KESWICK’S AUTHENTIC VOICE
SIXTY-FIVE DYNAMIC ADDRESSES DELIVERED AT THE KESWICK CONVENTION
Selected and edited by
HERBERT F. STEVENSON
Editor: the life of faith, the Keswick week
ZONDERVAN PUBLISHING HOUSE
GRAND RAPIDS MICHIGAN
KESWICK AND ITS MESSAGE. 10
I. SIN IN THE BELIEVER. 19
SIN. Rev. H. W. Webb-Peploe, M.A. 26
THE SIN OF HABITUAL UNBELIEF. Rev. A. T. Pierson, D.D. 36
THE “TOTAL ABSTINENCE” OF THE GOSPEL. Rev. Handley C. G. Moule, M.A. 46
THE VISION OF GOD. Rev. John Smith, D.D. 51
GO . . . THEN COME. Rev. F. B. Meyer, B.A. 60
THE UNVEILING OF THE CARNAL. Rev. Charles Inwood. 64
THE MINISTRY OF CONSCIENCE. Rev. Harrington C. Lees, M.A. 72
THE NEGLECTED VINEYARD. Rev. W. H. Aldis. 83
A WILD BULL IN A NET. Rev. W. W. Martin, M.A. 89
A PERIL OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY. Rev. George B. Duncan, M.A. 95
THOU ART THE MAN! Rev. Alan Redpath. 102
COUNTERFEIT CONSECRATION. Rev. Charles Inwood. 109
DEFECTIVE CONSECRATION. Rev. Douglas Brown. 116
II. GOD’S REMEDY FOR SIN. 127
GRACE. Rev. H. W. Webb-Peploe, M.A. 135
THE MASTER IS COME! Rev. Charles A. Fox, M.A. 142
DELIVERANCE FROM THE LAW OF SIN. Rev. Evan H. Hopkins. 148
THREEFOLD DELIVERANCE. Rev. Evan H. Hopkins. 153
CHRIST THE CLEANSER. Rev. H. B. Macartney, M.A. 158
THE CONDITIONS ON WUCH GOD CLEANSES. Rev, Harrington C. Lees, M.A. 166
THE SUFFICIENCY OF GRACE. Pastor Otto Stockmayer 172
GOD CAN—GOD WILL! Rev. G. H. C. Macgregor, M.A. 177
THE GOD OF JACOB. Rev. C. G. Moore, M.A. 183
GO TO BETHEL, AND DWELL THERE. Rev. F. B. Meyer, B.A. 191
THE BLESSED LIFE. Rt. Rev. Bishop J. Taylor-Smith, C.V.O., D.D. 196
A SUMMONS TO NEWNESS OF LIFE. Rev. Alexander Smellie, M.A., D.D. 204
ENDURING TEMPTATION. Rt. Rev. Bishop J. H. Linton, D.D. 211
THE HEAVENLY PHYSICIAN. Rev. W. W. Martin, M.A. 219
IF I WASH THEE NOT. Rev. George B. Duncan, M.A. 226
III. CONSECRATION. 232
THE CHRISTIAN’S WALK. Rev. H. W. Webb-Peploe, M.A. 240
THE DEPENDENCE OF FAITH. Murray Shipley. 244
TRUST AND OBEY. Rev. George R. Thornton, M.A. 247
HOW TO WALK MORE CLOSELY WITH GOD. Canon T. D. Harford-Battersby, M.A. 250
EXCEPT A CORN OF WHEAT… DIE… Rev. Charles A. Fox, M.A. 259
WITH THE WHOLE HEART. Pasteur Theodore Monod. 266
THE SOUL-THIRST OF JESUS. Rev. George C. Grubb, M.A. 271
THE PATHWAY TO THE HIGHER LIFE. Rev. Andrew Murray, D.D. 276
THE PATH AND THE POWER. Rev. Evan H. Hopkins. 285
THIRSTY CHRISTIANS. Canon W. Hay H. M. Aitken, M. A. 291
ORDEAL BY FIRE. Rev. E. W. Moore, M.A. 300
KNOWING AND SHOWING. Rev. W. H. Griffith Thomas, M.A., D.D. 307
CRISIS AND PROCESS. Rev. Evan H. Hopkins. 314
IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST. Rev. J. Gregory Mantle. 320
THE TRANSFIGURED LIFE. Rev. Charles Inwood. 328
THE FAITH CHRIST SEEKS. Rev. J. Stuart Holden, M.A. 336
BUT IF NOT… Rev. J. Stuart Holden, M.A. 344
NOW, THEN, DO IT! Rev. W. Graham Scroggie. 352
THE DAY-BY-DAY CHRISTIAN LIFE. 359
THE EVERYDAY CHRISTIAN LIFE. Fred Mitchell 374
IV. THE SPIRIT-FILLED LIFE. 380
THE BLESSED LIFE. Canon T. D. Harford-Battersby, M.A. 389
BLESSED EXPERIENCE. Rev. J. Elder Cumming, D.D. 392
ANOINTED WITH FRESH OIL Rev. E. W. Moore, M.A. 399
THAT GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL Rev. Andrew Murray, D.D. 403
GOD’S GIFT OF HOLINESS Rev. Evan H. Hopkins. 414
THE SPIRIT OF BURNING Rev. R. A. Torrey, D.D. 421
THE INBREATHED SPIRIT Rev. A. T. Pierson. D.D. 430
THE FULNESS OF THE SPIRIT Rev. Evan H. Hopkins. 437
THE SECRETS OF POWER Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, D.D. 442
CHRISTIAN LIFE AND CHRISTIAN LIVING Rev. W. Y. Fullerton. 454
THE GLORY OF THE CROSS Rev. A. C. Dixon, D.D. 466
THE CROWNING DAY Dr. S. D. Gordon. 475
GOD’S GIFT TO BELIEVERS Rev. J. Russell Howden, B.D. 481
ABOUNDING LIFE Rev. W. Graham Scroggie, D.D. 485
GOD’S INSTRUMENTS Rev. Hubert Brooke, M.A. 491
ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE Rev. Handley C. G. Moule, M.A. 496
SPEAKING FOR GOD Rev. J. Elder Gumming, D.D. 500
HELP FROM EARTH AND HEAVEN
We who are called apart to hills and dales
Where in each sunrise God is speaking clear,
Where from each sunset’s glow we seem to hear
The songs of wreathed angels, the all-hails
Of bright-winged seraphims—may watch the sails
Of yonder boat that steals across the mere,
And know that to the haven as we steer
For us the invisible power of God prevails.
Lo! to the mountains, as we lift our eyes,
For help we feel th’ Almighty arms are spread;
To bring us peace, the lake and field and grove
Proclaim a Father’s mercy and His love;
While, from the tireless stars, at night is shed
The joy of those who watch in Paradise.
H. D. RAWNSLEY
This poem was written by Canon H. D. Rawnsley, vicar of Crosth waite, Keswick, 1886-1920, and co-founder with Octavia Hill of the National Trust, as the frontispiece of the book The Keswick Convention, Its Message, Its Method and Its Men, edited by Dr. Charles F. Harford.
Several books have been written upon the Keswick Convention and its message, but this volume is distinctive from them all in that it presents the sequence of teaching given at Keswick as contained in outstanding addresses delivered from the Convention platform throughout its history. Many of these are taken from the earlier years, when the teaching of Keswick came as a newly re-discovered revelation from God, to a generation hungering and thirsting for holiness of life and power in Christian service. The speakers were men whose lives had been transformed by this message they now so gladly and convincingly proclaimed. Other addresses represent every era throughout the Convention’s eight decades, right to our own day. These reveal the consistency of the message delivered, and that Keswick remains unswervingly true to its original vision and commission. Here we have indeed “Keswick’s authentic voice.”
My Saviour, Thou hast offered rest:
Oh, give it then to me;
The rest of ceasing from myself,
To find my all in Thee.
