The Watchword of the Keswick Convention

Waterfall in Dovedale Beck, Lake District, England. From atpm.com
Waterfall in Dovedale Beck, Lake District, England. From atpm.com

The Watchword of the Convention

by Mr. Albert Head

The secret of the blessing given at the Keswick Convention lies hidden in its motto, "ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS," for the closer we draw to "The Head" the closer we shall be drawn to one another. Where the King reigns, Self is dethroned, and where The King reigns, there is Peace, Unity, and Power.- William Wilson.


The unity and love of the brethren of the Convention platform profoundly impress one. In no other sphere probably, is there such accord in "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The Spirit of the Master so evidently upon His servants cannot but be fruitful in their witness and ministry.- S. A. McCracken.


After attending the Keswick Convention for over 25 years I consider that its most striking feature is the marvellous oneness of spirit which exists among all Christians. We meet in a realm above what we might call earthly divisions and find ourselves one in Christ Jesus. In my judgment it is the nearest answer to our Lord’s Prayer "That they all might be one." - Edw. F. Hamilton.


The Watchword of the Convention


EVER since our blessed Lord uttered the remarkable and searching prayer contained in John xvii., there has existed a yearning desire amongst His people for a practical fulfilment of the plea, "That they all may be one." Though His immediate followers had been closely linked with Him in fellowship and in service during the three years of His ministry, and had just then reiterated their confidence in Him and His divine mission in the words, "We believe that Thou earnest forth from God," yet His reply is significant of the forecast that separation, division, and discussion awaited them. "Do ye now believe?" said our Lord. "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." No wonder, then, that in that unity with His Father thus alluded to, He should entwine this very thought into His prayer, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us that the world may believe," so that the close union between the Father and the Son should become the ideal of the union to exist between the disciples and their Lord. The facts and features of this blessed union are clearly brought out in the figures made use of by our Lord and by the Apostle Paul, Branches "of the true Vine," " Members of His Body, of His flesh, of His bones," "Married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead." How lamentably short of the attainment of this standard of union the Church of Christ on earth has come, is known only too well by her members, at the same time there has never lacked the desire, and in the many and varied stages of her history the objective of unity has been apparent, and whilst uniformity seems hopeless in this age and many would feel that it would neither be salutary nor advantageous, yet the motto, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity," seems in a certain measure to describe the basis of present attainment.


Since the Convention held at Keswick came into being some thirty years ago, the watchword, "All one in Christ Jesus," has been pre-eminently kept to the fore and may be said to have formed the foundation stone of the harmony, the brotherly love, the fellowship, and the manifestation of the essential truths of sanctification by faith, as well as of the practical results to be found in the way, the walk, and the work of the holy life.


Probably there never was a time in the history of the Church when the unity of believers should be more emphasized, and the practical side of this relationship should be carried into abiding effect. These are essentially days of conventions, congresses, conferences and combines, in matters of common interest. Much more in matters spiritual, in the essentials of truth which indicate and treat of the separation "from" the carnal, and the separation "unto" the spiritual, elements to which the Apostle Paul alludes in 2 Corinthians vi. 14 to vii. 1, it becomes important that those who "profess and call themselves Christians" should be aroused to apprehend their "high calling of God in Christ Jesus,"and resting upon" those promises " should, in unity of heart and assemblage, inquire as to and seek to know in experience the essential truths and practical characteristics of "perfecting holiness in the fear of God."


The Keswick Convention has for years become a channel, and is acknowledged to be a leading exponent of this "blessing." In the early days of the movement, when the first large gatherings were held in Oxford in 1874, and Brighton in 1875, it was a frequent question, "Have you received the blessing!" By this inquiry it was intended either to gain the assurance of a testimony in the affirmative, or to give the opportunity for expression of a desire to possess the experience in which so many were rejoicing, or to tell of some hindrance or lack of knowledge which might be removed or explained. The unity of sentiment and fellowship which was apparent then and the blessing coveted, has not ceased nay, verily, has been in continual force during these many years of Conventions at Keswick, and therein lies the solid basis and foundation of the unity which exists and is so consistently maintained.


