitarium and learned from the spiritual doctor the doctrine of erotic Sprit baptism. Hannah described her association with this Methodist minister and his family, the insight into the Higher Life she received, and evidenced her incredible spiritual blindness, as follows:
In the year 1879 we took a furnished house in Coulter Street, Germantown, for the summer. A lady who lived next door to us had lent her house to some friends who had the reputation of being wonderful Christians, and of having great revelations and marvelous experiences. As I was at that time in search of remarkable experiences, I was exceedingly interested in these people, and very soon made their acquaintance. The head of the household was a Methodist minister named J. L., and I found him to be a most impressive and interesting man. He had a way of suddenly turning to you when conversation was going on and saying that he had a message for you from the Lord[.] . . . There were also in the house two sisters named W., whose father, Dr. W., was a man of position and authority in the Methodist Church, with a great reputation for piety. . . .
From the first I was profoundly impressed by the apparent holiness and devotedness of this household, and felt that they must have been brought there on purpose to help me onward in my earnest search for a realised oneness with Christ, a oneness which they seemed to have attained in a very marvellous degree.
The thing which interested me at first was the remarkable way in which they seemed to understand the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all the little daily affairs of life. . . . I must say here that their way of looking continually, moment by moment, to the Lord for His Guidance, and their perfect certainty that He did indeed, according to His promise, direct their every step, seemed to invest them with an atmosphere of holiness and to surround them with the conscious presence of the Lord. . . . They seemed literally to live and move and have their being in God . . . hungering . . . to know the utmost possibilities of the life hid with Christ in God, [so that] it seemed [to me] that it ought to be almost like entering the very gates of Heaven to be in their presence, and I threw myself with intense eagerness into their teaching and their influence.
No one could associate with them and not believe that they thought themselves special Divine favourites. They professed to be so minutely guided in life that I was very anxious to attain the same experience, so finally I got Miss W. to give me a sample of the way in which she was guided. She said it was like this: that when she was awakened in the morning her first conscious thought was to consecrate the day to the Lord, and to ask Him to guide her every step of the way throughout the whole day. She would then ask Him whether she was to get up or not; and very often, although it was apparently very important that she should get up, the Lord told her to stay in bed. Then, perhaps, in a few minutes the voice would order her to get up. Then she would proceed to get up. As she put on each article she asked the Lord whether she was to put it on, and very often the Lord would tell her to put on the right shoe and leave off the other; sometimes she was to put on one stocking and leave off the other; sometimes she was to put on both stockings and no shoes; and sometimes both shoes and no stockings; it was the same with all articles of dress. She also said that often during the day, when she was seated at work, the Lord would tell her to get up and go out of the room, and when she got out would tell her to come back. And often she would be told to move from one chair to another, or to go and stand on the front doorstep, or to do all sorts of erratic things. She said that the object of this was to make her pliable so that she would be ready to follow the guidance of the Lord on the instant. I immediately thought that I would like to live this way, so the next morning after this conversation I began the process, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I got dressed or downstairs to my duties, as the voice kept telling me all sorts of things. Then when I did get downstairs I could hardly get through my breakfast, for the voice would suggest, just as I would get a mouthful nearly into my mouth, that I must not take it. I spent the morning running about from one chair to another, going out to the steps and coming back again, and running from one room to the other, and even going so far as to take off my shoes and stockings, and then to put them on again without any apparent cause.
I kept this up until about twelve o’clock, and then . . . I said to myself . . . [“]I have just got the ideas from what Miss W. told me, and I am making it up all out of my own head,” and I was forced sorrowfully to conclude that I had not fathomed the secret of Divine guidance yet. This did not, however, weaken my desire to know the inner depths of the experience of which I heard[.] . . .
In spite of all their evident holiness, I had been conscious all the while of something mysterious about the whole household, an intangible atmosphere of something wrong which seemed to fill the house, and to look out of the eyes of its inmates, and to be heard in the tones of their voices. There was nothing I could lay my hands upon, or could even formulate in my thoughts, and whenever the feeling forced itself upon me I blamed myself as being as yet too unspiritual fully to enter into their heights of spirituality and set myself more determinedly than ever to attain to their divine level. Believing, as they taught, that human reason must be laid aside in spiritual matters, and only the interior voice of the Spirit obeyed, I . . . tried to convice myself that I was in this way being uplifted more and more into the secret things of God’s immediate presence.
I must confess it was all very fascinating. . . . in many respects their teaching was exceedingly valuable. And I did receive during the course of the summer a real revelation of God that has made my life to me a different thing ever since [that is, the Higher Life doctrine of sanctification in greater fulness]. . . . It was the continual habit of this strange household to refer everything to God. . . . Their one universal reply to everything was simple, the words, “Yes; but then there is God”; and no arguments or questionings could turn them from this by so much as a hair’s-breadth.
As may be imagined, during my intercourse with them, because of all the unexplainable mystery accompanied by the apparent wonderful holiness that seemed to surround them, I often found myself in a good deal of spiritual perplexity, and, as I looked upon them as religious teachers deserving the highest confidence, I continually went to one or other of them with my difficulties, chiefly, however, to the oldest of the W. sisters, Miss Caroline W., who was a woman of great culture and intelligence and unusual spiritual power. I would pour out to her all my interior perplexities and difficulties and temptations, to which I must say she always listened very patiently, but when I would pause for some comforting or helpful reply, there would always ensue a moment or two of silence, and then she would always say in a tone that seemed utterly to conclude the matter, “Yes, that may all be true, but then, there is God.” . . . [M]y most impassioned or despairing stories of my spiritual woes could never elicit anything more than this. “Yes, yes,” she would say; “I know it all. But then, there is God.” . . .
Towards the end of their stay, one night, a friend who had come to sit at their feet and I had gone to be in great perplexity, full of questioning as to how it could be that God would permit people who wanted to follow Him, and were trying to walk in His paths, to wander into error. We went to sleep in this perplexity, unable to see any light; but somehow, in the morning when we met, we turned to each other and said, in the sense that we had never said it before, the single word, “God!” and with that word came to us a recognition of the all sufficiency of God in a way that has never left us. . . . It would be impossible to put into words just what seemed to come to us that morning, but it certainly was a satisfying revelation of the all-sufficiency of God, just the bare God . . . for all our needs. . . . I shall never cease to feel real gratitude to this strange household for having brought me to this, although I very soon found out some dreadful things about them. . . .
One day . . . I received a telegram from Mrs. C. in Boston, begging me to come and see her at once on a matter of vital importance. The message was so urgent that I took a night train, and arrived there the next morning. Immediately Mrs. C. told me that she thought I ought to know the state of things in this household, and she had sent for me to tell me about it. She brought in a highly respectable woman doctor, who told me the following facts.
The doctor said that she had two very intimate friends in Boston, who were ladies of very good standing, and, in fact, one of them was at the head of a large school or college, and was considered an authority on education . . . and were, in fact, devoted Christians. They had become acquainted with Mr. L., the Methodist minister, who was the head of the mysterious household next door to me . . . and had seemed to find great spiritual uplifiting from his teachings. This doctor was at that time in charge of a hospital, and these ladies would often come to see her. She noticed that one of them seemed to be losing her spirits, and to be greatly depressed, with so far as she knew no apparent reason. She seemed to be on the verge all the time of saying something to the doctor which she appeared afraid to continue, and the doctor felt that her friend had a confidence to make to her which for some reason she was reluctant to make.
One night this friend came to stay all night at the hospital and slept in the room with the doctor. As she was standing by the looking-glass arranging her hair, the doctor noticed something peculiar in her appearance, and it flashed across her mind that her friend was in the family way. She explained, “Oh, darling, what is the matter?” and her friend burst into tears. Nothing more was said; the doctor was too shocked to speak; she would as soon have expected to find the Angel Gabriel in such a plight as her friend; and they spent the night both weeping, but saying nothing till towards the morning. Then her friend opened her heart and confided in the doctor. She told her that she and her companion had been greatly impressed by the teaching of this Mr. L., to whom they had been introduced by Miss –—, a religious teacher of a great deal of spirituality, living in Boston. They had both become greatly influenced by Mr. L’s teaching, and gradually he had unfolded to them that it had been revealed to him that he was to be the father of a race of children that were to be born into the world as Christ was, and that the Lord had shown him that they themselves were to be the favoured mothers of these children. . . . Mr. L. . . . not only believed that he was Christ, but thought that he was destined to be the father of “Christ’s children,” who were to found a race that was to revolutionize the world. These children, according to him, were to be begotten in a spiritual way, without bodily contact, but his practice did not bear out his assumption. . . . [H]e succeeded in completely deluding these ladies, and in carrying out his purposes, and this poor thing was now expecting to be the mother of one of those children. The agonies of mind that she had gone through could not be described. She dared not admit the idea that it was a delusion, for her whole spiritual life seemed to depend upon believing that she had been rightly guided; for if she could think that in the most solemn moments of consecration the Lord could allow her to be so deceived, she would feel that she could never trust Him again. She clung with a deathlike grip to the belief that it was Divine guidance, and that she was greatly favoured to be allowed to be the mother of one of these wonderful children. How to get through the earthly part of it, however, was the great difficulty. But her doctor friend stepped in to the rescue; she took a house out of the city, brought her friend there, took care of her until the time came, carried her safely through her confinement and kept the facts hidden from everybody. The lady told her mother, who had been anxious about her health, that she was broken down by so much teaching, and was going to the country for a complete rest, and there was no exposure.
Mr. L. was a constant visitor at the house, as the doctor had not the heart to plunge her friend into the abyss of despair which would have been her portion if she had lost faith in him. The doctor did not like his ways at all, and herself believed that it was pure human lust. However, the thing was carried through; the doctor adopted the baby, and her friend went back to her usual avocations. She never lost her [faith in Mr. L.] during my knowledge of her. Mr. L. married the other lady, the companion who had shared in her delusion, and, soon after the birth of the baby the mother went to live with him and his wife, and for many years they formed one household.
The dear sister who had lent Mr. L. the house . . . a wealthy widow . . . came so much under his influence . . . [that] she was tempted to go away with him. . . . [He] had almost succeeded in persuading her to put all her private property into his hands, and go and live with him. We at once, in his presence, told her the whole story as we had heard it, and while he acknowledged the facts, he stuck to his position that he was commissioned of the Lord to bring forth these children, and that they were not begotten according to any natural process. We succeeded, however, in frightening him so much as to our revelations that might be made, that he himself told our friend he did not believe she was called to go with him[.] . . . How many poor souls were beguiled during that strange summer I do not know.
Of course, from that time my intercourse with these dear misguided Christians ceased, but about a year after I received a very impressive and solemn note from one of them saying that the way was still open for me to return to the Lord if I would give up my self-will and consent to be guided as the Lord led. . . . Since then, I have never seen nor heard about them.. . .
[Nonetheless, from Mr. L and his household] I did discover one truth, more important to Christians than any warnings about dangers in this world . . . and that truth was God. . . . [In] the summer . . . [of] 1879 . . . when the L. household lived next door to me[,] The Lord . . . t[aught] me very blessed lessons about the interior life[.] . . . He [had] sent some of His children to spend the summer in a house [next door]. One of them especially [was] helpful to me. She is what I call a “mystic”—one of those who know the Spirit’s voice, and who walk alone with God. . . . At last I begin to understand what this means, and I believe I am beginning to live it. . . . Definitely and forever I consent now to die as to any recognized self-life. It shall be henceforth no more I, but Christ. . . . [I]n spite of . . . [their] frightful fanaticism . . . [which made me question if I ought to be] content to know but little of the inward voice . . . [since] they have tried so faithfully to find it, and have been deluded . . . [yet] I know the truth about it must exist[,] . . . [and] I had gained from the summer’s experience a knowledge of God . . that . . . brought me into a peaceful resting in Him that has never been seriously disturbed since. . . . It may seem strange that such an acquaintance with God could have come to me out of such a hotbed of fanaticism, but there is the fact, and there is no getting around it. Whatever else these dear deluded fanatics may have been or have done they did live in the presence of God in a most unusual sense[.] . . . “Pure religion,” says Fénelon, “resides in the will alone.” And again, “the will to love God is the whole of religion.” I . . . am thankful beyond words that . . . I was brought at last to see that a quiet stedfast holding of the human will to the will of God and a peaceful resting in His love and care is of . . . great[est] value in the religious life.
Thus, Hannah Whitall Smith learned what she considered her greatest spiritual discovery, not from the study of the Scriptures, which would have prevented her from adopting such a sort of pagan spirituality, but from the demonic revelations of a Methodist minister who was a sexual predator, to whose ideas she was open because of her background in Quaker and Romanist mysticism, Methodist fanaticism, and her expectation of Quaker revelations from the Inner Voice.
The Methodist predator from whom Mrs. Smith made her most fundamental discovery of the spiritual life also believed in the doctrine, developed out of medieval and counter-Reformation Roman Catholic mysticism, that Spirit baptism brought physical sexual thrills. Visiting “the lady who had been largely instrumental in starting people . . . on the career which led them to L. [the Methodist sexual predator mentioned above],” Hannah W. Smith narrated the following:
I found her to be a quiet refined lady rather past middle age, evidently very intelligent and a Christian worker who was highly esteemed by all who knew her. I told her what I knew about the L. household [the Methodist minister and sexual predator]. . . . She said . . . that the Lord’s dealings were often very mysterious and such as the natural man could not understand, but that what God had pronouced clean no one might dare to call unclean, and that these dear saints had been most manifestly led by Him. . . . [S]he had been led into these courses and . . . she could do nothing but obey[.] . . . During the course of my conversation with this lady she said: “You may think it strange, Mrs. Smith, but I speak from experience; there have been times when, in order to help my friends to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I have been distinctly led of the Lord to have them get into bed with me and lie back to back without any nightgown between. And,” she added, “it has always brought them to the conscious Baptism.” . . . [S]he has been the means of leading a great many young women into the same line of things.
Another friend of mine . . . whom I had told about Dr. R., received while I was talking to her, what she believed was the Baptism, and began to experience right there thrills of rapture from head to foot, which completely carried her away. . . . [S]he [came] to spend most of her time lying on the sofa trying to induce [the thrills] to come. She also . . . felt it her duty to kiss several men, with the idea that through that means God would bestow either great blessings upon them or greater blessings upon herself. She had felt led to kiss Mr. L. [the Methodist sexual predator]. . . . [Indeed,] a great many saintly women . . . one after another . . . would in some mysterious way begin to “feel led” to give him a kiss . . . the called for kiss bestowed . . . floods of joy and peace would fill their souls. . . . She was impressed with the idea that through this performance God would bestow the Baptism of the Spirit upon the receipient of her kisses. . . . [She] was so good and pure minded that we all called her “Saint Sarah[.]” . . . At one of our meetings at Brighton [when Mr. and Mrs. Smith were preaching the Higher Life] . . . there was a great deal of talk about the Baptism of the Spirit, and many souls were hungering for it[.] . . . My friend, “Saint Sarah” . . . confided to me that she felt led to kiss . . . a refined and cultured gentleman . . . herself as a means of imparting to him the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. . . . She was in the greatest trouble about it . . . and she felt sure that she would be making herself ridiculous. . . . Days went on and she became really ill with the conflict; and at last, seeing that there was no way out of it but for her to do it, I said, “It won’t hurt; I’ll explain it to him. So just go and kiss him and be done with it!” My taking of it in this way greatly relieved her mind. I told our host what she wanted to do, and he said he wouldn’t object in the least . . . she was able to perform what she thought was her religious duty. This kiss was given[.] . . . In two or three other instances the same process was repeated [with other men]. . . .
This dear Saint was so enmoured of what she called “The Touch of God,” that she spent a large part of her time seeking for it and enjoying it, until it finally became a sort of possession . . . a very good Christian lady . . . said . . . [she] was possessed of the devil. . . . I made up my mind that she must be freed from this somehow, so I . . . went to the woman who had plunged her into the trouble [by stating “Saint Sarah” was demon possessed] and told her the dreadful effects of her former words, and said to her, “And now you must give me in writing the assurance that the devil has gone out of her,” and I bullied her into doing it. I then went back to my friend armed with this assurance, and said to her: “Now the devil has gone out of thee, and here is the proof.” She believed it, and from that moment began to recover, and has since lived a peaceful and normal Christian life.
Mrs. Smith narrates other similar and awful instances of people who were seeking Spirit baptism and the Higher Life of entire sanctification:
[Another] young woman . . . had been seeking the Baptism of the Spirit as a result of the fervent preaching of a Methodist minister in the town where she lived, and had found great spiritual help from her conversations with him. They found, she said, that when they were together they seemed to feel an especial nearness to the Lord, and the closer they sat together the more they felt it. They constantly, when in one another’s company, had wonderful waves of divine thrills going through them, especially when there was any personal contact, which thrills the preacher told her were the conscious Baptism of the Holy Spirit for which she was seeking. Of course, if this was the case, the more of these waves of delicious thrills they had the more truly filled with the Spirit they were, and they had consequently sought every opportunity of being together, and had encouraged a closer and closer personal contact, never dreaming of evil, until at last she found herself in the midst of a criminal connection with the preacher who was already a married man. . . .
