Any folks here familiar with Jessie Penn-Lewis, her writings and views on the spiritual life?

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
She was the author, along with co-collaberator Evan Roberts, of War on the Saints. Born in Neath, South Wales, in 1861 (died 1927). Theologically she was of the same suasion as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a Calvinistic Methodist.

Having recently had a flat renovated in my new home city of Limassol, Cyprus, and in the process of unpacking my library from some 50-60 boxes of books (I hired a friend to put the books in bookshelves mostly unarranged – being physically unable to lift the boxes anymore! At almost 82 at least I'm still alive and mostly have my wits about me!) . . . anyway, while seeking to organize the books I came across some of Penn-Lewis' books. From about 50 or so years ago I have a fairly complete collection of her books / booklets – they were readily available then. I also obtained the book, Mrs. Penn-Lewis: A Memoir (1947, The Overcomer Book Room), by Mary N. Garrard.

Due to some spiritual experiences of late I was drawn to her War on the Saints to try to clarify some things. Her detailed, precise writing style reminds me of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) and his style in his sermons and books, and also goes into fine, lengthy detail on spiritual and doctrinal matters and experience.

Many of us are familiar with Lloyd-Jones' views, but are there any here on PB familiar with the views and teachings of JPL? If so, what do you think of them? She was much in demand as a speaker at various Keswick events, and highly respected among a mostly male-only cadre of ministers.

It is her view of spiritual realities, such as union with Christ in His death to sin and resurrection power, and the resultant spiritual life and vitality she knew and was able to convey to others, that I desire some critical appraisal of.
Evidently Penn-Lewis is not known here, at least not in any depth. Perhaps her Keswick affiliation turns some folks off – though 50 years ago the writings of those influenced by Keswick "Deeper Life" teachings were popular and prominent, while the Reformed and the Puritans were not, at least not in the Christian bookstores. Amazon didn't exist then (nor did computers with their search engines).

It came to pass, when the Lord brought me into contact with Reformed people, doctrines, and churches, I left all the Keswick stuff behind.

Specifically, my concern pertains to her view of following the leadings of the Holy Spirit (she often uses the phrase "monitions of the [human] spirit" abiding in the Spirit of Christ, to indicate that He leads her spirit or guides her spirit into this or that path of activity or thought).

Yes, she is of the "tripartite" (spirit, soul, body) school, whereas I am bipartite (heart and body, the spirit and soul being part of the heart). Though I don't know if that affects what I am pondering.

I have made it a maxim of sorts that I do not follow "leadings" as of the Lord that are not based on Scripture, but are "monitions" of God guiding through a non-verbal yet distinct guidance.

While Penn-Lewis may not be known here, surely there are some older / mature spiritual men or women on PB familiar with the fine points of guidance I am concerned with.

Sometimes I find I am out of my depth in spiritual matters – and so I think is the situation now. In other words, does the Lord lead through "intuitive" guidances?

Watchman Nee, also a tripartite holder, in his book, The Spiritual Man, said that one of the three components of the human spirit was intuition, the second was communion, and the third conscience. I put Nee away decades ago – as almost akin to navel gazing in its seeking to discern what is going on in the spirit.

A key verse for me in this matter is Philippians 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure". I have taken that as meaning He will so move upon my heart – my will, my desiring – that I want to do what He wants, given my prayerful judgment on the matter at hand.

Any thoughts on this?
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@Jerusalem Blade am I correct in seeing that she had strong charismatic and perfectionist strains in her theology? Those would be significant errors but in my mind wouldn't rule out any potential value in her work. I guess I would just weigh her writings against what I know to be true. The content of any working of the Spirit will be the content of Scripture - nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Any guiding on matters to which Scripture doesn't directly speak still has to be held against that light. If she's advocating experientialism or any other form of subjectivism I'd reject that. Is it possible that she might have had a deep and close relationship with the Lord, and did a poor job reasoning out an articulated theology from that?

I tend to be suspicious of these female spiritual leaders emerging from the English-speaking world in the late 19th century. Maybe it's not fair to smear her with the same paintbrush as Ellen White and Mary Baker Eddy; I certainly hadn't heard of this particular writer prior to this thread.
A few things, all of which are a bit fuzzy. I may be wrong on some or all of them, in other words.