What is this blessing? it may be asked, which gives entrance to the path of holiness and makes for the unity in heart of those who are in the enjoyment of similar experience? Surely it is none other than the conscious yielding of oneself to be "baptised into Jesus Christ" that the self-life may be merged into "His death." That being "buried with him" the disciple may in like manner be "raised together" with Him from the death of the natural man into the "newness of life" of the spiritual man, even "by the glory of the Father." Romans vi.3-5; Ephesians ii. 6. The testimony of the Apostle Paul may thus become the testimony of the believer: "I am crucified with Christ : nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: " (Galatians ii. 20), and when this becomes consciously experienced, the mystery hid from ages and from generations becomes now made manifest to the saint (or sanctified believer): "Christ in you" (Col. i. 26-27). "Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." "That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (whatever this highest of standards may mean to the individual) becomes a present and continual blessing, the fruits whereof are known, cherished, and witnessed to by those members of the Body of Christ to whom it is vouchsafed. This glorious "high calling" is as much a gift, a provision, a promise of God, as salvation itself or the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. Those in this experience whether at Keswick or elsewhere are brought into closest fellowship in the unity of the Spirit. If Heaven is to be the realisation of perfect unity, why may there not be a foretaste here below and indeed in great measure it is a fact. The marked sense of division and denominationalism here disappears. The platform is occupied by representatives of many sections of the evangelical Churches of our land, and such is the sense of unity which prevails that the thought does not find expression, "To what denomination does the Speaker belong?" In the lodging-houses wherein congregate men and women from most sections of the Church, one characteristic is patent to their minds in attending the Convention as a common meeting-ground, and that is, that sectional divisions or preferences are laid aside and harmony and unity invariably prevail. It may be mentioned here that an understanding exists amongst the speakers that nothing of a controversial character shall be introduced into the addresses, that as the Convention is organised for the setting forth of the truths of scriptural holiness, it would be inexpedient, confusing and unedifying that matter of this description should colour the substance of any address. Besides this, it is obvious that any approach to a strife of tongues would tend to disturb the fellowship and unity which is of the utmost importance and is such a leading feature of these annual gatherings.


"Does it work?" may be asked. "Yes, indeed it does," is the reply. The testimonies given and received from all sections of the community are most hearty and appreciative of the spirit and tone of the Conventions, and many are struck with this very aspect of unity the blessing received becomes the blessing communicated, and the love which binds together at Keswick becomes the uniting factor in many a family and many a station in heathen lands, besides many a mission and missionary centre.


Undoubtedly there exists in the minds of some clergy, ministers and workers, a prejudice against "Keswick." Whatever may have been the origin of such a feeling or sentiment, the testimony of those who have been subject thereto and have attended a Convention and seen for themselves, has invariably been that there is really no ground for the objections held, and that they regret they had not attended before and entered upon the experience of the blessing set forth. It is not to be wondered at that prejudice exists. Every movement that is set on foot to bring increased light, liberty, deliverance from and victory over sin to the children of God, must meet with opposition sometimes from ignorance and prejudice, and sometimes from lack of apprehension of the inward life and teaching of the Word of God. This is a fitting opportunity to extend an invitation to any readers, who would know and see for themselves, to attend a Convention at Keswick, and there is little doubt that an earnest seeking for blessing will result in a definite finding that misconception will vanish and a new light will dawn upon the soul revealing the "beauty of holiness" as a bright reality.


As the members of the Student Volunteer Missionary Union have now before them the watchword adopted a few years ago "The evangelisation of the world in this generation," so it behoves the Church of Christ to be up and doing with renewed earnestness to attain a similar objective. Victory and a successful issue to a campaign can only result if there is unity amongst all ranks under skilful leadership. The Psalmist indicated (Psalm 133) that the condition of high priestly blessing from Jehovah Himself was "unity." The Apostle Paul exhorts the Church at Ephesus to endeavour "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," a message that is of peculiar force and application in this our day of problems and perplexities in the religious and educational world, and after alluding to the various gifts of the Spirit conferred upon members of the early Church, he points out the pivot upon which the fabric of organisation is to revolve, "the unity of faith" centering in the " Son of God who is the head of the body, even Jesus Christ."


If believers would study the ideal standard set before them in that message Ephesians iv. 11-16 there is surely a marvellous opportunity in the present age of attaining to some greater degree "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," setting aside and shunning the "wind of doctrine," "the sleight of men," "the cunning craftiness," and in the place thereof seeking to speak "the truth in love " and "to grow up unto Christ." Then would there be a prospect that there might come forth from the Church of to-day a "body fitly framed and knit together" making increase "unto the building up of itself in love."


This is the "unity" at which Keswick aims this is the teaching which the leaders of the Convention held there, seek to give, and this is the practical basis upon which it is sought to blend hearts together with Christ and then with one another in His mystical Body this is in some measure the fulfilment now of the Pentecostal conditions where we read, "they were all with one accord in one place." It was on this occasion that the Holy Spirit was outpoured upon the obedient company who were waiting and watching for the fulfilment of the "promise of the Father," and it was when He came and "filled all the house" and filled them all, that the Fire fell and the Holy Spirit in full possession, fused them into the love which quickened their faith and gave them the joy of having "all things common."


Finally, this occasion proved to be the answer to our Lord’s prayer for unity and for service "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." And if on the day of Pentecost, why not in full measure at Keswick, why not wherever believers are now to be found in our beloved land, why not wherever the "new man" has place, "where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free : but Christ is all, and in all ?"


ALBERT A. HEAD.

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Comments 2 comments

Darlene Turpin 6 years ago

What an awesome message!...I am learning more and more as I read Keswick..Many a doors are opening and reading with an open mind.Things are said in such a way that I have not seen them..

Thanks for sharing this Roland..


robert p 5 years ago

excellent

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