Friday, December 19, 2014

Hannah W. Smith, Quakerism, and Self-Examination rejected; part 3 of Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic


Hannah was able, in part, to continue to preach the Higher Life even after facing the evidence that all her work was unspiritual and devoid of the smiles of heaven because she flatly rejected self-examination.  In direct contradiction to the command of 2 Corinthians 13:5[1] and other Biblical passages, Mrs. Smith proclaimed that “self-examination . . . seems to be spiritual” but in reality causes “injury and harm”—indeed, it is “about as disastrous as anything.”[2]  Consequently, as she learned from “Fenelon,” she counselled others:  “[G]ive up all future self-reflective acts,” for this was a key to spiritual “liberty.”[3]  At the Brighton Convention, for example, she boldly preached against self-examination, distorting 2 Corithians 13:5 in a major way.[4]
After all, she had “suffered so much from” self-examination that she wrote:  “I have at last given it up forever.  Do the same, dear friend[.]”[5]  Rather than practicing self-examination, one is to “lear[n] the precious lesso[n] . . . of knowing the inward Voice, and following it without reserve. . . . For myself, I find that the sweetness of a life of obedience to this inward Voice is greater than I can express,” as confirmed by her feelings of happiness and by the Quaker “Isaac Pennington.”[6]  Hannah sought to come to a “more complete surrender to . . . the inward voice . . . than ever” as she plunged ever deeper into the Higher Life;  her “great hunger” was for this “voice.”[7]  Thus, by rejecting self-examination, she could remain deluded and happy despite in the devilish nature of her religion, as its terribly unsound character was only obvious to those who recognized human depravity, rejected the Inward Voice, cleaved to sola Scriptura, and carefully applied the Bible to their own spiritual experience, because of their own personal regeneration.  Hannah W. Smith rejected such a careful and watchful attitude, since the conflict between the Bible and her experience hindered her feelings of happiness and made her feel like she was suffering;  following the Inward Voice instead made her feel very happy, at least at the time—whether she was happy upon her death is another question.
As well as the paradigmatic Higher Life or Keswick writer, Mrs. Smith and her husband were Quakers, “birthright member[s] of the Society of Friends”[8] who sought to lead her children into the Quaker way.[9]  The Smiths had Quaker ancestors reaching back to the days of William Penn.[10]  Hannah’s “father . . . was . . . a very strict Quaker . . . Robert’s family were also of good Quaker stock.”[11]  Indeed,  Hannah, her “parents, and [even her] grandparents” were “birthright Friend[s],”[12] and Hannah was raised in “traditional Quaker mysticism.”[13]  While, Mr. Smith was for a portion of his life a member of the Presbyterian denomination,[14] even in his most theologically orthodox years he was close enough to Quakerism that, for example, around the time of his leadership of the Keswick precursor Conventions he could send his “children and their nurse . . . to stay for the whole summer with the Barclays, a wealthy Quaker family, at Monkhams, their home in Essex . . . [where] the girls shared the Barclay children’s governess and tutors.”[15]  Furthermore, Mrs. Smith “could not follow . . . Robert . . . [in joining] the Presbyterians . . . as she found their views against the preaching of women unacceptable.”[16]  Indeed, Hannah was too heretical even for many Quakers:  “In 1867 . . . Hannah . . . tried to start a little Quaker Meeting in Millville, which, not surprisingly, turned out too heretical to be approved, and she searched the Scriptures to support her strong feeling that she was called upon to preach.”[17]  Nevertheless, by “the 1870s Hannah had no church affiliation and . . . had begun to attend Friend’s Meeting again,”[18] as she “had become more or less reconciled . . . [with] the Quakers.”[19]  During some periods of their married life when, in the words of Hannah, “Robert [was] enthusiastic over [men such as a local] Baptist clergyman . . . because he preaches such a pure gospel,” Hannah nonetheless noted, “I cannot enjoy close contact with such people”;[20]  Quaker ministers, who did not preach a pure gospel, were better.[21]  The teachings of the Pearsall Smiths cannot be understood properly without a consideration of the Quakerism that permeated their religious background.
Hannah believed that the “Friends . . . were especially raised up by the Lord to teach this truth” of the Higher Life, and she “long[ed] to see Quakerism the formost in the great battlefield” for it.  She wrote:  “More and more I am convinced that Quakerism was in its first founding pure, unadulterated Christianity.  Every advanced truth that the Lord teaches me, I find is only a return to pure Quakerism.”[22]  Before her rise as a preacher of the Higher Life, at the pinnacle of her preaching work with Robert that led to the founding of the Keswick Convention, and throughout the rest of her life, she remained a devoted Quaker.[23]
Mrs. Smith . . . remained essentially a Quaker throughout life, or, as it would be more accurate to say, grew steadily more and more Quaker.  There is scarcely a distinctively Quaker conception which does not find expression at some time or other in her writings. . . . [E]ven the fundamental mystical [Quaker heresy of] the “divine seed” is quite clearly enunciated and the characteristic Higher Life teaching developed out of it. . . . Mrs. Smith became perfectly well aware, then, that her teaching was in its essence genuinely Quaker teaching: and she delighted to present it in its organic relation with Quaker teaching.[24]
The Higher Life theology she founded was simply the theology of Quakerism.
Since she did not have to examine herself by the teaching of Scripture, Mrs. Smith could set Biblical doctrine and practice against each other, reject the former, exalt the latter, and feel happy in her deluded state.  Hannah wrote:
How true the old Friends were when they used to tell us that it was not what we believed but how we lived that was the real test of salvation, and how little we understood them! . . . And as thee says, my opinions about God may all be wrong, but if my loyalty to Him is real it will not matter. It seems as if it would be enough just to say, “God is,” and, “Be good,” and then all would be said. [That is, even Deism combined with mere morality would be acceptable.]  It is the practical things that interest me now[.][25]
She did not know whether what she taught people was sound, or whether it was true—but she knew that it made people feel comfortable, and this was enough.[26] Indeed, she wrote that her first duty in life was not to glorify God, but to be comfortable:  “I consider it my first duty in life to make myself as comfortable as is possible[.]”[27]  After all, as Hannah explained at the Brighton Convention, the Holy Spirit is not “one to make us unhappy”—thoughts that make one unhappy “always come from Satan.”[28]  She did not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), but sought first the secret of a happy life.  Feeling happy—eudemonism—was what was truly important.  Her son Logan narrated:
When in her later life [Mrs. Smith] came to be a sort of mother-confessor to the many people who used to come to her for advice in their perplexities, her advice was always, she told us, for them to do the thing they really and seriously wanted to do. . . . “But surely, Mother,” [her children] sometimes protested, “this is dangerous advice to give to people!”  “Well,” she would answer, “our Heavenly Father knows the kind of advice I give, so if He sends people to me it must be because He wants them given this advice.  Besides, children,” she would add, “people always in the end do what they want to do, and they might as well do it with a good conscience.”[29]
Based on this view that people should do whatever they wanted, Hannah taught:  “[D]on’t be too unselfish.”[30]  Logan Pearsall Smith explained what he learned from his parents about sanctification from the time he experienced his second blessing as an unregenerate seven year old:
Sanctification . . . renders us immune from sin. . . . [I] renounced . . . Pelagian attempts to conquer Sin and Satan by [my] own carnal struggles, and realized that only by Grace, and unmerited Grace alone, and by no “deadly doing,” could [I] attain the conquest that [I] sought. . . . [Those who receive the second blessing receive] [t]he glorious certainty that they are sanctified . . . they rejoice—as all my life I have rejoiced—in the consciousness that they can commit no wrong.  I may do, I have undoubtedly done, things that were foolish, tactless, and dishonest, and what the world would consider wrong, but since I attained the state of Sanctification at the age of seven I have never felt the slightest twinge of conscience, never experienced for one second the sense of sin.[31]
Logan achieved the goal of his mother’s theology of sanctification—happiness in a perpetual freedom from a sense of sin and guilt—the secret of a happy life.  To Hannah W. Smith, feeling happy, and having no pangs of conscience because of sin, were more important than the glory of God and obedience to the Bible.



