Mrs Penn-Lewis & Welsh Revival
The name of Jessie Penn-Lewis often occurs in works related to the Welsh revival of 1904, not surprisingly as she was a major chronicler of the movement. She wrote an article each week in the “The Life of Faith,” tracing the course of the spiritual movement first throughout Wales, and then through many lands and by many individuals.
She contributed to a number of periodicals and produced her own history of the revival called ‘The Awakening in Wales – and Some of its Hidden Springs,’ which is also in this library.
She is most well known for her excessive caution against supposed demonic intrusions through the developing Pentecostal work of her day, and her later involvement with Evan Roberts. Both are mentioned in this chapter.
Many report Penn-Lewis as an enemy of revival because she sowed serious seeds of doubt and fear regarding supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit and the emerging Pentecostal Movement. However, the Revival Librarian believes that her emphasis on testing manifestations of the Spirit were good, though her conclusions were wrong! Also, she was correct in maintaining her emphasis on the centrality of the Cross, the interior life and the way of holiness. When the Holy Spirits visits he often disrupts our nice, orderly lives and meetings by introducing unusual manifestations and experiences, but this does not men we should focus on them and abandon the bedrock teachings of scriptural and sound doctrine. In this Jessie Penn-Lewis was right! Nevertheless, as will be seen in this article, she played a very valuable part in the preparation of the Welsh Revival by promoting holiness, the Way of the Cross, and the Deeper Life. She also promoted prayer and faith for many years before the Revival. The value in reading this article not to throw doubt on any movement of the Holy Spirit but to appeal to those pursuing Revival to ‘test the spirits’ and to maintain the centrality of Christ, the Cross and Salvation. Any work of the Holy Spirit is designed to authenticate the message preached – not to replace it.
We have included the entire chapter.
Chapter 9. “The Word of the Cross” Booklet -The Llandrindod Wells and the Revival in Wales
Chapter 9. “The Word of the Cross” Booklet –The Llandrindod Wells Convention and the Revival in Wales –A Contributor to ‘The Life of Faith’ and ‘The Christian.’–The spiritual conflict with the powers of darkness.
At the close of the year 1902, the Lord, in a remarkable way, pointed the path to India. A letter reached Mrs. Penn-Lewis from a lady then unknown to her, with the words: “God has shown me you are to go to India,” and offering to travel with her; and help her in every way possible when there. Much exercise of heart took place over this letter, but after very careful sifting of the evidence whether it was of God or not, all doubt was removed, and the early months of 1903 found Mrs. Penn-Lewis in Southern India, giving the Lord’s message in Bombay, Bangalore, Madras, Coonoor, and other places.
Mrs Penn-Lewis in India
A letter from Mrs. Penn-Lewis, which appeared in “The Life of Faith” of March 25th 1903, gives a condensed report of this visit:
Coonoor, S. India, March 3rd, 1903.
For the sake of those who are so faithfully upholding me in prayer, and with whom I have no other means of communicating, I must write again to say how graciously the Lord is answering their prayers.
I am now resting in this most beautiful spot, after a very full time of service in the heat of the climate of Madras. It is peculiarly difficult to me to write of any work in which I have the privilege of sharing, and, moreover, I have found the work itself often hindered by too full accounts of it in our English Christian papers; so that I am not free to say as much as I would wish to those who are sharing in it by prayer.
They will be content to know that the Lord gave many tokens of His presence with us, and in many gatherings we had what an old Quaker used to describe as a ‘heart tendering’ time, the very best evidence of the brooding over hearts of the Holy Dove.
On arrival at Madras I found that meetings had been arranged in a large central hall, but, after prayerful consultation with several of the leading workers of Madras, we decided to divide the time at my disposal for several series of meetings in widely apart districts of the city, which is about nine miles long. I felt also that the European and English speaking community had so recently had the help of Dr. Torrey’s meetings, that my own heart was more drawn out to the work among the Indian Christians, for I feel assured that India can alone be truly evangelised by her own people.
Accordingly, I gave the most of my time to special gatherings for native pastors, catechists, and workers, speaking to them by interpretation into Tamil. These gatherings were all held in the Christian College church belonging to the ‘Free Church of Scotland Mission.’
After some days a special request came that I would hold a meeting in North Black Town, in a native schoolroom right in the heart of the native quarter of Madras. Here we had a truly blessed time. The danger is nominal Christianity without a true change of heart; and an added danger that European education induces the native to aim at a Government or Mission appointment as a means of livelihood, rather than the Spirit of Christ constraining them to preach the Gospel for Christ’s sake alone. Some missionaries of long experience feel deeply the need of a fresh tide of Divine life in the native church. It is not as yet fully a reproductive church, and our prayers for India should be directed to this end, i.e., that the present Indian church should be quickened into abundant life, so that every professing Christian should become a channel of life to others.
But to revert to our Madras gatherings, Morning Bible-readings were held in the Y.W.C.A. Room on several days. Two other meetings in English were held in the Wesley College Room at Royapettah, and a morning meeting in a drawing room near by.
On my last Saturday I went to the native church at Royapuram, and closed the work in Madras on Monday, February 23rd, by a visit to the Orphan Homes at Tondiapett, founded and carried on by a native worker, Mr. G. J. Israel, Here we had another gathering of workers, and the very manifest presence of the Lord in our midst.
One matter of worldwide importance I hope to write about again, and this is in connection with the remarkable Mission Press under the superintendence of Rev. A. W. Rudisill, D.D. I had the privilege of going over the works early one morning, and of addressing the large number of native workmen after they had answered the roll call for the day. The foremen and principal workers are Christians, but the majority of the men are heathen. I shall never forget their riveted attention as for twenty minutes I spoke to them on ‘The place called Calvary.’ Never did the Gospel, with its glorious message of deliverance from the burden and power of sin, and the fear of death, shine out more to me in its beauty and power, and never did I see more clearly the truth of Paul’s words that ‘the preaching of the Cross is the power of God,’ as I saw the way it laid hold of these heathen minds.
