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Keswick: Practical Steps to Victory

Updated on September 25, 2010
Lake District, Cumbria. From
Lake District, Cumbria. From

The Message of Keswick: Its Practical Application

by the Rev. A, T, Pierson, D.D.

Keswick stands for Unity of Determined Purpose to learn the utmost of God’s possibilities for Personal Holiness as the one great condition of true witness and full service. In outstanding Unity, assured that God has made absolute Provision, the thousands come to turn that assurance into more abiding experience, to the uttermost of God’s purpose. Nothing less can satisfy them, or satisfy Him. J.R.MacPherson

Nothing in my first contact with "Keswick" struck me more than the way in which it was sought to arouse Christian people to a sense of the importance of having the heart right with God if they were to enjoy what He had prepared for them, or to fulfil the ends for which they had been redeemed, and the wish to be of the highest use to their Master, and to the world through which they were passing ; and I think that whatever the changes of the years, " Keswick " still rings that out as one of its chief notes. Wm. Houghton.


It may be well now to amplify a little upon the Keswick Message and its practical application to the life of the believer.

As to the type of teaching, it is steadfastly maintained that it embraces nothing new, as in the matters of spiritual truth, according to the old adage, there is nothing new that is true or true that is new. Yet it is felt that some old truths need, from time to time, restatement and new emphasis, and that for every new period of history there is always a "present truth." The teaching at Keswick is definite, however, and complete. It is also progressive ; usually, during the four or five days of the annual convention, each day has its peculiar class of topics, and the teaching as a whole has a beginning, middle, and culmination. In other words, some truth is taught as preparatory to what follows, and all the teaching moves toward a definite result in sanctity and service.

Without intimating or implying that there is any mechanical and uniform order in human experience, or that a human soul can be run, like an engine, along an iron track, from station to station, there are six or seven successive stages of experience through which believers generally pass who enter into this higher life of faith, victory, and blessing. We venture to indicate what in such advance are


(1) The prompt renunciation of whatever is known or even suspected to be contrary to the will of God. Conscience must first of all be clean and clear of conscious disobedience or neglect of duty. Hindrances to holy living must be abandoned.

(2) The acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ not only as Saviour but as Lord. A new surrender to the will of God which practically enthrones Him as sovereign. The self-life sacrificed with its self-indulgence and self-dependence.

(3) Obedience now becomes the watch-word of the soul. The will of God being voluntarily enthroned, compliance with it becomes habitual and natural, and service to God the supreme end of one’s being.

(4) This prepares for close and constant fellowship with God. Communion ceases to be occasional and clouded, and the great promise of John xiv. 23 becomes increasingly real in actual experience.

(5) The sense of Divine possession of one’s entire being-- spirit, soul, and body-- is the natural outcome of such conditions. When there is no longer any conscious reservation, because the whole being joyfully is yielded up to Him, we become consciously His own.

(6) There is now a new joy and a peace which passeth understanding, a new revelation of Christ as an indwelling presence, and a true infilling of the Holy Ghost.

(7) All this fits for the largest possible service to God and man. God gives to all truly consecrated believers the sceptre of holy influence. The Living Water which was at first a draught to quench thirst, and then a well or spring of life within, now becomes a stream, flowing out and multiplying into rivers of blessing. This is the last stage of the Victorious Life the stage of triumphant power over sin, prevailing power in prayer, and witnessing power among men.

Whatever method there is in all this teaching has been gradually and almost unconsciously developed. At the basis of the whole lies the deep and irresistible conviction that the average Christian life is lacking, not only in real spiritual power, but in the spiritual mind, and is essentially carnal. It is also confidently believed that it is both the duty and privilege of every disciple, having "received Christ Jesus the Lord," so to "walk in Him" as to manifest the power of His resurrection in newness sdsdof Life.