This entire study can be accessed here.





[1]              “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5; cf. Psalm 26:2; 119:59; 139:23-24; Lamentations 3:40; Ezekiel 18:28; Haggai 1:5-7; Matthew 7:5; 1 Corinthians 11:28-31; Galatians 6:4; Hebrews 12:15; 1 John 3:20-21).
[2]              Letter to a Friend, 1863; April 10, 1878; Letter to Daughter Mary, May 12, 1878; Letter to Daughter, Atlantic City, May 25, 1878; reproduced in the entries for January 30, August 17, 24, 28, of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[3]              Pg. 65, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith.  Letter to Miss Priscilla Mounsey, January 22, 1882 & Letter To Priscilla, January 22, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 9 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  Hannah Smith often warned others, “Don’t indulge in self-reflective acts” (Letter to Mary Beck, May 14, 1874, Letter, 1866, reproduced in the entry for July 12 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter). 
[4]              Pg. 318, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875.
[5]              Letter to a Friend, April 10, 1878, reproduced in the entry for August 17 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[6]              Letter to Miss Beck, December 5, 1878, reproduced in the entry for September 9 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[7]              Letter to Sisters, August 14, 1879, reproduced in the entry for September 19 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[8]              Pg. 11, Religious Fanaticism:  Extracts from the Papers of Hannah Whitall Smith, ed. Ray Strachey.  New York, NY:  AMS Press, 1976, repr. of 1928 London ed; cf. also pg. 231 & Remarkable Relations, Barbara Strachey, pg. 19.
[9]              See, e. g., Letter to Daughter Mary, January 1, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 1 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter; pg. 79, Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith, references Logan’s education in Quaker schools all the way through, and inclusive of, college.
[10]            See pgs. 4-35, Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith.
[11]            Pg. 20, Remarkable Relations, Strachey.
[12]            Pg. 36, The Secret Life of Hannah Whitall Smith, Henrie.
[13]            Introduction, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter; see also after January 7 for Robert P. Smith’s heritage among “prominent Philadelphia Quakers.”)
[14]            Pg. 17, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]            Pg. 45, Remarkable Relations, Barbara Strachey.
[16]            Pgs. 25-26, Remarkable Relations, Strachey.  A German Reformed minister did, however, administer infant baptism to Mrs. Smith (pg. 35, The Secret Life of Hannah W. Smith, Marie Henry).  Such an event by no means changes the plain historical fact that she was firmly entrenched in Quakerism for the entirety of her time as a public speaker, teacher of men, Higher Life crusader, and formative writer in the Keswick movement, although she was not always specifically a member of a Quaker assembly.
[17]            Pg. 30, Remarkable Relations, Barbara Strachey; cf. pg. 55 for Hannah’s continued public speaking.
[18]            Pg. 68, The Secret Life of Hannah Whitall Smith, Marie Henry.
[19]            Pg. 55, Remarkable Relations, Strachey.
[20]            Pg. 29, Remarkable Relations, Strachey; Italics in original. Compare 1 John 3:14.
[21]            Cf. Letter to Sarah, Marcy 12, 1885, reproduced in the entry for December 25 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[22]            Letter to a Friend, August 22, 1880, reproduced in the entries for October 14-15 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[23]            Thus, for example, a few days before the Brighton Convention, Robert having just concluded his continental preaching tour in 1875, when “it seem[ed] as if the whole German and Swiss Churches were moved to their very center by his message” of the Higher Life, Mr. and Mrs. Smith would still attend the Friends Meeting with Mr. Cowper-Temple, where Hannah would preach to people who had come to town to attend the Brighton Convention (pg. 26, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith.  Letter to her parents, John and Mary Whitall, May 26, 1875; cf. also pg. 29).  The idea that one would need to separate from and reject Quakerism as heresy to be part of the Higher Life or Keswick Conventions was absolutely unthinkable.
[24]            Pgs. 494-497, “The ‘Higher Life’ Movement,” Chapter 4 in Perfectionism, vol. 2, Benjamin B. Warfield.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003 (reprint of 1932 Oxford ed.).  Warfield downplays Robert P. Smith’s Quaker background, but it is unreasonable to do so when, for instance, Mr. Smith did not renounce the Quakerism into which he was born as a false religion and he had his “steadily more and more Quaker” wife write Higher Life articles for him, such as those which became Mrs. Smith’s bestselling Secret of a Happy Life.
