The Keswick holiness teaching had a large influence within Fundamentalism.
Keswick Holiness gets its name from Bible conferences held at Keswick in northwestern England.
The meetings were preceded by the rapidly spreading holiness movement in America and England.
Keswick doctrine was influenced by Methodist “entire sanctification.” John Wesley taught that the believer can experience “a total death to sin, and an entire renewal in love, and image of God” so that “they are now in such a sense perfect, as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and tempers” (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection). The Wesleyan doctrine is called entire or complete sanctification, perfect love, full salvation, second rest. It is taught by the Methodist Church, as follows: “Entire sanctification is a state of perfect love, righteousness and true holiness which every regenerate believer may obtain by being delivered from the power of sin ... this gracious gift may be received in this life both gradually and instantaneously, and should be sought earnestly by every child of God.”
We would hasten to add that the heart of John Wesley’s theology of holiness is total confidence in, total surrender to, and total trust in Christ, and this is scriptural. This is seen in Wesley’s beautiful hymn “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”
Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high;
hide me, O my Savior, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!
Other refuge have I none;
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
Plenteous grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound;
make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art;
freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.
Charles Finney also had a wide influence on the holiness movement. In his Systematic Theology (1846), he said that those who were saved “habitually live without sin and fall into sin only at intervals so few and far between that, in strong language, it may be said in truth they do not sin.” He promoted this teaching through his revival ministry, his books, and the students who were trained at Oberlin College. It was called “the Oberlin theology.” The president of Oberlin, Asa Mahan, taught this in his 1844 book Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection. Both Finney and Mahan claimed to have experienced “second conversions” in 1836. “Mahan believed that as a result of this experience, his desires and inclinations had been purified, so that he not only was free from committing sin but no longer had a habitual tendency toward sin” (“The Cleansing Wave,” Christian History magazine, Issue 82).
Methodist evangelist Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874) had a large influence on holiness teaching in America and England. Phoebe claimed to have experienced “entire sanctification” in 1837. She preached in churches, conferences, and camp meetings. Her husband, Walter, also preached, but she was the most popular. They preached in the United Kingdom for several years beginning in 1859. In 1864, they began publishing the monthly magazine The Guide to Holiness. Phoebe Palmer’s book The Way of Holiness was widely read. She defended women preachers in her book The Promise of the Father. Her daughter, Phoebe Knapp, wrote several hymn tunes, including the one to Fanny Crosby’s “Blessed Assurance.”
(Keswick typically does not hold to sinless perfectionism or “entire sanctification.” though some early teachers did hold to this.)
Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife, Hannah Whitall Smith, taught holiness doctrine beginning in the late 1860s. They allegedly experienced a “second blessing” in 1867. Robert said he felt a “magnetic thrill of heavenly delight.” He edited The Christian’s Pathway to Power, and his teaching on “the victorious life” was carried in other publications. In 1869, China missionary J. Hudson Taylor claimed to have entered “the victorious life,” and the missionary who taught Taylor about this had learned it from Robert Smith’s articles in Revival magazine (A.J. Bromhall, The Shaping of Modern China: Hudson Taylor’s Life and Legacy, vol. 2). Hannah Smith was as prominent in teaching and preaching as Robert. They were brought to England in the 1870s by the Baptist evangelist William Boardman and taught in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, and Dublin. They promised “an experience of triumph over sin, purity of heart ... quite unknown before” (A.T. Pierson, The Keswick Movement).
Hannah Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1875) was hugely influential. She described the experience as “entire surrender” and “entire abandonment.” She said the higher life experience will “save you fully, now, in this life, from the power and dominion of sin.”
The Keswick meetings began in 1874 on the Broadlands estate of Lord and Lady Mount Temple. This is in Oxford. The Temples and others, including some Oxford students, wanted to know how to achieve the “higher life” that the Smiths were preaching. Anglican canon T.D. Hartford-Battersby, and his friend Robert Wilson, were in attendance, and claimed to have already experienced it. Hardford-Battersby said, “We were taken out of ourselves; we were led step by step, after deep and close searching of heart, to such a consecration of ourselves to God, as in the ordinary times of a religious life, hardly seemed possible ... to the enjoyment of a peace in trusting Christ for present and future sanctification which exceeded our utmost hopes.” Hartford-Battersby and Wilson were the co-founders of the Keswick meetings.