Hence, the first great definite step urged is the immediate and final abandonment of every known sin and of every weight that hinders advance. Nothing which is revealed in the word of God to be evil in God s sight can be indulged with impunity. Known sin is not only damaging but destructive to all spiritual life and growth. It is allied with death and not with life. It stops communion, makes peace impossible, and robs us of our testimony. It is destructive of all true assurance of salvation, not because salvation hangs on our merit, but because disobedience clouds our vision of Divine things. Obviously sin indulged blocks all true service to souls ; for how can one lead others into a new life of purity, peace, and power which he has not himself found, or help a sinner to an assured sense of salvation when he has lost his own assurance or never had any ?


It is felt also that whatever is doubtful as an indulgence should be surrendered because of the doubt. In matters open to question, God and not self should have the advantage of the doubt. To continue in a questionable employment, amusement, occupation, association, or pleasure, brings condemnation, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." And because evil things are hurtful, they must be unnecessary, otherwise there would be a fatality about continuance in sin or in injurious habits. God’s commandment is His enablement. Whatever is believed or suspected to be opposed to His will and to our well-being

should be, and can be, renounced, and abandoned at once and for ever. Because it should be, it may be. This is essentially Keswick teaching. It is an appeal to faith, to claim victory in Christ ; and thousands have put such teaching to the test, and found it true and God faithful.

The self-life is also studiously held up as needing constant watchfulness in all its seven forms self-trust, self-help, self-pleasing, self-seeking, self-will, self-defence, and self-glory. The only way successfully to overcome it is to displace it, and have a new, practical, personal Centre, about which all else is to revolve. We all need to learn "the expulsive power of a new and mightier love," displacing the old.

The real difficulty with that large class of indulgences which do not bear the brand of positive inherent sin lies in their tendency to give undue prominence to self. To consult self-gratification and self-glorification is in itself an unwholesome and an unholy habit. The lusts of ambition, avarice, appetite, however refined their forms of indulgence, all give self the supremacy. Ambition grasps after place, power, position, and feeds the pride of life and self-glory ; avarice seeks by heaping up treasure to promote self-indulgence and self-display; appetite makes the mere pleasure of eating and drinking an object, an end rather than a means to a higher end, and so ministers to self-pleasing and self-seeking. Many other forms of self-life need guarding, few of which are more subtle than the disposition to court human applause by catering to carnal tastes in others, and to avoid separation unto God by conformity to the world.

As to doubtful amusements, it may be safely contended that it is not enough to settle the fact that they have no necessary and inherent sinfulness. Moral tendency must always enter into any candid weighing of such matters. Several forms of popular amusement bear a distinctly worldly stamp, such as the theatre and the opera, the dance and the card-table, the wine-cup and the race-course. For some reason these are not found associated with an advanced type of piety or of fruitful service. Some churches have even made indulgence in them a ground of discipline. Whatever may be said in defence of any or all of them, this is unquestionably true : that, wherever disciples find their way into the deeper experience of Christ’s presence and power, the abandonment of them either precedes or follows such experience. In all our attendances at Keswick we have seldom, if ever, heard these matters directly mentioned ; the teaching deals with great general principles rather than specific practices ; yet, as a fact, from the very beginning until now, those who have attended these gatherings, and have been candidly open to the impressions of the truth taught, have found themselves asking whether such things have not hindered holiness and service.

Whatever is done primarily to please one’s self puts at risk pleasing God, and hence a high standard of holy living always and in everything involves obedience to two simple, practical rules :

(a) I will seek to please Christ as my Master and Lord, the Sovereign of my life ;

(b) I will seek to please my neighbour for his good unto edification.

Paul, led by the Spirit, has left, as to all things "lawful " that is all doubtful indulgences not distinctly forbidden three great modifying principles :

" All things are lawful for me," but

(a) "all things edify not;"

(b) "all things are not expedient ; "

(c) "I will not be brought under the power of any"*

Even after the question of lawfulness is settled there yet remain, therefore, three other questions to be answered, namely - Is this expedient for me ? Is it edifying to others ? Has it a tendency to enslave me ? A heart set on pleasing God will soon fence off all debatable ground on these principles and thus get free of bondage to questionable indulgences.