Dr. Rudisill exclaimed afterwards, ‘Ah! The power of the Cross; did you see how it held them?’
Of this work in the Mission Press I have much upon my heart to write about again.
Meanwhile I shall be grateful to those upon whom the Holy Spirit lays the burden for continued upholding in prayer. Further work on the plains is not possible, as the heat is daily increasing; and it is yet early for the missionaries to come to the hills. But some meetings are proposed here and at Ootacamund ere I leave for Bombay to join my steamer. Jessie Penn- Lewis.”
Results of the India ministry
One result of the journey to India was the issue of many of the printed messages in Tamil and other dialects, from the Madras Mission Press mentioned above. “The Bombay Guardian” also gave in its pages a full report of the Bible Readings given in Bombay, and afterwards issued them in booklet form; and a Hindoo scholar, who had already translated some of the writings of Dr. Andrew Murray, obtained permission of Mrs. Penn-Lewis to translate some of her books and send them to three different Tamil papers for use in “serial” form. At that time there was very little Christian literature available for the native Christians of India, and thus the ministry of these days was infinitely wider and deeper than any mere account of “meetings” taken can show. The first printed message, “The Pathway to Life in God,” was indeed directly responsible for the many open doors in Madras, for the Rev. John Stewart, of the Free Church of Scotland Mission, told Mrs. Penn-Lewis that some years before they had received a copy of “The Pathway,” and it had been lent round “until it was in pieces”! And many others came to tell of blessing received through the ministry of the printed page.
But the very fact that “The Pathway” and other booklets had preceded the coming of the writer herself, meant that there were souls going on with God who needed both “instruction and reproof,” in all tenderness and love, and the Spirit of Christ. All error is “truth pressed to extremes,” and there was discovered in some earnest and truly eager souls, a tendency to hold and exercise the blessed truth of Romans VI and Galatians ii. 20 as a “line of teaching,” in the power of the natural mind—and therefore in the power of the flesh and the “wisdom of man.” This “human conception of a Divine reality” causing some to use language about it which at times went “beyond that which is written.” If there is a possibility of “knowing Christ after the flesh,” it is also possible that the very truth of God may be “taken hold of by the flesh and the fleshly mind” (Andrew Murray), and preached in the “wisdom of men,” thus making it powerless. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. iii. 6) is equally true of the Gospel as of the Law, and the most precious message of “life out of death” can bring an atmosphere of “death” instead of life, unless preached in “words which the Holy Ghost giveth,” so that the faith of the hearer stands “in the power of God,” and not “in the wisdom of man.
Not by a stringent “cutting off” of exterior things, nor by seeking a mental apprehension of “death with Christ” in the conscious life, but by a simple reckoning upon His death as yours—shall you experience in the inner depths of your life, servant of God, the Divine spiritual reality that “Christ in you” is in truth your very Life, displacing the old life of nature and continually “making to die” its inclinations and habits (Rom. viii. 13; Col. ii. 20-23; iii. 1-4).
Her post-ministry counsel
We therefore quote the following extracts from solemn words of warning written by Mrs. Penn-Lewis to one and another before leaving India, with the earnest prayer that the Spirit of God may make use of them again, for the help of any who, having received the message of the Cross* with joy, have not found it “work” as they hoped. This is doubtless because they have sought to “perfect in the flesh” (or natural mind) that which was “begun in the Spirit,” and can only be wrought out in the spirit and perfected in the life by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
India, March 29th, 1903.
“I have seen the work at, and met all the souls concerned, and I see how the human presentation of the blessed Calvary deliverance has blurred the message and thrown many off the track.
I feel most deeply that the ‘experimental’ side has hidden the power of the Divine side, and prevented the Holy Spirit from showing the work of Christ alone as the basis of faith. In every soul I have dealt with I have seen the disastrous confusion and despair produced by preaching an experience instead of the work of Christ. I can only cry to God to enable you to lift up CHRIST, instead of a dead self.
I have taken every soul I have dealt with to the Lord, and sifted before Him all the fruits of [your teaching] in these confused ones; gone over the Scriptures concerned, and watched and prayed to see where the error is, and clearer and clearer God has shown me it is the danger of preaching an experience instead of Christ. Of preaching a ‘death’ that is not the application of Christ’s death by the Holy Ghost, but an experimental ‘death’ beyond that which is written.
‘I fear lest . . . as the serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ It is the mind, not the heart that is the trouble. The mind beguiled from the simplicity of Christ. Your experience may easily be of God and yet the mind not able to interpret it clearly. .
“Dear friend, it is with deep yearning and many tears that I am jealous with a jealousy of God concerning you. It is a solemn thing to hinder the Christ from reaching His own, however unconscious we may be of it. It is heart-breaking to see you frustrating the very longing of your own heart to help God’s servants . . . Surely He can illuminate your mind and heart, to give you a deeper sympathy and love in dealing with souls. How terrible it is to appear hard, when your heart is full of love! How terrible to put iron chains of bondage on others—souls whom God has made free! ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’
But God will bring you through into a large place, where your vision will be of God, and you will carry to all around you the vision of God that brings self to the dust, and does not occupy the souls with their own miserable selves. Then souls will be drawn to the glorious Christ within you, and never see the earthen vessel at all. That is His way—and souls then know that they have met with Him.