[25]            Letter to Anna, August 4, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 18 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  Since any deity was acceptable to Mrs. Smith, it is not surprising that the pioneering psychologist, pragmatist, and finite god proponent William James was friends with the Pearsall Smiths, nor that, in the words of Logan Smith, James “was an admirer of my mother’s religious writings” (pg. 114, Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith;  Logan notes that James also “enlisted my father’s assistance in the formation of an American Society for Psychical Research.”).
[26]            “It is to be hoped I give . . . sound teaching! [For she did not know if she did or not.]  At any rate it is comfortable teaching” (pg. 183, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith.  Letter to her daughter, Mary Berenson, February 22, 1906.  Italics in original.). Compare Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11.
[27]            Pg. 204, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to her Daughter, Mary Berenson, November 26, 1908.  Italics in original.
[28]            pg. 376, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875.  Contrast Zechariah 12:10-14; Matthew 5:4; 1 Corinthians 5:2; James 4:9-10.
[29]            Pgs. 155-156, Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith.  Mrs. Smith justified this utterly unbiblical advice by a wretched abuse of Philippians 2:13, which was said to prove that God leads people to do whatever they want.
[30]            Logan recounts the situation in which this advice was given:
I remember once when [Hannah Smith] was full of years, and famous for her religious teachings, that a party of schoolgirls from some pious school in Philadelphia visited Oxford, and the teacher who conducted the party wrote to my mother . . . to say that it would be a privilege for the little flock of maidens to have a sight of this venerable Quaker saint, and to hear from her lips a few pious words.  The permission was granted;  the schoolgirls assembled on the spacious lawn outside our house . . . [W]hen she opened her lips I was considerably surprised to her her say, “Girls, don’t be too unselfish.”
        “Surely, Mother,” I remonstrated with her afterwards, “when those girls go home their pious relations will be dreadfully shocked by what thee said.”
        “Yes,” she replied gayly, “yes, I dare say it will make them grind their teeth.” (pgs. 156-157, Unforgotten Years, Logan P. Smith)
[31]            Pgs. 38-40, Unforgotten Years, Logan P. Smith.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Family Pictures

I'm going to continue my series on church growth.  I had an outline, and I think it will be three posts total.  I'm going to write one on evangelism in the near future.  I've got a post I'd like to write, entitled, American Idol, which will reveal what I think is the biggest idol in America.  I'm going to write a post that shows a video of a talk between a well-known atheist and theist, just a short little interview.  I'm going to break down the questions and the answers here.  I've got all that coming, but I can't get to it right at the moment.  It's possible I'll post later today or tomorrow, but maybe not, because Thomas Ross's post will come Friday, nonetheless.

I thought I would post these pictures anyway from the photographic shoot done by my oldest daughter on her new camera.  They are both funny ones.

The first is just crazy.



The second one.  They like their brother.



They do, but not that much.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How Does Modern Church Growth Not Compare to Church Growth in the Bible, part one

The Bible is without error and sufficient.  As a corollary to those two truths, scripture also contains everything anyone needs to know about church growth.  When we look at the biblical teaching and example for church growth, we get everything we need for church growth.  The New Testament contains so much about it that it could be said to be a, if not the, major theme.

When I write, "church growth," what am I talking about?  I'm talking numerical growth, a church getting bigger.  How does that or should that occur?  Much recent material has been written about this subject.   So much has now been said about how to make your church get bigger, that there isn't anything left to doubt.  If you apply the techniques and use the formulas, your church will get bigger. If your church isn't getting numerically bigger, you are either unwilling to do what it takes, lacking in basic human ability, or you are ignorant.

The popularity of church growth relates heavily to a particular view of success.  Almost no one today will credit a small church for success.  Even if a small church is said to "know what it's doing," people still don't think it, and don't treat it as such.  Even those who decry wrong methods and say they oppose the modern church growth movement give notice to those with larger churches.  They too think something is wrong with a smaller church.

Success is bred into American thinking especially with capitalism and free market competition. You have your life in your hands, you make something of yourself, and a success story is a story of numeric growth.  The American man pulls himself up by his boot straps and causes his own success. If he isn't doing that, he isn't worth emulating.