This cruel self, oh, how it strives
And works within my breast,
To come between Thee and my soul,
And keep me back from rest.
How many subtle forms it takes
Of seeming verity,
As if it were not safe to rest
And venture all on Thee.
O Lord, I seek a holy rest,
A victory over sin!
I seek that Thou alone shouldst reign
O’er all without, within.
In Thy strong hand I lay me down,
So shall the work be done:
For who can work so wondrously
As the Almighty One?
Work on, then, Lord, till on my soul
Eternal light shall break,
And, in Thy likeness perfected,
I “satisfied” shall wake.
Evan H. Hopkins
The Rev. A. T. Houghton, M.A.
Chairman Keswick Convention Council
“The Christian public is greatly indebted to the Rev. H. F. Stevenson for his labour of love in culling from the past records, from 1875 onwards, some of the outstanding addresses, and thus presenting us with this valuable book, accurately described as Keswick’s Authentic Voice.”
J. Oswald Sanders
General Director China Inland Mission
“This volume gives the Christian world the distilled essence of the teaching of Keswick, a message which for more than eighty years has brought spiritual emancipation to scores of thousands. Here is the theory of sanctification lucidly expressed, but with a guide to its practical experience. The message of Keswick has brought untold blessing to the home churches and has sparked missionary endeavour the world over.”
Rev. Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse
Editor-in-Chief, Eternity Magazine, Philadelphia
“The unique ministry of Keswick has been to call the attention of the Christian world to life in the Holy Spirit. A theologian who has followed the reports of the past three-quarters of a century would quickly recognize that many phases of the doctrine of holiness have been presented by a wide variety of speakers, some of them contradictory. Keswick teaching certainly does not have the ‘party line’ spirit, which is extremely important as the Holy Spirit does not express Himself in rigid legalistic forms which would deliver the individual from full personal responsibility to the leading of the Lord.
“The Editor of Keswick7s Authentic Voice is to be commended highly for his selection of the sixty-five addresses in this volume, all of which point the believer away from himself to the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.”
Rev. Alan Redpath
Pastor, Moody Churchy Chicago
“The emphasis on New Testament holiness of life is more urgently needed than anything else today, in order that the Christian Church may witness both by life and by lip to the power of our risen Saviour in personal living. Only as this is realized can those without Christ be effectively challenged with the message of the Gospel. I trust that this book will have the wide circulation which it so clearly deserves.”
KESWICK AND ITS MESSAGE
Most movements have roots reaching back into the era before their actual inception. So it is with the Keswick Convention. Long before the first gatherings in a tent erected in a field adjoining the grounds of St. John’s Vicarage, Keswick, in 1875, which proved to be the initiation of the renowned annual assembly, the teachings concerning the “deepening of the spiritual life” now associated with the name of Keswick had been both exemplified in the lives of Christian people of many races and generations, and set forth in books in various languages. But the most amazing phenomenon of Church history is the way in which vital doctrines have become forgotten and temporarily “lost.” It was so with the very central truth of the Christian faith, which was obscured and buried under the teachings and trappings of Rome until Martin Luther re-discovered it in the glorious phrase “justified by faith”; and likewise the equally clear presentation in Scripture of the “life more abundant” in Christ has been strangely neglected—not only in mediaeval times, but right until the middle of the last century. Yet Luther himself had gone on from justification by faith to “the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ”; and in our own country a book published toward the end of the seventeenth century, by a Puritan divine, the Rev. Walter Marshall, contained all that Keswick later re-minted in present-day language. It is amazing that this obscure Fellow of Winchester College should have come through personal study of the Scriptures to so clear an understanding of an aspect of truth generally disregarded. His book has a cumbrous title, characteristic of those days—“The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Opened in Sundry Practical Directions Suited Especially to the Cases of those who Labour under the Guilt and Power of Indwelling Sin.” This is, of course, customarily abbreviated to its first phrase—The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. Remarkable as this book is, its author had no idea of proclaiming anything new: his purpose was solely to present, simply and clearly, what the Scriptures have to say on the subject of sanctification. And his book ran through several editions. There was accordingly nothing at all original about the message of Keswick: yet it came with a freshness and vitality almost amounting to a new revelation from on high to a generation which had neglected this glorious fulness of the divine provision for holy living.
Keswick was an indirect outcome of the 1859 Revival. Spiritual awakening brings incalculable blessings in its train—far more widespread and remarkable than even the most visionary of the people of God conceive. The life and destiny of nations are profoundly affected by it, as well as the devotion and zeal of the Church. The Revival of 1859 lifted the entire tone of life in both America and Great Britain, and set in motion dynamic forces of social reform, the impetus of which is with us still. One of the most notable effects, however, was to awaken a sense of spiritual poverty and powerlessness in the hearts and minds of men and women who in ordinary times would have been regarded as outstanding in saintliness and spiritual fervour. Such a consciousness of lack could not be ignored or suppressed in times of such intense spiritual conviction and reality—as awareness of shortcoming is too often and too easily condoned today. The quest for victory over every known besetment, and for fulness of power in Christian service, led to a re-examination of the Scriptural teaching concerning holiness. And God, who awakened the sense of need and desire, provided the answer.
It was in America that re-discovery was made of the full heritage of the Church; and Dr. W. E. Broadman gave it early expression in his famous book The Higher Christian Life, which made a deep impression and met a widely-felt need. In it he recounted the experiences and teaching of Luther and of Dr. Merle D’Aubigne, the historian of the Reformation, and many others, including Wesley and General Havelock from our own land. The teaching was eagerly welcomed and widely disseminated—at meetings convened for the purpose, and through books; and among its most gifted exponents were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith, a Quaker couple who had “come into the blessing” and later joined the Presbyterian Church: it was they who became its missionaries to Europe—bringing back the message which America had so gladly embraced from Europe, but long neglected here! Not only were both eloquent speakers, but Mrs; Pearsall Smith—known by her pen-name of Hannah Whitall Smith— was also an able writer, and her book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life is still a classic of “Keswick” teaching.
Among a number of gatherings they addressed in different parts of this country in 1873, was one small in attendance but significant in its outcome, at Curzon Chapel, London; for among the sixteen or so present were two destined to take a foremost part in the future Conventions at Keswick—the Revs. Evan H. Hopkins and E. W. Moore. Mrs. Hopkins tells how on returning home, her husband was “like one looking out on a land wide and beautiful, flowing with milk and honey. That it was to be possessed, and that it was his”; while Mr. Moore wrote long afterwards, “from that little meeting, as from an obscure source and spring, the stream of Keswick teaching and influence, which has gone round the world since then, may truly be said to have taken its rise.”
In the following year a six-days’ conference was held at Broad- lands, near Romsey, Hants, the country seat of the Rt. Hon. W. Cowper-Temple, M.P. (afterwards Lord Mount-Temple), and now the home of Lord and Lady Mountbatten, where our Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spent part of their honeymoon. Among the hundred guests were eminent people in all walks of life. So deep an impression was made by the addresses given, that hearts were stirred to their depths, and many present entered into a richer spiritual experience than ever before, transforming their lives and ministries. Among such was a visitor from the Continent, Pasteur Theodore Monod, who during that memorable week wrote his moving hymn, “Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow.” Like water upon a thirsty land, the message came with all the power and blessing of the Gospel heard in its fulness for the first time. Here was the answer to the longing for victory over sin; the provision for holiness of life and power in the Master’s service. Self-accusation in the consciousness of shortcoming and defeat was silenced in the new-found liberty of the sons of God; angularities of character and conduct were subdued by the Spirit of grace; barrenness in witness gave place to fertility and fruitfulness.