And to a leading Missionary in S. India she wrote:
It could hardly be possible for me to be here without hearing of the painful divisions of last year. I think you know that for quite eight years my own service has been entirely at Conventions and amongst Workers, and I have had to deal with every phase of the experiences and expressions along the line of Romans VI. This long time of continual service in many countries, among the most deeply taught of the servants of God, has made one acute to see at once where the line of expression is off the fine balance of the Written Word, and to discern where the Holy Spirit does not bear witness. Where we are perfectly in line with the Scripture, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, the Holy Ghost commends the message to every man’s conscience as coming from Him. What is from God, God seals with His Spirit. Is it not so?
Alas, alas, for the souls in despair and confusion, looking for an experience of ‘death’ instead of resting on the work of Christ, which brings glad freedom and the positive inflowing of life from the Risen One.
And then this question of ‘separation.’ It is my deep conviction that ‘separation,’ as God wants it, can only be truly brought about by the Lord Himself, as the inevitable outcome of His manifested Presence. It has been sad to see souls thrown back from the fuller knowledge of God through ‘tennis’ being emphasized as ‘unlawful,’ instead of the glorious Lord being lifted up, Who will make His will known to every surrendered heart. May the Lord keep us from touching other lives by dealing with exterior things, instead of preaching the fullness of Christ .
Christ alone is the answer to each need. If we could only unveil HIM, it would not be long before the souls would cry ‘Woe is me,’ and not need to be told of ‘separation.’ God forgive us for emphasizing the negative, instead of Him Who is all in all, and is the drawing power unto Himself. .
It was during this visit to India that Mrs. Penn-Lewis compiled the little Booklet, “The Word of the Cross,” and it is possible that the whole purpose of God in the long voyage was concerned mainly with the bringing forth of this tiny messenger of the Cross, in the very words of Scripture, which was afterwards issued in many millions, and in over one hundred languages and dialects, carrying the vital and central truths of the Gospel world wide. The story is told by Mrs. Penn-Lewis as follows:
The Story of the “Bible Booklet.”
“God has been calling His people to their knees, and in response to the movings of His Spirit upon them ‘making intercession according to the will of God,’ they have been pleading for a world-wide revival. Surely in answer to these petitions we many now expect to see the Lord coming forth in the glory of His power to answer the prayers inspired by Him.
Since the petitions have been so large, asking nothing less than revival throughout the whole WORLD, we may expect the Omnipotent Lord to respond with LARGE answers, revealing to His servants Divine schemes, far above our thoughts, as the heaven is above the earth, for the world-wide proclamation of the Gospel of His Son.
The conviction is increasingly growing upon me that the message which will bring the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in a world-wide Revival, will be the renewed preaching of the Cross of Calvary as Paul the Apostle preached it. The essence of the Gospel, so to speak, as summed up in his words, ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’
But we must remember that the Gospel as Paul preached it included not only reconciliation to God through the blood of the Cross, but deliverance from the power of sin by the believer’s fellowship with the Lord upon His Cross, through which he is ‘crucified to the world,’ and the world crucified unto him. Then is made known to him the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’
This message of the Cross-must be proclaimed anew ere the Revival will come, and the Church be prepared for translation at the Lord’s appearing.
The adversary of souls knows this, and he is devising all manner of devices to hinder the preaching of the Cross-, knowing that his time is short. Multitudes are being ensnared in ‘doctrines of demons’—one and all revealing their source by their rejection of the Cross. Whilst, alas, alas, in many churches professing the Christian name we have silence over the Gospel of the Cross-, and sometimes direct antagonism. ‘Do speak about the Cross and His sufferings; we never hear about that now,’ said one to a worker conducting a meeting. Alas that it should be so.
Since Calvary and the great sacrifice offered there for the sins of the whole world, is the very pivot of all things in God’s sight, surely the Most High God will not behold all these devices of the evil one, without giving His people a renewed and mighty testimony to the Gospel of Calvary, and in His own Omnipotent way devise means whereby the prince of darkness shall be defeated, and the Gospel of the death and resurrection of the Son of God be proclaimed throughout the world, and borne witness to by the Holy Ghost as in the days of Pentecost.
One such worldwide plan, bearing unmistakeably the marks of the Divine mind in its conception and preparation, came before me in my visit to Madras, India, in February, 1903.
It is impossible in a short space to tell the story of the long preparation of the M.E. Mission Press in Madras, under the superintendence of Rev. A. W. Rudisill. I can only briefly say that in the Press are a set of eight machines given to Dr. Rudisill in a remarkable way. They were invented by a gentleman in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., and kept solely for his own use for advertising a patent medicine, which he was selling in enormous quantities. By these machines he was able to issue a little book consisting of sixteen pages of the size of two inches by three, at the rate of one hundred thousand per day, or twenty-eight millions per year.
The inventor had refused to have his machines duplicated, but of his own accord gave a complete set to Dr. Rudisill, who accepted them rather dubiously, not knowing clearly what use he could make of them.
Her passion for the distribution of ‘The Word of the Cross.’
After they reached India, and were set up in the press, it came to Dr. Rudisill that the wee booklet could be filled with verses of Scripture, and the Word of God thus be scattered in millions throughout India; then by a device of his own added to the machines, he found that he could print in 98 languages at one time!
As the year 1903 dawned, it found Dr. Rudisill with specimen booklets prepared, asking for the co-operation of the people of God in this possible million scattering of messages from His Word, and giving specimen pages in several languages, but as yet Dr. Rudisill had not seen the actual message from the Word of God which the booklet was to contain. In February, 1903, by a chain of events which he relates in a pamphlet telling the story, the purpose of God was revealed to him, and he saw that the Lord had given him the Bible Booklet machines for the express purpose of scattering throughout the world, in every language into which the Bible is translated, the Gospel of Calvary—the precious message which tells the soul of freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and the indwelling of the Risen Lord.