[A] dear beloved saint . . . who had given up everything in life to follow the Lord, and who was considered by everybody who knew her to be one of the saints of the earth . . . had all the Quaker scruples with regard to dress, and looked as she walked about like the embodiement of ascetic piety. I greatly revered her and sat at her feet to be taught. . . . [A] friend [and I] . . . asked her to tell us her last experience. She said that . . . she had told the Lord that she wanted to make Him some New Year’s gift, and that as she had given Him everything that she possessed and everything she was, she could not think of anything new to give. Then, she said, the Lord told her that there was one thing, and that was her virginity, and that He would send a man whom she must be willing to receive in His name and surrender herself to Him. She told us that she had said, “Thy will be done,” and was now awaiting the ringing of the bell and the advent of the promised man . . . whether the man came or not, I do not know. I have heard, however, that at one of the camp meeting grounds, where she . . . held meetings, the authorities had been obliged to close her meetings on account of the dangerous tendency of her teaching.
The heresy that Spirit baptism was associated with physical sexual thrills was thus widespread in the religious background of Hannah and Robert Smith, and it is thus not surprising that they both adopted it.
Robert maintained and propogated the erotic Baptism heresy throughout his time as a preacher of the Higher Life—his promulgation of his beloved mystical abomination ended only with his fall because of scandal associated with it—while he influenced many others to adopt and practice it as a key aspect of the Higher Life theology. For example, “Miss Bonnicastle sp[oke] on this subject . . . [of] conscious union of the believer and Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom . . . at the Oxford Ladies meetings . . . [which] quite shocked a good many.” In “the Christ-life,” another minister proclaimed, one is to “let the thrill . . . surge and thrill through all your being.” Thus, the doctrine of the sexual Baptism as a key portion of the Higher Life experience was proclaimed publicly at the Oxford Convention, that key precursor to the Keswick Conventions. Indeed, many of Robert and Hannah W. Smith’s Higher Life “evangelical and especially their Quaker friends . . . condoned . . . [Robert’s] adventures with his feminine disciples.” Nonetheless, after convincing many to adopt the heresy, Robert eventually rejected erotic bride mysticism, and “in rejecting what he himself had experienced, he could not help turning his back on all religion,” so that he turned away from his profession of Christianity to agnosticism, and then moved from agnosticism to Buddhism. Robert could not retain his profession of Christianity without his erotic bride mysticism. Robert testified at the Oxford Convention: “There has been no period since . . . [my] baptism of the Spirit . . . when God has not been more or less in my consciousness as the living Being unto Whom I looked.” At the time of his Baptism a Power came to be present with him that always accompanied him afterwards, a Power that directed all his actions as a minister of the Higher Life and was at the heart of his spiritual experience. If his erotic Baptism was a delusion, so was all of his Christianity, and agnosticism appeared to him to be a necessary consequence. The possibility that he was possessed by demons through his erotic Baptism, demons that then directed him in his subsequent Higher Life ministry, does not seem to have been given serious consideration. Hannah also eventually came to reject erotic bride mysticism later in her life after some time propogating it near the years of the zenith of her and her husband’s work as Higher Life agitators.
Describing the incident that led to Robert P. Smith’s withdrawal from public work shortly before the first Keswick convention, a headline in the Brighton Weekly stated: “Famous Evangelist Found in Bedroom of Adoring Female Follower.” In the bedroom of his disciple, Miss Hattie Hamilton, Mr. Smith had explained to her the abhorrant doctrine he had learned in 1871 while institutionalized, on account of a total nervous breakdown he had suffered, in a hydropathic and homeopathic sanatorium from the head of the facility, Dr. Henry Foster, that the baptism of the Holy Ghost was accompanied by physical sexual thrills because of the esoteric union of Christ with His people as Bridegroom and Bride, as described in the Song of Solomon. Robert Smith’s explanation of the erotic Baptism doctrine in one bedroom too many brought about the rapid fall of his previously rising star in the Higher Life movement.
Dr. Foster, while “a lifelong Methodist,” was “interdenominational” in his religious spirit. Thus:
Dr. Foster insisted upon . . . [the] chapel [at his sanitarium] . . . be[ing] purely interdenominational spirit and life. . . . He established the custom that the Holy Sacrament should be administered every month, the form for one month being that used by Episcopalians and Methodists, and alternating the next time with the form observed by Presbyterians and others. [People] counted one Sabbath morning when . . . the kneeling form [was administered, and] twenty-six religious bodies [were] represented by those partaking. Following the public service the Chaplain always administered the rite privately in their rooms to those requesting it.
Indeed, Foster’s sanatarium “ha[d] always been noted for its prevailing fairness and charity towards different types of religious belief, [so that] all grades from the highest ritualism to the simplicity of the society of Friends, have felt perfectly at home. . . . [F]requently . . . Roman Catholic Priests and Bishops . . . seemed to appreciate the place and enjoy it.” Nobody was warned about his false religion, whether the Catholic sacramental and ritualistic false gospel or the rejection of justification by faith alone based on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone taught by the Quakers. Foster “was never happier than when sharing or promoting interdenominational fellowship.” Indeed:
All the churches of the village received from [Mr. Foster] substantial help at various times. . . . When the Roman Catholics erected their new Church edifice in 1895, the Doctor made a substantial contribution, and rented a pew in it each year thereafter, which custom is continued to the present. Annual offerings were made by him to all the Protestant churches and that custom is continued to the present.
Mr. Foster loved ecumenical fellowship with false teachers of all sorts.
Dr. Foster’s religious ecumenicalism extended to an ecumenicalism of healing praxis:
“Allopathy,” “Water Cure,” “Homeopathy,” “Mind Cure,” “Faith Cure,” were to him members of a group in the therapeutic family. He . . . look[ed] for the higher unity, treating each as a segment in the full circle . . . allopathy, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, mental therapy, and the prayer of faith . . . belong[ed] to one great healing family.
Thus, Foster believed in homeopathy, although it was obviously demonic in its origin and practice, in hydropathy, although it was intimately associated with spiritualism and demonism, and in Mind Cure—which was, indeed, associated with Faith Cure—although it was likewise essentially a form of pagan and demonic medicine based upon untestable mystical energies. The nineteenth century Mind and Faith Cure movements, which were part of the warp and woof of the Keswick theology and at the root of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement, developed out of a common background in mesmerism, vitalism, homeopathy, and other pagan and demonic ideas, and cannot be separated into distinct and unrelated phenomena. Thus, despite its demonic origin, at Foster’s sanitarium “[t]he prevailing method of administering medicines was homeopathic.” Dr. Foster “became a hydropathic practitioner, then he saw in homeopathy special adaptation to chronic cases, then he awoke to the large realm of mental therapy.” He “was profoundly impressed with the effect of mind over matter. The relation of the mind or the spirit to disease, he concluded, was a subject of prime importance. . . . [T]his led to his seeking for a new place where he could establish his practice and work out his ideas unmolested,” that is, his sanitarium, where “he came with a protest and also with a purpose. . . . his highest thought was in relation to the effect of the mind over the body in disease. Discovery of the power of Mind Cure was “the greatest event in his life.” Thus, Dr. Foster taught the doctrine of Mary Baker Eddy’s cult of “Christian Science,” which “aligns itself with . . . pantheistic idea[s] . . . [and teaches that] [s]in is like sickness and death, and these are errors of the mind and can therefore be completely overcome by ‘mind cure,’” so that “thoughts are things, thoughts are forces, and therefore as a man thinks, so is he.” Dr. Foster, as an important part of the basis for the later Keswick healing theology, combined Mind and Faith Cure, saying:
Take this law and power of faith, and take the law of the influence of mind over the body, and put them together and see what you get. You get something that will work . . . It was the acceptance of this truth that decided me to try and establish a house where these truths . . . the power of the mind over the body, and the salutary effects of a constant religious faith upon the sick . . . should be enforced.
Foster “was a firm believer in the effect of mind over matter—over disease. . . . [This belief] pervaded the whole institution. . . . Whatever good there is in Christian Science [the cult of Mary B. Eddy], in the Emmanuel Movement, and in modern faith healing he brought to bear in his therapeutics[.]” Thus, “prayer to God was a force in nature, as real as the law of gravitation,” rather than simply a petitioning of that God who was above nature and does, in accordance with His will, intervene in nature. In this way, practicing “[m]ental hygiene and mental therapy . . . as well as the great therapeutic value of religious faith . . . the ‘Emmanuel Movement’ at Boston, of which so much has been said with its slogan ‘Religion and Medicine,’ was anticipated by Henry Foster.” Although the Bible taught that much of Dr. Foster’s practice was demonic in origin, his practices were confirmed to him by a vision. He stated:
I presented my whole life again to God; the entire interests of the Sanitarium, and my relations with it. While thus contemplating the work, the Holy Spirit came upon me, filling me with His presence, and I saw what seemed to be a rainbow. The base of it was there on [a] mountain inclosing me; it went up to the mercy seat; the other base came down and rested here in Clifton Springs, over the house [sanitarium]. . . . I looked at it, and I saw there were streams going up, and then there were streams going down, and resting upon me. I was re-energized, and so much so that I became astonished . . . that settled me, strengthened me, proved to me that the teaching was from God, and from God alone[.]
Surely such a vision was sufficient proof that his pagan and demonic philosophies and practices were acceptable to God.
As a result of Foster’s vision, received at the time of his “pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit”—physical sexual thrills because of erotic bride mysticism—he founded his Water Cure:
[He] saw that his pentecost was not for its own sake, but was given to prepare him for such a work. He prayed, and light came. He had a vision of the institution God would give him,—just as definite a vision as Moses had of the Tabernacle in the Mount; and as Moses was to make all things according to the pattern showed him in the Mount, so God had in vision outlined the work he was to do, and he must follow the pattern.
When Mr. Foster experienced his “real baptism of the Holy Spirit and of power” he also gained “a vision like Paul’s when he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, a call and a commission like that of the prophet Jeremiah, or of Isaiah in the temple—an imperative call when his whole soul was filled and thrilled,” and in this manner the spirit world led him to “the beginnings of the Sanitarium and of this pentecostal baptism” that was both its its erotic origination and an element of its religious proclamation. At his hydropathic and homeopathic healing house, he sought to bring especially “Christian workers, such as clergymen, teachers, and missionaries who are peculiarly liable to physical and nervous breakdown . . . [that they might] come to his institution and remain long enough for a cure.” Consequently, “at least seventy or eighty thousand” patients came to the sanitarium, including “presidents of colleges, professors, lawyers, judges, ministers, bishops, all classes of men, literary men and literary women, some of the most renowned in the land. There have been [there] thousands of the foremost cultivated men and women of America, and some from other lands,” so that a vast “spiritual influence,” more, in the mind of some, than from “any institution” else, went out to influence the “intellectual and moral” climate of America, and, indeed, the world, as the sanitarium “bec[a]me a center of missionary interest and activity. Dr. Foster’s invitation to foreign Missionaries of all Mission Boards to come to the Sanitarium for needed rest and treatment, and his concessions as to cost . . . brought hundreds of them.” Note the Pearsall Smiths alone, but other Keswick leaders, such as A. T. Pierson, could praise “Dr. Henry Foster, of Clifton Springs, N. Y.[,]” for “all who came in contact with him bear testimony to the elevating effect of his spirituality of life” and his “benevolence . . . [to] the cause of missions.” After all, “for some years the International Missionary Union . . . held . . . [at] Clifton Springs . . . its annual sessions.” Many came, and, like Robert and Hannah Smith, also left with both Dr. Foster’s love for Faith and Mind Cure and his vile doctrine of physical bridal-union in mystical Spirit baptism.
Hannah W. Smith chronicled Dr. Foster’s communication of his views to herself and another lady as follows:
Never shall I forget that interview. He began by telling us that “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a physical thing, felt by deligthful thrills going through you from head to foot . . . and that this had been revealed to him in the following manner. He had been praying to the Lord to give him the Baptism . . . and he found that whenever he prayed especially earnestly he had physical thrills which he had thought belonged to earthly passions. He blamed himself exceedingly for this, and thought what a sensual man he must be, that in his most sacred moments such feelings should come. . . . One day . . . an inward voice seemed to say “These sensations you so much condemn are really the divine touch of the Holy Spirit in your body.” . . . Immediately, he said, he began to receive them with thankfulness and the result was that they had become so continuous that there was scarcely a moment in his life without them. . . . My friend and I had not dared to say a word while this revelation was being made to us, and when Dr. Foster left us we sat for a long while in dumbfounded silence.
Hannah Whitall Smith described how their family adopted Mr. Foster’s abominable doctrine and communicated it to others:
I was seeking to know all that could be known of the “life hid with Christ in God,” and was hungering and thirsting after an expression of entire consecration and perfect trust. . . . I had also a very mystical side to my nature which longed for direct revelations from God . . . and for many years I sought in every direction to find a satisfaction for this craving. . . . The beginning of it was was in the year 1871 or ’72, when my husband needed a course of treatment for a nervous breakdown. We took our family to a Hydropathic Sanatorium in New York State, and we stayed there for three or four months. . . . A very dear friend of mine was staying in the Sanatorium at the same time; and as we were both hungering and thirsting to know the deep things of God, we very often had long conversations about it. One day she said to me, “Hannah, I believe that Dr. [Henry Foster] knows some secrets of the divine life that thee and I ought to know: he has hinted as much to me when he has been seeing me about my health. Wouldn’t thee like to have him tell us?” Of course I agreed to this with all my heart, and she decided to ask him. When I next saw her she said she had asked him, and he had told her that he would ask the Lord whether he was to reveal the secret to us or not. A few days later he told my friend that he had received permission from the Lord to tell us the secret, and he fixed a time when were were to meet to hear it. . . . Never shall I forget that interview. He began by telling us that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was a physical thing, felt by delightful thrills going through you from head to foot, and that no one could really know what the Baptism of the Spirit was who did not experience these thrills. He said that this had been revealed to him in the following manner. He had been praying the Lord to give him the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and he found that whenever he prayed especially earnestly he had physical thrills which he thought belonged to earthly passions. He blamed himself exceedingly for this, and thought what a sensual man he must be that in his most sacred moments such feelings should come. By fasting and prayer he would get deliverance, as he thought, and would then begin to pray again for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, but invariably, after a short time of prayer, the sensations would return, and the same process of fasting and prayer would have to be gone through. As this happened over and over he was at last almost in despair. One day, however, when, during an earnest season of prayer, these sensations were particularly strong, an inward voice seemed to say, “These sensations which you so much condemn are really the divine touch of the Holy Spirit in your body.” He said it was very hard for him to believe this, but it seemed to come with such divine authority that he dared not reject it. He asked specially for a sign that if it really were that Baptism of the Spirit for which he had been praying it might be made so plain to him that there could be no mistake. And this prayer, he said, had been unmistakably answered, and he had been convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that these very sensations, which he had condemned as being of the flesh, were actually the very Baptism of Spirit that he had longed for. Immediately, he said, he began to receive them with thankfulness, and the result was that they had become so continuous that there was hardly a moment in his life without them, and that he had found the greatest spiritual enlightenment and uplifting from the moment that he allowed himself to receive these sensations as being the touch of the Lord. This he told us was the divine secret which had been revealed to him, and which he was permitted to tell chosen souls. He urged us to take the subject before the Lord in prayer, and ask Him to enlighten us, and he warned us not to let carnal thoughts concerning this blessed experience come in to blind our eyes to the divine realities it embodied. My friend and I had not dared to say a word while this revelation was being made to us, and when Dr. [Foster] left we sat for a long while in dumbfounded silence. . . . [W]e had such absolute confidence in the holiness of this saint of God, as he seemed to us, that we were afraid our horror at what he had told us must be because we were too carnally minded, as he had said, to be able to see the deep spiritual purity of it all, and we felt that we dared not reject it without further prayer and consideration. We had several further talks with Dr. [Foster] about it, and he told us these “baptisms” were really the fulfilment of the union between Christ and His people as the Bridegroom and the bride, described in Ephesians v, 25-32, and typified in the Song of Solomon, and declared in many parts of Scripture, and that to reject it was to reject union with the Lord Himself. And he described this spiritual union as being so enrapturing and uplifting, and so full of the Lord’s actual presence, that at last we began to believe there must be something in it, and to long to know for ourselves the reality of this wonderful consecration. We could not accept all the details of the experience that Dr. [Foster] gave us, but we did begin to believe that there was a physical “touch” of God, that manifested itself in a bewildering delicious sensation of a sort of magnetic thrill of divine life pouring through both soul and body, which lifted one up into an enrapturing realization of oneness with Christ and that this was the true ‘Baptism of the Holy Ghost.’ We came to the conclusion that it must be what all the old mystics had known, and that it was the true inner meaning of that Union with Christ for which saints of all ages had longed, and into the realization of which so many of them seemed to have entered. And we both began earnestly to seek to know it for ourselves. . . . I [thought] that now at last I had found the key that would open to me the door of this mystic region of divine union. As usual, when I was interested in anything, my friends had to become interested too, and to all with whom I dared to touch on such a sacred, yet delicate, subject, I tried to tell what Dr. [Foster] had told us. And in several instances, both in England and America, those I told of it receved the baptism I described, and in each case this very baptism was the opening up for them of a life of union and communion with God far beyond anything they had ever known before. . . . In many instances the receiving of it by preachers was the beginning of great revivals in their churches, and was, in fact, the initiation of a great deal of the “Holiness” movement of thirty years ago [that is, the time when the Keswick and Higher Life theology was originated and promulgated]. This movement took hold of the upper classes, and the meetings were largely composed of the aristocracy and the rich and influential people in English Society. There was nothing sectarian in the whole [Keswick] movement; no one was asked, or in any way influenced, to leave the Church to which they belonged . . . one of the marvellous features of it was the union of people of all forms of belief, and of all denominational relationships[.] . . . Dogmas and doctrines were of no account, and were never referred to, for they were not needed in the region in which this movement was carried on. It was the region of personal experience[.] . . . But while great spiritual blesings have seemed often to be the result of this experience of union with God, very disastrous outward falls from purity and righteousness have sometimes followed[.]