Like two of old who found great spoil, these privileged few exclaimed, “This is a day of good tidings … now therefore come and tell. . . So they arranged a larger conference, at Oxford, shortly afterwards—August 29th to September 7th, 1874. A large and representative company gathered, including a number of prominent Evangelical leaders from the Continent. Similar blessing was experienced here as at Broadlands. “God hath visited His people!” a contemporary report declared; “God has opened the windows of heaven, and is pouring out a blessing that there shall not be room to receive it!” It was indeed akin to Revival—yet not in convicting and converting the unsaved, but in bringing the children of God into “life more abundant.” One of these was Canon T. D. Harford-Battersby, vicar of St. John’s, Keswick, a devout man who was yet unsatisfied with his own spiritual life. While the Rev. Evan Hopkins was speaking on the healing of the nobleman’s son, and describing the differences between a seeking and a resting faith, the Canon said to himself, “I will rest m Him.” Later he testified, “I got a revelation of Christ to my soul, so extraordinary, glorious and precious, that from that day it illuminated my life. I found He was all I wanted. I shall never forget it; the day and hour are present with me. How it humbled me, and yet what peace it brought!”
A still larger Convention was held in Brighton in the early summer of 1875, when remarkable scenes were witnessed. That gathering is scarcely in the genealogy of “Keswick,” however, although it was one of its most notable fore-runners. During it, with the needs of the North principally in mind, Canon Harford-Battersby and a prominent Quaker, Mr. Robert Wilson, arranged for a series of “union meetings for the promotion of practical holiness” to be held at Keswick, from July29th, 18757 at which Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith were to be the principal speakers. A breakdown on the part of Mr. Smith not only prevented his keeping this engagement at the last minute, but obliged him to retire from public ministry. Nothing daunted, the conveners secured other speakers for the meetings at Keswick, notably the Rev. H. W. Webb-Peploe—who from that first year became a dominating figure on the Keswick platform, and remained so, for almost half a century.
With the withdrawal of the American couple who had been so signally used of God in conferences held at so many different centres throughout the land, the movement became focused in the Keswick Convention, which grew steadily from year to year in numbers and influence. Canon Harford-Battersby presided until his Homecall in 1883; but perhaps the outstanding personality both on the platform and behind the scenes was the Rev. Evan H. Hopkins, the “theologian” of Keswick, who more than any other man defined its distinctive “message.” He was not only a most gifted speaker, but also editor of The Christian’s Pathway of Power, a monthly paper begun by Mr. Pearsall Smith in 1874. Mr. Hopkins contributed to the very first issue, and soon assumed full responsibility for it. As the organ of the movement from which Keswick sprang, The Christian’s Pathway of Power naturally became closely linked with the Convention; and as its editor, Mr. Hopkins made it a powerful medium of Keswick teaching. In 1879 name of the paper was changed to The Life of Faith, and in 1892 it became a weekly instead of a monthly. Its early volumes are the primary source of information concerning the Convention in its formative years, and to it we owe reports of the addresses delivered —some in summary only, others in entirety.
There was a spontaneity about the early Conventions which imparted a remarkable vitality to the gatherings. No programme was pre-arranged, but the conveners and speakers waited upon the leading of the Spirit of God from day to day. All the addresses were extemporaneous. Those taking part had all experienced in their own lives the liberating power of the message they proclaimed, and spoke out of glowing hearts’. They were “witnesses” to a distinctive blessing they had received, and longed that others should experience; men with a message, ready whenever called upon to speak with burning conviction of what they themselves had found to be so gloriously true. Some of the addresses consequently seem to us rather disjointed: but it is impossible to read them, even after eighty years or more, without feeling the impact of their spiritual dynamic. The speakers were not concerned with homiletical headings and polished periods, but with what they had “tasted and seen” of the power of God available to every believer, for holiness of life and effectiveness in witness.
Spontaneity was never allowed to degenerate into diffusiveness, however: the Convention had a specific purpose, and kept strictly to it. And without deliberate premeditation, a progression of teaching soon took shape—beginning with the exceeding sinfulness of sin, especially sin in the believer; consequent defeat and powerlessness in life and witness; God’s provision for the rehabilitation of the sinner, in Christ—sanctification, consecration, and the Spirit-filled life. This sequence of teaching has never been followed in any mechanical way, of course; it is just the underlying pattern, Spirit-given, and developed year by year in the liberty of the Spirit.
Through the years successive generations of speakers have been raised up, maintaining the testimony of Keswick and proclaiming its message. It must be acknowledged that the “fire in the bones” of the early speakers has not been so evident in some of later years; but thousands attend the Convention annually, hungering and thirsting for God—and they still find the answer to their need. In the addresses which follow, then, we have the full range of Keswick teaching, as given by its most renowned exponents; the utterances of the men who spoke with prophetic voice a message which had proved as the water of life to their own souls. Here we have indeed the authentic message of Keswick.
Such a book as this has long been projected, for several of the leaders of the Convention have, at different times, desired to compile a selection of the outstanding addresses delivered at Keswick from the earliest days, to provide an authoritative compendium of Keswick teaching as proclaimed from the Convention platform by its most distinguished exponents. None of them found it possible to carry this intention into effect, however, and the task has fallen into other hands; but in the preparation of the book the advice and recollections of many of the veterans among Council members, speakers and “regular attenders” have been sought and graciously given. The choice of addresses included in the book is the sole responsibility of the compiler, however; yet the selection would probably have differed but slightly had some other hand fulfilled the task, for the “source books” of information concerning Keswick point emphatically to certain messages as being attended by remarkable blessing: and these were obvious choices. Most of the ensuing addresses marked “high-light” occasions which stand out in the records of Keswick.
In some cases, however, the choice was not so self-evident. It was essential to include, not only addresses which had exceptional spiritual impact and effect when delivered, but also representative addresses of speakers who ministered at Keswick over long periods of years, and exercised considerable influence upon the shaping of the “Keswick message.” Some of these maintained a consistently high standard, and no particular address seems to tower above the others, as an Everest among the Himalayas, either in its power of utterance or effect upon the hearers: any one of a great number could be selected as characteristic of the speaker and as bringing enlightenment and blessing to many lives. Some speakers, again, have specialised in the delivering of series of Bible Readings, and the choice of one address from among these is therefore difficult. In such instances the selection has of necessity to be almost arbitrary. The supreme moments of blessing in the Convention’s history are, however, recalled by the messages here reproduced; its teaching is fully set forth; and most of the leading speakers are represented.
The sequence of teaching at Keswick is observed in the four sections of this book, insofar as this is possible—for some speakers have themselves overleapt the boundaries of the daily themes, so that their addresses might equally well be included under two or even three subject-headings. For instance, several combine both “Conviction Concerning Sin” and “Clod’s Remedy for Sin,” while others might come within the category of both “Consecration” and “The Spirit-Filled Life.”
Two important aspects of the Convention’s ministry and influence are unhappily lacking—the addresses at both the ladies’ meetings, which formed an important feature of the Convention in earlier days, and the missionary meetings, have never been reported except in brief summary, and so are missing from this volume. What would one give to recapture “the raciest address ever delivered at Keswick” by Dan Crawford in 1912; Dr. Hudson Taylor’s impassioned appeals for volunteers for China; Dr. S. M. Zwemer’s masterly presentation of the challenge of Islam; Dr. Eugene Stock’s statesmanlike surveys of the world missionary situation; and messages by such women pioneers as Lilias Trotter and Amy Carmichael! Alas, we have only passing references to these, to tantalize us. The influence of Keswick upon missionary witness during the past century has, nevertheless, been incalculable. Hudson Taylor regarded the Convention as his finest “hunting ground” for missionary recruits of the very best type; and year by year large numbers of young people still dedicate their lives to the Lord for service wheresoever He might appoint; while countless others pledge themselves to give sacrificially for their support.