Theologically, the meeting at Broadlands was a strange affair.
The Temples were spiritualists (they hosted the conference but didn’t teach).
Robert Wilson was a Quaker (the Religious Society of Friends) and a proponent of the heresy of the “inner light.” This refers to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent and passive in order to receive guidance from the inner light. In his journal, Quaker founder George Fox said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any” (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, p. 35). In Quaker theology, the “inner light” is greater than the light of Scripture. Prominent Quaker teacher William Barclay said, “Nevertheless, because they [the Scripture] are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore THEY ARE NOT TO BE ESTEEMED THE PRINCIPAL GROUND OF ALL TRUTH AND KNOWLEDGE, NOR YET THE ADEQUATE PRIMARY RULE OF FAITH AND MANNERS. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a SECONDARY RULE, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty” (Barclay, An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, “The Third Proposition: Concerning the Scriptures”).
Robert and Hannah Smith were the prominent teachers, but within a year Robert was exposed as a serial adulterer who taught “erotic baptism” (the idea that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by sexual thrills). His forte was introducing young women to that experience, and he finally was caught in the act.
Hannah Smith rejected Christ’s substitutionary blood atonement and eternal judgment (believing that all men would be saved). She taught 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” (A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S.” edited by Hannah’s son Logan Pearsall Smith). She accepted theistic evolution and “mind healing” and cared nothing for Christ’s second coming or the literal fulfillment of prophecy. She said the Bible is only one of four “especial voices,” the other three being circumstances, reason, and inward impressions (the latter being similar to Quaker “inner light”). When criticized for preaching to men, she said, “[God] gave me such A STRONG FEELING that it was His mind, that now, whatever is said against it, it makes no difference” (Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, 1875). It was also an “inward voice” that convinced her that there is no hell (Smith, Every-day Religion, pp. 160-161). Hannah Smith’s daughter, Alys Pearsall Smith, married the infamous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell.
In 1875, the higher life convention was held at Brighton, a seaside resort in south England that had grown in popularity since the arrival of the rail line from London in 1841. Promoted by D.L. Moody at his London revival meetings, the 1875 Brighton higher life convention was attended by 8,000. Robert Smith was scheduled to be the main speaker, but his adultery was exposed beforehand and he was replaced.
In 1876, the higher life meeting was held in Keswick, hosted by Hartford-Battersby, head of the local Anglican parish. Keswick is a picturesque village in northwest England, situated on the Greta River and nestled in low mountains. Keswick is in the Lake District, which is famous for “the poets of the Lake School, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Southey.” Annual conferences have been held in Keswick since 1876.
The Keswick theology is a hodgepodge. It has even been said that it cannot be defined. But the heart of it is an emphasis on a second blessing or a crisis experience that transports the believer above the struggles of the “normal Christian life” into a state of higher holiness. It is called “higher life,” “deeper life,” “exchanged life,” “the abiding life,” “the abundant life,” “full surrender,” “the rest of faith,” “the life of faith,” “walking in revival,” “constant peace,” “the overflowing cup.” It has been described as “let go and let God.”
The heart of the Keswick experience is to come to an experience of complete surrender to and rest in Christ so that the struggle with the flesh is over. It is to be dead to sin and alive to Christ both positionally and practically. It is an experience subsequent to and different from justification and is obtained only by those who pursue it.
Some Other Prominent Keswick Teachers
William Boardman, a major influence in the Keswick movement through his 1858 book The Higher Christian Life, claimed to have been saved at age 18 and to have been sanctified at age 32. He was executive secretary of the YMCA and “the most successful evangelist of the generation between Finney and D.L. Moody” (“The Cleansing Wave,” Christian History, Issue 82). He taught the heresies that the Holy Spirit, not Christ, is the Justifier (The Higher Life, 1859, pp. 97-98), not all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (In the Power of the Spirit), and that God promises faith healing (called “faith cure” and “mind cure” (Faith Work under Dr. Cullis in Boston, 1873).