Hannah Smith, thus, both adopted and promulgated the erotic Baptism doctrine and explained that it was at the root of the Holiness, Higher Life, or Keswick movement.
Hannah Whitall Smith further explained, through a representative example, how she spread Dr. Foster’s filthy doctrine to others, and its effects upon them:
One day, not long after our [Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s] stay at the New York sanatarium, I [met] . . . a very strict Friend [Quaker] . . . a most successful Christian worker, but rather self-absorbed. She . . . dressed in the strictest fashion of sugar-scoop bonnets, crossed handkerchiefs, with a dainty three-cornered shawl over her shoulders. We became very intimate[.] . . . She was very religious, and we soon discovered that we were both seekers after the mystic life, and especially after the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and we embraced every opportunity we could find of seeking for it together.
At that time some Methodists who believed in sanctification by faith were in the habit of holding in the summer what were called Holiness Camp Meetings . . . led by prominent religious preachers and teachers who believed in the doctrine of Holiness, or, in other words, of “sanctification by faith.” . . . [T]he friend of whom I speak and I myself, with a large company of congenial friends, attended one of these Camp Meetings, all of us hungering and thirsting . . . to know experimentally the conscious baptism of the Holy Spirit. The whole camp ground was exercised on this subject, and in almost every meeting wonderful testimonies would be given by those who had, as they believed, consciously received it.
Our expectations and our longings were wrought up to the highest ptich of enthusiasim, and one evening, after the public meeting under the trees was over, a few of us gathered in one tent for a special prayer meeting on the subject, determined to wrestle and agonize until the answer came. We knelt in the dark, and poured out our prayers and supplications . . . for two or three hours. . . . As the company passed out of the tent, I noticed my friend did not pass out with them, and I wondered whether she had slipped out silently before the meeting closed and gone back to her own tent. I lighted a candle to go to bed, when, to my astonishment, I found her lying across the foot of my bed in what appeared to be a swoon. I spoke to her, and immediately she began to praise God in the most rapturous way: “Oh, how wonderful! Oh, how glorious! Oh, this is the Baptism! Oh, what a blessing; ’tis more than I can bear! Oh, Lord, stay Thy hand! Flesh and blood cannot bear this glory!” And similar exclamations burst from her lips in tones of ecstasy. As may be imagined, I was overwhelmed with awe and delight, and I immediately rushed out to call in my friends to see the wonderful answer to our prayers, for I could not doubt that my friend had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit for which we were all longing. Why she had been picked out, I could not imagine, for she was not, as far as I knew, a bit better or a bit more earnest than any of the rest of us. However, there it was . . . [a] little awestruck company gathered round the bed, and eagerly drank in all her rapturous exclamations, afraid almost to breathe for fear that we should disturb the heavenly visitation. After a while she seemed to recover from her swoon sufficiently to go to her own tent, and, although very tottering and scarcely able to walk, we managed to take her there and get her undressed and into bed. . . . [E]arly in the morning I sent word to the early Prayer Meeting of the great blessing that had come to the camp ground. Immediately a deputation of the leaders of the meeting came to the tent to ask my friend whether she would not come to their large meeting and bear testimony to the blessing that had been bestowed upon her. . . . It was one of the foundation principles among believers in the definite baptism of the Holy Spirit that if you did not confess it when you had received it, it might be lost[.] . . . [The baptism] seemed to have been what the Swedenborgians call “her opening into the spiritual world,” for from that time she began to have very strange and wonderous experiences . . . [which made] ordinary religious life very humdrum and uninteresting[.] . . . I told her of my experience at the water-cure [Henry Foster’s hydropathic sanitarium], and of the secret that had there been revealed to me[.] [S]he immediatley seized upon it . . . and went to this same water-cure, and put herself under the teaching of the doctor there[.] . . . She embraced all his views, and felt led, as she fully believed by the Holy Spirit, to great lengths in the lines he taught. Among other things, she felt her duty to ask him to stand naked before her, and also to do the same thing herself before him. To what other lengths she went I have never known, but she was fully imbued with the idea that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was physical as well as spiritual, and that the great aim of religious teachers should be to excite in themselves and in others those physical thrills which accompany passion, and which she had come to believe were the manifest token of union with Christ. She took the Song of Solomon to be the exposition of the relation between the soul and Christ as the Bride and Bridegroom, and she confessed to me with great awe that she really believed that Christ had often come to her at night when in bed as the real Bridegroom, and had actually had a bridegroom’s connextion with her. She taught this doctrine to a choice circle of friends, and even tried by personal contact to produce in them those physical thrills which she believed were the actual contact of the Holy Ghost. She overawed these friends by the tremendous force of her own convictions, and in many cases obtained . . . control over them, so that they were not surprised or shocked at anything she did or said, but accepted it all as from God, and as being the avenue through which the Holy Ghost was to be poured out upon them . . . [although] the person who was acknowledged by all to be the most full of self was my friend [herself], who had apparently received the Baptism. 
Hannah had written to her husband: “There does seem to be a truth in it [Dr. Foster’s doctrine], and I feel as if it would be a great means of restoration to health to thee if thee could get fully into it. Do try.” With the leading of Dr. Foster and the encouragement of Hannah his wife, then, Robert P. Smith received such an erotic baptism, and having “received the baptism of the Spirit . . . he began to teach, preach, and propogate” the Higher Life theology publicly and the mystic baptism privately, leading many into a post-conversion Spirit baptism and the thrills of the marriage-bed that allegedly accompanied it. For example, one of Robert’s first English disciples, a woman called Lizzie Lumb, wrote Robert a series of letters between 1873 and 1875 describing the physical sensations of her “Betrothal with [a false] Christ”:
The thrill commences in the love nerves, with a great throbbing, as though a heart beat there, and rises to the regions of the chest, with a thrill and sweet confusion of union[.] . . . Most earnestly do I thank you for revealing such treasures to me, as you have in this mystery of the heavenly marriage.
Hannah Smith recognized that adoption of the Bridal Baptism doctrine led to the free acceptance and practice of sexual debauchery, or at least something very close to it. For instance, as a consequence of Robert’s preaching at one meeting, Hannah W. Smith narrated: “Boole got a great Baptism during the meeting, the unmentionable kind, and was so completely carried away by it . . . that he came near to making love to me, and actually did get into a deep and spiritual flirtation with a lady there who had left her husband because of his ill usage.” Likewise, Hannah W. Smith recounts:
I knew one dear lady who began in the purest and simplest way to give herself up to these emotions, and gradually came to spending most of her time allowing these waves of thrills to flow through her from head to foot, believing that she was in this way realizing more and more the presence of the Lord, and coming more and more into actual union with Him. And the result was most disastrous in destroying her moral nature, and launching her into a course of impurity from which in the beginning she would have shrunk with horror.
One must not be surprised that the infinitely holy and pure Holy Ghost would give over to their lusts (Romans 1:26) those who would defile His Holy Name by associating such things with His baptism. Certainly such supernatural manifestations as the erotic Baptism were manifestations of the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in and energizes the children of disobedience, the infernal Power behind Robert and Hannah W. Smith’s theology of sanctification and “Christian” living. Robert believed in his erotic Baptism “as late as 1878,” that is, until he gave up Christianity entirely, for he “thought that it was a very precious truth.”
While Mr. Smith most clearly spread Foster’s filthy doctrine in private to a variety of his followers, usually women, he did publicly proclaim with clarity the necessity of a post-conversion Spirit baptism as the climax of the Higher Life, while pointing publicly to its sexual nature only in a guarded way. Unsurprisingly, he also warned that those who entered the Higher Life should “expect revelations of the world of darkness” far greater than those experienced by those who were merely normal, uninitiated Christians. While many women, and some men, knew what Robert Smith meant when he spoke of the “phenomena of the coming of the Spirit upon individuals,” not all understood the significance of his public proclamation at the Oxford Convention:
[H]as the Baptism of the Spirit been duly pressed upon the believer? . . . Beloved Christian, let me ask you, have you had this baptism[?] . . . [M]any Christians seem to forget that this happened again and again. It was not the characteristic of the beginning only, but of the continuance of the dispensation in which we live. . . . [There are] phenomena [accompanying] the coming of the Spirit upon individuals . . . [We ought to] expect this baptism[,] [which has] been so long lost to the Church. . . . [It brings] a thrill, an intense emotion . . . [although] [y]ou may have special temptations of Satan after this time of baptism . . . [and] the highest elevations of experience involve the most fearful dangers.
Those who already had experienced the physical thrills of Baptism by the spiritual Bridegroom understood what was involved in the Higher Life doctrine of the Smiths—others were only pointed towards it by their public proclamation:
[T]here is a point in our spiritual life, in which all self-imposed barriers break down . . . [j]ust so . . . there is a certain point at which a true woman breaks through all the reserve of her nature, and lets her heart go . . . the time of the soul’s espousals, when it realises its union to the heavenly Lover. . . . [T]here will spring up a sweet soul-intercourse between your soul and Him such as you have never conceived the thought of. Often has my whole being thrilled . . . I could not understand this when I was contentious about doctrine[.] . . . Will you yield yourself to Him in this the day of your espousals? . . . [I]f earthly love be so sweet, shall not Divine love satisfy our whole being[?] . . . Earthly relationships are created but to reveal heavenly realities of union with our Lord. . . . Faith contradicts even our moral sense[.] . . . [B]reak down every barrier in your nature . . . and let your heart go[.] . . .[E]very need of a woman’s heart could be met and satisfied with the love of Christ . . . [when] the Lord reveal[s] Himself . . . as the heavenly Bridegroom, who would henceforth carry [her] in the arms of love[.] . . . [C]laim the Lord as [your] heavenly Bridegroom . . . a thrilling message [that] stirred the meeting so deeply that it seemed a necessity to give some expression to our feelings[.] . . . [Women] followed, testifiying to the same blessed experience [of the] . . . wonderous secrets of His love[.] . . . [A]s we had learned deeply the lessons of entire consecration and simple trust, we needed now to go on to consider more fully the blessed secret . . . only the soul that had entered into rest could understand . . . passages [such as] Eph v. 22-32; Isaiah lxii. 4, 5, liv. 5; Hosea ii. 16, 19, 20; Song of Sol. iv. 7-12[.] . . . The Song of Songs [contains a] blessed secret . . . that the soul is slow to understand . . . the actings of the love of espousals. . . . The believer does not fully know what Christ is until he comes to this . . . [and surrenders] throughout the whole range of our being [including the physical organism.] . . . For the consecration we have been pressing in these meetings, and the full and childlike trust, are only stepping-stones to this glorious consummation of soul-union with the Beloved[.] . . . [O]ur souls have not reached their highest destiny until it is known and rejoiced in . . . absolute abandonment . . . overmastering love. . . . Several [more] ladies followed, testifying to the joy and rest their souls had found in thus knowing Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom . . . far more than earthly friend or husband[.] . . . Many hearts were melted . . . in view of such glorious privileges as were opened up before us. The feeling was so great, that at the close of the meeting several met more privately . . . that to each one of them this wonderous soul-union . . . might become an experimental reality. . . . [As] Boaz . . . called the claim . . . that Ruth . . . had made “showing kindness,” . . . [the] Lord delights in every claim we make upon Him for union with Himself, and calls it kindness—“the kindness of thine espousals.” . . . [Let us] make our claim for this realized union . . . [with Christ] more than any earthly friend or lover ever could be. . . . This is the consummation of all Christian experience . . . the wonderous secret . . . [to be] learned by each one experimentally for herself . . . thrilled with the sweetness of His love.
While the Smiths were somewhat reserved in public, others were more open in their proclaimation of the Bridal Baptism teaching. For example, “Miss Bonnicastle sp[oke] on this subject . . . [of] conscious union of the believer and Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom . . . at the Oxford Ladies meetings . . . [which] quite shocked a good many,” but led many also into the knowledge of that Bridal Baptism. It was common knowledge that “the “object of the . . . Meeting at Oxford . . . was to lead Christians to . . . [be] baptised with the Holy Ghost,” and as a result of that Convention “there was so much” of “the Baptism of the Holy Ghost” that vast multitudes received physical thrills. Nevertheless, the full depths of Satan hidden in Robert Smith’s doctrine were not clearly revealed to all, but only to those fully initiated into the Higher Life. Thus, experience of erotic thrills in the Baptism was the culminating and highest point to which the Higher Life led, and many, through coming to “lie passive in His hands,” came to know “the baptism of the Spirit” as allegedly set forth in the Song of Solomon and as taught by Smith.
While Mr. Smith successfully proclaimed and led others to the erotic Baptism at Oxford and Brighton, divulgence of this Higher Life secret to Miss Hamilton in her bedroom shortly before the first Higher Life Convention at Keswick proved his public downfall—although even through this, the Smiths did not cut off contact with Mr. Foster or Clifton Springs. “Hannah found [Robert] huddled in despair in a Paris hotel room where he had fled in his collapse.” Concerning his father’s exposure, and the attempt—which was quite successful during Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s lifetime—to cover up the true reason for Mr. Smith’s downfall in his promulgation of erotic bride mysticism, Logan Pearsall Smith wrote:
“All Europe is at my feet,” . . . my poor father . . . exclaim[ed] when he stood on the platform [at the Brighton Convention]. But almost immediately an announcement appeared in the papers that he had been compelled to cancel all his engagements and to return almost at once to America. It was suggested that a fall from a horse some years before had led to the return of certain distressing symptoms which rendered absolute rest necessary. I must say that in the family we didn’t believe in that horse; at least I am certain that my mother didn’t. I don’t think she ever referred to it at all, which made people suspicious, and so universal became the gossip that my father’s friends felt it necessary to issue a further explanation. It had come to their ears, they stated, that my father had inculcated doctrines that were most dangerous and unscriptural, and that there had been conduct on his part which, though it was free, they were convinced, from all evil intention, had rendered it necessary to abstain from public work, and take the complete rest rendered necessary by the fall from his horse. That the doctrine of Sanctification and Deadness to Sin might lead to dangerous forms of Antinomianism was well known from the history of the past . . . [b]ut this was not the doctrinal quadreped from which my father slipped at Brighton. It was a much more mysterious beast which he had also brought from America, so mysterious that even the learned and profound Professor Warfield seems never to have guessed at its existence. But my mother knew it well[.] . . . What exactly was the nature of this doctrine? I cannot find that it has a name, so for convenience I shall call it the doctrine of “Loving-kindness.” It is . . . based . . . on the fact . . . that nature, in one of her grossest economies, has placed the seats of spiritual and amorous rapture so close to each other that one of them is very likely to arouse the other . . . so exactly do these two forms of ecstasy feel alike [that] . . . sometimes . . . it [is] extremely difficult to distinguish between them. From this fact it was only too easy to form the heretical belief that this heightening of religious experience, due to the mingling of the sexes, was God’s own way (and His ways were mysterious and not to be questioned by carnal reason) of bestowing His blessing upon them. When a holy preacher sat near a sanctified sister, or a female penitent close to her confessor, they became more conscious of the Baptism of the Spirit; and, as my mother sardonically expressed it, the nearer to each other they sat, the deeper and richer the consciousness became. . . . [I]t has taken . . . centuries to eliminate . . . this holy kiss—if indeed [Christianity] has succeeded in doing so completely. Certainly in my father’s time this exquisite, secret doctrine was extremely prevalent in America; and my father, in spite of my mother’s . . . warnings, would expound it to select gatherings mostly composed of spinsters of a certain age. Unluckily one of these grew jealous of another, and let the great beautiful cat out of the bag, to the scandal of the righteous, and the extreme joy of the unholy, whose jokes about the “Higher Life,” as it was called, made my father feel that it would be wise for him to cease his ministrations. . . . As people grow old, it becomes very hard for them to keep clear in their minds the important distinction beteen Right and Wrong—outlines become dim and one thing fades into another. . . . At the time, however, my father found it wise, as I have said, to cease his ministrations; though to the Cowper Temples, I think—certainly to Mrs. Cowper Temple—all this fuss seemed incomprehensible and silly. If these good people wanted to kiss each other, what, she wondered, could be the harm in that?