It is a noticeable fact that those who accept Keswick teaching practically abandon tobacco, from an inward sense of its being promotive of carnal self-indulgence. Where it is used, not as a medicine but as a means of gratification, it is felt to lift self into undue prominence ; and, without any direct pressure being brought to bear by the speakers, hundreds have voluntarily resigned the use of this favourite narcotic. In the early Brighton Convention a clergyman expressed his sense of bondage to the tobacco habit, but declared that it would kill him to give it up. The chairman then made this memorable utterance: "It is not necessary for us to live, but it is necessary for us to give up anything which enslaves us or imperils our fellowship with God." It is not necessary to add that this encumbered servant of God, who in the strength of God abandoned his enslaving habit, did not die, but lived to declare the works of the Lord.


The surrender of the will to God in habitual obedience is, however, the radical law of all holy living. The Lord Jesus Christ must to every believer become not only Saviour, but Lord. And no man can thus say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost.*.

It is a sad fact that so many who claim to have taken Him as Saviour from sin, have little or no real conception of the duty and delight of practically enthroning Him as the actual Sovereign, supreme over the daily life. To Laodicean disciples He is still outside, standing at the door and knocking for admission. The keys of the house are not in His hands. There is a definite act whereby the door is opened and He is admitted to control. But so long as one apartment is voluntarily reserved the transfer is incomplete, for a reserved territory, however small, involves and implies also a reserved right of way to such territory.

From the nature of the case God must have all or He really has none. Every child of God should search his own heart to see whether from any part of his being or life the Lord Jesus is practically shut out ; for over that part Satan has control, and he will use his opportunity to tempt us continually by that way of approach. Such Satanic approach God will not interpose to prevent, for He respects even the devil’s rights; and whatever in our being we reserve from God, constitutes Satan’s territory, and God will allow him the right of way to his own. The only way to exclude him is by a full surrender to God, which enables us, in our measure, to say, like our Master, " The Prince of this World cometh, and hath nothing in me".

When, under the surgeon’s testing touch, any part of the body shrinks, showing an abnormal sensitiveness, he begins to suspect that in that part disease lurks. And whenever we are especially sensitive to any point and shrink from a candid application of Scripture to any particular practice, it is easy to conclude that, just at that point, there is a serious difficulty and danger. On the other hand, he who opens up the hidden recesses of the whole heart and life to the Son of God will find that the very chambers where previously the idols have been hidden will become the audience-rooms of a Divine communion and converse. The Idol-room often proves afterward the Throne-room.



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    • profile image

      Darlene Turpin 

      8 years ago

      I do not disagree about the smoking..our bodies are temples and anything that harms the body, I truly believes offends God!

      "You Can't Be Any Closer To God Than what You Where on the day You Where Saved". You can always get closer to God and with the Holy Spirit guiding you..and you following Jesus and obeying Him doors get opened and doors get shut..So I have to disagree with this comment..I am more closer to God than when I accepted Him knowing hardly anything, but I now have knowledge and great unmoving faith through all I have read and leart...Voted up and useful..

    • profile image

      Darlene Turpin 

      8 years ago

      This is all about repentence and not being of the world. There is nothing good in worldly things..And to fully surrender yourself to God and God alone.

      The only way to exclude him is by a full surrender to God, which enables us, in our measure, to say, like our Master, " The Prince of this World cometh, and hath nothing in me". When we fully give ourselves to the Lord you are filled totally with the Holy Spirit which leaves no room for satan or his armies..Believing, having faith repentence and giving it all to God is the key factor for all Christians. I pray the Lord to give me the strength and faith to give him all of me and trust Him fully in all things..

      Another great Hub...voted up, useful and awesome..

    • Pratonix profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asia

      This is one of the greatest messages that I have ever read. It is a pity that the world has forgotten what God did at Keswick through simple, sincere and great spiritual men of God. It is shocking that there is not much material available on AT Pierson who wrote this article. Someone should get all of AT Pierson's writings put up on the Net soon.


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