Friday, May 24, 2019

Jessie Penn-Lewis: Conversion (?) and Higher Life (part 2 of 22)

In addition to Quaker and Freemason meetings, Jessie Penn-Lewis also attended Anglican services.  For instance, after marrying William (neither Jessie nor William even professed conversion to Christ before their marriage),[1] the Penn-Lewis family attended “the Church of the Annunciation . . . [where Mr. Penn-Lewis had been] attending [before their marriage],” an Anglican congregation where the “Vicar was an extreme High Churchman” who believed in a damnable sacramental salvation, the Papist confessional, and other “strong Anglo-Catholic views.”[2]  During the second year of her marriage, Jessie “began to feel very ill at ease about the Lord’s Return” and she was allegedly converted to Christ,[3] although she did not breathe a word to anyone about this professed salvation until a year and a half later, when, having moved to the Anglican parish where Evan Hopkins was the minister, she was simply “asked if she were ‘a Christian,’ and her . . . answer ‘Yes’ was her first open confession of Christ,”[4] this response allegedly proving not merely her religiosity, but her supernatural true conversion and regeneration.

Describing her professed conversion, Penn-Lewis testified: “[I had] a deep inward desire to know that I was a child of God[.] . . . [T]aking . . . my (too little read) Bible from the shelf, [I] turne[d] over the leaves, and [my] eye f[ell] [upon] the words, ‘The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all’:  again a casual turn of the sacred pages, and [I read] the words, ‘He that believeth hath Eternal Life.’ . . . [I considered] whether I did believe that God had laid my sins upon the Lamb of God on the Cross:  a pause of wonderment that it really said that I had Eternal Life if I simply believed God’s Word:  a quick cry of ‘Lord, I do believe’—and [I] passed from death unto life.”  One would wish to hope that Mrs. Penn-Lewis was actually saved, although the facts that she wished to know that she “was” a child of God, befitting her Quaker background, rather than desiring to “become” one (cf. Luke 5:31-32; 19:10), that her description of her professed conversion sounds dangerously like an affirmation that the new birth is a matter of a “believe that,” a mental assent to certain facts (James 2:19), rather than a supernaturally wrought and spiritual coming to the Person of Christ in repentant faith and trusting in His death and shed blood (cf. John 6:37), and that she entirely omits any mention of repentance (cf. Luke 13:3), including repentance of the false gospels taught in Quakerism, Masonry, and Anglo-Catholicism (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1), make the genuineness of her new birth a matter of severe doubt, especially as she continued to associate with Quakerism and other false religions that taught a false gospel (Galatians 1:8-9) the rest of her life, and she certainly was never immersed into the membership of a Bible-believing and practicing church upon profession of faith as did regenerate people in the Bible (cf. Acts 2:41-47; Mark 16:16).

Perhaps Penn-Lewis’s weak view of conversion and regeneration contributed to her passing beyond the more typical Keswick division of Christians into those who are spiritual and those who are perpetually carnal into her own four-fold division, a division in which she was followed by Watchman Nee.  She taught in her Four Planes of the Spiritual Life that “[b]elievers in Christ . . . all lived on one of four planes:  the evangelistic plane, the revival or Pentecost plane, the path of the Cross plane, or the spiritual warfare plane.  Each of these had a commencement, a continuation, and a consummation before you went on to the next.”[5] That is:

There are four planes—broadly speaking—in the spiritual life of the believer, and of the Christian worker: The first plane we may call the “evangelistic” plane; that is, the plane where the soul knows the new birth; knows that he has eternal life in Christ; where he becomes a soul winner, preaches salvation from the penalty of sin, and is used to lead others to Christ; where the entire objective is winning souls for Christ; where he is faithful in proclaiming the gospel of salvation in Christ.

Then there is the second plane, which may be called the “revival” plane; or the stage in personal experience where the believer receives the fulness of the Holy Spirit, learns to know Him and to obey Him; to rely upon Him and to look to Him to work as he co-operates with Him, and is used to lead others into the experience of the fulness of the Spirit.

Then there is the third plane, which we may call the plane of the “path of the cross,” where the believer experimentally apprehends his position in Romans 6 in fellowship with Christ's death; is brought into “conformity” to His death (Philippians 3:10); he learns the fellowship of His sufferings, and is led to walk in the path of the Cross in every detail of practical life. Here the believer is able to interpret to others the way of the Cross, and to lead others to know Romans 6 and 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 in experience.

The fourth plane is the plane of spiritual warfare. It is really the “ascension” plane, where the believer knows his union with Christ, seated with Him “far above all principality and power”; and where, in service, he is in aggressive warfare against the powers of darkness; learns to have spiritual discernment to detect the working of the devil; and learns the authority of Christ over all the power of the enemy. (Luke 10:19)

Or to put it concisely—the first is the plane of salvation, or the new life; the second is the plane of the Spirit; the third is the plane of victory over sin; the fourth is the plane of victory over the powers of darkness. The individual believer, if he goes forward in the Christian life with God, is generally—not always—led just in this order also. First, he receives salvation; second, he receives the Holy Ghost; third he is led along the path of the Cross; fourth, he walks in the path of conflict and victory, resulting in “power” over all the power of the enemy. The individual worker, also, finds he is used in these four planes of service. First, he is used to lead others to Christ; second, he is used to lead them into the fulness of the Spirit; third, he is used to interpret to them the path of the Cross; and fourth, to discern the devices and workings of the devil, and to have power over “all the power of the enemy,” through union with Christ on the throne.