After the scandal in England, and the outward success of the Higher Life meetings conducted in America under the impulse of Dr. Cullis by Mr. and Mrs. Smith, despite utter lack of concern and consecration, “Robert gave up preaching, [although] his wife continued.” “Robert Pearsall Smith lost more than his occupation; he lost his faith as well. . . . [T]his disbelieving and disillusioned preacher [would have] believing disciples . . . still come for guidance . . . leav[ing] him to the awkward task of giving advice and encouragement of which he himself hardly believed a word.” Robert “went back to America and to selling glass. His spiritual life degenerated. He never again had a heart for ministry or for God. He retreated to a world of Buddhist meditation and died in 1899 a broken man.” He “began to lose his faith [more completely in] 1875-1876 . . . [by] . . . 1877 he was . . . in the process of losing his faith altogether,” so that he become an agnostic by 1883 as his “religious beliefs [were] gradually dwinding into an interest in Psychical Research.” Thus, “he gradually gave up all his Christian commitments and died alienated, but not separated, from his family. Plagued by a manic depressive nature for most of his life, he [came to be] happiest when engaged in his Buddhist meditations in his spacious tree house at the family’s home at Friday’s Hill, south of London.” As with vast numbers of Higher Life advocates, Robert Smith’s ultimate recognition that his merely fleshly and natural emotion-driven religion had nothing in it that was truly from God led him to apostatize from Christianity. A significant part of his familial alienation derived from his years of unrepentant adultery, evidencing, like his doctrinal apostasy, his unregenerate state, until he finally died in 1898 and went to his own place, where his wife joined him some years later.
Mrs. Hannah Whitall Smith was a false teacher who was deluded by Satan and her own unrenewed heart. Robert P. Smith was an unconverted false teacher also. Their writings are filled to the brim with dangerous theological errors and heresies. Alongside of the Higher Life of Keswick theology, one finds within the compositions and proclamations of Mr. and Mrs. Smith a false gospel, the Inner Light, New Thought, the Mind and Faith Cure, feminism, Quakerism, syncretism, quietism, fatalism, eudemonism, allegorical hermeneutics, passivity in sanctification, continuationism, antinomianism, universalism, works salvation, erotic sensations as Spirit baptism, and extra-biblical revelations. Hannah rejected sola Scriptura, total depravity, substitutionary atonement, justification by imputed righteousness, saving faith, the new birth, supernatural conversion, and self-examination. Mrs. Smith plainly testified that she rejected the evangelical gospel, detested Christian orthodoxy, and delighted in both being a heretic and in making others into heretics. She thought that man’s chief end was not to glorify God, but to feel happy, doing whatever one wants without any pangs from the conscience. Her exaltation as the leading teacher of the Higher Life took place in connection with spiritists and the working of demons. She testified that she gained her chief spritual insight into the “Christian” life from a sexual predator who taught, practiced, and led others into unspeakable debauchery. She was an enemy of Christ, His Word, and of true holiness of life.
As an unregenerate false teacher, Hannah Whitall Smith is someone to mark, reject, and avoid (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10). Her heresies and writings, and those of her husband Robert, should be abhorred and detested by the godly. She is by no means someone to embrace as a font of truth on Christian living, and adoption of her ideas by others evidences a tremendous lack of spiritual discernment and the certain presence of doctrinal error.
Applications from the Life and Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith and her Husband
As believers can learn much from the life and teachings of the wicked recorded in Scripture, whether Ahab, Judas, or Diotrephes, so the negative example of the life and writings of Hannah W. Smith can teach the Lord’s people a number of important lessons.
Mrs. Smith’s false teachings—all of them—must be discerned, rejected, guarded against, exposed, and warned about. Believers should not read her writings. Christian leaders should plainly preach and teach against her heresies and warn of her by name. Churches should separate from those who have been influenced to adopt her heresies and are unwilling to repent. Her confusion on the gospel has led precious souls into the fires of hell. Her confusion on sanctification has hindered countless Christians in their spiritual walk. There is no reason to try to pick out a little spiritual good from the veritable mass of errors in her works, but a clear Biblical basis for rejecting her, root and branch.
Many lessons can be learned from the deluded career and miserable end of Robert Pearsall Smith. His life exemplifies the extreme spiritual danger of rejecting sola Scriptura in practice, even if one accepts it in theory. His abandonment of literal, grammatical-historical interpretation for experience-driven hermeneutics is also seen to be extremely dangerous. Had Mr. Smith studied Scripture more carefully and recognized it alone as the authority by which he needed to judge all experience, he could have been freed from the delusions of the devil and of his own sinful heart and come to a true saving conversion to Jesus Christ, instead of being an unconverted preacher who was both “deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Furthermore, he illustrates the danger when religious experience is derived from a false fanaticism rather than genuine Christian and Trinitarian spirituality. When he finally saw through his fanaticism, instead of turning to the true Christ in true faith arising from Scripture alone, he rejected Christianity altogether. What dangers and proclivities to all evil are wrapped within the depraved human heart! No one will escape from that “desperately wicked” seat of corruption or escape delusion from that fountain of lies that is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), without cleaving to the Scriptures and receiving the protection of the Holy Spirit as a consequence of the union with Christ brought about through true conversion. Reader, do you view your heart as God does? Do you meditate on its horrible and desperate depravity and, as a result, flee to the Christ revealed in the Scriptures as your only refuge? Learn your need so to do from the deluded life and everlasting damnation of the Higher Life preacher-turned-Buddhist, Robert Pearsall Smith.
Learn also from the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith life that unconverted false teachers can put on a great show of godliness and exert a tremendous influence on the spiritually unwary among the true people of God. The ideas Hanhah and Robert Smith propogated influence many millions today—millions who, in large part, have no idea that their confusion on and false doctrine of sanctification are derived from an unregenerate Quaker couple. Be sure that your beliefs and practices are truly “the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and the product of Scripture alone. It does not matter whether or not men who are exalted by Christendom have taught them, for such are not your authority for faith and practice. Robert P. Smith was extremely popular in the Christendom of his day—all Europe was at his feet. There are many extremely popular false teachers in Christendom today. The Antichrist will be even more popular in the post-Rapture Christendom of the future than any of his anti-christian predecessors. Place no confidence in men because of their popularity, but, within the protection of a strong independent Baptist church, let all you believe and do arise only from the Spirit-illuminated teaching of the literally interpreted Word of God.
Furthermore, since Hannah W. Smith founded the Keswick theology with her husband, and Keswick has never dreamed of repudiating and repenting of their false teachings and pernicious influence, Keswick theology should be rejected. Keswick is saturated with the ideas of Hannah W. Smith. This is not a good, but a great and fearful evil.
The tremendous influence Mrs. Smith has exerted on Christendom, so that very large numbers of true churches and Christians have been unintentionally infected with her errors, illustrates the dangers of failing to issue plain warnings, avoid ecumenicalism, and exercise a watchful and strict separatist position. Mrs. Smith has influenced millions. She created a new, and very influential, doctrine of sanctification—the Keswick theology. Through both her direct influence and her stamp upon the Keswick movement, she has precipitated the rise of the Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word of Faith heresies. How greatly the leaven of error has spread because so many preachers have refused to give plain warnings! How essential it is for pastors to be well informed about and very careful concerning what writings they recommend to the flocks over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers! Reader, do not follow the bad example of those who blew an uncertain sound on their gospel trumpets—determine that you will, by God’s grace, for His glory, and out of love for Him, contend against all error, and for all the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Do not fear man—you will be called “uncharitable,” “too negative,” “narrowminded,” and all sorts of other names (Luke 6:22, 26). Instead, consider that the Apostle Paul commanded the marking and avoidance of false teachers in the context of his love for large numbers of God’s dear people. Think on the love for the Father, for His people, and for the truth that filled the soul of the Lord Jesus, and led Him to boldly and pointedly denounce error (Matthew 23). Be Christlike—go, and do likewise.
Consider also what dangers there are that yet lie buried within your fallen heart. How Mrs. Smith was led astray by trusting in her own heart, in the Inner Light delusion, and in her continuationist Quakerism! While she was totally blind because of her unregenerate state, you, oh Christian, still have the serpent of indwelling sin lying within your own bosom. How essential it is that you reject all extra-Biblical revelation, and carefully study the Bible, cleave to its every precept, and prize it as your sole authority! The Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in your spiritual armor, and the only means through which you can stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-17). How important it is for you to carefully and accurately exegete Scripture, put in practice all it says with holy fear and trembling, and walk humbly with your God, trusting in Jesus only!
Consider how essential it is for you to be a functioning member of a strong, separated, independent Baptist church. Only in the Lord’s church is His special presence manifested, and the special protection Christ gives to His holy temple and beloved bride is lost to those who are not members of Biblical Baptist churches. Mrs. Smith, being without the protection afforded by a true church, and without a true pastor for spiritual protection (Hebrews 13:7, 17), was influenced by hordes of false teachers and fanatics in her spiritual journey on the broad road to destruction. Spiritual guides may be very popular in the eyes of the broad and undiscerning world of Christiandom, and may possess a great appearance of piety, and yet be vipers and wolves—but Christ’s true congregations have the spiritual equipment to discern and reject such. Had Mrs. Smith been aware of and adopted the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism, she would never have believed in the filthy perversion that led to her husband’s public disgrace and contributed to his continuing adultery and the unhappiness of her marriage. Had she accepted the clear Biblical teachings of sola Scriptura and the cessation of the sign gifts, she would not have accepted the “miraculous” validation that led her into false teaching and led her sister Mary Thomas to an early grave through the false wonders of the Faith Cure. Had she rejected feminism for the loving and God-ordained patriarchy of family and church practiced in Biblical assemblies, she would have recognized that she could, as a lady, be more easily deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), and that she needed godly, Bible-believing men at home and church to protect her from error. Had she treasured Baptist ministers who preached a pure gospel, instead of finding them repulsive because they would not allow her to feel happy in her delusion, so that she preferred as a consequence the company of heretics and fanatics, she could have been saved herself, and her family with her, from both the earthly vanity of their false religion and the inconceivably horrible eternal consequences of the unpropitiated wrath of God.
Learn from Mrs. Smith’s failures the necessity for a genuine vital piety, one which arises out of a true conversion and issues in a close walk with God. Mrs. Smith’s false piety did not convince her family—her husband and all her surviving children rejected Christianity. People read her books and looked up to her, but those who knew Mrs. Smith best rejected godliness for rebellion against Jehovah, and received eternal retribution for their sins. Have you been led by Mrs. Smith’s confusing views of faith, conversion, and salvation to settle for anything less than the supernatural new birth without which no one will enter the kingdom of God? Do you only have assurance of salvation if you compare yourself to the standard set by Hannah W. Smith, but not if you compare yourself to the standard set forth by the Apostle John in his first inspired epistle? Do not follow into hell the demons who misled Hannah W. Smith. Be satisfied with nothing less than the Biblical gospel and true conversion.
Do you want a godly seed—do you want your family, for whatever generations may be left until the return of Christ, to know and serve your Redeemer in spirit and in truth? The sham spirituality of Hannah W. Smith will never suffice. But if you reject such pseudo-Christianity and sincerely and uprightly walk with God your Father, through Christ your Redeemer, as empowered by the Holy Spirit, you can claim the promise of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Do not turn aside to the idol of Hannah W. Smith’s “bare God.” An unconverted person who does so will be eternally damned, and to whatever extent a regenerate person turns from the God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to Mrs. Smith’s deity he will find his spiritual life much darkened and his holy Father much displeased. Genuine Christian spirituality arises out of the love of the Father, the purchase of the Son, and the applicatory work of the Holy Spirit. How sweet and precious to the saint is his dear adopted Father! How glorious is the redemptive work of Christ! How heart-melting it is to behold Him in the glory of His essential Deity, to marvel at the preciousness of His sinless humanity, and to be moved by the infinite condescension and love shown in the cross! How ineffably wonderful it is to know experientially the communion of the Holy Ghost! Do not, oh saint of God, turn aside from your own Redeemer, your own personal God who has come to you in Jesus Christ, who has supernaturally revealed Himself to you through His Word by His Spirit. What are the dregs of Mrs. Smith’s idolatry to the overflowing cup of infinite blessing found in Jehovah, the living God?
Furthermore, you should examine yourself to see if you find Mrs. Smith’s errors unbearable, horrible, and exceedingly grievous, or if you find her abominations titillating and exciting, as many ungodly people find gossip. Is it necessary to expose Hannah W. Smith’s lies and unmask her pernicious character? Yes—certainly. Should such an expose be examined as a mere intellectual exercise, a curiosity comparable to some strange gene-spliced monster that might be on display at a circus or a fair for people to gawk at? By no means.
Indeed, how sweet—how precious, glorious, and soul-refreshing it is to turn with disgust from Hannah W. Smith to behold the Lord Jesus! Here is One who is spotless in purity. Here is one who mixes, not secret corruptions with false teachings, but perfect holiness with infallibly sure guidance. Here is a perfect Prophet, a spotless Priest, a matchless King, an all-sufficient Redeemer, one who is fairer than the children of men, whose lips are full of grace. How blessed it is to see Him in His holy Word, and find in Him a true Shepherd who properly and perfectly cares for, protects, and gives His life for His beloved sheep. Let the works of Hannah W. Smith, and all her fellow false-shepherds, be put in the trash where they belong, and listen instead to the voice of this true and unerring Pastor. Hearken to His voice as you read every line of His Word in your personal Bible study—hearken to His voice as He is preached by a true man of God in the church of the living God—meditate upon His law day and night. So shall you have a truly blessed life during your earthly pilgrimage, and a rich reward in the coming life of sight for all eternity.
J. Excursus XI: An Analysis and Critique of Keswick Theology as Set Forth Particularly In So Great Salvation: The History and Message of the Keswick Convention, by Steven Barabas
1.) The Background and History of the Keswick Convention and Keswick Theology
Stephen Barabas’s So Great Salvation is widely considered the standard interpretation of Keswick theology. In a preface to the book by Fred Mitchell, “Chairman of the Keswick Convention Council, 1948-1951,” Mitchell states that Barabas’s book is “faithful and accurate; it is well annotated with sources of his information; it is saturated with an appreciative spirit, for he himself has been so much helped by Keswick. The book will form a text-book and a reference book on this unique movement.” Thus, its contents accurately represent the theology of the original Keswick movement. Indeed, “Steven Barabas[’s] . . . book So Great Salvation is perhaps the single best interpretation of the message of Keswick.” “The most objective account and appraisement of the . . . Keswick . . . movement is So Great Salvation: The History and Message of The Keswick Convention—an extraordinarily exact account . . . [written] after exhaustive research.” Keswick’s “standard interpretation is Steven Barabas, So Great Salvation.” Consequently, the analysis of the Keswick system below will engage Barabas’s book in detail while also evaluating other Keswick classics.
Barabas notes that in “the early 1870s . . . the Keswick movement had its rise in England.” The “friends [Quakers] introduced the subject” of the Higher Life, although there were also very significant background influences of Roman Catholic mystics and heretics such as the monks “Thomas á Kempis [and] Brother Lawrence,” and especially the Catholic mystical quietist “Madame Guyon.” Catholics and Quakers were essential theological background for the rise for the rise of the Keswick movement.
The “Higher Life teaching . . . [in] the books of the American religious leaders, T. C. Upham and Asa Mahan. . . [and] W. E. Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life” are also undisputed theological background for the development of the Keswick theology; Barabas thus recognizes Thomas C. Upham as a Keswick antecedent. He notes without a hint of criticism that Upham wrote Life and Religious Experience of Madame Guyon, a book which Barabas affirms contributed to “the interest of the Church in the subject of sanctification and the Spirit-filled life,” as did other works of Upham. What, then, was Upham’s theology? Upham “experienced [entire] sanctification under Phoebe Palmer’s influence and gave popular expression to the doctrine in a series of books drawing . . . explicitly on Catholic mysticism and Quietism.” Upham taught, in addition to his Quietistic and Romanist Higher Life doctrine of sanctification associated with Wesleyan perfectionism and Pelagianism, that God was a duality of Father and Mother instead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, this Duality became a Trinity through the appearance of a Son, who is identified with the created order itself. Upham saught to prove this gross idolatry from sources ranging from ancient Gnostics such as Valentinus and Heracleon, to the Jewish Cabala, to assorted other later heretics and perfectionists. He blasphemously wrote:
God is both Fatherhood and Motherhood . . . from the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood . . . all things proceed. [A] Maternal Principle . . . Sophia . . . [exists] in the Divine nature[.] . . . [T]he Jewish Cabala . . . [speaks of] a feminine deity . . . called Sophia. . . . John’s Gospel . . . identif[ies] the Logos and the Sophia. . . . Sophia . . . was God; not only with God, but was God. . . . [T]he somewhat mystic words of the Apostle John . . . [are] the announcement of the infinite Paternity and the infinite Motherhood. . . . Valentinus . . . speaks of the Aeon Sophia . . . [T]he mystics and Quietists . . . recognized . . . the divine Sophia[.] . . . [T]he Sophia . . . or Maternal Essentia or Personality of the Godhead . . . incarnated itself in Christ . . . caused him, in a mother’s Spirit though in a male form, to endure his great sufferings[.] . . . [T]he Familists . . . recognize the Maternal Principle as a true and distinct Personality in the Godhead. . . . [The] Shakers . . . [and] Bible Communists . . . [recognize] that the Divine Nature is dual in its personalities . . . and includes the fact of a divine maternity[.] . . . [T]he Catholic Church is often regarded . . . as embodying the idea of the Motherhood element which exists in the Infinite, in its recognition of the holy or deific nature of Mary . . . and in the high honors, and even worship, which it is understood to render to her. . . . [U]nder the influence of inward suggestions, which I will not stop to explain and define . . . [and to] the thoughtful mind . . . the duality of the Divine Existence, written everywhere in the book of nature, necessitates a Trinity. . . . we must supplement the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood by the eternal Son . . . the great and unceasing out-birth of the Divine Duality. . . . Generically, or considered in the whole of its extent, the trinal out-birth, otherwise called the Son of God, without which the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood could have neither name nor power nor meaning, is the whole of creation from its lowest to its highest form. . . . [N]ot an insect that floats in the air, nor a fish that swims in the sea, nor a bird that sings in the forests, nor a wild beast that roams on the mountains; not one is or by any possibility can be shut out and excluded from the meaning and the fact of the divine Sonship[.] . . . All living nature then . . . constitutes the Son of God.