J. Hudson Taylor claimed to have entered the higher Christian life in 1869, as we have seen, and he promoted higher life theology in his writings. He said, “God has made me a new man!” The book Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, son of Hudson Taylor, has had a large influence. It was first published in 1932 and has been in print ever since.
Frederick B. Meyer (1847-1929), a Baptist preacher, was “Keswick’s best known international representative,” not only in America, but through international preaching trips to South Africa, China, Ceylon, Bulgaria, and other places. He spoke at 26 Keswick conferences. He claimed to have had three crisis experiences: (1) conversion, (2) sanctification, (3) the anointing of the Spirit. He pastored Baptist churches in Leicester and London from 1872 to 1921. Meyer had a major role in promoting Keswick theology among Baptists. He spoke at Moody’s Northfield conferences and A.B. Simpson’s conferences. He promoted deeper life theology through his 75 books, such as The Devoted Life, The Blessed Life, Secrets of Christian Living, Living in God’s Presence, The Present Tenses of the Blessed Life, and Power for Living. Missionary Bill Hardecker gives the following warnings about Meyer: “He was president of the Baptist Union (at a time when Spurgeon left it due to doctrinal errors). He was weak on ecclesiastical separation and rather strong on post-conversion Spirit baptism view. (F.B. Meyer, A Biography by William Fullerton, pp. 41-42). He accepted a pastorate of a new church without informing the old one; the new one was paedobaptist (Christ Church), the former, Baptist. He believed that heathen could be saved without knowing the name of Jesus Christ (a sermon called ‘The Wideness of God’s Mercy’). He held a non-cessationist view of the gifts of the Spirit (Transforming Keswick: The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future by Price and Randall, pp. 168-169). He believed in literally breathing in the Spirit: going out into the woods and taking in an influx of the Spirit (Memorials by Georgina Cowper-Temple, p. 117) and telepathy and clairvoyance which is a form of spiritism (Photography and Spirit by John Harvey, pg. 70).”
Andrew Murray (1828-1917), a Dutch Reformed missionary to South Africa, had a large influence in spreading Keswick doctrine through his 50 books and 200 tracts and pamphlets. These include Abide in Christ, Absolute Surrender, Be Perfect, The Deeper Christian Life, and The Spiritual Life. Like Frederick Meyer, Murray was a non-cessationist, believing in the continuation of the apostolic gifts.
Reuben A. Torrey, evangelist, popular author, head of Moody Bible Institute and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), promoted a second experience of sanctification that he called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” and that he promoted in his book by that title. He spoke on this subject at Keswick in 1904. He taught the following steps to receiving this experience: (1) repent of sin, (2) renounce sin, (3) be baptized, (4) obey God in total surrender, (5) desire the Holy Spirit with passion and intensity, (6) ask God for the Holy Spirit (“a definite asking for a definite blessing”), (7) believe that God has given you the Holy Spirit.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance was deeply influenced by the Methodist and Keswick doctrine of holiness. Founder A.B. Simpson claimed to have had the deeper life experience in 1874 by reading William Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life. Simpson, in turn, influenced many through his book Wholly Sanctified. His thesis is that the whole sanctification spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 is a promise for this present life. The believer can have an experience that is likened to a tidal wave, an elevator, and an elevated railway. Instead of slogging along through the mud of this life, beset by toils and troubles, the wholly sanctified individual is like a stranded ship being floated up and carried along effortlessly by “God’s great tidal wave.” Instead of struggling one’s way up long winding stairs, the wholly sanctified is carried up effortlessly by “God’s great Elevator.” Instead of “toiling along the lower pavement,” the wholly sanctified is borne along effortlessly “by God’s great Elevated Railway.” It’s a Christian life without struggle, without strain, perfect holiness, perfect victory, perfect peace, perfect joy. Simpson said, “How easy, how spontaneous, how delightful this heavenly way of holiness!” This is how Simpson begins his book, and he promises to explain to every saint how to come into this “divine way of holiness.” The only problem is that it is a fantasy that is nowhere promised in Scripture.
