Friday, April 24, 2015

Hannah W. Smith and Catholic Mystical Quietism: part 14 of 21 in Hannah W. Smith: Keswick Founder, Higher Life Preacher, Quaker Quietist and Universalist Heretic

Hannah Smith’s Higher Life theology, promulgated in the Keswick movement, that sanctification produces a sort of perfection of acts,[1] follows the teaching of the leading Quaker theologian Robert Barclay.[2]  However, Mrs. Smith came to her view of “the life of faith” in association not only with the “Quaker examples and influences” that from her youth led her to seek for entire sanctification,[3] but also the Catholic heretics and mystical quietists “Fénelon and Madame Guyon.”[4]  Hannah described her love for a collection of their writings and its influence upon her, and her father before her, in leading them towards the Higher Life, as follows:
I knew I was not what I ought to be.  My life was full of failure and sin. . . . I was continually sinning and repenting, making good resolutions and breaking them . . . longing for victory . . . but more often failing. . . . From the peaceful, restful lives of the Quakers, among whom I had been brought up . . . I had supposed of course that becoming a Christian meant necessarily becoming peaceful and good, and I had as much expected to have victory over sin and over worries as I had expected the sun to shine.  But I was forced to confess in the secret depths of my soul that I had been disappointed. . . . Nothing could have described my condition better than the Apostle’s account of his own condition in Romans 7:14-23.[5]  I had entered into the salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, and yet I knew no such triumphant deliverance from the “body of death” within me[.] . . . This feeling became especially strong after my discovery of the unlimited love of God.[6] . . . The Quaker examples and influences around me seemed to say there must be a deliverance somewhere, for they declared that they had experienced it[.] . . . There was also another influence in my life that seemed to tell the same story.  I possessed a book which distinctly taught that God’s children were not only commanded to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, but also that they could do so;[7]  and which seemed to reveal the mystical pathway towards it.  It was called “Spiritual Progress,” and was a collection of extracts from the writings of Fénelon and Madame Guyon.  This book was very dear to me, for it had been a gift from my adored father, and always lay on my desk beside my Bible. . . . [Concerning it, my father also testified,]  “This book proved to be of the greatest comfort to me.  I carried it in my pocket, and at leisure moments read it to my everlasting profit, I trust.  And I cannot but thank a kind Providence for giving me this blessed book.”  . . . He valued the book so highly that, as fast as his children grew old enough, he presented each one of us with a copy, and asked us to read it carefully.  Our father was so dear to us that we always wanted to please him, and I for one had made the book my special companion . . . its teachings had made a profound impression upon me[.] . . . After . . . the discovery I had made of the wideness of God’s love [universalism], I began to feel more and more uneasy. . . . And more and more I felt the inconsistency of having a salvation, which was in the end to be so magnificently complete [as every single person would be in heaven], but which failed now and here so conspiculously in giving that victory over sin and over worry . . . [until I discovered] the Methodist “blessing of holiness.”[8]
Thus, not only Quakerism, universalism, and a self-centered eudemonism that was focused upon being free from worry and having a life of ease and rest, but also Roman Catholic mysticism was key in Hannah’s discovery of the Higher Life.  In her youth Hannah had wished to “get perfectly good, just like Mme. Guyon,”[9] and even to the limits of her old age she found various affirmations of Fénelon “everlastingly true.”[10]  She further wrote:  “Fenelon’s whole teaching is to show us how to let the lower life die, and the higher life take its place[,] [that is,] . . . the ‘Higher Life’ . . . [taught in my] ‘Christian’s Secret[.]’”[11]  Likewise, Hannah Smith found “the true meaning of self abandonment” in Madame Guyon’s Commentary on the Song of Solomon,[12] found confirmation on “the subject of guidance” by the Inner “Voice” from “Madame Guyon,”[13] discovered her quietistic doctrine of resting on God in “naked faith” from “Madame Guyon” and “Fenelon,”[14] and developed her doctrine of being “one with God” from them also.[15]  Indeed, she made many discoveries from this pair of Catholic mystics, who were central to her doctrine of sanctification,[16] although other Roman Catholics were also important.[17]  Indeed, she found that not only Romanist mystics, but “[a]ll the writers on the advancing life say that a renunciation of all the activities of the soul must come before God can be all in all.”[18]  That is, quietism is the necessary prerequisite for mystical union and deification. [19]  The Higher Life “may make us lazy on the line of ‘creaturely activity,’ for all our restless strivings and agonizings will be over, and our souls will dwell in ‘peaceable habitations’ continually,”[20] but quietism is the truth, at least in the view of the writers on the advanced life, if not in the view of the Bible.