Upham continues to develop his stomach-turning idolatry in the subsequent pages of his book, but the quotation above is enough, if not far more than enough, of a sampling of his vile and devilish nonsense to give the sense of his doctrine. Despite being an unconverted idolator, he was very influential:
Upham . . . became a Methodist holiness leader after contact with Phoebe Palmer. He studied Fenelon and Guyon, writing a biography of the latter entitled Life, Religious Opinions, and Experience of Madame Guyon. His [works] . . . influenced much of nineteenth and early twentieth century thinking on faith, including A. B. Simpson . . . leade[r] of [the] CMA [Christian & Missionary Alliance].
Like many other Higher Life writers, Upham also emphasized ecumenicalism and sought to prepare for the one-world religious system of Revelation 17. “On the basis of his experience of the baptism of the Spirit, T. C. Upham proposed the foundation of a League of Nations.” Such a man was Keswick antecedent Thomas Upham.
Barabas also recognizes Asa Mahan, leader of the Oberlin perfectionism, as a Keswick antecedent. The Oberlin perfectionism of Asa Mahan and his mentor Charles Finney were indeed important to the rise of the Keswick system, and were recognized by Keswick as essential historical background for the genesis of their doctrine. “In 1872, [Mahan] moved to England and directly influenced the Keswick movement by his leadership in the Oxford and Brighton Conferences that immediately preceded the first Keswick Convention.” Mahan’s books were widely propogated in Higher Life circles, so that “Keswick writers . . . often mention or quote Asa Mahan . . . and Charles G. Finney.” Indeed, “none . . . of . . . the ‘conversational meetings’ at Oxford . . . . was of more interest than that . . . under the guidance of Asa Mahan,” who strongly taught orally the necessity of Christians receiving Spirit baptism, as he had already proclaimed in his book The Baptism of the Holy Ghost. As a consequence of Mahan’s “pressing upon” people, “[d]ay after day,” the necessity of Christians receiving Spirit baptism, “a[n] . . . experience we should not and must not be without,” “many . . . realised in his conversational meetings the baptism” and entered into Mahan’s experience. Likewise, at “the Brighton Convention (of which he was one of the conveners) Mahan directed a series of sectional meetings . . . crowded to overflowing . . . [e]ach afternoon,” proclaiming post-conversion Spirit baptism. “Mahan carried the message” of the necessity of a post-conversion “Baptism of the Holy Ghost . . . to the Oxford (1874) and Brighton (1875) meetings from which the Keswick movements emerged . . . he spoke and led very popular seminars on the subject,” leading many into his second blessing Baptism experience, as Robert P. Smith and others led many to adopt the doctrine of the “physical thrills” of a post-conversion erotic Spirit baptism through the propogation of this doctrine at Oxford and elsewhere. Indeed, as Mahan and Robert P. Smith explained, the “object of the . . . Meeting at Oxford . . . was to lead Christians to . . . [be] baptised with the Holy Ghost.” William “Boardman . . . link[ed] up with Mahan to conduct revivals in both America and Britain, and both were to have a direct influence on the spiritual and theological direction of the Keswick Conferences.”
Mahan, as “the major architect . . . of the controversial ‘Oberlin Perfectionism,’” in addition to teaching “the immediate attainment of entire sanctification by a special act of faith directed to this end,” denied the doctrine of original sin and promulgated other heresies along with the perfectionism of his mentor and colleague Charles Finney at Oberlin College. Mahan’s development of the post-conversion crisis of sanctification and Spirit baptism contributed greatly to the “rise of modern Pentecostalism . . . [i]t is not surprising that modern Pentecostalism should sprout in th[e] well prepared ground” of the heterodox Oberlin holiness and pneumatological doctrines powerfully promulgated by Mahan, and, through his influence, “there seem to be several instances of this experience [of tongues] in holiness circles between 1870 and the outbreak of Pentecostalism in 1900.”
Finney, whose theology helped to destroy the Second Great Awakening and hinder subsequent revival, likewise taught at Oberlin a Pelagian view of sin while denying substitutionary atonement in favor of the governmental atonement heresy, among other damnable heresies. For Finney, the “atonement . . . was not a commercial transaction . . . [not] the payment of a debt . . . [but] was intended as a satisfaction of public justice.” He also wrote:
Moral depravity . . . cannot consist . . . in a sinful constitution . . . [or] an attribute of human nature . . . [m]oral depravity is not then to be accounted for by ascribing it to a nature or constitution sinful in itself. To talk of a sinful nature, or sinful constitution, in the sense of physical sinfulness, is to ascribe sinfulness to the Creator, who is the author of nature. . . . What ground is there for the assertion that Adam’s nature became in itself sinful by the fall? This is a groundless, not to say ridiculous, assumption, and an absurdity. . . . This doctrine is . . . an abomination alike to God and the human intellect.
Furthermore, Finney’s denial of substitutionary atonement led him to reject justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ to teach salvation by personal obedience: “If [Christ] obeyed the law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?” Finney plainly stated that the truth of justification by faith alone based on the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:19-28) was a different gospel from the one he believed and taught. By rejecting the true gospel, Finney indicated that he was an accursed false teacher who suffered eternal damnation (Galatians 1:8-9). In his Systematic Theology, Finney accurately summarized the true gospel and then plainly rejected it:
Those who hold that justification by imputed righteousness is a forensic proceeding, take a view of final or ultimate justification, according with their view of the transaction. With them, faith receives an imputed righteousness, and a judicial justification. The first act of faith, according to them, introduces the sinner into this relation, and obtains for him a perpetual justification. They maintain that after this first act of faith it is impossible for the sinner to come into condemnation; that, being once justified, he is always thereafter justified, whatever he may do; indeed that he is never justified by grace, as to sins that are past, upon condition that he ceases to sin; that Christ’s righteousness is the ground, and that his own present obedience is not even a condition of his justification, so that, in fact, his own present or future obedience to the law of God is, in no case, and in no sense, a sine qua non of his justification, present or ultimate. Now this is certainly another gospel from the one I am inculcating. It is not a difference merely upon some speculative or theoretic point. It is a point fundamental to the gospel and to salvation, if any one can be. Let us therefore see which of these is the true gospel. I object to this view of justification[.] . . . The doctrine of a literal imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity . . . [and] of the literal imputation of Christ’s righteousness or obedience to the elect, and the consequent perpetual justification of all that are converted from the first exercise of faith, whatever their subsequent life may be—I say I regard these dogmas as fabulous, and better befitting a romance than a system of theology.
Finney called men to surrender to Christ because, as befit his doctrine of salvation by personal obedience and rejection of the eternal security of the believer, perfect consecration of life and his version of sinless perfection were an essential condition for entrance into heaven:
We shall see that perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification . . . present, full, and entire consecration of heart and life to God and His service, is an unalterable condition of present pardon of past sin, and of present acceptance with God. . . . [T]he penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues.
Mahan and Finney’s false gospel were intimately bound up with their perfectionism. The perfectionist doctrine of sanctification promulgated by Finney and Mahan was very influential in the development of the Keswick theology, both through Mahan’s personal preaching and through the books of both men:
The links between Keswick and New School revivalism [Oberlin perfectionism] were many. Both Mahan and Boardman’s involvement in the Oxford and Brighton conferences helped unify the higher life aspirations arising from the “Oberlizing of England.” Furthermore, the Reverend John Moore was close friends with Charles Finney, a relationship which no doubt had influence on his son, C. G. Moore, one of the early Keswick speakers.
The rationale of Old School opposition to Finney and Mahan is noteworthy:
Old School advocates . . . opposed the “second blessing” heresy [of Finney and Mahan] because [they] believed it not only violated the . . . doctrine of depravity, but that it adopted the modernist reliance of human ability. The concern of Old School advocates was that New School proponents were being unduly influenced by German liberal theology, particularly in the elevation of humanist philosophy. . . . New School theology was not only influenced by the rational pragmatism of the nineteenth century, particularly in the new measure procedures, but . . . the emphasis upon human responsibility in [the] New School . . .was the direct result of modernist thought.
Indeed, “[f]rom . . . the person and work of Charles Finney . . . the line is a straight one that leads through the holiness movement directly into Pentecostalism.” Such were Asa Mahan and Charles Finney, architects of the Oberlin perfectionism and antecedents to the Keswick theology. Sadly, Stephen Barabas, with criminal neglect, suppresses, fails to warn of, and breaths not a whisper about the heresies of Keswick antecedents such as Thomas Upham and Asa Mahan, just as he entirely ignores the heresies, false gospel, and demonism associated with Hannah and Robert P. Smith.
While earlier perfectionist heretics were important, Barabas recognizes that “the Keswick movement had its [actual] genesis . . . [through] Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith [and the influence of three of their books, including Mrs. Smith’s] The Record of a Happy Life,” after “Conferences . . . at Broadlands . . . Oxford . . . [and] Brighton. Robert and Hannah [Smith] were at the very center of it all.” Barabas provides not a whisper of warning about Mrs. Smith’s universalism and other poisonous false doctrines, despite repeatedly citing her book My Spiritual Autobiography: How I Discovered The Unselfishness of God, which she wrote specifically to turn people from Christian orthodoxy to heresy, and where her universalist heresy is blatently and grossly set forth. In any case, it is clear that “the first steps . . . [towards] [t]he Keswick Convention . . . owe . . . everything to a Quaker glass manufacturer from Philadelphia, Robert Pearsall Smith[.]” Mr. Smith “was instrumental, not only in establishing Keswick as a perennial convention, but also in introducing the Keswick emphases back into the United States.” Barabas indicates that “[b]oth [the Smiths] were born and bred Quakers,” having “always held the Quaker teaching concerning the Inner Light and passivity.” They brought their Quaker theology and other distinctive heresies into the Keswick movement which they founded.
The “new revelation [of the Keswick theology of sanctification] came to Mrs. Pearsall Smith about 1867. . . . At first her husband . . . was somewhat frightened . . . thinking she had gone off into heresy . . . [but then he] came into her experience when she called his attention to Romans vi. 6.” Unfortunately, Mrs. Smith did not interpret Romans 6:6 correctly, and she led her husband into an erroneous view of the verse as well. The erroneous interpretation of Romans six adopted by Hannah and Robert P. Smith continued to dominate the Keswick convention for many decades:
In the history of the Keswick Convention, if one passage of Scripture is to be identified as playing a larger role than any other, it would have to be Romans chapter 6. Evan Hopkins said at the thirty-first Convention that no passage of Scripture was more frequently to the fore at Keswick than this one. Steven Barabas finds himself not only agreeing with this statement but adding: “it is doubtful whether a Keswick Convention has ever been held in which one or more speakers did not deal with Romans 6. . . . There is no understanding of Keswick without an appreciation of the place accorded by it to this chapter in its whole scheme of sanctification.” The key to this chapter, in the early Keswick teaching . . . [of] Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife Hannah . . . is verse 6.
The misinterpretation of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith “was largely unchallenged from the Keswick platform until 1965 when John Stott gave Bible Readings on Romans 5-8.” It was very easy for the Smiths to misinterpret Scripture because “[n]either of [the Smiths] had any training in theology,” in keeping with their Quaker backgrounds; for example, Hannah Smith testified: “[A]s a Quaker, I had no doctrinal teaching . . . I knew literally nothing of theology, and had never heard any theological terms” since in her youth “no doctrines or dogmas were ever taught us . . . a creature more utterly ignorant of all so-called religious truth . . . could hardly be conceived of in these modern times [that is, in 1902]. The whole religious question for me was simply whether I was good enough to go to heaven, or so naughty as to deserve hell.” Despite woeful ignorance of theology and an inability to accurately exegete Scripture, following Hannah’s lead, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith embraced and began to zealously propogate the doctrines of the Higher Life that were enshrined in the Keswick movement.
From its “beginning . . . some of the foremost leaders of the Church attacked [the Keswick doctrine] as being dangerously heretical.” Indeed, “the opposition the work was subjected to at the beginning, even from Evangelical clergy,” was extreme, so that, indeed, the Keswick theology was “looked upon with the gravest suspicion by those who were considered as the leaders of the Evangelical section of the Church.” Consequently, “very few Evangelical leaders ever attended . . . the Keswick Convention . . . which was quite an independent movement,” since “the leading Evangelicals held aloof and viewed it with undisguised suspicion,” and evangelicals “openly denounced it as dangerous heresy.” Evangelical opposition to Keswick was intense because the founders of Keswick seriously compromised and corrupted or even outright denied the evangel, the gospel. For example, Hannah believed, among other damnable heresies, that every single person would be saved, denied justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, the sole authority of Scripture, and the new birth. Robert, while formally adopting a weak and wobbly concept of justification by faith for a time, instead of simply rejecting that core gospel doctrine as he had before, continued to reject eternal security and tied his Higher Life theology into his opposition to the preservation of the saints. Warfield describes Robert Smith’s argument against progressive sanctification being incomplete until death, and its connection to Arminianism, as propounded by Smith at the Oxford Union Meeting of 1874, as follows:
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” . . . 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.
Hannah W. Smith also believed, at least for a while, that Christ was the “redeemer . . . from past sins” who will only “redeem . . . from all future sins . . . if [one] will . . . submit . . . wholly to Him,” a clear anti-eternal security position; however, since she had become a universalist before becoming a Keswick preacher, denying eternal security had became largely a moot point for her. Since Robert and Hannah Smith held extremely compromised views of the gospel, and Hannah even avowed, “I cannot enjoy close contact with [those who] . . . preac[h] . . . a pure gospel,” it was not surprising that those who loved the true and pure gospel violently opposed the Keswick movement.
Furthermore, “Robert . . . did not try to convert unbelievers; his call was to [preach] a state of Holiness in those who already believed, whatever their creed.” What is more, both Robert and Hannah Smith “belie[ved] in the inner light [doctrine of Quakerism,] to which they [were] . . . united in sentiment. . . . Mr. P. Smith [and his wife’s writings] embod[y] the mysticism of Madame Guyon and the medieval mystics, as well as the semi-Pelagianism of Professor Upham.” Consequently, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith rejected sola Scriptura—Robert, for example, proclaimed: “I get one half of my theology from the Bible, and the other half by watching my children,” citing “Coleridge” as support for this astonishing affirmation. Both the Smiths also anticipated Word of Faith heresies. The demonism and spiritualism of the Mount-Temples and their influence on the Smiths and Keswick through the Broadlands Conferences also constituted a matter of grave concern. Evangelical rejection of Keswick theology was entirely natural. Nevertheless, despite vociferous and continuing evangelical opposition, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith began to preach to large audiences a “doctrine of sanctification by faith [alone that had been] allowed to lie dormant for centuries, unknown and unappreciated . . . it remained for Keswick to call the attention of the Church to it.”
Specifically, the Keswick form of the Higher Life theology was formulated through the central influence of Hannah W. and Robert P. Smith at the Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton Conventions that immediately preceded the first Keswick Convention. The first and following Broadlands Conferences was held at the invitation of the dedicated spiritualists Mr. and Mrs. Mount-Temple, and all sorts of infernal spirits, doctrinal differences, and heresies were always present. Speakers included the universalist George MacDonald, who received his prominent speaking position at the direction of his good spiritualist friends the Mount-Temples. He became good friends with fellow universalist Hannah W. Smith. Nonetheless, while Christian orthodoxy was by no means held in common by the Broadlands speakers, “[t]he ‘Seed,’ of which George Fox spoke, was rooted in them all,” and those in “the Society of Friends” rejoiced at the messages brought, as did the spiritualist Mount-Temples, who continued their very influential patronage of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. At the first and flagship 1874 Broadlands Convention Robert “Pearsall Smith was chairman and principal speaker, though, before the week was done, it became evident that his wife, Hannah Whitall Smith, was a herald of the evangel they carried yet more effective than himself.” She was the chief of the Broadlands preachers. Further Conventions, along the same lines and led by Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith, were held at Oxford and Brighton with ever-larger attendance. Mrs. Smith was an overwhelmingly captivating preacher, for at those “Conferences at Oxford and Brighton . . . no hall was large enough to accommodate the crowds that flocked to hear her.” The meetings reminded Hannah W. Smith and others “of the days when George Fox,” the founder of the Quakers, saw countless numbers “convinced . . . during . . . his meetings,” or of the “wonderful Yearly Meetings” that took place in the days of the prominent Quakers “Elisabeth Fry and Joseph John Gurney.” Following these Conventions, meetings specifically in the English town of Keswick, from which the new doctrine preached by the Smiths came to obtain its name, were proposed in 1875. An Anglican minister, “Canon T. D. Harford Battersby . . . [who] . . . was part of an old and well-to-do west-country Quaker family that had moved into evangelical Anglicanism in the early 19th century,” and “a friend of his, Mr. Robert Wilson, a Quaker who also was specially blessed [at the earlier Higher Life meetings led by the Smiths] . . . decided to hold a Convention at Keswick, where similar teaching should be given.” The “chief Brighton speakers,” of whom the most important were certainly “Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith, [were] to take part in it.”