The outreach of the Convention has, of course, been as effectual upon the Lord’s work at home as in the mission field; and one of the most significant gatherings each year is that for clergy and ministers. As a consequence of renewed dedication at Keswick, or fresh vision and power received, scores of men have gone back to their churches and parishes transformed, to minister henceforth in “newness of life.” Few of the addresses given at these meetings are preserved; but the two delivered in 1895 were reported and appear at the end of the book. These stirring, heart- to-heart talks to their brethren, by the saintly Handley Moule— afterwards Bishop of Durham—and J. Elder Cumming, are a fitting conclusion to the selection of Keswick’s outstanding addresses, pointing as they do to the ultimate purpose that the Convention has ever kept in view—the total dedication of life to the Lord, that, by His Spirit, His glory might be seen in His people, and His purposes of grace be fulfilled through them.
To read and carefully assess all the addresses at all the Conventions at Keswick since 1875 would be an impossible task—at least, for the compiler of this volume. Happily that is rendered unnecessary by the two “histories” of Keswick, which give informative and discerning comments upon every annual gathering from the year of inception up to the time of their publication— Keswick From Within, by J. B. Figgis (1914), and These Sixty Tears, by W. B. Sloan (1935). Both authors wrote with extensive and intimate knowledge of Keswick, for the Rev. J. B. Figgis, a Brighton clergyman, was present at the Oxford Conference and became a member of the “inner circle” at Keswick from 1876; and Mr. Sloan had a life-long acquaintance with the movement and was its first official secretary. Both give vivid accounts of the most notable occasions, and pen-portraits of the leading speakers. Other books which re-create for us the “atmosphere” of the early days include The Keswick Convention: Its Message, Its Method and Its Men, edited by Charles F. Harford, M.A., M.D.—a son of Canon Harford-Battersby; in this, numerous aspects of the Convention’s ministry are described by different writers, all closely associated with the movement. This was published in 1907. Dr. A. T. Pierson outlined the history and teaching of the Convention in a little book published in America in 1903, entitled The Keswick Movement; and in Notes from Keswick, reprinted from The Life of Faith in 1890, the Rev. William Haslam gives stories of lives transformed there. The teaching of Keswick is set forth simply and clearly in a volume issued anonymously in the i93o’s, but “with the warm approval of the Trustees,” under the title The Message of Keswick and Its Meaning. The most objective account and appraisement of the movement is So Great Salvation: The History and Message of the Keswick Convention, by Steven Barabas—an extraordinarily exact account, by an American scholar who has never visited Keswick, but wrote this book in 1952 as a thesis for a doctorate degree, after exhaustive research. It is based principally upon the foregoing volumes and the yearly reports of the Convention. Biographies of several of the more eminent speakers provide useful information and illuminating side-lights upon Keswick.
Numerous books have been written on Keswick themes by various of the Convention speakers: but none has been regarded as an authoritative and comprehensive statement of Keswick doctrine, except perhaps The Law of Liberty in the Christian Life, by Evan Hopkins. The full presentation of the entire range of the “Keswick message” has therefore awaited such a volume as this: and here it is given as from the “fountain head,” the choicest and most powerful messages delivered on the Convention platform. Here Keswick proclaims its own abiding message.
Perhaps as remarkable as the story of Keswick itself is the influence it has exercised world-wide, through Conventions which have taken its name: indeed, “Keswick” has become practically a technical term for gatherings of this kind, “for the deepening of the spiritual life.” Not that the Keswick Convention Council has sponsored these off-shoots, or has any direct responsibility for them. An attempt was once made to bring those in Great Britain under the aegis of the “parent” Convention: but this proved impracticable and was soon abandoned.
As we have seen, Keswick was originally just one of a number of Conventions held in sequence in different parts of the country; and quite independently of Keswick several annual Conventions were soon afterwards established in Scotland, notably at Perth and a little later in Glasgow: indeed, in the 1880’s the reports of the latter, in The Life of Faith, were as extensive, if not more so, than those of Keswick. Yet, strangely, these have disappeared from the religious scene; but the Scottish Highlands Convention, at Strathpeffer, though on a comparatively small scale, still flourishes. In other parts of Great Britain “daughter” Conventions were established, over a period of years, through the initiative of local committees: in Wales, at Llandrindod Wells; in Southern Ireland, at Greystones—discontinued, after long annual witness, in the dark days of the last war; in Northern Ireland, at Portstewart—now second only to Keswick in size and influence, in the British Isles; in the Eastern Counties, at Felixstowe; in the Southern Counties, at Weston-super-Mare; and elsewhere.
While administratively independent of Keswick, these all, from early days, have deliberately modelled themselves upon the Convention at Keswick, and derived their inspiration from the great annual gatherings in Lakeland. It is this sense of spiritual relationship, of filial loyalty to the “parent” Convention—even if that figure of speech is not strictly relevant—that imparts a singleness of purpose to all these local Conventions, and preserves in them the essential teaching of Keswick.
Now, while Keswick looked with benignant interest upon these developments in Great Britain, sometimes giving advice and often providing speakers, it engaged in a more positive missionary activity abroad. It sent deputation speakers far afield, from very early days—to Australia, Canada, and other lands of the British Commonwealth; to the mission fields, and especially to India and the Far East; and—yes, even to the United States of America, whence Britain had received the teaching which later came to be known as “the Keswick message.” Among those who travelled extensively in this ministry were the Revs. George C. Grubb, Hubert Brooke and G. H. C. Macgregor; and a little later, Drs. F. B. Meyer and Charles Inwood. This aspect of Keswick’s witness is still maintained, especially in the sending of speakers, in recent years, to the Mandeville Convention in Jamaica and the Hill Conventions in India. Of course, Conventions in both the United States and Canada, taking the Keswick name, have developed along their own characteristic lines—becoming frequently a series of weekly Bible Conferences throughout the summer months, of a more general character, yet with an underlying regard for the distinctive sequence of teaching associated with the English Keswick. These “Keswick” centres have become an integral and most important part of evangelical life and witness, providing summer holidays for Christian families in congenial surroundings, and with Christian fellowship, plus the additional benefit of daily instruction in the deeper things of the Christian life. In the latest Convention to be established, however, the Mid-America “Keswick” in Chicago, sponsored by the Rev. Alan Redpath, British pastor of the Moody Memorial Church and speaker at the English Keswick, the original pattern of a one-week intensive “holy convocation” has been restored.
“Keswick” Conventions are now to be found, therefore, in many parts of the world: and on the mission field they have a two-fold character and function—for missionaries, and for national Christians. One of the smallest is to be found on “the edge of the world,” at Pounawea, the most southerly point in New Zealand, overlooking the boundless Pacific. Thus has the influence of Keswick reached to the very opposite side of the globe.
I. SIN IN THE BELIEVER
Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered—
“All of self, and none of Thee.”
Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on the cursed tree;
Heard Him pray, “Forgive them, Father,”
And my wistful heart said faintly—
“Some of self, and some of Thee.”
Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
Brought me lower while I whispered—
“Less of self, and more of Thee.”
Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered:
Grant me now my soul’s petition—
“None of self, and all of Thee.”
Announcing the first Convention at Keswick, in 1875, Canon Harford-Battersby and Mr. Robert Wilson borrowed a phrase from the Conventions held earlier at Oxford and Brighton to declare its purpose—“For the promotion of practical holiness.” The following year a slight but significant change was made, to an alternative phrase, also previously used—“For the promotion of Scriptural holiness”: and that has been regarded ever since as the most apt epitome of Keswick’s objective. Various alternative expressions have been coined, to describe the Convention’s raison d’etre, such as “For the deepening of the spiritual life”: but these are really synonymous with the original declaration of the founders. Holiness in character and conduct; the holiness revealed in the Word of God to be His purpose for His children; holiness exemplified in dedication of life to His will and service— this is the primary concern of the Convention. But it was quickly realised that more than the teaching of holiness is essential; that must be preceded by a ’‘breaking up of the fallow ground.” All that hinders holiness must be revealed and discarded before the work of grace can be fully accomplished in the regenerate heart and life. And since “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” there is, alas, in most believers sin to be dealt with before true holiness can be experienced.