Both the Roman Catholic Archbishop Fénelon and the mystical Quietist and panentheist Madame Guyon, who in “all that concerns the distinction between Protestantism [and the Baptists] and Romanism . . .  is wholly Romanist,”[21] were enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Madame Guyon began her last will as follows:  “I protest that I die in the faith of the Catholic, apostolical, Roman Church; having no other doctrines than hers; believing all that she believes, and condemning, without restriction, all that she condemns.”[22]  She was “an outstanding proponent” of “quietism,” that “manifestation of Roman Catholic mysticism in the seveneenth and eighteenth centuries,” having adopted it from “Miguel de Molinos, a Spanish priest”[23] who was “founder of the Quietists.”[24]  Packer describes the error of Quietism:
Quietism . . . holds that all initiatives on our part, of any sort, are the energy of the flesh;  that God will move us, if at all, by inner promptings and constraints that are recognizably not thoughts and impulses of our own;  and that we should always be seeking the annihilation of our selfhood so that divine life may flow freely through our physical frames. . . . by biblical standards this passiv[e] frame of reference is altogether wrong, for the Holy Spirit’s ordinary way of working in us is through the working of our minds and wills. . . . Thus, our conscious, rational selfhood, so far from being annihilated, is strengthened . . . Philippians 2:13. This is holiness, and in the process of perfecting it there is, properly speaking, no passivity at all.[25]
David Cloud explained:
The school of mysticism that Guyon adhered to, sometimes called Quietism, was an extreme form of Roman Catholic mysticism that emphasized the cleansing of one’s inner life and included the belief that one could see Christ visibly. Before Guyon’s day, in the Middle Ages, this took strange forms in erotic “bride mysticism” with some visionaries believing they were married to Jesus. Guyon and the Quietists went further, into something called essence mysticism. They believed that their being was merged with God’s being and the two became one. This unbiblical idea survives today in the New Age and other non-Christian religions. . . . She taught that we can know of God by “passing forward into God,” going into a mindless, meditative state where we can get in touch with the Christ within the self, merge with that Christ and be lifted into ecstasy.[26]
Guyon “won many converts,” resulting in a “belief in a vague pantheism which is closer to the South Asian religions than to Christianity,” but, nevertheless, she “felt herself so close to God that she received visions and revelations,”[27] as did so many of her Higher Life successors who devoured her writings.  Madame Guyon also, with other medieval Roman Catholic mystics, believed in the abominable heresy of deification, which was also transferred into the Higher Life and Keswick milieu.[28]  Fenélon, who “admired and defended [Guyon’s] ideas,”[29] had many converts also—he became the Catholic “Superior of a house for recent converts from Protestantism and then led a mission to the Huguenots,”[30] seeking to bring those French Protestants back to the fold of that religious system, centered in Rome, that the Apostle John called the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth (Revelation 17).  Concerning these Quietists, Hannah W. Smith wrote:  “By my Quaker education, I was exceedingly inclined towards mysticism, and the books I had read—such as Madame Guyon, Fénelon, Isaac Pennington[31] and others, all of which lead to a life of introspection and self-abandonment—had greatly strengthened me in this, so that I honestly believed that wonderful spiritual light would come, and did come, to souls that gave themselves up to the control of their interior emotions and followed impressional guidance.”[32]  She stated:  “[B]ecause of my education in the Quaker Society . . . [m]y idea of guidance . . . was of having impressed upon my mind in some miraculous way the will of God;  and the teaching I received was that instant, unquestioning obedience to these impressions was the only way[.]”[33]  Quaker and Roman Catholic mysticism were at the heart of Hannah W. Smith’s Higher Life and Keswick theology.