Do we really believe with all our hearts, the statement that ‘The Word of the Cross is the power of God’ (1 Cor. I. 18, R. V.) The Greek word translated ‘power’ in this passage is ‘dunamis,’ and it has been pointed out that this word does not mean latent power, but power in action.
The Word of the Cross-is God’s power in action to all who believe. It is God’s ‘instrument to energize a dead world, for through it Omnipotence can manifest its power.’
Have we messengers of God dared to believe that Divine energy is in the ‘Word of the Cross,’ or have we limited Omnipotence by thinking that His ‘Word of the Cross’ needs many words to explain it? Is it not rather the key devised by the all-wise Creator to unlock the hearts of men? We are shown this in the story of the way Philip preached the message of Calvary from the prophecy of Isaiah to the eunuch in the desert. The energy of God was in the message, so that the man of Ethiopia went on his way rejoicing.
That the Lord Himself has devised and prepared this world-wide plan for scattering the message of Calvary through the Bible Booklet, we can have little doubt. Since this is so we may believe that it ‘shall accomplish’ that whereunto He sends it.
The ‘Word of the Cross’ will not return unto Him void, but it will prosper in His hand.
‘Amen, O Lord,’ so be it throughout the whole world, that the Crucified and Risen Lord may see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.”
Dr. Rudisill himself has told how the Little Press was given its message:
“I was not fully satisfied that I had understood all that God purposed in the wondrous growth of the Press… after all the years of tenacious carrying out of the plans laid upon my heart, I could not but ask, ‘Is this all?’ I now spent much time in prayer, seeking the mind of God. Alone in the Press before daylight, I would claim the Promise of the Father, and believe that I had received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I expected to receive such a flood of light that, filled with praise, I should cry ‘He has come! The Comforter has come!’
But in spite of all this, a feeling of weariness over the Press would come, and joy in it I had not. The Tempter would say, ‘This is all you have after praying for the fullness of the Holy Spirit’
But I was brought lower and lower, until it seemed I could not even pray, and the Press was a greater burden than ever. Still lower down I had to go, and the climax came when, at the first Communion service of the New Year, kneeling in full faith that God would help me, I seemed to see before me an ugly, horrible figure on a cross. I cried ‘Lord, I am a vile sinner! Have I followed Thee to the Cross, to see Thee there in such horrible guise? Have mercy!’
For days afterwards I struggled to shake off this terrible thought. What did it all mean? I was so humbled in the dust that I walked in dread of myself, and felt almost in despair. ‘Does this come of daring to believe for the fullness of the Holy Spirit? ‘ I said. ‘Where is the light I thought would stream from heaven?’ One afternoon the powers of darkness raged so fiercely that I thought all was lost. I had not only glimpses of that awful image on the cross, but the Press itself seemed to be passing under a curse. Hell raged around it. I could endure it no longer.
At this time of crisis I attended some special meetings conducted by Mrs. Penn-Lewis. The first Bible Reading she gave struck me as being free from human speculation to a degree that at first interested me, and then riveted my attention. This led me to read one of the small books she had written, and to my delight I found that also free from human speculation, and pointing the soul to the Cross-with an earnestness and directness that impressed me deeply. I read other books written by her, and in those too, ‘Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified,’ and I saw how the Apostle Paul had gloried in the Cross, not only as a means whereby he had peace with God, but also as the instrument of his own crucifixion. ‘Through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world,’ he wrote to the Galatians.
I saw the ‘Word of the Cross’ to be, indeed, the power of God, not only to the unsaved soul, but also to the child of God. Light began to dawn, until one morning early, pondering over the awful picture I had seen at the New Year Communion service, the Spirit of God whispered to me: —’It was yours elf’—and deep peace filled my soul.
I went to the morning Bible Reading1 and the message was, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself up for me’ (Gal. ii. 20, R.V.).
Broken, at the feet of the Lord I prayed and praised. ‘But Lord, I have been seeking the fulness of the Holy Ghost.’
‘Do you not know that the Holy Ghost reveals the Cross, and your place as crucified with Christ ere He can have room to dwell in all His Fulness in your life?’
Enough! This covers all. ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?
Now the light streamed in, arid in His light I saw light. I saw clearly ‘one increasing purpose’ shining through the years from my boyhood until it rested upon those Bible Booklet machines. The hand of God had not wrought all these things except for some purpose in His eternal counsels.
And what was that purpose? It is remarkable that I never was free to make the selections for the Bible Booklets myself, and had no inclination to ask others to do so. Verses had actually been suggested by some, but I had always felt a staying hand upon me, as though the time had not yet come. The sample pages printed were only tentative . . . I saw now that the Lord had an object in the delay.
But the fullness of time had come at last ! With the full message of Calvary illuminated to my own soul, as I had never seen it before, I saw that the little Book must carry only the Story of the Cross. My mind went back to the strange way in which the Press had been given the booklet machines. They had been devised to send to many thousands the news of a remedy for one of earth’s diseases—surely they were prepared of God to carry to all people and tribes and nations the proclamation of the healing power of the death of the Son of God.
I now became deeply impressed with the thought that, as Mrs. Penn-Lewis had been so signally raised up of God to spread the message of the Cross, if she would select verses bearing directly upon this message, and devote each page to some particular phase of the wonderful teaching of the Cross, this little booklet might indeed become a message to the world. She agreed to do this.
The message for the Little Book was sought of God and given to the Press.