Very early in the Convention’s history, therefore, the first note to be sounded was that of the exceeding sinfulness of sin—and especially of sin in the believer; so subtle, and often unrecognised to be what it truly is. In this exposure of the ramifications of sin in the human heart, albeit regenerate, the leading of the Spirit was manifest; for it is His ministry—the ministry of the Holy Spirit, through whom alone practical holiness can be realised— to convince concerning sin; and surely as much so, if not more, in the believer as in the Unbeliever.
Thus in the sequence of teaching at the Keswick Convention the searchlight of the Word of God is clearly brought to bear upon the life of all present, no matter what their previous spiritual experience might be, in order that they should see themselves as God sees them. Sin, in all its range of insidious activity and influence within the life of the child of God, is fully disclosed: and multitudes who had thought themselves to be good Christians, and busy in various spheres of Christian service, have cried out in agony of conviction, “Woe is me! for I am undone. I am . . . unclean!” The wounding is unto healing, of course; the sin is revealed, that it might be cleansed away. But that is the theme of later stages of the Convention’s ministry.
To make light of sin would nullify the teaching of holiness and frustrate the Convention’s purpose. But it is not usually the gross sins which need to be searched out and expunged from the life in “the fountain opened for sin and all uncleanness”; though it must be confessed that all too often even prominent Christians have to acknowledge sins of which they should be ashamed. More insidious, however, because often unrecognised, are the sins of the spirit—unbelief, pride, lack of love, covetousness, censoriousness, unworthy thoughts and intents of the heart, unwillingness to yield all to the Lord—these, and many besides, are as great a hindrance to holiness as are the more flagrant and fleshly sins. In the addresses which follow, practically every aspect of the theme is touched upon, by eminent speakers from the earliest days to our own.
It is fitting that the first should be one of the most prominent personalities at Keswick in its formative years, the Rev.—afterwards Prebendary—H. W. Webb-Peploe. He had spoken at the Brighton Convention, and attended the inaugural gatherings at Keswick “as a listener,” he himself tells us, in The Keswick Convention; but in the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith he was called upon to take a leading part. From that time onward he was a principal speaker, absent only twice in forty-seven years. Of patrician appearance, and wearing always a white bow tie, instead of the customary clerical collar, his erect figure commanded immense respect, and seemed to personify all that Keswick stood for. He had a powerful voice, and an unsurpassed knowledge of Scripture; he would quote prolifically from memory, always word-perfect. His addresses and Bible Readings were delivered extemporaneously: standing with opened Bible in hand, he would pour forth Scriptural teaching like a torrent. His memorable address on “Sin,” delivered in 1885, in answer to the teaching of “sinless perfection” which had developed at certain conventions, and was falsely attributed to Keswick, is perhaps the most weighty utterance on the subject in all Keswick’s history. It was matched by an accompanying address on “Grace,” also reproduced herein—in the next section (p. 144).
Keswick has owed a great deal throughout its history to speakers from America, and foremost among these at the turn of the century was Dr. A. T. Pierson, who took a leading part on several occasions. More about his ministry there is recalled later (p. 405). Like Webb-Peploe, he too revealed the “inwardness” of sin. His message on “Habitual Unbelief” was the last of a series of Bible Readings in 1907, and its effect upon one listener has been described by Dr. W. Graham Scroggie, who as a young visitor to the Convention sat enthralled, and when it was ended continued to sit as if spell-bound, completely oblivious of the dispersing congregation, until he suddenly became aware of the fact that he was in the vast tent alone!
It was a grief to the promoters of Keswick that some eminent evangelicals, including the saintly Handley Moule, Principal of Ridley Hall—later Bishop of Durham—regarded the Convention with suspicion, and criticised its teaching as “perfectionist.” But while on holiday in Scotland in 1884, however, Moule was invited by his host—a “dearly loved relative”—to attend some Convention meetings being held in a bam at Polmont: and he felt he could not decline to do so without discourtesy. In resentful as well as critical frame of mind, therefore, he went to the first meeting: and “it did not please me at all.” The following evening “with some difficulty I made up my mind to go again,” and through an address by the Rev. Evan Hopkins he was led into “the blessing” —to use a term familiar to those days. “In the meeting of the next night I felt constrained to put pride into the pocket; to rise and say before all the people how the last night had been a great blessing to my soul.” He soon went to Keswick and took his place on the platform he had attacked; and concerning his address on “The ‘Total Abstinence’ of the Gospel,” in 1886, the Rev. J. B. Figgis says, “Next morning the Rev. Handley Moule gave his first words, and oh! how many they met! Every word and its tone showed that one was speaking who had the keenest sensibilities, and made one feel that if he could tell of deliverance from being overcome by the things which are peculiarly felt by a finely-strung nature, then there was not only hope but certainty of freedom to be looked for.” This first address was the beginning of a most notable ministry which Dr. Moule—as he became— exercised at Keswick until 1919. His support for the movement was invaluable, not only for its own sake, but in the answer it provided to allegations that Keswick teaching was “extremist” and lacking sound Biblical scholarship. One who recalls the Bishop’s last visits to the Convention says, “In some ways, the most impressive speaker I ever heard at Keswick was Dr. Handley Moule. His very presence seemed to express the beauty of the Lord. He had a rich, cultured voice, and his spiritual intensity was so great that tiny beads of moisture covered his brow.” Scotland has made notable contributions to the Keswick platform, and among valued speakers at the turn of the century was Dr. John Smith, of Edinburgh, “a man of most brotherly spirit,” says Walter B. Sloan; “and his death, occurring while he was still in middle life, left a blank which has never quite been filled.” Of his address on Isaiah 6, the Introduction to The Keswick Week of 1901 says, “It was an overpowering revelation of the effect of a near vision of God; and when the next speaker, the Rev. Evan Hopkins, stepped forward in the deep silence which followed, he said, ‘God has spoken to us. It will be better to have no second address, but more prayer. * And all felt it was truly a momentary inspiration of God, and the prayer from one and another led us into the deeper reality of the presence of God.”
Two men who rendered incalculable service to Keswick over long periods of years, not only at the “parent” Convention, but also in carrying its message world-wide, were the Revs. F. B. Meyer and Charles Inwood—both of whom received honorary doctorates in the course of their peregrinations. Inwood was a Methodist, exercising a powerful ministry in Belfast when he felt called to devote himself entirely to Convention work. Tall, slim, and with neatly-trimmed moustache, he had an impassioned manner of speech; and his transparent sincerity and intense earnestness imparted conviction and authority to all that he said. The crystal clearness of his presentation carried his message to the hearts of all his hearers. Inwood’s Bible Reading on “The Unveiling of the Carnal,” in 1909, is described by Sloan as “most heart-searching; and it must have left a deep and lasting impression on the hearers.” F. B. Meyer, that renowned Baptist Mr. Greatheart, spoke so trenchantly in 1903 on the necessity for restitution for wrongs committed against others, that the local Post Office is said to have run out of postal orders, so great was the demand by people wishing to send “conscience money” without delay! Some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this story, however; we can only say that The Life of Faith in its report of the Convention observes, “Hundreds were sore stricken by an address of Mr. Meyer’s. . . . From all that we heard, we gather that the effects of this one address have been remarkable.” And three years later Meyer himself referred to the incident, when speaking again upon “The Need for Restitution.” After discussing more weighty aspects of the subject he proceeded, “Then, I should like all the people here who owe money, to make up their minds that they will send postal orders and cheques through the whole country to discharge their obligations.
I shall never forget speaking like this, three years ago; and as a result, someone told me that the local Post Office ran almost out of postal orders: they had not enough to satisfy the demand that was made. People could not rest. . . So we have here undoubtedly an address making the most notable immediate effect.