Mrs. Smith also rejoiced in her “dear Quaker friend[s] and the Catholic Saints” who “exalted James with his justification by works.”[34]  After the death of her daughter’s Roman Catholic husband, she “covenanted that” her grandchildren from that marriage would “be educated as Roman Catholics, and she kept . . . strictly to her promise.”[35]  She wrote: “My two little grandchildren are . . . devout little Catholics, and seem to enjoy their religion, and I am glad of it.  I daresay they will be saved a good many of the perplexities and difficulties that so often beset Protestant children.”[36]  She led them to celebrate Lent,[37] to “la[y] up treasure in Heaven by giving candlesticks to a Roman Catholic High Altar” and by going to Mass[38] and the Confessional.[39] Hannah used the methods in “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” to lead “a Roman Catholic lady, a convert who was vexed by doubts about some dogma of the Church” of Rome, to an unshaken confidence in the dogma of transubstantiation.  “H. W. S. wrote out on a piece of paper, ‘I undertake never to have any more doubts about the Real Presence’ (or whatever it was), and brought it to her, and made her sign it.  After that the troubled spirit was utterly at rest”[40] in the bosom of the Whore of Babylon.  After all, nothing was wrong with Romanism, since because of a Quaker “opening,” one of the special revelations she received that supplemented or contradicted the Bible, Mrs. Smith came to realize that Roman Catholics were all one in God with other Christians.[41]  In any case, a Christian does not need to be justified by Christ’s imputed righteousness, nor believe what the Bible says about Jesus Christ—rather,  “to be a good human being is to be the best Christian that can be made.”[42]  Mrs. Smith documents how she turned away from the doctrine she had learned from the Plymouth Brethren of judicial and forensic justification by faith alone (cf. Romans 3:28), “[a]fter . . . the discovery [she] had made of the wideness of God’s love [universalism],”[43] adopting instead the heresy and works-gospel that justification means that “the life of Christ in our souls is a righteous life.”[44]  She thus denied the Biblical doctrine of justification, as well as holding to other corruptions of the gospel, both before and during the time when she began her influence as a Higher Life teacher and preacher, and she cleaved to a false gospel the rest of her life.



This entire study can be accessed here.



[1]              That is, “the necessary consequence of consecration and faith . . . is a present and complete deliverance from sinning. If my soul is really entirely surrendered to the Lord Jesus and if I am really trusting Him to work all the good pleasure of His will in me, I must be delivered from sinning” (Journal, February 16, 1869, reproduced in the entry for May 12 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.).
[2]              Barclay wrote:
This most certain doctrine then being received, that there is an evangelical and saving light and grace in all . . . as many as resist not this light, but receive the same, in them is produced an holy, pure, and spiritual birth, bringing forth holiness, righteousness, purity, and all these other blessed fruits which are acceptable to God; by which holy birth (to-wit, Jesus Christ formed within us, and working his works in us) as we are sanctified, so are we justified in the sight of God. [Barclay thus teaches that sanctification and justification are received exactly the same way, and that justification is not by Christ’s imputed righteousness, but by becoming inwardly holy, a rejection of the gospel, in which Hannah W. Smith follows him; cf. pgs. 193-194, Every-Day Religion, or The Common-Sense Teaching of the Bible, Hannah W. Smith. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1893.] . . . In whom this holy and pure birth is fully brought forth, the body of death and sin comes to be crucified and removed, and their hearts united and subjected unto the truth, so as not to obey any suggestion or temptation of the evil one, but to be free from actual sinning, and transgressing of the law of God, and in that respect perfect. Yet doth this perfection still admit of a growth; and there remaineth a possibility of sinning, where the mind doth not most diligently and watchfully attend unto the Lord. (pgs. vii-viii, cf. pgs. 87ff., Proposition 7, “Concerning Justification,” and Proposition 8, “Concerning Perfection,” An Apology for the True Christian Divinity: being an Explanation and Vindication of the Principles and Doctrines of the People called Quakers, Robert Barclay)
Hannah Smith cites Barclay repeatedly and positively in her writings;  see, e. g., her Journal from 1849, reproduced in the entry for January 3 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[3]              See, e. g., her Journal from 1849 & 1861, reproduced in the entry for January 2 & 29 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[4]           pg. 232, The Unselfishness of God.  Methodist influences were also present, as explained below.