Thus, Quakers were so far from being convicted of sin and of their need to turn from their false religion and false gospel to Christ for the new birth, and instead so happy with the Higher Life theology of Keswick, that one of them could become co-founder of the meetings at Keswick, be the “the heart and soul” of the Keswick mission fund, be lauded by many Keswick writers and speakers, and even be termed “the father of the Convention.” Since the Quakers Hannah and Robert Smith formulated and spread the Keswick theology at the preparatory Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton Conventions, such acceptance of Quakerism was entirely expected. As one Quaker periodical noted, extolling the teaching of the Brington Convention:
[T]his wonderful gathering . . . [taught the] truth [of the Higher Life and] the renewed [post-conversion] baptism of the Holy Spirit . . . [which had been] revived in a time of darkness by the early Friends[.] . . . It has been often said that the Friends have always upheld this cardinal truth[.] . . . This is undoubtedly true, and many of the early Friends walked in the light of it, as testified by the writings of Fox, Penn, Barclay, Penington, and others[.] . . . Hannah W. Smith . . . felt that she had an especial message to the Friends in this country, and from [her] lucid setting forth of this truth many of us have derived deep and lasting benefit. . . . Perfection lies in this [Higher Life system]. . . . [T]housands . . . every day flocked to hear the Bible readings of Hannah W. Smith, eagerly accepting her clear and winning settings forth of the life of faith . . . [at] the Friends’ Meeting House . . . to a crowded assembly, those of our own body were proclaiming in triumphant strains the glory and richness of this full salvation[.]
Quakers were unequivocally welcomed at Keswick as true Christians. Thus, “[a]t the outset the management of the Convention was entirely in the hands of the two conveners, Canon Harford-Battersby and Mr. Robert Wilson.” The Quaker “Robert Wilson [was] one of the two founders of the Convention and its chairman from 1891 to 1900.” Speakers were for some years only selected at “the personal invitation of the conveners,” Wilson and Battersby, although in later times the “the Trustees of the Convention” began to make the selections. William Wilson, Robert Wilson’s son, continued his father’s work when Robert became Keswick chairman, Robert being the “successor” of Harford-Battersby after the latter man’s retirement. The succession was the more natural because Wilson was Harford-Battersby’s “principal parish worker,” regularly attending the Canon’s Anglican assembly Sunday evenings after attending the Friends’ Meeting in the morning. Indeed, Robert Wilson was not only co-founder of Keswick and chairman of the Convention for nearly a decade but was also the author of the Keswick motto “All One in Christ Jesus.” Truly, “without Mr. [Robert] Wilson’s support and brave backing, there would have been no . . . Keswick story . . . at all.”
Consequently, the Anglican with a Quaker background, Harford-Battersby, and his chief parish worker, the unrepentant Quaker Robert Wilson, together founded the Keswick convention and “invited . . . leading speakers [such as] Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith. Mr. Pearsall Smith promised to preside.” “Robert . . . [was] invited . . . to preside and . . . Hannah Pearsall Smith . . . to give daily Bible Readings,” that is, to preach, as well as to run the ladies’ meetings; Keswick was to be “arranged around the Pearsall Smiths.” However, the Keswick movement almost collapsed as a result of Mr. Smith’s hasty withdrawal because of a doctrine and practice that the Brighton Convention Committee was hesitant to explain, namely, that the baptism of the Holy Ghost was accompanied by physical sexual thrills because of the esoteric union of Christ with His people as Bridegroom and Bride, as described in the Song of Solomon. Publicly admitting what Robert Smith had been teaching would certainly have cast a dark shadow over Keswick, as it was an indisputable fact that even without Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s presence “a continuity of teaching [was] maintained . . . the same as that given at the Oxford Conference,” where the great spiritual secret of erotic Baptism was publicly proclaimed. Besides, in that day of Victorian propriety very few would want to propogate and preach a theology of sanctification invented by such persons. The Keswick leaders consequently deemed it best to conceal the reasons for the withdrawal of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and get along as best they could.
Nonetheless, despite the withdrawal of Robert and Hannah Smith and “other expected speakers,” the first Keswick Convention took place, “acknowledging the debt [the speakers] owed to Mr. Pearsall Smith,” and propogating the Higher Life theology of sanctification Mr. Smith had learned from his wife. Despite “violent criticism and opposition . . . [such that to] identify oneself with the . . . Keswick Convention . . . [and] Higher Life teaching meant to be willing to be separated from the leaders of the Evangelical Church,” including opposition by men such as “Mr. Spurgeon,” “Dr. Horatius Bonar,” and “Canon Ryle,” Mr. Battersby “and Mr. Wilson decided to hold another convention. After that there was never any doubt that it should be held yearly.” The fact that “the greatest Leaders and Teachers of Evangelical Truth thought it their duty to oppose to the utmost what they considered ‘very dangerous Heresy’” taught at Keswick and its antecedent Holiness Conventions, so that “the Evangelical Leaders of that day felt it their duty to oppose what they believed to be a false doctrine of ‘Perfection in man’” taught at Keswick, was not going to stop Wilson and Battersby. Since that time “the Keswick message . . . [has been] carried . . . to almost every corner of the world”; “its influence is seen to-day in every quarter of the globe.” In modern times, Keswick Conventions are held in many cities throughout countries such as England, the United States, Australia, Canada, Romania, New Zealand, India, Jamaica, South Africa, Japan, Kenya, and “other parts of Africa, Asia, and South America”—there are “numerous conventions around the world on every continent which are modelled on Keswick.” Keswick theology appears in devotional compositions by men such as Andrew Murray, F. B. Meyer, J. Oswald Sanders, and Hudson Taylor, and has “impact[ed] . . . the Welsh revival, the German holiness movement, Foreign Missions, Conventions Abroad, the American holiness movement, the American Pentecostal movement . . . the Christian and Missionary Alliance . . . American fundamentalism . . . [and] English fundamentalism or conservative evangelicalism,” as well as offshoots of Pentecostalism like the Health and Wealth or Word-Faith movement which “arose out of the classic Higher Life, Keswick, and Pentecostal movements.” Keswick became extremely influential:
Keswick-like views of sanctification [were] promoted by A. B. Simpson, Moody Bible Institute (D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, James M. Gray), Pentecostalism, and Dallas Theological Seminary (Lewis S. Chafer, John F. Walvoord, Charles C. Ryrie). Simpson founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Moody founded Moody Bible Institute, and Chafer cofounded Dallas Theological Seminary. Pentecostalism, which subsequently dwarfed Keswick in size and evangelical influence, is the product of Wesleyan perfectionism, the holiness movement, the early Keswick movement, Simpson, Moody, and Torrey. Dallas Theological Seminary, the bastion of the Chaferian view of sanctification, is probably the most influential factor for the [strong influence] of a Keswick-like view of sanctification in modern fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.
The tremendous influence of Hannah W. and Robert P. Smith continues to this day. Not only are their teachings being spread worldwide through the continuing widespread propogation of Keswick theology, but their message is the root of other forms of error and apostasy in Christiandom, such as, most notably, the Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word of Faith movements.
2.) The Scriptural Aspects of Keswick Theology
Regenerate proponents of the Keswick theology rightly exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, His power to sanctify sinners, and the necessity of faith in the Christian life. A high regard for these tremendous truths will indubitably strengthen the believer’s spiritual walk, and Keswick’s proclamation of these Biblical doctrines has unquestionably been a means of Divine blessing upon many. Furthermore, Keswick’s preaching that believers must immediately surrender to the Lord and confess sin that is yet unrepented of is eminently Biblical. If, because of Keswick’s calls to the surrender of the will, “no man can attend a Keswick Convention and be the same afterwords: he is either a better or a worse man for it,” such a fact is highly commendable. Strong Biblical preaching does not leave hearers unmoved. A call to the “renunciation of all known sin . . . and . . . surrender to Christ for the infilling of the Holy Spirit” is an excellent and commendable message, at least if terms are defined properly. When Keswick emphasizes “the exceeding sinfulness of sin” and seeks to have “laid bare . . . the cancer of sin eating at the vitals of the Christian . . . [so that] the Christian is urged to cut it out at once” and come to “an unreserved surrender to Christ . . . in . . . heart and life,” it does very well. Furthermore, Keswick deserves commendation when it seeks to have the “Holy Spirit exalted . . . [and] looked to as the divine Guide and Governor . . . [and] prayer is emphasized as the condition of all success and blessing.” When some modern Keswick writers teach that the Holy Spirit “dwells in every child of God . . . [but] not every Christian is filled with the Spirit . . . [and] to be filled with the Spirit is not presented in Scripture as an optional matter, but as a holy obligation that rests upon all Christians,” they do well. The Holy Spirit, although He does not speak of Himself (John 16:13), is nonetheless God, equal in essence to the Father and the Son, and worthy of all reverence, trust, and worship. Keswick is correct that the “Christian is expected to live in communion with the Spirit[.]”Furthermore, prayer is unquestionably key to a Biblical Christianity, to the extent that believers are characterized as those who call on the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:2). Keswick emphasis upon the impossibility of “mere moral processes to overcome sin” and upon the error of self-dependence in sanctification (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:9) is important and correct, as is its affirmation that the believer’s “union with Christ in His death and resurrection . . . secures moral renovation as well as justifying grace.” “Anyone who is sensitive to the high demands of the Christian vocation . . . must find himself in deep agreement with the earnest contrition which has characterized so many of the Keswick leaders and with their insistent plea for the appropriation and application of the resources of God’s cleansing and sanctifying grace.” Furthermore, Keswick is correct in its affirmation “that in Scripture sanctification comes by faith.” Modern Keswick emphasis upon evangelism and missions is clearly Scriptural (Acts 1:8) and is a tremendous blessing. Believers who gain a greater understanding and practice of Biblical truths such as these through hearing Keswick preaching or reading Keswick literature will be able to grow closer to God and be more effective in serving Him as a result. Such Keswick teachings explain why many have received definite spiritual blessings at Keswick Conventions.
However, while these aspects of the Keswick theology are Biblical, refreshing, and key to an increase in spiritual life, they are not unique to Keswick or to Higher Life doctrine. The historic Baptist doctrine of sanctification has taught all of these truths, and many old-line evangelical Protestants have done so likewise. One can learn all of these great truths from the Bible alone or from Christian writings without any connection with the Keswick movement. For example, J. C. Ryle, the classic nineteenth century devotional writer and opponent of the Keswick theology, wrote:
As to entire “self-consecration” . . . of which so much is said in the new [Keswick] theology . . . I never in my life heard of any thorough evangelical minister who did not hold the doctrine and press it upon others. When a man brings it forward as a novelty I cannot help thinking that he can never have truly known what true conversion was. . . . [T]hat the duty and privilege of entire self-consecration is systematically ignored by Evangelicals, and has only been discovered, or brought into fresh light by the new [Keswick] theologians, I do not for a moment believe.
Nor is the doctrine that sanctification is through faith by any means a Keswick distinctive. The body of non-Keswick Bible-believing Christians hold to this truth:
Sanctification is by faith . . . Whatever believers get from Christ, they must of necessity get by faith . . . faith is the one receptive grace, the sole apprehensive grace, that hand of the soul that lays hold upon Christ, and puts the believer in possession of the fulness that is in him[.] . . . [A]ll gifts of God come from grace, and all come to faith. Grace is the only fountain, faith the only channel. . . . That sanctification is by faith, then, is essentially a principle of Protestant theology, and is no distinctive feature of the new [Keswick] teaching. . . . [T]he doctrine of sanctification by Christ, through faith . . . had quite as prominent a place as is now assigned to it [in the Keswick theology] in the theology and preaching of the Reformers, of the Puritans, of the divines and preachers of the Second Reformation in Scotland . . . of the sturdy old Evangelicals of the English Church . . . and of the equally sturdy Evangelicals of the Nonconformists . . . [a]nd an equally prominent place does it hold in the dogmatic and homiletic and catechetic teaching of our evangelical contemporaries [in the late 19th century] in all sections of the Christian Church. It is not, then, in respect of these fundamental principles that we differ from the new [Keswick] school. On the contrary, we deny that they have any exclusive propriety in these principles[.] . . . [Rather, what is truly distinctive about Keswick is the idea] that there is a special act of faith . . . subsequent to . . . conversion . . . [which] Mr. Boardman calls “second conversion,” [and] Mrs. Smith calls “entire consecration.”
Sanctification by faith is a Biblical teaching that is by no means a Keswick distinctive—only the unscriptural doctrine of the “second blessing,” which is connected with a quietistic idea of sanctification by faith alone, is a Keswick distinctive.
The necessity of experiential communion with Jesus Christ through the Spirit by faith is also by no means a Keswick distinctive. John Owen, who has led many away from Keswick theology to a more Biblical piety, wrote:
[Christians ought to] make this observation of the lively actings of faith and love in and towards Jesus Christ their chiefest concern in all their retirements, yea, in their whole walk before God. . . . [T]he effects of his presence with us, and the manifestation of himself unto us[,] [are as follows:]
(1.) Now the first of these is the life, vigor, and effectual acting of all grace in us. This is an inseparable consequent and effect of a view of his glory. Whilst we enjoy it, we live; nevertheless not we, but Christ lives in us, exciting and acting all his graces in us. This is that which the apostle instructs us in; while “we behold his glory as in a glass, we are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory,” 2 Corinthians 3:18—that is, whilst by faith we contemplate on the glory of Christ as revealed in the gospel, all grace will thrive and flourish in us towards a perfect conformity unto him. For whilst we abide in this view and contemplation, our souls will be preserved in holy frames, and in a continual exercise of love and delight, with all other spiritual affections towards him. It is impossible, whilst Christ is in the eye of our faith as proposed in the Gospel, but that we shall labor to be like him, and greatly love him. Neither is there any way for us to attain unto either of these, which are the great concernments of our souls—namely, to be like unto Christ, and to love him—but by a constant view of him and his glory by faith; which powerfully and effectually works them in us. All the doctrinal knowledge which we have of him is useless, all the view we have of his glory is but fancy, imagination, or superstition, which are not accompanied with this transforming power. And that which is wrought by it, is the increase and vigor of all grace; for therein alone our conformity unto him does consist. Growth in grace, holiness, and obedience, is a growing like unto Christ; and nothing else is so. . . .
This transforming efficacy, from a spiritual view of Christ as proposed in the Gospel . . . [is] the life of religion . . . there must be a view of Christ and his glory, to cause us to love him, and thereby to make us conformable or like unto him . . . [which] is by our beholding his glory by faith, as revealed in the Gospel, and no otherwise. . . . [S]o, unto our stability in the profession of the truth, an experience of the efficacy of this spiritual view of Christ transforming our souls into his own likeness, is absolutely necessary. . . . [T]he beholding of Christ is the most blessed means of exciting all our graces, spiritualizing all our affections, and transforming our minds into his likeness. . . . [I]t is a real experience of the efficacy that there is in the spiritual beholding of the glory of Christ by faith, as proposed in the Gospel, to strengthen, increase, and excite all grace unto its proper exercise, so changing and transforming the soul gradually into his likeness, which must secure us against all [sinful] pretences[.] . . .
[I]f we grow weak in our graces, unspiritual in our frames, cold in our affections, or negligent in the exercise of them by holy meditation, it is evident that [Christ] is at a great distance from us, so as that we do not behold his glory as we ought. If the weather grow cold, herbs and plants do wither, and the frost begins to bind up the earth, all men grant that the sun is withdrawn, and makes not his wonted approach unto us. And if it be so with our hearts, that they grow cold, frozen, withering, lifeless, in and unto spiritual duties, it is certain that the Lord Christ is in some sense withdrawn, and that we do not behold his glory. We retain notions of truth concerning his person, office, and grace; but faith is not in constant exercise as to real views of him and his glory. For there is nothing more certain in Christian experience than this is, that while we do really by faith behold the glory of Christ, as proposed in the Gospel, the glory of his person and office, as before described, and so abide in holy thoughts and meditations thereof, especially in our private duties and retirements, all grace will live and thrive in us in some measure, especially love unto his person, and therein unto all that belongs unto him. Let us but put it to the trial, and we shall infallibly find the promised event. Do any of us find decays in grace prevailing in us—deadness, coldness, lukewarmness, a kind of spiritual stupidity and senselessness coming upon us? Do we find an unreadiness unto the exercise of grace in its proper season, and the vigorous acting of it in duties of communion with God, and would we have our souls recovered from these dangerous diseases? Let us assure ourselves there is no better way for our healing and deliverance, yea, no other way but this alone—namely, the obtaining a fresh view of the glory of Christ by faith, and a steady abiding therein. Constant contemplation of Christ and his glory, putting forth its transforming power unto the revival of all grace, is the only relief in this case[.]