It is fitting that these addresses should be followed by one on “Conscience,” by the Rev. Harrington C. Lees, delivered in 1911. During his memorable ministry at Christ Church, Beckenham, Lees spoke frequently at Keswick between 1904 and 1920—when he became a leader of Keswick witness in Australia as Archbishop of Melbourne.
We leap the years for our next address, by a beloved Chairman of the Convention Council, W. H. Aldis. Formerly a missionary in China, and from 1928 to 1943 the China Inland Mission’s Home Director in Britain, he was a most brotherly man and a helpful speaker; and he never spoke more movingly than when giving his message on “The Neglected Vineyard” in 1947.
Our next selection also comes from that same year—by the Rev. W. W. Martin, who first took part in the Convention in 1920, and became a highly-esteemed “elder statesman” of the movement before his Homecall in 1957. A naturally shy man, he was profoundly concerned that the foundations of spiritual experience should be truly laid in a deep conviction concerning, and utter renunciation of, sin. “With intense fervour,” wrote Mr. C. H. M. Foster, one of the Convention Trustees, in an obituary tribute, “yet withal in deep tenderness, he would apply the surgeon’s knife to the cancerous growth, only that he might then go on to magnify the cleansing and healing power of the Great Physician.” This was especially exemplified in his address on “A Wild Bull in a Net,” in 1947.
Among the present speakers, the Rev. G. B. Duncan is outstandingly used of God at Keswick, and his powerful address on “A Peril of Spiritual Maturity,” in 1956, pin-points one sin peculiar to Christians. It was delivered with unwonted passion and forcefulness on the part of one who usually speaks quietly and persuasively, with a tender wooing note. Another of the younger men, Alan Redpath, paying a return visit to his homeland from Chicago—where he is minister of Moody Memorial Church— spoke in great power in 1957. His stern denunciation of “The Sin of David” was likewise electrifying in its effect; and not only at Keswick, but also in the scores of relay centres throughout the land “listening in” to the meeting.
It is interesting to observe the change of emphasis in these addresses through the years. The earlier ones are concerned primarily with “the sins of the spirit”—inward defilement, of which the believer might often be unaware; defects of character, conduct or temperament; pride, and the snares of “counterfeit spirituality.” It was tacitly assumed that those attending a Keswick Convention would already have victory over “sins of the flesh.” As time went on, however, these latter seem to be gradually included within the scope of the theme “sin in the believer,” and recently even to be regarded as the most common cause of present day powerlessness among Christians. Whether or not this change of emphasis reflects a corresponding change in the spiritual state of the Church, as epitomised in the congregations at Keswick, or whether it merely indicates a more realistic facing of facts concerning the sins of Christians, the compiler must leave others to judge. Perhaps both are true.
This section is concluded with two addresses on counterfeit and defective consecration—which rightly are included within the category of “Sin in the Believer.” Commenting on that by Inwood—his first from the Keswick platform, in 1892—W. B. Sloan says, “It was a burning message, and surprise was awakened by his boldness and the awful solemnity of his burning words.” And the ministry of Douglas Brown, in 1922, was attended by scenes as remarkable as any in the Convention’s history. Coming from the Eastern Counties, where he had conducted campaigns touched with fire from on high—the nearest approach to true Revival experienced in England this century—Brown (son of Archibald Brown, of East London fame, and a friend of C. H. Spurgeon) spoke as a man whose lips had been touched with a live coal from off the altar. “I overheard on all hands,” wrote Canon F. J. Horsefield, in The Life of Faith, “comments such as ‘Keswick has had an earthquake this morning,’ and ‘He’s like a tornado’ . . (see p. 252). When, at the close of his address on “The Bleating of the Sheep,” Brown invited those who desired to dedicate themselves wholly to the Lord to follow him to the Drill Hall, almost the entire congregation proceeded thither: so that “not only was the Drill Hall crowded out; but the Pavilion was filled, and in the tent Dr. Meyer conducted an after-meeting for numbers still waiting there. Never before, even at Keswick,” Sloan comments, “had there been such a wonderful scene; between two and three thousand people dedicating their lives anew to God, for whatever service He might choose.” That is Keswick’s answer to the problem of sin in the believer.
SIN. Rev. H. W. Webb-Peploe, M.A.
I wish to put before you what I believe to be the mind of God on die subject of sin, in order that we may realise as believers in Christ what a marvellous blessedness it is for us to have the propitiation that God has given us in His own dear Son; for there seem to be many who do not quite understand what the Lord Jesus Christ has intended to do, or what it is that they really need Him for. They have accepted Christ for pardon: and they think that they have accepted Christ for one more final act of deliverance from all that can be called sin, when they offer themselves to Him for sanctification. All I would say, at the outset, is that if Jesus Christ gives deliverance from sin as a principle, as well as from sins committed, then that man must be living a more or less independent existence from the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ may be his Keeper; He may be his life; but He is not the same Jesus to that man that He was at the outset: He is not to him the Cleanser; He is not to him the Provider of perpetual acceptance in the eyes of God. Such a man is more or less compelled to live a life of personal self-satisfaction; he cannot centre his soul in Christ as a dependent sinner just from moment to moment.
The man who believes in a sanctification which eradicates sin from his person, as a principle, must be satisfied with his own condition, and be able to take his place more or less independent of the Saviour, even while he may say that he is dependent upon that Saviour for his vital joys and powers from moment to moment. My object is to trace what I believe to be the mind of God on the condition that attaches to man up to the last moment of his existence on earth—that is to say, however much Christians may have rejoiced in the Saviour, and have known experimentally the power of God the Holy Ghost; however advanced they may be in actual personal sanctification, they are, according to my own conviction, and as I gather the truth from God’s Word, dependent upon the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ for pardoning power, and for actual acceptance in the sight of God, to the very last instant they live upon earth.
Because I believe this to be true, it seems to be incumbent upon me to meet those who differ from me on this subject, and to put before them the Word of God as clearly as I can trace it; and if, by the power of God, we are enabled to see the actual personal condition of each man, in regard to this terrible subject of sin, to the last, then, and then only, shall we apprehend what a glorious Saviour we have; what boundless tenderness and loving patience there is in the God of heaven toward His children on earth; what a boundless wealth of mercy There is m the Saviour, that He should ‘continue to bear with the sinful condition of those for whom He died to make them God’s true children for ever.
What marvellous, unspeakable yearnings of God the Holy Ghost, and what tender workings there must be in the Saviour in reference to those who provoke the Spirit, however unconsciously—for I speak of men who do not know they sin, perhaps, but who, if I gather the truth from God s Word, are perpetually, in that sense, acting as a provocation to the Spirit of God, by reason of their want of actual perfection. Therefore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost must all be bearing and forbearing in a way that ought to enhance the beauty of their provision for sinners all through life, and the intended final perfection of every’ true child of God.
How is it that we are to write every man in this world down a sinner to the last moment of his life? You shall be the judges of what God the Holy Ghost has set before us in the Holy Word; and then, if, by God’s mercy, we come to a right conclusion of what is God’s truth in this matter, there shall rest upon each of us the blessed privilege—for I do acknowledge its unspeakable blessedness, even while I recognise its tremendousness—of just taking ourselves instant by instant to God as sinners to the last, saying, “God be merciful to me the sinner;” and thanking God that there is not only a once-accomplished justification when I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, but a perpetually-giving Christ for sanctification; so that without this perpetual action of Christ, I should have to acknowledge myself at any moment to be lost, but that, thank God, I have to rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory if I rightly accept the provision that God has made for me.
There appears to be a great anomaly—a regular paradox, as we term it in theological language—in this statement: that there can be this realisation of sin every moment of a man’s life; and yet that there can be an unspeakable joy and calm—for I adopt all that my beloved brethren have said before me with regard to the fulness of the liberty in Christ, and the provision made for us by that glorious Saviour. To say that a man must needs walk and realise himself as a sinner at every moment, and yet walk in perfect liberty, in perfect peace, and unspeakable joy and security every moment of his life.