The hour had come! The Press was given its message! It is easy to see that this was not brought about by a man-made plan. God used a number of agents who saw not what it meant, nor its beginning, nor its end. As we glance back over what has been wrought, and see the links in the chain, we must surely exclaim, ‘It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes!
In a letter to Mrs. Penn-Lewis, Dr. Rudisill wrote:
“Oh wise interpreter of the deep things of God, you have shown me God’s plan for me, and henceforth I shall make no plans for God! I see that I have nothing to do but to keep in His plan, and keep step with Him in that plan, no matter where it may lead….
But how very little is the insight you have given me, compared with that other, infinitely greater mission, of enlisting this Press for proclaiming the Message of Calvary, as it assuredly will, in many tongues. You have set the Press free you have liberated it! It is as much yours now, to proclaim your message—or rather the message God gave you for it—as though you owned it. The focal point of all these machines will be to tell out the Word of the Cross- they have become messengers of the glorious Gospel of the Son of God. And you—you were the messenger of God to harness these to God’s purposes, to guide them into His plan. .
You have come with the sword of the Almighty, to strike at this stronghold of Theosophy (Madras), and this Press is your servant for the Lord’s sake.”
“God loves little things, and He loves to use them for great purposes—a rod, ram’s horns, broken pitchers, an old garment fallen from the fiery chariot, and a sling with a few smooth stones from the brook. No wonder then, that God can use a little printing press and a little book.”
So wrote Dr. Rudisill in the preface to the pamphlet from which we have taken the above story of God’s wondrous leadings. “It is God’s telegraphic dispatch to a dying world,” remarked the late Rev. D. M. Stearns, Editor of “Kingdom Tidings” (U.S.A.); and the saintly Bishop of Durham, the late Dr. Handley C. G. Moule, wrote, “I greatly like the ‘Word of the Cross’ Bible Booklet; it gives the very soul of the Divine Message.”
The Booklet was issued from the Mission Press in Madras, with none of the usual organization deemed necessary for the furthering of vast schemes, yet its circulation rapidly reached millions, in Indian dialects alone. When the story became known, the Lord laid it upon the heart of a Jewish Missionary in Jerusalem to prepare the booklet in Yiddish and Hebrew. Thus it came about with no human forethought or plan, that almost the first translation issued from the Press was in the language of God’s ancient people, in accordance with God’s own principle “to the Jew first.” Other translations poured in upon Dr. Rudisill from all lands. The British and Foreign Bible Society asked for 100,000 booklets in Tamil. The Salvation Army, and other Societies working in heathen lands, were not slow to see the value of the little printed messenger, and before very long the Booklet was available in no less than one hundred languages and dialects.
Space forbids that we give details of the extraordinary way in which God has worked through this tiny “missionary,” but it is of interest to note that the “Word of the Cross” booklet was the first Gospel message to enter Tibet, when that “closed land” was suddenly opened by the British forces under General Younghusband. An Army Officer undertook to have a copy of the Booklet in Spanish distributed to every Spanish-speaking household on the Rock of Gibraltar. The demand for the Bible Booklet throughout Great Britain was beyond all expectation, and the Lord laid it upon the late Mr. Thomas Hogben, Founder of the “One by One Band,” to organise a systematic distribution throughout our own land and the Colonies, through the agency of the praying “Bands” associated with the “One by One” work.
Many are the romances of God’s working told by Missionaries and Evangelists using the wee Booklet in their daily work, of which the following is but an example. An Evangelist wrote of his use of the Booklet:
“Souls in batches of thirty, forty, fifty, have been led to Christ, convicted and converted through the message of the Booklet. Yea, hundreds have thus been ‘won for Christ during the last three months, and scores of Christians have been led into the victorious life through its means. I asked one young man: ‘How long is it since God’s Spirit spoke to you?’ and he replied, ‘A young man gave me a Bible Booklet. I read the first page, and then the second, when I reached John iii. 16, and since then I have had no rest. I know God can save me’—and He did.
Seven young men came to my room, knowing nothing of the blessed life of victory—no holy boldness for the Lord, no passion for souls. We just got together and read the message in the Booklet, then knelt silently before the Lord, until one after the other just sank prostrate before Him. We were there three hours, and since then each one of them has been marvellously changed.
Hardly a week but they have been used of God to win souls. Two of these young men are going into the Ministry “At a free breakfast to the very lowest, in a certain town, five remained behind to seek the Lord, and as I prayed that God would break them down, an ex-convict’s wife said about the Booklet message, ‘That’s the message to break them ! ‘ And it did. There was a desperate prisoner in the prison, and I asked the Warder to let me see him. I went to the cell, and got him on his knees, then read to him a few verses out of the Booklet. It was the old message of Calvary, in all its power, and he was brought to Christ . . .”
During the Welsh Revival it was said that souls were given such a revelation of Calvary to their spiritual vision that their whole lives were changed. As we ponder the story of the Madras “Bible Booklet,” just preceding the marvellous outpouring of the Spirit of God in Wales, and bearing—in the dealing of God with Dr. Rudisill—the marks of long preparation in the purpose of God, we cannot but feel that here was another step in the Divine movement toward the calling of the people of God to a spiritual awakening, and a renewed preaching of the Cross of Christ. And is it not, even now, a call from God to His children to seek from Him a deeper unveiling of all that “Calvary” means to their own souls, that they may be equipped by the Holy Spirit to enter into God’s world-purposes concerning its proclamation?