Keswick type holiness was taught in the influential book Calvary Road by Roy Hession. It contains messages that first appeared in a revival paper titled Challenge published by the Hessions in the 1940s. It describes an experience called “walking in revival,” “walking in the way of the cross,” and “the highway life” that is achieved by focusing one’s attention on Calvary. It contains many excellent teachings on dying to self, surrender to God, humility, and sensitivity to sin. But there is an overriding emphasis that one can walk in a near perfect spiritual revival experience that is described as a “life that will fill us and overflow through us,” “constant peace,” “walking along the Highway, with hearts overflowing,” “cups overflowing.” Hession said that when he first came to this understanding and experience it “was like beginning my Christian life all over again.”
“I recounted my struggles with self and acknowledged the new relationship with Jesus which I had entered by faith. ... In the light of our own recent experience of Christ, we preached a two-fold message: full salvation for the Christian quite as much as an initial salvation for the non-Christian. ... If consecration is thorough and complete, it need not be repeated. ‘Reconsecration’ is the language of piecemeal surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ” (Hessian, My Calvary Road).
Thus Hession taught that it is necessary for the believer to enter into a “second experience” of Christ, a “full salvation,” and that if one achieves this experience he will be completely and permanently surrendered and have a daily “overflowing cup” Christian life.
Other major voices of the Keswick theology were Arthur Tappan Pierson, William H.G. Thomas, Charles Trumbull, and Robert McQuilkin.
Higher Life Theology in Popular Hymns
As a young Christian, I often wondered about the words of hymns, such as the following, that describe an experience I could not relate to: perfect happiness, perfect peace, not a shade of care, perfect submission, perfect delight, walking above the world and sin. These expressions puzzled me. What does this mean? Why don’t I have it? Could I have it? Does anyone have it? Should I seek it? How could I attain it?
Charles Wesley’s hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” says, “Let us find that second rest; take away our bent to sinning...” This is the second blessing, sinless perfection experience.
Frances Ridley Havergal has been called “Keswick’s hymnist.” She claimed to have come to the deeper life experience in 1873. Her beautiful hymn “Like a River Glorious” reflects deeper life theology. It speaks of “perfect peace” and being hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand, where “not a surge of worry, not a shade of care, not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.”
Phoebe Palmer’s “The Cleansing Wave” teaches entire holiness. “The cleansing stream I see! I see! I plunge, and oh, it cleanseth me! ... I see the new creation rise, I hear the speaking blood; it speaks, POLLUTED NATURE DIED, sinks ‘neath the cleansing flood. I rise to walk in Heavn’s own light, ABOVE THE WORLD AND SIN...”
Charle P. Jones’ “Come unto Me” (1908) teaches entire sanctification.” It says, “Have you by temptation often conquered been, has a sense of weakness brought distress within? CHRIST WILL SANCTIFY YOU, IF YOU’LL CLAIM HIS BEST; in the Holy Spirit, He will give you rest.”
Fanny Crosby was a Methodist who believed in perfectionist theology. She attended John Street Methodist Church in New York City, where Phoebe Knapp also attended. Phoebe was the daughter of the perfectionist preacher Phoebe Palmer. Fanny and Phoebe Knapp were best friends and they wrote “Blessed Assurance” together. One day in her room at the Savoy Hotel, Phoebe played a tune for Fanny on her personal pipe organ and asked, “What does this tune say?” Fanny replied, “Why, that says blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” and she wrote the words to the hymn right then and there (“Phoebe Palmer Knapp: Rich, Beautiful, Charitable,” June 2007, Christianity.com). The hymn “Blessed Assurance” teaches perfect holiness. “PERFECT SUBMISSION, PERFECT DELIGHT, visions of rapture now burst on my sight ... Perfect submission, ALL is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest, watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.”
Biblical Aspects of Keswick Theology
There is a lot that is biblical and right and important in Keswick theology, particularly the necessity of full surrender to God, of self-denial, of a passion for holiness and holy living, of a focus of one’s life upon Jesus Christ, and of dependence upon the indwelling Spirit.