The bigger church with more people offers more benefits.  That church and its leader(s) can tell you how to do it too, can add to your market, have more money, and can do more to promote you too. With more resources, the bigger church can promote itself better.  It has more money to spend then on self promotion and perpetuates the growth through its own size.  People know that bigger is more attractive because it comes with benefits.  To leave big means going to less successful, which means you are less successful.

The nature of the flesh and pride, all at work in this world, side with a bigger church.  Bigger is better.  You order a meal and you did better with larger portions.  You buy a house and you did better with more square feet and a larger yard.  The 70 inch flat screen is better than 40 inches.  On your finger is a bigger diamond, so it's better.  The NBA publishes the number in attendance.  The University of Michigan puts over 100,000 in the "big house."  You are a better author with more book sales.  You are a better leader in politics if you get more votes.  America loves a winner!  A bigger number of wins means you are a winner.  If you don't get big, you're a loser.  Do you want that?  No!

Where else we're at today on this is that you are a very bad man if you criticize the big churches.  You are sour grapes.  You are bitter.  You're a bad loser.  You are against unity.   You must rejoice in their growth.  They are "blessed," and God is "blessing" them.  That is big of you.  That is to be a good loser.  To not be very happy about their growth is to be envious.  They can do it and you can't.

Actually, no, you can do it, but you won't.  The bigger churches are playing off of the fact that they are different than your church.  They do it all the time.  They want the people to know you're a loser and they are a winner. That is a big part of their strategy.  This isn't envy.  They are wrong!  They are the losers actually and then strutting all over the end zone and spiking the ball like they are winners.  They are losers!  They aren't willing to obey the Bible.  They aren't willing to sacrifice.  They aren't blessed.  They are repugnant.  Saying they're blessed is a lie.  It alters the meaning blessing like they've altered all sorts of other biblical doctrines to get where they are.

Let's say that success really is obeying the Bible, the Joshua 1:8 idea of success.  You sort out what the Bible says and leave success to God.  You do no more than what the Bible says in order to grow, knowing that is God's way.  Let's compare church growth in the Bible to modern church growth. This post will deal with only the first.

One, church growth in the Bible proceeded from a true gospel and modern church growth most often does not.

According to my observation or in my estimation, most modern church growth proceeds from something less than a true gospel, when all the church growth in the Bible came from a true gospel. Church growth from an altered or watered down gospel is a development in church history, and especially recent history.  The gospel has been changed in three primary ways.

First, as the church growth movement has expanded, its gospel has become traditional.  It sounds like the gospel to many, because it is what they've heard, so it must be right.  People use the long-time corruption as if it were orthodox.  Second, churches have just adapted the gospel to the church growth strategy, estimating that their alterations have kept it suitably intact to remain the gospel and still save people.  Third, churches have kept a historic, biblical, and orthodox gospel, but the methods for church growth themselves alter the meaning in a more subtle way.  People are not being saved because they are receiving it within a false context.  Meaning can be denotative (dictionary) and connotative (emotional and cultural baggage).

Jesus and the Apostles didn't try to trick people.  The point of receiving Jesus was to understand receiving Jesus.  The person receiving needed to know what it was to believe or receive and needed to know who Jesus was.   There wasn't an attempt to get to a decision, but to be clear about who He was.  All the expectations were included.  Anything that could offend was presented too.

Churches today are full of "saved people," who are not saved.  They have made professions based upon false information.  The churches operate in a way that a person like that can remain comfortable.  That is part of the strategy.  The way the "gospel" has been packaged has had much to do with their being fooled.  This can happen even when everything is being done right and a true gospel is being presented.  People can still be making a false profession and be unsaved.  Scripture is replete with warnings about a mixed multitude and how to know if it is real.

In the Bible, we see the preachers wanting people to understand what the gospel meant.  They were going to allow the gospel to be the basis for the conversion.  Today the terms have been changed and the decision is most often more centered on self.

Nothing has characterized the placebo gospel than bifurcating Savior from Lord.  This is cause for exponentially more professions and false ones, and then explaining why someone doesn't exhibit fruit of salvation.  It brings people in on a false premise and then keeps them on a similar one.  The door is wider at the entrance and then it's just easier to stay in, once in.

I find that people don't even want to hear the true gospel.  Today's "evangelists" know that, and so they preach something modified to what people do want to hear.  And now the modified message is what people are willing to accept.  They compare it with the truth and like it better, so accept it as the truth.

The modern church growth movement doesn't grow based on the gospel.  They might say that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, it isn't the power of God in their case.  It is the power of their claim of power.  You think you got something and you didn't, but it's still called getting something.

Churches know what people want and expect.  They tweak the gospel to get there, through a type of negotiation.  It's a deal to be made with people.  It can be done in man's power.  He's being offered a product, very likable, and there's the haggling about the cost.  Now the church, like a modern company, keeps track of the acceptable threshold for people.

Even with churches that include lordship, the ones "buying in" can see that not much will change. Jesus is King and He's calling for subjugation, but it's like signing on for a timeshare.  You go through the presentation and there will be some sacrifice, but you know that you get all the comforts. Life isn't going to change that much.  Egalitarian marriages are welcome.  All the worldly desires can stay the same.  You can see that by looking at the other people in the church with the rock music called a service.

It isn't hard to understand the concept of preaching the gospel to everyone.  We can just do that.  So why isn't it done yet?  People don't like it.  They don't want it.  Therefore, other methods have replaced that, which work better.  Meanwhile, not everyone hears.  This is because the biblical way doesn't work.  People know that.