Madame Guyon truly says that in every plane of the spiritual life there is a beginning, working out, and a consummation of the life in that degree, followed by a passage into the next plane, where there is again a beginning, a working out, a consummation. . . . Further, it is true that, speaking generally, it often takes years to get through each plane!  (“Four Planes of the Spiritual Life,” Watchman Nee, reprinting “an excerpt from Life Out of Death, a book by Jessie Penn-Lewis. It was originally published by The Overcomer Literature Trust, Parkston, Poole, Dorset, England.”  Elec. acc.

Penn-Lewis’s four-fold division of Christians into a lower class, higher class, even higher elite class, and highest and most elite class, will be convincing to those who accept the inspiration of her writings, and her reference to Madame Guyon will perhaps impress those who receive the Romanist mystic’s writings as a spiritual authority, but for those who love sola Scriptura, the total absence of Biblical evidence for Penn-Lewis’s four-fold partition of the people of God will lead them to reject her doctrine out of hand.  However, while Mrs. Penn-Lewis had no support for her ideas in the Bible, she did find some in the stages in the Higher Life expounded at the Broadlands Conference.[6]

Mrs. Penn-Lewis, while she had no support in Scripture for her four-fold division of Christians, did, however, find some support in the teaching of her Quaker predecessor, Hannah W. Smith, and the Broadlands Conference, where, e. g., Mrs. Smith did not speak of the Higher Life alone, but also of “the bird life . . . of sunshine and song.”  Perhaps one had the Lower Life lived by the body of non-Keswick Christians, the Higher Life lived by the elite few, and the Bird Life lived by those whose sense of Biblical teaching had completely gone to the birds.[7]


The following are the parts of this series:

Jessie Penn-Lewis: Keswick and Welsh Revivalist, Quaker and Freemason (part 1 of 22) 
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Conversion (?) and Higher Life (part 2 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Spirit-Baptized Woman Preacher (part 3 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Keswick Faith Healer (part 4 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: the Christ-Life and Quietism (part 5 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Her Inspired Writings (part 6 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Inspired Woman Preacher (part 7 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: her mystical false god (part 8 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Worldwide Keswick Impact  (part 9 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Welsh Revival and Pentecostal Preparation (part 10 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: War on the Saints (part 11 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Christians Demon Possessed (part 12 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Warfare Prayer and the 1914 partial Rapture (part 13 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Binding Satan (part 14 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Binding and Loosing (part 15 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: “My Demon Possession Key to My Keswick Teaching” (part 16 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Inspired “Truth” on Demon Possession (part 17 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Throne Life / Power and the Higher Life (part 18 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis: Soul Force, Only the Human Spirit Regenerated, And Other Bizarre Foolishness (part 19)
Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts: Applications From Their Lives and Doctrines, I (part 20 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts: Applications From Their Lives and Doctrines, II (part 21 of 22)
Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts: Applications From Their Lives and Doctrines, III (part 22 of 22)

 [1]            cf. pgs. 8-10, Jessie Penn-Lewis:  A Memoir, Garrard.

[2]           Pgs. 6-7, Jessie Penn-Lewis:  A Memoir, Garrard.

[3]           Pgs. 6-7, Garrard; cf. pg. 9, Jones.

[4]           Pg. 8, Jessie Penn-Lewis:  A Memoir, Garrard.  Any soul-winner with even a modicum of discernment knows that in a “Christian” culture like 19th century Britain the fact that someone, when asked if he is a Christian, will respond with the word “yes,” by no means proves his regeneration.  A large majority of 21st century Americans would say “yes” to the same question, yet they are no more the true children of God than were the majority of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.

            Hopkins himself professed to be converted after reading 1 John 1:9.  He testified:  “I saw that there was a covenant . . . and if I was among those who confessed their sins, I was in the agreement, and that He was faithful to the Son, and just to the promise made to the Son, to forgive me then and there.  I saw, at once, that I had pardon” (pgs. 27-28, Evan Henry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie).  One hopes that Hopkins was truly converted, although 1 John 1:9 is not about how one is born again, and justification is granted to those who come to a particular point where, as lost sinners, they come to Jesus Christ in repentant faith (Mark 1:15; John 3:16; 6:37), while there is no promise in the Bible that says that as long as one is “among those who confessed their sins” one will enter the kingdom of God.  Whatever one may conclude from Evan Hopkins own testimony of conversion—one can be happy that, unlike so many Anglican priests, he at least had something he could say, and he never adopted Anglo-Catholicism—the rampant confusion within Anglicanism about the way of salvation helps to explain why Jessie Penn-Lewis could be accepted as a true believer, rather than as simply a religious but very possibly unconverted person, simply because she said “Yes” when asked if she were a Christian.

[5]           pg. 224, cf. pg. 233, The Trials and Triumphs of Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Jones.

[6]           pgs. 191-193, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.

[7]           pg. 196, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your gracious, charitable and unbiased take on Ms. Lewis. You are setting a great pattern for all the readers here on how to take something someone says and paint it in a certain way to suit your views of her. You might be able to get a job over at CNN.

I don’t think any average reader would read this post and not walk away thinking it was obviously distorted and blown out of proportion.


KJB1611 said...

Dear Randy,

It is showing love to God and to man to tell the truth about a false teacher like Mrs. Penn-Lewis.

Instead of saying I should get a job at CNN, could you please point out examples where she didn't actually teach what I point out she taught? If you actually do that--which would be showing love--I will change it.