Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. KJV
14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Gal 6:14 KJV
The Keswick Convention
Living the “Yet Not I” Life.
A conference for the promotion of practical holiness.
In the mid 1800’s bible teachers throughout America and Europe were studying ways to enter into and to help others enter into what had been called the second blessing, deeper life, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and other names.*
An American couple, born Quakers, members of a Presbyterian church, Mr. And Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith were both “by happy coincidence”, converted on the same day in 1858.1
They had come into the experience of salvation, but it was not long before Mrs. Smith began to despair of ever gaining freedom over continuing sin. There was a stirring of truth regarding a second blessing: Phoebe Palmer’s writings on entire sanctification and W E Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life encouraged the Smiths to pursue the promised deeper relationship with Christ. Through a time of struggle and with the help of some who knew the secret, she learned the truth of sanctification by faith.
She was gifted as a teacher, being able to explain the seemingly complicated in a simple manner. Her book A Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life brought them widespread recognition in American Christian Circles.
Her husband had the mercantile gift and before long they were spreading her new insights to surrounding communities. Due to overexertion in the enterprise, it was suggested they go to England to allow Mr. Pearsall Smith to recuperate. Their fame proceeded them and upon arrival they were asked to host a series of meetings with leading Christians which eventually lead to the first annual convention at Keswick (the ‘w’ is silent) in 1875.
The Pearsall Smith’s were appointed to lead the first conference, but due to some failing on Mr. Smith’s part, they returned to American. Others took over the lead of the first conference.
An Anglican, H. W. Webb-Peploe agreed to head up the conference and remained the leader for the next fifty years. Many well known names became associated with the Keswick tradition whose writings are still commonly available and read today: A.T. Pierson, F.B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, H.C.G. Moue, W.H. Griffith Thomas, C.I. Scofield, J. Hudson Taylor, Charles G. Trumbull, J. Oswald Sanders, W. Graham Scroggie, Robert C. McQuilkin, J. Robertson McQuilkin, Alan Redpath, Ruth Paxson, and W. Ian Thomas.
From it’s beginning, Keswick was not concerned with theological issues but was focused on the practical application of Bible truths. It was called “a convention for the promotion of practical/scriptural holiness.”
The Keswick method 2
It has been said that the message of Keswick cannot be separated from it’s method. It seeks to lead attendees to, first of all, the conviction and renunciation of all sin, then to a surrender to Christ for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It takes place over 5 days and each day was and still is devoted to a specific outcome.
1. The first day is devoted to the cause of all spiritual ill-health, sin, whether known or unknown. An effort is made to bring the Christian to a conviction that his/her lack of power is due to unacknowledged sin and to a desire for abandonment of sin. (AA’s 4th step)
2. On the second day, the speakers address God’s provision for sin; and it is taught that God through Christ, has dealt with the whole problem of sin so that
it need never again be a struggle for the Christian. Here is in-
troduced Keswick’s pivotal scripture Romans 6:6 in which
the listener is brought into an understanding that the old man
has been dealt with on the cross 2,000 years ago. The Christ-
tian, the new man, is now free and seated in Heavenly Places.
3. The consecration of the Christian is the subject of the third
4. The fullness of the Spirit is the topic of the fourth day, and
5. Response and call to service is the emphasis of the 5th day.
In Steve Barabas’s book on Keswick there is this passage:
The place in the new Testament where the truth of the believer’s identification with
Christ in His death and resurrection is most clearly set forth is the sixth chapter of Romans. It would not be possible, I think, to exaggerate the importance of this chapter for the doctrine of sanctification. It has been called the Magna Charta of the soul
And the Emancipation Proclamation of the Christian. Failure on the part of the
child of God to realize that it is intensely practical and entirely applicable to our
present circumstances, and that it is God’s answer to the whole problem of sinful human
nature, means failure at the very first step of the Christian life and walk. It is astonishing
that theologians have passed by the chapter almost as though it did not exist. One
has only to examine the sections on “Sanctification “ in the systematic theologies of such
standard theologians as Charles Hodge, William Shedd, Henry B. Smith, J.J.
Oosterzee, and Louis Berkhof to see that they make scarcely any reference to it. This is really astonishing! Only since Keswick first called attention to the vital significance of this chapter to the whole question of sin and sanctification have theologians even begun to give it its proper place.
There is much more to say about Keswick. For the interested reader, there is no better source that Steve Barabas's book, available through our online store.
Frank Buchman’s connection to Keswick
From the beginning, Keswick allowed a place for women to participate in ministry. Hannah Whitehall Smith had been an early catalyst along with her husband. In 1899 a woman evangelist, a long time attendee at Keswick, Jessie Penn-Lewis gave her first message to a women’s group at the conference. She had, over the years, developed her message of the cross. To understand her message it is good to understand her life and what it was that allowed the power of the message to get through to people. (Her biography available in our bookstore)
In 1908 Frank Buchman was with a group of 17 others as Jessie Penn-Lewis preached her message of the Cross. Frank was changed. This was Frank Buchman’s Secret. It changed him forever. He went on to become a great personal evangelist. In the years to follow, he returned often to Keswick, in time, bringing some of the young men from Oxford with him to drink of the blessings of Keswick. The Centrality of the Cross is the defining mark of Frank’s Life.
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*Theologians differ over terms and what they actually mean. This web site is not geared toward those who seeking exact theological terminology but is engaged in helping Christians to become able to apply scriptural knowledge to the attainment of practical holiness. This is similar to approach that the Keswick Conventions used from the beginning.
2. Ibid page 36
Some helpful discussions of various Keswick and Wesleyan and views:
· Wesleyan and Reformed Views in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements—Dr. Peter Althouse
· The Disjunction between Justification and Sanctification in Contemporary Evangelical Theology - Dr. William W. Combs
Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. KJV
Last updated 9-Feb-12