You ask, “How can these things be?” Before I proceed to trace the mind of the Holy Ghost on sin, and then on grace, I ask you to realise the tremendously vital distinction between the penalty for sin committed and the guilt incurred at every sinful act, and the want of communion that may be realised when the soul is brought into a position of disturbance between itself, and the great God in heaven.
My brethren, I ask you to realise that at the very moment when you first believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, the question of the penalty for all sin, whatever it might be and however much repeated in your daily life, has once for all been settled in God’s sight independently of you altogether. You awake to it, and you clearly rest upon the finished fact from the very moment that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The question of the penalty was settled upon Calvary, and has nothing whatever to do with the sinner in regard to the provision God makes for him. The question of the penalty was between God and Christ. Christ satisfied the demand of the law, and granted in God’s sight a complete pardon to all mankind, who are willing to accept the provision by faith, for all the sins they have committed: so that they are delivered by their faith, from the penalty they have incurred at once.
But the question of the guilt still being incurred, is another thing altogether; and my affirmation—as I must endeavour to prove—that the child of God, however far he may be advanced, if he be enlightened by the Spirit, may awake to the consciousness that he has been incurring guilt in the sight of God, not because he has committed what are known among ourselves as definite, acts of sin against the codes of morality and respectability that man puts forward, but because he has incurred guilt in the sight of God: because he comes short of the standard that God puts up, and it may be brought home to his soul that he has committed an act, or spoken a word, or thought a thought, from which guilt will arise in the sight of God. He should awake, I affirm, night after night, and perhaps all day long, if his soul be sufficiently enlightened by God, to the consciousness that every thought, word, and deed that proceed from him has, in a deep spiritual sense, brought guilt upon his soul by being short of the glory of God, lacking the perfect holiness of the standard that the Lord Jesus Christ accepted in His person.
But you will observe again, independent of the man, the provision that Christ Jesus made for sinners and for sin, keeps the man— if my doctrine be right—moment by moment cleansed from this guilt, altogether independent of his feelings or experience; that is the availing power of the blood, for though the man comes short of the glory, and though he cannot walk in this mortal flesh up to the standard of the Lord Jesus Christ’s perfection, and is therefore in that sense, and only in that sense, a sinner, yet he need never have a feeling of depression on account of these unconscious shortcomings, because the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is cleansing him from all sin. That is the benefit of that glorious text. Moment by moment as the thing proceeds from the man, springing from the sinful nature that lies deep within him, unconscious it may be of guilt, at the moment, yet incurring guilt, the man finds, by the grace of God, that he is kept cleansed, instant by instant, through the operation of the blood of theLord Jesus Christ in God’s sight. That is the second great question we have to deal with: first the penalty, secondly the guilt.
Now, thirdly, the child of God is conscious of something altogether independent of the question of the penalty of sin, and the question of the guilt. He is grieved at times-—we have all found it so; he is disturbed in his blessed sense of communion with God by the fact that he has broken some one of Goa’s perfect enactments: he has come short of the glory of God, he has wandered in thought at least from God, and compiunion is disturbed. Now, the question of communion has to be settled, and communion can only be restored by an experimental action on your part. There is only one thing we can do as God’s children: and what is that? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So that when Iawake to the fact of having in any sense broken God’s holy law, I may instantly be restored to communion with my Father and my Saviour, and there is perfect peace in the soul again. We have a precious advocate and a glorious propitiation^ in the presence of God; and therefore, if we discover our guilt > and confess it, in that moment the restoration is complete. The blood has cleansed you, I believe, before you confessed, if you are a child of God; but the guilt requires to be taken away before you have perfect communion.
Keep short accounts with God: don’t let your bills run up. If the devil entices you away from God, go to Christ at once and settle the guilt and have done with it. Bring your confession to God; take it to the Lord, and in that very instant do trust God and believe that it is done away with. Don’t go on burdening your soul with a sense of oppression. That is the devil’s subterfuge, to keep you down when he can get you down by sin. He will keep you down by burdening your soul and blackening your life if he can. We have perfect salvation, and that is perfect communion. I want you to keep clear by instantly confessing, directly you discover anything between yourself and your Father in heaven.
If you have followed me thus far, and have at all agreed with the doctrine I have tried to trace as to the penalty, the guilt, and the communion, or want of communion, I am not afraid to trace out now what I believe to be the saddening condition that every man exists in to the last moment of his life on earth, and yet the glorious position we occupy in having such a perfect Saviour as God has made His Son Jesus Christ to be. The fact is, that if there were no sin in a man on earth, I hardly know how he is to take up Jesus every moment and to sing His praises every moment; he would not need to do so, in my belief. He would not be conscious of a perpetual belief in the precious fulness even of the justification doctrine, and the sanctification provision made in Jesus Christ our Lord.
In Romans 5 we find, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now I am not proceeding or proposing to treat this subject in a general way, in which it would be taken as a great announcement of the justification truth which is supposed to be the close of this great judicial passage of the Epistle to the Romans; but I take the words in v. 20 in their pure assertion, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”; and I want you to realise that sin abounds. Now, I believe that is contrary to many of our ideas. When we think of ourselves as pardoned sinners we fancy sin is put away as well as sins, and that from that moment we may begin to walk in perfect deliverance from any presence of evil. Are you prepared, as the Lord Jesus Christ has told us, to go to be judged? He is the kindest judge that ever lived; but he is also the most strict and stem that ever was known, and cannot abate one single jot or tittle of the law because you desire to escape from the exact standard that God puts before us. We are here to-night not be to judge by any human ideas, but by God’s high standard. It is not what men think of themselves or deem to be kind, but what God deems, what the Holy Spirit deems: it is that judgment that I must accept.
With regard to sin, whether it is a new sin or the acts of a sinner before conversion, the principles laid down remain the same for one or the other. When we speak of sin, you are perfectly aware that it is the inclination of the child of God as well as of die sinner to lower. God’s standard to suit our own condition. We read in some writings that sin is only what we consciously commit or say against die law of God or the requirements of our Heavenly Father. Is that to be our standard at a holiness convention? God forbid, I say, with all my soul. I say God forbid that we should ever accept a standard with regard to the subject of sin which lowers God’s requirements and our own possibilities, or to our own conception of what God really demands. Let us take the Word of God in all its fulness, and know sin as God has traced it before us.
Let us pass on to some of the passages from Scripture. In I John 3:4 we read these words: “Sin is the transgression of the Jaw. Now, I suppose you do not admit as Christians that you have escaped from the law of God, or say that because you are saved you are not under the law, but under grace. The law is the expression of God’s mind. The law of God is to be the delight of my soul. God has never changed the standard or altered the tone of the language.’ God has left the law what it always was— the actual expression of His mind and will; and, therefore, the law remains what it ever was. If you and I are under the Spirit, we bring forth fruit as far as God will enable us to bring it forth. In the first place, take the letter of the law and write that before your own souls, and ask whether you can, like the young man, say, “All these things I have kept.” Thank God if you can. If you can say that you have kept the letter of the Ten Commandments since you received sanctification, or since you came to a Keswick Convention. But what of the spirit of the law as Jesus enunciated it in Matthew 5, 6, 7—the look, the inward feeling of heart, these make adultery and murder; tor those feelings that the Lord Jesus has declared to be actually as guilty as an open act of the hand. What shall we say in regard to it? Thank God – if you can say—though I doubt if your tongue would dare to say the words—“All these have I kept according to the Spirit.”
Go a step farther, and look at the tremendous expansion of the law. Go to Matthew 27:32 and onward, and with St. Paul to Romans 13, on the doctrine of love—“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Will any man say he has kept that law? And once more, add to this the new law, the new commandment the Lord Jesus gives in John 13: 34. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Let us think of the meaning of that ‘as”, and then to hear man say, “I have kept that law”—“love one another as I have loved you.” Let me ask you to realise that a transgression of the law is sin, and that if a man has failed for a angle instant in loving me while I am speaking (and hurting your feelings, perhaps) as Jesus loves me, that man is a sinner. We never loved each other as the Lord Jesus Christ loves us all.