Some will say, that this must be effected by fresh supplies and renewed communications of the Holy Spirit. Unless he fall as dew and showers on our dry and barren hearts—unless he cause our graces to spring, thrive, and bring forth fruit—unless he revive and increase faith, love, and holiness in our souls—our backsliding will not be healed, nor our spiritual state be recovered. . . . And so it is. The immediate efficiency of the revival of our souls is from and by the Holy Spirit. But the inquiry is, in what way, or by what means, we may obtain the supplies and communications of him unto this end. This the apostle declares in [2 Corinthians 3:18]: We, beholding the glory of Christ in a glass, “are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord.” It is in the exercise of faith on Christ . . . that the Holy Spirit puts forth his renewing, transforming power in and upon our souls. This, therefore, is that alone which will retrieve Christians from their present decays and deadness. . . . [The] remedy and relief [of a] . . . dead [and] dull . . . condition . . . is, to live in the exercise of faith in Christ Jesus. This himself assures us of, John 15:4, 5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.”
There is a twofold coming unto Christ by believing. The first is that we may have life—that is, a spring and principle of spiritual life communicated unto us from him: for he is “our life,” Colossians 3:4, and “because he liveth, we live also,” John 14:19. Yea, it is not so much we that live, as he liveth in us, Galatians 2:19, 20. And unbelief is a not coming unto him, that we may have life, John 5:40. But, secondly, there is also a coming unto him by believers in the actual exercise of faith, that they may “have this life more abundantly,” John 10:10; that is, such supplies of grace as may keep their souls in a healthy, vigorous acting of all the powers of spiritual life. And as he reproacheth some that they would not come unto him that they might have life, so he may justly reprove us all, that we do not so come unto him in the actual exercise of faith, as that we might have this life more abundantly.
(2.) When the Lord Christ is near us, and we do behold his glory, he will frequently communicate spiritual refreshment in peace, consolation, and joy unto our souls. We shall not only hereby have our graces excited with respect unto him as their object, but be made sensible of his acting toward us in the communications of himself and his love unto us. When the Sun of Righteousness ariseth on any soul, or makes any near approach thereunto, it shall find “healing under his wings”—his beams of grace shall convey by his Spirit holy spiritual refreshment thereunto. For he is present with us by his Spirit, and these are his fruits and effects, as he is the Comforter, suited unto his office, as he is promised unto us.
Many love to walk in a very careless, unwise profession. So long as they can hold out in the performance of outward duties, they are very regardless of the greatest evangelical privileges—of those things which are the marrow of divine promises—all real endeavors of a vital communion with Christ. Such are spiritual peace, refreshing consolations, ineffable joys, and the blessed composure of assurance. Without some taste and experience of these things, profession is heartless, lifeless, useless; and religion itself a dead carcass without an animating soul. The peace which some enjoy is a mere stupidity. They judge not these things to be real which are the substance of Christ’s present reward; and a renunciation whereof would deprive the church of its principal supportments and encouragements in all its sufferings. It is a great evidence of the power of unbelief, when we can satisfy ourselves without an experience in our own hearts of the great things, in this kind of joy, peace, consolation, assurance, that are promised in the Gospels. For how can it be supposed that we do indeed believe the promises of things future—namely, of heaven, immortality, and glory, the faith whereof is the foundation of all religions—when we do not believe the promises of the present reward in these spiritual privileges? And how shall we be thought to believe them, when we do not endeavor after an experience of the things themselves in our own souls, but are even contented without them? But herein men deceive themselves. They would very desirously have evangelical joy, peace, and assurance, to countenance them in their evil frames and careless walking. And some have attempted to reconcile these things, unto the ruin of their souls. But it will not be. Without the diligent exercise of the grace of obedience, we shall never enjoy the grace of consolation. . . .
It is peculiarly in the view of the glory of Christ, in his approaches unto us, and abiding with us, that we are made partakers of evangelical peace, consolation, joy, and assurances. These are a part of the royal train of his graces, of the reward wherewith he is accompanied. “His reward is with him.” Wherever he is graciously present with any, these things are never wanting in a due measure and degree, unless it be by their own fault, or for their trial. In these things does he give the church of his loves, Song of Solomon 7:12. “For if any man,” saith he, “love me, I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him,” John 14:21—“yea, I and the Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” verse 23; and that so as to “sup with him,” Revelation 3:20—which, on his part, can be only by the communication of those spiritual refreshments. The only inquiry is, by what way and means we do receive them? Now, I say this is in and by our beholding of the glory of Christ by faith, 1 Peter 1:8, 9. Let that glory be rightly stated . . . the glory of his person, his office, his condescension, exaltation, love, and grace; let faith be fixed in a view and contemplation of it, mix itself with it, as represented in the glass of the gospel, meditate upon it, embrace it, and virtue will proceed from Christ, communicating spiritual, supernatural refreshment and joy unto our souls. Yea, in ordinary cases, it is impossible that believers should have a real prospect of this glory at any time, but that it will in some measure affect their hearts with a sense of his love; which is the spring of all consolation in them. In the exercise of faith on the discoveries of the glory of Christ made unto us in the Gospel, no man shall ever totally want such intimations of his love, yea, such effusion of it in his heart, as shall be a living spring of those spiritual refreshments, John 4:14; Romans 5:5.
Such declarations were by no means an exception, centuries before the invention of the Keswick theology, in the Biblically-based piety of Owen and vast numbers of like-minded Christians. He wrote elsewhere:
The . . . daily exercise of faith on Christ as crucified . . . is the great fundamental means of the mortification of sin in general, and which we ought to apply unto every particular instance of it. This the apostle discourseth at large, Romans 6:6-13. “Our old man,” saith he, “is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Our “old man,” or the body of sin, is the power and reign of sin in us. These are to be destroyed; that is, so mortified that “henceforth we should not serve sin,” that we should be delivered from the power and rule of it. This, saith the apostle, is done in Christ: “Crucified with him.” It is so meritoriously, in his actual dying or being crucified for us; it is so virtually, because of the certain provision that is made therein for the mortification of all sin; but it is so actually, by the exercise of faith on him as crucified, dead, and buried, which is the means of the actual communication of the virtue of his death unto us for that end. Herein are we said to be dead and buried with him; whereof baptism is the pledge. So by the cross of Christ the world is crucified unto us, and we are so to the world, Galatians 6:14; which is the substance of the mortification of all sin. There are several ways whereby the exercise of faith on Christ crucified is effectual unto this end: —
(1.) Looking unto him as such will beget holy mourning in us: Zechariah 12:10, “They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and mourn.” . . . A view of Christ as pierced will cause mourning in them that have received the promise of the Spirit of grace and supplication there mentioned. And this mourning is the foundation of mortification. It is that “godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of,” 2 Corinthians 7:10. And mortification of sin is of the essence of repentance. The more believers are exercised in this view of Christ, the more humble they are, the more they are kept in that mourning frame which is universally opposite unto all the interests of sin, and which keeps the soul watchful against all its attempts. Sin never reigned in an humble, mourning soul.
(2.) It is effectual unto the same end by the way of a powerful motive, as that which calls and leads unto conformity to him. This is pressed by the apostle, Romans 6:8-11. Our conformity unto Christ as crucified and dead consists in our being dead unto sin, and thereby overthrowing the reign of it in our mortal bodies. This conformity, saith he, we ought to reckon on as our duty: “Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin;” that is, that you ought so to be, in that conformity which you ought to aim at unto Christ crucified. Can any spiritual eye behold Christ dying for sin, and continue to live in sin? Shall we keep that alive in us which he died for, that it might not eternally destroy us? Can we behold him bleeding for our sins, and not endeavor to give them their death-wound? The efficacy of the exercise of faith herein unto the mortification of sin is known unto all believers by experience.
(3.) Faith herein gives us communion with him in his death, and unites the soul unto it in its efficacy. Hence we are said to be “buried with him into death,” and to be “planted together in the likeness of his death,” Romans 6:4, 5. Our “old man is crucified with him,” verse 6. We have by faith communion with him in his death, unto the death of sin. This, therefore, is the first grace and duty which we ought to attend unto for the mortification of sin.
The precious Biblical truths set forth by Owen are by no means the peculiar perogative of the Keswick theology, as he wrote of them centuries before the Keswick movement came into existence. Just as Owen declares that “efficacy of the exercise of faith . . . unto the mortification of sin is known unto all believers by experience,” and so the necessity of faith for sanctification is by no means a Keswick distinctive.
Perhaps the clearest way to indicate the positive truths affirmed by both Keswick and its critics is to examine the doctrine of sanctification confessed by that staunch advocate of the theology and revivalistic piety of Old Princeton and inveterate opponent of Keswick, B. B. Warfield. Truths confessed by both Keswick and by Warfield can by no means be labeled Keswick distinctives, but would evidently be the common inheritance of classic evangelical spirituality.
Warfield, receiving the truth common to old evangelicalism, emphasized the need to depend on the Christ and the Holy Spirit for strength in sanctification, rather than being self-dependent. Indeed, he recognized such dependence was the very essence of religion: “[The] attitude of trust and dependence on God is just the very essence of religion. In proportion as any sense of self-sufficiency or any dependence on self enters the heart, in that proportion religion is driven from it.” The “central truth of complete dependence upon the free mercy of a saving God,” Warfield affirmed, “is an absolutely essential element in evangelical religion” which “underl[ies] and g[ives] its form and power to the whole . . . movement” and is key to “a great revival of religion.” Warfield recognizes that confusing Christian holiness with mere “righteous conduct and of self-sanctification or moral character-formation,” so that “the individual Christian sanctifies himself,” is part of a view of God, sin, and salvation that is a “profoundly immoral doctrine.” The believer must not rely upon his own works for either justification or sanctification; teaching this, Warfield approvingly cited the “the words of the revival hymn” calling men to “‘cast our deadly doing down’ and make our appeal on the sole score of sheer helplessness . . . [rejecting] . . . self-dependence and [the] power of self-help.” He states that the “very cor cordis of the Gospel” is expressed in the words of the hymn:
Nothing either great or small,
Nothing, sinner, no;
Jesus did it, did it all,
Long, long, ago. . . .
Doing is a deadly thing,
Doing ends in death . . .
Cast your deadly doing down,
Down at Jesus’ feet,
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
Consequently, helpless dependence on the perfectly sufficient Christ is the attitude of the Christian:
[The] characteristic . . . [of] the children of the Kingdom . . . [is to] lay happy and thoughtless . . . in Jesus’ own arms. Their characteristic was just helpless dependence; complete dependence upon the care of those whose care for them was necessary. . . . [T]he Kingdom of heaven is made up of those who are helplessly dependent on the King of the Heavens . . . [like] infants who are to be done for, who can not do for themselves.
[The] evangelical quality of all really evangelical faith [is found in] . . . whoever recognizes in the recesses of his soul his utter dependence on God; whoever in all his thought of salvation hears in his heart of hearts the echo of the soli Deo gloria of the evangelical profession . . . these fundamental principles—which underlie and give its body to all true religion—[ought] to work themselves freely and fully out in thought and feeling and action.
Warfield explained elsewhere that this utter dependence on the Holy Spirit is characteristic of the Christian piety of all Bible-believing Protestant denominations:
The evangelical note is formally sounded by the entirety of organized Protestantism. That is to say, all the great Protestant bodies, in their formal official confessions, agree in confessing the utter dependence of sinful man upon the grace of God alone for salvation, and in conceiving this dependence as immediate and direct upon the Holy Spirit, acting as a person and operating directly on the heart of the sinner. It is this evangelical note which determines the peculiarity of the piety of the Protestant Churches. The characteristic feature of this piety is a profound consciousness of intimate personal communion with God the Saviour, on whom the soul rests with immediate love and trust.
Every single spiritual good comes from the Holy Spirit, Warfield taught, and Biblical religion necessitates utter dependence on Him. Possession of the Spirit is the highest glory of the believer:
[T]he Spirit of God is the author of all right belief and of all good conduct,—to assure us that then, too, on Him depended all the exercises of piety, to Him was due all the holy aspirations and all the good accomplishments of every saint of God. And certainly the New Testament tells us in repeated instances that the Holy Spirit was active throughout the period of the Old Dispensation, in all the varieties of activities which characterize the New. The difference between the two lies not in any difference in the utter dependence of men on Him[.] . . . Paul . . . is full of joy . . . to have . . . God’s Holy Spirit . . . working faith in him[.] . . . He claims no superiority [to other believers] in the matter. If he has a like faith, it is because he is made by God’s grace to share in a like fountain of faith. The one Spirit who works faith is the common possession of them and of him; and therein he finds his highest privilege and his greatest glory. . . . [T]he operations of the Spirit . . . Paul represents as the height of Christian privilege to possess.
Warfield unabashedly identified himself with those in the history of doctrine who were the champions of the grace of God. Self-dependent moralism was the very antithesis of Biblical Christianity:
The champion[s] of grace . . . entire system revolved around the assertion of grace as the sole source of all good in man as truly and as completely as did that of Pelagius around the assertion of the plenary ability of the unaided will to work all righteousness. . . . [W]e are aided by the grace of God, through Christ, not only to know but also to do what is right, in each single act, so that without grace we are unable to have, think, speak, or do anything pertaining to piety[.] The opposition between the two systems was thus absolute. In the one, everything was attributed to man; In the other, everything was ascribed to God. In them, two religions, the only two possible religions at bottom, met in mortal combat: the religion of faith and the religion of works; the religion which despairs of self and casts all its hope on God the Saviour, and the religion which puts complete trust in self; or since religion is in its very nature utter dependence on God, religion in the purity of its conception and a mere quasi-religious moralism.
Rejection of self-dependence, a recognition of the need to trust in the Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit for strength to live the Christian life, and a rejection of sanctification sourced in the believer’s works, is by no means a Keswick distinctive.
Warfield taught that the essence of Christianity is that “all [is] of God and nothing of ourselves”—God’s unmerited love gives His people all. Since “the Christian life as a life” is one “of continuous dissatisfaction with self and of continuous looking afresh to Christ as the ground of all our hope,” believers must always look to the Lord Jesus and depend on Him for grace:
We may rightly bewail our coldness: we may rightly blame ourselves that there is so little response in our hearts to the sight of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, or even to the manifestation of His unspeakable love in the death of His Son. Oh, wretched men that we are to see that bleeding love and not be set on fire with a flame of devotion! But we may be all the more thankful that it is not in our frames and feelings that we are to put our trust. Let us abase ourselves that we so little respond to these great spectacles of the everlasting and unspeakable love of God. But let us ever remember that it is on the love of God and not on our appreciation of it that we are to build our confidence. Jesus our Priest and our Sacrifice, let us keep our eyes set on Him! And though our poor sinful hearts so little know how to yield to that great spectacle the homage of a suitable response, His blood will yet avail even for us.
“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling”—
here—and let us bless God for it—here is the essence of Christianity. It is all of God and nothing of ourselves.
Through the “gospel the eye is withdrawn from self and the face turned upward in loving gratitude to God, the great giver [in a] . . . continual sense of humble dependence on God and of loving trust in Him.” Warfield noted the teaching of Scripture that, in the workings of the Lord towards His people, “[a]t every step it is God, and God alone, to whom is ascribed the initiative; and the most extreme care is taken to preserve the recipients of the blessings consequent on His choice from fancying that these blessings come as their due, or as reward for aught done by themselves, or to be found in themselves.” Nothing was the product of the believer’s own strength; thus, Warfield could encourage believers:
Faint not! It is not your own strength—or rather weakness—that is . . . in question; it is the power of Almighty God. . . . It was of His own purpose that He called you; the grace that has come to you was given you from all eternity. . . . It is this Almighty God who is using you as His instrument and organ. Nothing depends on your weakness; all hangs on His strength.
Since every aspect of salvation was sourced in God alone, Warfield passionately warned of the dangers of self-sufficiency and called upon men to live by faith and to surrender themselves entirely to the Lord:
The very point of this passage [Habbakuk 2:4] is the sharp contrast which is drawn between arrogant self-sufficiency and faithful dependence on God . . . [I]t is by faith that the righteous man lives . . . the righteous appear . . . as men who look in faith to God and trustingly depend upon His arm. . . . Here we have, therefore, thrown into a clear light the contrasting characteristics of the wicked, typified by the Chaldæan, and of the righteous: of the one the fundamental trait is self-sufficiency; of the other, faith. This faith, which forms the distinctive feature of the righteous man, and by which he obtains life . . . is a profound and abiding disposition, an ingrained attitude of mind and heart towards God which affects and gives character to all the activities.
Indeed, “[T]he very core of Old Testament religion . . . [is] entire self-commitment to God [and] humble dependence on Him for all blessings,” so “[s]elf-sufficiency is the characteristic mark of the wicked . . . while the mark of the righteous is that he lives by his faith (Hab. 2:4).” Warfield wrote that trusting in God and rejecting self-dependence was not just the very core of Old Testament true religion, but of all true religion in any dispensation whatever: “Now this attitude of trust and dependence on God is just the very essence of religion. In proportion as any sense of self-sufficiency or any dependence on self enters the heart, in that proportion religion is driven from it.” Consequently, Warfield extolled those in church history he understood as recognizing that the essence of true religion is dependence on God, despair of any confidence in themselves, and rejection of mere religious moralism. Such an understanding is key to being filled with love and joy in believing:
Self-despair, humble trust, grateful love, fullness of joy—these are the steps on which his own soul climbed upward: and these steps gave their whole color and form both to his piety and to his teaching. In his doctrine we see his experience of God’s seeking and saving love toward a lost sinner expressing itself in propositional form; in his piety we see his conviction that the sole hope of the sinner lies in the free grace of a loving God expressing itself in the forms of feeling. In doctrine and life alike he sets before us in that effective way which belongs to the discoverer, the religion of faith as over against the religion of works—the religion which despairing of self casts all its hope on God as over against the religion that to a greater or less degree trusts in itself: in a word, since religion in its very nature is dependence on God, religion in the purity of its conception as over against a quasi-religious moralism. . . . [W]e are admitted into the very life of [the godly man] and are permitted to see his great heart cleansing itself of all trust in himself and laying hold with the grasp first of despair, then of discerning trust and then of grateful love upon the God who [is] his salvation . . . [such truths have] perennial attractiveness and [the] supreme position . . . [for] edification.