The gospel itself is great to a true believer.  He gets the alternative.  Hell.  He knows sin offends God and pleasing God is what life is about.   He loves the gospel.  He wants to present even knowing that the world doesn't want to hear it.  He keeps doing it because of the value of the gospel itself.  That's what makes it great, not whether the world likes it or not.  When someone changes the gospel, the good thing has been spoiled and the spoiled thing isn't worth talking about.  Whether the world likes it or not, the gospel is great.  The world doesn't know it because it is rebellious and deceived, but lovers of the gospel still tell it, because they do know it's great.  Nothing is greater than God's plan.

(to be continued)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hannah W. Smith and The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, part 2 of Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic

Hannah wrote her book out of a conviction that Higher Life or Keswick doctrine was solid Quaker teaching.  She was convinced that “the early leaders of her own society of Friends [Quakers] had been preaching the same” Higher Life theology “which she was hearing about from . . . Methodist writers such as John Wesley” and “the Holiness advocates of her day.”[1]  Certainly the classic Quaker doctrine of sanctification is either extremely similar or entirely identical to the doctrine taught by the Keswick convention.[2]  Hannah was confident that her Higher Life teaching was simply classic, unreformed Quakerism.
How, then, did Mrs. Smith come to write her bestselling and extremely influential Quaker and Keswick classic?  She explained:
[M]y book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life . . . was written simply and only to oblige my husband, who was editing a monthly religious paper at the time, and who begged me each month for an article.  I had no feeling whatever of being “called” to write it, nor that I was being “guided” in any way. . . . I said . . . that I would only write one [article], and that he need not expect me to continue.  For some reason, however, my article excited more interest than anything else in the paper, and he begged me so much to go on writing that I finally consented to give him an article every month. . . . [T]hese articles, collected in a book, made the Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life[.] . . . But these articles were dragged from me, so to speak, at the point of the bayonet, for I never wrote them in any month until the printers were clamoring for their copy.  I could not be said, therefore, to have had any great feeling or sense of being called to write them, beyond the fact that I did it to oblige my husband[.] . . . [T]he book was not written under any special feeling of being called to write it, nor with any idea that it was in the least an especially religious service.  I did it simply and only to oblige my husband, and that was all there was to it.  I didn’t even pray much about it, nor had I any thought that I was doing a work for the Lord[.][3]
Indeed, Hannah was yet more candid in writing to her daughter:
[M]y most successful book [The Christian’s Secret] was written so to speak at the point of the bayonet, without one ray of enthusiasm, and hating to do it all the time. . . . I must repeat that I did write “The Christian’s Secret” at the point of the bayonet, as it were.  I did not want to write it at all, and only did it at father’s earnest entreaties. . . . [H]e begged me so hard that at last I said I would write one article and no more, if he would give up drinking wine at dinner.  Then when that article was published everyone clamoured for another, and father begged, and I was good-natured and went on, but under a continual protest.  And the best chapter of all was written . . . when I was . . . as near cursing as a person who had experienced the “blessings of holiness” could dare to be!  So . . . books can be successful even if they are ground out with groans and curses[.][4]
Thus, Hannah W. Smith did not pray much about her bestseller, nor think that she was doing a work for the Lord by writing it, but simply wanted her husband, at the pinnacle of his work as a Higher Life preacher, to stop drinking alcohol at dinner.  She had not a ray of enthusiasm for the book, but emphatically hated writing it, and even ground out the best chapter with groans and curses.  Nevertheless, with what appears to be assistance from the supernatural realm, her book, and its Higher Life theology, spread like wildfire and was received with overwhelming acclaim. So wonderful, she came to conclude, was the Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life that she wrote concerning it:  “Every line I write is a pure favor to the world[.]”[5]  The book was her doing—it was marvelous in her eyes.
            Nevertheless, even as she wrote her bestselling and paradigmatic Keswick book without much prayer and without thinking about doing any work for God by composing it, but filled with hatred, groans, and curses, Hannah recognized that the kind of religion she led others to adopt could be preached and promulgated by ungodly people who, without any blessing from God, simply were putting on a religious show.  After the downfall of her husband Robert P. Smith on account of his promulgation of erotic bride mysticism during the Keswick precursor Conventions,[6] the Smiths returned to America.  Upon their arrival, Dr. Charles Cullis, who “had stood by Robert more nobly and grandly than any other human being”[7] when Mr. Smith was exposed for his erotic mysticism, sought to restore Robert by having him and his wife preach some meetings.  The “sole object [of the meetings] was to reinstate Robert in the eyes of the church and the world. . . . [I]t ought not to have been called a ‘Convention for the promotion of holiness,’ but a ‘Convention for the promotion of Pearsall Smith.’”[8]  Hannah Smith wrote to a friend about these meetings:
I felt utterly indifferent to the meeting in every way . . . I f[ound] no pleasure in it whatever.  So we made no preparations for the meeting, we neither studied, nor prayed, nor meditated, nor in fact thought about it at all. . . . We both of us hated it cordially, and felt we should be only too thankful when it was over.
        It was in no sense a religious or “pious” undertaking on our parts.  We were neither fervent, nor prayerful, nor concerned, nor anything that we ought to have been. Thou sees[9] I am telling the honest truth. And I really cannot imagine a meeting begun in a worse frame of mind that [sic] ours was, according to all one’s preconceived notions of what is the right and suitable thing. And in precisely the same frame of mind we went through the meeting. It was all a wearisome performance to us. We did it as if we had crossed over an impassable gulf. The flood had come since the last time [when Higher Life meetings were held], and changed everything for us. There was no interest, no enthusiasm. The meetings were a bore; the work was like a treadmill. We counted the hours until we could get away, and hailed the moment of emancipation with unspeakable joy. . . . [We knew we had] indifference and want of every sort of proper qualification for Christian work, which I have described before[.] . . . I was utterly unmoved; and both Robert and I came away more confirmed than ever in our feeling of entire relief from everything of the kind. We are done! Somebody else may do it now.
However, despite the fact that neither Robert nor Hannah Smith could stand being at the meetings, the power from the spirit world that was evident in their earlier ministry was more abundant than ever:
I . . . am compelled to record that the meeting was a perfect success. There was just the same power and blessing as at Oxford or Brighton, only on a smaller scale because of the meeting being smaller. There was every sign of the continual presence of the Spirit. Souls were converted, backsliders restored, Christians sanctified, and all present seemed to receive definite blessings. Dr. Cullis and many others say that it was the best meeting ever held in this country. And it really was a good meeting, even I, uninterested as I was, could see that. There was just the same apparent wave of blessing that swept over our English meetings. And Robert and I never worked more effectually. He had all his old power in preaching and leading meetings, and the very self-same atmosphere of the Spirit was with him as used to be in England. As for me, thee knows I am not much given to tell of my own successes, but in this case, in order that thee may have all the facts, I have to tell thee that I was decidedly “favored” as Friends say. In fact I don’t believe I ever was as good. All who had heard me before said so.
The fuss that was made over me was a little more than even in England. The preachers fairly sat at my feet, figuratively speaking, and constantly there kept coming to me testimonies of definite blessings received while I spoke. The second time I spoke a Democratic Editor was converted and consecrated on the spot; and I could scarcely get a minute to myself for the enquirers who fairly overwhelmed me. . . . I had to write all this, and thee must tear it right up, but how could thee know it unless I told thee[.] . . .  For who would have dreamed of such an outcome to the indifference and want of every sort of proper qualification for [Christian] work, which I have described beforehand? . . . They all talked to me most solemnly about how dreadful it was in me to think of giving up public work[.] . . . We had to refuse lots of urgent invitations to hold meetings in various places, but we did it without a longing thought, only too thankful to be released. . . .
The one satisfaction of the meeting to us was this, and it was a satisfaction, that Robert was treated with all the old deference and respect, and that no one even seemed to think of or remember the English scandals, and Robert felt that it was a complete reinstatement of himself in the eyes of the church and the world. Our object in going to the meeting was accomplished . . . it will wipe out all the wretched English blot, and put him right once more. And then henceforth home and home life for us.
Personal holiness and genuine blessing from the Holy Spirit were not required for the type of religion spread by Hannah and Robert Smith.  Their Higher Life doctrine could be spread by both knowingly unconsecrated Christians who were just putting on a weary performance and by unconverted persons.  Hannah continued:
And now, WHAT does thee think of it all? I think one of two things, but which one I think, I don’t know. Perhaps thee can tell me. Either I was awfully wicked in the whole matter, and God was not in it anywhere, and all the success was by force of natural gifts and talents. Or else I was awfully good, so good as to have lost sight of self to such a degree as to be only a straw wafted on the wind of the Spirit, and so consecrated as not to be able to form a desire even, except that the will of God might be fully done.
I waver about myself continually. Sometimes I feel sure I have progressed wonderfully, and that my present sphinx-like calm and indifference to everything whether inward or outward except the will of God, is very grand. . . . I really don’t much care what His will is. . . .  And then again I think I am an utterly irreligious and lazy fatalist, with not a spark of the divine in me.[10] I do wish I could find out which I am. But at all events my orthodoxy has fled to the winds. I am Broad, Broader, Broadest! So broad that I believe everything is good, or has a germ of good in it, and “nothing to be refused,” if it be received with thankfulness.
I agree with everybody, and always think it likely everybody’s “view” is better than my own. I hold all sorts of heresies, and feel myself to have got out into a limitless ocean of the love of God that overflows all things. My theology is complete, if you but grant me an omnipotent and just Creator. I need nothing more.[11] All the tempests in the various religious teapots around me do seem so far off, so young, so green, so petty!  I know I was there once, it must have been ages ago, and it seems impossible. “God is love,” comprises my whole system of ethics. And, as thou says, it seems to take in all. . . . I guess He means us to be good human beings in this world, and nothing more. . . . There is certainly a very grave defect in any doctrine that universally makes its holders narrow and uncharitable, and this is always the case with strict so-called orthodoxy. Whereas, as soon as Christian love comes in, the bounds widen infinitely. I find that everyone who has travelled this highway of holiness for any length of time, has invariably cut loose from its old moorings.[12] I bring out my heresies to such, expecting reproof, when lo! I find sympathy. We are “out on the ocean sailing,” that is certain. And if it is the ocean of God’s love, as I believe, it is grand.
But, enough! Now, what will thee do with it all?[13]
Hannah saw that her Higher Life doctrine did not require the blessing of the Spirit of God and that it led people to reject Christian orthodoxy for ever greater heresy.  While she was not willing to commit to the truth because of her unwillingness to evaluate everything by Scripture alone, she was correct when she opined:  “I was awfully wicked in the whole matter, and God was not in it anywhere and all the success was because of our natural gifts and talents.”  Both Mrs. Smith and her husband possessed tremendous natural powers and salesmanship abilities which they used to great success.[14]  Mrs. Smith was also correct that her sphinxlike indifference was pagan fatalism,[15] irreligious, and evidence that she had nothing of God in her.  Describing the powers that brought her to be leading meetings and services continually, Hannah wrote:  “There seems to be something occult about it.”[16]  Nonetheless, she continued on her path without care or concern, feeling happy.  Mr. Smith recognized the overwhelming evidence provided by his last “successful” meeting that the Holy Spirit was not in his work at all, but that his success was simply natural;  his apostasy from the profession of Christianity to agnosticism following in due course.[17]  Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, was not willing to recognize that all her Higher Life agitation had been done without any real blessing by God, and so she retained her belief in the Higher Life and in a deity, while her orthodoxy, such as it was, went to the winds.  She could be satisfied without the incarnate Christ,[18] considering doctrines such as His Deity, crucifixion, and resurrection as mere tempests in a religious teapot.  She could be satisfied also without the church.[19] She could even be satisfied with the piety of mystical Hindu syncretism or Buddhism,[20] as long as she had a simple Creator.  When Mrs. Smith could dilute the whole counsel of God contained in the complete Bible to a simple and mushy “God is love”[21]—whoever and whatever God is—and when those who “travelled on this highway” of the Higher Life with her “for any length of time” ended up jettisoning orthodoxy also, it should have been glaringly and horribly obvious to her upon self-examination (2 Corinthians 13:5) that her religion was earthly, sensual, and devilish.



