Jessie Penn-Lewis came to prominence in speaking, writing, and furthering this movement on an international basis. Her primary focus was on the impact of the cross in gaining victory over sin. The influence of her writing continues today, especially in the area of spiritual warfare. Historical context There were several religious movements, some coming to prominence, others weakening to obscurity, in nineteenth-century England.
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Jessie Penn-Lewis came to prominence in speaking, writing, and furthering this movement on an international basis. Her primary focus was on the impact of the cross in gaining victory over sin. The influence of her writing continues today, especially in the area of spiritual warfare.
Historical context There were several religious movements, some coming to prominence, others weakening to obscurity, in nineteenth-century England. The Keswick movement, named after the town in which the first official conference was held in ,1 grew into an international movement and still affects evangelical thinking today. It was thoroughly evangelical in that it espoused the belief that the Christian life begins with conversion, it focused on the cross, it held the Bible as the final authority, and it asserted that a changed life results in Christian mission.
The Keswickites talk much of the Blesser—the Blesser. They are seized by a Him, we by an it. They talk of the great Person who has come into their body and soul and life.
We speak more of a thing which we received of Christ. Its teachers came from many churches as well as a wide variety of countries. Its many roots included the English Mildmay Conference begun by William Pennefather in , the international Evangelical Alliance formed in , and the Reveil movement of coming from Switzerland. Her family background was immersed in the Calvinistic Methodist connection, and her home life encouraged learning of all kinds, especially spiritual.
Her mother was a temperance worker, and, at a young age, Jessie took leadership of a temperance Junior Lodge. In reading the Bible, she came to a place of belief and found peace. Evan H. She experienced fear when speaking publicly, and preparation for speaking was painful. Over a period of several years, she avidly waited on God, asking for power for ministry such as Peter, the apostle, had.
In , she came to face to face with these questions from God: If I answer your cry, are you willing to be unpopular? Why did I desire the fulness of the Spirit? Would I be willing to have no great experience? Crucified—what did it mean? I had not asked to be crucified, but to be filled. And I saw that after all, the Baptism of the Spirit, which I had thought was the goal of the Christian life, was really meant by the Lord to be but the beginning of a path which should lead the believer into the fellowship of the Cross, and through the death of the Cross, into union with the Ascended Lord in the bosom of the Father.
The minister was not pleased but it matters not. The Spirit was a person to her, not just a force, and she actively sought daily guidance. This message outline was filled out and later published as the booklet The Pathway to Life in God. This small book was the beginning of Overcomer literature publishing and went before her into many countries where her ministry was requested. Thus began her voluminous writing career. A unique feature of some of these trips was the personal and teaching interaction with Scandinavian and Russian royalty.
In spite of the influence of the convener, W. At the last moment, a plenary speaker failed to appear, and she was asked to step in.
From then on, she was never limited again at the Scottish conventions. At times, she was restricted from travel and speaking for recuperation. It eventually was translated into one hundred languages and dialects and made its way around the world; it is still in print today. She made contacts for additional support for the plan, and, under her coordination, the Llandrindod Wells Convention began in She was a regular platform speaker.
The revivals were often spontaneous without a speaker, exhibiting renewed worship and singing, displaying confession, and effecting noted changes in the local social context. Even after the peak of the Wales revival was over in , Penn-Lewis continued to write on the events happening in other countries as people sent in news.
In November , she began writing weekly revival reports, which were printed in The Life of Faith, the Keswick periodical. Penn-Lewis received firsthand accounts from parishioners and ministers, some sharing their own spiritual struggles with her. She understood that anything that breaks the bonds of Christian unity could be questionable as to its spiritual origin. Still, since she did see the potential for tongues as a manifestation of the Spirit, some evangelicals were dissatisfied with her position.
As one who had always promoted missions and worked avidly for the spiritual health of Christian workers, this bias carried significant weight for her. There is nothing else to guide these perplexed souls. Her prominence as a woman speaker in the Keswick movement also came under criticism, and thus she was given less and less opportunity to speak.
There were Italian and French editions as well. The Overcomer also played an important role in maintaining communication within the Keswick network as well as the worldwide movement. Here, there was no set program or leader, though each had a key speaker. Attendees contributed in prayer, singing, and giving testimonies as led. Special-interest meetings were practical and the teatime sessions provided opportunities for questions and answers.