This is a right emphasis that is often missing in the lives and homes and churches of those who speak disparagingly of “higher life” teaching. It is clear in Scripture that God does call His people to a higher life, a pilgrim life, a surrendered life, a holy life, a trusting life, a praying life, and this should always be front and center. This is true New Testament Christian living.
The motto of Keswick is “to me to live is Christ” and its aim is “to bring men and women into a life of communion with God, victory over sin, and fruit-bearing.” This is a biblical goal that should be the passion of every individual believer and of every Christian home and of every assembly. It is the path of true revival, which should be a way of life, not a once in a while experience.
Consider the following challenge by A.B. Simpson from The Life of Obedience: “Let us say ‘No’ to the flesh, the world, and the love of self, and learn that holy self-denial in which consist so much the life of obedience. Make no provision for the flesh; give no recognition to your lower life. Say ‘No’ to everything earthly and selfish. How very much of the life of faith consists in simply denying ourselves.”
This is a perfectly scriptural and very important exhortation that is fading away from the preaching and lifestyle of a multitude of “fundamentalist” and “fundamental Baptist” churches.
Consider Andrew Murray’s beautiful poem “In Times of Trouble,” that teaches surrender to God, and resting in God, in every circumstance.
In times of trouble, God’s trusting child may say.
FIRST: He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this difficult place. In that will I rest.
NEXT: He will keep me here in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.
THEN: He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He wants me to learn, and work in me the grace He means to bestow.
LAST: In His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows. Therefore say: I am here by appointment. In His keeping. Under His training. For His time.
Consider the excellent hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” by Frances Havergal. It describes the surrender to God’s will that should characterize every child of God. This is not just a “deeper life” thing. It is biblical Christianity. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
The “Keswick” emphasis on complete surrender challenged a lot of saints. We think of F.B. Meyer’s preaching at the Northfield conferences. He would say, “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?” What a great challenge! This should be sounded out continually in every church. When J. Wilbur Chapman was a 27-year-old evangelist, his wife died a month after the birth of their first child and he was thrown into mental turmoil and doubting. After hearing Meyer’s exhortation about surrender, Chapman said, “That remark changed my whole ministry; it seemed like a new star in the sky of my life” (Ed Reese, The Life and Ministry of John Wilber Chapman).
The call to full surrender is God’s missionary call, and it is through the preaching of full surrender that multitudes of God’s people have left their personal aspirations to follow Christ to minister to a needy lost world.
In the late 1800s, the Keswick Convention had a major influence in missionary work. J. Hudson Taylor attended Keswick in 1883 and 1887 and spoke there in 1889. He said that two-thirds of his missionaries in China were produced by Keswick. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India for 56 years, dedicated her life to missions at a Keswick convention. She was the adopted daughter of Keswick leader Robert Wilson. During the 1903 convention, Barclay Buxton and Paget Wilkes founded the Japan Evangelistic Board. Keswick was a major influence on John Govan, founder of The Faith Mission in Scotland.
But any theology of a “second blessing” is unscriptural and therefore dangerous. Many have been shipwrecked through false doctrines of holiness, by seeking what God does not promise and being confused when they have not experienced what they were taught to expect.
Errors of Keswick Theology
Keswick Conventions are interdenominational in philosophy and practice. The theme is “All One In Christ.” There was “great jealousy about fundamentals, but equal flexibility as to non-essentials.” Early speakers included Anglicans (T.D. Harford-Battersby, Handley Moule, J. Stuart Holden), Baptists (F.B. Meyer), Reformed (Andrew Murray), Methodists (Phoebe Palmer), Quakers (Robert Wilson), and Plymouth Brethren (Robert Smith).
It is amazing that born again Christians who believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, the sole authority for faith and practice, can accept the idea that God is pleased with those who treat so many clear teachings of Scripture as “non-essentials”!