Warfield believed that the advocates of system of doctrine he embraced were in a special way “called upon to defend the treasures of truth that had been committed to the[m] from the inroads of that perpetual foe of the grace of God which is entrenched in the self-sufficiency of the natural heart.” Warfield believed that part of his calling as a defender of the faith was, in a special way, to fight against that awful foe, self-sufficiency. He wrote: “As over against all teaching that would tempt man to trust in himself for any, even the smallest part, of his salvation, Christianity casts him utterly on God. It is God and God alone who saves, and that in every element of the saving process.” Justification, sanctification, glorification, and everything else in the doctrine of salvation was all sourced in God, not in man himself. Since every aspect of salvation comes from God, Christian life involves despairing of confidence in oneself and a humble and joyful trust in the Lord alone. B. B. Warfield, and the old evangelical piety of his theological tradition, emphasized these truths—they were by no means the peculiar possession of the Kewick theology.
Warfield embraced and warmly advocated the life of faith as the distinctive mark of true piety, affirming the centrality of living by faith not only in the New Testament, but in the Old also:
[F]rom the very beginning the distinctive feature of the life of the pious is that it is a life of faith[.] . . . Thus the first recorded human acts after the Fall . . . are expressive of trust in God’s promise . . . in the great promise of the Seed (Gen. 3:15). Similarly, the whole story of the Flood is so ordered as to throw into relief, on the one hand, the free grace of God in His dealings with Noah (Gen. 6:8, 18, 8:1, 21, 9:8), and, on the other, the determination of Noah’s whole life by trust in God and His promises (Gen. 6:22, 7:5, 9:20). The open declaration of the faith-principle of Abraham’s life (Gen. 15:6) only puts into words, in the case of him who stands at the root of Israel’s whole national and religious existence, what not only might also be said of all the patriarchs, but what actually is most distinctly said both of Abraham and of them through the medium of their recorded history. The entire patriarchal narrative is set forth with the design and effect of exhibiting the life of the servants of God as a life of faith, and it is just by the fact of their implicit self-commitment to God that throughout the narrative the servants of God are differentiated from others. This does not mean, of course, that with them faith took the place of obedience: an entire self-commitment to God which did not show itself in obedience to Him would be self-contradictory, and the testing of faith by obedience is therefore a marked feature of the patriarchal narrative. But it does mean that faith was with them the precondition of all obedience. The patriarchal religion is essentially a religion, not of law but of promise, and therefore not primarily of obedience but of trust; the holy walk is characteristic of God’s servants (Gen. 5:22, 24, 6:9, 17:1, 24:40, 48:15), but it is characteristically described as a walk “with God”; its peculiarity consisted precisely in the ordering of life by entire trust in God, and it expressed itself in conduct growing out of this trust (Gen. 3:20, 4:1, 6:22, 7:5, 8:18, 12:4, 17:23, 21:12, 16, 22). The righteousness of the patriarchal age was thus but the manifestation in life of an entire self-commitment to God, in unwavering trust in His promises. . . . The piety of the Old Testament thus began with faith.
Indeed, “faith . . . on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God’s side.”Consequently, the Christian must continually trust and look to God through Christ in every area of his daily life, for not to do so is “practical atheism.” Believers are to commit all their cares, burdens, and needs to the Lord, trusting that He will take care of them:
There is a formal atheism of opinions and words and reasonings which declares that there is no God and seeks to sophisticate the understanding into believing that there is none. This the Bible describes as an open folly: the fool has said in his heart, There is no God. But even when the lip and the mind behind the lip are true to right reason and confess that there is a God who rules the world and to whom we are responsible in our every thought and word and deed, there is often a practical atheism that lives as if there were no God. Formal atheism denies God; practical atheism is guilty of the possibly even more astounding sin of forgetting the God it confesses. How many men who would not think of saying even in their hearts, There is no God, deny Him practically by ordering their lives as if He were not? And even among those who yield, in their lives, a practical as well as a formal acknowledgment of God, many yet manage, practically, to deny in their lives that this God, acknowledged and served, is the Lord of all the earth. How prone we are to limit and circumscribe the sphere in which we practically allow for God! We feel His presence and activity in some things but not in others; we seek His blessing in some matters but not in others; we look for His guidance in some affairs but not in others; we can trust Him in some crises and with some of our hopes but not in or with others. This too is a practical atheism. And it is against all such practical atheism that [Matthew 6:33] enters its protest. . . . It protests against men reckoning in anything without God.
How are we to order our lives? How are we to provide for our households—or, for our own bodily wants? Is it true that we can trust the eternal welfare of our souls to God and cannot trust to Him the temporal welfare of our bodies? Is it true that He has provided salvation for us at the tremendous cost of the death of His Son, and will not provide food for us to eat and clothes for us to wear at the cost of the directive word that speaks and it is done? Is it true that we can stand by the bedside of our dying friend and send him forth into eternity in good confidence in God, and cannot send that same friend forth into the world with any confidence that God will keep him there? O, the practical atheism of many of our earthly cares and earthly anxieties! Can we not read the lessons of the birds of heaven and the lilies of the field which our Father feeds and clothes? What a rebuke these lessons are to our practical atheism, which says, in effect, that we cannot trust God for our earthly prosperity but must bid Him wait until we make good our earthly fortunes before we can afford to turn to Him. How many men do actually think that it is unreasonable to serve God at the expense of their business activity? To give Him their first and most energetic service? How many think it would be unreasonable in God to put His service before their provision for themselves and family? How many of us who Have been able to “risk” ourselves, do not think that we can “risk” our families in God’s keeping? How subtle the temptations! But, here our Lord brushes them all away in the calm words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; land all these things shall be added unto you.” Is this not a rebuke to our practical atheism?
The need to daily—indeed, constantly—live by faith, looking always to the Lord in confident trust, is by no means a Keswick distinctive. It is a glorious truth held in common by classic Baptist and old evangelical piety, one fervently proclaimed for many centuries before the origin of the Higher Life theology.
Warfield emphasized the need for surrender and consecration to Christ. He rejoiced that the Bible revealed to him “a Christ to love, to trust and to follow, a Christ without us the ground of our salvation, a Christ within us the hope of glory.” Indeed, Warfield taught that “[s]urrender and consecration . . . are the twin key-notes of the Christian life.”Divine blessing in Christian ministry depends upon surrender and consecration, and in proportion as they are emphasized may the Christian hope for success: “[O]ur life as ministers of the Gospel is nothing else but one side of our Christian life—the flower and fruit of our Christian life—[so] surrender and consecration must be made also its notes. It is in direct proportion as they are made its key-notes that we may hope for success in our ministry[.]” Surrender and consecration can by no means be divorced from faith—they are inextricably bound together: “[T]he two essential elements of all religion [are] surrender and consecration—the passive and active aspects of that faith which on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God’s side, when dealing with sinful men.” Warfield also recognized the absolute need for the strength of the Holy Spirit to enable surrender and consecration; God the Spirit’s work is always primary and initiatory, while the believer’s response is dependent upon Divine working. Therefore, on account of the believer’s weakness, constant dependence upon God, prayer to Him, and constant empowerment from the Holy Ghost is absolutely necessary:
Thus, then, the Spirit helps our weakness. By His hidden, inner influences He quickens us to the perception of our real need; He frames in us an infinite desire for this needed thing; He leads us to bring this desire in all its unutterable strength before God; who, seeing it within our hearts, cannot but grant it, as accordant with His will. Is not this a very present help in time of trouble? As prevalent a help as if we were miraculously rescued from any danger? And yet a help wrought through the means of God’s own appointment, that is, our attitude of constant dependence on Him and our prayer to Him for His aid? And could Paul here have devised a better encouragement to the saints to go on in their holy course and fight the battle bravely to the end?
Indeed, as Warfield emphasized that believers are always weak and in need of the enablement of the Spirit, so he taught that Christians are always unworthy and always in continual need of God’s grace. Anything good in them whatsoever must be ascribed, not to themselves, but to grace alone, received from the Holy Spirit alone “[e]very grace of the godly life . . . [is] a fruit of His working.” Warfield explained:
It belongs to the very essence of the type of Christianity propagated by the Reformation that the believer should feel himself continuously unworthy of the grace by which he lives. At the center of this type of Christianity lies the contrast of sin and grace; and about this center everything else revolves. This is in large part the meaning of the emphasis put in this type of Christianity on justification by faith. It is its conviction that there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace. Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just “miserable sinners”: “miserable sinners” saved by grace to be sure, but “miserable sinners” still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath. That is the attitude which the Reformers took, and that is the attitude which the Protestant world has learned from the Reformers to take, toward the relation of believers to Christ.
Since every aspect of salvation, whether justification, sanctification, or glorification, arises purely from the grace decreed by the Father, purchased by the Son, and applied by the Holy Ghost, the believer’s spiritual strengthening is not a self-dependent moralism, but is sourced in the Son and wrought by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of faith:
[S]piritual strengthening is contingent on, or let us rather say, is dependent on the abiding presence of Christ in their hearts. The indwelling Christ is the source of the Christian’s spiritual strength. This is, of course, not to set aside the Holy Spirit. But he has read his New Testament to little purpose who would separate the Holy Spirit and Christ: Christ abides in the heart by the Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost is the means of the indwelling of Christ and the two are one and the same great fact. We are strengthened in the inner man with might by the Holy Spirit, because by the operation of the Spirit in our hearts, Christ abides there—thus and not otherwise. And here we learn then the source of the Christian’s strength. Christ is the ultimate source. His indwelling is the ground of all our strength. But it is only by the Spirit—the executive of the Godhead in this sphere too—that Christ dwells in the heart. It is the Spirit that strengthens us, and He so strengthens us that He gives us “might” in our inner man. The way He does this is by forming Christ within us.
The Apostle [Paul] is one of the most fecund writers extant, and thus it happens that he does not leave the matter even there. It is by the Spirit that Christ dwells in us—that is the objective fact. But there is a subjective fact too, and the Apostle does not fail to touch it—it is by our faith, too, that Christ dwells in us. “That Christ may abide in your hearts by your faith,” he says. He does not say “by faith” merely, though he might well have said that, and it would have covered the whole necessary idea. But, in his habitual fullness of expression, he puts in the article, and thus implies that he recognizes their faith as already existent. They are Christians, they already believe, Christ is already dwelling in them by faith; he prays that He may abide in them by their faith. The stress is everywhere laid on continuance. May God strengthen your inner man, he says, by His Spirit. That is to say, he adds, may that Christ whom ye have received into your hearts by faith abide continuously in your hearts by that faith of yours. As much as to say, Christ is brought into your hearts by the Holy Ghost. He abides there by that Holy Ghost. May God thus continually strengthen your hearts by His Spirit, and that, even with might. I pray to Him for it, for it is He that gives it. But do not think, therefore, that you may lose hold on Christ. It is equally true that He abides in your hearts by your faith. When faith fails, so do the signs of His presence within: the strengthening of the Spirit and the steady burning of the flame of faith are correlative. As well expect the thermometer to stand still with the temperature varying as the height of your faith not to index the degree of your strength. Your strength is grounded in the indwelling Christ, wrought by the Spirit by means of faith.
Thus we have laid before us the sources of the Christian’s strength. It is rooted in Christ, the Christ within us, abiding there by virtue of the Spirit’s action quickening and upholding faith in us. And only as by the Spirit our faith is kept firm and clear, will Christ abide in us, and will we accordingly be strong in the inner man.
Evangelical piety has long recognized the necessity of surrender and consecration to Christ, the believer’s continual weakness and need for grace, and the supernatural Divine source of all spiritual growth in the Triune God. Keswick theology did not contribute any new Scriptural teaching or new positive emphasis in relation to these blessed truths.
Warfield also recognized, because of the absolute dependence of the Christian on God and His grace, the supreme importance of prayer. The believer is to live in perpetual communion with God and to seek Him earnestly in prayer:
The thing for us to do is to pray without ceasing; once having come into the presence of God, never to leave it; to abide in His presence and to live, steadily, unbrokenly, continuously, in the midst of whatever distractions or trials, with and in Him. God grant such a life to every one of us! . . .
We must not undervalue the purely subjective or reflex effects of prayer. They are of the highest benefit to us. Much less must we undervalue the objective effects of prayer. In them lies the specific meaning of that exercise of prayer which we call petition. But the heart of the matter lies in every case in the communion with God which the soul enjoys in prayer. This is prayer itself, and in it is summed up what is most blessed in prayer. If it be man’s chief end to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever, then man has attained his end, the sole purpose for which he was made, the entire object for which he exists, when he enters into communion with God, abides in His presence, streaming out to Him in all the emotions, I do not say appropriate to a creature in the presence of his Maker and Lord, apprehended by him as the Good Lord and Righteous Ruler of the souls of men, but appropriate to the sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son and is inhabited by His Spirit and apprehends his Maker as also his Saviour, his Governor as also his Lover, and knows the supreme joy of him that was lost and is found, was dead and is alive again,—and all, through the glory of God’s seeking and saving love. He who attains to this experience has attained all that is to be attained. He is absorbed in the beatific vision. He that sees God shall be like Him. . . .
If there is a God who sits aloft and hears and answers, do we not see that the attitude into which prayer brings the soul is the appropriate attitude which the soul should occupy to Him, and is the truest and best preparation of the soul for the reception of His grace? The soul in the attitude of prayer is like the flower turned upwards towards the sky and opening for the reception of the life-giving rain. What is prayer but an adoring appearing before God with a confession of our need and helplessness and a petition for His strength and blessing? What is prayer but a recognition of our dependence and a proclamation that all that we dependent creatures need is found abundantly and to spare in God, who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not? What is prayer but the very adjustment of the heart for the influx of grace? Therefore it is that we look upon the prayerful attitude as above all others the true Christian attitude—just because it is the attitude of devout and hopeful dependence on God.
Warfield called believers to a passionate and intimate life of fellowship with their Triune Redeemer in prayer. Conscious, direct, and intimate fellowship with the Triune God through the Holy Spirit, and immediate dependence on Him, is the distinguishing mark that separates evangelical piety from false systems such as sacerdotalism and which gives true Christianity its joy and power:
[T]he sacerdotal system separates the soul from direct contact with and immediate dependence upon God the Holy Spirit as the source of all its gracious activities. . . . The Church, the means of grace, take the place of God the Holy Spirit in the thought of the Christian, and he thus loses all the joy and power which come from conscious direct communion with God. It makes every difference to the religious life, and every difference to the comfort and assurance of the religious hope, whether we are consciously dependent upon instrumentalities of grace, or upon God the Lord himself, experienced as personally present to our souls, working salvation in his loving grace. The two types of piety, fostered by dependence on instrumentalities of grace and by conscious communion with God the Holy Spirit as a personal Saviour, are utterly different, and the difference from the point of view of vital religion is not favorable to sacerdotalism. It is in the interests of vital religion, therefore, that the Protestant spirit repudiates sacerdotalism. And it is this repudiation which constitutes the very essence of evangelicalism. Precisely what evangelical religion means is immediate dependence of the soul on God and on God alone for salvation.
Keswick teaching on prayer and fellowship with God added nothing to the store of Biblical truth already possessed and treasured by traditional evangelical piety.
Warfield taught that the believer must be filled with and empowered by the Spirit—the Spirit-filled life was the goal of Apostolic piety, and it was the goal towards which the Princeton theologian likewise pointed men:
It is only in our Head that the victory is now complete: in us who are members, it appears as yet only in part: and it is only when we put off our flesh, according to which we are liable to infirmity, that we shall be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
On the basis of this great declaration the Apostle erects, then, his exhortation. Nor is he content to leave it in a negative, or merely inferential form. In the accomplishment of the Spirit-filled life he sees the goal, and he speaks it out in a final urgency of exhortation into which he compresses the whole matter: “Having, therefore, such promises as these (note the emphasis), beloved,” he says, “let us purify ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in the fear of God.” It is perfection, we perceive, that the Apostle is after for his followers; and he does not hesitate to raise this standard before the eyes of his readers as their greatest incitement to effort. They must not be content with a moderate attainment in the Christian life. They must not say to themselves, O, I guess I am Christian enough, although I’m not too good to do as other men do. They must, as they have begun in the Spirit, not finish in the flesh; but must go on unto perfection.
The work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential in every aspect of salvation:
Let us remind ourselves moreover that the matters which fall under discussion here are of the order of what the Bible calls “things of the Spirit,” things which are not to be had at all except as imparted by the Holy Ghost; and that it is therefore peculi