[5]              Hannah adopts the Higher Life view of the passage that considers it as a description of Paul in self-dependent defeat.  She goes on to give the standard Keswick argument that Paul must pass out of defeat in Romans 7 into victory in Romans 8 because of Romans 7:25a, ignoring Romans 7:25b, Paul’s actual conclusion in Romans 7:14-25.
[6]              That is, after she rejected eternal torment and became a universalist.
[7]              That is, the Higher Life and Pelagian doctrine of the equation of obligation and ability, here taught to Hannah Smith by Guyon and Fénelon.
[8]              Pgs. 172-176, 185, The Unselfishness of God, Princeton, NJ: Littlebrook Press, 1987.
[9]              Pg. 2, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to her Cousin, Annie Whitall, 1850.  Hannah was 18 at the time.  Her writings contain other references to being “much helped” by Madame Guyon (cf. pg. 164, The Unselfishness of God, Hannah W. Smith, Princeton, NJ: Littlebrook Press, 1987).
[10]            Pg. 213, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to her Daughter, Mary Berenson, March 25, 1910.  Hannah was 78 at the time.
[11]          Letter to Daughter Mary, October 9, 1881, reproduced in the entry for October 30 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[12]            Journal, Millville N. J., August 27, 1865; reproduced in the entry for February 3 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[13]            Letter to Abby, Millville N. J., September 6, 1865; reproduced in the entry for February 4 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[14]            Letter to Carrie, March 12, 1881; reproduced in the entry for October 25 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[15]            Letter to Carrie, March 12, 1881; reproduced in the entry for October 25 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  Guyon and Fénelon also assisted Hannah move all the further away from literal interpretation of Scripture to the “inner sense” of allegorical, mystical, and non-literal interpretation that supported the doctrines she was imbibing from the Romanists.
[16]            Compare Letter to Sarah, March 7, 1881; Letter to Priscilla, 1883; Letter to a Friend, January 17, 1883, Providence, R.I., reproduced in the entries for October 24, November 16, & December 7 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[17]            For example, Hannah enjoyed the works of Frederick W. Faber, who journeyed with Cardinal Newman from the false gospel of Anglo-Catholicism into the arms of the Roman harlot itself (Revelation 17).  She quoted him favorably in chapter 22 of her Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.  Commending him to another, she likewise wrote:  “I wish you had Faber’s Growth in Holiness to read a little of it as a part of your devotions. I find him very helpful” (Letter to Carrie, February 2, 1881, reproduced in the entry for October 23 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  See further representative examples of her positive view of Faber in Letter to Robert, July 20, 1873, Letter to a Friend, September 2, 1873, Letter to Anna, September 29, 1876, Letter to a Friend, August 17, 1879, reproduced in the entries for July 2, 5, August 9, September 20, of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter, etc.
[18]            Letter, 1880, reproduced in the entry for October 19 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.  Fenelon and Guyon were the most prominent of these “writers on the advancing life” or “spiritual writers”;  cf. Letter to Carrie, March 12, 1881, reproduced in the entry for October 25 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[19]          Hannah W. Smith’s doctrine would have been in accord with her fellow preacher and founder of the Broadlands Conferences, Lord Mount Temple:  “My Lord Jesus, as Thou didst take my humanity, I pray Thee impart to me Thy Divinity” (pg. 183, Memorials [of William Francis Cowper-Temple, Baron Mount-Temple], Georgina Cowper-Temple.  London:  Printed for private circulation, 1890).
[20]            Letter to Priscilla, September 20, 1882, reproduced in the entry for October 25 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[21]          pg. 376, Perfectionism, vol. 2, Benjamin B. Warfield.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003; reprint of 1932 Oxford ed.
[22]          “Guyon, Jeanne-Marie Bouvier De La Mothe,” pg. 402 in the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. 3, James Strong & John McClintock. Elec. acc. Christian Library Series vol. 2. Albany, OR: AGES Software, 2006.
[23]            Pg. 901, “Quietism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell.
[24]            “Molinos, Miguel De,” Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, John McClintock & James Strong, vol. 6, elec. acc. AGES Digital Software Library.
