by David Leach
Rom 14:23 . . .Whatever is not from faith is sin,. .whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful. AMP
1 Jo 3 :5-6 And you know that He (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. ..
The name "Keswick teaching" is now universally used to denote a well-defined line of teaching. The novelty and peculiarity of that exposition consists not in any new truth it has to offer, but in the prominence it gives to truths that have been allowed to lie dormant. From this, many have been led to say that if Keswick had no truth that is not the common heritage of all evangelical churches, it cannot have any secret of power or blessing that is not to be found elsewhere.
“Men forget that it is not the doctrine that a church has in its creeds, or a minister in his teaching that is the measure of power. It is only as much of the truth as is being made alive in the experience of teacher and hearer by the power of the Holy Spirit. Keswick teaching owed the wonderful influence it exercised to the fact that its founder called believers together to hear him, and others who had been blessed with him, to tell them what God had done for those who had embraced the teaching. And all along the keynote of its platform was personal testimony to what God had done in giving power over sin.
It is only as this secret of its power is apprehended that its wonderful influence can be understood or appreciated. No one has a right to demand that all Christians state their views in the same way as the Keswick speakers. Much less would anyone claim that without this teaching, the same blessing could not be expected from above. But there are certain great principles which lie at the very root of the testimony and the teaching, and which do appear to be essential to all growth in holiness. All teachers and believers who are longing and laboring for the revival of the church would do well to give heed to these principles, in their prayer and faith, with the same definite prominence that has made the Keswick teaching such a blessing.
1.The first of these truths is that concerning sin . It is founded on texts such as the one we have chosen. Christ was manifested to take away sin-not only guilt, but sin. To this end He is the sinless one , that a soul abiding in Him does not sin; a man born of God does not and cannot sin, for Christ's seed abides in him. The seed is the life power out of which a tree grows, and which abides in it. In the power of the divine life those born of God cannot commit sin. All three expressions-"sinneth not, doth not sin, cannot sin"-refer to deeds, to actual transgressions.
They say nothing about the flesh, the sinful nature still present in the believer. That is not the question dealt with here; they appear simply to hold out the promise that the believer who abides in Christ can be kept from the committal of actual sin. If anyone would –really understand Keswick teaching, he must get hold of this thought: that the desire to be kept -from sinning, and the prospect held out of being taught how to come to this, is its great attraction . I have seen appreciative notices of Keswick Conventions; one hears and reads beautiful articles and addresses on the fuller and the deeper life in which this, the very root thought of all true holiness teaching, appears to be left out.
One has only to go back to the life of Canon Battersby, the founder of Keswick, to see the truth of what I say. For more than twenty years he had been a minister of deeply evangelical views, and was a man of beautiful Christian character. And yet he was dissatisfied. Sins of tongue and of temper, of worldliness and self-will came from time to time to cloud communion with God and to rob him of his peace. When he first heard in 1873 of the teaching of a higher life, with the promise of being kept continually by Christ in victory over sin, he longed greatly to know if this were really possible.
At the same time he feared much the thought of sinless perfection, and dreaded being led into anything that would not be consistent with scriptural truth as to a holiness never to be found in ourselves but in Christ alone. This state of his mind is evident from what he wrote in his journal, September 1873: "'What I have been reading of the experience of others has made me utterly dissatisfied with myself and my state. I feel that I am dishonoring God and am wretched by living as I do, and that I must either go backward or forward, reaching out toward the light that my Savior holds out to me, or failing back more and more into worldliness and sin."
It was this weariness with a life of continual struggling and failure, of continual humbling and sinning, that prepared Canon Battersby for the teaching he heard given at the Oxford Convention in 1874, and the invitation to come to Jesus and rest in Him for the power of holiness to keep one from sin, To him it was like a new gospel, “What was taught as to what Christ would do in keeping and saving continually, as to the faith that dared trust Him for thus keeping and saving, as much as for pardon, gave him boldness to claim and accept all that Christ could do. And in the midnight hour, after a meeting, as he gave himself to the Lord,
Battersby had such a revelation of what Jesus is and will be to a trusting soul that ever after he could only speak of it with tender reverence. But the teaching and the revelation owed its power and its preciousness entirely to this one thing: it was a felt need-an intense longing not to sin, to be free from the daily so-called little sins that cloud our communion with God. It is this fact that explains why at Keswick such prominence was given to the exposure of the infirmities and failings of Christians.
As the Holy Spirit is allowed to convict of sin in regard to such things, the sense of impotence and bondage is awakened, and the desire stirred for a life of liberty and power. If we are to have a great work of the Holy Spirit in power among believers, it will have to begin here. The sins that they have borne all too contentedly, because they thought that no deliverance is possible, must be revealed by God's Word and the Holy Spirit as a shame and a guilt, a grief and dishonor to Christ, the cause of failure in our own prayers and our labors. It is only when this is felt aright that the Holy Spirit can manifest Christ in all His saving power.
2. As the first truth we have spoken of is the longing for deliverance from the committal of actual sin, so the second is that Scripture promises, and that grace has made abundant provision for, a life in which there is power to cease from the doing of sin. The whole church unites in the confession: Christ saves from the guilt and power of sin. But the preaching and the testimony of experience has been far clearer in regard to the former than the latter. At the Reformation it was most natural that all attention should be fixed on the one great truth of justification by faith.
But a greater mistake was made when in succeeding generations this truth was treated as if it were the whole gospel. As a consequence, a great deal of evangelical teaching has been defective and one-sided, and a great deal of evangelical living has been marked by anything but a high standard of righteousness and holiness. "In him is no sin . . . he that abideth in him sinneth not” these words that were given to shed light and hope on our path are counted a riddle . Canon Battersby lived for eight years after he found the blessed secret he had so long sought. His testimonies at Keswick and his private journals prove that he knew that he had not been deceived in the experience he passed through.
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