If memory serves, she believed that a believer could be possessed by demons.

I think that some editions of War on the Saints may be abridgments. I’m pretty sure that a PB edition I used to have was. I used to have a HC that was much larger. I can think of several other books in various genres in which an abridgment excises controversial material.

I want to say that some considered her to be a negative influence on Evan Roberts. If so, I don’t know whether or not those critics would be more or less orthodox than she was.

I don’t recall if Iain Murray relayed The Doctor’s opinion of her or if he made any comments about her.
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Ruben @py3ak ,

Thank you for the G. Richard Fisher article you referred me to in your post #2. His overview of her life, and in-depth knowledge of her writings and views helped extricate me from the influence she has had on me for many years! 50-55 years back there were few sound teachers of the spiritual life, apart from various heretics, errant Christian teachers, and pagan spiritualists. She had some sound spiritual insights, but in the main was off the Biblical track.

I owe you for that!

Talib, thanks for the link! The article I referenced just above gives further info on JPL.

JP, not charismatic, but indeed perfectionist and, well, see the article Ruben linked me to for an in-depth discernment of her.

Chris, thank you for your thoughts. Her saying that Christians could be possessed by spirits really involved degrees of deception and infiltration of the mind, and body rather than full-blown possession, though she did seem to draw near even that. She was way off in a number of things, some obvious, and some very subtle.

The thing is, back in the 1960s and 70s, where a vast multitude of young Americans and Brits got involved in the sorcerous potions of the Woodstock counterculture – recreational sorcery it shockingly was – we were introduced to the spirit world under the guise of true enlightenment and divinity – such were the teachings prevalent in those days. We were told these drugs were the new sacraments of our time, and we believed them – until the demonic spirits began appearing, and by then it was too late, for we had no clue how to defend ourselves against them.

Thankfully, the Lord Jesus waded into our midst through various souls who testified to His true deity and glory, and those elect who hearkened to Him were rescued from the great spiritual darkness that began to be exported into all the world, as Scripture noted would proceed from Babylon of the end, "for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived" (Rev 18:23).

So we who were Christ's began to search for sound teachers, of whom there were very few – at least not publicly known back then – and we often were caught by deceivers. We were not looking for "religious" guides, but spiritual seers, and they were hard to find back then.

JPL was promoted by the believers who fled communist China and the Watchman Nee influence came with them – he was spiritual kin to JPL in many respects and there was a church of them close by in NYC in those days. JPL and Nee both intimated success in discerning and fending off the demonic spirits and their deceptions, which caught the attention of those counterculture souls come to Christ seeking understanding of what was going on in that time.

Recreational sorcery has now become mainstream "therapeutic" and spiritual balm for many in these darkening days we are presently in. It is as though the dark realm is preparing a societal body – though the enhanced access to the human collective consciousness – for one who is to come, the prince of sorcerers, who will tap into the new "enlightened" awareness of the world, speaking in great power to those with itching ears. He will have a great hatred for the God of heaven, and His people on earth.

I am very thankful for the new clarity given me by the article Ruben made known. It will take a while to sink in and cleanse my understanding of errors I've been held by. The Lord Christ as been faithful to come to my aid in time of need, as He promised in His word, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
Thank you for the G. Richard Fisher article you referred me to in your post #2. His overview of her life, and in-depth knowledge of her writings and views helped extricate me from the influence she has had on me for many years! 50-55 years back there were few sound teachers of the spiritual life, apart from various heretics, errant Christian teachers, and pagan spiritualists. She had some sound spiritual insights, but in the main was off the Biblical track.

I owe you for that!
It's a great joy to have been of service! I feel more than repaid in full by the privilege of supporting someone of your zeal and character. I shared your view about zombie movies with some students the other day, and they found it very striking.

What you describe in the full post I partially quoted makes me think again that the devil loves to hide one snare inside another, so that those who avoid one trap may be caught in another.
I read her book on the 1904 Welsh revival. She's big on Keswick/higher life teaching, second work of grace theology, etc. I'd call her a proto-pentecostal.