Closely associated with the compilation of the Bible Booklet, in the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit, was the re-writing by Mrs. Penn-Lewis, on her return from India, of the small book “The Message of the Cross,” which had already run out of print. With the fresh evidence before her that the “Word of the Cross” is indeed the dunamis, the energy of God, God’s “power in action” for the salvation of a lost world, there poured from her pen a fuller and richer opening up of the same theme, in which was incorporated the earlier message which had been so definitely given of God.*
“An old doctrine in a new light,” was the heading of a very hearty commendation of the book by the Rev. Griffith Ellis, in a Welsh magazine, but a personal letter to Mrs. Penn-Lewis from the late Oswald Chambers shows the value of the teaching as it appeared to one himself deeply taught of God. Writing from Dunoon College, Scotland, on November 2nd, 1903, Mr. Chambers said:
“Your ‘Cross of Calvary’ is pre-eminently of God. The splendid treasure of pain, your pain, has merged into the greatness of God’s power. Your book teaches clearly and grandly what the Spirit witnesses to in the Bible and in our hearts, viz: that ‘the Way of God’ flatly contradicts common sense, and by utmost despair the Holy Ghost leads to resurrection triumph. The breakdown of the natural virtues seems to be the point wherein most regenerated lives are cast into despair. Your book will help these to understand that this despair must end in death to natural goodness and self, and be raised by the power of God into inconceivably glorious power and peace and liberty of life ……
You are clearer and clearer each time you write, and each day you grow from those past days of mysterious crucifixion, which is an open secret to those of us who have the witness of the Spirit ……
This book, which has become a “classic” on the Atonement in all its aspects, has been translated and issued in many languages; Dr. Andrew Murray writing a Foreword to the Dutch edition, published in South Africa. Truly prophetic were the words of Mrs. Penn-Lewis in her preface, dated October 1903, as she spoke of “the conviction growing in many hearts that the Holy Spirit is bidding the messengers of God go back to Calvary, and then will come the worldwide Revival for the calling out of His redeemed . . . for which we look.” For the “preaching of the Cross,” in its power to deliver and separate from sin and the world, and its victory over the power of Satan, is the “preaching” God used (and will still use) for the bringing about of revival among His own children, and a great ingathering of the unsaved.
The Liandrindod Wells Convention
With the renewed commission for active service in the Autumn of 1902, and just before the call to India was received, the Spirit of God began to move toward bringing into existence the Llandrindod Wells Convention, in the same spontaneous way as the inception of the Y.W.C.A. Branch at Neath, ten years before. At Keswick that year were two Welsh Ministers (the Revs. J. Rhys Davies and D. Wynne Evans) who told how thirteen Welsh people had met one day at the 1896 Convention, to pray that God would give Wales a Convention for the deepening of spiritual life; and from that time on, they had been holding this petition before the Lord. Now the “fullness of time” seemed to have come. “Let us go and see Mrs. Penn-Lewis and confer with her,” Mr. Rhys Davies said to his friend; and every succeeding step evidenced that the Lord was going before, to bring into being the Convention which afterwards became one of the channels for the “rivers” of life to Wales—an important factor in the outbreak of Revival in the Principality in 1904-5.
Later in the Summer (1902) Mrs. Penn-Lewis, being in South Wales laid the project before the aged Dean Howe][l of St. David’s—beloved of all sections of God’s people in Wales, as “a man of God, a patriot, preacher-orator and bard”; and encouraged by the co-operation and wise counsel of this mature servant of God, and others, the details of the long-prayed-for Convention rapidly took shape. Mr. H. D. Phillips, who had recently organized a series of meetings at Llandrindod Wells for the Rev. F. B. Meyer, accepted the local secretaryship. Other help was gladly given for dealing with the local arrangements, and the Albert Hall at Llandrindod Wells was booked for the first week in August the following year. By January 7th, when Mrs. Penn-Lewis sailed for India, the greater part of the arrangements were in train. The part taken by the venerable Dean of St. David’s proved to be his last earthly service for his Master, as news of his death reached Mrs. Penn-Lewis on her arrival at Bombay.
The First Keswick Convention
Mr. Albert Head, writing to “The Life of Faith” in August 1903, said that “the desire for a ‘Keswick’ for Wales had been in the minds of several who had attended the annual meetings beside Derwent-water, and it was evidently the Master’s commission to Mrs. Penn-Lewis, herself a native of the Principality, to bring the desire to fruition. The Wells was chosen as a place of meeting, as many Welsh ministers and workers gather [there] during August, and apparently no better place could be chosen for securing the attendance of so large a number, representing various congregations and colleges, and evangelical and evangelistic agencies.”
The speakers at that first Convention included the Rev. J. Stuart Holden, the Rev. Evan H. Hopkins, Dr. Charles Inwood, Dr. F. B. Meyer and Mrs. Penn-Lewis, with Mr. Albert Head as Chairman.
“The Conference bore upon it the marks of Spirit-born preparation . . . So noticeable was the Ministerial attendance that a well-known Missioner involuntarily remarked, ‘Wales may be the cradle of the evangelists for the coming revival’
And again it was the Message of the Cross, showing the experimental aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer, the putting away of all known sin, deliverance through identification with Christ in His death, and the definite reception of the Holy Ghost as a necessity for all in the service of God. This was carried home to hearts by the power of God in such intensity, that on the last two days it was manifest to all that the Spirit of God had come down in Pentecostal power.
The Second Keswick Convention and stirrings of Revival
In August 1904, the second Convention at Llandrindod took place, when a testimony meeting revealed how deep a work had been wrought in 1903. A Minister, writing to
A Welsh paper, said that many ‘Saw a door of hope for revival in Wales in the near future.’ Referring to the testimony meeting, he said:
‘It was a luxury to hear Ministers and laymen giving expression to the change that had taken place in their ministry and in their personal lives since the Convention of 1903 . . . It is manifest that better days are about to dawn, and blessed are those believers who are willing now to consecrate themselves as instruments for the Holy Ghost in the next Revival.’