[25]            Pg. 127, Keep In Step With The Spirit, Packer.
[26]          “The Delusions of Madame Guyon,” by David Cloud.  Port Huron, MI:  Fundamental Baptist Information Service, November 16, 2010.  It is likely that the medieval Roman Catholic erotic bridal mysticism was ultimately at the root of the theological trajectory that led to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s reception of the doctrine, although Henry Foster was the more immediate instrument of their adoption of the heresy.
[27]            Pg. 902, “Quietism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell.
[28]            Madame Guyon wrote:  “The essential union is the spiritual marriage where there is a communication of substance, when God takes the soul for His spouse, unites it to Himself, not personally, nor by any act or means, but immediately reducing all to a unity. The soul ought not, nor can, any more make any distinction between God and itself. God is the soul, the soul is God” (cited pgs. 82-83, The “Higher Life” Doctrine of Sanctification, Henry A. Boardman).  “Communication of substance” is classical Trinitarian language for the possession of the undivided Divine essence by the Son through His being eternally begotten by the Father, and of the Spirit’s possession of the undivided Divine essence by eternal procession from the Father and the Son. To affirm that the Divine substance is communicated to a human being, so that the soul is God, is horrific blasphemy. Sundry Keswick advocates, such as Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, accepted the mystical heresy of deification, which was present in the Keswick movement from the time of its genesis in the Broadlands Conferences.  Since the Higher Life and Keswick theology developed out of a historical trajectory involving Guyon, Fénelon, and mystical Quietism, this acceptance of deification is natural.  However, more orthodox proponents of Keswick theology agree with Stephen Barabas and deny that sanctification involves “the merger of the personality with that of God . . . [or] the destruction of the personality” (pg. 121, So Great Salvation, Barabas);  those Higher Life writers who agree with Barabas have allowed Scripture to remove this particular heresy from the historical stream of Keswick theology within which they swim.
                The Word of Faith movement likewise calls believers “god men” and preaches deification, as did the nineteenth century New Thought movement, which developed “the Divinity of Man” through “obedience to the Indwelling Presence which is our source of Inspiration, Power, Health, [and] Prosperity” (pgs. 106-107, A Different Gospel, McConnell).  The metaphysical and Word of Faith doctrine that through “deification” men “are transformed into gods,” since “man was created with the divine nature, sinned, and was filled with satanic nature;  but through the new birth, he is again infused with the divine nature,” so that “to be born again” is to receive “the nature and life of God in one’s spirit” (pg. 119-121, ibid.) is also very similar to the doctrine of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and the Word of Faith system arose from the Higher Life antecedents that produced Pentecostalism.
[29]            Pg. 902, “Quietism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell.
[30]            Pg. 89, “Fénelon, Francois de Salignac de Mothe,” Who’s Who in Christianity, ed. Lavinia Cohn-Sherbok.
[31]            Pennington was a Quaker mystic and heretic.  Hannah W. Smith repeately refers to him (e. g., April 23, May 6, September 9, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life:  The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith, ed. Melvin Dieter).
[32]            Pg. 206, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey.
[33]            Pg.  240, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey.
[34]          Pg. 234, My Spiritual Autobiography, Hannah W. Smith.  James does not teach that one is justified in the sight of God by works, nor contradict in any way the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone (Romans 3:28).
[35]          Pgs. 158, 144, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.  She would not have even “the narrowest Catholicism” taken away from her granddaughters (pg. 194, ibid).  See also pg. xx.
[36]            Pg. 139, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.  Letter to Miss Olive Seward, March 28, 1898.
[37]            Pg. 158, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.
[38]            Pg. 158, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.
[39]            Pg. 174-175, 184, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.
[40]          Pg. 153, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith.
[41]            “I had one of my ‘openings’ in regard to all the Catholic ceremonies, that took away forever my prejudices, and made me feel that it was a fact that we are all one in God.  Such openings are tremendously enlightening.  I love to have them”  (pg. 216, A Religious Rebel: The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Smith).
[42]            Pg. 256, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey.
[43]          pg. 237, My Spiritual Autobiography, Hannah W. Smith.
[44]            Pg. 193-194, Every-Day Religion, Hannah W. Smith.

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