Warfield on Perfectionism is probably the best treatment of that movement.
Hello Tyler,

Yes, Warfield is excellent against perfectionism, though what was mostly needed re JPL – in my view, at least – was an exposé of her spiritual discernment, or rather, confusion, wherein she spoke of apprehending the leading of the Holy Spirit within/in union with our spirits, in such a manner that it became akin to "navel-gazing", i.e., pondering what was going on within us as regards a non-verbal yet distinct intuitive guidance to do or think one thing or another.

On top of that, there was her "method" and paradigm of spiritual growth from one purported state to another more advanced one, that was not supported by Scripture. This latter never appealed to me as I was more attracted to the Reformed explanation and process of this "sanctification", but it did catch many in the Keswick circles of those times.

The Keswick "deeper life" or "higher life" tried to fill a need for spiritual clarity, but, being unbiblical, failed.

In those days of the 60s and 70s, as I mentioned above, a lot of souls were catapulted into the spirit world through the drugs of that time; some went mad, some went to the East, some killed themselves, others learned to live quietly and low-key, and some the Saviour called to Himself.

There are still many who flounder in these realms – the laws now allowing continually increasing use of various psychedelics (grass and its potent derivatives included) – and it is a sign of the times that a great spiritual darkness, way beyond the normal darkness of mere unbelief, is covering the nations as the fabled shadow of Mordor covered Middle Earth – but here for us on earth it is real.

Clarity of the spiritual realms – that of God, and of the devil – is sorely needed today, and only the Gospel of Christ is sufficient to give that vision, and to hold forth the true and living way to life, eternal life in Christ. Outside of Him is darkness and eternal death.
Reflecting on this stuff these last couple of weeks, the article Ruben posted was most helpful in shining a light on JPL’s life and teachings which made clear where she was off.

Here’s the thing though: she was one of the very few who claimed – convincingly to the ignorant – knowledge of the demonic attacks on the unwary. And given that an entire subculture (of the 1960s and 70s) in American and U.K. society had been seduced into using sorcerous potions – LSD, mescaline, peyote, marijuana, hashish, angel dust, psilocybin mushrooms, etc – and found themselves in a spirit world among hostile entities they knew nothing of, with many of that generation destroyed, disabled, or delusional, no wonder some young Christian converts of that time thought they had found a reliable guide in JPL, who seemed to have good Biblical credentials.

And that particular danger is not over, for grass now is mostly legal, plentiful, extremely potent – its derivatives such as wax (aka dab, shatter, amber, etc) even more so – and throughout the U.S. a strong push via MSM (the NYTimes among others) for the stronger psychedelics, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin etc, as agents for supposed therapeutic purposes – all these developments are increasingly opening the collective human consciousness to the influence and presence of the demonic. Do we wonder why the darkness of hearts and minds we see in the culture, in politics, academia, corporations etc is becoming so delusional and inhumane? This massive demonic infiltration into the collective human consciousness can be directly traced to our “recreational sorcery”.

When a drug is considered therapeutic, many will say, “It’s health-inducing, so it must be good for all”, which was the “foot in the door” for the wide acceptance of grass years ago. Such drugs are in reality a Trojan Horse from Hell.

We’re moving right along in a trajectory designed to dehumanize our species, transform it into a God-hating and denying gender-distorting Frankenstein-like mass of souls determined to conform itself into the monstrous image of the devil. This is the fate of the unregenerate, both at present and into eternity.

What is of value in JPL’s War On the Saints, (and even the author of the critique Ruben referenced above admitted there was such) filled with error as it is, perhaps I should write a précis of, without the errors – that is, after I ask the Lord if I should. Awareness of the warfare – of the strategies / wiles of our adversary – is needed.

I am most thankful for the Lord’s intervention in my behalf through said critique – it continues to make clear to me areas where I have been spiritually hindered and bound – so that a rest and joy that have eluded me are now beginning to appear in the light of a slowly rising new dawn on my path. Perhaps I’ll write a little about that as well.
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