This entire study can be accessed here.





[1]              See January 19-20, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[2]              Cf. the article “Justification and Sanctification” in the Orthodox Quaker Declaration of Faith Issued by the Richmond Conference in 1887 (Elec. acc. http://www.quakerinfo.com/rdf.shtml), where both a Higher Life theology is affirmed and the Quaker heresy that justification is by the impartation of righteousness rather than imputed righteousness is confessed.
[3]              Pgs. 251-253, Religious Fanaticism:  Extracts from the Papers of Hannah Whitall Smith, ed. & intr. Ray Strachey.
[4]              Pgs. 172-174, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.  Letters to her daughter, Mary Berenson, January 1, 1905 & February 25, 1905.  Italics retained from the original.
[5]              Pg. 23, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing a Letter to her Husband, Robert Pearsall Smith, April 27, 1875.  Italics in original.
[6]              The erotic Spirit baptism doctrine promulgated by the Pearsall Smiths will be explicated in further detail in later blog posts.
[7]              Pg. 32, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to Mrs. Anna Shipley, August 8, 1876.
[8]              Pg. 32, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to Mrs. Anna Shipley, August 8, 1876.
[9]              The use of the archaic English pronoun in this fashion was typical among the Quakers of Hannah Smith’s day.
[10]            That is, without the Divine Seed of Quakerism.
[11]            That is, Jesus Christ was not necessary, Mrs. Smith thought.  Note that this satisfaction with a bare creative deity, a satisfication with a god other and less than the Triune Jehovah who has brought redemption through His incarnate Son, was Hannah W. Smith’s expressed doctrine immediately after the 1874-5 Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton Conventions.  One cannot maintain that she was solidly orthodox at the time she founded the Keswick theology and merely became a heretic, say, some decades later.
[12]            That is, the adoption of the Higher Life leads to the disowning of Christian orthodoxy.
[13]            Pgs. 32-36, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith.  Letter to Mrs. Anna Shipley, August 8, 1876.  Italics and capitalization in original.  See also Letter to a Friend, August 8, 1876, reproduced in the entries for August 2-4 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  A portion of the letter not reproduced by Logan is found in Dieter.  Hannah elsewhere wrote:  “The truth is my ‘broadness’ embraces every soul that is reaching out after God and every instrumentality that helps any to find Him, no matter how different it may be from my own views and ways”—that is, as long as one is “reaching after God,” Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, animism, or any other system of belief was acceptable (Letter to a Friend, May 24, 1880, reproduced in the entry for October 10 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).
[14]            Logan Pearsall Smith described the natural powers of salesmanship possessed by his father Robert P. Smith as follows:
My father was a man of fine presence, and of a sanguine, enthusiastic temperament[.] . . . He was, above all, a magnificent salesman; and traveling all over the United States, and offering the firm’s wares [the glass manufacturing firm Robert worked with before he became a Higher Life preacher] to the chemists of the rapidly expanding Republic, he exercised upon those apothecaries the gifts of persuasion and blandishment, almost of hypnotization, which were destined later, in European and more exalted spheres, to produce some startling results [in his Higher Life work]. . . . My father . . . possessed the hypnotic power of swaying great audiences[.] (pgs. 32, 72 Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith)
[15]            The sphinxlike indifference of Hannah W. Smith was radically different from the attitude of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Mrs. Smith declared:  “I utterly refuse to let myself indulge in grief for my children who have left me [in death.] . . . It is really disobedience . . . to indulge in grief” (Letter to Priscilla, January 28, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 11 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  “She had lost her elder son . . . her heart was untroubled” (pg. 49, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Contrast Mrs. Smith’s attitude with that of the Lord Jesus Christ:  “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled[.] . . . Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36).
[16]            Pg. 133, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.  Letter to her Daughter, Mary Costelloe, October 29, 1896.
[17]            Logan Pearsall Smith wrote:  “After this ‘scamp meeting’ . . . as Dr. Cullis wittily called it . . . and the disillusion it brought, in spite of its success, my father became more sympathetic to my grandfather’s want of faith;  and this feeling was much increased [as time continued to pass]” (pgs. 66-69, Unforgotten Years).
[18]            One is not surprised that Hannah was also sympathetic to and ready to reject the orthodox doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon on the Person of Christ and His two natures for the heretical and idolatrous kenotic theory as expressed by Godet, that “the Church doctrine of the two natures does not perfectly set forth the sense of the Scriptures . . . the Scriptures do not teach the presence of the divine nature with its divine attributes in Jesus on earth. The expression in John 1:14 conveys the idea of a divine subject reduced to a human state, but not of two states, divine and human, co-existing” (pg. 399, The Humiliation of Christ in its Physical, Ethical, and Official Aspects, A. B. Bruce.  Edinburgh:  T & T Clark, 1900).  Hannah Smith explained how the Higher Life led her against Biblical and Chalcedonian Christology:
I must read Godet . . . [for] his views of Christ . . . I am not at all shocked at what you tell me about them; and it would be just like our God to take our place really and actually, and share our lot even in its limitations. I think I would have done it if I were in His place. . . . Anna, when once the soul has begun to know God, old prejudices must go! And before the two grand facts of His justice and His love, all the old creeds and notions vanish like clouds before sunshine. . . . I cannot express how thankful I am for the relentless pressure my dear Methodist friends put me under years ago on this matter of consecration. (Letter to Mrs. Shipley, 1878, reproduced in the entry for September 8 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).
Hannah was sympathetic to the kenotic theory, for, even if it was not taught in the Bible, she would have followed it if she were God.  In any case, at least she had a Divine seed in her, as Quakerism taught.
[19]            “Somehow my two summers out in the wilds of nature, with no meetings and no religious influences, only God and His works, have been more helpful in my interior life than any other thing I have ever known” (Letter to Anna, November 24, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 29 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  Contrast the attitude of King David towards the instituted worship of the Lord:  “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. . . . For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand” (Psalm 84:1-2, 10).
[20]            Her attitude toward a syncretistic blending of Hinduism and Christianity is evident in her view of Chunder Sen.  “In 1857 the young Keshub Chunder Sen (1838–84) joined the society . . . Brahmo Samaj (Society of Brahma), which taught theism and rationality against the background of Indian mysticism[.] . . .  Later he formed a new group, the Brahmo Samaj of India,” which combined Hindu mysticism with “social Christianity” and “adopted some Christian teachings” while remaining fundamentally Hindu (pg. 549, The Encyclopedia of Christianity, vol. 2, E. Fahlbusch & G. W. Bromiley.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1999-2003).  Hannah Smith viewed this Hindu idolator and syncretist as a great spiritual teacher, and affirmed that, led by her Inner Light, she worshipped the same god, the god of mysticism, the god of this world (Ephesians 2:1-3), the god that spoke to the Quakers and gave them revelations that went beyond the Bible, as the Hindu mystic:
I have read Chunder Sen, and do feel just like sailing for India to see him. What a grand revelation that man has had! It stirred me to the very depths. Oh, beloved, how it shames us who have such a blaze of light all our lives long! Where did we take the fatal turning that has led us so far astray? . . . I thank God however that the light has come at last; and like Chunder Sen I say that the “residue of my independence has been swallowed up by the all-conquering all-absorbing grace of God, and I am sold forever!” How wonderful that word, “No independence” is! [That is, both Chunder Sen’s Hindu mysticism and Hannah Smith’s Higher Life mysticism practice Quietism.] It cuts down to the root of everything; and yet is so full of life, Divine life, that it seems to bring the soul out into the grandest place of liberty.
It seems just like one of God’s coincidences that I had been learning the very lessons in regard to this which Chunder Sen’s announces. I know the “I am” he knew [that is, the pagan Hindu “I am.”]. And God has said to me: “I am your church and doctrine; I am your creed and your immortality, your earth, your Heaven, your food, your raiment, your treasure here and in Heaven. Believe in Me.” To me it is a life, a free, independent, Divine life, back of all forms, an absolute, universal life, that can fit into any form, or can exist without form. [That is, any god, any worship, whether that of Jehovah or of the vilest idol, can fit into her mysticism.] It would be true then that circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision. That is, one might enter into the form or might remain without, just as led by the Spirit at the time. I cannot but think this is the deeper insight into the truth; and the more I look to the Lord about it, the clearer are my convictions. Well, I must follow the light, my light, that which is given to me, [that is, the Inner Light,] even though it separates me from all whom I love! And sometimes I think it may. . . . Am I to reckon on God and believe He has answered my prayer [for guidance apart from submission to sola Scriptura], or am I to think He has utterly disregarded it, and has left me a prey to delusions and errors? . . . [T]he Lord has had to put to death all my traditional views one after another . . . I am amazed sometimes to find out what a genuine “early Quaker” I am. (Letter to Anna, September 11, 1879, reproduced in the entries for September 22-24 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter)
Likewise, her spiritual “secret” was inquired about, she affirmed, by “Siddartha” (Letter to Anna, February 5, 1880, reproduced in the entry for October 2 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter), that is, “Siddartha Gautama” or Buddha, founder of Buddhism, which “teaches that enlightenment may be reached by elimination of earthly desires and of the idea of the self” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed., C. Soanes & A. Stevenson.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004).  Buddha also taught the sort of Quietism affirmed by Mrs. Smith.
[21]            The affirmation “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 is not an affirmation about an empty attribute of the generic deity with which Mrs. Smith could be satisfied.  The verse speaks about the loving nature of the Father of Jesus Christ.  God the Father is love, and He concretely demonstrated His character as love by giving His Son as a substitute for sinners on the cross, graciously applying the salvation purchased there to His people by the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:9-14; cf. 5:7).  1 John 4:8 is about the concretely manifested love of this particular God, the only true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.