It can be seen, therefore, how all through 1903 and 1904 the underground currents were quietly deepening, and sometimes breaking out to the surface, until the time drew near when the flood-gates opened, and the Spirit of God broke out upon the land as a tidal wave, sweeping all things before it…
Six Welsh Ministers who entered into the Spirit-filled life at the first Llandrindod Convention, agreed to meet once a month through the year for a quiet day with God, and at the 1904 Convention, held a midnight prayer-meeting, when they “consecrated themselves afresh to God for His use, and definitely asked the Lord to raise up someone to usher in the Revival! “ They returned to their respective churches burning with a new zeal and a new message, and in each place the flame of revival sprang up shortly after, resulting in a great ingathering of souls, and through them and their quickened people, spreading from district to district, until it was said, “Wales is on fire.”
In the “Life of Faith” for November 9th, 1904, there appeared a contribution from Mrs. Penn-Lewis telling of the “cloud as a man’s hand” which had risen over Wales, quoting a letter received from a well-known Evangelist; and three weeks later another, which began: “We have prayed for Revival. Let us give thanks! The ‘cloud as a man’s hand’ about which the Rev. Seth Joshua wrote in October is now increasing. God is sweeping the southern hills and valleys of Wales with an old-time Revival.
And from that time onward, Mrs. Penn-Lewis became the chronicler of the Revival, contributing a page to “The Life of Faith” each week, tracing the course of that movement of God, first throughout Wales, and then through many lands and by many channels, reviving the sleeping Church of God, and harvesting a great host of souls for His kingdom.
It was said by some, who perhaps only saw the emotional aspect of the work in Wales, that the Celtic temperament was the great factor in the whole movement, and particularly the Welsh singing! The Lord answered this suggestion by manifesting the same melting power among Christians of different race and temperament in India, China, Korea, Japan, and other missionary countries, and also in parts of Europe. A typical instance, in which Mrs. Penn-Lewis herself was the Lord’s “channel,” occurred in May 1905, at a Conference for Christian Workers in Germany. The Spirit of God came down in mighty power as His servant spoke of Calvary as the place of unity between Jew and Gentile (Eph. ii. 11-18), that there can be no divisions in Christ, for Christ cannot be divided. The Presence of God was intensely felt, as a worker rose and said something in German. Then a brother rose and shook hands with another, with whom he had been at variance; then men and women from all parts of the gathering rose, confessing to one another “hard thoughts,” and a spirit of division and disunity. In the next meeting the message was on the power of Calvary’s victory to deliver from the bondage of sin, the spirit of the world, the spirit of division, the power of the devil, and the life of self-pleasing; and the Lord did His own work among the 250 or so Christian workers gathered, not one soul remaining untouched.
At the close of the Conference, the greater part of those present rose and pressed to the front to yield all to God and to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Again, was heard the chorus of prayer, as numbers prayed together without confusion, and on the following morning, for two hours, there was a stream of public testimony from old and young, to what God had wrought in them.
“God can work, whatever the nationality or the temperament,” wrote Mrs. Penn-Lewis in the Life of Faith afterwards. “In this Conference we have seen that the ‘melting’ was done by the Holy Spirit Himself, through the Word of God, with no persuasion or pleading, as it might have been had the messenger known the language of the people. Blessed be God for this evidence that the Holy Spirit can melt without the use of any means save the Word of God wielded by Himself, even in broken words translated into another tongue. Undoubtedly what God has done this week will prepare the workers for revival, and we can only pray that all the surrendered ones may be as ‘coals of fire’ scattered over the land.
* * *
For three years (November 1904 to the end of 1908) Mrs. Penn-Lewis continued a weekly contributor to “The Life of Faith,” first as recorder of the times of Revival, and afterwards with messages from the Word to the awakened souls in the Church of Christ, “so that the record of the Revival passed on into a record of the advancing spiritual growth of the Body of Christ, which followed the awakening.” In response to the expressed desire of Christian workers, many of these articles, giving a bird’s eye view of the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the world, were re-issued weekly on a separate sheet for broadcast distribution, under the general heading, “England, Awake!” In a letter dated 27th February, 1906, the Rev. C. G. Moore, then Editor of the “Life of Faith,” remarks: “About the sheets—every one of them has been sold out, and last week I think 7,000 were printed; so that evidently there is a demand for them which is most encouraging”.
For some two years Mrs. Penn-Lewis also contributed articles to the pages of “The Christian”—a ministry which seems to have arisen out of a visit to Egypt in 1904, when a deep fellowship in the things of God was established between herself and the Editor and Founder of that paper. In her book, “Glimpses of Four Continents”, Mrs. R. C. Morgan refers to this time:
“Mrs. Penn-Lewis’ visit to Egypt coincided with ours, and we were brought a good deal into contact with her. ‘I have long been wishing’ said my husband, ‘to be at leisure for a long talk with Mrs. Penn-Lewis, and in order to be so I had to come to Egypt! ‘ The ten days spent together at Mena House, close to the Pyramids, were to me a continual ‘Keswick’ in which two kindred spirits represented the platform, and I the audience. Between the ‘meetings,’ or while they lasted—for neither our friend nor Mr. Morgan thought it ever out of season to speak of the things of God (which were a perennial subject to them)—we made excursions. .
The contributions to “The Christian” fulfilled an important service to the Church of God when, in 1908, they took the form of a series of articles under the title of “An Hour of Peril,” in which Mrs. Penn-Lewis sought to place before the people of God a brief outline of the then arising “Pentecostal Movement,” based upon letters written by eye-witnesses in many parts of the world. The articles were not written in a spirit of opposition or adverse criticism, but with an earnest attempt to enable believers to “discern” for themselves the points of danger, and an urgent appeal to all to “try the spirits, whether they be of God,” wherever supernatural manifestations were taking place.