Turn to a sentence in 1 John 5: 17, “All unrighteousness is sin.” According to the Greek, the word means that everything that lacks the thoroughness and glory of the standard that God lifts up, is sin. What are we to say to this?—everything coming short of the perfection of God, is sin! “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Go one step farther and look at the sins that may be committed by word. “By thy words,” says our Lord in Matthew 12:37, “thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” And in the preceding verse God says, that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day judgment.” Now look at Proverbs 10: 19, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.” God does not change His standard because that is Proverbs and the other Matthew; God’s Wor3 remains the same in Proverbs as in Matthew, and you and I must put Proverbs and Matthew together and have wisdom to see that in a multitude of words there sure to be sin, and that for every idle word I shall be brought to an account with God.
I would go a step further and ask, What about thoughts? Turn to 2 Corinthians 10:5. There we are told to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” That is where some of my Mends go wrong; they do not study their tenses in Greek sufficiently. Let us turn to Proverbs 24:9. We are told that “the thought of foolishness is sin”; and remember that the soul that sinneth shall die. And that applies to God’s saints exactly as much as to unsaved sinners, until we recognize the blessed truth I spoke of—perfect provision with regard to penalty, and perpetual provision with regard to guilt; that keeps the soul of man from perishing. Sinning is the same as being damned so that we are perfecfly right in saying that a child of God for one sin would pass to everlasting shame if it were not for the J precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Now with regard to other sins, we must take a general view of them. And what think you of such words as those in Proverbs 21:4, where we read, “the plowing of the wicked is sin”—or “the light of the wicked, as it is in the margin? Then go to James 2:9, ‘it ye have respect to persons”—I am speaking to the children of God who want to be honest—“If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin.” And what about those solemn words in James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and, doeth it not, to him it is sin”? We have read about our passions and our lusts, and there we have the negative side of sin. I remember being more struck with a remark upon sin than with almost anything for a long time—that sin was not so much a positive quantity as a negative one, and the negative side of sin is perhaps the most tremendous judgment of the people of God.
We read in John 16: 9, that the Holy Spirit convicts “of sin, because they believe not on me.” That is not only for the world. Then such words as those in Romans 14: 23, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” And those words in James 3:2, “For in many thing we offend all.”
Let us now take one or two texts affirming the general condition of mankind. In Proverbs 20:9 we read, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Then go to Ecclesiastes 7:20, where weread, “There is not a just man . . . that sinneth not.” But what is perhaps the passage most solemnly declaratory of the meaning of God’s Word is to be found in Job 4:17, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?” What are the alternative readings of that? “Shall mortal man be just before God? Shall any man be pure with his Maker? ” But that, you say, is the Spirit’s lips talking before Job. But St. Paul quotes Job 5: 13 in 1 Corinthians 3: 19. He quotes the words as coming from God, and says that God inspired his lips when he spoke those words. Then he says, in Job 4:18 “Behold He putteth no trust in His servants, and His angels He charged with folly.” Now the greatest authority upon Hebrew, Delitzch, informs us that in that passage God is speaking about His angels and servants, and that though not actually guilty of sin, yet their shortcoming in regard to holiness is such as to make them chargeable with folly in the sight of their perfectly holy Maker. I believe that Delitzch is right, as far as I can speak humbly on a matter of that kind.
Every word of God testifies to one fact, that there is not a perfectly just man upon earth; that even when he is just, it cannot be said that he “doeth good and sinneth not.” And why? Because Job, the most perfect man we read of, is brought into the realisation of his true condition—of a man of whom it is affirmed, “that in all this he sinned not with his lips”; yet when tins man comes before God, with the perfection of God before him, he says, “Behold, I am vile.” Yet that is the man who would not let go his integrity, and of whom it was said that all things were bright and clear with him. He calls himself vile when he sees his God and recognises his own condition. If that be the state of a holy servant of God, such as Isaiah, or Ezekiel, or Jeremiah, or Peter, or John, when he comes to the vision of his living God, when they see their inherent corruption, shall we not acknowledge that sin hath abounded? It is abounding and must abound as long as man remains with the inherent principle of evil indwelling their mortal flesh, and they are subjected to the lusts and corruption during the time that we are in a state of probation. I am convinced that it is good for us to be subjected to the presence of evil here; not to be under the power of evil—but its presence, whether it be physical disease or spiritual corruption.
Now many of you will ask, why do I speak thus? Because I love the doctrines of grace, “that where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound.” I mean by grace what I find God’s Word, and I have found that though it does not deliver me from the perpetual instigation and presence of evil, and the principle of sin, the indwelling natural tendency and taste which once came from Adam, and which, as I believe, remains somewhere in the being of man to the last; I say, though I do not believe in grace exactly as some do, yet I believe in it as I read it in God’s holy Word, that while sin is always abounding, grace is infinitely more abounding: and to what end?
It is a solemn thing to speak of grace much more abounding. There are parallel truths and parallel texts to meet every word that I have spoken on the subject of sin. There are parallel texts to all that I have uttered which proclaim that though God does not remove that indwelling principle, or corrupt thing we call sin, yet He does by His infinite mercy give us a perfect, perpetual, and enjoyable deliverance from die activities, from the power, from the domination of sin, moment by moment, so long as we trust Him and acknowledge ourselves to be guilty sinners at every instant of our lives. I pause at that word, and reiterate it: while we acknowledge ourselves to be guilty sinners every moment, if we take the perfect standard here traced; yet we need never fear while we are doing nothing to offend against God’s holy Word.
The doctrines of grace tell me that whatsoever sin hath done. Christ Jesus in His wondrous power hath more than undone with regard to the guilt and the penalty; it tells me that grace bringeth salvation. Look at Titus 2:11,”1 he grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”—in the Revised Version it stands “unto all men”—“that denying ungodliness, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.” Then, brethren, what is grace to bring me? That I read with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ in John 1:16, “Of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.” Then in John 1: 17, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.” And in Romans 5:1, 2, with regard to the grace wherein we should stand. Then go to Ephesians 1: 7, 14, and 2: 7, where you will see references to the Abundance of the riches of grace.
But more than this, what do I read about the daily provision for need up to the end of our lives? Turn to 2 Corinthians 9: 8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,” What do I read in 2 Corinthians 12: 9? “My grace is Sufficient for thee.” That is my much-loved text. It is that which first brought me to Keswick, and taught me the power of God’s love. “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
A friend said.to me, “I thought you preached absolute deliverance from the principle of sin, eradication of the root of sin.” I said, “God forbid.” “Then,” she said, “what is the difference?” My answer was, “You preach a perfect sinner; I reach a perfect Saviour.” I thank God for a perfect Christ. Then one said to me, “If Christ was revealed to destroy the works of the devil, how can there be any sin left?” I replied, “Dear brother, do wait a bit; Christ’s day is coming.” The devil has had his day, and God’s is coming. When God sees fit to take us away from this poor corrupt mortal flesh, corruption shall give place to glory, mortality to immortality, death to life and glory with God through all eternity. Saved by grace; kept by grace, when I might to be condemned every moment for my folly; I shall be glorified by grace-—and there shall be glory to God in the highest, and all through the realms of God’s great universe, peace, joy, and gladness, for we shall be fully saved unto eternal glory when Christ comes. When we behold Him we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Oh, brethren, don’t forget that while there is sin there is grace to meet all evil. O God, it this be true, make me to hate sin that gives Christ so much to do! Give me deliverance from all known sin. Reveal to me more and more what is the latent working and principle of sin. O God, open my eyes, show me more and more of Jesus. I will run the way of Thy commandments exactly so far as Thou in Thy mercy dost set my heart at liberty. Amen.