Is it not a matter of “holiness” to treat all of God’s Word as essential? Christ taught this. His Great Commission for this age specifically and emphatically requires that the believers be taught “to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). Words could not be clearer as to Christ’s will, and obeying Christ’s will is the very essence of true holiness. Scriptural baptism, which is Trinitarian believer’s baptism by immersion, is not a non-essential. Nothing clearly taught in Scripture about the church is a non-essential. Women not teaching men or not having authority over men is not a non-essential.
True holiness will correct and reprove the errors of Anglicanism and Methodism and Quakerism and every doctrine and practice that is contrary to the Word of God.
Is it not a matter of holiness to separate from false teaching and apostasy as God’s Word commands (e.g., Ro. 16:17; 2 Co. 6:14-18; 2 Ti. 2:15-21; 3:5)? Yet Keswick speakers have never called for this and have not practiced it. F.B. Meyer, for example, who spoke at Keswick 26 times, stayed in the liberal Baptist Union throughout his pastorate from 1872 to 1921, ignoring its liberalism and standing firm against separation even after C.H. Spurgeon faithfully departed from the Union in 1887.
For more on this see the study on “Interdenominationalism” in this chapter on “Interdenominational Fundamentalism.”
A fundamental error of Keswick deeper life theology is its emphasis on finding some one “key” to a holy life, such as abiding, reckoning, resting, surrendering, believing, accepting. For example, Lewis Sperry Chafer said, “Romans 6:1-10 ... is the foundation as well as the key to the possibility of a walk in the Spirit (He That Is Spiritual, p. 154). While Romans 6:1-10 is a very important passage, what about all the other passages about sanctification? What about the rest of Romans 6 and what about Romans 7 and Romans 8 and Romans 12 and Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 2-3, etc.? If there was one key to perfect holiness, “the” key, the New Testament Epistles would present that key very clearly and it would be described as the one necessary element in spiritual victory. Everything else would be superfluous. Instead, though, we see a multiplicity of things that are taught in the Epistles in regard to sanctification. The apostolic churches had many sins and problems that are addressed in the Epistles for our instruction and edification, and there is no one “key.” In the Epistle to Ephesus, for example, Paul gives a lot of instruction about sanctification. The first three chapters describe the believer’s eternal, unchanging position in Christ. Understanding this position is absolutely necessary for true holiness and spiritual victory. Chapters 4-6 move on to many other things. There is walking worthy (Eph. 4:1). There is submission to the ministry of teaching, which of course refers to being part of a sound church (Eph. 4:14-16). There is putting off the old man and putting on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). There is walking in love (Eph. 5:2). There is proving what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10) There is having no fellowship with and reproving the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). There is walking circumspectly (Eph. 5:15). There is redeeming the time (Eph. 5:16). There is being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). There is singing psalms and hymns (Eph. 5:19). There is giving thanks always for all things (Eph. 5:20). There is walking in obedience and holiness in the home (Eph. 5:22 - 6:4). There is doing the will of God from the heart (Eph. 6:6). There is putting on the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:10-18).
Critiques of Keswick doctrine were published by B.B. Warfield in Studies in Perfectionism, by J.C. Ryle in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots, and by Harry Ironside in Holiness: The False and the True. We present what we believe to be the biblical teaching on sanctification in Holiness: Pitfalls, Struggles, and Victory (www.wayoflife.org).
Ironside’s book helped me as a young Christian. He begins by relating his own experience as a young preacher in the Salvation Army. Believing the doctrine of entire sanctification, he sought this “experience” as a “second work of grace.” The pursuit of this unscriptural experience almost drove him to abandon his preaching ministry, but God opened his eyes to the truth of biblical sanctification. The first part of the book is his personal experience in seeking entire sanctification, and the second part is the teaching on biblical sanctification. He describes the fruit of false doctrine: “Perhaps the saddest thing about the movement to which I have referred is the long list of shipwrecks concerning the faith to be attributed to its unsound instruction. Large numbers of persons seek ‘holiness’ for years only to find they have had the unattainable before them. Others profess to have received it, but are forced at last to own it was all a mistake. The result is sometimes that the mind gives way beneath the strain; but more frequently unbelief in the inspiration of the Scriptures is the logical result” (Ironside, Holiness: The False and the True).
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