“The tactics of Satan as an angel of light have been so subtle,” says the introductory article, “and his imitations of the working of the Holy Spirit so close, that however deep the inner conviction has been that false powers were at work in the Movement, the fear of touching anything that might be of God has checked the bold outspokenness which many faithful servants of God felt to be their duty . . . Nevertheless, as fresh reports kept coming in from land after land where this movement was reaching, it was seen, almost without exception, that everywhere it brought division and separation among Christians. In some cases, unhappily, where there had been a true ‘Revival’ by the Spirit of God.
In reference to these articles—the precursors of the teaching afterwards developed in “The Overcomer” against the subtle tactics and counterfeits of Satan as an “angel of light”—Dr. F. B. Meyer said, in a letter written from S. Africa:
“I think that the letters in The Christian are of high value just now. There is nothing else to guide these perplexed souls. What a strange thing it is! But surely the watchman should blow the trumpet and warn the people Satan’s war against the saints is summed up, in Ephesians VI. 12, in one word—”wiles.” The inroad of counterfeit workings of the enemy, which gradually mingled, with the true working of the Spirit of God during two years of almost worldwide revival, found the people of God unprepared. Through ignorance of the “deep things of Satan” and what he was able to do among them by guile, and “ignorant of his devices,” almost all that was supernatural was liable to be accepted as divine. It was “a warfare belonging to the Time of the End, and therefore practically unknown and unprepared-for in the literature of the Church, although clearly to be discovered in the Word of God.”
It is remarkable that for some years God had been leading Mrs. Penn-Lewis to deal with the believer’s conflict with the powers of darkness from the Scriptures, and from knowledge gained in dealing with souls. In 1897, at a day of waiting upon God at the China Inland Mission Hall, London, she gave a series of addresses upon spiritual conflict, particularly in regard to those who had been brought by the Holy Spirit into the experience of union with Christ in the heavenly places. Notes of these addresses were issued in a small booklet, “Conflict in the Heavenlies,” which was afterwards incorporated in the larger work, “The Warfare with Satan and the Way of Victory”:”brief treatise dealing with a vast, and to a certain extent, little known subject.” An extract from this book, issued in 1906, when the Welsh Revival had already subsided, will show something of the spiritual background of the Revival, and also some of the under-lying causes of its cessation
“If we look back at the history of the past decade, up to the time of the awakening in Wales, we can see how the Prince of Darkness was working insidiously among the people, undermining their faith in the Scriptures as the Word of God, silencing the preaching of the Cross to the utmost of his power, and drawing off great numbers into Theosophy… Christian Science, and Spiritism.
At the same time, the Church was to a great extent powerless. Divisions, worldliness, and carnal ease, on the whole marked her condition . . . until the Divine Spirit broke forth in Wales in Pentecostal power. The Church throughout the world was more or less awakened ……and now all who know anything of the Spirit-filled life find themselves in a spiritual conflict with the hosts of wickedness in high places, and are discovering that every manifestation of the Holy Spirit is being met by a counterfeit of the evil one. In fact, the more ‘spiritual’ a man is, the more open he is to the spirit-world—either of good or evil powers …… Let the believer seek an ‘experience,’ without the Cross and all that it means in continuous crucifixion of self, and the evil one will give him all that he desires. – Alas, it is terribly possible for a deceiving spirit to enter and speak through children of God who have unwittingly given place to the devil in some subtle way.
A Clergyman wrote: ‘In my case I found that any doubt, fear, agitation, want of love, self-exaltation—especially the feeling that God was going to do great things through me because I was so surrendered brought false power and deception.’ The continuance of supernatural manifestations at first pure and of God, with a change of source unperceived by the ensnared believer, is the most subtle of the latest workings of the enemy, and is the key to the strange and terrible inroad of spiritualistic manifestations among the most spiritual and surrendered souls in the Church of God.
The story of the Revival itself is more fully told in the book we have already quoted. From it developed the joint witness of the collaborators of the book “War on the Saints.” Through the strain and suffering brought upon him during eight months of daily and continuous meetings in crowded, ill-ventilated chapels, one of the chief figures of the awakening in Wales completely broke down, and thus it came about that, by the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Penn-. Lewis, Mr. Evan Roberts went down to the country home near Leicester, where they were now living, for a time of rest and recuperation. His recovery, however, was slow and intermittent, lasting many months, and during the long period of convalescence, he began to open his mind to his hostess on many experiences of supernatural forces witnessed during the Revival. Since her own mighty enduement of power for service, Mrs. Penn-Lewis had learned the path of the Cross, and seen the dangers attendant upon souls who, having experienced such a breaking-through into the supernatural realm, do not know identification with Christ in His death as the place of safety from the wiles and assaults of the devil.
“In the years since my wondrous experience,” she wrote about this time to her old friend Dr. F. B. Meyer, “I have been given by the Divine Spirit the interpretation of the Cross to the Christian. Through my long years of walking with God, and the consequent deeper and deeper revelation of the depths of the fallen creation, and the need of the Cross to sever us from it in every subtle action, I know that only the knowledge of the Cross can save such from spiritual wreckage. .
This God-given knowledge and experience, together with the insight into the devices of the enemy gained by Mr. Roberts in his experiences during the Revival, are conserved to the Church of God in “War on the Saints.” Issued only after seven years of testing, proving, and praying through the truths given therein, this book has been the means, by the grace and power of God, of the deliverance of hundreds of His children from the wiles and deceptions of the great adversary of God and man, which, when recognized, can be resisted and defeated in the victorious Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.