Another unique feature was the Soul Clinic or Student Class. Here, less mature workers received personal help with their spiritual struggles. The whole current of life moving through the spiritual Church is towards clear and open ground for women in the work of God.
I have been invited to take a service in one of the chapels and I have no alternative but to accept. I cannot stay in line without a sacrifice of principle and a disobedience to God. The Lord has set the seal of blessing on my messages at Keswick, where many have come up to receive the message not the messenger.
Her book The Magna Carta of Christian Women drew from the work of both Catherine Booth and Katharine Bushnell while also connecting with her lifelong message of the priority of the cross: How can the Church, which is the Body of Christ, reach its full stature if it breaks the laws of the Spirit and denies one half of the Church the right to speak in the assembly and subjects itself to man-made ordinances, when Jesus took these to the Atoning Cross and slew their force, just as He slew racial laws and all other distinctions and made all one in Christ Jesus—one in worship, work, and witness.
Her declining health meant men were chosen to carry more responsibility for The Overcomer, and they took the journal in a different direction than the one she had charted. Here she lived in an apartment, continuing to carry on writing and correspondence with workers around the globe. As her health permitted, she made speaking trips to Scandinavia and the Continent. Eighteen days prior to her death, she traveled to the Llandrindod Wells Jubilee Convention in Wales, which she had also been so instrumental in forming, where she spoke in nine or ten meetings.
One of her last preaching themes was on the necessity of removing schisms from the Body of Christ. Her funeral service was led by Rev. He closed his remarks thusly: All that she received she got from this blessed Book, and the Book is ours. The source of her strength is the source of our strength.
The source of her power, the fountain of her light, is our source and fountain today. How she flamed for God! Has she flamed out? No, the flame was so mighty for God that He has delivered it from the weak vessel of clay that it might flame to its uttermost in His Presence for ever. God only uses the new creation. With an extensive speaking and writing ministry, she reached people with this message around the world. She was supported in the value of her message by more well-known authors of her day, including Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, and F.
One of her primary concerns was building up Christian workers in whatever capacity they ministered. Through her travels and in personal correspondence, she encouraged and mentored people who struggled with discouragement and burnout. Her conferences and monthly meetings were geared toward this audience. Her opportunities to preach at centers of Christian education in North America were especially satisfying, as she was able to influence students and faculty who would carry on the message of the cross.
In relating to the newly burgeoning Pentecostalism, Penn-Lewis was looked to as an interpreter of the movement. While desiring to promote a moderate view among Christians, she discovered that the circumstances in many countries made this increasingly difficult.
With some passage of time and reflection by the movement, Penn-Lewis might have had more influence in deterring the schisms that developed. Through her example, we can see that the current discussion of women having responsibilities and gifts to preach and teach is not a new one.
Ironically, many of the groups she spoke to then would no longer welcome her ministry today. Those who accept her theological perspective can easily access War on the Saints. Edith L. Bebbington, Holiness in Nineteenth-Century England, 36—40, Bebbington, Holiness in Nineteenth-Century England, New York: Garland, , Mary N. Garrard and Jessie Penn-Lewis, Mrs. Garrard, Mrs. Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, 6—8.
Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, 8. Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, 14— Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, 24— Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, 28— Jones, Trials and Triumphs, Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, passim.
Figgis, Keswick from Within, ,
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Welsh revival[ edit ] She was involved in the — Welsh Revival , one of the largest Christian revivals ever to break out, although the revival was abruptly shortened with the mental and physical collapse of one of the leaders, Evan Roberts. After the breakdown by Roberts cut the revival short, he stayed with the Penn-Lewises for a couple of years, but never fully recovered. Ultimately, Penn-Lewis declared some of the phenomena of the Welsh Revival to be the work of Satan , declaring her still controversial position in her book on spiritual warfare called War on the Saints, which describes the work of demons on Christians, the theme for which Penn-Lewis is most known. Influences[ edit ] Penn-Lewis was influenced by the Dutch Reformed , South African writer Andrew Murray , among others, and her books contain quotes from him and references to his works. Frank Buchman , the founder of the Oxford Group , credits Penn-Lewis with helping him to turn his life around from depression , when he heard her speak at a Keswick Convention.
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